Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Character-Giving Sacraments of Election and Representation

There are many ways to categorize the sacraments. The most common approach, as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is to group Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist together as the “Sacraments of Initiation” while placing Holy Orders and Matrimony together as the “Sacraments of Service” and grouping Confession and Anointing together as the “Sacraments of Healing”. There are three sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders), however, that impart something unique: an indelible mark called a character. A character is a seal placed on the soul for all eternity – remaining even if one commits a mortal sin, loses all grace, and separates himself from God. Indeed, some theologians have postulated that the souls in hell who bear the divine seal will be signs of enhanced shame and the seal a cause of greater torment.

In each of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders God elects us – chooses us, calls us, and draws us into and ordered orbit in and around His Son. These sacraments also give us a unique representational status – a representation culminating in Holy Orders through which those men God elects are so representational that when they speak in the sacraments they speak in Persona Christ, in the very person of Christ. Of these men, Jesus says: “Whoever hears you, hears me.” Thus, if we were to group these three character-giving sacraments together, we might call them the “Sacraments of Election and Representation”.

A helpful analogy for the unique electoral-representational character of these sacraments is the atom. As you may recall from science class, the atom is composed of a nucleus center (made of protons and neutrons) around which orbit elections. Free elections may be drawn into orbit around the nucleus and we typically find larger numbers of elections in the orbits (or “shells”) further away from the nucleus at the atom’s heart. While this is obviously not the complete story of atomic structure and interaction, it paints a useful picture for our understanding of the Sacraments of Election and Representation. Analogously speaking, our current depiction of the atom becomes a depiction of Jesus Christ the New Adam.

As the atom consists of the nucleus and its orbiting elections, the New Adam is found in both its nuclear head as well as its elect body. Unlike the Pauline head-body analogy, however, the atomic Adam, so to speak, offers us a further sacramental structure. As the atom draws free elections into its orbit, the New Adam elects and draws us into his outer orbit first and foremost through the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism binds us to Christ in a similar way that elections enter into an orbit around the nucleus. What’s more, we who are among the elect and have been drawn into the New Adam through baptism now stand before God in Christ as the representatives of the human race.

Our bond is rendered more complete and perfect through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the next orbit towards the nucleus. And if Baptism makes us representatives in Christ of humanity, the Catechism teaches that Confirmation makes us “quasi-official representatives” of the Church, the body of Christ, in order to proclaim the Gospel and draw others into the atomic Adam. Or to use Biblical terms, the first born son is the father’s representative to the younger children and the younger children’s representative to the father. We who are joined to Christ through Baptism and Confirmation share in this role as adoptive sons in the one Son. Lastly, of those confirmed men, God elects a portion into the closest orbit, so close that they can uniquely speak and act in his name and he can act sacramentally through them.

While every image breaks down at some point, the "New Adam-atom" nevertheless offers us another way to examine the unique character (no pun intended) of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, while also helping us take another look at those two central - yet often overlooked - categories of Christian theology: election and representation.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vatican I: “The Really Radical Council”

While Vatican II is rightly described as revolutionary, scholar Russell Hittinger (University of Tulsa) and writer John O’Malley (What Happened at Vatican II) reveal the far more radical character of the First Vatican Council and the effect it had on the relationship between church and state.

Although most people are under the impression that Vatican II gave more power to the laity, O’Malley reminds us that the laity “enjoyed their strongest position in the first eight councils” of the Church. It was Constantine who called the Council of Nicaea, declaring himself an “external bishop” who claimed the authority to govern the temporal affairs of both the state and the church (e.g. leadership over councils, appointment of bishops, etc). At the Council of Chalcedon, nineteen imperial envoys were given special status, seated on an elevated platform at the center of the gathering. Lay involvement was not limited only to emperors and envoys: it was a Byzantine empress who convoked the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.

As the locations of ecumenical councils shifted from east to west, lay involvement in conciliar affairs continued. King Philip IV, for example, dominated the Council of Vienne, while in the latter middle ages professional lay theologians were sometimes allowed to vote during the councils themselves. These laymen were even given their own congregation at the Council of Trent – the final council prior to the twin Vatican Councils.

Three hundred and seven years passed between the conclusion of the Council of Trent in 1563 and the short-lived First Vatican Council of 1870. During this time, the Church experienced the traumatic wars following the Reformation, the rise of the nation states, the Enlightenment’s darkness, the brutality of the French Revolution, the atheist reign of Napoleon, and the end of both the Holy Roman Empire and the Papal States – which were replaced respectively by the newly unified nations of Germany and Italy.

The rule of the old kings and emperors of Europe, who saw themselves as “external bishops” in the mold of Constantine, was succeeded by the rising nation states. This ultimately forced the Church to make a very difficult choice: maintain the last vestiges of Christendom by allowing new governing bodies to inherit the ecclesial authority of deposed Catholic kings, or, at great risk, declare Christendom dead, thus severing all ties between church and state. The decision to follow the latter course is the reason Hittinger declares that Vatican I “is really the radical council, not Vatican II.”

In 1870, it was the Catholic Church – not a government shaped by the Enlightenment – that finally imposed the separation of church and state.

The writing was on the wall before the council even began. O’Malley states that when the council was called, “Catholic monarchs were urged to promote the success of the council, [but] they were not invited to attend or participate, and no lay person of any status took an active part in the council.” This act was a first step towards what Hittinger bluntly calls “a writ of divorce” between church and state. In response, three countries threatened to send troops to break up the council – but it continued nonetheless.

Besides defining the more well-known Dogma of Papal Infallibility, Vatican I declared the universal jurisdiction the Holy See, doing so precisely because it declared independence from the temporal affairs of the state. Thus the Church freely gave up any ambitions of temporal power and in turn declared her universal spiritual power as the Church amidst the nations.

Christendom was dead, and the Catholic Church killed it.

Retribution, of course, was swift. Only Belgium and Ireland approved of the council’s teaching. Meanwhile the larger nations of France and Germany confiscated church property and imprisoned half of the Church’s clergy respectively. But the Church was free in a way she hadn’t been since Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313. O’Malley writes that the fruits of the council included the resurgence of religious orders, increased missionary activity, and the best-catechized laity in Church history.

To learn more on how Vatican II picked up where Vatican I left off, check out John O’Malley’s book, and Dr. Russell Hittinger’s Lumen Christi Institute talk, on Vatican II.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The 2010 Census and the Electoral College

The map above may look familiar. Although it dates from the 2000 election, it could very well mirror the coming electoral map of 2012. A 2012 repeat of 2000, however, would yield drastically different results in electoral votes. As we all recall (pardon the pun) in 2000 George W. Bush won with 271 Electoral College votes – just one vote over the needed 270 needed to win. But if Mitt Romney wins the same states, he will win with a whopping 285 votes.

It’s the 2010 census that makes all the difference. After each census, the Electoral College’s 538 votes are allocated to the states based on population. A simple comparison between the 2000 electoral map and the 2012 electoral map reveals the great effect a census has on the location of electors (click to enlarge):

Distribution of electoral votes in the year 2000

Distribution of electoral votes in the year 2012
If we were to examine the blue states by region, we would find that since the 2000 election, the northeastern bloc has lost a total of ten electoral votes, while the Midwestern bloc has lost six and the western bloc has risen by a mere two votes. Red states like Texas and Florida have gone up by six and four respectively, while others like Georgia and Arizona have gone up by three.

Here's one final map which depicts a hypothetical 2012 electoral map:

Given the current makeup of the Electoral College, Mitt Romney does not need to win all of the states George W. Bush won in order to win the presidency. The map above reveals that Barack Obama could retain Colorado as well as Nevada and Mitt Romney would still win.

What a difference a census makes!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Persians and Arabs

As America prepares to watch the final Presidential debate prior to Election Day, the focus has shifted to American foreign policy – particularly on Iran. It was just announced that the Obama Administration is seeking to meet one-on-one with Iran regarding its nuclear ambitions. But as we consider Iran, recent events across the rest of the Middle East should remind us of what happened between the years 602-651 when all eyes then turned to Persia (ancient Iran).

The map above depicts Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East around the year 600. By this point, Germanic and Eastern European tribal peoples had swallowed up a sizable piece of the old Roman Empire. The east, now known as the Byzantine Empire, continued until its conquest by Islam in 1453. Though the Byzantines seem to have a rather vast empire, it found itself pressured between a resurgent Persian Empire to its east and the tribal peoples to its west and north. While the Germanic tribes proved a grave threat from the 4th-5th centuries (indeed the Visigoths had even killed a Roman emperor in battle in the year 378), from 602-621 the Persians were the fiercer foe. 

During the first two decades of the seventh century, the Persians conquered Byzantine Syria and Armenia before advancing on Egypt. Capturing Jerusalem along the way to Alexandria, the Persians to the dismay of Christians claimed the True Cross as a war trophy.  These conquests, however, placed a heavy strain on the Persian coffers and soon the treasuries of Ctesiphon (Persia’s capital) were running low. The Byzantine Empire took this as an opportunity to pool its own dwindling supply of money and manpower for a last-ditch counter offensive. From 622-627, Byzantine armies marched through the territories conquered by Persia, winning a string of impressive battlefield victories. Soon the Byzantines set out to capture the impregnable fortress city of Ctesiphon. They no doubt carried with them the hope for peace along with the sobering memory of Emperor Julian the Apostate – who died in battle upon retreating from the walls of Ctesiphon in 363. Before they arrived at Ctesiphon, however, the Persians sued for peace. With the return of the True Cross to Jerusalem in 630, it seemed that both sides could lick their wounds and begin rebuilding.

The peace, however, was short-lived.

What neither the Byzantines nor the Persians knew was that the Arabs to the south were emerging in the seventh century united by Islam. Two years after the Cross was returned to Jerusalem, Muhammad died having unified the Arabian Peninsula. In the following years, Muhammad’s successors showed that Arabia was only the beginning. In 633 the Arabs invaded the Persian Empire, and by 637 they had accomplished what neither Julian nor his Byzantine descendants had achieved: the capture of Ctesiphon. What followed was the conversion of Persia to Islam and the spread of Islam across the Christian near east, North Africa, and Spain. The Byzantine Empire was itself eventually swallowed up in the Islamic tidal wave.

Today all eyes are once more trained on Persia. As the map above shows, the Islamic civilization is now divided between the Persian Shiites (Iran) and the Arab Sunnis. Unlike the Byzantines who could never have predicted the rise of Islam in Arabia, we must pursue a foreign policy regarding both Shiite Persia as well as the Shiite leadership of Syria wide-eyed to the rise of Arabian Sunni Islam which could very well result if we choose to intervene in either Syria or Iran. There’s a reason why the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia have given Israel airspace to strike Iran and why the Sunnis of Turkey are inching closer to war with Syria. Al Qaeda, the chief terrorist organization which we have spent more than a decade fighting, is Sunni not Shiite

As Libya and Egypt are signs that the Arab spring is approaching winter, we must recall the fate of Byzantium before we rush headlong to defeat the Persians.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Anthropology of the Dark Knight Trilogy

The shepherds interposing themselves between the wolves and the sheep.
G. K. Chesterton said that every great story has a beauty, a dragon which threatens the beauty, and a knight who protects the beauty and slays the dragon. The Dark Knight Trilogy consistently follows the same pattern: there is the City of Gotham, the villains who seek to destroy Gotham, and the heroes who protect Gotham by standing between her and the villains. The Christian story – the greatest story ever told – would put it this way: there are the sheep, the wolves who seek to devour the sheep, and shepherds who tend the sheep and strike the wolves. Great dramas compress time on a stage or in a film so we experience the lifetime consequences of characters' vices and virtues in a single sitting. The best dramas sharpen our intellects to perceive the moral landscape of reality while training our emotions to act virtuously in similar life predicaments. While drama prepares us for life, it is also true that persistent misconceptions in life can dull our perception of drama. A person who misidentifies the characters in a good play may be missing the significance of those parallel characters in the real drama of our common spiritual life.    

This seems sadly the case among some popular Catholic and Protestant commentators in their analysis of the Dark Knight Trilogy. Fr. Robert Barron (of Catholicism fame) likened Batman and the villains as “two sides of the same coin.” In his review of The Dark Knight Rises, Steven Greydanus of the National Catholic Register faulted the film for not having ordinary citizens protest “the oppressors” of Gotham. Greydanus asks: “Are ordinary Gothamites capable of heroism? Or are uniformed heroes (bearing bat symbols or police shields) with weapons on their belts our only hope?” Christian film critic Jeffrey Overstreet lamented the fact that the city can only be saved by “men with good hearts and big guns,” while theologian Jeff Keuss declared: “The world still thinks Judas was right.”

Their analysis is shaped by an anemic worldview in which wolves are not really wolves and the shepherd's staff is used for peaceful walking, rather than protecting. Their peculiar re-writing of Judas's character as a violent, nationalist Zealot is a child of modernist pacifism, not Biblical Christianity. The Judas of scripture was a money-hungry liar who is best represented by the corrupt police of Gotham, not the shepherds who cast him out. In response to this confusion we must be very clear: wolves exist; shepherds are not wolves; sheep are not shepherds; and wolves are not treated with non-violent compassion. Before the demon (Heath Ledger's satanic Joker) possessing Gotham's soul can be exorcized, before the men of Gotham can take back their streets, the corrupted police brotherhood must be reformed. Indeed, Batman should not be condemned for following the model set by Jesus, who taught his shepherds that Judas must be sent out before the unifying priestly prayer is said. The teaching of Christ is not socio-political, but anthropological: the bride of Christ can only be safeguarded by a masculine body in which her shepherds have expelled Judas from their communion.

The Dark Knight Trilogy follows a similar anthropology: Bruce Wayne becomes Batman in order to reform a corrupted police force and purify them of Judas’ presence (Batman Begins). In doing so, Batman learns that he must exorcize the demon in possession of Gotham’s soul – the film here perfectly depicts how demons scream most wildly in their last moments of possession (The Dark Knight). With Judas cast out and the demonic exorcized, Bruce Wayne can only find peace by teaching the shepherds how to fight “as one man” and establishing a safe place where young boys can grow into future shepherds (The Dark Knight Rises). Taken as a whole, The Dark Knight Trilogy is a depiction of Christopher Nolan’s robust anthropology of masculine protective duty. For Nolan, Batman, and Christ, a culture of life cannot exist without first establishing a culture of masculine protection.

The Dark Knight Rises is very clear about where the wolves originate: hell. Their attack comes not through Gotham’s front door but from below. We also learn that there are some forces which ordinary men cannot hope to defeat without the help of “superior air support” from above. Thus The Dark Knight Rises teaches us that the proper response to a direct assault by the powers of hell is not to form a protest movement urging power to the people. Salvation is to align ourselves under uniformed clerics and St. Michael the Archangel – that other winged crusader – to cast Satan and his demons back into the pit from which they came. This is the lesson which the overconfident and disordered shepherds of Gotham, though free of Judas, must learn. In the end, they will not be able to overcome the demonic without entering into the pit of death with their winged crusader and be raised up by him for battle. Israelite males were incorporated into the nation by shedding their blood eight days after birth. Eight years following Batman’s exorcism of the demonic, the male protectors of Gotham enter into a civic covenant through the communal shedding of their blood. Just as Israelite soldiers were expected to abstain from the marital bed the night before battle, the city's protectors must leave the tranquility of domestic life to enter the fight in the streets of Gotham.   

Next Sunday at Mass, let us give thanks to God for the uniformed men who lead us in that sacrifice; and at the prayer for our civic leaders, let us give thanks for those other uniformed men who protect the city and nation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Receiving Communion in the Hand

When considering the possibility of Communion received in the hand rather than on the tongue, the Holy See pointed out “certain dangers” of such a change. These included: “the danger of a loss of reverence for the august sacrament of the altar, of profanation, of adulterating the true doctrine.” But given that several bishops in Europe had already begun implementing this change illicitly, Pope Paul VI decided to take a vote on the matter rather than stomping it out altogether. Two-thousand bishops across the globe were polled and the results were as follows:
  • 59% of bishops said the laity of their diocese would not accept the new practice.
  • 62% of bishops did not want to see the practice begin in their diocese.
  • 66% of the bishops didn’t think the practice was worth addressing.
Despite the vote, in 1969 Pope Paul VI decided to
Pope Paul VI (pictured above) and
his successors never accepted
Communion in the hand. The pope's
compromise was to tolerate the
illicitly established practice via
indult in the places where it was
already in use while barring its
practice elsewhere.
strike a compromise with his disobedient bishops on the continent. Given “the gravity of the matter,” the pope would not authorize Communion in the hand. He was, however, open to bestowing an indult – an exception to the law – under certain conditions: first, an indult could not be given to a country in which Communion in the hand was not an already established practice; second, the bishops in countries where it was established must approve of the practice “by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority.” Beyond this, the Holy See set down seven regulations concerning communion in the hand; failure to maintain these regulations could result in the loss of the indult. The first three regulations concerned: respecting the laity who continue the traditional practice, maintaining the laity’s proper respect of the Eucharist, and strengthening the laity’s faith in the real presence.
So how did Communion in the hand come to America?

In 1975 and again in 1976, Joseph Bernardin, the Archbishop of Chicago and president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) attempted in vain to garner two-thirds of the bishops to vote in favor of receiving Communion in the hand. The following year – which coincided with the end of Bernadin’s term as president – brought one final attempt. Bernadin appointed Archbishop Quinn, who became Bernadin immediate successor as NCCB president, to be the chief lobbyist for Communion
Communion in the hand
was certainly in the 'spirit'
of Cardinal Bernadin.
in the hand. During the proceedings a brave bishop requested a survey of the bishops be taken – this survey would ask each bishop whether or not Communion in the hand was widely practiced in his diocese, for without the practice’s current wide-use the first condition of the indult would not be satisfied.

Of course, everyone knew that Communion in the hand was not a previously established practice in the United States.

Though his request was seconded and supported in writing by five other bishops, Bernadin had the motion dismissed as “out of order”. The bishops then voted... only to once more fall short of the two-thirds majority. This, however, did not end the matter. Bernadin decided to begin gathering “absentee votes” from any bishop he could find – including retired bishops who no longer administered any dioceses. Consequently, the number was adjusted to meet the two-thirds majority so that one of Bernadin’s final acts as NCCB president was to disregard the will of the Holy Father and introduce Communion in the hand to U.S. Catholics.

Through the heavy-handed politcal maneuvering of Cardinal Bernadin, Pope Paul VI’s attempt to create a firewall preventing the spread of Communion in the hand had failed.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Language of Christianity’s Future

Cardinal Arinze with his longtime friend and ecclesial brother, Pope Benedict XVI.
The great Nigerian prelate Cardinal Arinze is not only one man every Catholic should know, he’s also from a country every American know. As Christianity becomes more and more a religion of the global south, the voice of Cardinal Arinze is the voice of the near Christian future. And as Nigeria is divided between the Islamic north and Christian south, its ongoing civilizational, religious, and cultural contest provides us with a microcosm of unfolding global events to come.

If you are not familiar with Cardinal Arinze – or with the voice of Christianity still shaped by authoritative masculine personalities – here are some Arinze quotes which should help:

On the Family: "In many parts of the world, the family is under siege. It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce."

On Atheists: "If a child refuses to accept its father or mother, that child is not a liberal, that child is a brat. And how much more important is God to us than a parent to a child?"

On Pro-Choice Politicians and the Eucharist: "You don't need a Cardinal to answer that question. You can ask a seven year old getting ready for First Communion and they will say no. Personally opposed! Ok, you tell them, I am personally opposed but if someone wants to come in here and shoot you all, well... It's pro choice."

On Female Servers: "Some bishops have asked about this and… we said, 'It's alright.' ... But if I had my way you know what I would do."
This is the language of Christianity’s future. It is a return not merely to “traditional Christianity” but rather a return to authoritative masculine speech (i.e. the kind of speaking we hear from foreign priests and very rarely from American-born priests). As Matthew says of Jesus, so too must we be able to say of a priest or bishop: “he taught [us] as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29). Moreover, the priestly vocation is not to speak with scholarly authority but with fatherly authority. Cardinal Arinze does just that – and that’s why he, as a celibate virgin, can truly be called “father”.

RePosted: Has Germany Lost its Mojo?

As the European debt crisis intensifies, Uncommon Knowledge’s Peter Robinson interviewed British columnist James Delingpole who said in the interview that: “I think it is inevitable the Euro will collapse. It’s a question of whether it’s going to be ugly or really, really, really disastrous.” Europe’s choice is between two bad options: let the Euro collapse or agree to Germany’s demand for a new European fiscal union in which Germany would fund a massive economic bailout while having the ability to pull the national purse strings of European debtor nations.

Or put another way: European nations can give up sovereignty for a bailout or take responsibility for their choices and suffer economically.

David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, rejected the German option in what Pat Buchanan calls “David Cameron’s Finest Hour.” Buchanan insists, however, that Germany is “exploiting the crisis to impose [its] model on the eurozone today and all of Europe tomorrow.” But is this really the case? The irony is the appearance of a new German hegemonic power over Europe the likes of which have not been seen since 1941. The reality, however, is not that Germany is trying to impose itself on the nations of Europe but rather that Germany is running away from a German national identity of which it is ashamed.

In other words, while the nations of Europe are reawakened to their own national spirit, the Germans are eager to lead the way into a new “European spirit” because doing so will finally dilute Germany of its national guilt by diluting Germany of its own national identity. The answer to Germany’s problem, however, is not in a kind of national suicide but rather in a rediscovery of a German identity to be proud of. This means looking back to Germany’s Catholic roots and recognizing that the high days of the Medieval world were the result of a union of Greek philosophy, Roman law, the Christian faith, and the German warrior.

The Christian knight is certainly nothing to be ashamed of – and if the Germans can return to their roots, they’ll regain their confidence and be a leader among the nations once more.

[Has Germany Lost its Mojo was originally posted on December 15, 2011]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Remembering the 4th of July

When Americans think of the 4th of July, what first comes to mind are such things like family picnics, smores, and fireworks. Perhaps after this, we remember that the 4th of July celebrates our independence from England, an independence declared by our civic leaders and won by our men in the field. There is a big difference, however, between thinking about the 4th of July and remembering the 4th of July. Catholics who know their theology, however, should understand what I mean by this distinction. In the Greek, anamnesis means to remember but, more than this, it means to participate in the past event through remembering it. Liturgically-minded Catholics in this way are best prepared to celebrate tomorrow’s July 4th celebrations. But we should also recall our American history following the War of Revolution. Today, July 3, we also remember the saving of the Union at the Battle of Gettysburg.

So let us now remember our past by reading anew the words of five men: Thomas Jefferson, Joshua Chamberlain, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the following words of Thomas Jefferson constitute the core of the Declaration of Independence. What began in 1776 continued in the Civil War of the 1860s, and came full circle in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness… And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Joshua Chamberlain won the Medal of Honor for saving the Union Army from Southern forces under Robert E. Lee at the Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. In the following speech from the movie Gettysburg, Chamberlain rallies the men of his regiment for battle.
This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you'll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we're here for something new. This has not happened much, in the history of the world: We are an army out to set other men free. America should be free ground, all of it, from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow, no man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here you can be something. Here is the place to build a home. But it's not the land. There's always more land. It's the idea that we all have value, you and me. What we're fighting for, in the end... we're fighting for each other.
General Robert E. Lee may have fought on the side of the South, but his faith and character made him America’s most beloved General. Today marks the day of Pickett’s Charge, the failed attack on the Union center that lost the South the war. In the following words from the movie Gettysburg, Lee speaks to one of his generals before the Charge and gives us an insight into his thinking before launching such a disastrous attack:
General, soldiering has one great trap: to be a good solider you must love the army. To be a good commander, you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love. We do not fear our own death you and I. But there comes a time... We are never quite prepared for so many to die. Oh, we do expect the occasional empty chair, a salute to fallen comrades. But this war goes on and on and the men die and the price gets ever higher. We are prepared to lose some of us, but we are never prepared to lose all of us. And there is the great trap General. When you attack, you must hold nothing back. You must commit yourself totally. We are adrift here in a sea of blood and I want it to end. I want this to be the final battle.
By the end of July 3, 1963, 58,000 Americans had become casualties of this battle, the greatest battle fought in the Americas.

In November of 1863, five months after the battle, Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech, the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to 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.
In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln alluded to the civic sacrifice made by the brave men in the field of combat who consecrated the land by their blood. In his Second Inaugural, Lincoln makes the connection of the blood to the will of the Father:

…It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. gives us our final witness for our remembrance today. His words are both the closest to our modern day and also the most biblical. Seeing himself as a new Moses, he worked to bring civil freedoms to his people while also preparing for a Christ-like death:

“We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Today and tomorrow, let us not only think of the events of the past, let us remember them and remember the sacrifices of our civic forefathers. Let us participate in their work and never fear carrying it out next week, next month, and in all the years to come.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Mass: Not Just a Family Affair

Plato and Aristotle both reasoned that the size of the polis – the Greek city-state – should be roughly 5,000 men in number. They came to this conclusion because 5,000 is the number of men who can gather together to hear another man speak to them (they of course did not have microphones and video projectors in the 4th century BC). St. Paul knew that “faith comes from what is heard” (Romans 10:17) and when he went to the Greek cities of his day, he went to speak to the very places the Greeks established for the men of the city to gather and listen, man to man. In this sense, we see God preparing the way of the Gospel among the Greeks centuries before the birth of Christ.

Most importantly, however, the very notion that men speak to men in a way that is different from how men speak to women or how women speak to women is being lost in our present culture and in aspects of the liturgy. The new translation of the Mass protects the sacred speech – so long as priests simply read the black and do the red – but often times the impromptu announcements, greetings, conclusions, and many homilies break up the flow and sacredness of the liturgy because many see the Mass as, at best, for families. Consequently many single men are not attracted to the Mass and many married men are dragged to the Mass. Add to this the growing effeminacy of the priesthood and our bishops’ preference to speak to the press or write theological articles and books, we have a large number of Catholic men who think that church is for women, children, and the aged.

Heart may speak to heart, but men must speak to men. This means more than shaping the minds of Catholic seminarians into erudite theologians or sharpening their tongues with the words of conflict resolution. It means shaping the personalities of Catholic men and helping them to see that the common, authoritative male personality, aided by grace and virtue, would be far more beneficial – and more properly ordered to – the priesthood than the scholarly, effeminate, timid, social problem solvers who were so common in the priesthood during the past forty years. It also means that priests today should not refrain from addressing men from the ambo or addressing topics which are not “family-oriented”.

When Jesus looked for Apostles, he did not call families. When the Apostles looked for believers, they did not preach to families. As the Greeks and the first Christians understood that men speak to men, so too must we remember that men will listen to men. The Mass is not merely the gathering of the feminine bride of Christ – it is also the gathering of the masculine body of Christ. If we really want to see vocations rise and the priesthood truly elevated, men must once more speak to men.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Viva Cristo Rey!

As Phillip Lawler points out, a war with no long-term objectives and no clear allies leaves us with the question, “who are we fighting for?” Indeed, it was this very problem that allowed the Obama Administration to weaken our relation with traditional Muslims and minority Christians in the Mideast and instead solidify our mission to promote “gay rights” and abortion across the globe. While President Bush failed to protect religious minorities and the American clergy was more concerned with opposing the wars rather than promoting religious liberty, no one could see that they were only leaving the door open to a liberal cultural imperialism which would leave the survival of Mideast Christians to Syria’s Assad and Russia’s Putin. Moreover, it is this unchecked cultural imperialism which will drive nations like Egypt and Syria into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving their lands soaked anew in the blood of Christians.

In a peculiar and roundabout way, the American bishops are now finally concerned with religious liberty. Though they may have arrived ten years too late to save the thousands of Mideast Christians who have and will continue to perish, perhaps they can learn from Catholic clergy and laymen south of the border who did not “expect to die in bed” while the next generation “[died] a martyr in the public square.” I speak here of the Mexican priests and laymen of the Cristero War. Though this war may have a better stake to the title of “The Forgotten War”, the Cristero War was a revolt in the 1920s against the Mexican government’s attack on religious freedom. The war produced many martyrs and many saints. It was a testimony to the piety of Catholic priests, the bravery of Catholic soldiers, and the ingenuity of Catholic women (who secretly supplied and nursed Cristero soldiers as members of the Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc).

The Cristero War is finally being told to an American audience through this weekend’s release of For Greater Glory (formerly titled Cristiada). Be sure to watch the preview below – and see the movie this weekend – but also remember that it is our Hispanic brethren in America who possess a lived experience of shedding blood to protect religious liberty. We, too, must learn their hymn and sing their battlefield song:

The Virgin Mary is protector and defender against that [which] we fear / She will vanquish demons with a cry of "Long live Christ [the] King!" / Soldiers of Christ, let us follow this flag, for its cross points to the army of God / Let us follow the flag and declare, "Long live Christ [the] King!"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Joan of Arc and Memorial Day

Although the Easter season concluded a few days ago on the feast of Pentecost, today is a worthy day to recall once more that image of the Holy Spirit descending upon Mary and the twelve Apostles. The image of these men gathered under God to protect the feminine may appear simply religious in character, but it shows us how grace perfects nature. Conversely, if we fail to understand the nature of masculinity, femininity, and their unique forms of associations, we will not be able to understand how grace perfects and builds upon them, elevating them with supernatural life. Today, May 30th, commemorates two images which further expresses the anthropology of Pentecost: the feast day of St. Joan of Arc and the traditional date of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day, which was day a set aside to honor and remember the American soldiers who showed “no greater love” by laying down their lives in service to the nation, was moved to the last Monday in May - an act signifying a radical shift of American idenity from being a civic and religious people to being a commercial and domestic people. Despite this move, Americans are still drawn to remember the sacrifice of our soldiers; and though some criticize the use of American force, consider the causes for which the vast majority of them have died: the cause of national liberty, the cause of abolition, and the cause of delivering the nations from the hands of armed Darwinian atheism and armed Marxist communism. There are indeed a great number of noble causes for which our nation has bled – and while the most blood has been shed in national penance, Americans have much for which to be proud.

But more than ideas and ideals, we also know that men fight for something concrete. It takes the right kind of masculine personality to shape men and order them for combat, and it takes far more than an abstract concept to compel men to willingly advance forward while being “stormed at with shot and shell”. A general may command his men to charge forth from their foxholes, but it is for the love of something feminine - be it the motherland of the nation, the church (ecclesia), or the wife at home - that propels the men out of their defenses. As Chesterton said, "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." A man may fight for liberty, but as every New Yorker knows, liberty is not just an idea, liberty is a Lady.

During World War I, French soldiers were drawn together carrying a new feminine ark into combat: Joan of Arc. The prayerful devotion of soldiers to St. Joan helped lead to her canonization in 1920, less than a thousand days after the war’s end. Declared by the universal Church as the patroness of soldiers, St. Joan of Arc did in 1918 exactly what she did in 1429: she rallied the men of the nation. Her battle cry was not, “I am woman, hear me roar!” but rather, “Men of France, do your duties!” She was certainly not fighting to see more women in uniform, much less fighting for their “right” to breastfeed infants while wearing a combat uniform. She knew that her role was to draw men more deeply into an inherently masculine bond of association, not to enter into it.

During World War II, St. Joan was symbolically incorporated into the flag of de Gaulle’s exiled French government, once again drawing together the men of France. As we observe Memorial Day and the feast of St. Joan of Arc, it is imperative that we recognize the intrinsic good of the masculine forms of association which unites soldiers and enables them to courageously lay down their lives in shared duty. Correlatively, we must also recognize the unique feminine quality, exemplified by St. Joan, which works to enhance masculine bonds without being incorporated into them. This is the sexual order which creates a culture of life through a culture of protection.

The cross used on the flag of de Gaulle's exiled French government - the cross of Lorraine - symbolically refers to the province in which St. Joan of Arc was born, the same province taken from France by the Germans in 1870.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gay Marriage and the Minority Vote

While Harvard geopoliticist Samuel Huntington defined America’s identity as white, Protestant, and English-speaking, the United States is becoming increasingly Latino, Catholic, and Spanish-speaking. Huntington’s fear – as is the fear of many conservatives – is that the influx of non-white, non-Protestant, and non-English-speakers will only turn the United States into a cleft country, a nation deeply split along cultural, religious, and linguistic divisions. Coupled with the fear of minorities and their tendency to vote for liberal politicians, both Huntington and conservatives fear a fundamental change in America’s identity. They forget, however, that immigrants and blacks are far more loyal to the defining characterists of American identy: the worship of God, the bonds of brotherhood, and the male-female character of marriage. As minorities now make up more than half of all children born in America, conservatives must re-evaluate their position on how they define American identity and who among us exemplifies that identity.

Are not radical feminism and homosexuality far greater threats to America’s identity than an influx of immigrants and minorities? Should the conservatives cede the minority vote and allow the Democrats to be the party of the immigrants? Can the GOP finally cut itself loose of the Log Cabin Republicans and the pro-choice politicians in its own party and reach out to immigrants and minorities who share the same traditional moral outlook? If the NAACP and Barack Obama want to tie themselves to gay marriage and thus betray the natural law and religious character of the Civil Rights Movement, so be it. Let the Republicans return to their party platform of 1856, which pledged to end the "twin relics of barbarism: polygamy and slavery", and once more be the defenders of marriage and the Civil Rights Movement.

Consider these examples. The black vote is a monolithic bloc which the Democrats have consistently drawn on for decades. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry all claimed more than 85% of the black vote. And it shouldn’t surprise us that Barack Obama received over 95% of the black vote in 2008. But at the same that black Californians voted in Obama, 7 out of 10 of them voted to ban gay marriage in the state. Flash forward to 2012 and within 24-hours of Obama’s newfound support for gay marriage, Black voters rejected gay marriage in North Carolina by 2 to 1. A close look at the image below tells us the shared story of California and North Carolina: it is the minorities who uphold marriage and the college-educated whites who stand against it.

But it’s not just blacks and Latinos who stand alongside conservatives in this culture war, we see it in immigrants coming from Asia, Africa, and South America as well. Unlike European nations, the vast majority of immigrants coming to the United States have been Christian - indeed, immigration has made America more Christian today than it was fifty years ago. One caller to a New York City radio station shared his opinion on Obama’s acceptance of gay marriage: “I'm totally against it. I mean I'm born and raised in New York. My parents are from Guyana. That would never go in Guyana.” Manny Pacquiao, a well-known Pilipino boxer, has come out swinging – pardon the pun – against gay marriage. But publically sharing any views contrary gay marriage is one closet no one is allowed to come out of. In the name of “tolerance” Yahoo! News has declared Pacquiao “homophobic” and “intolerant” while The Grove shopping mall in L.A. has banned him from its premises.

It is time for conservatives to set aside their nativist proclivities and see how Asians like the Pilipino Manny Pacquiao, the Christian immigrants from Mexico and Guyana, and the deeply religious black community here in America, are much closer to our national identity than the white, Protestant Log Cabin Republicans. As the Catholic Church begins shifting its American cardinals from the northeast to the Latino southwest, drawing more and more on minorities to fill the ranks of priests and bishops, so too should conservatives re-evaluate the immigrants and minorities in their midst. It may just be that they have more in common than they originally thought.

UPDATE: The Coalition of African American Pastors concurs with the assessment of Orate Fratres in that there has been a "hijacking of the civil rights movement by homosexuals, bisexuals and gender-confused people." Rev. William Owens, the President and founder of the CAAP declared,"We who marched with Rev. King did not march one inch or one mile to promote same-sex marriage," and that the "NAACP has abandoned its historic responsibility to speak for and safeguard the civil rights movement." The readers of Oratre Fratres should support Rev. William Owens and the CAAP by signing their petition to protect the male-female character of marriage.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Patriotism and Women

There is a deep and profound connection between patriotism and women. When God placed Adam in the Garden he was given the duty “to till and to keep” it (Genesis 2:15). But Adam was also given Eve. In a way, Adam was given a similar duty to Eve. With Eve he is to bear fruit – not simply the fruit of the earth, but the fruit of their marital union. Nevertheless, Adam’s name means ‘earth’ and in a play on words we can say that the sons of Adam are indeed the fruit of the Earth through Eve. Adam must also “keep” the Garden; he must protect it. The same can be said of his duty to Eve – as he must protect the Garden, so too must he protect her.

Another way we can put this is that God is telling Adam, “When you see the beauty of the Garden, see your wife. When you see the beauty of your wife, see the Garden.” Like Adam, we American men and women find ourselves in a land that we did not choose for ourselves. And looking back to Adam’s relation, under God, to Eve and to the Garden, we see that authentic patriotism is deeply connected to a nation’s women. If the women of a nation lose their own femininity, then men either lose their patriotism or replace it with a twisted version which only leads to destruction.

As the sons of Adam should have looked to Eve to understand the beauty for which they were to fight against the Evil One, so we must see authentic femininity in our mothers and our sisters, in our wives and in our daughters. As Catholics, Marian femininity must be the fixed point, the North Star by which woman orients herself to the meaning of femininity. With women shaped by the personality of the Virgin Mother of God, a nation's men can regain their sense of proper patriotism and once more see in their motherland the beauty of woman for which they can give their lives.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

1000 Years of European History

If you've ever wondered how the map of Europe has evolved over the course of a thousand years, check out this video below:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Slowing Down the Freedom Train

In his book, Religion, Sex, & Politics, Dr. David Pence describes the civil rights movement as a train carrying African American’s to freedom. The “freedom train”, however, has been rapidly slowed down by the feminist and homosexual movements which have tried to get a free ride by hitching their cars to the civil rights movement’s engine. But why would the post-MLK civil rights movement allow this to happen? Because it promised to get more people behind the movement. In other words, God does not power the freedom train, people do. Or as Dr. Pence writes:

Adding first the baggage car of gender, then the braking caboose of homosexuality to the freedom train has depleted its fuel supply - religious tradition and natural law… The feminists and homosexuals promised to swell the crowd but, in a Faustian bargain, stole the movement’s soul. When the civil rights movement lost its religious center, it lost its soul. To forgo the word of God for a promise of government health care benefits makes even the idolaters of the golden calf look like bargain shoppers.
Indeed, the civil rights movement, like the abolitionist movement before it, ran on religious tradition and natural law. The divine power and providence which ran the freedom train, however, is incompatible with the feminist and homosexual agendas – no wonder the train has come to a screeching halt! And while President Obama has placed two radical feminists on the Supreme Court, repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and now supports gay marriage (which the African American community in particular rejects as an affront to the civil rights movement), the unemployment rate of African Americans is double the national average, 70% of African American children are born to single mothers, and President Obama himself laments the fact that there are more African American men in prison than in college.

The civil rights movement needs to cut loose the feminist baggage car and the homosexual caboose and return to its religious center.

Perhaps the actions of other nations will serve as better examples. Though our nation continues to parallel the economic policies and cultural outlook of Europe, Russia – our Cold War nemesis – may pass a national anti-homosexuality propaganda law this year. Five cities, including St. Petersburg (the second largest city in Russia), have already passed such legislation since March. While the Russian Orthodox clergy strongly support the legislation, a 2010 survey of the Russian population showed that 70% of Russians did not view homosexual acts as morally upright behavior.

The African continent as a whole, both in the Islamic north and Christian south, also rejects homosexuality. In Liberia, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning female President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has shared her support for laws criminalizing homosexual acts. In an appearance at a National Prayer Breakfast in 2010, President Obama blasted Uganda’s laws against homosexual acts and he has sent Hilary Clinton abroad in the name of feminism and homosexuality. But as Orthodox Russia, Islamic North Africa, and Christian Sub-Sahara Africa recognizes the religious character of their nations and cuts loose the braking caboose of homosexuality, let us pray these nations help the American civil rights movement reorient itself and recharge itself on religious tradition and the natural law.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Weeds Among Wheat

When the Israelites rejected the true worship of God by replacing Him with the Golden Calf, Exodus 32 tells us how the Levitical priesthood was inaugurated:

[Moses] stood at the gate of the camp and cried, "Whoever is for the LORD, let him come to me!" All the Levites then rallied to him, and he told them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Put your sword on your hip, every one of you! Now go up and down the camp, from gate to gate, and slay your own kinsmen, your friends and neighbors!" The Levites carried out the command of Moses, and that day there fell about three thousand of the people. Then Moses said, "Today you have been dedicated to the LORD, for you were against your own sons and kinsmen, to bring a blessing upon yourselves this day." (Exodus 32:26-29)
From this day on, the Tribe of Levi was set aside. When the Israelites made their final preparation to enter the Promised Land, the men of fighting age were gathered and counted – except for the male descendants of Levi. The Levites were set aside for a sacred duty, the duty of the priesthood. They would tend to the sacrifices of the Law and they alone would carry the Ark of the Covenant. The Levites were not pacifists – they gave up one sword for another.

The slaying of the three thousand kinsmen, friends, and neighbors was also a kind of exorcism. Exorcism was first carried out by the angels when they cast out Satan and his demons from Heaven. It happened again when God flooded the world. The Levites themselves would undergo a kind of priestly exorcism with the rebellious priest Korah, and the Apostles – the priests of the New Covenant – would experience a priestly exorcism when Jesus exorcized Judas from their communion at the foot-washing on Holy Thursday.

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable of the weeds among wheat. He describes how the two grow together and then says: “…at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” To prepare the Apostles and their successors for their mission as His harvesters, Jesus expels Judas and on Pentecost sends them the Holy Spirit. And in an apparent reversal of Exodus 32, Peter’s preaching on Pentecost drew three-thousand people into the life of the Apostolic Church (see Acts 2:38, 41). What a harvest indeed!

But we must not forget the weeds.

The Apostles and their successors (through the Sacrament of Holy Orders) fulfill and perfect the Levitical priesthood by being sacramentally configured to the Christ the High Priest and ordered for contest with the Evil One who prowls about seeking the ruin of souls. Jesus told the Apostles that they would sit on twelve thrones to judge (Matthew 19:28). And if the Levites went through the Israelite camp, slaying three-thousand kinsmen, friends, and neighbors, it should not surprise us that the priests and harvesters of the New Covenant will be just as responsible for casting the weeds into the fire as they are responsible for gathering and bringing the wheat into the barn.

Every priest must prepare himself for this two-fold eschatological act: (1) to gather those saved into the marriage supper of the Lamb and (2) to finish what the angels begun, completing the final expulsion of the Evil One and his minions into the fires of Hell.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

South Korea, the Asian Tiger of the Church

Chiesa has a wonderful article on growth of the Church in South Korea. The growth rate is such that adult baptisms are not merely celebrated at Easter (as is done in North America) but also on Pentecost and Christmas. Only Vietnam and the Phillipines have a higher proportion of Catholics - but South Korea is rapidly catching up. The Catholic population of South Korea is around 10%-12% but they are now in the middle of an ambitious evangelization program called Evangelization Twenty Twenty. The goal is to bring the Catholic population up to 20% of South Korea by the year 2020. It is interesting to note that while the Catholic population is a little over half-way to the 2020 goal, the Catholic presence in the South Korean military jumped to 18% by 2007.

With atheist North Korea on the boarder, the South Koreans know that Catholicism isn’t just a religion for the aged, the women, and the young.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Two Chrism Masses, Two Homilies

Papal Chrism Mass - Holy Thursday, 2012
At every Chrism Mass, the priests of a diocese gather with their bishop as he consecrates the oils which will be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and holy orders. Traditionally celebrated on Holy Thursday, the Chrism Mass offers each bishop an opportunity to speak to his priests as Christ spoke to his Apostles at the Last Supper. Just as the Sacrament of Confirmation deepens the laity’s bond to the mission of the Church and connects them concretely to their bishop, the Chrism Mass orders the priests to the mission of their bishop.

While the bishop usually speaks to his own priests, Pope Benedict seemed to direct his Chrism Mass homily in the direction of Vienna.

It’s been six years since 250 priests of the Archdiocese of Vienna created the “Call to Disobedience” – a group dissenting from Church teaching on priestly celibacy, homosexuality, feminism, and liturgy. Led by Vienna’s former vicar general, it has since grown and no steps have been taken to discipline the dissenters. Indeed, the recent decision of Austria’s archbishop, Cardinal Schönborn, to interfere with the legitimate authority of a Vienna priest thus allowing a homosexual in a domestic partnership sit on a parish council only reinforces the views of the dissenting priests and deacons.

With hundreds of priests gathered – 20% of whom are in open rebellion against Church teaching and natural law – Cardinal Schönborn said this in his homily:

The good shepherd holds fast to both [of] these things: [1] to the conviction that God’s master plan is right, that it is good for human beings and makes them happy, and [2] to the loving, patient path along which Jesus draws us into his friendship. Here it is often the little signs of lived love, of patient, mutual support, even in "irregular" situations, which are the signs of a growing friendship with Jesus. We shepherds should take note of these signs, promote them, encourage them. All this is not "the solution" for all of life’s problems, but it is the path of a growing friendship with Jesus.
If living in grave sin is redefined as only an “‘irregular’ situation” in which there are “signs of a growing friendship with Jesus” and we must “promote them, encourage them,” then why couldn’t the heretical teachings of the dissenting clergy just as well be redefined as “‘irregular’ teachings” which could also be signs of a growing friendship with Jesus, also to be promoted and encouraged. In this homily and in his decision “not to intervene in the already completed [parish council] election,” Cardinal Schönborn shows his inability to act with authority regarding these successors of Korah and his priests.

Pope Benedict, however, does not mince words.

While it has been six years since the “Call to Disobedience” began, the recent parish council scandal undoubtedly provided Pope Benedict the impetus to address the crisis in Austria in his own Chrism Mass homily:

“Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium… Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?”
Pope Benedict teaches us the meaning of obedience, authority, and the Father’s will:

"Nor must we forget: [Jesus] was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: he lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.”
And at the Chrism Mass with his priests gathered, Pope Benedict reminds us of the “great throng of holy priests”:

“…it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal… Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ… We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II, who gave us an example, through his activity and his suffering, of configuration to Christ as ‘gift and mystery’”.
As we recall the foot-washing of Holy Thursday, Pope Benedict reminds us that the Church must not compromise its mission, placing “pastoral needs” above the will of God. “…God is not concerned so much with great numbers,” Benedict says, “…but [he] achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed.”

And with that, let the foot-washing begin.

The Etymology of Communion ordered to Contest

Community is a very popular word these days. A Latin word sounding very similar to community is also very popular among Catholic theologians – this word is communio. Both words trace their roots to the Latin word communis, a word which literally means a shared duty (cum meaning ‘with/together’ and munus meaning ‘duty’). While we tend to think of community or communio in terms of peace and prosperity, we must remember our public duties which shape both community and communio.

We are in a communion ordered and directed to contest and conflict.

Indeed, contest and conflict are what Christians are celebrating right now in the Easter season. We sometimes think Christ’s agony in the garden was simply Jesus’ nerves bothering him before his torture and death – but we should remember that ‘agony’ comes from the Greek word agon, which means ‘a contest’. Jesus’ death did not mark his triumphant entry into Heaven – no, it marked his descent into Hell where he engaged in a battle with the Evil One, struck Satan a mortal blow, and then freed the righteous from his death grip.

The Resurrection is the celebration of Christ’s victory over death. In a conflict and contest, there is a winner and a loser – and Christ is the winner!

The word agon also means ‘an assembly for contest’ – and it is altogether fitting that the word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia which means ‘the assembly’. Ekklesia itself is derived from ek-kaleo, “which was used for the summons to the army to assemble… and denotes in the usage of antiquity the popular assembly of the competent full citizens of the polis, city” (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology). The assembly thus comes in two forms – the city, state, nation and the Church. There are those men assembled to protect the borders of temporal entities and another drawn from the nations elevated to protect us from the power of the Evil One himself.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia! But let us not forget that the Devil still prowls about seeking the ruin of souls. Let us form up as men and ready ourselves for contest.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Puritans and Christian Mission

The Puritans that came to the New World very much saw themselves as the new Israelites coming to a new Promised Land. They were quite fond of, and familiar with, the Old Testament. The Atlantic was like a new Red Sea and crossing through it meant freedom from the Egypt-like England. Like the Israelites they came not to forward religious liberty but rather to worship God in the way they were commanded.

But the Puritans were also influenced by the Christian notion of mission.

When entering the Promised Land, the Israelites would act like the floodwaters in the days of Noah. They practiced herem warfare, killing all in their way. Long before this, God told Abraham that “the wickedness of the Amorites [who lived in the Promised Land] is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). It would be the duty of the Israelites to eradicate the pagan population and their abominations lest the Israelites fall into their pagan practices. Just as the waters of the great flood washed away sin – and sinners – from the world, so would the Israelites created a public space where God alone is God.

The Puritans, however, did not practice herem warfare on the Native Americans.

Of course Thanksgiving images of Pilgrims and Indians come to mind from our days in elementary school, but Puritan preachers like John Eliot preached to the Native Americans in order to bring them Christianity. The Puritans considered their polity as a “City on a Hill” or an uncovered light for all to see. The glory of the Christian mission is the ability to create large, wide-radius forms of association. This sense of mission is not found in the Israelites of the Old Testament. For this one needs the body of Christ.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Washing Feet: Not Merely “Servant Leadership”

From a wonderful article in the National Catholic Register, Tim Drake writes that we tend to understand, “the foot-washing passage [of Jesus and the Apostles] as if through a pair of glasses with one lens missing. The modern interpretation views the event only as an act of service… It is certainly this, but oh, so much more.”

If the foot-washing is not just about service to others, what exactly is it also about? Well let’s take a look at how John opens his passage on the washing of the feet: “The devil had already induced Judas… to hand [Jesus] over. So… [Jesus] rose from supper and… he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:1-2,4-5). Notice the word “so” in the passage. John is leading us to connect the Devil and Judas to the act of foot-washing. Because the Devil has induced Judas to betray Jesus, Jesus washes the feet of the Apostles. But does Jesus’ action make sense? What connection could there possibly be between water and evil?

It makes perfect sense.

Just recall what water does in the Bible. It’s the floodwaters in Noah’s day that purifies the world of sin. The waters of the Red Sea drowned Pharaoh’s army and set the Israelites free to worship as God has instructed them. For us it is water in baptism that frees us from Original Sin and enables us to worship as the sons of God. And don’t forget that there is always a minor exorcism with every baptism. Jesus, before instituting Holy Orders and the Eucharist first performs a kind of communal baptism and exorcism of the Apostles. He exorcises Judas from among the Apostolic ranks and he washes their feet, preparing them for their mission: to carry by foot the proclamation of the Gospel and the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, drawing all men to Him through them (see John 17).

When Peter resists the foot-washing, Jesus says to him: “…you are clean, but not all.” (John 13:10, 11). Just as the Israelites fought as one man, the unity of the Apostles must be retained. They, too, shall fight as one man in a battle against Satan. Jesus knew there would be future Judas’ among his men – and he established this foot-washing example among them in order that they should be vigilant among themselves, casting out evil from their ranks so that the mission is not jeopardized and the bride of Christ is protected. Jesus says, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15). For centuries the bishops followed this model by washing the feet of their priests at the Chrism Mass on the morning of Holy Thursday.

As another landmark clerical sex-abuse trial begins in Philadelphia, is it at all surprising that these cases have arisen since we reduced the foot-washing to merely a nice act of “servant leadership” in our parishes? Does it really surprise us that monsters have profaned the Sacrament of Holy Orders since we stopped being vigilant? Is it not time to renew the bishop’s washing of his priest’s feet?

Perhaps our bishops should heed two other words from Christ on Holy Thursday: “…keep watch” (Matthew 26:40).

Monday, April 2, 2012

Non-Confrontational Personalities Wielding Authority

Coming on the heels of Cardinal Wuerl’s removal of a Catholic priest because he refused the Eucharist to practicing Buddhist lesbian, another orthodox cardinal is in the news at odds with a priest over another homosexual.

The cardinal is none other than Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria.

The issue concerns the appointment of a practicing homosexual to a parish council. After winning two-thirds of the parishioners’ votes, Florian Stangl was barred by the parish priest, Fr. Gerhard Swierzek, from taking a seat on the council. The twenty-six year old is currently living with another man in a registered domestic partnership, and is thus not in good standing with the Church.

Enter Cardinal Schönborn.

Overruling one of his parish priests, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has permitted a homosexual in a registered domestic partnership to serve on a parish council… Cardinal Schönborn said that he had initially intended to uphold the priest’s decision--but then, he said, “I ask myself in these situations: How did Jesus act? He first saw the human being.”
For his part, Stangl had this to say:

“I feel committed to the teachings of the Church. But the demand to live chastely seems kind of unrealistic to me. How many people really live chastely?”
I wonder what Jesus would have said to the woman caught in adultery if that was her response to his command: "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11).

Having lunch with Stangl and his homosexual lover, however, was the tipping point which led Schönborn to make “a decision for human beings,” rather than to support a priest wielding a legitimate authority formed by the teaching of the Church and the moral law.

Schönborn is perhaps best known for leading the work on the newest Catechism of the Catholic Church. Both Schönborn and Wuerl, however, are admired for their adherence to the Catholic faith in teaching. Wuerl recently published a book with Mike Aqulina on the Mass and Schönborn entered the faith and science debate with a book called Chance or Purpose?

Morality is carried by personalities. To wield the crozier – the bishop’s staff – means to wield a sacral authority. To wear a miter, with its two lappets hanging behind representing Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, means to authoritatively speak and defend the Word of God in its two primary sources and lived liturgical expression. The bishop’s ring is a sign of fidelity, a faithful “yes” to God which precludes saying “yes” to the world and its mortally wounded, but nevertheless deadly, master, the Father of Lies.

The people who heard Jesus “were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority” (Mark 1:22). With that in mind, our bishops should recall what Jesus said of them: “Whoever hears you, hears me” (Luke 10:16). The next time the people hear Jesus through the voice of the bishop or cardinal, will they too be astonished at his teaching as one having authority? Or will they hear the words of an erudite scholar shaped by a non-confrontational personality?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Recruits - Spring 2012

Maps are very important. Not only can epic stories can be told by pointing to a map, but sometimes data can be conveyed better through a map than through many, many explanatory paragraphs in a research paper. Maps show us national and civilizational boundaries, where natural resources are can be found, and the location of opposing forces seeking control of those resources.

So getting a group of men together to look at a map and reenact historical events is an excellent tool for learning, thinking, and training.

And at Lee's Summit High School in Lee's Summit, Missouri, Midwesterners gather every six months for a tabletop wargaming convention called Recruits. The proceeds of the convention go to the high school's Organization for Strategic Gaming, an extracurricular club in which students can letter for wargaming history. In addition to funding the OSG, Recruits also helps introduce wargaming to those curious about tabletop wargaming.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present the game Tide of Iron, a combat simulation of tactical fighting during World War II. Below are some pictures from the event:

In this Tide of Iron scenario, the Germans are trying their best to overrun the Allied defenses and secure their objectives.

World War II is not the only World War to replay. In this image, players better understand the difficulties of assaulting the trenches of World War I.

Some games required a much larger table space. This recreation of Napoleonic battles required a table at least eight feet long and five feet wide.

Of course, wars are going on even today. This recreation introduces players to the much more recent Battle of Fallujah which took place in Iraq.