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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Did the TLM Cause the Sex Scandals?

I have heard "traditionalist" Catholics, lovers of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), assert the following:
Has any Bishop’s statement included the word “sin”? Seems that word has been scrubbed out of the Church’s lexicon. 
Homilies keep affirming us in our okayness. I hear no mention of sin. 
Our hymns are full of what we are doing for God. How lucky God is to have us.
I came into the Church to get rid of my sins, not have them affirmed or ignored. I want to be challenged, because I need to be challenged continuously. 
One thing I love about the Latin Mass is I have to say the “Domine, non sum dignus” three times. Seems at least the minimum number of times I should remind myself of my unworthiness. That there is something wrong with me that only Christ can heal.
This statement, while centered around a laudable remark on sin and self, demonstrates a completely oblivious attitude towards recent liturgical history. After all, we know men trained and formed in the TLM were actively recruiting homosexuals into the sacred ministry all over the world, which is why the Vatican had to promulgate a world-wide directive to all TLM-trained priests to STOP ordaining homosexuals.

That directive came out in 1961.
That is TWO YEARS prior to VC II.

So, if we want to claim that the liturgy is at the basis of the modern sex abuse problem, then we must admit the Traditional Latin Mass, at least as it was undertaken in the 20th century, is at the basis of the sexual abuse problem. Given the premise ("the liturgy is at the basis"), there is no way to avoid the conclusion ("the TLM is the problem"). This conclusion is supported by the fact that it was the pre-VC II trained priests who committed the bulk of the sexual abuse in the last 70 years.

Which is why, perhaps, VC II recommended an overhaul of the liturgy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pennsylvania 300

Much is being made about the recent grand jury report out of Pennsylvania. The grand jury studied allegations made from 1947 to the present against priests concerning sexual abuse. The jury decided that roughly 300 priests over those 70 years were responsible for over 1000 victims of sexual abuse.

To put the numbers another way, in a diocese that currently has 776 priests (and had more than 5000 priests serve since 1947) an average of four priests per year abused 14-15 children a year for 70 years. Obviously, any case of abuse is unacceptable, as cases like those of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and DNC assistant director Keith Ellison prove. But, given the numbers, the most shocking aspect of all of these cases is the length of time that the abuse was actively covered up.

For seven decades, from 1947 until the present, Pennsylvanian bishops covered for the handful of abusive priests in their diocese. For four decades, the powerful men and women of Hollywood covered for Harvey Weinstein. For at least the same decades, members of Congress have covered up the abuse of staff and interns by elected politicians, who papered over hidden payments made to those same victims with taxpayer money.  And there are more child abuse rings out there among the rich and powerful, as Corey Feldman has repeatedly testified and Clinton-friend Jeffrey Epstein has hinted.

As I pointed out seven years ago, the problem of adults abusing children is common. Wherever large numbers of children congregate in the presence of adults, whether it is on Hollywood sound stages, in Congressional back offices, in public school classrooms, at regional and national athletic competitions, in fast food joints, synagogues or church sacristies, there will be adults who take advantage of the situation. Equally common is the bureaucratic tendency to hide the abuser, keep the abuse hidden and quietly pay the victims off while moving the abuser to a new position of authority.

I don't mean to engage in "what-about-ism". There is a fine line between raising the red herring of saying "others do it too" versus asking the legitimate question "are Catholic priests abusing at a rate out of proportion to the population?" But that line DOES exist, and we do need to ask that second question.

After all, if Catholic priests ARE abusing out of proportion to the general population or out of proportion to other specific populations, then one of two things needs to happen. Either we:
  1. abolish the priesthood OR 
  2. take that fact into account in priestly training and make explicit efforts to weed out possible offenders.
But, in order to see whether or not Catholic priests really ARE abusing out of proportion, we have to compare the population of Catholic priests to the general population and/or compare to the other populations that deal with large numbers of children. No matter what the answer, we still have a final question: should the Catholic Church be held to a higher standard than we hold our politicians, coaches, public school teachers and Hollywood heroes? Absolutely, yes. I am all for holding Catholic priests to a higher standard than we do other populations.

The Pennsylvania priests who are guilty should be prosecuted, and so should be the Pennsylvania bishops who hid them. Harvey Weinstein's prosecutor should move on to prosecute all the men and women who knew of his activities but kept silent. Offenders in the House and Senate, the abusive men and women we elected to office, should be jailed, along with every elected, appointed or employed member or staffer who knew it was happening, but kept silent. Public school teachers, their principals and the local school boards should be perp-walked out to waiting squad cars.

As Bill Donahue points out, America apparently wants to convict priests and bishops on a lower standard of evidence than that used for lay people. Go ahead. I won't gripe. I just want a complete picture of what is actually going on. I want everyone to understand and agree that we are using a lower standard of evidence for priests than we use for everyone else.

Pick any organization that deals with a lot of children, advertise for and examine every victim claim made against that organization for the last seventy (70) years, and I absolutely guarantee you will find at least as many perpetrators, as many victims, and as much of a bureaucratic cover-up as you do in any Catholic diocese. Why? Well, at least because the organization wouldn't have lasted 70 years without a successful bureaucratic cover-up. And that level of abuse will be found even if you use different standards of evidence for allegations and/or conviction. But we already know this.

Bill Clinton has been credibly accused of rape, his wife had knowledge of it, but she hid his crimes so successfully that she actually ran for President. In fact, she nearly got elected to the highest office DESPITE the fact that voters knew she was very probably at least an accessory to rape after the fact. She got beaten by a man who was accused of rape by his own wife and who publicly celebrated being endorsed by a convicted rapist. We, the voters, knew all about all of this, but we were fine with it. We still are.

Here's the dirty little secret: ultimately, Americans DO hold different standards of evidence for Catholic priests than they do for Hollywood moguls, public school teachers or the politicians we happily vote into office. I am not griping. From the evidence of the news media and the various levels of outrage, we both know I am just stating the fact. Even non-Catholics recognize this.

We want priests and bishops to be holier than those other groups. That is a perfectly legitimate desire. But are the priests and bishops of the Catholic Church holier than any of those groups? That is, are they less likely to sin? Scripture and experience tells us they are not. This is what human beings are: broken. Even cancer surgeons die of cancer. Even bishops and priests are accursed with broken human sinfulness.  Prosecute every surgeon who acted with malfeasance. It doesn't change the fact that we still need cancer surgeons.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

But God Killed People!

Remember that time God killed Cain?

Or that time God wiped out the Chosen People to the last man, woman and child, because they all deserved it, and even Moses couldn't talk Him out of it?

Or that time God killed David for having committed murder and adultery? And besides, David refused to kill Saul, which showed what a weakling David was.

Or that time Jesus executed the adulterous woman by having the crowed stone her to death?

Or that passage in Scripture that says, "In God, there is no lack of shadows, blood and death."

Or that time God said, "Kill your enemies, hate them until they are ground into little bits beneath your feet, for that's what the pagans do, and you know how much I prefer them to you"

Or that time God said, "Make the other guy turn his cheek, and give him a good wallop for Me."

Or that time God said, "If a man asks for your coat, he's trying to mug you, so kill the dirty little bastard."

Or that time God said, "The measure with which you measure isn't something you have to worry about."

Or that time Paul said pagan governments can kill people, because they are pagans and ignorant of God's laws, and their sword falls like rain on the just and the unjust, so Christians should imitate pagans as soon as they get the reigns of government?

Or all the other things God had to say about the death penalty?

Or all those things the early Church said about the death penalty?

And let us not forget about Augustine, Doctor of the Church.

Yes, I tell you what, all of you great Catholics out there, since you are without sin, you can support the death penalty. I'll even let you throw the first stone or flip the first switch.

Otherwise, you need to shut up and listen to the Pope.

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father (the Pope) or the voice of his mother (the Church), and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city (the Holy Trinity) at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear." (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

Sunday, August 05, 2018

When Can We Disagree With the Pope?

Well, we can't do it on matters of faith and morals.

Lumen Gentium #25
25. ... Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Death Penalty Teaching Hasn't Changed

So, some people are upset because Pope Francis explained the teaching on the death penalty. Non-Catholics, such as the men and women of the Chicago Tribune, claim Pope Francis has changed Catholic teaching. Some who claim to be "conservative Catholics" have sided with the Chicago Tribune and promoted this erroneous understanding.

Now, Catholics know it is impossible to change Catholic teaching. So what is going on?

To begin, let us recall the first principle of Christian understanding. Just as you cannot use one Scripture to attack another Scripture, so you cannot use one papal statement to attack another papal statement. We cannot start with the supposition that this Pope is contradicting previous teaching. That is not how Catholic teaching works. So, what is he doing?

The pope is pointing out a change in circumstance which is forcing a change in the discipline. He is not announcing a change in doctrine. What does this mean? It means the APPLICATION of the doctrine has to be changed. The practice has to change. That's a disciplinary change.

To take an example, every human being has a right to eat meat, a right given by God Himself in Genesis 9. So, if this is a right given by God, why do Catholics refrain from eating meat on Fridays? Well, in order to keep fresh the remembrance that God took on flesh so that He could suffer and die for our salvation, and that He chose to do this on a Friday, the Church requires every Catholic to abstain from eating the flesh of land animals on Fridays.

So, when we deliberately eat meat on Friday, the sin does not lie in the eating of meat per se, rather, the sin lies in our refusal to commemorate God's sacrifice for us. It is a sin of disobedience against a discipline. We have the right to eat meat, given in Genesis after Noah lands the ark. But it is the specific circumstances of when we do it that creates the sin.

In the same way, every country has the right to apply the death penalty. That is settled doctrine, and that doctrine cannot change. In ages past due to the general subsistence level poverty most human cultures lived, this was a necessary right. Societies could not afford to permanently house a large, non-working population of inmates. They couldn't guarantee dangerous people could be jailed for life. The death penalty was often the only way to protect the general population from great misery.

What the Pope tells us today is that things are no longer what they were. The world's social institutions have become so wealthy and powerful, they no longer have the excuses of poverty and weakness to invoke. With great power comes great responsibility.

The sin involved in the death penalty derives NOT because the state doesn't have the right to the action. Of course the state has the right to the action. But the circumstances in which the action can be undertaken have essentially disappeared.

While previous epochs in human history may have suffered from such a basic poverty that there was no other recourse, this kind of poverty no longer exists. The Pope merely points out (and the statistics clearly support him) that no such region of the world remains. If any society is too insecure or poor, that is no longer due to an inherent poverty built into the current fabric of human existence, but due to the corruption of its governing officials, who refuse to allocate resources in a just way.  As Hans Rosling pointed out several years ago, the Pope is absolutely correct:

As Rosling points out in his video, for most of the Church's history, all of mankind has lived in a very small box of short-lived poverty. Within the last 200 years, every country on earth has moved out of that box. This change in circumstance requires a change in how doctrines are applied.

It has been pointed out that the death penalty is linked to the right to self-defense, even self-defense that involves taking the life of the aggressor, and the right to wage a just war. Both individuals and states have the rights to defend themselves from unjust aggressors. That hasn't changed. But when I defend myself by taking another human being's life, I only have the right to do so because I have a poverty of choices: I am unable to stop the aggressor with anything less than lethal force.

My right to kill the aggressor in that situation is still intrinsically a violation of the light of the Gospel, and this is reflected in the teaching on self-defense. After all, it has always been standard Catholic teaching that, if I am able to stop the aggressor with less than lethal force, I cannot kill the aggressor. Killing the aggressor in that situation would absolutely be a sin. What is true for individuals is also true for society at large.

Today, governments have no excuse. Any society which is poor suffers from poverty because the murderers and thieves are in the government, not in the street. The unjust aggressor isn't the man on trial, it is the government that tries the man. In the modern world, we are now treated to the spectacle of one extremely powerful murderer and thief (the corrupt government) putting a petty murderer and thief to death in order to cover up and distract from its own sins.

And, to be fair, the death penalty has always had a basic problem. It assumes infallibility on the part of the police and the courts, that they have found and convicted the correct man. Since only the Pope is infallible, and even then only on points of morality and doctrine, that basic presupposition has always been suspect. Honest men and women have always acknowledged this basic flaw.

But today's level of social wealth has laid this flaw bare for all to see. The death penalty is now a sin used by a corrupt government to cover up and distract from its own sins. The United States is one of a rather small list of countries that still use the death penalty. Is there anyone here who would truly try to support the idea that the US government is free from corruption? One sign of our corruption is precisely our insistence on the death penalty.

The Pope exhorts us to recognize what science already tells us: the circumstances in which the state can use the death penalty have disappeared. That is all. The doctrine hasn't changed. The circumstances have changed. The Church is taking official notice of that fact.

All Catholics are required to recognize that the reality on the ground is different. We no longer live in the tenth century. This is a reason for celebration. So, rejoice! We can finally implement the fullness of mercy that God calls us toward.
"A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary." (Homily at the Papal Mass, St. Louis, Missouri, January 27, 1999).

The American Conservative understands how this works.

Pope Saint JP II and Pope Benedict both agree with Francis
"A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary." (Homily at the Papal Mass, St. Louis, Missouri, January 27, 1999).

P.P.P.S A note from Miriam Westen
"The 1917 Code of Canon Law barred from sacred ordination: 1) judges who imposed the death penalty. 2) Also, those who assisted as executioners could never be ordained to the priesthood.

From the 1957 Woywod & Smith Commentary on Canon Law:
"The sixth irregularity from defect (which permanently prevents a man from being ordained priest) is that incurred by a judge of a criminal court who has issued a death sentence against a criminal.

"The spirit of the sacred ministry is a spirit of mercy and forgiveness, wherefore the Church declares it improper to raise to the sacred ministry a person who has concurred in procuring the execution of a man, no matter how legitimate and guiltless such action may have been.

"From the earliest times of the Church men who have shed human blood, even apart from any guilt, were refused admission to the sacred ministry" (p. 598 "Practical Commentary on the Code)."

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Aquinas on Immigration

Like the Founding Fathers of the United States, Aquinas distinguished immigration from naturalization:
“For the Jews were offered three opportunities of peaceful relations with foreigners. First, when foreigners passed through their land as travelers. Secondly, when they came to dwell in their land as newcomers. And in both these respects the Law made kind provision in its precepts: for it is written (Exodus 22:21): ‘Thou shalt not molest a stranger [advenam]’; and again (Exodus 22:9): ‘Thou shalt not molest a stranger [peregrino].’”
That's immigration law. Anyone can immigrate in, and no one can be molested when they do. He's fine with open borders.

But, for naturalizing the immigrants (giving them the right to vote and hold office), he, as well as the founders of the US, recognized the standards would have to be higher.
“Thirdly, when any foreigners wished to be admitted entirely to their fellowship and mode of worship. With regard to these a certain order was observed. For they were not at once admitted to citizenship: just as it was law with some nations that no one was deemed a citizen except after two or three generations, as the Philosopher says (Polit. iii, 1).”
So, yes, Aquinas was fine with open borders, but he insisted on tight naturalization controls.
“The reason for this was that if foreigners were allowed to meddle with the affairs of a nation as soon as they settled down in its midst, many dangers might occur, since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people.”
This is absolutely identical to US policy for the first century of its existence: anyone can come in and make a life for themselves here, without needing any papers, passports, etc. But if you want to vote and hold office in this country, you are held to stringent naturalization requirements.

So, any conservative who insists on Original Intent (tm) has to be fine with open borders, because that was the Founders' original intent. And, the Founders' original intent was completely in conformance with Thomistic principles, so it's not like a Catholic has any real grounds to object.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Ending the Immigration "Crisis"

Most people don't think about it, but immigration is distinct from naturalization. This fact alone changes the whole debate. Remember, the United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. Article I, section 8, clause 4 of the Constitution expressly gives the United States Congress the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization. Pursuant to this power, Congress in 1790 passed the first naturalization law for the United States, the Naturalization Act of 1790.

However, while naturalization, the ability to vote and hold elected office, was tightly restricted for the first century of United States' history, immigration to this country was completely unrestricted. Absolutely anyone could move into the United States, start a new life, pay taxes, participate in military service and conduct business. The United States had an "open-borders" policy for the first century of its existence. Anyone could immigrate into the US and start a new life, but only those who went through the naturalization process, only those who became citizens, could vote or hold elective office.

This set of policies, in which open immigration was permitted, but naturalization was tightly controlled, persisted until the 1870's and 1880's. Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859. For the next several decades, growing support for Darwinian eugenics eventually drove the US government to close the borders and adopt immigration laws. These new immigration laws were intended to end the open immigration policy which the Founding Fathers had permitted, in favor of preventing "racial taint" from immigrants who entered from undesirable countries.

Note well: the "racial taint" argument was made by the Progessivism movement, with eugenicist luminaries such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson leading the race-baiting charge against immigrants. While Christianity had used government policy to end slavery, Progressivists used government policy to impose Darwinian eugenics. Eugenics has been government policy every since. In fact, every president since, and including, Theodore Roosevelt - with the sole exceptions of GW Bush and Ronald Reagan - has supported eugenics.

So, by 1882, America had passed its first immigration law, the Chinese Exclusion Act. A series of additional immigration acts soon followed, as the United States tried desperately to show that whites were superior to all other races. When the policies were first imposed, "white" was defined rather differently. "White" and "Protestant" were considered essentially identical. Thus, immigrants from Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece, were considered "black" for purposes of immigration and segregation laws. Irish immigrants, being Catholic, were held to be human trash. By the early 1900s, both immigration and segregation laws were considered good Progressive policy, endorsed especially by Democrats and by Woodrow Wilson, who complemented the new immigration laws by introducing segregation at the federal level for the first time.

Even a passing acquaintance with US history demonstrates how our immigration laws built on Progressivism and Darwinian eugenics. It is one of the great ironies of history that so many modern "conservatives" are pushing the self-same Progressivist ideology that their Republican forbears fought over a century ago. If we are really interested in following the original intentions of the Founding Fathers, we would return to the "open borders" policy our Founding Fathers designed and intended for the country. From the perspective of the men who wrote the US Constitution, immigration was never a problem. Naturalization was their only concern.

The Founders knew what we refuse to recognize. Immigrants, both legal and illegal, actually make better-behaved citizens than America's current voting citizens do. Wherever illegal immigrants congregate in high numbers, crime rates fall.
To shed light on this contention, Governing conducted an analysis using recently released metro area population estimates from the Pew Research Center for “unauthorized immigrants” -- people who crossed the border illegally or overstayed visas. The analysis not only found no link with violent crime, but indicated concentrations of unauthorized immigrants were associated with marginally lower violent crime rates. A statistically significant negative correlation was also shown for property crimes. For every 1 percentage-point increase in the unauthorized immigrant share of a metro area’s population, average property crime rates dropped by 94 incidents per 100,000 residents.... 
It's these same places that tend to record relatively low crime rates. The 20 metro areas where unauthorized immigrants were most prevalent in the Governing analysis recorded, on average, property crime rates 10 percent lower and violent crime rates 8 percent lower than those of all other regions reviewed. El Paso and San Diego, both adjoining the Mexican border, post some of the lowest violent crime rates of any big American cities year after year, for example

The distinction between "legal" and "illegal" immigration is based on faulty eugenics theory.  Thus, conservatives should be fighting to implement the Founding Fathers' original vision: open borders for immigrants, but naturalization - the ability to vote and hold office - tightly restricted. In that way, we get the best of both worlds. We get the immigrants who were vibrant enough and motivated enough to come to this country, we reap the benefit of their entrepreneurial spirit, while giving them as much time as they need to decide whether or not they want to become full citizens of our republic. What could be better than that?