Friday, April 25, 2014

"Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!" Is it God who is dead or is it Nietzsche?

In my mind's eye, I envision a meeting of the New York Times editorial board on a fine spring day during the week before Easter. "Easter's coming up," I imagine the Editorial Page Editor saying, "and we need a Sunday op ed essay that debunks Christianity in a subtle and nuanced way."

"How about this?" one editorial board member suggests. " Let's find a professor to write an obscure, pedantic op ed essay on Nietzsche."

"Great idea!" the Editorial Editor exclaims.  "Let's do it!"

And so on Easter Sunday, the Times printed an essay by Simon Critchley, a philosophy professor at the New School for Social Research, entitled "Abandon (Nearly) All Hope."

Like so many New York Times op ed  writers, Critchley managed to be long winded and almost completely incomprehensible using relatively few words.  His essay wandered about in a disjointed fashion, making references to Aeschylus, Rev.  Jeremiah Wright, Thucydides, Barack Obama, and Nietzsche.

But the heart of his essay is the argument that it is a bad thing to have hope that is not based on reason--an audacious argument to make on Easter Sunday. "Is hope always such a wonderful thing?" Critchley asks. "Is it not rather a form of moral cowardice that allows us to escape from reality and prolong human suffering?"

Critchley ends his essay with a quote from Nietzsche: "Hope is the evil of evils because it prolongs man's torment." Often, Critchley concludes, "by clinging to hope, we make the suffering worse."

Critchley does not attack Christianity directly.  He centers his criticism of hope on unrealistic hopes in contemporary politics.  "When democracy goes astray, as it always will," Critchley argues, " the remedy should not be some idealistic belief in hope's audacity, which ends up sounding either cynical or dogmatic or both."  No, Critchley asserts, "The remedy, in my view, is a skeptical realism, deeply informed by history."

Whatever that means.

As I read Critchley's essay, I thought of all the Christians across the world who made critical decisions about their lives based not on skeptical realism but on hope.  Was it realistic, for example, for Saint Edith Stein to turn herself in to the Nazis and later be gassed to death rather than pursue the more sensible option of attempting an escape to Switzerland?  Was it realistic for Saint Maximilian Kolbe to give up his life on behalf of another in the Auschwitz death camp when he had a pretty good chance of surviving if he only kept his mouth shut?

And what about Pope John Paul II, who was wracked by physical pain during the last years of his life? Was it moral cowardice for him to live in hope?  Didn't he just prolong his own physical suffering by continuing to live? Wouldn't it have been more sensible for John Paul to have submitted to euthanasia?  For, as Nietzsche famously put it, "The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night."

Why does any Christian live by faith? Why do Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and maintain the childlike belief that they will be with God when they die? I think nonchristians regard Christians are intellectual cowards who cling to childish beliefs in life after death because they lack Nietzsche's supposedly cheerful resignation that when we are dead we are just dead. Period.

But of course, Nietzsche died a madman, and it is a bit silly to evoke him on an Easter Sunday in the Times.

That is not my point, however. My point is simply this. Christians live by faith that God is present in their lives and in the world around them. They believe they are in the arms of God from the moment of birth until they die and that they will continue to be with God after they die.  And of course Catholics are sustained by Christ's real presence in the Eucharist.

And whether we amass great riches in our lifetime and wield enormous temporal power or we die agonizing and obscure deaths like those endured by Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein, we know God is with us.  That is what sustains us. That is the true audacity of hope.



References

Simon Critchley. Abandon (Nearly) All Hope. New York Times, April 20, 2014, Sunday Review Section, p. 8.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Happy are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb: Let us pray for our recent Catholic converts

St. Kateri Tekakwitha
I grew up as a Methodist in southwestern Oklahoma, but almost all my school friends belonged to evangelical Protestant churches. Those were the days when Protestants routinely went to church three times a week and held week-long Revivals at least once a year.

I often went to church with my evangelical Protestant friends and even went to their churches' revivals if I was invited.  Protestant preachers preached fiery sermons in those days--long on descriptions of the fires of hell and short on mercy. The object was to scare the bejeebers out of people--particularly any unchurched people who happened to be in attendance.

Preachers would generally bring the church service to a close with an "altar call" when they would invite people to come down to the front of the church and profess their belief in the Christian faith and join the congregation.  If an unbaptized person came forward, the preacher often baptized the new convert on the spot.  In other words, in the evangelical Protestant churches of my youth, the conversion process was quick--often lasting only a couple of hours.

Well the Catholics don't operate that way. Except in extraordinary circumstances, adult Catholic converts are baptized only once a year--at the Easter Vigil Mass.  The preparation for baptism and communion with the Catholic Church is lengthy, generally lasting six or seven months. An adult preparing to convert to Catholicism is called a catechumen and is usually required to attend once-a-week study sessions where they are introduced to Catholic doctrine.

And prior to baptism and first Communion, the catechumen participates in several preliminary rites: the Rite of Election, the First Scrutiny, the Second Scrutiny, the Third Scrutiny and the Ephpheta rite, which usually takes place early on the day of baptism.

In other words, joining the Catholic Church as an adult is not for sissies.  Thus, I am always moved at the Easter Vigil Mass to see people step forward to be baptized into the Catholic faith.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
How many Americans join the Catholic Church each year as adults? Between 60,000 and 70,000 I've been told, which is not so many when one considers that the total membership of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is about 70 million.  In my parish church on the LSU campus, only four adults were baptized at the Easter Vigil Mass--a small number out of an LSU student body of more than 30,000. And then we generally have about 35 to 40 people enter the Church from the Protestant denominations and are already baptized.

Still--altogether, less than 50 people a year join the Catholic Church in our parish.  Given the fact that a lot of people leave the Catholic Church as adults--the people who call themselves "recovering Catholics"--it is a miracle that the Church stays so strong.

In fact the Church reminds me a bit of the old joke about the flamboyant used care salesman who makes this pitch: "I buy cars high and sell cars low. How do I stay in business? I'm damned lucky!"

But I am not worried about the future of the Catholic Church. For one thing, as Dorothy Day pointed out, the Catholic Church is the Church of the poor. As long as we have poor people, we will have Catholics. And of course, America has been blessed by millions of Catholic immigrants from all over the world.

And whether they be few or many, our Catholic converts are the leaven of the Church. I know dozens of Catholic converts--all are enthusiastic in their faith and most are quite knowledgeable about it. I don't know a single person who converted to Catholicism as an adult who later left the Church.

And so let us pray for all the adult converts who joined the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass, confident that many of them--like converts Dorothy Day, St. Edith Stein, G. K. Chesterton, Thomas Merton, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton--will shine like brilliant lights before the world, testaments by their faithful lives to the the living truth of Catholicism.

Like all human beings, God called these people to to the Supper of the Lamb.  And through some mystery, some working of the Holy Spirit, these people turned in the midst of their adult lives to the Lord's table.  Happy indeed are those who were called to the Lord's Supper and had the grace, the humility and the courage to accept the invitation.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Grand Day to Be Catholic: Holy Thursday at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Lafayette, Louisiana

The elitist media like to portray the American Catholic Church as a faltering institution, disheartened by the sexual abuse scandal and suffering from dwindling membership.  I wish the journalists who describe our Church that way would visit Lafayette, Louisiana.

I stood outside the doors of St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Lafayette Thursday morning as priests poured out its doors after the Holy Thursday  Chrism Mass for the priests of Lafayette Diocese.  There must have been more than one hundred priests, all dressed in white vestments, looking like a flock of white doves swirling around the ancient palm trees in front of the cathedral.

St. John the Evangelist Cathedral
Lafayette, Louisiana
And a more multicultural group would be hard to imagine. Of course there were elderly grey-haired fathers that might fit the elitist media's stereotype of a typical Catholic priest.  But there were others who were obviously from India, where our Church has obtained so many priests in recent years. I saw two young Asian priests leave the cathedral together, probably Vietnamese.  South Louisiana has been blessed by the Vietnamese diaspora that settled in our region after the Vietnam War.  Almost all of these good people are Catholic and they have produced more than their fair share of vocations.

And there were several African American priests and priests who appeared to be Creole--men of mixed African American and Native American heritage.  These priests come from the African American and Creole Catholic communities that were nurtured and strengthened by Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament during the 1920s and 1930s, when St. Katharine established dozens of Catholic schools for the African American and Creole population of South Louisiana.

Watching the fathers leave the cathedral with me were several Catholic school children, the boys wearing white shirts and ties and the girls wearing their distinctive plaid skirts.  I heard them call out their greetings to individual priests as they spotted their own local pastor walk by.

Although it was Holy Thursday--the most somber of days, the weather was gloriously sunny. Even the tombs in the cemetery surrounding the Cathedral seemed to exude the cheerful holiness of Cajun Catholicism.  It was a grand day to be Catholic and to commemorate Holy Thursday with these good people.

As the white-garbed priests flowed around me, I thanked God that my guardian angel had led me out of the barren wastelands of Protestantism and the dismal swamps of postmodern American culture and guided me to the the lovely Catholic Church--my true mother.

The psalmist assured me I would know God's goodness in the land of the living, and indeed the psalmist was right.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Two Americas--where one man makes more in 20 minutes than a widow survives on for a year

Two stories in today's Times caught my eye. According to a report in the Business section, Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, makes $37,692 an hour--that's right, 37 grand an hour. Meanwhile, another Times article told the story of Carol Cascio, a widow, who lives on $900 per month.  She had hoped for an additional $400 per month from her deceased husband's pension--which would just be a few seconds of Mr. Ellison's salary--but the pension fund went belly up and she will get nothing.

Obama in Silicon Valley
Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House

And the disparity is even worse than that. According to the Times story, Ms. Cascio borrowed money to finance her daughter's education.  In fact, she was hoping to pay back the loan with the pension money she will not be getting.

There's something wrong with a nation in which one American makes three times as much in an hour as another person lives for in a year.  And this is taking place in Barack Obama's America--the man who was supposed to bring us hope and change. And yet President Obama spends much more time with people like Mr. Ellison--wealthy people who can make campaign contributions--than people like Carol Cascio, who can do nothing to help Mr. Obama fill the Democratic Party's campaign coffers.

At least Ms. Cascio can take bankruptcy, you may be thinking, and discharge the education loan, assuming it has not been paid back.  Probably not.  Even someone in Ms. Cascio's situation will find it difficult to discharge an educational loan in bankruptcy.  In fact, the Department of Education recently opposed bankruptcy discharge for a student-loan debtor who is a paraplegic and only owed $14,000!  That's right, President Obama's Department of Education wanted the young man who is paralyzed from the neck down to sign up for a 25-year repayment plan.  Fortunately, a federal bankruptcy judge was a bit more compassionate than the Department of Education and discharged this poor man's education loan.

As Catholics, we should think long and hard about the nation we have become--a nation in which wealthy pet owners call themselves "pet parents" and buy toys for their dogs to stimulate their pets' brains; a nation in which our leading and most respected newspaper printed a story about the new fashion trend in which wealthy women groom their public hair; a nation in which millions of  people living on the boundary of poverty have college loans they can't pay back.

The people who run our country--President Obama's arrogant, power obsessed Ivy League bureaucrats; the media elite; and corporate oligarchs like Oracle's Larry Ellison--actually believe they are smarter and more sensitive than the average American holding down a job and raising a family.

But the people who run our country are nothing more than self-absorbed children who grab for all the power, money and recognition they can get while millions of decent Americans suffer economic hardship--hardship that grows worse with each passing day.

The people who run our country believe they are liberal; they believe they are sensitive; they believe they are progressive.  But all it means to be a liberal in today's America is to vote the Democratic ticket, watch Jon Stewart on television, and show a proper degree of scorn toward the smucks who still adhere to traditional Christian values--Catholics in particular.

References

Peter Eavis. Invasion of the Supersalaries. New York Times, April 13, 2014, Business Section, p. 1.

David Hochman. You'll Go Far My Pet. New York Times, April 13 2014, Sunday Styles Section, p. 1.

Marisa Meltzer. Below the Bikini Line, A Growing Trend. New York Times, January 29, 2014. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/fashion/Brazilian-bikini-wax-women-hair-removal.html?_r=0


Myhre v. United States Department of Education, 503 B.R.  698 (Bkrtcy Rep. Wis. 2013).

Mary Williams Walsh, Thought Secure, Pooled Pensions Teeter and Fall. New York Times, April 13, 2014, p. 1.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stridently pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be excommunicated: A tribute to Archbishop Joseph Rummel, who defied the Ku Klux Klan

Everywhere we see  politicians who claim to be faithful Catholics but who embrace the culture of death. Nancy Pelosi, the stridently pro-abortion cheerleader, is the worst of the lot; but there are others: Secretary of State John Kerry, for example, who flamboyantly made the sign of the cross in Kiev recently, supports abortion.  And then there is Andrew Cuomo, who claims to be a Catholic but who said there was no place for right-to-lifers in the state of New York.  And let's not forget Kathleen Sebelius--who vetoed abortion restrictions in Kansas while she was governor of that state and who has been banned from communion.

Why haven't these people been excommunicated? Where are our courageous bishops?

We once had courageous bishops in the United States. Archbishop Joseph Rummel, for example, who presided over the New Orleans Archdiocese from 1935 until 1964, desegregated Catholic schools during the early 1960s over ferocious opposition from racists, including the Ku Klux Klan. Segregationists campaigned to have Catholics fired from their jobs if they sent their children to integrated Catholic schools.  Archbishop Rummel kept one school open for four months without a single child in attendance until someone finally burned the school down.

Rummel faced fierce opposition from Leander Perez, a rabid racist Louisiana politician and member of the Dixiecrat party. Perez and two other prominent racists were so strident in their opposition to racial integration that Rummel excommunicated them.

Archbishop Rummel was a man of great courage.  Although he moved cautiously and did everything he could not to antagonize white Catholics who feared school integration, Rummel never wavered in his commitment to racial justice, which he understood as an imperative Catholic value.

We need bishops like Archbishop Rummel now--men who will stand up to pro-abortion politicians who are in fact the angels of death.  It's time some of these people were excommunicated.  I respectfully recommend that the Church start by excommunicating Nancy Pelosi.



Note:  Information about Archbishop Rummel and Leander Perez largely comes from Wikipedia articles about the two men. 






Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Has U.S. News and World Report joined the Kulturkampf? A response to Jamie Stiehm's attack on Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Last January, Jamie Stiehm published an article on U.S. News and World Report's web site entitled, "The Catholic Supreme Court's War on Women." The object of Ms. Stiehm's wrath was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who had enjoined the U.S.government from enforcing the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive-coverage mandate against the Little Sisters of the Poor  while the Little Sisters pursued litigation challenging the provision's constitutionality as it applied to them.

Jamie Stiehm
photo credit: creators.com
The Little Sisters, you remember, had gone to court, arguing that the Affordable Care Act's provision forcing them to provide their employees with contraceptives through the Little Sisters' health insurance  plan was a violation of the religious order's right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment.  Their case is now awaiting a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ms.Stiehm accused Justice Sotomayor of "put[ting] religion ahead of jurisprudence" when she enjoined enforcement of the law against the Little Sisters. According to Stiehm, Sotomayor had acted like "a good Catholic girl" when she issued the order and had betrayed women's health and human rights based on her Catholic convictions.

Stiehm went on to attack the entire Catholic Church, charging Catholics--more than other religious groups--with trying to impose their religious beliefs on others. Then, striking a note of almost hysterical hyperbole, Stiehm wrote that "there' no such thing as Catholic justice or mercy for women on the Supreme Court, not even from a woman."

Frankly, Ms. Stiehm's essay is so biased and misguided that I wonder about her professionalism as a journalist.  More importantly, I wonder about the professionalism and objectivity of U.S. News and World Report as a news source. How could this respected news organization have printed such an unfair attack on Justice Sotomayor and the Catholic Church in general?

Let's look at the the event that triggered Ms. Stiehm's wrath. First of all, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, numerous organizations have filed lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act's mandatory contraceptive-coverage provision, and federal courts have granted temporary delays against enforcement of its controversial provision in 19 out of 20 cases (Carmon, 2014). In granting the Little Sisters a temporary injunction, Justice Sotomayor was simply doing what numerous lower courts had been doing in similar litigation.

Secondly, there is no basis for claiming that Catholic Supreme Court Justices are waging a war on women.  If the six Catholic Justices were inclined to render decisions based solely on their religious convictions, Roe v. Wade would have been overturned by now, and it has not been overturned.

Nor has the Supreme Court stepped in to reverse decisions by lower federal courts that have struck down various state constitutional provisions defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman even though this is an issue of vital importance to Catholics.

In my view, it was irresponsible of U.S. News & World Report to publish Ms. Stiehm's essay. Repeated media attacks on the Catholic Church are reminiscent of Germany's Kutlurkampf, when 19th century German liberals backed legislation to persecute Catholics. I would have expected something like this from the New York Times and Frank Bruni, the Times' anti-Catholic rottweiler (to borrow the term Times writers have used to describe Pope Benedict).  But I am surprised that U.S. News and World Report has sunk to such a low level of journalistic bias.

 Bill Donohue, founder of the Catholic League, has called on U.S. News & World Report to fire Stiehm for "anti-Catholic bigotry."  I hope this  once-respected news magazine does censor Stiehm, but I doubt that it will.

Maybe it is time for Catholics to start boycotting newspapers and media that publish anti-Catholic screeds.  I don't subscribe to U.S. News and World Report. But if I did, I would cancel my subscription.

References

Irin Carmon. Sotomayor delays birth control mandate for Catholic groups. MSNBC online, January 1, 2014. Available at: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc-18

Holly McKay. Catholic League wants writer fired for 'bigotry in column. Fox News Online, January 9, 2014. Available: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/01/09/catholic-league-wants-writer-to-be-fired-for-bigoted-column/

Jamie Stiehm. The Catholic Supreme Court's War on Women. U.S. News & World Report Online, January 7, 2014. Available at: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/jamie-stiehm/2014/01/07/the-catholic-supreme-courts-war-on-women



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mary in a Grilled Cheese Sandwich: With Whom Would You Choose to Share Eternity?

Ana Gantman and Jay Van Bavel published an essay in today's New York Times in which they offered a psychological explanation for a recurring tabloid phenomenon: reports by people who claim to have seen Mary in a humble and unlikely place: a tortilla, for example, the crook of a tree or a grilled cheese sandwich.

According to Gantman and Van Bavel, there is a scientific explanation for these strange sightings.   "The psychological phenomenon of seeing something significant in an ambiguous stimulus is called pareidolia,"  the authors gravely informed us.

Gantman and Van Bavel's essay is the latest in a series of New York Times commentaries assuring us that religious belief can be scientifically explained--through sociology, anthropology, or psychology. Remember T.M. Luhrmann's essay that appeared awhile back?  There is a anthropological label for people who are inflexible in their religious convictions, Luhrmann informed us.  The word is schismogenesis. I am so embarrassed not to have known that!

I confess that I rejoice every time I learn that someone has discovered Mary in a food item.  To me these little incidents are reminder, as Andrew Greeley pointed out, that Catholics live in a grace-filled world.  We see the divine in the ordinary events of our lives.  We know the Holy Spirit may come upon us unawares--when we least expect it.  After all, if Christ is present in the Eucharistic bread, surely Mary might appear from time to time in a tortilla or a cookie.

Most of the people who report these charming Marian visitations are humble people. Often they are poor and have little formal education.  As far as I know, the people at Goldman Sachs are not seeing Mary in their bonus checks.  But wouldn't the world be a better place if they did?

If there is an eternity--and I believe there is, with whom would we wish to share it? Personally, I would rather share it with a person who saw Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich than with Ana Gantman and Jay Van Basel, who would describe such an event as pareidolia.  

References

Ana Gantman & Jay Van Bavel. Is That Jesus in Your Toast? New York Times, April 6, 2014, Sunday Review Section, page 12.

Andrew Greeley. The Catholic Imagination. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.

Danny Hakim. Obama's Tresury Nominee Got Unusual Exit Bonus on Leaving N.Y.U. New York Times, February 25, 2013. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/nyregion/lew-treasury-nominee-got-exit-bonus-from-nyu.html?_r=0

"The New Gay Orthodoxy": Just as Intolerant as Elizabethan England

St. Margaret Clitherow,
According to Frank Bruni of the New York Times, a "new gay orthodoxy" now prevails in American politics.  Bruni believes it is now almost politically unthinkable for anyone holding public office to oppose any part of the gay agenda, including its drive for same-sex marriage. And of course, Bruni is largely right. There are a few regions in the country where an elected Congressperson might oppose same-sex marriage--the rural South perhaps. But by and large, the new Gay orthodoxy has swept all naysayers aside--at least in the political arena.

Indeed, the new gay orthodoxy has now taken hold in the business world. People who oppose the new orthodoxy are no longer considered qualified to be business leaders, as Brendan Eich recently found out. Eich contributed to a fund dedicated to opposing same-sex marriage in California, and last week he resigned under pressure as chief executive of Mozilla.

One online writer who commented on Eich's fate said, Mozilla should now "go after" practicing Catholics, practicing Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and the parents of Boy Scouts.  I couldn't determine whether the commentator was making a serious statement or merely being sarcastic.

It is fitting that Bruni used the word "orthodoxy"--a religious term--to describe this phenomenon because the "new gay orthodoxy" is as intolerant toward dissent as orthodox Christianity was in the sixteenth century.  Henry VIII established a new religious orthodoxy for England when he created the Church of England, and his daughter Queen Elizabeth enforced it savagely. St. Margaret Clitherow, an adult convert to Catholicism, was executed in 1586 for refusing to renounce her Catholic faith.

Margaret died a horrible death. First, she was stripped naked and laid down with a sharp rock beneath her back. A board was then placed over her and rocks were slowly piled on the board until she was crushed to death.

As an adult convert to Catholicism myself, I feel a special a special kinship with all adult converts and a deep admiration for all converts who were martyred: Margaret Clitherow, who was pressed to death in 1586, Edith Stein who died at Auschwitz in 1942, and the Ugandan martyrs, who were burned to death by the king of Buganda during the years 1885-1887.

I acknowledge, of course, that the Catholic Church is itself guilty of savage intolerance.  Perhaps 3,000 people were executed under the Spanish Inquisition, and the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in France is an everlasting stain upon the Church.

But I thought we had gotten beyond all of that.  In our present progressive era, aren't we supposed to be tolerant of other people's religious beliefs? Isn't that what the First Amendment is about?

Apparently not. In fact, in our postmodern age, words like tolerance don't mean what they once meant. Today, a mark of tolerance is intolerance toward Christians, particularly Catholics and evangelical Protestants.  Likewise, abortion advocates argue the necessity of killing unborn children in order to help women lead better lives. And Barack Obama, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, directs drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen even while proclaiming a new progressive world order.

Thus, in our brave new postmodern world, tolerance means intolerance, violence means peace, and life means death.

Most of the people who embrace the new orthodoxy believe they are on the right side of history--that is it is only a matter of time before Catholicism is extinguished as a living faith and becomes nothing more than a civic organization like the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians. Like the nineteenth century German liberals who launched the Kulturkampf, America's postmodern elites believe that Catholicism's days are numbered.

But Catholicism survived the Kulturkampf just as it survived the Elizabethan terror of 16th century England.  It will certainly survive the new gay orthodoxy that Frank Bruni correctly perceives is now ascendant in American culture.

References

Frank Bruni. The New Gay Orthodoxy. New York Times, April 6, 2014, Sunday Review section, p. 3.

Michael B. Gross. The War Against Catholicism. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Margaret T. Monro. St. Margaret Clitherow: "The Pearl of York". Rockford, Ill: TAN Books, 1946.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

And the insults just keep on coming! Barack Obama gives a Pope-blessed rosary to Nancy Pelosi

Barack Obama is not as smart as he thinks he is, but he is no dummy. He knew exactly what he was doing when he gave a rosary that had been blessed by Pope Francis to Nancy Pelosi, one of the nation's leading evangelists for abortion.

Photo credit:Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, has labeled Pelosi's support for abortion as "grave sin" and has called for her to be excluded from communion.  So when President Obama gave a blessed rosary to Pelosi, he surely knew he was publicly insulting the Pope, American Catholics, and the Catholic faith.

As I wrote recently, Barack Obama is not this country's first openly anti-Catholic president.  John Adams, America's second president, nursed a seething hatred for the Catholic Church, which he described as "the successor of the Apostle Judas and the grand vicar of Satan" (Metzger, 1962, p. 11). Adams, like most of the Anglo Protestant elites of his day, was a rabid anti-Catholic bigot, having inherited his prejudice from the Puritans, who hanged religious dissidents in Boston Common during the 17th century.

As a postmodernist, Barack Obama is an intellectual heir of malignant Puritan prejudice.  The Puritans were arrogant, smug, self-righteous, and narrow minded. They were incapable of showing respect toward anyone who did not share their own impoverished worldview.

Harvard was founded in this atmosphere of religious bigotry, and although Harvard today is one of the most secular places on earth, it retains its Puritanical smugness, which has morphed over the centuries into postmodern conceit.  Obama was educated at Harvard Law School, where he no doubt honed his postmodernist predilections.

I am no perfect Catholic, and I have a broad tolerance for other imperfect Catholics. But isn't it high time to excommunicate Nancy Pelosi, who flaunts her contempt for the most fundamental of all Catholic values--respect for human life?

References

Leslie Larson. Obama gifts Nancy Pelosi with rosary beads from Pope Francis. New York Daily News, April 2, 2014. Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/obama-nancy-pelosi-rosary-beads-pope-francis-article-1.1743042

Charles Metzger. Catholics and the American Revolution. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1962.

When you visit San Antonio, don't miss the Spanish missions

Most tourists who visit San Antonio spend their time on the Riverwalk, drinking watered-down margaritas and eating mediocre Mexican food. Many will visit the Alamo, which has a gift shop larger than the shrine itself. You can buy a faux coonskin cap for your grandchild there, which I highly recommend.

Few San Antonio tourists visit the Spanish missions, which line the San Antonio River near the city. There are five missions: San Jose, Concepcion, San Juan, Espada, and the Alamo. With the exception of the Alamo, all are active Catholic churches, even though the National Park maintains them as the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.

These missions are lovely examples of Spanish baroque architecture, perhaps the finest examples in the United States. Unlike the Spanish missions Junipero Sera found in California in the late 18th century, which were mostly adobe, all the San Antonio missions are built of stone.
Americans have largely ignored the Spanish contributions to American history, culture, art, religion, and architecture. And we have impoverished ourselves by our ignorance. As the great Catholic historian Christopher Dawson observed, Baroque culture in the New World exhibited "a rich flowering of regional types of art and architecture." Moreover, as Dawson pointed out, Baroque culture in New Spain showed the influence of Native American culture, seen most clearly in religious art.
Today, there has been a revival of Spanish-era religious art in Northern New Mexico, where artists have produced lovely retablos, bultos and altar screens that draw their inspiration from the religious art of the Spanish colonial era. Here we see artists reproduce the images of saints who were dear to the inhabitants of Catholic New Mexico from the 17th century through the 20th century. St. Isador, Santo Nino, Santiago, and San Pasqual were important saints in the northern Rio Grande Valley for more than four hundred years, and devout Catholic sought their aid in dealing with illness, drought, and the terrifying raids of the Apaches and Comanches.
As Dawson noted, the Spanish baroque culture of the New World drew on Native American influences, which puts it in stark contrast with the artistic expressions of Anglo America, where indigenous influences are entirely absent. Nothing illustrates the sharp difference between the Catholic imagination and Anglo Protestantism than a comparison of the severe and sharp-steepled New England Congregational churches with the warm and elaborately decorated Spanish-era churches of Texas, New Mexico and California--often constructed by Native American artisans.
So the next time you visit San Antonio, rent a car and drive down St. Mary Street until you get to the Spanish missions of 18th century San Antonio. Concepcion and San Jose are the loveliest. Be sure not to miss those two sites.
And as you stroll the grounds of these historic sites, reflect for a moment on the Catholic imagination that inspired the architecture of the Spanish missions. The people who built these missions were mystics--they believed in bilocation, in the intercession of the saints, in the real presence of Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.
And think what we lost as a people when Americans embraced the crabbed and impoverished worldview of the Puritans along with the welter of Protestant denominations that sprang pathologically from the Protestant American mind. Although our history books won't admit it, the Reformation was not motivated by a desire to stamp out corruption and superstition in the 16th century Catholic Church; it was fueled by hubris, materialistic greed, and political calculation--which has come to full fruition in the postmodern worldview of America's governing elites.


References

Christopher Dawson. The Dividing of Christendom. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1965. (Originally published by Sheed & Ward).