Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Truth Will Out

Props to Glenn Beck and Professor Ron Rychlak.  The latter has written a book about disinformation, and the former interviewed him today.  The topic is interesting in itself, but I really appreciated that the example they chose to highlight was the case of Pope Pius XII.  From the interview:

One such example is the how Pope Pius XII transformed from being considered someone who personally saved Jewish people during the Holocaust to being considered a Nazi sympathizer.

“I had written books about Pope Pius XII. He was people during World War II, recognized as a hero during the war, after the war, at the time of his death… a concert was played at the Vatican by the symphony from Israel as thanks of everything he had done… That was not really doubted until the 1960s,” Rychlak explained. “And in the 1960s, there was an active campaign, a play was at the heart of it, but the play wasn’t the only thing. There were books, lectures, speakers, and articles implanted. It’s not because they cared about the Pope. It’s because they cared about Western values. For example you take down a Pope, associate a pope with the Nazis – how can you trust that church? How can you trust Christianity itself? How can you really trust religion at some level?”
 More recent attempts, given a fair amount of airtime on NPR and the like, is that Pius XII was a good friend of Mussolini.  As if.

Given the tenacity of lies about Pope Pius XII, I'm grateful that this was highlighted in the interview when it didn't have to be; my guess, my hope, is that a fair amount of listeners who have been disinformed about this subject (and who may not be all that familiar with, or have good feelings for, the RCC) will now be encouraged to learn the truth.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Rise of Anti-Catholic Vitriol--To Speak or Not to Speak

I've been known to occasionally "get into it" with bullies in public places.  I once had words with someone in a grocery store because she was being mean to the woman in front of us.  Actually, I tapped her on the shoulder and told her to pipe down, she'd said enough.  She didn't like it.  Well, who would?  Especially ow that I'm a little older, I feel like I've grown another part of myself, a part who doesn't have patience with those who berate others in public.  I'm always a little surprised, actually, when this part of me speaks up.  I used to be much more shy.

I thought of this because of Fr. Longncker's piece on the truth about the Magdalene Laundries .  Apparently, as the case of the creation of Pius XII as "Hitler's Pope," the reports of abuse in the laundries don't exactly dovetail with "reality" created in a piece of fiction, in this case the film The Magdalene Sisters.   Fr. Longnecker points out the dangers of anti-Catholic propaganda masquerading as art:

This kind of argumentation is the dangerous stuff of pure propaganda and persecution. David Limbaugh has outlined the five stages of persecution:
1. stigmatizing the targeted group,
2. marginalizing its role in society,
3. vilifying it for alleged crimes or misconduct,
4. criminalizing it,
5. and finally, persecuting it outright.
He forgot one stage. After vilifying it for alleged crimes or misconduct comes the stage of exaggerating those alleged crimes and assigning the crimes of a few to a whole group in order to create in the minds of the population the idea that the marginalized group are all inhuman monsters.
As Fr. Longnecker points out, we need only look to comboxes for evidence of this trend. And he's right, of course--the ugliness towards the Church and Catholics in general in the comboxes of, say, the L.A. Times is actually nauseating.

Given this, how does a Catholic respond?  I'm not averse to wading into arguments; and a combox is a lot safer, probably, than the line at my local bakery.  Yet most of these people are impervious to reason and logic; one is wasting one's time and fingers offering, yet again, evidence that all priests were not abusers, all Catholics are not vile, and the name of George LeMaitre with a snarky "look it up!" to the charge the Church is anti-science.  Is it better to just let people vent and get it out of their systems, in the safety of the virtual world?

I don't know, maybe.  But about a month ago I was sitting outside of a Starbucks when two people struck up a conversation that meandered from how they were bilking the welfare system (pretty clever) into a conversation about the vile, filthy Catholic Church.  After praising themselves aloud for their tolerance of religion, they wondered, now loudly, how anyone could possibly belong to such an organization, one that promoted child rape.

I didn't say anything.  I had work to do, and I doubted that I would have shamed them.  I didn't want to have a public argument.  And also, there's something different about defending one's own religion to, say, defending a small child being picked on by an angry woman having a bad day.

But since that day, I've wondered if the ugliness spawned in our media is not now oozing out into the public in a way that is, frankly, frightening.  Would I have remained silent had the object of bigotry been something other than Catholicism?  I don't know.  Would they have felt as free and easy as they obviously did had they been speaking of another religion?  I can't help but think that the answer is no.

And I'm wondering about the price of silence, even in a combox or a Starbuck's patio.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Already Missing Him

Frank Weathers at Why I am Catholic has linked to a long blog post written by Pope Benedict about
Vatican II. He excerpts the final two paragraphs of the piece.  These paragraphs, this kind of writing in general, are exactly what I'm going to miss in a few short weeks. 

I work in a pretty liberal environment.  When I told some people that I was really going to miss this pope when the announcement was made, there was an uncomfortable silence while they waited for the punchline. There were looks of disbelief when they realized no joke was forthcoming.  The Catholics among them said, invariably, "Well, I really loved John Paul II." 

I said I didn't know that in the grab bag of popes to love, you could only choose one.*

The John Paul versus Benedict narrative crops up so much in these conversations because it suits the American political mentality:  You're either for Bush/Obama/Romney, etc. or agin, and, like the characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream, you must hate that which you do not love.

Of course, this is bizarre.  And misguided.  And silly.  And a whole bunch of other adjectives like that.

But here's what it really is:  it's the fruit of the media hermeneutic Pope Benedict describes in his post, when he writes that there were essentially two Councils operating in the wake of Vatican II, that of the faith, and then that of the media:

So while the whole council – as I said – moved within the faith, as fides quaerens intellectum, the Council of journalists did not, naturally, take place within the world of faith but within the categories of the media of today, that is outside of the faith, with different hermeneutics. It was a hermeneutic of politics. The media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the Church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world. (Emphasis mine).
And they continue to do so, and many Catholics continue to turn to this Council of the media to form their views.  There are reasons why this happens, and certainly the Church herself bears at least some of the guilt for this state of affairs.  Regardless, the media method of interpreting events has been devastating when applied to Vatican II:  devastating particularly to those of us who grew up in the choppy post-Council waters and who mistook the press narrative for a buoy. 

After this last election, one of my dearest friends said that he felt we were living no longer in a recognizable place, but rather in a simulacrum constructed of media narratives.  I thought this was a great, if rather depressing, description of something I've felt over the last few years as well.  Pope Benedict, in this post, has provided a detailed retelling of how this situation has emerged over the last half of the twentieth century, and into this one.  The virtual trumps the actual with such frequency we are left exhausted.  The carpet-bombs of unreality can seem impossible to combat; put out one fire, and five more crop up behind you.  The simulacrum is not easily dismantled.

Given this, I've been having some difficulty with Pope Benedict's decision. But like all good fathers when they're taking their leave, our papa offers us real hope and succor, when he assures us that the tide is turning, that the virtual is fading.  And then he writes:

We hope that the Lord will help us. I, retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious.


*In the interests of narrative honesty, I didn't say it, I thought it.  But I wish I'd said it, and maybe I will.  Next time.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Save a Prayer for the Morning After.

Prayers for the media, I mean, the morning after the next Pope turns out to be male, Catholic, and willing to uphold two hundred years of Catholic teaching.

There's some fun and no small amount of aggravation right now in watching numerous media outlets' wacky coverage of Pope Benedict's Big News.  The other morning, before I could even peel my eyelids open, I heard a reporter on NPR breathlessly speculating that This Could Be The End of the Papacy Altogether!  That lo, A New Era of Democracy as Outlined In Vatican II (???) Is Set To Begin!  Six a.m. is just much too early for that amount of stupid to pour out over the unsuspecting.

Elizabeth Scalia, Fr. Longnecker, and many others have already written great pieces about our poor, benighted press, and the many ironies we are now privileged to witness.  The press who is so quick to cry foul when the Church is perceived as stepping outside the tiny little cage they keep trying to erect is now happily sniffing around and offering up directives on how the Church ought to conduct herself henceforth.

It's like those times when a student who has appeared to be in a deep hostile sleep suddenly arouses herself to offer up a gem like, "But Shakespeare was gay, right?" And then you, because you're tactful and you feel kind of bad for her, try to explain that the language we use of sexual orientation didn't exist in the Renaissance, plus you just spent fifty minutes discussing this very subject.  But she's gone back to sleep with her eyes open, so she doesn't really hear you.

Having to read outright silliness like "Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope" and see CNN's flashy banner letting us "Why the Next Pope Must Open Up Church and Usher in Vatican III" feels a lot like that to me.  It makes Lent all the more Lenten.

I want to be all like this:

Shut It

But then I consider what's ahead.  For as wacked out as the media is right now, I can only imagine what's coming down the pike in March, when the dust settles, the Church marches forward once again.  Some of the media will move on, of course, but I also predict that many journalists, pundits and outlets are going to lose their collective minds.

That's my Lenten prophecy.

So seriously, I propose that this Lent, when one of these pieces of fallacious nonsense or outright quackwackery crosses your screen, pray the purveyor.  The disappointment is going to be acute, and they will not what hit them. We will, so we'll helpfully point out that their ideas about how things would change were misguided, and we've been talking about why for the past 2,000 years.  And if we're lucky, they'll have fallen back to sleep by then.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Creative Minority Report has a link to an article describing falling sperm counts among Frenchmen, most likely as result of the estrogen they are ingesting along with their water.

Instantly upon reading this, two thoughts came into my head.

First, wtach out for the Evian, American men. Stick to Dasani.

Second, this is the very premise of P.D. James utterly seductive and creepy book, The Children of Men.

In an now-apparently-not-to-distant-future, all of the sperm, everywhere in the world, have gone defunct.  There is no fertility--The Wasteland is made real.  Women are reduced to carrying cats around and throwing parties for them, they are so baby hungry. 

Actually, that sounds a lot like now.

Anyway, it certainly makes you think.

Good News on the HHS Mandate Front

According to Lifesite News, a federal judge has ruled that the Archdiocese of New York may continue with its lawsuit against the Obama administration.  Similar lawsuits have been dismissed when judges have agreed with the Obama administration's argument that the lawsuits are premature.

In this case, the judge issues a well-deserved smackdown to a foolish, arrogant administration.

Here's my favorite part:

However, Judge Brian Cogan slapped down the “safe harbor” argument, saying, “the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action.”
“There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution,” said the judge. “To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction.”
In this case, more than just a degree of skepticism.  As the judge pointed out, the administration has been twiddling its collective thumbs for the past 10 months, doing absolutely nothing to change the mandate, which was recorded as is, original language, full stop.

Now, if only more Americans could remember this notable absence in the Constitution, and proceed accordingly.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quick Takes: The Election via the Renaissance Edition


Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.

  See the king, and see all the people who make up his body?  
Because for Hobbes, the ideal government was a sovereign and a body politic 
who knew their place.  Government was what they all belonged to--sound familiar?
It's worth remembering that Hobbes named his book after this, though:


Machiavelli, The Prince

We remember Machiavelli, often, for the phrase "the ends justify the means." 
The HHS mandate, which was the groundwork for the trumped up but 
brilliantly successful"War on Women," is true Machiavellian genius at work. 
The English didn't care much for his work, which is why their plays are 
peppered with "Machiavels," like Iago:
Iago sounds reasonable because he doesn't, ultimately, care about anything but Iago.  
So he exploits those who do care, until they've lost everything.


Thomas More, Utopia

Before he was required to forfeit his life to the sovereign (see above)
in defense of religious freedom, More wrote his famous and enigmatic work,
Utopia. Some people think he was hiding his proto-Marxist leanings; I think
they're wrong.  I think it's a work about the folly of pretending imperfect humans
can possibly create a perfect world, especially one without religion.


Hans Holbein, The Ambassadors

What's that weird image at the bottom, you ask?  Why, it's a skull--that is, a memento mori,
which literally means "remember you will die."  Elizabethans were fond of
keeping the skull around, as an invitation to humility and the pondering of
one's inevitable end.  You might remember this, for example:
Hamlet, The Graveyard Scene

That's Sir Lawrence Olivier resting his living cheek  on the skull of poor,
dead Yorick, the fellow of infinite jest.  Hamlet knew that to fight the state
would prove costly, and yet he knew, eventually, it had to be done.

Now, if you've come this far with me, you might find this one interesting in light of the last two:


Hans Holbein, Utopia-as-memento-mori

That's a map in the shape of a skull, in case you had doubt
about the ultimate endgame of the utopian dream.


What does all of this mean?  Sigh,  I don't know.  I just know that I keep thinking about power, and people who believe we can have a perfect world even though we're imperfect ourselves, and are willing to lie and act like Machiavels to reach their good ends.  I'm thinking of the hated 1%, and what happens to those who get scapegoated or who won't comply with the new order.  I'm thinking about the manipulation of language, and the deal we're supposed to strike, which reminds me of this image, which predates the Renaissance but whose truth its painters knew in their bones:

Just give up a little--your pro-life stance, say--and we'll help you feed and clothe the naked, and insure the poor.  It was a devil's bargain then, as it is now.  And it's just as tempting, 
especially for fallible people who are trying to work out democracy 
with other fallible people, and none of us the devil ourselves.
Though there do seem to be quite a few
 Iagos and Machiavels walking around, and too few Thomas Mores.

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