Finding the High Road

Ave Maria!

I am off to England today and will not be back until March 2.  Our Marian apostolate A Day With Mary will be the subject of a workshop for friars, sisters and MIM members in London.

Before I go, I wanted to provide some more links to essays and blog posts concerning the ethical question of lying and deception “in the service” of the good, that has been occasioned by the work of Lila Rose and Action Films and which has recently been questioned by Dawn Eden and William Doino.  Be sure to check out there comments section there as well.

The philosopher Christopher Tollefsen has posted an essay, “Truth, Love and Live Action,” over at the Public Discourse website, which finds the organization’s tactics morally troubling, if not worse. Jody Bottum has replied firmly to Tollefsen—whom he otherwise finds much agreement with– with his own column, “The Unloving Lies of Lila Rose?” defending Lila, and Pia di Solenni offers more support for Rose with her post, “Lying for a Good Cause?”

Meanwhile, over at Mercatornet, Carolyn Moynihan, another pro-lifer, has written a sharp piece, “Stung! The Ethics of Entrapment,” in which she warns that, as much as we may like, or be inclined to support these operations, they could-and already have—been used against moral and religious traditionalists, and thus may come back to haunt us.

I have already linked to the New Theological Movement Website, where there are not one but two long posts critiquing Live Action, entitled, “It is a Sin to Lie, Even to Planned Parenthood,” and a follow-up, answering critics, “Lying to Planned Parenthood, or is it Mental Reservation?”

More recently, back at Public Discourse, Professor Christopher Kaczor has written, as a critique of Tollefsen, “In Defense of Live Action.” Pro-life activist Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller has firmly defended the group’s actions, whereas Dr. Germain Grisez and Dr. William May have just as strongly criticized them.

Finally, an interesting discussion has developed between Steve Kellmeyer and Dawn Eden under Steve’s post, “A Rose By Any Other Name.”

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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.

Anne Rice Converts Back to Vampirism

“In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control,” the author wrote Wednesday on her Facebook page. “In the name of … Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

Rice will not be taking up vampires again, but she said she is a big fan of the HBO series “True Blood,” enjoyed the first two “Twilight” movies (she has yet to read any of the Stephenie Meyer novels) and is interested in seeing her most famous character, the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt, return to the screen.

In spite of the above story’s emphasis on Rice’s non-return to vampire novels, Rice is, it seems, reverting to the back to the state of the undead.  I have not read her novels, but apparently, her vampires are sometimes homosexual (Lestat de Lioncourt), they are feminist (The Queen of the Damned), and certainly they are wildly erotic.  So when she says that she is leaving the Church because she refuses to stand against homosexuality, feminism and artificial birth control, she seems to be allaying herself once again with the world of vampirism.  (Here is the Anchoress’ take on Rice’s muddling of what the Church stands for and against.  The Church is not anti-anything.  It certainly is not anti-gay persons or anti-woman or anti-sex.)

This is particularly significant for me as I research the topic of the occult and literature.  The world of darkness is alive and well in the form of “new religious movements.”  Many of them propose themselves to be compatible with Christianity.  Rice goes on:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

This is the real peril of literary and theatrical occultism: the promotion of esoteric, occultist, non-conformist Christianity.  And that, my friends is blasphemous, sacrilegious and diabolical.  Satan is pedaling cheap peace, and when we accept it on his terms, he will cut our hearts out.

Hitchens on Gibson

Yet I still saw a report the other day about a fan site where the members were just beginning to ask, “What’s with him?” Why is there this reluctance to call something by its right name? It’s not as if Gibson was issuing a cry for help. On the contrary, what he is issuing is the distilled violence, cruelty, and bigotry—and sexual hypocrisy—that stretches from the Crusades through the Inquisition to the “concordats” between the church and Hitler and Mussolini. Yet he’s still reporting for work. When will Hollywood, and the wider society, finally decide to shun and spurn him utterly, both for what he is and for what he represents?

It is nice to know that even when he is sick Hitchens can fight bigotry with more bigotry.

Mel Gibson is an idiot whose mind has been polluted–not with the Catholic faith, but with the Rad Trad extremism coupled with Hollywood narcissism. I have to come clean because I did more than defend his movie in print.  I did so because it did not seem to me that there was anything in the movie that is not in the gospels or in the Stations of the Cross.   I see no reason to change that assessment, but Gibson sure does spoil the whole experience. . . it least he does for me.  Unfortunately, antisemitism is the soft, white underbelly of the Rad Trad movement.

The ironic thing is that the only one who is likely to salvage his sorry carcass is his Protestant wife, Robyn, whom he dumped for a chick half his age because he did not have a “spiritual connection” with his wife of nearly 30 years (according to him on one of the tapes),  and whom he thinks is going to hell, because she is not a Catholic, like him.

Hitchens is an opportunist, even when he is on death’s doorstep.  Gibson throws him a banana peel and he feels obliged to put his foot on it.

Pray for both of these knuckleheads.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Building

Sorry, that’s just not working for me.

Historians claim to have found King Arthur’s Round table, and guess what? The Round Table wasn’t really a table at all but an amphitheater.  Here is part of the claim:

Camelot historian Chris Gidlow said: “The first accounts of the Round Table show that it was nothing like a dining table but was a venue for upwards of 1,000 people at a time.

As far as I can tell the earliest account of the Round Table is from Wace’s Roman de Brut a translation of which I have in Arthur King of Britain (ed. by Rechard L Brengle).  This is what Wace says:

Arthur never heard speak of a knight in praise, but he caused him to be numbered of his household.  So that he might he took him to himself, for help in time of need.  Because of these noble lords about his hall, of whom each knight pained himself to be the hardiest champion, and none would count him the least praiseworthy, Arthur made the Round Table, so reputed of the Britons.  This Round Table was ordained of Arthur that when his fair fellowship sat to meat their chairs should be high alike, their service equal, and none before or after his comrade.  Thus no man could boast that he was exalted above his fellow, for all alike were gathered around the board, and none was alien at the breaking of Arthur’s bread.

Apparently, there are earlier accounts that point the ethos of the Round Table, that is, the code of Chivalry, and there are other pieces of furniture and landmarks associated with Arthur in the earlier accounts.  Perhaps someone more expert than I on these matters can tell us what Chris Gidlow means when he says that “the first accounts of the Round table” indicate that it was a “venue for upwards of 1,000 people at a time.”

In any case, it is virtually impossible to image how Wace’s account could be referring to an amphitheater.

Gidlow, it seems, may be referring to the earliest account of Arthur given to us by Gildas (c. 540):

Mr Gidlow said: “In the 6th Century, a monk named Gildas, who wrote the earliest account of Arthur’s life, referred to both the City of Legions and to a martyr’s shrine within it. That is the clincher. The discovery of the shrine within the amphitheatre means that Chester was the site of Arthur’s court and his legendary Round Table.”

My anthology only has excerpts of chapters 25 and 26 of Gildas’ De Excido et Conquestu Britanniae, where Ambrosius Aurelianus is explicitly mentioned. I find nothing there about “the City of Legions” or “a martyr’s shrine.” Sounds to me like this is speculation extrapolated from speculation.

A little overconfidence goes a long way.

Getting Something Done this Lent

On Ash Wednesday our lives round the bend on the road to Jerusalem only to find the hordes of Babylon blocking our way. We are marked with the cross and there can be no avoidance of the fight.  This is the imagery used by the nineteenth century Anglican, Father Congreve, SSJE to describe the “advance of Lent.” I can hardly think of anything more appropriate for our meditation:

Lent awakens spiritual hope in us, just as the sight of the enemy awakes the spirit of an army. They were lagging just now, tired with the march, dispirited; but a sudden signal, one turn in the road, shows them the enemy’s lines stretching right across their way. How the men’s hearts leap up: who is [wearied] now? So Lent awakes the energy of hope by showing us our enemy, the reality of the battle of life, of our conflict with evil. We all know that our fifty or seventy years in this world were given to us for a great achievement–to conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil, to win holiness for eternity; but we easily forget this, and slip out of range. But Lent rallies us, reminds us of the seriousness of our moral life, of the reality of sin, of bad tendencies of our childhood not conquered yet, of the strength of sins of the flesh, of pride and temper, of love of the world, of cowardice in confessing Christ, of sloth and depression, of neglect of prayer and the sacraments.

The Two Standards

Though Congreve was not Catholic, his imagery reflects one of the most important metaphors used by St. Ignatius in The Spiritual Exercises, namely, the two standards.   Christ and Satan are captains of two immense armies that rally around them in the respective regions of Jerusalem and Babylon.  For St. Ignatius, this a fundamental image of the spiritual life: mortal strife, that can have only one of two outcomes, heaven or hell.

The strategy of Satan is as simple as it is deadly.  St. Ignatius tells us that the demons are sent forth by the Prince of Darkness to tempt us with love for the world:  a “longing for riches,” “vain honor” and “vast pride.”  He says that it is this love for the world  by which he opens the door to every other vice.

But the assets laid to bear against Satan by the Lord are more powerful: “highest poverty,”contumely and contempt, and “humility.”  As with the “beatitudes.”  This is an inversion of values, the paradox of the gospel:  life through death, going up by being brought down.

The Hardest Road

How is a man to in the word but not of the world? How is a man to be a soldier, a knight, and a courageous man without the arrogance and pride that are the tools of Satan? How are we to fight Satan without capitulating to his manipulative and dishonorable methods? In a word, how are we to be wise as serpent and simple as doves? (cf. Mt 10:16).

The first step consists in recognizing that the road that Our Lord took is the hardest road.  He remained in the fight to the end and at the same time never sought His own glory and good, but glory of His Father and our salvation.  This is the humility of which St. Ignatius speaks.  Here is Father Hardon’s commentary on the two standards in which he recommends humility, calmness of spirit and the discernment of spirits as the particular means by which we fight under the standard of Christ and overcome the devil.

Our battle is first of all one that must take place within, but for it to be brought to a victory for Christ, it must be extended to the ends of the earth.  It is a fight that we must never concede.

The Abomination of Desolation

Anthony Esolen has written an excellent article, entitled, Where the Battle Was Not Fought, in which he chronicles the woes of the Church in Canada. (Not to pick on Canada, we have our own similar problems in the U.S.) Esolen notes that there is really no place for men, because no one wants to fight, and because virtually no effort has been made to attract men to the faith, let alone to the priesthood.

The spiritual apathy of men, and by which men no longer have a place in the Church—a fight conceded or never fought—leaves us in a desperate situation.  For far two long our leaders have largely derelict of their duty, and we are left with the extremes of effeminacy and bravado.

Battle Scars

The solution consists in the rigors of an examined life that is bold enough to make mistakes and get hurt, and humble enough to reassess and revise in order to get it right.  This has to happen both spiritually and externally.

Recently, Dawn Eden and William Doino wrote a piece for Busted Halo, in which they called into question the adaptation of Saul Alinsky’s radicalized activist philosophy by conservatives being used against the expert liberal practitioners of that philosophy.  In particular, the writers criticized activist James E. O’Keefe for his syncretistic melding of the ideas of Alinsky and that of G.K. Chesterton, and for his practical application of that thinking which included the questionable participation of a young woman who posed as a prostitute in his ACORN exposé videos.  Eden and Doino, underscored the utilitarian ethics at the heart of O’Keefe’s methods, taken right out of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals: “in war the end justifies almost any means.” In a subsequent interview Dawn Eden did not fail to mention that the work of Lila Rose, with whom O’Keefe has also collaborated, and who has been given favorable treatment on AirMaria, is not above critical review.

In response, Christian Hartsock, has penned, or should I say, slashed a rather purple piece of vitriol worthy of Keith Olbermann, in which he ostensibly adopts another rule from Alinsky’s playbook: “ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”  A comparison between the Eden/Doino essay and that of Hartsock, is the difference between a consideration of principles in view of success and a disregard of them justified by success.  We can leave everyone free to consider the question, but that the question ought to be considered, seems a difficult thing to reject.  That certainty may be something that Alinsky would ridicule, but it is not something that Chesterton would make fun of. On the contrary, for Chesterton such philosophical considerations belonged to the most practical order:

But there are some people, nevertheless—and I am one of them—who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy.

The Philosophy of Light

For Chesterton, this consideration of his enemy’s philosophy was not merely a tactical necessity, but a metaphysical and moral requirement, as he infers when he considers the philosophy of George Bernard Shaw.  He says that while his intellectual enemy was  genuinely “brilliant” and “honest,” his philosophy was “quite solid, quite coherent, and quite wrong.”  A man’s philosophy has consequences in the practical order, and so the practical thing to do is

. . . revert to the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century, inspired by the general hope of getting something done.

Activism, or better, Catholic Action, will ultimately be fruitful only if it is an examined energy, like our own moral lives.  It is the hardest road.  It is not the merely the rough and tumble road of unchecked prowess, nor is it comfy road of the false courtesy of human respect.  It is the hardest road of Christian chivalry.  And it is the only way of  really “getting something done.”

This is the road we find ourselves on this Ash Wednesday, and the hellish hosts from Babylon will not part and let us pass unmolested.  The fight is on, but it begins, continues and ends first within our hearts.  Yet, it is always to be fought in the midst of the world that must be conquered for Christ.

Just Say No

Breakthrough Study:  Learning to Say “No” to yourself is a key to success.

I guess child psychology has come around full swing.  On second though, perhaps, not quite.  We have not gotten around to identifying certain choices as “bad” yet.  What is the word?  O yes, “inappropriate.”

Catholics used to call this “mortification,” which is a sound psychological habit elevated by grace and supernatural motivation.  But we guilty Catholics, what do we know?

The new apologists would tell us that God is like a marshmallow.