THE WEEKLY BRIEF
The Senate's 98-2 vote to tighten sanctions on Iran and Russia, and remove presidential ability to change these policies was opposed only by Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders. President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson are in a distinct minority as they attempt to restore normal relations between the US and Russia. Maybe it is a blessing they will have to make their arguments to Congress. It is an argument long overdue. The neoconservative Republican war hawks led by John McCain in the Senate and Fox News in the media have opposed Trump's notion that Russia is not our enemy since his early candidacy. They now have many allies to revenge how the outsider walked through the lot of them in the Republican primaries. There are some men on the left like Oliver Stone and some at the Nation magazine who oppose the anti-Russian hysteria as part of a new Cold War. There are many others on the sexual left who understand that a nationalist Christian Russia is not a friend to their globalist individualist agenda. They are as viscerally anti-Putin as they are viscerally anti-Trump. As of yet there is no articulate Christian voice to fight for a new alliance of nations in a consort for peace.
A vote not to approve the huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia had 43 Democrats and four Republicans almost blocking the sale. Five Democrats joined the Republican majority. Only 27 Senators voted to block the last big Saudi arms sale under President Obama. There is now a majority Democrat vote available whenever an anti-Trump policy is suggested. This could even foster a real debate in Congress about our relationship to Saudi Arabia. When it was Hillary Clinton and John McCain carrying their water, there was very little action by the foreign policy establishment against "our friends"guarding the clerics of Wahhabi Islam. President Trump has not opposed the Saudis as some of us thought he might. He is mobilizing what McCain and Clinton favored. This will now lead to the reemergence of an antiwar left, just because it is Trump who is befriending the Saudis. One redeeming feature of the Obama presidency was that he understood we were trapped by our Saudi alliance. He had run against and beaten both McCain and Clinton. He was no darling of the foreign policy elite when he opened relations with Iran. Obama was, however, ambivalent. He never embraced the Saudis but he armed then at an unprecedented level until Trump made a bigger deal. A long overdue strategic debate by Congress can help us learn from the insights that President Obama and Ben Rhodes shared in their last foreign policy interviews.
Catholics who believe this 100th anniversary of Fatima may be a crucial year in a re-conversion of Russia to Christianity need to lead a spiritual reform of our own country's foreign policy. Why shouldn't America reach out as a brother nation to Holy Russia after their atheistic nightmare of the 20th century? Let us pray we might shed the atheist cataract that has blocked our own nation from formulating a foreign policy based on a Christian worldview of men and nations rather than the social Darwinism of atheist academics.
I. POPE FRANCIS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
POPE FRANCIS ON NOSTALGIA: "I am convinced that his (Don Luigi Giussani's) thought is profoundly human and reaches man’s innermost longings. I dare say that this is a most profound, and at the same time understandable, phenomenology of nostalgia as a transcendental fact. There is a phenomenology of nostalgia, nóstos algos, feeling called home, the experience of feeling attracted to what is most proper for us, most consonant with our being. In the context of Fr. Giussani’s reflections, we encounter instances of a real phenomenology of nostalgia." —Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, April 27, 2001, at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, the largest in South America, presenting the Spanish edition of L’attrattiva Gesù (The Attraction That Is Jesus).
[Ed: In St Augustine's comparison of the three faculties of the soul with the Trinity, he associated the Father with memory. When man is reconstituted by grace he cultivates a primal memory of being called into existence by the Love of God. This metaphysical certitude about the gift and goodness of one's being reminds us of the initial status of Adam and Eve. The source of our transcendental nostalgia is that all human beings were imagined originally as part of the Body of Christ-our final destiny and original purpose. Such nostalgia sure beats self-affirmation classes].
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY - A HISTORY OF CHURCH AND STATE: Russell Hittinger talk.
IN AFRICA - HOW TO TRANSCEND THE TRIBE: A Nigerian dispute and the Pope.
THE AFRICAN MARTYRS OF UGANDA - REMEMBERED EACH YEAR IN JUNE: From his homily at their 1964 canonization by Pope Paul VI:
"Who could have predicted to the famous African confessors and martyrs such as Cyprian, Felicity, Perpetua and – the greatest of all – Augustine, that we would one day add names so dear to us as Charles Lwanga and Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their 20 companions? Nor must we forget those members of the Anglican Church who also died for the name of Christ. These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age... a rebirth of Christianity and civilization!King Mwanga of Uganda was rebuffed by several Christian male pages who would not perform sexual acts on His Majesty. They saw the acts as a sacrilege. He saw their disobedience as a sacrilege against his royal personage. The protectors of the pages including Charles Lwanga and Joseph Mukusa who were burnt to death with at least 20 other African men in 1886 for their insolence. This dramatic story of purity and courage defying the perversion of the powerful is a many day celebration in Uganda. It is interesting that the story at Crux about this huge feast day sets the context as "the scramble for Africa." The nasty imperialists got a gratuitous kick while the King's peculiar crime was not mentioned.
Africa has been washed by the blood of these latest martyrs, the first of this new age. The infamous crime by which these young men were put to death was so unspeakable and so expressive of the times. It shows us clearly that a new people needs a moral foundation, needs new spiritual customs firmly planted, to be handed down to posterity. Symbolically, this crime also reveals that a simple and rough way of life ... must give way to a more civilized life."
Christian nations of Africa never did understand the obsessive identification of homosexual acts with human rights by the Obama administration (2008-2016). Fighting Salafist jihadists was often treated as a secondary concern in an American foreign policy dominated by the gender ideologists. The use of the weak by the mighty for desacralized sexual gratification is an old story. One century the villain is a powerful black king. A century later the rich white Americans demand sexual license as homage to their social dominance. In the name of human rights the privileged demand that abominations like sodomy and abortion not jut be allowed but be hallowed. Pope Francis calls this imposition on the nations of the global south an "ideological colonization".
GREGORIAN CHANT AND THE PSALMS SUNG BY JESUS - A COMMENTARY AND STORY FROM FR. JOSEPH FESSIO, SJ: From Fr. Fessio's two-part essay on the Mass of Vatican II from a talk in 1999:
"The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, issued on December 4, 1963, by the Second Vatican Council is one of the most important documents of the Council, one that has been the least understood and, I believe, has wrought the most havoc - not by having been fulfilled - but by having been ignored or misinterpreted...
Paragraph 114 adds: "The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care." Then in paragraph 116 we find another shocker: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services." That's what the Council actually said. If you are in a parish which prides itself on living the spirit of Vatican II, then you should be singing Gregorian chant at your parish. And if you're not singing the Gregorian Chant, you're not following the specific mandate of the Second Vatican Council.
Now, just a little footnote on the Gregorian Chant. In reflecting on these things about Church music, I began to think about the Psalms a few years back. And a very obvious idea suddenly struck me. Why it didn't come earlier I don't know, but the fact is that the Psalms are songs. Every one of the 150 Psalms is meant to be sung; and was sung by the Jews. When this thought came to me, I immediately called a friend, a rabbi in San Francisco who runs the Hebrew School, and I asked, "Do you sing the Psalms at your synagogue?" "Well, no, we recite them," he said. "Do you know what they sounded like when they were sung in the Old Testament times and the time of Jesus and the Apostles?" I asked. He said, "No, but why don't you call this company in Upstate New York. They publish Hebrew music, and they may know."
So, I called the company and they said, "We don't know; call 1-800-JUDAISM." So I did. And I got an information center for Jewish traditions, and they didn't know either. But they said, "You call this music teacher in Manhattan. He will know." So, I called this wonderful rabbi in Manhattan and we had a long conversation. At the end, I said, "I want to bring some focus to this, can you give me any idea what it sounded like when Jesus and his Apostles sang the Psalms?" He said, "Of course, Father. It sounded like Gregorian Chant. You got it from us."
I was amazed. I called Professor William Mart, a Professor of Music at Stanford University and a friend. I said, "Bill, is this true?" He said, "Yes. The Psalm tones have their roots in ancient Jewish hymnody and psalmody." So, you know something? If you sing the Psalms at Mass with the Gregorian tones, you are as close as you can get to praying with Jesus and Mary. They sang the Psalms in tones that have come down to us today in Gregorian Chant.
So, the Council isn't calling us back to some medieval practice, those "horrible" medieval times, the "terrible" Middle Ages, when they knew so little about liturgy that all they could do was build a Chartres Cathedral. (When I see cathedrals and churches built that have a tenth of the beauty of Notre Dame de Paris, then I will say that the liturgists have the right to speak. Until then, they have no right to speak about beauty in the liturgy.) But my point is that at the time of Notre Dame de Paris in the 13th century, the Psalms tones were already over a thousand years old. They are called Gregorian after Pope Gregory I, who reigned from 590 to 604. But they were already a thousand years old when he reigned. He didn't invent Gregorian chant; he reorganized and codified it and helped to establish musical schools to sing it and teach it. It was a reform; it wasn't an invention. Thus, the Council really calls us back to an unbroken tradition of truly sacred music and gives such music pride of place."
II. ISLAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST
SAUDIS, THE MIDEAST, QATAR: Fareed Zakaria is right about the Saudis. Jerusalem Post on why Israel wants Qatar isolated. Ishaan Tharoor of Washington Post explains his understanding of Qatar. Qatar's alternative Salafism.
Qatar has been criticized in a unanimous letter from the 200 living male descendants of ibn And al-Wahhabi. They are not truly of the purified Salafi form of the religion. This language allows killing them as non-Muslims. While Qatar has been part of the Wahhabi tradition they have always been much less prone to condemn all Shiites including Iran, and the Houthis of Yemen. The Qataris treated the widespread popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate form of Islamic political activity. Egypt's military government established by a coup against the elected Brotherhood candidate and the Saudi monarchy do not appreciate the more populist reporting from al Jazeera based in Qatar. It is interesting to remember that Osama bin Laden was generally against the anti-Shiite turning taken by al Qaeda in 2006. (He was killed in 2011). Both Turkey and Iran have been clear in their support of Qatar with Turkey promising to deploy more troops to the Turkish base established there since 2014. The coordinated campaign against Qatar does not have the blessings of the US Secretary of State. This action like the war against the Houthis in Yemen has the fingerprints of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud. He has had serious rivalry with the young much more accomplished leader of Qatar-- 37 yo Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Deputy Crown Prince bin Salman is trying to build his case within the Kingdom so he can leapfrog a much more experienced Crown Prince to succeed his father as King of Saudi Arabia. His war in Yemen and now this Wahhabi cleric backed attack on Qatar is a display of his willingness to pursue aggressive purification campaigns favored by the clerics.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince 57 yo Muhammad bin Nayef (who US officials awarded a CIA medal for counterterrorism in Feb 2017) is quite assuredly not in favor of this abrupt move against Qatar. For now he bides his time as the King must indulge his son.
THE REEMERGENCE OF ISLAM: A Bernard Lewis essay from 2001. Some 15 years later, this historical writing is even more explanatory.
TALIBAN IN AFGHANISTAN: A BBC report.
III. PRESIDENTIAL AND CONGRESSIONAL POLITICS
TRUMP GOVERNS WHILE HYSTERIA RULES THE AIRWAVES: Trump moves ahead on trade.
TWO SENATORS - ONE COHERENT AND FULL OF RELIGIOUS ANIMUS, ONE INCOHERENT AND FULL OF HIMSELF: Last week the argument for draining the swamp of two Senate elders was made eloquently by their own performances. Bernie Sanders in his opposition to Russell Vought for Deputy Director of the OMB quoted the evangelical Christian's remarks that Muslims are condemned because they do not accept Christ as their Savior. "Are the Jews condemned too?" asked Sanders. Now Bernie Sanders does not believe anyone is going to be condemned at some fairy tale trial known as the Last Judgment. He doesn't believe there is a Judge and he certainly doesn't think there is a Last Judgment. But the fact that an accountant held the traditional Christian formula for no salvation apart from Christ was proof to Senator Sanders that this man should not hold government office. The liberal but reasonable Atlantic Monthly sees this for what it is. Sanders was erecting a clear religious test for office. Watching the video clip, I saw Uncle Bernie suddenly morph into the Soviet commissar executing Orthodox priests in 1920 and then a Spanish Communist murdering Spanish priests and burning convents a decade later. The hatred that invigorates political atheism is very real. In recent years it has been hidden. This is a tape worth watching and pondering.
Meanwhile the baffling confusion of John McCain in his questioning of FBI director James Comey should serve as a wake up call for citizens who believe that for decades our foreign policy experts in the US Senate have been engaged in a role playing charade that is strategically incoherent. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have become the liberal media's favorite Republicans because of their anti-Trump bias. They played that role for the conservative media during the Obama years with their "Obama is weak." "Putin is a bully." "Don't upset the Saudis." trifecta of nightly news quotes. This clip might give serious conservatives some pause in their trust of the leading Republican war hawk. His next day explanation was that his line of questioning "went over the heads " of his confused listeners.
IV. R&G ROUND UP
WHITE RACISTS, MALE HOMOSEXUALS, AND THE MANOSPHERE: This fellow is confused but he is observing a very real phenomenon which reminds us of the huge role of Ernst Rohm and male homosexuals in the SA-Hitler's military arm in his rise to power. This perversion must be answered by a religious masculine national loyalty disciplined by Christianity. Hitler stepped into the void left by a divided Christianity facing the coalescing worldwide movement of atheistic Marxism.
CHINA - RELIGIOUS REVIVAL AFTER MAO: Outstanding growth (NY Review).
KHRUSHCHEV AND THE 20th PARTY CONFERENCE - THE FIRST THAW IN 1956: Mikhail Gorbachev thought of himself as a "child of the 20th Conference" when Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin. The "Thaw generation" of idealist communists were dedicated to social justice, altruism, and honest labor. A review of the book on this pivotal event.
INTERVIEWING PUTIN: Megyn Kelly was "persistent" in her obsession about Russian hacking. A world at war, grand geopolitical strategy, Russia's view of history, perspectives on the Mideast and the war on terror were all quite secondary to Kelly's belief she had to show she was a "tough journalist" asking the "tough questions" repeatedly.
On the other hand - taking a much longer view, Oliver Stone has rejected the anti-Russia phobia of the left and suggests we take this country, this civilization, seriously. His work may be a key in breaking the cultural logjam which is preventing Americans from taking advantage of the Trump presidency in reformulating a true post-Cold War foreign policy. Stone will have a four-part series at Showtime of interviews he conducted over a two year period with President Putin.