William Briggs: A Realist Catholic Climate Declaration

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Dr. William Briggs, an honest-to-goodness climate scientist & Catholic, is trying to counter the nonsense of the Magisterium taking positions on ‘climate change’. He has drafted a Realist Catholic Climate Declaration and is looking for feedback. I never ask people to spread things around, but please spread this far and wide. Here’s Draft 2:

The Magisterium of the Catholic Church has no, and should not have, an official position on the earth’s optimal atmospheric mean temperature, nor on the best rate of change of this temperature. Neither optimum is known to anybody.

The earth’s climate has always changed, is changing now, and will never cease changing. There is no earthly force capable of stopping climate change.

Mankind influences the atmosphere, as does every creature and thing. The extent to which man is responsible for climate change is not known, only surmised.

Extreme caution, even skepticism, is warranted in any statement about global warming given the decades of failed and overreaching forecasts and hyperbole from official and interested sources. Beyond individual prudent stewardship, no Catholic is obligated to support any environmental measure.

There is no evidence any particular global temperature will cause fewer or more souls to descend into Hell. Pray to God and pray for your neighbor, not to the planet.

We should all support such efforts at clarity and charity. Please follow the link to check out the discussion and make suggestions. I’ve made a couple very nitpicky suggestions myself, perhaps you could do better?

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Thinking About Free Will

The formal class part of RCIA has begun for this year. I’m the go-to guy for history & theology (how profoundly frightening this is has so far escaped our beloved DRE). All this means is that if anyone wants, or, more likely, I decide on my own that anyone needs, a more formal definition or some historical context, I’m the guy who provides it. Such as I might. This leads to me thinking about how to talk about various dogmas in a way that isn’t too hoity-toity yet gets the essential nature and purpose across.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on Free Will. Where angels fear to tread, and all that.

While we were created in the image of God, God is still very different from us. God’s freedom is part of his eternal Being – it is not so much something He does, bit rather is a fundamental part of Who He is. Nothing outside constrains God; He freely acts in accordance with His infinite goodness and love. Every action of God is utterly free, and completely an expression of divine goodness and love.

While God is not compelled or constrained by external thing, it might be said that He just can’t contain Himself – His loving kindness boils over in His creations. All of creation is a free expression of God’s nature as a loving Father and Creator.

Creation is thus an expression of God’s life and profound joy. It is not like a clock, built once, wound up, and then left to play itself out. Rather, God loves the world into existence at every moment. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. Each of us is a unique expression of His boundless joy.

Out of this joy, God gave man and the angels freedom. This created freedom is a reflection of God’s nature, perhaps the key aspect of our being made in His image. It is a gift from God, loved into being by God, and as an aspect of God, as sacred as God Himself. As an essential aspect of this gift, God will not overrule us.

But to be free in our own little way, our acts must participate in God’s freedom. God’s freedom is always expressed through overflowing love and goodness. Thus, we can only be free when we, too, act in harmony with that divine love and goodness. Acting against God is choosing slavery; once enslaved, we have lost our freedom. Yet God, in His mercy, will always, as long as we live in this changeable world, hold out to us the opportunity to repent, to turn from the slavery of our sins back to the freedom of His will.

An example: A man on the edge of a giant cliff is free to step off the cliff. If he does so, he has lost all freedom: he is subject to the laws of physics, and will fall to his death, shattered on the rocks below. God did not give the man freedom so that he could jump off a cliff. Rather, He gave us freedom so that we, too, could share in His joy as joyful, loving creators in our own little way. Yet that freedom means that we just might choose to step off the cliff.

The moral law, another creation of God, is, in effect, a warning: don’t step off the cliff! As long as we work to avoid sin and repent of the sins we have committed, we have the freedom to act in accordance with God’s loving Will. We stay away from the cliff. Reject the law of God, and we at best court disaster. Without God’s loving guidance as expressed in His law, we will, sooner or later, fall off the cliff of our own free will!

That we are free is a gift and a miracle. The saints, who have surrendered their wills to God’s Will, who have willingly died to themselves, paradoxically enjoy complete freedom. It is when we humbly recognize that we don’t really know what’s good for us and don’t always want what’s best for us that God can show us the Way to complete, joyful freedom.

So, do you think this would be helpful to someone investigating the Catholic Faith?

Humility & Followers: Comments & Further Thoughts

Got some good feedback On Followers & Humility. Commenter Billy Jack raised some good points, and I of course have some further thoughts. So here we go:

Billy Jack:

One of the interesting wrinkles here is that the idea that it is inherently oppressive for a marriage to be chosen by fathers (or anyone else) rather than the spouses themselves comes not from “Modernity” or “Modern People” but from the Church. Trent, for example, was pretty clear on this. And I think Luther disagreed.

While it is true that the Church, in the face of Frankish and Germanic tribes that tended to treat women as disposable and in any event not fully human (1), taught that, for a marriage to be sacramental, both parties had to freely submit to it, that just gives the woman, in theory, veto power. It does not mean she was expected to go find a husband on her own. It’s a huge difference, it seems to me, to say that one cannot be forced to marry against one’s will and saying that every daughter was now a free agent who needed to find her own mate. What the Church’s teachings put a stop to, or at least slowed down a bit, was the bartering off of women. So, as I described in the last post, a Christian father, who loved his children and wife and so would not want to run roughshod over their desires, was assumed to have a heavy hand in the selection of mates for his children, for their own good. The shadow of this practice persists in the fading tradition of a suitor asking his beloved’s father for her hand.

Nothing here is meant to suggest that all arranged marriages were smooth and the process was never abused, just that the idea that a good father would arrange for the marriages of his children is not an outrageous idea. I know a couple of Indians here whose marriages were arranged, and I asked them, and they weren’t bitter about it. They felt more like Tevye and Golda in Fiddler on the Roof who grew to love each other even though they hadn’t even met before they were married.

Women gained immensely from the Church’s many-century-long efforts to protect them from being viewed as less than human and bargaining chips to be sold for political gain or to the highest bidder. It’s not for noting that all those 12th & 13th century cathedrals were named after Our Lady. Nothing in this effort contradicted or disputed the practice of fathers, in conjunction with their family and other fathers and families, from arranging the marriages of their children.

So it’s funny for progressives who are dislike the Church to pride themselves on this view as an accomplishment of secular progressives, but it’s also funny for Catholic bloggers to be down on the idea.

Up until current times, it would have been scandalous for a woman in a Catholic country to arrange her own marriage in defiance of her father. Romeo & Juliet is a cautionary tale against just such presumption. The nurse and the friar are the villains of the story, overstepping their rightful duties. Until modern times, readers of the play all understood this.

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Look! A Sail! And a villain!

That Progressives and American Catholics (in so far as those two categories are different) don’t understand this is not surprising.

The case with religion vis-a-vis tribe or family is not identical, but it’s similar. Sure, we can point to villages and nations converting together. But while conquered pagan cities typically adopted the conquerors’ gods, conquered Christians generally didn’t, or at least knew they shouldn’t. And sometimes the leaders converted first but in other cases individuals converted first, and faced persecution and ostracism. The same goes on the family level. On the Christian view, religion is not something that a father or king has complete authority to choose on behalf of children and subjects. As Jesus said: within a family, it will be three against two, father against son, etc.

Certainly, I over-generalized quite a bit. You are correct that conquered or proselytized people responded in a variety of ways, and that Christians seem to have generally put up a better fight than most against forced conversions. My point was that, for much of mankind over much of history, it would not seem at all outlandish or unusual for a family or tribal leader to make a decision of what religion he and his would follow, and that the members of the household, village, tribe or even nation, would see that as appropriate and go along with it. That it didn’t always happen that way is not the point, really, it’s rather to highlight how we moderns tend to automatically recoil at the very thought, when, in fact, our ancestors at least for a good part didn’t.

The more general point I was trying to make: we all very much tend to overinvest in our own autonomy. We aren’t really nearly as ‘free’ as we thing we are, in the ways we think we are. And further, that this dependence on the wisdom and decisions of others is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in a family or tribe or village in which we have well understood mutual duties, rights and privileges.

More generally, sure, some of things that Catholics inveigh against about our time–and often rightfully so!–are just a return to things that were common before Christianity. Killing unwanted children, for example. But most of the unique characteristics of modernity, good or bad, would be unimaginable without the influence of Christianity, and I tend to think that much of the radical individualism that we see today falls into the category. A huge number of saints flat-out disobeyed their parents to follow their call. Did the ancient Chinese venerate that sort of thing? The Iroquois? Do any of the Bantu peoples have pantheons of people who told their parents to get lost? Well, I do think that Siddhartha Gautama did something like that, now that I think of it.

Both/and is the key Catholic teaching that is being lost. The radical part of radical individualism is placing the individual and his naked will first. The Church’s view is rather that we are each individually precious children of God AND members of the Body of Christ, and that these roles are not in conflict but rather arise one from the other. To paraphrase Paul from 1 Corinthians 12, we don’t get to choose if we are a hand or an eye or a foot. We are given those roles, and find our happiness and fulfillment in them, and should not envy any other roles. The whole point of that passage is that we do not get to be whatever we chose to be, but find ourselves when we surrender to the role we have been given.

So, I would disagree with the notion that radical individualism is a byproduct of Christianity, except in the sense in which it is a perversion of Christianity.

Right, I think the Buddha rejected his parents, I don’t know of any other such traditions.

The traditional Catholic stories in which a child defies his or her father tend to fall into 2 classes: the child having heard a call from God to a religious life, or cautionary tales. I can’t remember a single traditional story in which the defiant child is a hero, except those where that child follows a religious calling, obeying his Father over his father.

St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, a bunch of the early virgin martyrs and a scad of others – these folks defied their fathers in order to follow Christ. For a traditionally catechised Catholic, these stories are all familiar. The point of these stories is not that one should not obey one’s father, but rather that the authority of our fathers comes from the Father, of which they are only a vague, tiny shadow. It is the both/and teaching: we are virtuous to obey our fathers on earth AND our Father in Heaven, right up until that obedience conflicts – then, and only humbly and cautiously, we may defy our fathers to obey the Father.

I think part of our individualism comes from economic conditions, too, but that’s another story.

Yes, it is. I’d love to hear it. Once family, village and church are gone, what’s left but the individual? Not a happy situation, however.

  1. See, for example, ‘Merovingian Divorce’ as described in A History of Private Life, v. I, where the Church’s teaching against divorce was taken by the Franks as mandating the murder of any undesired wife.

On Followers and Humility

Further thoughts on this post, wherein the observation of Henry VIII (as imagined by Robert Bolt in A Man for All Seasons) that “…there’s a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves” is discussed.

We modern Americans think any decision made by anyone else on our behalf is at least potentially oppressive, and, more important, has no real hold over us. In its terminal form, even the ‘decisions’ of nature are felt to be subject to review. Our own will, on the other hand, is sacred. It is meaningless to consider the possibility that we might will something wrong – wrong how? According to whom?

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Each of these sheep, despite having its consciousness determined by their class within an oppressive hegemony, has nonetheless made the sacred choice to get its ear tagged, and where appropriate, a bell placed around its neck and a splash of green die applied to its back, and has freely chosen to go wherever it is that everybody else is going. Prove me wrong.

Yet we think feel this is true while surrounded by a mass that follows this week’s herd consensus much more rigorously and with more anxiety than any slave ever worked under the lash. The slave, at least, might dream of freedom, or at least getting a break. Not so the modern American, not so! The very idea that they might differ from the herd and thus be cast into the outer darkness with The Bad People causes such distress we see weeping; anxiety leads them to not even notice how the views they are required to parrot get changed over time, without so much as an acknowledgement that they were ever different. Examples abound. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

What’s been slowly dawning on me is this: that the key getting through the Crazy Years is not to spend time arguing, trying to show the error of their ways to that great mass of people who will follow anything that moves (1), but instead coming to grips with herd behavior being the human default position – and not, in and of itself, a bad thing!

That this is true from an evolutionary perspective is obvious: we survive and breed only as members of a tribe. Taking the evidence for the argument (standard practice in evolutionary biology) we conclude that this state of affairs – tribal membership is how we live to breed, even today, for the most part, and always in history up to the last couple centuries – proves tribal behaviors have been selected for and, therefore, are hard-wired into the human brain. Be that as it may, looking at it from a more philosophically profound perspective, Aristotle’s statement that man is a political animal, and that human happiness is therefore found in what might be called our civic relationships, leads to the same conclusion: we, the products of endless generations of successful breeders, really, really want to be part of the team. We often refer to how those on the Left act like infants – they do, but the spin here is that that’s not entirely a bad thing in and of itself. Infants typically only run into problems when the adults around them have failed.

Revisiting a couple points from the previous post: Heads of households have historically had great sway over the lives of the people in the households. We moderns have no way to imagine how that might work in practice other than imagining the (usually) patriarch as Oppressy McOpressorface. Dad got to pick your spouse and pretty much otherwise decide your future for you – that has to be oppression, right? He negotiated with other families to find you a spouse! Where’s the love?

Answer: everywhere. Dad wanted his children to survive, as a condition to them being happy, since happiness in this life is pretty much over once you’re dead. Thus, he eliminated from consideration potential spouses who could not care for you or who would require too much care on your part: for his daughters, he crossed off the impoverished sons of poor or no family; for his sons, daughters who couldn’t come up with an appropriate dowery, since they (and their kids!) would immediately become his responsibility and a drain on his resources. He did all this, of course, to honor his ancestors and to ensure his line would continue. But none of those considerations contradict his main motive: he loved his children. Having a place in a family and a society of families is, he knew, the chief way we have any joy and freedom in this life. It’s why the heads of monasteries and convents were called abbot – daddy – and mother. The only way for monks and nuns to be happy was in a family, even if it were only a vague shadow of the family in which we are children of God.

Today, getting fed, clothed and housed is such a low bar that we can hardly imagine it being much of a concern; lack of food, clothing and a bed to call your own – and a cell phone, HD TV, and high speed internet – is a sure sign something is Very Wrong (and the eternal infants want the great daddy proxy The State to fix it NOW). But back in Jean Valjean’s day – and Dante’s, and Jane Austen’s and Aristotle’s and Gregory the Great’s – making as sure as you could that your baby of marrying age was going to be taken care of was Job 1. No husbands who wouldn’t or couldn’t take care of your daughters; no wives who might bleed your sons dry. Those crusty old patriarchs wanted spouses for their kids who would be there when needed, in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, in good times and bad. This mundane, feet on the ground care is the basis of love, attested to by no less an authority than Christ, who threatens to throw those who do not provide this level of care to their spiritual brothers and sisters (let alone their own children!) into the outer darkness. Feelz don’t necessarily enter into it.

The underlying assumption here, if we need to call it that, is that Daddy, having successfully married and reproduced and raised up his children to marrying age, is more wise and experienced in how all that works than his 16 year old daughter or 20 year old son. He correctly believes that he will do a better job finding and choosing a mate for his children than they are likely to do on their own. At any rate, it is his duty to do so. He would of course take his wife’s views into consideration, and even his daughter’s or son’s. Again, he does this because he loves them, and wants them to be happy.

There’s not much historical evidence that children on the whole objected much to this arrangement. Why should they? The results – not just the spouse, but the family and communal nature of the marriage, seen as uniting the destiny of two families, who thus have a huge interest in the marriage’s success – compare very favorably to today’s outcomes.

But that’s not the main point here. I here want to point out how much everyone in this picture is a follower. Not only do the children and wife and anybody else in the household follow the lead of the patriarch, the patriarch himself follows the lead of his father and the men in his life when he leads: even the leaders are essentially followers. Hope and Change are the last thing anyone involved wants: everybody want things to work out according to plan – and it’s an ancient plan.

It gets worse. History and Scripture record many incidents of entire families, tribes and nations converting as the result of their leaders converting. Sometimes, as in the case of the early Spanish missionaries in the New World, villages elders would meet them, and then send them off if they didn’t want their religion, only to later (after the Guadalupana) decide that, yes, the village would convert. There’s no reason to think the other villagers objected – that’s just the way it was done, they are the elders for a reason, they make the call. We read in Acts 16 and 1 Corinthians 1 of entire households being baptized upon the conversion of the leader. Or entire nations, conquered in war, converting en mass because their new leaders said so. Once heard a story about a Viking priest who went to preach in a remote village, and was challenged by the local chieftain. They fought to the death, the priest won, and the village converted.

We humans are followers. That’s why Christ reserved the worst opprobrium for leaders who lead others astray. This would hardly warrant a whole millstone-tied-around-the-neck, cast-into-the-sea level of hellfire and brimstone unless almost all the people, almost all the time, are followers.

In this sense, what is called Original Sin might be called the Curse of the Followers. Once a bad path has been chosen, we followers really can’t do all that much about it on our own. What we need is a new Leader, a Savior, even, to follow down a better path. But once we find Him, we go all in on the following, we become as little children, as sheep who know their Shepherd.

The point here is that not following is not an option. We will follow, the only question is whom or what? Following the right leader is a great good, just as following the wrong leaders is all too literally the road to perdition.

In his beautiful Prayer after Communion, St. Thomas prays: “May it perfect me in charity and patience; in humility and obedience; and in all other virtues.” I am struck by the inclusion of ‘obedience’ in with charity, humility, and patience. Those last three virtues are big among Christians of all denominations; I don’t think anyone but a Catholic would understand obedience as used here, either in the sense Thomas means it or why he would name it as a major grace of the Eucharist. He means it in the sense another St. Thomas – St. Thomas More – lived it. (1)

St. Thomas More died, in his own words, “the King’s good servant, and God’s first.” He, following Aquinas, saw obedience to legitimate authority as a positive virtue, a full realization of humility, patience, and love. Obedience isn’t a grim duty, to be performed under duress or threat, but rather an opportunity to be eagerly embraced to live out charity and humility.

Of course, the virtue of obedience requires prudence and the knowledge of exactly how far the proper authority of a superior goes. More struggled mightily to find a way to obey his king, and only when this proved impossible did he try to retire from public life and keep his mouth shut. He could not consent, yet to the end he tried to honor Henry and do nothing to contradict him. He expressed his love and affection for his king right up to the moment that king had his head chopped off.

Both Aquinas and More thought obedience a virtue to be actively practiced. It was a positive good to promptly obey proper authority, a step on the way to greater holiness. Put another way, these saints strongly supported active, vigorous following.

Put the other way around, thinking you have what it takes to blaze your own trail is hubris bordering on lunacy. You? Me? We don’t know nothin’! The modern phenomenon is the most slavish followers professing how independent they are, different just like everybody else. Everything from getting tats to creating your own brand new gender is imagined by the victim as declarations of unique trail blazing and laudable bravery, when a look around would show everybody doing exactly the same thing. Many seem to believe unironically that only by slavish conformity can one be unique.

The paradox: we who would restore Christendom or even just Western Civilization need to become great leaders by becoming the most humble followers on earth.

  1. Credit must go to my younger daughter, soon off to South Sudan for a year, for much of this. She wrote a very good graduation thesis exploring what the St. Thomas’s – Aquinas and More – meant by obedience.

The Real Presence

Social media (the tiny corner I frequent, at any rate: Twitter & some blogs) has been discussing a stupid poll (1) showing most Catholics don’t believe in the the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Well. Not to put too fine a point on it, most Catholics couldn’t pick a monstrance out of a lineup of migratory waterfowl, so I’m not real surprised here. Subtle teachings like ‘show up for Sunday Mass’ and ‘no sex outside of marriage’ seem to truly baffle your average Catholic, in my experience. Don’t let your view of the knowledge level of the faithful get skewed by hanging out with the people who actually attend Mass with you; most of the people saying they’re Catholic in this poll probably couldn’t name three dogmas of the Church to save their lives. If they even know what a dogma is. (2)

Since everybody’s got their opinion on the cause and solution to this problem, I will not offer mine so much as simply quickly review how such a stupendous and stupefying claim was communicated to the faithful over the years. Spoiler: the Church used to be wise enough not to confront the searcher or believer with a mere Wall of Words. The meaning of the word transubstantiation is not difficult to grasp, but the Reality being described by the word is truly ineffable. It would be wise to appeal to more than just the verbal intellect when trying to communicate something as profound ad the Real Presence. Consider:

Interior of the Notre-Dame Basilica, located in the historic district of Old Montreal, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

This is the view you get when you walk in the main doors of Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. The art and architecture conspire to create beauty, mystery and focus. Nobody needs catechesis to understand something important is happening here, and where it is happening.

Walking down the center aisle, you get to the high altar:

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High Altar

There’s that Jesus fellow, front and center. Everything works together to tell you something important is here, something beautiful and mysterious.

Here’s another:

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York Minster, beautifully defining the skyline of York, as it has for 800 years.
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York Minster, West portals.
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Interior

The church in which the Blessed Sacrament is to be confected, consumed and reserved is the building in most traditional Catholic towns; in the larger towns and cities, there may be many churches, but generally, there is a main church – and no one can miss it. And in each, the art and architecture work together to draw attention to the main altar, which is what the building is built around, as it were.

Another:

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The Duomo, Milan.
High Altar

And on and on. Churches were constructed, from the very earliest days, to not just hold a congregation, but to give glory to God – and to help the people understand, through beauty, that something of infinite value was here. Nor were beautiful churches limited to major cities. Here is a church from a village in Southern Poland:

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Fewer resources to draw on, perhaps, but it doesn’t seem to matter: the people do the best they can, which is often spectacular.

If you’ve traveled to the older cities in the US much, you may have seen beautiful churches, often built by poor immigrants, all over the place. Up until maybe the 1950s, local Catholics building beautiful churches were the rule.

But this is just the start. A high mass sung in a great church is the greatest single work of art mankind has ever achieved.

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Something important, beautiful and precious is going on here. You don’t need a theology degree to see it.

Music, incense, pageantry, ritual, and the resulting solemnity all work with the building and artwork to convey one thing: this, here, is infinitely important. That’s how the Church for centuries treated the Real Presence; that’s how people came to know it and believe it. The teachings will always ring fantastical and hollow if the Church itself does not act as if it is true.

Now, if we just get the extraordinary ministers to approach the tabernacle with more reverence than if they were fetching a cup of sugar from a kitchen cabinet, that would be a start.

  1. Pretty much all polls are stupid; Pew polls doubly so, with their air of objectivity and Science! I imagine the Pew pollsters, if confronted with their obvious biases, would either give you a deer in the headlights stare, or, if really feeling it, a Snidely Whiplash mustache twirl and cackle. Or not. Maybe I should rephrase this: anyone who takes such polls as these at face value is stupid.
  2. As mentioned here, I’ve spent a good bit of time with the products of our local ‘Catholic’ prep schools – and, yea, well, um, not so much Catholic. OTOH, hanging out with the homeschooled Catholic crowd gives me a little hope. Leven, and all.

109th Anniversary: Oath Against Modernism

Yesterday, in 1910, Pope St. Pius X commanded “all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries” to swear an oath against modernism.

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I’m getting to be more and more a Pope St. Pius X fanboy the more I read about him. Not the society that took his name – they’re something else entirely – but the man, the pope, the saint.

Ah, the good old days. Give me that old time religion. If it was good enough for Pope St. Pius X, it’s good enough for me. (1)

The Catholic Encyclopedia, published between 1907 and 1913, doesn’t have an entry on this Oath, but does have an entry on Modernism, discussed here. One of these days, when I’m flush with spare time, I need to track down the fascinating connections between the authors and editors of this encyclopedia and Catholic University and the American hierarchy. Catholic University, from its founding in 1887, seems to have some pretty pronounced Modernist tendencies, mostly lurking in the often desperate desire of American Catholics, especially Irish American Catholics, to fit in in their new country, to join, as I generally put it here, the Cool Kids Club. Problem: the intellectual life of this new country, as modeled and lead by the Ivy League schools, was most definitely Modernist, with Hegel, Darwin and Marx being then, as they are today, the darlings of our self-appointed betters.

The Oracle Wikipedia says:

The writing of the encyclopedia began on January 11, 1905, under the supervision of five editors:

Charles G. Herbermann, Professor of Latin and librarian of the College of the City of New York
– Edward A. Pace, Professor of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Condé B. Pallen, editor
– The Rev. Thomas J. Shahan, Professor of Church History at The Catholic University
– The Rev. John J. Wynne, S.J., editor of Messenger of the Sacred Heart

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia#History

Note the presence of Fr. Edward A Pace, who has been discussed in connection with the history of American education on this blog. Here he is listed as a Professor of Philosophy at CUA, but elsewhere is noted as the first psychologist on the CUA faculty. In 1892 he became one of the first five psychologists elected to the American Psychological Association by its charter members. In the smatterings of his writings I’ve read so far, he, as is typical of the era, refers to his field as ‘scientific’ psychology, which causes my eyes to go full gimlet: that word ‘science’ they keep using? I don’t think it means what they think it means.

Pace and his star pupil Edward Shields are two key players in trying to make Catholic parish schools more professional, scientific and modern. They thought the untrained generally foreign teaching sisters who learned their craft by, essentially, apprenticing to more experienced sisters were an embarrassment in an age where public school teachers went to teaching colleges and got certified by the state. (2) Instead of the proven method of learning to teach from people who know how, Pace & co were ashamed that these dedicated women weren’t ‘scientifically’ trained and state approved. I am reminded of the concurrent fad of preferring mass-produced goods over hand made items, because some piece of crap furniture from a factory was cool and modern, while something made by an actual craftsman was pooh-poohed as out of date. (3)

So I have my doubts about just how dedicated to defeating Modernism American Catholic scholars and leaders were, back in 1910, let alone today. That the sainted pope thought it necessary to command an oath seems to say he wasn’t too convinced, either.

In the previous light discussions of Modernism here, I quoted the Catholic Encyclopedia article, written before or at least with no regard for the pope’s oath, on modernism:

A full definition of modernism would be rather difficult. First it stands for certain tendencies, and secondly for a body of doctrine which, if it has not given birth to these tendencies (practice often precedes theory), serves at any rate as their explanation and support.

The Oath removes a bit of the haziness expressed in the Catholic Encyclopedia article. A summarized by Catholic Answers, which bullet-points the sections of the Oath, Modernism is the assertion that:

  1. God cannot be known and proved to exist by natural reason;
  2. External signs of revelation, such as miracles and prophecies, do not prove the divine origin of the Christian religion and are not suited to the intellect of the modern man;
  3. Christ did not found a Church;
  4. The essential structure of the Church can change;
  5. The Church’s dogmas continually evolve over time so that they can change from meaning one thing to meaning another;
  6. Faith is a blind religious feeling that wells up from the subconscious under the impulse of a heart and a will trained to morality, not a real assent of the intellect to divine truth learned by hearing it from an external source.

Gee, sound like anything you hear today?

I don’t know from a practical perspective whether an oath is a good or functional way of correcting a purposely muddled world, but it is sad to see the clarity it provided so utterly ignored today. That the message the Oath was trying to send has been utterly defeated (see, e.g., all large ‘Catholic’ universities) I hold to be self-evident.

Chesterton reminds us that the Church has died, been murdered and committed suicide several times over the last 2,000 years, only, like her Founder, to rise again. Here’s hoping and praying. Pope St. Pius X – pray for us!

  1. I’ve long thought that old Bible-thumper song was good, in and of itself, it just needed the right set of patriarchs and matriarchs to whose authority we should appeal for direction to the true religion: if it’s good enough for Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyon, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa of Avila, darn straight it’s good enough for me!
  2. Bella Dodd on her experiences in education school (School of Darkness, p 135): “I, myself, had given educational policy scant attention . Little that was controversial had been included in my education courses at Hunter College, and in my graduate work I had steered clear of such courses, feeling that my main emphasis must be on subject matter. I held to an old-fashioned theory that if a teacher knew her subject, and had a few courses in psychology and liked young people, she should be able to teach. I had been horrified to see teachers, who were going to teach mathematics or history or English, spend all the time of their graduate work in courses on methods of teaching.”
  3. The Arts & Crafts movement was a reaction to this fad by people somewhat immune to herd psychology..

Hagiography as a Door to History

Whether you are Catholic or not, reading the lives of the saints, especially the ones over the last 500 years or so, opens a door into history and particularly modern history. It’s that context thing I keep going on about.

Today, researching the Feasts & Faith meeting I will be leading tonight at our parish, came across the challengingly-named Blessed Scipion-Jérôme Brigeat Lambert (I’d have pronounced Lambert right first try!) who lived from 1733-1794 and was beatified in 1995 by Pope St. John Paul the Great.

He was a priest and scholar who died of starvation and general physical abuse aboard the good ship Washington (of all things!) in Rochefort, France. So, how does a priest and scholar end up imprisoned and left to die on one of the Hulks of Rochefort? By refusing to sign the French Revolution’s oath of loyalty to the new constitution. What’s that, you ask? The Oracle Wikipedia puts it thus:

The Civil Constitution of the Clergy (French: “Constitution civile du clergé”) was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that caused the immediate subordination of the Catholic Church in France to the French government. Earlier legislation had already arranged the confiscation of the Catholic Church’s French land holdings and banned monastic vows. This new law completed the destruction of the monastic orders, outlawing “all regular and secular chapters for either sex, abbacies and priorships, both regular and in commendam, for either sex”, etc. It also sought to settle the chaos caused by the earlier confiscation of Church lands and the abolition of the tithe. Additionally, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy regulated the current dioceses so that they could become more uniform and aligned with the administrative districts that had recently been created. It emphasised that officials of the church could not provide commitment to anything outside France, specifically the Papacy (due to the great power and influence it wielded), which was based outside France. Lastly, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy made Bishops and Priests elected. By having members of the Clergy elected the church lost much of the authority it had to govern itself and was now subject to the people, since they would vote on the Priest and Bishops as opposed to these individuals being appointed by the church and the hierarchy within.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Constitution_of_the_Clergy

Wikipedia, reflecting the modern ‘enlightened’ view of the world, states with little comment and no sense of irony the notion that ‘the people’ would elect their bishop and even their parish priest. Which people would that be? The good, enlightened, and morally superior people, no doubt, as evidenced by their unquestioned embrace and support of the French Revolution. Which would make them atheists, at least. As stated, it’s as if this is merely a case of rejecting foreign meddling in internal French politics, not all out war on the Church by atheist proponents of the Goddess Reason.

This is the same Revolutionary government that slaughtered around a couple hundred thousand French peasants in the Vendee for the crime of NOT embracing the Revolution with sufficient enthusiasm. Those benighted peasants – women and children as well as men – needed to die, as they rejected the Revolution as it was manifested in their bucolic backwater. The Revolution drafted their young men to fight for the Revolution (and, necessarily, for atheism and against the Church) and seized church and other property and otherwise made a show of force.(1)

Image result for goddess reason

Being enlightened and all, the Revolutionary French military simply labeled all the people of the Vendee ‘brigands’ for the crime of fighting back; they took to killing people, including children, by bayonetting them through the gut, so they could dies slowly and in agony. Many – again, women and children along with the men – were marched to the rivers, stripped naked, tied together with rope and shoved into the water to drown. The more attractive women and girls were of course raped, sometimes to death, before execution. Hurray, Reason?

Similarly, most days on the liturgical calendar have some Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War. For example, here’s the set for September 4:

Picking one at random, let’s see who Blessed Jose Bleda Grau was:

Blessed José Bleda Grau

Franciscan Capuchin friar, professed on 2 February 1901. Worked as a beggar and tailor for his religious community in Orihuela, Alicante, Spain; he developed a relationship with the people of his city based on his humility, piety and charity. When the antiCatholicpersecutions of the Spanish Civil War began, he fled to his home village and hid with family. The militia found him on the night of 30 August 1936, spent five days abusing him, and finally killed him. Martyr.

Blessed José Bleda Grau

The enlightened, loving and gentle Commies put a bullet in the back of this man’s head. Scientific socialism at its finest.

What I’ve gained from reading about these guys is, frankly, a lot more sympathy for Franco, who has always been portrayed as little better than Hitler. For years, you had Marxists roaming the country, dragging priests, religious and lay people out of their monasteries and churches, and then torturing and killing them in what they no doubt considered amusing ways. Hundreds and hundreds of people died this way.

So when Franco starts in rounding up and summarily executing Communists, we may not like it, civilized trials are certainly to be preferred, but it sure looks like a man killing plague rats. Marxists do their best to hide behind the law when they don’t have power, only to dispense with the law as soon as they do. As usual, Marxist want to hold us to civilized behavior while rejecting it themselves.

And so on. The numbers of martyrs killed by self-identified Progressive ideologies over the last 250 years starts to get numbing. Viet Nam. Mexico. Spain. China. France. A little farther back, and you have the English martyrs. In their hundreds and thousands, these saints not only show great bravery and holiness, but also illustrate the secular world’s hatred for the Church and her Lord that is never far from the surface.

Today, in this country, people routinely get away with and are often applauded for identifying Christians and particularly Catholics as enemies of Progress, and the meanest people! New laws are written against us; old laws creatively interpreted to put us in the wrong. History shows that it is not paranoia to worry we’re only inches from yet another reckoning, another round of murders. And the killers will applaud themselves for their forward thinking and willingness to finally take action to correct egregious wrong. There will be a hundred Margaret Clitherows dying for every Guy Fawkes, a hundred little old ladies, moms and monks for every person who at least looks like a dangerous criminal. This is not paranoia. This is history.

  1. Read somewhere (here I go again!) that what we think of as France is a creation, over centuries, of the dominant culture of Paris being ruthlessly enforced on the surrounding, often conquered, territories. Burgundy, for example, had a culture and language fairly distinct from what you’d have heard in Paris a few centuries ago, But the Burgundians lost and the Parisians won, so there you go.