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)


Monday, October 27, 2014

Map on Monday: East Asian Demography

As the text on the map indicates, the circled area contains over half of the world's population. Some of the nations within the circle include:
  • China (population: 1.367 billion, #1 overall)
  • India (population: 1.261 billion #2 overall)
  • Indonesia (population: 252 million, #4 overall)
  • Pakistan (population: 188 million, #6 overall)
  • Bangladesh (population: 157 million, #8 overall)
  • Japan (population: 127 million, #10 overall)
  • Philippines (population: 100.5 million, #12 overall)
  • Vietnam (population: 89 million, #13 overall)
  • Thailand (population: 65 million, #21 overall)  
  • Burma (population: 51 million, #25 overall)
  • South Korea (population: 50 million, #26 overall)
Although the above list of nations does not include every nation circled on the map, these eleven nations alone total 3.7 billion people, which is over half of the world's 7.125 billion people.

With over half the world's population located within this circled area, many goods are shipped into this region from the outside world. The Strait of Malacca (see map below) is the main shipping route which connects the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. About 25% of all the world's shipped oil passes through the Strait of Malacca. Its enormous strategic importance makes the smaller nations of Malaysia (population: 30 million, #43 overall) and Singapore (population: 5.4 million, #115 overall) major geopolitical players, despite being significantly smaller in geography and population than their regional neighbors.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, October 25

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:
This week's Religion and Geopolitics Review focuses on the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Jeff Mirus and Phil Lawler provide commentaries on the synod. While both agree that it was, like many other synods, messy and machination-filled -- the two men see lively debate among the bishops as a good thing; and that Pope Francis ensured that the bishops acted, in Francis' own words, "cum Petro et sub Petro" [with Peter and under Peter].
(Dr. Mirus and Mr. Lawler have been doing great things for years with their CatholicCulture website; with these current essays on how we should view the fraternal disputes in Rome, they are leaving the rest of the ecclesial commentariat in the dust.)

Pope Francis' speech at the conclusion of the synod further dispels any notion that the Church will "bow down to a worldly spirit" or "neglect the 'depositum fidei'" [the deposit of faith]. This is further echoed in a recent interview with Cardinal Pell of Sydney, Australia. At the other end of the theological spectrum is the man who authored the homosexual passages contained in the leaked Relatio: Archbishop Bruno Forte. For those who might want to know more about Forte, here is one perspective.

The synod was not without a light from the east. Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, the head of Poland's bishops' conference joined the voice of the global south in response to the Relatio. Gądecki, however, was not the only important prelate from the east. Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion observed one session of the synod and spoke with Pope Francis in an hour-long meeting. On October 17, Hilarion gave an impressive talk to the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in which he spoke of the meaning of authentic freedom, the relationship of church and state, and the ensuing conversion of Russia.

Note: We linked last week to an article responding to an interview with Cardinal Kasper in which he identifies himself with the atheist West regarding homosexuality and rejects the views of the Church's growing global south.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Africans and Anglicans: A Catholic Anthropology for the Priesthood

[Editor's note: It is a good time to look back at this relevant article in the wake of the Vatican discussion of family life. We will soon write specifically about the synod, and the pregnant lessons of African taboos.]

by David Pence (published October 24, 2012)

Archbishop Rowan Williams will end his ten-year term as Archbishop of Canterbury in December 2012. He is the primate of the Church of England, and holds a special place of honor among the other primates of the 44 autonomous national and provincial churches in the 80-million-member Anglican Communion.

His final General Synod of the Church of England will be held in November; and Williams has published a letter strongly advocating a resolution to allow female bishops.  He wrote:
"A Church that ordains women as priests but not as bishops is stuck with a real anomaly, one which introduces an un-clarity into what we are saying about baptism and about the absorption of the Church in the priestly self-giving of Jesus Christ.  Wanting to move beyond this anomaly is not a sign of giving in to secular egalitarianism – though we must be honest and admit that without secular feminism we might never have seen the urgency of this or the inconsistency of our previous position.”
Thanks be to secular feminism, indeed! While the first Anglican female bishops came from overwhelmingly white churches (USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand), the Anglican provinces who have resisted any female ordination (deacon, priest, or bishop) are from the growing churches of the global South: Central Africa, Melanesia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia, Tanzania. (The Anglican church of South Africa is an exception.) The Church of England has not yet joined the other white churches because a compromise to accommodate traditional parishes was deemed too hurtful to the feminists, and thus they ended up voting against the last resolution allowing female bishops. 

A general rule in Anglican and Protestant churches has been that a failure to defend the masculine communal nature of the ordained priesthood has been followed by an incoherence in defending the heterosexual character of marriage. American Episcopalians led the way in this peculiar form of progress. It is not really a surprise that one of the new female bishops is an open lesbian. 

Archbishop Rowan Williams wants to finish his term without the glaring contradiction of accepting female priests and deacons while denying women access to the episcopacy. Most Asian and African Anglicans agree this shows a deep ontological inconsistency. They, too, choose not to split out sacred offices of the deacon-priest-bishop hierarchy as bargaining chips in the battle of the sexes. Williams finishes on a note of consistency in a full capitulation to the heresy of his day; while the more Biblical primates fight to build their churches on a more stable form.

Catholics have not helped our African brothers enough in facing down this last most sinister form of white racism and cultural poisoning. We have not vigorously provided an anthropological and biblical defense of hierarchical masculine communal forms.

[Pope Benedict has taught that original sin "falsifies the fundamental relationships: with God, between man and woman, between man and the earth."  Pope John Paul II saw original sin as an attempt to "abolish fatherhood."  Proper relationships bind and perfect man.  Disrupted relations leave us our wounded nature.]

Adam and his sons never completed their ruling role on earth – which was part of the original mission of Adam.  They never properly joined one another in a patriarchal fraternity to contest and exorcise the dominion of the Evil One.  Fallen and broken man had to wait until the second Adam showed the filiation of an obedient Son, and instituted the public apostolic fraternity shaped by that love. While the Catholic priesthood under the episcopal hierarchy has not always been the best sacrament of manly public love, it is that Christic priestly love which still shapes its essential character after all these years.  

Five centuries ago, Anglicans broke from that sacramental fraternity but maintained much of its form. Now they watch the communal fraternal form dissipate, and can mount neither an apostolic nor anthropological defense.  After years of discussing the “theology of the body,” Catholics need to contribute a theology of the corporate body which explains the ordained masculine philia of Christian brotherhood. This is about the sacred manner in which men love one another unto sacrificial death. It is the unpolluted love that ties Christ to the most newly ordained of His priests today. It is the ordered public love that built our church and inspired our nations. It is the socio-biological fact that explains the territorial and communal masculine affiliations – which distinguish humans from lower animals.

Our Christian brothers in Africa are unafraid in staring down the bizarre new theologies of the imperial white Anglicans.  (Contrast this with American Catholic men who stutter at explaining to twelve-year-old girls why they don’t belong on the altar). The African men are unafraid because a more troublesome enemy is at their doorstep. They rub shoulders with an armed male presence. They have smelled the wreckage of a bombed church on Sunday morning. If African men seem impatient with the “justice claims” of mitered feminists, it may be the unsheathed swords they see outside the bedroom windows of their wives and children that turn them rude.

Is it not time that Catholic men in ecclesial apologetics and civic military policy lend them a hand? We are entering a war and we are not assembled as organized publics in the proper liturgical and military order to protect our women, our children, and our Holy Mother the Church.  The African Anglicans are warning us. Let us see them clearly as our brothers in their fight against the urbane and sophisticated Rowan Williams, making his last bow to the feminist mistress of the modern age.  The archbishop may look like our uncle and sound vaguely harmless in an English sort of way. But he speaks for the great delusion of our age: the comfortably familiar, but perversely sinister, program of the white sexual revolutionaries.  Let us serve the more sacral brotherhood.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Map on Monday: The Spread of Islam to 750 AD

Between the death of Muhammed in 632 and the Battle of Tours in 732, Islam conquered ancient Persia, much of the Byzantine (eastern Roman) Empire, North Africa, Spain, and parts of what is today southern France. Within this area were the ancient Christian Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, and the Holy City of Jerusalem itself. After the Islamic conquests, Christianity (a great eastern and African religion) became isolated to Europe and was seen by many historians and Christians as a "western" religion. Christianity would come to the Slavs during the 9th-13th centuries. The division between Orthodoxy and Catholicism would be exacerbated by the Mongol invasions, which began during the 1230's. (More on that map-changing world event at a later date.)

While Islam would continue to spread further eastward -- into what is today Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and even southern Philippines -- valiant Frankish and Visogothic Catholics halted the Islamic advance in western Europe, while Byzantine soldiers fought off an Islamic attack on Constantinople in 717 through use of Greek fire. Although Constantinople eventually fell to the Muslim Turks in 1453, the Catholic military Reconquista of present-day Spain and Portugal began around the year 800 and ended in 1492 -- just 39 years after the fall of Constantinople.

Islamic fleets and armies continued to be a danger in eastern Europe and were only limited by Catholic forces in the Battles of Lepanto (1571) and Vienna (1683). The religious soldiers of the Spanish empire and the missionaries they protected would bring Christianity in 1492 to the new world of the Americas.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, October 18

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:
                                              by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


Eventually the war against ISIS is going to determine the military composition of Lebanon. There we will see an unfamiliar Mideast sight -- organized armed Christians, namely the Maronite Catholics. Their most natural ally against the jihadist Sunnis will be their Shiite countrymen. The strongest Shiite force is Hezbollah. Here is a comparison of Hezbollah and ISIS forces from a multilingual source which specializes in Lebanon.


While Seattle has followed the city of Minneapolis in declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous People Day, we find their insensitivity to Spanish history and Catholic culture appalling. Far from showing an appreciation of cultural diversity, the spoiled white children of baby boomer excess need a good history lesson. Columbus did not "discover America." He introduced Christianity which is the fertile seed and soil that sprouted the great nations of the American continents.


The Ebola Virus is a challenge to a political culture that confuses rational separations and distinctions as acts of immoral discrimination. The pattern of the infections suggests the mode of transmission has not yet been properly characterized. The obstacles to contain the virus will not be a problem of funding, but clarity of thought and a willingness to employ the protective police powers of traditional public health measures. This isn't the first infectious disease in our history. The US Public Health Service has an office and person in charge of emergencies like this. It may be another careerist posing as a protector, but we don't really know because most of us have not heard of her.

                                             SYNOD ON THE FAMILY:  A GERMAN BISHOP 
                                             DISMISSES THE AFRICANS; THEN TELLS A LIE 

Cardinal Walter Kasper revealed his true colors in an interview this week. Showing great disdain for Catholics in Africa, Asia, and the Mideast, Kasper identified himself with the views of the sexually disoriented, atheist West. While some were dismayed at Pope Francis' apparent silence, we rejoice that the Pope asked men to converse and let them converse. It is always better when the serpent reveals himself rather than hide in the shadows.
Some of the best reporting on the Catholic Bishops Synod on the family has been at Catholic World Report. This is a summary with two sidebar links to 1) the Pentin/Kaspar interview on African bishops and the taboo of homosexuality; and 2) Cardinal Pell on not collapsing before the modern zeitgeist.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The 'bambino' born to a 19th-century Tuscan family: Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria PUCCINI

And with his God-given talents, Signor Puccini enlarged the precious store of this earth's sublime melodies.

"In the second half of the 19th century, the two greatest opera composers of the age, Verdi in Italy and Wagner in Germany, still had some of their greatest years ahead of them, and Puccini drew on the strengths of both. From the former, he inherited the great tradition of Italian opera, with its emphasis on expressive singing, and learned something from Wagner about the fusion of music and drama."

Even if you're convinced you are no opera fan, listen to this pair of selections (combined time of less than six minutes):

Here is the incomparable Pavarotti (who died seven years ago).

And an aria by Kathleen Battle, the daughter of an Ohio steelworker.

[Take a glance at this poem about the fiery soprano, in which her tone is compared to warm caramel.]

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, October 11

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:
Deeply embedded in Hong Kong are Christian communities and public personalities. They are playing no small role in the September protests. While we think the Christian road to the Chinese soul is filial piety, we cannot ignore the intrinsic need of Christians for liberty to worship and love God as our first loyalty.

There is a strong analogy between the support of the nation-state Pakistan for the Taliban and the nation-state Turkey for ISIS. Eventually the support of states for an ideology which aims to replace nation states with a new caliphate is untenable. The epic model of this contradiction is Saudi Arabia. Here is a clear explanation of how both Pakistan and Turkey ride the tiger of  Islamist proxies.

Although they have officially joined the fight against ISIS, Turkish troops were massed but idle as the Syrian Kurdish town of Korbana on Turkey's boarder was besieged by ISIS. The Turks have a real military which is one of the two regional Sunni powers that could fight ISIS. According to Global Firepower (GFP) it is the eighth most powerful military in the world with 400,000 active troops and 3,600 tanks. Three reasons the Turks are so reluctant: 1) The Turks are engaged in an Islamization campaign of their own. 2) They see armed Kurds as enemy insurgents who eventually will establish a breakaway Kurdistan, and as Kurds comprise Turkey's largest ethnic minority, a newly independent Kurdistan could include part of eastern Turkey. 3) Their greatest enemy in the region is Alawite (Shiite-linked) President Assad of Syria. In the past, Turkey welcomed ISIS as a force that was fighting Assad.

The Catholic bishops of Germany are known in the American press as compassionate advocates of relaxing church rules on marriage, and communion for remarried Catholics. It may not be such a simple story.  An under-reported key to this story is the government-enforced Church tax that subsidizes the richest Catholic priesthood in Christendom. The tax, often called "Hitler's tax," was actually started a century before the Fuhrer. He continued the arrangement as part of a larger bargain (the Concordat of 1933) to get laymen out of serious political opposition groups. The German bishops have taken a very hard line on the growing number of Catholics who opt out of the 8-9 % tax. While many of the German hierarchy think divorce and remarriage should not bar one from Holy Communion, their policy toward Catholics who opt out of the state tax is not quite so forgiving. No communion, no confession, no weddings, and no acting as godparents. We thought at first all these reports were wrong, especially about penance. We can't find contradictory reports, however. It does make one wonder if the relaxation of moral teaching on marriage might be a policy to shore up the tax rolls. This is a very ugly story of shepherds who care for the shepherds far more than the sheep.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, October 4

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:

Two Sunni States -- Turkey and Jordan -- border the ISIS-contested region between Shiite Iraq to the southeast, and Lebanon and Alawite Syria to the west. We think that this ISIS-controlled region will not be ruled by Syrian or Iraqi Shiites; they both must retain their own geographically limited state formation to survive.  

Turkey and Jordan have very different claims and relationships to the area. During the centuries-long reign of the Ottoman Empire, this land was contiguous with Turkey and many Islamists see a merging with present day non-Arab Turkey as a reemergence of the caliphate. There is a substantial group of Muslims inside Turkey who identify with the goals of ISIS and see the trajectory of Turkey's history as a natural return to a larger Islamic entity. They see President Erdogan as a transitional transforming force against the secular Turkey that Ataturk created following World War I. In Erdogan's speech to the UN he had hostile words against the legitimacy of Egypt's government and their suppression of the elected Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey is much more adamant in its hostility to Assad of Syria than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS. Turkey does not want to see the Kurds of Turkey join their ethnic brethren in a new state, and some say Turkey welcomed the role of ISIS in battling the Kurds. At the same time President Erdogan is not going to subordinate his nation of 75 million to less than 100.000 fighters of a new caliphate. On Wednesday, Erdogan placed forces on the Syrian border, but expressed concerns about fighting ISIS while emphasizing his desire to remove Assad from power.

Jordan (population 6.3 million) makes a very different claim to this land and harbors a much deeper enmity against ISIS in terms of its own history as an Islamic Arabic monarchy. Jordan has welcomed refugees from all the fights of the Mideast, has made both peace and war with Israel, and has allowed Shia and Christian communities to exist and worship in peace. The Hashemites of Jordan are a major target of ISIS and, unlike the ambivalent Turks, are willing to fight with ground troops. One cannot understand the Mideast without understanding the peculiar claims of Hashemites to the Holy Cities now ruled by the Saudi Wahhabii alliance, their restorative role in Jerusalem's Holy Places as well as their leadership in the Arab nationalist movement against the Ottoman Turks. The great grandfather of the present king of Jordan envisioned himself ruling a Greater Syria that would have included most of present-day Syria and Iraq as a new Arab nation. He was betrayed by the British and French as well as the underlying Shia-Sunni differences which necessitated a smaller map for his great grandson. The story behind the Saudi Wahhabi alliance that replaced the Hashemites from ruling Mecca and Medina can be told in many ways but an excellent summary is found here.  

Setting aside who will govern the ISIS-occupied lands in Syria and Iraq, Pat Buchanan offers a realistic view of a winning combination of States against ISIS.

Meanwhile in Brazil, the possible election of Evangelical Marina Silva is an early warning sign of the emergence of Christian political movements and personalities who will drive South American political life from the exhausted Marxist vs the Generals paradigm as well as replacing the new crony elitism of  passing power to candidate wives in the name of Western feminism.

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his speech to the UN, made clear that his country sees the nuclear program of Iran as the greatest threat to Israel and the region. He has the Saudis and radical Sunnis very much with him as well as almost all of the Republican opposition to President Obama (with the notable exception of Senator Rand Paul). We do not concur with these arguments. Netanyahu is a forceful and eloquent speaker. In his best speeches he is combative and then poetic and always closes with a prophet or Biblical truth in Hebrew. The missing religious voice among the religious nations is the Christian statesman.

As the voice of the Christian statesmen remains silent, the voice of a one Christian leader - Cardinal Timothy Dolan - proves unhelpful amid the current Ukrainian crisis. Rather than addressing the geopolitical and religious situation on the ground, or the larger history surrounding Ukraine and Russia, Dolan found it easier to label Orthodox Russia as a nation of "thugs and thieves" whose "jackboots have apparently come out of storage." We would expect more from the influential Archbishop of New York.

A recent Washington DC conference to defend Mideast Christians became a dispute about Israel after the keynote speaker Senator Ted Cruz walked out of the conference  at the end of his talk because of loud booing during his comments on Israel. This article by Ross Douthat of the NYTimes describes defenders of Cruz, while referencing Douthat's original article and others who think Senator Cruz missed something essential.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Great American Novel


Pence says the honor belongs to Miss Stowe's classic tale, written a decade before the Civil War.

Mr. Lynch, being a big fan of military histories, writes "if I had to pick out one favorite novel I'd have to opt for The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara."

To me, it has to be one of these three: Moby-DickHuck Finn, or The Great Gatsby.



The dozen countries with more than 100 million people

China and India are in the stratosphere when it comes to number of people: 1.4 and 1.3 BILLION respectively.

America is third at 319 million.

Next is Indonesia and Brazil (203 million).

[More than half of Indonesians live on Java, the world's most populous island.]

Pakistan is sixth, followed by:






and the Philippines at 100 million.

[The world population is 7.3 Billion].

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Catholic prayer to one's Guardian Angel (no age limit on who should pray it)

“How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.”   (Saint Jerome, d. 420)

"Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
To whom God's love
commits me here,
Ever this day,
be at my side,
To light and guard,
Rule and guide.
Be sure to know the archangels as well.