Words to remember

"Never doubt in the darkness what you believed in the light."

Sunday, November 23, 2008


There should be no sense now that we are still in Ordinary Time. Today we celebrate the Feast of Jesus Christ Our King, marking the last Sunday in the liturgical year. It is fitting that the year ends on such a note. Having marked His birth, His Passion, His death, and His glorious resurrection, and then His ascension into Heaven, the year of our celebration ends with Christ enthroned in glory and majesty.

"Blessing and honour, and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." Rev. 5:13

I apologize in advance, I am writing this post at a few different intervals, and my brain is all over the place. So this is unsystematic and will probably come out quite rambling and nonsensical.

This is certainly one area in which our history plays against us. We instinctively react against a king, much as our fathers the Romans did before us, for all that we enjoy the royal gossip and pageantry of other countries. The man who would be king is a man to be feared, not loved or admired. The idea of one man ruling seems to us to be perverse, unjust, wicked. The ideas of popular sovereignty are so ingrained in us that the government of a sovereign, a monarch, is something we decry. Sadly so. Yet nevertheless, Christ reigns eternally as our High King, through whom all thrones on Earth stand, and before whom all thrones will fall in worship and adoration.

Yup, it's a nice time of the year for a triumphalist Catholic with strongly monarchist tendencies. The Servant of the Servants of God, Pope Pius XI, reminded us beautifully of the imagery and fact of the sovereign kingship of Christ in his encyclical Quas Primas:This same doctrine of the Kingship of Christ which we have found in the Old Testament is even more clearly taught and confirmed in the New. The Archangel, announcing to the Virgin that she should bear a Son, says that "the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." In fact, we confess this every feast and Sunday when we state He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end

How is such a thing important to us today? I mean, certainly the liturgical regalia and ceremonial is all great fun, and spiritually nourishing. It's been a part of Christian thought and imagery since time immemorial. In fact, the Easter sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes is a subtle reference to just such a doctrine. Aside from its literal meaning "praises", the Latin 'laudes' is also the direct term for a royal ceremony, the praises of the king, especially the Carolingian Emperor. I would be content to leave the issue there, but why not go further in this instance? Why is it important that Christ be seen as King?

For one thing, He is. God has granted Him the primacy in all things; He is the firstborn of all creation. The rule is His by right. And God has promised that this is so; at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, as they would to a king. And so in the completed Heaven, that is Christ's role. What does this mean for us? The thinking here is old, but significant. Earthly governments do not simply exist in a vacuum- every king, every ruler, has his rule and his kingdom from God. This means also that every institution which governs men must in some respect be infused with that spirit. But for a king, a government, to claim that it has a right to exist of its own, that its dignity is its own, is guilty of the same sin as Lucifer, who would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.

Sounds like a theocracy? Not quite. While I would find it vastly preferable if every human being were safe and secure within Holy Mother Church, that has never been the case in human history. From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, any institution rooted in some transcendent moral principle will last longer than one that does not, so there's that to consider. Our earthly hierarchy is not an atom- God is not dead, but very much alive, and still concerned with the doings of His people. The caelestial hierarchy is the basis of the mundane. This is one area, interestingly enough, in which traditional Chinese thought is quite salient (at least of the Confucian variety) to our own. But the loss of this sense of the rootedness of all just government in the decrees of God is probably one of the reasons we see it abused so much. We spend so much time storing up treasures on Earth; it's no longer about easing the lot of the poor or bettering ourselves morally, mentally, or spiritually. More and more our society chugs along dreaming of the earthly paradise we could only create if . Our world is lovely, even beautiful, and our life is good. But what we make here is not the end. There used to be this ecstatic vision of Heaven. The Beatific Vision was something worth giving everything for. And how few today we're encouraged to seek it. Most of the stuff we encounter in our daily lives bombards us with messages to discourage just such a quest. It wasn't that life was so much more horrible in years gone by; it's that the sense of joy, the reality of eternal life, was so much stronger then.

I wonder in what respects this ties into the shrinking of the imagination. It's a faculty we might hardly exercise in a given day. That's probably why literature, music, and the visual arts have suffered so. It's the here-and-now that concerns us, and with the ratcheting of entertainment, that's ever more the case. I mean, look at what we call what we watch on TV: reality television. TV's not a bad thing in and of itself, and can be quite engrossing and educational. Some shows are possessed of excellent writing or other such characteristics. But when we start considering what happens in that cathode ray tube "real", we're already in a world of problems. Our very outlook starts to become two-dimensional.

Like I said, disjointed and horribly unsystematic post today. Tired, and my mind's racing. Oh well. At least there are purdy pictures to look at?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Populus Dei

In looking through the news on New Advent I came across this article Councilwoman Criticized for Catholic Remarks It's not entirely surprising, and the rhetoric is tired and unoriginal. The one positive bit of news is that the councilperson in question did abstain from voting on the issue, which is to her credit. I wonder, though, how much longer such people will show such restraint. Remember, she considers it an affront to her own dignity, but to that of all "womankind"; one can imagine it wouldn't take very much to nudge her to act against the Church in support of this "womankind".

Well, now that I've started off being oh-so-cheerful today, on to the meat and potatoes! Whatever happened to the concept of the people of God, Israel? What prompted this thought was the lyrics of the Advent hymn "Veni, veni, Emmanuel". The lyrics are as follows:
Veni, O sapientia
Quae hic disponis omnia
Veni, viam prudentiae
Ut doceas et gloriae
R: Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel

Veni, veni Adonai
Qui populo in Sinai
Legem dedisti vertice
In maiestate gloriae

Veni, o Iesse virgula
Ex hostis tuos ungula
De spectu tuos tartari
Educ et antro barathri

Veni, Clavis Davidica
Regna reclude caelica
Fac iter tutum superum
Et claude vias inferum

Veni, veni, O Oriens
Solare nos adveniens
Noctis depelle nebulas
Dirasque noctis tenebras

Veni, veni, Rex Gentium
Veni, Redemptor omnium
Ut salvas tuos famulos
Peccati sibi conscios

Veni, veni, Emmanuel
Captivum solve Israel!
Qui gemit in exsilio,
Privatus Dei filio!
Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.

While I will concede that it is possibly that I simply haven't heard it, I ask: Why don't we talk like this any more? There's a wealth of symbolism in the Church we have simply done away with. The Church as Israel is a theme that really is worth so much exploration, but it seems that references to that are few and far between. Maybe I just haven't been paying attention.

At the same time, we've lost the practice of seeing ourselves as Roman. Not that we are in any geographical or political sense. I can recall that, after the death of John Paul the Great, in one prayer a cardinal (it might have been then-Cardinal Ratzinger, I can't recall now) implored Mary, the protector of the Roman People. St. Patrick once remarked "If you be Christians, then you are Romans."

I'm jus' askin'.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I am uncertain when this particular concept gained the near total enjoyment of people's attention it now possesses. As with many things, the importance and prevalence of the idea of judging could very well be artificially inflated in my current environment. For many reasons, I hope so. Nevertheless, it's something that takes up an inordinate amount of people's time and mental energy.

No one likes someone who nags. And it's with good reason that the person whose favorite activity is wagging their fingers at others finds himself with very few friends, and a veritable horde of enemies. So as far as that goes, I am with today's culture in agreeing that Negative Nancies are no fun.

What seems different, though, is this peculiar horror of "judgment". I also note that spell-check argues against the medial "e" in that word, which, if substandard, was the way I had learned years ago. Why do they change these things on me? I digress. Back to the subject at hand. Some clarification of terms is relevant here. People are never judged in a positive fashion, to the modern mind. I cannot judge Jack Robinson to be a good and upright man, or Abigail Fiddleswick to be a paragon among mothers. It is perhaps peculiar to our pessimistic outlook (an unduly pessimistic one, I think) that any and every judge must not find in the favor of the accused. It isn't that we find it impossible to label someone good or praiseworthy, but that the peculiar faculty of judgment precludes finding a positive result. That might seem like a semantic quibble, but it is instructive.

What are the roots of this phenomenon? My favorite canard, relativism, of course. But it'd be boring if I just harped on that yet again. And besides, in this case, there's another major contributing factor worth investigating, and that's the modern emphasis on feelings rather than facts. We really can't take criticism any more. And I should know, as I'm one to gripe mightily about any criticism of what I do. But in most cases, I do not demand that my critic cease what they are doing, or that they are in the wrong for doing so. Counsel can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow, but what medicine isn't? We can no longer believe that a prof gave us such a poor grade on a paper. Don't they know how hard we worked? And don't they know what a top-notch student we are? We've been told all our lives that we're special, and we believe it. So when we do fail, there must be some explanation than doesn't consist in "ourselves". We don't want to hear negative things because they conflict with the ways we are taught to think of ourselves. Everyone is wonderful, and the best part of life is getting together and singing about how wonderful we are.

On the face of it, this perspective is rather disturbing. We are cautioned not to judge any people, as, it is solemnly asserted, such is the province of a judgmental person, that is, a knave. Who, then, would be good? Presumably, the person who forms no judgments, the person who holds no particular opinion. I think this is a view held with some fervor, if by a majority. In some respects, it might explain the pathological need to move to the "center" or the "middle" on a given issue or concept. This is not the same as an Aristotelian golden mean or anything like that. More and more, this manifests itself in a categorical rejection of any proposed solution which would stray to either side in a debate. Politics, of course, furnishes us with the most obvious examples of this, but in other fields too, any action which tends towards one side is viewed as "partisan" and "divisive" by some. At the heart of this, I think, is a retreat from a serious engagement with life's issues.

Even those who adhere to the philosophy of the middle at all costs do so inconsistently, though. I daresay they would never tell a battered woman "Well, try and see his side of things." At least I hope they would not. It is ultimately a philosophy of convenience rather than total conviction. So there is evidently some moderation yet in moderation. That is hopeful.

It is much the same with the no-judgment folks. In many cases, what they want is not a wholesale removal of the discriminating faculty, but a highly selective application thereof. They do not want to be judged themselves, and/or they do not want a given group to be judged in a certain way not consonant with their worldview. We are not permitted to say that homosexual marriage is wrong; the other side, however, is free to call the former whatever mean names they please, and disrupt their church services, and harass them on the streets, and rip crosses from their hands and stomp on them. In such cases, the faculty of judgment is not only quite obviously present, but also hyper-stimulated.

In the sphere of exegesis, this gets really tiresome when it comes to the axiom "Judge not lest ye be judged." We are sternly cautioned by the no-judge-um crowd that we cannot call a given act or proposition wrong; to do so would be to judge, which Christ has warned us not to do. Yet this cannot possibly work. For He also warns us sternly to admonish a sinner of his sin. If we do this not, we are held accountable for that person's soul. So using the modern solution to being faced with two seemingly contradictory injunctions, we choose the one that makes us feel better, right? Heh. Or we could try and read it as a consistent whole, without being cherry-pickers. If we are to admonish the sinner, we must be given permission to know whether or not something is sinful. What we are not permitted to do, however, is to pronounce God's judgment on a soul, the final judgment. We can say that it is a sin to steal, or to break any other commandment, and we would be right. We exceed our mandate, however, when we say that a person who has stolen will undoubtedly go to Hell. So the way the entire passage is understood in the modern world is totally off-base.

Accedit hiems

It looks like we'll get a real winter this year. An accumulation of maybe an inch today, although a bit slushy. Tomorrow is supposed to have an accumulation of 1-3 inches, with heavier snowfall in the evening.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This was written in response to an editorial in the Lamron, the school newspaper. It will probably go through two more iterations before I decide whether or not to send it out. While the results of the election were roundly disappointing, it's Prop. 8 that looks like it's generating the most controversy. 15 Nov 2008

The article “Prop 8: One giant leap backward” bears an accurate title; what is conspicuous, however, is the absence of any commentary as to who has done the leaping. I will not here argue with what the author has to say regarding gay marriage; this is more a matter of truth in journalism. The claim being made is, essentially, that opponents of the initiative have been victimized, and have suffered a fundamental injustice. Their rights, it is asserted, are being infringed. This might well be so; however, are the tactics which the opponents of Prop 8 are using consonant with that message?

Time Magazine, on an online article (located at: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1859323,00.html?xid=rss-topstories, retrieved 15 Nov 08) notes that groups who voted against the measure have been targeted by activists. African-Americans, who voted in large part against the measure, have also been singled out, with racial epithets being used by many of the frustrated parties on the opposing side of Proposition 8. This is quite ironic, given the lament in the Lamron article that the willingness to embrace “change” in voting for Senator Obama is not shared by those who opposed gay marriage. And yet by such words, the opponents of Prop. 8 show that they themselves do not hold to that distinction. The issue, then, is already much wider than the article considers.

Further more, as the Time piece points out, the trend of publishing lists of donors and agencies supportive of Proposition 8 is unsettling, to say the least. The sublime irony comes in the website AntiGayBlacklist.com, a site which publishes the names of individuals who contributed to the support of the proposition, advising people not patronize their business. Blacklisting historically refers to the actions of Senator McCarthy in the House Un-American Activities Committee. And the tactics are much the same; both sought to force people to back into line for deviating from what one group believes is unacceptable. Is it desirable that the supposed advocates of freedom and liberty are themselves pushing a new McCarthyism?

Although it may come as a cliché, the point made in the movie Batman Begins is a valid one to remember here. It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you. One cannot claim to be for tolerance and liberty and yet act in ways which are contrary to those lofty principles.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Well, lovely.

Well, I certainly hope I'm proven wrong about everything I've said with respect to Barry. No one would be happier than I if that turns out to be the case (with the exception, naturally, of the unborn!)

We lost. Badly. Not as bad as we could've, and certainly not as much as the crazies expected, but this one stings. Which is surprising, as this was Obama's election to lose to begin with. McCain put in a lot of long, hard work at the end, and right up to 11 o'clock he stayed in the fight. That's par for the course with the man. And though I don't agree with the man on much of what he's said and done, he's earned a lot of respect during all of this from me. I think he learned a lot, too; particularly in regards to what fair-weather friends the media can be.

So where do we go from here?

First, let's consider some of the hopeful signs and positive outcomes from this election.

1. If he screws up, Obama has no one to blame but himself. With a handy majority in the House and Senate, if something he tries doesn't go right, it's on him. The absence of any real Republican power in Congress means that there's not even enough of them to scapegoat. The scrutiny, then, will be appropriately harsh. This is useful.

2. Big evidence against the old grievance arguments that abound in politics today. "America is a racist nation"- oh, really? That's odd. Because, for all that minorities can't get ahead in this country.... why, look! One did. What goal is there left to people who believe that race and the crimes of the past entitle them to positions of public trust and political power? And maybe, hopefully, this will convince some of the more sane folks on the left side of the line that the radicals really don't have a case any more, and are harping on it simply to rub resentments raw and exploit anger for the purpose of political motivation.

3. No more W. Poor George. For everything that's gone wrong, I still believe he is a good man, but his policies have gone badly awry for so long now, it's difficult to remember a time when they went right. And not everything he did went bad, either; far from it. But what he was up against is the largest collection of some of the most single-minded, underhanded, devious and preternaturally furious people we've seen. They hated the man, and did everything they could to make him look like an idiot, or a tyrant, or both. Well, no more of this now. Obama's talked a big game about America being able to do better than the past eight years. Will he? When so much of the campaign promise was to right the wrongs of the last eight years, how much will he actually deliver? It's something of which to remind people, and often.

4. An end to overwrought "YES. WE. CAN." videos, I hope. Shudder.

5. William F. Buckley (God rest his soul) purged the conservative movement of its kooks. This election could very well purge the movement of its wimps. What we've found is that given a choice between a Democrat and a Republican who walks like a Democrat, talks like a Democrat, and votes like a Democrat, people will choose the real Democrat. Moderate Republicans do not win elections. So from now on, if there's to be a Republican Party with any shot at capturing votes, it's got to be conservative. We've been letting our enemies dictate the ground we fight on. Let's pick our own turf this time, and make sure we can defend it well. And when Obama messes up, people will be looking for the alternative. We have a case to make in this country, and we haven't been making it, either out of our own lack of engagement and poor choices, or because we've let the people across the aisle dictate who we are as a Party and what we stand for. Enough's enough.

6. Most importantly: The bishops are back. Catholics didn't quite impress me in this election. Most went for Obama. Well, okay, fellows. Now we know where you stand- when your shepherds are telling you to get back into the flock, you'd rather go run with the wolves. So be it.

One of the problems we'd been facing is parallel to that in 5- too many times, the bishops and prominent Catholics were cowed by their own opponents bodily removing them from the public sphere. In recent memory, we've seen the Ten Commandments taken out of court houses, prayer in schools all but forbidden, and religion used as a cynical political tool to gain "street cred" rather than a means through which to draw moral nourishment and courage. Religion looked like it was being slowly edged out of the public sphere, to loud applause from folks on the left who get incredibly antsy every time religious conviction comes up. But quite a few American bishops came out swinging, and wouldn't be silenced, speaking out against Obama and denouncing his policies, and doing so from the POV of Catholic teaching. For the moment, it looks like they've reengaged. For too many years now, Catholicism has been a "Sunday thing"- you believe it when you're sitting in that pew, and you do what's expected of you, kneel here, stand here, repeat this, walk up here, get your Communion, don't get a speeding ticket tearing out of the parking lot. What we have from the bishops, then, is a clear signal that that's no longer going to be acceptable. One's religious convictions bring with them certain moral imperatives which cannot be ignored, and which must be proposed in the body politic.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's getting scary

As might be expected, it's been a busy time of year. But I have a bit of a lull at the moment, and I've been using it to get caught up on election news. One of the gems I missed somewhere along the line was this (many thanks to YouTube):

A civilian national security force.

I'll save my apocalyptic rantings for a little later. Now the analysis.
This demonstrates one of two things: 1) Barack Hussein Obama is a complete, total, utter imbecile or 2) He is an unabashed fascist.

A "civilian national security force" equal in power, funding, etc. to our military. Well, one of the defining concepts of our military, of any national military, is operating within a clear chain of command, accountable to the government of our country. What does it mean, though, for a government to create a civilian national security force? This seems rather a contradiction in terms- if the government makes it, then it's a government show. Now it does not seem like Barry Obama is simply telling people to buy a rifle, line up, and take their posts; indeed, given his liberal background and the attendant views on gun control (not entirely without merit in Chicago, perhaps) this seems, well, right out. This civilian national security force would be equipped, outfitted, and maintained by the government of the United States. Now, our economy is immense, and our military is the best the world has ever seen, but I don't think we could handle two of them, unless Obama plans to cut our real military down to a size that would make Canada look like a credible threat. What I'm hoping is that Obama realizes this also, and simply made this statement without thinking. Very likely the teleprompter cut out on him, and in the heat of the moment, he came up with an idea that sounded quite nice to his mode of thinking, without ever intending to act on it, knowing that it would be constitutionally and financially impossible to do so. If so, then he's simply an idiot. This is the ticket with Joe Biden, remember, and maybe his penchant for going off half-cocked has rubbed off on the normally suave Obama. This would be by far the more pleasant alternative.

What if that's not the case, though? What if Obama really means to go through with this thing? I think it's clear that the Democrats will take Congress, with a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and a desire to make real nice with the new Boss, to whom many Congressional Democrats have already offered unfettered adulation. McCain's political career would essentially be over, and as for other bright stars in the Republican field, their effectiveness will likely be severely curtailed. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Fairness Doctrine brandished menacingly, and implemented if they're feeling lucky. Talk radio and conservative media have been in these people's sights for years, and judging by how desperate they've sounded after being out of the Oval Office for eight years, they'd be out for some serious blood. That stifles a big part of the movement, and cuts off a major conduit of news and information to the American people. Not that we couldn't do with some pruning in that area; a Michael Savage, for all the fun he can be, has done little more, seemingly, than tell us for hours on end how much he loathes George W. Bush in the recent past, and while I'm not pleased with the direction this Administration has gone, I can remember the days when Savage was quite fulsome in his praise of the President. Moderation of that enthusiasm I could understand and sympathize with; the sudden shift to an almost monomaniacal diatribe is a too jarring for me to consider him of much continued use to conservatism. Perhaps I do Mr. Savage an injustice, but this is how it seems to me. And William F. Buckley, God rest His soul, left us at a bad time. Oh well, at least he's in a place where none of this matters. I expect he's making good use of the archival material available to him there.

At any rate, my elegy for conservatism has distracted me. His Obamaness will be in a position to get done what he wants without having to ask too nicely. Suppose, then, that this civilian national security force is something he wants, and the cost be damned. What would this mean? Under whose authority would they be; to whom would they be accountable? Would their officials be appointed by the President, and, owing to their status as civilian, would they need to be vetted at all by any sort of oversight acting in the interests of the people? How would their officers be selected? Shadow academies, run on the model of our military academies, but owing loyalty to whom or what? Would there even be such a command structure? Given that it would be a civilian outfit, how would their operations and jurisdiction differ? What national security policy and practices would they be implementing? Why should a civilian force need to be as heavily equipped as the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and the respective reserve branches? What threat within the boundaries of this country does Obama think would require that sort of use of force? Is he anticipating a rebellion? Is he creating one? What the Hell is going on?

What precisely has our military done wrong that it should no longer be considered up to its task? Why would such a buildup and restructuring be considered if there are no such conventional threats on our borders? Wouldn't it make more sense to call for expansion in existing fast-response outfits within police units, given that conventional warfare is not a viable means to preventing terrorist attacks within the United States? What is Barry Hussein getting at?

"So this is how liberty dies- to thundrous applause."