Saturday, December 31, 2011

"His architecture was not in stone but in nations"

The 13th century was the highest of the High Middle Ages.  Saint Francis of Assisi died in 1226; the previous year baby Thomas -- the future Angelic Doctor -- was born to the Count of Aquino.

Far to the East, Genghis Khan was coming to the end of his long career of conquering.  He had founded the Mongol Empire in 1206 (would endure for a couple centuries) -- which at its height was twice as large as the Roman Empire, spanning 6000 miles.
Prime Minister Nehru of India called Genghis Khan [1162 - 1227] "the greatest military genius and leader in history... Alexander and Caesar seem petty before him."  The Mongol Khan believed in "the unchangeable law for ever and ever, and no one could disobey it.  Even the emperor was subject to it."
It is fascinating to browse through Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford (2004).  All the folks today who loudly lament the demise of the American Indian should take a break from their sentimental dancing with wolves, drop their 'dream-catchers,' and pick up this book.  Genghis was a leader of noble savages worthy of high acclaim.

The Mongol army overran everything from "the Indus River to the Danube, from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea... Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus [knelt] before the dusty boots of illiterate young Mongol horsemen."

"The Mongol was ideally suited to travel long distances; each man carried precisely what he needed, but nothing more... Each squad of ten carried a small tent.

The movement and formation of the Mongol army were determined by two factors that set them apart from the armies of every other traditional civilization.  First, the Mongol military consisted entirely of cavalry, armed riders without a marching infantry...

The second unique characteristic of the Mongol army was that it traveled without a commissary or cumbersome supply train other than its large reserve of horses that always accompanied the soldiers.  As they moved, they milked the animals, slaughtered them for food, and fed themselves from hunting and looting.  Marco Polo [who worked for Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis] alleged that the Mongol warriors could travel ten days without stopping to make a fire or heat food...

The decimal organization of Genghis Khan's army made it highly mutable and mobile... The only permament structures he erected were bridges... They sought not merely to conquer the world but to institute a global order based on free trade, a single international law, and a universal alphabet with which to write all languages.

Crushing the will of the enemy was always the top priority... [Trying through propaganda] to win the battle before the first arrow was shot across the battlefield, to defeat the enemy by first creating confusion and then instilling fear to break his spirit...

Above all else, Genghis Khan waged war with this strategic purpose in mind: to preserve Mongol life... On and off the battlefield, the Mongol warrior was forbidden to speak of death, injury, or defeat... Winning by clever deception or cruel trickery was still winning and carried no stain on the bravery of the warriors...

As lifelong nomads, the Mongols learned early to fight on the move... It mattered not at all whether he killed the enemy while attacking toward him or fleeing from him."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Russia's defeat in the mid-19th century Crimean War

"More than any other power, the Russian Empire had religion at its heart."

Orlando Figes is a young London professor who has written extensively on Russia. In his book on the Crimean War, he refuses to marginalize religion. "The tsar, Nicholas I, the man more than anyone responsible for the war... above all believed he was fighting a religious war, a crusade to fulfill Russia's mission to defend the Christians of the Ottoman Empire."

Figes treats as crucial what most historians dismiss in a footnote -- the long tradition of Russian pilgrimages and stewardship of the Holy Land -- resulting often in pitched battles between Eastern and Latin monks for control of shrines and churches such as the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Russia was "a civilization built upon the myth of Orthodox succession to the Byzantine Empire... [with dreams] of the conquest of Constantinople and its resurrection as the Russian capital." Russians felt deeply betrayed by the decision of France and England to ally themselves, not with another Christian state, but with the Turkish Muslims. Dostoevsky (a soldier at the time) portrayed this as the 'crucifixion of the Russian Christ.'

Maybe we in America have shut our ears to the Holy Spirit's challenge to start a religious initiative to Russia, to unite as protectors of beleaguered Christian minorities around the world -- and for both nations to do all in their power to steer China and India to become Christ-bearers. (Francis Fukuyama on today's China: "The regime no longer has any guiding ideal around which it is organized.")

One of the consequences of the Crimean War was the decision of the Tsar to emancipate the serfs in 1861. Professor Figes says:

"Freedom of a sort, however limited it may have been in practice, had at last been granted to the mass of the people, and there were grounds to hope for a national rebirth. Writers compared the Edict to the conversion of Russia to Christianity in the tenth century."
[From a British newspaper story a few days ago:

"It's become something of a Christmas tradition: the annual ecclesiastical punch-up at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This year the Palestinian riot police had to be called in after it all kicked off again, with a hundred or so Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks bashing seven bells out of each other with brooms..."]

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Protecting Our Lady by punishing Judas

Pence writes:

"Guidelines, therapeutic counseling, statute of limitations" --  none of this is our language. Catholics use a biblical language of sin, repentance, metanoia, acceptance of punishment and penance -- all of these must accompany a firm purpose of amendment not to sin again.

Waiting for civil authorities to find crimes, asking victims if they wish to press charges -- none of this is the practice of our own justice system. We have neglected the duty to punish, as Pope Benedict said.  Our inquisitorial justice system provides (Canon 1430) that a promoter of justice be appointed for cases which can endanger the public good. Such a promoter functions as our investigator and public prosecutor.  What diocese in America could not use such a special prosecutor? The churchmen who have done crimes against the liturgy, the creed and morality are NOT the Church. We must never say “the Church has sinned” or “the Church must repent” or “our Diocese is sorry and we are all sad.”

"Look not on our sins,” we ask God, “but the faith of thy Church.” Now too many bishops say, “Look not on my faults but the sins of the Church." The personal-injury lawyers want to sue the Church, not the criminal who betrayed both the victim and Holy Mother Church. The Church and the particular dioceses are on the wrong side of these cases. She too has been aggrieved. She too cries for justice. The Church is Mary; she is spotless. The local Church is Christ’s Body, and He once again has been betrayed.  The offending churchman is Judas. He has sinned and the prosecutorial offices of the Petrine Church are meant to wash out the Judas priest and the Judas bishop from the apostolic bond. This is not an optional task, but the Mandatum of Christ issued to Peter and the remaining ten apostles on the evening when the priesthood and Eucharist were instituted.

After the mid-sixties, however, it [ecclesiaistical penal law] was simply not applied any more. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but, rather, a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people.

Today we have to learn all over again that love for the sinner and love for the person who has been harmed are correctly balanced if I punish the sinner in the form that is possible and appropriate. In this respect there was in the past a change of mentality, in which the law and the need for punishment were obscured. Ultimately this also narrowed the concept of love, which in fact is not just being nice or courteous, but is found in the truth. And another component of truth is that I must punish the one who has sinned against real love.”

(Pope Benedict XVI,  Light of the World interview 2010)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday BookReview: Lynch on Dinesh D'Souza

Andrew Lynch at 'Orate Fratres' blog offers this analysis of one of the books by the president of King's College in New York City:

Dinesh D’Souza is best known for going head-to-head with atheists in public debates. This Catholic scholar from India, however, also has a knack for connecting faith to global affairs, foreign policy, and cultural reform on the domestic front. Indeed D’Souza’s book, The Enemy at Home, struck a cord among liberals and conservatives alike, calling out the secularists and making the case that our own moral depravity, sponsored by the secular Left, was the root cause of 9/11. D’Souza argues that conservatives have missed a perfect opportunity to link the culture war with the war on terror – that radical Muslims do not hate democracy, free markets, or new technology, but rather our permissive culture. Contrary to the Left, no Middle Easterner believes America is seeking a new hegemonic, territory-based imperialism. What struck fear into bin Laden was the new “cultural imperialism” of the radical Left which poses an existential threat to Islam.

As a native of India with a long history of relations with Indian Muslims, D’Souza quickly rids us of the liberal-conservative dichotomy which laces our discussions on politics, culture, and religion. Islam is not made up of liberals and conservatives but rather of traditionalists and radicals. The traditionalists are neither moderates nor conservatives; they simply live out the core beliefs of Islam, have high moral standards, and raise strong families. On the flip side, neither “Islamo-fascism” nor “fundamentalism” adequately describes the radicals, for the former term is only an attempt to recycle World War II imagery, painting Muslims as modern Nazis, while the latter term could describe any Muslim who follows the fundamental five pillars of Islam – none of which include terrorism. In the end, the ally we need to defeat the radicals is neither secular France nor the radical liberals in America.

The Enemy at Home argues that we need to win over the Islamic traditionalists.

D’Souza warns us, however, that the radicals are trying to win over the traditionalists as well, and the way they are doing it is by showing the traditionalists the moral bankruptcy of America and Europe. While the vast majority of traditional Muslims have never been to America or Europe, it is noteworthy that almost all the leaders of radical Islam were born here, lived here, or were educated here. As D’Souza says: “The Muslims who hate us the most are the ones who have encountered Western decadence… their hatred was not a product of ignorance but of familiarity; not of Wahhabi indoctrination but of firsthand observation.” It is here that pious Muslims witness radical individualism as the worship of the self, the renunciation of moral standards, and the celebration of those who frequently exercise a “right” to blaspheme God...
[Read more]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Man is called to a different vocation than the angels

Question for Pence

Here is Pastor John Piper on C.S. Lewis:

In his book on the Psalms, he says, “The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever’. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy him.”
Many Christians assume that is man's central duty in this vale of tears. But you contend that this is a slightly skewed perspective -- corporate humanity was meant to replace the fallen angels, and to wage battle against Satan. How did we lose sight of that?


The old Baltimore Catechism answered the query "Why did God make me?" with “To know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world; and be happy with Him in the next.”

To read the Piper/Lewis emphasis is to wonder: "Is man, then, an angel?" For the duty to glorify and enjoy was certainly the primal purpose of the higher ranks of angels, the Cherubim and Seraphim. But Adam was not meant to simply stay in the garden and worship. He had an "out-of-garden" mission to order the Earth where a serpent reigned.

So there is something in man’s nature and original mission that involves a purgative task before he enjoys and worships God forever. It is a task which is intrinsically related to man’s nature as a material being with a spiritual soul who is meant to struggle and suffer to restore justice. "To serve Him in this world" means to carry out a peculiar mission assigned to Adam and renewed by Christ. The purpose of human nature and the fullness of man was only made clear by the life of Christ. To understand Christ is to understand man; not just in his fallen nature, but in his original mission and ultimate purpose. Christ came to restore justice—so did Adam. Blessed are those who thirst after justice! This restoration of justice is not simply atoning for original sin—that is too anthropocentric a view of the history of sin.

There has been a great offense by an angel against the Creator; and the particular role of the spiritual but non-angelic soul of man is to act as a lower creature in defeating the higher sinner. The accuser will be forever deceiving us and accusing us of having no such high function since we too have sinned.

The Calvinists, indeed, define their destiny in angelic-like terms -- but their historical practice of Christianity is anything but “angelistic.” They manifest a unique powerful public element of struggle. They thought their own personal salvation was already decided. To give glory to God they entered a struggle as free churches and civic communities to manifest His Glory. They shaped masculine protective Christian-ordered commonwealths from Geneva to Massachusetts in order to give glory to God. From Cromwell to Winthrop to Jackson, they understood armed brotherhood as a necessary manifestation of Christianity in history.

Christopher Dawson reminds us that the vocation of Abraham as a friend of God was as head of a chosen people. Dawson says nations have vocations as well as individuals -- that individuals have vocations as part of communal bodies.

The missions of Adam required communal forms for their fulfillment. He needed Eve to fill the earth, as Abraham needed Sarah to be the father of nations. To subdue the earth, Adam needed his sons; and to establish a Promised Land and a People of the Law, Abraham needed every male willing to shed his blood for the covenanted community. For Christ to drive out demons and baptize the nations he called into being the masculine apostolic communal body.

Christ did not let Peter set up permanent worship tents at the Transfiguration. There was a cross to embrace and prisoners to set free.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Napoleon crowned himself emperor on this day

Or, as Pence describes the 1804 ceremony: "The distant precursor to taking Holy Communion in the hand!"

[Here is a sample of the march composed for the occasion by Jean-Francois Le Sueur, music director at Notre Dame Cathedral].