Saturday, December 27, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 27

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:

Catholics must wake up in formulating who are our allies and who are our enemies in the Mideast. Catholic World Report explains Syria in a way the generally Republican-leaning neoconservatives are missing. We must get Assad and Christian protection right.

In a stunning rebuke of clerical corruption, Pope Francis listed the 15 sins of the Curia in his Christmas address to the deeply corrupted governing body of the institutional Church. His devastating unexpected speech was mindful of the rebuke of the cowardly priest Don Abbondio by the holy reforming cardinal, Federigo Borromeo, in one of the Pope's favorite novels -- The Betrothed. The initial actions the Pope has taken against "the double lives" of so many high Vatican officials has been cast as a purging of traditionalists because one of the first personalities he deposed was Cardinal Raymond Burke. But the duplicity and self-aggrandizement that the Pope is aiming at comes in the silky lace of the Tridentine as well as the sophisticated high life of "progressives." None of us have ever seen such a rebuke from cleric to cleric since Jesus washed out Judas from the apostles at the Last Supper. May other bishops in their own dioceses begin the purification of the clergy so necessary for the Church to carry out her mission to the world. What the Pope has started with these words is just a beginning but this is why Pope Benedict resigned and another has filled his office.

Pope Francis and the Vatican played an important intermediary role but President Obama can take well deserved credit in the opening of relations between Cuba and the USA. This does not discredit the previous policy as much as recognize we are in a new era, and the categories of the Cold War must no longer straitjacket relations between the nations of North and South America and the Caribbean. This tremendous opportunity will be squandered if American Christians cast this as "an opportunity for free markets." This is really an opportunity to put away the communism vs capitalism paradigm, and work to restore Cuba, the United States, and other southern Catholic nations to a deeper understanding of the spiritual and communal nature of all nations and the possibility for a Christian fraternity of nations throughout the Americas.

In India the question of conversions -- forced and otherwise -- is a fundamental cultural and political dilemma. While the firestorm in the Indian parliament this month was against the "coming home" conversions of Muslims to Hinduism, the real target of many Hindu nationalists is to stop conversions of Hindus to Christianity or Islam. They are daring the critics of the latest mass conversion ceremony to make a law against conversions. This would not be good Muslim or Christian policy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Map on Monday: The Roman Empire

The map above (click to enlarge) is of the expansion of the Roman Empire from 44 BC (the death of Julius Caesar) through the reign of Emperor Trajan (d. 117 AD). Although much of the expansion depicted stemmed from military conquest - along with the notable loss of territory in Germania resulting from the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in which Arminius ("Herman the German") annihilated three Roman legions - the era of this map is often considered part of the Pax Roman or Peace of Rome. It was during this period of relative peace within the empire that Christ would be born in the Roman province of Judea.

The Roman genius for political organization and citizenship, however, was just as important as its armies for its expansion. Unlike the Greeks, whose city-states prided themselves on exclusive citizenship laws which placed great limitations on incorporating new members, the Roman system sought to expand the citizenship of Rome across its vast territories. Over time, as new lands were incorporated into the Roman world, peoples inhabiting these lands became Romans even though they may have lived hundreds of miles from the heart of the empire at Rome.

A crisis of imperial succession soon followed the end of the Pax Romana. This period, from 235-284 AD, is known as the third century crisis. In less than fifty years the Roman senate would give the imperial throne to twenty-six men. These men, mostly generals, found that the man with the strongest army could defeat and kill the current emperor in order to make himself emperor. This period ended with the rise of Diocletian in 284 AD. Diocletian returned stability to the empire and sought an administrative division of the empire that would allow for peaceful succession. This division, called the Tetrarchy (or "Rule of Four"), separated the empire into an eastern and western half wherein the senior rulers reigned as Augustus while their eventual successors ruled nearby lands as Caesar (see map below for territorial divisions and their rulers during the time of Diocletian).

The Tetrarchy lasted twenty years until the rise of Constantine and the legalization of Christianity in the year 313. With the construction of the new capital of Constantinople (originally entitled "New Rome"), the empire began to take a decidedly eastern shift away from the city of Rome and the empire of old.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 20

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:

When we think of the Vikings of old and the Scandanavians of today, the story of Catholic rulers disciplining the warrior spirit may not spring to mind. Here is a short well-told tale of religion, history, and the nations of the North Sea. Only the splendor and the glory of God could capture the hearts of men such as the Vikings and redirect their rather successful lifestyles to more sublime ends. It is the liturgy of the Mass that communicates such splendor as this essay eloquently explains. One characteristic of the glory of God, the majesty of the Mass and the authority of a good man is gravitas. The reason we need gravitas and an understanding of the warrior kings is that we humans are like Hobbits amidst a great spiritual war of principalities and powers. Over the years we have learned there are two great embarrassments to Catholic intellectuals and much of our clergy: the reality of a singular set of human parents (Adam and Eve); and the reality of conscious active angelic beings in the workings of everyday life and history. The weekly Sunday liturgy is "a theophany," says Pope Francis; and the practice of ending the Eucharistic theophany with a prayer to the angels is returning.

Here is an excellent essay on the Church and the meaning of nations and immigration by John Zmirak at 'Chronicles' magazine. George Friedman of Stratfor (a global intelligence firm) spent a week in Russia, and has an excellent summary of some realities we sometimes forget in our sanctions strategy (understanding Russia from the inside.) Friedman is usually single-minded on geographic and balance of power analysis. This is a change for him, and shows he is an intelligent observer as well as a strategic thinker.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday BookReview: "Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow" by David Chappell

(first published August 5, 2011)

Here are excerpts from David Pence's review of A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow:

Faith in God allows a man to see more clearly into the reality of things but apparently it has taken [the atheist] David Chappell to write this penetrating book defining the civil rights movement as a religious revival. He plays the righteous pagan Virgil in guiding Christian Dante through the biblical prophetic theology and working of the Spirit which signaled the civil rights movement as the third American Awakening...

Education was NOT the key to prophetic religion. God, judgment, conversion, sin, demons, and miracles constitute the vocabulary of the prophets. Reverend King's God was a highly personal God -- the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, not the god of the philosophers. He could be trusted in times of travail and prayed to in times of danger. Andrew Young was quoted: "The civil rights movement brought a resurgence of religious feeling in the South. When folks start shooting at you, you do a lot more praying." When Bayard Rustin was asked if King believed in the fundamentalist active personal God, he answered: "Oh, yes, profoundly; it always amazed me how he could combine this intensely philosophical analytical mind with this more or less fundamental -- well I don't like to say fundamentalist -- but abiding faith." As Thomas Gilmore, another civil rights veteran said: "The Holy Spirit guided us. I got strength facing the sheriff; he was the biggest man in the county, but I felt we were walking next to someone bigger. God is real, man." Years later Gilmore became the first black sheriff of his county.

Chappell has little time for the flatteners of history who in the name of "people's history" try to paint the civil rights struggle as the ever-present but under-reported fight of the common man against oppression. Chappell argues that something happened here that was extraordinary indeed; and the people who stepped out of the routines of their everyday lives to enter the political arena and national historical narrative were extraordinary people. He found the source of their courage and hope (that "stone of hope" they somehow chipped from the mountain of despair). What is unique about his study is that he does not stress the easy lesson that the biblical prophetic tradition was a foe to racism. He instead contrasts prophetic religion as a more effective and truthful actor for justice than position-paper rationalistic liberalism. What did those Baptist preachers (Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King, and Fred Shuttlesworth) know and do that eluded Gunnar Myrdal, John Dewey, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Lionel Trilling? Chappell's answer is that the civil rights movement was not the inevitable maturation and triumph of philosophical liberalism. It was not education for progress. Rather it was a Spirit-driven melding of characters and events living out the biblical narrative by confronting the soul of a nation. This prophetic witness employed a "coercive non-violence" necessary to confront evil and the men wedded to it. Such nonviolence is much more like war than pacifism, and is grounded in a realistic Christian anthropology which saw both struggle and an embrace of "unrequited suffering" as the redemptive route to justice. It was a stunning paradox of this fitting time that there was no group more convicted by this witness -- not into joining the cause but chastened to inaction -- than Southern evangelicals who were also seeking a renewal of lived-out religion in the daily life of the nation.

Returning military veterans of WWII and Korea -- as well as preachers -- infused the civil rights movement with the intersecting language and claims of religion, patriotism, and righteous warfare. The charismatic soldier-preacher Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham said in 1958: "This is a religious crusade, a fight between light and darkness, right and wrong, fair play and tyranny. We are assured of victory because we are using weapons of spiritual warfare." In 1964 the fire still burned in the man whose eloquence was only surpassed by his courage. "We have faith in America and still believe that Birmingham and Alabama will rise to their heights of glory in race relations. And we shall be true to our ideals as a Christian nation."


The civil rights movement "carried the Constitution in one hand and the Bible in the other." This crucial book by an atheist historian should challenge American Christians to distinguish the great religious awakening of the civil rights movement from the contrary spirits of black power and the sexual revolution. These profane pretenders have hobbled our national gait. Black and white evangelicals are now religious brethren separated into the voting army "bases" of two opposing parties. How long asked Elijah can Israel keep hobbling, divided between Baal and Yahweh? Can the third Great Awakening stir American Christians to be united again, promising a second Reconstruction more just than the first? Chappell's book gives no answer but he has led us to the question.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

"This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope."
                    (Reverend King, 28 August 1963)


Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Russians' strength is that they can endure things that would break other nations"

George Friedman makes the wise point that Mother Russia -- having survived so many wrenching changes and privations -- resides in a vastly foreign sphere, with strengths and weaknesses alien to our own.


This excerpt from Archbishop Sheen (from a post several years ago at Mundabor website) sublimely illuminates the point:
“The modern world, which denies personal guilt and admits only social crimes, which has no place for personal repentance but only public reforms, has divorced Christ from His Cross; the Bridegroom and Bride have been pulled apart. What God hath joined together, men have torn asunder. As a result, to the left is the Cross; to the right is the Christ”. […] Communism comes along and picks up the meaningless Cross; Western post-Christian civilization chooses the unscarred Christ.”
“Communism has chosen the Cross in the sense that it has brought back to an egotistic world a sense of discipline, self-abnegation, surrender, hard work, study, and dedication to supraindividual goals. But the Cross without Christ is sacrifice without love. Hence, Communism has produced a society that is authoritarian, cruel, oppressive of human freedom, filled with concentrantion camps, firing squads, and brain-washings.”
“The Western post-Christian civilization has picked up the Christ without His Cross. But a Christ without a sacrifice that reconciles the world to God is a cheap, feminized, colorless, itinerant preacher who deserves to be popular for His great Sermon on the Mount, but also merits unpopularity for what He said about His Divinity on the one hand, and divorce, judgment, and hell on the other. This sentimental Christ is patched together with a thousand commonplaces. […] Without His Cross, He becomes nothing more than a sultry precursor of democracy or a humanitarian who taught brotherhood without tears."
“The problem now is: Will the Cross, which Communism holds in its hands, find Christ before the sentimental Christ of the Western world finds the Cross? It is our belief that Russia will find the Christ before the western world unites Christ with His Redemptive Cross."


                      - Lyubov Glukhova

"Ye who have gone into deep, dark forests,
Taking no sword, but only a cross,
Ye who have built such mighty churches,
Solely by virtue of ardent faith,
Ye the creators of Holy Russia,
Champions strong of its holy truth,
Its intercessors in God’s high kingdom,
Fathers on earth of its Orthodox Church,
Ye who have burned with the fire of purity
All through the narrow and somber ages,
Rise as a wondrously shining banner
Over the sadness of native woods!
Having lost the shrines of our homeland,
We wander in sweat and dust of despair…
Pray for us sinners, o dear holy hierarchs,
O holy saints of the Russian land!"


Monday, December 15, 2014

Map on Monday: The British Empire

The map above (click to enlarge or click here to see the original map) depicts the territories once belonging to the vast British Empire. Declared as "the empire on which the sun never sets," the British Empire ruled over one-fifth of the world's population in 1922 (458 million people) and covered almost a quarter of the globe's land areas (13,012,000 square miles). A casual glance at the map reveals the global impact of the English language long predates the postwar rise of the United States.

Although its expansion began much later than that of the Spanish and Portuguese empires, the British Empire began to catch up by establishing colonies in North America and the Caribbean. The rise of the joint-stock companies of the colonial era in Britain and the Netherlands led both nations to challenge Portuguese dominance in Asian trade and territorial control. American independence further pushed the British Empire to the Far East and Pacific. During the 19th century, the British Empire gained impressive influence in Africa and the Mideast.

Despite its impressive military, economic, and territorial might, Great Britain found itself bankrupt following the two world wars (indeed, it only finished repaying a multi-billion dollar postwar loan to the United States in 2006). Today Great Britain controls fourteen, semi-autonomous areas entitled the British Overseas Territories. Below is a map of these territories (click to enlarge):

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 13

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:
India's Narenda Modi is a very different leader of the second most populous nation on earth. Deeply religious and eminently practical, he is a harbinger of the new nationalists who will emerge not only amidst the Asian nations but in Europe and South America as well. The post-Cold War international landscape is a multipolar world. Nations and their leaders will define many of the new magnetic poles of gravity.

The House resolution on Russia seems bad history and bad policy. That old cold warrior Pat Buchanan has a crusty constitutionalist objection.

Immigration is foreign policy too. An article by Minneapolis StarTribune writer Doug Tice asks just those questions that might foster a pivot to the Americas in national policy.

A historical question that must inform future policy: Did NAFTA help Mexico? Here is an unbiased but negative reply.

The drop in oil prices we notice at the gas pump affects the nations in diverse ways. Oil producers like Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria and Mideast states are hurt. Large agricultural countries (China and India) are helped. Here's a good summary.

Written by an American diplomat in Russia at the time of the the dissolution of the Soviet Union, here is a brief review of the missed moment in US strategy during the Bush senior and Clinton years.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 6

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:
The cardinal rules of policing are a good place to start in any discussion of Ferguson and New York. The police are the public and the public are the police.

Before Hitler established the German Reich on blood and soil, Alfred Rosenberg's Myth of the 20th Century alluded to ridding the multinational empires of extra nationalities. His book was considered an intellectual cornerstone of Nazi ideology. The new German Reich would annex Austria but not take in all the warring nationalities which caused WWI Germans to describe their alliance with the Austrian Empire as "being tied to a corpse." The young Turks who emerged from the multinational Ottoman Empire would define their new nation in more restricted ethnic terms. They cleansed the Orthodox Armenians and Hitler noted their methods decades before his own nation-building by racial cleansing. The emergence of Turkey was more a secular racial nationalism than a quest for an Islamic identity. Pakistan was the one truly deliberately Muslim nation, just as Israel was a deliberately Jewish homeland. Interestingly, the founders were not as religiously motivated as they were building national walls that would protect them from their enemies. Whether Saudi Arabia can be considered a state built to protect Islamic holy lands or a family exploiting the holy sites of Mecca and Medina is considered here.

The most disastrous foreign policy error of the baby-boomer presidents has been the failure to normalize relations with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here is a good one year review of the aftermath of our Ukraine policy.

Here is a very helpful essay in understanding the historical ups and downs of the Islamic understanding of the Caliphate -- not surprisingly, a far cry from the reverberations of today's media.

On November 30, the Feast of St. Andrew, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I signed a joint declaration regarding their wishes for full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Preceding the signing, both the Pope and Patriarch addressed each other in terms of the apostolic fraternity in Christ that bound the brothers Peter and Andrew more deeply than family. Here are the texts of the two addresses and the joint declaration.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 29

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:

Early in his pontificate the Pope said Catholics must not be trapped into "obsessing about homosexuality, contraception and abortion," He said there are more fundamental truths that must be emphasized and these "issues" would fall in place in some larger, more understandable context. The Conference of worldwide religious leaders on the Complementarity of Male and Female held in Rome from November 17th-19th was a beautiful and bracing illustration of the Pope's approach. The series of interesting and different speakers is supplemented by a link to the stunning video presentation produced by organizers of the conference. This cosmological and anthropological approach to masculinity and femininity is exactly the widening of the playing field needed for Catholic thinkers to enter all these debates on our own terms. The talks are excellent - from the Pope to Rabbi Sacks to N.T. Wright to Peter Kreeft and Fr Barron. The approach is the most fundamental lesson. The narrowing issue approach has given way to the Church explaining the larger reality from which our position on issues is derived.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia see the Muslim Brotherhood as grave threats, not because of any extremism within the Brotherhood, but because it is a threat to their current political system. As the United States helps fight the Islamic State, it is important we weigh our relationships with Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE and not allow ourselves to be drawn into the fear of the royal autocracies for democratic Muslim movements.

Advances in military technology often have broader geopolitical impact. The Russians, for example, completed a project the US has been unable to accomplish in updating its armored vehicles. The Armata program has given the Russian military a new platform from which to build battle tanks and armored infantry carriers. New focus has been placed on crew protection and better protection for arctic conditions - signs that Russia is investing in its tank crews and in protecting strategic resources in the far north. While Russia is looking at advancing its ground forces, the United States has advanced its air and sea power through the successful testing of the new F-35 at sea. The F-35, modified for use by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, is a "fifth generation" aircraft that will help maintain air and sea dominance in the decades ahead. It is also a large part of America's "Asian pivot" to counter rising China. Given this, along with vocal US strategists speaking on war with China, China may be less inclined to cooperate with the United States regarding military matters and is indeed making strategic plans of its own. The outcome is not as certain as this writer would put it. However  it seems like  a deeper Russian-Chinese partnership is more and more likely.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Map on Monday: German Invasions of France

Between 1870 and 1940, Germans invaded France three times. Although these three clashes took place in modern times, feuding between the two nations may be traced back to the division of Charlemagne's empire at the Treaty of Verdun in 843. In the division, a strip of territory between what would one day become France and Germany became the area in which many of the battles below were fought. Indeed, the victors of the Franco-Prussian War (1870) and World War I (1914-1918) claimed lands in this very region.  

The map above (click to enlarge) depicts the Prussian (German) invasion of France by way of Alsace and Lorraine during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. This war came as the third successive war in German unification (the first two were fought with Denmark to secure the German north, and with Austria-Hungary to secure the southeast). From these wars emerged the new German way of war - quick, deadly, and decisive. The rapid maneuvering of the Germans at the outset of the war with the French led quickly to the decisive Battle of Sedan on September 1, 1870. Entrapped by the Germans, the entire French army was forced to surrender along with their commander, Emperor Napoleon III (whose reign that day came to an unceremonious end). With the war's conclusion, Alsace and Lorraine changed hands to the Germans and the German wars of unification were complete.

Germany sought another rapid war with the French in 1914. The map above (click to enlarge) is a map of the Schlieffen Plan - a plan originally drafted in 1905 but largely became the basis for the German strategy in the opening offensive against the French. The plan of attack was a large sweeping action with forces from the north wheeling around to capture Paris from behind. The large forces coming through neutral Belgium, however, brought the British into the war. As the opening German campaign sputtered to a halt, British reinforcements and freshly dug trenches defeated the German plans for a quick and decisive war. With the eventual defeat of Germany, Alsace and Lorraine changed hands once more and returned to the French (who then began building the famed Maginot Line of defenses against future German aggression).

With the rise of Hitler, a German war with France loomed on the horizon once more. The German army drafted two plans of attack (see above) and chose the plan most similar to the rapid offensive of 1870. The larger, mechanized armies of the 1940's led the German war planners to bypass assaulting the Maginot Line for a bold offensive through the lightly protected Ardennes forest, making a drive for the coast while Allied troops were drawn into combat in Belgium and surrounded. The brilliant plan was executed with perfection, and the Allied forces were cut to pieces and forced to withdraw by sea from Dunkirk. Nevertheless, the Germans captured 40,000 men along with 50,000 vehicles. Paris capitulated in under six short weeks of fighting - and the Maginot Line surrendered as part of the brief war's concluding armistice and the rise of Vichy France.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 22

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:

In baseball, left-handed pitching aces are always at a premium; so too, alas, prison wardens who know how to bring desperate men into the hope of the living LORD are a rarity. This country is blessed to have such a warden in charge of our largest prison.

When Peter was confronted by the servant girl in the courtyard he stammered and stuttered when asked if he followed Christ. Cardinal Sean O'Malley seems even more tongue-tied in explaining why the male priesthood is not "immoral" to a feminist TV reporter on 60 Minutes. The best he could do was to say it can't be immoral because Christ wouldn't be immoral, but if he (Cardinal O'Malley) was starting a church, he would have women priests. This embarrassing anthropological confusion and underhanded insult to Our Lord makes the male priesthood incomprehensible not just to lady reporters, but to young seminarians and old priests bereft of a father's voice in dioceses like Boston. The reason so many young teenage males were abused in the Catholic Church is because the careerists who have advanced in the American hierarchy have no father in them. Listen here as an apostle replays Peter in the courtyard. We can only pray that he will see the face of Christ, hear his own words of betrayal, and go somewhere to weep.

An excellent overview with maps and charts of the US relations in Asia by Heritage Foundation researchers.

One way to look at the Russian Bear is through the eyes of the Germans as Germans, While many words have been spoken and much ink spilled over Putin's presence in the Baltic Sea and over the skies of the Baltic States, Vladimir Putin - Slavic and Orthodox - has his eyes in the Balkan nations of Europe's southeast. This assessment of the influence of Russia's Putin with other Balkan nations is sobering.

Nations need leaders like the body needs its head. Narenda Modi of India delayed a WTO agreement a few months ago and the pro-business nationalist was labeled a short-sighted obstructionist by the "free trade community." Modi is all for easing barriers to trade in many areas, but food security for his nation was not on the table. The WTO has tied acceptance of its multifaceted treaties with a requirement that nations not subsidize more than 10% of food production for their own populations. This magic number "destabilizes" markets. Obviously, many nations see food production as a part of the national economy ruled by other dictates than elastic pricing and free trade. Mr. Modi held out and his willingness to ease trade barriers in other areas will not depend on his surrendering his governmental duty to feed his people at home. It was a practical lesson in achieving progress in international trade without sacrificing economic nationalism.

On November 13, 2014, The Pew Research Project on Religion and Public Life released a 310-page document on 'Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region.' It is an excellent introduction to help us study and ask when the sleeping giants of the Iberian Catholic tradition will reenter the arena of world politics as Catholic nations led by Catholic statesmen.

On this day in 1718, the ruthless Blackbeard met his bloody end in a sea-fight off the Carolina coast. (The first quarter of the 18th century was the Heyday of Pirates, as they preyed upon the commercial routes between Europe and the New World. And where was their safe haven -- the locale "where they [went] to restock, sell their loot, repair their ships and recruit more men"? The British Caribbean.) See also: The Golden Age of Piracy.

President John F. Kennedy died 51 years ago today. He was America's first Catholic president and a masculine liberal who understood that men of different religious creeds were bound by their civic duties against the common threat of armed atheism. He called men to this brotherhood of protective duty in nations large and small.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Map on Monday: World War I Redraws European Boundaries

The map above depicts the European map during the years of World War I. Below is a map which looks strikingly different. It is the redrawn map of Europe following the defeat of the Central Powers in 1918.

The most significant changes between the two maps may be found in the Balkans and around the Baltic Sea. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, defeated in war, was broken up and the many nations which were conglomerated within her were given the ability to rule themselves as governing states. In the decades ahead, however, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia would themselves require more separation as the nations within them had yet to achieve statehood. In the northeast, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia appeared out of what was once a part of the Russian Empire - which itself had now fallen to militant atheists under Lenin's communist USSR. Though it had a long history of statehood, Poland re-appeared as yet another new nation on the post Great War map.

Other areas had changed to a lesser degree. Germany was now cut off from East Prussia due to a land corridor of the newly formed Poland which gave it access to the sea. Italy had shifted slightly, gaining further territory to the northeast in Tyrolia. France, victorious in war, regained the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine which it had lost to the Germans following a stunning defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (indeed Germany had hoped its 1914 campaign in France would have been as successful as the one in 1870).

An often overlooked area of the map is the division of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish nation will be the first secular regime emerging from the Ottoman caliphate. Much of today's Mideast map was reconfigured from the Ottoman Empire's dismemberment. The map below demonstrates:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 15

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:

Mark Judge discusses what happened to our souls.

There has probably never been a president in US history so bereft of a male group of advisors as President Obama. His authority figures resemble his anthropologist white mother far more than his Kenyan black father. The queen of his internal female cadre is Valerie Jarrett. Here are a few interesting profiles.

Another speech at the Berlin Wall should be listened to as carefully as the JFK and Reagan speeches that helped tear down the wall. Mikhail Gorbachev, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, warned against a new and dangerous barrier being erected by NATO and the West against Russia. This interview is a good introduction to the thinking which underlies the animus of many prominent US Catholics to Vladimir Putin, Russia and leaders of the Orthodox Church

Nigeria has the largest population (175 million) and GDP in Africa, but it is really two nations. The Muslim north would be the fifth-largest Muslim country in the world, and the Christian south would be the 6th-largest Christian country. The girls captured by the Muslim Boko Haram were in a government school in the north. They couldn't be rescued because the Nigerian federal government based in the Christian south doesn't militarily control the rest of the nation. The oil of Nigeria is overwhelmingly in the Christian south. The other important communal divisions in the country are the many ethnic groups with three dominant groups. Nigeria exists on a cultural fault line where "earthquakes of State" are bound to happen.

The continued role of the US in NATO is one of the central strategic questions we face as a nation. A succinct review of our problem by an eminent military historian.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday BookReview: the perspective of the Central Powers in the Great War

                                                          Serbian officers preparing to fire on Austrians                                                              

One of the volumes in most Top Ten lists about the Great War is The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918. Holger Herwig, who has taught for years up in Calgary, wrote the book two decades ago.

From a reader's reaction:
"The most interesting aspect of the book was the relations between Germany and Austria-Hungary... [Herwig writes] about the strained relations between the two most important Central Powers in great detail. In theory, they started the war as equals, but that changed by 1915. After the first year of the war, Austria-Hungary became increasingly dependent upon Germany during the major campaigns in the East. German soldiers also propped up the Austro-Hungarians in Italy. According to Herwig, the Austro-Hungarians lost any ability to continue the war without German support after the Brusilov Offensive of 1916. 

"The author stressed that the two powers did not always cooperate. Both sides lied to each other about their plans in Russia in 1914. The Austro-Hungarians waged an ill-fated offensive into Italy in 1916... The best example of their lack of cooperation was when Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary actually proposed that Germany cede Alsace-Lorraine to France... Herwig also wrote about the strain between these two allies in regards to who would get supplies (especially food) from Romania and Russia. 

"The Habsburg Empire also had to play a careful balancing act between its myriad of nationalities. Some, such as the Czechs, were reluctant to fight the Russians, and many deserted. There was also a great deal of mutual antagonism between those national groups. Many groups in the Hungarian section of the Empire resented the high-handed nature of their Magyar overlords. According to Herwig, the Hungarians resented having to turn over some of their food to the Austrian part of the Empire. 

"The relationship that Herwig portrayed between Germany and Austria-Hungary paralleled that of Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies in the French and Indian War (1754-1760 in North America). The dominant power (Germany) looked down on the other power as being weak and petty in its self-interests; consider the quote: 'We are allied to a corpse.' On the other hand, the weaker power (Austria-Hungary) resented being taken for granted and bossed around by Germany. In 1918, Ludendorff even proposed that Germany should invade Austria-Hungary if relations continued to deteriorate."

From an interview with Professor Herwig:

Do you sense a resurgence of interest in military history?
"Yes. And it’s mostly by young people. World War II is now basically their grandparents’ memory, so they’ve heard very little about war from their parents. And in Canada, they have this image that we’ve always been peacekeepers—wearing blue helmets and never firing a shot. Our combat role in Afghanistan is helping change that image. But many young people are still really surprised to learn Canadians played a significant combat role in the Boer War, both world wars and the Korean conflict. They are amazed to learn that, coming out of World War II, Canada had the world’s third largest navy and was immediately tasked by NATO with patrolling the Atlantic against Soviet submarines."

So there’s keen interest, but not a high level of knowledge?
"Unfortunately, no. Our high schools are failing to teach Canadian history—including our military history."

Why is that so important?
"It can be argued that Canada came of age during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. That’s when the Canadian Corps did what the British and French could not do. That’s when our troops became first-rate, front-line fighters commanded by Canadians—and not just cannon fodder for the British Empire. Our young people need to know that."
                                                                                                                       Austrian cavalryman

 A new work, with similar emphases, has now been issued: Ring of Steel by British historian Alexander Watson.

From a review of the book in the 'Guardian' newspaper --
"Its starting point is that, however terrible the war was for the British – with a million dead – it was much, much worse for the peoples of central and eastern Europe. It didn't just kill huge numbers of them, it brought shattering defeat and ushered in a century of political upheaval and ethnic conflict."
 A couple comments from readers:
"The Germans and Austrian governments were surrounded by a ring of steel. Great Britain had the best navy in the world which was used to blockade German ports. As a result there was mass hunger and in some cases even starvation in the Reich and Austria-Hungary. The Germans and Austrians faced better equipped and armed enemies, losing millions of men in the trench warfare of the Western Front. The Russians invaded Germany and surrounded the Kaiser's.. over-matched army." 
"The [Habsburg monarchy's] officer class proved far more effective at hounding its ethnic minorities into active dissent than in actually defeating opponents in the field, and its Hungarian oligarchs in the east were brutally selfish and suicidally myopic in their narrow focus on ethnic hegemony."

Professor Watson describes how, in the Habsburg empire, "mobilisation took place within individual national communities, each of which understood the war in different ways. This became a problem as the war dragged on and the claims of different national groups clashed."

From a review in the 'Financial Times':
"[Watson] claims that the Allied side was primarily responsible for radicalising the war. Britain plays a central role in his argument, as its entry transformed the conflict into an attritional one between economies and societies. Britain’s blockade, the epitome of economic warfare and at the very least dubious under international law, entailed the targeting of civilians and provoked German unrestricted submarine warfare. 
"The most profound radicalisations took place in eastern Europe, in the lands fought over by German, Habsburg and Russian forces..."
                                                                                German officer helmet

The literature review "Open Doors," based in Boston, points to an intriguing assertion that everything might have been different if the Central Powers could have held out a bit longer, and resisted the temptation to unleash their submarines -- which caused America to declare war in the spring of 1917. 
An excerpt from Ring of Steel:
"Unbeknownst to the Germans, the exertions of the past year had almost bankrupted the British. Paying for food and raw materials such as steel, as well as semi-finished or finished armaments, was costing the Treasury two million pounds a day, and British gold reserves and securities were on course to being exhausted by March 1917. Meanwhile the French army, even more than its German opponent, was demoralized after the bloodletting at Verdun and on the Somme. Its disillusionment with its commanders would break out in a mass strike in the spring and summer of 1917. Most ominous, the Russian Empire was on the verge of revolution. Little over a month after the unrestricted submarine campaign started on 1 February, the Tsar was overthrown by a popular uprising, an event that could have upturned the strategic situation and gifted the Central Powers a real chance of triumph. Instead, as one great enemy gradually collapsed, another, thanks to the U-boat campaign, entered hostilities."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Three among the poets killed in the First War

ALAN SEEGER, an American who had joined the French Foreign Legion, died on July 4, 1916 -- in the Battle of the Somme.

This is "On Returning to the Front after Leave: Sonnet XI":

Apart sweet women (for whom Heaven be blessed),
Comrades, you cannot think how thin and blue
Look the leftovers of mankind that rest,
Now that the cream has been skimmed off in you.
War has its horrors, but has this of good—
That its sure processes sort out and bind
Brave hearts in one intrepid brotherhood
And leave the shams and imbeciles behind.
Now turn we joyful to the great attacks,
Not only that we face in a fair field
Our valiant foe and all his deadly tools,
But also that we turn disdainful backs
On that poor world we scorn yet die to shield—
That world of cowards, hypocrites, and fools.

One man whose star seems to burn brighter and brighter in Catholic culture and beyond is CHARLES PEGUY. He was killed about a month after the war started.

He always sang of the mystery of Hope, the frailest of the virtues; but the one that's new every morning, and the one that -- stride for persevering stride -- pulls and guides her two older sisters (Faith and Love) down the street.

Hope "surprises even God." It is the eternal flame in the lamp.

Here is Péguy's poem entitled "Sleep":

Human wisdom says Don’t put off until tomorrow 
What can be done the very same day.
But I tell you that he who knows how to put off until tomorrow
Is the most agreeable to God
He who sleeps like a child
Is also he who sleeps like my darling Hope.
And I tell you Put off until tomorrow
Those worries and those troubles which are gnawing at you today
Put off until tomorrow those sobs that choke you
When you see today’s unhappiness.
Those sobs which rise up and strangle you.
Put off until tomorrow those tears which fill your eyes and your head,
Flooding you, rolling down your cheeks, those tears which stream down your cheeks.
Because between now and tomorrow, maybe I, God, will have passed by your way.
Human wisdom says: Woe to the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
And I say Blessed, blessed is the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
Blessed is he who puts off. That is to say, blessed is he who hopes. And who sleeps.

JULIAN GRENFELL was an Englishman who was killed in northern France in 1915. His best-known poem -- "Into Battle" -- was first published in the 'Times' of London the day after he died.

The naked earth is warm with spring, 
And with green grass and bursting trees 
Leans to the sun's gaze glorying, 
And quivers in the sunny breeze; 
And life is colour and warmth and light, 
And a striving evermore for these; 
And he is dead who will not fight; 
And who dies fighting has increase.

The fighting man shall from the sun 
Take warmth, and life from the glowing earth; 
Speed with the light-foot winds to run, 
And with the trees to newer birth; 
And find, when fighting shall be done, 
Great rest, and fullness after dearth.

All the bright company of Heaven 
Hold him in their high comradeship, 
The Dog-Star, and the Sisters Seven, 
Orion's Belt and sworded hip.

The woodland trees that stand together, 
They stand to him each one a friend; 
They gently speak in the windy weather; 
They guide to valley and ridge's end.

The kestrel hovering by day, 
And the little owls that call by night, 
Bid him be swift and keen as they, 
As keen of ear, as swift of sight.

The blackbird sings to him, "Brother, brother, 
If this be the last song you shall sing, 
Sing well, for you may not sing another; 
Brother, sing."

In dreary, doubtful, waiting hours, 
Before the brazen frenzy starts, 
The horses show him nobler powers; 
O patient eyes, courageous hearts!

And when the burning moment breaks, 
And all things else are out of mind, 
And only joy of battle takes 
Him by the throat, and makes him blind,

Through joy and blindness he shall know, 
Not caring much to know, that still 
Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so 
That it be not the Destined Will.

The thundering line of battle stands, 
And in the air death moans and sings; 
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands, 
And Night shall fold him in soft wings.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Map on Monday: World War I Edition

The above map (click to enlarge) comes not from a history book of World War I, but rather from a board game designed by Harvard-educated Allan B. Calhamer in 1954. Set in the years leading up to the Great War, the game Diplomacy allows the players to interact with the complicated diplomatic situation that ultimately led to the events of 1914. Unlike a game like Risk, in which players are given dozens of army pieces for combat, Diplomacy players typically begin the game with only three pieces (which represent armies or fleets) and must negotiate with other nations for mutual support. This makes the game as much social as it is strategic and historic. For more on Diplomacy, see section three of the article Strategy Games: The Gateway to Culture and Geopolitics.

An analysis of the map may reveal some geographic reasons for the war's alliances. Germany (gray) and Austria-Hungary (red) are located in between the major powers of Russia (tan), France, (light blue), and England (dark blue). Italy (green) found itself in a similar situation as Germany and Austria-Hungary -- and for this reason Italy was actually allied with both at the war's beginning. Italy, however, saw this alliance as defensive and refused to join the war when Austria-Hungary made the first declaration of war. Italy eventually joined the Allied side as the war turned. The Ottoman Empire (yellow) is isolated in the southeast, but has its eyes set on regaining its position in the Balkans; and its proximity to the Black Sea creates natural tension with its northern neighbor: Russia. Given this situation, the Ottoman Empire's eventual hostilities with the Allies makes a good deal of sense. 

What neither the map nor the game of Diplomacy directly represents is the influence of religion and other civilizational matters that factor into alliance-making. The winning alliance to Diplomacy is the so-called "Juggernaut" -- an alliance between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It is highly unlikely, due to the bloody history between the Islamic Turks and the Orthodox Russians, that such an alliance could ever have taken place. 

Diplomacy is nevertheless a remarkable means of introducing students to the history leading up to the war, the geography of Europe, and the intricacies of crafting foreign policy and alliance-building.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 8

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:
Vladimir Putin took part in the final plenary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club’s XI session. The meeting’s theme is The World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules. In the full text of his address, Putin comments on the fall-out following the end of the Cold War and the troubling world order imposed by the victors.

This interview with Dr. Justin Tse of the University of Washington addresses the theopolitcal chess game between China and Hong Kong. Justin Tse speaks to the role of religion in the struggle, the nature of Church-State relations, and the Catholic strategy in the region.

This week in the office of readings for the Catholic Church, the story of the Maccabees and their battle to reconsecrate the desecrated altar in the Temple is told. At Mass on Sunday, our Lord will cleanse the Temple from the money-changers. In Jerusalem, that holy space of the Temple Mount is now covered by the Dome of the Rock, commemorating the site of Mohammed being swept up from prayer in Mecca to this site where he ascended into heaven for an encounter with the Divine and then returned to earth. The  Al-Aqsa Mosque is nearby. The Dome itself is not a mosque. This article outlines different claims to the holy site which has seen renewed violence this week. Orthodox Jews believe no one should enter what was once the Holy of Holies. Muslims believe only Muslims can pray there, but tourists can come if they don't pray. That position has been enforced by the Israeli government since 1967. At different times the Israeli authorities have banned Muslim men under 50, or under 30, from Friday prayer. An important fact not in the article is that the Hashemites of Jordan are considered by the Israelis as the official custodians of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. Disputes about the shrine are central to Israel/Jordan relationships, and the credibility of Jordan as a non-Saudi religious authority for Sunni Muslims. There is a growing movement in Israel to open the site for Jewish prayer.
In this 2012 interview with King Abdullah of Jordan, Abdullah explains the possibility of an Assad Alawite enclave, the breakdown of Greater Syria, and the early role of Russia in proposing political solutions. Assad cannot leave his people. His departure is no solution for the Alawites. Jordan is the one neighboring Sunni Arab nation which could possibly fill the state gap in the land now controlled by ISIS.

US Naval War College professor James Holmes examines China President Xi Jinping and sees a new Teddy Roosevelt building sea power to buttress national identity and strategy.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Map on Monday: Where the volcanoes are

"I fell into a burning ring of fire, 
 I went down, down, down as the flames went higher..." 
                 (Johnny Cash)


The Ring of Fire region contains more than 75 percent of the world's volcanoes (in the same way that Alaska is home to more than 75 percent of all U.S. volcanoes). Think the west coasts of South and North America -- across the Bering Strait -- and the east coasts of Russia/China, along with Japan (10 percent of world's active volcanoes) and Indonesia...

What explains the location of these volcanoes is the "map beneath the map" of oceans and continents that we see. Beneath our water and land forms are the tectonic plates (4 to 40 mile-thick layers of crust and mantle) which interact with each other to form not only volcanoes, but many other of the most significant land forms of the earth. Geologists recognized the great ring of fire before they knew about the plates, and their boundary interactions which account for the up-welling of volcanic molten rock.


The red line is known as the ring of fire. It demarcates the active borders of the western Pacific plate and the oceanic land plate interactions to the east. The Andes mountains on the west coast of South America are volcanic remnants from the interaction of the Nazca ocean plate passing under the continental South American plate. All geography classes after 6th grade should start with the map beneath the map of plate tectonics.            

A recent article in the British "Daily Mail" had excellent photos of an Indonesian volcano.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

"His eye is on the sparrow"

Father Zuhlsdorf recently visited an art gallery in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome, where he was impressed by a painting of Guercino (d. 1666) -- called the Madonna of the Sparrow.


An art critic described it as "an exquisitely tender, deeply shadowed image of Mary with a little bird on one finger and her pudgy baby on one knee. Gazing raptly at the bird, the child holds a string that is tied to its leg."

Gesù bambino, have mercy on us. Here is another photo.

And a South Korean group singing the Gospel hymn, "His Eye Is On The Sparrow."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Sacred and the Taboo: A Lesson from the Synod

by David Pence

Pope Francis in October 2013 called for a world-gathering of bishops in what was labeled an Extraordinary Synod (held in Rome October 5-19, 2014) to prepare reflections for a larger Ordinary Synod of Bishops to be held in October 2015. The synod included bishops, fraternal delegates (observers from the Orthodox Church and Protestant communities), and auditors (including lay couples).
There were 191 bishops representing five continents, including the heads of 114 Episcopal Conferences (national bishop groups), 13 heads of Eastern Catholic Churches, and 25 Roman Curia heads of dicasteries. Synods of Bishops are an ongoing instrument of governance and consultation uniting the Pope with the unique Catholic fraternity of local bishops across the world. If you want to find a social organism that thinks cosmically and acts locally, then observe the eucharistic and episcopal structure of the Catholic Church. The Pope meets with his fellow bishops as another local bishop (of Rome) but he is also Peter, the first among the apostles. As Pope Francis put it in his closing remarks to the bishops: "…I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquility, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.”

                                            Meeting with bishops of Ethiopia & Eritrea

This renewed collegial tradition of synods grew out of the worldwide Ecumenical Council of Bishops called by Pope John XXIII -- known as Vatican II -- from 1962 to 1965. The fraternal spirit of mutual recognition, formative dialogue and shared mission of the Fathers of that Council was a palpable spiritual experience. While it is the case that many have abused the “spirit of Vatican II,” it is also certain that there was a true Spirit of Vatican II that linked the world’s 2000 bishops in communion with each other and the first Apostles under Peter in service to Christ. To maintain that international spirit of apostolic fraternity, Pope Paul VI instituted synods so bishops could come together at the call of the pope, to pray and reflect on problems of the Universal Church.  There have been 13 Ordinary Synods and two Extraordinary Synods in the last fifty years. Extraordinary synods are called when a matter needs immediate attention or there is a special urgency. This extraordinary session was called to prepare and initiate worldwide discussion for the ordinary Synod of Bishops on the family and evangelization scheduled for October 2015.

In this synod the apostolic brotherhood took up their duty to provide a protected space for the Holy Family. The apostles have always honored that workingman hero Joseph, and the virgin mother Mary, who raised Jesus in the familial form of human community, which the Church dares propose for every culture and nation. Joseph and Mary by example, and Christ through the sacramental order, have brought man and woman back to the garden where the perfected union of the first couple can be lived again. The Catholic ideal of marriage -- faithful, forever, and fruitful -- is not one thing in Africa and another in Germany. God imprinted this form of communion in our mutual parents. It is part of the shared human nature of Asians, Africans, Australians, and Americans. Jesus granted that Moses had allowed divorce because of the hardness of hearts but he reminded his questioners that “it was not so in the beginning.” The Church under the priestly brotherhood protects and honors the countless couples who have shown us the beauty and sacrifice in this communion. Their witness points to the deep social union in which all humans will be reunited in the Body of Christ. Their lived out fidelity bequeaths their children the gift of stability in a mother and father to guide them in life. When the marriage of men and women of every land and class is treated as sacred, the Divine purpose of humanity is elevated. It is an ideal that is not easy, but it links the poor and the rich under a common discipline that lends the poor a high sacramental status and demands of the rich the leveling of sexual discipline. Ask Henry the Eighth, the patron saint of the divorced and remarried.

Marriage is first a gift of sacramental grace -- but then guarding our eyes, purifying our thoughts, and avoiding intimacy (where intimacy is forbidden) must protect it. Such a particular communion binding such a volcanic force can only be sustained if there are commandments, prohibitions, and taboos.

Catholic culture protects the indissolubility of this bond with a sacral brotherhood of celibate fathers. The same church with such a high view of "the marriage act" honors the virgin as the Church’s most fragrant blossom. It is a beautiful and serious teaching set against the brutality of some lands and the adolescent frivolity of others.

Before the bishops ever got to tell the Church’s symphonic tale of sexual love and duty, a mid-synod report was released to the world press with sentences treating homosexual relationships as worthy of esteem. Several European bishops engineered the report that besmirched marital love with an association that once “dared not speak its name.” For many it seemed a category error that bespoke a fundamental misconception of married spousality and an obsession with homosexuality. Why would anyone even bring up homosexuality in a synod on marriage? Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte (who authored the phrase) dared "speak its name" and sing its praises. From 'America' (the magazine and the country) came a hosanna from media star Father James Martin, S.J.  From Vienna came an alleluia from Cardinal Christoph Schonborn.

It is good that this has happened. The purpose of the Synod was to deepen concord among brothers through honest discussion. It was to be a continuation of the lived-out collegiality expressed among the fathers at the Vatican Council. Pope Francis has often said that collegiality was spoken of, more than practiced, since the Council. He decided to give brotherhood a chance.

Many conservatives were highly critical of the Pope for allowing the chaos of such publicized and confusing messages. But sharp debate does not trouble brothers. The Pope told the bishops in his opening remarks to act like brothers and “speak fearlessly and listen humbly.” In his closing homily he affirmed: “Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as Saint Ignatius called it.” We should remember that the temptations he refers to here are false arguments. But the arguments MUST BE HEARD, as Christ allowed himself to be tempted by the words of the devil. The Pope was quiet and listened. He wanted a movement of spirits. He wanted fathers to correct errant sons when education was needed, and shepherds to refute hirelings when discipline was required. Wasn't it better that the scarlet-robed carriers of intrigue were confronted by the giants of the South -- Cardinals Pell and Napier -- rather than be allowed to magnify their import through secular press conferences and their NGO affiliates? Isn't it better that, for once, a 'rainbow bishop' was not the only authority in the room and was forced to confront a fellow bishop in an open forum? Isn't it refreshing that bishops finally were angry at deceit instead of sad about abuse? The synod corrected the intramural publishing duels of the pre-synod media campaign. The international fraternity of bishops particularly sifted out the figure of Cardinal Kasper, who in the run-up cast a large shadow in the secular press, but was considerably less formidable in the actual face-to-face. An honest Catholic journalist (Edward Pentin) played his important role, as well, during an interview showing the well-heeled prelate to be unfamiliar with the role of sexual taboos in protecting the sacred. The Kasper media bubble finally burst when he lied about what he had said about the African bishops, and was exposed by a tape recording in his own accent. The lesson for the evangelization portion of the Synod is that it is hard to preach a gospel dependent on the credibility of the witnesses when you are shown up as a public liar.

There is a great divide in the apostolic fraternity of the bishops. It is the central problem impeding the Church as a credible evangelical witness to the gospel. It is the major impediment of clerical witness to the heroic purity which protects the sacrality of married love and family life. It is the central problem which allowed a minority of sexual wolves to bypass the majority of emasculated shepherds to ravage the young teenage males of the flock. The divide is between those bishops who are deepening the fraternal love of fathers and sons which Christ willed for his apostles, and those bishops who would defend spiritual incest as a form of fraternity. This has nothing to with marriage between man and woman, and everything to do with fraternity among men. If we can clear the satanic smoke and look patriarchal fraternity in the face, there will be many fruits. Ordered masculine relationships strengthen the citizen bonds of male protectors for the cities and nations. Ordered fraternity cements in Christ the living stones of the pope and his bishops, an abbot and his monks, and the local bishops and their priests for the Church. What father with sons does not appreciate this?

We fathers must clarify what temptation has entered the garden. Throughout the modern West,  bishops, priests and seminaries of the Catholic Church have absorbed the sexual inversion ritual. The demonization of patriarchy and fraternity was an assault on Christ’s apostolic church, as well as the monarchical and republican forms of Christian nations. We have just lived through an unprecedented era of “welcoming ‘gays’" in our schools, chanceries, single-sex religious orders, and most disastrously the seminaries of our priesthood and episcopacy. Never have so many proudly-identified homosexuals been promoted to so many high offices in the richer precincts of the institutional Church. Precisely because the Catholic Church has built its clergy and religious orders on single-sex institutions and communal love relationships – this has been a disaster. The Lutherans have no sisterhood of virgins witnessing to Christ’s Second Coming. The Unitarians have no male celibate brotherhoods forgiving sins and casting out demons. Homosexuality does not strike at the heart of their organized love relations.

The homosexual subculture is so deceitfully entrenched in the priesthood that the despisers of brotherly solidarity often masquerade as straitlaced traditionalists or free-market libertarians. Open fraternity is the light that exposes them. They use the bread of the gospel as a stone against the poor and are especially disdainful in dismissing Latin models of solidarity as discredited Marxism, and poor countries' protests against global finance as organized envy. Their words seem right -- “rigidly right” -- but they know not brotherhood. And while they can be media stars to selected constituencies, they cannot be spiritual fathers to men or loving pastors to a parish. They continually pit the dispute in the clergy as one of fidelity or doctrinal adherence. They can never organize a cleansing brotherhood among their fellow priests because that is not how they relate to men. The debate is intellectual: the orthodox against the dissenters, the Nat'l Catholic Register against the Nat'l Catholic Reporter. They are media stars with circles of private companions. They know not public  brotherhood. Tradition certainly requires that the creed have a formula, but to transmit the Creed it must be spoken in a father’s voice. Christ is the Logos: the Word made flesh. But it is also true the word can be made brittle -- a stone to crush the sinner. Pope Francis described a “hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter).” Let those who have ears, hear.

It was not the "traditionalists," though, who disrupted the bishops' Synod on the Family. It was those who Francis said want to “pull Jesus down from the cross” to “please the people and serve a worldly spirit rather than the will of the Father.” The disrupters were men who felt they could “disregard the deposit of the faith rather than safeguard it.” They took the hard stone of sexual autonomy and tried to mingle it with the bread of life. They tried to bind the wounds “without first curing and treating them.”

In 2005 the Vatican issued a statement ordering that men with homosexual orientation not be allowed in seminaries. Ad limina visits to the seminaries were ordered; and significant reform followed. Many religious orders and diocesan seminaries, however, pushed back against the notion that seminarians who did not have the psychological integrity to be spiritually affective fathers should be barred from the priesthood. That hit too close to home. Pope Francis, on the day before the synod, emphasized the same truth in speaking of candidates for the priesthood: "Examine closely whether he belongs to the Lord, if that man is healthy, is balanced, if that man is capable of giving life, of evangelizing, if he is capable of forming a family and turning that down in order to follow Jesus."  

The very few bishops who used the transmitting tower of the synod to send a false signal to the world in the engineered mid-term report were not ministering to laypeople in second marriages. The divorced/remarried laypeople issue was, as Cardinal Pell said, "a stalking horse." The real fight was about the homosexual revolution of much greater interest ("obsessive" as the Pope has said ) to so many clerics of our time. Their rhapsody to the disoriented was stark evidence of shepherds caring for their own interests instead of their flock. Their quest was as transparent as James and John, and the brothers' status-conscious mother. They were trying to secure their place at the table. This was not about being kind to a confused adolescent, but about keeping life comfortable for well connected middle-aged homosexual clerics. The pedophiles are being run out of the priesthood. But homosexuals are not interested in children. They are interested in adult homosexuals and teenage males. The pedophiles are exiled while the "chicken hawks" abide.

The bishops have never faced the obvious corollary of the 2005 seminary reform by separating out the disordered priests already in the priesthood. What would be the consequences for the homosexual cabals in so many of our local dioceses and throughout the Vatican? The failure to deal with this huge network of deceit reared its head at the synod. It is the primary cause of an abuse culture in which 80 percent of the victims were not pre-puberty children, but teenage males. Let us thank God that Pope Francis has allowed the wolves to emerge. Let us discern the spirits. Let us hope that the bishops and priests, who are clearly being allowed to talk now, speak the truth about the wolves in their midst. Even if it is one's bishop -- the priest must speak up. Speak directly to your bishop "like a man," said Pope Francis, even if there might be a consequence. For bishops the duty is even more pressing. The soft forms of evil do not look like wolves. They almost always present themselves as champions of  someone else’s cause. The Psalmist warned: "His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords."

We should be quite confident that the final document which will come from the October 2015 Synod on the Family and Evangelization will be scripturally and sacramentally sound. But the family cannot be protected by a document. The domicile needs a strong bond of men in public protective formation to safeguard its natural vulnerability in a dangerous world. This is true in the temple and true in the city.

The family needs the res publica. Just as marriage is based on the sacralized intimacy of the male/female couple, the res publica is based on the public communio of a duty-bound male group.There are two sacraments dependent on the sexual identity of the recipient. They both initiate a person into a deep communion. The male/female union of marriage joins spouses till death, while the sacral brotherhood and Divine filiation of the priesthood imprints a communal mark that conforms men to Christ and the original Twelve. Even death cannot wash it away. These communions are based on the anthropological truths of male-female original unity, and male group patriarchal fraternity that Jesus consecrated in His apostolic church.
We don’t speak enough of true public brotherhood in the Catholic Church. Our vision of the papacy and episcopacy has often been more monarchical than fraternal. Fraternity in the 1800's was a very dirty word evoking bloody memories of the severed heads of royalty and priests alike. But guillotines aside, the Church is a fraternity meant to establish the patriarchy of a Kingdom. That fraternity was experienced in the citizen militias of the American Revolution as well as the Grande Armee of the French. Brotherhood was evoked at the Second Vatican Council as an authentic part of its true spirit.

The initial failure of the bishops' synod to defend marriage was caused by men deeply confused about masculinity, fatherhood, fraternity, and the priesthood. This confusion emitting from a desacralized West is particularly disastrous for Christians of the global South. Hopefully, the African and Asian bishops will remind the modern northern intellectuals that male incest is always better treated with prohibition and taboo than dialogue and welcome mats. The social prescriptions known as taboos are not primitive practices from which we must evolve. Quite the contrary, they often represent social wisdom which is transmitted in a praxis -- not a principle. What good is it to have an international church, if we decide from the beginning that whole cultures "have nothing to say to us"?

Christians of the Mideast and Africa have a particular interest that the men of established Christian nations regain spiritual sensibility and moral courage. Much more than marriage counseling, Christians of the global South need the protective presence that only ordered brotherhoods provide. They face a brotherhood armed. They wonder where are the Christian nations who might come to their aid. They look to the atheist West, and they see fraternal protection dissipated by the spirit of incest among males and careerism among females. Marriage and family cannot be protected unless there is a strong fraternal bond guarding the domiciles and integrating young fathers into communal protection and production. The rupture of the priestly Eucharistic bond, no less than the fratricide of Cain and Abel, has separated men who should be brothers. May we restore that deep spiritual communion of male fraternity and build the Kingdom of God. Pope Francis has allowed his first synod to be a real Synod. Now, the bishops of the world can imitate Saint John Paul II and call their own synods in each diocese. The priests and bishop of every diocese have a lot of honest soul-searching and cleansing to do. Restoring the credibility and purity of the priestly fraternity would be the greatest gift our priests could give every family in the Church -- especially Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

"Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops
Make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer."
                 (Pope Francis prayer to Holy Family for the Synod)