Category Archives: Education

Of all the stupid examples of “Common Core” I’ve seen

This has to be the dumbest:

The correct answer is simple: “There is not enough information.” The very first word problems I ever remember were focused on simply knowing how to read the problem and whether there was enough information, not enough information, or too much information. It’s on every standardized test: “D. There is not enough information to solve this problem.”

I’m as pro-homeschooling/”parents are the primary educators of their children”/subsidiarity anti-educational bureaucracy as the next paleocon. I’ve seen some legitimate complaints about “Common Core,” besides the complete destruction of local authority and academic freedom, such as math problems where the solution is “the most correct,” rather than simply “correct.” One of the first such examples was something like 357 + 249 =
Students were asked to use multiple methods of estimation to show that the answer could be estimated at 500, or estimated at 600, but the “most correct” response was 606-or whatever the particular numbers were in the example. Recognizing the importance of estimation as a step, I still think it’s stupid to confuse the issue by using “multiple answers” in one problem, and saying that the “correct” answer is “the most correct.” After all, if math is subjective, then everything is, and if that’s how accountants and bureaucrats do math, that explains both our government and corporate America.

Nonetheless, many examples of how bad “common core” supposedly is seem to say more about the people presenting them. If I see a hand-written example of a “Common Core Assignment,” and the person can’t spell properly, it kind of diminishes their credibility. It would be nice to see the original assignment photocopied, as presumably in this case.

Many of the “Common Core” math strategies that get criticized are the same strategies that have been used successfully for years by private tutoring services and charter schools–the same ones that NCLB-type (neo)conservatives advocate as being so much more effective than “failed” public schools.
Similarly, (neo)conservatives complain about how we’re failing to “compete” with schools in other countries, or how kids in the US were expected to know far more by the time they finished 8th grade 100 years ago than they’re required to know today, how to get into college 100 years ago you needed Latin and Greek but now people graduate college without basic English, etc., yet suddenly it’s “Why is my kid being required to know this in elementary school when I didn’t learn it until middle school or high school?”
Those kinds of self-contradictory arguments only serve to undermine our cause, especially when they come from homeschoolers.
People get so reflexively angry about “Common Core” that they want to search out any fault they can find and then shoot the messenger when told that the fault they’re finding isn’t in the problem.

As the saying goes, “There are three kinds of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t.”
I’d say it’s more like, good at math, good at elementary math but not higher, good at higher but not lower, and just not good at math. I’m in the third category. My brain isn’t wired for memorization, partly because I want to understand how things work. Common Core seems to be targeted at explaining processes, so kids are better prepared for higher level math, but it doesn’t work for those whose brains are wired for memorization, and that is the real problem with “Common Core,” No Child Left Behind, and everything in between: you can’t standardize education because you can’t standardize people.

Today is the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

Which also happens to be the subject of one of my best lessons, a lesson on critical analysis, showing the elements that make it a great speech and explaining different possible essay outlines for a critical essay on the speech.

This is probably the last recording of my voice before I lost my left vocal cord.

Audience and Purpose and the Popes

One of the ways having a literature degree has made me a better Catholic is understanding the concept of “audience and purpose.” We too often think of text as something absolute and immutable. When we’re told as students to consider “audience and purpose” in our reading and writing we tend to think of it as something very superficial. Teacher: “Who’s your audience in your essay?” Student: “You are.” Teacher: “No, your audience is a group of people who have a problem you’re trying to address.”

A good example of this I heard came from Barry Manilow, on the _Tavis Smiley_ show, to promote _15 Minutes_. He said that he was a celebrity coach for _American Idol_ 3 times: one of them behind the scenes. One of the times he was a celebrity judge, a contestant wanted to sing “I Made it Through the Rain.”
He asked, “Who are you singing for?”
“The judges and the audience.”
“No, who are you singing *for*? You can’t just perform to the audience. You have to be singing to somebody. Are you singing to God? Grandma? Your best friend?”
“God, I guess.”
So he guided her performance to that, and she did a fantastic job.

In teaching writing, I often found that one of the key failures of bad writing was having an unclear audience and purpose, being “all over the map,” as they say. One example I often refer to is a student in a “writing for IT majors” class who wrote her term paper on video game consoles. She did the typical “beginning research paper” practice of getting the first few sources she could find (in the old days, it was library books; today, it’s web sites) and throwing together what she could get from them. Part of her paper explained what console games are, like its audience was people who know nothing about them. Then it shifted to talking about them like it was addressing grandmas trying to buy games for their grandkids. Then it shifted to the latest models, like it was addressing people who wanted to upgrade. Then it started talking about customer service issues, like it was addressing current users. It read this way because it was essentially summarizing four articles written with these basic audiences in mind.

I would always tell my students to think about magazine headlines: ‘Lose 10 lbs. by [upcoming holiday].’ Obviously, the headline is targeting people who want to lose weight in a short amount of time. It doesn’t mean those are the only people who will read it. It just means its message is targeted to those readers. Think about a medical student doing some kind of research. He is called for various reasons to present to a group of high school students, college students, professors and other med students in a class or defense setting, and to other researchers at a conference. To each audience he’s going to give a different talk, even if the “topic” in a broad sense is the same, because each audience has different levels of experience and different things they want to know.

So, when we’re reading, we need to think of who the intended audience is when we’re interpreting. This is especially true of Popes. When Pope Pius IX was addressing bishops in countries where Communist revolutions were taking place, and he condemned “a kind of religious liberty” that said people’s consciences were free from the Church, then we can be pretty sure he wasn’t condemning *all* religious liberty but a certain kind that met a certain description. When the Popes have spoken of “immigration reform,” and talked about how countries need to be more generous in welcoming immigrants, often their descriptions of what countries *should* do is much like what the US already *does*.

So, when we look at what Pope Francis has been saying, we need to consider his intended audience. While the Scalfari interview has basically been repudiated by the Vatican, the much-(mis)quoted Jesuit interview is a good example: much has been made of the Holy Father’s words about “obsession” with certain moral issues, but he’s very clearly, in the context of the interview, answering a question about homiletics and confession. He’s not speaking of political activism or even evangelization. He’s just talking about what priests say from the pulpit and how they treat people in the confessional (as for the content, I’ve addressed that already).

“Tomorrow is St. Crispan’s Day!”

And so we have Baron Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)’s 1944 version of _Henry V_, Act IV, Scene iii, lines 18-67:


KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

The Real Problem

One of the claims that gets floated around in the internecine disputes of the Catholic blogosphere is that So-and-so is attacking “good Catholics” or “good pro-lifers.” Supporters of the American Life League/Human Life International approach argue (as I do) that the incrementalist approach of the National Right to Life Committee is self-defeating, while the NRLC-supporters say that the ALL/HLI types are unrealistic. Those who question certain methodologies (e.g., the infamous example of lying to Planned Parenthood in the name of “exposing the truth” or the question of whether to show graphic images of aborted babies) are accused of “attacking pro-lifers” and serving the enemy. Michael Voris attacks Catholic Answers and EWTN people for “making money off of apologetics,” and they call him a demagogue (and both criticisms arguably have some merit). Both “sides” accuse each other of driving people away from the Church.
The fact remains that the vast majority of Catholics in America do not vote for Democrats because a handful of online Distributists argue against *both* Capitalism and Socialism but because their pastors and the mainstream media tell them the Church supports socialism.
They do not support legalized abortion because a handful of online pro-life Catholics have questioned the methods of certain “pro-life” groups but because their parents or grandparents taught them Catholicism was about “not pushing their morals on other people,” and their pastors constantly teach “Judge not.”
They do not oppose traditional liturgical practices and approaches to catechesis because of what some blogger or apologist has said: for most of them, everyone from EWTN and Catholic Answers to Michael Voris to the Society of St. Pius X are “traditionalists,” and “traditionalist” is defined by their pastors as “Old people who don’t like the changes of Vatican II, and we’re just waiting for them to die off.” For them, Vatican II, defined by their pastors, Nuns on the Bus and the Mainstream Media, is this vast “progressive” overhaul of the Church that rendered all previous teaching and praxis obsolete (the “hermeneutic of rupture”). So while “conservatives” fight among themselves, the majority of Catholics in our country waddle on in indifference and ignorance, welcoming people like John Dominic Crossan and Richard McBrien to speak at their parishes.

Religion is more than just something to do on Sunday

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” –G.K. Chesterton


Football season is beginning. It always strikes me that people who are afraid to talk of “politics and religion” for fear of offending friends or relatives will get into absolute feuds over football. Meanwhile, they treat politics and religion the way they treat sports: a form of recreation; merely something to do on the weekends.
The other thing that football has in common with politics and religion is that people generally seem to choose their religious and political affiliations the way they pick their football teams: as a form of patriotism, or because of their families (either to show loyalty or spite their families), or because of their friends. Thus, just as they support the Steelers, or the Redskins, or the Browns, or the Panthers because of where they happen to live, people tend to simply accept (or reject) their family’s religion or political party without necessarily thinking of *why* they support it.
Thus, people will speak of “religion,” as a concept, in ways that can be quite baffling. On the one hand, you have people who insist that they’re Catholic, even though they reject the Church’s teachings from transubstantiation to the evil of contraception to the very Incarnation itself, because “it’s too hard to leave the Church,” like She is some kind of blood cult or something. They’re attached (rightly) to the nostalgia evoked by the liturgy (particularly the infamous Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter liturgies), and they attribute the devotion of other Catholics to a kind of extreme nostalgia (hence the “People who want the Traditional Latin Mass are just old people who don’t like change” argument).
On the other hand, you have people who say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” meaning that they’re not affiliated with a particular denomination or worship service. “Religion” has come to be defined according to the Masonic view as something subservient to “society” or “culture” (which is the main reason the 18th Century popes condemned the Masonic Lodges). The “church” or synagogue, temple or mosque is treated as something like a Lodge: a place to meet every week, have some fun, engage in organized charities, and host major life events like weddings and funerals. The Sacraments become similar “life events”–Baptism (or “Christening”) becomes a ceremony to recognize a birth, and so the same young parents who were offended at the notion in pre-Cana counseling that they should live as Catholics become offended at the notion they must promise to actually raise their children Catholic. They participate in First Communion and Confirmation (aka “graduation from CCD”) for the same reasons. It’s really very sad.
Thus, both the nominal Catholic and the “spiritual” non-Catholic are baffled by the notion that any religion should claim to be superior or to actually teach the Truth about Divine and Human Nature. Theology is seen as arbitrary and superstitious. Ironically, though, the claim that all religions are equal and that people should have “freedom of worship” means that “religion” should not be extended into “public life.” It’s just something to do for an hour a week, and not to actually effect one’s life beyond some base common denominator of being a “decent person” or a “good citizen.” Any religion that claims to do *more* that that is immediately suspect for violating the commonly accepted definition of “religion” that the Masons have taught us for nearly 300 years.
So the Left has fought for legalization of so-called “same sex marriage,” insisting they only want “equal rights,” and that no one should feel threatened by it. Christians warned that it would lead to persecution of those who didn’t want to participate. Others insisted and continue to insist that it was about “marriage equality” and that opponents were “homophobic.” Yet, now that the Supreme Court has essentially legalized it nationwide by throwing out the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the California Proposition 8, a court has ruled that Christian photographers cannot refuse to photograph gay weddings, a Christian bakery has closed due to “LGBT” threats and protests, a millionaire “gay” couple has sued a church in the UK for not performing their “wedding,” and Ugandan homosexuals have sued a Christian evangelist for “crimes against humanity.” Yet, like Nancy Pelosi’s infamous comment on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), “conservative” Catholic literary critic Joseph Bottum argues that we have to allow gay marriage to happen to see if it might do some good.
The LGBTQ lobby is powerful, as the UK case illustrates, precisely because it’s rich, but also because of “well meaning” Christians who think it’s about “fairness,” and others who don’t think that “religion” shouldn’t intrude on the “public sphere.” It’s the same reasoning behind the HHS contraception mandate: the alleged “right” to violate Natural Law supersedes the right of employers to chose not to engage in material cooperation. Indeed, the notion of “material cooperation” goes over most people’s heads or is used in the opposite of its intent.

It’s not always a matter of what someone says but how he or she says it.

Years ago, one of my best friends discovered the “Most Holy Family Monastery” website, and, being the kind of person who keeps an open mind in order to shut it on something solid (and also the kind of person to come to people directly rather than third party), he called them up. He said a lady answered, identifying her as “Sister” whatever. He said to her, “I was watching some of your videos, and you raise some pretty strong criticisms of Pope John Paul II. I am inclined to agree with what you have to say, but I have a few questions. This is very important to me because I teach Theology of the Body at my parish, and I want to make sure I’m not teaching something wrong. You’ve done a good job explaining to me what you think is wrong, but what do you teach other than that other people are wrong? What is it that you have to say?”
The “Sister” called him a “Pope-olator” and hung up. So he called back. I forget how it went, exactly, but he was originally interested in an authentic discussion and was so ticked off by her rudeness that he just kept calling, and she kept ignoring his calls or picking up and hanging up. At one point, early in the process, he got hold of her and said her behavior was not becoming of a nun, hanging up on him and refusing to answer his question that he asked in charity. Eventually she said that if he didn’t stop calling, she’d report him for harassment!
There is a certain temptation, into which I fully admit to falling prey, to focus on the negative. Sometimes, that can be necessary, especially on a matter where it’s important to explain to people why a certain line of reasoning is wrong, but it’s also important to emphasize Truth in a positive matter. So, in some of these internecine squabbles among otherwise conservative, tradition-minded Catholics that boil down to style, you will hear both sides say, in defending themselves, “Can you point out anything I’ve said that goes against Church teaching?” And the answer is usually a roundabout “no,” because honestly both “sides” are acting within the relatively broad spectrum of ideas the Church allows (e.g., there are more approaches to philosophy and theology than Thomism). If there are disagreements over *ideas,* they’re usually about the philosophical argumentation than about the core ideas being presented, or else it’s a matter where the Church’s teaching leaves room for interpretation (just as an example, whether “Amazing Grace” is appropriate at Mass).
More often, it’s not the ideas themselves but *how* they’re presented, because the person tends to be, as Diane Korzeniewski, OCDS, puts it, “strident.”
A good example is the criticism of Pope Francis, which satirical Eye of the Tiber sends up in this post. Advocates of a “hermeneutic of rupture” are so eager to paint Francis as a “progressive” that the media are interpreting everything he says or does in as liberal a way possible (and thus contrasting him to Benedict, even though their differences are primarily stylistic), and the “traditionalists” are more than happy to comply with the media’s interpretation. So it gets to where, in some circles, *everything* His Holiness says or does gets nitpicked, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, if someone merely questions some of his prudential judgements, as I have done from time to time, we immediately get lumped in with the sedevacantists.
One of the greatest books on education and rhetoric in Western tradition is St. Augustine’s _On Christian Doctrine_ (the original Latin meaning of “doctrine” being “teaching”-in other words, “How to teach Christianity”). Augustine says, regarding the age old Platonic debate of philosophy versus rhetoric, that it doesn’t matter if something’s true if no one reads it. He says it in the sense of “nobody will read a boring science textbook,” but it also applies to this context as well. A “sinners in the hands of an angry God” approach only works if you’re preaching to a captive audience: the old “preaching to the choir” thing. An argument I’ve used in the past is that the “choir” needs encouragement, but that’s just it: the choir needs *encouragement*. Yes, there are badly Catechized Catholics who need to know that some of what they’ve been taught is wrong, or that they have *not* been instructed that some things are evil. However, they also need to be taught what’s *positive*. We’re supposed to be sharing the “Good News.” When all a person ever shares is the “Bad News,” even if that person is 100% orthodox, it’s going to turn people off.

11 “Hollywood” Films (and a PBS Cartoon) with Pro-Life Themes

PersonhoodUSA has posted a great piece on BuzzFeed called “10 Hollywood Movies that Accidentally Affirm Life.”
As some commentors have said, many of these are pretty intentionally pro-life (except _Horton_, given that “Dr. Seuss’s” widow sued pro-life groups for quoting the book), and I have blogged previously about _Knocked Up_, _Juno_, and _Waitress_.  However, one that is not on the list and is definitely unintentional is _Finding Nemo_, which includes the title character witnessing the deaths of his mother and “brothers and sisters” while he (along with his siblings) is still inside an egg.  Nemo is, of course, born disabled, and acceptance of his disability is a major theme of the movie.
Another good cartoon (though not a “movie”) that I’ve blogged about before is the _Magic School Bus_ episode “Cracks a Yolk,” starring pro-choice feminist Lily Tomlin. 

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The Zimmerman trial should have been about Parental Permissiveness

I have learned more about the Zimmerman/Martin case in the last 39 hours than the last 16 months, since I try to avoid such cases. First, I don’t understand why this is about “racism”: I see some punk comes down the street, mall concourse, or wherever wearing “gangsta” attire (e.g., a hoodie, which in particular obscures his face), with that distinct swagger, etc., and I get scared. I don’t care what the color of his skin is, how old he is, or even if the person’s a “he” or a “she.” What gets me, though, is that, if Trayvon was the innocent helpless child they’re making him out to be, what in the blazes (literally) were his “parents” (specifically, his father and his father’s fiancee in this case) doing allowing him out alone at night to go *anywhere*, much less “buy a pack of Skittles”? The parents should be charged with criminal neglect, but that notion is offensive to 99% of Americans because they see no problem with Trayvon’s behavior (not that it necessarily warranted killing him), or the fact that his parents were divorced, which should itself be a horrible scandal (even if the divorce was justified).

Yes, I think this case really speaks to my own qualms about the popular interpretation of the Second Amendment. Do I think Martin was likely up to no good? Yes. Do I think Zimmerman shot him in self defense? Yes. Do I think Zimmerman was looking for a fight? Yes. Do I think it’s a good idea to have a neighborhood watch and have somebody who’s willing to try and *prevent* crime versus waiting for it to happen? Absolutely. Should that person carry a gun? I don’t think so, not when a baseball bat would do for most cases (and if a baseball bat wouldn’t suffice, a gun wouldn’t, either).

Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be about race, guns or anything but the over-permissiveness of parents in this country. Why is a 17 year old a “child” when it’s convenient to liberals? Homosexual priests molest 16 and 17 year-olds and are accused of being “child molesters” to avoid identifying them as “homosexuals,” and now a 17 year old high on marijuana is an “innocent child”?

“Why should I bless you? Your sons are in jail because of your permissiveness.”–St. Pio, to a couple who asked for a blessing because they were distressed over their two sons’ imprisonment.

However, according to the same people who are calling Trayvon Martin an “innocent child,” teenagers are supposed to be permitted to have sexual relations before the legal age of consent, be given free contraceptives and free abortions without parental consent, be permitted to engage in statutory rape with impunity, etc.
A 17 year old can have a driver’s license. An 18 year old can serve in the military and vote, and liberals argue that 18 year olds should be allowed to drink alcohol. It’s like the same “logic” applied to abortion: an infant at 36 weeks’ gestation is a “blob of tissue” and “part of the woman’s body” 5 minutes before birth. A “17 year old” is an “innocent child,” but an 18 year old is a “responsible adult.”

Who is Really “Marginalized” in the Church?

The resignation of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has led the media to engage in one of their favorite passtimes: berating the “controversial” teachings of the Catholic Church, and expressing hope that the Church will “listen to” allegedly “marginalized” Catholics who “have no voice” in the Church by changing controversial “policies” such as teaching the objective truths that male gender is a material requisite for the priesthood, or that abortion, contraception and homosexual behavior are intrinsically evil.

This idiotic article is just one more example of this claim. What struck me about this particular authress’s screed is that she talks of nuns who complain about being “marginalized,” and that really ticked me off.

It is a popular meme of liberal Catholics that Jesus “embraced those who were marginalized.” Like most lies, that’s partially true. However, Jesus also *called* on His followers to *become* marginalized. The fundamental difference between an orthodox and a liberal Christian is our *reaction* to marginalization. The orthodox believer recognizes that we must be marginalized by the world in order to live out the Evangelical Counsels, that marginalization is the path the holiness. The liberal believer sees marginalization as a bad thing, and fights against it.

But whatever they want to say about the “official” teachings of the Church, these people have been running things for quite some time.

I have been “marginalized” by liberal Catholics my entire life.

Every liturgical document from Sacrosanctum Concilium to Liturgiam Authenicam to Redemptionis Sacramentum to Summorum Pontificum has emphasized the importance of Latin as the official liturgical language of the Roman Rite. When B16 called the world synod of bishops shortly after his accession, they voted by a huge majority to promote the use of Latin and to mandate that multilingual congregations offer Mass in Latin as opposed to the vernacular. The documents all say Mass should be primarily in Latin. Where Vatican II gives options, the preference is supposed to be on the more “traditional” option. And as B16 noted in Summorum Pontificum, the Tridentine liturgy was never “suppressed,” so it never should have required an “indult.” Strange that Vatican II options which were *supposed* to require indults–reception in the hand, use of lay ministers of communion–have become commonplace and are considered almost obligatory, yet there has been every effort made to suppress the Traditional Latin Mass. Who is voiceless and marginalized?

I have never heard homilies in favor of Latin or of traditional liturgical practices at “ordinary” Ordinary Form liturgies. I have heard such homilies frequently at extraordinary form masses, or ordinary form Masses in Latin, or Eastern liturgies–situations where the priests were literally “preaching to the choir.” I have never heard an “ordinary” priest give a homily at a vernacular Mass trying to explain why traditional liturgical forms are good. I *have*, however, heard priests preach from the altar that they wished traditionalists would all die off and stop bugging everyone. I have heard priests say from the altar that they “hope this pope will die so we can get a new pope who will get rid of all the rules” (this back in the days of John Paul II). I have heard priests say from the pulpit or other public venues that Latin is to be discouraged because it scares people away and people don’t understand it. I have heard priests preach about how wonderful all the changes “Vatican II made” supposedly are, even though many of the things they’re talking about were never mentioned by Vatican II and actually defy the explicit teachings of the Council.

Speaking of which, I’ve heard and read the claim that the Society of St. Pius X is “heretical” or schismatic because one must accept all the teachings of the Council to be Catholic, even though Pope Paul VI said otherwise and Pope Benedict has frequently critiqued certain aspects of the Council. Yet if that is the case, then why is there no action taken against liberal Catholics who openly defy express teachings of the Council, such as S.C.’s order that the Church provide classes in Latin to all laity?

Then there are the moral issues? Who’s really marginalized when Catholics with “large families” are mocked by their fellow Catholics, openly, and even at or after Mass? When I got engaged, and asked my pastor about NFP classes, he scoffed, and said, “I only know 2 families in the parish who are into that stuff. It’s not that important. You can just use birth control; it’s OK. If you really want to, I can give you the numbers of those couples, because I wouldn’t know anything about it.” At the same meeting, he told me he helped *design* his diocese’s Engaged Encounter Program, yet he claimed to know nothing about NFP! (Thankfully, a lot has changed since then, and many diocese in the SE are using Family Honor, but I’m not sure if it’s part of the official pre-Cana process yet). I was grateful he told me we could do it in any diocese we wanted, since we were a long-distance engagement, so long as we provided the parish with a certificate. So we did our Engaged Encounter with the Diocese of Arlington, where about 1/3 was Theology of the Body and about 1/3 was NFP.

My wife once went to a lecture by the diocesan interfaith coordinator, shortly after the publication of _Dominus Iesus_, in which this priest insisted that then Cardinal Ratzinger was trying to “tie the hands of John Paul’s successor”! What a surprise for him that Cardinal Ratzinger *was* John Paul’s successor.

I have rarely been able to attend any parish meeting, adult class or spirituality group, or whatever, without grinding my teeth in frustration at the heterodoxy and dissent that are openly discussed, sometimes by people who have been educated in heterodoxy for so long that they don’t even know they’re material heretics! They *think* that traditionalists are the heretics who “don’t follow Vatican II,” and yet, if they actually took the time to read Vatican II, and compare the teachings of “both sides,” most Catholics would be shocked to discover that the Society of St. Pius X is far more in line with what Vatican *actually* teaches than what the habitless nuns and cassockless priests have told them for decades about the “spirit of Vatican II.”

This is why, when I read articles such as the one in the _Detroit News_, I get infuriated. And I get infuriated that, when traditional and conservative Catholics *express* their frustration at such articles, people say, “See?! That just proves traditionalists are vindictive and hateful!” During the Mother Angelica-Cardinal Mahony feud, Bishop Thomas Tobin, then of Mother’s hometown Youngstown, OH, wrote a fantastic piece (which I can’t find, so I have to link this article about it) in which he tried to play diplomat, but he observed that perhaps there is some justification in the anger of conservative Catholics who have been routinely shouted down and mocked since the Council.

Liberals run the religious ed programs and schools. They run the liturgy committees. They run most of the seminaries and diocesan vocation programs and–as many ex or would be seminary candidates, along with a few brave vocations directors and bishops have attested to–they specifically reject candidates they deem “too conservative” while promoting candidates who are at least friendly to liberals. Then they beat them down in the seminary with liberal indoctrination. And the religious houses have done the same thing, dwindling their numbers as they come to look like gay and lesbian communes, while the more orthodox communities are thriving. Yet as they get grayer and grayer, the “progressives” continue to insist they speak for “young Catholics.”

Where? Where are these “young Catholics” they claim to speak for? Why aren’t these “young Catholics” flocking to join liberal convents and liberal monasteries? If there are all these women who are supposedly “called the priesthood,” why aren’t they joining the LCWR affiliated convents in droves while they await their “dream pope” who will do all this for them?

And why is there no connection made to the fact that the Cardinal who *most* supported their “progressive” agenda has been completely disgraced as perhaps the worst offender when it came to covering up for sex-abuser priests–so much that other bishops knew he was the easy go-to man for re-assigning sex offenders to his diocese? Why is no one acknowledging that it was precisely Roger Mahony’s “liberal” attitudes towards homosexuality and sex that led him to support these priests?

But, no, liberals have no voice in the Church at all. Bloody hypocrites.

1984 Came 30 Years Later. Welcome to the Brave New World.

I remember reading a couple commentators back in the 90s who suggested that Huxley was the most correct of the authors of early and mid-20th century dystopias, in terms of how our society had lost its moral center and become completely hedonistic, but now in terms of other aspects, Bradbury and Orwell look to have been right. Indeed, we seem to be increasingly speeding to the USA depicted by Ray Bradbury in _Fahrenheit 451_. I never read _1984_, but here is a website that compares Orwell’s predictions to our time (and many of them overlap with Bradbury’s). Some of the things Bradbury and Orwell got right:
1) Becoming a military state by convincing the populace it needs to fear THE ENEMY (“Terrorists”)
2) Planes flying overhead
3) A populace benumbed by wall-sized TVs
4) Reading becoming more and more rare, books abridged, etc. Bradbury predicted that mass censorship would not come top-down but bottom-up with the people demanding they be saved from the “burden” of reading. ”

Since we both read the novel in 2010, my wife has often commented on the very name of “Kindle” as suggestive of book burning. In theory the digitization of text should be a good thing. Every new technology seems to provide another way for increasing human knowledge. In Disney’s “Carousel of Progress,” the 1940s family talks of how wonderful TV will be for providing everyone a chance to watch the opera and study Latin. We all know how that turned out. Look at Christan Classics Ethereal Library or one of the various Great Books sites. In theory, you can fit a ton of information in pure TXT format into what is today a relatively small amount of space. Supposedly, the entire print collection of the Library of Congress would take up about 10 TB (about $500 worth of hard drives), but even in the 90s, a reasonable “Great Books” collection could fit on a CD in TXT or even PDF format. In theory, a person could fit a complete and quality education onto a single smart phone and carry it for life. So, in theory, digitalization of text should be preserving culture, but not if people aren’t reading it. Listen to ads for Kindle and Nook: the “e-readers” now advertise all the different fun things you can use them for *besides* reading.

“Where orthodoxy becomes optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” —Neuhaus’ Law

In “Lilies that Fester,” C. S. Lewis argues that when education becomes a means to a job, and government pays for it, then government becomes a means of brainwashing by the business managers and the government.

So, in the past 20 years, paleoconservatives/traditionalists have been pushed out of the education discussion in this country (and turned to homeschooling), while a conspiracy of liberal and neoconservative forces have promoted “common core standards of learning” in almost all states (then Gov. Bill Clinton was one of the first to jump on that bandwagon along with George HW Bush and Bill Bennett). The standards movement has proven to amount to exactly what C. S. Lewis warned about: especially because it’s not so much about what students are expected to *know* as what they are expected *not* to know. For in order to *teach* the “expected standards,” teachers must *not* teach other things. When I was growing up, you never could finish everything in the textbook in one year, and the teacher picked what you learned. This provided what one of my college professors described as one of the most important elements of an education, “to learn from as many lunatics as you can.” The teacher’s personality and interests are *supposed* to influence the education.

Not anymore.

Now, the teacher is told *exactly* what to teach, and all that material *must* be covered, and they provide far more material than can realistically be covered and learend in one year just so they can avoid teachers talking about what they *don’t* want. And it’s very clear, if one reads the high school standards of any given state, how the standards reflect political agendas for either party. For example, in South Carolina, students are NOT supposed to learn about official persecution of Catholics in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Now, they’re getting to where over 75% of “required reading” in high school English will be nonfiction.

This besides the abandonment of text, is one of Bradbury’s concerns: gradually, fiction itself is becoming forbidden in our culture. I’ve argued this for a few years regarding “reality TV.” Even though “reality TV” itself is often rigged, if not outright scripted, it provides simplistic entertainment while avoiding intellectual or imaginative stimulation. Best to have people numbing their minds to the shouting matches on CNN, MSNBC or FOX, and feeling “informed,” when they’re actually being brainwashed. If not, then watch _The Real World_ or _Jersey Shore_ or whatever the latest “hit reality show” is. And if people *insist* on entertaining themselves with fiction then make sure it’s obscene comedy, titillating sex, or abject violence, with as little plot as possible–and then make them *think* they’re “intelligent” for enjoying listening to someone spewing profanities.
Bradbury missed the violent video games, but he rightly imagined the “interactive” entertainment that makes people think they’re involved when they’re being brainwashed. He also predicted people having multiple abortions and multiple divorces.

A commenter in my article about _Les Miserables_ insisted that the movie should be banned for its “graphic” depictions of sexual activity. I first noted how the depictions are graphic in a slightly different way, but questioned how they are any worse than a lot of what’s on TV these days. I also noted how, while the scenes are meant to show the disgusting nature of prostitution–they’re not to titillate or to glorify but to make people see the disgusting, repulsive nature of prostitution. He said he failed to see the distinction. I suggested he read Flannery O’Connor but noted how he probably would be opposed to her, as well. He said that comment was rude. I asked if graphic depictions of homosexual rape are better than graphic depictions of prostitution. I’m wondering if he’ll respond.

O’Connor holds that the closer fiction is to real life experience, the more it must lead us to God. Of course, as some of us argue, real life experience can have many meanings. I read a joke on FB today: “I’ve noticed how shows that describe themselves as containing ‘adult situations’ rarely show people doing chores, going to work or paying bills.” Kevin O’Brien over at Theater of the Word is often using Hallmark movies as an example of bad film making. I’m often protesting when he says that. Certainly Hallmark Hall of Fame is a bit more quality than Hallmark Channel Original movies, though I enjoy both. And Hallmark Channel Original movies, I admit, are a nice kind of low-thought entertainment which Flannery O’Connor might herself criticize for being overly “nice” in a distorted way. However, in their own way they serve as a more authentic representation of human life than most of what Hollywood produces or certainly a lot of “reality” TV.

So, anyway, now the “standards of learning” are being used to NOT teach kids Homer or Shakespeare or O’Connor or Orwell or Hawthorne or Austen. Russell Kirk said, “deprive a boy of Homer, and he will turn to Mickey Spillaine or Ian Fleming, or worse.” Well, even Ian Fleming and Mickey Spillaine will soon be proscribed.

For over 100 years, people from across the disciplines and ideological spectra have seen something on the horizen in Western civilization, given each generation’s decreasing morality and increasing construction of technological terrors (to paraphrase Emperor Palpatine). Yet while Ray Bradbury said to prepare for it by reading and memorizing, while the mystics have said to prepare for it by turning our hearts to God in prayer and fasting, so many of those who actually pay attention are preparing by stockpiling food and guns.

Better start memorizing, folks.

My latest Publication: _Les Miserables_ and the Index

It’s about responsibility.

We hear it over and over when a catastrophe like Sandy Hook occurs: “Ban guns!” “Ban video games!” and so forth.
What about personal responsibility? What about teaching morality?

The problem with Liberalism–and in this case I mean *all* liberalism, or humanism, the philosophy of the Enlightenment (i.e., “conservatism” used to mean resisting Modernism)–is that it’s a philosophy that denies personal responsibility. Because the Enlightenment teaches that people are fundamentally good–denying the dogma of Original Sin–Enlightenment thinkers are constantly looking for someone to “blame” for the behaviors we call “evil.” This is even more with the modern day “Left,” but it’s also true of the “Right,” and both sides have their pet “causes” they try to blame for acts of catastrophic evil.

Despite those atheists who try to say religion is the cause of evil (a perfectly acceptable Enlightenment argument–and, btw, as much as I love _Les Miserables_, it’s good to remember the novel was once on the Index, and for good reason), when one looks at the history of the world *before* Christ, and the changes Christianity has made in the world and in people, one has to say, “Where would be without Christ’s grace?”

Henry Nouwen tells the story about someone attacking him for allegedly “unChristian” behavior (I love how some people are quick to “judge” others on this vague notion of “unChristian behavior” but say “judge not” when it comes to clearly defined moral principles), and he says, “imagine what I’d be like if I weren’t a man of faith.” One of the things I keep thinking of since Sandy Hook is the Crusades. Here were men with Sacramental Grace, Catholics who were supposedly catechized, and they engaged in horrific acts which, whatever the justification of the wars originally, clearly violated “Just War” principles and were condemned by the Popes. The question should not be “why do people do evil,” but “why don’t people commit atrocities like this more often?”

Of course, we do. 2000-4000 children a day are murdered in the US, and nobody cares. You don’t even see “pro-life” presidents crying on TV and demanding change. You don’t see people raising a hue and cry over how abortion needs to end now.

My kids were asking questions about ratings for games and movies. “What does ‘M’ mean?” “What does ‘R’ mean?” I said, in soapbox mode, “In theory, they mean only adults are supposed to see them. In practice, they mean absolutely nothing.”

I explained that movie ratings are based upon a weird number system: so many occurrences of one swear word mean “R” and less than that is “PG-13,” but another swear word can be said a bunch of times and just be a PG, etc. Sometimes, a movie like _The Passion of the Christ_ gets an “R” and a movie gets a “G” or “PG” that anyone with an ounce of a moral compass would insist should have a PG-13 or R.

On the other hand, the ratings don’t even have any “power,” because parents and other adults DON’T PAY ANY ATTENTION. We had a great party the other night with members of our homeschooling group. A lot of the conversation revolved around _The Hobbit_ and _Les Miserables_ and, by extension, ratings and how to deal with children and media. We all had slightly different views on parenting and popular culture, but what we all agreed on was our responsibility to protect and form our children (obviously, or we wouldn’t be homeschooling).

One mom said how her nephew watches anything he pleases, and it’s problematic when her son goes to visit at her brother’s house. One time, her brother said, in astonishment, “He actually said, ‘I’m not allowed to watch that.’ I can’t believe he said that!” He was surprised because he just expected his son to always sneak around and do what he wants.

A few years ago, I happened to read an article about how some activist group, using the “buy stock” boycotting strategy, got a Catholic priest on the board of Best Buy, and he got it established as policy that clerks must ask for ID and only sell “R” rated movies and “M” rated games to adults. Just a few days after reading this, I happened to be in Best Buy and saw it in practice.

A little boy was in line in front of me. There was a woman behind him, and while they were of different races, I assumed she was the adult in charge of him, since the notion of a child apparently around 10 years old shopping by himself is already strange to me. The kid had a copy of one of the Wayans _Scary Movie_ films. The cashier told him he could not buy the DVD because he was under 18, and he had to get an adult. So he said he’d be right back, and she held up the line for him. As the rest of us waited, he returned with a young woman whom I believe was his sister, not his mother.

She grumbled about being inconvenienced, and instead of seriously questioning why the child wanted to buy the movie, or doing the responsible thing and telling him he shouldn’t, she instead complained to the cashier for inconveniencing her. The cashier explained apologetically that it was policy, with a tone of agreement that she thought the policy was stupid, and the woman complained some more. She at one point nominally turned to the boy and said something like, “Why do you want to buy a movie called _Scary Movie_, anyway?”
“It’s not REALLY scary. It’s funny, and I already saw it at a friend’s house.”
“OK.”

That was it.
1) How would one see the humor in a parody movie *unless* one had already seen at least some of the movies it was parodying?
2) If I had to choose one or the other, I’d rather my children see a ‘scary’ movie than a Wayans style comedy.
3) The ever-present danger of the “friend’s house,” and the problem that arises from placing one’s children in the care of irresponsible adults.
4) Why didn’t this “responsible adult,” whoever she was, have the slightest interest in protecting the kid’s soul?

Indeed, when adults *do* censor kids’ viewing, it often has little to do with moral formation and simply has to do with avoiding nightmares, or some such nonsense.

That’s what’s wrong with America, right there. That’s why we have events like Sandy Hook. And it’s something you’re not going to legislate easily in this country. If there’s an amendment we need to change to prevent mass murders, it’s not the Second: it’s the First.

Unless our government starts talking about Morality, which means Natural Law, which means the Catholic Church (see Benedict XVI’s Caritas et Veritate), this will continue to happen.

Unless families start taking real care for the moral upbringing of their children–their #1 duty and obligation as families-things like Sandy Hook will continue to happen. And that means various things. It means parents must be vigilant. It means parents must be very careful about who their kids’ friends are and who their own friends are. When kids see their parents engaging in or tolerating the very behavior they criticize in their children, it creates a double standard. It means questioning whether it’s safe to send their kids to public school or even parochial school, not because of the physical danger posed by the 1 in 1,000,000 chance a mass shooting will happen, but the very real and ever present spiritual danger posed by 8 year olds who read _Twilight_ (or worse) and play “vampires versus werewolves” on the playground.

I have a good friend who won’t let his children go to public restrooms unescorted, not just because of concern over perverts, but because he worries they’ll read the graffiti on the walls. We were dining together in November, and his daughters kept asking to use the bathroom. He was suspicious, and finally got his daughter to admit there was a TV in the restroom that they were watching.

All parents can and should be that vigilant. What’s more important: your children having a “college fund” or their immortal souls? Not to mention the damage a lot of material goods can do to our souls. Oh, wait. It’s impossible to risk someone’s soul, because people think Jesus is just gonna forgive absolutely everything they do and let them come straight into Heaven, and all that stuff about Sacraments and Penances and Purgatory is just a bunch of made-up Catholic nonsense. Jesus is a nice guy hippie dude who just wants everyone to have a good time, and He’ll understand because we’re doing it out of love. St. Augustine *did* say, “Love and do as you will,” right? (No, he didn’t: he said “love your duty and then do what comes of that”).

I have, of course, addressed this topic frequently, as I did in this post, where I quoted the actual version of an often misquoted story about St. Pio of Pietrelcina. A couple who were sad that their sons were all in jail asked him for a blessing. “I absolutely refuse to bless you! You didn’t pull in the reins when your children were growing up, so don’t come along now when they are in jail and ask for my blessing.” Bl. Louis Martin would not let his daughter’s read the newspaper (of course, in an example of how such absolute bans can backfire, his daughter St. Therese snuck around to read the newspaper to follow the case of the murderer Pranzine, whom she helped get into Heaven). Holy Mother Teresa of Avila was bothered by some lifelong sin habit that she never specifically discloses. Some insist that it was scruples, but whatever it was, she implies in her _Life_ it was a sin against chastity–and she said that despite her temptations, she never crossed certain lines because she did not want to bring scandle to her family–she once got up the nerve to tell her father, and he practically disowned her.

Why can’t we have that style of parenting today? Why have parents become so permissive, so afraid of actually rearing their children? You can ban whatever you like, but until *that* changes, our society will just see worse and worse violence. After all, children who are not taught a modicum of self-control are not going to care about what the government bans, either. They’re just going to want it all the more because it’s banned.

Do Liberals Always Think We’re Angry Because *They’re* So Angry?

In his short-lived sitcom Bob, Bob Newhart played a cartoonist who had been a popular comic book writer a generation before and was hired by a comic book firm to work with a hip young writer on reviving the superhero he created with a “gritty,” 90s approach. In the show’s most memorable scene, often used in ads, the younger writer encourages Bob to express his anger in his work.
“But I don’t have any anger,” says Bob.
“Show me your anger, Bob!” shouts the other guy.
“I don’t have any anger.”
They go back and forth a few times, until “SHOW ME YOUR ANGER, BOB!”
Until Bob finally screams, angrily, “I DON’T HAVE ANY ANGER!!!”

One of the surest ways to incite someone to anger is to claim they’re angry when they’re not, and a favorite debate tactic of liberals is to accuse conservatives of being angry, especially when we’re giving impassioned defenses of causes like the Right to Life. Ever since those early 1990s, the racist, sexist expression “Angry white males” has been used to dismiss conservatives.

So, the other day, after what I’ll admit became a bit of an angry Facebook discussion with a self-proclaimed daily Mass attending Catholic who supports gay marriage and opposes the Church’s right and obligation to tell the State what to do in matters of Natural Law, I posted a reflection on how we often speak of “poorly catechized” Catholics, but there are actually a lot of *badly* catechized Catholics. Some woman who, from what I can discern from her blog isn’t Catholic but likes to post a lot of anti-Catholic stuff, posted an extremely condescending comment with three points:

1) She claimed that my mission statement is a lie because I oppose Obama. Apparently, she thinks that abortion and eugenics constitute support of children and disabled people.
2) She approved of my interlocutor’s disrespect for the Pope, made condescending comments about how she presumed I must have been “dismissive” in my tone, and how people have to be nicer to each other when debating vital moral truths, and how I ought to be capable of seeing some good in my interlocutor’s demonic positions in support of government-endorsed sin.
3) She said she sensed a lot of “anger” in my post.

Hmm, that’s funny, since I thought in the post in question I was being fairly neutral, if not expressing dismay and sorrow that so many Catholics have been misled about what Catholicism is. I sometimes confuse Ven. Fulton Sheen’s observation that not 1 person hates the Catholic Church but millions hate what they think the Catholic Church is with GK Chesterton’s observation that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting but found difficult and not tried. It is also Fulton Sheen who said, after the infamous Land of Lakes convention that fomented dissent against Humanae Vitae in Catholic universities, that the worst thing a Catholic parent can do is send their child to a Catholic college.

Ironically, as I noted in my previous post, I had baited my “Catholic” interlocutor at one point the other night with a charge that he had been brainwashed by a secular education, expecting him to say he had a Catholic education–since usually when I encounter someone who thinks they way he does, that person has been to 12 years of Catholic school, and probably has an MA in theology from one of several universities.

The first time I was suspiciously dismissed from a teaching job was at the first Catholic college I taught for online, when I had been careful to do everything they said, and had even done a great deal of work, unpaid, because I had been verbally offered classes several quarters in advance, only to be told at the last minute that my classes were assigned to someone else. “Did I do something wrong?” “No. We just had to give your classes to someone we hired after you.”

Later, I applied for a job with the online program of another university. My training went well, though I was uncomfortable with the notion they wanted me to do a semester of “training” unpaid. The very last training assignment was an essay on “diversity.” I was puzzled. I had never had to talk about “diversity” at any of the public or secular for-profit universities I’d worked for, so why at a Catholic school? Then I did a more careful perusal of the school’s main site to find they had an active “LGBT” program, including a Gay Rights Week on campus. So I wrote my essay on how great it was to finally teach at a Catholic institution and be able to incorporate my faith in the classroom, and I never heard from them again.

Anyway, I’m getting off track from this post’s intent.

Another time I was directly fired from a teaching job, this time at a for-profit college, it was nominally for cause (they always emphasized how gradebook and attendance errors could be grounds for immediate dismissal, and I had a couple due to entering the information in the computer the wrong way), I felt that the firing was not due to that. I had a couple openly homosexual students, and I found myself put on the spot at one point, and in the following class session, I was being observed again, when I had just had an observation a few weeks before, and a week after that I was called in to the dean’s office and fired. I was vindicated, however, when I saw the campus advertising for a dean and assistant dean later that quarter.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI, has said that he expects to die in bed, but he expects his successor to die in prison and his successor’s successor to be publicly executed. Archbishop Chaput has made very similar statements. As I’ve noted many times since last January, the Holy Father himself, addressing the US bishops at their ad limina visit, said the “gay rights movement” and the present administration pose an unprecedented threat to religious freedom in our country, particularly the freedom of the Catholic Church. The UK this year passed a “gay marriage” law that specifically requires churches to participate if they provide weddings to non-members. My interlocutor the other night kept insisting that legalizing gay marriage isn’t a threat to the church, even after I listed the number of ways that it is a threat to the Church and to heterosexual couples (for example: various government forms are now changing to say “Spouse 1” and “Spouse 2”, rather than “husband and wife”), including the stated goal of many homosexual activists–and many of my students whose papers I graded over the years–that they want to see the day when the Catholic Church, specifically, is forced to endorse gay marriage.

When Archbishop Levada was appointed prefect of the CDF by Pope Benedict XVI, a lot of people were concerned because of his compromise on San Francisco’s law requiring employers to provide benefits to gay couples. After unsuccessfully suing the city, Archbishop Levada said he was going to allow employees of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to name any adults who lived with them without paying rent to be “dependents”–thus not creating a special right for homosexuals but also providing a needed benefit for adult relatives who live together, etc. In a discussion with some other Catholics who were concerned about whether this made Levada a “liberal,” some of whom were from Canada, I asked what the justification was for the “gay marriage” movement in Canada. Here in the US they make impassioned arguments about legal property rights and insurance coverage, when Canada has socialized medicine. One fellow said, “They don’t make any pretense about it. They openly say their goal is to force the Catholic Church to recognize gay marriage.”

If I say that gay marriage creates a situation where it’s harder to protect my children from sin, that means I’m a “hater.” If I say that it’s frustrating to see so many openly gay characters on television, and how gay couples are becoming more and more prominent on TV, that somehow extrapolates (as my interlocutors the other night directly accused me of saying) that I want to kill gay people or something. No, it just means the same thing as why I try not to let my children see programs involving cohabitation. They still think of the Sixth Commandment as the _Veggietales_ “Dance with who brung ya,” and they think it’s gross when people who aren’t married kiss each other.

Canada is now saying that homeschooling families can’t teach Christian morals to their kids. Canada is saying that it’s “bullying” and “hate speech” to say that homosexual behavior is wrong. Members of the “Christian Left” will respond that we are all sinners, and that’s perfectly true. The other night, one of the guys I was arguing with (there were two, but one was more active than the other) pointed out that the only New Testament passages that explicitly mention homosexuality group it with drunkenness, theft and slander. I responded that I try not to let my children get exposed to drunks, thieves and slanderers, either, and that if someone started a movement to legalize drunk driving, theft and/or slander, people would object to that. That didn’t go over well, and I was accused of confusing bigotry with reason.

Again, angry liberals like to accuse conservatives of being angry when they don’t have a leg to stand on in their arguments.

Then there’s the famous, “It’s biological,” which I’ve addressed many times. My body’s propensity to have its arteries blow up is also biological. Just because I am, as “Lady Gaga” tells her followers, “Born that way,” doesn’t mean it’s God’s intention: the Church has that covered in the doctrine of Original Sin. Sociopaths, manic-depressives, addicts and schizophrenics are all, in some extent, born that way. That doesn’t mean we allow them to *stay* that way. My autistic children are “born that way,” and autism actually has a lot of redeeming qualities, but that doesn’t mean they should be permitted to throw self-destructive fits.

If there’s a biological basis for homosexuality, that doesn’t mean God intends it or it’s something good. I often mention the “study” a few years back where some geneticists got together and debated homosexuality: normally, a favorable genetic trait leads to individual health and procreation, and if something doesn’t meet those criteria, it’s a genetic defect. Homosexual behavior doesn’t lead to procreation, and it leads to all sorts of health problems. A logical conclusion would be that it’s a genetic defect, but these geniuses decided to redefine the standard for an advantageous evolutionary trait and say that homosexuality is a natural tool for population control! So much for survival of the fittest!

But, again, that’s hate. That’s anger. That’s bigotry.

When an unmarried woman gets up in front of Congress and claims that college students like herself have to spend close to $1000 a year on birth control, and someone calls her a “slut,” that’s dismissed as anger and bigotry.

I call it the little boy pointing out that the emperor’s naked.

There’s a difference between “Badly Catechized” and “Poorly Catechized.”

We often say the problems in the Church today, particularly in America, are due to “poor catechesis.” This is true. Indeed, but proper faith formation has been a problem before the past 50 years.

However, I often find that the problem is not just “poor catechesis” but “bad catechesis”: that is to say, people have been very well formed in a false conception of Catholicism.

Yes, I long ago learned to realize how very few people actually read the documents, or seem to get anything out of them when they read them, and there are a lot of people who just need to be informed. I also have encountered plenty of people who know what the Church teaches and simply reject it.

What still blows my mind, however, and deeply frustrates me are people who *are* well-read, who know what the Church teaches but insist that’s not what the Church “really” teaches, or that it’s wrong, people who think they are wonderful Catholics because they have inculcated a “Catholicism” that is totally alien to any kind of orthodox tradition. I assume this is a problem in other cultures, but I know it’s especially a problem in America, and was a problem in America long before Vatican II. After all, Leo XIII was well aware of the problem.

Europeans who emigrated to America came here in rejection of the authorities back in Europe, and often those authorities included the Church. This led to a breed of Catholicism that has been traditionally defiant and suspicious of the Vatican’s authority. In _Crisis_ back in the 90s, Fr. James Schall described the division we sometimes characterize too simply as “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics as “American Catholics versus “Roman Catholics”: although ironically the Catholics who emphasized their identity as “American Catholics” within the Church were more likely to balk at patriotism when it came to their secular lives.

So tonight I had a very long exchange with a fellow who brought forth all the standard talking points of both anti-Catholics and the “Catholic Left”: Crusades, Inquisition and all that. I’m surprised he didn’t bring up Galileo! He pulled out the recent claims that the Church only cared about marriage between a man and a woman after Aquinas and insisted the first millennium church endorsed “gay marriages”. He dismissed my every reference to Pius IX, Leo XIII, or even John Paul II or Benedict XVI (whom he insisted on calling “Ratzinger” and accusing of being a Nazi sympathizer).

Yet this fellow insisted he was a good Catholic, that Jesus’s primary teaching is “love” (in the words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I don’t think you know what it means”),and that I was just a bigot. He insisted that, by saying, “It’s wrong for people to try to force society to endorse their sins,” I was *actually* saying that some sins should be singled out as worse than others (well, objectively, that’s true).

I keep thinking that “Obama Catholics” are unaware that the Pope has said the present administration, in conjunction with the gay rights movement, poses an unprecedented America) threat to the Church. I keep thinking that “Obama Catholics” are unaware of the numerous statements by bishops about the threat posed to freedom of religion (a message the Pope told them to speak about in that same speech), a threat posed not just by the HHS contraception mandate, not just by Obamacare’s infringements on individual conscience, but by the “gay marriage” movement and the trend towards labelling the Bible “hate speech.”

But, no. They’re very much aware, and they just say, “Non Serviam.” They still buy into the “We Are Church” mentality and see the Pope as an out-of-touch German guy. Since he served unwillingly in the Hitler Youth, they speak of him as if he personally participated in the Holocaust. They apply the same principles they use about Catholicism today–“Lots of Catholics use birth control, so birth control is OK for Catholics”–and extend them to the past. Thus, if they can dig up some Catholic priest or bishop in 800 AD who seemed to approve of homosexuality, in spite of the statements to the contrary in the Fathers, they say, “The early Church approved of homosexuality.”

If they can find some Catholic priest in the US who endorsed slavery, it’s “The Catholic Church endorsed slavery,” and when told about papal statements going back centuries that condemned slavery, they insist that the Popes approved of it because they didn’t excommunicate Catholics who supported it (they did).

If they find some Catholic bishop who was a racist, then the Church was racist.

It’s maddening, but it’s a deeply ingrained worldview that comes from generations of American Catholics who have gradually adopted beliefs that are more Masonic than they are Catholic. It comes from their easy adoption of secular thought and the falsely Catholic ideologies they have encountered among their religion teachers.

“What is Truth?”

Someone just accused me of believing I’m right just because I’m Catholic, and, well, yes, he’s right.

Peter Kreeft, in a lecture we listened to on EWTN this past weekend, says that moral relativism is more than an intellectual error: it is a literally damnable lie from Satan. It is Pontius Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”

The person in question is a so-called “Emergent Christian,” who professed to be a libertarian-socialist-Christian, and in response to my challenge that those three terms are mutually contradictory, merely insisted that they aren’t because he says so, and that I’m wrong to try and force “my” definitions on other people. Ironically, this all sprung from a discussion of whether Barack Obama is a “Marxist.” I merely asserted my position as it has been for the past 4 years: that Obama is philosophically a Marxist; whether he’s a Socialist, or a Leninist Communist is another matter. So it would seem that this person would want to agree with my insistence that a political philosophy is defined by its underlying principles and not by its policies. For example, many on both the Left and the Right try to say, with varying approval or disapproval, that Leo XIII, John XXIII, John Paul II or some other pope is actually a socialist because the Popes are pro-labor and pro-helping the poor.

My contention is that it is their *reasons* for wanting to help the poor that matter.

Anyway, as the conversation inevitably got down to the fact that all the thinkers who most influence me are Catholics, and therefore I’m a Catholic, the person accused me of thinking my “denomination” is better than everyone else’s.

Why would one be a member of a “denomination” UNLESS one believes it to be TRUE? Why would one be a member of a “denomination” UNLESS one believes it to be “better than everyone else’s”?
My mind boggles at the prospect. The very reason why relativism has come to such prominence in the modern West is that Protestantism is an inherently relativistic religious view. As soon as each individual is able to be his own Pope, able to declare that his interpretation of the Bible is directly inspired by the Holy Spirit and represents the Truth, Truth becomes something dependent upon the individual, and therefore subjective.

In that same lecture, Kreeft suggested a little Socratic exercise he’s done with his students. He’s polled them on why a proposition is worthy of belief. Most of the time, the majority answer that a proposition is worthy of belief because it makes one feel good to believe it (this is, of course, the argument of atheists who hold that all religion is “wish fulfillment”). The second most popular answer was that the proposition *is* good. Very few ever answered that a proposition is worthy of belief because it *is* true.

“Do you believe in Santa Claus?” Kreeft would then ask.
“No,” said his students.
“Well, Santa Claus makes you feel good, doesn’t he?”
“Yes.”
“And Santa Claus is good, isn’t he?”
“Yes.”
“So why don’t you believe in Santa Claus.”
“Because it’s not true.”
“Let’s expand that out a bit . . . .”

People in our society have been trained to believe that truth is unknowable, and, while it is often claimed that “young people” are somehow more prone to this intellectual disorder than older people, I usually find myself arguing most vehemently about these issues, not with people my own age or younger, but with people older than I am (the fellow in question claims to have “found the Lord” in 1984, though I avoided the temptation to suggest he was arrogant to suppose he’d “found the Lord”, and therefore had to be at least a few years older than I am). That’s not to say I haven’t found it in people my own age, as well.

Back in high school and college, I often heard my classmates assert that anyone who professed to know — or even seek after — Truth, anyone who even presumed there is such a thing as objective Truth, is “arrogant.” Funny, that. I always thought that submission of one’s own will to a higher truth is the epitome of humility. Indeed, Aquinas says it’s the definition of humility (but who is *he* to define humility?)

Yet this person I was arguing with this evening insisted my definitions were not those of everyone else, and I was living in a fun house, and when I tried to cite the various thinkers from whom I learned my definitions, he said my citations were meaningless to him, and he compared it to getting one’s ideas from Kim Kardashian.

Raised in Agnostic household, Dietrich von Hildebrand converted to Catholicism while he was still a student, nearly a century ago. He told the priest, “I accept everything the Catholic Church teaches, except its ban on contraception. I believe that’s totally irrational.”

“Well, then you can’t become a Catholic,” said the priest. “The Catholic faith is all or nothing.” Well all know how this would have turned out *today*. Thankfully for the Church, DvH did not have the attitude of a postmodernist or an “Emergent Christian.” Instead, he said, “I say with St. Augustine, ‘I believe that I may understand.'”

Of course, DvH went on to become one of the greatest exponents of the Church’s teachings on sexuality and one of the biggest influences on Bl John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

When German theologian Fr. Karl Adam presented his classic _Spirit of Catholicism_ to the Holy Office (now Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith), they nearly forbade its publication, noting a few areas that they found questionable or heretical. He humbly accepted the Holy Office’s corrections and resubmitted it. The book received full approval. Was it arrogant of Adam to submit his personal opinions to a higher Truth?

No. Arrogance is the insistence that one does not have to listen to the Church.

My exchange with this individual tonight was not uncommon. Because I am convicted of my Catholic faith, and because I am confident in my own understanding of what the Church teaches, people often accuse me of arrogance or of refusing to entertain other ideas. That’s not true: I quite often consider other ideas, and if I find my own views are not in line with what the Church actually teaches on some subject, I change my views. If I find that, in an area where the Church has no specific teaching, someone makes a better argument than the one I’ve been making, I either adjust my argument or change my views accordingly.

Over the years, I’ve changed my views on many subjects, as I’ve learned and grown, but I also hold fast to G. K. Chesterton’s saying that “The object of an open mind very much like that of an open mouth: is to shut it on something solid.”

What is the point of believing something unless one believes it to be true?
What is the point of believing something to be true unless one has confidence in one’s own ability to perceive truth?

Kreeft, again, says that moral relativism, which echoes Pontius Pilate’s rhetorical question about Truth, is close to the unforgivable sin, and that makes sense, since one aspect of the sin against the Holy Spirit is the sin against Truth. Despair, the Sin against the Holy Spirit, is the refusal to believe in God’s power to save (which is why Jesus brings it up immediately after the Pharisees question His ability to forgive sins). God cannot save if God is not True.

Our Lord says that it violates the Fifth Commandment to call another person “Fool” or “Raqa” (the Aramaic word “Raqa” means “a person completely incapable of learning,” and is equivalent to the contemporary English “Retard”). There’s a reason for that. Every person’s faith in Christ ought to be based upon that person’s conviction of the Truth of Christ. To challenge another person’s capacity to think or learn is to challenge that person’s ability to perceive Truth, and therefore challenge that person’s ability to know Christ.

A Periodic Reminder about Subsidiarity in Education

A friend of ours just got her kids kicked out of a Catholic school because she stood up for her and her children’s rights under Canon Law. It’s obvious these school officials have no concept of Canon Law or Catholic doctrine, and one wonders if they even believe in Jesus Christ to treat a dedicated family so uncharitably.

Here’s a great article about Homeschooling in Canon Law, which takes the argument that “Catholic schooling is the norm, and homeschooling is the exception,” to task. It is also great material for those Catholic parents who opt for Catholic school and but heads with administrators and pastors:

www.catholiceducation.org/articles/education/ed0224.html

Some gems from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2217 As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”22 Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so.
. . . .
2222 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God’s law.

2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.”31 Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.32

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.33

2224 The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies

. . .
2229 As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.38 Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.

From Bl. John Paul II, _Letter to Families_ (1994), section 16:

Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area: they are educators because they are parents. They share their educational mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the State. But the mission of education must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the principle of subsidiarity. This implies the legitimacy and indeed the need of giving assistance to the parents, but finds its intrinsic and absolute limit in their prevailing right and their actual capabilities. The principle of subsidiarity is thus at the service of parental love, meeting the good of the family unit. For parents by themselves are not capable of satisfying every requirement of the whole process of raising children, especially in matters concerning their schooling and the entire gamut of socialization. Subsidiarity thus complements paternal and maternal love and confirms its fundamental nature, inasmuch as all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization.

If the Catechism is as dogmatically binding as some people believe it is, then arguably a lot of Catholic school officials are in states of heresy, or something approximating it.

“Daddy, can we have a Kia Sedona?”–The Pros and Cons of PBS

Back in the early 2000’s, Kia was one of the main sponsors of CBS’s Saturday morning-line-up. My 2 year old used to turn to me every Saturday and ask, “Daddy, can we get a Kia Sedona?”

There are several arguments for the existence and federal funding of PBS:

1) PBS Kids provides commercial free, educational programming for kids to watch. Supposedly, this saves them from the “dangers” of non-educational, purely fun shows (as if adults don’t watch non-educational, purely fun shows!) and from being influenced by advertisers. It also supposedly helps low-income children learn and develop a love of learning.
2) PBS provides cultural programming that supposedly won’t do well in a commercial, ratings-based environment.
3) Local PBS stations, which get the majority of federal funding, provide an important source of local programming.

They tell us that PBS is a “commercial free” network, yet for quite some time PBS shows, including PBS Kids shows, have had what used to be considered “advertising”: corporate sponsors. For years, _Masterpiece Theater_ was called _Mobil Masterpiece Theater_, for example. Watch _Sesame Street_, and you’ll see how _Sesame Street_ is sponsored by “Beaches” resorts. Even McDonald’s is a “sponsor” of PBS Kids shows. So when it comes to advertising, PBS Kids is actually behind the “Kids” networks on cable: Disney Jr., Nick Jr. and Boomerang all have policies against product advertising, though they *do* advertise the programs on their sister networks.

Now, back in the 1990s, when Republicans raised the issue of defunding PBS, they argued that Cable showed that commercial television could do what PBS does. At the time, A&E still stood for “Arts & Entertainment” and “TLC” stood for “The Learning Channel.” A&E, Discovery and TLC had fine arts programming and documentaries. TLC and Discovery had truly educational children’s programs during the day.

These days, however, some of that has been negated. While many Disney & Nick shows are comparable to a lot of the kids’ shows on PBS, there are still more overtly educational shows on PBS, while even the Discovery Kids network is now The Hub: co-owned by Hasbro, it’s an enjoyable network but competing with Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and other sister networks in the Disney family.

One thing I do not understand about PBS is why, after 40+ years, they need *new* shows. The only reason is “kids are different,” which is a big lie. Kids are always the same. The problem with *both* PBS and the cable “kids'” channels is that they’re just as much about indoctrination as education. Conservatives rightly complain that PBS indoctrinates kids to liberal ideology, but so do Disney & Nick, a network whose primary purpose is to facilitate kids to watch MTV.

Sesame Street has been on for 40+ years, and other than the fact that Carroll Spinney is on track to beat Helen Wagner as the longest actor on a TV show in history, there’s no real reason that the previous 40+ years of programming aren’t more than enough to educate toddlers for generations. Sesame Street has aired over 4240 episodes: enough to air it back-to-back, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for almost half a year–or once a day every day for 11 years–without repeating an episode. Then there are all the decades of _Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood_ (though the amount of programs he produced per year dwindled as he got older) and [ugh] _Barney & Friends_. _Cyberchase_, _Wild Kratts_ and the sadly cancelled _Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman_ are superbly educational but so are the original _Electric Company_, _321 Contact_, _Reading Rainbow_ and _Mathnet_. Yes, some of these programs may represent obsolete technology or scientific understanding, but there are still plenty available. How much money could be saved if they stop developing needless new shows and just show “classic” PBS shows? It’s not like ratings are going to drop! After all, isn’t the argument for PBS that they don’t need ratings?

Speaking of older shows, Discovery and PBS co-sponsor a fantastic website called “United Streaming” that provides old kids’ series from PBS and Discovery as well as non-broadcast educational videos. It’s *wonderful*. I don’t know how much it costs, but I imagine that a worthy compromise would be to cut the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, support United Streaming, and maybe give a tax break for high speed internet for families with young children.

Apparently, from a cursory Google search, the operating budget of PBS is in the mid-$400 millions, with about 20%, max, of that coming from federal money. However, the federal money accounts for 40% of the budgets of local PBS stations. We’re told that this would provide a desperate hit to local stations, but perhaps if localism is the issue, then maybe local stations could get local funding to promote local programming?

While PBS occasionally promotes “fine arts” programs, a great deal of its prime-time content really just rehashes BBC programming–which BBC America exists to show. The argument that high culture programming is available on cable (these days only on channels like Ovation that are available only in top tier plans in most markets and satellite plans) doesn’t really make sense coming from Republicans who complain about lower class Americans having cable to begin with. Nevertheless, just as Thomas Sowell once called PBS “welfare for the affluent,” just as with Discovery Streaming, there are a variety of avenues for people to obtain this kind of programming: online streaming and DVD among them. Indeed, when PBS asks for a $200 donation so you can get a concert DVD that costs $20 or less at the mall, it doesn’t make sense to pay tax money to support PBS, does it?

All of that said, this discussion must be handled delicately. Polls show the majority of Americans oppose cutting PBS funding, even though it seems like an obvious way to save some of the federal budget.

When Republicans oppose something like PBS, flat out, it comes off as reinforcing the worse stereotypes of political conservatives. While what Mitt Romney said in the debate was actually a nuanced argument, House Republicans and many pundits, not to mention online commentators, often come off as anti-intellectual, a matter I’m going to discuss in another post.

A little blurb out of Atlanta, where Demonocrats are desperately trying to fight having statewide (and thus, virtual) charter schools. Now, charter schools have their problems–as do public schools, private schools, parochial schools and homeschools–there is no such thing as a perfect educational system as all educational systems are human institutions.

The article in question concerns how a pro-Charter School activist allegedly “shoved” a Democratic state senator and a representative of the state PTA, Sally Fitzgerald. They have a video showing the charter school lobbyist bumping into the PTA lobbyist, and the old woman teetering a bit, but they’re trying to file misdemeanor assault charges against him for it, and the state senator says he wants to see the guy “in prison.” Boy, I wish I could file misdemeanor assault charges against everyone who ever bumped into me! All of us have been bumped in the manner shown in the video, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been intentionally shoved, pushed over, etc., whether standing or in my wheelchair.

In any case, what strikes me is the last part of the article. Apparently, at the rally in question, someone (article implies it was Fitzgerald but doesn’t specify) challenged a young “charter school student” for being at the rally and “not in school”. Of course, that’s part of the point of homeschooling and virtual schooling: to give students the freedom to actually learn from life experience. Here’s my response that I wrote to the Georgia PTA:

Dear Ms. Fitzgerald,

I was alerted to the recent news story about your anti-charter school activism. While I believe charter schools are problematic, as are all models of education, I believe very strongly in school choice. The Natural Law, which is binding on all people but arbitrated by the Catholic Church as the only institution on earth that can speak for Jesus Christ, dictates that parents are the primary educators of children, and that educational institutions, whether secular or religious, exist only to assist parents in our rightful duty of educating our children according to our own values. The Popes also teach the principle of subsidiarity: since the primary social unit in God’s eyes is the family, all other social institutions exist to protect the family, and therefore management of various aspects of social life, particularly education, should be kept as local and as close to the family level as possible.

To wit, I was struck by the following comment in this article:
“She said every adult has the right to be concerned about truancy laws, even if the child isn’t their own.”
I found this comment interesting coming from someone who is apparently of the liberal persuasion, and was tied in the article with a Democrat legislator.
Do you also believe that every adult should be concerned about abortion, even if the child isn’t their own?

My mother in law was the second woman ever to get a PhD from Auburn and one of the first women in the country to get a PhD in microbiology. She grew up on a farm, and her mother kept her home once a week to do farm chores.

I have an MA in English from Valdosta State University with a 3.85 GPA, a BA from the SC Honors College with a 3.98 GPA (graduated at 19 and had open heart surgery between my junior and senior years). I’m Phi Beta Kappa, Golden, Key, National Honors Society, etc. I scored a 1350 on the SAT at 15 and graduated high school at 16. I had a combined 2180 on the GRE at 18. I have had numerous articles and conference presentations in the past 15 years.

I did all of this while suffering from a life threatening genetic disorder, of which I am in the final stages. I suffered an aortic dissection last year. I was frequently absent from school. I was “modified homebound” in 8th grade, and spent an entire quarter home from school in 10th grade. Even in college, I had to spend the semester before my open heart surgery at home. Thankfully, Disability Services at USC arranged for me to do my work from home, and my professors were very accommodating given my academic success.

Yet my whole life I was made to feel like a second class student because of “attendance.” Even though I was never penalized for it, I was always “penalized” by the many awards programs, scholarships, etc., that take attendance into consideration. I was penalized by attending awards ceremonies every year and seeing students commended for “perfect attendance” that I would never be able to achieve.

“Perfect attendance” is just another way that eugenicist Democrats put down the disabled. It means absolutely nothing to a student’s actual learning, since most real learning occurs at home. To emphasize attendance is to say that those who are blessed with healthy immune systems are better than everyone else, just because of their genes. It is saying, in essence, that a healthy immune system makes someone “more equal” than others. Of course, advocates of “perfect attendance” also promote vaccinations, which forces parents to be complicit in the evil of abortion by utilizing vaccinations derived from fetal tissue. And lastly, it encourages students to come to school when they are sick, which promotes contagion of other students and promotes poor education by having students attempt to learn when they are physically incapacitated.

Certainly, a student who is actively engaging in the political process by attending an event at the State House is learning far more than he or she would learn in the classroom, as advocates of so-called “unschooling” would point out. My 10 year old daughter knows more about biology and medicine than most high school or college graduates because she lives it in dealing with the genetic disorder we share.

I have utilized public and private schools, charter schools and homeschooling in educating my children. I believe that parents should be given as many options as possible to choose the best fits for their families and their individual children. However, I also believe that attendance rules are arbitrary and inherently discriminatory, and I look forward to the day when disabled people rise up to declare attendance rules unconstitutional.

Sincerely,

John of the Little Way, OCDS
North Augusta, SC

If only more Bishops were Pro-Life, or “How Islam Gave Us Nancy Pelosi”

We all know that there was a concerted effort by many bishops, priests and theologians in the 1960s to tell everyone the Pope would soon permit birth control (even though Bl. John XXIII condemns it in _Mater et Magistra_). What is lesser known is that some bishops actually *squelched* efforts by *Democratic* Catholic politicians to fight contraception. I once read how Chicago’s legendary mayor Daley organized a movement against legalization of contraceptives–till the archbishop of Chicago told him to stop because supposedly the Church was going to permit contraception. Then there’s how “Fr.” Drinan told the Kennedys to adopt a pro-choice position (I always forget if this infamous meeting took place during JFK or RFK’s campaign, but it’s well-documented).

Fr. Bing Arellano can be a bit of a “nut,” but when I went to a conference he gave in Atlanta a few years ago, before the stuff about the USCCB and the Canadian Bishops’ funding of pro-abortion organizations became a public issue, he claimed evidence that back in the 1980s, the US Bishops were giving millions to pro-abortion groups (turned out they were doing so more recently than that).

It was of course another Archbishop of Chicago, Joseph Bernardin, who gave us the “seamless” garment notion that blurs the prioritzation of “respect life” issues, even to the point of putting racism and health care on par with abortion or the death penalty. Regardless of whether people agree that the “death penalty” is a “pro-life” issue (and Bl. John Paul II, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, and even Fr. Frank Pavone all say it is), I think it’s pretty obvious that there’s a difference between directly killing someone and something like “racism” or health care–unless, of course, you’re the kind of person to believe the “Mitt Romney killed my wife” ad.

Ever since I finally read (or perhaps reread, as I think I read it in high school) Etienne Gilson’s classic _Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages_, I’ve wanted to write a piece called “How Islam Gave Us Nancy Pelosi.” When Greek wisdom was re-introduced to the west after centuries of “Dark Ages”–which were really a time of great Christian enlightenment, where the Greek “wisdom” was just considered irrelevant to the spiritual journey–it came via Muslim translations and commentaries, of Greek to Arabic and back to Latin, or even of Greek to Latin to Arabic and back to Latin . So there was some translation error, and since these translations were done as commentaries by Avicenna and Averroes (Latinizations of their names), their commentaries colored the texts.

Aristotle was, at the time, end and all and be-all of what we now call “science,” and Aristotle’s “science” contradicted Scripture–for example, Aristotle said the universe is eternal (a question about which scientists still debate). How did you reconcile Aristotle with “Creationism”?

Averroes attempted to answer this question first, in turn borrowing from Avicenna and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides before him. “Eastern” and “Western” thought is separated primarily by the question of paradox versus the law of identity. Aristotle, building on Socrates and Plato, established the principle of identity and the principle of non-contradiction: a thing is what it is. Something cannot be BOTH A AND B. It cannot be BOTH A AND -A. Two objects cannot co-exist in the same space. This principle (which I once tried to illustrate using symbolic logic on an Aristotle exam, prompting the professor to write “Uncle!” in the margin) underlies all Western thought, but is alien to many non-Western cultures.

Islam is an eastern religion, and relies on many things that Westerners would consider paradoxes. For example, the Bible is to be honored as the Word of God, but recognized as also corrupt. Jews and Christians are “People of the Book,” but there’s the ambiguity about whether we are “Infidels” or not. Meanwhile, Plato had taught his famous notion of the “noble lie,” that “mythology” is a “noble lie” taught to the people because they cannot understand philosophy. Plato said that myths and philosophy teach the same concepts, but mythology allegorizes them to be palatable to the public’s level of intelligence.

To a certain extent, Catholic philosophy even adopts that notion–as even Augustine and some of the other early Fathers recognized a level of allegory and symbolism in Genesis.

However, Averroes took it to a new level and said, basically with Plato, that the Bible and Aristotelian science didn’t *have* to be reconciled. A person could believe *both*. He took Plato’s argument that the Bible is just a symbolic expression of the truth’s of philosophy, and that religion is subservient to philosophy, just a menas of expressing philosophy to the people, but he departed from Plato in that Plato’s philosopher kings are supposed to acknowledge that *to themselves*. Averroes held that people had to believe *both* the “noble lie” of the Bible *and* the philosophy of Aristotle, but in the fashion of Eastern logic, he argued that these truths could be confined to different spheres of life.

So it was Averroes who gave us the concept of the “secular world,” that we can hold one set of beliefs in our religious lives but an entirely different set in our “secular” lives. This idea set in in the Universities in France. The work of Scotus, Aquinas and Bonaventure was a reaction against this trend in philosophy.

However, as Gilson explains, Aquinas and his fellow Scholastics in some ways failed. Averroeism remained entrenched in Catholic universities for centuries. So while we may rightly condemn Masonry, Modernism, etc., for the problems in the Church, they also date back 800 years.

When America arose, it gave Averroeism within the Church a new impetus: it became known as “Kennedy Doctrine,” though in turn it can be found in the writings of John and Charles Carroll, as well: religion is a private business, to be kept private and at church, and civic virtue is another matter. The “heresy of Americanism,” condemned by Leo XIII, kind of covers a lot of things, but one of the things it covers is the relegation of religion to a private sector in return for a secular virtue in public.

I don’t know if Gilson ever explained in another work how this entrenchment operated from the 11th to the 18th century, but it’s clear how it manifested itself in America. Then came the infiltration of the Church, and the Masonic and Communist infiltrators used the existing foundation of Averroeist philosophy to teach priests and bishops to hold the same view.

And it was these priests and bishops who went around in the 1960s and told Catholics both that it was OK to use contraception and that not only should they not fight efforts to legalize contraception, they should *support* those efforts.