Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Saturday, December 31, 2011

South Sudan

Samuel Huntington’s civilizational fault line dividing Africa's Islamic north from the sub-Saharan south ran through one nation in particular: Sudan. But as of 2011, the region south of the fault line has become the nation of South Sudan. Although it is not a majority Christian nation, South Sudan has a Catholic president and boasts 80% of the untapped oil supply once owned by the Muslim north – an export which pays for 98% of South Sudan’s national budget and is the reason why Islamic Sudan’s currency is dropping in worth while inflation increases.

The departure of South Sudan, however, has given Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir the go-ahead to declare Sudan an Islamic state. With a new constitution in the works, Sudan’s laws will be rooted in Sharia law and enforced throughout the nation. This has left the Christians remaining in Sudan worried about a coming persecution and religious discrimination. Many Christians – and some Muslims – are now currently waging a rebellion in the boarding states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan (see map). Both South Kordofan and Blue Nile boarder South Sudan.

Writer Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi says this could lead to war:

In any event, it is clear that the events in the two border-states could well provoke a war between Sudan and its southern neighbor, with the former accusing the latter of orchestrating the rebels' activities. South Sudan denies this allegation, but may feel compelled to support the [rebels] in the near future should Khartoum's forces overwhelm the rebels and carry out mass killings on a similar scale to what happened in Darfur.
Given the demise of Gadhafi, Darfur itself may profit from arms coming across its boarder with Libya, and if a new rebellion breaks out there Sudan may be torn apart by economic and military woes in addition to ethnic divisions and the culture conflict of imposing Sharia law as the law of the land.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Understanding Patriarchy through Mary

Mary boasts the greatest status among all creatures for she is truly the Mother of God. But to this status, Mary says: Ecce, Fiat, and Magnificat. Rather than saying, “Behold, I am woman, hear me roar,” she says “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to His word... My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…” As the Ark of the New Covenant and Queen Mother of the Kingdom of God, Mary wields more power than any other woman ever created – yet power is not her pursuit. Mary seeks to follow the will of the Father, the rule of the Father. In other words, Mary supports patriarchy, a word which literally means the rule of the father.

This is why Mary must be hated by Satan and feminists.

But Mary also helps us better understand who God is and our part in salvation history. She did this in 431 when her Motherhood helped Christians recognize the singularity of Christ’s personhood. Today, however, there are many who mistakenly place Jesus and the Devil on an equal, if opposite, playing field as if Jesus and the Devil are two opposing forces of equal strength and power. But Jesus is the infinite and eternal Son of God while Satan is a mere creature whom Jesus could eliminate with the snap of His divine finger. It is really Mary who is the opposite of Satan. While Mary says, “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” Satan says, “I will not serve!” While Satan is the most powerful creature by nature, Mary is the most powerful creature by supernature (i.e. by being full of grace).

Sadly, the Hilary Clinton’s of today’s feminism would find themselves much more in agreement with the individualism and the will to power found in Satan rather than in the humility and submission of Mary to the will of the Father.

We must also not forget the unique relationship Mary has with each person of the Trinity, for in addition to being the Mother of the Son, she is also the daughter of the Father and the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Most importantly, we remember that these relations are gendered. Mary is mother, daughter, and spouse – and for those who like to think of the Holy Spirit as woman or neutered, we recall that Jesus declared the Holy Spirit a “he” and that the Holy Spirit’s work of bringing about the incarnation is very much a masculine act. Understanding this also helps us understand what theologians mean when they talk about Mary as the Icon of the Holy Spirit. The closeness of identity between Mary and the Spirit is only in the way that a wife and a husband share a close identity through their marital union.

There is a knee-jerk reaction to the word “patriarchy” today. But as we pray the “Our Father” and use “Father” when we address our priests this weekend, let us also recall Mary and remember that she is the most patriarchal of all Christians. Our society would crucify any who believed in patriarchy, but like Mary let us be bold enough to go to that cross where life is paradoxically found in doing the will of the Father amidst a culture of death.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Debunking Crusade Myths

Dr. Brendan McGuire gave a wonderful free series of lectures on the Crusades over at the Institute of Catholic Culture. In one part of his lecture, Dr. McGuire examines the reasons why crusaders went to war. The secularizing, anti-Catholic historians of the 19th century focused on the second son theory and the estates theory – both of which are still emphasized in pop-history literature, movies, and television documentaries. Dr. Jonathan Riley-Smith, the most prolific living historian on the crusades, and a Knight of Malta, debunked both theories through use of a historical method called prosopography (i.e. the study of history based on the creating of databases on individuals who participated in an event).

According to the second son theory, titles and wealth went down to the firstborn son and thus the poorer knights of Europe would leave for the riches of foreign lands. In actuality, this theory is simply 17th-18th century European colonialism anachronistically projected into the medieval past. Riley-Smith, using a computer-driven database of medieval charters, discovered that the vast majority of crusaders in the First Crusade were wealthy land owners who had to expend 4-5 years’ worth of annual income up front in order to fund their part of the crusade. Now for an economy with reduced monetary system, liquid assets had to come through selling off titles or land. A surviving crusader who returned home would thus have very little to return to.

The estates theory seemed to correct the problem of the second son theory by stating that crusaders never intended to return home. They would instead carve out large, new kingdoms for themselves in the Holy Land. But this theory suffers from an even greater problem: 99% of surviving crusaders returned home. In fact, the true day-to-day defense of the Holy Land would turn more and more to the military orders of the Hospitaller Knights and the Knights Templar. But if crusaders did not fight for wealth or land, what did they fight for? They fought not merely for the personal spiritual benefits of indulgences, but also because their German blood boiled at the thought of the humiliation imposed on Christianity in the Holy Land and across formerly Christian lands. It was the same German warrior spirit, tempered and directed by faith, that forged both the nations as well as the great crusades.

Traditional versus Secular Culture

Until the sexual revolution of the 1960s, America was a traditional culture and its character expressed the natural outgrowth of Greek thought, Roman law, Christian faith, and the German warrior. The secularization which has engulfed our nation since the sexual revolution has replaced Greek thought with sophistry, Roman law with the enthronement of self, the Christian faith with atheism, and the German warrior with the pacifist.

Cultural assimilation of immigrants may have been a difficult process in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but the American culture which immigrants discovered was light years closer to theirs than American culture today – and this is because immigrants of a hundred years ago left one traditional culture and came to another. Here, marriage was protected, divorce shunned, men worked, fought, and sacrificed, and children obeyed their parents. Secular culture, with its focus on radical individualism, fails to be a culture – for a culture is something that unites a people. If a civilization is a “culture writ large,” how can a secular pseudo-culture ever be a civilization?

This is the problem of “the West” – a title which is as geographically disoriented as the spiritually disoriented people it claims to represent. We have an identity crisis, a loss of soul. Perhaps America needs immigrants now more than ever; not to work in our factories but rather to remind us of what culture really is. As the European nations peer over the edge of debt ruin and depopulation, they stand to become the new bastions of immigrants who say “yes” to children and “no” to credit cards: the Muslims. If America allows secularists on the Right and the Left to continue to steer our path and tell our story, we shall awake to find that our diseased civilization has become a corpse.

Dr. Pence's Marian Femininity Series

Below you will find a six-part video series on Marian Femininity presented by Dr. David Pence:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Red Tails

It's been nearly a decade since Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers - which means it's been nearly a decade since a good war movie has hit the screens. But while we're waiting for Mel's next epic, a movie chronicling a pious Jewish man and his sons' war of independence from Hellenizing Greeks, Lucasfilm of Star Wars fame is bringing us an inspiring new film that looks to stand side-by-side with Glory.

The movie is called Red Tails.

Set during the Second World War, Red Tails tells the story of the Tuskeegee Airman, an all-black fighter wing which has been sent in to defend American bombers over the skies of Europe. While Red Tails is a story of men fighting for their nation, it is also an icon of masculine protective groups. For these pilots, victory is not tallied by the number downed enemy fighters but rather by the number of protected bombers and allied airmen.

Red Tails hits theaters on January 20th, but in the meantime you can watch a preview here:

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Dioceses of Emperor Diocletian

Diocletian, the Roman Emperor to end Rome’s third century crisis in imperial succession, is known best by Catholics for the launching last great persecution of Christians before Constantine’s so-called Edict of Milan in 313 AD. His administrative reforms, however, would have far reaching impact. For example, the tetrarchy (rule of four), which Diocletian instituted for smoother imperial succession, introduced a new east-west dichotomy which persists to this day.

Another good example is his introduction of the diocese.

The dioceses were established as part of Emperor Diocletian’s broader provincial reforms. In order to keep provincial governors from gaining too much power, which could once again plunge the Empire into another civil war, Diocletian doubled the number of Roman provinces from 50 to 100. But in order administer all 100 provinces efficiently, Diocletian grouped the provinces into twelve dioceses (see map). Unbeknownst to Diocletian, the term diocese would one day be used to describe the territory of a local church under a bishop, who is himself a successor to one of the twelve Apostles.

As imperial power began to collapse in “the West” after 476, the Church began to step in to fill the vacuum of stability – and it was natural for her to continue using the term diocese, even if the seven westernmost dioceses established by Diocletian would be broken up into smaller and smaller units. Nevertheless, with a bishop at the head of each diocese, the Church in the middle ages began to see herself as the rightful leader of both ecclesial and secular affairs rather than an interim caretaker during years of political and economic instability.

Perhaps it was providential that the anti-Christian Diocletian would establish the first twelve dioceses, but we must also remember that it was providential that many God-fearing men would establish the nations.

The heavens are telling the glory of God

"The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork."

-Psalm 19:1, King David

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: The Enemy At Home

The Essays of Orate Fratres now includes my new review of Dinesh D'Souza's book The Enemy at Home. In the book he offers a much broader understanding of Islam and the events before and after 9/11. D'Souza's thesis is that radical Islam seeks to destroy us because of our decadance, not our democracy.

From the Review:
While Dinesh D’Souza is best known for going head-to-head with atheists in public debates, this Catholic scholar from India, also has a knack for connecting faith to global affairs, foreign policy, and cultural reform on the domestic front. Indeed D’Souza’s book, The Enemy at Home, struck a cord among liberals and conservatives alike, calling out the secularists and making the case that our own moral depravity, sponsored by the secular Left, was the root cause of 9/11. D’Souza argues that conservatives have missed a perfect opportunity to link the culture war with the war on terror – that radical Muslims do not hate democracy, free markets, or new technology, but rather our permissive culture. Contrary to the Left, no Middle Easterner believes America is seeking a new hegemonic, territory-based imperialism. What struck fear into bin Laden was the new “cultural imperialism” of the radical Left which poses an existential threat to Islam.
You can click here for more.

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas

Did you know that the first gift jolly old St. Nick was best known for was his fist? Yes, it was St. Nicholas the bishop who got to land a solid punch into the jaw of Arius at the Council of Nicaea in 325. While Arius was busy spouting his heresy to the Council, St. Nicholas just couldn’t take it any longer. The bishops at the council actually locked him up – but after the miraculous intercession of both Jesus and Mary, St. Nicholas was brought back.

If you’re not familiar with the story – or you’d like to know what that miracle was – check out this blog post and read on. And if that doesn’t grab you, perhaps the introduction to the post will:

When President Teddy Roosevelt was a college student, he taught a Sunday School class for elementary school children. During this time, Roosevelt awarded a dollar to a boy in his Sunday School class for beating the snot out of a bully who tormented little girls. "You did exactly right," said Roosevelt with pride.
In the meantime, enjoy the picture above of St. Nicholas pointing out his right fist as Arius flails his hands in the air.

Cultural Imperialism

In the book The Enemy at Home, author and debater Dinesh D’Souza speaks of what he calls the “cultural imperialism” of the secular left. In other words, America does not seek to conquer Middle Eastern countries with military might but rather with its cultural depravity. The true imperialists are thus the secular leftists, not the traditional conservatives. Or as D’Souza would say, when “bin Laden calls America a Crusader state, he means that America is on a vicious international campaign to impose its atheist system of government and its pagan values on Muslims.”

President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, both extreme advocates of the secular left, have offered us a case-in-point today. The U.S. has decided to use foreign aid to promote “gay rights” in nations with traditional cultures and taboos. D’Souza would not be surprised at this newest act of cultural imperialism. It is an act which will embolden the enemy, winning over more traditional Muslims into the radical camp. What’s worse is that this act is bad foreign policy done to win cheap political points back home while trampling over the cultures of others. It is ethnocentrism at its worst.

But this also highlights a failed portion of the Bush administration.

During Bush’s eight years in office, he had the chance to build up an alliance between traditional Americans and traditional Muslims. Had he worked to create a deeper alliance between the values voters and the foreign policy hawks, Bush could have set in motion events leading to the free and traditional Islamic nations. As it stands now, the Arab Spring may turn into an Arab Winter. The secular leftists running our nation will do whatever it takes to secularize the Middle East – but this will only help radicalize the nations and forge an even deeper animosity between us. Sadly, Bush’s legacy may have been to leave Obama holding a military apparatus with which to promote the advance of the secular left.

Coming Soon: A Review of The Enemy at Home

Monday, December 5, 2011

African Economics and Civilizations

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting map of Africa (see below) late last month which Thomas Barnett commented on in his blog. As he notes, Africa has more nations per square mile than any other continent – which can make life difficult for Africa’s landlocked nations. To help with the economic situations confronting different regions, the map shows three economic blocs or networks established to connect the inside of the continent with the coast – and the world beyond that.

Needless to say, this map should be overlaid with a civilizational map of the continent (see above). In such a map we see what Samuel Huntington would call a civilizational fault line running east-west across the north-central stretch of the continent and then running south along the east coast. When we compare the two maps we see that the Islamic north cuts right through the “Economic Community of West African States" and creeps into the newer economic bloc on the east coast.

Given this civilizational fault line, where eruptions break out between Christians and Muslims, it should not surprise us that the southernmost economic network has encompassed the same number of nations as the slightly older West African bloc and could continue expanding to include the budding eastern coastal bloc. As time passes, it’s safe to say that the African Christian south will form more cohesive ties along the civilizational fault line running across the continent.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Euro and the Nations

Back in 1860 as the United States was entering the Civil War, the southern states formed a Confederacy in which each state was in essence its own nation. States’ rights is what drove the South into secession and it was states’ rights that helped defeat the Confederacy. Why? Because each state, seeing itself as an independent nation, refused to centralize power in Richmond and instead focused on its own interests. Monies and troops were withheld, rail gauges changed throughout the South (making transnational troop transport difficult and inefficient), and each state had its own currency.

Which brings me to the Euro.

Europe began introducing the Euro back in 1999, in a sense forging one massive economic power consisting of multiple nations. We see in the 1860s, however, that the Southern Confederacy failed in large part because it wanted to be a confederacy of eleven separate nations. America tried this with the Articles of Confederation but moved to the current Constitution because a Confederacy was simply too weak for a nation stretching from coast to coast. If Europe is to remain a continent of separate nations, it must allow each nation to retain a national currency. The potential failure of the Euro will mean the survival of the European nations. The two cannot coexist.

UPDATE: The chief financial officer of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development now says there are only seven working days left to prevent the collapse of the Euro. National sovereignty is the new wall standing in front of the Euro's survival, for European nations using the Euro are looking at a massive bailout by Germany - in which case the Germans will be able to influence the future economic decisions made the debtor nations. As it stands, the strong national identities of Europe may prevent the German bailout, thus bringing the Euro closer to collapse.

That is unless the United States offers its own bail out. Let's hope not.

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Mary Video

The videos for Dr. Pence's six-part series on Marian femininity versus modern feminism is coming closer to completion with the addition of part five! To view the fifth segment of the series, simply click 'play' on the video below.

If you're new to Orate Fratres, follow this link to a previous post which includes links to the past videos (including a previous series on the all-male priesthood).

And if you just can't wait for part six to arrive, here's a video I just made on the Hail Mary in chant:

Monday, November 14, 2011

The World According to Tom Barnett

The PowerPoint will never be the same after Thomas P.M. Barnett. In the time following 9/11, Barnett began using his presentation, or brief, called The World According to Tom Barnett, to get across his idea of the "big picture" and the role America should play in the twenty-first century.

His thesis was simple: take a world map, draw a circle around the areas where violence occurs on a regular basis and then ask, why? His answer is connectivity. As the nations become further globalized, wars are found within what Barnett calls the non-integrating gap. The world according to Tom Barnett sees the United States playing a key role in shrinking the gap.

Now I originally saw the brief on C-SPAN in 2003 and I remember being so impressed that I recorded it when it was replayed later that evening. Barnett's theory may not be fully correct, but he joins men like Samuel Huntington in seeing the world through the eyes of a map and a story that explains it.

Catholics are in need of their own macrohistorical metanarrative - but watching Barnett's brief is a great way to see how effective we can be if we use a map and tell a story. It's worth checking out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Apostolic Doctor

St. Lawrence of Brindisi was named Julius Caesar by his father - but little did his father know how close his son would live up to the name, albiet as a priest weilding a crucifix rather than a sword. One online writer puts it this way:

Imagine if you were a commander facing a well-armed enemy of 80,000 foot and calvary and your troops were outnumbered four to one. You’ve had several skirmishes with the foe, but the big battle would be in a day or two. This gives you time to evaluate the situation, make a strategic retreat, negotiate terms, or do battle. You have a chaplain reputed to be a saint and he works miracles. You know the man and you believe that his reputation is well deserved. When you ask his advice he tells you to prepare for battle and trust God and His holy mother.

This is what happened that October day in 1601 in Hungary, just twenty-three years after the Moslems were defeated in the Mediterranean Sea in the Battle of Lepanto. The saint rallied the troops and led the charge into the enemy lines. Bullets, arrows, and canon balls flew all around him as he held the crucifix on high. One of the bullets miraculously got lodged in his hair. Scimitars were being swung at him from every direction but never did a blade even graze his flesh. Five horses fell wounded beneath him as he galloped back and forth urging the brave warriors to fight on for the victory would be theirs. It was far from an easy victory, but at the end of the day the Turks were routed; they would be back again, and defeated again, eighty years later, at the gates of Vienna. Among those who fought for the empire and Christendom in this battle were bands of German Lutherans. Many of these converted after witnessing the heroism of Father Lawrence and the divine protection so visibly allotted to him. The Moslems were convinced that they were defeated by a “Christian magician.”
St. Lawrence was not only a great warrior and leader, he was also a linguist, diplomat, mystic, and miracle-worker. He was also equally dedicated to the Virgin Mary and his priestly duties. Though his Masses tended to last three hours, a particular Christmas Mass continued for sixteen hours and he was even known to levitate at the altar. Most importantly for us, St. Lawrence is also a Doctor of the Church (bearing the title: "The Apostolic Doctor").

Now there are four kinds of male personalities: the priest, the laborer, the scholar, and the warrior. Sadly, it is very uncommon to find a great priest-scholar who is also a great warrior. Indeed pacifism - the opposite position of the warrior - is a constant temptation among the priestly personality. But when the men and officers in Hungary looked at St. Lawrence, they knew a man they could rightly call "Father".

In this way, St. Lawrence should be the model for every man of a priest-scholar personality.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Roots of Modernism

Dr. William Marshner has once again given an excellent FREE audio series through the Institute of Catholic Culture. While an earlier post describes the background of Dr. Marshner and his last talk (on the Council of Trent), his new three-part series examines the Roots of Modernism. This may seem to be a topic which many are familiar with, but Dr. Marshner addresses the matter by giving a historical narrative and philosophical critique of the various schools of modernist thought and their adherents. It is definitely worth checking out.

For further study, Dr. Marshner recommends reading a great book by Maurice Mandelbaum called History, Man, & Reason: A Study in 19th Century Thought.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Extension, Comprehension, and Generalizations

In logic, terms become the smallest building blocks of arguments. A term is any word or phrase that denotes a commonly known concept. Now by connecting two terms in a proper declarative sentence, one can form a proposition – and through the assertion of two or more true propositions, one can reason their way to a logical conclusion.

Obviously terms should be used clearly and unambiguously – but they should also be understood in themselves in two ways: by their extension and their comprehension (or intension). The chief difference between the two is that extension is quantitative while comprehension (or intension) is qualitative. Extension thus means the ability to count out all the objects in the world that are denoted by the term. For example, the extension of the term “All United States citizens” refers to all the 300+ million people who are members of the U.S. Now the comprehension (or intension) is qualitative because it forms the logical definition of the term, including the term's attributes, features, or qualities. In other words, extension is concrete while intension is abstract.

This logical dichotomy, which originates with the ancient Greeks, is one helpful way of sorting out the problem of political correctness when it comes to matters of gender. In his logic textbook, Socratic Logic, Dr. Peter Kreeft states:

…so many people today… immediately and thoughtlessly reject all “generalizations” like “men are more aggressive than women” as “stereotypes.” They are confusing comprehension and extension. They are misinterpreting a statement about comprehension as if as if it were one about extension, and that is why they think that the fact that Mrs. X is more aggressive than Mr. X disproves the statement that “men are more aggressive than women.” They cannot or will not rise to the original statement’s level of abstraction and argue with it on its own level. The statement is not about all the individuals that have the nature of male and the nature of female, but about those natures in abstraction from the individuals that have them. Those who reject all rationalizations because they can find some exceptions to them are thinking only on the concrete sense level of extension, not on the abstract conceptual level of comprehension; they are operating like cameras (sense experience) plus computers (calculating the quantities of extension), but not like human minds (understanding essences, natures, “whats”).
Nominalism – which is commonly found in our colleges and drilled into the minds of the politically correct – denies any reality of essences or natures and thus it declares that there are only individuals, only particulars; no universals. Accordingly there is no male and female nature, nor any human nature – only equal individuals with equal rights. Nominalism is thus a key source of radical egalitarianism and individualism.

But on the side of common sense Aristotelian reason, it is precisely because we can know essences or natures that we can say that (for example) effeminacy in males is a vice, not a virtue, nor an amoral reality, because it is contrary to the masculine nature. Cameras and computers, to use Kreeft’s analogy, cannot know natures because they are not minds – but we do have God-given minds, so let’s use them instead of speeding up a process of devolution in the name of rights and political correctness.

G.K. Chesterton would say that it is the exception that proves the rule. This is precisely because he knew the difference between extension and intension. Natures or essences are unchanging – but our society is bent on trying to “disprove the rule” (i.e. the nature) through the promotion of the unnatural. This is all the more reason for Catholics (both lay and clergy) to faithfully live out a rich sacramental and liturgical life. In the world we are bombarded with self-defeating nominalism, but in the liturgy we can find the truth and reality of male and female expressed tangibly.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Fr. Barron’s Catholicism (Episode One)

As promised by the trailer (which I included in an earlier post), the show delivers breathtaking imagery from around the Catholic world while offering some down-to-earth language along with an overly-intellectual approach to Catholicism. As was suspected, there are plenty of times when one can feel free to hit the mute button and simply be amazed at the visuals alone. Some examples of this include seeing Fr. Baron praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the end sequence involving the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

If Catholicism suffers from anything, it is not so much from bad theology as from the fear of offending anyone. This is bad philosophy. We see this within the first two minutes of the first episode when the title appears: Amazed and Afraid: Jesus Both God and Human. Here we see the traditional description “God and Man” is changed to “God and Human” in order to reflect our politically correct, gender-neutral culture. Anything which may not sit well is skirted around. If, for example, society gets offended by the all-male priesthood, then Catholicism will just pass it by and move on to another more acceptable topic instead of addressing it head-on. Along these lines, the twelve Apostles are no longer described as twelve men but rather as twelve people.

With the exception of the Pope, the role of the Apostles – and thus their successors, the bishops – is also downplayed. Fr. Barron tells us that the very first mission of the Christ was to gather the twelve tribes of Israel. But he describes this gathering solely as Jesus’ policy to associate with sinners. Jesus is thus the model of tolerance and acceptance. No mention is given of the twelve Apostles, the image par excellence of the gathering of the twelve tribes of Israel. Also suspiciously absent is the Devil. When Christ comes as a warrior, Fr. Barron tells us it is to fight against human selfishness, hatred, and violence. Whatever happened to the promise of Genesis 3:15? Wasn’t the serpent’s head to be crushed?

As of episode one, Catholicism may leave some people – especially our grandparents – scratching their heads over some missing elements of the Catholic faith left out or strangely described by the very intellectual Fr. Barron. The episode does, however, deliver very sound Christology while presenting the viewer with a challenge: to accept Christ or not. The visuals are the strongest element to the show. In the end, the sacramental nature of the faith means some things just cannot be hidden or confused. Sometimes beauty makes truth more accessible than the most erudite theologian.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

New Mary Video

Followers of Orate Frates may have watched the videos on the left side of the blog page. If not, please do so. The audio comes from Dr. Pence on two different topics: the all-male priesthood and Marian femininity.

The new video is actually Part 4 of the Marian series - with two more on the way.

If you'd like to watch the previous videos, use the links below to view them:

The All-Male Priesthood (Part 1)
The All-Male Priesthood (Part 2)
The All-Male Priesthood (Part 3)
The All-Male Priesthood (Part 4)

Marian Femininity (Part 1)
Marian Femininity (Part 2)
Marian Femininity (Part 3)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pence on the Christian Sword

Be sure to swing on by the Anthropology of Accord blog and check out this recent post on Dr. Pence and the Christian sword:

In October 2011 young Coptic Christians were killed demonstrating for government protection against escalating church burnings and anti-Christian violence in Egypt since the February 2011 resignation of 30-year President Hosni Mubarak. The militancy of the Christians and the tank response of the Egyptian military assure this matter will be settled by some combination of reason and force leading to exodus, protected communities, or a massive bloodletting against close to ten percent of Egypt’s population. A secular state where religion doesn’t matter is not on the option list.

One way to understand the “Arab Spring” of the last forty years is a religious and democratic revolt against the authoritarian secular nationalist party rulers who dominated the 20th century after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Ataturk in Turkey, Nasser/Sadat/Mubarak in Egypt, Pahlavi in Iran, Assad in Syria, the Hashemite Kings in Jordan, and Hussein in Iraq considered themselves modern nationalist leaders -- not new caliphs of Islam. The secular nationalists have all been challenged by movements calling for democracy for the people and a more authentic Islamic culture.

Christians as minorities in all of these countries had supported the earlier secular nationalist movements (including laws at times against the public expression of majority-religion practices). Christians played important roles in government, education, and commerce beyond the strength of their numbers. Similar minority roles were played by Jews in Muslim-dominated Spain, Tutsis in German-Belgium colonial governments of Rwanda, and Indians in the former British colony of Uganda.

Sirhan Sirhan, on the one-year anniversary of the Six Day War, assassinated Robert Kennedy for his support of Israel during that conflict. Sirhan was raised in a Christian Arab home and said on arrest he did it for “his country.” He meant Palestine -- the still imagined secular nation to be born even now as the others pass from history. But secular nationalism will not be the shape of Islamic nation states or the future of the Mideast. The era of the strong secular party leader protecting the freedom of cooperative Christians is over.

What will become of the Christians? The Jews have been expelled. They had one place to go and one defender who would evacuate them. When the Christian Orthodox Russians proposed themselves as guardians of beleaguered Mideast Christians in the pre-nationalist Ottoman era, they were stopped by Protestant Britain and Catholic France in the Crimean War (1853-6). The Papal temporal sword was broken militarily in 1870 and surrendered by Concordat in 1929. The Popes of the last forty years have properly accepted their own disarmament. But can it be fitting and proper to advocate the same for the Christian nations? Our churches are burning. Who will wield the Christian sword?

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Eagle

The Eagle tells the story of Marcus Flavius Aquila, a Roman army officer haunted by his father's catastrophic failure as a general in pagan Britain. Years before the young Aquila arrival as an aspiring commander of an outpost in the Roman-controlled southern Britain, his father led a doomed 9th Legion north into Scotland and was never heard from again. Young Aquila arrives in Britain hoping to regain his family's lost honor.

Secretly Aquila fears his father was a coward, fleeing from battle - and more importantly, his men - in his last moments.

Aquila soon finds himself on a quest in search of the 9th Legion's lost eagle standard. The standard is a symbol of Rome itself, bringing civilization with it wherever her armies march. For Aquila, it also becomes a symbol of his family's lost honor. But in addition to the Eagle, Aquila hopes to find out the truth about his father's bravery - cowardice.

As Christians we must recall our own story, for we are the descendants of a father chosen by God to be sent for battle against the Evil One, but who failed through an act of cowardice in battle. The Garden was indeed the beachhead for the invasion of Adam and his sons, reclaiming the world from dominion of Satan. Like Marcus Flavius Aquila, we should also be haunted by our father Adam. And that alone is reason enough for all men to look to Christ, the new Adam, and enter into his masculine body, the Church. In him man can return to battle and complete the original mission: to be fruitful and to take back dominion of this world from Satan.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Reveiw: Saving Christianity from Empire

An excerpt introduction to the review of Saving Christianity from Empire:

The political left… has seemingly distanced itself from religious language in general and Christian language in particular… Very rarely today do we find a book by a liberal author meant to seriously address Christianity and its relationship to the nation in a positive light. Rarer still is such a book written for a mass audience of average Christians unfamiliar with the many complex and abstract concepts of theology.

But this is exactly what the theologian and politician Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer has attempted to do in his book
Saving Christianity from Empire. Pallmeyer is a professor at the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN), teaching both theology and justice and peace studies. While Pallmeyer may be best known for his run against Al Franken for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. Senate election, he is one of the few liberal politicians to be as equally committed to faith as to politics. A lifelong Lutheran, Pallmeyer earned his bachelor’s degree from the Lutheran St. Olaf College and then a Masters of Divinity from the Union Theological Seminary before becoming a St. Thomas professor where he has taught for fifteen years.

Now for most American’s, Pallmeyer’s argument [will need] some convincing – and often times the best way to convince someone is by telling them a story. Like every good story, we could say that
Saving Christianity from Empire examines the United States, as well as Christianity, in the following way: the story is setup, upset, and reset. The setup represents the protagonist’s original upright beginnings while the upset refers to that which becomes an obstacle for the protagonist to overcome. Of course, no story is complete without a reset, that is, either a return to the original good or to the protagonist’s eventual doom. Every good story has either a happy ending or a sad ending. No good story has a non-ending.

Pallmeyer tells his story as one of optimism for the United States and Christianity, but he casts both of their modern-day versions as their own worst enemies. In his narrative, the United States is a good republic turned empire and Christianity is a good religion subverted by empire into a caesaropapist puppet of injustice. The narrative’s hopeful reset, however, relies on a revitalized Christianity which is able to resist and by doing so restore the evil empire to its former status as a good republic. In this way Pallmeyer’s thesis rests squarely on his
theology, not on his indictments of American economic or foreign policy. In other words, Pallmeyer is offering Christians a hopeful means of social and political change precisely by way of their faith and not merely through a sociopolitical process devoid of faith. Could this be a postmodernist return to the power of religion which enlivened movements led by great men like Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Read the full review to examine Pallmeyer’s theology and find out.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Complementary Cycles

Any man worth his salt should be able to go outside and identify the current phase of the moon because the cycle of the moon is man’s natural monthly cycle, so to speak. A man who looks out to the moon orients himself to space and time on a natural level and in so doing characterizes masculinity. Man’s gaze is outward towards public bonds between men and objective reality.

Woman, on the other hand, has her own monthly cycle – and a woman’s knowledge of this cycle characterizes femininity. Woman’s gaze is inward towards the cultivation of life in the womb or to nurturing those around her. This does not mean that woman is relegated only to the home, but rather that a woman’s “public life” is nevertheless properly oriented towards the formation of deep personal-private bonds with those around her, thus signifying the interiority of her femininity.

Thus we must not forget that these two natural cycles signify something deep and profound about our masculinity and femininity. They are God's gifts, not curses.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Creation and Non-Violence

My recent post on doubts concerning the historicity of Adam (and the Devil) as a potential means to deny the reality of evil should also help us understand why some theologians look to God’s creative act as justification for non-violence. In this view, monotheism stands above the pagan creation myths in which the gods fight a war and in the process create the cosmos. The non-violent God of Christianity, however, simply makes a harmonious universe from nothing and calls it good.

While it is certainly true that God created an ordered universe ex nihilo, what if the pagan myths contained a grain a truth, a kernel of knowledge lost to man during the true Dark Age following the Fall of Adam? What if a cosmic war really did precede the creation of the material universe? After all, why do we live in a seemingly indifferent universe filled with death, killer gamma rays, and asteroids capable of mass extinction?

The universe is not a safe place and the earth is certainly not our Mother.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion opens with a mythic creation account of his fantasy world Middle Earth. In it God created the angels first and then had them sing together in their harmonious hierarchy – but the greatest of the angels, Melkor, inserted his own themes into the music and eventually led a revolt against God. Nevertheless, God revealed that He created Middle Earth through the music sung by the angels and that the discord sown by Melkor’s disruptive music was the cause of certain evils and imperfections in the world.

This creation account in the Silmarillion is pure fiction, but Tolkien drew heavily from his Catholic faith, and the thought of God working through secondary actors is part and parcel of the Christian economy of salvation. Whether or not God included the angels in his creative act, we do know that St. Michael the Archangel led a victorious battle against the Devil and his demons and cast them out of heaven (see Revelation 12:7-9) and that Jesus has proclaimed the Devil “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31).

It is altogether in the realm of possibility that the Big Bang, which created our universe, was the result of the expulsion of Satan and his minions from Heaven. Lucifer claimed a heavenly dominion and the result was instead a dominion over this world. Man was made to unseat him from even this dominion, avenge God’s honor, and restore justice. In other words, God created man for war against evil, and while the Devil struck us first, the mission of Jesus Christ was to save us from sin in order to restore us for battle.

So much for non-violence.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Forgotten Vice in Seminary Formation

Fr. James Mason offers his reflections on life in the seminary as he prepared for the priesthood, and he tells us that the key vice never addressed in seminary is precisely effeminacy. Drawing on Aquinas, and the Fathers of the Church, Fr. Mason points out the fact that effeminacy in men, and thus in the priesthood, has long been condemned as disordered – and since it is such a major issue in our seminaries, it is an issue which can neither be tolerated nor overlooked any longer.

Effeminacy has not always been a problem in our priests, but as Christianity in Western culture has become more and more dominated by women and seen as a “religion for women”, more and more effeminate men have entered into Christian ministry, be it Catholic or Protestant. Furthermore, Fr. Mason tells us that this problem is only multiplied when these effeminate men are elevated to the episcopacy, saying that, “there are many bishops, faculty and priests who suffer under this vice and are therefore unwilling or unable to recognize it or address it.”

While offering no comprehensive solution to the problem nor addressing the many homosexual predators that have infiltrated the priesthood, Fr. Mason tells us that bishops must play an active role in the formation of their priests:

Bishops need to take an active role in knowing and forming their priestly candidates. It is, perhaps, not only his most important decision but also the decision he will be held most accountable for. My own bishop is one of the few if not only bishops in our country who has every seminarian live at least a summer in his residence. He knows the men he will ordain.
The more bishops understand that they together form an apostolic fraternity under the Pope and that their own priests follow the same model under them, then they can truly purge their ranks of any Judas’ among them and offer the sacrifice of Christ as men, lifting up the Body of Christ and drawing all men into the Body of Christ (John 12:32).

The Adam of Faith versus the Historical Adam

In recent decades, some theologians and skeptics have attempted to sharply divide Christ in two: the historical Christ and the Christ of faith. In a watered-down return to the fifth century heresy of Nestorianism, there is the Jesus of Nazareth as the human of history and Jesus the Son of God believed by faith. Two very distinct persons. In his recent books, however, Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us of the deep connection between history and faith, saying that “the very essence of biblical faith [is] to be about real historical events. It does not tell stories symbolizing suprahistorical truths, but is based on history, history that took place here on this earth.”

But another history versus faith controversy has been brewing. This time about the existence of Adam, from whom the rest of humanity descends. Now beyond the debate over evolution, there are an increasing number of theologians who have thrown out the historicity of Adam (and the Devil) as a mere morality tale of ancient Hebrew myth. Both Adam and the Devil, however, are crucial figures for the basis of the faith, and the categorical denial of either Adam or the Devil enables one to evade the question of evil altogether. For if Adam and the Devil becomes a matter of myth then we can likewise place evil into the same mythic category with them since the chain of evil, if we could call it that, runs squarely back to them.

Both figures are so important as historical actors in the drama of salvation history that two particular popes within the last hundred years have spoken definitively of them. Leo XIII taught us to be on guard against the Devil through recourse in prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, who cast Satan and his minions out of Heaven. Until the 1960s, every Catholic recited this prayer together before leaving Mass. The other pope was Pius XII, who, in an encyclical called Humani Generis, definitively rejected a notion called polygenism which states that:

…after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.
The current most controversy over polygenism has surfaced over at Dave Armstrong’s blog, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. Mr. Armstrong’s blog is a wonderful resource for any Catholic seeking to learn how to defend the Faith from Scripture so be sure to check it out. This particular issue of polygenism, however, concerns Fr. Robert Barron of Catholicism fame (see my previous post). According to Fr. Barron’s video weblog, Adam is not to be read literally. In Fr. Baron’s words: “We're not talking about a literal figure. We're talking in theological poetry.” This kind of language has lead to a large debate on facebook, but the full article from Mr. Armstrong on the matter can be read here.

Fr. Baron has yet to reply in any capacity.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Liturgical Renewal

There has been a deep divide among Catholics over the past fifty years. Some people use political terms like conservative or liberal to describe this division. On the one hand, there are the “conservative” radical traditionalists (often called RadTrads for short) who believe the Church must reject the novus ordo Mass and return to the Latin Tridentine Mass prior to Vatican II. On the other hand, the “liberal” peace and justice, inclusive Catholics believe we have not gone far enough and thus the Church should change her dogmas, ordain priestesses, and reduce the moral teachings of the Church to feelings.

Finding themselves between these two groups, many bishops have attempted to walk a middle path – but often this path meant pandering to the “progressives” while seemingly punishing the traditionalists. This itself has occurred in large part because the bishops know traditionalists within the Church will do as they’re told out of some sense of piety while the liberals simply do not accept the authority of the Church, especially a Church led by an all-male clergy. Sadly this middle path has left many faithful Catholics feeling betrayed or scandalized as the bishops practice a policy of appeasement in order to keep the liberals from staging a revolt. In 2010, Archbishop Nienstedt witnessed such a revolt at St. John’s University over his public explanation of homosexuality, an explanation faithful to Church teaching and natural law.

Some bishops have declared themselves catechetical bishops, social justice bishops, or evangelical bishops – but this emphasis on what they seek to accomplish during their episcopate is rather like describing the Trinity in terms of job titles: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier rather than Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The real power of the bishops is in liturgy, for it is in the liturgy where the faithful are catechized (both in body and spirit); it is in the liturgy where the faithful are taught social justice; it is in the liturgy where the faithful are evangelized, becoming more the Body of Christ by receiving the Body of Christ.

With this understanding of the profundity of the liturgy, here are some ways we can renew the Mass, and by doing so better catechize, evangelize, and produce real social justice:

1. Renew the Language of the Mass

On the first Sunday of Advent, the Church will do just this by implementing the translation of the Roman Missal into English. Generally speaking, the words are a vast improvement on what has been used for several decades. The new words act to re-inject sacral language into the Mass, helping Catholics to realize that a greatest prayer of the Church requires language far above the idle words of street talk. Click here for a comparison of the old and new translations.

2. Reserve the chalice for the priest

A recent talk I attended on the new translation included a discussion on the change of the word cup to chalice during the consecration. The speaker preferred the current translation over the new translation because Jesus would have used a simple cup at the Last Supper instead of a gold chalice. But this overly historical approach sadly overlooked the Biblical and theological understanding of the word chalice. The chalice is a specific kind of cup used for sacrifice. Indeed the passion and death of Christ was the chalice of sacrifice which the Father gave to Jesus for the good of our salvation – and priests, configured to Christ through Holy Orders, are the ones who offer up the one sacrifice of Christ to the Father in the liturgy. Because of this, it is proper to ordinarily reserve the chalice for the priest. This idea is now taking traction in the Archdiocese of Phoenix where Archbishop Olmsted has drawn on the new translation of the Roman Missal and new norms for reception of Communion to do just this. Reserving the chalice to the priest will also work to limit the number of unnecessary extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Feel free to check out this Q&A on the matter from the Archdiocese of Phoenix.

3. Reinstate boy servers and acolytes

Studies show that when boys and girls work on projects, tasks, and assignments, boys will often times sit back and let the girls do the work for them. Sadly this has discouraged many boys from serving at Mass – and in effect, having boys and girls serve is the best way to reduce the numbers of priestly vocations. Canon law speaks of acolytes as a specific form of server for boys only and a full acolyte is also an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. Reinstating an acolyte program for high school boys would be a great way to teach young men the Mass while providing them with additional opportunities to prayerfully consider their vocation.

4. Restore the ad orientem posture of the priest

In a society caught up with sexual disorientation, the faithful have much to learn from liturgical orientation. The priest, sacramentally configured to Christ, represents us to God at Mass – and as our representative the priest and people face the same way: toward God. This is known as the ad orientem posture, a posture derided as the priest turning his back on the people. But we must remember that the Mass is spiritual warfare and the priest, like Christ, stands ready to take the first spiritual bullet for our salvation. The priest goes to war at the altar and makes present the blow dealt to Satan at the cross. When the priest stands and represents us, we should cheer him on and thank God we have a warrior there to protect us.

5. Deepen Eucharistic Reverence

The second point of renewal focused on reserving the chalice for the priest, but another way to deepen Eucharistic devotion would be to reinstate the norm of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue in a kneeling posture. This the norm Pope Benedict XVI uses in his Masses and it is one which would certainly be more reverent than the “lunch line” Communion we have now where almost no one makes a sign of reverence before receiving the Eucharist. Furthermore, if this point is combined with point two, the long lines at Communion will be drastically reduced and it would enable the priest and deacon to be the ordinary ministers of the Eucharist while limiting the need of 5-10 extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.

None of these points of renewal is a repudiation of the novus order Mass. Instead, these are simple ways to make the novus order what the Fathers of Vatican II intended it to be. Indeed, this is the true middle path our bishops should follow. It is a path that will catechize, evangelize, and enliven the laity to practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The key to any successful episcopacy is not in pandering to the politically correct, but rather in allowing the liturgy to be what it is – because the real power of the bishops is truly found in the Paschal Mystery made present in the liturgy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

God and Morality

Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, both sociology professors from Baylor, published a book last year called America’s Four Gods. Their work analyzed a survey of American views on God, breaking the poll data into four kinds of Gods:

1) The Authoritative God: A God who is both engaged in the world and judgmental about our actions.
2) The Benevolent God: A God who is engaged in the world but who makes no judgmental calls on our actions.
3) The Critical God: A God who is not engaged in the world but who is judgmental about our actions.
4) The Distant God: A God who is neither engaged in the world nor who makes judgments on our actions.

Obviously the Baylor professors focus on American’s perspective of how engaged in our affairs God is and how concerned He is about our actions. By their results, Froese and Bader found that over half of those surveyed view God as either Benevolent or Authoritative. All four views of God, however, present God in a transcendent manner – that God does not exist in matter but rather outside our material universe. How involved He is becomes another matter. What’s more, no one in the survey imaged this transcendent God in feminine terms. Given God’s transcendence, God is viewed as masculine, probably masculine, uncertain, or not applicable.

Overall, the emphasis on God’s transcendent nature is helpful for Americans to step away from a pantheist conception of God – but the study showed that the more transcendent one views God, the more he is inclined to reject a moral law written by God into nature or revealed by God through religion. The results show that only believers in an authoritative God also believed that the Ten Commandments really mean what they say, that adultery, homosexuality, abortion, and stem cell research were really sinful. Belief in the Distant God, strikingly similar to Deism, can easily lead one to practical atheism and a Dostoyevsky-sounding principle that: If God is distant enough, anything is permissible.

Which brings me to a final point on morality and God.

Christian Smith, currently a sociology professor at Notre Dame, coined the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to describe commonly held religious beliefs of American youth. This belief reduces religion to a morality of good feelings, leaving out particular theological doctrines and keeping God out of human affairs unless we have a particular problem. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is not particularly defined in America’s Four Gods, but if it is the predominant view of our youth, we will certainly see it enter into future surveys. This new belief may be a sign that Americans are moving further away from the New Age pantheism of the 1960s-1980s, but arming our youth with a mere belief in good feelings leaves them such an empty morality that almost none will have a moral foundation when they encounter real temptation and real evil.

For more on God, morality, and American youth, check out this article by Dennis Prager called: Why young Americans can’t think morally. Another thought-proving article on this topic is by Rod Dreher, called: The soft barbarism of young America.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Masculine and Feminine Offerings

John Paul II’s Theology of the Body states that a true communion cannot exist without the mutual offering of each person’s self-gift to the other. In marital terms, this idea stresses the husband’s offering of himself to his bride and vice versa. While this remains true, let us make two anthropological and theological distinctions between masculine and feminine offerings.

Henri de Lubac spoke of the Fall of Man as being the atomization of Adam throughout the world. In other words, the human race was meant to be united under the headship of Adam but has now become a schizophrenic conglomeration of self-willed individuals. Men were to be united in Adam so as to “fight as one man” in a just war against the fallen Lucifer and his demonic minions.

And this is why the Body of Christ is so important.

Adam may have fallen, but God sent us His Son so that we can be reborn into His body. Christ, in other words, is the new Adam according to St. Paul, and humanity in Christ’s body are restored to the Original Mission which was meant to be fulfilled by Adam and his sons. Now in baptism we are made the sons of God by taking on Christ’s identity through entering into His Body, the Church.

Turning back to the concept of masculine versus feminine offerings, we can think back to the Paschal Mystery in which Christ truly offers up His body. His suffering, death, Resurrection, and Ascension all occurred so that we could become the body which He offered up. Every time we go to Mass and hear the priest say, “Take and eat, this is my body,” we do not simply ingest Christ, rather we are further transformed into the thing we eat: the Body of Christ!

At Mass, the sons of God making up the masculine Body gather to become ever more the Body of Christ. This is why the priest says: “Pray brethren…” in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Thus the Mass is not meant to gather “me and Jesus” Catholics, playing feminine praise and worship music so that Mass becomes a place for deeply individual worship. Rather, the Mass is public, corporate, and thus profoundly masculine.

When Jesus called his men, configuring them to his own person and asking them to give up their bodies in order to offer His, the result was the Church. And just as the masculine offering of clergymen creates the Church, so the masculine offering of laymen creates the nations. The blood-stained battlefields are a testament to that. Self-seeking individualism is overcome through the blood and sacrifice of men, and the model of this par excellance is Christ and his Apostles – a model that should always be exemplified in Christ’s clergy, the bishops and priests who daily offer the blood and sacrifice of Christ.

This is also why the greatest insult to a man is to be called a coward. Every man knows he is required in some way to offer up his own body in sacrifice as a member of a corporate masculine body. Any man who refuses to do so has rejected a fundamental aspect of his masculinity and thus has received the most unmanly title of coward.

Now while men are called to offer their bodies in corporate groups for the protection of others, woman offers her body in a very personal, intimate, and unique way to her husband and her husband alone. But just as the masculine offering results in the birth of the Church or the birth of the nation, so the offering of the woman’s body results in the birth of the child. This is yet another reason why abortion stands opposed to authentic femininity. The pro-choice movement and pacifism thus become the two great threats to man and woman, for both are refusals to fully offer up the body for the protection of others.

Abortion, however, is not the only way a woman refuses to rightly offer her body. A woman offers the gift of her virginity to her husband in order to bear the fruits of their union through childbirth. Abortion usually results when a woman has offered herself to many men, and thus it should not surprise us that a woman who has emptied the gift of her virginity now empties out her womb as well. The temple to be protected has now been desecrated.

And just as man receives the shameful title of coward when he rejects his masculine duty, so too the woman receives a shameful title when she rejects her feminine duty, and that title is whore. To be called a coward or a whore are the two most shameful titles for man and woman – but they are reflective of the nature of masculinity and femininity and the ways men and women are to rightly offer their bodies. As men and women, let us create the culture of life by offering our bodies rightly so as to protect and create life.

Check Out Person of Interest

Mel Gibson is not the only person from the Passion of the Christ to be making a come back these days. This past Thursday Jim Caviezel - the actor who played Jesus in the movie - hit CBS in a new drama Person of Interest.

The show is well worth checking out.

Caviezel plays an ex-CIA agent named Reese, who was recruited by a wealthy businessman to fight violent crime in New York. Given a name and social security number from a secret government surveillance program, Reese doesn’t know if the person of interest is the victim or the perpetrator. With plenty of twists and turns, Person of Interest will keep you guessing, entertained, and pleasantly surprised.

Unlike most crime shows with “dark” good guys, Jim Caviezel’s Reese offers us a very haunted but upright and just man who will not hesitate to use physical violence to fight evil, protect others, and even evangelize the bad guys.

“I went around the world looking for bad guys,” Reese says, “but there were plenty of you right here all along.”

Be sure to check out Person of Interest this weekend while the first episode is available to watch at the CBS website.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Panentheism and the Gnostic Reaction

Differing from pantheism (which is the belief that God and the physical universe are coextensive, that God and the universe are two sides of the same coin), panentheism states that everything we see, taste, touch, hear, and smell is divine but that God’s existence also extends beyond this universe. In other words, the physical universe is a part of God though not the whole of God. In this book Handbook of Christian Apologetics, the philosopher Peter Kreeft calls panentheism “clearly heretical.”

Sadly not all Catholics agree.

Panentheism bills itself as a compromise between the transcendent God of theism and the immanent god of pantheism. Now every good Christian recognizes that the physical universe (and for that matter, angels too) is sustained by God. Everything made by God was made from nothing and without His continual decision to sustain us, we would go back into the nothingness from which we came. Furthermore, everything that exists is good insofar as it exists. Panentheism, however, sadly fails to make the distinction between Creator and creation.

Nevertheless, there are those who argue that some Eastern Christian mystics and modern theologians have embraced a kind of panentheism that we, too, should accept.

But what really popularizes this among some Catholic theologians is perhaps an overreaction to the many forms of Gnosticism throughout the ages – especially one of its key tenants: the material universe is evil and made by an evil god. Catholics had to defend the faith against this heresy, and also against a rather Gnostic-sounding Protestant Christianity which denied that God could interact with us through material objects (i.e. sacraments, sacramentals, male priests, etc.).

Given the “Gnostic Reaction” and the belief in “ontological goodness” (that everything which exists is good insofar as it exists), there is a tendency among some Catholic theologians to drift dangerously close to panentheism and a universalism which can stem from it. We must not forget that evil really exists and that we have a duty to defeat it. It could be found in our own hearts, or it could be found in men like Stalin, Hitler, and bin Laden. In the end, there is a real heaven, a real hell, and a real judgment between good and evil.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Masculine Body, Feminine Bride

St. Paul describes the Church as both the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ. Now there is a great deal of theology behind both of these terms, and while many words have been said about them, their theological depths can be plunged still further.

One way to think of these mysterious descriptions of the Church is to think in terms of masculine and feminine.

The concept of the bride being feminine is quite obvious, but discussing the body as masculine may need a few words of explanation. The easiest way to think of a masculine body is that the body takes its identity from its head – and in the case of the Church, the head of the body is Jesus Christ, God the (very masculine) Son. We become the sons of God because we have entered into the Body of the Son and are thuse sons in the one Son of God. As such, the Church as body takes a masculine, public, external, non-intimate orientation in structure and worship. This is not only one reason why the liturgy is formal and celebrated by men and but it is also why praise and worship music (along with any other individualistic acts of personal intimacy with God or others) should not be a fixed part of the Mass.

This brings me to another point: there is an overemphasis on the bridal aspect of the Church.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Church is the Bride of Christ – but we often come together to celebrate the liturgy as the Body of Christ and then pretend like we’re just the feminine bride, not masculine the body. Understanding we are the Bride of Christ is one thing, but forgetting that we are the Body of Christ is another. To be in the Body means to be under the authority of the masculine Christ and those men he has entrusted his Body (which here means not only the Church but the Eucharist as well, for the former makes the latter and the latter builds up the former).

Strangely, traditional Catholics mock the “praise and worship” Catholics for being bad-imitation Evangelical or Pentecostal Protestants. The reality is that it is not the praise and worship that is wrong (for outside of the Mass, personal devotion can take many forms), but that that the Evangelicals have led Catholics to believe that the “me and Jesus” intimacy, like a bride with her husband, is all we really need – but to keep it Catholic, “Catholic evangelicals” believe that that intimacy must somehow be injected into the liturgical and sacramental structure of the Church.

But this is just as disastrous as the liberal watering-down of the liturgy.

If we are to learn anything from the Protestants, it should be the geo-political lessons learned in the rise of nations during the 16th-18th centuries. While the U.S. bishops have yet to rid their ranks of practicing homosexuals, preferring instead to voicing their concerns as a kind of Congressional Subcommittee on Morality, the idea of the manly, hardworking, self-sacrificing, nation-creating Protestantism is dying a hard death. This is of course in part because Protestantism has no Magisterium and thus it lacks the backbone and institutional memory of the Catholic Church. We as Catholics must pick up the falling banner of the nations under God before the dwindling Protestant nations lose it altogether to the feminist-Leftist, mainline Protestant denominations and the feminine-intimate, Bride of Christ Evangelicals.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Will Never Forget

Those who claim that violence is senseless do not understand war. The Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor was meant to destroy our air craft carriers (which providentially were out to sea on December 7, 1941). September 11, 2001, however, was an attack by anti-national jihadists who hoped a blow at America’s economic and military heart would cause us to withdraw from the world our chief export: international security and stability. If the American will could be shaken, the caliphate dreams of the jihadists could become a vision of the future. The jihadists hoped we would react as Spain did after its own 9/11, the Madrid train bombing of 3/11/04.

The Spanish will to fight terrorism was all but broken. Within a month, their troops were withdrawn from Iraq.

The United States could have done what Spain did, but 9/11 brought out the best in us. It brought out prayer, it brought out the warrior, and it has brought out the two fledgling nations of Iraq and Afghanistan. 9/11 showed us what evil looks like, but it also reminded us of who we really are as Americans. As we remember what happened ten years ago and in the years following, let it be a reminder to us of what President Lincoln said is:

the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mel Gibson is Back

Love him or hate him, Mel Gibson is back and the news today is that he is moving forward with writer Joe Eszterhas to make a movie out of I and II Maccabees.

You can read the official story here.

In case you are unaware, these two books are not found in the Protestant canon of Scripture but they are the central texts from which the celebration of Hanukkah is derived. More specifically, I and II Maccabees tells the story of a devout Jewish father and his five sons leading a revolt against the Greeks in Israel. Their goal: drive out the pagans, retake Jerusalem, and rededicate the Temple to the one, true God.

Now say what you want about Mel's personal life, but hearing an epic story of a father and his obedient sons in combat against evil is exactly what we need right now.

Thank you Mel.

The New Mass Translation

Two years ago I picked up a copy of the booklet Understanding the Revised Mass Texts by Fr. Paul Turner. It served as a nice preview of things to come. And as it turns out, Fr. Turner is a local priest in the nearby Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and I had the chance tonight to hear him speak in person regarding the new Mass translation.

For those who do not know, the current translation of the Mass into English is a “dynamic equivalent” of the original Latin whereby the “spirit” of the Latin is used in the English text rather than a literal, roughly word-for-word translation. The new translation, however, will be direct. Now, if you’d like to get a nicely packaged rundown which explains the new translation process, check out the video here. In short, the new translation will more accurately convey the Latin and restore some of the prayers and gestures that have been set aside since the 1960s. There will also be some new prayers. For example, priests currently have four Eucharistic prayers to choose from when they celebrate Mass – but the new texts have increased that number to sixteen. Sadly, these new prayers for the priests will not be published for general readership until October 1.

But if you’d like to start learning your new prayers and responses, check out this PDF from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Back to Fr. Turner. During the translation process, each of the eleven English-speaking bishop’s conferences has sent one of its bishops to meet and discuss the translation. Fr. Turner has served for the past five years as a secretary to that international group of bishops. Given his excellent booklet and eyewitness account of the translation process, I was very excited to hear him speak. Overall Fr. Turner gave a wonderfully erudite presentation. I was left, however, with a sense of tension between the new text’s faithfulness to the Latin versus its attempt to draw in more scriptural grounding.

One example of this is the neutering of the Holy Spirit in revised Creed.

Fr. Turner explained to me that the Latin text doesn’t use a gendered pronoun for the Holy Spirit, so in this case they opted for a neutered translation in order to be “more faithful” to the original Latin even though Jesus clearly uses the masculine pronoun for the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8, 13-15) and the Holy Spirit acts in a very masculine way during the Annunciation and Pentecost. Indeed, if Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, then we are certainly dealing in masculine-feminine imagery. Fr. Turner, however, left everyone with the strong impression that this was done in order to appease the feminist, gender-neutral crowd within the Church.

In other words, the bishops are allowing bad philosophy to guide them into questionable theology in order to score political points with heretics. Let us be clear: we will not be able to extricate the feminist implant from society until we exorcise it from our clergy and from our liturgy, which is the "source and summit" of the Christian life.

In the end, no translation is perfect but I am very pleased with much of the new wording coming out on the first Sunday of Advent. And if you’re looking for ways to get ready, I recommend checking out the links above – or you could also get yourself a copy of Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper on the scriptural basis of the Mass. Let’s get ready!

Women Talk, Men Act

In an earlier post on the dignity of male and female, I offered some quotes of Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the “God-given qualities” specific to male and female. Many of my friends – most of them very devout and theologically orthodox Catholics – dismiss Sheen for representing an “out-of-date” and politically incorrect viewpoint. It should strike us as an oddity that we modern Catholics, who hold fast to Scripture and Tradition when it comes to our belief in the Eucharist (for example), would suddenly abandon both when it comes to gender.

These same people, however, step back when I address the matter from the perspective of science.

As it turns out, there is nothing wrong in speaking of the male brain and the female brain. One big difference between the two is how men and women react to sensory input. The brain itself is structured in an ascending order. At the base we find the brain stem where our instincts and “fight-or-flight” reflexes are handled. It is the lowest part. Moving upwards we find the cerebellum and limbic system. Here the sensory data from our eyes, ears, and taste are processed. At the highest point of the brain is located the cerebrum where our complex thinking occurs.

Now when women react to intense sensory data, the brain routs the data up and into the cerebrum where women think over and talk through the experience. In men, however, God decided that it would be better for us to route our reaction down rather than up. This means that the brain stem takes the helm, and men react through physical action rather than through talking. Sadly our psychology-driven society which stresses non-violence and merely talking through our issues fails to recognize basic characteristics of man. Thankfully our Faith has always known these truths even when there were no fancy brain scans existing to confirm them.

There are far more differences between the male brain and the female brain. For example, the female brain has a 20% larger corpus callosum connecting both hemispheres of the brain which in turn enables both hemispheres to work together more effectively, making women better communicators and more effective at multitasking. To learn more about these two brains of the two genders, check out a great book called Boys and Girls Learn Differently. And for a more humorous take on the matter, check out this clip from the show Seinfeld to see what happens when men use mantras and merely talk out their feelings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Interesting Studies, Disturbing Trends

Two surveys were released in the past month with interesting results and some disturbing trends.

The first comes from the Protestant think tank Cardus, which recently released an Education Survey that looked at the kinds of people produced by private schools, Catholic schools, Protestant schools, and public schools. The study showed that those who graduated from non-religious private schools and Catholic schools were more likely to have a higher income later in life but were less likely to have a developed religious life. On the other hand, graduates from Protestant schools achieve the same amount of success as public school graduates, but are more likely to practice their faith.

What is striking, however, is the impact that Evangelical Christianity has had on Protestant education. The writers of the survey tell us (almost proudly) that:

We find no evidence that Christian schools are breeding grounds for the right-most wing of po¬litical conservatives, nor do we find that Christian school graduates are “culture warriors.” Graduates of Christian schools are less engaged in politics than their peers…
While there are different ways this can be interpreted, there is a growing trend within Christianity in America to value church and family without much dedication to the nation and our civic duty. While we help Catholics regain the sacramental imagery which builds a culture of life through a culture of protection, the Protestants who first understood the nature of the nation must not lose that understanding and flee from the public sphere.

The other study comes from the American Sociological Association, which tells us that those with a higher education are actually more likely to attend religious services than the less-educated. As it turns out, college-educated Americans since 1970 have always been more faithful to corporate worship than those without a high school diploma (with a monthly attendance rate of 51% versus 37%). Sadly in the past forty years the numbers of high school drop outs attending monthly religious services has plunged from a sad 37% in 1970 to a depressing 23% today.

True enough attendance is down across the board, but the paltry numbers of poorly educated in America stands in stark contrast with the vast majority of humans throughout history who tended to be religiously devout despite having a lack of formal education. The worship of God satisfies a basic human need: to give thanks to our Creator. But in a culture so wrapped up in getting the next iPad or Xbox, people are too busy thinking of what’s coming next rather than thanking God for what they already have. Besides, when times are tough we are raised to look to an entitlement program rather than to God.

Perhaps the best educational tool our schools can use is to simply say the full Pledge of Allegiance and then pull out a dollar bill and read: “In God we trust.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Catholicism on PBS?

While the Catholic Thing calls Fr. Robert Baron's new documentary, Catholicism, "a feast for eye and ear and soul," the video above is most moving when the Chicago priest stops talking and allows the images and music to tell us the real story of Catholicism. With that small caveat, feel free to watch the above extended trailer for the series. Catholics today need to see that the Apostolic mission to "go and make disciples of all nations" is being fulfilled. While it's not perfect, Catholicism may just be the best recent religious documentary to hit the airwaves in an increasingly anti-Catholic culture - and it may truly be the best if we casually hit the mute button and merely see Catholicism lived out across time and space.

Watch for Catholicism to hit PBS this fall.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

When Farmers Fight for Freedom

Anyone who has seen movies like 300 or Alexander must know their Greek history, right? After all, doesn’t everyone learn in high school world history class that Athens and Sparta led a Pan-Hellenic alliance to hold back a Persian invasion – the Spartan ground forces holding back the Persian army at Thermopylae while the Athenians logistically ending the war by the naval victory at Salamis – only to turn on each other, thus paving the way to a Macedonian invasion under Phillip II and his son Alexander?

This is certainly the narrative I was raised with. Indeed, the modern student of history is often left with the impression that Spartans stood alongside Athenians once more – this time against Phillip’s Macedonian army – at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC and that the Greeks fell together under the weight of the Macedonian machine.

But this is simply not the case.

In his book, The Soul of Battle, Victor Davis Hanson corrects our history by telling the story of Thebes and their greatest leader: Epaminondas. As it turns out, the once utterly defeated Athens was present at Chaeronea while the renowned Spartans could no longer field a sizeable army. More surprising was the fact that the key ally of Athens at Chaeronea was Thebes, not Sparta. Somehow in the short 66 years between Athens’ capitulation to Sparta in 404 BC and the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, the Thebans under Epaminondas had achieved something that Athens never accomplished in almost thirty years of war with Sparta.

And it only took Epaminondas three months to do it.

To find out how he vanquished tyranny, helped to establish the first Greek nation, and launched the most daring invasion in Greek history, read my full essay over at the Essays of Orate Fratres site.