We will suspend blogging through Christmas and New Year, restarting Monday January 4, 2016.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
David H. Lukenbill
We will suspend blogging through Christmas and New Year, restarting Monday January 4, 2016.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
David H. Lukenbill
In my first book, I wrote:
“Much of the work I have done over the past few years has revolved around trying to comprehend the concept of social justice in relation to working with grassroots organizations. The founding work leading to the creation of my apostolate partly consisted of a social justice discussion group I facilitated that came up with this definition:
“Social justice is an active state of human consciousness, based on the transcendent nature of human beings, in which respect for each person’s human dignity governs all social action, where individual rights exist prior to society, and must be recognized by it, and where each of us are called by our Creator to defend the dignity of human beings, in every moment of our lives and at every moment in history.”
David H. Lukenbill (2006) The Criminal’s Search for God: Criminal Transformation, Catholic Social Teaching, Deep Knowledge Leadership, and Communal Reentry (pp. 111-112)
There is an excellent review of a new book on social justice in Crisis Magazine.
For much of my academic life, I considered the terms, “values,” “rights,” and “social justice,” to have equivocal meanings. When these terms were used without clarification, they disrupted any fair social order. Each of the phrases had two or more meanings that usually meant the direct opposite of each other. Conversations and legislation in which these terms were used almost always ended in incoherence. One group used a term one way; the next group used it in an opposite way. Both usages were found in the language with various explanations of how they came into common usage. Each usage had its own philosophical presuppositions.
“Value” was a term from Max Weber or Nietzsche that denied any grounding to our ethical lives. Whatever we choose as our purpose or end was all right. The term admitted no rational scrutiny, only arbitrary choice. “Science,” in this sense, dealt exclusively with the means whereby we might achieve our selected end or purpose, whatever it might be. To say “this is my ‘value’” meant simply that I “opt” for this or that desire. I have no intrinsic reason why one choice is better or worse than another. The word “value” was thus a function of relativism. To “guarantee” values, or agree on them, merely meant accepting whatever we willed, not on understanding and on being held to what is right or wrong, true or false.
The word “rights” caused even more confusion. Especially in Catholic social thought where it was equated with some objective duty. But the modern usage of the word comes from Hobbes. It means that no objective goods can be rationally comprehended. A “right” was whatever I thought that I needed to avoid violent death. A “right” was the intrinsic power to obtain it and keep what I decided.
The Leviathan state was contractually empowered to guarantee these “rights.” This guarantee meant, in effect, the state defined the “rights” that were allowed to exist. The “right” to life confronted a “right” to abortion. When people insisted on their “rights,” they were accused of denying the “rights” of others. Battle after battle to defend the “right” to life was lost because it was seen as a denial of a “right” to abortion. The rhetoric of “rights” was independent of the rhetoric of truth.
“Social justice” was purportedly a new addition to the classical legal, distributive, and commutative justice ideas found in Aristotle. It was rather connected with the Leviathan state. Social justice was based on the idea that what is “due” to people for their flourishing is what decides their good. It was not personal virtue that was at the center of moral and political life. Social and political “structures” determined virtue and vice.
So the “vocation” to “social justice” derived its nobility from “service” to the poor and down-trodden through promises to “re-structure” the state or economy. Oftentimes this renovation of society was promoted in revolutionary terms, because state and social “structures” determined the meaning of virtue and vice. “Social justice” always hovered in the shadow of totalitarianism. The state became the center of all human life. Social Justice received it’s self-justification from what it distributed to everyone.
A wonderful opening, as reported by Interfax.
Moscow, December 14, Interfax – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sees dialogue with the Catholic Church as an opportunity to reduce persecutions of Christians across the world. “Evading dialogue with the Catholic Church now would be wrong: we defend the same values both in public and in private life. We need to establish such cooperation in the face of the non-Christian world as would enable us to multiply our own forces. Including what, I think, deserves positive treatment – our shared position on the situation in the Middle East,” the Russian Orthodox Church leader said at a meeting with representatives of the Youth Public Chamber and the Chamber of Young Legislators.
The ousting of Christians from the region where their “whole villages are being either slaughtered or chased out” will lead to imminent radicalization of the Muslim population.
“The presence of Christians in Islamic states forced their leaders to try to strike balances and provide rights for minorities; but if there are no Christians, there will no such concern either,” Patriarch Kirill said.
Christians are becoming a minority in the world: as a result of serious conflicts in Pakistan, in Asia and Africa, with one Christian dying in this world every hour for his convictions, while in the West “church and religion are being ousted from public life” under the influence of “ruling liberal doctrines,” Patriarch Kirill said.
Cooperation with “the largest Christian Church,” the Catholic one, could help protect Christians and prompt the revival of Christianity “on global scale,” the church leader said.
Two of them saved a man’s life recently, as this story from Breitbart News reports.
On December 7, a man and woman pulled their self-defense handguns and stopped an attack in which a knife-welding man had allegedly knocked down a 90-year-old suspect and “was trying to stab” him.
The incident occurred in Gwinnett County, Georgia.
According to Fox 5, The woman–Karen Duncan–heard the 90-year-old gentleman screaming for help so she grabbed her gun out of her purse and came running. When neighbor Ron Childress saw Duncan running “in a panic” he grabbed his gun and ran to the house too.
Duncan was already inside, where she allegedly saw “blood and a big old knife” in the hand a man who was on top of the 90-year-old gentleman. She told him to stop and he ignored her so she changed her tactic and told him stop because she was “getting ready to shoot [him].” He cooperated at that point.
Childress then entered the room with his gun drawn and told the suspect to lie down flat on the floor with his legs and arms spread, Childress continued to hold the suspect at gunpoint until police arrived.
A powerful article—though mistaken about Maritain and Teilhard—about the recent light show on St. Peters basilica from Rorate Caeli.
The image that will remain tied to the opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is not the anti-triumphalist ceremony celebrated by Pope Francis on the morning of December 8th, but the pretentious spectacle Fiat Lux: Illuminating Our Common Home, which brought the day to a close, by inundating the façade and Dome of St. Peter’s with lights and sounds.
Throughout the course of the show, offered by the World Bank Group, the images of gigantic lions, tigers and leopards were superimposed on St. Peter’s, which was built exactly upon the ruins of Nero’s circus, where ferocious wild beasts had [once] devoured Christians. Due to the play of lights, the Basilica seemed then to be turned upside down, dissolved and immersed in water, while clownfish and sea-turtles appeared on its façade, almost evoking the liquefying of the structures of the Church, devoid of any element of solidity. An enormous owl and strange, winged, luminous creatures circled over the Dome, while Buddhist monks, on the march, seemed to indicate a way of salvation alternate to Christianity. Not one religious symbol, not one reference to Christianity; the Church gave the way to “sovereign nature”.
Andrea Tornielli wrote that we needn’t be scandalized since many artists over the centuries, as the art historian Sandro Barbagallo documents in his book, Animals in Religious Art. St. Peter’s Basilica (The Vatican Press, 2009), have depicted luxuriant fauna around St. Peter’s sepulcher. Yet, if St. Peter’s Basilica is a “sacred Zoo” as the author of this work irreverently defines it, it is not because the animals represented in the Basilica are enclosed inside a sacred barrier, but because it’s sacred, that is, it is ordered to a transcendent purpose. This is the significance attributed through art to these animals.
In Christianity, in fact, animals are not divinized, but valued for their purpose, which is that of being destined by God for the service of man. The Psalms narrate “Thou hast subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen: moreover the beasts also of the fields. The birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea, that pass through the paths of the sea” (Psalm 8, 7-9.) Man has been placed by God as the apex and king of creation, to whom everything has to be ordered until he orders everything to God, acting as the representative of the cosmos (Gen. 1, 26-27). God is the final end of the universe, but the immediate end of the physical universe, is man. “In a certain sense, we are also the end of all things” St. Thomas affirms (in II Sent, d.1,q. 2, a. 4), since “ God made all things for man” (Super Symb. Apostolorum, art. 1).
Christian symbolism moreover, attributes an emblematic significance to animals. Christianity is not interested in the extinction of animals nor in their well-being, but in the ultimate and profound meaning of their presence. The lion symbolizes strength and the lamb meekness to remind us of the existence of different virtues and perfections, which God alone possesses entirely. On earth, a prodigious hierarchy of created beings of inorganic material culminating in man, has an essence and intimate perfection which is expressed in the language of symbols.
Environmentalism is presented as a vision of the world which turns this hierarchy upside down, by eliminating God and dethroning man. Man is placed on a level of absolute equality with nature in a relationship of interdependence, not only with the animals but also with the inanimate components of the environment which surround him: mountains, rivers, seas, landscapes, food chains, and the ecosystem. The supposition of this cosmological vision is the dissolution of all boundaries between man and the world. The Earth with its biosphere forms a sort of unitary, cosmic-geo-environmental entity. It becomes something more than “a common home”: it represents a divinity.
Fifty years ago, when the Second Vatican Council ended, the dominant theme of that historical season appeared: a distinct “cult of man”, implied in Jacques Maritain’s formula “integral humanism”. The French philosopher’s book with this title, is of 1936, but it had above all, its greatest influence when one of its most enthusiastic readers, Giovanni Battista Montini, subsequently Pope Paul VI, wanted to use it as a compass for his pontificate. On December 7th 1965, in his Mass homily, Paul VI recalled that in Vatican II the encounter was produced between “The religion of the God who became man” and the “religion (for such it is) of man who makes himself God.”
Fifty years later, we are witnessing the passage of integral humanism to integral environmentalism, from the Chart of the rights of man to that of the rights of Nature. In the XVI century, humanism had rejected Medieval Christian Civilization in the name of anthropocentrism. The attempt to construct the City of Man on the ruins of the City of God tragically failed in the 20th century and the attempts to Christianize anthropocentrism under the name of integral humanism have come to nothing,
The religion of man is substituted for the religion of the Earth: Anthropocentrism criticized for its “deviations” is substituted for a new eco-centered vision. The theory of Gender, which dissolves all identity and all essence, is inserted into this pantheistic and egalitarian prospective.
This is a radically evolutionist notion, which coincides largely with Teilhard de Chardin’s. God is the “self-conscience” of the universe, which in its evolving, becomes conscience of its own evolution. The Teilhard quotation in paragraph 83 of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si is not casual, and philosophers like Enrico Maria Radaelli and Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira have highlighted the points in dissonance with Catholic Tradition. Further, the Fiat Lux show was presented as an “environmentalist manifesto” which wanted to translate the encyclical Laudato si in images.
Antonio Socci, in Libero, defined it as” a Gnostic, Neo-Pagan ‘sceneggiata’ which had a precise ideological, anti-Christian message” , observing that “at St. Peter’s, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the celebration of Mother Earth was preferred to the celebration of the Mother of God, to propagate the dominant ideology, of that ‘climatist and environmentalist’, Neo-Pagan and Neo-Malthusian religion, which is supported by the great powers of the world. A spiritual profanation (also since that place – let’s not forget – is a place of Christian martyrdom.”).
A great interview in National Review by the author of a new book—which I just ordered—giving the lie to the oft noted shrinking of religion.
The world is more religious than it has ever been,” Rodney Stark writes in his new book The Triumph of Faith: Why the World Is More Religious than Ever.
Around the globe, four out of every five people claim to belong to an organized faith, and many of the rest say they attend worship services.
Stark writes that “a massive religious awakening is taking place around the world.” He talks more in an interview.
– KJL Kathryn Jean Lopez: The triumph of religion looks like a grave and deadly thing these days. What are your thoughts about the rise and growth of religion at a time when barbarism and mass murder is being perpetrated in God’s name?
Rodney Stark: Perhaps it is fitting to get this question out of the way at the start — even though it is worded as if written by Richard Dawkins. Throughout the book I give extensive and close attention to the dark sides of religious enthusiasm, often drawing on my recent book devoted to that matter: Religious Hostility. Unlike our president and the liberal press. I do not shy from the words “radical Muslim,” nor do I ignore the data showing that this is not a tiny group, but one that enjoys wide support in many Muslim nations. But, I fail to see how this phenomenon is connected to the enormous and rapid growth of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa and in China. Or to the new-found vigor of Latin American Catholicism (in response to the rapid rise of Protestantism). Or to the remarkable Hindu revival in India.
Lopez: How much of a problem is anti-Semitism in Europe? How has it happened and how can it be helped?
Stark: Anti-Semitism is much too high in Europe — a third in France scored high on a well-conceived measure of anti-Semitism in 2014, as did more than a quarter in Germany and Austria. Things are even worse in Eastern Europe — 45 percent scored high in Poland, 41 percent in Hungary. As to why, I don’t think this is something that happened recently, but is a hold-over from earlier times. The Holocaust was not the work of a few Nazis — it was the culmination of centuries of vicious actions against European Jews. Most Germans did know, and everyone in Europe knew of the brutalization of the Jews by the Nazis as soon as they were in power. Even so, in that same set of national surveys measuring anti-Semitism in 2014, 39 percent in Western Europe agree that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust” and 24 percent of Eastern Europeans think that the Holocaust “was a myth or an exaggeration.” How can this be helped? I know of nothing that hasn’t already been tried.
Lopez: The world is more religious than it has ever been. Really? Pew says America is becoming less religious. What is the discrepancy?
Stark: Even if Pew were correct about America, that would not alter the fact that huge increases in religious affiliation and participation are going on in most of the rest of the world. But, of course, Pew is wrong about America. For one thing, when surveys only manage to get about 10 percent of those originally drawn in their samples to agree to be interviewed (instead of at least 85 percent), it is impossible to put any confidence in the results. In fact, the group known to be most willing to be polled (less education, less income), and thus far overrepresented in Pew surveys, is precisely the group that has always been least likely to belong to or attend churches. More importantly, the group who say they have no religion (and is said by Pew to be growing) are mainly those who once gave a denominational preference, but who did not belong to a local congregation or attend. That seems a trivial change — especially since the overwhelming majority of those who say they have no religion also affirm religious beliefs, and many of them report frequent prayer. For most of them, “no religion” means no specific church membership, not that they are irreligious.
We read so much about the hopelessness of so many African countries to ever become full-fledged members of the modern world, swamped as they seem to be in health care failures, violence, political tyranny, and financial corruption; that this story from the Wall Street Journal about an Opus Dei central banker is a welcome antidote.
NAIROBI, Kenya —Heads of central banks seldom achieve celebrity status, but residents of the Kenyan capital regularly stop Patrick Njoroge on the street to talk interest rates and the state of the economy, even to snap selfies.
The tall, slim governor of Kenya’s central bank is a far cry from many of the continent’s top officials. He evinces no interest in amassing personal wealth, and he’s a numerary in the Roman Catholic group Opus Dei. That means he has taken a vow of celibacy and lives with others of his religious rank in a group home, after declining to live in the regal Nairobi residence reserved for the country’s central bank governor.
Six months into the job, the Yale-educated and former International Monetary Fund official has become well known in Kenya for his efforts to protect the country’s currency and for his perceived incorruptibility in a nation roiled by graft and economic uncertainty.
After moving aggressively to stabilize the Kenyan shilling, the confident, 54-year-old Mr. Njoroge is gearing up for the expected increase of the Federal Reserve’s policy rate.
“We feel quite prepared,” Mr. Njoroge said Tuesday as he sipped tea in his office in the central bank building in Nairobi. “We’ve gone out of our way to distinguish ourselves from the other economies” in Africa.
Kenya has built up dollar reserves of $6.7 billion and has access to another $700 billion from a special IMF fund should it be needed, he said.
East Africa’s largest and most advanced economy, Kenya is currently beset by a series of scandals that have exposed again the long-standing graft and corruption running through the country’s political and financial institutions. Against this backdrop, Mr. Njoroge has emerged as a standard-bearer for cleaner, better government.
“Why do I need to have a fleet of cars at my disposal?” he said, referring to one of the perquisites of high office in Kenya. “I’m only going to drive one. What’s the big deal?”
Mr. Njoroge’s refusal to exploit public office for personal gain goes down well with Kenyans. “He’s clean, he’s not here to eat or steal. Our prayers are with him,” said Anne Kinuthia, a receptionist at a Nairobi beauty parlor.
The efforts by Mr. Njoroge since June to halt the slide in the value of the shilling have won him widespread praise. By spending $1 billion to buttress the currency and hiking the policy rate twice by 150 basis points to 11.5% to stabilize the shilling, Kenya’s currency has steadily recovered since hitting a four-year low in September. It is now trading steadily in markets.
It is not like the media appears to be making it, as this post from the Crime & Consequences Blog notes.
To watch the media’s endless replay of bodycam or smart phone recordings, you would think the police get up in the morning eager to see who they can bully, slug, menace, grab, punch, push, throw to the ground or otherwise brutalize. I recall one episode recently in which a school security officer In Columbia, SC, was shown, in the words of Reason Magazine, as he “tackled a girl who was sitting in her desk, dragged her across the room, pinned her, and arrested her.” The Reason article included a tape of the episode, which was re-played in the accompanying news segment not fewer than eighteen times.
Q: Why does it get re-played eighteen times?
A: To create the impression that this kind of thing goes on endlessly.
Q: How often does it actually go on, when we look at data rather than anecdote?
A: Next to never.
Q: How do we know that?
A: From this DOJ study, quietly released three weeks ago, which states, inter alia, “[A]n annual average of 44 million U.S. residents age 16 or older had one or more face-to-face contacts with police from 2002 to 2011, and an estimated 1.6 percent experienced the threat or use of nonfatal force during the most recent contact.”
An excellent article from the June 2007 issue of New Oxford Review noting the theologians who lied to allow Henry VIII’s divorce, and subsequent loss of England as a Catholic country and the false theologians of today.
In 1529 Catholic theologians teaching at major universities in France, Italy, and England gave King Henry VIII the theological fig leaf he needed to get a divorce from Queen Catherine, his wife of 20 years. These theologians took large sums of gold from the English King and set themselves up as a rival magisterium. They went so far as to falsify passages from the ancient Church Fathers, medieval Doctors, and Church councils to give King Henry what he paid for.
Today too there are plenty of false theologians at Catholic universities. Among them is Daniel Maguire, a professor in the Department of Moral Theology at Marquette, who has received grants from the Ford and Packard Foundations to produce a video-documentary and two books that falsify Catholic teaching on abortion. He brazenly contends that the Church has long approved the killing of unborn babies and falsely claims that abortion is a sacred choice and a sacred right in every major world religion. Forbidding abortion anywhere, he argues, amounts to “religious persecution.” Maguire is President of The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics (TRC), whose website links to Planned Parenthood, Catholics for Free Choice, and other pro-abortion groups’ websites. Among the participants in TRC are seven religious instructors affiliated with Catholic universities: Loyola University of Chicago, University of Detroit Mercy, Xavier University, Marquette University, Manhattan College, Catholic University of America, and St. John’s University. Two of these are elderly priests — Gerard Sloyan and Paul Surlis. And so, despite the promulgation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, all these instructors are confident they can publicly support the merchants of death and at the same time proudly cite their Catholic affiliations. They are confident they can set themselves up as a rival magisterium to the Pope with total impunity. Just as seven Catholic universities colluded with Henry VIII and paved the way to the English Reformation, so dissenters such as these at seven Catholic universities collude with Planned Parenthood and pave the way, so far as it is within their power, to the triumph of the Culture of Death. That Henry VIII bribed a cohort of Catholic theologians to justify his divorce is little known today, though St. John Fisher wrote a whole book about it in 1530, titled De causa matrimonii, a work carefully abridged in the first part of Dr. Nicholas Harpsfield’s Treatise on the Pretended Divorce Between Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon, a 16th-century Catholic account of the English Reformation that was not printed until the late 19th century. Harpsfield, the last Catholic archdeacon of Canterbury and an expert in canon law, spent the last 24 years of his life in prison for his religion, dying there in 1583.
In 1528 Henry VIII suddenly claimed that he was “tormented in conscience” about his 20-year marriage to Queen Catherine and, according to Dr. Harpsfield, believed “he had lived all this while in detestable and abominable adultery.” He wanted a speedy divorce, so as to marry Anne Boleyn, but the Queen appealed to Pope Clement, causing delay. At this point, Henry turned to the European universities, hoping to use them against the Pope. In turn, the Queen asked Bishop John Fisher — the only bishop in England brave enough to stand up to Henry — to be her advocate. Fisher spent two years in investigation and came to the conclusion that Henry would never have sought a divorce, “if lechery had not embraced the attempt” and “if covetousness of the goods and lands of the church” had not “furthered the said attempt.” The charge of greed also applies to the prostitute-theologians who took pay to justify Henry’s divorce.
In the fall of 1529 Henry sent his agents loaded with gold across Europe “to procure the private censures and judgments of diverse learned men, as also the public judgment of certain universities, for the disproving and disallowing of his first marriage.” Once he got their paid-for judgments in writing, he would send Sir Thomas Boleyn with them to pressure Pope Clement into granting his divorce. Mule-loads of “English angels” (gold coins) at the time “flew far and wide among the learned men of France and Italy,” according to Pedro Fernandez Sardinha, the first Bishop of Bahia, San Salvador, who witnessed “the bribery then wrought in Henry’s name” in Paris. He wrote, “Certain theologians, debasing the Word of God and seeking the favour of men, corrupted by gifts and largesses of angelets — a coin well known among the English — fell into the toils of Satan, and helped the king’s faction, contrary to their own convictions. And I am not afraid to speak so plainly, for I have seen it with my own eyes.” Likewise, Peter Blomevenna of Leyden, prior of the Carthusians in Cologne, testified to the attempted bribery at the University of Cologne, where “a certain king, mighty and powerful, hoped by heavy sums of money to purchase the opinion he wished to obtain.”
Similarly, Daniel Maguire and his cohort of theologians have taken pay from foundations to justify abortion as a “sacred right” (in a book with this title) in all the world’s major religions. Like Henry VIII, Maguire has set up a rival magisterium to the Pope on sexual morality. He even declares that “The anomalous and influential presence of the Vatican in the United Nations and its alliance with conservative Muslim states on family planning issues give only one narrow view from the field of religious ethics. We seek to counter that undue and deceptive monism.” He wants to checkmate the Vatican at the UN while comfortably ensconced at a Jesuit university.
He truly was.
Here is an excerpt from Franciscan Media about him, today being his feast day.
One of Ambrose’s biographers observed that at the Last Judgment people would still be divided between those who admired Ambrose and those who heartily disliked him. He emerges as the man of action who cut a furrow through the lives of his contemporaries. Even royal personages were numbered among those who were to suffer crushing divine punishments for standing in Ambrose’s way.
When the Empress Justina attempted to wrest two basilicas from Ambrose’s Catholics and give them to the Arians, he dared the eunuchs of the court to execute him. His own people rallied behind him in the face of imperial troops. In the midst of riots, he both spurred and calmed his people with bewitching new hymns set to exciting Eastern melodies.
In his disputes with the Emperor Auxentius, he coined the principle: “The emperor is in the Church, not above the Church.” He publicly admonished Emperor Theodosius for the massacre of 7,000 innocent people. The emperor did public penance for his crime. This was Ambrose, the fighter, sent to Milan as Roman governor and chosen while yet a catechumen to be the people’s bishop.
There is yet another side of Ambrose—one which influenced Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose converted. Ambrose was a passionate little man with a high forehead, a long melancholy face, and great eyes. We can picture him as a frail figure clasping the codex of sacred Scripture. This was the Ambrose of aristocratic heritage and learning.
Augustine found the oratory of Ambrose less soothing and entertaining but far more learned than that of other contemporaries. Ambrose’s sermons were often modeled on Cicero, and his ideas betrayed the influence of contemporary thinkers and philosophers. He had no scruples in borrowing at length from pagan authors. He gloried in the pulpit in his ability to parade his spoils—“gold of the Egyptians”—taken over from the pagan philosophers.
His sermons, his writings and his personal life reveal him as an otherworldly man involved in the great issues of his day. Humanity, for Ambrose, was, above all, spirit. In order to think rightly of God and the human soul, the closest thing to God, no material reality at all was to be dwelt upon. He was an enthusiastic champion of consecrated virginity.
The influence of Ambrose on Augustine will always be open for discussion. The Confessions reveal some manly, brusque encounters between Ambrose and Augustine, but there can be no doubt of Augustine’s profound esteem for the learned bishop.