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Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Public Letter to Janet Smith


Dr. Smith,

Mark Shea, Carl Olsen, Dr. Ed Peters, and others have felt that I have treated you scurrilously on my blog.

So, in the interests of fair play, let me explain precisely where the problems lie.

1) For over a year now,
you have defended or allowed to stand your defense of Chris West’s erroneous understanding that anal sex foreplay is morally permissible. You have publicly and privately held that such foreplay is permitted by the moral manuals. However, neither you nor other Chris West defenders nor Chris West himself have produced any evidence of this assertion – the best anyone has been able to do is provide a discussion of oral sex foreplay from a single manual published in the 1950s, and pretend that this discussion extends to anal sex foreplay. It doesn’t, as that same manual attests.

So, now that you’ve had a year to find it, you must produce the documentation you obviously have in hand from Catholic moral manuals produced prior to Vatican II directly on point concerning anal sex being permissible as foreplay by September 11, 2010 or publicly withdraw your support for this position and apologize for having held it.

Furthermore, you must publicly ask Chris West to produce his documentation within a deadline chosen by you, or you must publicly withdraw your support of Chris West’s teachings on this point. If you would like to ask him or his minions for a private or public apology for having deliberately misled you, that is certainly understandable.

For my part, if you produce the documentation, I will publicly apologize for having ever doubted you.

2) For over a year now, you have publicly and privately supported Chris West in his erroneous position that the Easter Candle is really a phallic symbol. You have claimed that this interpretation is supported in the typology of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.

So, you must produce the documentation you obviously have in hand from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church; direct quotes, with the sources cited, demonstrating what you say is true, by September 11, 2010 or publicly withdraw your support for this position and publicly apologize for having held it.

Furthermore, you must publicly ask Chris West to produce his documentation within a deadline chosen by you, or you must publicly withdraw your support of Chris West’s teachings on this point. If you would like to ask him or his minions for a private or public apology for having deliberately misled you, that is certainly understandable.

For my part, if you produce the documentation, I will publicly apologize for having ever doubted you.

3) You must publicly ask Chris West to attest and affirm that continence is a virtue, as Pope John Paul II, Thomas Aquinas and the Magisterium of the Church have already affirmed.

If he refuses to do so, you must publicly withdraw your support of Chris West’s teachings on this point.

4) According to Chris West’s own words, "If you could not be alone together the day before you got married and not sin, there is no magic trick, there is no waving at the wand at the altar, that suddenly makes your sexual behavior beautiful, true, good, lovely, and pure.” You must publicly ask Chris West to explain exactly when the sacrament of marriage is conferred.

If he says anything other than “the sacrament of marriage, together with its sanctifying graces, are conferred upon the couple when they publicly exchange marriage vows before a deacon, priest, bishop or appropriate delegate in the manner and with the intention required by the Church”, you must publicly repudiate his teachings and publicly call upon his bishops to correct his teaching.

5) You must also publicly state, and call upon Chris West to publicly state, that the sacrament of marriage has three purposes, one of which is a remedy for concupiscence, that the Church does not expect those who enter into marriage to have conquered concupiscence and that we are not to expect those who enter into marriage to have done so. Further, you must publicly call upon West to make these points in future teachings.

6) You have publicly taught people by saying, “God is a pathological stalker.” You must withdraw this statement and make an equally public apology for having made this scandalous assertion.

Dr. Smith, for years you were a lion defending the Catholic teaching on contraception. All I’m asking is that you show the same attitude of fervor and respect towards Her other teachings.

If you do these things, I will treat you with the deference and respect I accord all true teachers of the Catholic Faith.

If you cannot do these things, then I’m afraid I can’t show you any more deference than I showed Nancy Pelosi when she continuously mis-quoted and mis-applied Aquinas and the Fathers.

After all, if you can’t document what you say, you and Chris West are making precisely the same error Pelosi made, and for precisely Pelosi’s own reason: you have your own agenda, and it is not the agenda of the Church.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Room Of Our Own

After reading Father Rutler's ruminations on the Novus Ordo, and some of the comments made about his thoughts, I will chime in.

As a point of information, I have been attending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass on a regular basis for roughly the last two years. Prior to that, I had no particular attachment to it, nor any particular desire to participate in it. However, I find now that when I attempt to participate in the Novus Ordo, even a fairly well-done Novus Ordo, I am left with an empty taste, as after eating too much ice cream for dinner. This was rather unexpected, and when I discovered it, it was more than a bit of a shock.

The best explanation I have yet heard for the Novus Ordo Mass is this: it is the children's Mass (which begs the question of why anyone ever saw a need for a children's Mass edition, but I digress).

The Novus Ordo is the children's Mass in the sense that it is accommodated to people who have an extremely low understanding of theology and God. For this reason, it is the most accessible Mass for a largely pagan population.

Speaking as a former RCIA director, I would be loathe to see the Novus Ordo Mass disappear. The points made by converts that they would never have converted had they access only to the Extraordinary Form are very well-taken.

I believe them.
They wouldn't have converted.

By definition, non-Catholics - even most Catholics - don't understand enough about God to understand why you would ever want to go beyond the heavily-Protestantized Ordinary Form. As with any idol-worship, we have to be weaned away from self-worship.

The Ordinary Form famously lends itself to self-worship. For this very reason, it allows a serious seeker a more seamless transition away from his self-idolatry towards an understanding of God, however rudimentary it may be.

However, once you grow in your understanding of theology, of Christianity and of Christ Himself, you will naturally gravitate towards the Extraordinary Form. Like any other process of growth, this transition will be rocky and difficult at times, even frankly off-putting (who ever really enjoys going through adolescence?) but the rewards are worth it.

And there is something to be said for letting those who wish stay in the semi-Protestant ghetto that is the modern NO parish. Let them have the secular language, the syrupy-song, the standing-reception. It may be sappy, but at least they get Jesus in the Eucharist and the other sacraments are valid. It is, at least, something; a Happy Meal for the itinerant street beggar who would feel self-conscious if he were asked to enter a real home, even his own.

But, for this very reason, the Extraordinary Form has to be commonly available as well, for a beggar who looks in the window often enough may come one day to yearn to live in the home that lies on the other side of the glass. If he looks in long enough, he will begin to realize the comfortable chairs are not chains, the crackling hearth is not heartless, the walls are not a prison. Rather, the home is so bright and warm, so protected and utterly different from his own experiences of the world, that he rather prefers it to standing in the snow, eating from the dumpster or sleeping in the ditch.

The new translation of the Novus Ordo is an important addition to the liturgical life of the Church if only because the porch where the beggars and homeless waifs live is finally being swept clean of unnecessary debris. It establishes a more appropriate intermediary place between the cold indifference of the pagan world and the sacred warmth of the ancient Christian faith.

The Ordinary Form is, and probably always will be, for the pagans and the beggar children of the world. We should simply take comfort in the fact that the Church has finally encouraged bishops to make a place for the adults as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

By These Fruits: Ye Shall Throw Them

The only claim to fame Chris West has ever had is the "fruits" of his works.
The fruits of his work....
Uh-huh.

Yes, well, let's check out some of those fruits, eh? For instance, consider the absolute hatred he has generated in certain non-Catholic circles by teaching his opinion instead of John Paul II's work. Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but the sentence,
"Ladies, your bodies don’t make much sense on their own, do they?"
is not a direct quote from the late, great Pope John Paul II. Remarkably, even the second edition of his work, rehashed from the Polish by a man who can't read Polish (Dr. Waldstein, call your office - the royalty check is in), doesn't manage to generate this remarkable sentence.

Now, there are many reasons such a sentence would not be uttered or even implied by John Paul II.

To start with, it's very down-to-earth, which our late Pope was not. As everyone knows, John Paul II was not very much of a people-pleaser. He didn't attract large crowds clamoring for a glimpse of him. No, he was far too high in his ivory tower.

That's why Chris finds it necessary to adapt his language to the streets, and talk about things JP II never thought to discuss, like whether or not Mary was flat-chested, or the proper uses of anal foreplay.

With Chris, TOB is theological stone soup. There isn't much there to start with, but if you just boil the water, and add a bit of flavoring here and a bit of flavoring there, why, in a minute you've got the best-tasting soup in the world! And to think it was made out of just Petrine stones and water! I declare!

Another reason John Paul II would never have said such a thing might have something to do with the fact that the rank stupidity of the statement is so enormous, so bone-deep incredible, that it can only be matched by, say, comparing God to a pathological stalker.

But whose theology would be so horrific, so mind-numbingly whacked, as to even pose statements like this? (Sorry, Janet! Didn't realize you were standing so close!).

To put it another way, was it John Paul II's mission to make women realize that they were senseless, stupid NOTHINGS unless they had a man? (Don't give away the answer, Janet! We're keen to guess!)

Come, let us reason together!

If this is a "theology of the body"
and
"your body doesn't make much sense",
then
YOU don't make much sense, chickadee!
You need a great big MAN to come along and MAKE A WOMAN out of you!
QED.

So as soon as Chris meets such a man, he'll get his number.
For you, of course.

Anyway, I haven't read the young lady's poetry, but I'm bettin' it's going to flow somewhere along the above points.

Yes, Chris is just knockin' 'em dead in the hustings, ain't he?

Them pagans hear his wonderful, down-to-earth friendly summaries of a woman's complete lack of relevance ("your bodies don't make much sense, ladies") and they just KNOWS they is in the company of a cultured man.

Yes, those fruits.... they're a comin', yo're way, Chris, me-boy, sent with luv from all them uneducated, neanderthal, senseless women who didn't ever even realize how stupid their bodies was until a great big man like you pointed it out to them!

Yep, fruits is definitely a-comin', Chris.
But'cha better duck, 'cause they air travellin' mighty fast, and I'm a'thinkin' they air a bit over-ripe, if you catch my meanin'. So DUCK!

The Nuns at Auschwitz

You know, with the 9/11 Mosque, people keep bringing up the nuns at Auschwitz. It was the case that the Carmelite monastery at Auschwitz was housed in the former administration buildings the SS had used during the war. They had erected wooden crosses to commemorate the deaths of Catholics at that site.

Why would they do this?
Because Auschwitz' main camp, where the monastery was housed, killed Catholics exclusively for the first 25 months of operation.

Even when Jews began to be killed at Auschwitz, they were generally not killed at the main camp, but at Birkenau, three miles away. Birkenau is considered part of the Auschwitz complex because it was a sub-camp of the original complex.

So, when international outrage forced the nuns to remove the crosses and themselves from the place of Catholic Holocaust, they were being forced out of a place dedicated to memorializing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Catholic Poles. The commemoration of the deaths of these Catholics was essentially belittled by that removal, but the Catholic Church went along with it in order to assuage injured sensibilities.

Keep this in mind when people bring up the nuns and crosses at Auschwitz in regards to the 9/11 mosque. The comparison is actually a lot more poignant and terrible than most people realize. It would be similar to asking the memorial to fireman at 9/11 be removed because it offended the sensibilities of the families of the government employees who died there that day.

3000 people died at 9/11, all kinds of people. The strike was against American capitalism, not American firefighters or police officers. We remember the latter because of their heroism, but they weren't the primary targets.

12 million people died in the Holocaust, 6 million Jews, 3 million Catholics, but also Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses and many other targeted groups. The Jews were the primary targets, but the Gypsies, on a per capita basis, were probably more terribly hurt by the Holocaust than the Jews. Hitler himself said that the Catholic Church would follow the Jews into the grave, and, in some areas of Poland, he killed nearly every priest and Catholic religious. Catholicism was seen as Judaism once removed, a religion to be destroyed along with the Jewish faith.

The Muslims insistence on putting a mosque up at the Ground Zero site is very much similar to putting up a temple to National Socialism at Auschwitz. Even if most Nazis were unaware of the Holocaust, even if some Nazis opposed it when they found out about it (and many did), it's not a good idea.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spineless

Father Michael Rodriguez of El Paso has recently written several newspaper columns and made a television appearance at a local news station in order to make clear the Catholic teaching on homosexuality: while we must recognize the homosexual as a human being deserving of dignity, we can do nothing but condemn the sexual sins that an active homosexual undertakes. He wrote these letters and made this appearance in response to heretical teaching by another priest in the diocese, and in response to public events occurring in El Paso right now.

In response, his bishop, Bishop Ochoa, wrote a pastoral letter which seemed to rebuke Father Rodriguez for his teaching. It says in part:

As Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso and chief teacher of our local church, I would like to share some pastoral reflections on certain issues that are important for the well-being of all God's people.

First of all, I would like to state that previous columns claiming to speak for Catholic Doctrine were the personal opinions of individuals and do not necessarily express the belief of the Catholic Church.

Now, was the bishop correcting the priest who wrote in favor of homosexuality? Or the one who wrote and spoke against it? Or both?

It's hard to say.

One thing is certain: Bishop Ochoa's letter is a nearly perfect example of why no one pays attention to bishops anymore.

Read through his letter carefully. Exactly what does it say? Apart from a rather nebulous idea that God is really nice and loves everyone, it is empty.

There is no mention of sin, no mention of grace, nothing about salvation. Catholic teaching is only interested in "promoting the good of society", not saving anyone.

"We believe Christ offers meaning" but if you believe differently... well....

"Every child has a right to life." Well, yes, and everyone loves baseball. But when does a child's life begin, Bishop? Give us a definition, tell us what we are defending!

"The Church is a supporter of the sanctity of a marriage between a man and a woman." Indeed, Bishop! But what about the attempted marriage between a man and a man, a woman and a woman, or a man and a dog? Is the Church silent on these issues? Would a priest who said these latter attempts are intrinsically evil, would he be expressing "his personal opinion" or the views of the Church?

Newsflash - it can be both. But would the Bishop tell you?

"God's first and primary law is love." Ah! The heart flutters!

But what is love, Bishop? Seems to me it involved a lot of suffering - scourging, cross, death, that kind of thing. And I'm not just talking the scourging of Christ, I'm pointing out that the loving and loveable Christ scourged the money changers in the Temple, and called quite a lot of people "Blind guides, fools, hypocrites... you make your disciples TWICE the sons of perdition that you are!"

That's love for ya'. Does the Bishop mention any of this? Is the Bishop even AWARE of any of this?

He uses Scripture only once, and that one reference is wrong in essential details.

He throws around words like "love" and "marriage" without stringently defining either. Thus, he ends with what are meant to be stirring words,

I urge all of our pastoral agents to reach out to individuals with a homosexual orientation and their families with compassion. This can be done without compromising Church teaching in any way because our pastoral care demands no less from us.

Those words mean nothing, because he hasn't actually taught us anything we didn't learn in third grade. "God is soft and fuzzy! Hug Him! Isn't He a nice friend?"

If this is the best teaching a bishop can provide, then maybe that bishop should consider early retirement, and a long rest under a cool shade tree.

Adults want content and direction.

Adults expect backbone.

If you don't have the spine to say what you think - or what you are supposed to think - then you aren't worth following at all.

There is absolutely nothing in this episcopal letter that is memorable or even particularly Catholic. It could as easily have been written by a liberal Muslim, a standard-issue Hindu, or a any Buddhist as by a Catholic bishop.

Why did Bishop Ochoa waste the ink?


UPDATE:

I failed to mention that Fr. Rodriguez' letter was actually the second in a series, responding not only to events in El Paso, but to a very negative public newspaper response from a fellow priest, Fr. Ed Rodan-Lucero.

Church opposes redefinition of morality (Fr. Rodriguez)

It behooves me to emphasize the following truths to all the Catholic faithful of our diocese: Every single Catholic has the absolute duty to oppose the murder of unborn babies; every single Catholic has the absolute duty to oppose any government attempt to legalize homosexual unions.

The Holy Catholic Church has the power, given to her by Jesus Christ himself, to teach infallibly in the areas of faith and morals. Basing herself on sacred tradition and sacred Scripture, and in virtue of what…


Catholic church must keep arms open to all (Rev. Ed Roden-Lucero)

For the benefit of all people of good will regardless of faith, race or orientation, I write to offer a broader pastoral, scriptural and ecclesial perspective compared to that offered by Rev. Michael Rodriguez, (Church Opposes Redefinition of Morality, March 21).

An appropriate starting point is a question proposed to Jesus in the gospel and his response to it. When asked which commandment is the most important, Jesus replies first with the well-known commandment to love God “...

Catholics must show true faith (Fr. Rodriguez) (Hat-tip, Jerry at WDTPRS).

So, Bishop is putting a pox on both priests. But that hardly solves our problem.

Pope Honorius was declared a heretic by the Church for silencing both sides on an important theological issue of the day. Instead of pointing out that one side was correct and the other not correct, he simply told both to shut up - that silence got him branded a heretic.

This conflict is not an unresolvable conflict, but one that has already been settled by the Church along the lines Fr. Rodriguez describes. If the Church has already chosen sides in this debate - and She has - then Bishop Ochoa must do so as well.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Successful Conspiracies

You know, many people oppose the idea that Barack Hussein Obama is secretly an unconverted Muslim, or at least a co-traveler with Muslims.

Likewise, many people reject the idea that there is a problem with his birth certificate.

These concepts are rejected on the grounds that such things require massive conspiracies.

The implication (sometimes explicated) is that massive conspiracies don't work.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support the contention that massive conspiracies don't work. Often, they work quite well.

Here is a very short list of some conspiracies that worked out wonderfully well for years or even decades at a stretch.


Successful Massive Conspiracies

Ending of slavery in England - Neither the man who proposed the legislation in Parliament nor most of the people who voted for the legislation realized they were passing a bill specifically designed to end slavery in the British Empire. The reason? The bill didn't attack slavery directly, instead, it created an economic situation which would eventually make legalized slavery economically impossible. The conspirators intended this slavery-ending economic effect, but only the conspirators realized the bill would have this effect. It wouldn't become obvious to everyone else until several years after the bill had been implemented.

Establishment of the Federal Reserve - Whatever you may think about the Fed (and not being an economist, I have no particular ax to grind with it), the fact is, it was established via a conspiracy of economists and bankers. In order to avoid detection, the men in question even went to the trouble of dressing up as duck hunters and taking alternate routes to meet at their rendezvous to discuss the mechanics of how they were going to implement it.

Establishment of Social Security - to this day, there are people who actually think this is some kind of insurance program. Most of the American population don't understand that it is simply a massive tax that forms part of an enormous Ponzi scheme.
World War I
First use of poison gas in warfare- a complete surprise, but it required the coordinated effort of thousands.

The first use of the tank - although tactically indifferent in its effects, it was likewise a complete surprise to the troops who faced it for the first time.

Between war projects
The German T-4 euthanasia program. It was in operation for well over a year before anyone began to suspect problems. It killed well over 100,000 people, up to one-third of all the mental patients in the nation. To this day, we aren't exactly sure how many died. That's a pretty successful conspiracy.

World War II
Enigma decoding project - a massive project involving thousands, but the Germans never had any idea we were reading their messages in real time.
The Great Escape – more than 600 prisoners kept three tunnels so secret that the Germans never even found the third, even though they were actively looking for them during the entire year-long project. A massive conspiracy, successfully kept despite ferocious opposition.
Essentially every nuclear fission project during this war was unknown to the general public (US, Japan, Germany, Russia), and virtually unknown even to people who realized the theoretical possibility. The success rates of each project were unknown to all of the other various combatants (with the possible exception that the progress of the American project was well-known to the Russians due to the successful infiltration of a spy into Los Alamos). The American project was not only carried out in the remote town of Los Alamos, but also in the rather heavily populated towns of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Richland, Washington and Chalk River, Canada. The initial reactor pile was created under the football stadium at the University of Chicago. No one knew it except the people involved.
German development of the jet engine- a complete shock to the fighter pilots who first encountered it. Listen to the tapes sometime, if you get a chance. The Allied pilots reacted as if they were seeing UFOs.
German counter-attack that created the Battle of the Bulge - Only Patton had any inkling that this might happen, and it was based more on instinct than on any reasoned response.
Japanese biological warfare experiments on American prisoners - to this day, most people don't know the Japanese were involved in this.
The existence of German death camps - Certainly the administrations of most governments knew about these by the end of the war, but they were literally unknown for at least a year, and in some cases, several years, prior to that.

Post-WWII
Fusion bomb project - The Russians stole the American plans, but no one else knew we were even developing the thing.
SR-71 Blackbird project - Thousands of people on this one. Who knew?
Tuskagee Syphilis experiment - the progress of this ongoing study was published in medical journals for decades, but outside of the medical community, no one had any idea that this was going on.
The polio virus conspiracy - for fifty years, thousands of people knew, but did not tell the public, that the polio vaccine was actually infecting and killing more children than the wild virus. 
In five New England states cases of polio roughly doubled after polio vaccine was introduced. Nevertheless in the midst of the polio panic of the 1950s, with pressure to find a magic bullet, statistics were manipulated by health authorities to give the quite the opposite impression.
Vietnam
Tet Offensive - a massive attack (and massive failure) by the communist Vietnamese against American and South Vietnamese forces, it was an absolute complete surprise to the defenders.
Biological agents tested on the American population - performed by the US Government on the American population for nearly a decade, but no one knew about it until long after the testing had concluded. At least, as far as we know, it has been concluded.
If you go farther back in history, the examples of massive successful conspiracies could be multiplied.
The idea that a conspiracy cannot be maintained beyond a certain very small number of people is a bald assertion that has no basis in fact. Massive conspiracies are common throughout history. All it takes is well-motivated people with the same mindset who see themselves as fighting a common enemy.
Back to Barack
So, when we:
  • look at the way Nancy Pelosi phrased the eligibility papers for Barack,
  • see BHO's reticence to reveal ANY paperwork on himself,
  • look back at his own public statements,
  • his wife's public statements,
  • his family's public statements,
when we investigate who, exactly, could obtain the only public document the man has released about himself,
when we realize that the newspaper references to his birth are not based on witness testimony, but on the self-same public document that virtually any motivated mother or grandmother could obtain for her (grand) child, no matter his real citizenship....
When we realize that Barack is smart enough to figure out that a conspiracy can work as long as it only has to work for a couple of years and only has to involve a few hundred motivated fellow-travellers...
Yes, from an historian's perspective, it is not unreasonable for over one-third of the American population to want some questions answered.
Barack Hussein Obama had a conveniently meteoric rise to power.
If he is keeping one or more big secrets, if he and his friends really did decide to engage in a massive conspiracy, if the people involved in such a putative conspiracy were even moderately intelligent, they would lay out the time line first.
And they would quickly realize what we already know.
He needed only about five years.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Anti-Semitism at the Vortex?

Michael Voris normally has some pretty good videos.

This video one is not one of them.




The problem is multi-faceted.
First, the use of the word "Jew" repeatedly aloud is somewhat jarring.
Most people don't do it because the connotations are not good.

It's very difficult to listen to the first part of Voris' talk and hear what he is actually saying because so many alarm bells start ringing in your head as the word rings repeatedly in your ears.

Now, that having been said, there are additional difficulties with his argument, the first being that it's just wrong.

The argument he's making is composed of several elements.
Let's take them one at a time.

1) The distinction between the religion of Judaism and the "race" of Judaism
I hesitate to say this distinction can be made, because it is fraught with difficulties.

To begin with, it is certainly the case that Jews have historically considered anyone of Jewish ancestry to be a Jew, regardless of whether or not they actually practice the faith, but this turns out not to be as helpful as Michael Voris would like. In some ages, this Jewish heritage was said to have passed down through the child's father (the father had to be a Jew), in other ages (ours included), the mother had to be a Jew for the child to be considered Jewish.

In any case, the use of the word "race" in regards to the Jews is biologically absurd (as is the use of the word "race" in regards to ANY group of human beings).

You might call the Jews a "nation" and suffer no logical absurdities, but calling them a "race" hearkens back to the days of eugenics that immediately followed the publication of Darwin's The Descent of Man in 1871. Yes, people then considered each nation-state a separate race, to the extent that they spoke of the "German race" and the "French race" but doing that today is considered silly.

It is also considered rather dangerous. Viewing individual nation-states as individual races is the sense in which Hitler spoke of the Jews as a race - he considered them a nation within a nation, a group of illegal immigrants, as it were, and therefore a threat to Germany. Germany was kind of prickly about her nation-state status precisely because she had only become a single nation in 1871 as a result of the Franco-Prussian war.

And it was against the nation-race, not the religion, of the Jews that Hitler waged war. Few people realize that a Jew who had gotten himself or herself permanently sterilized was immune from deportation to the death camps. A sterilized Jew posed no threat to the genetic heritage of the nation-race of Germany, and so could practice the Jewish faith freely, without fear of persecution, even during the height of the German pogroms.

The problem comes in precisely because of the Jewish insistence that anyone born of a Jewish mother was themselves Jewish. Hitler took this as literal truth, insisting that Judaism was a race that needed to be exterminated, and of course he acted on it. So, today, if you call the Jews a "race," many Jews will hear "genetically distinct, genetically inferior nation-race" and accuse you of being a Nazi anti-Semite, even if you mean none of those extra words, but instead simply mean to agree with their own definition of what constitutes a Jew.

The word "race" in connection with Judaism is so heavily laced with the wrong connotations that it really should never be used.

Voris' point about there being such a thing as an atheist Jew is well-taken, however. Such a thing is perfectly reasonable from the Jewish point of view.

2) Does The Temple define what it means to be a Jew?
It is not possible to say that the destruction of the Temple destroyed the Jewish religion or destroyed Judaism. After all, the Temple that the Romans destroyed was the SECOND Temple - the first one had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. It was rebuilt in 538 BC, but didn't get rededicated, and capable of bearing sacrifice, until 515 BC.

So, if we say Judaism REQUIRES a Temple, then we must admit that Judaism was destroyed in 586 BC. This poses numerous obvious problems, not the least of which is that Jesus can no longer be considered a Jew from a religious perspective, only from a "race" perspective.

If we accept Voris' contention, then we must accept the idea that Judaism existed until the first Temple was destroyed, then it popped out of existence for 70 years, then it suddenly popped back into existence simply because a few stones were laid on top of each other again. Then it popped out of existence again. So the covenant of the eternally faithful God was dead for 70 years?

Yeah, that doesn't work.

Alternatively, we could say Judaism died with the destruction of the first Temple, and stayed dead from then on. But if we say THAT, the whole salvation theology thing falls apart. We can't be grafted onto a dead tree, and the tree is dead if the first Temple was the real definition of Judaism.

In fact, we could go back and point out that the Temple system of sacrifice was instituted by God due to the way the Chosen People rebelled against Moses. But Judaism started with Abraham, not Moses. Between Abraham and Moses, there was neither a Temple, nor a hint that the Temple system was necessary. The earliest patriarchs did perform sacrifice, but any male head of household could offer it, and the rules were not nearly as spelled out as the Temple system had them.

So, in order to be theologically consistent, we have to admit that the Temple was really, really important, but that Judaism grew up without it, and even after it was instituted, Judaism can still limp along without it, if only because we have pre-Christ example of it having done so.

3) Is Judaism a man-made religion?
That's like asking if Christianity is defined by allegiance to the Pope. Well, yes, it is, but no, it isn't. That is, you can be validly baptized and therefore truly a Christian without accepting the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. There are a lot of flavors of Christianity, most of them man-made accretions onto a divinely created base.

The Jewish faith is no different. Orthodox Jews who try to follow the full 613 laws may well be considered the fullness of Judaism now that the Temple is gone, just as they were the fullness of Jewish faith the last time the Temple got knocked over.

You can easily argue that Reform Judaism is purely an invention of man, because it is - it was invented by a bunch of essentially atheistic Zionists in the mid-1800s. By the same token you can argue that Conservative Judaism, a reaction to Reform Judaism, is also man-made.

But Orthodox Judaism?
Nah, not so much.

And it gets still worse. There are a LOT of splinter groups within each of the above general divisions, and each one has its own flavor. There is no Jewish equivalent to the Pope (the only religion I can think of off-hand which has anything close to the Pope is Tibetan Buddhists and the Dalai Lama, but even there, most other flavors of Buddhists don't recognize his authority).

The point is, there is no longer a monolithic Judaism - there wasn't during Jesus' time (remember how the Pharisees and Sadducees fought?) and things haven't gotten better since. So blanket statements about "the Jews" just don't begin to grasp the kind of problem you're looking at when you want to talk about Judaism intelligently.

NB: If it's any consolation to Mike Voris, I've had Jews make the same mistake when they try to converse with me. Indeed, I once had a Jew accuse me of anti-Semitism because he didn't like my Catholic interpretation of the Old Testament. When I pointed out to my Jewish critic that a lot of Jews wouldn't like HIS interpretation any better, he suddenly left the conversation.

4) Did the Jews who rejected Christ start a man-made religion?
No, at least, not in the sense that Martin Luther did. God established covenant with Abraham. He made several modifications to the covenant with various patriarchs, most especially with Moses. But the rejection of the greatest modification, the perfection supplied by Christ, is not a rejection of the covenant that came before.

When Martin Luther, et. al, rejected portions of Catholic Faith, they truly did start a new faith. But the Hebrews simply didn't accept the perfection of the covenant that God had already given them. The Hebrew covenant is entirely from God, at least as the Orthodox Jews try to live it. You could argue that the synagogue system, which came into being between the two Temple periods, is not specifically ordained by God, but that system exists simply to help the Hebrews live the divinely proclaimed ordinances. In this sense, the synagogue system is much like Catholic canon law - neither is divinely ordained, but both are necessary to living out what is divinely ordained.

So Judaism isn't a new faith, it's simply a faith that hasn't thought through the last bits of divine revelation. The Protestant faith, on the other hand, was invented from whole cloth. It invents an entirely new theology, divesting itself of a major tenet of not only Judeo-Christian theology, but of nearly every faith the world has ever seen - the concept of Purgatory.

But even if we were to say that Judaism was similar to Reformation theology (which it isn't), we don't say Lutherans aren't Christians, aren't part of the covenant, or that their baptism doesn't save, so neither can we say that the Jews are not part of God's covenant.

God established the covenant, not us.
He doesn't break His word.
They are part of the covenant regardless of what they do or what they recognize.

Now, the Jews have rejected part of the single covenant between God and man, but that's not unusual for the Chosen People - they did that numerous times in the Old Testament and God never wrote them out of this single covenant.

True, this last rejection is quite a bit worse than previous ones, but we don't have any theological evidence to think they are completely out of the covenant, if only because that's not how God works. When He makes a covenant, it's eternal.

We just have to keep in mind that the "Old" covenant and the "New" covenant are the SAME covenant in the sense that God always intended salvation for everyone to come to us through the Jews.

The difference between the Old and the New Covenant is the difference between the skeleton of a half-built house and the house completed and nestled among 50-foot pines twenty years later. We can speak of the "old" house as we remember how it was built and how we walked through the skeleton so carefully, wearing our hard hats and steel-toed boots, and compare this to the "new" house that we live in now, in which we wear slippers, cozy housecoats and drink tea. The Jews refuse to live in the finished section, but they are still in the house.

Voris is correct to allude to the fact that Catholicism is just the completion of Judaism. He is correct to say that ancient Judaism looks a lot like Catholicism sometimes, but it is different. But by failing to acknowledge the common core covenant, he creates a lot more problems than he solves.

Question:
Now, some of you may be asking "Kellmeyer, does that mean you think the Jews can be saved without water baptism? That they have their own path to salvation?"

Answer:
No, the Jews do not have their "own" path to salvation.
There is no salvation except through Jesus Christ.
But it is a basic theological principle that God is not bound by the sacraments.
He instructs us to use the sacraments, but He is free to save people in ways known to Himself and without any sacraments at all, if He wishes. He can give the coin of salvation to any laborer He meets in the road, whether He sends them to the vineyard at 8 AM or at 8 PM, and He isn't bound to give us the coin to give to the laborer - He can give that sanctifying grace directly as and whenever He wishes.

Now, we don't know any other way to be saved except the sacraments, so it behooves us to help as many people as we possibly can to those waters. We are duty-bound to do so, and insofar as we don't, we are going to be judged for failing in our duty.

But God isn't going to send some poor man to hell because of MY failure to preach the Gospel. Apart from the problem of original sin, we don't go to hell for other people's failures, we go there for our own failures.

I may send myself to hell, but God will take into account that I failed in my duty towards this poor man when this poor man is judged, and "the natural law written on his heart may, perhaps, excuse him on that day of judgement which I preach," as Paul explains in Romans.

So, can an unbaptized Jew attain salvation?
Most assuredly.
And if that man is saved, he will be saved only through the merits of Christ's cross.

So, should I refrain from preaching the Gospel to him out of sensibility towards his feelings and in the faith that this will happen?

If I fail to preach the Gospel to someone, I may end up in hell, because I didn't show any real love towards my neighbor. I didn't preach God's love to Him. Instead, I worried about whether or not he would be offended by the Gospel. I put fleeting emotional concerns above God's desire that this man know and properly respond to His eternal love. It's akin to letting someone die of pneumonia because I am worried that they may hate swallowing antibiotic pills.

That's not love - that's just stupid.

If that's the way I treat my neighbor, my unbaptized neighbor may very well be saved, but I won't be.

Conclusion:
In summary, this video has enough serious errors in it that it should really be pulled.
It is theologically WAY off base.

Monday, August 16, 2010

National Catholic Fishwrap

If I were to declaim, in the style of the inestimable Fr. Z., on the relative lack of merit in the National Catholic Fishwrap (tm Fr. Z), the Catholics who read this blog would applaud wildly in uniform agreement.

If I highlighted the sexual errors of a Catholic priest or made delicious fun of the women who think they can be ordained priests (like the oh-so-brave but oh-so-anonymous Diogenes) I would be crowned with flowers.

if I constantly reported the mere allegation of sexual abuse against every priest (like Amy Welborn) without regard to whether or not those allegations had yet proved to be true, I would be lionized as a brave hero.

If I castigated Nancy Pelosi for her absurd theological points (like just about everybody), you would think me smart and fancy.

But if I dare to question Christopher West, Janet Smith, Mark Shea, Pat Madrid, et. al,

Then I am:
  • MEAN-SPIRITED
  • DIVISIVE
  • EVIL
  • VICIOUS
  • PERTINACIOUS
  • ACRIMONIOUS
  • SHOOTING OUR OWN
  • FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT OF SCREWTAPE
  • CLAWING AT THE BODY OF CHRIST!
MAKE HIM SHUT UP!!!!

This they scream as they spew pea soup in my general direction...

Yeah.

Well.

I don't worship at your altars, so I don't get your point.

Are their errors less important?

Or are they more dangerous precisely because you'll swallow from Chris West and Janet Smith what you would never accept from Pelosi and the priestesses?


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Perceptive Man

The Heresy Hunter called me a punk.

He's an incredibly perceptive man.

To clear up one question in his post, however, a little explanation is in order.

Heresy Hunter was mystified as to why Pat Madrid would declare joy at the thought of my being told to "shut up" (Pat's words).

Therein lies a tale....

Anyone who knows Pat's history knows that he was one of the founders of e3mil.com, which is now known as Catholic Exchange. As most of you probably remember, Pat had founded Basilica Press and Envoy Magazine. Well, both were folded into e3mil.com as part of their "cover all channels" communications strategy, and from what I was given to understand, Pat got a large chunk of change for coming aboard early in e3mil's development cycle.

Well, e3mil.com was bankrolled by a Catholic millionaire that Pat, Tom Allen and a few others had hornswoggled (I never got the name, but my royalty checks are still signed by Peter Daou Foundation, so draw your own conclusions). When the dot-com bubble burst, so did e3mil.com.

Pat ran for cover, leaving e3mil and taking Envoy Magazine with him along with a golden handshake. He left Basilica Press behind in the ruins of the e3mil fiasco. But before he ran for the hills, he had signed several authors onto Basilica Press. I was one of them.

I had a book called Scriptural Catholicism which I had self-published for at least a year prior to signing with Basilica. It was really the first of its kind (at least, the first in the last 40 years) in amassing enormous numbers of Scripture quotes into one place. It was a one-volume encyclopedia of apologetics and it sold really, really well. As a vendor, I actually once out-sold Tim Staples at one of Staples' own conferences (80 books to his 30 or 40 sales, in an audience of about 300). I had dozens of bookstores buying it - I thought signing with Madrid and Basilica was just going to mushroom sales. After all, hadn't Pat Madrid and Matt Pinto mushroomed the sales of their own respective self-published books?

Now, Pat made all kinds of promises to me when he signed me, including promising me a stint on ETWN. As a naive young Catholic, I foolishly thought that Catholics would honor promises even if they weren't formally written in the contract.

Hah! I found the joke was on me!

Not only did Pat change my book so as to make it unrecognizable to my audience (he even changed the title to the non-descript "Bible Basics"), he never got me that EWTN appearance or any additional sales. In fact, quite the reverse. Thanks to Pat's expertise, my book sales crashed by 90%. They never recovered.

By absolutely sheerest coincidence though, Pat came out with a competing product, "Where is THAT in the Bible?" just about a year later, right after he left e3mil, in fact.

Now, a few years after that Mel Gibson created his "Passion of the Christ" movie. As you may remember, e3mil.com used Ascension Press to bring out their famous best-seller on the Passion movie, using Mark Shea as an author. In fact, Tom Allen, the head of Catholic Exchange (the resurrected version of e3mil), somehow managed to worm his way into the production and help market the book across the country, to such an extent that his name even appears in the closing credits of the movie.

The movie raised enormous interest in Catholic theology and Catholic handling of Scripture in both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, so the Ascension Press book did VERY well.

And, to their credit, Ascension Press DID put my book in the bibliography of their book on the Passion.
First, in fact.
But, DARN!
By purest bad luck, Basilica Press had taken my book out of production just a month before the Ascension Press "Passion" book released... and Basilica kept it out of production for a full year. Everybody who wanted my book on Catholic handling of Scripture couldn't get it. I had zero sales from being in the bibliography.

But not everyone lost!
Pat Madrid did just fine with his Scripture book (it was published through OSV - he apparently didn't think much of the publishing company he created).

Oh, should I mention that during this time, the people in charge of the distribution of my book at Basilica were the same people in charge of distribution for Ascension Press? Yes, the ubiquitous Lynn Klika and her Catholic Word distribution company worked for Ascension Press, Basilica Press and Ignatius Press! What a coincidence!

And why would Ascension Press screw one of their own products in order to help an OSV product?

Well, Matt Pinto and Pat Madrid both used to work at Catholic Answers for Karl Keating.
Matt Pinto and Pat Madrid are old friends. Very old friends.
(To his credit, Karl Keating spent years refusing to talk to either one after Mutt and Jeff left his employ, for reasons I have never discovered. But I can make a couple of guesses).

Anyway, as a result, Pat Madrid made a TON of money, Catholic Exchange made a TON of money, and I .... oh, well, I wasn't part of the "in" crowd, was I, Pat?

That's why, as Pat points out, even though I once spent a night at his house, he never got to know me too well. Farmers don't spend a whole lot of cozy time with the chickens, pigs or sheep they raise.

So, of course, Pat needs to find me "acrimonious."
It undoubtedly helps him when he thinks about the past, assuming he thinks about the past.

And, of course, with this column, he's helping out his old friend, Matt Pinto and Ascension Press. After all, Matt's business was slowly sinking into the dirt until he signed Christopher West. Without West, Ascension Press would almost certainly have followed Sophia Institute Press and Tan Books into the Chapter 11 "find me a sugar daddy!" phase of Catholic publishing - the interminable senescence before death (the same death Ignatius Press was contemplating before hitting the unexpected pay dirt of having Fessio's friend, Cardinal Ratzinger, elected Pope).

So to be fair, I'm quite certain Pat didn't write that post just to be vicious to me. Knowing Patrick Madrid, he's not only helping Matt, he's probably somewhere got a financial deal cooking in the background, and he needs to show his bona fides to whoever is on the other end of the contract. For my money, Pat's essay is meant to assure someone that Pat is "on the side of the angels," as his friend, Mark Shea, would say.

So, you have your pick of reasons for why Pat Madrid suddenly jumped into the fray "from left field." It could be any one of them. It could be all of them. Or maybe he actually believes what he writes. Who knows?

Ask Pat! I'm sure he will tell you what you want to hear.

And, Pat, if you're reading this, I'm glad to hear you found another sugar daddy for Envoy!

Sorry I didn't respond to your essay earlier, but I didn't know anyone considered you relevant anymore.

FOOTNOTE:
To be scrupulously fair to Pat, Ignatius Press had also caught wind of my book at the same time Pat did, and they were also trolling to sign me. I chose Basilica over Ignatius primarily based on the promised royalties. Given what I know of IP, I doubt my treatment would have been any better if I'd signed with them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shocked to Find Gambling Here




The police were famously shocked to find gambling at Rick's.

And I'm shocked to discover that Catholic Exchange is vociferously defending Chris West.

But, let's take apart a few of the sillier comments made by the CE representative, Heidi Saxton:

Differences in Approach or Content?
1) She states that the differences between West and von Hildebrand amount to different blind men around an elephant, that is, it is merely a difference of approach, not content. You may remember that Mark Shea launched this trial ballon on Inside Catholic within the last 48 hours. It seems the Westians are trying to establish a solid meme in multiple channels before The Chris returns from his sabbatical.

Is it true?
Well, shockingly enough, my conclusion is "NO!" (Betcha' didn't see THAT coming, eh?)

This cannot be a problem of the blind man and the elephant because there can be no conflict between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, as John Paul II pointed out in Catechesi Tradendae #22.
It is useless to play off orthopraxis against orthodoxy... Nor is any opposition to be set up between a catechesis taking life as its point of departure and a traditional doctrinal and systematic catechesis...This revelation is not however isolated from life or artificially juxtaposed to it. It is concerned with the ultimate meaning of life and it illumines the whole of life with the light of the Gospel, to inspire it or to question it.
This is a question of doctrine - how it is presented without distortion. West, supposedly a great student of John Paul II, seems wholly unacquainted with papal writings outside of a very narrow scope.

So, West's position is that this is a problem of approach.
The von Hildebrand position is that this is a problem of content.
The two positions are not mutually reconcilable.

It's similar to the difference between a clinician telling a general practice physician, "Your treatment is wrong because I wouldn't have prescribed that drug for pneumonia"
versus
the clinician saying "Your treatment is wrong because the patient has a broken back, not pneumonia."
The first is a difference in approach.
The second is a difference concerning the facts.

Given that Saxton acknowledges, and West's own editor admits in a linked article, that some of West's positions are wrong, von Hildebrand's concerns are demonstrable and essentially admitted by all sides.

On the other hand, apart from repeated bald assertion by West supporters, there is no evidence West's contention is true. However, we must all remember the most important aspect to this part of the discussion: Joseph Goebbels' point that if you repeat a lie often enough, it is believed.

Does The End Justify The Means?
2) To say that many good people have come to Christ through TOB is really not relevant to the discussion. Catholics are not just concerned about ends - we also care about means.

To take a physical example, Christ has brought many people into existence through artificial insemination and rape, but this fact does not mean either artificial insemination or rape are therefore reasonable ways to give the gift of life.

To judge ONLY by the fruits is to implicitly accept the idea that the ends justifies the means. The continued harping on the fruits of West's work, with scant attention paid to his means, is itself a violation of how Catholics look at things.

How Thin is West's Skin?
3) Why would people take it personally when West feels himself treated in a trivial way? The very statement that this happens shows that the people who do this are not identifying with Christ so much as they are identifying with Chris - Christ without the "t", that is, Christ without His Cross, which is essentially what Chris preaches.

The inability to separate "doctrine" from delivery from deliverer is the definition of a personality cult. Indeed, Saxton herself virtually admits this. She points out that everyone agrees both of the von Hildebrands have done marvelous work in explaining the teachings of the Church, yet no one cares much if either one is somewhat marginalized. That is, Saxton admits that the personality cult does not exist for either of the von Hildebrands.

The very fact that this personality cult exists for West, that all sides agree it exists, and that it seems to have been encouraged at every step, is a serious mark against those who defend and those who follow West.

Catholic Exchange Distorts Catholic Doctrine?
4) Saxton implies that the Church has, at some point, taught that sex is 'dirty.' She needs to substantiate that implication or retract it.

To say that people have this understanding of the Church is to simply state that they believe a falsehood. It is the case that Chris West has done nothing to dissuade people that the Church at one time taught this. In fact, in the seminars I've attended and the recordings I've heard of him, he has actively encouraged that understanding. But let us scale back the assertion to accommodate critics and just say he has done little to correct it.

The fact that he has done little to correct the misunderstanding is a standing indictment of West. He is playing roughshod with the truth in order to "identify" with his audience. Again, NO catechist is permitted to adulterate the truth in this way - it is a violation of John Paul II's teachings in Catechesi Tradendae, #30-31:
Thus, no true catechist can lawfully, on his own initiative, make a selection of what he considers important in the deposit of faith as opposed to what he considers unimportant, so as to teach the one and reject the other... It can also happen that a particular sort of language proves preferable for transmitting this content to a particular individual or group. The choice made will be a valid one to the extent that, far from being dictated by more or less subjective theories or prejudices stamped with a certain ideology, it is inspired by the humble concern to stay closer to a content that must remain intact. The method and language used must truly be means for communicating the whole and not just a part of "the words of eternal life"(80) and the "ways of life."(81)
Questions concerning the appropriateness of West's language are thus very apropos. As can be seen from the above quote, the Holy Father himself was concerned that the catechist's language must communicate the whole truth, that it must not be driven by "subjective theories."

But West's only defense for his language is the purely subjective theory that he needs to use such language in order to reach people. He has provided no evidence to show that this is true, neither empirical nor formal.

Conclusion
Given the following facts:
  • Pauline Books and Media blog TOB offensive (four articles in 48 hours),
  • Mark Shea's recent "coming out" article with Inside Catholic on TOB (and remember, he constantly professes to know nothing about TOB), and
  • this Catholic Exchange series on TOB,
  • All of these happening in the same week
we seem to be witnessing a coordinated effort by multiple spinners attempting to prepare the ground for West's return.

Look for more spin in more venues - the next likely places are the Ignatius Press blog and probably something from Catholic Marketing Network to the Catholic bookstore community. Also, something from Maximus (a spinoff of Catholic Exchange) is probably in the works.
If they can figure out how to twist EWTN into this, they'll be on a roll.

Watch for the following points to be repeated ad nauseam:
  • the West controversy is just one of approach, not content,
  • the argument is not very important,
  • West is being personally attacked and can't defend himself because he's "on sabbatical",
  • West detractors are mean

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shea Shoots - Does He Score?

Mark Shea attempts to be the voice of sweetness and light in the TOB debate, and he gets a few things right, although these tend to be overshadowed by some major errors. However, in the spirit of fraternity, I'm happy to embrace what he did get right.

In order to do that, let's pull out the weeds of error first. He begins by saying of TOB that it is "about a fascinating and potentially useful constellation of ideas that do not form part of the essential teaching of the Faith."

What is Magisterial?
Well, the Magisterial weight of the TOB is an interesting question.

Take for example, the lives of the saints or the homilies of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. These things are considered Magisterium in the sense that what is contained in them has been confirmed by the Church as a correct representation of what She believes. Thus, we can use the fact that many saints threw themselves into thorn bushes to avoid physical temptation, or whipped themselves in expiation for their own and others' sins, as an example of what a proper understanding of the body can properly lead to.

But, while the ordinary Magisterium is infallible, it's theoretically possible for homilies, Wednesday audiences and the like to be erroneous as well. Even saints committed sins. As one wag noted, it is perfectly possible to go to hell by imitating the imperfections of the saints.

So, how can we tell what is part of the infallible Magisterium and what isn't? We have to wait for the judgement of the Church. Wait and see what She endorses. If She passes over a teaching or practice in silence, with no further references made, no holding up of this teaching or practice as spot on correct, then it is not part of the infallible Magisterium. It's just something that an otherwise good and holy person did or said that we, in charity, pass over in silence.

So, in THAT sense, the sense that we don't have a good handle on what is wheat and chaff in the TOB presentations, you could make the argument that the TOB audiences aren't Magisterial. After all, there is a lot of convoluted verbiage in there, and the Church has been utterly silent on the whole sequence for the last thirty years. That silence doesn't bode well.

And, as has been pointed out, there are aspects of the TOB which are quite problematic. For instance, the TOB audiences separate the unitive and procreative aspects of sex in their discussion of sex. This is an enormous difficulty precisely because, while these two aspects can be distinguished, they can never be separated. Yet, by their silence, the TOB audiences seem to do just that. Making this separation was a prudential judgement on John Paul II's part, but it could easily be considered an erroneous prudential judgement.

So, in that sense, while the audiences may not contain error themselves, the failure to portray sexuality properly might be considered erroneous and therefore make the whole of the TOB audiences non-Magisterial.

And this problem of a foolish silence is not unheard of in the history of the Church. Pope Honorius had this problem - he silenced both sides in the Monophysite controversy. This was a prudential judgement that was ultimately deemed not only foolish, but heretical by the Church, and the liturgy of the Church (which most definitely always IS Magisterial) actually named him a heretic for several centuries because he imposed silence on everyone when he should have spoken.

So, I'm fine with saying TOB is not clearly Magisterial, because we don't have a clear line between the wheat and the chaff.

However, I'm not fine with saying the "constellation of ideas" within it are NOT Magisterial, because that's obviously false.

The TOB attempts to teach on human sexuality.
The Church's teaching on human sexuality IS Magisterial.
So insofar as the TOB audiences properly represent Catholic teaching, those TOB audiences are Magisterial. And if the constellation of ideas within TOB - all of them clearly related to human sexuality - are not Magisterial, then what are these musings on human sexuality? Non-Catholic? Pagan? What? Was John Paul II doing his best imitation of Dr. Ruth? Which ideas within that "constellation" would Mark like to label as not Magisterial?

Now, I don't necessarily disagree that some of the ideas within the TOB audiences are not Magisterial (as I've said before - and Mark seems to agree - I think there's a lot less in TOB than meets the eye), but I'd like to know what ideas Mark has in mind so I can judge whether I'm going to agree or disagree with him.

Is TOB Unimportant, As Shea Says?
The whole judgement is made even more peculiar by the fact that Mark, by his own profession, says he really doesn't know very much about what is in the TOB audiences, so how can he know which ideas are Magisterial? Given his own professed ignorance, how can he write half this essay?

Sigh...

In any case, you can't, as Mark did, just dismiss the whole TOB thing is a sideshow, which seems to be Mark's first intent: "This is not an important argument!" Although it is becoming more and more convenient to West supporters to make this argument, it is simply disingenuous to say this or imply this.

Either TOB is important, in which case its worth the trouble it has caused, or it's not, in which case Ascension Press and Pauline Books and Media need to quit hyping it to the detriment of important things, and Chris West needs to quit pounding sand down this hole and go off to do something useful with his life elsewhere. At this point, the major reason I think it is important is due to the number of theological errors which can now be attributed to its proponents. Give it another twenty years on this trajectory and the Westian version will become a major heresy of the Church.

Is West A Pioneer?
Mark's second error is calling West a pioneer.

If the sexual teachings of the Church are Magisterial - and they are - then insofar as West is teaching what the Church teaches about human sexuality, West is not a pioneer.
Neither is John Paul II, for that matter, and Weigel would then simply be wrong.

John Paul II cannot have said anything in the TOB audiences that alter the Magisterium, he can only have said things that (a) elucidate it (b) don't elucidate it but don't happen to be erroneous or (c) are simply wrong.

Given the enormous arguments over what constitutes correct TOB teaching, it's fairly clear that (a) didn't happen. Now the question is, was it (b) or (c)?

It's fairly trivial to demonstrate that West's interpretation of JP II is (c).

But, as Mark correctly points out, there is some disagreement as to whether West accurately portrays JP II, so whether JP II himself is in the (c) category remains to be seen.

Is TOB New?
Mark makes yet a third egregious error, though this one is somewhat understandable. He says the theological discussion of sex is "a new region of thought opened up for us by the late Holy Father."

Yes.
Well.

Let us just say that it is not the case.

John Paul II was not the man who invented the idea that there should be a theological discussion of human sexuality, nor did he invent the discussion, nor is it even obvious that he invented any of the ideas in the current discussion.

While Mark's position plays right into the Dan Brown "hermeneutic of discontinuity" that West and company have been pushing from the beginning, and while the attempt to make this assertion is a GREAT Ascension Press talking point, that whole meme is simply false. If the Church has never had this discussion before, then we shouldn't be having it either, because it isn't Catholic.

If it's new, it ain't true.
And if it's true, it ain't new.

Like any good parent, the Church has a habit of repeating herself.
How often do you tell a child to clean up his room?
Once in his lifetime?
Or once every five minutes?

One of the reasons it is easy to master two thousand years of Church teaching is precisely because the Church has a tendency to keep repeating the same teaching to every generation. And every generation, when it finally stops ignoring the Church and actually hears the teaching, responds, "Dude! Why didn't you ever teach this before!?"

So, we can oftentimes completely skip reading the pronouncements of a particular pope on a particular subject because all of his predecessors and most of his successors said exactly the same thing. Apart from a few cultural nuances peculiar to a specific situation, it is often the case that if you've read one pope, you've read them all.

Is This A Quarrel About Fact Or Approach?
Given that historical perspective, it is a little unsettling to hear Mark express another sentiment. It's an idea which sounds nice on the first encounter, but the more you think about it, the more ridiculous it becomes: "All they are quarreling about is how to be faithful, not whether to be faithful."

Well, yes, but that rather begs the question, doesn't it?

Arius thought he was being faithful. He was the one who got the Emperor to call the Council of Nicaea - he thought he would be vindicated.
All Nestorius wanted was to be faithful. He was fighting Arian heresies, wasn't he?
The Monophysite heretics invented Monophysitism because they just wanted the arguments about Christ's nature to stop, they just wanted to be quietly faithful.
To the end of his life, Martin Luther was trying very hard to be faithful. He was certain the institutional Church would eventually see that he WAS, in fact, being faithful.

Unfortunately for all concerned, what is intended is only part of the moral calculus.

In addition to my graduate degrees in theology and history, I trained as an undergraduate in computer science. Math, and it's stepchild, computer programming, is peculiar in one respect: it cares not a whit for what you are trying to do. It only cares about what you actually did.

And the standard for judgement is quite severe - you're either right or you're dead.
Sometimes literally.

Not too long ago, in the first Iraq war, twenty-eight soldiers were killed because the millions of lines of code that control the Patriot anti-missile system contained exactly one line that had an error: it failed to round a number correctly.

Everything else was right. The programmers, the quality assurance team, the manufacturer, the people who deployed it and operated it, all of them did their work with the best of intentions, and they mostly did it exceedingly well.

Hitting a bullet with a bullet is easier than doing what the Patriot missile system does routinely every time it goes operational. The creators of that system did marvelous work creating a nearly foolproof system of mind-boggling complexity.

Unfortunately, there was that one niggling little error.
And, as a consequence of that one niggling little error, a rounding error, just about the simplest piece of math one can logically perform in mathematics, an incoming missile was ignored by the software.

That SCUD missile made it through the defenses.
It wiped out an Army barracks.

Twenty-eight soldiers died and more than 100 were injured because somebody's fine intentions were not sufficient. The programmer made a mistake, quality assurance didn't catch it. People died. The fact that everybody meant well was comfort as cold as the corpses in the graves.

Now, undoubtedly, at the Final Judgement, God takes our intentions into account. He knows the programmer didn't intend that error - quite the opposite. Certainly the people killed by that programmer, the people whose deaths were abetted by the software quality assurance people, all those people undoubtedly forgive the programmer and the SQA team. Unfortunately, despite all the sorrow and all the forgiveness, those soldiers are all still dead, which was not part of God's plan.

So, while the programmer will almost certainly not have this error held against him because it was not a sin - an intentional evil - we cannot avoid the fact that he DID commit an evil. An unintentional evil, but an evil nonetheless. And as a result, twenty-eight people are dead, twenty-eight families wept at their graves, twenty-eight groups of people have holes in their lives where their loved ones should be.

All of us are in this world to mitigate evil. If we see someone making a mistake, we are meant to correct that mistake and mitigate the evil.

What Is Charity?
Now, we are meant to do that with charity. Unfortunately for us all, what constitutes charity is often a prudential judgement. We cannot forget that the God Who Is Love, the God Who forgave the penitent adulteress, is the same God Who also raged at the impenitent teachers of the Law, the men who refused to alter their teachings when they were clearly in the wrong.

Was God being uncharitable to call these people "fools!", "blind guides" and "dens of vipers" who "make your disciples twice the sons of hell that you are!"?

I think it would be rash to say such a thing.

Are we not meant to imitate Christ's lived example?
Why, yes, yes we are.

Showing anger at an impenitent teacher is not obviously a violation of charity. Indeed, quite a strong argument can be made that failure to show such anger is much more obviously a violation of charity and a failure to follow the example of Christ.

How Now Shall We Live?
I agree with Mark, however, that a Catholic is much better off reading the Fathers and Doctors of the Church than spending much time studying TOB. John Paul II is famously wordy and convoluted. Precisely because the Church HAS taught clearly on human sexuality for two millennia, it is not particularly likely that John Paul II's teachings on the subject - which, as Mark points out, were never referred to again by anyone - are particularly necessary to the discussion.

Ultimately, the whole point of Mark's essay seems to be "I don't know anything about TOB except that it doesn't matter, which is why we should be happy a lot of other people are teaching it now, so that we don't have to rely completely on Chris West to learn more about this unimportant teaching. Chris is opposed by people obsessed with trivialities, people who are not being like Christ, because Jesus never argued with anyone or called anyone names or ever got angry. He was a big teddy bear, and people just wanted to hug Him and they also want to hug West because West is a pioneer in this unimportant non-Magisterial area of human sexuality. He is a pioneer who teaches doctrines as old as the very dirt in the hills, which is why we can't find many of his teachings anywhere in the Magisterium, but don't worry because his heart is in the right place, and darn it, people like him."

Which, when you think about it, is a darned compelling position.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sex, Lies and Pauline Books and Media

When it comes to the Theology of the Body, Christopher West is an inspiration.

First Example:
Consider this quote from West's Institute director, Kate Blanchard:
"[A]nyone who has written on the theology was invited [to the TOB congress], including critics such as von Hildebrand. No restrictions were put on what they could discuss.”

Update: NCR now points out that Kate has retracted, extended and revised her original remarks. The article now reads, "Blanchard said that many speakers were invited: “We recognize that there are many talented speakers on the theology of the body. It would have been impossible to extend invitations to every theology of the body speaker in the world, but we certainly discerned inviting a balanced representation of the thought on John Paul II’s theology of the body, and we believe we achieved that.” "

So now that the TOB Institute has altered reality, some of the commentary below is rendered moot. You see? It isn't just Chris who continually revises his message. His whole Institute does it. It's hard to keep up. My apologies to poor Thomas McDonald, the reporter who accurately recorded and reported Kate's remarks, but who was forced to change history to conform with the spinners at TOB Institute. It is not pleasant to see the man being forced to put up with this crap.
Odd.

I am a well-known detractor of Chris West, and my work on Theology of the Body is listed in Michael Waldstein's bibliography, yet I didn't get an invitation to the Congress. I know of other experts who have written extensively on West and who were also not invited.

Kate Blanchard seems to be telling little fibs.



If the TOB Institute did invite critics, they seemed only to have invited critics they KNEW would not show up.

I would have come!
So sad that Westians have no responses to critiques.

But Chris does have responses - or at least, I'm aware of one way he responds.

You see, Chris West physically assaulted me in the spring of 2005 when I privately questioned some of his public assertions after I attended one of his seminars in the Quad Cities in Illinois.

And yes, Chris knows I have witnesses to that physical assault, so I won't be getting sued anytime soon for saying that publicly, will I, Chris? In fact, one of the witnesses to the assault was the man who sponsored you in, wasn't it Chris? And after he saw you assault me, that man swore he would never give you another dime, didn't he, Chris? Of course, he wasn't the only witness - there were three others. But that should be enough to establish bona fides.

[Refinement: in response to a question, yes, this was technically not assault but battery. According to Illinois law "A "battery" is the act of intentionally causing bodily harm to another person or making some other physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with another person." As one witness told me immediately afterward, "The way he treated you is the way I treat my dog."]

If you ever wondered why I don't accept the idea that Chris West responds well to criticism, that may be one reason.

Second Example:
Now that Dawn Eden has documented a slew of Westian errors in her MA thesis, Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve of Pauline Books and Media has begun to slime Dawn Eden the same way that West's supporters have slimed me over the years.

Tools and techniques include ad hominem attack, straw man, poisoning the well, faint praise, etc., although ad hominem is the favorite. Consider what they said about Schindler, then look at what they said about me, now consider what Dawn Eden has begun to be called.

Sigh.

When I pointed out in the comments on her blog that our favorite Pauline Sister could answer some questions herself, she blackballed my IP address.

So, I got an IP anonymizer and posted more questions.
She removed all my questions and called my comments "vituperative" (perhaps she should look that word up?), citing that model of conversational decorum, Mark Shea, as her justification.

So, in the interests of fairness, I will post here the questions that Pauline Books and Media find so terribly "vituperative" on their own blog. Let the reader judge for himself:
Sister,

You seem to have left a lot of questions unanswered yourself:

How can you say people are getting West's material "second or third hand" when Dawn Eden's work is based almost entirely on his written work?

Did West have a ghost-writer?

If, as you and Fr. Hogan aver, nobody really knew what JP II was talking about when he gave the talks, what evidence is there that West knows what JP II was talking about now?

In fact, isn't the argument that West is constantly changing his delivery EVIDENCE that he doesn't really know what JP II was talking about?

If the Gospel of Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, why does West's Gospel change so much?

To put it another way, if Mr. West understands TOB so deeply, why is his message constantly changing?

If "no one knew what JP II was talking about" 30 years ago, who tapped us with a "knowledge wand" that makes us understand it so much better today (most TOB promoters are not known as saints or brilliant minds)?

Why is it that West supporters say we cannot rely on West's writings alone, that is, we all must first attend his VERY pricey seminars, yet West supporters attack those of us who critique West without thinking they need to attend OUR seminars?

Are we more consistent than West? Or simply more clear?

Why is critiquing West "divisive" [and now "vituperative"] while attacking those who do the critiques [such as myself] apparently acceptable and "unitive"?

Why is it "ad hominem" to point out Westian theological errors but perfectly acceptable to cast aspersions on the motives of Westian critiquers?

How is West's TOB movement different from the MoG cult that West grew up in?

Why do West supporters think West's self-described "rape" by the MoG cult is irrelevant to the way he approaches discussion of sex?

Why did West's Institute director claim all TOB authors had been invited to the conference when that was manifestly not the case?

Pauline Books is a big supporter of West.

Could you tell us, in round numbers, exactly how many millions of dollars St. Paul's Books and Media has made off the TOB franchise?

Could you break down those numbers so that we can see
a) how many millions you made off the original translation and

b) how many millions you made by selling the same book twice, i.e., having Michael Waldstein "translate" the audiences again from the Polish, even though Waldstein himself admits that he cannot read, speak or write Polish?

c) Could you tell us how Waldstein manages to translate into English from a language he doesn't himself know? It's a neat trick, obviously very profitable, and I'd love to learn it myself.

And, Sister, if you want to "open wide the doors to Christ," why did your website stop accepting requests to comment from my ip address, so that I had to resort to an IP anonymizer to post this note?

Looking forward to some answers!
What's that?
Oh, I'm sorry, Sister.
I'm afraid you can't delete this post.
So sad.

And I get a lot more web hits than you do.

You really should have allowed the discussion to take place in the comments section of your blog, where at least the reading audience is smaller.

Now that you've called me "vituperative" without justification, is this a good place to mention that Pauline Books and Media blackballed my company several years ago, after it found out that I had a rival product to West's first TOB book (a new book - Sex and the Sacred City, endorsed by Peter Kreeft)?

Not only did Pauline Books and Media refuse to carry ANY of the products my company produced (indeed, one Pauline store was forced to send back an order of Bridegroom Press calendars!), they actually spread a nasty, unsigned samizdat critique of my TOB book to anyone who dared to walk up to a Pauline book counter to inquire about ordering it.

Tell me, Sister, did I ever mention that a friend of mine sent a copy of that slimy critique to me back when you were handing it out under the counter?

That, my friends, is how Catholic retailers deal with one another in the real world.

Needless to say, I was kind of shocked to find out.
I foolishly thought we were all in this together (a la Mark Shea), fighting the good fight, preaching the Gospel, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Yep, under that foolish inspiration, I sent a review copy of my book to Pauline Books and Media so their bookstore chain would carry it, not so that their anonymous reviewer(s?) would trash it, and trash it sotto voce, so that I wasn't even meant to see the response and could not reply to it in any case. What a surprise!

I'm sure Dawn Eden is quite surprised to be the subject of the verbal assaults she is undoubtedly experiencing.

For instance, while you and I now know Pauline Books is publicly trying to destroy her, one can only guess what they are trying to do to her under the counter. Literally.

And nowadays, it won't just be Pauline Books, will it?
After all, nowadays, a whole lot more people are making a whole lot more money off of Chris.
That's why he has so many supporters, don'cha' know?

Will Matt Pinto, of Ascension Press, join in the quiet slime detail?
Or will he go the public route, as he tried to with Dr. Schindler?

How about the inestimable Mark Shea, he of Catholic Exchange fame?

Surely Ignatius Press might join in sliming Dawn Eden?

After all, Ascension Press publishes Chris West and acolytes. What most people don't know is that Ignatius Press uses the same distributor as Ascension Press - Lynn Klika's "Catholic Word" distributing company.

This would not normally be a damning connection, but at one time, not so very long ago, if you dialed Catholic Word's 800 number, they would answer "Ascension Press", wouldn't they, Lynn?

A mistake, surely, since Lynn is, or at least was, the marketing officer and sole distributor for Ignatius Press.

And let's not forget Tom Monaghan's Ave Marie University, which employed Ignatius' founder, Fr. Fessio, as Provost.

Now, Tom has long been advised by Mother of God cultists. Yes, that's the same cult that "raped" Chris West (according to West's own description) and the same cult that infests Sacred Heart Seminary, home of (non) theologian Janet Smith and her advocate, canonist Ed Peters.

Tom, it should be pointed out, is also reputedly the sugar daddy that keeps Joe Pearce's St. Austin Review magazine in business. You might wonder how that magazine stays afloat when so many are tanking - it stays afloat the same way AMU does, by dipping into Tom's pockets.

Now, Joe Pearce is as qualified to be a university prof as Janet Smith is qualified to be a seminary theology prof. Which is to say, neither has any of the degrees normally considered relevant to hold their respective teaching positions. Not even a BA. But Joe and Carl Olson (of Ignatius Press fame) used StAR in a sneak attack on me shortly after Pauline Books and Media began blackballing me.

Why would they do that?

Well, I pointed out theological deficiencies in Ignatius' big money-maker, Olson's Da Vinci Code book. And Fr. Fessio worked at AMU. And I was competition to a Son of MoG, Chris West.

So Pearce (whose wife is, or rather was, a personal friend of mine) lured me into writing an article for him, then secretly gave Olson full access to it so Olson could cream me in the same StAR issue. Pearce published the works together and I found out when the issue hit the stands.

Dirty pool?
No.... that would be paranoia on my part.

It was just... convenient... for Monaghan's MoG cultists, for West's nascent cult, and for Fessio's Ignatius Press!

Not quite seven at one blow, but certainly convenient for ALL involved!
Everyone was a winner!

And I was meant to learn a lesson - don't go after the Big Boys' Big Money Makers.

So, Pauline Books, Ascension Press, Catholic Word, Ignatius Press, Tom Monaghan, Mother of God cult (don't forget Sacred Heart Seminary festering away in there).... all of them picking up dollars and donuts off the biggest money-maker of them all, the West TOB cult.

An incestuous little group isn't it?

And I've only scratched the surface - there are several more big names on the Catholic circuit today, and more behind-the-scenes players who comprise a money-making clique, or rather, THE money-making clique, designed to keep out all competition which has not at least tacitly agreed to follow the company line.

Of course, they also keep mutually quiet about personal faux pas which might destroy the money makers in the group. Money makers like Chris West. And Chris, you've made rather more than one quiet little faux pas, haven't you?

I foolishly failed to prosecute you in Illinois. It would have sunk your career, it would have saved the Church a lot of heresy and embarrassment and it would have allowed John Paul II to rest easy in his grave.

Others have kept foolishly quiet about other career-sinking mistakes you've made.
They're still keeping quiet.
If any were to come forward.... well....

We could name more names in this money clique: Alan Napleton and his scheme to get in good with the bishops by publishing books he enticed them to write, his Catholic Marketing Network, Tom Allen's Catholic Exchange, Patrick Madrid and his endless financial shenanigans... it's an interesting list. But why go there?

The ones already mentioned are more than enough to sink Ms. Eden with the Catholic public, if they really get together on their message and sink their teeth into her. Chris West's cult memes are generating a LOT of money, and no one wants him killed by an upstart.

So, if you find me less than kind towards Chris West, Pauline Books, or, indeed, many of the Catholic lights, it may be due to the fact that I know them better than you do.

I once actually thought these people were Christians with whom I could deal in an adult, Christian manner.

They dissuaded me from holding that position.
In a sense, I guess you can say they evangelized me.