Category Archives: G. K. Chesterton

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.

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The Time I got a Letter from Bill Donohue (sort of)

I maintain, therefore, that the common sociological method is quite useless: that of first dissecting abject poverty or cataloguing prostitution. We all dislike abject poverty; but it might be another business if we began to discuss independent and dignified poverty. We all disapprove of prostitution; but we do not all approve of purity. The only way to discuss the social evil is to get at once to the social ideal. We can all see the national madness; but what is national sanity? I have called this book “What Is Wrong with the World?” and the upshot of the title can be easily and clearly stated. What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right.

– GK Chesterton

Back in 1998, when the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights was still that, and not the sounding board for every personal opinion of Dr. Bill Donohue, I got a survey that they sent out to people on their mailing list, asking my opinions on various matters of anti-Catholicism.  Instead of filling out the survey, I wrote a letter.  I explained how I really supported their work, but I felt that sometimes they emphasized the negative.  While some things need to be called out, criticized, boycotted or whatever (Nothing Sacred), sometimes they seemed to give undue attention to bad stuff that nobody would notice, and that was done purely to raise anger to begin with (a crucifix in a jar of urine).  On the other hand, they never seemed to draw attention to what was right, and I gave some examples of positive portrayals of Christianity or Catholicism in popular culture that ought to get some attention.
A few weeks later, I got a letter in the mail.  “Dear Mr. Hathaway, I am Dr. Donohue’s personal secretary.  He was very impressed that you took the time to write a response to our survey, and he wanted me to write and thank you, and say how he’s going to try to do what you suggest,” or something to that effect.
A few days after that, Dr. Donohue wrote a glowing review of The Prince of Egypt.  

As Mother Angelica says in one of the opening sequences that have been merged into one in the reruns of the past 13 years, “The essence of evangelization is to tell everybody ‘Jesus loves you.'”  There is a reason why people who hate Christianity think we’re all the same as Westboro Baptist: because sometimes we act like that.  When all we say is what’s wrong with the world, and I know I have often come off that way, to my shame, we look like we’re hiding an inner thought that “God hates everybody”–and maybe we are.

Someone was recently listing the Cardinal Newman Society with “Church Militant TV” (aka “Real Catholic TV,” aka Michael Voris).  The difference is that a) the Newman Society is an actual organization and not just one podcaster with a professional studio, and b) the Newman Society doesn’t just go around attacking Catholic colleges that aren’t living up to the faith.  It also helps students, provides campus ministry support, and praises colleges that are doing it right.

That’s what Vatican II was trying to say, and really what we’ve been reminded over and over, from the Gospel itself to Pope Francis, including by St. Francis de Sales, who is credited with coining the proverb “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Poor Will Always Be With You”

One point I have always made on the topic of “Social Justice,” particularly when arguing against liberals, is that Jesus Himself said, “The poor will always be with you” (Mark 14:7), a point echoed in Catechism 676, which says the spirit of Anti-Christ is found in any political movement which promises to solve humanity’s problems through secular means. Thus, while so many “Christians” on the political “Left” insist that Christ would want us to vote for people who want to “end poverty,” Jesus Himself says we will never end poverty, and the Church says that any promise of ending poverty is actually the spirit of Anti-Christ. Indeed, as the recent election has given particular heat to debates among Catholics about the economic applications of Catholic Social Teaching, Leo XIII, the very pope who originated modern Catholic “Social Justice” teaching explicitly condemned the approach of the “Left”.

Of course, as I often note, Dietrich von Hildebrand says it is wrong to try and force either capitalism or socialism into conformity with Catholicism because both economic systems are based upon wrong notions of the human person, and Bl. Fulton Sheen often taught very similar notions (he often liked to say that capitalists want Christ without the Cross, while Communists want the Cross without Christ).

The Compendium on Social Doctrine makes it perfectly clear that governments must provide a basic “safety net” for the poor, and that some sort of redistribution of wealth is appropriate–in particular the Compendium, pulling together the teachings of Leo XIII and subsequent Popes through to John Paul II, advocates redistribution of land, *precisely* because every person has a fundamental right to personal property (a policy which GK Chesterton named “distributism”).

Nevertheless, as I noted in my previous post, it is individual charity Christ cares about most, because charity is supposed to represent love. Voting for a politician who wants to tax some people to supposedly help others (while that politician and his cronies, and a bunch of bureaucrats in between, get most of the benefits and the poor still get the scraps) doesn’t satisfy the demands of love. Giving a few bucks to a foundation is helpful but still isn’t necessarily an act of Caritas. Giving a homeless person a peanut bar and a Powerade, with a kind word to boot, can be an act of infinitely greater merit than donating a fortune anonymously to a food bank (though both are necessary).

But what baffles me most about liberals’ insistence that Jesus wants us to end poverty is that Jesus *praises* poverty: Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). He praises the poor widow who gives her last coin to the Temple.

Jesus wants us to SACRIFICE. I’m often told when I say this that it doesn’t apply to everyone, that it’s wrong to say that we are all called to follow the Counsel of Poverty, but nowhere does Jesus say that. He is constantly saying to give up everything for the kingdom. “If you wish to be perfect,* go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21).

My objection to both capitalism and socialism is that they are both materialistic. The following passage from Flannery O’Connor’s _Habit of Being_, in a letter from 1959, circulated Facebook recently in the form of a scanned page:

The Church’s stand on birth control is the most absolutely spiritual of all her stands and with all of us being materialists at heart, there is little wonder that it causes unease. I wish various fathers would quit trying to defend it by saying that the world can support 40 billion. I will rejoice in the day when they say: This is right, whether we all rot on top of each other or not, dear children, as we certainly may. Either practice restraint or prepare for crowding…

When Catholics on both “sides” talk about economics, they always emphasize which economic philosophy will bring greater “prosperity” to individuals and to the nation as a whole (of course ignoring that there are more than two economic philosophies available), yet they never stop to consider the question of why people who are supposed to be focused on the next life are obsessing about prosperity in *this* life!

“But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. ” (Mt 6:20). “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mk 10:29-30).

Yes, in this passage, Our Lord promises material reward in this present age, but His whole point is that we are to live on Providence. He promises that if we give up everything for the Kingdom, He will give us what we need in this life and eternal life in the next. So that verse can hardly be used to justify either a capitalist or socialist attitude. Jesus calls us to *sacrifice*, not to “save.”

“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. 30Even all the hairs of your head are counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ” (Mt 10:29-31). “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:39).

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. 23For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. 24Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds!m 25Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? 26If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.n 28If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 29As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. 30All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. (Luke 12:22-31)

Where, in these teachings, do people get the idea that God wants people to engage in accumulation of money, on the one hand, or that God wants us to obsess about taxing the rich to “end poverty,” on the other?

But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ 21Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.* (Luke 12:20-21).

No servant can serve two masters.* He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The Pharisees, who loved money,* heard all these things and sneered at him. (Luke 16:13-14).

When I hear a Unionist say, “We were mad that the bosses got a raise, so we went on strike,” I hear someone serving money. When I hear a capitalist say, “I earned my money, and I have a right to keep the money I earned,” I hear someone serving money. When I hear a liberal talk about taxation, I hear someone serving money.

Then there’s this key teaching:

Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” 16They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” 17So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him. (Mk 12:15-17)

Caesar makes money in his own image. God made *us* in His own image. That’s what Jesus means: WE belong to God. Money doesn’t exist. It’s a figment of Caesar’s imagination. We are real. If God can raise up descendants to Abraham from the stones (Luke 3:8), then Jesus can produce money from the mouth of a fish (Matthew 17:27).

In vain is your earlier rising,
your going later to rest,
you who toil for the bread you eat,
when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. (Psalm 127:2).

Stop looking to Wall Street for your salvation. Stop looking to Washington for your salvation. God does not want us to cure poverty, and He does not want us to be “prosperous.” Indeed, the Bible shows time and again that God does NOT want us to be prosperous, either individually or as a society, because whenever people are prosperous, they forget God (Genesis 11:1-9).

He wants us to love one another and provide each other with basic dignity and justice, but “prosperity” is a lie with the face of Caesar stamped on it. That’s why I reject both dominant political/economic philosophies of the world. That’s why I do not understand how the “Christian Left” can justify itself.

Economic Theories Explained, via Fishing

Liberal: Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day
Capitalist: Teach a man to fish, then charge him for the use of your lake and someone else’s fishing pole, or hire him to fish for Fishing Incorporated and make enough money to buy himself a quarter of a fish when all is said and done.
Socialist: Teach a man to fish, then tell him he can fish for “free” at The People’s Lake, using the People’s Fishing Pole, and that he has to give back 50% of anything he makes to “the People.”
Distributist: Teach a Man to fish, then give him rod and a piece of land by the lake and designate an area of the lake that his exclusive area to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.

Why I am a conservative: The Fine Arts and the LCWR

There are two reasons I am a conservative.

The first reason is abortion.

The second reason might seem more trivial but is just as important and perhaps moreso: Beauty.

Both reasons tie to the fact that what I rejected were liberal or progressive Catholics.

For Russell Kirk, conservatism is primarily about what he, following T. S. Eliot, calls the “Permanent Things,” or what Mortimer Adler would call “The Great Ideas.” In 1986, Kirk added a chapter to his magnum opus _The Conservative Mind_, officially about T. S. Eliot but also dealing with Robert Frost, talking about how it is impossible to have a truly liberal poet (he notes Shelley as a possible exception) because poets are all about the Permanent Things. C. S. Lewis, in his inaugural address as chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, _De Descriptione Temporum_, says that there are only three true historical periods. Today, we might call these the pre-Christian, Christian and post-Christian eras. Lewis argues that only 2 true changes ever occurred in history: the arrival of Christ, and the arrival of Modernity. He suggests that he sees Western Civilization as a continuum, with the Greeks at one end and Jane Austen at the other. While he thinks that the West has tapered off, he sees Jane Austen as the last solid example of a “Truly Western writer.”

Indeed, one of the reasons I went into English was to write a thesis on Lewis’s fascination with Jane Austen, though my thesis got redirected by my committee. We can further compare Lewis’s analysis of Western culture to G. K. Chesterton, who said that Western civilization is a back-and-forth of the Greco-Roman view (i.e., Renaissance, Neo-Classical) with the Judeo-Christian view (i.e., Medieval, Baroque, Romantic/Gothic). With the rise of artistic and intellectual modernism in the late 19th Century, something new happened. The Greeks and Romans saw the world as essentially divinely-given mathematical order. The Judeo-Christian view saw the world as a miserable place infused with divine beauty from which we reach out for God.

Modernism was the first widely accepted worldview, and the first artistic movement, based upon rejection of a notion of God. As one of the music critics in the old print _Crisis Magazine_ once put it, “Music died with Nietzsche’s God.”

One of the only times I had the opportunity to teach literature, as opposed to writing, was in the 2007-2008 academic year. I avoided being overt about revealing my political or religious views, but I *did* talk about these figures and guide my teaching of literature according to explaining the back and forth of those trends in culture. This led at least one of my students to raise her hand and ask if she was correct in guessing that I supported Mike Huckabee in that year’s primary (I did).

While I read most of Lewis’s work when I was 13 and 14, I didn’t read Kirk or Chesterton till college, though _The Conservative Mind_ was one of those books that, when I read it, I put it down and said, “THIS is what I believe”!

But I was conservative before I read any of them. I wasn’t conservative from my upbringing, other than the fact that my parents were staunchly pro-life. My parents started off as “Reagan Democrats.” My father was union activist in Pennsylvania, and I despise labor unions as institutions. I was born in Erie, PA, the hometown of “Sr.” Joan Chittister and PAX Christi USA. The bishop of Erie, when I was a child, was Michael Murphy, who infamously wanted to tear out seats in St. Peter’s Cathedral to make room for a stage for liturgical dance. His successor, Donald Trautman, is known for his courageous stance against pro-choice Catholic politicians . . . named Republican Tom Ridge.

Trautman is also known for spearheading liberalism in both liturgy and Scripture. He headed the committees that created the atrocious, and Vatican-Rejected, “revised Psalms” of the NAB. He has headed the USCCB’s liturgy committee numerous times, even beyond conventional term limits. Over a decade ago, he wrote a piece on liturgy in _America_ that elicited a response from some Vatican bishops, who wrote in the letters page of _America_ that Trautman’s article was essentially calling for a schism. Trautman single-handedly stonewalled implementation of the New Translation in the US, starting with his immediate reaction to, and rejection of, _Liturgiam Authenticam_ when it was issued and his insistence over the last 10 years that Americans are too dumb to know what words like “chalice” and “consubstantial” mean.

Somehow, in spite of that wide Catholic environment, in my early childhood I managed to pick up the beauty of Catholicism that Murphy and Trautman’s generations tried to strip away so meticulously, part in thanks to my parents’ guidance (though many others from similar backgrounds wouldn’t have gotten the same result). I was as bored at Mass as many children are, and clueless about what was going on or what the Readings or homilies said. I was awed by the stained glass windows, statues, the gothic architecture, the pipe organ, the choir, and the vestments and processions.

I read my Fr. Daniel Lord _Miniature Lives of the Saints_ I got for First Communion and was impressed by the piety of the saints. I read my “Children’s First Mass Books” I got for First Communion and was moved by the beauty of the prayers in it.

It was Beauty that called to me in the liturgy and in popular devotions before I understood anything.

I thought it was so cool that monks and nuns got to stand out by wearing their habits to show their love for Jesus.

Then we moved to the South, and while the South tends to be “conservative,” generally, and maybe southern Catholics are more actively pro-life, southern Catholics, especially the ones who are not transplants, tend to be rather liberal about their faith, because of the whole, “We have to avoid getting persecuted” mentality. When they’re conservative, they tend to be the racist kind of conservatives. So I spent the second half of my formative years surrounded by charismatics and progressives, and carrying the stigma that conservative=racist, and the only people who seemed to be externally following the Church’s teachings generally seemed to be stuck-up.

Yet, in spite of all that, I was drawn to Tradition.

I had plainclothes nuns and priests telling me that everything I found attractive about Catholicism was done away with by Vatican II.

While what drew me to the faith was its *difference* from the world, I was told that to be “relevant” and “attract the youth,” the Church had to embrace the world’s “pop culture,” that organs and traditional hymns had to be set aside for guitars and folksongs (nevermind that I had not yet really understood the great patrimony of traditional Catholic music; I was just working from congregational hymns). Stained glass windows (at least those depicting saints and biblical events) and statues had to be stripped away for colorful banners and potted plants. We’d have a big day for “Thanksgiving,” when Protestant Orange would be draped over the sacred altar and the vestments of the priest.

It made no sense to me that the religion of Aloysius Gonzaga, who walked on his own to daily Mass at age 3, or Stanislas Kostka who miraculously received Communion from an angel, was to be replaced by balloon Masses and “Glory and Praise for Kids,” that the faith which so many martyrs died for *PRECISELY* because they didn’t want to participate in the evils of their own cultures was now to be spread by embracing the evils of our contemporary culture.

John Paul II coined the term “Culture of Death” in _Evangelium Vitae_. Yes, the term has been used and abused since, and become a cliche, but if you actually read the encyclical, the context of the term might make even the most avid Ron Paul supporter blush (especially those who think the Pope is *in* on “the New World Order”), for His Holiness speaks of a vast worldwide conspiracy against Life and against the Catholic Church. If we’re going to speak of a “Culture of Death,” then we have to acknowledge that concept includes “culture,” that the Culture of Postmodernism is itself part-and-parcel of the Culture of Death. The culture of contraception, abortion, and euthanasia is also the culture of sex, drugs and Rock&Roll. If a worldwide conspiracy against the Catholic Church is trying to promote abortion, contraception, divorce and so many other evils, then one must also acknowledge that such a conspiracy is involved with the government pays for crucifixes in urine or feces on images of the Blessed Mother. If we’re fighting against these evils attacking human life and the family, then we must also attack the culture which encourages people to participate in immorality, so they feel the “need” for abortion, contraception and divorce as “protection” against their own immorality that the culture has taught them is inevitable.

Those same nuns were all about “helping the poor”–which is laudable, but not when it’s politically subordinated to abortion (a position refuted by Bl. John Paul II in _Evangelium Vitae_) or worse when it’s subordinated to spirituality. In that sense, it was not so much abortion that made me conservative as “Catholicism is about serving the poor, not all that prayer stuff. You shouldn’t be doing Eucharistic Adoration. The Eucharist is supposed to be about going out and serving the poor, not staying around and worshipping it. Marian devotion was done away with by Vatican II, and it’s not what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re supposed to be serving the poor.” And to a disabled kid, whose parents were basically teetering on poverty as it was, being told that the only “true” way to serve Christ was by helping the poor, came off as essentially telling me I was damned (if their worldview was true), and it seemed hypocritical of them to be so worried about poor people who *weren’t* Catholic but not about those in their own parish, to go out and do habitat for humanity but not be bothered to help a parishioner who was likely going to die before age 20.

So *that* is why I’m a conservative. Now, as an adult, I’ve seen the faults of many who call themselves conservative, but take solace in that most of them are more neocons, anyway, but the fundamental issues still remain.

Now, I knew my understanding of Catholicism was validated by JPII, sort of, and I knew it was validated by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (which is why I spent most of my life till 2005 waiting for him to be Pope, and literally hit the ceiling when he did), and by Cardinal Arinze, and Mother Angelica, and so many saints. I knew my view of Catholicism was validated by Kirk, and Chesterton, and Dietrich von Hildebrand, etc.

However, the struggle against the habitless nuns and their cronies has raged on. It is amazing how there are so many people out there who consider themselves devout and practicing Catholics, whose worldviews are so completely different, who totally embrace “Vatican II” (or rather the “Spirit of Vatican II,” since the Council itself never said or advocated most of what they claim it did), who think that Joan Chittister and Rembert Weakland (even in spite of the latter’s disgrace) embody the “true” faith, it can be quite disheartening. Look at _Commonweal_, _America_, _US Catholic_, _St. Anthony Messenger_, or _Maryknoll_. Look at the “we’re not liberal” Catholics at Vox Nova and “Catholics United for the Common Good.” Look at so many “Catholic” colleges and institutions, like Georgetown, which invited Kathleen Sebelius to be its commencement speaker, even in the current crisis. While many of these people are intentional agents of Communism and Freemasonry, many of them really *are* well-meaning, but totally brainwashed, and think they’re following the Church. And they insist that their “view of Catholicism” is at least a perfectly valid one, if not the only valid one, and the Pope and “the Bishops” (even though many of the bishops in the US agree with them) are “out of touch.”

So, with all that said, the second great gratification came seven years after the installation of Pope Benedict XVI, when the Vatican issued its “smackdown” of the Leadership Council of Women Religious a few weeks ago. Finally, the Vatican has confirmed that all those habitless nuns are way off-base, regarding their subordination of both moral issues and personal spirituality to social justice (which is a perfectly valid concern in its proper context). Finally, they’re being told to put their habits back on.