RELIGION, NATION, MARRIAGE: THE LOYALTIES OF MEN
PRAY, WORK, STUDY, PROTECT: THE DUTIES OF MEN


Friday, December 27, 2013

Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the Bible Belt

                   

The richness of America’s spiritual patrimony is borne out by the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral – located in Greenville, South Carolina.

[The city was the childhood home of two famous preachers: Jesse Jackson and John Piper. Greenville is also where Bob Jones University is based.]


Charles Joiner, the deacon at Saint George’s, has crafted their superb websites.

Take a look at this two-minute video of the Cathedral; and an essay on the Jesus Prayer.

Catholics and Protestants can deepen their faith by anchoring themselves a bit in the life of Eastern Orthodoxy. Here is an overview in pamphlet form put together by the deacon.

                               


"Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon..."
                    (Revelation 12)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Interiority and Influence

“Women in the Church must be valued, not ‘clericalised.’ Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”                                       (Pope Francis)
         

In an essay by Alice von Hildebrand, she lays out the reasons why feminine influence is the real deal – not worldly power.


And on a related question posed by Doctor Pence: is Matter necessary in order to have masculinity & femininity? He says no:

"I think this is a very crucial truth we must ponder and try to clarify. I would try to defend this: Masculinity and Femininity are fundamental complementary SPIRITUAL categories that are made manifest in Christ and the Apostles and Our Lady. Masculinity and Femininity (like personhood) reside in the Divine, and precede the creation of matter some 14 billion years ago."


Men are called to be on the ramparts – defending women and the interior castle!
                                   

Saturday, December 14, 2013

PHYSICAL ECOLOGY: "A failing people, a springless autumn"

It’s always fascinating to check in on current fertility rates around the world. This article from earlier this year explains how the U.S. is now below the 2.1 replacement level.

[The rate is the expected number of children born per woman in her child-bearing years].

With the world average at 2.47, here are some of the laggards:
1.61 – Russia
1.59 – Canada
1.58 – European Union average
1.55 – mainland China
1.48 – Spain
1.42 – Germany
1.41 – Italy and Japan
1.32 – Poland
1.29 – Ukraine
1.24 – South Korea
1.11 – Taiwan
Most of the top countries on the list are African.

                       



"And the last king of the line of Anárion had no heir."
      (Lord of the Rings)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cardinal Mahony – "... a man who was troubled over abuse but more worried about scandal..."

                                 


This LA Times profile of Roger Mahony, who headed up the Catholic Church in Los Angeles (by far the largest of our nearly 200 dioceses), lays out the problem that bedevils the American bishops: the refusal to answer the bell and purge the priesthood.

One comes away from the article thinking Mahony was quite adept at pasturing the shepherds, while leaving the sheep unguarded! The Cardinal hid within the robes of Holy Mother Church instead of protecting her purity. He was the ultimate church careerist that Pope Francis has so forcefully condemned. Acutely aware of extending his celebrity status, he was oblivious to his kingly duties as Shepherd.

It would be a good start if the successors to the Apostles took to heart the deeper meaning of Jesus' washing of the feet on Holy Thursday.

"Our number-one job is to protect children and young people."                              (Cardinal Mahony)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pence responds to AOA’s mid-October call for our bishop’s resignation

Dr. Pence writes:


I agree with Mr. Farmer that, eventually, Archbishop Nienstedt should resign his office because of his role in the Reverend Wehmeyer and Reverend Shelley cases. If he is charged with a crime, he should protect the Archdiocese by standing trial as himself and claim his sins as his own. A shepherd does not hide in the midst of his flock when the wolf comes, but leads the wolf off to a side and battles it alone.

Those of us who know our local Church reject much of the "Get Nienstedt" campaign as a continuation of the unprecedented sabotage against him and his office before he assumed the pallium.  This rebellion against him was not because he was corrupt, but because there was a fear his opposition to gay marriage in the state would extend to a purging of the gay lobby and dissenters in the  priesthood and Catholic schools. To take on the employment dens of the sexual Left is to make a lot of enemies.  The Archbishop, however, focused on state laws and never confronted or even acknowledged the Church subculture of feminist and homosexual careerists who have so undermined a healthy masculine protective priesthood for half a century. Those he failed to expel have covered him with shame. The Archbishop found himself in a kind of JFK “Bay of Pigs” situation. He gets dropped in a sewer not of his own design – and then he is called the rat.

Like his predecessors he allowed a woman in high places. Unlike them, he chose a different kind of daughter of the church. Her capacity for repugnance toward the bizarre and perverted had not yet been deadened. Nor were her moral sensibilities tricked by the criminal reasoning of Kevin McDonough. Breaking a 40-year spell of fear and obsequiousness by neutered priests and compliant feminists, she dared confront McDonough. In measured and concise writing, she refuted his tortured arguments defending the bizarre behavior of the sexually disoriented. This feminine voice introduced a new kind of cognitive dissonance to a culture built on the same. She had to be let go – or McDonough was discredited – and with him an army of well-paid psychologists, lobbyists, risk managers and lawyers who had made millions coating corruption with ever more policies, procedures, and psychology sessions. Like so many bishops before him, Nienstedt was confounded by our own Professor Moriarity: the "respectable,  untouchable Napoleon of Crime" as Sherlock named him. Archbishop Nienstedt heeded McDonough. Mrs. Hasselberger resigned.  
  
                                           
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
Before he resigns, Archbishop Nienstedt could truly reform his corrupted priesthood (not with outside agencies of lay professionals, but with pure and brave clerics properly using the internal offices of the local Church.) Their standards of reform would be our creed, our sacraments, our Commandments and purity codes – and, above all, a commitment to lives of priestly prayer in rectory, at the altar, and even on vacation. He could also employ, not in fabricated positions of authority but as real counselors, truly holy women who could look with pure hearts at the impure records of these last forty years and give him sisterly advice. Look how devastating and illuminating were the eyes of one such woman.

A true reform of our local priesthood would shape that fraternity in the form that Pope Francis says must replace conflicting ideologies: a brotherhood of fathers modeled after St Joseph.  Archbishop Nienstedt's promise to resign and repent after completing that internal act of reform would confirm himself as one of the first true bishops of the Pope Francis era. He would be the antidote to the careerist. This shepherd would lay down his career for his flock – a pastoral act that living Catholics have never beheld in our local Church.


Monday, November 4, 2013

SAUDI ARABIA AND THE U.S.: a growing wariness

Dr. Pence writes:


We have questioned why in the Shiite/Sunni religious war, the United States should work to topple any of the established Shiite states (Iran or the shrinking Alawite state in coastal Syria).

We see much of the continued violence in Iraq as the refusal of Sunni terrorists to accept the elected government of a Shiite majority state. These states may turn out to be the best allies of Christians in the Mid-East and around the world against the Sunni purification movement that we call the “jihadists.” This seems to be the position of Orthodox Russia whom we see as a natural ally in the global reconfiguration occurring today – replete with nationalist actors, Islamic religious alliances, and atheistic globalists.  What is missing are Christian nations understanding themselves as the political forms of Christian civilization who should be major players in proposing a strategy for nations to enhance the tranquility of order.
               

The old arrangement of treating Saudi Arabia as our major Mid-Eastern ally must be radically reconsidered. It is hard to disagree with any of the insights in this long overdue article by Fareed Zakaria.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Open letter to head of Catholic Church in St Paul - Minneapolis

                                         

Archbishop Nienstedt –


If it’s “all about the kids & adolescents, and their safety,” then you have failed in your duty to shield them from the wolves.  A true patriarch is a protector.

There is an old Spanish proverb: “Amigo Pedro, amigo Juan, pero más amiga la verdad.”
[Pedro is a friend, Juan is a friend, but a greater friend is the truth].

You – and longtime vicar general Kevin McDonough – invariably chose to rally your priests around the flag of careerism and "tenure," rather than penance and purity.  No wonder the news reporters keep uncovering filthy Augean stables in our diocese!



Cardinal Law of Boston finally realized in 2002 that justice demanded his resignation.
                             


Do the right thing, Archbishop, and in a perfect act of contrition: step down.  We need a new man to clean up the incestuous smog that has settled over our fraternity of priests.

“A wise king winnows the wicked…”
                    (Proverbs 20:26)



UPDATE: A Catholic pastor of a conservative church has told his six thousand parishioners that it's time for the diocese to make a fresh start.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Poland: crucified and redeemed

Which country – crucified, as Bishop Sheen put it, “between [the] two thieves” of Nazism and Communism – paid the highest price in that war?  POLAND.

                                     



Heinrich Himmler vowed that “all Poles will disappear from the world.”

Of the roughly 40 million Europeans who died in the Second World War, six million were Poles. That is 20 percent of Poland’s pre-war population. 

(A Churchill historian has compared the Polish suffering to a 9/11 attack every single day for five years!)

                               


John Paul II, who was archbishop of Cracow when he was elected pope, declared at the beginning of the Jubilee Year 2000 that the simple nun, Faustina, would be the first to be raised to sainthood. “Where,” the Holy Father asked, “if not in the Divine Mercy, can the world find refuge and the light of hope?”

                             

“Only that soul who wants it will be damned, for God condemns no one.”  (St. Faustina)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Christian Awakening on the Road to Damascus

   
by Dr. David Pence 

President Obama’s decision to seek a congressional resolution to authorize a national military response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria is a credit to his character and a tribute to our deliberative institutions. This is a time for statesmen not to poll the “people,“ but to put up a map and defend or oppose this action in terms of America’s role amidst the nations.  Such debate is why men have tongues and Americans have a Senate.

                               


The conflict in Syria is complex but it is not bewildering. In this debate, men must talk in terms of maps, timelines, and the communal loyalties of religious groups and nation states. We must also talk in terms of our own communal loyalties as Americans. Some will insist foreign policy must be prudentially limited to a defense of “national interest.” Others will assert a national purpose within God’s Providence for mankind; and others will define our policy in terms of an ally’s needs or the “American values“ of modern ideologies.

Despite these very different visions of American identity and foreign policy, all of us benefit from a realistic assessment of the many converging actors on the Syrian battlefield. There are two particular loyalty patterns that all of us must consider in our national deliberation. The first pattern is the emerging religious bond of a generation of young Muslim men often alienated from their homelands who are forging an "extra-territorial identity" as fellow reformers in a fighting Islam. (They call to mind the 19th-century generation of emancipated Jewish men who hammered out their new communal identities in the "fighting faiths" of Zionism in Palestine, and of Marxism throughout Europe and Russia.)

These Muslim men form the worldwide religious purification movement in Sunni Islam associated with Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Wahhabi tradition, the “jihadists” and a host of variants that see the revitalization of Islamic communal forms as obedience to the will of God in the lands of Islam. Their fathers fought British colonialists, Hindu nationalists, and Soviet communists in the last century; and now the sons depict the United States and Israel as their greatest enemies outside the Muslim fold.  These Sunni purification movements often treat the very notion of a nation state as a Jewish-Crusader imposition of an illegitimate political form on the deeper Islamic communal bond of the caliphate.

For all their hatred and attacks against the “enemy without,” this purification movement is as adamant against the “enemy within."  They include the post-WWII secular nationalist leaders who from Turkey to Egypt to Iraq and Syria created modern police and military states that opposed attempts to return to Islamic patterns of law and governance. These secular governments often employed the minority Christians in high positions of bureaucratic authority.  The heroes of Arab and Turkish nationalism (Nasser and Ataturk) were enemies of the Sunni purification movement.  A Sunni enemy within today is the Hashemite King of Jordan, who sees the protection of Christian communities as an obligation of Muslims.

The other “enemy within” for the Sunni purists are the Shiite Muslims. That split in Islam between Sunni and Shiite is a thousand years old, with the Sunni comprising 85 percent of a billion worldwide Muslims, and 2/3 of Muslims in the Mideast. Almost all Muslim countries are Sunni, and most of them by overwhelming majorities.  There are Shiite majorities in Iran, Iraq, and Azerbaijan.  The Shiites of Lebanon make up about a third of the population. The Lebanese Shiites are the population bases for Hezbollah—another ally of President Assad along with Iran.  The Al Qaeda prolongation of the war in Iraq was as much about a violent multi-country Sunni opposition to the majority Shiites ruling their own country, as it was a fight against American crusaders. The conflict in Syria is set on this same religious fault line.  President Assad and his Alawite clan are identified with the Shiites ruling a nation mostly of Sunnis, as well as ten percent Christians.  If the United States degrades the forces of President Assad, we are entering the Sunni/Shiite “war within” Islam and we are entering on the side of the Sunnis.  Turkey and Saudi Arabia were two Arab countries that supported the US attacking the Assad government at the September 2013 G-20 conference in Saint Petersburg.  They are both dominant Sunni powers. Saudi Arabia is the home of 15 of 19 of the hijackers, and the birthplace of the Sunni purification movement.  No country in the world is so stringent in its denial of Christian worship. There are never burnings and Sunday pillaging of Christian worship in Saudi Arabia, because no public or private Christian services are allowed!  All serious deliberations must address this basic strategic reality. In the Sunni/Shiite “war within,” shall we side with the Sunnis?

                                    

The second loyalty pattern we must address is Christianity in the Islamic blood-lands and in post-atheist Russia. The Orthodox bishops of Syria have made it clear they oppose the US “degrading” the Syrian government’s ability to govern. For part of that governance is protecting Syrian Christians from “the people,” whose real grievances against the rule of a clan have turned them into a vicious mob against the Christian allies of that clan.  The Coptic patriarch of Egypt has taken a similar, very public, position. He formally supported the military coup in Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood. The Copts now face the daily violence of aggrieved mobs. The Egyptian military, like the Syrian military, has not established police control of the nation. Nor has either government enacted a political compromise with its own religiously-driven citizens. In both cases their incomplete ability to enforce the Law has been deadly for indigenous Christians who have no state of their own to protect them.

Russia has a deep historical tie to the Orthodox Christians of the Mideast. That protective role was a major impetus of the Crimean War in the mid-1850s. The fact that the British and French governments did not recognize a similar duty, and sided with Ottoman Turks against Christian Russia, does not diminish the religious motivations of pre-Communist Russia. Orthodox Christians have always had a robust view of the dynamic of Church and State. In some circumstances this has deeply compromised them. In many other historical circumstances it has been a more realistic and liberating approach to the world of political and military authority. In defending Christians, Russia has also become the defender of Shiite States from the Sunni purification movements. Their link to President Assad and Syria as well as Iran cannot be understood merely through the narrow economic prism of “warm water ports.”

The battle between the atheistic Soviet Union and Christian America colored every conflict of the 20th century. Mother Russia is just emerging from her atheistic Gulag, which demoralized the character of her people and submerged the nation in the imperial designs of Marxist ideology and historical materialism.  An armed America under God defeated the armed atheism that disfigured Russia. But in our victory, we have been subverted by the unarmed atheism of consumer materialism and sexual license which threaten our national soul. A reformed Christian America could still extend to Orthodox Russia a hand of brotherhood to awaken from the atheist nightmare of these bloody centuries. 

Neo-conservatives and leftists alike denounce Russia and President Putin, while Saudi Arabia and the Saud family remain our strange longstanding ally.  A Christian awakening might at least force debate on this peculiar arrangement. This debate must particularly shake Protestant America, which has never resonated with the sufferings of the more ancient forms of Christianity. The persecution of Catholics in the Philippines, Mexico, and Vietnam -- and of the Orthodox in Russia, Serbia, and the Mideast -- has never compelled the public sympathy of Christian America in our dominant Protestant phase. A single heroic Baptist missionary, John Birch, became a banner of courage and martyrdom while the Armenian national Church (a million Orthodox murdered to initiate the bloody 20th century) ranks hardly a mention. Christian unity evokes some painful memories.

                       

It is hard for American statesmen to conduct our nation’s affairs with a realistic and humble eye toward Providence. Our newspapers no longer use such language. Our schools have lost that vocabulary. Public culture bans national prayers, and substitutes a daily trivializing of God’s Name by major media and craven teen-age girls. Instead of reviving a serious fraternity of nations with Russian patriots, Patriarchs, and their President in Petersburg, we extend a kiss of peace to homosexual activists practicing a very different form of brotherly love. There is a Christian path to peace, which baptizes the nations as the public communities of law and authority that order men as communal peacemakers. The fantasy world of atheism has always feared and undermined this spiritual martial anthropology of masculine accord.  Religious realism recognizes the Sovereignty of one God and the multiple public communal forms of brotherhood known as nations.

Religious realism in foreign policy recognizes that most nations and men act out of self-interest.  But not all men or nations define their communal lives so narrowly.  A Christian nation seeks a fraternal relationship with other nations as common sons of Adam. This is not a pacifist path nor a self-centered one.  The nation animated by moral purposes is in continual search of new patterns of agreement with the men of other nations. The moral nation is just as assuredly in continual conflict with tyrants and criminals.      

Forty years ago President Richard Nixon and National Security adviser Henry Kissinger unfolded a large map, and employed a corresponding sense of large history, to remove the Vietnam War as the principal battlefield of conflict between Communist ideology and the United States. Their move to diplomatic accord with China upset the Soviet map of eastern alliances, which was later shrunk again when Muslim men led the first successful war of national liberation from the South against the Soviets in Afghanistan.  The final disintegration came with the military resurgence of America, and the Catholic awakening on their western front in Poland. Today we need to look again at a larger map, and the deeper religious and national loyalties that move men and nations to fight for one way of life against another.  The unarmed dissipating public atheism of American life has blinded us to our most natural allies in the fight for order and authority in the service of religious liberty. Our atheism has perverted our sense of what practices we must defend and what cults we must abhor. Our conduct of foreign policy -- as if God does not exist -- is erroneously enacted in the name of realism.  For there is no realism absent Providence.  The materialist worldview is a fantasy -- a bloody ideology -- which can only be overcome by a larger, more comprehensive, view of men and nations as spiritual actors in a Divine Drama.

Two thousand years ago, a zealous avenger radically reversed his actions and goals on the road to Damascus. May our national debate be enlightened by the Light of Christ to look at the larger map, and consider more deeply the possible agreements that could restore a new fraternity among the nations.  Let us love the Lord our God and let us love our neighbors. We will fulfill those commands through mature agreements among nations and states -- much more readily than by seeking out the protesters, the adolescents, and the libertines.  Diplomacy between nation states will not bring us complete peace.  The Sunni purification movement still attacks, and Satan roams the world in many costumes.  But true strategic diplomacy, much more than a missile attack, can (if God wills it) align the proper set of peacemakers for this historical moment.

                                       

Saul of Tarsus surrendered his prudential powers of justice to his zeal for punishment. The lightning strike chastened his wrath, and his repentance restored his eyesight. Congressional deliberation is meant to discipline our zeal for justice with prudence in how to get there. It is time to heed this Biblical lesson of ordering the virtues.

Let us deliberate. Let us repent. Should we Americans disarm one of the last Shiite states capable of fighting the Sunni drive for armed purification?  Should we leave the Syrian Christians to a fate more violent than the Iraqi Christians?  Should we provoke a retaliatory war with the largest standing Shiite government: the Iranians? Should we forsake serious negotiations and a new fraternity with Orthodox Russia in order to degrade an already disintegrating Syrian state? If our goals are regional stability and religious liberty, what new alliance should we forge? What new state or old state should we foster to protect the different religious groups in the Holy Land? How shall a Christian nation from afar safeguard our Christian neighbors in the Mideast? They see our public prayers and the awakening of Christian unity among the baptized, but they beg for the protection of a Christian state wielding an effective sword. These questions are not asked by pollsters. Congressmen must debate them in long well-attended speeches.

Our Congress now properly deliberates and our President may prayerfully negotiate. On the road to Damascus, let us recall a bolt of lightning that blinded a punishing zealot, and be chastised again by the haunting words he heard:  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stevenson was a mere shadow of Truman

                   

Ol’ Harry pored over Plutarch and the classics, and read and re-read his Bible; Adlai barely took time to crack open a book.

Stevenson was trounced twice by Ike: winning a total of nine states in 1952, and only seven states the next time.

(Bob Dole won 19 states, and McCain and Romney each carried more than twenty.)

What is stunning, however, is to see WHERE Governor Stevenson won.  It was the region so maligned by liberals – the Deep South, the heart of the Bible Belt – that saved the bacon of Adlai the Unitarian, preventing a complete shutout!

Here is the 1956 map:

                     

(Check out the similar ’52 results.)


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The summons sent by Muhammad to the Byzantine emperor

                                   

Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570.

The Islamic prophet sent a message in 628, four years before his death in Medina, to Heraclius – emperor of the Byzantine Empire (pictured above):
'Aslim Taslam'
(In other words, "submit [convert to Islam], and you will have peace.")

When Heraclius refused the invitation, Constantinople became Islam’s arch-enemy.

Heraclius was emperor from 610 – 641, and was the one who made Greek the official language of the Eastern Empire (which endured for another eight centuries).

                         

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Japan: Saint Francis Xavier

On this date, roughly five centuries ago, Francis Xavier stepped ashore the southern port city of Kagoshima.  The Gospel had arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Francis was enchanted by the people: “It seems to me that we shall never find…another race to equal the Japanese.”

From a letter that the Basque saint wrote to his fellow Jesuits back in Europe:
“The Japanese doctrines teach absolutely nothing concerning the creation of the world, of the sun, the moon, the stars, the heavens, the earth, sea, and the rest, and do not believe that they have any origin but themselves. The people were greatly astonished on hearing it said that there is one sole Author and common Father of souls, by whom they were created. This astonishment was caused by the fact that in their religious traditions there is nowhere any mention of a Creator of the universe. If there existed one single First Cause of all things, surely, they said, the Chinese, from whom they derive their religion, must have known it. For the Japanese give the Chinese the pre-eminence in wisdom and prudence in everything relating either to religion or to political government. They asked us a multitude of questions concerning this First Cause of all things; whether He were good or bad, whether the same First Cause were the origin of good and of evil. We replied that there exists one only First Cause, and He supremely good, without any admixture of evil.”

The Japanese who did come to embrace the fullness of the Faith were remarkable in never flinching at the “cost of discipleship.”

                                             


The definitive authority on the sacral nature of Japanese nationalism is Professor Kevin Doak.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

YEMEN: first of 8 nation profiles (via Hugh Hewitt)

         

Check out this description of Yemen, the southern neighbor of Saudi Arabia that always seems to be in the news.  It’s interesting that the northern part of Yemen is predominantly Shia Muslim.

The capital of Sana’a is, by far, the largest city. Yemen – less than a fourth the size of Saudi Arabia in area – is only 3 million shy of her neighbor’s 29 million people.

The port of Aden (fourth largest Yemeni city) has played a pivotal role in the world’s naval history.  The gulf is now known as “Pirate Alley” for the ongoing depredations of Somali buccaneers.

Yemenis are a sizable portion of the foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia (whose population is one-third foreign!); twenty years ago they expelled 800,000 of them because of Yemen’s support for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

1,025 years of Russian Orthodox culture

“The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland [and] made it an inseparable part of the Christian civilization…”                                                         (Vladimir Putin)

In 988 Prince Vladimir converted to Christianity, and beginning at Kiev, all of Russia bowed before Christ and the true faith.  Today is the feast day of Vladimir.




President Putin has played a central role in the anniversary celebration.

This video shows a spiritual depth to Mr. Putin that most Americans are not aware of.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

WWI Serbia bled like no other

               

Most folks know about the staggering casualties that France suffered during the First World War.  But there was one country that went through a bloodier Calvary: and that was Serbia.

A landlocked nation, predominantly Eastern Orthodox in religion, it was situated directly south of Austria-Hungary (weakest of the European powers).  In late June 1914, when a Serbian terrorist killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the great conflagration was kindled.  Russia came to the aid of her traditional ally Serbia, as did France.



Serbia lost more than a million inhabitants during the war – about 60 percent of its male population!



[When the Great War ended in November 1918, the world was gripped by a flu pandemic.

 Kids used to sing this ditty:
“I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza.
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.” 
Most susceptible were healthy young adults – and the final toll was five to ten times as many deaths as had been caused by the massed armies of Europe].

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Christmas Eve 1601 – the hopes of Gaelic Ireland are dashed

I heard this beautiful song, “The Battle of Kinsale (the Valley of Tears),” and learned it commemorates the pivotal clash between Ireland (aided by the Spanish) and Elizabethan England.  It was part of the Nine Years’ War: the Gaelic chieftains against the English occupiers.

                               

      [Sculpture honoring the 1599 Battle of Curlew Pass]

Check out this video clip of an Irish guide describing the historic harbor of Kinsale.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday BookReview: the giant who was Dawson


"The nations will fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth thy glory."  (Psalm 102)

Christopher Dawson – the towering British scholar who had converted to Catholicism in his twenties as the First World War broke out – died in 1970.

Check out David Pence’s impression of his mid-century essays on Christianity and the Nations.

                     
                 

Here is an excerpt:
"The republication of Christopher Dawson's works has come at a pivotal time in the Catholic Church's life amidst the nations. French political philosopher Pierre Manent asks if the nation is still the proper political form. America's premier Catholic political intellectual, Russell Hittinger, argues that Catholic tradition has been sparse and vague in understanding the polity as a corporate body with its own common good. He argues that while papal teachings have warned the State not to tinker with the sacral institutions of marriage and the Church, there is no recent vigorous defense of the polity as a corporate body with a common good of its own. At Vatican I, the Church relinquished the sword of the State. But the nation state is alive and well and holds its proper sword, for better or worse. Enemies of the Church, the nation, and marriage roam about the world seeking the ruin of all three institutions. Where is the sword of spirit that shall fight them?"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Minnesota, marriage, and the majorities


[Earlier this week Minnesota governor Mark Dayton signed into law a bill legalizing homosexual marriage, saying: "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness certainly includes the right to marry the person you love."]

by Dr. David Pence

                             

The legal designation of same-sex couplings as marriages is a shameful day in Minnesota History.

A solid majority of our elected officials have enacted a law to honor what is immoral and to degrade what is sacred. This is not an elite going against a “moral majority.” This is a trendy people going against God and Nature. We recall the Tower built at Babel when great majorities thought themselves and their building project as bigger than God.

We remember how the great majority of Israelites were caught up in the frenzy of worshiping a golden calf in the place of God who had delivered them from slavery. Today we witness a people caught up in a popular frenzy. They have confused the historical Christian movement for interracial brotherhood with today’s masquerade of disordered desires disguised as civil rights.

We ask God to forgive us our trespasses. Let Christians pray and fast in reparation for this public act which so dishonors the Lord our God, who is the source of both the authority of the State and the sanctity of marriage.        

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ivy League spies offered up their ‘lives, fortunes, and sacred honor’ for Stalin


                                       

“Alger Hiss was not the victim of a witch hunt; he was a witch.”  
                                      (Garrison Keillor)
                                                                                    
The always-fascinating historian, Philip Jenkins, fleshes out Keillor’s point – as well as the broader menace of influential Americans who were so enamored of the “social justice” of Communism that they ended up having no scruple about betraying their own country.

Two of the examples given by Professor Jenkins:


  • Harry Dexter White (Stanford & Harvard) who died of a heart attack in Aug 1948, while in his mid-fifties.

[This article from ‘Time’ magazine lays out White’s role in persuading the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor].


  • Laurence Duggan (Phillips Exeter prep school & Harvard), who committed suicide in Dec 1948, at the age of 43.


[This site gives a biographical background of the man that Henry Wallace would have made his Secretary of State].


“There was a Soviet espionage network in our government and the fact that Joseph McCarthy was a drunk, a bully and a cynical opportunist doesn’t change that.  Along with a lot of other Democrats, I’ve wasted a lot of time on these issues that I was, in fact, wrong about.”  
                                          (Keillor)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Paul's Letter to the Romans refutes Luther's innovation


                                 

Martin Luther (d. 1546) declared sola fide – ‘faith alone’ – as being “the article with and by which the church stands.”

Several years ago, Pope Benedict said: “Luther’s expression of sola fide is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love.”

In other words, as Galatians 5:6 has it, “faith working through love.”

The obedience of faith: Saint Paul never separates the two.  Proclaiming “faith alone” is like speaking of the mercy of God, and never bothering to mention His justice!


This is how Paul begins the Letter to the Romans:
“…we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.”  (1:5)
And how Paul ends it:
“…the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed…according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith..”  (16:26)

Of course Saint James, in his letter (2:24), explicitly states “that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

[Saint Paul, who didn't hesitate to employ the word “alone” when necessary, chose not to include it in Romans 3:28 (“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”)
But that did not prevent Martin Luther from inserting the word.  Here is how he defended that move in part:
“I know very well that in Romans 3 the word ‘solum’ is not in the Greek or Latin text – the papists did not have to teach me that… If the translation is to be clear and vigorous, it belongs there.”]

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dusting off “il poverello d’Assisi” from the sentimental shelf


                 

For Saint Francis (d. 1226), his love and devotion for the Holy Eucharist was paramount.  The humble deacon admonished the priests of his day: "Let all who administer such holy mysteries," clean your altar linen and polish your chalices!  

The Poverello always reserved his harshest words for those who ignored the Eucharistic presence.  In a recent biography of Assisi's famous son, the Dominican author says:
"The locus of Francis's 'mysticism,' his belief that he could have direct contact with God, was in the Mass, not in nature or even in service to the poor... For him, the change of the elements from bread and wine to Christ's Body and Blood was like the Incarnation."

It's funny about those who are always tooting their horn of "multi-culturalism” -- their understanding of Saint Francis on his own terms is weaker than a man who claims to know about the Father of our Country because he can parrot back an apocryphal tale or two from Parson Weems!
                               

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Red Cardinals and Bloodied Copts: True Ecumenism


by Dr. David Pence


                                           

The escalating murders of Copts in Egypt (the largest Christian group in the Middle East) reveal the continuing emasculation of Christian authority in public life that followed the separation of Church and State as religious and protective institutions.

It is good there has been a separation. But it has been a disaster for the most vulnerable – because the Christian men in the nations and the men of the Church have not formulated a more effective protective strategy for those who face religious persecution. (“Religious persecution” here is the old-fashioned kind: you get murdered trying to worship God.) The strategies for the unarmed Church and the armed nations must be very different, and yet complementary, to face this growing threat. Jesus reminded Pilate that if His Kingdom were of the world, his men would have fought back.  Nations are of this world. We are of the time (the real meaning of secular). The nations must use the sword justly and prudently – at home and abroad. Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

The churchmen do not use the sword. Their Kingdom is of a higher order – their weapons more powerful. But if they will not organize military protection for the slain, certainly they must place themselves in nonviolent confrontation with the slayers. How long can a white cardinal ask that yet another dark-skinned woman fill his place of martyrdom? The meaning of the red garments of the cardinals of the Catholic Church is that they are willing to be martyred. This was the Christian witness of Reverend Martin Luther King. Non-violent confrontation with the evil of racism was “meant to create tension.” It was a strategic tactic to dramatize an evil, and involve onlookers in an injustice that for years had seemed another’s problem. The middle-class black ministers and their flocks put themselves, as Christ had, in the place of the persecuted.

The non-violent protesters never asked the state legislators to disband their police departments! They were not fighting for a universal pacifism. Their non-violence was a way of placing them in a redemptive encounter with evil. They did not ask legitimate authority to renounce the use of force, but illegitimate authority to renounce hatred. No one in that deeply religious movement objected to President John Kennedy sending federal troops in 1962 to integrate the University of Mississippi. The armed federal marshals he first sent did not have enough protective force to prevent violence -- so he sent more military firepower to establish the tranquility of order which was necessary for justice.

The bravery of the nine children who integrated an Arkansas high school a decade earlier was supplemented by airborne federal troops and a nationalized state guard under the orders of President Eisenhower. They were all armed. No one asked to “give peace a chance.”

                                         

Sending a few cardinals to Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo (seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope; the late holder of the office is shown welcoming John Paul in 2000) would be an ecumenical gesture of unprecedented force and meaning. It would be the kind of action that could also change the kind of man seeking the cardinal’s red. Martyrdom has always been an antidote to ecclesial careerism, which Pope Francis so abhors.  We know Cardinal Mahony has no public duties to keep him tethered to Los Angeles, and he showed us he could travel by showing up at the papal conclave. There will be some old curial hands who could join him in this act of witness for a year or two.

These intramural Catholic concerns aside, the Copts of Egypt need a strong gesture from the papal office of Christian unity.  Church unity can mean nothing if it does not mean their danger is our danger. These risky acts of witness are another reason that bishops are celibates.

Who will play the role of armed authority? Will it be Pharaoh or will a new Exodus be necessary? That is a question for the nations. Only dramatic action by the Church will force them to answer. This will cleanse the nations as well, by forcing Islamic nationalists to show their true colors – while focusing the protective authority of once Christian nations on more fundamental freedoms than the strange concerns which have become hobbyhorses of the elites.
                                 


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Catholic Education vs. the Modern University

by Dr. David Pence


                               

The denial – in March 2013 – by an education official at Gonzaga University (Spokane, Washington) of a student request to form a Knights of Columbus chapter is a perfect local instance of the fundamental contradiction between the communal tradition of Catholic education and the individualistic tenets of modern universities.

The Catholic tradition, grounded in the reality of God-made-man who is incarnate in every daily Mass, posits transcendent truth claims about God, man, and nature… and searches from there into the unknown. The modern university begins with the individual – whose nature is unknown – but whose autonomy is paramount. One tradition builds community from a Trinitarian communal reality. The other assembles a gathering place of atomic monads free to seek their own individual truths and, more urgently, their individual career paths.

Dr. Sue Weitz is the official. She has played multiple administrative roles in her own distinguished career, winning her PhD from Gonzaga University in a discipline called ‘Higher Education Administration.’ As Vice President for Student Life, she flawlessly recited the modern tenets in her letter turning down the request:
“The Knights of Columbus, by their very nature, is a men’s organization in which only Catholics may participate via membership… These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the University’s commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion… [I] believe strongly in the University’s commitment to non-discrimination and inclusivity… If Gonzaga was an institution that served only Catholics and limited the benefits of the collegiate experience only to them, the decision-making process may have been different… To embrace the diversity and yet endorse a group based on faith exclusivity is a challenge that cannot be reconciled at this time… It is a decision about social justice, equity, and the desire of the University to create and maintain an environment in which none are excluded.”

Dr. Weitz, in an earlier University podcast, had explained the difference between a Jesuit University and state schools: “It is total student centeredness – it’s all about the student…”
The official motto of the school actually has a different emphasis borrowing from the Jesuits: AMDG (ad majorem Dei gloriam) which means “All for the greater glory of God.”

Now, the lesson to learn from this embarrassing story is that both the hyper-individualism of student-centered culture and the fetish for inclusiveness as the crowning attribute of social life are deeply related and quite unlike the religious military spirit of Ignatius Loyola. Our new Jesuit pope has said, "The evils that, over time, happen in ecclesial institutions have their root in self-referentiality and a kind of theological narcissism."

Communal associations based on deep commitments to transcendental truths are precisely the forms which oppose the self-referentiality which is the evil of our day.

In the academic literature which reflects on the nature of community and intermediate associations like student clubs, there is a term called “social capital.”  Exclusive organizations are capable of forming the bonding kind of social capital which is the “super glue” that precedes and makes possible the bridging social capital which “oils” the broader relationships of society.

Dr. Weitz is no ogre. She is a daughter of her age, and absolutely consistent in enforcing the modern ideology:  every student an autonomous individual, and every organization a place to benefit autonomous individuals. But she should not mistake such a policy with the Jesuit or Catholic tradition. Truly, that is not how community works – especially a community aiming to increase the glory of a Living God. The Knights of Columbus (the instance at hand) were formed in 1881 to provide for the widows and orphans of deceased members. The men exclusively bonded, and the least fortunate women and children benefited.

The Catholic Church is known for three meals. There is the highly restricted Eucharistic communion, available only to Catholics in a state of grace and administered by an exclusively all-male celibate priesthood. There are the KC and Holy Name pancake breakfasts open to all who will pay a small price, and promise to listen to the programmed speakers. Finally, throughout the world’s slums and city streets there are kitchens and centers whose price for drink is one’s thirst and whose charge for food is hunger. The restricted sharing of Christ’s Body on our altars is fundamentally related to the unrestricted sharing found on those streets and in those slums. We can be calmly confident the Gonzaga superiors of Dr. Weitz will correct her error – that too is the Jesuit tradition.

                                     

Thursday, March 21, 2013

True piety leads to protection


What is the main duty that God assigned Saint Joseph?

Here is how the new bishop of Rome – Papa Francesco – answered: “He is to be the 'custos,' the protector.”

                                      

Speaking at his installation Mass, the pope said that before we can protect others, we must guard Christ in our lives.

That’s what Joseph did, and continues to do… as protector of his son’s Mystical Body, the Church.                                          


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

“Brotherhoods are blood oaths”

                                        

From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer:
"So Tom unwound the thread from one of his needles, and each boy pricked the ball of his thumb and squeezed out a drop of blood. In time, after many squeezes, Tom managed to sign his initials, using the ball of his little finger for a pen. Then he showed Huckleberry how to make an H and an F, and the oath was complete..."

Take a look at Pence’s essay that appeared this morning in the Minneapolis ‘Star Tribune’ newspaper – all about blood oaths, the priesthood, and the communal nature of masculine love.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

May our new Holy Father be like a “pioggia di primavera”


The diocese of Rome and the rest of the Church need a good Spring Rain!

There are other high clerics – besides the Scotch cardinal who was forced to concede he was a sexual predator – whose wicked deeds should be exposed.

Let us Catholics turn our backs on the craziness of the 1960s, when permissiveness became the cultural lodestar, and rediscover the order and beauty that Saint Thomas Aquinas understood better than anyone:
“When it is well-ordered, intense passion is a mark of intense virtue.”

                           

"The Church is the tree of God that lives for ever and bears within her eternity and the true inheritance: eternal life."  (Benedict XVI)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Two battles a thousand years apart


As the eighth century dawned, the powerful Muslim armies continued to advance northward on Europe.  In 732, however, at the Battle of Tours (southwest of Paris) they were finally stopped – by Charles “the Hammer” Martel.

[This was exactly a century after the death of Muhammad].



The Franks were greatly outnumbered by the invaders on horseback, but Martel had chosen the terrain of engagement.

With this stunning victory, Martel – grandfather of Charlemagne – laid the foundation for the European Middle Ages.





In 1683 – more than nine hundred miles to the East at Vienna – the Ottomans were defeated by the Christian forces commanded by the Polish king, Jan Sobieski.

(The Polish, German, and Austrian armies were fewer than the Turkish soldiers led by the Grand Vizier.)

Sobieski said that his purpose was “to proceed to the Holy War, and with God’s help to give back the old freedom to besieged Vienna, and thereby help wavering Christendom.”

From an account:
On September 11th, Christian forces arrived on a small hill overlooking Vienna known as Kahlenberg and drove off an Ottoman observation force. They then lit up three large torches to let the Ottomans and the defenders know of their arrival…

In the early morning dawn of the next day the Catholic troops held Mass while the Protestants held their own service, both prayed for victory…
[At the end of the day with the Turks on the run] Sobieski was the first to reach the Grand Vizier’s tent from which he received the delirious and joyful cheers of his army and the defenders of Vienna as the savior of Europe. The city was saved. 
As the allied troops plundered the camps, Jan III took the time to dictate a letter to the Pope by which he would report his victory to the whole of Europe. In this letter he made his famous paraphrase of Julius Caesar’s dispatch from the battle of Zela in 47 BC:
“Venimus, Vidimus, Deus Vicit” – We Came, We Saw, God Conquered.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Practicing Catholics, Social Justice, and Educational Reform


Dr. Pence writes:

Catholic education involves a generation of parents and teachers transmitting to students a communal practice that tells them the story of the world; and introduces them to the main characters of that drama eliciting love of God, hatred of Satan, affection for Mary, admiration of the saints, and love for one another. The daily and weekly rhythm of prayer, penance, Mass, and confession introduces students to a realistic comprehensive explanation of the external world while cultivating within them the beginning of a reflective interior life. The story we tell them and the characters we introduce to them are more fantastic than any movie or play. So our challenge is to communicate that a tale so incredible is, in truth, the nature of reality.

                 
This starts with a daily insistence for young children that they are the bearers of a spiritual soul that sets them quite apart from their pets and plants. This personal awareness of the human spiritual soul and a distinct language describing the soul’s faculties and characteristics are not to be confused with “we are all special.”  The practice of examining one’s conscience and receiving the Eucharist in one’s soul are experiences of interiority that are utterly foreign to the modern psychology of personal identity. Yet many of us enjoyed a firm grasp of this interior reality at age seven – and so did our best friends.  These sacramental practices are the educational pillars of the interiority needed for young people to eventually grasp the larger reality that the physical universe manifests a spiritual cosmos.

Genuflecting in a sacred space to a Sacred Presence orients muscles and memory to a sacred order. Seeing a pregnant woman as a temple harboring a sacred life is a lot easier for children brought up genuflecting to a tabernacle holding the Body of Christ.  The special days of feast and fast – telling an annual narrative –  turn the “one thing after another” of chronos time into the historical sense of religious time imbued with both direction and purpose.  Finally, the sacralized and forbidden speech patterns of the Catholic liturgy and commandments impress upon our students the terrible power of language and the word for good or evil. We train our students with actions that inform their thoughts and words. These practices permeate the life of a normal Catholic school, parish, and family.

Prayer and public worship are the inevitable consequences of learning about and knowing God.  Proper worship orients faculty and students to the hierarchy of knowledge that orders them in relation to time, place, purpose, and person. Fortunately, these acts of religious piety do not make students or teachers forget periodic tables, geometric relationships, historical events, or English grammar. Acts of piety, keeping time together, and sharing an ordering language toward the ultimate truths establish a powerful communal lattice for learning. This corporate characteristic that gave the University its name is precisely what modern overspecialized schools have lost.  It is the unitive mark of any truly Catholic school.

The restoration of Catholic education by first insisting on Catholic practices permeating the student experience of time, space, and language will involve a serious redeployment of funds, and a renewal of religious mission from the self-serving employees' cartel that now control most of our institutions. The ecclesial duty to educate the Catholic faithful who fill our parishes (but are unable to afford our University and high school tuitions) will not be embraced by many of the lay and clerical ministers who presently absorb the bulk of our annual $12 billion parish and diocese income.  They will counter all significant movements of reform with an inflationary view of workplace justice, a parasitic generational subversion of gender equity, and an attempt to elevate bureaucratic tenure as a sacramental of infinity.

The proper disposition of land, buildings, and job opportunities is a true social justice issue which will pit Catholic careerists who have lost their faith -- but maintain control of the Catholic infrastructure -- against immigrant and large-family Catholics, as well as the urban poor, who need to be educated, married, and buried inside the dense social capital capacity of the Catholic Church and her institutions. The bishops will decide the matter after they face it.

Less than 15 percent of parish income (fifty years ago it was 63%) is dedicated to Catholic grade schools. Meanwhile, salaries for nuns and clergy in the justice ministries, hospital systems, and Catholic universities make even a previous purse-snatcher like Judas Iscariot seem like a fool for chump change.  (Annual salaries of Fr. Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities - $220,000; Sister Carol Keehan of Catholic Health Association - $600,000 with  $900,000 total compensation; Fr. Dennis Dease, President of University of St.  Thomas - $300,000. The female discrepancy here is retributive payback for historical institutional sexism).

A large subsection of the Sixties generation of clerics, nuns, and lay ministers have interrupted the great inter-generational transmission of faith, wealth, and sacrificial service which constitutes Catholic Tradition.  Those spiritual truths which they did not accept in humble gratitude, they have not transmitted with convincing authority.  Those material possessions lent to them for service to the next generation, they have expropriated for themselves as a “just wage.” This generational act of narcissistic disruption has betrayed the evangelical promise of Vatican II, and squandered the Catholic immigration potential for the Christianization of American civic culture.

The restoration of Catholic education awaits a return to the practice of the sacramental faith by Catholic educators and parents. It will involve closings and firings, and re-openings and conversions, and lots of talented volunteers and lots of very low-paid clergy and nuns. Practicing Catholics are the best social justice movement of all because we start by giving God His due in worship and end up educating and integrating the immigrants, the widows, and the orphans in the life of the Church and city.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Chinese government taking same tack as Bourbon France


                                                       

The photo is from the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.  An excerpt from a recent magazine essay on today’s China:
All of which should leave the regime feeling secure in its own position. Yet it hardly acts that way. "They're acutely aware of the risk," reports one diplomat, describing how closely Beijing watched the Arab spring, seeking to learn from the ousted despots' mistakes. One immediate response was to prevent the possibility of large crowds, flooding popular areas with security personnel to disperse potential groups, even ordering street-sweeping vehicles to drive closer to the pavement in order to keep people moving. There may be some freedom of speech in today's China, but there's next to no freedom of association.

The passage called to mind Tocqueville’s stress in Democracy in America on the importance of associations.

The historian Leo Damrosch on the Frenchman’s visit to Philadelphia:
“It happened that a free-trade convention, opposed to the protective tariff that was highly controversial at the time, was about to meet in Philadelphia, while the tariff’s supporters… would be meeting simultaneously in New York.  Neither assembly would have had the slightest chance of happening in France.  Tocqueville was impressed that the First Amendment to the Constitution expressly guaranteed ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’  It is not easy today to appreciate how radical that right once was.  French law prohibited any assembly of more than twenty people unless they had obtained official permission, and Tocqueville lamented, ‘What can public opinion itself do when twenty people may not assemble in one place, and when there is no man, family, group, class, or free association that can declare its views and act upon them?’ ”


The holy hopeful patriarch of Nigeria


If any Catholic still finds himself in a sepulchral mood by the decision of Benedict to step down as Holy Father, he should watch this short video of Cardinal Arinze.  Overflowing with the Holy Spirit – but too old to vote in the upcoming conclave – he leaves one with a more solid assurance that the good men inside the Barque of Peter will always outnumber the bad.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Spiritual Reality and a full tonal palette of Emotions

by Dr. David Pence

G.K. Chesterton wrote that a man who did not regard the devil as real, would forever picture reality on too drab a canvas.  Artists describe tone or value as the shades and tints of colors—how bright is the brightest and how dark is the darkest.  A “high key” painting employs a full range of tones and it affects how all the colors (hues) interact.

If our understanding of reality includes the full cast of characters – the whole dramatis personae from the eternal triune God to the fallen angelic creature Lucifer – then we will need a full tonal palette of emotions to respond to these beings. Our love should always dominate and surpass our hatred. God deserves a much deeper emotion than His adversary.

If we have no hatred for the devil in our emotional palette, then we are not apprehending and responding properly to Reality. If we lack this hatred, two very different pathologies can ensue. This deficit tends to dull a particular set of emotions: anger at injustice, aversion to evil, and fear of Hell. This is the tonal error of the American bishops.

On the other hand, hatred without its proper object may run amuck and consume us in hatred of our father or President; or some past personal malefactor; or a perceived racial or class enemy. That is the emotional tonality of the sexual Left. Man cannot disengage from the basic truths of reality—not in his comprehension and not in his emotional response.  He must employ all tonal values of his emotions because the picture of revelation has been drawn in high key.

                     

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Whet, Suppress, and Reorder – Aiming Virtues at Emotions


Dr. Pence writes:

The original sin of Adam disassociated man from the ordering vitality of sharing in God’s life. This darkened our intellects and weakened our wills.  A light bulb is dysfunctional – not depraved – when it is disconnected from the electrical current for which it was made. The filament only works properly in relation to an external current.  That is why babies need baptism, not because they have chosen sin, but because they are disastrously disconnected.

Grace, faith, and religious education are all aimed at enlightening our intellects.  No serious Christian accepts the darkened intellect as his static life-state.  But with our slackened wills – our puny love for God, and all the disorders of appetites and affections that follow that paltriness of spiritual desire – we make peace. We take our desires as givens, and discipline our wills to become bludgeons instructed by the intellect to suppress our excessive passions.  We conquer our defective emotional drives with “will power.”  This leaves us desiccated men who no longer commit certain sins of passion, but are incapable of the magnanimity of soul which marks the person who "loves much."

Where your heart is, there is your treasure. Blessed are those who hunger for justice, and thirst for righteousness. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife or goods. These are all commands to order our appetites, affections, or emotions.

The virtue ethics movement (see Servais Pinckaers, O.P. and Romanus Cessario, O.P.) and the lucid work on Aquinas and emotions (The Logic of Desire discussed in this taped talk by Nicholas Lombardo, O.P.) are present-day Dominican contributions that refocus our virtues on the training of our emotions.

Deficiency of desire for God can be whetted; deficiency of desire for one’s wife can be rekindled; disordered desire for one’s neighbor can be repressed; apathy in the face of evil can give way to daring; and a disregard for Satan can be overcome by a cultivation of hatred for that vile serpent.

If certain well-regarded acts of the atheistic sexual revolution no longer cause physiological and moral aversion in one’s stomach and soul, then the emotional battle that decides group elections has been won by the other side. My modest proposal in the battle to awaken and reorder our desires and emotions is to learn virtue theology from Dominicans, and another set of lessons from Jewish and Islamic culture.  Both have long-standing traditions ("Stoning the Devil" and "Scapegoating") which cultivate those less popular but utterly necessary hatreds and aversions needed to expose, isolate, and cast out the Evil One.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Pro-life Prayer for Amnesty


     "O God Almighty who chastises the nations and orders us to oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor: we give you thanks and we ask your forgiveness. Grant us amnesty from our sins against life as we grant amnesty to the sojourner. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  For every child denied his mother’s milk by scalpel and suction, may we feed another with our nation’s bread. Forgive us our trespasses. For every empty high chair at our nation’s table,  may we add a setting for our neighbor.  Let this act of reparation renew our nation in the love which binds us.  May the immigrant see us as friends, and may this act of Charity enkindle in us the fire of Thy love. May the new mother look kindly on her child, and may our nation know the protective shelter of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of men." 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Libya, Benghazi, and Mrs. Clinton


From a columnist’s description of the Secretary of State’s recent appearance before Congress:
The most dramatic moment came early, when Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson tried to get Clinton to explain why the State Department blamed the September 11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi on an impromptu protest over an anti-Muslim video. In a rehearsed moment of spontaneous outrage, Clinton yelled back, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

Doc Pence says the senator should have been ready with a response such as the following:


Mrs. Clinton,

You are right that it really wouldn’t make any difference if it was "guys on a walk who just wanted to kill Americans" or spontaneous demonstrators.  There would, however, be a very significant difference if the attack was planned by a group which is actively organizing a military movement in Libya to be the core of a new government. It would make a very big difference if this attack is evidence that there is a well-organized armed group that controls the streets of Benghazi at night, and used the anniversary of 9/11 as a time to show that control.

If this is evidence of an al-Qaeda like movement perched to bid for control of the Libyan government based in Benghazi… If this means that the primary organized opposition which overthrew Muammar Ghaddafi is not a democratic populist movement… If the killing at Benghazi was planned by an Eastern Libyan group who are the true heirs of the US-aided victory over Ghaddafi… then that makes a very big difference indeed.

The attackers are neither spontaneous demonstrators nor “guys walking by wanting to kill Americans.” We can all agree: that distinction would make no difference. The Benghazi attack is the tip of a very dangerous iceberg; not the culmination of a single day’s passion. Understanding this makes a big difference – not just in Libya, but throughout the region.

The victors of the Egyptian revolt are the Muslim Brotherhood, not ‘yuppie’ pro-American tweeters. They have formed a very different government with a very different strategic goal than the government of President Mubarak. No matter how much we identified with the 2011 demonstrations in Tahrir Square, the new controlling element in Egyptian politics is part of the Sunni purification movement that is going to hurt liberty in general and Christians, Shiite Muslims, and the State of Israel in particular. These kind of differences must be attended to as we decide to send advanced military equipment to the new Mohamed Morsi government.

Everywhere men are arming in the Mideast. We must admit that the one coherent ideology which will organize these armed men is the jihadist Sunni purification movement associated with the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Even the Tuareg guard of Ghaddafi have returned to their homeland and joined with US-trained troops in Mali to form a military group to rule that emerging nation. What is their ideology?  It is not an existentialist spontaneity – it is a return to purified Islam.

Does it make a difference if the best organized groups of the Arab spring are going to be religious jihadists replacing the secular dictators of the last half century?  Did it make a difference that the Russians who overthrew the Czar were Bolsheviks and not liberal democrats?

Many of us thought that this killing was not about a video. We saw it as planned; as clear evidence that the best organized forces in Libya are not planning democracy, but some kind of sharia-based purification of the nation. Understanding this makes all the difference in the world, and it is precisely what some of us think you as Secretary of State have not understood throughout your tenure. To be honest, we have to say that we as Republicans have not been as articulate in demanding a more comprehensive national strategy which puts these events in context.

The problem in the Mideast is that armed groups of men are re-positioning themselves to rule nations from Turkey to Libya to Syria to Egypt. Armed men do not fight simply because they have testosterone. They fight for reasons and causes which must be understood.

Your "issues" have been the empowerment of women and internationalization of homosexual rights.  You organized your department so that those kind of concerns reached your desk, while the ongoing mobilization of armed men was deemed historically less significant. A few weeks after you were too emotionally exhausted to publicly explain what happened in Benghazi, and a few months before you were too sick to testify to Congress, you found the time and energy for a trip to Peru for an Empowering Women Conference.

We all see the world in certain categories, and organize our priorities through those lenses. Your set of priorities has led to a deep confusion about the goals and strategy of our country in dealing with the religious and military landscape of the Mideast. Even your emphasis on finding the particular killers at Benghazi belies the fundamental impoverishment of your tenure as Secretary of State. After Pearl Harbor, did we try to hunt down the particular pilots who bombed our ships?  No, we put up a map of the Pacific and started outlining our friends and enemies, and the territories we would have to concede and the islands we would take. That is what we must do now. Our failure to do this has been a bipartisan failure. Republicans have talked about Iran and nuclear weapons but seldom mentioned how that Persian nation comprises the largest organized Shia resistance to purified Sunni Islam. And let us not forget it is the Sunni purification movement that has driven the jihadists.

This is a problem much bigger than you. I hope that you take none of these remarks as implying you are solely responsible for the strategic confusion that besets our nation. The confusion preceded you. You came, you traveled, you were praised as a woman pioneer, and now you are leaving.

Hopefully, with the new team at State – and a new Congress – we will all start thinking in the broader geographic and historical terms that are necessary to establish public policy. I wish you well in private life.