Catholic Teaching & Peter

John Rao in the Remnant Newspaper reminds us of the importance of remembering why the two might not always be congruent.

An excerpt.

“This brief which destroys the Company of Jesus is nothing other than an isolated and particular judgment, pernicious, reflecting little honor on the Papal tiara and deleterious to the glory of the Church and to the glory and propagation of the orthodox (i.e. Catholic) faith….Holy Father, it is not possible for me to commit the Clergy to the acceptance of the said brief.”  – Archbishop Christophe de Beaumont of Paris to Pope Clement XIV

Indulgence in a fetish is a dangerous habit, blocking, as it does, access to the full reality of the given aspect of life that it masquerades, but escape from its influence is immensely difficult. The fetish in question here is “the papal fetish”; the obsessive insistence upon the orthodoxy and goodness of all statements and actions coming from a reigning Pontiff, regardless of every indication that the opposite may actually be true.

And, as with fetishes in general, this papal fetish blocks access to the full appreciation of the glorious purpose that the Papacy really has, preferring a mess of willful pottage to the banquet of truth it is meant to offer to the faithful.

I began to realize the hold of this powerful fetish as soon as I became involved with the Roman Forum, which was just when the Novus Ordo descended upon us. It was at that time that Dietrich von Hildebrand began to argue that the Traditional Mass could not be abrogated, and that although its temporary replacement had to be recognized as legitimately promulgated by papal authority, we had to fight for the correction of its horrible deficiencies, and seek, as our final goal, the full restoration of the Mass of the Ages. “Accept the reality of the legitimate authority, but fight to have its horrible actions revoked,” became his battle cry. And for this, papal fetishists treated him as promoting schism and even heresy, insisting, as I heard one distinguished conservative say, that “if the pope ordered me to hear Mass standing on my head I would gladly do so”.

Thankfully, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the truth that we could never be obliged to stick our feet up in the air during the Sacred Liturgy, and that we had every right to listen to the prayers at the foot of the altar right side up instead.

Those who adopted the von Hildebrand battle cry, and who therefore recognized that legitimate authority could make terrible decisions that loyal Catholics had to fight to correct, took heart in the fact that almost the entirety of Church History shared their view. For Catholics, historically, have mostly been untouched by the papal fetish, and to a large degree because the Papacy itself for long stretches of time did not do much to encourage it. St. Peter, as the Romans say, has all too often preferred to “sleep” rather than to stir up popular enthusiasm for his prerogatives in a way that might actually force him to have to do something active on behalf of the universal Church. Weak and lazy popes have often been our curse. 

Yes, the Supreme Pontiff can sometimes be shown to have taken action and demanded obedience on his own steam, as when Pope Leo the Great wrote his Tome for the Council of Chalcedon, and Pope Gregory the Great sought vigorously to deal with the collapse of effective imperial government in the West. But much of the time outside militants had to stir the Papacy to exercise its rightful authority, as—ironically, given the position of the Eastern Orthodox today—in the Early Middle Ages, by Greeks of the caliber of St. Maximus the Confessor at the time of the Monothelite Controversy and Pope St. Martin I.

Interestingly enough with respect to the current argument, the greatest assertion of papal supremacy in pre-modern times, that which was associated with the reform movement of the High Middle Ages, was ushered in, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, by nothing less than the booting of bad but actually legitimate popes from off of their thrones through the intervention of the German imperial authority coming into Italy from across the Alps. This was undertaken with the enthusiastic approval of militant reformers such as St. Peter Damien, and with judgments uttered by reformed popes regarding their wicked predecessors that would perhaps make even the hardiest opponents of the current pontificate blush.

Christendom was grateful for the intervention of such outside secular help once again in the fifteenth century when the Papacy was hopelessly caught in a three way fight for the title of Supreme Pontiff. It was then that the Emperor Sigismund, in violation of all existing canonical rules, pressed the claimants to the See of Peter, including the legitimate Roman one, to abdicate to make the way for a new and universally recognized successor.

Drones, Convict’s New Best Friend

No one who knows anything about prison culture should be surprised about this, as reported by the Washington Post.

An excerpt.

Prison inmates, a remarkably ingenious bunch, are disrupting long-standing methods of smuggling drugs, porn and cellphones the same way online retailers hope to one day deliver socks and underwear to American homes — through the air, with drones.

By coordinating with wingmen on the outside for shipments of contraband, inmates can bypass the need to bribe corrupt guards or persuade family members to hide forbidden items in body ­cavities.

Though nobody is precisely sure just how many drones are landing every day in prisons, the threat is global. Last year, there was a melee at an Ohio prison after a drone dropped heroin into the exercise yard. In April, security cameras at a London prison recorded a drone delivering drugs directly to an inmate’s window.

And in Western Maryland earlier this year, prosecutors convicted a recently released inmate and a prisoner serving a life sentence on charges of attempted drug distribution and delivery of contraband after they completed several nighttime missions netting them $6,000 per drop in product sales. It was such a lucrative scheme that the former inmate had purchased a new truck for himself with the profits.

In many cases, the drones soaring over prison walls are the same $50-to-$500 devices that show up under Christmas trees only to be promptly crashed into trees by their new owners. Flight paths are somewhat more clear in the stark nothingness surrounding many prisons.

“These things can be fun toys if you’re not trying to smuggle contraband into a prison,” said Alleghany County assistant state’s attorney Erich Bean, who prosecuted the Maryland case, calling it “one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever handled.”

Prison officials are dealing with this new threat even as inmates continue using older, higher-risk methods. Earlier this month, more than 50 correctional officers and inmates were charged in a smuggling scheme at Eastern Correctional Institution, Maryland’s largest prison.

Drone deliveries, while clever, aren’t all that surprising given how much time inmates spend watching television news, security officials say. They’ve likely seen stories about retailers such as Amazon (founded by Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos) pushing the concept.

Ban the Box, Unintended Consequences

Ban the box is a misguided public policy putting employers in the position of not knowing the character or honesty of who they hire, and it has consequences that are unintended, as this story from Governing Magazine reports.

An excerpt.

For years, policymakers have tried to find the best ways to support ex-offenders as they re-enter society. One idea that’s gained momentum in recent years: “ban-the-box” laws, which bar employers from asking applicants about their criminal history when they first apply for a job. Backed by a broad coalition of interest groups ranging from the liberal-leaning National Employment Law Project (NELP) to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a flurry of jurisdictions have enacted these measures. The thought is that when questions concerning criminal records are delayed until later in the hiring process, ex-offenders have a better shot at being hired based on their qualifications.

Nearly half of states and more than 100 localities now have some form of a ban-the-box law on the books.

Most of them cover only public employers or government contractors. But nine states have taken it a step further, barring private employers from asking about criminal records on applications.

Until this year, there was little research into the effect these laws actually had. But a pair of recent studies suggests they carry an alarming unintended consequence: Young African-American men without criminal histories, an already disadvantaged demographic, may find it even harder to receive job callbacks.

In one study, University of Michigan researchers submitted 15,000 fictitious job applications before and after ban-the-box policies went into effect in New Jersey and New York City. Using distinctive applicant names to imply race, they measured whether employers either requested an interview or asked applicants to call them back.

Employers contacted all black applicants at a rate of 11 percent following enactment of the policy. That’s an improvement for blacks with convictions, but a decline for those with clean records, who had previously received callbacks at a rate of 12.7 percent. The study was limited to applicants ages 21-22 during a few months immediately after ban-the-box became effective.

Researching for Lampstand

As a passionate reader, the requirement to conduct research across many fields to keep up with everything that impacts the work of the Lampstand Foundation, is one I engage in regularly.

Currently I am reading several books, but the one that is the most surprising is the 893 page history tome: Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M. N. Eire.

What is surprising, since history is usually so dry, is how utterly readable it is, as these paragraphs reveal:

“The idea of reform was not at all new, however; in fact, it was already an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church and European society. Paradoxically, the church itself bred corruption and reform simultaneously, in an ongoing dialectic, as old as Christianity itself, which was driven by an intensely bipolar idealism; on the one hand, the church taught that all humans are bound to sin, while on the other hand, it encouraged all to obey Jesus’s command “be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Most often, the clerics themselves strove to bridge the gap and bring church and society closer to perfection. And as many of these reform-minded clerics saw it, the only way out of this dilemma was for the clergy to purify the church. One should not think of these idealists simply as “religious” reformers. Since religion was so intricately woven into nearly every aspect of life in medieval Europe, all religious reformers were also social, cultural, and political reformers. But the phrase often used toward the end of the Middle Ages, reformation in head and limbs (reformation in capite er in membris), which relied on a bodily metaphor and on medical theory, figuratively summed up by the assumption that all reforms had to begin with the head, that is, at the apex of society, among the pope and his clerics.

“But reforming the church was easier said than done, even for a pope or an emperor. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, despite all the cries for reform, the Catholic Church was as rife with problems as the world itself. The situation was not necessarily worse than it had been for centuries—on the contrary, in some ways the church and religious life were more vibrant than ever. Experts speak of this period as being more “churchly-minded and devout,” or as marked by an “immense appetite for the divine,” and an “enormous unfolding of religion in daily life.” The difference between this and preceding ages was one of perception, not necessarily of increased corruption: during the course of the fifteenth century the abuses and failings of the church became more conspicuous, more openly discussed, and more deeply resented by a wider spectrum of people. Also, after 1450, the invention of the printing press not only allowed for the wider dissemination of information and reforming ideas, but also speeded up the process of consciousness-raising among both the clergy and the laity.” (pp. 43-44)

See, good stuff, and I would recommend it for your library.

Philanthropy Helping America

As this article—an excerpt from a newly published book—from Philanthropy Roundtable reports, the help is considerable.

An excerpt.

Philanthropy is a very big part of what makes America America.

Start with the brute numbers: Our nonprofit sector now employs 11 percent of the U.S. workforce. It will contribute around 6 percent of GDP in 2015 (up from 3 percent in 1960). And this doesn’t take into account volunteering—the equivalent of an additional 5-10 million full-time employees (depending on how you count), labor worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

America’s fabled “military-industrial complex” is often used as a classic example of a formidable industry. Well guess what? The nonprofit sector passed the national-defense sector in size way back in 1993.

And philanthropy’s importance stretches far beyond economics. Each year, seven out of ten Americans donate to at least one charitable cause. Contributions are from two to 20 times higher in the U.S. than in other countries of comparable wealth and modernity. Private giving is a deeply engrained part of our culture—a font of human creativity and crucial source of new solutions to problems. Voluntary efforts to repair social weaknesses, enrich our culture, and strengthen community life have long been a hallmark of our country.

Yet, somehow, there exists no definitive resource that chronicles our philanthropy and puts it in a context where it can be fully appreciated. Until now. The Philanthropy Roundtable decided that the great American undertakings of private giving and voluntarism deserve a worthy standard reference. So we created an entirely new work. It helps readers understand the potency of philanthropic institutions, explains their influence on our daily lives, and profiles some of the fascinating men and women who have given creatively to improve our country in thousands of ways.

The Almanac of American Philanthropy, released in January, will appeal to everyday citizens, donors, charity workers, journalists, national leaders, and culture and history buffs. It offers an authoritative collection of major achievements of U.S. philanthropy, lively profiles of the nation’s greatest givers (large and small), and useful compilations of the most important ideas, statistics, polls, literature, quotations, and thinking on this quintessentially American topic.

The facts, stories, and history contained in the Almanac will fill gaping practical and intellectual holes in our self-awareness. And in this special issue of ­Philanthropy you’ll get a detailed preview. The pages that follow present a rich, illustrated introduction not only to this important new book, but to the vital institution of philanthropy itself.

Sentence Reductions are Dangerous

As this October 11, 2016 press release from the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation reports.

The release.


The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation today blamed policies which have reduced the sentences of thousands of repeat criminals for causing increased violence in California, including the murders of police officers in Palm Springs and Los Angeles last week.

On Thursday, October 6, Trenton Trevon Lovell was arrested for the murder of L.A. Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Owen as he responded to a 911 burglary call. According to news reports, Lovell used a stolen handgun to shoot the sergeant in the face, then shot him four more times as he lay bleeding. Lovell has a long criminal record, has served time in prison, and was in a rehabilitation program for injuring someone while driving drunk last year when he murdered Sergeant Owen.

On Saturday, October 8, two Palm Springs officers, responding to a domestic violence call, were shot and killed by habitual felon and gang member John Felix. Felix was wearing body armor when he ambushed 35-year veteran Officer Jose Gilbert Vega and rookie Officer Lesley Zerebny, who just returned to duty after giving birth to a daughter. A third officer shot during the incident received non-life threatening injuries. Felix had served time in prison for attempted murder, and was arrested for resisting arrest in 2013 and for drunk driving in 2014.

The Foundation notes that prior to the adoption of AB109 (Realignment) in 2011 both of these criminals would have been eligible for more time in prison or jail for their recent offenses. The Foundation also cites Proposition 47, adopted by California voters in 2014, for downgrading felonies like drunk driving with injuries and firearm theft to misdemeanors with little or no jail time.

“There is a wave of violence and lawlessness sweeping across California that is impacting every community in the state,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford. “The weakening of sentencing, even for criminals with records of violence, has contributed to the killing of these officers and many of at least 16 other shootings, including 10 murders reported in the news over the past two weeks.”

“Right now, Californians are being asked by our Governor to vote for Proposition 57, another criminal release measure that will make another 20 to 30 thousand habitual felons currently in prison eligible for early release, even if they have prior convictions for murder and rape. Does anybody really believe that releasing more criminals is going to make things better?” added Rushford..

Foundation President Michael Rushford can be reached for comment at (916) 446-0345.


Ben Hur, the Old & the New

An excellent review and much more, from Crisis Magazine.

An excerpt.

Not having seen the recent Ben-Hur, I can only imagine how excruciatingly awful it must have been for audiences to have to sit through this latest box office bust. I say that, not because I possess clairvoyant powers, but because I’ve seen too many reviews predicting the movie would almost certainly go into the tank, which it pretty much already has given millions of dollars lost in revenues since its release last August. And, of course, in talking to people who have actually seen both versions, there is really no comparison with the earlier one starring Charlton Heston. A film of truly epic proportions, it deservedly won the eleven Oscars it was given when it first appeared in 1959.

I was a young boy back then and, like most everyone else, was entirely mesmerized by the experience. Up against the stunning grandeur and sweep of the original, this latest remake—“thuddingly dull-witted,” as one critic put it—is a digital disaster.

But it wasn’t—surprise, surprise—the chariot race that did it for me. Oh, it had a riveting effect, all right, which is exactly what director William Wyler had in mind with his four million dollar investment, along with the ten weeks and fifteen thousand extras he hired to shoot it. But what really stole my heart was the scene with Heston at the well where, en route to the galleys as a prisoner indentured to the army of Rome, he is confronted by a strange bearded fellow who steps out of the crowd to give him a drink of water. It is clearly the figure of Christ. And although we never see his face, nor hear his voice, there must have been something extraordinarily telling in the look he gave the guard, because it so utterly disarmed him that, all at once, he allows the character Heston is playing (Judah Ben-Hur) to drink the water. It is a look that sears itself upon his soul; he will never be the same again.

It was just that arresting scene from the 1959 film that has stayed with me ever since. Which is why, were I to see the truncated version in which it has been left out, I doubt that I’d be able to stifle my dismay at the sheer mindlessness of Hollywood film directors who, as Chesterton would say, “don’t know what they’re doing because they don’t know what they’re undoing.”

We have come a long way since 1959, having witnessed the undoing of a great many things along the way. Including, I fear, the sense of wonderment awakened by the Event of Christ itself. It is that loss, it seems to me, which more than anything accounts for the missing scene from the current movie. It is simply not there because the impact of what happened so long ago is no longer felt in any sort of elemental way, at least not among the cinematic story tellers who, in feeling no compunction whatsoever in leaving it out, have pretty much gutted the whole plot of the story they’re telling us.

Globalism in the Church

This article from Crisis Magazine is a good follow up to yesterday’s post.

An excerpt.

I recently commented on the current emphasis on marginalization as a central moral issue, and said the tendency should not be idealized. Its basic effect, I suggested, is to support the movement toward an administratively integrated system covering the whole of social and economic life, and thus the interests of the bureaucrats and billionaires who would dominate such a system.

I might have added that the tendency won’t do anything to reduce marginalization, since every social order marginalizes. To say “this is how things should work” is to say “that isn’t how they should work, so let’s exclude it.” The division of labor adds a “who/whom” aspect to the process, since there are those who decide what’s what and those who have to swallow the decision. And the centralized nature and comprehensive reach of the system of social administration that is now thought the natural remedy for exclusion and other social ills pushes that tendency to extremes. That’s why globalism and the nanny state lead to populist uprisings: everyone ends up marginalized except those at the very top.

As an illustration, Yale and Harvard are the alma maters of all current Supreme Court justices and most recent presidential candidates. Those institutions narrowly restrict admissions in order to maintain the prestige and value of the degrees they grant. They would show no tolerance whatever for an “undocumented student”—one who showed up without the approval of the admissions committee. Rather than offer him a path to registered student status they’d summarily deport him from campus. So their proclaimed devotion to acceptance and inclusion has its limits: it only applies to aspects of personal identity they don’t think should matter socially.

But are they right that things like sex, religion, and cultural community shouldn’t significantly affect social life? Does that view even reduce marginalization? After all, promoting some connections and suppressing the effect of others marginalizes those who were integrated with society through the latter. If women are treated primarily as careerists for the benefit of bureaucracies and commercial enterprises, then family ties are weakened, mothers lose the support of husbands, and children lose fathers and maternal attention. If close-knit local communities are destroyed for the sake of multicultural diversity and integration with global society, you end up with a lot of people who aren’t well connected with those around them. Such tendencies look good if you’re Angela Merkel and want to go on to a glittering international career after you’re done being German chancellor. For the weak and vulnerable, though, they mean further marginalization.

Beyond that, marginalization is used as a tool of social control even by those who claim to oppose it. If you want the world to go this way rather than that you’ll try to promote those who favor the one and sideline those who favor the other. That’s why the Holy Father attempted to marginalize as Pharisees those who opposed his strategy for dealing with people in irregular unions. It’s why the United States Supreme Court stigmatized as malicious those who accept a natural law understanding of marriage that excludes couples of the same sex. And it’s why politicians who strongly favor “inclusiveness” routinely try to tar their opponents as hateful extremists, sometimes going so far as to refer to a quarter of the nation as an “irredeemable” “basket of deplorables.”…

The cultural Left recognizes more and more clearly that abolishing worldly marginalization in all its forms means abolishing particular communities. That is what lies behind their demands for open borders, multiculturalism, and the deconstruction of the family, and their view of religious liberty as a mask for malicious discrimination. Catholics and others who recognize that the social world needs to be something more than a rational structure for maximizing equal preference satisfaction need to recognize the point as well.

The Church, Globalism & Nationalism

This article from Catholic World Report is a good analysis of the current state of the Church under the current papacy and also touches, inadvertently, on the issue of globalism and nationalism.

Globalism has many definitions but I understand it to mean that the needs of the global community outweigh those of the national community and nationalism as the reverse.

Globalism tends to be more ambiguous—as it is dealing with an endlessly diverse global population—while nationalism tends to be more absolute as it is dealing with the relatively limited diversity of population in one nation.

In this article, the Holy Father can be seen as a globalist, representing the ambiguity of diversity while the Church traditionalists are nationalist representing the views of the limited diversity of the one nation of the traditional Catholic Church.

In terms of what attracts and holds people to a cause, I think most would agree that it is consistent clarity that attracts and holds, while ambiguity cannot.

An excerpt.

The September 28th edition of The New York Times contains an op-ed by Matthew Schmitz, literary editor of First Things, which poses the question “Has Pope Francis Failed?”—and then makes a succinct and pointed argument for a fairly resounding “Yes.” Schmitz’s focus is on the famous but increasingly hazy “Francis effect”:

Observers predicted that the new pope’s warmth, humility and charisma would prompt a “Francis effect” — bringing disaffected Catholics back to a church that would no longer seem so forbidding and cold. Three years into his papacy, the predictions continue. Last winter, Austen Ivereigh, the author of an excellent biography of Pope Francis, wrote that the pope’s softer stance on communion for the divorced and remarried “could trigger a return to parishes on a large scale.” In its early days, Francis’ Jesuit order labored to bring Protestants back into the fold of the church. Could Francis do the same for Catholics tired of headlines about child abuse and culture wars?

Schmitz says that perceptions “of the papacy, or at least of the pope, have improved.” Francis is, here in the U.S., more popular than his his predecessor: “Sixty-three percent of American Catholics approve of him, while only 43 percent approved of Benedict at the height of his popularity, according to a 2015 New York Times and CBS News poll. Francis has also placed a great emphasis on reaching out to disaffected Catholics.”

But, Schmitz asks, “are Catholics actually coming back?” His negative answer to that question is based on the results of a recent survey from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate suggesting “there has been no Francis effect — at least, no positive one. In 2008, 23 percent of American Catholics attended Mass each week. Eight years later, weekly Mass attendance has held steady or marginally declined, at 22 percent.”

In addition, religious observance among younger Catholics has taken a notable turn for the worse:

In 2008, 50 percent of millennials reported receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, and 46 percent said they made some sacrifice beyond abstaining from meat on Fridays. This year, only 41 percent reported receiving ashes and only 36 percent said they made an extra sacrifice, according to CARA. In spite of Francis’ personal popularity, young people seem to be drifting away from the faith.

We can also note that the attendance numbers for papal events in Rome have not been on the rise, with a precipitous drop from 2014 to 2015 in the number of people at general audiences, Angelus, and other events. Numbers, of course, only tell part of the story, and they are not, ultimately, the primary indicator of faithfulness, fidelity, and witness. But the second part of Schmitz’s essay is not about numbers, but about the specific tone, approach, and vision of Francis for the Church:

Francis is a Jesuit, and like many members of Catholic religious orders, he tends to view the institutional church, with its parishes and dioceses and settled ways, as an obstacle to reform. He describes parish priests as “little monsters” who “throw stones” at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” He scolds pro-life activists for their “obsession” with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are “Pelagians” — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works.

Schmitz can only touch on some of these matters in passing, but those of us who have been following this papacy closely from the start know how the past three years have witnessed a steady stream of confusion, hyperbole, “ambiguities, inconsistencies, mixed messages, imprecisions, thinly veiled insults”—not to mention the odd use and misuse of language in the service of more confusion.

Important News for Victims of Clerical Sexual Abuse

As reported by the Albuquerque Journal.

An excerpt.

Lawyers representing alleged victims of clerical sexual abuse told a judge last week that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is liable for the actions of its priests because it provides them with “extraordinary power” over parishioners, comparable to that of police and corrections officers.

The legal theory, called “aided-in-agency,” is becoming more common in civil cases and gives attorneys a potent new tool in clerical abuse cases, attorneys in the case said.

Second Judicial District Judge Denise Barela Shepherd agreed and ruled Sept. 14 that a San Miguel County man who alleges he was raped by a Las Vegas priest in the late 1970s can use the aided-in-agency theory in his lawsuit against the archdiocese.

The judge also urged the archdiocese to appeal her ruling to an appellate court. Barela Shepherd said in the hearing that the issue needs the clarity that an appellate court can provide.

The order marks the second time in two months that a District Court judge has ruled against the archdiocese on the issue.

Last month, District Judge Alan Malott rejected a motion from the archdiocese in another clerical abuse lawsuit that had asked Malott to prohibit use of the aided-in-agency theory in that case. In his Aug. 11 order, Malott ruled that “it is undisputed those priests were cloaked with considerable power by their employer,” making the archdiocese liable for the priests’ sexual abuse of children.

The two cases are among more than 60 lawsuits Albuquerque attorney Brad Hall has filed against the archdiocese since 2011. Most of those cases have been settled for undisclosed amounts.