Category Archives: postmodernism

Symbols mean things

I’m a big supporter for formalism/”New Criticism.”  I always forget who said which, but often, when writers are asked what things in their books “mean,” they say things like, “I wrote a poem, not a puzzle,” (pretty sure that’s TS Eliot) or “If I wanted to write an essay, I’d write an essay.  I wrote a story” (Flannery O’Connor, paraphrased).
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“Pro-life, homeschooling committed Christians who abstain till marriage then stay married to the same person are freaks”

I tolerate a lot, maybe too much, when it comes to TV and movies, but I appreciate seeing the consequences of actions, even if the writers depict those consequences unwittingly.

20 years or so ago, when Ellen Degeneres and her eponymous sitcom came out of the proverbial closet, ABC said that LGBT were about 10% of the population and deserved to be represented on TV.  Now, most studies have said that even if those who have “experimented” to some degree or other are included, LGBT are at most 6% of the population, and really more like 3%.  Interestingly with all the propaganda in recent years, that number has risen a whole half a percent!  Amazing how the number of people who are “born” a certain way increases.

But, fine, 4%.  Yes, there are people who identify that way and yes they should be depicted *honestly*.

But a year or two after the Ellen controversy, when the Catholic League lead a coalition of pro-life, pro-family, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish organizations protesting Nothing Sacred, ABC said, “We can’t have what amounts to 10% of the population dictating to us.”  Yet *that* coalition represented the views of 50% of the population.

Close to 70% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal under at least some circumstances, yet to most TV shows, pro-lifers are a minority and freaks.

I read an article once about the unrealistic depiction of sexual relationships on TV that pointed out for example how many characters known on TV shows as “losers” who can’t find a girlfriend actually have more sexual relationships, particularly in a short time, than even relatively promiscuous people in real life.

How often, outside of sitcoms and a couple reality shows that may be exceptions that prove the rule, do you see couples who are happily married and stay married?

How often do you see people on any fictional TV show who are committed Christians and serious about their faith and love their faith?  Even The Middle and recently cancelled Last Man Standing depict religion as something important but still a kind of chore or ideology (though Mike’s monologues on Last Man Standing sometimes make up for it quoting the Bible and even the saints).  Characters who are in any way serious about religion are, again, freaks and weirdos (which, yes, many people who are serious about religion in real life are also, and should be, but not the way we’re depicted).

How often do you see families on TV with more than 3 kids that aren’t “blended”? (and yes, child labor laws come into play).

I could go on with examples, but if it’s a question of “equal representation,” all the demographics I listed are a higher percentage of the population than LGBT yet they hardly ever show up and are treated as weirdos and bigots when they do.

Meanwhile, in the inverted Natural Law, where Neuhaus’s Law is in full effect, sex is meaningless recreation.  People on TV don’t even wait for a commitment, much less marriage, sex is a “test”–and saying “I love you” is a big “event” that comes after a couple have already engaged in sex not as an act of consummation of love but as a fulfillment of desire.  And, yes it has been this way on television for decades, and in “real life” without the Biblical moral framework, but what strikes me is how, in recent years it hasn’t even been a semblance of concern for decency or depicting any kind of negative view of sexual promiscuity, but an overt sense of saying, “This is perfectly normal, and it’s Judeo-Christian morality that’s aberrant and bizarre.”gs5x4j0

“Is it the End or the Beginning?” A Tale of Three Artists: Eliot, Lynch and Koontz, Pt 2 of 3

…With a mandatory touch of C. S. Lewis.
[SPOILERS for both Twin Peaks and some recent Koontz novels; usual warning]

My previous post addressed the series finale of Twin Peaks as such (given the age of the creators, the time it took to make this season, and the 18 hours spent supposedly telling this story that could have been told in half the time, it likely is the series finale).

I addressed Lewis’s argument that we should not read too much into a work of fiction that isn’t there, and suggested that Lynch’s point is to criticize his own fans, and TV/movie viewers in general, for doing the same.  He essentially says, “This is all just a fantasy.  Stop making more of it than it is.  These aren’t real people.”

Now, some thoughts on the whole “David Lynch is an artist” “argument” and the notion of “fans’ expectations.”  To this, I bring in Lewis’s criticism of the view that a poet could just say “I’m a poet,” and that makes his view of poetry superior to the view of “non-poets.”

It annoys me when I take my kids to a museum to learn about art and the curator says, “Well, art can be whatever you want.”  No, it can’t.  It has to have rules.  It has to express something.  If a person writes the word “appeal” and means “apple,” that expresses something different.  If a person draws a picture, it has to be something the viewer can understand before it can convey any message.  Most modernism and postmodernism is just the Emperor’s New Clothes: everyone saying “It’s genius! He’s a genius!  It’s amazing!” and dismissing anyone who disagrees as an uncultured buffoon because the “art” is not about expressing something so much as providing an avenue to elitism: a tendency Lewis saw in Eliot and condemned among the intelligentsia in “Lilies that Fester.”

When an entertainer/artist has a long and relatively successful career, he inevitably changes.  Either he gets “more commercial” or “more artistic.”  Either he gains confidence in putting more of his worldview into his work or perhaps he changes/matures in it.  Thus, I often speak of the three camps of Eliot fans: those who prefer the “Prufrock/Waste-Land Era,” those who prefer the “Four Quartets Era,” and those who see them as a continuum.  When I taught literature, I would point out how two writers can use very similar situations with slight differences to demonstrate their worldviews.   Flannery O’Connor and Edgar Allen Poe, for example, can use a similar circumstance to show hope and despair, respectively.

MIKE’s line on Twin Peaks: the Return: “Is it past or is it future?” recalls the famous line from Four Quartets: “In my end is my beginning.”  To the secular reader, Four Quartets is a meditation on time and destiny, while the Christian reader sees Four Quartets as Lord of the Rings: a sophisticated Christian epic deeper than a mere allegory.

Others have pointed out the parallels between Twin Peaks and Four Quartets, and someone even captured this screenshot:
1501756741-ts-eliot

To date, I’ve read Brother Odd and Odd Thomas, and have started Forever Odd.  My wife has read many Koontz novels and told me about them, as well as interviews, discussion groups, Amazon reviews, etc., and speaks of how many “longtime Koontz fans” are disappointed by more overtly books like the Odd Thomas series and Innocence, even though the titles should be huge spoilers.
From a Catholic perspective, Saint Odd and Innocence have the happiest endings a story possibly could, like every C. S. Lewis novel.  From the perspective of someone expecting a classic horror story or a classic romance story, however, they’re disappointing.

“David Lynch fans” look at Twin Peaks: the Return and say “It’s genius,” like the Emperor’s subjects in Andersen’s fairy tale, or the snobs at Lewis’s proverbial cherry party, because they don’t want to be counted among the philistines who “don’t get it.”  Some, however, admit they don’t get it, that it should be different from a “typical Lynch movie,” or even that it is different in the wrong way from one.

However, I’d say Lynch is conveying a message.  He’s conveying the message he wants to convey, and that’s why some people dismissively say “It’s existentialism,” because it is.  To the existentialist, life is ultimately despair, and you piece it together by enjoying cherry pies and chocolate bunnies.  It is “about the bunny,” Lynch would answer Lucy.   To the Platonist and Hindus, we’re all spirits in another realm controlling bodies that are essentially avatars, reliving our lives till we get them right.  This is one possible interpretation of the tulpas in Twin Peaks.  Another is that the finale shows the “Balance in the Force.” Whether they’re all dream-selves of the same dreamer, or reincarnations/avatars of the same being in the Red Room, or something else, the lesson that evil is inevitable and needs to be balanced, not stopped, is in keeping with the Dualistic worldview of Gnosticism/Platonism/Hinduism-Buddhism/New Age/etc.

There is something Catholic in the notion that we can’t “destroy” evil.  We can’t have a magic fist that bashes the Devil into smithereens.  We can’t go back and undo the evil of the past without destroying the future because the past dictates the future.   Once Barry Allen saves his mother, the cosmos can never be completely the same, even if he goes back to let her die again, and Barry has to live in the personal hell of knowing how many times he’s changed everyone’s lives.  This seems to be the almost-tacked on lesson of Twin Peaks, not because Cooper needs to learn it but the viewer does.

Koontz gives us a similar blend of horror, mystery, humor and romance with the lesson that all this misery points to Heaven.  As Chesterton would say, Lynch gives us the gargoyles–with fragments of the Temple.  Koontz gives us the gothic cathedral.  Both draw from Eliot, and both get in their long time fans the same polarized reactions as Eliot did.

On Cult and Culture

The problem with “Culture Wars” is we don’t know what culture *is*.  If we truly want to win back souls to God and the Natural Law, we must do it through redeeming the culture itself.

Chesterton says that the history of Western civilization is a conflict between three worldviews: the Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian and atheistic-nihilistic. He illustrates this with a parable of a people on an island who worship the sun. They build a round, mathematically perfect, temple. Over time, they come to understand God as transcendent of Nature and nature as corrupt, dangerous and not quite so perfect as they previously thought. So they add a spire to their temple, pointing to the sky, and gargoyles to the outside to show that the world is dark and scary but there is hope in Heaven. Over time, they lose their faith in God completely and create a temple of complete grotesque to demonstrate it: they take away the spire and replace all the gods and saints with more gargoyles.

Chesterton saw 100 years ago what the Twentieth Century was producing and has produced in spades since.

These threads can be seen in smaller amounts in each major historical period and each particular Western civilization’s history.  Generally, though, the Greeks and Romans produced art and literature which saw both nature and the gods as orderly and beautiful.  Their dramas reflected the need to return to order when civil order was disrupted.

The so-called “Dark Ages” produced literature, art, music and architecture focused entirely on God, and human beings who were flawed in an immoral world.  This was the period of Gothic architecture: terrifying and imposing on the outside; uplifting and glorious inside.

The Renaissance saw a general return to the classical worldview.  The visual arts became less stylized by the rules of iconography and more stylized by a desire to reflect human perfection as understood by the ancients.  Music was made a bit more complicated than the simple, utilitarian chant of the Middle Ages, reflecting the Classical understanding of music as a form of mathematics.  Architecture was not directly classical per se but some Greek aspects were returned to architecture.  The greatest Renaissance writers drew from classical mythology or the rules of classical drama.

Then the 17th century brought a Puritan flair to the visual arts, while music focused on God.  Thus, Bach could say everything he wrote was a prayer–because even instrumental music was understood to express a code that, like a Gothic cathedral, raised the soul up towards God.

The 18th century saw the period we call “classical” or neo-Classical: architecture that was mathematical and balanced, per Greek principles as then understood.  The visual arts, like those of the Renaissance, evoked classical norms.  Pagan imagery began to be revisited.  Music was more strongly mathematical and less otherworldly.

Then came the period we call Romantic.  Interestingly, C. S. Lewis considered Jane Austen as the last truly Western author.   The Romantic (i.e., “of Rome”) period in Protestant Europe involved a quest for the “past,” but it was a blend of the “Past” of paganism as well as the “past” as well as a fascination with Catholicism and the purported tendency of people in “Romance” (i.e., Latinate) countries to engage in lots of adultery and fornication, lending to the terms “Romance” and “Romantic” becoming associated with affairs of the heart rather than a group of cultures.  Interestingly, this is the same time the term “Latin America” was coined as a way to unite French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies against the new United States and the remaining British colonies.
Literature evoked the beauty of nature as well as the quest for God.  It also evoked a fascination with the creepy old buildings, the mysterious Catholic past (now thoroughly ensconced in the Protestant imagination as a form of pagan witchcraft, masquerading as “Christianity”) and thus gave us the term “Gothic” as no longer meaning a style of religious art and architecture coming from Germany but now a form of “Romance” focusing on the grotesque and even macabre.

After the Romantic period there was a general shift towards nihilism, which is what Lewis gets at in “De Descriptione Temporum” when he says the above about Austen.  Someone once said that “music died with Nietzsche’s God.”

Romanticism gave way to “Realism,” which still had a bit of the Gothic hope in its negative portrayal of life, but that quickly gave way to the gargoyles of “Naturalism” in art and literature.  Music came to be atonal and discordant.

This is why simple worldliness of much “contemporary” music, like that of modern art and architecture, is ill-fitting the grandeur of God.  Though the attempt to redeem the modern world has its place, slapping “God” and “morality” onto otherwise postmodern literature and music is like Chesterton’s islanders, after burying their temple in gargoyles, saints and angels on top of the gargoyles rather than getting rid of the gargoyles.

“Just believe in yourself”

“God just wants me to be happy,” says the contemporary Christian singer about her divorce and remarriage.

“Believe in yourself,” says the new age guru.

“The real Bruce Jenner,” say the headlines.

“Born that way,” says Lady Gaga.

Apparently, Jesus says “Affirm yourself, put down your cross, and follow your heart”?

Oh, no, wait.  That was, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.”

T. S. Eliot’s “Preludes”: More and Less than you may think

I was looking up T. S. Eliot’s “Preludes” today, and found that one of the top “hits” on Google is an essay from some literature class. I don’t know whether it was written by the instructor or a student, but on content alone, I’d have given it a “C” at best. The author presents his reading as authoritative, yet provides no basis for several assumptions, either in the text or in third party citations. The style is pretentious and pedantic yet offers little clarity or substance. As for my own credentials, I have never published on Eliot, due to focusing on teaching and family life, though I have published on C. S. Lewis, and Eliot is one of my research interests. A week into my freshman year of college, when I was 16, I checked out a stack of books on Eliot. The librarian said, “A research paper, already?” I said, “No, this is pleasure reading.”

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The poem:

I
THE WINTER evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps 5
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots, 10
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
II
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer 15
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades
That time resumes, 20
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.

III
You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited; 25
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back 30
And the light crept up between the shutters,
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where 35
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.
IV
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block, 40
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties, 45
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle 50
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

1) “Preludes” is one of my favorites and a great example of Eliot’s work, but it should be noted, contra this author’s generalization, that its popularity in anthologies stems from several key factors:
a) Eliot left strict instructions on how many lines of his poetry could be anthologized. This requires breaking up his longer poems, and “Preludes” is one of the only ones that fits.
b) Those who want to present a biased and inaccurate view of Eliot’s work, as the author of this essay does, want to favor the “Prufrock” era and reject his later, more overtly religious poems.
c) “Preludes,” in particular, has been used since the 1980s because it and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” were used by Trevor Nunn as sources for the lyrics to “Memory.”
d) Eliot’s early poems fell into public domain many years ago, but, due to changes in copyright law, nothing published after 1922 will fall into public domain until 2020.

2) You must first remember that Eliot is a Formalist. Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” This was paraphrased by another overanalyzed formalist, David Lynch, with the line in a Twin Peaks dream sequence, “This is a formica table.” C. S. Lewis, who in context was, ironically, responding to Eliot’s over-analysis of Hamlet, says that we cannot understand Shakespeare unless we first realize his plays are written as popular entertainment. Eliot is, per his own theory in “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” trying to use poetry to provide a multi-sensory experience. He gives us sights, sounds, smells, and sensations through words. Eliot himself, when asked what “Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree” means, said, “It means ‘Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree.””

3) Eliot himself, upon reading this, would have likely been enraged, and said something like the above. He was so annoyed at critics asking the “True meaning of The Waste-Land” that he published the “Notes on ‘The Waste Land'” years later, *then* many years after that said the notes were a prank (cf. Kirk, Eliot and His Age).

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He repeatedly emphasized that poets write poetry for a reason, and if he’d wanted to explain what he was “really saying,” he would have. Nonetheless, there was one critic he said understood him, and that was Russell Kirk. Indeed, if you read *one* book about Eliot, both in terms of literary biography and analysis, read Kirk’s Eliot and His Age.

The writer who inspired this post is right that the world of Prufrock and Other Observations is hellish, but Eliot is not saying that this is all there is. According to Kirk, the “Prufrock” and “Waste Land” era are a kind of Inferno to which “Ash Wednesday and “Journey of the Magi” are the Purgatorio and Four Quartets, the Paradisio. Yes, much like Dante, people seem to find the Hell more interesting than the Heaven, but Eliot never believed the atheistic nihilism you’re reading into this. During the period of his rejecting his family’s Unitarianism (for not being theological enough), and adoption of Anglicanism, Eliot experimented with Buddhism and other Eastern spiritualities. He was always a Theist. The hopelessness of this poem–which I personally see is actually a hopefullness in recognizing Christ even in the city street–is not Eliot’s own but the hopelessness he sees in those around him.

The article has part of the puzzle but is missing a lot. One way we can tell that Eliot’s poems are part of a larger whole is that they often include “call backs” or allusions to his own work–in this case, the final lines remind us of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

4) Thus, there are three impulses at work here. Eliot, a self-described, “Royalist in politics, classicist in criticism and Anglican in religion,” hated modernity but he also despised the romantic view. So he used modernistic realism to parody romanticism, critique urban living, and yet see the street as reminiscent of “the infinitely patient, infinitely suffering” Christ “stretched across the sky.”

Racism, Hatred and Bulverism

I read a cartoon twenty-some years ago: Two guys are sitting on a bench. One is reading a newspaper and says, “African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans; I’m glad to be a simple White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant.”
Guy #2 says: “You look more like a Jute to me.”
In the US, we group “Hispanics” or “Latinos” into one category, yet the term “Latin America” was coined by the French to counteract the Monroe Doctrine, arguing that American countries/colonies predominated by Romance-language, Catholic peoples. Even the predominantly Spanish-speaking cultures in “Latin America” see huge differences among themselves.
On the biology side, there are really only three “races,” a distinction the Bible suggests with the three sons of Noah. I read an article once about the biology of “race,” and how the similarity of Asian/Semitic peoples—modern anthropology having proven that Columbus wasn’t too far off in identifying Native Americans as “Indians”–is evinced by the existance of a relatively isolated tribe of cannibals in southern Africa who descend from Asians who migrated back into Africa about 10,000 years ago or so. Their language categories two kinds of animals–“food animals,” and “people”. They have no other categories of zoology or race/ethnicity. When they see people of Asian, North African or Native American descent, they recognize them as “people.” When they encounter darker-skinned Africans or Europeans, they categorize them as “food.”
One of the motivations behind “White Privilege” seems to be a desire to refuse to acknowledge that the so-called “WASPs” have brought suffering to lots of people they consider “Other”; not just darker sinned peoples. But to point this out is itself called “racist.” I keep seeing preemptive comments by angry African Americans about how the don’t want to hear about the suffering of the Jews, the Irish, the Italians or whomever, that “their” suffering is all that matters.
Suddenly, it’s “white privilege” because most “white” ethnic groups supposedly have more acceptance in mainstream American culture, or do not suffer the kind of persecution that “blacks” do. Nevertheless, as I noted in my previous post on this topic, this has not been the case in my own family’s experience. The upper class “whites” and the “minorities” of all socioeconomic levels tend to look down on us. Some people see freckles as a disease–there is a _Barbie_ book called _Freckles_ (1997), in which Barbie “helps” a little girl who’s embarrassed about having freckles by teaching her that, essentially, freckles are something to be ashamed of. People would be justly outraged by a book about how a darker skinned woman could be prettier if she made herself look more “white”, but if a “ginger” points out such kinds of bigotry and discrimination, that’s still somehow considered “racist” or a distraction.
We’re told that “white privilege” matters because of a “racist system” that is resulting in the violent deaths of thousands African Americans around the country a day, but pointing out that the minority of those are at the hands of officers, and the vast majority are at the hands of other African Americans, that’s dismissed as “racism.”
I’m told that if I check my car locks or clutch my wallet when somebody walks by, even though I do that when almost anybody walks by, I’m being a “racist,” if the person who walks by happens to be black.
I’m told that if I insist on overcoming racism by not being racist, that makes me a racist.
“Racism” is a perfect example of the logical fallacy C. S. Lewis calls “Bulverism,” a kind of ad hominem which he exemplifies by a scenario where a man says, “1+1=2,” and the woman says, “You just say that because you’re a man.” Person B doesn’t care whether the proposition is true or not, factual or not, but whether it fits the preconceived ideology, so some psychological or ideological presumption about Person A.
Bulverism is an offshoot of moral relativism. The most objective truth can be dismissed by saying the other person is delusional, or, in this case, “racist.” Emotion overrides logic. Logic itself becomes part of “white male patriarchal hegemony,” or whatever.
That is essentially the entire narrative of postmodernism.
And it doesn’t fix anything. It just perpetuates the cycle of hatred and violence, as the assassinations of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos this weekend demonstrates.
True racism involves hating people because of their skin color. It involves doing violence or oppressing people because of their skin color. What is the point of labelling a person’s every action, thought or word as “racist” just because of, well, the person’s race? How does that build community, understanding and love?

Merry Christ-Mass!

“Happy Holidays” is one thing; “for the holidays,” or “for the Holiday” when the context is clearly Christmas is another. “Whoever denies me before men, I will deny before my Father” (Mt 10:33). “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14); “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16)–and you won’t even say His name on His birthday? But you *will* use it as a cuss word?

What does it mean to be “Positive”?

“Turn The Radio Up,” the first single from Barry Manilow’s 2001 Here at the Mayflower, was his first top 40 hit on the Billboard A/C charts since 1989’s “Keep Each Other Warm.”
Often compared to “Daybreak,” it’s a catchy tune of the “inspirational” sort, but in the context of recent thoughts, Something occurred to me listening to it yesterday:

turn the radio up
hear the melody
turn reality down
there’s too much talk about blues
to much of the time
turn the radio up
hear the harmony
turn the negative down
turn the radio up
everything will be fine

Primarily an emotion-based message, it works like any platitude in certain contexts. If “listening to the radio” is taken as a metaphor for rather than distraction from prayer, it works.
However,

worryin’ don’t do no good
so throw your cares away
come on people life’s too
short a stay
hey hey
everybody now

Again, a worthy though on its own, but there’s a subtle problem: feeling well is what counts, not being good.

Now the one that struck me, in terms of how words are ambiguated:

don’t give in
no matter what they say
out with the negative
you find the positive way

“Positive” has come to mean, “feels good,” while “negative” is “feels bad,” versus meaning “adds something” or “does something” on the one hand or “takes away something” or “does nothing” on the other. Technically, in one sense of the “negative way,” the essence of Carmelite spirituality, the approach to problems Barry is suggesting–shutting out the world and praying–is the “negative way,” the way of negation.
In a different perspective, though, the sense of “positivity” here, the annoying way of the optimist, the positivity of the person who smiles with not true joy or humor, is a bad negativity: listening to other people fiddle while Rome burns, so to speak.
To be detached for God is as “positive” as it gets. To be detached and not care-whether one’s expression is a frown or a smile-is truly negative.
That is why, when one suggests, “As Catholics, we need to be more positive,” meaning, “We have to do stuff, not just complain,” some people get angrier and think you mean “Shut up and do nothing and post cute cat pictures.”
It’s also why, in “support groups,” if you talk about the actual problems you’re there to get “support” for, people say, “you’re being too negative.”

Liberals say . . .

The Constitution means whatever they want except what it says.  Animals have rights, but people don’t. Babies aren’t babies unless you want them to be. Gender means whatever you want. Sex and marriage are about self-gratification and not procreation and child-bearing. Life is about pleasure and should be “terminated” if it isn’t pleasurable. Money can be created ex nihilo but the universe wasn’t. If you suggest it’s more important that kids learn in school about how their bodies actually work than about dinosaurs, evolution, and various forms of pleasure seeking, you’re “anti-science.” And they call us “wing-nuts”. . . .

Why “Gay Marriage” Matters

Even many who profess faith in Christ insist that “gay marriage,” even as a civil entity, doesn’t hurt anybody.  Examples like “husband” and “wife” being changed everywhere to “spouse 1” and “spouse 2” should be enough for starters.  Then there is the increasing persecution of those who oppose the homosexualist political agenda: CEOs being fired from companies they co-founded,

Brendan Eich, who helped invent Java and Firefox, fired from Mozilla for a $1000 donation made 6 years ago.

and nuns being persecuted by the Church.

Should be speaking everywhere, not silenced

Of course, the latter was justified by “Catholics” bearing false witness against the Holy Father by saying his statements that homilists must talk about more than a few disjointed moral teachings means that none of us is supposed to talk about the specific examples, ever.

It all goes back to my old saying that we lost the Culture Wars before they began, at the 1929 Lambeth Conference.   The slippery slope that  led us to the current gay marriage debate started when the Anglicans became the first Christians to permit birth control, as Pius XI and Paul VI predicted.  Anyone who has tried to teach Catholic morality even in CCD, much less Catholic school, in the past generation or two knows how awkward it is to tell kids divorce and remarriage is a sin when their parents are divorced and remarried, that swearing is a sin when even their mothers cuss like sailors, or that birth control is a sin when everyone else uses it.  I went to high school with kids whose parents were NFP instructors, and even *they* would say things like, “It’s a sin for us but not for other people,” or “It’s better to tell teenagers to use birth control than to have them get pregnant or STDs.”

I think the persecution of Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, STD, has as much to do with her speaking about the negative consequences of divorce as anything else.  Indeed, the claim of Aquinas College that Sr. Jane is outside her academic credentials by talking of anthropology negates the traditional hierarchy of academic disciplines that a Dominican should be the first to recognize.

Soon-to-be St. John Paul II, who doesn’t mince words in Evangelium Vitae about the Conspiracy of Death, writes in Theology of the Body that the entire of Catholic anthropology is based in the Creation Account: indeed, that is the whole point of TOB.  From man being made male and female in the image of likeness of God and to be “one flesh” to the fact of Original Sin, JPII’s explication of the first three or four chapters of Genesis and Jesus’ teachings on marriage shows how everything else in theology stems from those passages.  He argues that the danger of Darwinism, and its importance to secularists, is that without a Creator, without teleology, without man being a soul/body hybrid, without Original Sin itself, then man is not a moral creature, and ultimately anything goes.

Something similar is at work in the Culture Wars in the contemporary West.  From contraception at one end to “marriage equality” at the other, advocates of “most favored sins” tend to promote each other’s cause: nobody wants to be perceived as a “hypocrite,” after all.  If some “bossy” Thomistic nun wants to start talking about sexual morality, then so much for “voices of women in the Church”!

And that’s the ultimate agenda of the Culture of Death (and, yes, Pope John Paul himself states repeatedly in Gospel of Life and elsewhere that it’s a conspiracy).    It’s even the agenda of those who, in the name of preventing child abuse, expose children to graphic “sex education.”  Obviously, Satan wants everyone in Hell, and Satan’s agents, whether they realize they are or not, need to encourage others to sin so they can feel justified in their own filth.

The 1988 Don Bosco film that used to run on EWTN before the 2004 version came out has subplots involving a brothel next door to St. John’s Oratory.  In one scene, there’s a commotion outside the brothel: two prostitutes get into a “cat fight.”  The boys stop their play and study to see what’s going on.  The Saint cuts through the crowd and pulls the two hookers apart.  “You people can drown in your sins, if you want!” he cries.  “But if a single one of my boys is lost because of you, not one of you can be saved!”

Harsh, you say?  Remember Our Lord calls for anyone who causes a child to sin to be drowned (Matthew 18:6).

That’s what’s at stake in “gay marriage.”

When I can no longer watch Wheel of Fortune with my kids because of a contestant introduction like, “So you’re getting married? . . . You found some nice young lady to marry you?” “Gentleman, actually,” that affects my family.
When we’re watching The Middle, and an ad comes on for Modern Family with two men talking about “their wedding,” and a cake topper with two men, that affects my family.
“Why?” asks the person who actively or passively supports same sex marriage.  “Are you afraid of them?  They’re nice people.”
No.
“Do you think you’re kid’s going to be gay?”
No.
Every child at some point wants to know why boys can’t marry boys or girls can’t marry girls, and “because they’re not supposed to” is usually a sufficient answer.

If society isn’t going to back that up, and if “the Church” isn’t even going to back that up, then one is left stranded explaining Natural Law.  It’s hard enough having to gloss over other issues.

They do not think parents have the right to teach their children morality or even to protect their children’s mental purity at a young age.   Then there are the increasing accounts of children at young ages becoming addicted to porn or committing sexual abuse because of things they’ve seen online.

When that stuff is literally everywhere, there comes a point when parents are forced to explain certain things to children that are not otherwise age appropriate–and that’s exactly what these demonic perverts want.

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.

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.”

Pope Francis: If you don’t Profess Jesus Christ, You Profess the Devil

When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

Pope Francis, in his first homily, 3/14/2013
Fr. Wade mentioned this in his EWTN homily today, and it struck me as an interesting jab at the contemporary “Interfaith” movement, as well as contrasting some of the other quotations from our new Holy Father that have made bigger headlines (i.e., his needlessly “controversial” statement that some atheists might make it to Heaven based upon their personal consciences).

Pope Francis and the Third Secret of Fatima

Around the world, there have of course been many reactions to the election of Jorge Maria Cardinal Bergoglio as the 265th successor to St. Peter. He seems like a nice enough fellow, apparently very saintly in both his preaching and his manner of personal living.

Apparently, some people are saying he looks like Jeffrey Tambor, but I think he looks like Jonathan Pryce.


I’m a bit bummed that my preferred choices weren’t picked. I’m especially bummed that, when I heard “George” in Latin, I immediately thought they were referring to George Cardinal Pell, though at least I took comfort that in my “adopt-a-Cardinal” prayers for Cardinal Pell, I had been praying to St. George.

According to this Ikon, St. George has hair like me!

To that end, and no offense intended to Cardinal Bergoglio, I was kind of glad they picked another “older” Pope–approximately the same age that Joseph Ratzinger was when he became Benedict XVI. As I noted when B16 retired, 8 years is about the average reign of a Pope, and only a few have served past the age of 85. It isn’t going to be that many years before we face another Conclave, and that’s a good thing for many reasons. Hopefully, younger guys like Raymond Burke and Charles Chaput (who isn’t even created Cardinal yet–I thought he had been) have a chance at the white hat. Also, even *if*, as many traditionalists fear, Francis turns out to be in line with typical priests of his generation, particularly since he’s a Jesuit, that should itself be a sign of hope for the Reform of the Reform: priests have been increasingly more tradition-minded since the eighties. So it may take time and patience, but it will only be a few decades before the young priests who are returning to traditional vestments and postures even in the Ordinary Form will show up at the College of Cardinals. Or the world may blow up before then. STOP WORRYING.

By the way, Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, has had some leve of personal connection to both our past two Holy Fathers. He was one of Josef Ratzinger’s favored graduate students, and, as a Jesuit, he knows Cardinal Bergoglio (though I’m not sure how well). He’s been quoted as saying, “You’ll love him. The other Jesuits hate him. I’m ecstatic.” Fr. Dwight Longenecker has pointed out that while liturgical, theological and political “sonervatism” and “liberalism” often go hand-in-hand in the US, that is not the case in other cultures.

Now, Francis is kind of cool looked at by himself. He appears as a modern equivalent of Monsiegnor Bienvenu in _Les Miserables_. Indeed, his first words as Pope were the Spanish (or Italian?) equivalent of “Bienvenu”! That said, there have been a *lot* of bishops like this. They may be few and far between, but they aren’t unheard of. Let’s recall that a couple American archbishops have sold their formal residences and moved into cathedral rectories or diocesan seminaries to pay off legal debts left by their predecessors.

That’s what really irks me about a lot of the coverage on Francis (BTW, he’s not “Francis I” because he’s the only one–however, after 36 years of “JPII” and “B16”, F1 as an acronym seems natural).
B16 was, as someone put it, the “best dressed Pope” we’ve had in years. While it may impress a lot of people to have a Vicar of Christ who dresses “humbly”, it also hurts a lot of Catholics to see Popes, or bishops, acting beneath the dignity of their offices–where it counts. Even Hugo’s Msgr. Bienvenu (who is based upon the real life bishop, and is probably about as historical an account as most pre-1850’s historical documents and biographies) dressed formally for Mass. And the thing about Cardinal Bergoglio/Pope Francis is *we don’t know*. He’s technically not even officially Pope yet.

Nevertheless, Cardinal Ratzinger was known before his papacy for shunning some of the elitist trappings Cardinals are known for. He would walk and take buses and trains, too. He was known for hanging out at local establishments around St. Peter’s, and early in *his* papacy people wondered if he might shun the Popemobile or be a pain in the neck to Vatican security.
Never was this Facebook meme more appropriate:

The Chattering Classes keep insisting that Cardinal Bergoglio’s behaviors indicate we “finally have a Pope of the people!” This implies that a humble theologian who only served at the Vatican out of obedience and never wanted anything more than to be back in Germany with his beloved brother, who was known for hanging out at local pubs and cafes, was *not* a “Pope of the people.”

As Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, OCDS, slept in a broom closet. He was known for opening the doors to the poor every morning and inviting them in to share his meals. Here he is on a fishing trip while a cardinal (note his brown scapular).

Like “Msgr. Welcome”, Woytyla was uncomfortable with being called “Bishop” or any of the higher ranks he was promoted to. He preferred that his parishioners, students and friends call him “Uncle.” When he was first appointed as auxiliary bishop of Krakow, he assured his friends “Uncle will remain Uncle.” He was known for various athletic activities, particularly skiing.
One of my favorite stories I read in a biography when I was in high school concerned a skiing trip Wojtyla took with a bunch of priests. Since he preferred to be called “Uncle” (not sure if there’s some other Polish tradition attached there I’m unaware of), or “Father Wojtyla,” that’s how he was addressed by other priests.
Ordained a bishop at 38, created cardinal at 47, and elected Pope at 58, and very athletic and healthy until the ravages of papacy and Parkinson’s took their toll, Cardinal Woytyla came off to those who knew him as an ordinary young pastor.
Thus, on this particular ski trip, since most of the other clergy called him “Wujek” (“Uncle”), a particular grumpy and authoritarian old Monsignor kept ordering this “young priest” around: “Fr. Karol, get me a cup of coffee,” that sort of thing. All weekend long, Wojtyla humbly and happily served this old vicar hand and foot. Every time the old man raised his voice, the other priests would hesitate, expecting the reaction most Cardinals would give to such treatment. Finally, on the last day of the trip, one of the priests gently informed the Monsignor that the “young priest” he was bossing around was the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow. He had the reaction one would expect from such a humiliation, but Bl. JPII never once grumbled, raised his voice or pulled rank on him.

So it really annoys me to hear and read all this garbage about how Cardinal Bergoglio is more humble and more down to earth and more like a “true disciple of Christ” than any of his predecessors.

Indeed, all of this brings with a huge caution. Much has been made of the alleged “Prophecy of St. Malachy,” a text of dubious provenance that seems to describe each Pope. The prophecy is allegedly “validated” by the fact that a church in Rome (I think St. Paul’s outside the Walls) has little cameos of the Popes, with the alleged prophecy’s nicknames for them, and there is only one space left–for Pope Francis. Even if the St. Malachy “prophecies” are true, and there’s a lot of evidence they aren’t, the prophecies technically say that “Peter the Roman” (presumably Francis) will be a great leader who will guide the Church through a time of crisis–and then Rome will be destroyed. The prophecy does not necessarily imply the End of the World, just the end of Rome. It also doesn’t say “Peter the Roman” will be an anti-Pope–though the “St. Malachy” text gets conflated with a lot of other alleged “prophecies” about end times Popes and anti-popes. Coded “messages are hard enough to decypher, but they become especially open-ended when people try to mix them all together.

In 2000, Pope John Paul finally revealed the Third Secret of Fatima, via the controversial Cardinal Sodano. Now, I’m not a big fan of conspiracy theories that say this wasn’t the “real” or “complete” Secret, particularly based upon claims spread by some sources that otherwise have little credibility, who insist on their own word that Sr. Lucia or somebody else said it wasn’t the “real” secret. However, after the prophecy was revealed and decribed, I wondered if they were jumping the gun a bit (so to speak) in insisting that it had been fully fulfilled.

After all, the Pope in the prophecy *dies*.

In the *only* two Vatican-approved apocalyptic prophecies about the Pope–Fatima and John Bosco (and when the Fatima announcement came out, people immediately pointed to the similarities to John Bosco’s dream), the Pope is shot and killed. JPII was not shot and killed. He was shot and lived. B16 seemed to fulfill some prophecies by his actions, his symbolism, and how JPII and Sr. Lucia died within a month of each other, but the similarities between Bergoglio and Wojtyla are uncanny. Wojtyla also shunned Vatican security when he was first elected. He tried to be a “Pope of the People” (he certainly was) and live as Pope the way he did as Archbishop for 3 years–until he was shot. *After* he was shot, he took on more of the trappings of the Papacy (and, some say, got more “conservative” when he read the Secret of Fatima, realized it was true and about him, etc.).

I always expected Pope Benedict to be assassinated given the animosity towards him, his statements about Islam, and his position vis-a-vis these approved prophecies, but Pope Francis’s similarities to JPII make me think we will one day be praying to St. Francis, Pope and Martyr.

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.

I don’t always post Facebook Memes on my blog

But when I do, they’re good ones.

After Sandy Hook, I posted on here about how the common factors in most of these mass shooters (and most serial killers) are:
anti-Christian rhetoric in the media + violent movies and video games + mental health problems + “dabbling” (to say the least) in occultism.
I called on parents, as I have done many times, to be more careful in censoring what their children are exposed to, and I quoted, yet again, the St. Pio story about the couple who were worried about their children in prison, and he refused to bless them because their children were in prison because of their own permissiveness.
To this, a liberal lady who’s been a frequent commentor here of late (but seems to have disappeared after telling me I was “full of myself), insisted there is *nothing* that “poor people” can do about these problems but pray until “rich people” produce media content that is wholesome (or, adding to the theme of the cartoon, clothes that are modest?)

What do you do as a homeschooling parent when you try to teach your kids modesty, and the DRE or Youth group leader (not singling anyone out in particular: my parish has wonderful people in both jobs, and I’m truly abstracting a friend’s story) sends her kids to Church on Sunday wearing prostitute outfits? I was once at Adoration in an incredibly conservative parish, and saw a mother come in with her three daughters: they were all wearing mantillas, but one of the girls was wearing short-shorts and a tube top!

There’s something between dressing like a Muslim and dressing like a slut.

Parents: Guess what? You can say “no.” It’s your job. In fact, you know what? If you don’t just say no but *explain* why you’re saying no, you’ll teach them a valuable lesson, and they’ll start to respect you for it, and understand the values you’re trying to teach.
Overly draconian parents? There’s something to be said to raising one’s kids the way St. Therese of Lisieux was raised, since St. Teresa of Avila attributes her mother telling her fairy tales to why she took over 40 years to get right with God. However, beware that you may be raising kids who are unprepared to face the world’s temptations or who may be chomping at the bit to rebel. A “yes” or “maybe” now and then goes a long way to backing up the “no” when it’s important–and, yes, it can be a gray line sometimes, especially in areas where the parents have slightly different views.

Another problem that plagues our society is the absurd notion, so popularized in movies, that parents who committed certain sins in their youth are hypocrites for expecting better behavior of their own kids. Father in movie: “I don’t want you going to that party; there will be drinking.” Kid: “Dad, I’m 18!” Mother: “You went out drinking when you were *16*.” Dad: “OK, you can go.”

Indeed, one thing that *totally* perplexes me is “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” paradoxes like this. “What business does some celibate priest have talking about sexual morality? What does he know?” Yes, what does a guy who’s living (hopefully) in celibate chastity know about how to live in celibate chastity? What business does an Olympic athlete have telling people not to be couch potatoes?
But, if a person *does* have “experience,” they’re a hypocrite. “You did it, too, so you don’t have any business talking about it.” In that case, we have a person who did it, found out the deleterious consequences of the action, and at some point repented, and now that person wants to save the younger person the dangers of falling into it. That is not hypocrisy. That’s valuable life experience. In this case, it’s the winner of “Biggest Loser” telling people why it’s bad to be a couch potato.

And when it comes to parents, even if they’re still stuck in the bad habit, that’s still valuable experience the children should take to heart in *not* falling into it to begin with.

The other day, I was talking to my wife and eldest daughter about a project I’m working on, regarding _Les Miserables_ and how Catholics from traditionalists to liberals think it’s a great work even though it was once on the Index. I said how in my research I haven’t been able to turn up an exact reason, and that one would have to dig through the Vatican Archives to find out. “Probably Fantine,” my 11 year old daughter said.

I took her and her 8 year old sister to see the movie the day after it came out–and was shocked that it was a bit more graphic than I expected–because they have become big fans, like their parents, having heard the soundtrack so many times and having watched the 10th and 25th Anniversary concerts with me several times.
However, there’s a lot of stuff we *don’t* let them see, watch, or listen to, and it doesn’t always even have to do with the moral content. It may just be that I feel the aesthetics are too postmodernist, Masonic or otherwise subversive.

Last year, when they were in Catholic school, our now 8 year old had trouble getting along with her peers, most of whom seemed like great kids to us, except for one kid (whom I later learned is just as “sheltered” by his mom as my kids are). When Thanksgiving or Christmas break was starting, I was taking them to the mall one afternoon, and my daughter started talking about how the kids in her class were playing “vampires versus werewolves” all the time at recess, and she didn’t know what to do (I suggested she bring a large crucifix and a bottle of holy water with her to school on recess day and use them). I thought I had given my children enough “secular” exposure by letting them watch the old cartoons I grew up on on DVD & Boomerang, then sent them to *Catholic* school to deal with second graders who were into _Twilight_!

This is how perverse and saturated with filth our society is, and parents really need to be diligent about the spiritual well-being of our children!

Anyway, the point I’m making is that yes, our kids don’t often fit in with “peer groups,” though as the late Carrol O’Connor said in his activism following his son’s death from drugs, “The *last* thing you want is for your kid to get involved in peer groups.” We’ve taught them that friendships are important–real friendships based upon common values. They have friends, and they have social lives through our homeschool friends and different church groups, but we’ve taught them they don’t have to indiscriminately “friends” with and fully “accepted” by everyone–just polite and respectful. So they don’t have to feel bad if they don’t fit in because the other kids are into things they know are wrong (though we encourage them to try and redirect the other kids’ interests). They don’t have to feel bad if the other kids at Catholic school make fun of them for dressing up as saints for All Saints Eve (aka Halloween).

1000 years from now, it isn’t going to matter if your kid was “popular” in elementary school or high school. It isn’t going to matter what kind of grades they got, or what kind of job they had, or how much money they saved for retirement, or whatever. 1000 years from now, the only thing that will matter is what C. S. Lewis says in his famous “Weight of Glory”:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Or, as Leon Bloy famously said, popularized by Jacques Maritain, “There is only one tragedy: not to be a saint.”

In the end, that’s all that matters. That is our primary duty and obligation as parents: to do everything we can to help our children become saints.

If we fail at that, we fail at everything.

The Rift in the Church: Who has the better argument?

Certainly, there are many factions within Holy Mother Church, and always have been. That’s what the seven letters in Revelation Chapters 3 & 4 are all about, not to mention numerous admonitions in the letters of St. Paul. Indeed, while there are tens of thousands of Protestant denominations, one could argue there are just as many “Denominations” of Catholicism.
However, it’s perfectly clear that, in the contemporary West, particularly in America, there are two principle divisions, out of which several smaller divisions permeate. These are often described by political terms, since the people who tend towards one side or the other tend to share common political ideologies as well. Another term that has been used by some commentators is “American Catholics” versus “Roman Catholics,” with the odd caveat that “American Catholics” generally tend to be pretty hostile to America as such, while “Roman Catholics” tend to be patriotic or even jingoistic conservatives. That these divisions exist should be patently obvious to anyone with a modicum of understanding of the situation in the American Church.

Each “side” of the division believes its vision is authentically Catholic and that the other side’s vision is precisely un-Catholic. There are also those who attempt to straddle the “middle ground” and say that both sides have strengths and weaknesses in their arguments. This is a position which Dietrich von Hildebrand declared untenable in that one cannot pick and choose from modernist political ideologies and peace together an authentically Catholic vision. The idea of treating ideology as a puzzle or a recipe and picking and choosing ingredients that one prefers out of various “options” flies in the face of political philosophy as it ignores the need for first principles.

That said, I think many people choose where they stand on the Catholic spectrum largely by what their mothers or grandmothers taught them. Some people’s mothers and grandmothers taught them to live in fear of the spectre of anti-Catholicism, the problem of “fitting in” back before the Council when Catholics supposedly were so different. Their mothers also taught them that, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Their understanding of Catholicism is very akin to so-called mainline Protestantism: Jesus was a nice guy who taught some nice stuff and ultimately wants everyone to be nice to each other. Whatever their “personal views” of various Catholic moral teachings (which they often think are open to question), they generally do not believe morality should be publicly enforced, partly because they realize that enforcement of morality necessarily implies nforcement of some religious view, and their ancestors came here fleeing religious persecution only to find more religious persecution. Indeed, their ancestors often came here fleeing European monarchies (even the Catholic ones), and tended to accept a Masonic mistrust of the Church along with Masonic mistrust of monarchy. They rightly emphasize the Church’s “preferential option for the poor,” but wrongly emphasize it at the expense of public morality. While they theoretically oppose authority, they seem to welcome authoritarianism when it comes to economics. They see a kinship between the socialist’s concern for the worker and the Catholic’s concern for the worker, even though 19th Century Catholics and Socialists alike understood their interests to be opposed rather than allied. They think that the proposals of _Rerum Novarum_, which were radical when compared to the established aristocratic and capitalists classes of Europe and America in the late 19th Century, mean the Church endorses the economic radicalism of Democrats today, in spite of the numerous encyclicals written to update the Church’s teaching to suit advances in economics. Finally, like the Catholics who willingly voted for Hitler and Mussolini because they promised economic security, jobs and universal health care, these Catholics willingly vote for people like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in spite of the various warning signs.

On the other hand, we have the Catholics whose mothers emphasized good behavior, moral uprightness, and daily devotions. They follow a model of general obedience to the Church, except when obedience to local hierarchs means disobedience to Rome. Some of them see the flaws of the American system in general and choose to work towards a return to the days of Christendom, while others to varying degrees accept the Republicans as the lesser of two evils. Both those sub-groups fight amongst each other but generally recognize that they’re all in a common fight for some level of traditional Catholicism. They are baffled why the other side puts economics above morality. They themselves sometimes compromise Catholic principles in their alliance of convenience with the American Right. Catholics of the “Right” tend to have an approach that’s more akin to Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants. We emphasize the documents.

Nobody’s perfect, but what gets to me about the “Left” is its attitude towards Rome. I blogged recently about badly catechized Catholics–Catholics who are not ignorant of the Church’s teachings but have been taught to look at the Church from a distorted lens of Masonic principles, which they mistakenly believe are Catholic principles. I compared liberal Catholics to mainline Protestants: like mainline Protestants, their view of Catholicism boils down to “what Father So-and-so says.” They are at least consistent in their views. The “We Are Church” mentality leads to the conviction that if a Catholic believes something, a Catholic *can* believe that, whether for good or bad. So, like a secular anti-Catholic (the very anti-Catholics they claim to fear but kowtow to), they’ll point to Catholics who supported the antebellum South, or Catholics who supported Hitler (even though those Catholics agreed with them that “social justice” trumps morality), or Catholics who committed atrocities during the Crusades, and they try to say that those Catholics, even if they were criticized by their Popes, somehow represented the teaching of the whole Church. Conversely, if they can find some random Catholic bishop or priest who supported homosexuality or abortion or socialism in the past, they’ll take that person’s opinion as authoritative Catholic teaching. They care far more about the opinions of Hans Kung, Charles Curran or Karl Rahner than they do about the opinions of John XXIII or Paul VI.

And then there’s the whole “Spirit of Vatican II” thing. Many of us have heard the argument that what happened after Vatican II was not the intent of the Council, that the people who “implemented” the Council went against what the Council Fathers actually said and manipulated the interpretation of the documents. I’ve looked at the documents many times over the years but mainly in a “research” capacity. Certainly, those readings have confirmed that view. Lately, I’ve been actually reading them, straight through, per Pope Benedict XVI’s call for us to seriously study the Council Documents for its 50th Anniversary in this “Year of Faith.” Well, guess what? That argument is true in spades. I read Sacrosanctam Concilium, the Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy, and what that document describes is nothing like what happened. Indeed, the collected documents of Vatican II volume we have has a note after S.C. that says how the reason it’s so different is that there were a bunch of other documents that came out after the Council closed that decided to go with more radical reforms and ignored what S.C. actually said (i.e., its requirements that all laity be taught Latin and that priests and religious continue to say the Office in Latin). It struck me as ironic that SSPX-ers are told they must 100% assent to every word of the Council Documents because it’s a Council and it’s binding, yet the people who “implemented” the Council ignored those very documents.

So, the “Left” has its popular refrain of “Vatican II got rid of that,” or that anything deemed “too conservative,” whether in devotions or liturgy or politics is “not in keeping with Vatican II.” Advocates of a hermeneutic of rupture make much of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement that the Council was a kind of “anti-Syllabus” or “counter Syllabus,” referring to Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors that condemns many modernist ideas. Yet he was referring to the approach, not the content of the Syllabus. Vatican II simply changed how the Church deals with the world. First, where official documents have traditionally been addressed by the Vatican to the bishops, expecting the bishops to relay it to priests who in turn relay it to the people, Vatican II and subsequent Vatican documents have generally been addressed to *everyone*, and not just to Catholics but to *everyone*. I think part of this is precisely that the Vatican *did* recognize the widespread infiltration of the priesthood and episcopacy and that that priests and bishops could not be relied upon to spread the message. Also, the “Vatican II approach” is to invite people to explore the wonders of the Catholic faith rather than presuming people are Catholic and condemning them for not getting it (arguably, there’s something to be said for both approaches). Even so, the content of the Syllabus has been in many ways reaffirmed since Vatican II–for example, by Pope B16 in _Caritas et Veritate_, which in many was is just an explication of what Pius IX says in the Syllabus.

And that gets to the thought that inspired this post, which I may have blogged before, but it bears repeating: who has the better “case” for their “view” of what Catholicism fundamentally is? The main argument the “Catholic Left” has in its favor is the “spirit of Vatican II,” a notion that is easily discredited, combined with the teaching of Bishop X (Arius was a bishop), and “my great grandfather was a Catholic, and he voted for FDR”.

The Catholic “Right” has as its argument that its positions are backed up by the actual documents. It has a general favorability of the Popes towards its positions (i.e., while the Popes acknowledge the failures of Catholicism–Bl. John Paul II in his encyclical on the 100th Anniversary of _Rerum Novarum_ argued that we should distinguish between a truly “free market” and laissez-faire Capitalism–they acknowledge that capitalism is far closer to what the Church calls for than socialism is, and that at least Capitalism gives people the freedom to implement privately what the Church teaches). If one looks at most pre-Vatican II Catholic figures, including “anticipators” of Vatican II like Dorothy Day and Josemaria Escriva, one sees a general favorability towards conservatism over liberalism, even if it’s not entirely the “conservatism” of the contemporary GOP.

It’s not that Republicans are perfect, by any means: I have always questioned whether a Catholic can be 100% comfortable in a country founded on Masonic principles. It’s just that it’s really hard, as I see it, to argue that the Democrats are “right” vis-a-vis Catholic teaching. And *we* have a legitimate explanation for why we believe the Catholic Left went off track: the systematic infiltration of the Church by Masonic and Communist agents, an infiltration that is often dismissed as a conspiracy theory, yet it has been well documented by no less than Dietrich von Hildebrand, the “20th Century Doctor of the Church,” and testified to by Communist agents during the McCarthy hearings. The Left doesn’t have a legitimate reason to explain why “we”– Catholics who lean towards either a conservative view of Vatican II or a traditionalist or radical traditionalist approach — are collectively “wrong,” other than taking that usual liberal attitude that we’re just angry, hate-filled people. Besides that, the best they can muster is that “neoconservative” Catholics are falling prey to the influence of Evangelical converts like Scott Hahn, whom they consider “infiltrators.” They see no contradiction in dismissing Right Wing talk of Left-wing infiltration of the Church as a crazy conspiracy theory while openly discussing their own conspiracy theories about Right wing infiltration of the Church.

So, whatever our differences on the “Right,” we generally have the documents on our side, and we have the backing that the Left’s view has been distorted by corrupt prelates. They back their position up with emotionalism, appeals to non-Papal “authorities,” and dismissing actual Catholic teaching as “hateful rhetoric” and “judgementalism.” So who has the more solid case?

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.

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.