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Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Faded Sun

Twenty years ago, C. J. Cherryh wrote a series of science fiction books, the Faded Sun trilogy. In it, she introduced beings called the regul – cannibalistic frog-like creatures who brought forth the best in their race by ritually chasing down and eating their own children. Whatever children were quick enough and clever enough to survive to adulthood were thereby vindicated as the best.

When one of the human characters asked how the regul could be so bloodthirsty, the regul’s reply upset my teenage worldview. The regul pointed out that their methods of winnowing the population was really no different from that of human beings. The regul simply killed the slow and stupid very early on. Humans tended to wait until youth reached the teens and early twenties, when war served the same purpose the regul winnowing ritual served. The regul couldn’t see why the humans were so upset.

Killing Her Softly
Why mention this? Well, the release of David Reardon’s latest study in the Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy now allows for a similar comparison to be drawn between eastern and western culture. We all know that India and China are preferentially killing their little girls. The latest book on the phenomenon, Bare Branches, points out that over 90 million women are missing from the worlds population; 88% of them would have been Indian or Chinese. The missing women are creating enormous gender imbalances in those cultures, imbalances that will only get worse with time.

Now, we could point out a lot of things about this imbalance and the results it will bring. We could talk about the state of the American Wild West in the mid and late 1800’s, where the amount of frontier town violence turned out to be directly proportional to the paucity of women in these gender-imbalanced areas. We could discuss the fact that the larger the male-female gender imbalance is in any particular area, the more likely existing religions are to fracture and the more likely odd religious cults are to take root and grow. The sociology of gender imbalance is quite interesting. But let’s ignore all that for the moment. Let’s just consider Reardon’s study.

He points out a simple fact. Every study of adult female morbidity and mortality ever done demonstrates that women who have an abortion are more likely to be dead a year later than women who give birth. Every single study. Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia – it simply doesn’t matter who does the study. When death from all causes is considered, the single best predictor of whether or not a woman will be alive a year from today is her abortion status. If she has one between now and then, buy a casket. Whether from drug abuse, suicide, or random violence, she will very likely be pushing up daisies in twelve months.

You Say Tomato, I Say To-mah-toe
Take these facts together, and the conclusion is clear. China and India kill their unwanted women in the womb. We kill our unwanted women about thirty years later. Viewed in this light, there really isn’t much difference between Chinese Communists and Americans. It’s really just a question of where you like to make the cut.

Now, it isn’t all quite so cut-and-dried, of course. China, for instance, not only kills little girls through abortion, infanticide and orphanage neglect, the Chinese also forcibly abort women, with results that haven’t been formally studied in Beijing, but are not difficult to predict, given Reardon’s compilation of results. The Chinese attack women at all levels of society. We aren’t quite so efficient, but we do the best we can with what we have.

This, perhaps, explains a letter in a recent edition of the Illinois Leader. A woman named Judith Ann expressed an enormous amount of vituperation concerning the pregnancy she carried to term. Clearly, she wanted to abort – she tried to do it four times. She kept walking away because she knew it was wrong. In this respect, she is like the man of honorable ignorance whom Aquinas praised. She didn’t have an intellectual reason for turning away from murder. She simply knew in her bones that she had to turn away from it. According to Thomas’ line of reasoning, her knowledge of the natural law was thereby shown to be superior to many pro-life advocates I have known. She didn’t need to painfully reason it out. She just knew. That’s why she was able to walk away from it four times.

Still, it doesn’t explain her anger. However, when you read her letter and take all these facts together, everything makes sense. She isn’t angry about the rape. She isn’t angry about the pregnancy. She is angry about being unwanted. Her husband didn’t want her. Her family didn’t want her. Her church didn’t want her. Nobody wanted her. That’s why she is angry. That’s why she is willing to keep abortion legal, even though she knows it is evil.

Going to the Source
And that is the source of the strength in NOW and NARAL members. They speak constantly of the need to avoid bringing another unwanted child into the world. But that isn’t their real issue. The unwanted baby is just the smokescreen, the tear-jerker, the carnival barker that brings you into the tent. It’s the misdirection that hides their real issue, even from themselves. Their real issue is the unwanted woman. They are terrified of being unwanted.

No, strike that. It isn’t terror. Not really. It is disgust. It is total rejection of the idea that any woman could be unwanted. Women cannot be unwanted. Can’t happen. It’s wrong. It’s evil. That’s what they know. You know what? They are totally, absolutely right. In that sense, NARAL and NOW are fighting the good fight. That’s why we are still fighting them thirty years after the sexual revolution created an explosion in female exploitation.

Their’s is an interesting transfer of responsibility if only because it is so close to true. You see, the woman was wanted when she was having sex with her man. When she got pregnant, the man rejected her. "It can’t be me he’s rejecting," she thinks to herself, "Not really. It can’t be me. It must be the baby that is causing me to be rejected. If I get rid of it, I will be wanted again."

If the abortion doesn’t work, if the child is gone but the woman is still unwanted, it must be due to something else. Perhaps the abortion has wrongfully been stigmatized. So, we’ve got to remove the stigma from abortion. We’ll put on t-shirts praising it. Perhaps the fetal remains are the source of the problem. We’ve got to remove the stigma from fetal remains. We’ll turn them into medical cures.

You see, people are just hung up on stigmas associated with things that have nothing to do with women. Once the stigmas are removed from those other things, people will be able to see past them to the women. The women who are wrongfully forced to stand alone, unwanted. That’s wrong, you know. Women are supposed to be wanted, they are supposed to be loved.

They are supposed to be.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

A Puzzle

We pro-lifers have frequently been told that it is a sign of terrible simple-mindedness to be a single issue voter. It lacks sophistication, nuance. It is un-democratic.

So, what do we say to the people who shout "Anybody but Bush!"?
Seems like single-issue voting to me.
But perhaps I'm just being simple-minded again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Hold the Waffles

Senator Kerry recently, and inadvertently, revived an old debate. He claimed a few weeks ago to believe that "life begins at conception." Now he adds that personhood does not begin at conception. He spoke instead of the 'fertilisation process' when a human being is 'first formed and created.'
The distinction he makes is an important one, of course, but it revolves around how we define "person." In the law (and both Senators Kerry and Edwards are lawyers), anything and anyone defined as a person thereby attains certain rights.

Corporations, for instance, have been considered persons in a limited sense since 1886, long after America’s founding fathers were safely dead. As is noted in The Case of Evelyn Hart (a model brief published in the Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal, 2000, by those who wish to recognize great apes as persons) "[C]orporations can be criminally liable but cannot be incarcerated; they must pay taxes, but cannot vote… Human beings, for the most part, are persons; but not so long ago in this country, some were while others were not." The reference is to slavery, of course, but change the sentence to present tense and the argument applies equally well to the unborn.

The argument, however, brings forward a very important point: the concept of personhood is not limited to human beings. There’s a good reason for that, of course. The concept of personhood is divine, not human. Those who wish to argue for the separation of church and state, take note. If you are serious about the idea, then we must abolish the idea of "person" from our midst.

You see, the word "person" comes originally from the stage plays put on by the ancient Greeks and Romans, in which the word referred to the masks the actors habitually wore on stage. Tertullian adopted the word to explain the Trinity, and Boethius created a technical definition of the word in order to explain Tertullian; he described "person" as an individual substance of a rational nature. Thomas Aquinas is somewhat more poetic, but no less accurate in elaborating, "Person signifies what is most perfect in all nature."

Why would he say this? Because "person" describes the inner life of the Trinity. It describes the relationships within the Trinity. Each Divine Person is defined solely and only by His relations to the other two Persons. Father begets Son, Son is begotten by Father. Father and Son breathe forth Spirit, Spirit is breathed forth by Father and Son. And what has this to do with us?

Boethius’ definition tells us what a person is, but it is not immediately obviouis why a person is. Modern man focuses on the "what" to the detriment of the "why." We are persons because we are called by God into a relationship with God. That is, though each human being is an individual substance, we have a rational nature only and precisely so that we can respond to God’s call. If God did not call us to Himself, we would each be, in a certain sense, human animals. Rationality is that which allows us to choose what kind of person we will be: to choose our end, to choose the means to attain that end, and the ability to rest in that end. This is the classical understanding of the person.

Unfortunately, this puts those who would deny God’s existence in rather a pickle. This technical Christian understanding of person is very useful, for it is the basis for every right the state extends. The post-Enlightenment atheist, however, wishes to embrace the technical understanding of "person" and "individual human rights" while denying any responsibility towards the God who endowed us with those rights. That is, he insists that each human being can be a person without regard to divine relationship.

Sadly, the previous sentence is a contradiction in terms. The very concept of "rights" requires one to acknowledge the very relations that create personhood, at least to a minimal degree. After all, rights only exist in relation to another who has rights. My right to bodily existence is not something an Ebola virus or a hungry lion can violate. A lion can kill me, devour my living body or my smoking corpse, but the lion cannot deprive me of my right to live because the deprivation of rights, the negation of rights implies the one who takes from me has the intent to take from me, personally.

Put another way, the existence of rights implies a recognition of me as a person, not just the simple recognition of a chunk of meat with a certain skill at locomotion. There must be a person who recognizes as well as one who is recognized, that is, there must be relationship of some kind in order for rights to exist. Thus, if God does not exist, all I need do in order to legitimize the death of another human creature is refuse to recognize this relationship. If I insist on acting towards another person, or another group of people, as a lion acts towards a gazelle, then I cannot be accused of violating anyone’s rights. If enough people refuse to recognize these rights, these persons don’t exist at all. Rights become subjective, fluid, relative. There is no third party referee.

The only way individual autonomy can be guaranteed is through the existence of a divine being Who guarantees it. If we deny the divine being, then we deny our own existence.

And this lies at the heart of John Kerry’s quandary. If he would insist that personhood is something that exists apart from a call to intimate relationship with the Persons of the Trinity, then he must say personhood exists in some other way, for it would not do to discard the concept entirely. He must say personhood depends on a specific number of brain cells being present, or a specific kind of muscular movement (heartbeat or respiration, for instance), or a specific set of reactions towards self or another human person (self-awareness or other-awareness). Once the criteria depends on physical data, everyone is free to weigh in and put forward their own criteria. You may be opposed to infanticide, but why should I oppose it? Perhaps you dislike assisted suicide or the killing of baby seals, but I may wield a club against both with impunity. As the Supreme Court said in Planned Parenthood versus Casey, reality becomes whatever we define it to be.

That’s why John Kerry can honestly say he has never waffled on any position. He simply re-defines reality as he feels the need. It's a wonderful skill, as long as you are the one with the club.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Human Shields

I used to write for a Catholic internet site that had a problem. Its self-perception did not match its reality. If you have ever wondered how today’s Catholic Church has gotten into the position of taking its marching orders from the Supreme Court and the Democratic party instead of from the Gospels, the story I am about to tell might be informative.

The site in question was organized and run by good people interested in Doing Something Good for the Faith. An organization for disseminating the Gospel on the Internet was founded, an organization based on the idea that we are entering history’s third millennium since God walked the Earth, and we need to adapt the proclamation of the Gospel to use the newest possible media, be on the cutting edge.

The problem
The problem was simple: everyone in the developed world felt they had to be on the Internet. Millions of sites out there, you know. How do we rise above the noise? Well, as any good marketing consultant can tell you, the best product in the world won’t sell if no one knows about it. So we have to get people onto this: we are promoting the Gospel. Hmmm…. Think, think, think. What shall we do?

A brilliant idea was proposed. Most parishes don’t have websites (or didn’t at the time the organization was founded). Pastors tend to be backward people, especially in the big city. Why don’t we offer free website hosting and/or content to them? It’s a win-win situation – they get a good Catholic site, we get free advertising. As an aside, there’s an irony here: the more rural the parish or diocese, the more likely it is to have an internet presence, e-mail, website and the like. Rural distances make it very cost-effective to communicate this way. It is the inner city parishes, parishes that are cheek-by-jowl, where the bishop doesn’t have to drive more than ten miles to reach 60% of his pastors, it is these parishes that have the worst computing infrastructure.

From the lips of the brilliant to the fingers on the keyboard is but a step. As it was proposed, so was it done. The new proclaimers of the Gospel offered free parish websites to anyone who wanted to sign up. The idea was brilliantly successful. Hundreds of parishes signed on and now get their content from this Catholic organization.

All seemed to go swimmingly until… until a terrible thing happened. You see, the Catholic organization wanted to talk about events from a Catholic perspective. In this culture, that meant some of the events under discussion would be about – dare we say it (yes, we dare) – sex

Sex spoils everything
It’s remarkable, but true. The word "masturbation" appeared on the front page of the provider’s site. It was duly propagated to the front page of hundreds of parish web sites across the nation. Within hours, nasty letters arrived from pastors and parishioners asking how such a word could have been permitted to appear on the front page of the feed to a Catholic parish! There were children present!

Now, not being privy to all the details, I can only reconstruct what happened from stray fragments of conversations I have had with various people over the course of the last year concerning this (dare I say it? Yes, I dare) seminal event. But even I, who am but a worthless scrivener, can detect the rank odor of decay. Pray tell, kind reader, how many children do you think make it a habit to surf to their own parish website? If the number rises into double digits in any parish, color me purple and wash me in jello. The complaint is, shall we say, somewhat odd.

Further, we could bring out the example of the Cure d’Ars, a priest so renowned for holiness that the devil reportedly feared that three such priests might appear in the world at the same time, lest his empire of sin be destroyed. The Cure, a man not known to season his words with mince for more pleasant consumption, once took offense at the language of the drovers who passed through town. He gave a sermon in which he remonstrated all his parishioners for their bad language, and then, from the pulpit, read out a list of words he did not want to hear anymore, so that there might be no misunderstanding. True, it is not recorded if children were present, but somehow I doubt the presence of children would have prevented him from instructing the adults.

The result
In any case, this set up a certain sense of the gun-shy in the leaders of our vaunted Catholic organization. They began to cringe at the sight of Catholic teaching that was too… well… too raw. Sure, they would promote an extremely raw movie by an extremely well-known Catholic director about the execution of a Jew two millenia ago, because that improved their visibility and the Catholic director in question had "paid his dues." But the proclamation of the Gospel had to be toned down. We don’t want to further injure the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick.

So, watch the execution movie, but don’t reproduce the words of a woman who is forcibly aborted. Speak against homosexuality, but don’t use the Catechism’s words about it being "intrinsically disordered." Not on the front page. Children might see it, you know. Make the content like G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis (but not like Lewis in "The Four Loves", where he called gays "pansies"). We want to be Mother Theresa (she didn't own a computer) or St. Francis (but not when he rejected a town for its hardened sinfulness and preached the full Gospel to the fishes instead).

In short, be gentle and kind, not harsh and disturbing. Otherwise parishes might start dumping our feed, and then we can’t proclaim the Gospel to everyone! Remember, the Gospel is about Jesus’ love for us – don’t make it into a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles. I mean, uh… well… you know. The principles are clear. Really.

That became a popular phrase, "I've already made this clear."

So, if you ever wondered how it happens, that’s how it happens. That’s how the Gospel gets watered down to nothing.

It all starts with the adults, specifically with the parents. When the truth is put out there, the parents complain, "We must protect the children!" Protect them from what? From the sins you are committing? From the consequences of the sins you allow to flourish around you? But these questions are never asked.

So, Father can’t talk about masturbation from the pulpit because there are children in the congregation. He can’t write about contraception in the bulletin because children might read it. He can’t talk about the sin of divorce at the football rally (the only other place his adult parishioners regularly show up) because there are children present AND it is not appropriate. This is a football rally, Father. He can’t talk at all.

The parents use their children as human shields to protect themselves from being told they are sinners. Whosoever brings forward the light of truth will suddenly find a small, large-eyed child between him and the person to whom he is preaching. And the person behind the child will keep repeating, "How can you say these things in front of an innocent like this? What big brown eyes he has! Can you look in his eyes and talk about such filth?"

So, I found myself defending my content – written for adults - from a man who insisted he ran a family website and who therefore insisted my content was not appropriate for his website. I pointed out that his website had no family content. Everything on it was for adults. There was no teen content, no children’s content. It was marketed to adults. What on earth was he talking about?

But, you see, he thought he ran a family site because the adults who helped catapult his site to the top of the Catholic internet heap told him he ran a family site. After all, that’s why he couldn’t run content that fully matched the Gospel – he was running a family site. The people who threatened to pull their support used that as their club. "How dare you harm our children, our family with your talk about our sins?"

Now, one could ponder the logic of this: don’t preach the full Gospel to the family, because the family is the foundation of both society and the Church. Hmmm… something not right about that.

But like most of the American bishops, he had been taken in.

Since our conversation (and my departure), the comedy (in the Dantean sense) has grown towards farce. The site is even now working to change its image to conform to its detractors. It will be adding children and teen content in order to actually be a family site.

Note the progression. They wanted to reach everyone, so they went for assistance to the places that were in most cases not preaching the full Gospel: the parishes. The parishes artificially inflated the website's link popularity but crippled its ability to preach the Gospel because now the people who ran the website were subject to the same forces that crippled the priests. Then they turned themselves into an on-line (read "ultimately ineffective") parish by acquiescing to the vision of the parishioners instead of the vision they had begun with. Like Dan Brown, they are very popular, but like Dan Brown, it isn't quite the Gospel anymore.

Human shields work. The Nazis knew it. The Soviets knew it. The terrorists know it. All sinners know it. Christ refused to allow it. Will we?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Changes to the blog

Over the next few weeks, I will be migrating all my blog articles (70+ at last count) to a new article manager on the Bridegroom Press website.  In order to find articles, just look at the information box on the right, immediately above the BESTSELLERS box.

This migration provides several benefits and potential benefits:
  • Articles can now be categorized by topic,
  • Articles now have one to two sentence summaries to help you find your information more quickly,
  • Editing abilities are much improved (this helps me more than it does you),
  • I now have a means to accept articles from other people who might want to contribute (prior to this, there was no good way to attribute specific columns to one person versus another person),
  • I may eventually be able to create an internal search engine to help you find specific articles more quickly (that's in the works as soon as I figure out how to modify the php code in the OSCommerce search box - anyone out there want to help on that one?).

All in all, this should provide a better experience for both of us.

I will be cross-posting to both sites for the near future, but hope to move entirely to the new site by the end of August at the latest.

As an aside, rummaging through some of these nine-month old posts was quite enlightening. It's remarkable how well they have held up during the course of the year.  Specifically, posts like The Infallibly Dirty Dozen, Mutual Admiration Society, What's Natural About Marriage?, Are YOU My Mother, and Democracy at Work though written for situations specific to last year's debates, still make relevant points now. If you have time to re-read some of these, I'd like to hear your opinions on them. Especially as I haven't tried out the new comment system at the site yet, so you can be my guinea pigs. :)

Click here to find out.

Monday, July 19, 2004

The Picayune Passion?

Well, the impact of Gibson’s Passion movie is already being minimized. According to the wire services, “while a solid majority liked the film, seeing the movie brought about few changes in individual’s faith or beliefs” (CNS). According to the survey, as a result of seeing the movie:
  • 18 percent of moviegoers changed their religious behaviour,
  • 16 percent changed their religious beliefs,
  • 10 percent had done both,
  • Less than one-tenth of one percent made a profession of faith or accepted Jesus as their saviour in reaction to the film.
When Paul want to the Areopagus, he preached to the whole city, but it is doubtful that he attained more converts than this film seems to have managed. How many revivals have you been to which saw 20% of the attendees respond to the altar call? Even if anyone had seen such a tremendous response, it is a fact little noted that such altar calls do not typically produce permanent changes in behaviour. It is not uncommon for an evangelical church to “bring thousands to Christ” with a summer-long revival only to find their permanent membership has not changed a bit. All the altar call respondents faded away with the morning sun.

Yet this poll, taken over ten weeks after the movie had ended, produced a larger viewer response than any summer revival. And the movie was only a couple of hours long. In our discussion of this, a friend of mine, Dennis Embo, pointed out:

“To the CNS wire service people it was a ‘mere’ 18%. But when compared to, as you say, these big evangelistic crusades, they would love to see double-digit figures of people whose report a life-changing experience after attending such an event. And the difference between the two is that Gibson's evangelism was not a 'participatory' event. Noboby made an altar call at the end of the movie. No 800-number was flashed on the screen so folks could get in touch with some local evangelical group for follow-up. Nobody sang and prayed and carried on during the film. No Benny Hinn lunacy. Just the Gospel portrayed in its true colors. When the Gospel is acclaimed that way one would almost expect some very positive and long-lasting results.”

And that’s exactly what we see. If Michael Moore's "Farenheit 9/11" caused 10% of its viewers to call the phone numbers he flashed on the screen during the movie, don't you think this would be reported as a news event? If this were a safe-sex campaign, CNS would trumpet an 18% change in condom-using behaviour from the rooftops. But since the viewers are putting on Christ instead of a sheath of latex, it becomes a “mere” 18% change.

Is it any wonder that most people find prostitutes more reliable than journalists? We know Jesus ate and drank with the former, but there's nothing to indicate He associated with the latter.

Friday, July 16, 2004

DOMA and Eucharist

Shared viewpoints

"Marriage should be reserved to relationships between a man and a woman. Only these pairings can produce children. But I do not believe an amendment to the Constitution of the United States is the appropriate answer at this time." – Sen. Kent Conrad, D, N.D.

"I have not gotten to the stage where I'm comfortable in denying the Eucharist," - Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C.

"Changing the Constitution of the United States of America is a very serious business and should only be used as a last resort." – Sen. Max Baucus, D, Mont.

"I have a deep reverence for our Constitution, and believe it should be amended only when absolutely necessary." – Sen. John Edwards, D, N.C.

"In the nature of the church, the imposition of sanctions is always the final response, not the first response, nor the second nor maybe even the 10th," Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, Belleville, USCCB president

"Our Constitution has traditionally been used to expand rights, not to restrict rights, and I do not support amending it." – Senator Carl Levin, D, Mich.

"I believe that 'marriage' should be reserved to a woman and a man, based on the long tradition and religious context of the institution. But I see no need for a constitutional amendment." – Sen. Bob Graham, D, Fla.

“I’m slightly mystified why this is all coming up now. We’ve had pro-choice Catholic politicians going to Communion since Roe v. Wade,” - Cardinal Mahony, Los Angeles

"Marriage between a man and a woman is an honored social and sacred institution that dates back thousands of years in civilization. It is for this reason that I am opposed to same sex marriages. However, I do not support amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same sex marriage at this time." – Sen. Chuck Hagel, R, Neb.

"Though I oppose gay marriage, I believe a constitutional amendment is neither appropriate nor necessary." – Harry Reid, D, Nev.

“The prophet Isaiah has that wonderful line about peace-making – turning swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks… I fear that we are reversing the situation, and taking God’s great gift to our Church and using it as a weapon of divisiveness and destruction... I strongly oppose using Eucharist as a weapon.” - Bishop Skylstad, Spokane

Opposing viewpoints

“Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak man say, ‘I am a warrior!’ ” – Joel 3:10

“[When] the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist [the minister giving Communion] must refuse to distribute it… This decision properly speaking is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person's subjective guilt, but rather (he) is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin." – Cardinal Ratzinger, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

"When politicians agree with the church's position on a given issue, they say that the church is prophetic and should be listened to, but if the church's position doesn't coincide with theirs, they scream separation of church and state." -Archbishop O'Malley, Boston

Interesting facts
135 of 154 bishops polled felt Eucharist should not be denied to anyone, or if denied, only as a last resort. Only five out of 178 Latin-rite Roman Catholic dioceses in the US have indicated that they will deny prochoice Catholic politicians the Eucharist (Camden, NJ; Colorado Springs, CO; LaCrosse, WI; Lincoln, NE; and St. Louis, MO). These dioceses are following the directives of four bishops: Bishops Bruskewitz, Burke, Galante, and Sheridan. Just 17 bishops have encouraged Catholic policy makers to abstain from communion because of their prochoice position.
- Catholics For a Free Choice poll of all American Latin-rite bishops.

Bishops are consecrated to defend the Eucharist.
Congressmen are sworn to defend the Constitution.

The Constitution is to US politics what the Eucharist is to Catholics.

Thirty-eight Congressmen complain to the USCCB about the possibility of being denied Eucharist. The USCCB complains to the Congress about its failure to add DOMA to the Constitution.

Some say that we can't withhold Eucharist if only because the bishops have not properly instructed the faithful on life issues. Indeed. If that is true, then the bishops really can't expect to win on DOMA, can they, since they haven't properly instructed the faithful on life issues, specifically contraception and its links to homosexuality.

If either side had the backbone to do what they are supposed to do - safeguard the Constitution, safeguard the Eucharist, we wouldn't have these problems. If American bishops had a tradition of sticking to the constant teaching of the Church and always insisting that the Catholic Faith is what informs Constitutional principles, not vice versa, we would not have this problem.

As it is, because American bishops have throughout the history of this country, almost NEVER taught the fullness of the Faith, the high holy of secular America and the High Holy of the Catholic Faith are now both up for grabs. And both discussions revolve around a single issue: the proper place of the Bridegroom in the Wedding Feast.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Lenin, Hitler and Bush

Adolf Hitler has become a major campaigner in this election. The Republicans are running ads that visually equate their opponents with Hitler, while the Democrats are expressly making comparisons between Bush and the little mustachioed man from Austria. This is not particularly noteworthy in certain respects. After all, the two parties began calling each other these kinds of names during the Cold War: Democrats, as everyone knows, are socialists and Republicans are brown-shirts. American politics is built on this kind of name-calling. Look at any of the presidential campaigns run during the last century and you will find virtually all of them involved name-calling and mud-slinging.

But the charges in this election set up a certain level of resonance. It is said that history repeats itself. It doesn’t, of course. It’s just that God keeps giving us the same chances, and we have only discovered a limited number of ways to mess things up. That having been said, let’s examine a few of the similarities between this historical situation and others.

Few people realize that Russia’s first free election was held at Lenin’s insistence. World War I had created too many problems for Russia, both militarily and politically: the Czar abdicated his throne on March 1, 1917. In November, 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power and held elections for the Constituent Assembly. They thought they would win (which is why they held the elections). Instead, they received only 24% of the vote, as opposed to the Socialist Revolutionaries 58%. Saddened by the loss, Lenin was, however, quick to mend the results. He dissolved the lawfully elected assembly, seized power and outlawed all the other parties. The Greek Orthodox Church, which was headed by the Czar, stayed out of the affair in all essentials. There would not be another free election in Russia until 1991.

World War I had caused the crisis: the Bolsheviks – a minority party - grabbed the chance. The Bolsheviks were atheists.

In contrast, at the beginning of the 1930’s, Germany had essentially three major parties: the national socialists (Nazis), the international socialists (Communists) and the Zentrum (Catholics). The Nazis responded to the Zentrum’s strongly anti-Nazi campaign by furiously denying religion had any role in politics. Nazis advocated a wall of separation between church and state. National socialism was not anti-Catholic, rather, it was opposed to political Catholics. It had no quarrel with sensible Catholics who kept religion and politics separate.

No clear winner emerged from the November 1932 elections for chancellor. Instead, an appeal had to be made to President Hindenburg to confirm Hitler in the position, given that his party had won the most votes. After some vacillation (Hindenburg didn’t like or trust Hitler), Hindenburg was convinced and Hitler was confirmed. A scant month after Hitler was confirmed in his position, the Reichstag was burned down by an arsonist. Though the national socialists did not start the fire, it gave them the excuse to declare martial law, rid the country of political enemies and secure their hold on power.

The fire caused the crisis: the Nazis – a minority party - grabbed the chance. The Nazis espoused the ancient Norse gods of the country folk. They were pagans.

In the United States at the beginning of the 21st century, two political parties comprise three political movements: the atheistic anarchists (Democrats), the atheistic businessmen (Rockefeller Republicans) and the Christians (the rest of the Republicans). The Democrats argue strongly that church and state must be separate. The Rockefeller Republicans actively attempt to co-opt and defuse the power of the Christian Republicans.

No clear winner emerged from the 2000 elections for president. Instead, an appeal had to be made to the US Supreme Court to confirm the adamantly Christian George Bush in the position, given that he won the most electoral votes. After some vacillation (the media didn’t like or trust Bush), the Supreme Court was convinced and confirmed him. Nine months after Bush is sworn into office, the World Trade Center is blown up. Though the Republicans had nothing to do with it, the event permits the passage of the Patriot Act. Bush does not declare martial law, rid the country of political enemies, or use the event to secure his hold on power.

Comparison and Contrast
The Bolsheviks’ main claim to fame was their attack on the bourgeoisie – the destruction of Russia’s very small middle class. They were economic parasites who fed off the poor peasants, you see.

The Nazis’ main claim to fame was their attack on the Jews – a very small religious denomination in Germany. They were international parasites who fed off the German people, you see.

The Democrats’ and Rockefeller Republicans’ main claim to fame is their attack on unborn children – very small persons in the womb. They are parasites who feed on their mothers, sapping away economic earning potential, you see.

The Bolsheviks differed from the Socialist Revolutionaries primarily on matters of how best to implement socialism: whether through education of the workers or education of the peasants.

The primary difference between the national socialists (Nazis) and the international socialists (communists), were in their respective emphases on the importance of the nation. Because Germany had just become a nation in 1871, national socialists played strongly on the harp-strings of patriotism. They were unwilling to surrender the nationhood that Germany had fought centuries to attain. Communists, on the other hand, cared not a fig for nationalism.

Today, the difference between Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans is largely a matter of nationalism and business. Several Democrats, for instance, have perpetuated the international socialist stereotype attached to their name by requesting UN observers to watch over US elections. Meanwhile, Rockefeller Republicans are content as long as national and business interests are maintained.

It is a remark oft-made and worth repeating that the difference between Republicans and Democrats, like the difference between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks or Bolsheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries or Hitler and Stalin, is relatively insignificant.

Recent history has shown us what happens when an atheist or a pagan takes charge of a country. Today, we have a Christian in charge. Barely.

Recent history has also shown what happens when Christians avoid politics or allow their opponents to define their Christian sensibilities out of politics.

The wall between Church and state is killing millions today, as it has killed millions before. We can build all the walls we want, but the problem isn't Church or state, it is us. People get killed because sinners like us kill them. We can either justify the killing on the grounds that Church and state are one or on the grounds that Church and state are separate. As history demonstrates, it is a lot easier to justify the killing when Church and state are separate.

This situation is exactly analogous to the problem of sex abuse from priests versus sex abuse from secular public school teachers that I pointed to just a few days ago. Sex abuse is going to happen. We are sinners. Why would we think we can stomp out a particular sin through the laws of men? But religious men commit this sin a lot less often than secular men do.

Religion elevates.
Separation from religion destroys.

Mr. President, tear down this wall.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

DOMA is dead

I predicted the death of the Defense of Marriage amendment a few weeks back.

Part one has come true: Congress has killed it.
Clearly there wasn't enough grass-roots support to light any fires under Congressional toes, even though this was an election year!

That leaves the state initiatives, which is undoubtedly the back-up plan.
Let's see if I bat 1.000

Monday, July 12, 2004

Why the Pagans are Correct

Talk about using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. Thirteen different books respond to the Da Vinci Code, three of them authored by Catholics. Certainly that is sufficient to refute Dan Brown, right? Unfortunately, while all of us have easily refuted Dan Brown’s erroneous statements, all of us – including, I am sad to say, myself – missed the point. Good heavens! This is all rather embarrassing.

I didn’t realize how badly off the mark we all were until I read Angels and Demons some weeks after my own refutation of The Da Vinci Code released. As you may know, Code is not Mr. Brown’s first book. He has written three earlier novels, Digital Fortress, Deception Point and Angels and Demons, plus a book of poetry, Matter. These all sold well enough, but none of them had sales approaching that of Code. All of them began to sell after Code took off, of course, riding the Code-tails of success, as it were. That is why I began reading them.

“What is sauce for the goose is certainly sauce for the gander,” thought I to myself thought I, “Given how well my counter-Code book is selling, perhaps there is something that needs refuting in Dan’s earlier work.” So, I began reading those earlier works with an eye towards writing refutations of those as well. Instead, I was brought up short.

Like everyone else, I had assumed that the anti-Christian, particularly the anti-Catholic, tone of Code is its main selling point. That isn’t true. It can’t be. After all, Angels and Demons is at least as anti-Catholic as Code (more so in some ways), but its sales were nowhere near the same, even though it came out in June 2001, just months before the sex abuse scandal began to break. And, lest you begin to protest, the books are nearly identical.

The two novels share a main character (Robert Langdon) and a conspiracy theory plot, have the same fast-paced style and pacing, draw similarly one-dimensional characterizations, even mimic dialogue. Indeed, one could lift entire chunks of dialogue from one book and drop them into the other without affecting the plot line of either story. In nearly every respect, the two books are interchangeable. But Code sold like hotcakes while Angels and Demons was barely a blip on the radar screen by comparison. Indeed, even at its best, Angels and Demons has never approached Code’s sales. Why? The difference in their stories lies only in this: Code spends a fair bit of time talking about sex, Angels and Demons does not.

Now, this statement must be qualified. Angels and Demons has quite a bit of sex in it, as does most of Dan Brown’s work. But it is not the sex itself, rather it is Dan Brown’s treatment of the sex that is dramatically different. Code is not successful because of its decadence. Quite the reverse. Code is successful because it is theologically accurate and is, therefore, counter-cultural. Let me explain.

In Angels and Demons we see various beautiful, half-dressed women under threat of physical violation at various points in the novel. The most beautiful of the bevy is saved only at the last minute by the dashing hero, Robert Langdon. Having rescued her, Langdon then physically violates her (with her consent, of course) at the end of the book and completes the male fantasy. It is a typical bodice-ripper plot-line and it sold as well as most such books do: moderately so, but nothing to write home about.

Now, turn to The Da Vinci Code. The number of beautiful women in the book is reduced to one. Langdon, of course, beds her in the novel’s final chapters, but he does so only after having protested for the whole of the book – and despite several instances of strong male opposition - that sex is sacred, sex is holy and women should be treated like goddesses. Now, why should that make the difference in sales? Because 70% to 80% of book-buyers in the United States are women and women are tired of the male version of sex: sex as fast food and women as inflatable dolls.

In short, The Da Vinci Code phenomenon actually proves what the Holy Father has been saying for the last thirty years. Dan Brown is, in his own way, preaching the Theology of the Body and he’s getting better response than any Catholic has yet received.

Surprised? Study the differences. Angels and Demons spends most of its time asserting that Catholics find faith and reason diametrically opposed. There are no flashback sequences, the whole plot takes place entirely in Rome. Its watchword is “Galileo’s persecution.” It’s anti-Catholic group is the Illuminati. It’s recurring reference is to the ambigram, a specific way of encoding a written word so that it appears to be right-side up no matter which way you look at it.

The Da Vinci Code, in contrast, spends most of its time extolling pagan goddess worship and the sacredness of sex. It’s watchword is Heiros Gamos: “the once hallowed act of Hieros Gamos – the natural sexual union between man and woman through which each became spiritually whole.” Its anti-Catholic group is pagan goddess worshippers. Its recurring reference is to “the chalice and the blade.” But, there’s more. It has flashback sequences that center on the relationship between a little girl and her grandfather (her parents having been killed in a car crash). The main mystery of the novel is not the murder that opens the novel, rather, it concerns the true identity of the little girl and why she ran away from her beloved grandfather. The answer? She is descended from Jesus and Mary Magdelene. She ran away because she saw her grandfather having sacred ritual sex in front of an admiring crowd of worshippers.

Dan Brown “debunks” Christ’s divinity only as a means to an end. The pivotal monologue sequence that lies out the novel’s thesis begins with the idea that Jesus is not divine and Brown really spends very little time on this assertion. It is just one stone in the foundation that builds towards an entirely different argument: Mary Magdelene’s sexual union with Christ is an encounter with the divine. God had sex.

That is the heart of the novel. Every one of us silly Christians who focused on debunking the novel focused our energy on debunking the fact that Dan Brown denies Jesus’ divinity. As a result, all of us, whether Catholic Christian or simply Christian, concentrates on his error-filled history.

But none of the historical “facts” he brings forward are the issue. Sex is the issue. Sex is holy. Dan Brown proves that sex is holy by asserting that Jesus had sex. Brown wants to demonstrate the divinity of sex. He knows most readers will walk away from the novel believing that Christ is God, no matter what foolish things he says in the novel. He wants to use our attachment to Christ’s divinity in order to connect Christ’s divinity to sex. If God had sex, then it must be divine.

This is why all of us debunkers have missed the mark. By hammering home Christ’s divinity, we merely hammer home Dan Brown’s argument. Our refutations of the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus will always be an argument from silence, since history doesn’t speak of it at all. Thus, our arguments will always allow people to believe that He really did have sex with “that woman.”

Dan Brown is a product of American culture, and America is Protestant. Protestantism is, in turn, the product of two ideas: (1) faith is opposed to and superior to reason and (2) the body is totally corrupt. The first concept lay at the heart of the Enlightenment. Voltaire, Rousseau and the rest fought the idea that faith is superior to reason with such vigor that they embraced exactly the opposite conclusion. While they agreed on the opposition of faith and reason, they insisted that reason is superior to faith. Thus, members of today’s society, whether non-Catholic Christian, agnostic or atheist all oppose Catholic teaching by agreeing that faith is opposed to reason. Angels and Demons plays on that sentiment.

The culture is agreed on the terms of the fight, even if both sides in the fight, Protestant and atheist, are completely wrong. Because Catholic theology is on the fringe of American culture, Catholics can shout until we are blue in the face that both faith and reason are necessary. No one will listen, because no one else believes it. Angels and Demons plays off this fact by putting Protestant theology about the opposition between faith and reason into the mouths of Catholic characters. Let the Catholics protest. Both sides agree they are disingenuous.

Dan Brown uses the perceived insincerity of Catholic Faith to drive Code. Since Christians believe the flesh is corrupt, they believe sex is dirty. Sex, after all, produces more bodies, more evil flesh. This is the Gnostic element that all of us Code debunkers latched onto. Now, Gnosticism is indeed the heresy at the root of this, but we lost the fight because we didn’t scout the terrain sufficiently.

You see, American society is Gnostic, but it is Gnostic in a fundamentally new way. The earliest Gnostics and their spiritual descendants, the Protestants, saw the body as a prison, an impediment to the light of divinity. Today’s Gnostics view the body as a prison only if it is not fully under the control of the mind, specifically under the control of the will.

For the new Gnostics, the body can be a means to attain divine life but only if we can attain total control over it. Now, God is the source of life and the neo-Gnostics understand this, so total control over procreation lies at the heart of neo-Gnosticism. Having sex when, where and how we want, with exactly the consequences we want: that is logically central. God controls life, therefore if we control life, control it right down to the finest detail, we must be God. The body is the instrument by which we demonstrate total control to ourselves and those around us.

This understanding explains everything we see in society: the new eugenics, in vitro fertilization, genetic manipulation, abortion, euthanasia. In the 1800’s, industry drove our understanding of what it meant to be God. If we controlled industrial output, we could transform the earth into a garden paradise. Today, the new advances in biology have transformed the goal: now we mean to control our bodies the way we formerly meant to control the environment.

Dan Brown’s novel constantly contrasts “outdated” Christian understanding of male-female relations and the problems it generates with neo-Gnostic understanding of male-female relations and how to attain divinity. That is the whole focus his attack on Opus Dei. He means to show that orthodox Christianity, especially orthodox Catholicism, distorts male-female relations and thereby distorts man’s understanding of himself.

Or take my most significant blunder: the comment by Fache, the French murder investigator on the sex abuse scandal. Very early in the novel, he makes a single reference to the scandal. Out of the thirteen Code refutations, mine was the only one to address the logical inconsistencies the remark created. However, while I dealt adequately with the bare facts surrounding the comment, I completely missed the point. I saw it simply as an essentially opportunistic attack on Catholicism that was irrelevant to the plot.

It is an attack on Catholicism, but it is not at all opportunistic. That single remark is critically relevant to the storyline. It is not just an attack on Catholicism, it is the opening salvo of his entire argument: Christians are wrong about sex. Sadly, he is perfectly correct. Most Christians are wrong about sex.

Atheists see the Protestant argument – sex is dirty, the body is corrupt – and they dismiss it as erroneous. They are right to do so. The flesh is good, there is nothing sinful about the properly ordered appetites of the body, including the desire for sexual union between persons of the opposite sex. In that respect, atheistic reason has reached an understanding of God’s design that is much more accurate than Protestant theology.

Unfortunately for atheists, their solution is not compelling. You see, men and women both get distorted understandings of the world, but when we do, we do so in different ways. The way a man distorts the world is this: he embraces just the facts of a situation and fails to understand the human element, the element of the sacred and the mysterious. This is why atheism tends to be a male phenomenon.

When we encounter a society that equates sex with fast food, that treats women as objects, we have stumbled upon an essentially atheistic (male) error. Women might embrace this way of thinking, of course, but men are much more likely to. Women, by and large, understand that atheism’s response to sex cannot be true. Because women embrace the relational, they know instinctively that sex is holy, that women are to be treated as goddesses for they are made in the image and likeness of God.

Dan Brown may have execrable theology in most respects, but he recognizes this much. This is why Code is a record-breaking best-seller. In proclaiming the sacredness of sexual union he answers a cultural need which Protestant theology created and Hugh Hefner’s atheism cannot answer. From Protestant preachers pounding the pulpit to gay priests cruising for teens, our culture has seen every manifestation of deformed Christian sexual theology there is to see. Likewise, Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt provide the (male) atheistic response to Christian heresies like “sex is dirty,” but this response also fails to answer.

So, Dan Brown serves up the non-Christian female answer: pagan goddess worship. The irony is that he inadvertently latches onto the male version of pagan goddess worship. That is, he emphasizes “the chalice and the blade,” Wiccan symbols developed by the civil servant and adulterer Gerald Gardner in the late 1930’s. Gardner (and Brown) said the chalice represented the woman’s womb, and the blade the man’s member. In Wiccan ritual, the blade is plunged into the cup (or, alternatively, ritual sex is had on the altar). How many women really like to think of their partner’s organ as a razor-sharp blade? Is it “goddess-friendly” to plunge symbolic knives between a woman’s legs and into her womb?

Reason says no, but reason is not at work here. The central message overrides the symbols. He insists sex is holy, sacred and women are goddesses. Thus, even though he ends both Angels and Demons and Digital Fortress with fornication and the possibility of marriage, he can end Code with the promise of fornication and no marriage at all. Langdon has but to kneel before the bones of the quasi-goddess, Mary Magdelene, and the fornication becomes holy.

To a population of women who have been chemically and surgically sterilized, who are bombarded with “women’s magazines” explaining how to be better sex toys for the pleasure of any passing man, for women who are relentlessly used and abused by the culture, Dan Brown is fresh air. It does not matter what happened in Nicaea, in the Inquisition, in the sex scandal. Brown got this much right: sex is holy. The rest must be fairly close to right as well. In denying the niggling little facts of history and refusing to address the big picture, the Catholics are just being disingenuous again.

There are many ironies in his novel, but the greatest is this: when it comes to announcing to the world that sex is holy, Dan Brown stands together with Pope John Paul II and the whole college of bishops throughout the history of Christendom. Mr. Brown gets everything else wrong, but this much he gets right.

And, in the final analysis, it is enough. Despite the enormous flaws of his novel Dan Brown is, in his own way, proclaiming the Theology of the Body, if only because he tells everyone that sex is, indeed, holy, that there is such a thing as Hieros Gamos – sacred, sacramental marriage. He helps our culture accept this by placing this message in the context of non-Christian “feminine” religion. He knows that if he placed it in a Christian context, or heaven-forbid, a Catholic context, no one would ever believe it.

We might not like the facts, but there they are. Dan Brown is getting a core aspect of papal theology into everyone’s lap, and he’s doing it primarily by denying that it is Christian. He has prepared the way to talk about the Theology of the Body. Now it’s our turn to follow up.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

No news here

Sure, public school teachers are having sex with students, but "Out of the millions of teachers and millions of employees out there, you're talking about a very small number who are doing these inappropriate things," said Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. "As long as we keep it in context, recognizing any kind of problem like this is always a good move."

Isn’t that nice? Charol Shakeshaft’s report on sexual abuse in the schools, a report commissioned by the Education Department under the No Child Left Behind act, shows that roughly 4.5 million (that’s right, million) students were sexually harassed or abused during the course of the last decade in the public school system. Roughly ten percent of school officials are believed to be molesters, and this number is believed to be low due to reporting bias.

In comparison, about four percent of priests in the last five decades were abusers. Those five decades created more than 11,000 abuse accusations against priests, of which 6,700 were substantiated, 1,000 were unsubstantiated, and the remainder were not investigated because the accused priests had died. Over half of the accused had only one accusation lodged against them, while 3 percent had 10 or more allegations. Seventy-eight percent of the alleged victims were between the ages of 11 to 17, while nearly 6 percent were 7 or younger.

4.5 million versus 11000.
One decade versus five decades.

That works out to 450,000 abuse cases from the public schools per year versus 220 abuse cases per year for priests or a difference of roughly 2000 percent.

Perhaps public school teachers should take vows of celibacy.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Signs of Unity

By and large, Catholics in America all stand to receive the Eucharist now. Why? Because the American bishops would have it so. It is a sign of unity, we are told. When the ruling first came out, at least one bishop opined that anyone who dared to genuflect or kneel at reception of Eucharist was disobeying his authority. Instances of denying Eucharist to kneeling recipients became so common that Rome was required to reprimand a bishop and announce that kneeling was always permitted when receiving.

Still, you couldn’t tell this by many bishops’ directives. Bishop Jenky of Peoria, for instance, an orthodox man and a wonderful homilist, saw fit to issue a great set of directives on reception of the Eucharist. He took pains to point out that a sign of reverence should precede reception: a bow of the head or a sign of the Cross. He dealt with genuflection and kneeling very adroitly. He simply failed to acknowledge the existence of these options at all. Thus, no one could accuse him of being false to Rome, nor could anyone accuse him of being false to his brother bishops. What about the fullness of teaching he gave to the laity? That's open to discussion. But the point is made. Silence is become the rule that maintains unity.

In a similar fashion, we now tend to baptize by partial or full immersion. Why? Well, it is a fuller sign, you see. All the liturgists say so, and I agree. I have nothing against fuller signs – I’m all in favor of them. In fact, I may be one of the few who prefers partial or full immersion where possible at baptism and kneeling to receive Jesus from a priest on the tongue. These signs, priests instead of lay ministers, kneeling instead of standing, are fuller signs too, you know. Oddly, it seems that anyone who insists on a fuller sign at baptism recoils at the fuller signs of Eucharist, and vice versa. “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” says Emerson, so I must admit to having a very small mind indeed.

One sign of my small-mindedness is my wonder at the recent bishops’ statement on pro-abortion politicians and the Eucharist. We have been treated to marvelous discussions on the subject prior to this: cardinals and bishops, for instance, insisting that Church and state separation must be maintained (even though this particular idea is heretical according to Catholic doctrine). Or the same consecrated men insisting they don’t know John Kerry’s mind and thus can’t restrict his access to Eucharist, even though support of abortion is the only point he has never flip-flopped on during the whole of his campaign. Likewise, these gentlemen certainly were interested in presenting a united front when it came to the sex-abuse scandal – oh how they raced to stand shoulder to shoulder on that one!

So, after hearing all of this noise about signs of unity when we receive Eucharist, it is something of a surprise to hear the bishops deny the need for unity on who receives the Eucharist. The bishops may vehemently desire the faithful to avoid the kneelers during and after reception of Eucharist, but visible signs of unity don't appear to be wanted beyond that.

Instead, when it comes to who may receive Jesus, each bishop may do as he pleases. Now, this is not a violation of Church teaching in and of itself. It is certainly the case that the USCCB has as much power to mandate the actions of a specific bishop as the local Moose lodge does: that is, it has none at all. No bishop can tell another what to do in his own diocese – even Rome is much more circumscribed in this regard then most people realize. So, in that sense, the Colorado meeting was not a surprise. It merely emphasized a specific point of doctrine that most people don’t often think about: each bishop is nearly completely autonomous in his own diocese. They don't think about it because the bishops take great pains to avoid mentioning it.

That is what makes this lack of insistence on unity all the more remarkable. The bishops insist on unity, unity, unity when it comes to the lay faithful obeying them. They insist on unity, unity, unity when it comes to standing, kneeling and sitting together in the liturgy. But when it comes to actually distributing the Eucharist to people of questionable (possibly heretical) morality – suddenly they emphasize their autonomy.

Perhaps long tassels will come back in style. If they do, you can be sure the bishops will insist that everyone wear them. If whitewashing tombs becomes popular again, the USCCB will undoubtedly have a directive in support of the measure. It is important to maintain appearances, after all. But the masks are now torn off.

That’s what the recent ecclesial lawsuit charging John Kerry with heresy has done. Every bishop in North America is quaking in his shoes. If Boston rules Kerry orthodox, this case will be appealed to Rome. If that happens (and the man in Boston would be truly foolish to let it cross the Atlantic), canon law will give Rome the full jurisdiction and proper moment she so desperately needs in order to set an example. Kerry will be declared a heretic: either Boston or Rome will do it, and if Kerry is foolish enough to appeal, he will lose. Boston is caught on the horns of the dilemma. There is no way out.

This frightens the hell (we hope) out of the bishops. After all, the laity are starting to actually do what Vatican II encouraged four decades ago: they are starting to get involved. What happens to John Kerry can happen to Ted Kennedy can happen to any of the Dirty Dozen in the Congress. But why stop there? We need only change the name and the footnotes in the 18-page brief and Frances Kissling (founder of Catholics for a Free Choice) is suddenly in the dock. Ditto Fr. Drinan – and he can be laicized as a result. So can any ordained man found to be a heretic. Any number of lesser lights could quickly follow.

Rome knows this. The American bishops know this. And there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, except to desperately duplicate Bishop Jenky - refuse to publicly acknowledge what is happening and hope the lay men and women continue to play the ignorant fools.

You see, we, the laity, have the power to cleanse this Church. This ecclesial lawsuit is just one exercise of the sensus fidelium – the sense of the faithful, which is itself an infallible arm of the ordinary Magisterium. "We Are Church" can’t do this kind of thing because they are heretics. We can do it because we are not.

We are the orthodox lay faithful and we are finally helping each other. We are beginning to stand on our feet in ecclesial court and bend our knees when we receive Jesus. We are finally beginning to realize that we can join the faithful who have passed on the Truth through the generations. We can fight the scourge of heresy which has whipped us these last few centuries. And we can win.


Who’s next?

Friday, July 02, 2004


Here's some things to think about.

1) We're supposed to be upset about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Torture was used, you know. Very bad. Of course, when a bill is brought before Congress requiring anesthesia for children about to be aborted, that's a different matter. That interferes with a woman's right to choose. No more needs be said.

2) The National Catholic Register reports that Austin Ruse is upset with Randall Terry. Seems Mr. Terry is not Catholic (although he believes in the Real Presence and frequently goes to confession with Catholic priests - which is the right of every baptized person. Randall seems to be one of the few who knows that), but Mr. Terry had the chutzpah to picket the USCCB Colorado conference. He wants the USCCB to deny Kerry communion. Ruse says Terry - not being Catholic - has not the right to voice an opinion.

I will note two things:
a) The Council of Nicaea was called by a pagan. Constantine was not Catholic at the time he required all the bishops to come together to treat of the problem Arius posed.
b) Given a choice between heeding the opinion of a Catholic like Frances Kissling, Ted Kennedy or John Kerry or the opinion of Randall Terry, I think I'll go with the non-Catholic every time.

3) John Kerry has now been formally accused of heresy. A canon lawyer filed charges in ecclesial court. There are many more heretics where Kerry came from. Go thou, and do likewise.

Actually, I kind of suspect American Life League's Judy Brown will do exactly that. My donations to ALL will certainly increase if she does. After all, we have a duty to financially support the work of the Church...

Now, here's an interesting addendum to all this: Pursuant to Canon 1476 of the Code of Canon Law of 1983, it is no longer required for one to be baptized in order to sue in Ecclesiastical Court. So, that puts an interesting spin on the altercation between Mr. Terry and Mr. Ruse, doesn't it? Especially when we remember that Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Austin's wife, specifically told me a few weeks ago that the bishops are not working to make abortion or contraception illegal in this country.