Bloody Pirates on the Bark of Peter

I wrote about ninety percent of the following essay more than half a year ago and then left it unfinished for some reason, which I don’t remember.  I thought it worthwhile to finish and publish at this time.

The age of chivalry was characterized—at least according to its ideals—by courtesy in warfare, that is, by a standard of fair play. Prowess was not pure aggression, and courtesy was not mere manners. Both were informed by fidelity and honesty, that is, by religious faith, human justice and sincerity. That was the Christian ideal anyway, not always realized, but as an ideal it created positive peer pressure that served to both perfect the arts of the warrior and check his ferocity.

Anyone who has heard or read anything I have to say on chivalry knows I say this often. It is fundamental.

In the last decade or so there has been a very happy resurgence of interest in that character of the Church we call “militant.” However, the peculiar keynote of Christian militancy is not the violent death of our earthly enemy, but the violent death and resurrection of our King, which puts death itself to death, and conquers our real enemy, the Prince of this World. Thus, the methods of alinskian secularism or of jihadist religion cannot be our methods. To put it another way, the belligerence of the pirate cannot be reconciled with the chivalry of the knight. Continue reading

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Know Thy Enemy

It is my thesis that the devil’s spiritual warfare on our flocks will intensify as the years proceed and that all Christians, but especially priests, will have not choice but to engage more deeply in the spiritual battle for souls.  There is no time like the present to begin the training.

This was written by Father Thomas Euteneuer in the introduction of his new book, Exorcism and the Church Militant (xxxiii-xxxiv).  I am reading it now.  One does not need to be an exorcist to know he is completely on the mark.

I have mentioned before that Catholic militancy is in the first place about the interior life and that our real adversaries are not men who are “enemies of the Church,” but principalities and powers.  This can also be taken a step further.  Even in the external order where Catholic Action comes into play, the greatest opposition will come from the dark powers, whether through temptation or something more extraordinary like oppression and obsession.

But I believe there is also a middle between the two.  As regular readers of this blog will know, I am not a big fan of conspiracy theories.  One reason for this is because I have found that in order for  something that appears to be the result of a “grand scheme” to occur it is not necessary for the rich and influential to secretly meet in the middle of the night in a hidden black-curtained dungeon, or, for that matter, in a corporate board room.  It is sufficient that men open themselves up to the powers of the netherworld by playing fast and loose with their spiritual life.  My own experience tells me that men can effectively collaborate in nefarious schemes without even knowing that they are doing it.

I never understood why Fr. Hardon was so adamant about those living in mortal sin being instruments of the devil.  I would still qualify this sentence by emphasizing that this most often happens without the sinners knowledge, because most people sin through weakness and not malice, but I think I understand what he meant.

For many this will just be seen as dishonest scaremongering. [I am correcting this post so as to indicate by the following link a specific comment  to a post on another blog (June 21, 2010, 4:14:16 PM EDT). Sean P. Dailey is the author of the comment in question, not Mark Shea.  Please see this comment, below.] But sometimes we are given prophetic graces.  In an age when so few priests, and more importantly bishops, are willing to be exorcists, the few who are find themselves crying in the wilderness when they speak to men about the dangers to which our age exposes itself.

All Is Not Fair in Love and War

Some time ago, I posted a poll about whether the proverb All is fair in love and war is true or not. At the time, I did not say that I was posting on the subject because it was part of my discussion in the paper I had been working on. In any case, most of you agreed with me.

That being said, I post below the introduction to the paper that I will be giving in about 20 minutes in Fatima.  I will be reading an abbreviated version due to time constraints.  More excerpts to follow.

*****

All is fair in love and war.

Traced back to the 16th century work, Euphues written by the Englishman John Lyly, this proverb expresses the rejection of the standard of fair play where matters of the greatest importance are concerned.  It also conveys the paradox, or coincidence of opposites, concerning love and war, viz. that while the one connotes a state of peace and the other conflict, the two are never really far apart.  In fact, the very Prince of Peace came not to bring peace, but to bring the sword.  In other words, the unity of love is never attained by man after the Fall without conflict.  On the cross, Christ is both Warrior and Bridegroom.

But the question is whether or not “all” is really fair in love and war.  It seems to me, in this respect Lyly’s proverb is more or less in accord with the present zeitgeist.  At least there is no universally accepted standard by which to determine what, in the main, the common good actually is, so we bump around in the dark until we arrive at some measure of tolerance for one another—a very utilitarian standard of fair play, indeed.  The very same feminists, for example, who in the 1960’s and 70’s wished to deliver themselves from the disparity of subjugation to men as sex objects and insisted on birth-control and abortion in order to accomplish this, now affirm their right to be sex objects as long as they are in control and have something to gain.  Birth-control and abortion have assured that everyone gets what they want, everyone, that is, except the victims of the silent holocaust.  In this way, without an objective measure of fair play, the battle of the sexes has reached a sort of precarious détente, which some of us might argue is more like the threat of “mutually assured destruction.”

Cervantes took up the proverb and put it on the lips of Don Quixote who finds himself breaking up a brawl caused by an absurd romantic trick.  The maiden Quiteria has consented to marry the rich Camacho solely for his wealth and in so doing jilts her true love Basilio.  At the wedding before the vows have been exchanged, Basilio shows up and throws himself upon his own rapier in front of the wedding couple.  As he lay dying, Basilio refuses to confess to the priest unless Quiteria agrees to marry him.  As soon as he has obtained her consent Basilio jumps to his feet and reveals his “suicide” to be a trick, and in spite of the deceit Quiteria remains firm in her intention to have him.  A brawl between the parties of Camacho and Basilio ensue and Quixote intervenes, crying:

“Hold, sirs, hold! . . . we have no right to take vengeance for wrongs that love may do to us: remember love and war are the same thing, and as in war it is allowable and common to make use of wiles and stratagems to overcome the enemy, so in the contests and rivalries of love the tricks and devices employed to attain the desired end are justifiable, provided they be not to the discredit or dishonour of the loved object.

Cervantes never tires in poking fun at the literature of chivalry, which often promulgated a code of ethics for love and war that mandated contradictory behavior; Don Quixote speaks of rights but in the same breath denies rules of fair play.  In fact, foolish, romantic sentimentalism by definition discredits and dishonors the loved object.

But it is not only the fictional literature of chivalry that reveals the contradiction.  The 12th century work In The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus, written at the request of the Marie de Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and followed by many of the courtiers of Europe, we are given an adulterous mandate as the first rule of love:  “Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.”  Then, having said this, Capellanus absurdly exhorts his readers that they should “be mindful to completely avoid falsehood.” So much for the Lancelots and Guineveres of the world.

But love and war have always been pretty much the same thing, at least since the Fall.  God created Man, male and female.  Marriage is the first sacrament established by God.  Theologians call it a sacrament of nature.  In America, where the battle over same-sex marriage rages (more love and war), the proponents of sodomy assert that it is solely the State, not the Church, that creates and has the right to define and regulate marriage.  In fact, marriage arises from neither the Church nor the State.  Marriage exists because man is male and female; it is a sacrament of nature.  Both the Church and the State take in interest in marriage because it is a fundamental good for both, but it pre-exists both the Church and the State.  (Relative to the Church, of course, the solemnization of the union is also Sacrament of the New Testament established by Christ, but that does not change the fact that neither the Church nor the State has created marriage).

Again, without universal standards we bump around in the dark unable to perceive any objective definition of our fundamental institutions and settle on dogmatizing a standard of tolerance which is intolerant of everything but tolerance.  Nothing has really changed since the garden of paradise.  Fallen man is still a usurper.  He reaches out for love, but by denying the source of love the result is war.

The temptation of the serpent is an act of consummate violence.  The sin of our first parents is an arrogant and petty assault on heaven.  The subsequent history of mankind is a family feud, whose body-count is virtually numberless.  The primordial prophecy and promise of our redemption reveals that human history will be the recounting of a nearly endless war, in which finally victory will only come at the end of the world, when the Immaculate foot of the Woman will have stamped out the last efforts of the serpent to win over souls to his lie.  The Father of Lies knows of no code of ethics in regard to either love or war.  And from his point of view, love and war are the same because lust and hatred are espoused in the darkling rites of the netherworld.  But, in some sense, they are the same also from God’s point of view because both courtesy and courage will be forever united by the bond of a brotherhood in arms against all that is godless.

Our first and fallen parents are types of the new man and woman, by which the rest of us are recreated—not only in the image of God, but also in the image of the new and true Adam and Eve.  Christ and Our Lady are the new couple, the heads of the new family that is the Church.  Their story is an adventure of the most epic proportions and it concerns entirely the working out of ultimate love and ultimate war.  If we are honest we will have to admit that our salvation is all about love, but it is also all about war.  There is no use in living in denial, by pretending that some fuzzy and warm concept of the universal brotherhood of man will save us, but neither will we get away with fighting our way out of the mess we are in without a code of warfare.  Love and war are close allies, but all is not fair in love and war.

Manly Marian Militance

On Saturday I conducted a day of recollection for the Knights of Lepanto. The question as to whether there is such a thing as Catholic masculinity was one of the main topics.

In the course of my presentation I brought up the controversy between Cardinal John Henry Newman and Charles Kingsley. Kingsley accused the recent convert to Romanism, Newman, and the Catholic clergy generally, of dishonesty. The polemical exchange between the two thinkers generated Newman’s masterful defense of his conversion and of the Catholic faith, Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

In the debate, much more was at stake than just the honor of the the Catholic clergy. Kingsley was an advocate of “Muscular Christianity,” a kind of manly expression of Christian faith, which emphasized physical exercise and sport as a necessary balance to a more bookish approach to Christian spirituality. While much can be said for a distinctly manly expression of Christian faith (as is often advocated here), Kingsley went further, by blaming Catholic Marian devotion and asceticism for the emasculation of the Church, and especially Catholic men.

Newman refuted Kingsley soundly, but the assertion that Catholic spirituality produces effeminate men is an idea that remains. Leon Podles in The Church Impotent: The Femininization of Christianity traces the current of bridal spirituality throughout the history of the Church, and even notes the Marian character of western chivalry as a contributing factor to the development of feminine spirituality. He also points out that while St. Bernard was one of the foremost influences on the development of bridal spirituality, he was also the great promoter of the Knights Templar, that is, of militant spirituality. While Podles critiques much of the ascetical and marian dimension of the western Church, he does admit that bridal spirituality is a part of the scriptural data.

Bridal spirituality cannot be jettisoned. Marriage is the fundamental metaphor for the spiritual life. It is the great sacrament as St. Paul says in Ephesians 5. It is the sacrament of nature; man is created male and female, and as such is the image and likeness of God. Christ is, in fact the Bridegroom and the Church the Bride. These realities are too fundamental to minimize.

If we adopt the language of Benedict XVI which he uses in the inaugural encyclical of his pontificate, Deus Caritas Est, and speak about the necessary balancing of eros (possessive love) by agape (oblative love), indeed if we assert the primacy of agape over eros, I think we have the answer to what sometimes might legitimately be perceived a feminizing tendency of bridal spirituality. Asceticism or perhaps better, spiritual discipline need not appear exclusively contemplative and oriented to religious experience. It is also part of the training of the whole man to confront the World, the Flesh and the Devil, our cosmic enemies. Likewise, Marian devotion is not merely the imitation of Our Lady’s virtues, particularly Her feminine virtues, but a commitment to defend all that is true, good and beautiful. Our Captain, Christ the Lord, enters into battle for the sake of His Bride and defeats the Dragon, but only at the oblative cost of His life. Yes, in the end oblation is a manner of submissiveness to the provident will of God. It is obedience. But it is also an undaunted militance. It is warrior spirituality. It seems that the real argument here is about the right balance.

On Saturday, one of the guys asked if I could give a practical example where the critique of Muscular Christianity against Catholic spirituality has shown itself false. After a little thought, I replied that perhaps the best example is the almost universal compromise of Protestantism with contraception. Wayward eroticism not only produces effete men who are more occupied with words and feelings than actions and principles, it also produces, as we know, men who brutally subordinate women to their own desire for sexual gratification. Only in the Church where the Virginity of Our Lady, and the ideals of consecrated chastity have been retained has the full doctrine on the sanctity of matrimony and chaste love survived.

Contraception is a plague upon our world which must be fought to the death, and those who choose to do so face humanly insurmountable odds. Even in nations where the demographics are radically changing and birthrates are well below the replacement rates, governments are finding that their efforts to encourage large families with entitlements are ineffective. The sort of self-indulgence which is involved in contracepting the future has certainly not produced a manly culture.  On the other hand, facing the monster and fighting against it, no matter how difficult or lonely the quest might be, is exactly the militant and evangelical spirit necessary to restore manliness to religious experience.

It seems to me that it is only chivalry, specifically Marian Chivarly, that guarantees for men, both prayer and action, chastity and strength, obedience and authority.  I will fully admit, though, that if Our Lady remains only and ideal and not the living and acting Queen Mother in the order of grace and prayer, then the extremes are not likely to be avoided.

The Church Militant or Impotent?

home-church.jpg

I just posted an entry on a tragic Holy Week real estate deal on AirMaria, and that has provoked some further reflection on my part. Holy Monday is a time to reflect humbly upon our own sinful betrayal of Jesus Christ.

The Church Militant is fighting for its identity. Leon Podles argues that our Church has been feminized and emasculated. It has become, in his words, the Church Impotent.

The closing of our Churches has many causes, and I am not here to play the blame game; however, this tragedy is reflective of the loss of our missionary spirit, and the sacrificial spirit of Holy Week. So now we can celebrate Holy Week by buying a closed Church . . . and do what with it? Partition it into an upscale apartment, like the one in the picture above? Or how about a garden show, like the one below?

sacredheartgardenshow.jpg Continue reading