Anonymity and Personal Responsibility​

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But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment (Mat 12:36).

Obviously, there are some legitimate reasons for bloggers and those on social media to utilize anonymity and pseudonymity, which for brevity’s sake I will not rehearse here.  No one seriously disputes their use under every circumstance.  So let us get to the heart of the issue, which is the demand of justice.

Justice is not optional under any set of circumstances, though weighing the competing interests at hand may not always be easy, and men of good will may disagree over their solutions.  There are legitimate reasons to protect the identities of whistleblowers, who otherwise might suffer from the unjust use of power.   On the other hand, every man has a right to his good name and to have his accuser take personal responsibility for his potentially life-harming assertions. Continue reading

The Creature Named Catholic Internet

I have expressed my concerns about Catholic Internet culture many times before. Mostly it appears to be a problem with some bloggers, who seem to transform into a fiend returned from the dead as soon as they sit down in front of a computer. But I am of the opinion that the problem runs much deeper than just some mutant bloggers.

Now, I don’t want to generalize. I am probably just from the wrong side of the blogosphere, and aware of my own shortcomings, but where I come from this is a widespread problem. So if this does not gel with your experience just forget everything I am about to say and don’t bother to finish reading. But if, on the other hand, any of this makes any sense to you, then read to the end and assess. Continue reading

Truth

This is an old post that I have revised for today’s feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

In 1940 during the Nazi occupation of Poland, St. Maximilian Kolbe was negotiating with the occupying commanders for permission to publish an edition of his magazine, The Knight of the Immaculate.  The Nazis had taken control of Niepokalanow, the City of the Immaculate, located outside of Warsaw, where St. Maximilian had one of the largest printing operations in the world.  The Nazis had sealed the printing presses with lead so that they could not be used.

They were well aware of the influence the saint had on the Polish populace and had endeavored to win him over to their cause.  The Nazis had even offered to register him as a Volksdeutsche, because of his German sounding surname, so eager were they to have him as a collaborator and propagandist.  St. Maximilian had boldly refused the offer, but kept on filling out applications for permission to publish his magazine, though in retaliation, the Nazis continued to reject them. Continue reading

Saving Manhood

It seems inevitable.  The Boy Scouts are now “rethinking” their ban on members and leaders being openly gay.  How long did we really think that the actual oath of the Scouts with the words “morally straight” would remain unchallenged?

We have all heard the “evolution of thought” argument made, that, for example, public opinion is shifting in favor of same-sex marriage, and that it is only a matter of time before it is mainstreamed.  The same sex lobby has used a very effective strategy of gradualism.

The advocates of same-sex marriage insist at the beginning of legislative sessions that nothing but the full recognition of marriage equality is acceptable, and then when a proposed bill comes up to a vote they accept whatever they can get.  The whole process starts over again year after year until same-sex marriage is legalized.  In this way, they alternate from defending full legal recognition as the only constitutional remedy for discrimination to pretending that they are only looking for basic protections. FInally, if this is not successful, judicial malpractice solves the problem.

Some call this a “slippery slope.”  I call it “erosion.”  “Slippery slope” denotes a present condition that will lead to a future repercussion (bad precedent leads to worse consequences).  “Erosion” denotes an ongoing process in which present and future only differs by the degree of deterioration (the longer the cause is applied the worse the effect). One might say I am splitting hairs, but it is a better explanation as to why we should all know what is coming. Continue reading

Contracepting Religious Freedom

Thank God the bishops are using their clout against the attempt of the Obama administration to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraception. Although I do not agree with Paul Moses entirely, I believe he has a point in suggesting that the effort could backfire.  But that is a risk we have to take.

Unfortunately, politics today is largely part of our sound bite culture.  So many people are more interested in the outcome of the Twitter war than they are about having an in-depth and clear understanding of the problem at hand.  Political persuasion is to a great extent about perception. Winning a debate  seems more important than dealing with the fundamental issues. Clarifying first principles often clouds the particular agenda and appeals more to the intellect than it does to the emotions. Emotional arguments work better.

Partisanship is also an issue.  I am all for distinctions and hard ones when they reflect reality, but Republican vs. Democrat generally does not reflect the complex reality of peoples real interests and positions.  Certainly, neither political party represents the fundamental interests of the Catholic Church.

Yet the current problem does reflect a reality that could be conveyed easily on Twitter.  It is President Obama against the Church.  The interests of the bishops relative to this issue are not political.  They are not even confessional.  It is the age old problem of the Church maintaining its liberty from incursions into relgious matters by civil authorities.  And the issue even simpler than the current debate frames it.  The real question is not whether religious institutions should be exempted from paying for something considered immoral by their confession.  The real question is why anyone at all is being forced by the government to act contrary to fundamental religious convictions rooted in natural law and in legal history of our country.

During the last presidential campaign Doug Kmiec successfully convinced many Catholics that Barack Obama was the most pro-life candidate in the race.  Many of us were astounded.  Recently, Kmiec wrote to the president in respect to the present debacle.  He said:

In deciding against a reasonable accommodation of Catholic concerns in the implementation of the health care program, you lost sight of your own beliefs.  For this reason, your words this morning touched neither soul nor heart in the room. . . .

Today, Sir, I ask you no longer as an Ambassador, but simply as a friend, why put the cold calculus of politics above faith and freedom?  Please respond, for friendship will not permit me to disregard duty to faith and country.  The Barack Obama I knew would never have asked me to make that choice.

I still think Kmiec is very naive–at best.

Politicians, journalists, pundits and bloggers will now “soundbite” and “twitter” us with irrelevancies about women dying from a lack of birth control because Catholics don’t want to pay for it and about how the bishop’s are too conservative and partisan.  Unfortunately, many will buy it, which is very ironic, since the official voter’s guide of the USCCB is hardly a conservative or partisan representation.

Another irony is Paul Moses’ suggestion that the bishops employ the methods of Saul Alinsky.  This, he says, could build consensus.  Moses counsels the bishops to garner enthusiastic support by community organizing.  Grassroots support, of course, if helpful.  However, the quintessentially alinskian element here is the way in which grassroots support is generated by the ulterior motives of radicals in order to implement a preconceived and elitist agenda.  Moses rightly points out that Obama knows all about this.  But this is not the mission of the bishops. The Church is a voluntary society.  No one has to belong to it, but those who do have an inalienable right to follow its precepts without the interference of the state.   This is not about political maneuvering.  It is about keeping the claws of the government out of religious matters.

Politics is tricky.  We cannot do without consensus because politics is a matter of persuasion.  However, I can hardly think of a situation that is more simple than the present one.  The Church must not sacrifice her independence and the general principle of religious liberty for the sake of some vague measure of political coexistence and popular support. There is hardly any way to prevent those who support Obama’s agenda from casting the bishops’ position as a partisan one.  Caesar must not be conceded an inch of God’s territory even if there are political costs.

Catholic Encampment 2011

This year’s Catholic Encampment for fathers and sons will be conducted at Camp Canonicus, Exeter, Rhode Island, not far from the Griswold friary:

Friday, September 9 – Sunday, September 11

Click image to link to Encampment Page that includes the encamplment flyer, registration information and the registration and release form.

The image in the side bar has the link also and will remain there for the duration.

A Radical’s Rule

If one defines radicalism as proceeding from the root (“going to the origin, essential“), then one might argue that Our Lord was a radical—of course, a different sort than described by Saul Alinsky in his Rules for Radicals. For Alinsky, “irreverence” is an essential quality of radicalism: “nothing is sacred”; the organizer “detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality.”  Certainly, this kind of radicalism is not constant with the moral integrity, the “rootedness, of Our Lord.  As the Word, Logos, Jesus is radical Truth.  Only the Truth will set us free.

It is radical to say that the truth is worth dying for, for example, the truth that all human life begins at conception and must be protected from that moment onward.  Many pro-lifers have risked life and limb to protect the unborn.  But it is also radical to say that the following truth is worth dying for:  the end does not justify the means, even when the means has the opportunity of undoing the work of Planned Parenthood.

Please check out Dawn Eden’s and William Doino’s Building a Culture of Lie, which offers a fair-minded critique of the work of Lila Rose and Live Action Films on the basis of the teaching of the Church.  See also these two critiques as well.  Dawn and William also have taken exception to the work of James O’Keefe who took on ACORN in much the same manor.  I commented on this myself.

Thank God for the courage of Dawn and William.  These are important issues to resolve if we wish to be radical in the sense of Jesus Christ, and not in the sense of Saul Alinsky.  It is one of the reasons why chivalry (courtesy and honesty) is so important.

The Spirit of Mary Victrix

The Spirit of Lepanto is greater than the history in which it is rooted. The recounting of the historic of battle that took place on October 7, 1571 lends itself to the genre epic literature.  The events of that day call for a bard like Chesterton to cast words into the cadence of drum and cannon:

Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed—
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

And I still get chills, when for the thousandth time I read the words:

. . . O Lady of Last Assurance,
Light in the laurels, sunrise of the dead,
Wind of the ships and lightning of Lepanto
In honour of Thee, to whom all honor is fled.

I pray that what gives me chills is the true Spirit of Lepanto, and that it does much more than give me chills.

I have always secretly lamented the fact that the Feast of Our Lady of Victory was changed to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and that the language of even the traditional collect for the present feast is void of the bellicose.  We are all familiar with the prayer.  We use it every time we pray the Holy Rosary.

I have much preferred the collect for the Mass Contra paganos (against the heathens), euphemistically englished in the hand missal “Mass for the Defense of the Church”:

Almighty, everlasting God, in whose hand are the strength and man and the nation’s scepter, see what help we Christians need: that the heathen peoples who trust in their savagery may be crushed by the power of Thy right hand.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ. . .

I really don’t question the wisdom of Holy Mother Church in this regard, but I do think that in this feast we have an opportunity to consider with a contemplative mind the Spirit of Lepanto or what Professor Roberto de Mattei calls a “category of the spirit”:

As heirs of Lepanto, we should recall the message of Christian fortitude which that name, that battle, that victory have handed down to us:  Christian fortitude, which is the disposition to sacrifice the good things of this earth for the sake of higher goods—justice, truth, the glory of the Church, and the future of our civilization.  Lepanto is, in this sense a perennial category of the spirit.

It seems to me that this category of the spirit is transhistorical.  It is the recapitulation of the protoevangelium:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

It is all right there.  That is why Genesis 3:15 is called the first gospel (protoevangelium).  Everything that comes after is all fulfillment, partially at first by way of types (Judith, Esther and the Ark, for example), and then in the fullness of time the Woman and Her Seed bring all things to fulfillment, waging war against the Dragon on the top of the world in the greatest eucatastrophe of all time.

St. John’s vision on Patmos of the Woman gloriously arrayed with the lights of heaven, but militantly in travail, projects into the past, present and future the tribulations of the People of God.  The birth pangs are not of Bethlehem, but of Calvary.  It was only at the foot of the Cross that the Virgin suffered in the throws of delivery.  But surely there is an intimation of Bethlehem in this reference to birth, just as there must be an allusion to the flight into Egypt in the words And the woman fled into the wilderness (v. 6), though the primary reference is the cosmic battle with Satan and the rest of the fallen host.

But St. John was also speaking to the churches of his own time that were suffering persecution and were plagued by heresy.  In the breathless voice of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle proclaims: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

But it is more than that.  The Woman is the promised Victrix, Mary the New Eve, dolorous and glorious, in Her earthly adventure and in Her heavenly reward.  She also represents the churches, the direct recipients of St. John’s revelation, addressed directly in his cover letters to the seven churches.  But She is also the Church Militant of every age that suffers persecution and is plagued by heresy.  Further still, the macrocosm of the Church Militant is reflected in the microcosm of each and every soul, where the Woman and the Dragon contest each other’s dominion.

Lepanto is a parable, a recapitulation of the protoevangelium, just as are the history of Judith and Mary and the churches which St. John addressed.  But so are the chronicle of the Battle of Viena, and the Epics of Tepeyac and Rue du Bac, and more poignantly for our own day, the prophetic history and parable of the Acts of Our Lady of Fatima.  These are the macro-eucatastrophes of the ages, which spell out in the sky, in the medium of light and miracle, the even more fundamental reality of the micro-eucatastrophes (hopefully) going on within our moral and spiritual lives.

The hateful spirits of, pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth claw at the doors of our hearts, or worse, live within them.   We are kingdoms under siege or kingdoms fallen.  We make so much of the macro and so little of the micro and for that we are recipients of the terrible apocalyptic reprimand:

But I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first charity. Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen: and do penance and do the first works. Or else I come to thee and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou do penance (v. 4-5).

Perhaps I am all washed up for my secret regret.  Perhaps the Church knows better than I.  Of course she does!  The collect for today’s feast and for every Rosary asks for the grace to transform the vision of truth seen through the eyes of the Victrix into Her very life within us:  that meditating we might imitate.  That is the fundamental art of war upon which all strategies and tactics depend.  Perhaps the bellicose language has been pealed away from the orations because we tend win a few of the battles we do see, while loosing the war we do not see.  The Third Part of the Secret of Fatima is bellicose and macro enough, but it all hinges on individuals, and therefore on praying and living the Rosary more than anything else.

Both St. Pius V and Don Juan prayed the Rosary.  Together they were victorious, inside and out.  Men of Prayer and Action, yes, but in all in its proper order.  The Third Part of the Secret at Fatima refers to realities both micro and macro and in that order.

The Spirit of Lepanto is the Spirit of Mary Victrix.  It (She) is a living ideal that communicates itself (Herself) from Heart to heart.  It is vital and preeminently dangerous, boundless and indomitable.  It is also the Spirit of the White Horse, upon which rides the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, whose head is crowned, whose eyes are fire and out of whose mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword.  The Woman of chapter 12 is the Lady, who girds of the Knight in chapter 19 of St. John’s revelation.  And together they constitute a power, beyond which cannot be conceived.

The great prophetic grace of our age is the message of the modern Marian apparitions, which, as already said, are recapitulations of the protoevangelium, but with this twist:  we live in the most apocalyptic age and the urgency of the prophetic plea for devotion to Her Immaculate Heart is the voice of the Spirit speaking to the churches right now!  St. Louis de Montfort says of the Marian Apostles of the Latter Days that

[t]hey will be ministers of the Lord who, like a flaming fire, will enkindle everywhere the fires of divine love. They will become, in Mary’s powerful hands, like sharp arrows, with which she will transfix her enemies (56).

The enemies of Mary are, in a sense, transfixed with the same sword that has pierced Her heart.  Her apostles know the point of that sword all too well, with memories both bitter and sweet.  It is swordplay that is well-landed upon both friend and foe.

Fatima is a modern-day apocalypse.  No wonder there in October the Woman revealed herself to be Our Lady of the Rosary and was clothed with the whirling sun.  It’s spirit is the Lepanto of our age, that transhistorical category of the spirit that is both the first promise to mankind and the patrimony of this last age.  However we name this Spirit, it is bigger than the histories in which it enshrined and deeper than the hearts in which it works itself out.

We can continue to bang out solutions of our own contriving that satisfy our egos, like clever soundbites and slogans, and rely on rhetoric and imprudent zeal, or we can look into the skies, indeed, into the Temple of God and make all things according to the pattern shown us on the mount (cf. Hebrews 8:5).  If we do not see this vision and strive to embody it in our own lives, we have not understood, or have refused to understand the parable of Lepanto and the spirit of this feastday.

If you have not made the consecration to the Blessed Virgin, I pray you do, and soon.  Don’t only pray the Rosary, live the Rosary.

Oremus pro invicem, and sing

I cast myself before Thee, Thy bondsman and Thy fool;
Thy patronage is freedom, Thy slavery my school.
I offer Thee my sword hilt and wait for Thy command
To serve among Thy servants who pledge to take a stand.
That I might die in battle, a victim of Thy love:
My wish, my prayer, my promise, thus written in my blood.

I saw the bark of Peter ride dark into the sun,
But darker still the marking of crescent, hoard and gun.
Her sails lay flat and mellow, Her men had pledged their troth,
Left hand on beaded psalter, the right to keep their oath.
The haughty fiend had counted on fear to win the day,
But Thine own breath has countered to turn the wind their way.

My Queen, to Thee be honor and praise through all Thy knights
Who toiled and bled and parted Thy martyrs robed in white.
All courtesy and prowess, all strength and gentleness,
Thy heart a pyx of virtue, Thy face all loveliness.
Then at the hour of judgment my colors Thou may see,
Thy Son upon His white steed, Thou pray to come for me.

Happy Feast of Mary Victrix.

Encampment Version 2.0 in Development

The Fall Father and Son Encampment has been cancelled for a number of reasons, not least of which is my current status of living mostly in New Bedford until November when a new Guardian will arrive to take over the run of the house there.  It may be a good time to take a break anyway, as we have been tossing ideas around about how to make the Encampments better and the preparations more manageable.

Right now we are talking about taking the weekend “off campus,” so to speak to a campground and conducting perhaps one larger event every year, instead of three smaller ones.  (We will continue to use the obstacle course at the friary for other events.)  I would also like to open the Encampment to boys who have no fathers (or fathers who are involved with them at this level), since fatherlessness is a big problem and one that has long concerned me.

Please pray for the Knights of Lepanto who have worked so hard to make these encampments a success.  We have had a great deal of positive feedback and are very much encouraged.  We hope to have something really great, innovative and powerful in the Queen of Lepanto to present for next year.  I will keep you all abreast of the developments from this forum.

Thank you for all your support and please spread the word about next years open encampment.

Exorcistic Christianity

Here is a short excerpt from a book I am working on, concerning the Harry Potter phenomenon and the occult.  And yes, I read the books.  I have followed the controversy for years.  This has been stewing for a long time.  Preoccupation with my duties as a superior and this writing project has kept me away from blogging.

Christianity as Spiritual Warfare

That the practice of Christianity is spiritual warfare and that our mortal enemy is Satan is a fundamental dictum of our faith.

In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, written as a private theologian, Pope Benedict XVI stresses the “exorcistic character of Christianity.”  Commenting on Mark 3:14 ff., he points out that Christ’s mandate to his apostles to preach the gospel is inextricably linked to the power to exorcize and to heal.  He says that preaching is “never just words, never just instruction.”  Rather, Pope Benedict tells us that preaching the Kingdom of God “is an event, just as Jesus himself is an event, God’s Word in person.”

Preaching the Kingdom, then, is a struggle with the “powers of evil” that rule world in order to deliver it from darkness and give it over to the dominion of Christ.  The preacher is an instrument of the Holy Spirit in the order of “exorcist.”  Referencing the work of Henri du Lubac, the pope points out that the birth of Christianity was experienced as “a liberation from the fear of demons.”  In a like manner, the tells us, today where Christianity replaces paganism, the works of the “gods,” or better, of the demons must be purged and only those customs worthy of the worship of the one true God permitted to remain.

Thus, Christianity is characteristically a matter of spiritual warfare.  The fall of our first parent’s was a matter of being spiritually “killed in action,” or better, “killed in inaction.”  It was a failure to protect the territory of the garden of paradise, of the family and of the heart. God’s subsequent revelation to Adam and Eve, and through them to us all, was that life is a war between the serpent and his seed and the Woman and Her seed (Gen. 3:15).  Ultimate victory has been promised to those who persevere in the fight.  Serpent enmity and head-crushing are our marching orders.

Principalities and Powers

St. Paul tells us that this warfare is spiritual and that our enemies are not flesh and blood (Eph. 6:10-12).  Our conflict is not fundamentally with other men, with the enemies of the Church, or with the practitioners of the occult.  It is worse than that.  In effect, but for the grace of God, we are totally outmatched.  Quoting Heinrich Schlier, Pope Benedict reminds us that the host sent against us, “never stops coming,” and “cannot really be pinned down and have no proper name.”  It starts out with an advantage because of its “superior position,” which is “impenetrable and unassailable.”  Furthermore, that host of enemies wields a malice that is deadly and undying.

The Holy Father also reminds us that satanic influence is, in a sense, “something in the air,”  “poisoning” the “spiritual climate.” He says that “[t]he individual human being and even communities of human beings, seem to be hopelessly at the mercy of such powers.”  So, while on the one hand, our enemy is not of this world, he uses those who are under his influence.  Father John Hardon, commenting on the Two Standards of St. Ignatius of Loyola affirms that Satan has the “capacity to so use people or human institutions that they become, in effect, instruments of the demonic will” (The Catholic Catechism, 90).

Exorcism and Healing

The salvific will of Christ, on the other hand, separates light from the darkness.  Prayer must take the form of deliverance.  Spiritual warfare is a healing of the wounds that have been inflicted on us by our enemy.  Our confidence is in God, because we have put on His armor and have been promised victory, but we must, at all costs, remain under the protection of Christ’s Church by accepting and making fruitful her preaching, exorcizing and healing ministries.

Pope Benedict shows that healing is related to the exorcistic characteristic of Christianity.  All of Our Lord’s miracles of healing point to the “entire content of redemption.”  But healing can only come through Him:

The authority to cast out demons and to free the world from their dark threat, for the sake of the one true God, is the same authority that rules out any magical understanding of healing through attempts to manipulate these mysterious powers.  Magical healing is always tied to the art of turning the evil onto someone else setting the “demons” against him.  God’s dominion, God’s Kingdom, means precisely the disempowerment of these forces by the intervention of the one God, who is good, who is the Good itself.

Spiritual warfare is, then, first of all, a matter of the heart, that is, it is a matter of remaining morally free of demonic contamination.  Such contamination we call sin.  Exorcists will tell us that the primary way to guard against extraordinary demonic influence is to resist the ordinary one that takes the form of temptation.  For this the “armor of God,” consists in the faith, prayer and the sacraments.  More often than not, if we are living a faith-filled, sacramental life we will be protected from evil.