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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pope Francis, Women and Homosexuals

There's been a huge brouhaha over the Pope's recent remarks following WYD 2013. Many bloggers have already thrown their two cents into the ring, but I have held off for quite some time because it wasn't clear to me I had anything interesting to say on the subject.

What there is to say now isn't new, but I think it sheds light on exactly how the Pope is refusing the media's narrative.

According to the MSM, the Pope's remark may signal a shift in the Church's attitude towards homosexuals. Catholics know that isn't true, but they have a tough time articulating why they know this. I was even interviewed on Fox News, and failed to make the necessary connection.

Although the questions directed at the Pope were unscripted, and the MSM reporters appeared to be asking questions about a variety of subjects, only two subjects are really being reported in headlines: homosexuals as priests and women as priests. And, as I am thick-headed, I failed to recognize how similar the two questions were.

Now, keep in mind that, to my knowledge, there is no complete transcript of the conversation between the Pope and the reporters - this is just a bunch of reporters writing down what they remembered him saying. As far as I know, no one has a complete recording of his 80 minutes' worth of remarks, so there's no way to verify that everyone is remembering correctly. It's quite possible they garbled some aspect of what he said.

Now, that having been said, here's a full quote of the headline the reporters say they got:
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? The catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalised because of this [orientation] but that they must be integrated into society.... The problem is not having this [homosexual] orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem." [Editor's Note: Those of Traditionalist Catholic bent, notice that he is concerned about Masonic lobbies within the Vatican. Make of that what you will.]
Assuming the quote is correct, clearly, he's not saying homosexual activity is acceptable. From the remarks ("he searches for the Lord, and has goodwill"), Francis clearly assumes the homosexual priest is not acting upon his inclinations.

But notice how he talks about integrating them into society. While he attributes this language to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that was a mis-statement on his part, because the relevant articles of the CCC nowhere use that word. Instead, the language of "integration" is taken straight from a 1975 document on sexual ethics, Persona Humanae. The distinctions he make in this interview seem to echo the ideas found in that document.

So, is Pope Francis in favor of homosexual priests? Well, an Argentinian priest, Fr. Alessio, was defrocked just three months ago (April 10, 2013) - with Pope Francis' knowledge and assent - after that priest had begun promoting homosexual marriage and transgenders in the diocese of Cordoba. Cordoba is only about a two-hour drive from Buenos Ares, so it's quite possible Pope Francis even personally knew this priest. The man lost all his priestly faculties with Pope Francis' full knowledge and consent. I don't remember either JP II or Benedict breaking a priest for simple agitation like this. Francis broke him.

Again, this shouldn't be a surprise. In a July, 2010 statement, Bergoglio essentially called the homosexual marriage movement satanic:
“In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family... At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children... At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts....Let us not be naive: This is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan... It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” 
Conclusion A: He's not a fan of homosexuals in the priesthood, but he recognizes that some of his priests and bishops are homosexual, so as long as they don't sin, he knows he's stuck with them.

Conclusion B: He doesn't like homosexual lobbying. AT ALL.

Now, notice something else. Francis said absolutely nothing about whether such a man should have been ordained to begin with. The press completely ignored this aspect of the question.

Again, let's get some context. There is a 1961 directive forbidding the ordination of known homosexuals. This was reiterated in 2002 and again in 2005. It is obliquely referenced in Persona Humanae. That teaching is well-known to Pope Francis and is certainly not changing anytime soon.

All Pope Francis told the reporters is, if he discovered a homosexual had been ordained, but the man wasn't actively sinning, he wasn't going to do anything about it. This is not a surprise. The man would have canonical rights at that point, and those rights can't be violated. As long as the priest was not doing anything in violation of the Faith, the Pope COULDN'T do anything about it.

Is he willing to accept homosexual ordination? Well, he signalled that he was not at all in favor of it. How? By the question on whether women can be ordained.

When asked if women could be ordained, he firmly denied that they could. He's all in favor of giving women a greater role, but ordination was out of the question.
A church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother. The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework …we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the Church. On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.
The Church has many reasons She can put forward for why that is the case, but I will restrict myself to only one, a point Pope Francis made very subtly and obliquely, yet he still made it. The Church is the Bride of Christ and a mother. The relationship between the priest and the Church is the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the New Adam and the New Eve. The liturgy is a sacred action between the Man and the Woman, not two people of the same sex.

Christ was not a woman.
Catholics are not lesbians.
That's one reason women cannot be ordained.

So, when MSM reporters ask about homosexual priests and women priests, they are subtly asking two different forms of a very similar question. Pope Francis answered the second question definitively, but was not really asked the first question. Given the evidence, we have no reason to think he would be anything but opposed to the ordination of active homosexuals.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Role of the Extraordinary Form

I get into all kinds of arguments. Some people think I'm antagonistic because I'm a jerk, and they are correct about that. But argument, sometimes quite vociferous argument, is the way I integrate information. By arguing about something, often with extremely annoying tenacity, I figure out what the limits of the idea are, what its strengths are, what its weaknesses are. By bluntly questioning the people who advocate it, I find out what kind of people support it.

Over the last several years, I've had many arguments about the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass, over proper dress at Mass, over private devotions, private revelations, the whole life that adheres to one form versus the other form.

Recently, all of this came to a head with Pope Francis' decision that the Franciscans of the Immaculata would no longer be permitted to celebrate the EF form of the Mass unless the priests requested special permission. This ruling seemed to contravene both the letter and the spirit of Summorum Pontificum, which explicitly permits any priest to celebrate the EF without asking permission from his bishop.

A lot of people in the EF community were upset by that. But that argument, along with another argument I had been in about whether men should be wearing suits to Mass, crystallized something for me.

When Pope Francis made this ruling, he ruled in favor of the ORDINARY FORM. Given that it's the ORDINARY form, this is not really a surprise, right? Ordinarily, you do the ordinary thing.

If you are doing extraordinary and ordinary things, and some odd problem pops up, you revert to the ordinary thing to see if the odd problem goes away. This is probably why Francis ruled as he did on that particular religious order.

Benedict created this situation by naming the forms "Ordinary" and "Extraordinary" instead of "Form 1" and "Form 2".

If Benedict wanted equivalence between the forms, he could have named the two forms so that they would have been equivalent. But he deliberately named them in such a way that it recalls the difference between the Ordinary infallible Magisterium and the Extraordinary infallible Magisterium.

We've only had 21 Ecumenical Councils in the history of the Church - they don't happen very often. Same goes for ex cathedra statements - they are really unusual.

So, when he named these two forms the way he did, he seems to have been envisioning precisely that the EF would NOT be commonly celebrated. Even though SP talks about letting any priest do it on his own authority, the naming conventions undercut the words. Benedict really didn't expect it to be commonly asked for or all that popular.

In that sense, the Church seems to be envisioning traditionalists as just one more religious group in the Church, like Franciscans or Dominicans or Jesuits.

Traditionalism via SP (like Anglicanism) is apparently meant to be a kindness for people who tend to like that sort of thing, but even Benedict never meant this to be the first step towards a universal return of the EF. The EF is not coming back as the normal form because it DIDN'T come back as the normal form.

Dominicans aren't required to do the Spiritual Exercises, Franciscans aren't required to visit a Carmel, and ordinary Catholics aren't expected to have more than a passing interest in the EF.

If he HAD meant it to be otherwise, he wouldn't have named it the EF.

If I'm right, then a lot of people haven't figured this out yet. All those bishops calling EF trads dangerous and stupid, etc., they don't realize that they are calling a religious order those names. All the EF trads who think the EF is where the Church is headed, and who get really, really defensive and angry when anything happens that indicates the Church isn't headed that way... they haven't realized it yet either.

So, if everyone would just recognize the EF for what Popes JP II and Benedict and Francis seem to think it is, a lot of the antagonism and theater would go away. EF trads are a legitimate spiritual strand in the vine of the Catholic Church, but a strand that is not going to become kudzu, it isn't going to take over the entire life of the Church again. It's not meant to. And that's ok for everyone involved.

The different spiritualities preserve different kinds of memories. The Franciscans preserve the memory of how to treat the poor, the Jesuits preserve the memory of how to handle human knowledge, the Dominicans preserve the memory of preaching, the EF trads preserve the memory of a specific kind of prayer/liturgy. Every one of the memories is important to the Church. But none of them are the future of the Church. God is doing something new - we don't know what it is yet, so we have to hold onto what we remember, in order to be prepared to handle the new thing that God is preparing and incorporate it into the life of the Church.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Day the Sun (ahem) the Bishops Danced

When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart....
When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (2 Samuel 6)
Now, some people are upset about this video:

In fact, one famous Catholic "conservative" blogger priest whose name begins with Z specifically and visually compared the bishops who participated to Nazis. Imagine - a priest of God calling Catholic bishops "Nazis". Reminds one of... oh, maybe the leftist heretics who do the same thing, doesn't it?

In reply to the incredible amount of criticism unleashed against the bishops, one commentator (Henry Babek) on Rorate Caeli blog had this to say:
The young people participating at WYD are planning on doing the largest organized flash mob skit in history. What you see in the video is the bishops simply watching them practice and participating. They will not be participating during the actual skit and this is not for a mass or spiritual gathering. It'll be a small show for the pope done by the youth only. Unless you know the full details, then do not criticize. 
Finally, I absolutely love how many of you come and rush to comment on the critical articles of HH Pope Francis while lovely articles such as "Stat crux dum volvitur orbis" or the "Juventutem" articles only get about 10-20 comments. 
I truly cry when I see how easy it is for soo many of you to criticize or attack instead of commend or love.
Now, I'm not a dancer, I don't like to dance, etc. But calling bishops "Nazis" for emulating King David seems untoward. Having lay people, or worse, ordained men, chastising bishops for emulating King David seems downright evil. 

These "orthodox" people don't mind a bit if the sun dances, but may the Lord have mercy on us all if a bishop does the same! Celebrate Fatima, castigate bishops! 

If anyone wonders why the kind of people who get upset with this can't seem to grow their parishes much... well, ask Michal. 


Everybody thinks scenes like this are cute.
Nuns can do it, but bishops can't?

Double standards abound.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Why Penn Jillette May Go To Heaven

Penn Jillette is a famous magician, atheist and debunker whose anger and hatred towards religion are legendary. Despite this, he demonstrates an outstanding Christian understanding of the universe.
“Nobody that has seen a baby born can believe in god for a second. When you see your child born, and the panic, and the amount of technology that is saving the life of the two people you love most in the world, when you see how much stainless steel and money it takes to fight off the fact that god wants both those people dead, no one, no one can look into the eyes of a newborn baby and say there's a god, because I'll tell ya, if we were squatting in the woods, the two people I love most would be dead. There's just no way around that. If I were in charge, no way. We need technology to fight against nature; nature so wants us dead. Nature is trying to kill us.”  ~ Penn Jillette
Exactly. Perfect! He understands that Nature is out of harmony with man. He knows it is fallen. That's the beginning of understanding the Fall.
“Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around” ~ Penn Jillette
There is much to laud in this paragraph. He is correct - none of us can be forgiven except by one of two things - either kindness or a faulty memory. And the conclusion is superb - I have to try to treat people right the first time around. Yes. Exactly. 
“Love and respect all people. Hate and destroy all faith.” ~ Penn Jillette
“We all have friends we love dearly that couldn't pass for human in a strict Turing test.”  
Each one of these sentences contradicts the other one, of course, but he doesn't know what faith is, so he can hardly be faulted for that error. Faith is trusting other people, respecting what they have seen, felt, heard, witnessed. That's all there is to it. I trust my butcher because he has given me reason to trust him over the historical course of our relationship and because I should love and respect all people.  So, if I love and respect all persons, I cannot possibly hate and destroy all faith. My faith in my butcher, that he will sell me only good pieces of meat and not misrepresent his product to me, is based on my love and respect for him, and on my history with him. 

Faith in God is faith in persons. The power to have faith in God is, of course, a power that comes from God Himself. It is superior to faith in other kinds of persons because God is a superior being. The power He gives me to trust Him derives from His perfection and from a much longer history He has maintained with all mankind. It is therefore more perfect in origin, more extensive in content, than the faith I have in my butcher. 

“Exploration of space is worth it because humans need to explore. Knowledge is always good, and it's a really cool thing to see.” 
No Christian could say it better. That's why we taught the world to do science - God is Truth, and we must explore Truth, seek it out, both in spirit and in the physical world. 
“The word “holiday” comes from “holy day” and holy means “exalted and worthy of complete devotion.” By that definition, all days are holy. Life is holy. Atheists have joy every day of the year, every holy day. We have the wonder and glory of life. We have joy in the world before the lord is come. We’re not going for the promise of life after death; we’re celebrating life before death. The smiles of children. The screaming, the bitching, the horrific whining of one’s own children. The glory of giving or receiving a blow job. Sunsets, rock and roll, bebop, Jell-O, stinky cheese, and offensive jokes.For atheists, everything in the world is enough and every day is holy. Every day is an atheist holiday. It’s a day that we’re alive.” 
Indeed true. Life is holy. We should be celebrating every day of life. If more Christians acted this way, this man might not be an atheist.
“If there's something you really want to believe, that's what you should question the most.” 
Yes, Penn Jillette. This applies to atheists most of all. This man could be Christian, if it weren't for the bad example we Christians set. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Of Contraceptives and Colt .45s

It has recently occurred to me that the discussion about gun control parallels the Catholic discussion on contraception. 

Consider: how do liberals and the USCCB (but I repeat myself) deal with the problem of social violence? They all insist that the best way to stop violence is to remove the tool - outlaw guns.

"Oh, if you just stop using guns, if we could outlaw guns, we would stop murder!"

Well. (cough)

But isn't that the exact same argument we make about contraception? 
"Oh, if you just stop using contraception, if we could outlaw contraception, we would stop abortion!"
Both a Colt .45 and a condom are tools, manufactured to answer a perceived need. It is the perceived need which brought about the research that developed the tools. We had the need, then we created the tool.

When Margaret Sanger gave the Catholic physician John Rock the money to research hormonal contraceptives, he took on the task because he perceived a need for contraception. The contraceptive mentality preceded the production of the contraceptive. 

Everyone keeps talking about the contraception problem as if it arose out Minerva's head in the 1950s. It didn't. The demographic transition, the decline in family size in the Western world, began way back around 1800. It began back when contraceptives were universally condemned by all Christians as deadly sin. It began back when the use of contraceptives was absolutely socially unacceptable. 

In short, most modern contraceptives were invented when social stigma was much, much worse than it is today. Even if we got everyone to stigmatize and deride contraception in the same way that it had been in the 1800s, we wouldn't solve the problem.

The Comstock Laws which rendered contraceptive advertising and sale illegal were passed in 1873 by a Protestant Congress. The fact that the laws were passed indicates that America, for the first time, saw itself as losing the battle against contraception. It had to pass laws in order to stop the social evil because social stigma and promise of hellfire was no longer enough to keep people away from contraceptive use. Those laws were overthrown in the 1965 Griswold vs. Connecticut case, but they had already been functionally rendered useless by 1915, when Margaret Sanger got her arrest and conviction overturned on appeal. The Pill isn't a cause, it's a consequence.

We can't get rid of contraception anymore than we can get rid of guns. It isn't because anyone has a constitutional right to contraception. Rather, it's because a large proportion of the population sees an economic need for contraception

Precisely because sexual activity is no longer linked to procreation, it has now become linked to social status. How a person uses their sexuality - who they sleep with, what acts of sexual congress they allow themselves to engage in - defines their status. Tom Wolfe researched and wrote an entire novel explaining this new conceptual meaning and language. 

Because we are soul-body composites, sex is always going to be a language. For the person who associates sex with biology and babies, sex will be the language of love. For the individual seeking sterility, however, sex is no longer the language of love, but of social standing. How else can we explain the insanity of women who happily go on "slut walks" but then denounce anyone who calls a contracepting woman a slut?  They aren't arguing against the word, they're arguing against the cognitive dissonance created by two languages clashing in the night.   

The Church denounced jousting and its cousin duelling for a solid millennium before dueling finally ended in the West. Duelling didn't end because the Church denounced it. Duelling ended because social values changed - money replaced honor as the most important social value. The language of sterile sex has been coalescing for over two centuries. It isn't at all clear how that language can be overthrown, nor is it clear that its replacement, whatever that may be, will be any less morally heinous.

But perhaps we should rethink how we approach the conversation on contraception control. It seems unlikely that we can succeed by using the same approach we already know is failing with gun control.

On Martyrdom and Zimmerman

A lot of people are questioning George Zimmerman's use of force against Trayvon Martin.

According to the law, that use of force was legitimate because Zimmerman feared for his own life. 

But in Christian ethics, this isn't sufficient. Indeed, we aren't even supposed to consider whether someone fears for his life. That is irrelevant. As Christians, we must be concerned with our divinely delegated duty to protect innocent life. We are required to protect all innocent life, even if that innocent life happens to be our own.

"But what of martyrdom?" I hear you ask.

Martyrdom is the result of a prudential judgement, in which you willingly suffer the loss of your own life because you have good reason to believe that your death will bring about someone else’s conversion. Martyrdom is never a duty, but it is always an opportunity to embrace a greater good.

George Zimmerman had not only the right, but the divinely delegated duty to protect an innocent life (his own) from harm. Because this innocent life happened to be his own, he had a choice to make. The only way he could surrender his duty to protect his own life is by embracing the even greater good of martyrdom.

However, since his death would not have happened within a religious context, it is hard to see how he could have snatched martyrdom out of this situation. Thus, he chose correctly in defending his own life.

For all of those who dislike his choice, and think he should have chosen otherwise, consider: you can choose martyrdom for yourself.  You cannot choose that someone else be martyred. 

Thus, we don’t have a right to second-guess George Zimmerman’s execution of his divine duty to protect innocent life. He did the right thing. 

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.66 
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

How To Bring Eucharistic Adoration Into Public School

According to a California court, as long as we rename Eucharistic Adoration something adorably cute, we can train public school students to do it without violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

I recommend we call it "Apple Peel Kneel" - an innocuous connection to the Fall. Tell them to clear their minds in the manner of the French peasant... "I look at Him, He looks at me."... and we should be good.