Posts tagged ‘Catholicism’

Statolatry and Illiberal Politics

Our modern world tries extremely hard to protect us from the sort of existential moments experienced by Mill and Russell. Netflix, air-conditioning, sex apps, Alexa, kale, Pilates, Spotify, Twitter … they’re all designed to create a world in which we rarely get a second to confront ultimate meaning — until a tragedy occurs, a death happens, or a diagnosis strikes. Unlike any humans before us, we take those who are much closer to death than we are and sequester them in nursing homes, where they cannot remind us of our own fate in our daily lives. And if you pressed, say, the liberal elites to explain what they really believe in — and you have to look at what they do most fervently — you discover, in John Gray’s mordant view of Mill, that they do, in fact, have “an orthodoxy — the belief in improvement that is the unthinking faith of people who think they have no religion.”

But the banality of the god of progress, the idea that the best life is writing explainers for Vox in order to make the world a better place, never quite slakes the thirst for something deeper. Liberalism is a set of procedures, with an empty center, not a manifestation of truth, let alone a reconciliation to mortality. But, critically, it has long been complemented and supported in America by a religion distinctly separate from politics, a tamed Christianity that rests, in Jesus’ formulation, on a distinction between God and Caesar. And this separation is vital for liberalism, because if your ultimate meaning is derived from religion, you have less need of deriving it from politics or ideology or trusting entirely in a single, secular leader. It’s only when your meaning has been secured that you can allow politics to be merely procedural.

So what happens when this religious rampart of the entire system is removed? I think what happens is illiberal politics. The need for meaning hasn’t gone away, but without Christianity, this yearning looks to politics for satisfaction. And religious impulses, once anchored in and tamed by Christianity, find expression in various political cults. These political manifestations of religion are new and crude, as all new cults have to be. They haven’t been experienced and refined and modeled by millennia of practice and thought. They are evolving in real time. And like almost all new cultish impulses, they demand a total and immediate commitment to save the world.

America’s New Religions

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THIS is Performance Art

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Self-government

Self-government requires that the self be governed. Any pagan philosopher could tell you that. All the American founders agreed: liberty without virtue is but license, and license enslaves. You can hope to run away from a vicious master. You can never run away from yourself.

Anthony Esolen

 


Restoring Christian Culture—Dr. Anthony Esolen

 

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Take things at the pace of prayer.

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New ways to be alone

 


Bishop Barron on Contraception and Social Change

 

As our civilization lost its understanding of sacramental marriage, we have dreamt up new ways to be alone.
. . .
It was not the invention of the birth-control pill, or the adoption of no-fault divorce, that hollowed out marriage: It was that we became the sort of people who desired those things. We became — Western civilization became — the kids who flunked the test in the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment, unable to resist immediate gratification and, having stripped ourselves of the cultural basis for understanding the distinction, unable to tell the difference between pleasure and happiness.

The Psalmist and the Sex Doll

 


Humanae Vitae: Blessed Pope Paul VI’s Prophetic Pro-Life Work

 

Paul VI, Prophet, by Bishop Robert Barron, November 28, 2017

 


Sexual Revolution: 50 Years Since Humanae Vitae

 

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Is the Pope a Catholic?

For a guy who loves to talk, Pope Francis sure has picked a funny time to be silent.

Pope Francis normally won’t stop talking. He’s picked a funny time to go silent

Archbishop Viganò is a distinguished churchman. He is at the end of his career. He can have no this-wordly ambition. So what is he doing and why? Others more knowledgeable may offer better explanations, but I can suggest only four: Viganò is lying; he is sincere but mentally ill; he is an innocent manipulated by others; he is telling the truth in whole or in part.

The faithful need to know which explanation is correct. Given what we already know from the McCarrick case and the Pennsylvania grand-jury report, the fourth must be granted a real possibility. If so, it may still be that Viganò’s motives are corrupt — i.e., he wants to topple a liberal Pope. But if his charges are true, they are such a serious matter that his motives are of interest mainly to God. His statement must therefore lead to serious investigations, which, since the allegations involve crimes as well as sins, will inevitably be conducted by secular authorities as well as church ones. In the next few years, therefore, we seem likely to learn a great deal more about evil in the garb of priestly virtue and episcopal authority. And that raises a question that has not yet been given the same attention as sexual abuse and its cover-up above.

In his New York Times column on the McCarrick case — a month and an age ago — Ross Douthat said of the former cardinal that after the clerical-abuse scandal in Boston broke, “the Washington archbishop became the avuncular, reassuring media point person for his fellow bishops, issuing statements of concern and condemnation that if he really feared the punishments of hell would have turned to ashes in his mouth.” Those words were striking, indeed piercing. What did McCarrick believe? What does he believe? Did the punishments of hell feature in his mind at all? What did bishops and other senior clerics think they were doing when they either passed predator priests on to other parishes after a brief psychological counseling or turned a blind eye to sex parties in the seminaries? Are they really Catholics? Or Christians of some other kind? Or men who had lost their faith almost without realizing the fact? Or men who had adapted Catholicism to other philosophies, which had promptly digested it? Or something worse?

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If we are going to see a proper accounting of these things, it looks as if it will have to be delivered through the criminal-justice system. That has already happened in some of the cases revealed in the Pennsylvania report. Three hundred priests have been accused, with some convicted; a few still face trial, and many are dead. But the case that now really counts is that of McCarrick. It is unlikely that he will face prosecution for his seduction of seminarians. As one Italian religious journalist has observed indulgently, the seminarians were above the age of consent and suffered no actual violence even if they experienced pressure and distress. That’s a very worldly standard for a bishop to rely on for protection on a sex charge, even in post-Christian Italy and America, and it would play very badly with public opinion, but it’s probably enough to keep him out of court. Nor will he face human justice in the case of the minor child of family friends whom he both baptized and seduced. The statute of limitations has run out.

That is something he may now regret. It would be an opportunity of a kind, after all. If he were to plead not guilty and hire a ruthlessly brilliant lawyer to mount a scorched-earth defense on his behalf, he would be doing what any other white-collar criminal does in similar circumstances. A guilty plea, on the other hand, would be evidence of penitence, shame, and desire to make amends — far more so than retreating into a monastery for prayer and penance. And because child abusers face a hard time in prison, it would require real courage in addition to the humiliations that he would inevitably suffer. It would also tell us that McCarrick fears the punishments of the next world far more than the pains and humiliations of prison in this one.

Is the Pope a Catholic?

It’s astonishing that in the wake of an 11-page letter alleging Pope Francis enabled and empowered child predators, some have chosen to focus their attention on the accusers and not the accusations.

You’d think everyone, fan and critic alike, would be asking, demanding to hear Francis answer the allegations. You’d be wrong.

The Vatican’s sex-abuse denialists persist in their insouciance

The history of institutional governance shows that diverse voices in the “boardroom,” a range of experiences and expertise among senior leaders and overseers, and some degree of independent oversight make for healthier institutions. The Catholic Church should try it.

The Church Is Too Important to Be Left to the Clerics

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Crooked Timber


The Death of Stalin

If you believe that H. sap. is only time’s favorite monkey — that man is meat — then there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the kind of behavior we’re talking about, and no need to justify it, since there is nobody to justify it to. If you believe that man ought to be better, it implies that he can be better, and that “better” means something. And here materialism fails us, which is why Marxism became an ersatz religion. Christianity is a fortunate religion in the sense that the endless moral failings of its leaders (and followers) keeps illustrating, generation after generation, the fundamental facts of the creed. The creeds based on human perfectibility, which is the romantic notion at the heart of all utopian thinking, have as their main problem the countervailing example of everybody you’ve ever met and ever will.

It is tempting to make like the Pharisee rather than the publican and say: “God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” It is unpleasant to meditate on the truth at the center of Christianity, and perhaps at the center of all wisdom: I am like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous. (I have never been guilty of collecting taxes.) We must sympathize with the victims and care for them, but we must also identify with the malefactors, who are made of the same stuff as we are, cut from the same crooked timber.

Stalin at the Movies

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Give me that new time religion…

It was foolish for anyone to believe that a less Christian America would be a less religious America. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, God “put eternity in man’s heart.” Traditional Christianity and Judaism aren’t just being removed from American life; they’re being replaced. The more passive person often fills his heart with the saccharine sweetness of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The angry activist often stokes the burning fires of intersectionality. And when commitment collides with confusion, commitment tends to win.

America’s traditional Christian and Jewish communities need to understand this reality. Intersectionality steamrolls right over the lukewarm, leaving them converted or cowed. The answer, of course, isn’t to steamroll back — after all, our faith is supposed to be full of grace — but rather to respond with calm conviction. Christianity has survived ancient heresies. It can prevail against modern fads. But don’t for one moment underestimate the depth of the zeal that drives our latest religious divide.

Intersectionality, the Dangerous Faith

Intersectionality is a new fascism.

Statolatry

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Our “Modern” Pagan World

If you could effectively make adoption safer and easier to effect than a chemical abortion or “emergency contraception,” you could reduce the overall demand for abortions. But it is very likely there would still be some abortions, and abortion would still have its apologists.

Because in many cases, the point of abortion isn’t just to end the inconvenience, embarrassment, or danger of a pregnancy; it’s not just to avoid the grave responsibilities of parenting a child. Instead, the purpose of the abortion is to completely extinguish the child’s moral claims on her parents.

The Claims of the Unborn

But I think we are seeing something much larger than pushback against male predation. What we are seeing in the broader culture now is something that has been evident on college campuses for some time: Women are unhappy about the state of sex and romance. They feel pressured, they feel disrespected, and they are fighting back. Sadly, our culture has so exalted sexual license that the only form of sexual conduct women are permitted to protest is coercion. It should not be surprising, then, that the terms “assault” and “rape” have been expanded beyond reasonable bounds.

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Feminists hate to seem to pine for love and romance, yet their responses to Grace seem to hint at the disappointment the sexual revolution has delivered.

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Or is it the sexual free-for-all they hate? Perhaps the new feminist slogan should be “Down with the sexual revolution!”

What Is the Real Message of #MeToo?

We’ve seen it happen: A new assault on the sanctity of human life appears—say, infanticide being promoted in a major bioethics journal, or officials in Iceland bragging that no children with Down syndrome are born there, thanks to prenatal genetic screening—and some horrified opponents respond in horror, “That’s what the Nazis did!” It’s an easy accusation to wield, but rarely a wise one. Often, these proposals and policies have little to do with the crimes of Hitler and his minions—and a great deal to do with the eugenicist movement that preceded them.

Take the euthanasia killings of people with disabilities in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada. Certain analogies to Nazi horrors spring to mind: German doctors killed disabled babies between 1939 and 1945—as is happening today in the Netherlands, despite being technically illegal. And German doctors terminated disabled adults in hospitals. In the latter example, however, there are some crucial differences. Unlike legal voluntary euthanasia of disabled people in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada, the disabled victims of the Nazis were part of mass killing experiments at the start of the Holocaust. And since people who are accused of Nazi thinking don’t appear threatening—they don’t wear “SS” insignia on tailored black leather coats or boast funny mustaches, and they haven’t swallowed the poisonous ideology of fascism—the Nazi epithet is more likely to undermine the accuser’s credibility than persuade his audience.

So, what are we supposed to do, Wesley? Ignore history? Not at all. In fact, I think a more apt thought connection to the culture-of-death practices and proposals of today can be made to the invidious beliefs that animated eugenics—a movement still disdained by most people. This analogy is less likely to be rejected out of hand.

The Deadly Legacy of Eugenics

China was supposed to have its Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962, under the leadership of Chairman Mao. That didn’t work out — Mao’s policies ended up killing about 50 million people instead. China later had its genuine Great Leap Forward after the market-oriented reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping. “To get rich is glorious,” he declared. “It doesn’t matter if it is a white cat or a black cat, as long as it catches mice.” (He was a prolific aphorist.) Deng’s program was “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which turned out not to be socialism at all. But beginning in the late 1970s, China experienced an economic boom for the ages, with economic growth averaging 9.5 percent from 1978 to 2013. In purely material terms, life got substantially better for the average Chinese and radically better for the upper middle class and elites.

China isn’t the only country that has had a period of growth like that. The old Soviet Union had one, too, beginning in the late 1920s and lasting about 15 years. Both the Soviet experience and the Chinese experience are examples of the fact that a sufficiently brutal police state can, if it implements the right policies, transform a backward agrarian economy into a modern industrial economy, generating tremendous economic growth — once. But brutal police states get it wrong as often as they get it right, hence the sorry state of Cuba, North Vietnam, Venezuela, etc.

The Great Leap Forward

What really happens when you couple [John] Dewey’s pragmatic and collectivist ideas with the value neutrality that grew out of Mann’s non-sectarianism? The product is a philosophy that sees the student as merely an animal who functions in a kind of stimulus/response/adaptation cycle. Education is tedious because its utilitarian nature subverts development of the ability to see the beauty that underlies much literature, history, and the natural sciences. At the same time, its collective nature devalues them as individuals. Their souls deadened, students see only an ugly world—one which they do not care to understand.

Progressive education has ultimately failed because its premises are anti-human. Mann’s and Dewey’s ideologies must bear much of the responsibility for the deplorable state of American public education.

How John Dewey Destroyed the Souls of Our Children

The sexual revolution has a well-known masculine bias. Though feminists have won real battles, the outcome of the war has never been in doubt. Unmooring sexuality from the home, from marriage, and from religion has benefited nobody more than lecherous, grasping men.

The two most consequential gains of the sexual revolution in my lifetime have been birth control and pornography, both of which have radically shaped the public square in the image of male desire. Both oral contraceptives and abortion have been cast as victories for female liberation, and to the degree that “liberation” means the weaponizing of our bodies against nature, this is true. But it is the men who have reaped the richest rewards (sex without children), without any of the tradeoff. Men, after all, need not concern themselves with the physiological effects of the pill, or with the surgeon’s knife, or with the risks of darkness and depression. It is the liberated women, not the men, who are asked to sacrifice their bodies for equality.

Likewise, pornography has been pitched as empowerment, the public affirmation of woman as a self-sufficient sexual being. If this is so, why are the kings of the mammoth porn industry so male? Why is Hugh Hefner lionized and eulogized as a social revolutionary, while the women in his sweatshops toil away, often at the cost of great social shaming and self-loathing? We haven’t even mentioned the porn industry’s influence on mainstream entertainment, expressed violently in the testimonies of women like Salma Hayek, coerced by Harvey Weinstein into filming a sexually explicit scene. And we could spend much time contemplating porn’s influence on the modern, Tinderized dating scene. Does the age of swipe-right sound like an egalitarian age to you? Or does it sound like a horny frat boy’s dreamland, a sex factory designed by a grown-up, amorous Augustus Gloop?

Purity and Prejudice

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You mustn’t kill your children.

Smoke weed, snort cocaine, watch porn, but don’t kill a living human organism, for any reason, ever. Anyone who describes himself as a libertarian has been subjected to at least one game of “Would You Legalize . . . ?”

For me, the answer is mostly “Yes.”

Weed? Yes. Cocaine? Yes. Heroin? Yes. I’d legalize all the drugs. Not because I am indifferent to drug use — I have seen addiction up close and personal, closer and more personally than I ever wanted to, and I know what it does to people. I’m in favor of drug legalization for reasons deontological (I believe that people have the right to do what they will with their own bodies) and consequentialist (I believe heroin users would be better off if heroin were still made by Bayer, with modern pharmaceutical quality controls).

You mustn’t kill your children.

What about prostitution? Yes, I’d legalize that, too, mostly for the same reasons I’d legalize drugs. I don’t think prostitution is good for women or men, but I think the criminalization of prostitution makes it worse, creating more problems than it ameliorates. Again, one need not be indifferent to the issue to believe that the police power of the state is the wrong instrument to use in many cases. The state is big, stupid, and violent — violence is what government does — and adding violence to the equation is not very likely to make life better for people working as prostitutes. They endure too much violence as it is.

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Some of my pro-abortion friends are very fond of the Monty Python school of reproductive theology. You know the song: “Every sperm is sacred / every sperm is great / when a sperm is wasted / God gets quite irate.” They ask: “How can you be against abortion while considering masturbation an act of mass murder? Huh? Huh?” (Abortion politics makes people stupid.) One hears a lot from them about “potential” lives.

But on the matter of abortion, we aren’t talking about “potential” anything. A sperm cell or an egg cell has your DNA. It’s part of your body. I may not think everything you do with your own body is good or wise (not every tattoo is advisable), but I’m not going to throw you in prison over it, either.

You mustn’t kill your children.

I have heard endless stupid metaphysical disputes about abortion, from legalistic disputes about “personhood” (a cowardly intellectual dodge if ever there were one) to medieval-style claims about what used to be called “ensoulment.” None of that is of any interest. What happens in abortion happens to a 1) living 2) human 3) organism. The tissue in question is living tissue, not dead tissue; it is human tissue, not rutabaga or aardvark tissue; it is arranged in an organism, not as a tumor or a fingernail clipping. It has its own DNA and it will continue on a life course — maybe majestic, maybe tragic — as it grows, because it is a living human individual at the earliest stages of its development. A “clump of cells”? Yes, which is what living human organism is at that stage in its life.

You mustn’t kill your children.

Not at any age. Not at any stage of development. Not for any reason. Debate, disagree, dissent, fight, cajole, persuade, argue all you want about war and peace, taxes, the welfare state, global warming, the Palestinian question, immigration, Donald Trump, animal rights, the Second Amendment, libel laws, school choice, the literary merits of Ayn Rand. I’ll have all those fights with you and more. Smoke all the weed you like and watch all the porn you want. Keep up with the Kardashians and live like them, too, if that seems best to you. I won’t pretend it’s a good idea, but it’s a free country.

You mustn’t kill your children.

Marching for Life

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