Monday, April 29, 2013

Womenpriests -- Or Priestesses -- Are Not Catholic


The recent so called "ordinations" of women as "priests" in Kentucky has inspired this article.  Now if you're expecting political correctness, you've visited the wrong blog. It is not just a matter of personal opinion, on my part, that women cannot be priests. (Though I do fully agree with the Church on this.) Rather, it is the infallible and unchangeable teaching of the Catholic Church, which all Catholics are obliged to submit to, regardless of their personal opinions. Sorry, like it or lump it, that's just the facts.

Now every so often we hear of this in the news, of some group of "dissident Catholics" ordaining a woman as a priest, in some parish or facility. Usually, the people involved are long gone before the matter is released to the press, but the news media is ready and eager to take the bait. It's publicised all over the news, sometimes internationally, as if this is some kind of big deal, invoking all sorts of discussion by news journalists and opinion columnists. This of course is followed by polls and surveys, the accuracy of which is rarely verified, usually stating that somewhere between 50% to 70% of U.S. Catholics believe women should be ordained as priestesses. (Yes, I shall call them "priestesses" because that is proper English. The word "womenpriests" makes no logical sense. Do we call male clergy "menpriests?" Please, let's dispense with the absurdities and call things what they really are. Female priests are by definition "priestesses." That's not my opinion. That's called English!) Of course, this leads to the next round of opinion columns, which decry the Vatican for "not listening to the voice of the people" by denying the ordination of priestesses when so many Catholics "obviously want them."

Let's just get down to the heart of the matter, shall we? It doesn't matter what the alleged majority of Catholics allegedly want. That's right, I said it, and I'll say it again. It doesn't matter what the alleged majority of Catholics allegedly want. Even if 99% of all Catholics around the globe, demanded the ordination of women as priestesses, the Vatican would still not grant it. Why? Because to do so would spell the end of the Catholic Church in more than one way, and that my readers, simply cannot happen.

First thing's first; the Vatican does not have the authority to permit the ordination of women. That's right, read it again. The Vatican does not have the authority to ordain women. I'll take it a step further. The pope does not have the authority to ordain women. Just so there is no mistake, here it is again. The pope does not have the authority to ordain women. (Go ahead and report me to my bishop for saying this if it upsets you, he'll tell you the same thing.) The reason why the Vatican, even the pope himself, does not have the authority to ordain women is because Jesus Christ did not give them that authority, and this was defined dogmatically and definitively as infallible in Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. You can read the whole thing on the Vatican website HERE, but here is the infallible excerpt...
"Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful." -- Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4, Given in Rome on May 22, 1994 
This settles the matter forever in the Catholic Church.  When something is declared definitively by the pope as infallible according to the apostolic deposit of faith, it cannot be undone.  It is considered a Catholic dogma, and is binding upon all Catholics henceforth forevermore.  Any future "pope," who might attempt to change it, would immediately be declared an antipope, dethroned, and another would be elected to take his place.  In other words, it's written in stone.  Any attempt by a bishop or pope to change it would result in the loss of his ministry, chaos within the church, and the eventual re-ordering of things back to the way they were with no change.  It would be on par with a pope saying that Mary is not really immaculate, or that Jesus didn't really die for our sins.  Do you see what I mean?  Once a doctrine is declared an infallible dogma, as part of the origional deposit of faith, it cannot be changed, period.

Now I know this concept is difficult for Westerners to wrap their minds around.  We in the West are so used to change that is seems like nothing can be "permanent."  We tend to believe of things being figuratively "set in stone" as an antiquated thought.  "Nobody really believes that anymore!"  Or so some might opine, but that doesn't change the facts.  Some people really do still believe in absolute truth, and some of those people actually believe the pope can infallibly declare it.  I am one such person, and there are hundreds of millions more like me, regardless of what your opinions polls may say.

Now on to the subject of opinion polls.  The Catholic Church is not a democracy.  It never was and it never will be.  The Catholic Church is an absolute monarchy, the remnant of ancient Israel, and she is governed by her King, who is Jesus Christ, and the pope is his prime minister.  It really doesn't matter what people's opinions are.  That's not how things work, and any Catholic who is honest with his/her self, knows this to be true.  The Catholic Church is not defined as the sum of her parts.  It never has been that way.  People can think what they like, but that doesn't change how the Church is run, and it certainly doesn't change her teachings on absolute truth.  It would seem the modern priestess movement is suffering from a severe case of mistaken identity when it comes to its dealings with the Catholic Church.  So it would seem, those involved in it think that if they just put up enough stink, and the right pope happens to be on the throne, then eventually the Church will cave in to their demands.  That isn't going to happen, and if a "pope" ever did cave, then he's not the pope, because no pope can ever change Catholic dogma.  He would be declared an antipope by the college of cardinals and that would be the end of him.  A replacement would be elected, with or without his consent, and he would go down in history as a heretic.  Every man who sits on the throne of Saint Peter knows this.

The term infallibility simply means "without error."  It does not mean the man himself is "without error" or sinless, or in some way better than everyone else.  It simply means that if he says something, he says it "without error."  Many people ask me if I really believe the pope is infallible.  I tell them it's worse than that, I believe I'm infallible too.  What I mean by that is this.  Sometimes I can say things that are "without error," which is by definition "infallible."  Case in point; when I look up on a clear sunny day, I might point up and say: "the daylight sky is blue."  Now based on the laws of physics, related to the bending of light rays in our nitrogen-rich atmosphere, and the way the human eye normally perceives colour under normal conditions, then my statement is absolutely accurate and "without error."  It is by definition -- infallible.  Now let's look at simple arithmetic shall we.  I might point out to a four-year old child that: "one plus one equals two."  (1+1=2)  Again, such a statement is "without error."  One plus one always equals two in simple arithmetic, and it never equals three or four.  It always equals two.  Therefore, such a statement by definition is infallible.  It doesn't matter if I'm colour blind and can't actually see the daylight blue sky, or if I'm mentally deficient and can't actually do the arithmetic myself.  These statements about the sky, and the sum of one plus one, are infallible regardless of who said them, because they are absolute.  Thus, on simple things such as this, I can make infallible statements, and so can you.  Anyone can do it.  Now when it comes to matters of faith and morals however, there are not many people who can make such infallible statements with absolute authority.  As Christians, we all believe (or at least we are supposed to believe) that Jesus Christ has the authority to make infallible statements on matters relating to faith and morals.  We believe this based on the testimony of the Church and the Bible.  Both the Church and the Bible also teach us that Jesus gave this authority to Saint Peter, and the apostles so long as they were in agreement with Peter. Peter and the apostles then passed this authority on to their successors.  This is what is meant by "apostolic authority."  In the case of Peter's successor, he has the special authority (originally given by Jesus Christ and energised by the Holy Spirit) to make definitive statements about matters related to faith and morals, and he can do this infallibly (without error) when the Holy Spirit invites him to.  Such was the case with Pope John Paul II in 1994 on the issue of ordaining women.  It's a rare event actually.  He never used this authority any other time during his twenty-seven year pontificate.  The last time a similar authority was used was in 1950, when Pope Pius XII directly declared with infallibly (ex cathedra) the Assumption of Mary into heaven.  The last time that method of infallibility was invoked was in 1854, when Pope Pius IX infallibly declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  (Both dogmas had been taught since antiquity, but the popes declared these dogmas infallible to settle disputes that had arisen within the Church during modern times.)  So my point here is that the gift of papal infallibility is something that is exercised very rarely, and only at the Holy Spirit's invitation.  It is not something that just pops up whenever the pope gets a feeling.  Most popes never even exercise this gift.  The few who do, usually do so only once, and only on very serious matters.

There are of course those who live in denial by trying to assert that Pope John Paul II never made such a claim infallibly.  They say that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, was just part of his normal teaching authority, and that Pope John Paul II never intended to make such a matter infallible dogma.  Such claims fly in the face of reality, and even defy the pope himself, who agreed that his statement on this matter was definitively part of the infallible teaching of the Church in her original Deposit of Faith from the apostles.  Following Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter on this matter, many questions were raised as to the infallibility of the statement.  So in 1995, the following response was given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI (2005 - 2013)....
RESPONSUM AD PROPOSITUM DUBIUM
CONCERNING THE TEACHING
CONTAINED IN “ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS” 
Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith. 
Responsum: Affirmative. 
This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith. 
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published. 
Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Feast of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude, October 28, 1995. 
Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Prefect 
Vatican Source Here
Those who would live in denial, and assert the false notion that Pope John Paul II never intended his statements against priestesses to be considered infallible, are in direct violation of the Vatican and Pope John Paul II himself.  Notice in the above clarification is says two things.  (1) The pope's statement against the ordination of women is definitively part if the infallible Deposit of Apostolic Faith.  (2) Pope John Paul II himself was present when this clarification was read, approved it, and ordered it published!

The issue is settled.  It's been settled now for nearly two decades.  It cannot be changed.  So with that being said, why do these dissident groups continue to "ordain" priestesses, without any bishop's approval or Vatican sanction?  There can only be two possible explanations.

Explanation number one is that these women truly believe, in their heart of hearts, that they can pressure the Vatican into changing established dogma and eventually accept them as Roman Catholic priestesses.  If this is the case, then these women (and anyone who supports them) has a fundamental misunderstanding of what Catholicism is and what it means to be Catholic.  In effect, they are not Catholic, at least not in their understanding anyway.  The word "Catholic" comes from the Greek word meaning "whole and complete."  It means you accept the whole and complete teaching of the popes and bishops.  It doesn't mean you "pick and choose" what to believe.  The latter is sometimes called "Cafeteria Catholicism" which is an oxymoron, when you stop and consider what the word "Catholic" actually means.  How, as a Catholic Christian, can you "pick and choose" what to believe, when the word "Catholic" itself means (by definition) you don't pick and choose but accept the whole thing.  Perhaps these women (and their supporters) mistakenly believe that if you wear vestments, burn incense, and recite a liturgy, that somehow makes you "Catholic."  That's not true, as anybody can do these things and not be "Catholic."  There is a whole assortment of Anglican/Episcopalian churches that do this.  They may call themselves "catholic" in a watered-down general sense, but they would all agree they are not "Catholic" in the Roman sense of the word.  To believe one can "pick and choose" religious beliefs, based on ones personal preferences or reason, is not Catholic.  The historical word used for this activity it "Protestant," which means "one who protests" various doctrines they don't like.  If these women (and their supporters) truly believe they can pressure Rome into changing dogma to suit their opinions, and they can just themselves "pick and choose" what teachings of the Church they will follow, then they are not really Catholic in the Roman definition of the word, which is the only definition that is consistent with history.  So they are essentially Protestants, whether they realise it or not, even if they never admit it.  These women (and their supporters), if they do not repent, might find themselves more comfortable in one of the Anglican/Episcopalian Protestant churches, wherein they can practise all the trappings of Catholicism, without having to follow the rules and dogmas laid down by the Catholic Church.

Explanation number two is a bit diabolical in nature, and I sincerely hope this is not the case.  In fact, I refuse to believe it is the case, unless evidence is given to the contrary.  Explanation number two is that these women know women's "ordination" violates Church dogma, and they know the Church can never change on this issue.  So they are doing this solely for the purpose of embarrassing the Church in the news media, so as to invite the scorn of a liberal public and drive more liberal-minded Catholics out of the Church.

I sincerely hope the latter explanation is not the case.  As for the news media, they would be wise to do their homework on this matter!  The Church cannot change on this issue.  It never could, but since 1994 that is been made publicly known in an infallible way.  The debate is over.  It's been over for nearly twenty years!  The women who engage in so-called "ordinations" are engaging in a fraud, and they do so as a publicity stunt, specifically for the purpose of inviting media attention.  At best their intentions are explained with explanation number one above.  At worst it is explanation number two.  Members of the news media would do well to restructure their terminology and reporting style to reflect this, otherwise they are unwittingly participating in the hoax.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

We Are Rome

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial
Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington D.C.
Height 331 feet
We've all heard the saying many times.  America will never be conquered from an outside military force, but she will fall from within.  I think the truth of this statement is beyond dispute now, for I don't know many people who would deny that America is currently falling from within.  What is of greater curiosity is how America is falling from within.  On the one hand, there is a tendency to pin it all on economics and social safety nets.  On the other hand, there are those that point to America's wars overseas that are stretching her resources.  Both sides point to the national debt and trade deficit, along with the poor economy and unemployment figures.  Not to minimise these things, for they certainly all play a role, but I think the most important thing we can do to understand this is pause and try to back away from an Amero-centric world view.  Often times we Americans look at the United States in an isolated way, as if the rest of the Western world didn't matter, and in doing so, we miss the big picture.

America is not just a nation, made up of borders language and "culture."  Oh sure, we have all that -- sort of -- but to think of America simply as a place on the map is the miss something really big.  America isn't just a place.  It's an idea. It's an idea started in America but promoted around the world.  What is this idea?  It's the idea that the United States was founded upon, but it is not limited to the United States alone.  Other nations have emulated this American idea -- particularly Western nations, but it doesn't stop there.  To understand this we need to go back in time, to colonial America, before the Revolution.  What was the world like back then?  The world's governments were made up of kings and queens.  In Europe, where America's origins begin, these were Christian monarchs.  Unfortunately for them, and for all our European ancestors, these monarchs had been divided for 200 years between Catholic and Protestant alliances, and this division gave rise to a lot of conflict between them.  Mainly for political reasons, Catholic monarchs persecuted Protestants, and Protestant monarchs persecuted Catholics.  The persecution was mutual, so there is no need to blame one side more than another.  Basically what we had back then was a lot of Christians behaving in a very unchristian way, and this was promoted by the political powers that be, namely because it served their interests.  While this was all happening in Europe a considerable amount of migration was going on.  Catholics in Protestant countries were relocating to Catholic countries, and Protestants in Catholic countries were relocating to Protestant countries.  In some cases, where Protestants were being persecuted by other Protestants (as in the case of the Puritans being persecuted by the Anglican Church of England) they simply moved to other Protestant countries where they would be more tolerated.  (The Puritans initially moved from England to Holland before coming to America to establish a Puritan theocracy.)  In this religious-political hotbed called post-Reformation Europe, the seeds of modern America were planted.

The colonisation of the Americas was initially about the promise of land, wealth and fortune (not so much about religious liberty, that was merely a side issue at first).  We can say this of all the colonising world powers at the time: Spain, Portugal, France and England.  North America was divided up three ways between the Spanish, French and English.  The Spanish acquired the western region. The French acquired the central region (in which I currently live), and the English acquired the eastern region.  The only exception to this was the Puritans, who's story we are all familiar with.  These "pilgrims" (as they are commonly called) originally came to America not for religious freedom.  They already had that in Holland.  No, they came to establish a religious theocracy and evangelise the natives based on Puritan religion.

It is here the story of thirteen English colonies begin.  Unlike the French and Spanish regions of America, all considerably larger than the English at the time, the thirteen English colonies eventually took on the unique character of becoming a place of religious refuge for persecuted Christians and Jews in England.  This is namely because of all the religious turmoil that resulted from post-Reformation England.  It wasn't true of all the colonies, but some in particular took on a position of tolerance toward people of differing faiths.  One example is Maryland (Mary Land), which became a colony for persecuted English Catholics.  It is here that the modern concept of "religious liberty" began.  It didn't last long.  The religious toleration of Catholics in Maryland lasted only fifty-eight years (1634 - 1692), when it was overturned by English Protestants, but it did provide a foreshadowing of things to come.  Later, other colonies would follow suit with similar measures, some even more generous, but it was not until the American Revolution that full religious liberty (at least on paper) was granted to all Americans in the formerly British colonies.

Now this is what makes history interesting.  When you learn history properly, you'll quickly see that the whole thing is simply a tale of cause and effect, or action and reaction.  It's not just a list of names, dates and places.  Everything happens for a reason!  Unfortunately, that's why so many students lose interest in history, because it's not taught as a cause and effect thing.  When you understand cause and effect, history starts to make sense.  So with that being said, why did people start coming to the English colonies in America to establish religious theocracies and later for a vague promise of religious liberty?  The answer is because they were persecuted in Europe by governments of different religious persuasions, or else they were otherwise dissatisfied with the religious status quo.  Why were governments in Europe under different religious persuasions?  Because of the Protestant Reformation.

You see, one thing leads to another, and so it was with the formation of modern America, particularly in the British Isles.  England was originally a very devout Catholic country prior to 1535.  In fact, England was so Catholic, that it was once called the land of "Mary's Dowry."  However, when King Henry VIII forcibly broke England away from the Catholic Church, all over a marriage annulment the pope would not grant him, the history of England turned very bloody very fast.  The Protestant Reformation in England was a terrible one.  It resulted in the persecution and deaths of many Catholics under King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, followed by severe discrimination against Catholics thereafter.  It also resulted in the death of a good number of Protestants under Queen Mary I, who came to be known as "Bloody Mary."  My point here is that this conflict in England, gave English colonists in North America a very different experience that was all together unique from that of the Spanish and French colonists in North America.  It is this unique experience of nasty religious infighting that caused the English colonists to come up with a final solution in the late eighteenth century (1776 - 1800).  The American Revolution against the British crown was not a religious war at all.  It was a political war of secession (independence) over taxes and parliamentary representation. However, with the success of that conflict resulting in the liberation of the thirteen colonies from the British empire, the opportunity to solve some other problems presented itself.  It is in this context the final solution to religious infighting entered the picture. That final solution, at least on paper anyway, was absolute religious liberty.  All religious beliefs would be tolerated in America, no matter what.  It wouldn't matter if you were Catholic or Protestant, Christian or Jew.  Every person would be free of religious discrimination (at least on paper) regardless of religious belief, and a "wall of separation" would forever exists between religion and the newly formed government of the United States of America.

It all sounds great!  Right?  Just separate religion from government and the problem of religious persecution and sectarian infighting is solved.  Well, not exactly.  The colonists didn't just come up with this idea on their own.  Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), was heavily influenced by the writings of John Locke (1632 - 1704), whom Jefferson described as one of the three greatest men who ever lived, alongside Francis Bacon and Sir Isaac Newton.  Jefferson, himself a Deist, rejected Christian theology, and rewrote the New Testament to exclude all the miraculous accounts of Jesus Christ.  Many Americans are shocked to discover this is the same man who wrote our nation's Declaration of Independence.  Let us not forget however, that Jefferson was a student of John Locke, who denied the Trinity and divinity of Jesus Christ, while accepting an Arian and/or Unitarian view of Christianity.  Writing in his curiously titled essay "A Letter Concerning Toleration," in regards to Roman Catholicism, Locke asserted that: "all those who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince."  Therefore, he surmised, Catholics, like atheists, cannot be tolerated.  While Jefferson may not have shared Locke's hard line view of Catholics, the basic premise of Locke's essay essentially became his core belief, and has since become the foundation of American law and government.  That premise being that all belief systems are equal, but very private, and should be tolerated provided they are subordinate to a non-religious state.  This is namely because the state concerns itself with issues primarily related to the physical world, while religion concerns itself primarily with issues related to the spiritual world.  Locke's world view was that spiritual matters are completely separate from physical matters, and never the twain shall meet.  He vehemently objected to the notion that the state has any interest in the spiritual well being (or salvation) of the souls of men.  While conversely, religion has little interest in the physical and political well being of the state.  The writings of John Locke were well known among the American colonists and were followed by most of America's founding fathers, many of whom were Deists. Due to his service as America's ambassador to France, Jefferson himself could not be present during the Constitutional Convention that followed the American Revolution, which would eventually frame America's system of government, but instead he sent a letter to James Madison advocating the creation of a Bill of Rights to be added to the Constitution.  This was to secure the rights of the colonists against the increased powers of a federal government and simultaneously enshrine the ideals of his Enlightenment hero John Locke against those in the convention who were leaning toward a stronger central authority based on the Enlightenment ideals of Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679).  Jefferson was above all a Southerner, a Virginian by birth, who believed in the inherent rights of the individual over the authority of the state.  It was only natural that the writings of John Locke would appeal to him.  Hobbes, on the other hand, appealed more to representatives from the Northern states, who longed for greater central control and a more streamlined governing order.  The key component to insure that Locke's views would stand under the growing Hobbes influence became the first article in the Constitution's Bill of Rights, which is well known and beloved by Americans today, yet simultaneously contains within it the seed of our nation's eventual demise.
U.S. CONSTITUTION, BILL OF RIGHTS, ARTICLE I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Many have accurately pointed out that the restriction in the Establishment Clause of this article is upon Congress, or the government, and not upon the people or religion.  Simultaneously, the Free Exercise Clause, that immediately follows, guarantees total autonomy of the individual to practise any religion as he sees fit.  It would seem this would allow religion to operate freely without government harassment or molestation.  Indeed, I think it's safe to surmise that was Thomas Jefferson's original intent which would make his Enlightenment hero John Locke very proud.  Should there be any doubt, Jefferson stated his mindset, and intent of the Establishment Clause, by drafting the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1777, and in a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 he described the Establishment Clause as creating a "wall of separation between church and state."  Now these things did not present any kind of measurable problem in the early decades of the American republic.  We could argue that lack of religious influence over the moral issue of slavery eventually led to the bloody conflict that took the lives of over half a million Americans in the Civil War, but we could also argue that increased federalisation caused this too.  I suppose we could say that America's Civil War was really a war of ideology between Hobbes and Locke.  The North taking the extreme Hobbes position, while the South taking the extreme Locke position.  What came about as a result of the war was a "Hobbelockean" amalgamation, in which Hobbe's view of a strong centralised government that defines right and wrong prevailed, but with heavy emphasis on Locke's view that part of the mission of this centralised government is to insure the rights of individuals as the courts defined them.  I suppose we could say that the war of words that began at the Constitutional Convention (1787), eventually played out on the battlefield between 1861 through 1865.

The seeds of America's undoing did not really begin to fully sprout until the late twentieth century, when the logical conclusion of Jefferson's "Wall of Separation," inspired by Locke, would be realised by the United States Supreme Court heavily influenced by a Hobbes mentality.  Jefferson would not likely have any problem with the court's decisions to ban prayer in public schools and eliminate all government references to religion, but I think he would be shocked at the effect this would have on society.  Jefferson lived in a time when people were much more set in their ways and not easily swayed by the government dictates.  I believe if he could have lived to see how quickly American society would crumble as a result of his personal secular beliefs becoming enforced law, he would be flabbergasted.

You see, while totally separating religion from government does solve one set of problems, it in turn creates a whole new set of problems.  When you totally separate government from religion, you create a government without religion, or so you may think.  Except that a government without religion is merely a vacuum, because you see, governments in and of themselves (when you really get down to the heart of it) are just political expressions of religious beliefs. Let me give you and example.  Murder is illegal right?  Well, why is it illegal?  It's illegal because it's wrong.  Well, who says it's wrong?  The overwhelming vast majority of people say it's wrong?  Well, why do the overwhelming vast majority of people say murder is wrong?  Now, pay attention here, because this is where it gets interesting.  The overwhelming vast majority of people say murder is wrong because they come from a Judeo-Christian moral belief system.  So, why do they come from a Judeo-Christian moral belief system?  The answer is because they come from Christian Europe and are Christians!  Other religions might have similar beliefs about murder, but there is usually a caveat.  For example, in some religious cultures, it may be okay to murder you wife and children if they dishonour you. Such prejudices have even been enshrined into national laws in various places outside of Europe.  My point here is that government is just an outward political expression of religious beliefs.  Indeed, I assert that religion pre-dates government.  Government is a product of religion.  In other words, I am directly opposing John Locke and Thomas Jefferson here.  There is no real separation between the spiritual and the physical.  They are intimately related to one another, and this "wall of separation" Jefferson advocated is, in practical experience, a very porous thing.  In America, murder is always wrong (or at least it's supposed to be) because American law was formed under a Judeo-Christian moral code, and that moral code existed only because the majority of Americans were Christians!

So with that being said, what happens when you separate religion from government? The last 222 years of American history is a tale of that experiment.  The experiment began in earnest in 1791 when the U.S. Bill of Rights was ratified officially separating American government from religion.  However, that experiment was not limited to America.  What followed the American Revolution was the French Revolution (1789 - 1799), which rapidly took many of the ideals from the American Revolution to their final and logical conclusions.  Thus began the expansion of the American experiment beyond her own boarders.  Granted, the French Revolution was different, and we could even say much less civilised, but the ideals (and in some cases the players themselves, including Thomas Jefferson) were the same.  One of the reasons why the American Revolution seemed more "civilised" than the French Revolution is the fact that the American Revolution was really a war of secession from the British Empire.  It was a struggle for political independence.  Once that independence was granted at the Treaty of Paris (1783), the war was over, and America officially became a sovereign entity.  There was no need to kill the king, and behead the aristocracy, because once the separation was complete, it was over.  America's founding fathers were free to move on.  Though the driving principles of the French Revolution were virtually identical to the American Revolution, the nature of the conflict took on the characteristics of a full blown civil war.  This is because once the revolutionaries had gained control of the country, the previous ruling class needed to be eliminated.  After all, it wasn't like they had an ocean to separate them from their former king, like the Americans.  The French monarchy and aristocracy were living right in their back yard -- literally.  This explains the particularly gruesome nature of the conflict.  In addition to that, Catholic France, unlike Protestant America, understood that when you take religion out of government, you create a vacuum, and vacuums will be filled one way or another.  America's founding fathers preferred a gradual filling of this vacuum over time, and believed society would eventually self-regulate with a natural balance occurring between church and state.  The French knew this would never happen, and they were right, so they preferred to just get it over with quickly.  The vacuum created by separating Christianity from government was quickly filled by another religion.  It was a philosophical religion really, but one with very old roots that stretch back to the days of antiquity.  It had different names back then, but today we simply call it Humanism.  The French revolutionaries personified this as the "goddess of reason," or Sophia, and elevated her (symbolically and literally) as they drove all traces of Catholic monarchy out of France.  They even placed a statue (idol) of this Pagan goddess on the cathedral altar at Notre Dame in Paris.  The American revolutionaries, on the other hand, understood that an alliance with traditional Christian religion was necessary, at least on the outset, because such a massive undertaking of creating a "New Order for the Ages" (Novus Ordo Seclorum) cannot be done overnight.  As time would eventually reveal, the French were right about what happens when you separate government from Christian religion, but it would be the slow and gradual American approach to this that would ultimately prevail.

So right from the very beginning, we see the movement that created America was not limited to America alone.  It was a Western thing, a direct product of non-Trinitarian, Deistic and anti-Catholic Enlightenment thinking.  The thirteen United States of America and France led the way, and slowly, over the course of 200+ years, the rest of the Western world would follow.  When you start to understand America not just as a nation, but as an international Enlightenment movement, spearheaded by the newly created United States federal government, things start to make a whole lot more sense.  Then and only then, can you truly understand why America is falling from within.  It is the same reason why the whole Western world is falling from within.  The ideas of the Enlightenment are flawed.  There is a chink in the armour of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, and that imperfection is slowly being eroded and exposing the soft tissue of society underneath.  We are finding out that Enlightenment ideology does not match our experience in the real world, and that is causing a very big social problem.

Now let's change gears a bit.  It's not the "religious" part of religious liberty I want to focus on here, but rather the "liberty" part.  The word "liberty" means quite simply the power to do as one pleases.  The whole idea of religious liberty gave rise to other forms of liberty as well, such as freedom of speech for example, and the right to peacefully assemble.  However, practical experience in the real world tells us that liberty is usually not absolute.  For example; you can't yell "fire!" in a crowded theatre, especially if there isn't one.  For fear of causing a stampede that will hurt (or possibly kill) some people, the courts have ruled that freedom of speech is not absolute.  There are some common sense restrictions of course.  We could also say that ones right to peacefully assemble is curtailed in some situations.  You can't just "peacefully assemble" in the middle of a busy street.  Even assembling in a park or on a street corner might require a permit in certain circumstances.  So again, the right to peacefully assemble is not absolute.  Even religious liberty has its limits.  You can't plead that you're only expressing your freedom of religion, if doing so causes you to damage property, harm animals or even kill people.  Again, there are limitations based on common sense.  So the point here is that in any society, based on the Judeo-Christian moral code, there are limits to liberty.  Liberty is not absolute.  We often say that it is guided by "common sense" but let us not forget that this "common sense" was historically formed in a Christian society made up of Christian people.

So we could say that Hobbes, Locke and Jefferson built their castle on a foundation laid by the Church, and then effectively denied that foundation was necessary.  As time passed, people started to take that claim seriously, and the foundation was removed.  Naturally, when you remove a castle's foundation, what happens to the superstructure?  It erodes and collapses of course.  It may not happen overnight.  It may even take years, or decades, but it will crumble eventually.  Hobbes, Locke and Jefferson unwittingly sent the whole Western world down a trajectory that would eventually destroy it.  The complete and total decoupling of Christianity from the state was a disaster, and resulted in the creation of a new state religion by default -- the religion of Humanism -- because in practical experience, all vacuums must be filled.  Thus, what is left of the old religion (Christianity) must make way for the new unofficial state religion (Humanism).  This is why all vestiges of our once Christian society are slowly being erased, and replaced with a new social-religious order.

Humanism is in many ways like Paganism.  The pantheon of Humanism is "liberty," and the gods of Humanism are "rights."  The idea of this pantheon is that personal liberty must always be as full and complete as possible, therefore once a new right is defined, it becomes absolute, or as nearly absolute as possible.  Everything else must retreat to make room for this new god (right) even if this upsets the current social order.  Here are some examples.  In 1962 through 1992, all prayers and religious services were banned in public schools, citing the "right" of students to be free of any establishment of a state religion.  In doing so, the Supreme Court unwittingly established Humanism as the default religion in public schools.  In 1973 this same Court ruled that a woman has an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy, thus killing the unborn child, simply because it could not be determined if said child was a "person" under the law.  This paved the way for some forty-million abortions performed in the United States over the following four decades.  In 2003 the Court struck down an anti-sodomy law in Texas, thus paving the way for the legal normalisation of homosexual relationships.  It is expected that sometime in 2013 - 2014, the United States Supreme Court will likely hand down a favourable ruling on same-sex "marriage," thus redefining the very foundational building-block of human civilisation.  Each of these rulings has created a new right (god) in the pantheon of liberty, which all institutions must retreat from should they dare to stand in the way.  Naturally, as you can imagine, this presents a significant problem for Christianity.

Already churches have been forced to abandon public schools, and Christian students face an increasingly hostile school environment when attempting to start student-led prayer groups and Bible-study groups on campus.  Various Christian students throughout the United States have faced disciplinary action by school officials for wearing religious items or speaking of religion while on campus.  Likewise, churches have faced hostility toward any religious displays, or acknowledgement of religion on local, state and federal property.  Meanwhile, while Christians vigorously defend the right to life for the unborn, many have faced arrest, prosecution and restriction on their public speech and peaceful gatherings.  As of the writing of this article, churches and Christian businesses in America are now engaged in legal battle with the President of the United States over a mandate that will soon force them to pay for artificial contraception and chemical abortions.  Now, as Christians in America await the Supreme Court's greatest assault against religious liberty yet, with a new right (god) to homosexual "marriage," they are already enduring civil lawsuits for merely expressing their religion by refusing to provide wedding services for homosexual "marriages."  It is commonly believed these problems will only get worse, exponentially, once the right (god) of homosexual marriage is given life.

You see, under the religion of Humanism, the pantheon of liberty demands that its rights (gods) be honoured, and that means every other god, including the Christian God, must bow down to the rights (gods) of man.  The state determines these gods and gives them life.  Under religious liberty, Christians are of course allowed to believe whatever they want, and so long as they practise it privately, with no affect or influence on others, they are "free."  However, should their practise of Christianity interfere with the rights (gods) the state has determined and given life to, the Christian may very well find himself in some legal hot water.

Herein lies the fatal flaw of Jefferson's very porous "wall of separation" between religion and state.  Once the government has no creed, it de facto adopts the religion of Humanism, becoming a creed unto itself, wherein government men become the deciders of right and wrong, and things are right and wrong simply because government men say so.  (Locke gives way to Hobbes.)  Religion becomes a very private thing, which must effectively stay private if one wants to avoid any government attention, so private that it becomes nothing more than personal thought and/or opinions, limited exclusively to the mind of the believer.  There can be no authority the defines religion, or forces any kind of religious uniformity (like a bishop or a pope for example), because such a thing obstructs the state's absolute authority to define right and wrong through "rights" (or gods) that must be honoured by all.  That state effectively becomes the final arbitrator or religion, even if it claims not to favour any religion.  In truth, the state really doesn't favour any religion, except its own -- the religion of Humanism.  In truth, the state really doesn't favour any gods, except for the ones it creates as "rights."  In truth, the state adopts no moral code of any religion, except for the one it creates via the pantheon of "liberty."  Jefferson, Hobbes and Locke have effectively become the "prophets" of a new global religion that has many gods, which all the adherents to the old Biblical God must bow down to -- or else!

So now what?  Well, as hard as this is to swallow, as difficult as it may be to accept, I'm afraid we must come to the realisation that our forefathers unwittingly created a modern Pagan system, which they themselves could not foresee nor comprehend at the time of its creation.  The French revolutionaries understood it, and even personified it, but the American revolutionaries just didn't have the foresight, or maybe they were just in denial.  Whatever the case, and regardless of the intentions (we would all like to assume were pure), the monster has been created, and it's been walking the streets of Europe and North America (as well as many other places) for a very long time.  What can we expect from this monster?  We can expect more of the same -- only worse!  Devout Christians will continue to be marginalised, our influence will fade away, society will become more "Paganised."  Modern people usually consider the creation of statues to honour their gods ("rights") and antiquated thing, but I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually see it happen, at least on a small scale.  Christians will be persecuted, and this will happen as follows.  The persecution will take on a particularly financial and legal character.  It will be manifested in the form of lawsuits at first (we are already seeing the precursors of), which will result in the loss of private businesses owned by Christians, and eventually church property itself.  Common everyday Christians will not likely find themselves in any legal trouble, unless they are particularly outspoken (like yours truly for example).  I fully expect articles such as this one to eventually be classified as "hate speech" for not recognising the "right" (or "god") of same-sex "marriage," and possibly even classified as "treason" for questioning the whole premise of American "liberty."  (These will be my problems not yours.)  The average Christian can probably avoid persecution if he/she just keeps quiet and accepts the new "normal" that the government defines.  Those who cannot, like members of the clergy for example, will likely find themselves in some serious legal trouble.  Criminal charges of "hate speech" and "discrimination" will become commonplace.  Some Catholic priests and bishops will eventually be arrested.  Some Protestant ministers will eventually be arrested too.  Some will be fined and released.  Others will spend some time in prison.  This is what awaits the Church in North America, Europe and other places.  This is the new Hobbelockean paradigm under the undeclared state religion of Humanism.  If you ask me for time lines, as for when this is all supposed to happen, I will give you none.  That is impossible to predict.  Eventual trends I can give you because such things only require logic and experience. Anybody could do it.  Giving you names, dates and places however, would require a crystal ball, and I'm not in the habit of using those.

So is there any good news?  Is there anything to look forward to?  Many of our Evangelical Protestant brethren would say "no."  A good number of them are of the opinion that these are the last days and the time of Antichrist is near.  Some of them embrace a form of spiritual escapism, wherein they just ignore what is going on around them, chalk it up to the "spirit of Antichrist" and look forward to a coming "Rapture" that will whisk them all away in the twinkling of an eye, so they will not have to deal with the consequences.  I suppose if ones faith does not equip one to deal with the prospect of persecution, this is as good as it gets.  If it gives them a few years of transient "peace" before they have to cower in fear of the government, then I suppose it's at least worth that.  There are, however, many Protestants who do not embrace the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory and fully understand what is soon coming.  Many of them likewise believe this is all part of the end-times and the "spirit of Antichrist."  Who knows!?!  Maybe they're right!  Maybe this really is -- it.

On the other hand, maybe it's not.  There is a prevailing mentality among Americans that America is the last best hope for the human race.  Our politicians have repeated this mantra more than once.  Where does it come from?  It came from Abraham Lincoln, on December 1st, of 1862 as America was deeply immersed in her Civil War.  In speaking of America, and the issue of slavery, he addressed Congress with the following words: "in giving freedom to the slave, we preserve freedom for the free, honourable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."  While I have my problems with Lincoln over his governance and racism, I must say that he was right here in both ways.  For in the Civil War, America lost her union in exchange for uniformity, but this is what it means for Locke to give way to Hobbes.  In fact, Lincoln's statement was not original.  It was an embellishment of a statement made by another man several decades prior.  Thomas Jefferson had cited America as "the world’s best hope" in his first inaugural address.  So we come full circle again.

I resolutely disagree with both Lincoln and Jefferson that America is the world's "last" or "best" hope on earth.  In fact, I openly defy both of them on this.  The "last best hope on earth" is not a country, a nation-state, an idea or political philosophy.  For heaven's sake!  How shallow can one get!?!  Even for politicians this is stooping lower than usual.  No, the "last best hope on earth" is Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church he created.  It was Jesus Christ who saved the world, and it was the Church he created that guided it through the centuries; out of the fall of the Pagan Roman Empire, navigating it safely through the Middle Ages, establishing a defined Judeo-Christian culture in Europe, upon which these petty politicians built their little fiefdom called the United States of America.  It is a fiefdom that is only two-centuries old, and yet it is already falling apart!  It couldn't even get through the first century without turning itself into a bloody mess that killed over half a million of its own people.  It's time for Christians to put away the Enlightenment delusions and recognise American history for what it really is.  It is a history of rebellion against Christ, his Church and nature itself.  That will soon be made perfectly clear in the pages of history.  However, all is not lost.

Many Christians (especially Catholics) disagree with most of America's Evangelicals who believe that the fall of America signals the end of world history.  While we do believe the time of Antichrist is coming, many of us do not believe we are there yet, and the world still has quite a bit of history to go through before that day comes.  This Enlightenment experiment, spearheaded by the United States federal government, is coming to a close.  What we are witnessing in world events right now are the death gasps of a philosophical-political system that is flawed and crumbling from within.  It is not limited to the United States.  It spans all of Western Europe, North America, Oceana, Latin America, and parts of Africa and the Far East.  When it collapses, it will all collapse uniformly, not just in the United States, but everywhere else too.  We should not assume that it was the "rights" (gods) of abortion and homosexual "marriage" that directly caused this, though they will certainly play a big role.  There is an economic component as well, wherein a "right" (or god) to absolute ownership of property played a significant role that spawned poverty in many places.  Many factors are playing into this, and like the Roman Empire, no one thing alone will be cited as the cause of our civilisation's demise.  When that day comes however, whenever it may be, do not think the world will plunge into a vacuum of chaos.  That's not how the world works.  New governments, social orders, and economic systems will arise almost immediately, just as they did the last time the Roman Empire fell.  They will likely be smaller and more localised, but they will come, and they will come rather quickly.  Like last time, they will be based on the same institution that survived the fall of the last great civilisation.  For it will be the only institution left standing.  It will be the Catholic Church.  No, it's not going to be a repeat of the Middle Ages.  A lot of things have changed since then, including the Catholic Church, but it will have some elements similar to the Middle Ages.  Whatever forms of government come out of this time, whether democracies, republics or monarchies, they will definitely have an established religion.  That established religion will likely be Catholicism, or at least some kind of loose recognition of Christianity in general, but that doesn't mean the Church will rule the state or vice versa.  What it will mean is that politicians will finally recognise that the "wall of separation" between religion and state is a porous one and nothing can change that.  It is simply part of human nature.  Therefore, to maintain a Christian set of laws and civility, governments will have to, in some ways, recognise Christian religion.  They won't necessarily need to support it in any kind of financial way, or impose it on their citizens in any kind of forceful way, but they will recognise it at some level.  I believe we are beginning to see the early signs of this starting to take root in the European nation of Hungary, which has a high Catholic majority population and is now putting aside the Enlightenment religion of Humanism with its pantheon of gods ("rights").  Just as soon as the Hungarian people ratified their new constitution, the American State Department condemned it.  (If there was any doubt that the United States federal government is spearheading the Enlightenment religion of Humanism, this should have dispelled it.)

The future of America we can know.  Time tables, and exact course of events, we cannot know.  It is safe to say however, we are Rome.  Just like ancient Rome, the United States, and the Western world, will persecute Christianity.  Rest assured however, this persecution will be social, financial and legal.  (Nobody is going to be fed to lions this time around.)  Nevertheless, the persecution will be very real and very frustrating.  For a small group of Christians, it will even be dangerous.  Just like ancient Rome, the United States, and the Western world, will eventually collapse.  It's guaranteed and it's already begun.  We can reasonably assume this will happen more rapidly than the fall of Rome, but we can also safely assume that the rebuilding of a new civilisation will happen rather quickly too, namely because the foundations were already laid over a thousand years ago.  Yes, we are Rome, and no, that's nothing to panic about.  Christians have seen this all before.  We outlived the last world empire, and we will outlive this one.  Who knows?  Maybe someday, in the very distant future, Christians will triumphantly make pilgrimages to the ruins of the National Mall in Washington DC, in the same way they visit the ruins of the Forum and Colosseum in Rome.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kneeling For Communion


Cardinal Francis Arinze served as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and
the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2002 to 2008.

Today something interesting happened.  My 9-year old son, Michael, has recently taken up the habit of kneeling for communion and receiving the holy sacrament on the tongue in the traditional Catholic and Anglican manner.  It took him a long time to do this.  He was under tremendous peer pressure from his classmates in parochial school, who all receive communion in the hand while standing.  I am not aware of anything ever being said to him about it, and he denies that anyone ever told him he couldn't receive on the tongue while kneeling.  That's good to know, as it seems like receiving communion according to the traditional manner is often frowned upon in my area.  Yet, I've never heard anyone say it shouldn't be done, and apparently my son has had a similar experience.  Nevertheless, the peer pressure for children is there, and I have once heard a priest say: "Nobody has fed me since I was a baby, so I find it awkward to receive communion that way."  Such a statement may not seem like a big deal, and just a matter of personal preference, except when you consider this was said in front of children.  One can only imagine what they thought.

It took months for my son to overcome the peer pressure and kneel for communion.  This is my normal custom, but I never pressured him to do it.  I just made sure he knew it was a preferred option.  Last week he got up the courage, overcame the peer pressure, and knelt for communion.   He did it twice that week, but today when he did it, the priest distributing communion appeared confused, and placed the sacred host between the fingers of his clasped hands.  Of course Michael took the host with his hand and placed it in his mouth.  When we got back to the pew, he was confused and upset with a "what just happened?" expression on his face. I assured him that he had done nothing wrong, that God was pleased with his actions, and that the priest was merely confused for some reason.  "It happens sometimes," I told him, "don't worry about it."  He then leaned over and whispered to me: "Dad, will you take me to the Latin mass over summer vacation so I don't have to worry about this happening?"  I assured him that I would. I occasionally take my kids to the Latin liturgy in the Extraordinary Form, because it has some features that remind me of our traditional Anglican roots.

Now I just want to say here that this was a fluke.  I do believe the priest was legitimately confused, and I don't fault him at all for this.  I'm sure what he did made perfect sense in his mind, and I can't know what he was thinking, or what he saw from his perspective.   Perhaps my son knelt down a little late, or maybe he made an unintended gesture that was confusing. After all, he is still new at this. I don't know what happened. I do know this particular priest has no problem distributing communion on the tongue, as he did it for me immediately after he placed communion in my son's hand.  I'm chalking this up to a total fluke and nothing that was deliberate. It was obviously an accident of some kind.  That being said however, I thought this occasion today gives perfect rise for an article on the topic.

It must be confusing for many priests, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, when one considers the four different combinations for receiving communion in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite:
  1. Receiving in the hand while standing (most common in my area),
  2. Receiving on the tongue while standing (less common, but fairly well practised),
  3. Receiving on the tongue while kneeling (the default standard, but rarely practised),
  4. Receiving in the hand while kneeling (an odd combination, but I've seen it before).
So what is somebody distributing communion supposed to do? Indeed, there is no way to know until the one receiving makes a gesture. This leaves plenty of room for mistakes to be made.  While standing to receive communion in the hand is a dispensation given by the Vatican to some countries during our modern times, it is not the standard way for Catholics to receive communion, and no Catholic can be denied this standard way.  Communion on the tongue, while kneeling, is the normal standard, and has been the normal standard since Antiquity.  No, it was not introduced in the Middle Ages, as will be demonstrated in the last quote below.  In America, I suppose it is licit to just receive any way you want, but that doesn't make it "standard," as the following will demonstrate.  Please read through the quotes below, and feel free to comment...
“It may well be that kneeling is alien to modern culture - insofar as it is a culture, for this culture has turned away from the faith and no longer knows the One before whom kneeling is the right, indeed the intrinsically necessary gesture. The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel, and a faith or a liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling would be sick at the core. Where it has been lost, kneeling must be rediscovered, so that, in our prayer, we remain in fellowship with the apostles and martyrs, in fellowship with the whole cosmos, indeed in union with Jesus Christ Himself.... The kneeling of Christians is not a form of inculturation into existing customs. It is quite the opposite, an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God.... Kneeling does not come from any culture -- it comes from the Bible and its knowledge of God... The Christian Liturgy is a cosmic Liturgy precisely because it bends the knee before the crucified and exalted Lord. Here is the center of authentic culture - the culture of truth. The humble gesture by which we fall at the feet of the Lord inserts us into the true path of life of the cosmos.” -- Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger) ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000)

“There is an apostolic letter on the existence of a special valid permission for this [Communion in the hand]. But I tell you that I am not in favor of this practice, nor do I recommend it." -- Pope John Paul II responding to a reporter from Stimme des Glaubens magazine, during his visit to Fulda, Germany in November 1980.

“What does it mean to receive Communion in the mouth? What does it mean to kneel before the Most Holy Sacrament? What does it mean to kneel during the Consecration at Mass? It means adoration, it means recognizing the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; it means respect and an attitude of faith of a man who prostrates before God because he knows that everything comes from Him… That is why it is not the same to place the host in the hand, and to receive Communion in any fashion; it is not the same to receive Communion kneeling or standing up, because all of these signs indicate a profound meaning.” -- Cardinal Llovera, Prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, 2008

“It is the mission of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments to work to promote Pope Benedict's emphasis on the traditional practices of liturgy, such as reception of Communion on the tongue while kneeling.” -- Cardinal Llovera, Prefect for the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, July 22, 2009

“Many cases of profanation of the Eucharist have occurred, profiting by the possibility to receive the consecrated Bread on one’s palm of the hand... Considering the frequency in which cases of irreverent behavior in the act of receiving the Eucharist have been reported, we dispose that starting from today in the Metropolitan Church of St. Peter, in the Basilica of St. Petronius and in the Shrine of the Holy Virgin of St. Luke in Bologna the faithful are to receive the consecrated Bread only from the hands of the Minister directly on the tongue.” -- Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna Italy, April 27, 2009

“I mention, for example, a change not proposed by the Council Fathers or by the Sacrosanctum Concilium, Holy Communion received in the hand. This has contributed to some extent to a weakening of faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This, and the removal of altar rails and kneelers in church and the introduction of practices which oblige the faithful to sit or stand at the elevation of the Sacred Host, weakens the genuine significance of the Eucharist and the Church’s profound sense of adoration for the Lord, the Only Son of God.” -- Cardinal Ranjith, November, 2007

“The right to receive Holy Communion in the hand is permitted only in times of persecution.” -- St. Basil the Great, 330-379 AD !!!

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Monday, April 15, 2013

Capitalism, Socialism and the Common Good


Here in the Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri, most people would consider themselves "conservative."  In the American sense of the word (which is different from the European, Canadian and Australian sense) that usually means socially traditional on issues like family, morality, marriage and life.  On fiscal issues however, being "conservative" is linked together with classic liberalism, or what Americans like to call "Libertarianism."  This typically means "let the free market prevail" with minimal government regulation.  Such is the so-called "conservative" movement in the United States, which is what many have dubbed "Neoconservatism."  Those who follow this brand of ideology are sometimes called "Neoconservatives" or "Neocons" for short.  Granted, this term is often used in a pejorative way.

Now not all people in the Ozarks are Neoconservatives.  A small minority classify themselves as "progressive."  These often advocate a tightening of regulation on the market in the interest of social justice for the poor and middle class.  However, in a strange kind of marriage, these "progressives" often advocate social novelties and innovations into societal norms.  These often rotate around sex, beginning of course artificial contraception to make way for "free love," as well as abortion on demand to avoid the occasional results of that "free love."  Of course, homosexuality plays into this as well, and the list goes on and on.  Pejoratively, these people are often referred to as "Liberals" or "Neoliberals."  For people in the Ozarks this is an unexpected combination.  It's generally not consistent with the culture of the area.

However, I would also say that the Neoconservative combination is equally unnatural for people in the Ozarks.  From a purely historical perspective, it's really ironic, because both American "conservatives" and "progressives" are actually on the same team.  (What!?!  Shock!!!  Horror!!!  What did I say?)   Yes, you read that right, American "conservatives" and American "progressives" (Republicans and Democrats) are actually working together on the same team.  They are like two sides of the exact same coin.  Putting traditional morality aside, which is the only thing that REALLY separates the two groups anyway, when it comes to fiscal issues, one hand washes the other. After all is said and done, fiscal issues are moral issues.  Fiscal morality plays into social morality and vice versa.  Fiscal liberalism begins with Libertarianism, or the idea of so-called "free-market capitalism."

Free-market capitalism, in a nutshell, asserts the notion that there is nothing moral about the market.  It is simply a force of nature comprised of human beings acting in accord with rational self-interest.  Being a force of nature, it is self-regulating and does not need the government to regulate it.  Ideally, these fiscal Libertarians believe the market should be completely unregulated, or at the very least, regulated in the most minimal way. Of course, this results in the well-established men of large corporations gobbling up smaller family-run businesses. This has all been tried before, you see, toward the end of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th century.  The results were predictable -- monopolies and robber barons.  It essentially created a two-class system of the ultra-rich, who lived in opulence, and everybody else, who were either just getting by (the so-called "middle class") or not (the poor).  This of course created a social backlash called Marxism which ultimately manifested in three ways during the 20th century.

The first manifestation of Marxism was hard socialism (which is often called "communism").  The second manifestation of Marxism was soft socialism (which eventually came to be embraced throughout most of Europe).  Finally, the third form of Marxism was fascism, which is a freakish hybrid combination of socialism and capitalism, wherein corporations are owned jointly by the state and private businessmen.

THE THREE MARXIST BACKLASHES TO LIBERTARIAN CAPITALISM...
  1. Hard Socialism -- Communism
  2. Soft Socialism -- European-style socialism
  3. Fascism -- combination of socialism and capitalism
The point that I want to make here is that you can't have Marxism without Libertarian Capitalism.  One produces the other.  Typically Marxism (of whatever form it comes in) is just a backlash to the abuses that come under Libertarian Capitalism.  As much as American "conservatives" (fiscal libertarians) would love to create a Capitalist world without Marxism, they can wish and dream all they want.  It will never happen.  Their very attempt to bolster their laissez-faire ideology will only incite a greater Marxist backlash.  Thus, I am asserting here (and slay my opinion if you wish) the very Marxist tendencies we are now seeing with President Barack Obama, and among Democrats, is the direct response (backlash) to the success of President Ronald Reagan and the Republicans in the 1980s in liberalising the market with libertarian capitalism.  Of course, presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush likewise made their contributions to this liberalisation of the market, but the results are all around us.  Small family-owned "mom and pop" shops have all but disappeared from the American landscape.  Mega-chain big-box stores now rule our economy.  Everywhere we look, banks and telecommunication enterprises are being gobbled up by larger banks and telecommunication enterprises.  The vast majority of Americans now work for somebody else, that is, if they work at all, and very few Americans now own their own business, or are partners in a cooperatively owned business.  From the 1980s through 2008 we were slowly returning to the age of the monopolies and robber barons.  Then the crash happened in 2008, and the economy has never been the same since.  What we are now witnessing in American politics is the predictable Marxist backlash.  I tell you with absolute certainty;  Barack Obama is not the antagonist of Reaganomics, he is the product of it.  This is something American "conservatives" have difficulty grasping.  Indeed, it seems impossible to them, yet it is true.  Libertarian economics produces Marxism.  It always has and it always will.  There is a brief period in in the process of Libertarian economics when the accomplished have an opportunity to get rich quick, and all of us will briefly benefit from this too, but when the bottom falls out of the market (and it always does eventually), the accomplished will take their riches and move on, while all the rest of us try to survive.  Then come the Socialists, and their success is measured only by the length to which the Libertarians failed us.  So that whatever freedom and opportunity wasn't crushed by the monopolies and robber barons of Libertarian economics, is pulverised by the regulations and taxes of the Marxist "hope and change" crowd.  It's a vicious cycle that has repeated itself many times around the world, and is now repeating itself here in America.

So what is the solution?  I hope to convince my fellow countrymen in the Ozarks, as well as other readers of this blog, to the wisdom of the Catholic Church on this issue, which has been fighting both Marxism and Libertarianism for over 100 years now.  The answer lies neither in the state nor in the market.  The answer lies in the family!

You see, if you want a stable economy, without radical market swings of growth and recession, and if you want a way to reduce poverty to its lowest possible level, then the answer lies in the distribution of productive property as widely as possible, so that every family has the opportunity to own its own means of employment.  I'm talking about neither Capitalism nor Socialism, nor am I talking about any freakish hybrid of the two.  Rather, I'm talking about the opposite of them both -- Distributism -- which is sometimes called "micro-capitalism."  The idea here is that the market should neither be run by corporate autocrats nor government bureaucrats.  It should be run by small family-owned businesses, and in such cases, where large industry is needed, it should be run by cooperatively owned businesses, wherein the workers own the corporation.  When people own their own jobs, it produces a stable economy, with the maximum amount of wealth going to individual families.  It produces higher rates of employment and lower poverty rates.  In other words, it creates a just society.  Governments and economies need to be structured in such a ways to support the family, and when this happens, the Libertarian-Marxist cycle will end, and things will start to get better.

Now I suspect this is what my fellow Ozarkians really want, but up to this point, have been unable to find a political expression for it.  How do we accomplish it?  Well don't look for help from either the Democrats or Republicans.  None of your friends on NPR or AM talk-radio will advocate for it either.  If you want this to happen in the Ozarks, and in the greater Missouri-Arkansas-Oklahoma regions, it's going to have to come from us at the individual level.  Here is a list of suggestions that I think might be a good place to start...
  1. Get your money out of the banks and put them into credit unions.
  2. Patron small family-owned businesses and worker cooperatives.
  3. Get your churches to put a NUMBER ONE PRIORITY on creating cooperative schools for children and using church funds to finance them!
  4. Demand strong enforcement of anti-trust laws from our state elected officials.  Give them no rest until they break up monopolies in our states.
  5. Instead of letting big companies drive your family business out of business, get together with your former family-run competitors, pool your resources together, get a lawyer, and form a jointly-owned cooperative corporation to fight back! 
  6. Organise local farmers markets into jointly-owned cooperative supermarkets to fight back!
  7. Begin lobbying our state legislators for the creation of trade guilds that have legal jurisdiction to issue licenses for skilled-workers, following a equal-opportunity model, and are simultaneously held as legal surety for incompetence.  
I think these seven suggestions would be a good place to start on an individual and group level.  I will leave you now with this wonderful lecture from Bishop Fulton Sheen.  It was recorded nearly a half century ago, but it is just as relevant today, if not more so....


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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Monday, April 08, 2013

This Zeitgeist of Modernism

Uncle Sam
The American mascot for all things political.
I used to get very caught up into politics.  I was raised by Democrat parents.  My father was a huge supporter of John F. Kennedy.  My mother came from a blue-collar family in the South.  There was perhaps no family more Democratic than mine during the 1970s.  That's why, as a ten-year old child, I cried when the television reporter announced that President Jimmy Carter just lost his 1980 bid for re-election.  My parents were just heading out the door to vote, as the polls hadn't closed in California yet.  My mother started to put her purse away.  My father asked "What are you doing?"  She said, "What's the point?  He already lost!"  My father picked up her purse, handed it back to her, and said: "we can still go vote against Reagan as a protest."  They left the house and returned about thirty minutes later.  By that time my tears had dried, but I still had the awful pit in my stomach.  The thought of going back to school the next day was horrible.  I was one of the few in my class who voted for Jimmy Carter in the public school polling done the week before.  I remember the other children laughing at us as we raised our hands to vote for the peanut farmer from Georgia.  I was having a difficult enough time in public school already.  Being mocked for my family's voting habits only added insult to injury.  I was relieved upon going to school the next day.  The thrill of Ronald Reagan's election swept the campus.  Everyone seemed to have forgotten about my arm-raised vote for Jimmy Carter.  I can honestly say, this was my very first experience with democracy.  It's only gone downhill from there.

By 1984 my parents were "Reagan Democrats."  He had won them over as he did with millions of others.  Of course, I too was a "Reagan Democrat" at this time, just as my parents were, just as most fourteen year-old teenagers follow their parents in politics.  Like most people of my generation, I still have fond memories of the 1980s, and why shouldn't I?  It was the best economic growth our nation had seen since the 1950s.  These were good times to be an American.  However, we shouldn't fool ourselves into the mindset that all was good during the 1980s.  During this time, seeds were being sown that would eventually become our economic demise in the twenty-first century.  By 1988 I could legally vote, and my first ballot was cast for George H. Bush in a Republican straight ticket.  So there you have it.  It was the eight year transformation of a young mind full of mush; from the crying ten-year old over a Democratic loss, to a young man casting his vote to ensure a Republican victory.  How does something like that happen?

The truth is, it's happened lots of times, millions upon millions of times, not just in America, but around the world.  If you've ever voted, it's probably happened to you.  People behave essentially like herd animals.  They're easily manipulated and controlled by those with money and power.  Democracy is the best political vehicle available to make that happen.  The modern media is just the oil that greases the machine.

Through the 1990s, as a young man, I was a die-hard Republican.  I flirted with Libertarianism for a brief period of time, but when it came to voting, I was pretty much straight-ticket Republican.  I think the last presidential election I was ever exited about was in 2000, wherein I voted for then Governor George W. Bush over then Vice President Albert Gore.  What I thought would be a decisive victory of a Republican candidate over the corruption of the Clinton administration turned out to be an electoral nightmare.  The election was stalled in Florida, and ultimately decided by a few thousand votes and the electoral college process.  Let's not forget the roles of the Florida and United States supreme courts in that whole fiasco.  G.W. Bush won by a hair, but I'm afraid that's when the reality of American politics, and democracy in general, started to set in with me.  

I'm ashamed to admit it.  Yes, I am truly ashamed, and consider this a sort of public confession, but while President G.W. Bush was ramping up forces to invade Iraq, I like many Americans, believed his rhetoric.  In fact, when Pope John Paul II warned us of the folly of this military exercise, I believed my president over my pope.  I said to myself that the president has information the pope is obviously not privy to, and the president knows what is best in these situations.  The pope is a nice old man, so I thought, who's job it is to promote peace, but really doesn't understand the situation.  I know the truth now.  I WAS A FOOL!  Pope John Paul II was right, and the president was wrong.  Bush couldn't even produce these so-called "weapons of mass destruction" he got us all so worries about.  By 2005 that was obvious.  I, and millions of other Catholic Americans who supported him, were left with egg on our faces.  We were played.  I am ashamed of not listening to my pope over my president, and I can assure the current pope, and all future popes, that will NEVER happen again.  So in 2005 my eyes were beginning to open to this zeitgeist we call Modernism.

The German word "zeitgeist" is often attributed to the philosopher Georg Hegel (b.1770 -- d.1831).  It is transliterated into English as "time-spirit," and it simply means the "spirit of the age," or the dominant way of thinking during a certain period of history.  The word "modernism" has many attributions, but it is particularly the religious-philosophical one I am interested in here.  By that I mean the definition condemned by Blessed Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1864 in his "Syllabus of Errors."  Modernism is the mindset or philosophy that pervades our modern times.  It is the zeitgeist of our age.  It consists of many things; atheism, pantheism, communism, socialism, relativism, and the like.  More specifically to the United States, it pertains to the errors of our nation's Founding Fathers, who advocated a "wall of separation" between church and state, which eventually led to the creation of government-run secular schools that are completely separated from (even opposed to in some cases) all things religious.  By extension, it leads to the notion that issues of family and morality can be subject to a popular vote, or even a secular court decision, in such a way that redefines them apart from religion.  These things Blessed Pope Pius IX condemned as heretical "errors" in his Syllabus, which Catholics cannot believe, but unfortunately, they are the very things that define our modern civilisation, which includes the United States of America as one of modernism's chief proponents throughout the world.

So people ask me today if I'm a Republican, Democrat or Independent.  I answer: "none of the above."  I am a Catholic -- period.  For the most part, Catholics are unrepresented in American politics, even by so-called "Catholic politicians" on both sides of the political isle.  The social teaching of the Church transcends everything the United States government represents, and it is something American politics cannot even hope to measure up to.  I look at the political field of candidates and ideas.  I am disgusted by what I see.  Of the two major parties, this is our choice, as I see it.  Democrats offer us a centrally-planned economy (socialism-lite), with moral relativism to underpin it.  The Catholic Church has condemned both ideologies.  Republicans offer us an economy of rugged-individualism (libertarian capitalism) with promises to restore Christian values that are never delivered and often compromise with the zeitgeist of moral relativism (i.e. "homosexual civil unions" instead of "gay marriage").  Again, the Catholic Church has condemned both ideologies.  What does the Catholic Church teach insofar as American politics go?  Well, let's list some issues to help define that...
  1. 100% Pro-Life: that means no abortions, no Plan B morning after pill, no artificial contraception, no in-vitro fertilisation, no euthanasia or "mercy killings," no executions (capital punishment), no human cloning, no embryonic stem-cell research, no unnecessary wars.  Life is sacred.  Get the picture?
  2. 100% Pro-Family: that means no gay "marriage" and no "same-sex civil unions," no easy divorce, no turning marriage into a mere legal contract.  Marriage means one man, plus one women, open to the possibility of creating human life.  Period.
  3. Solidarity with immigrants: while this doesn't mean open wide the doors and allow a nation to be overrun by undocumented aliens, it does mean showing mercy to those people who are already here and otherwise living as peaceful law-abiding workers.  It means making a path for these people to enjoy basic human rights and possibly even a path to citizenship.
  4. Solidarity with the poor: this means helping those in the greatest need, providing for food, clothing, medicine and shelter.
  5. Universal healthcare: this means all people have a right to medicine when needed, without having to worry about losing their homes, or becoming indentured servants to obtain it.
  6. Government Subsidiarity: this means socialism is out!  It means that people have to find solutions at the local level, and that larger government entities must find ways of supporting local solutions rather than centrally planning them.
  7. Economic Subsidiarity: this means big business must change.  People have a right to productive property and to own their means of labour.  Monopolies must be broken up at all levels to make way for small family-owned businesses, and large corporations should consider transforming themselves into worker-owned cooperatives. 
  8. School Choice: this means parents have the absolute RIGHT to determine what form of education is best for their children, while governments, communities and churches have the absolute RESPONSIBILITY to provide for this choice and make it economically possible.
So there you have it in a nutshell.  This is what American Catholic politics should look like based on the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church going back over a hundred years.  Now which American political party represents this?

None.

That's right, none!  Neither political party represents Catholic social teaching, not even in a small way.  They are both woefully insufficient.  They are both sorrowfully bankrupt.  They are both pitiful.  Neither major political party deserves the Catholic vote, and yes, they know it.  That's why they work so feverishly to divide the American people along single-issues and demonise each other with the most inflammatory language.  When all else fails, they start a war (or some international crisis) to rally their supporters and keep the nation divided along the terms they have predetermined.  

On the outskirts of American politics are the marginalised "third parties," and again, nothing represents Catholic teaching among them.  If they affirm one aspect, they deny another.  It's the same trap, just reformulated a different way.  It is the zeitgeist of modernism played out again under smaller banners.  These do not deserve the Catholic vote either.  It doesn't really matter though.  American politics is so clearly dominated by the two main parties that the rise of a third political party is all but impossible. So this is the situation we live in, but it's not just limited to the United States.  Canada, Australia, Europe, and indeed the whole Western world is caught up in the modernist zeitgeist.  

What of democracy itself?  What do we say of that?  I think anyone who follows national or international events can tell you that democracy is controlled by labour unions and big business.  This is true not only for capitalist nations but for socialist nations too.  What has emerged in our lifetime is a strange kind of marriage between big business, big unions and big government.  The three are wedded together in the most queer way.  In the end they rely on each other.  They depend on each other.  They literally need one another, and they know it.  The common man is more impoverished because of it.  No, for all this talk about conspiracy theories and "dark smoke-filled rooms," there is really nothing to hide.  It's all just business you see, and it's been business all along.  Look, large political campaigns, such as the presidential and senatorial campaigns, are very expensive to finance, and every political campaign needs money.  There is a small handful of very large businesses and labour unions that are willing to foot the bill.  The people who run these operations are just businessmen, and they're usually very eager to pay.  As good businessmen however, they only expect a good return on their investments.  So there you have it.  Politicians, by nature of the expensive campaign process, are bought and paid for before they're ever sworn into office.  It doesn't matter which party they belong to, or how many churches they visited during the campaign.  It doesn't even matter what political, social, religious or philosophical persuasion they cling to.  In the end they have to make promises to their biggest campaign donors, and if they break those promises, they cannot expect such "generosity" from those big donors again.  This is why many large donors contribute to the campaigns of opposing political candidates.  That way, it doesn't matter who wins the election, because the large donor wins the favours.  That is modern democracy in a nutshell, and that is why everything seems so "screwed up."   In the end, whoever you vote for in big national campaigns, is likely somebody who is already bought and paid for by a large business and/or labour entity that does not necessarily have your best interests in mind.  The same is true for democracy on all levels, but the problem becomes more manageable as you get into smaller state and local governments.  At the lower levels of government there can be more accountability to the people, because campaigns are less expensive to finance.  When it comes to democracy, I highly recommend it at the city and county levels.  The state level is a little sketchy.  As for the federal and national level, I am now of the opinion that it's pretty much a farce. 

Is it "unpatriotic" for me to say these things?  I suppose it is only if you believe observation of the truth is unpatriotic.  I really don't believe there is a political solution to the problems that now face our civilisation.  I think the ideas and tools offered by America's Founding Fathers are woefully inadequate for what has now become of our world.  The solutions offered by both political parties in the United States, when you really stop and think about it, are just more of the same thing, repackaged to look pretty for another generation.  I don't worship political candidates, nor do I shed tears for them any more.  I'm tired of being suckered.  I'm afraid that what is needed is some kind of a great social "reset," but I don't know what that would be or how that would play out.  What I do know is this zeitgeist of Modernism cannot last forever.  It is already beginning to crumble all around us.  The Syllabus of Blessed Pope Pius IX will be vindicated, and in many ways, it already has been.  There will come a new global order someday.  I don't know exactly what it will be, or how it will play out, but I do know that this zeitgeist of modernism will at that time be relegated to history's ash heap of failed ideas.  I suspect people will eventually default back to something they know works.  I imagine that will be something from our Christian past.  No, I don't have any predictions or details.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today