Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Postscript: Voris, Victims, and Witch Trials

Scene from Columbus State University production of
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. (Image © CSU.)
Yesterday, in this blog, I published a post in which I took exception to Michael Voris’ brief but startling allegation that the Archdiocese of New York was seeking to discredit himself and Church Militant. Voris’ charge was based “on very good authority from various sources”, sources whose names and credentials Voris didn’t reveal. Since I’ve reported on at least two incidences in which third parties used journalists to smear others by remote, I questioned Voris’ prudence in naming the archdiocese without qualification, especially as the charge necessarily implicates the Archbishop of New York, Cdl. Tim Dolan.

Clerical Skullduggery

A friend of mine, to whom I’ll simply refer as “Valeria”, disagrees with my assessment. Voris’ statement, Valeria says, is “hauntingly familiar”, because she and her family has had an unpleasant experience (putting it mildly) with her local bishop and diocese, about which legal counsel has suggested she reveal little and with great circumspection. Valeria therefore wholeheartedly supports Voris, as have others. “As much as people wish to believe that the Church is infallible,” Valeria told me, “people are not, and thus a significant number of the clergy openly choose to lie and discredit the innocent to protect their mission.”

Agreed once, a thousand times agreed. It would be nice if all our shepherds were honest, wise, good, sane, and zealous for the faith. Unfortunately, just the last fourteen years by themselves have illustrated in sordid Technicolor the fact that the clergy are all too human … that they can be crooks, fools, liars, cowards, and sociopaths just like any one of us. And while in strict justice we’re entitled to leaders who live the gospel message with integrity, if we’re paying attention to our own doctrine, we realize that the hierarchy will have weeds among the wheat just as will the laity (cf. Matthew 13:24-30).

(I can’t help thinking about the elderly Irish monsignor Fr. Andrew M. Greeley once quoted: “Faith, the Bark of Peter must be divine, else we boys would have kicked the bottom out long ago.” Or the reaction of one French cardinal to Napoleon’s claim that he would destroy the Church: “Absurd. We’ve been trying for several centuries to do so without success.”)

However, it’s precisely because of stories like Valeria’s, or the Boston boys abused by the late Fr. John Geoghan, or any other number of stories, that we’re primed to give credence to charges of clerical skullduggery even before the evidence is out in the open. And, unfortunately, malicious people take advantage of this predisposition. For instance, Dave Pierre of The Media Report has spent several years documenting false abuse claims made against priests … claims that, in the wake of the “Long Lent” of 2002, were given automatic credence precisely because the accused were priests.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Michael Voris, Detraction, and “Reporter’s Privilege”

Michael Voris. (Image © St. Michaels Media.)
On “The Vortex” Thursday, Church Militant’s Michael Voris made an interesting confession:

… [F]or most of my years in my thirties, confused about my own sexuality, I lived a life of live-in relationships with homosexual men. From the outside, I lived the lifestyle and contributed to scandal in addition to the sexual sins. On the inside, I was deeply conflicted about all of it. In a large portion of my twenties, I also had frequent sexual liaisons with both adult men and adult women. …

Since my reversion, I abhor all these sins, especially in the world of the many[,] many other sins I have committed having nothing to do with sexuality. I gave in to deep pains from my youth by seeking solace in lust, and in the process, surrendered my masculinity.

I call it “interesting” because it’s neither shocking nor particularly scandalous. Since I began blogging, I’ve encountered a few gay Catholic apologists who, in the process of conversion or reversion, committed themselves to chastity after having been sexually active for some time. Openly (if modestly) revealing their pasts is an essential part of their apostolic efforts; it not only establishes their empathy but their street cred. If Voris has spent little to no time before this speaking of his bisexual past, it must be said in his defense that LGBTQ issues has not been his particular focus: he’s had other fish to fry.

Since then, kudos have been pouring out for Voris from all over the blogosphere for the bravery and honesty of his revelation. Says Melinda Selmys, “Michael absolutely has my prayers right now, and I will happily be defending him against any detractors in the days to come.” Steve Skojec agrees: “The folks at Church Militant and I do not see eye to eye on some very important things. But today, I stand with Michael Voris against those who would use public detraction to destroy a man’s reputation [bold type in original].” Artur Rosman, Robert at Sorry, All the Clever Names are Taken, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf — many bloggers, many of whom don’t always agree with Voris or the approach he takes, have added their names to the well-wishers list.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Catholic Stand: Amoris Laetitia and the Progressive Pope Myth

In a discussion of the God-as-watchmaker metaphor with Jonathan Witt, philosopher Jay Richards remarked, “It’s amazing how a simple image can hijack a discussion for a century and a half.” (Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, p. 54) Almost as soon as he was elected, before he had done anything substantive beyond greeting the people in Saint Peter’s Square, the Western chatterati had dubbed Francis a progressive pope. This hasty assessment, fraught with Western political and cultural implications, has similarly hijacked discussion of Francis’ actions by many people both inside and outside the Church.

The Progressive Pope and the “Hermeneutic of Rupture”

The progressive pope myth, in its essence, is a smaller iteration of the larger “hermeneutic of rupture” (or, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI originally called it, the “hermeneutic of discontinuity”) that has persisted in the Church for the last fifty years. To wit, the progressive pope myth has assumed from the very beginning that Pope Francis’ differences in style mark a break not only away from the traditions of the papacy but also away from the dogmas and doctrines of the apostolic tradition.

For example, many commentators made heavy weather of Francis’ refusal to wear red shoes and live in the Apostolic Palace. Few, however, noted his decision to visit Santa Maria Maggiore and pray at the tomb of Pope St. Pius V — a Dominican, a former inquisitor, and a major figure of the Counter-Reformation — the day after his election. Surely the latter was more significant than the former! Yet any clear and unmistakable sign from Francis of orthodoxy or respect for tradition is usually greeted with profound silence … or explained away as “holding out an olive branch to conservatives”.

The progressive pope myth is an a priori construct, albeit one without the benefit of valid first principles. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence,” said Holmes to Watson in A Study in Scarlet. In “A Scandal in Bohemia”, he elaborates: “Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” The myth of the progressive pope continues to validate Holmes’ dictum, most recently in the veritable blizzard of analyses that have followed the release of Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
Read more at Catholic Stand!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Philippine Bishops’ Amoris Laetitia Statement Causes More 1P5 Teeth-Gnashing

Abp. Socrates B. Villegas, president of the CBCP.
(Image source: CBCP News.)
I’d really hoped to move beyond the right-wing blowback from Amoris Laetitia. Fifty-one weeks out of the fifty-two God sends, I’m able to ignore blogs like One Peter Five, Rorate Caeli, and What’s Up With Francis-Church?, content to let their writers whine and pout. However, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a statement today which hath caused Steve Skojec to rend his garment:

There are a number of people who seem to keep missing this key point, the super decoder ring to the entire synod and exhortation process. Gather round, everyone, and I’ll share the secret:
To the average person — or the willing priest or bishop — it doesn’t matter that the exhortation didn’t change doctrine. If they’re given permission to ignore doctrine through “pastoral” justifications, they will.

Comments Hilary White drily, “… [For] some reason, Steve seems to be losing his s**t.” Her own contribution is a sarcastic pretense of “everything is just peachy”. Sigh; it must be difficult to avoid looking like Skojec’s mini-me.

Who’s Waiting for “Permission”?

Got news for you, Steve-o: There are plenty of Catholics out there who haven’t waited for “permission” to ignore doctrine. I would even say that they’re in the overwhelming majority. Sure, there are a few progressive Catholics, like Kate Childs Graham, who can and do quote out-of-context passages from Church documents to justify their positions. However, I’d bet my old Ad Altari Dei medal that they’re in the minority, that more are like Carol Meyer — willing to ditch doctrine with or without “permission”. And in cases like Graham’s, it’s damn near certain they’d ignore doctrine even if they couldn’t find a passage to serve as their “permission”.

To the average person — or the willing priest or bishop — it doesn’t matter what Pope Francis wrote or didn’t write. If they want to go against the teachings of the Church — if they want to commit a particular sin — they will.

Many if not most Catholics just don’t need to hide behind a subterfuge like a footnote in an absurdly long papal exhortation. Do you think 98% of American Catholic women have used contraceptives at some time in their lives because Humanae Vitae was so difficult to comprehend, because it was “tantalizingly vague”? And Humanae Vitae, although an encyclical, is a much shorter document than Amoris Laetitia; by comparison, it’s almost an inter-office memo. (Boy, I just dated myself there!) Many priests, deacons, and laypersons will never read Amoris, let alone latch onto any particular footnote, just as they’ve never actually read any of the Vatican II documents.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Did Cardinal Burke “Betray” the Rad Trads?

Image source: Shutterstock.
On Monday, the National Catholic Register published an essay by Cdl. Raymond L. Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the darling of conservative Catholics. The essay, “‘Amoris Laetitia’ and the Constant Teaching and Practice of the Church”, has been taken by some radical traditionalists to be a slap in the face.

Cardinal Burke a “Company Man”

“This is nothing less than a betrayal by one who should have offered hope,” whined Steve Skojec into his Twitter feed. “We have been thrown to the wolves.” Hilary White, in her charmingly-titled blog What’s Up With Francis-Church?, affects an unconvincing sangfroid:

I am acquainted with Cardinal Burke, at least a little, and honestly folks, he’s a good guy but a company man to the core. In all the outrages of the last three years, he has done the same thing over and over. He has either remained silent (Lalalalala Laudato Si … I can’t heeeaaar yooooouuu!) [or …? An “either” calls for a following “or”, Hilary. What’s the alternative?][.] And, as Steve [Skojec] said above, each time he has said something publicly that has been taken by the press or anyone else as critical, he has instantly dived for the phone to backpedal as fast as he could.

John Jalsevac of Life Site News — a publication becoming more concerned with defending Catholic orthodoxy than with defending life — admits that the good Cardinal may have in fact been addressing progressives rather than conservatives. “After reading the whole of Burke’s column, it becomes strikingly clear that the primary target of Burke’s rebuke is, in fact, liberal mainstream media outlets and Catholic writers and publications, such as America Magazine and the National Catholic Reporter, who have hailed the exhortation as a welcome revolution.”

However, Jalsevac reluctantly admits that Cdl. Burke may also have intended “to warn ‘faithful’ writers of the possibility of causing scandal of their own by overstating the authority or impact of the exhortation. … [While] the cardinal is certainly technically correct that the exhortation doesn’t have the juridical authority to overturn Church teaching or formally introduce novel pastoral practices — there is no question that it has the authority to create the impression in public opinion of having changed church teaching or practice: and that may be the only kind of authority that ultimately matters.”

Friday, April 1, 2016

Donald Trump’s “Pro-Life” Masquerade—UPDATED

Donald Trump with Chris Matthews.
(Image source: NBCNews.com.)
Donald Trump’s statement that women who have abortions should be punished was not the first thing he’s said that’s caused the pro-life movement to doubt the sincerity of his conversion. If anything, it finally confirms that Trump has worn his pro-life conversion like a mask. Robert P. George comments, “Mr. Trump seems to have stumbled onto the best possible way of signaling to true pro-lifers that he is not one of them.”

The Caricature and the Truth

Of course, Trump lost very little time walking back his statement, since just about every person with an IQ over 85 on all points of the issue spectrum criticized it. Just as predictably, the pro-Clinton and pro-abort forces lost very little time capitalizing on his error, since Trump— for a brief moment and on video — had become the caricature of the pro-lifer just about every hard-core pro-abort nurtures in her most dystopian fantasies. People like Planned Parenthood Action Fund EVP Dawn Laguens are more than happy to accept Trump’s pro-life mask as his true face, because his blunt style allows them to claim that Trump is “only saying what they are really thinking”.

As we say down South: No, that’s not what we think at all, bless their hearts.

The fact is, prior to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade (1973), none of the states criminalized women for seeking abortions; legal penalties were reserved solely to abortionists. The pro-life movement from its beginning understood that the vast majority of women who seek abortion don’t do so willingly, let alone cheerfully, and that many suffer pressure, even coercion, from others to end their pregnancy. Ironically, for all their professed concern about women, pro-aborts turn a blind eye to offenses against women’s health and intrinsic dignity whenever action against these violations threatens access to abortion. Punishing women for aborting their children is not now, has never been, and will never be, implicit in the pro-life agenda.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Wanderer Schism and Latinism

Ann Barnhardt, All-American Schismatic.
(Image source: westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com.)
For almost fifty years, The Remnant has been the leading voice of Catholic traditionalism in America. Founded by Walter Matt, who left The Wanderer after a dispute with his co-founder brother Alphonse, it now publishes under the guidance of Matt’s son Michael. Over the last few years, especially after the election of Pope Francis, the tone of The Remnant’s articles have become increasingly shrill, denouncing “neo-Catholics” (i.e., anyone not identifiably traditionalist) and “Bergoglio” with a regularity verging on monomania.

A “Bastion of Orthodoxy” Calls For Schism

The venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” A radical traditionalist (that is, the most extreme kind of traditionalist) differs in that, being in love with what he thinks the Church used to be, he hates what he thinks the Church has become in the wake of Vatican II. At its worst, it approaches anti-Catholic Protestantism from the right.

Wryly comments theologian John Médaille, “One would hope that a publication that claims to be a bastion of orthodoxy would not be a place to find a call for schism.” But that’s what happened: in a featured article written by Ann Barnhardt, The Remnant has called for an “Imperfect Ecumenical Council” to depose and anathematize Pope Francis as a heretic.[*] Furthermore, the call goes out to “those bishops remaining who still hold the Catholic faith” — implying, of course, that many if not most Catholic bishops don’t hold the faith, at least as Barnhardt and The Remnant define it.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Reading Around: “Pro-Life”, Education, and Scientific Proofs of God

Part of the culture of blogging is writing about other people’s writing, sometimes even copying posts and essays whole (because it’s much easier than coming up with something original!). What the heck … doesn’t hurt to say, “Hey, guys, this is what I’ve been reading recently! Take a look!”

So there are three essays I want to commend to your attention: one on the pro-life movement’s “devil’s bargain” with the Republican Party, one on American educators’ theft from students of their cultural heritage, and one on the problematic nature of proving God from science.

Distributist Review: “Pro-Life or Anti-Abortion?” by John Médaille

This article came just before I read that a Google extension is soon to be released which would change all instances of “pro-life” to “anti-choice” for those who want it. Frankly, I believe the extension would likely infringe on copyrighted material (“If I’d meant ‘anti-choice’, I’d have written ‘anti-choice’!”); right now I have neither the funds nor the interest to pursue the matter further. If pro-aborts are that desperate to maintain the illusion that they control the terms of the debate, I suppose that’s their problem.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Blocking a President’s Nomination: Historical Precedents

Robert H. Bork under fire by the Senate Judiciary Committee,
1987. (Photo: Jose R. Lopez, New York Times.)
Associate Justice Antonin G. Scalia’s body was barely on its way out of the ranch resort where he died when Republicans started a movement to block Pres. Barack Obama’s eventual nominee for the empty SCOTUS seat. 

Indeed, between the progressive celebrations (“Good riddance!” “Ding, dong, the witch is dead!”) and the indecent haste in politicking, it’s a wonder that anyone managed a moment to pay sincere respect for a man who, right or wrong, exerted tremendous influence over our nation’s jurisprudence … and whom many people thought was a likeable guy. (I find it interesting that his long friendship with his colleague, the arch-liberal AJ Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was made the subject of a light opera!)

Some progressives are content to wait the Republicans out, convinced that the Democrats will win in November and that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will get Scalia’s place filled … in fact, some want Obama to fill the spot. However, others are not as confident, and want others on the left to start pressuring Senate Republicans to confirm whomever Obama names. To that end, various people are creating memes with distorted or bogus facts, all arguing to the idea that the Senate is somehow obligated to give Obama one more SC justice.

The Facts

Refusing to confirm a nominee, even delaying an appointment into the next presidency, isn’t a new tactic. Refusing to confirm a nominee on grounds other than his/her legal competence isn’t exactly new, either; there’s a reason why they call it “Borking”. (If you’re too young to remember, and not too lazy to look it up, Google-search “Robert H. Bork”.) Nor have Democrats been mere rubber stamps to Republican presidents’ wishes (again, see “Robert H. Bork”). Of the 151 men and women nominated to the bench since 1789, 29 were unsuccessful at least on the first try. Only 12, though, had been fully considered and rejected; the  rest were withdrawn, tabled, postponed, or nullified by circumstance.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Catholic Stand: Casting Your Vote as a Faithful Catholic

Here we are, coming into the backstretch of the quadrennial presidential election cycle. Of course, from here on out, you’re going to have your eyes and sensibilities assaulted by talking heads telling you for whom you should vote — or, at least, traducing and belittling every candidate but the ones they prefer.

Many of the talking heads are Catholics. It doesn’t follow, however, that what they advise is always fully compatible with Catholic moral and social teaching, even when the head doing the talking belongs to a bishop or priest. As American citizens, they’re entitled to their opinions; as Catholics, their opinions aren’t covered by the infallibility of the ordinary Magisterium. Neither, for that matter, is mine.

I’m not here to tell you who to vote for; nor am I going to tell you how I’m voting. What I’d like to do instead is give some pointers about voting as a faithful Catholic in communion with the Holy See.