Tuesday, September 09, 2003

The New 7 Habitus

The set up of the new 7 Habitus site has gone so well, there is no reason to delay the permanent change over any longer than necessary, so after 15 September, I will no longer post to this site. I will leave this up and running but all posts will be at the new location.

Monday, September 08, 2003

The New 7 Habitus Site

I now have the new 7 Habitus Site set up and it looks like there is no reason to defer the permanent transfer beyond 15 September. I will, for no good reason, continue to dual post anything I have to post until then, then I will only post on the new site.

Please feel free to check out the other blogs at St. Blogs.org

Flos Carmeli
Fructus Ventris
The 7 Habitus
Caritate Dei
Catholic Light
Eternal Rebels

and again, of course, St. Blogs.org

Pax et bonum

Sunday, September 07, 2003

St. Blogs.org

It appears that, rather than switching to Typepad, The 7 Habitus has found a home at St. Blogs.org. The new address will be http:7habitus.stblogs.org. I plan to make the final change by 1 October in order to give me time to get the blog template set up and get used to working in a new format. Until then I will continue primarily to post here. I apologize for the confusion, but I just learned about St. Blogs.org late this past week and think it a wonderful idea.

I am making this change primarily for the reason that I like the idea of "one stop shopping" for St. Blogs member blogs. Just think, if all St. Blogs blogs were on one domain (Richard probably just had a heart attack) what that would mean. Instead of the interminable lists on each individual blog we could post just one reference :St. Blogs.org and easily be able to find any Catholic blog. Also, there are the advantages that Moveable Type offers, such as categories for blogs, Track Back, and numerous others.

My only reservation is that I am not a programmer and will have to spend a bit of time learning to work with Moveable Type. Oh well, who said an old dog can't learn new tricks?


It appears that I will be participating, at least to some limited extent, in the RCIA program in my parish this year. We have a new DRE in the parish and except for me and one other, there’s an entirely new team. I am looking forward to it, although I will not be able to be involved every week between now and Easter Vigil.

The groups in the past year or two come to the Church as the result of a conversion, although not from having been Protestant. In other words, they are not necessarily Protestants who have come to a conversion experience; they are coming to the Church with little, if any, previous exposure to the faith. This is not the typical background for an RCIA candidate. I wonder if this new way of coming to the faith represents a trend around the country, but I think it somewhat remarkable. It seems that, with the cultural environment being what it is, especially here in Colorado Springs, that most people would take the easier approach and join an evangelical Christian church, of which there are many here in the Springs. Catholics are not known for their evangelization skills. Make no mistake, I think this is a wonderful and heartening trend, but it strikes me as a bit odd.

Around this time of year, as RCIA begins in most parishes (will we ever get away from the "school year" model?), I think back to my own conversion to the Church. It was, in many ways serendipitous and, I am convinced, that it was the work of the Holy Spirit. Left to my own devices, I would never have found my way to Rome; I simply could not have done it on my own. It was really rather easy, I didn’t really even begin learning Church doctrine until after I had received the Sacraments; I just knew God was leading me to the Church. There were a few difficult times, times when I thought I must be crazy, my coming from a Scots Presbyterian background and all. But, I pressed on, and as I look back, I realize it could only have been the Spirit at work.

So, I guess, in some ways, my own experience is not all that much different from that of most RCIA "classes". Perhaps, the Holy Spirit is working to build His Church and we all need to be reminded that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it -- even with the likes of me among its members.
While ile the trial period continues this post also appears at The 7 Habitus on Typepad.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

A short post tonight.

Over the last couple of months I've been very frustrated with my writing and have not done a lot of posting. I picked up a book this past weekend that explained that what I was going through was relatively common and that the best cure was to "just do it." I thought it fair to warn you that I have been just writing and probably not much of whatever I have written should be taken very seriously. I promise, over the next week or so I will try picking some topics in a lighter vein. I'm trying to find my purpose in life again -- at least as far as blogdom goes, and I guess there are times that I let the rant and rave come on too easily. Steven recently wrote that his blog had not turned out exactly as he had hoped it would. I know the feeling and trying to get back on track is even harder.

Paz y bien

While the trial period continues this post also appears at The 7 Habitus on Typepad.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The Ten Commandments

Lately there has been quite a brouhaha over a statue, or monument, or something weighing several tons, inscribed with the 10 Commandments, firmly planted on the grounds of the Alabama Supreme Court. The furor has degenerated, properly or improperly, to an argument between Christians and non-Christians over the role of religion in public life.

Cal Thomas wrote a column that appeared in our local newspaper today in which he generally berates Christians for taking an active part in this drama. He claims that the only real reason many Christians/conservatives are wrapped up in this debate is that it is useful as a political fund-raising ploy and that it serves as nothing more than a distraction for Christians from their real task (which he does not clearly define).

To be honest I am of two minds over this drama playing out in the Deep South. I do not believe there is any way to say that this monument, placed on government property, is an attempt by the state to "make any law regarding the establishment of religion." If it serves any purpose, it is a reminder of the root of our entire concept of law -- the 10 Commandments, and more broadly, God's law written on our hearts. Thomas denies that the 10 commandments, other than the two dealing with the prohibition of murder and theft, have anything to do with secular law. He says "The rest are about relationships between God and man and between human beings." What is law if it does not involve prescriptions concerning the relationship between human beings? I would remind Thomas' readers that this country, until recently, had laws against adultery, sodomy, and even doing business on the Sabbath (long-time Texas residents will remember the famous "blue-laws").

Beyond specifics, however, the 10 Commandments prescribe a general norm of moral conduct for human beings -- love of God with heart, mind and strength, and love of neighbor as oneself. Today, in even so-called civilized discourse, both of these ideas have been lost. God has become an outlaw, and our neighbor is more often looked upon as an obstacle to our own freedom, rather that a human person created in the image of God. In many cases, we have even lost respect for, not only ourselves, but anything that might be considered worthy of respect or reverence. We do what we can to debunk whatever is sacred, or even respectable. A female religious, for example, can write of the Virgin Mary that she was really an early feminist and some fantasy figure invented by the early Church to replace the goddess Isis!

On the other hand, I can see the point that would cause someone to say this fight was much ado about nothing. The change that needs to be made needs to be made within the court house, not on the lawn in front of the court house. In the interest of pushing a secular materialist agenda, the courts have taken upon themselves far more authority than they really have. They have injected themselves into every aspect of our lives, even our spiritual lives, and they are not interested in promoting anything but their own agenda. This is the pattern that must be changed.

I think the ferocity of Christian support for the Alabama justice showed that Christians are aware of what has been going on, that they are not a small and ever dwindling minority, and that they are willing to take a stand against the trend to outlaw religion from public life. This idea would have been abhorrent to the founding fathers of this country. Christians have taken this stand, perhaps, out of a feeling of powerlessness, but it is one point that needs to be made whenever and wherever it can.

While the trial period continues this post also appears at The 7 Habitus on Typepad.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A Fine Mess

There was an interesting article on the front page of my local newspaper today -- it seems the Archbishop of Canterbury sees difficulties ahead for his church. "The question is not whether we can avoid mess, but whether we can hang on to common convictions about divine grace and initiative” This in an article by the archbishop in New Directions magazine. He is, of course, referring to the recent ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, in New Hampshire. This vote this past summer has presented the ECUSA with the very real possibility of schism, not only within the ECUSA, but within the Anglican communion as a whole. It seems the Archbishop's solution is reorganization.

Williams writes that this might be "worth looking at structures in Anglicanism that don't either commit us to a meaningless structural uniformity or leave us in mutual isolation."

I'm not sure exactly what the archbishop means, but he seems to be saying, "well fellas, instead of splitting in a nasty schism, lets split officially. Let's just put a wall between the liberals and conservatives so they don't have to get together too often, but we can all still call ourselves Episcopalians (and keeping those funds coming in)." It seems to be this is not an entirely satisfactory solution.

On the one hand, it represents a failure to face the problem, and a severe problem it is, of whether the Bible is to be believed or not by Episcopalians. It ignores the question of whether or not there are any limits to human moral conduct. It seems to be a sort of sweeping the problem under the rug. The problem for the Episcopalians is not in the organization, it is with some of those within the organization. It seems to me that simply creating more structures within the Anglican community now presents large difficulties in the future. What do they do when some small minority within the church decides it is fitting and proper to ordain practicing pedophiles to the priesthood? Do they then create yet another reorganization, made up of yet smaller groups? And what of the issue after that? Can they become cell-like and divide infinitely?

On the other hand, it seems to me that a real solution is structurally almost beyond reach of the ECUSA. The solution would be that the Archbishop of Canterbury, assuming he were so inclined, step in and nullify the silliness that took place in the United States this summer. He should step up and insist that what happened at the ECUSA convention goes beyond all known Biblical norms and is, therefore, invalid. The problem is, though, that he has no power to do this -- there is no final teaching authority within the Anglican Communion. In effect, they lack adult supervision, and thus are doomed to an endless cycle of child like self-indulgence on whatever happens to be the latest social trend. There's no stopping them.

All of which reminds me of the profound sense of gratitude Catholics should bear to our Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church. This represents, not a "meaningless structural uniformity", but the guaranty by the Holy Spirit that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Jesus' Church.
Well, since everyone seems to be talking about it I decided to try it. Effective today, I am taking advantage of the 30 day free trial offer on Typepad and have set up a 7 Habitus blog over there. For the next 30 days I will post all posts to both sites and let you know the result.

I am already somewhat pleased with the initial ease of set up and layout options, etc. Let me know what you think.

Paz y bien
In the Beginning

Paul almost invariably starts his letters with some variation on the words "Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle . . .” James begins his letter in almost the same way, as does Peter. I have begun noticing these introductions lately and wondering about them. Why do these writers seem to think it so important to begin a letter stating who they are, what they are about, especially since those who originally received these letters probably knew very well who the writers were? Why did Paul think it so important that he declare it over and over again that he was "called" to be an apostle?

I've thought about what would happen if I began every one of my blog posts in this manner -- "Ron, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to write silly things on the Internet." I guess this might accomplish a couple of things. First, it would remind me exactly what my priorities for this blog should be -- to serve Christ in everything I write. It would set the tone for each post and help write things that built up the Church and those in it, rather than anything that would tear it down. It might also remind me that whatever talent or ability I may have, I have through no fault of my own. I might also remember that any talent I have was given to me for use in furthering the Kingdom of God.

I have also tended to think of these introductions as being intended to remind the reader that he or she too is "called" to some specific role in the Kingdom. Perhaps there is something to this. We all need to be reminded of these things. But these formulaic introductions have become so familiar that we glance over them in order to get on to the real meat of the letter. However, the writers of the Epistles began those letters in this way for a reason, and no part of Scripture is meaningless. Perhaps this is the most important reminder of all.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Some Assistance Please

Can someone please tell me how to change the color of the font, or a section thereof, within a post? Would be nice to do this once in a while.

A Feminist Mary

The following is from a review of the book Our Sister, published in the July 18 issue of Commonweal.

Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., has been thinking about such questions for a long time. She has now published a major theological study on Mary, and it is a very impressive work—comprehensive, erudite, critical, and passionate. Truly Our Sister does not begin, as do so many theological treatises, with scriptural foundations, followed by sections on patristic literature, medieval theologies, Reformation controversies, and modern developments. For Johnson, there is too much ambiguity in the history of Marian devotion for this approach to make sense; ineluctably we stand in a broken relationship with the whole tradition. Instead, she begins with “fragments in the rubble,” salvageable elements from the past, and then turns to what, in Johnson’s view, is the key event of the theological development: the emergence of women’s voices in theology, and especially the voices of women in poor countries and marginalized minorities. Her goal is to develop “a Marian theology rooted in Scripture read through women’s eyes with feminist hermeneutical methods.”

Wouldn't you just know it. Now Mary is not our Mother, she is Our Sister!

Saturday, August 23, 2003

An Update

A few weeks ago I wrote that I am now using an AlphaSmart Dana to do these blog posts. At first the change from the Palm disconcerted me a bit, perhaps that is one reason I haven't done as many posts as I had prior to making this change. One difficulty is that, since the Dana does not have a color screen, at night if the light is not really good it is very hard for me to see anything I try to type. During daylight hours this is no problem whatsoever and I find the Dana an almost perfect tool to write with -- it is light, compact, and the screen is a nice size, even if it is not a color monitor. I have now found a solution to the problem of working at night, I purchased a small, battery powered book light which gives just enough light to make night time typing possible. So, in short, the AlphaSmart is going to be around for a good long time.

+ + +
Steven over at Flos Carmeli has been doing a series of posts on Phillip Yancy's book Soul Survior, and is starting another series on another of Yancy's books. I was quite interested in this since Yancy is, I think, a Protestant. The reason I have been following Steven's posts is my own uncertainty about reading Protestant authors. I should explain.

About 6 months or so prior to my reception into the Church, I swore off reading anything Protestant, almost to include C. S. Lewis. This continued until about 3 years after my coming into the Church when I took a philosophy course through Franciscan University at Steubenville. One of the texts was Lewis' The Abolition of Man and also parts of Mere Christianity. I softened and have read some things by a few Protestant authors over the last few years. Then, this summer, the Episcopal Church went through its meltdown, and as I posted a week or two ago, I was reminded of the real problems with Protestantism and thought I should return to strictly Catholic reading and thought.

Then, along comes Steven with his Soul Survivor series. What to make of this? Much of what Steven quoted, and certainly his comments on those passages, was at least interesting, if not thought provoking. My wife made the point, which I think Steven has also made recently, that it is always appropriate to read good writing. So, I went out tonight at bought two Phillip Yancy books -- Soul Survivor and The Jesus I Never Knew. I bought these two because they were the only Yancy books that I could find at our local bookstore. I may offer some comments of my own on these as I read them, not to copy Steven nor to compete with him, but to see if, after reading them, I am convinced one way or the other about the propriety of Catholics reading books by Protestant authors.

Friday, August 22, 2003

It’s Getting Hairy

The headline of an article, apparently supplied by the New York Times, in our local newspaper this week caught my eye, it read: “Hair: It separates us from the apes.” Of course, I found this idea immediately intriguing since I am a kind and optimistic fellow and bear a rather high view of my fellow human beings. I had not thought of hair as being one of the primary factors separating them from apes, in fact, if asked, I would have made a number of other more important distinctions. For example, I don’t know of any blogs published by monkeys. I know of no great works of art produced by apes in the last few centuries, nor have I seen any chimps driving on the Interstate to work each morning (well, maybe one or two but that is beside the point). As for science, I know of no great contributions to the field by apes other than substantial confusion.

In any case, our author very confidently asserts that it is precisely at the point at which we humans started losing our body hair that we parted company with our simian ancestors, this based on a study of the subject done by a group of professors in England. The article is remarkable on a number of different levels. First is the rather blind acceptance of the “fact” of evolution that underlies much of the nonsense in the rest of the article. I’m sure the possibility that the theory of evolution itself might be questionable never crossed the authors mind, judging by the pap found in the rest of the article, perhaps there is good reason for this – personal experience may be at work here.

In any case, it seems that the great question left unanswered by this scholarly study is why humans should have lost their hair as part of the evolutionary process. The article points out that this is “a question that long has been beyond the reach of archeology and paleontology.” Little wonder, judging by the results of this study. Among the possible reasons for hair loss is that we humans, in the process of transitioning from ape to human, went through a semi-aquatic stage (the webbing in our hands provides the evidence for this idea) and shed hair in order to improve speed under water. Have you ever seen an ape go for a swim? Another theory is that loss of hair helped our ancestors keep cool as they “ventured beyond the forest’s shade and across the hot African savannah – though naked skin absorbs more energy during the day and loses more during the night.” Lets see, we left the forest and decided to go bare so we could burn to a crisp in the hot sun and find no relief at night. Ummmm.

Another researcher poses another possible solution – we lost our body hair to free ourselves from external parasites, this trait becoming subject to sexual selection. “Among newly furless humans, bare skin would have served as a signal of fitness. The pains women take to keep their bodies free from hair may be no mere fashion statement but the latest echo of an ancient instinct.” I get it, we decided to go “furless” so we could be sexy and girls would look good in Playboy.

I guess I’d like to know just how our ancient ancestors decided to lose their hair. It seems that no other animal on earth (except for the Cornish Rex which, I believe, is the work of a deranged ape) has gone through the same transformation because there are more advantages to having fur than not having fur. Why would some fool ape have made such a decision? A more important question, though, is how we can reverse the situation. As I grow older that question becomes more critical day by day.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Who's Right?

The following is excerpted from an Associated Press report posted on the web:

“Until very recently, all Christian branches agreed that same-sex activity was immoral because of their age-old understanding of God's will taught in the Scriptures.
Most of the world's Christian bodies maintain that belief. But in the last quarter-century, liberal scholars from some so-called "mainline" Protestant denominations in Europe and North America have argued against traditional Bible interpretations, often in books from church publishing houses. They say the Bible's overwhelming overall message is loving acceptance and justice for all people.
This has gradually influenced leadership circles in the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and United Methodist Church. Yet the new biblical theories have failed to convince legions of rank and file American churchgoers.
To go to the source of the argument, two biblical passages are crucial:
- "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22, an Old Testament law repeated with the death penalty in Leviticus 20:13).
- "God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error" (the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:26-27).
Conservatives say God fixed the sexual pattern in Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." Jesus repeated that teaching twice in the Gospels: Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9.
At the Episcopal convention, the Rev. Kendall Harmon of South Carolina said that the Old and New Testaments send the same message that sex is limited to a woman and a man. "There is no tension, no qualification, no development and no equivocation," he said.
Another conservative point: No biblical verse hints at approval for same-sex activity.
Liberal authors commonly say Leviticus 18 was part of a Jewish purity code that barred practices associated with paganism, including many laws Christianity eliminated, for instance the kosher rules in Leviticus 17. Conservatives reply that the gay ban is embedded alongside laws against adultery, incest, bestiality and child sacrifice that Christianity kept.
Regarding Romans 1 and other New Testament passages, liberals often say these were merely meant to oppose same-sex activity that was exploitative (using slaves or boys). A related argument: Paul thought men were heterosexual in nature and should shun homosexual acts, but some today believe people are born with a disposition toward being gay.
In the heftiest conservative book on the subject in recent years, "The Bible and Homosexual Practice" (Abingdon), Robert A. J. Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary argues in detail that all same-sex variants were well known in the ancient world - so it's obvious the Bible opposed same-sex activity across the board, not just certain types.
But the Rev. Walter Wink of New York's Auburn Theological Seminary, a United Methodist clergyman, disagrees with Presbyterian Gagnon's reading of Scripture.
"The Bible has no sex ethic," Wink says. "It only knows a communal love ethic" exemplified by Jesus' command to love your neighbor as yourself, which requires Christians to understand gays' experiences.
Societies' changing codes of sexual conduct should be assessed against that standard and in light of modern knowledge, he says.
Wink acknowledges that "a lot of churches are not going to change" for the present, but he's convinced they will eventually shed old Bible interpretations that are "life-denying and intellectually dishonest."
"In 50 years most of us will look back and say, 'Why were we so slow? Why was this so difficult?'" he said.
Bishop-elect Robinson believes biblical conservatives will "come to know that they are wrong, in this life or the next one."
Gagnon agrees that the traditional view is not popular in universities or the media. But he insists that the Bible's entire authority is under threat. If people can deny such a clear and specific scriptural teaching, he says, it raises questions about the point of adhering to the faith in the first place.
Says Gagnon: "When we reach the point where it is no longer the word of God for us in any meaningful sense, there is no more reason to be part of organized Christianity."”

There are several interesting points that this story brings to mind.

First, the story points out the central problem faced by our Protestant brothers and sisters – no final teaching authority, no way to define doctrine. Here we have folks on two very different sides of an issue, and both claiming to rest their views on the authority of Scripture. It should be clear that the idea of sola scriptura is flawed. Obviously both sides to the debate on human sexual conduct can’t be right; Scripture does not contradict itself. But where can Protestants turn for a final authority? It seems that without the authority of a teaching Magisterium it is almost impossible not to slip into the fog of error.
A second point comes to mind and is found in the quote: “They say the Bible's overwhelming overall message is loving acceptance and justice for all people.” Our liberal friends seem to think that it is God’s nature to accept whatever we happen to want to do, whenever we want to do it. They appear to believe that God is just sitting around in heaven loving us and approving of everything we do. They also seem to think that God’s nature is capable of changing with the times. The problem with this idea, of course, is that is defines away the problem of sin; if whatever we do is “okay” then no mode of human conduct can be considered sinful. Of course, if there is no sin there is little need for redemption, or for God for that matter. God does love us, but as the above quote points out, God is also just. As Paul wrote in the book of Romans, he gives us what we deserve. He also measures what we deserve by an absolute standard – truth and good do not change with the times. There is nothing is Scripture that would lead us to think otherwise.
It is also interesting that it appears to be the goal of the “liberals” here to simply wait out those more orthodox Christians. It seems clear that the majority of folks in the pew do not wish to sanction “same-sex” marriage. It doesn’t matter to those leading their churches though. Their strategy is not to appeal to truth but finally to simply wear down the opposition. This has been the strategy of “liberals” for a long time. It began with the 1930s Lambeth Conference that sanctioned divorce among Christians, and continues to this day. We are allowing the erosion, perhaps the destruction, of a Christian civilization bit by bit, one brick at a time. It’s like the apocryphal frog placed in a pan of cold water on top of a stove. As the heat is turned on he is oblivious to his predicament until he is boiled alive. I believe we Catholics are called to try to oppose this effort wherever and whenever we can. It seems clear that most of the mainline Protestant denominations are being slowly dismantled from within and will not long be around to help us. I believe that, in the long run, it won’t work because the liberals are forgetting one thing, the victory against evil has already been won and there is one Church that will not be worn down. I think this is one thing that Catholics can give thanks for at all times.

Friday, August 15, 2003

The Assumption

Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are celebrating today the fact that the Blessed Virgin was assumed into heaven, body and soul. I think the importance of today for me is that it is a reminder of what we all have to look forward to.

Today's first reading for Mass is from Revelation:

God's temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
"Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One."

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

A Miscellany

Since my trip to Alaska my whole routine has been disrupted and I've been reading other blogs and not getting much posted on my own. To get back into the routine I offer a few thoughts on a couple of different topics.


Christine over at Christus Victor has done a couple of posts on Luther and the difficulties one encounters when delving very deeply into both his personal life and his theology. Coming from a Protestant background Luther has been a figure of interest to me but I must confess that he remains an enigma.

Luther was an Augustinian priest - he studied and taught theology at the university level, and yet it seems he was unable to understand the most basic of the Church's teaching on justification. The source of his difficulties seem to lie more in personal and psychological problems rather than theological differences with the Church. He seems, in fact, to have been somewhat ignorant of theology. Here lies the enigma: what drove Luther to do what he did? I have never read a satisfactory explanation of Luther's motivation in tacking in 95 theses on the door. I wonder of anyone out there can "splain me, Lucy?"


We are confronted every day with those who wish us to water down our faith. The ECUSA has just elected a bishop who is living in an openly homosexual relationship and has voted to bless gay unions. A US senator, a practicing Catholic I believe, has stated publically that he thinks there are many "good" Catholics who practice contraception and support abortion. But, I believe it is intellectually and morally impossible to proclaim oneself a Christian and live a life contrary to God's expressed will.

To proclaim that one is a Christian and yet deny central teachings of the Christian faith is to proclaim a contradiction, it's nonsense. This is the issue that brought about my conversion to the Church. The pastor of my church was preaching something totally contradictory to what I understood Scripture to be clearly saying. I knew we couldn't both be right while at the same time basing our understanding only on Scripture. There are many who support homosexual clergy who would also say sucth things as, for example, that we shouldn't take Jesus' miracles quite so seriously. Many people today seem to accept it as truth when someone says "Well, you know, when Jesus fed the 5,000 he didn't do a miracle, everyone had fish sandwiches with them and he just encouraged them to bring them out and share." It never occurs to them that, one, if that were indeed what happened, it would hardly be remarkable and no one writing of the event later would have even bother to write down a brief description, much less the detailed account of the event we find in Scripture. They also seem to have little idea what damage they are doing to their faith. Fr. Thomas DuBay writes:

". . . we need to bear in mind that the virtue of faith is total. According to St. Thomas the person who embraces heresy regarding one article of faith has regarding the other articles not faith but only 'an opinion according to his own will.'" What is going on with the Episcopal bishops and the U.S. senator is an acceptance of personal opinion regarding human sexuality, not traditional Christian teaching and practice. For a Catholic this is morally impossible - you can't have just a piece of the pie, the one you like, you have to have the whole pie. To say one part is wrong is to say the whole thing is false.

Steven (at Flos Carmeli) has been writing about seeking the truth lately and I agree with him on the importance of doing so. Without truth we are lost in a fog of unreality - we are insane. The problem our ECUSA friends have is that they have become accustomed, even sought, to live without a teaching authority, a Magisterium. They deny the very validity of such a thing. It seems the only refuge for those who wish to sincerely seek the truth is Rome.

Friday, August 08, 2003


On Tuesday of this week, our Episcopal brothers and sisters in Christ did a remarkable thing: they appointed a bishop of their church someone whose life is a repudiation of what a Christian life is supposed to be. Not only is the new bishop an openly practicing homosexual, he is a man who some years back abandoned his wife and children in order to pursue his willful lifestyle. It is indeed remarkable that such a man should be considered fit to serve as a Christian bishop of any denomination.

Josef Pieper wrote that man is a creature capable of self-destruction by failing to control excess in his life. He also noted that these self-destructive excesses typically are found to be of a sexual nature. Here we have an instance of an entire Protestant denomination engaging is self-destruction by embracing the self-indulgent excess of one individual. The Episcopal church has abandoned truth in the name of diversity. It really does not matter if further schism takes place as a result of the election of "Bishop" Robinson; the ECUSA has left the Body of Christ.

In the last couple of years I have, perhaps in reaction to experiencing the excessive zeal of a convert, tried to find an intellectually honest way of relating to our separated brothers and sisters in Christ. Recognizing the critical importance of keeping alive a dying Christian culture, I have looked for things that we share rather than things that separate us.

There is a major stumbling block to my ecumenical desires, however. It seems that, cut loose from the anchor of truth, our Protestant brothers and sisters are cutting themselves off from the heart of Christianity. The problems in the ECUSA are a graphic example of this occurring; it shows what can happen when truth is denied and placed second to human self-centeredness and sinfulness.

In a way, though, our separated brothers and sisters can do nothing else. Without a teaching Magisterium it is in the nature of Protestantism to drift in skepticism and relativism. To be Protestant is to believe that there is no final authority on matters of faith and morals but the self. This is clearly demonstrated by the actions of the ECUSA, they are simply ignoring whatever authority Scripture may possess in this matter in favor of their own agendas. The Bible has clearly been rejected in favor of a majority vote and this, without the authority of a teaching Magisterium, is almost to be expected. Truth can never be made subject to a vote. Yet, as I said, our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, having rejected the teaching authority of the Church, are almost destined to this kind of error. This makes them, as allies in the struggle against an increasingly pagan and hostile culture to Christianity weak and wounded allies at best, if not opponents. By elevating self above the authority of the Body, they have already met the culture half-way.

I know there are many sincere Protestants who love Christ and are willing to make any sacrifice for Him. But until they are ready to sacrifice their own authority for His, they can never fully succeed. There is little to prevent them from following their own desires wherever it may lead them; even to the embrace of a sinful, self-destructive lifestyle.

Monday, August 04, 2003

North to Alaska
I will be travelling to Alaska later today and will be back on Friday. I ask your prayers for me while I'm travelling.

Paz y bien

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Old Books

I have come to like old books. If I have a choice between ordering a new edition of a book and combing the used book websites, its Alibris every time. I have acquired this strange matter of taste since coming into the Church in 1995; there are many classics of Catholic spiritual literature that are out of print and cannot be obtained except through web sites like Alibris. After I ordered the first couple of these books I noticed something that made me a fanatic for these books -- there is almost always something about the book, either what the author wrote or some indication in the physical appearance of the book, that reminds me that 30 years ago or more there was such a thing as a Catholic culture.

First, as I said, I am a convert; I did not grow up as a Catholic. I did grow up in a neighborhood with many Catholic families, not a few of whom I was friends with. I remember going out with these friends in high school and having to accommodate their meatless Friday observance. I remember their desire to eat out late on Saturday night and rise early for Mass on Sunday morning, to observe the rule that one ate nothing after midnight on Saturday night until one had attended Mass sometime on Sunday. It behooved one to go to Mass early. I remember all of that but was not a part of it. I say this because I may be mistaken in what follows and if I am, I ask forgiveness and understanding for my ignorance.

My friends took their religion seriously. They would not think of not going to Mass on Sunday, of having anything to eat before Mass, of not eating fish on Friday -- it just wasn't done. Their faith made a difference in their lives. For me, growing up Presbyterian, there was no such visible difference made in my life by my so-called faith; there were no rules of religious practice that had any effect on my day to day existence. That is the difference I noticed in the old books by Catholic spiritual writers -- they were Catholic and took it as a matter of course that Catholic readers spoke their language. It set one a bit apart to be Catholic and their Catholicism shows through in their writings. Just one minor example, one writer invokes St. Benedict and St. Bruno without bothering to explain who St. Bruno is; he takes it for granted that everyone knows who St. Bruno is. I've never heard of St. Bruno. Most of these authors refer to saints, as well as, customs and practices that were obviously familiar to any Catholic living 50 or 100 years ago that are now perhaps practiced by Catholics but not commonly written about. They talk about a person making regular acts of faith, acts of sorrow and resignation, acts of the will, etc. How often are these things spoken of today as if they were common practice in the spiritual life of most Catholics?

The difference also often shows in the things the former owners of these books did to the books. For example, one of the books I bought was from the library of Mary Manse College in Toledo. Inside the front cover there is a book plate with the library catalog information on it. The book plate is a black and white engraving of a nun holding a book in her hands surrounded by three or four young ladies, wearing what appears to be something akin to togas, sitting at her feet, on the floor, in rapt attention. One girl is sewing something, the others, if I remember correctly, are holding books or note books and are obviously enthralled with what the nun is saying. The library catalog info was handwritten on this book plate, in a nice lady's hand, with a fountain pen. Today we would think this kind of thing hokey, in fact, totally unsophisticated. Yet, there must have been a time when people took something like this seriously, or at least did not think it laughable. The book I am referring to was published in 1969, not that long ago.

I don't know if our times are better than those of, say, the 1950s or even late '60's, but they are different. Today, the lives of most Catholics are indistinguishable from those of their pagan neighbors; they often do not observe the Friday fast, seldom go to Confession, may have something to eat right before and/or right after Mass (sometimes something provided by the parish!), and may have no idea what an act of the will is. Josef Pieper, in the 1970s could write "Every child knows that in the list of the cardinal virtues fortitude comes third." Can we so easily toss off that kind of statement today? The loss of a Catholic culture means, I think, a loss of faith. I wish we could recover both.

In the mean time, I will continue to order old books.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Academia Nuts, cont'd

You may have noticed that I have been missing in action for a couple of weeks now. The simple truth is I didn’t think I had much to say. I was also thought that, while people often need to be reminded of the truth, they don't necessarily need to be reminded by me. I was struggling with the fact that posting sometimes not really well thought out ideas on the world wide web for all, or at least a few, to read, smacks of a certain self-confidence, if not arrogance. Steven's post of yesterday was a great help in that regard.

And there is something to say, at last.

As you have probably have heard, the American Psychological Association has studied those of us who hold to conservative principles and determined that we are, in a word, nuts. My first reaction was, "Well, it takes one to know one." I soon realized, however, that this reaction might need to be fleshed out a bit, that you, my reader, might wish for some further elaboration.

This study comes out of Berkeley, you know, the place of which Dorothy Parker once said, "There is no 'there' there." There still isn't.

This Berkeley study is the product of so-called "scholarly" psychological research; I place it at the scholarly level of a fourth grader who is barely squeaking by. These scholars don't know that there is a difference between, on the one hand Hitler and Mussolini, and on the other Ronald Reagan. They seem not to realize that Hitler and Mussolini were not only not conservatives, they were leftists, National Socialists to be exact. It seems to me this error displays a rather abysmal knowledge of history, if not psychology. To put the difference in practical terms, Reagan would have laughed at these "scholars", Hitler would have shot them.

The study does conclude with the point that although conservatives are less "integratively complex" than liberals "it doesn't mean they are simple-minded." No, but these scholars are.

Yet, there is a caution that the appearance of this study raises in my mind -- for the word "conservative" substitute "Christian" and think of the gulags. For the first time, there is an attempt, a laughable attempt, but an attempt nevertheless, to classify a set of political and social beliefs as a mental illness. I have a feeling there will be more such attempts, and once society has acquiesced to the idea that conservatism is a mental illness, the next set of beliefs to be attacked will be religious. Who, ten years ago, would think that anyone would consider a political viewpoint to be subject to the study of psychologists? Who, today, is willing to take seriously the idea that ten years from now, Christian faith will be the subject of study of a bunch of Berkeley psychologists?

Thursday, July 17, 2003


I don't know that I have ever disclosed this most momentous fact, but I have written most of my blog posts on a Palm using the Docs to Go program. I do this for several reasons. It allows me to type these things seated in a comfortable chair not hunched over a desk, a real advantage for someone with a tremendously bad back. Another reason is that I don't have to type these things directly into Blogger on the Web thereby avoiding the dangers of typing a long post and losing it all to Blogger instability. My remote posting method also provides me some time to ponder what I have written before actually posting it (yes, I do sometimes think about these things) and allows me to keep a copy of my posts in Word on my computer.

However, a new era, of sorts, has dawned. I have a new machine called an AlphaSmart Dana which runs Palm programs but has a significantly larger screen and a full sized key board. It is also all one piece, the screen and the keyboard, offering a certain structural stability previously unavailable with the Palm and its separate keyboard.

I don't know why I'm doing a post on this except to share with you my enthusiasm for novelties. Also, I thought today about the first computer I ever purchased.

It was back in the late 1970s that I shelled out a significant sum, both for then and for now, for a used IBM "Portable Computer." I was practicing as a CPA then and had a client with a turpentine processing plant who needed to keep better track of his inventory. Anyway, my "Portable Computer" was portable only in the loosest sense of the word -- it weighed at least 40 pounds and was about twice the size of the first IBM PCs. The tiny black and white screen was built into the face of the unit. I guess you could describe it as a computer only in the loosest sense of that word too. It used tape cartridges the size of a small book for storage and all programs had to be custom written -- no VisiCalc, no Windows, just good old Basic programming, sequentially accessed. My programmer owned a taco stand; he couldn't make a living just selling tacos or just doing programming, so he did both in the interests of survival.

I hated that computer. It seemed to me to have a malevolent streak. It worked at the slowest possible speed, was reluctant to part with information except under extreme duress, but required constant attention both from me and from the programmer. I would have believed, back then, that it was original the inspiration for Terminator 3. My only really happy experience with it was when I sold it, shortly before the first real PCs came out, without significant financial penalty. One of my few brushes with good timing.

Ever since then I have both owned a computer and held a deep seated, almost visceral, fear of the experience. There are evil spirits in this world, I'm convinced of it.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Signs of the Times, II

This post is in response to the very interesting series of comments by Steven and Tom to my first "Signs of the Times" entry. Their comments show, I think, the tension all of us are subject to in trying to balance the spiritual and the corporeal realities of our lives. They also, incidentally, show the difference between the Carmelite and the Dominican spiritualities that was very evident and interesting. Each of these gentlemen is being quite true to his respective third order vocation.

First, I would like to make a clarification. When I used the term "current events" I was not saying we should try to keep up with every news story that comes across the wire. The fact that we are in an age of information overload is, itself, a "sign of the times." (Just look at nearly anyone today over the age of 10, living with headphones almost permanently grafted in place, jiggling and jumping to some silent, unimaginable tune, lost in an electronically imposed and controlled isolation; graphic evidence of the growing idolatry of self.)

What I was referring to by the term "current events" was more trends, signposts, in society today; the recent Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v Texas being one example. I agree with Steven that it is not possible, nor desirable, to keep up with every story that comes across the wire, but there are things that, as lay Catholics, we have an obligation to be informed about and, if nothing else, pray about. I would say, contrary to what Steven seems to be saying, that the state of our culture and our spiritual welfare are very closely linked. (I wonder, Steven, if you meant to be as despairing as you sounded in your comments?)

I disagree with the statement that Steven made that "reflection on eternal things is by far the better path" if the implication is that our earthly existence is evil and our spiritual existence is good. I believe we are called to direct our earthly existence in accordance with God's purpose; we are to achieve our ultimate destiny of eternally sharing in God's life in heaven. But we must accomplish that goal here on earth trying to bring as many others with us as possible. Writing off the things of the earth, and concentrating only on our own holiness, is not, I believe, what we are put on earth to do.

I would like to offer here, in support of my contention the definition of vocation found in the latest edition of the Catechism. It reads:

Vocation-The calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter. God has created the human person to love and serve him; the fulfillment of this vocation is eternal happiness. Christ calls the faithful to the perfection of holiness. The vocation of the laity consists in seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will. Priestly and religious vocations are dedicated to the service of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation."

We are to seek to live holy lives, do individual acts of charity where we can, but also maintain an active engagement with our culture, trying to direct temporal affairs according to God’s will. Again, this doesn't mean keeping up with every news story, but I think it means keeping up with the trends. I also do not believe that the "temporal affairs" referred to here means only our personal duties and responsibilities.

Tom, I believe, is correct in his comments about such things as the popularity of the Matrix movies (a denial of the uniqueness of each human person and his creation in the image of God) and the state of mainline/oldline Protestantism today. If we do not know the state of the society we live in, we will have no idea what or how to preach the Good News.

The SCOTUS decision in Lawrence v Texas is a sign we should all be familiar with and do whatever we can to oppose. I will quote from an article by David Frum in the latest National Review concerning the breakdown of the family in Canada that is the result of the similar decisions in their courts:

"Here's what didn't happen when the Canadian government announced that it would comply with orders of a high (but not supreme) court and write gay marriage into the law of the land. There were no protests from the country's religious leaders: only mild expressions of concern."

Between 1995 and 2001 the number of cohabiting couples in Canada rose by 20%; at the same time the number of married couples rose just 3%. According to Frum "Some 500,000 Canadian children now live in cohabiting households." Frum also says:

"The spread of cohabitation seems to have taught Canadians to think about family life in new ways. They are increasingly willing to think of family as a revolving-door arrangement (the average cohabitation lasts only five years), in which persons move in and out of the lives of their own and other people's children."

This all is coming about, as mentioned above, with no comment or apparent involvement from Canadian religious leaders. If we, as committed Catholics, do not do whatever we can to oppose such trends, however feeble our efforts, the US will become like Canada and Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, lost in sin and separated from God. Our efforts may indeed be feeble and we may never see whether they succeed or fail, but we are called to make them. Mother Theresa said the God does not ask us to be successful, only to be faithful.

I close with a quote from Christopher Dawson on the dangers of separating religion and culture:

"But this does not mean that religion and culture are two separate worlds with no relation to each other. The assumption of such a separation has been the great error of the Western mind during the last two centuries. First we have divided human life into two parts - the life of the individual and the life of the state - and have confined religion entirely to the former. This error was typical of bourgeois liberalism and nowhere has it been more prevalent that in the English speaking countries. But now men have gone further and reunited the divided world under the reign of impersonal material forces, so that the individual counts for nothing and religion is viewed as an illusion of the individual consciousness or a perversion of the individual craving for satisfaction."

(By the way, Tom, the SFO rule, which goes back to 1978, does not preclude going to movies or being involved in the culture. It does advocate a life of simplicity, but SFO's go "from the gospel to life, and from life to the gospel." We are to faithfully fulfill our duties proper to our circumstances of life. I know of nothing in the rule that limits SFO's to specific activities and I’m sorry there was a misunderstanding. But then, the Spirit moves where He will.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Another Apology

I am lagging behind on posts lately. I mentioned a week or so ago that my wife had bunion surgery. It was on her right foot and she cannot drive, so I am driving her to work. This adds an extra two hour communte to my day and is slowing me down on other activities. At least I am doing something useful for a change.

I am working on a response to Steven's and Tom's comments to my last post, they both brought up good points and I need to make some clarifications, at least. Bear with me.

Paz y bien.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Signs of the Times

I have tried to impose a rule upon myself in doing this blog: I will post nothing except that which I have spent time in prayer and meditation over. I have frequently, especially lately, broken that rule to the point that it lies in powdery ruins somewhere in the bottom of my computer.

I am not proud of the fact that I have not spent serious time in thought, prayer, and meditation over everything I have written on this blog. I know it shows, for one thing, and this alone does not bring glory to God.

In fact, one reason why I am going to spend some time over the next month or so meditation on Fides et Ratio is to try to instill something of the element of deliberation, dare I say thought, into what appears on this blog; I want to try to remove myself from reacting to current events. I also wish to establish a regular schedule that includes prayer, meditation, and writing. I hope, in the process, that the result will be, indeed, to truly bring glory to God with this blog.

However, I realized that there is an underlying, unarticulated assumption that has been in the back of my mind regarding this purpose. It is that I have assumed that writing out of the fruits of prayer necessarily means emphasizing comments on Scripture and the writings of the saints, possibly also including great literature within my purview.

But I have been wondering if that is a valid assumption?

On the one hand, it seems that, but for a very few of us, keeping up with current events is a difficult and time consuming process. The time used trying to keep up with the news could, in most cases, be better spent reading and praying, then, if we must, writing about what comes out of our prayer. I am still tempted to say this is the best course for most of us Catholic bloggers.

However, there is another way of looking at this that comes out of my personal experience, which is this: One of the ideas that brought about my adult conversion experience was the realization that God is Lord of everything we are and do. Our faith in Him must influence all aspects of our lives. I was a Protestant when I came to this realization and since then I have come to see that the Catholic idea of vocation is a most apt presentation of this truth. As lay people our vocation is to bring Christ to temporal affairs, to bring Christ's influence to bear upon the temporal world.

If we are to live our vocation, then we must be, at a minimum, fairly well informed about what is going on in the world. Further, it seems we should be able to express how our faith should, or could, influence current events; we should be able to explain to others how Catholics view the events of the day. In other words, we should be able to explain why it makes a difference being Catholic.

Conversely, the "signs of times", the social, cultural, and even spiritual climate of the society can have a profound effect on our spiritual life. How many of you have been told, in the face of barely noticeable efforts to present the Gospel to someone "Well that's what you believe, but don't try to impose your beliefs on me!" Or have you ever been told that any personal expression of religious faith might even be a violation of the law.

In our public life, how many times have we seen or heard news stories about a Nativity scene on public property, or prayer in the public schools, violating the principle of separation of church and state and being “hurtful" or, even, "offensive" to those who do not wish to acknowledge God in their lives.

The effect of these types of societal influences is profound and reaching. For example, in May, a Cardinal of the Church, speaking at a supposedly Catholic university's commencement exercises, set off an uproar when he enunciated the constant teaching of the Church concerning human sexuality and moral conduct. His remarks were deemed "hurtful" to the homosexuals in the audience. The pagan influences of society seem to be stronger than that of the Church, even within the Church. (I would submit, incidentally, that an eternity of separation from God would be infinitely more "hurtful" than hearing the truth of Church teaching from a prince of the Church.)

These are examples of a society that is becoming increasingly pagan and materialistic. While claiming the ideals of "tolerance" and "diversity" it is becoming more and more intolerant of any sort of religious belief and expression. It is a society bent on elevating man to the place of God.

The way we seek to influence our society and the way our society influences us, have a profound effect on our relationship with God; they may even determine whether or not we are able to worship freely and openly. We ignore them at our peril.

I still believe that my now shattered rule is still valid and I will try to abide by it in the future. I share, I guess, St. Francis impetuousness and that is not always a good thing. But, I do not believe there is any topic that, after careful thought, prayer, and meditation, is excluded from comment on a Catholic blog.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Fides et Ratio

I am going to begin the long planned (if not anticipated) series of posts on John Paul II's Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio. This is the first in the series and is a short backgrounder on why I would attempt to do such a thing.

I have held off mostly due to a sense of fear and trembling at appearing to be qualified to offer comments on one of our Holy Father's Encyclicals; I am not so qualified. Unless, that is, I make clear that I am doing this not as a scholar, especially not a scholar in philosophy, but rather as a Catholic layman who has benefited from reading this document. Church documents are valuable sources, for us laymen who are willing to make the effort to work our way through them, of providing answers to the questions: What does the Church really teach and Why does the Church teach the way she does? What can we learn from her that will improve our lives by bringing us closer to Christ?

I don't know that I can explicate the answers to these questions. Perhaps I can at least stimulate your interest to read the document itself, just to keep me honest


Sunday, June 29, 2003

The Best Laid Plans . . .

I was looking forward to a leisurely week, free to write and read unimpeded by work, a week off with nothing to do and no travel plans. My wife had surgery to correct a bunion on the 20th and, since then, has been off her feet. I took the week off to be of what assistance I could; the first extended time off I have had in a while. I have been at sixes and sevens all week, perhaps you can tell from by blog posts.

I had great plans to get a lot of writing done during the week, what with all the free time, and reading too. I did get a lot of writing done - none of it what I had planned to work on. As I said in a previous post, I did get my "virtues" project done, the one I had worked on for a year or so, but I had not planned to work on it at all. Now that I have what seems like a good first draft, I have been wondering if I shouldn't throw it in the trash.

I got some reading done too, similarly, nothing of what I had planned to read, and I'm almost sorry I read what I read.

I have more luck getting specific projects done when I am working and seem pressed for time than when I am unimpeded by having to maintain a schedule and have the leisure to do as I please. I seem better able to accomplish goals when there appears to be insurmountable obstacles in the way.

Last night at Mass was the one regular part of my weekly schedule that I adhered too. It was wonderful; I was back in my normal routine. It dawned on me that routine, order, in our lives is vital. What would we do with unlimited leisure? This is the fallacy of those social engineers who think that, simply by creating the proper institutions and providing the right Governmental assistance, they can make life perfect. They can't. I know now that living in a world without worries would drive me nuts.

I'll be glad to get back to work.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Men Without Feet, II

Yesterday’s SCOTUS decision in Lawrence v Texas is appalling for several reasons. One, it virtually guarantees that future Court decision will be based more on the desired social outcomes than on social precedent. Justice Kennedy has made it clear that any future case that comes before the Supreme Court can be decided on the theory of “substantive due process” – the same theory used in the Roe v Wade Case. It also likely ended the right of states, any state, to regulate not only sodomy but homosexual marriage and any other item on the so-called “gay rights” agenda within its borders.

Russell Kirk summarized the beliefs of Edmund Burke on the nature of government in 3 major points:

1. "The temporal order is only part of a transcendent order; and the foundation of social tranquility is reverence. Veneration lacking, life becomes no more than an interminable battle between usurpation and rebellion. . . . He is emphatic that the first rule of society is obedience - obedience to God and the dispensations of Providence, which work through natural processes."

2. "After the order of God . . . comes an order of spiritual and intellectual values. All values are not the same, nor all impulses, nor all men."

3. "Physical and moral anarchy is prevented by general acquiescence in social distinctions of duty and privilege. If a natural aristocracy is not recognized among men, the sycophant and the brute exercise its abandoned functions in the name of a faceless 'people.'"

It seems to me the SCOTUS decision in Lawrence comes close to the abandonment of these three degrees of order in favor of chaos. It abandons reverence and obedience - the order of God; it abandons the order of spiritual and intellectual values, and it abandons the order of social distinctions. It is the fruit of the great "leveling" project that has been going on in the West for nearly 100 years. We are being "leveled" to the existence of brutes. Our moral understanding and judgment, one of the things that raises us above the level of animals, is being eradicated from society. This in the name of a spurious notion of "diversity," by which is meant a very carefully defined, rigid pattern of thought, deviation from which cannot be tolerated. It goes without saying that this pattern of "acceptable" thought is hostile to both God and man.

May God help us.

Friday, June 27, 2003


Aging can be a good thing. With maturity, one grows in perspective on the difficulties, trials and tribulations of life. One also grows in gratitude for each new day and the miracle of a wildflower or a bluebird, or a new fawn in the backyard, busily eating the plants in the garden. There are, however, difficulties to be overcome. One of these is failing eyesight.

It seems with this new version of Blogger (there is good reason for the old adage: If it ain't broke, don't fix it) my comments box has shrunk to the size of a postage stamp. I just realized, after trying to do a reply to Steven's last comment, that I have no idea what I wrote, I couldn't see it.

So, in the future, I will reply to comments by a post, at least until the situation on the screen is remedied.

Note to Blogger/enetation/whoever or whatever is responsible for my disappearing comments window: Not all who do blogs are teenagers!

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Lawrence v. Texas

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law. As I understand the decision, the Court declared that the state has no right regulating the private conduct of individuals.

It so happens, that I have been reading Russell Kirk's book, The Conservative Mind, which deals with the history of conservative political thought since the time of Edmund Burke. I would like to provide a quote from Burke cited in Kirk's book:

"'Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants', says Burke.’Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among those wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body, as well as in the individual, the inclinations of men should be frequently thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection. This can be done only by a power out of themselves; and not, in the exercise of its function, subject to that will and to those passions which it is its office to bridle and subdue. In this sense the restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights.'"

C.S. Lewis wrote about "men without chests." What we have become is men without feet, we have lost track of the foundational ideas upon which our civilization and our culture are founded. We have nothing left to stand on but the stilt-like stumps of our cut off legs.

What we have forgotten is that government is a gift of God's loving providence to us, intended to elevate us above the level of mere animals. As Kirk puts it, its purpose is to govern those who cannot govern themselves. Our Christian civilization has always viewed Government as one of the implements of our salvation, protecting us from the moral collapse caused by the surrender of society to the uncontrolled passions of the individual. This Supreme Court decision is another step in the elevation of the passions of the individual over society; another nail in the coffin of Christian civilization as we know it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003


I have not been very consistent in the last week or ten days in doing posts here, but there is a reason.

About a year ago I became inspired to try to become a writer, or at least to try to learn to write in order to help further the Kingdom. Part of that inspiration was an idea for a book that came to me in a moment. I thought that in order to get the idea on paper I should try to write a sysopsis, perhaps an article covering the main points of idea. Until last weekend I found the task impossible, and I have electronic copies of the 10-12 false starts to prove it. I prayed about this and believed that either 1) I was mistaken and was not intended to be a writer or, (2) was badly mistaken about the inspiration of my subject. I even began working on a mystery novel. Anyway, Monday morning, (I think this idea was gestating over the weekend) with some time off, I sat down and had the article complete after about 6 hours work; it just came all at once.

Anyway, I have been working on a mystery and polishing my article which is now on a shelf where it will sit for a week or so.

I have also been doing some heavy reading in works by Russell Kirk, Christopher Dawson, and Edmund Burke and hope to concentrate on doing some posts about this reading while I am on vacation between now and Monday. I am also going to attempt a book review which I do with great trepidation; I do not believe I am truly a critic.

Paz y bien

Tuesday, June 24, 2003


Edmund Burke once wrote:

"Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thoroughbred metaphysician. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of the principle of evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil."

I guess Burke didn't like theorists.

I suspect the reason for this is that he understood, as so few people do these days, that theories, unless they have a positive effect on practice, unless they are based on tried and proven practice, are useless.

I think Burke understood that if we profess to believe in something, that belief should have some positive effect on the way we act; if we profess to be Catholic we should appear to the world to be Catholic.

I bring this up apropos of a post done in the last day or two by Kathy over at the Gospel Minefield. It seems that she had a friend who apparently did not believe that Kathy, because of some books she had for her children and other nefarious actions could not believe that Kathy was Catholic enough and has cooled the friendship.

First, let me say that I hope this situation reverses itself. The loss of a friend, for whatever reason, is a real loss. I pray that this friendship will be recovered.

But, Kathy's post reminded me that this is a fairly common situation. I can think of a person in a parish I once attended who made a very formidable show of being completely disdainful of everyone else at Mass. I can also think of those who troop into Mass at the last minute and suffer through the liturgy with a certain grim determination which turns to very evident anger when the priest deviates in the least from the published rubrics, and then leave immediately upon receiving Communion. These stories are legion. I pray for all such who are trapped in the net of super-Orthodoxy. They have become what Burke might call "thoroughbred metaphysicians." The rules, for many of them, have become more important than living the kind of life which the rules are intended to bring about. I don't believe this is a happy situation for anyone, but it surely exists.

I guess I write this to remind myself of these dangers; it is important to know the faith and accept as true what God has revealed of himself to us through both Scripture and Tradition. But unless we are able to make the truths of the faith real in our lives, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love others as ourselves, the teachings of the Church are useless to us. They become idols and will lead us away from God instead of to Him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003


Steven has done a wonderful post on trusting God, if you haven't seen it please take a few minutes and see what he has to say.

Paz y bien

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Culture Wars III

That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight, receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; that prudence may be given to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— the wise man also may hear and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.—Proverbs 1:2-6 (RSV)

Peter has written a comment to my Culture Wars II post; I am grateful for his thoughts. However, while he disagrees with the post I am afraid he has shown that he is the one who misses the point.

In his comments Peter seems to be saying that all they were hoping for from the Georgetown commencement speaker was a nice, uplifting, and meaningless little speech that would send them on their way feeling good about themselves. If this is the case, they should have invited someone from the cast of Saturday Night Live, not Cardinal Arinze. By inviting the Cardinal to speak, what did they think they were going to hear? If the commencement exercises of a major Catholic university are not the time or the place to hear the truth about matters of life and death, what is?

The events of this years commencement exercises demonstrate that one thing they did not want to hear was the teachings of the Church -- Truth. It seems these events highlight serious flaws within our universities, especially within our Catholic universities, that must be corrected if we are to survive as a civilization.

The fact of the matter is Truth is never inappropriate, no matter the occasion. The real problem with the Cardinal's speech was that it is more important to the faculty and students of Georgetown U to be “inclusive and uplifting” than to hear the Truth. I contend that Cardinal Arinze's speech would not have caused the furor it did were it not for the fact that, at Georgetown University, hearing the truth was painful. I suspect that the Cardinal's speech caused many on the Georgetown campus to feel less than good about themselves.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered the commencement address at Harvard University. I would like to quote from his introduction:

"Harvard's motto is 'Veritas.' Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth is seldom sweet; it is almost invariable bitter. A measure of bitter truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary."

Anyone who would offer us truth is truly our friend; one who would hide the truth from us must be considered a mortal enemy. The central problem we face as a civilization today is that we have let our concentration flag in favor of a counterfeit ideology; we prefer the anesthesia of inclusivity and diversity to the scalpel of Truth. Cardinal Arinze did not come to the Georgetown campus as a heartless repressor of good feelings but as a friend and true truth teacher.

On the other hand, barbaric behavior is never acceptable in civilized society, no matter what the occasion.

The very idea of a university is that it should be a safe place for open intellectual discourse. Our universities, however, have become places completely intolerant of ideas contrary to the prevailing ideology. When ideas contrary to the accepted party line become intolerable we are in trouble as a civilization. It is well to remind ourselves, as Russell Kirk pointed out, that the Latin roots for ideology and idiocy are the same. When we refuse to grant another person the respect due him as a fellow human being by hearing him out we have sunk into a condition of barbarity.

One theology professor at Georgetown, by getting up and walking out on a Cardinal of the Church who was presenting the most basic teachings of the Church, gave one final instruction to the graduating students of Georgetown. I suspect she was trying to reinforce four years of such instruction.

First, she taught that is perfectly appropriate for a Catholic to be in open dissent from Church teachings, hardly a desirable point of view from someone aspiring to be a Catholic theologian. Second, she demonstrated that ideas contrary to modern, secular-humanist teachings are not to be tolerated on a university campus. Her actions make it abundantly clear that “diversity and inclusivity” have strict limits on the Georgetown campus. For a member of the faculty of a so-called Catholic University to walk off the dais when a Cardinal of the Church is speaking goes beyond rude; it displays real ignorance, as in, a lack of civilized knowledge. It demonstrated, and even worse, taught barbaric behavior. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew:

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

The scandal of her conduct is that she is in a position to be a teacher of the truth taught otherwise. Lets not forget that her actions were in support of those who openly engage in conduct considered gravely evil by the Church.

Peter, my post was not "a blind attack" on Georgetown University, (nor is this an attack on you). I do not have to be a member of the Georgetown University "community" to understand what went on its commencement ceremonies in May. The problems involve issues deeper than the good feelings of the faculty and students of Georgetown University; they involve issues of life and death – eternal life and death. On that day in May, Georgetown demonstrated that it has failed as a Catholic university and by so doing failed us all.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Mark Shea's Article

By the way, I hope you will read and enjoy Mark Shea's article on the new media in Crisis magazine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Why Blog

Mark Shea had a nice article in the most recent issue of Crisis on blogging, St Blogs Parish, and Catholic blogs in general. One thing that he seemed to be implying though is that blogs are primarily an alternative news source for the major media outlets. While this is true to some extent, I don't think that is the only purpose for a blog; it is not my purpose anyway.

I take my example from my father-in-law who was a life long newspaperman and writer. In the late '70s he and I (and a few other folks) started a weekly newspaper in El Paso. The idea was that in a weekly format the truth behind the headlines could be explored more deeply. The paper could at least attempt to answer the question "Why?" instead of just "who?" and "what?" While the paper was something of a critical success (I wrote only one article for it, a restaurant review, of all things, and can take no credit for that) it was hardly a financial success and finally folded. However, I think the principle is important.

Most of the major scandals today have one thing in common -- they stem from a failure to ask the question "Why?" They stem from a failure to ask why we should follow the teaching of the Catholic Church.

You could ask, for example, why is it important to understand that there is such a thing as objective truth? Just ask the now resigned editors of the New York Times. As World magazine pointed out this week, if you reject the notion of objective truth, why should you be surprised that your newspaper publishes fiction? For that matter, why should you care, what difference does it make? For the New York Times the distinction between fact and fiction became blurred, at best, and thus Jason Blair could get away for several years with plagiarism, made up stories, and who knows what, with no one the wiser. What is even more disturbing is that people about whom he wrote stories and who knew that his "facts" were made up did not protest. They simply accepted that stories in the New York Times could not be expected to be true!

Or you could ask, as the theology faculty at Georgetown University seems to wonder, why the Church teaches that homosexuality and other sexual perversions are gravely sinful. What harm could living the homosexual "lifestyle" be? Just ask certain Catholic bishops across the country. They know first hand the harm that can be done, and are still suffering the consequences.

Protestant friends have expressed their condolences to me in the past year over the situation in the Church. I don't think condolences are necessary. I think the situation that surfaced early last year is a perfect example, not of a failure in the Church, but of what happens when we fail to follow Church teachings.

You could also ask "why do we need a magisterium making authoritative pronouncements and trying to repress our God-given freedom?" Just ask the members of my former Presbyterian denomination. The Presbyterian Church USA is currently losing members at the rate of 35,000 per year over the issue of the ordination of homosexuals. Cut loose from any authoritative magisterium they are forced to determine church teaching by majority vote. This solution is one doomed to failure, since truth can never be determined by vote. It seems likely that the PCUSA (aptly named, by the way) will soon pass from the scene, the victim of an inability to accept the Magisterium of the Church.

The crucial "why?" question that hardly anyone asks these days is "why does the Church teach the things she does?" Society, and the Georgetown theology department, simply seems to assume it is because the Church is mean spirited and wishes to be "hurtful" to those who do not conform to her harsh and judgmental norms. If these folks were to ask the question and honestly try to come up with an answer, they would find out that it is because the Church wishes to protect us from harm. The Church understands that we are creatures of God created in His image; we are "designed" to operate in certain ways by our designer. When we fail to do so we can expect problems to arise, as we can see all around us.

My purpose for this blog has been to attempt on my part to understand why it is important to know what the Church teaches about us as human beings. It should be obvious that what we believe affects what we are. Too often today the secular-materialist worldview of society is unquestioningly accepted as valid; until more people ask why we should believe this, and then take action to answer the question honestly, we should not be surprised that more, and greater, scandals come to dominate our headlines.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Culture Wars, II

John Da Fiesole over at Disputations has done a post in response to my Culture Wars comments. In his post he asks, what practical influence the bishops have in our lives. Good question. I believe that as Catholic laity we bear a huge responsibility for the state of the culture we live in and we can't blame our failure on our bishops and priests. As is clear from the Cathechism, it is our vocation to affect the temporal affairs and bring them under God's influence. Bishops and priests cannot do this for us.

However, the fact that very often our bishops have little practical impact on our daily lives is a glaring example of a pervasive problem that exists today. There are a couple of recent incidents that highlight the problem we have with our bishops. These problems to not exist with all bishops, my any means, but they do exist.

The most important event was Cardinal Arinze's Commencement address on May 17 at Georgetown University. I will quote from the Washington Post's coverage of the story:

"The cardinal was several minutes into his speech when he said the family 'is under siege' and 'opposed by an antilife mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.'
After the cardinal said the words 'mocked by homosexuality,' associate theology professor Theresa Sanders, who was seated on stage, walked out. A few students also left, says Mohsin Siddiqui, a 2002 graduate who was at the ceremony.
'I thought what he said was incredibly offensive,' he said. 'With all due respect for the cardinal's opinions, I don't think he should have been voicing them. This came from out of the middle of nowhere.' "

I hope it is obvious to all that the Cardinal's remarks did not "come from out of the middle of nowhere" but straight out of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I think it is also interesting that this graduate from a "Catholic" university would think that Cardinal Arinze was simply delivering his "opinion", as if this was some merely personal point of view of his which might, under different circumstances, change in the next day, or week or month. And, I must ask, what kind of a "Catholic" university would tolerate a theology professor who would be so rude as to stand up and walk out on a Cardinal of the Church expounding the official teaching of the Church?

But this is exactly the problem; this kind of thing is common, almost unexceptional, in our modern secularist society. It results from two things, one is that those in a position to teach the truth have chosen to teach untruth, lies. Second, the bishops where this kind of thing is rampant have chosen to ignore it.

In order for the laity to resist and reform the culture, they must know the truth; many of them do indeed know the truth. The next question is, what do we do with the truth we know? We can either disregard it or we can shape our lives by it. As individuals we have this freedom to make this choice. If we make the wrong choice we are not free to influence others to make the same mistake. As Jesus said:

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea”

All too often, today, we all, bishops included, ignore false teaching and just hope it will go away. It won't. Unless, that is, we take active steps against it. The lead for these kinds of active steps should be coming from our bishops. If the bishops were doing this, they would be playing a very prominent role in our daily lives by being our leaders and teachers in the faith. To the extent that this is not happening, we, the laity, are hindered in our struggle in against the culture in which we live.

The second of the two events I mentioned shows that having the courage of our convictions is truly possible.

In April of this year, the editors of Touchstone magazine published an article which said, in effect, that it was impossible to, at the same time, vote Democratic and be a Christian. They characterized the Democrat party as the party of abortion and sodomy. This article apparently generated a firestorm of criticism and a great many cancelled subscriptions. What did the editors of Touchstone do? I'll quote just one paragraph from their response:

“There has been much response to Touchstone’s April issue, in which the Democratic part) was characterized as godless, and portrayed a,, If having developed in recent years into some thing no Christian can in good conscience support. Subscriptions have been angrily canceled and declaration that we will be prayed for received. More attention has been given to this issue than any other we have published. The most common criticisms are that Touchstone, a religious magazine, is now dabbling in politics, where it has no business, and that the April issue was in fact a Republican party tract in which the editors displayed their political preferences more than their Christianity. What, one suspects, some of our off put correspondents wished to see in subsequent issues is some kind of muted apology that we were in some places a bit rough and high handed, along with a good natured admission that good Christians can have varying opinions on these matters. But we don't think they can. Things have gradually but surely come to the point where we must say that to the degree Christians have been co-opted by the Democrats, they are no longer good."

Would that more of us had this kind of courage.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Culture Wars

Fr. Rob over at Thrown Back has written a couple of good posts concerning the effect of culture on our faith, and vice versa. I'm not writing this as a criticism of what he has written, but rather to point out another way of looking at the question.

Fr. Rob had someone post a comment rejecting the idea that the laity bears any responsibility for the current state of the culture we live in. Fr. Rob posted a response to these comments to the effect that both laity and clergy bear significant responsibility for the problem and this is true. However, I think he is being too nice to those of us in the laity because I would say that, indeed, the laity bears, by far, the greater portion of guilt for the sorry state of the society we live in.

I say this based on the definition, found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church of the term vocation. This definition reads:

“The calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter. God has created the human person to love and serve him; the fulfillment of this vocation is eternal happiness. Christ calls the faithful to the perfection of holiness. The vocation of the laity consists in seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will. Priestly and religious vocations are dedicated to the service of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation.”

According to the Catechism, it is the laity that has the vocation to bring the Kingdom of God to the world. We are the ones charged with making the society we live in Christian, not the clergy. The duty of the clergy is in service of the Church -- to support our efforts in bringing Christ to the marketplace. I would also say that, based on this definition, we the laity have failed miserably.

It should be evident to all that, rather than converting our culture, instead of transforming society, we are the ones who have been transformed.

It may be true that in the last 30 years or so we have not had the greatest support from our priests and bishops, but I would agree with Fr. Rob that this is more our fault than theirs. To paraphrase Barzun, perhaps we have the bishops we deserve.

We are not victims. We, as laity have failed our vocation because we have allowed the culture to overwhelm us. I don't think many of us could say that our lives look any different than those of our pagan neighbors, that we actively and unabashedly live our faith.

While it is true that many of the bishops we have are a somewhat sorry lot, we have no business whining and complaining about them -- our track record is no better. The priests and bishops of the Church cannot live out our vocation for us, they cannot do what we have the responsibility to do.

The solution to the problem, I think, is for us laity to admit there is a problem. There are a great many things we can do, once we have taken this fundamental step. We can begin taking our faith seriously and living as if it really mattered in our lives. We can spend more time in prayer and adoration of the Holy Eucharist, we can pray for our bishops and our priests, we can engage our neighbors in a loving way about the truth of the Church and Jesus Christ. We can, quite simply, be active witnesses to our faith. Who knows, doing this might be a positive influence on our priests and bishops and encourage them to change their ways. It might be the indication they need that there are indeed Catholics who are willing to truly be Catholic.

Until we can say we are doing all we can to live out our vocation faithfully we should not be complaining about what someone else is not doing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

On Travel

I will be on travel this week and may not have internet access, for which I anticipate great withdrawal pains. However, I should have a post ready by Friday when I hope to return.

Please keep me in your prayers this week.

Paz y bien

Ron Moffat

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Academia Nuts, cont'd

Scientists in England have conducted an experiment involving monkeys and computers and proved that monkeys are really smarter than we think they are.

The experiment consisted of placing a computer in a cage with a bunch of monkeys. I suspect the motivation for this springs from a Darwinist belief that if you gave a monkey enough time with a keyboard he (or she) would end up writing out the complete works of William Shakespeare. In the event, that didn't happen, but something more interesting did occur.

To understand why I say this, you need to know how the monkeys reacted to the computer. It seems that at first they simply ignored it. You don't know how many times I've wished that I had done the same thing when someone first introduced a computer into my space. So far, so good for the monkeys. Their next reaction was to hit the computer with a rock. This is where I usually end up after a particularly frustrating session with a computer; sometimes I use a hammer, sometimes a chair, but the idea is the same. The only difference is that this is where the monkeys started, not where they ended up. They cut out the frustrating part and proceed to the ideal final end of most computers -- I detect signs of intelligence here. Finally, they apparently engaged in episodes of throwing monkey poop at the thing. Although I think the rock is better, I can certainly understand the sentiment.

After passing through these distinct stages in their relationship with the computer they finally began typing on it. And what did they type? Pages and pages of little more than the letter S with a few As and Ls thrown in for good measure. No Shakespeare, but at least they had arrived at the, shall we say human, reactions that almost inevitably occur in any endeavor with a computer and they didn't have to worry about getting anything done. You know the old saying "S... happens!"

The truth of the matter is that monkeys, no matter how much time is involved do not produce anything like literature, much less like William Shakespeare. That is the difference that our politically correct intelligentsia wish so hard would go away. Monkeys are not created in the image of God, men are, and that makes all the difference in the world.