Newman on Liberalism

The great convert/cardinal’s 1879 speech is a barn-burner and is reviewed in this article from Catholic World Report.

An excerpt.

There is truly nothing new under the sun. That’s the pedestrian conclusion at which I arrived after recently re-reading the address given by one of the nineteenth century’s greatest theologians, Blessed John Henry Newman, when Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal on May 12, 1879.

Known as the Biglietto Speech (after the formal letter given to cardinals on such occasions), its 1720 words constitute a systematic indictment of what Newman called that “one great mischief” against which he had set his face “from the first.” Today, I suspect, the sheer force of Newman’s critique of what he called “liberalism in religion” would make him persona non grata in most Northern European theology faculties.

When reflecting upon Newman’s remarks, it’s hard not to notice how much of the Christian world in the West has drifted in the directions against which he warned. Under the banner of “liberalism in religion,” Newman listed several propositions. These included (1) “the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion,” (2) “that one creed is as good as another,” (3) that no religion can be recognized as true for “all are matter of opinion,” (4) that “revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective faith, not miraculous,” and (5) “it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.”

Can anyone doubt that such ideas are widespread today among some Christians? Exhibit A are the rapidly-collapsing liberal Protestant confessions. Another instance is that fair number of Catholic clergy and laity of a certain age who shy away from the word “truth” and who regard any doctrine that conflicts with the post-1960s Western world’s expectations as far from settled. Yet Newman’s description of liberal religion also accurately summarizes the essentially secular I’m-spiritual-not-religious mindset.

At the time, the directness of Newman’s assault on liberal religion surprised people. It wasn’t for idle reasons that the speech was reprinted in full in The London Times on 13 May, and then translated into Italian so that it could appear in the Holy See’s own newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on 14 May. Everyone recognized that Newman’s words were of immense significance.

The newly-minted cardinal had hitherto been seen as someone ill-at-ease with the Church’s direction during Pius IX’s pontificate. Newman’s apprehensions about the opportuneness of the First Vatican Council formally defining papal infallibility were well-known. Not well-understood was that concerns about Catholics being misled into thinking they must assent to a pope’s firm belief that, for example, the optimal upper-tax rate is 25.63 percent, didn’t mean that you regarded religious belief as a type of theological smorgasbord.

Those who had followed the trajectory of Newman’s thought over the previous fifty years would have recognized that the Biglietto Speech harkened back to a younger Newman and a consistent record of fierce opposition to liberal religion. In 1848, for instance, Newman had lampooned liberal religion in his novel Loss and Gain (1848). One character in the book, the Dean of Nottingham, is portrayed as someone who believes that “there was no truth or falsehood in received dogmas of theology; that they were modes, neither good nor bad in themselves, but personal, national, or periodic.”

Such opinions mirror the views of those today who primarily regard Scripture, the Church and Christian faith as essentially human historical constructs: a notion that invariably goes hand-in-hand with a barely-disguised insistence that the Church always requires wholesale adaptation to whatever happens to be the zeitgeist. The end-result is chronic doctrinal instability (and thus incoherence) and the degeneration of churches into mere NGO-ism: precisely the situation which characterizes contemporary Catholicism in the German-speaking world.

Another of the novel’s characters is Mr. Batts, the director of the Truth Society. This organization is founded on two principles. First, it is uncertain whether truth exists. Second, it is certain that it cannot be found. Welcome to the world of philosophical skepticism which, Newman understood, is based on the contradiction of holding that we know the truth that humans really cannot know truth.

Newman’s antagonism towards liberal religion, however, also reflected another side of his thought that, I suspect, some today would also prefer to ignore. This concerns Newman’s critical view of liberalism as a social philosophy.

Very Good News for Reformed Criminals

According to this article from the Wall Street Journal, companies are hiring ex-convicts in an increased rate from the past.

An excerpt.

Erickson Cos., a Chandler, Ariz., based construction firm, has hired almost 30 former inmates from Arizona state prisons over the past year to build frames for new homes, an effort to cope with skilled-labor scarcity.

“We’re searching for every alternative avenue that we possibly can to help solve this labor shortage,” Rich Gallagher, Erickson’s chief executive, said in an interview.

Erickson is part of what appears to be a nationwide trend. As the jobless rate falls, employers in places including Arizona, Indiana and Maryland are scouring the fringes of the labor market for able-bodied workers, including ex-offenders.

Erickson, which has about 250 employees in Arizona and roughly 1,000 nationwide, has been recruiting directly from corrections department job fairs for prisoners nearing release. Karen Hellman, director of inmate programs and re-entry, said there has been a noticeable uptick in companies looking to hire inmates this year.

National data on hiring of ex-offenders isn’t available, but other state correctional systems across the U.S. and training programs for ex-offenders report similar experiences.

“I’ve never dealt with employers who are more willing to hire ex-felons,” said John Nally, who started working at the Indiana Department of Correction in 1967 and is now its director of education. “It is a totally different landscape when you have an unemployment rate of 3.6%. We have all these people in construction who are literally begging for workers.”

Indiana’s unemployment rate was 3.6% in April and fell to 3.2% in May.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to a 16-year low in May and the number of job openings climbed to a record in April, according to separate Labor Department reports, underscoring tightness in the labor market. In a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, nearly half of small businesses said they could find few or no qualified workers for the positions they were trying to fill.

“Contacts across a broad range of industries reported a shortage of qualified workers which had limited hiring,” the Federal Reserve said in its most recent summary of economic conditions.

More than 600,000 sentenced prisoners nationwide are released from state or federal prisons each year. Research shows that most struggle to find steady work and stable housing—and frequently end up offending again.

The vast majority—nearly 90% in the Indiana study—of ex-offenders have a high-school diploma or less, putting them at a distinct disadvantage among a population that already has higher unemployment and lower participation rates than those with at least some college.

But as the labor market tightens, their fortunes improve.

Revelation is Continuous

An excellent reflection on the necessity of changing Church teaching and practice, from Catholic World Report.

An excerpt.


If we attempted to describe what, in general, Christian revelation was about to someone who never heard of it, what would we say? Everyone knows that, through the centuries, many controversies have arisen over the content, structure, and meaning of this revelation. In what, if any, organization is it embodied? What are its limits? Indeed, these controversies about the meaning of this particular revelation were occasions for an authoritative resolution of the issues at hand. They gradually became creeds, statements that established, as accurately as possible, what was meant by a controverted doctrine or practice. Any legitimate organization, including one said to be founded on divine revelation, should be able to protect and to explain itself as to what it is in its own terms.

Some ideas and practices are simply incompatible with revelation as handed down. These errant teachings also need to be defined and identified. Some understandings needed to be clarified, to be made precise or to be rejected. Out of this experience of disagreement, more systematic and unified explanations arose to show how everything fit together. After the decision was made about what the doctrine or practice meant, those who still did not accept the resolution usually went their own way. Thus, we still have about a few Nestorians, Monophysites, Manicheans, Sabellians, and, among others, hundreds of different kinds of Protestants.

In more recent times, those who reject one or other aspect of what was handed down or of what was reasonable did not leave the Church. Nor were they excommunicated. They often remained within the Church to work to change it to their position. The old notion of “excommunication”, though still on the books, became for all intents and purposes obsolete.

The first obvious thing that is claimed for this revelation is that it is consistent with its past. That is, it does not change any essential teaching handed on to it from the beginning. It was intended to be something valid and known in all places and times basically in its original form. The content of revelation was said to be of divine origin. It was to be preserved as it was given. It already was based on the highest authority. If content of this revelation were changed into its opposite, that mere fact alone would be enough to prove the revelation itself had no real claim to any abiding truth or to any rational assent on the part of the one who understood what a contradiction meant. It would not, in other words, be a credible institution since it contradicted itself. Thus, if what was held or done in one era or place were forbidden and rejected in another time or place, something was wrong not only with the issue at hand but also with the structure of the institution designed to preserve its integrity.

Essential things differed from non-essential ones. Non-essential things could and did vary—languages, art forms, music, ritual signs, or architecture. This teaching claimed that it not only did not contradict reason but that it was itself obliged to give adequate reasons for what it held to be true. It maintained, as essential to what it was, that the Trinity or Incarnation were mysteries. At the same time, arguments were presented for their plausibility. This plausibility arises out of the very nature of human communication itself. In fundamental things, human beings are to deal with each other primarily not by power or authority alone but by explaining why they do what they do, and why they think what they think.

This approach, however, did not mean the reasons given to account for mysteries were complete in every way. It takes a divine mind fully to grasp a divine mystery. But it also takes a divine mind to reveal to other finite minds what it wanted them to know about itself. Thus, valid points of reason could be cited for what was presented as true from revelation. If no valid reasons could be provided for the plausibility of divine revelation, in all likelihood something was wrong with the statement at issue. Basically, Thomas Aquinas’ position was followed: grace built on nature; it did not contradict it. If it did, it could not be revelation. In effect, revelation, as it were, made reason more, not less, reasonable. This principle became fundamental in understanding revelation. Those who upheld the fact of revelation were not free to refuse to give any reasons for what was revealed.

What came to be known as historicism held that what was true in one time was not true in another time. In other words, nothing could be consistent over time and place. There are no universal truths. The Socratic, as well as the revelational, idea of an abiding truth over time and place was rejected. Revelation, for its part, did present itself as basically unchangeable. What the Father taught the Son; He taught others. In this light, the history of mankind is but a drama of accepting or rejecting this persistence of truth over time and place.

Revelation could make this claim of consistency because its own internal structure affirmed that what it had to teach found its origin not in human experience or human reason alone but in the logos or reason of God. What was implied, and this is what is meant by the word “revelation”, was that this divine logos as revealed was intended to correct and make flourish the reason that mankind shared with all reasonable and spiritual beings, including God. Finite beings were, in other words, to understand the truth of things. They were to know why what they did or did not do made sense. Faith was an intellectual virtue; it wanted to know what to hold because it was true based on the testimony of someone who did know. Human beings were not asked to be irrational, especially when they were asked to believe.


Essentially, revelation asked (rather than forced) us to understand and believe that the world was created by an intelligent Being who did not have to create a world to entertain or complete itself. What was in fact created did reveal a certain order that could be investigated. Truth meant finding this order. God was personal in His inner Trinitarian life; He was already everything He could be, hence unchangeable. In the order of finality, the cosmos came after God had decided to create man as a finite, intelligent being in time. Man was not created primarily that his species become something glorious down the ages in time. Rather, he was created, with “dominion” over the earth, so that each member of the species, in the course of his relatively brief life, in whatever time or place, could choose to save his soul. That is, each created person chose, by how he believed and lived, to accept or reject the divine invitation given to him to live the inner life of the Godhead. It was contrary to the nature of God that anyone invited to participate in His inner life be forced to do so. Hence, it was always possible for individual members of this race of finite beings to reject the purpose of his coming to be. Redemption meant God’s effort to save this purpose even after it was rejected, once or many times, by individual human persons.

What is called divine revelation was given to men some time after the initial creation during which early time it became clear what men, by themselves, would probably become, which did not seem particularly promising. Revelation was given “in the fullness of time” in order that men might achieve the final transcendent end for which each was initially created. This revelation, in context, was not given to replace or contradict the reason with which each person was initially endowed. It was given as an aid, both to reason and to living properly. In effect, revelation was addressed to our intelligence. Men were expected to use their brains and to use them properly. This is why, as Benedict XVI said so clearly in the Regensburg Lecture, the encounter of revelation with Greek philosophy was so important. Because of this encounter, it became clear that, in divine revelation, what was being proposed to us in fact provided what we needed to know to explain to ourselves what our ultimate existence is about in the light of our own reflection on ourselves.


The Left is Sad, the Right Happy

What we have all known forever, and it is not temporary, but built in, as this article examining the Left’s unhappiness, from the Boston Review notes.

An excerpt.

November 9, 2016, was a strange day to walk through the liberal enclave of Cambridge, Massachusetts. At home and on the streets, melancholy was the shared affect, the dull pain after the sudden shock, the heartache for all bleeding hearts. Everyone spoke in the hushed and earnest tones typically heard at a funeral. In 1621, Robert Burton wrote in The Anatomy of Melancholy that “What cannot be cured must be endured.” In November in Cambridge, everybody endured, though nobody knew quite what to do. They knew only that they would spend the next two months awaiting the inevitable, much like the French during the drôle-de-guerre (Phoney War) of 1939-1940, when they could do little more than brace themselves for the German invasion.

Enzo Traverso, an Italian-born historian at Cornell University, has written the perfect meditation for our melancholy age. His Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory is not quite a book so much as it is a set of variations on a theme: namely, that ever since the fall of communism, a culture of defeat has characterized the left’s understanding of political history and theoretical critique. The book does not fasten on a specific argument so much as it wanders through its topics in a melancholy mood, tracing the affect of failure and defeat that pervades leftist culture in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Between Hungary in 1956 and Prague in 1968, much of the intellectual enthusiasm for communist regimes had already dimmed, but the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 served as the final disappointment for many Marxists, as well as for other stalwarts on the left who never quite managed to break their cathexis with official communism. It was not a shattering surprise, but the collapse of Soviet-style communist governments across Eastern Europe brought to an end a romance with communist dictatorship that was never much more than a fantastical projection of Western dreams. Today, Traverso observes, we live in an era that suffers from this “eclipse of utopias.” In the twenty-first century, here and there, the left still finds itself burdened with a sadness it cannot dispel.

Faithful to his melancholy theme, Traverso’s book worries away at its questions without working them through. Nearly all of the chapters have been published before as essays, and though it is not always clear what holds them together, the wandering may be the ideal compositional form for a cultural history that explores left-wing melancholy as an affect born of defeat. A world without utopia, after all, looks not forward but back: it plumbs our cultural memory and fashions for itself (in Pierre Nora’s phrase) “realms of memory.” Traverso’s book explores these realms of defeated utopia in film and in the written word. In one chapter he compares films by Theo Angelopoulos, Ken Loach, Carmen Castillo, Chris Marker, and Gillo Pontecorvo. He holds Pontecorvo, the Italian director of The Battle of Algiers and Burn!, in highest regard, extolling him as “the filmmaker of glorious defeats.” But perhaps the most iconic and most haunting image for left-wing melancholy appears in Angelopoulos’s 1995 film Ulysses’ Gaze, when we watch a dismembered statue of Lenin, bound Gulliver-like with ropes to a barge, drifting slowly down a canal. Lenin’s arm is still raised, though less in triumph than in a kind of quotation of the past, as if the bearded Bolshevik has been demoted to little more than a tour guide who points the way downstream. Not only Lenin, Traverso notes, but all of the symbols of bureaucratic socialism, have become “desacralized.” In their brokenness they stand as “melancholy guards of a defeated utopia.” Traverso is our guide into this realm of shattered dreams, but he emerges from the darkness with an instructive lesson for the political left: melancholy, he claims, may be a necessity.

A Remarkable Priest

I had never heard of this priest, but thanks to Mary Eberstadt writing in The Catholic Thing, now I know about him and—being a longtime fan of Opus Dei—I am not surprised he was a member of that order.

An excerpt.

This morning, the funeral Mass for a priest named Fr. Arne Panula will be offered by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and others at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in downtown Washington, D.C. A former head of Opus Dei, U.S.A. who died of cancer earlier this week, and long one of the most influential spiritual figures inside the nation’s capital and out, this “Fr. Arne,” as he’s been known to many friends and admirers, was a priest in full. His is not – yet – a household name. But it would shock no one who knew him if that relative obscurity were someday to change.

There is, for starters, his extraordinary story, including the fact that seeming paradoxes of his life resolved one by one in favor of beauty and holiness. A math and science wunderkind, he nevertheless graduated from college an English major with a lifelong devotion to Shakespeare and Keats; the resulting sharp feel for language would prove to be one of the surgical tools in his conversion kit. Educated at Harvard and other secular venues, and surrounded by worldly friends, he nonetheless and cheerily threw his life at God, being ordained in 1973. Strikingly handsome, and bearing an uncanny resemblance to the young Karol Wojtyla, he would go on to witness to many people – especially young people – that their souls depended on what was beautiful inside, not out.

Or consider Fr. Arne’s missionary work in what might seem to be one of the least promising spiritual territories on earth: the nation’s capital. There, in a business district packed with lawyers and lobbyists, he presided with infectious elan over the blandly named Catholic Information Center – a social, spiritual, and intellectual powerhouse like no other, set squarely on DC’s notoriously louche K Street.

Like his predecessors Fr. C.J. McCloskey and Msgr. William Stetson, and with the aid of a dedicated team led by Mitchell Boersma, Fr. Arne saw to it that pilgrims of every kind would migrate to the place: Senators and Supreme Court Justices, tourists and browsers of books, young professionals, troubled spirits in search of help, and other wanderers. Some are drawn in by the CIC’s chapel, the closest tabernacle to the White House. Some come for fellowship, including the convivial social scene. Others seek out the CIC’s intellectual comforts: the outstanding collection of books; the Leonine Forum fellowship for studying the classics of Catholic social thought; the lifetime reading series; the evening speaking programs featuring authors from around the world.

Whatever their individual stories, this blended family of converts, reverts, cradle Catholics, non-Catholics – and even a few anti-Catholics – amount to living proof of an audacious spiritual fact in a time marked by secularization: piece by fortified piece, a packed Trojan horse for the new evangelization has been rolled into the city’s most fabled power corridor – one that will continue its deep countercultural work under Fr. Arne’s successor, Fr. Charles Trullols.

One must also reckon with another rarity: the grace with which Fr. Arne handled life as the sands ran out. Following months during which he continued work at the CIC, the doctors finally dispatched him home with hospice care in winter 2017 – right before Lent. Then Providence threw another curveball. Contrary to forecasts, Fr. Arne ended up living not days or weeks, but months longer than medical algorithms predicted.

Just as his failing to succumb on schedule seemed to defy explanation, so did his vigor. “I’m dying,” he laughed a few weeks ago, “And I’m enjoying some of the best hours of my life.” Until the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour, he radiated a vitality hard to square with the knowledge that death cells had detonated all over inside. “He’s teaching us how to die,” one friend observed. “He’s acting like a saint,” said others.

Such unsettling effects on bystanders – in a good way – kept reverberating. A few months before he entered hospice care, some friends commissioned a portrait of Fr. Arne from master artist Igor Babailov. One of the world’s leading portraitists, Babailov has rendered many influential figures, among them industry titans, heads of state, and three popes. It was characteristic of Fr. Arne’s humility that he would assent to a charcoal portrait only; any rendition in color, he said, might have appeared immodest.

Igor Babailov has said that this priest’s sitting was one of the two most emotional experiences he’s had ever had of a subject (the other, he said, was the experience of painting Pope John Paul II). Simultaneously, while the artist was working on this piece, his wife Mary told friends another story that soon made the rounds. “I always go to the studio, to see whatever Igor’s up to,” she said. “There’s one portrait he’s creating now that I can’t stop staring at. I’ve never known that D.C. priest he’s drawing. But I cannot shake the feeling I have every time I see it: This must be a truly holy man.”

It’s a thought on the minds of other people now bidding goodbye. A few weeks ago, I asked Fr. Arne to share his recollections of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, whom he’d known in Spain before becoming a priest. “All my friends and others wanted to know the same thing when Josemaria was canonized,” Fr. Arne said casually. “Everyone asked the exact same question of me: ‘Did you ever think you’d known a saint?’”

Fatima & the Brown Scapular

A beautiful reflection on both from the Remnant Newspaper.

An excerpt.

In the Liturgical Calendar, last Sunday was the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.  In the hearts of those who love the Blessed Virgin Mary – which should be ALL of us – that Sunday, July 16, was the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: “Beatae Mariae Virginis de Monte Carmelo.”

During this 100th Anniversary Year of the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima, recall that on October 13, 1917 the Mother of God appeared at one point during the Great Miracle of the Sun to Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding forth a Brown Scapular.  Keep in mind that whenever Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the three shepherd children, She always had a star on the hem of Her gown.

That star can represent Our Lady of Mount Carmel as the ‘Star of the Sea’ that traditionally leads sailors on troubled waters back to safe harbor.  Our Lady of Mount Carmel can be seen as representing the Star of the Sea that first appeared to Saint Elijah the Prophet as a “small foot shaped cloud” (3 Kings 18: 44/Douay-Rheims).  In doing so, She appeared to symbolize not only the end of the drought which afflicted the Israelites, but also to signify the end of their doctrinal confusion.

The Message of Fatima is a compendium of traditional Catholic Church teaching and a reaffirmation of the Gospel.  The star of Our Lady of Fatima is our special Star of the Sea in this age of darkness for the Church polluted by the murky doctrinal waters of Modernism, where very few other stars are shining.

The Star near the hem of Our Lady’s gown shines bright with Her words of hope: “In Portugal, the Dogma of the Faith will always be preserved etc.”  This statement indicates that the Dogma of the Faith would be lost in other parts of the world, but preserved by the Message of Fatima.

We are in perhaps the greatest period of doctrinal uncertainty among the people and clergy that the Church has ever known.

This is an indication that we need the Star of Our Lady of Fatima – the Star of the Sea – Our Lady of Mount Carmel, to guide us through these troubled waters.  At the time of the Prophet Elijah, Israel was plagued by false prophets leading the chosen people astray with false doctrine and the worship of false gods.

This is familiar to us, as self-styled ‘prophets’ in our day, claiming to be ‘Catholic,’ are shamelessly leading Christ’s flock to spiritual ruin.  King Achab of Juda, the son of Amri, “did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him” (3 Kings 16: 30).

We too are in a time of unprecedented evil brought on by wolves in shepherd’s clothing. King Achab led the northern kingdom, Israel, into the worship of pagan gods.

It was the politically correct thing to do, as Israel wanted to get along with their pagan neighbors for peace and for economic reasons.  In our age, it seems that politically correct leaders of the Church, in an effort to get along with non-Catholic Christians and non-Christian sects, have modified Church teaching and worship to conform to the ways of the world.

Therefore, the King of Israel, Achab, entered into a marriage with a pagan woman by the name of Jezabel and made her his queen.  She brought along her pagan religion that worshipped, in particular, the false god, Baal.  False prophets and priests flooded into Israel to ‘minister’ at pagan temples erected to Jezabel’s gods.  An altar was set up for Baal within the kingdom, greatly offending Almighty God.

We too have seen new ‘altars/tables’ and configurations set up in our Catholic sanctuaries; many of which seem to be offering worship to the ‘cult of man,’ as opposed to the worship of Almighty God.  Elijah the Prophet then came upon the scene and declared to Achab that because of their sinful ways there would be a drought for years of neither dew nor rain (3 Kings 17:1).  The Catholic Church has been experiencing a drought of vocations for the past fifty years of priests and religious. along with numerous church closings.

Should this not be telling us, in the most forceful way, that God is not pleased with the direction that the Bark of Peter, the Catholic Church, is drifting? The true Prophets of the Lord were killed by the evil Queen Jezabel (3 Kings 18:4).  Elijah, however, kept the Faith as he declared: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant: they have thrown down thy altars, they have slain Thy prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away” (3 Kings 19: 10).  In recent decades, many Catholic priests and religious who preach and teach the fullness of the Dogma of the Faith are persecuted as if they are criminals by Church authorities.

Our high altars have been torn down.  With zeal may we always defend the Catholic Faith no matter what the odds. Finally, it came to a ‘showdown’ between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.  On Mount Carmel, two altars were set up: one for the Prophet Elijah and one for the four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal.  Offerings would be prepared by each side on their respective altars.  The offering that was accepted by Almighty God, would be the one which was consumed by fire from Heaven. Needless to say, the sacrifice of Elijah, prefiguring the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, was acceptable to Almighty God, Who sent fire down from Heaven to consume it.

Giving hope to our troubled times, the people who had been led into apostasy at the time of Elijah by their evil leaders, repented as the light of truth came upon them, as they cried out: “The Lord He is God, the Lord He is God!” (3 Kings 18: 39).  The false prophets of Baal were then put to death by the people for having brought a blasphemous religion to the people of God.  Pray to God through Our Lady of Fatima/Our Lady of Mount Carmel that the time of accounting soon comes for the false priests and prophets of our time leading souls astray.  May they repent of their scandalous sins and return to the One True Faith founded by Christ before Divine judgment is visited upon them. It was after this victory that Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel casting himself down upon the earth.  Elijah directed his servants to look toward the sea.  They saw nothing.

He told them to return seven times.  At the seventh time, a small foot shaped cloud arose out of the sea and torrents of rain came ending the great drought caused by the peoples’ apostasy from the faith. The small foot-shaped cloud, representing the Immaculate Virgin Mary, conceived without the stain of Original Sin, arose from what can be described as ‘the sea of sinful humanity.’

Tradition says that after this encounter with the “type” of Our Blessed Mother, Elijah made his abode on Mount Carmel awaiting the birth of the Mother of the Messiah (Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ).  Devotion then began to Our Lady of Mount Carmel before the time of Christ.  The Prophet Elijah is thus considered to be the Founder of the Carmelite Order devoted to the Mother of God.  When Our Lady of Mount Carmel gave the Brown Scapular to the Carmelite, Saint Simon Stock, some 766 years ago, on July 16, 1251, She said: “Whoever dies in this garment will not suffer everlasting fire.  It is a token of salvation.

It safeguards in danger.  It pledges us to peace and the Covenant.”  Pope Pius XII said that the Brown Scapular was a “Sign of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”  Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is one of the central teachings in the Message of Fatima.  Sister Lucia of Fatima would say that the Rosary and the Brown Scapular are inseparable.

Capital Punishment is Necessary

The sound argument, in line with Catholic teaching, from this article in Catholic World Report.

An excerpt.

As we showed in Part 1 of this  essay, for two millennia the Catholic Church has taught that the death penalty can be a legitimate punishment for heinous crimes, not merely to protect the public from the immediate danger posed by the offender but also to secure retributive justice and to deter serious crime.   This was the uniform teaching of scripture and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and it was reaffirmed by popes and also codified in the universal catechism of the Church promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in the sixteenth century, as well as in numerous local catechisms.

Consider the standard language of the Baltimore Catechism, which was used throughout Catholic parishes in the United States for educating children in the faith for much of the twentieth century:

  1. 1276. Under what circumstances may human life be lawfully taken?
  2. Human life may be lawfully taken: 1. In self-defense, when we are unjustly attacked and have no other means of saving our own lives;  2. In a just war, when the safety or rights of the nation require it;  3. By the lawful execution of a criminal, fairly tried and found guilty of a crime punishable by death when the preservation of law and order and the good of the community require such execution. 1

Thus, killing another human being in self-defense, during a just war, or through the lawful execution of a criminal does not violate the Fifth Commandment’s rule “Thou shall not kill” (which many modern editions of the Bible translate as “Thou shall not murder”). The permissibility of these three types of lawful killing (unlike the deliberate killing of the innocent, which is always prohibited) depends on contingent circumstances.  As long as (in the words of Pope Innocent III) “the punishment is carried out not in hatred but with good judgment, not inconsiderately but after mature deliberation,” the death penalty may be imposed if it genuinely serves the common good.

Generally, the Church has left these and similar prudential judgments to public officials.  For example, the current Catechism of the Catholic Church expressly affirms that when it comes to judging whether a decision to go to war is morally justified, “the evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have the responsibility for the common good.”  The institutional Church respects the authority and responsibility of public officials, guided by the sound moral principles it preserves and promulgates, to make these judgments.  Similarly, to the best of our knowledge, the Church has fully respected the authority of lawmakers to write statutes on self-defense that detail the conditions under which individuals may use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves and others.

Unfortunately, in recent years churchmen have not been equally respectful of the authority and duty of public officials to exercise their prudential judgments in applying Catholic teaching when it comes to the death penalty, despite the fact that churchmen bring to the debate over capital punishment no particular expertise derived from their religious training and pastoral experience.  Given the Church’s longstanding and irreformable teaching that death may in principle be a legitimate punishment for grievous crimes, the key issue for Catholics is the empirical and practical question of whether the death penalty more effectively promotes public safety and the common good than do lesser punishments.  We maintain that it does and thus devote about half of our book, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, to making this case.

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church  affirms that “[l]egitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense” and that “[p]unishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense.” 2 Thus, punishment is fundamentally retributive, inflicting on the offender a penalty commensurate with the gravity of his crime, though it may serve other purposes as well, such as incapacitating the offender, deterring others, and promoting the offender’s rehabilitation.

The significance of this point cannot be overstated.  Secular critics of capital punishment often reject the very idea of retribution—the principle that an offender simply deserves a punishment proportionate to the gravity of his offense—but no Catholic can possibly do so. For unless an offender deserves a certain punishment—whether that be a fine, imprisonment, or whatever—and deserves a punishment of that specific degree of severity, then it would be unjust to inflict the punishment on him.  Hence all the other ends of punishment—deterrence, rehabilitation, protection of society, and so on—presuppose the retributive aim of giving the offender what he deserves. This is why the Catechism promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II reaffirms the traditional Catholic teaching that retribution is the “primary aim” of punishment.

Among the many reasons why capital punishment ought to be preserved (all of which we set out at length in our forthcoming book), the most fundamental one is that for extremely heinous crimes, no lesser punishment could possibly respect this Catholic principle that a punishment ought to be proportional to the offense.  We devote the remainder of this article to developing this point.

Artificial Intelligence Changing Work, Big Time

And this excellent article from City Journal examines how much has already changed and how much will change, an important trend for reforming criminals.

An excerpt.

Warning: don’t read too much about the future of jobs in an era of Artificial Intelligence if you are—psychologically speaking—in a dark place. If you’re a lover of the arts and humanities, for example, you should probably go full hermit in the basement of a university library with plenty of provisions (but no WiFi). If you greet all technological advances with gee-whiz enthusiasm, you’d best avoid long conversations with people who make a living driving trucks or reading X-rays. If you’re an antiglobalization protectionist, get ready to look with longing on a time when the biggest threats to jobs were NAFTA and an ascendant China. And even if you believe in the long-term benefits of what economist Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction—as I do—prepare to have your convictions tested.

People have feared artificial intelligence since Mary Shelley introduced the world to Dr. Frankenstein’s hideous creature. The Luddites, who battled against the automated loom in the early nineteenth century, are now regarded as so wrongheaded that they have an economic error named after them. The Luddite fallacy refers to the fact that in the long run, disruptive technologies create more jobs—not to mention reduce drudgery, save lives, expand leisure, and enrich us all. Optimists argue that AI, too, will bring material and social progress. Things will cost less; people will live longer. They’ll have more time to enjoy their hobbies and interests. The work-life balance problem? Solved—once robots do the laundry, drive the kids to soccer, and take over the less interesting but time-consuming tasks at the office. Albert Wenger, a venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures, is not alone in seeing AI as “a development that will free us to do lots of incredible things that are more aligned with what it means to be human.”

So let’s stipulate: no one knows for sure what’s about to happen to the labor market. Most observers agree, however, on at least two things. First, the pace of AI discoveries and implementation is accelerating. Robots are now doing things that seemed like science fiction just a short time ago. Was anyone talking about a retail-sector meltdown, driven in good measure by AI-facilitated e-commerce, last year? Second, fasten your seatbelts. Whether you call it “the second machine age”—as MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee do, in a 2014 book by that name—or the fourth industrial revolution, this will be big. Most Silicon Valley honchos, scientists, and economists think that this time is different. Exactly how many jobs will be lost, which kinds of jobs and when, and what to do to prepare for these losses may be matters of dispute. No longer questioned is that a massive disruption in the way we earn a living is coming and that it will transform communities, education—and perhaps even our notion of an America defined by industriousness and upward mobility.

This is not to say that AI optimists don’t have plenty of evidence on their side. AI, defined as “fully autonomous machines that don’t need a human operator and can be reprogrammed to perform several manual tasks,” is already helping save workers’ lives and limbs. Much of this is happening not because machines are replacing humans but because they are helping them do their jobs more efficiently and safely. Military drones are an obvious example. Drones don’t reduce the need for soldiers—humans still need to operate and service the machines—but they do lessen the need for soldiers and military-intelligence officers on treacherous battlefields or in jets at risk of antiaircraft attacks. Similarly, firefighters use drones to get a live-video look at a forest fire or to search for victims before sending men into danger. In March, the New York City Fire Department used a drone to help place firefighters on a damaged roof during a dangerous fire in the Bronx.

For decades, robots have been assisting physicians in the operating room. A robotic system called Da Vinci has “arms” equipped with cameras and precision tools to perform everything from knee replacements to hair transplants to tumor removal. Da Vinci can operate in hard-to-reach crevices of the body with tiny tools in ways that far exceed the physical capacities of human doctors. By the latest count, 3,803 Da Vinci units are in use worldwide—2,501 in the United States. Studies have found that Da Vinci can mean smaller incisions, less blood loss, and shorter recovery periods than conventional surgery. And because surgeons use magnified, high-definition, 3-D computer-screen images of a kidney or knee, for example, to guide the robot, they don’t need to be in the same room or, for that matter, the same continent as their patient. “Telesurgery” lets a doctor in New York operate on a patient in Ghana and still be home for dinner. The potential benefits for the billions living in remote or medically underserved areas are incalculable.

More recently, robots have also been “collaborating” with doctors as they make diagnosis and treatment decisions. IBM’s cutely named robot Watson became a celebrity when he defeated Ken Jennings, famous for winning 74 consecutive Jeopardy games. Now, Watson is in training to become an Olympian medical expert. In fact, without robotic technology, we probably wouldn’t be anticipating personalized medicine. Robots like Watson are tireless info-vores; they don’t suffer overload or need naps or caffeine breaks; they can digest more medical journals, reports, patient records, websites, records, and diagnostic materials in an hour than a doctor could in a lifetime. A Watson designed to analyze genomics consumes something like 10,000 scientific articles and 100 new clinical trials that become available every month. Tell Watson the genomic makeup of a tumor, and it will sift through all the research in order to customize treatment.

The optimists can also rightfully claim to have history in their corner. In the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes fretted about “technological unemployment” but assumed that it would be temporary. In that respect, at least, Keynesianism has been vindicated. Machinery has obliterated some jobs while boosting productivity and consumer wealth, which, in turn, has created new, often higher-paying, jobs. No one could have predicted that automated looms’ cheaper clothes would change the calculus of consumer demand, leading to more jobs for weavers, as ultimately happened. Henry Ford’s Model T devastated blacksmiths, saddle and harness artisans, stable boys, and carriage makers, among others. But the automobile was a creative destructor, swelling the ranks of steel, glass, rubber, textile, and oil and gas workers and, for better or worse, giving birth to the motel and fast-food industries.

Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles

A great article from Huffington Post on Mary Magdalene’s Feast day.

An excerpt.

On 22 July each year, the Christian community venerates a saint who is the single best argument for why women should be priests: Mary of Magdala, more commonly called Mary Magdalene and traditionally known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Given what we know about her, it’s a scandal that some Christian communities—most notably the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention—still consider women unworthy of ordination.

The Roman Church’s refusal to ordain women is succinctly stated in its official Catechism:

The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry…For this reason the ordination of women is not possible. #1577

The Southern Baptist Convention bases its refusal on several passages in the Pauline letters to Titus and Timothy that seem to disallow women from serving as pastors. (Never mind that biblical scholars agree that the letters were almost certainly not written by Paul himself.) Predictably, perhaps, the Convention adds that pastoral ministry would interfere with women’s single-minded dedication to their God-appointed “family roles.”

Such objections to the ordination of women strike rational people, including millions of Christians, as absurd. But Dominican priest Wojciech Giertych, who served as theologian of the papal household for Pope Benedict XVI, adds risibility to absurdity when he argues that women simply don’t have the mechanical know-how of men, and so would be helpless when it comes to guy-stuff like church repairs.

I don’t know how handy she was with a hammer or screwdriver, but the scriptural accounts of Mary Magdalene certainly confound these arguments against women priests and pastors. Her prominence in the New Testament is indisputable.

She’s presented as one of the earliest disciples of Jesus, joining his band of followers after being cleansed of “seven demons” (Mark and Luke). Although she actually isn’t the New Testament “sinner” who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears or anointed them with precious oil she’s often thought to be—this is an identification invented by Gregory the Great in the 6th century—she’s still mentioned more often in the Gospels, no fewer than 12 times, than nearly all the male apostles.

The gospels of Mark, Matthew, and John recognize her as one of the women who followed Jesus to Golgotha, when all the male apostles except John had fled in terror. All four gospels also announce that she was either the very first person (Mark and John) or one of the first (Matthew and Luke), her companions also being women, to whom the Risen Christ appeared, and that she was the messenger who carried the good news to the male apostles.

Luke tells us that the other disciples didn’t believe her, either because she was a woman or because the tale was so fantastical, and ran to see the empty tomb for themselves. In the apocryphal Gospel of Mary, dating from sometime in the 2nd century, the disbelief of the male apostles, especially the brothers Andrew and Peter, is clearly rancorous. “Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?” In the later Gospel of Philip, another apocryphal text, the anger directed against Mary by the male apostles is even more intense.

These texts suggest that even at this early stage in the Church’s history, animosity toward women in leadership positions was present. But the more important point here is that both canonical and non-canonical texts affirm Mary as the witness-bearer for the risen Christ. There simply is no debate in the ancient texts about her centrality.

Interior Life & the Mass

A very nice article from The Catholic Thing, examining the classic Catholic book—The Three Ages of the Interior Life ( a must-have for your library)—and its relation to the Mass.

An excerpt.

The desire to be holy is natural to us.  But the pursuit of holiness should be reasonable, compatible with human nature and open to the ineffable mysteries of God.  Christianity extends over the entire history of the human race and in so doing not only reveals the eternal love of God but the dignity and the sanctification of history as well.

Our individual return to God must be understood within the context of the spiritual journey of the entire People of God in history. In our lonely spiritual battles, we participate in the same spiritual struggles of our forefathers, and we can look to their example for guidance.

The spiritual classic The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. provides a roadmap for our struggle and quest, we enter into communion with Him.

The first age is the “Purgative Way,” where we in prayer identify our sins against God and repent of them.  The second age is the “Illuminative Way,” when we contemplate God’s self-revelation and apply the truths of faith to ourselves. The third age is the “Unitive Way,” the pinnacle of holiness where we enter into communion with God.

But the Three Ages are not only stages of personal prayer.  They describe distinct communal and historical dimensions. Examining the Three Ages, in outline form, can help us enter into the mystery of God’s revelation over the entire expanse of history.

The essential message of the Old Testament is the first tenet of the Decalogue:  “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3) In preparation for the Redeemer, it was necessary to purify the Chosen People of all false worship, setting them apart from every other nation.  The history of the Old Testament is a history of God’s fidelity to His people, the worship of the One God, with repeated relapses into false worship. The preaching of John the Baptist sums up the essential “Purgative Way” of the Old Testament in a single sentence: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt. 3:2, NAB)

In the “fullness of time,” Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is born into the world.  He is God’s Word made flesh (John 1: 14) and “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Col. 1:15)  For He is “the way and the truth and the life” and “no one comes to the Father” except through Him. (John 14:6) The Person and teachings of Christ represent the “Illuminative Way” in our return to God.

Jesus wants us to be holy, to be in communion with Him. “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” (St. Irenaeus)  “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas)

Holiness is our destiny ordained by God.

The Church is the Sacrament of Christ, and His instrument of this communion.  On Pentecost – upon the Descent of the Holy Spirit – the Church was born. Through the Holy Spirit, Mary and the disciples are definitively incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ. This mysterious communion is truly the “Unitive Way.” Through the Church and her Sacraments, we intimately encounter the risen Lord and deepen our communion with Him.

But the Three Ages apply not only to us individually and as a people in history; they can help us understand the purpose and structure of the Mass. Indeed, the Mass can be said to be a mysterious “microcosm” of all salvation history (although the Mass is really quite the opposite, ushering us into eternity!).