Category Archives: IPod Generation

Wake up!

From Evening Prayer, Friday Week 3:

2b Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials,*3for you know that the testing* of your faith produces perseverance.4And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.5But if any of you lacks wisdom,* he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.c6But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.d7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,8since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)

On May 25, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene De Pazzi, OCD, and the feast of the great and “venerable” Englishman St. Bede, Ireland, which St. Patrick prophesied would one day lose the faith but regain it to spread around the world, officially severed itself not just from Catholicism but from basic decency and Natural Law by sentencing millions of children to death by abortion.

About 20 years ago, I had a dream that the Chastisements would begin if Ireland legalized abortion. Prepare your hearts. Repent. Go to Confession. Get baptized if you aren’t. Fast. Pray. Stop blaspheming. Love God with all your hearts, minds and souls. Arm your family with faith, service and sacramentals. This is war. And we’re all soldiers asleep at our posts. Our Lord warns us that when we have done our duties, we should say “I am an unprofitable servant for I have only done my duty.” “You’ve done your duty; nothing more,” said Valjean to Javert.

St. John Bosco had a dream where St. Dominic Savio showed him all the souls he might have helped to bring to Heaven but even his efforts and faith were not strong enough.  One of the saints said that the thing Heaven and Hell have in common is that everyone says “I don’t deserve to be here.”

I for one know I could and should do much more for God.

I spent years reading books on apparitions.  I’ve always been conflicted on the “Three Days of Darkness,” yet it seems to match up not just with the prophecies of so many saints and approved visionaries but of many secular and Protestant ideas (the “zombie apocalypse,” for example).

Any Cradle Catholic who’s paid attention to their grandparents or “pious old Church ladies” has at least heard of it.  The prophecy is that, in a time such as ours, when the world and the Church herself fall into sin and rebellion and division, God will reveal Himself through various signs and plagues like those of Egypt, and one of the first will be three days of complete darkness (volcano? EMP?) when no lights will work except for the light of blessed beeswax candles.  One candle will last the three days and light a home, but it will only burn in the homes of those who are in a presumptive state of grace.  It will be the inverse of the “Rapture” as understood by Protestants: those who are in sin will be confronted by their sin and by demons and die.  Reanimated corpses will torment the godly in their homes, so doors and windows should be locked and covered, and protected with sacramentals.  Though it’s always struck me as a bit superstitious, too many signs are being fulfilled to not at least be prepared in spirit and in sacramentals:
https://www.cukierski.net/collections/spiritual-goods-collection

Want to stop school shootings? Ban contraception

Teenagers would have been considered adults 100 years ago.
Today, our “culture” coddles biological adults and keeps extending childhood. It’s difficult for those brainwashed by the media and public schools to think outside the box, as it were, but Americans live for self-centeredness and “I don’t wanna grow up! I’m a Toys R Us kid!” Thinking.

Thus, teenagers and now twentysomethings are “just kids” when their bodies are telling them to get married and have kids of their own. Artificial birth control severs the connection of sex, marriage and procreation. Then sex, the primordial sacrament, as CS Lewis calls it, becomes supposedly a form of casual recreation, with people denying the deep physical and spiritual bond it creates between persons.

People engage in sexual relationships without the protection of marriage, “break up,” and are left with emotional wounds that get aggravated by the person “moving on”–same with serial divorce and remarriage–and then express that frustration in varying degrees of anger.  

Abortion becomes a back up to failed contraception and, along with the media, teaches kids that human beings can be eliminated if inconvenient to their ambition or pleasure. My father saw this decades ago in his students’ inability to understand why characters in literature felt guilt or trepidation about murder and said it wouldn’t be long before kids were shooting each other in school. All of these consequences were warned about by GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, TS Eliot and Pope Paul VI, among others.

 

“Why did he do it?”

A young woman goes to college.  She comes from a decent home and family that has its issues like any family.  She maybe has a genetic propensity for autism or bipolar or something that wasn’t quite caught because his parents were able to manage it with love, discipline and counseling from time to time.  She was never really engaged in her faith, and whichever comes first, the usual college combination–skipping Mass, “partying” and collectively anti-Catholic ideology among professors and classmates–cause her to abandon the Church.
She meets a boy. He considers himself an atheist.  They base their relationship on sexual attraction and what bands they like but say religious, philosophical and political matters are irrelevant to their relationship.  They *might* discuss a bit of modern philosophy or New Age “mysticism,” and they might talk pop psychology.  They start fornicating.  Then they decide they “love” each other.  They use contraception, unknowingly conceiving and aborting several babies.  At one point, one of the babies escape all the “Plan B” mechanisms and manages to implant.  Worried about her career, she has an abortion.
Then they decide that maybe they should get married.  They “wait” to have children till they’re “ready.”  They spent 10 years living for careers and vacations and things, having a relationship based on a self-centered “love.”  Maybe they self medicate with booze or cigarettes or worse.  Maybe they go to the professional drug dealers and get Prozac or Ritalin.
After a few years, they decide they’re “ready” to have kids.  They have their boy and girl.
They say they’re going to raise their kids “open minded” and refuse to have them baptized.  Maybe they expose them to bits and pieces of Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, any anything but Christianity.
Believing that children need lots of “stuff” to be happy, wanting their kids to have whatever they believe they were deprived, and believing that they have to limit themselves to 2 kids, so they want the most of the experience, they fill their kids’ lives with toys, video games, movies, etc.  But they also fill their kids’ lives with workaholism and competitiveness: sports, scouting, fine arts, clubs, and lots and lots of homework.
Their son can’t keep up, and starts acting out.  Quite often, the child in this all-too-familiar scenario is probably just stressed.  “I don’t want to give him an MRI,” says the doctor.  “That might have dangerous side effects, and it’s really expensive.  Let’s see how he does on Ritalin first.”
So the kid goes on Ritalin.  He’s on the equivalent of 2-4 cups of coffee a day.  He focuses better at school and his many activities, but his schedule is still stressful with no time for true relaxation or recreation.  He still needs to burn his energy, and he’s stimulating it chemically with a drug that produces rage as a side effect.  So he starts bullying other kids.  And he starts trying to channel his rage through video games and movies.  Oh, and since he’s chemically stimulating his dopamine and endorphins, he loses his ability to feel satisfaction from oxytocin.  He just starts craving more dopamine and endorphins, so more video games and more movies.
Now, if he was relatively neurotypical and just stressed, this would be bad enough.  If he even legitimately had ADHD it would be bad enough.  But what if he actually has something else, like bipolar?  So the the effect of the stimulants is even worse.
They try different meds over the years, never actually doing medical tests to see if and what meds he needs, even though they have tests available that in many cases the DSM says to do first.  Hundreds of dollars a month in prescriptions and doctor visits are so much more cost effective than a few thousand dollars at one time to actually find out what’s wrong.
Meanwhile, the daughter goes on similar spiral, but this, as Aslan might say, is not her story.
Meanwhile, the parents who didn’t put much thought into values before they married start to do so.  They realize they have little in common.  They rarely spend time together.  Going off “the Pill” to have kids then going back on changed her hormonal reactions to him and vice versa.  They’re burdened with stress of money, jobs, the kids’ demanding schedules and the kids’ mental and behavioral issues.
Maybe the mother decides to start taking the kids to church, and they fight about that.
There’s some anger and abuse.  One or both commits adultery.  They divorce.
Now the kids, as Maggie Gallagher documents in _Abolition of Marriage_, have lost their trust in relationships.  They both come to think of marriage as something temporary and mutable.  They have lost their one mooring in life.
The son starts expressing his anger at his Christian classmates, arguing all the time in favor of atheism, abortion, etc.  The daughter becomes sexually active.  The son starts using marijuana and other drugs.  All those resume-building activities begin to implode: grades collapse; he starts dropping out of his activities.  He spends most of his time watching violent movies and pornography and playing video games.  All the activities meant to “build social skills” never taught him to make friends.  His original genetic propensity, whether it’s for autism or schizophrenia or bipolar, is now largely irrelevant except that it’s compounding his lifetime of stress, betrayal, materialism, overstimulation, drugs, etc.  He doesn’t know how to approach girls, and girls find him creepy.
His parents have tried to give him everything the world has to offer but they’ve deprived him of the most important things a  human being needs: God and a stable family.
Depending on who reaches into his life at this point, and whatever his earlier issues, he grabs onto whatever sense of hope and acceptance he can find.  We could go several ways from here, but this all-too-common story lends itself to several results.
But our particular instance is following the path to hate and violence.
He’s been inoculated against Christianity, of course, by his parents and by the schools.  He’s been taught that Islam is a “religion of peace,” so he starts reading the Koran.
He’s been taught that socialism is a great thing and capitalism is bad, so he starts reading Marx.
He starts reading  Hitler.
Eventually, the violence he imagines becomes reality.  Maybe his mother has found true Faith in her middle age, and desperately tries to get him to come to church with her as she tries to atone for her younger lifestyle.  Maybe he is interested in a girl who’s not interested in him.  Maybe he’s had a girlfriend who recently broke up with him.  Maybe he’s been taught by the media, the movies and the few books he’s read that Christians are the real enemy.  Maybe he’s just filled with hate for all the institutions he’s come to mistrust.
Thousands upon thousands are in his situation.  Many turn to suicide.  Many turn to matricide or patricide.  Many murder the girl they’re interested in.
Many join gangs and commit gang murders.  Many just retreat into themselves and into the games and drugs, committing a slow suicide.  Many live lives of abuse and fighting without actually killing.  Many find Jesus and overcome the hate.
So what makes one person “snap”?
If any of these few circumstances could clearly explain why people commit mass murder, then it should happen far more often than it does.  If guns are the reason, it should happen far more than it does. If guns are the reason, then there wouldn’t be suicide bombers and fertilizer bombs and madmen driving trucks through crowds.
If, as the Joker claims, all it takes is “one bad day” to make someone like him, why aren’t there?
There’s a movie called Conspiracy Theory where a guy says all notorious assassins owned the same book, and to the extent that it’s been reported, all the notorious mass murderers in the US in the past 20 or 30 years have had one thing in common: hatred of Christianity.  Many of them have shouted or posted “Allahu Akbar.”  Most of them seem to have some sort of admixture of Communist, Anarchist and Nazi leanings.
As long as a person has some faint fear of God, he’s going to have a line of conscience.  Once we strip that line of conscience away from him, it doesn’t matter what tool he uses, he will find a way to kill as many people as possible before he kills himself.  He might do it in the name of “The Revolution,” or “The Master Race,” or “Satan” or “Allah,” but he will do it.  Should we put tougher restrictions on certain kinds of weapons?  I don’t know.  It seems to me the government should do a better job of enforcing the gun laws that are already on the books.
But to address the real problem is to address, across the board, the moral and spiritual rot of our society and requires each of us to look at our own responsibility, not for our political choices but for our moral ones."Occupy Rome" Protestors Desecrate a Statue of Our Lady

The Greatest Discount There is

Once again, people have died from being stampeded by people shopping for gifts to nominally celebrate the Mass of the Nativity of Our Lord, and to comemmorate the charity of Sts. Nicholas and Basil the Great.

The Fatima visionaries described seeing souls falling into Hell like snowflakes.  Things like this show why: a nation engaging in an orgy of greed and violence.

It used to be that Thanksgiving, a Protestant holiday that grew as an alternative to “Papist” Christmas but centers around the Catholic Native American Squanto, marked the beginning of secular Christmas decorations and gift-buying, which is why the “Day After Thanksgiving” was supposedly a big shopping day.  It was the first day of the “Christmas shopping season,” many people were still on Thanksgiving break, and those who weren’t watching football would go shopping.

Now it’s got to the point where, as Sue Heck put it on this week’s _The Middle_, “It’s no longer ‘Thanksgiving.’  It’s ‘Black Friday Eve.'”

It’s horrifying that people are willing to put a few hundred dollars in savings above other people’s lives, but that’s the Culture of Death in a nutshell.

Meanwhile, the greatest “discount” in history is waiting, and do people line up and wait to experience the infinite graces offered every day at Holy Mass?  The normal price of sin is everlasting torment in Hell, yet we are offered infinite forgiveness and everlasting paradise by Christ just for giving Him our love.

I’d call that a discount.

“but, Daddy, at school they said, . . .”: Why I homeschool

A few years ago, we tried brick and mortar.  We had our girls in a pretty good Catholic school and our son in a pretty good public school.  At Christmas that year (kindergarten), he started talking about the (alleged) religious symbolism of the candy cane.  We asked if he’s heard it at CCD, Lord’s Brigade, or on EWTN.  He said, “No.  From [my teacher].”  Indeed, our town’s general homeschool community, which my wife follows on Facebook to keep up with events, Is largely made up of secularists who find the local public schools too religious!”

But, still, even if you set aside questions of the moral and psychological dangers, bullying, peer pressure, subversive agendas, disputes about curriculum or teaching models, ability of the school to accommodate learning or physical disabilities, and so forth, those  two years, and the continuing aftermath, have highlighted a dilemma that troubled me my whole life.

My children’s generous uncles and aunts, starting with the Wii that I expected to be a one-time capitulation, have given them a steady stream of video game systems, so each of them now has at least one DS-whatever, and they’re constantly talking about the next thing they want.  I recall when I was laying in the hospital two years ago, watching my daughter play her DS, and thinking–whether I was actually hearing this or hallucinating, I may never know–the nurses, the hospital patieht rep, and others complaining about my kids having so many video games when we always say we’re struggling financially.  We are, and we’ve purchased very few of the games they have, and of course games have horrible resale value.  The point is that they’ve been roped into a materialistic cycle I’d always wanted to avoid.

My son’s hand me down DS broke over Thanksgiving.  His uncle sent him a hand me down Of what .i thought was the latest middle for first communion.  

Today, I took the kids to the park to fly a kite we bought at a dollar store.  We were having a good, old fashioned, inexpensive, fun time, but while I assembled the kite, I heard him talking about how he wants to save up for the latest model, which apparently is literally the “new 3DSXL.”  Within what I thought was reasonable for his fragile psyche, I lost it a bit and got a bit preachy.  We had a moment, hugged it out, but when I tried to talk about living in the moment, he said how at school they always talked about preparing for the future and planning for emergencies.  In his mind, having a second DS in case one breaks qualified as an emergency.   I’d been enjoying those 6 months when he carried around a box of Legos.

But how do you teach your child to be humble, to have poverty of spirit, to put others first, etc., when schools, and ironically Catholic schools especially, teach pride, ambition, and competitiveness?

The Jesuits have always been controversial for their accommodation of local cultures, and for their frequent interference in politics,  but I do not understand how an Order which rarely produces bishops or cardinals and has taken 500 years to produce a Pope because it teaches against pursuing advancement has contributed so much to the competitive approach to education we find in modernity.

When a dress code is not just about teaching modesty and obedience but wearing a “blue blazer with brass buttons,” is that teaching children to follow the examples of John the Baptist, Martin of Tours, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, or Pier Giorgio?  Even the Monarchs who’ve been canonized generally dressed below their stations.  

When a school advertises its “high academic standards,” makes students compete for titles like “valedictorian” even to the point of destroying friendships, gives awards for “perfect attendance,” etc., his is that teaching children to live the Beatitudes?   Help that homeless person you pass on the way to school, get a few minutes late, lose perfect attendance and lost the edge on being “#1.”  Besides, helping the homeless is dangerous, might be illegal, and you need to direct them to proper charities.  Is that a message that teaches kids to be Saints..

I know I could do a lot better as a parent, but I also know that what Ai consider better is the opposite of the World.

That’s why I homeschool.

Perspective

When I was a teenager, I rejected youth group because there wasn’t anything particularly Catholic about it.  At the time, I knew nothing of The Reform of the Reform movement.  Though my temperament was generally traditional, I was more concerned with traditional theology and piety than liturgy.  Going to youth group functions, though, and encountering nothing particularly Catholic–just socializing and some smattering of New Age spirituality, I didn’t see the point.  And where my rejection was in favor of spirituality over socialization, I saw my peers rejecting the shallowness in favor of more appealing social activities elsewhere.  

Later, as I read articles from Crisis, Adoremus, etc., about Haugen-Haas liturgical songs, I took the position, expressed by some of the writers, that such music, when not heretical, can have a place in a parish hall,  one’s private music collection, or even in devotional exercises at church, but not in the Mass or the Office.  

For the past year, our eldest has been attending a middle school youth group with some of her homeschool/AHG friends.  On first Fridays, they have a holy hour.  They open with O Salutaris and close with Tantum Ergo and Benediction.  This makes it heads and tails above the “Holy Hour” we attended once in another city, where they used an illicit, politically correct “translation” of Vespers and sang Amazing Grace for Benediction.  

The priest who leads it is a very orthodox young priest from Poland.  He hears confessions.  They have music and Bible readings.  While they use contemporary music for the devotions, the actual liturgical parts are chanted.  A. goes to confession every time, and has read one of the Bible readings on at least one occasion, even though it’s not our parish.  

Given that the options for devotions during a public Exposition are fairly broad, and seeing the effect it’s had on A., I’d have to say that, beyond my initial discomfort, given my experiences, it’s minimally a “pick your battles” situation, but more like “way to go,” that they are getting it right.  

Ca. 1991-1997, I’d have been happy they were doing adoration at all.  Ca. 1997-2005, I’d have been angry.  Ca. 2005-2011, I’d have been disappointed and maybe mocked it but ultimately shrugged my shoulders (as I did with VBS).  Post-dissection, and definitely post-Dark Night, I’m far more accepting of things and trusting of the Holy Spirit.

On Cameras, Selfies, and my Grandpa

There is a growing “meme” (in the original sense of the neologism) that the ubiquity of cameras in the past decade or so has, like every other complaint about recent technology, “ruined us.”

All this technology is making us antisocial: we read tablets instead of newspapers.

“You just sit there staring at that book all the time.”

Then there’s this  one:

If the world were ending, people would probably take pictures with their camera phones

Except that should be Jesus, not a meteor.

Just as the original “selfie” was taken in 1839, people taking photographs “instead of intervening” in various crises long predates smart phones.  Indeed, it’s the basis of photojournalism.  The main difference between “now” and “then” is that Peter Parker and Jimmy Olsen’s careers are now fairly obsolete, as more news agencies get their “on the scene” photos and videos from average people.

My Grandpa Hathaway had a bad hip.  He walked, when he did, with a cane for as long as I knew him, and most of the time he sat.  He was already about 70 when I was born, and my understanding was that he was disabled long before that.  I still remember listening on the extension when Grandma called in February 1988 and said, to my dad, “Your father has a touch of cancer.”

Devastated by the diagnosis, Grandpa stopped even making the journey from his first floor bedroom to his basement rec room.  However much was health and however much was depression, he stayed in bed and occasionally went out to the living room.  We had moved to South Carolina the year before, and my grandparents spent 2 months at our house while we finished up the school year in Pennsylvania.  They enjoyed their time, and when we came up to visit for spring break, my parents invited them to come spend a few more months.

We all drove down in two cars, my aunt Barbara accompanying us for the trip.

When we arrived in Sumter, Grandpa’s “routine” stayed about the same, only now he got up in the morning and sat on the lounge chair in the screened patio.

Until, after a few days, my Mom was cleaning the pool and tripped.  Suddenly, the invalid came to life.  He started laughing, “Ho! Ho!  Nancy fell in the pool!  I need to get my camera!”  He jumped up out of the lounge chair, ran into the house, through the living room and into his room and got the camera.  Mom said it was worth it to get him out of bed.

Times really haven’t changed all that much.

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So, “Have it Your Way” is now “We’re all the same on the inside”?

Burger King has raised controversy by their so-called “Pride Burger”.  Obviously, restaurants are in the business of promoting capital sins, usually in the form of gluttony and covetousness (advertising), to serve their own avarice.  So we shouldn’t be too surprised when they branch out.  However, what strikes me about the attempt at raising “awareness” that has “progressives” rejoicing and conservatives disgusted is that it coincides with their transition from their classic  “Have it Your Way” motto to the nonsensical “Be Your Way.”
The burger, as you’ve probably heard, has a special wrapper that says, “We’re all the same on the inside.” I’ve read it as a one-time thing in San Francisco and as a national campaign.  Either way, the corporation supports it.

Let’s side the fact that we are not all the same on the inside: that, as St. John Paul II points out in _Theology of the Body_, the differences between men and women are far greater on the “inside” than the “outside,” that our very skeletons differ in how women’s bodies are constructed specifically for child-bearing.
Let’s set aside the fact that the very claim of LGBTQXYZ advocates is that they’re not the same “on the inside,” that they may look “male” or “female” but “identify” differently “on the inside” than what they appear.

imageLet’s ignore that and focus on the stupidity of this phrasing as a marketing ploy: “Have it Your Way” is now “We’re all the same on the inside,” doesn’t that mean, “Eat your pickles.  Eat your lettuce.  Special orders do upset us”?

Why are we being told to take “Pride” in Sin? People apparently forget that pride *is* a sin.

And that’s it, right there: “Love yourself.” “Make yourself like gods who know.” “I will not serve.”

The term “seven deadly sins” really means “seven deadly vices”–seven bad habits that could, individually or in combination, kill the soul.  The seven capital vices are pride, lust, envy, sloth, greed/avarice, gluttony, and anger/wrath.   I don’t know why the traditional lists leave out despair, but let’s look at them, particularly in a rough correspondence to the theological and cardinal virtues.  Here’s a good summary article that attempts to parallel the “seven virtues” with the seven deadly sins by grouping them into two categories each: three spiritual and three corporal.  It also suggests the “remedial” approach to the virtues, and here is another.

What disturbs me most about the “Progressives” is how everything has become about “Pride.”  Lust is one thing, but pride quite another.  Certainly, neither side of the Culture Wars has a monopoly on anger, greed, or gluttony, but that people who profess to be Christians are not only falling for but promoting a message of “pride” is horrifying.

St. Thomas Aquinas addresses “Pride” in Question 162 of the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologica.

Article 6. Whether pride is the most grievous of sins?

Objection 1. It would seem that pride is not the most grievous of sins. For the more difficult a sin is to avoid, the less grievous it would seem to be. Now pride is most difficult to avoid; for Augustine says in his Rule (Ep. ccxi), “Other sins find their vent in the accomplishment of evil deeds, whereas pride lies in wait for good deedsto destroy them.” Therefore pride is not the most grievous of sins.

Objection 2. Further, “The greater evil is opposed to the greater good,” as the Philosopher asserts (Ethic. viii, 10). Now humility to which pride is opposed is not the greatest of virtues, as stated above (Question 61, Article 5). Therefore the vices that are opposed to greater virtues, such as unbelief, despairhatred of God,murder, and so forth, are more grievous sins than pride.

Objection 3. Further, the greater evil is not punished by a lesser evil. But pride is sometimes punished by other sins according to Romans 1:28, where it is stated that on account of their pride of heart, men of sciencewere delivered “to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient.” Therefore pride is not the most grievous of sins.

On the contrary, A gloss on Psalm 118:51, “The proud did iniquitously,” says: “The greatest sin in man ispride.”

I answer that, Two things are to be observed in sin, conversion to a mutable good, and this is the material part of sin; and aversion from the immutable good, and this gives sin its formal aspect and complement. Now on the part of the conversion, there is no reason for pride being the greatest of sins, because uplifting whichpride covets inordinately, is not essentially most incompatible with the good of virtue. But on the part of the aversion, pride has extreme gravity, because in other sins man turns away from God, either through ignoranceor through weakness, or through desire for any other good whatever; whereas pride denotes aversion from Godsimply through being unwilling to be subject to God and His rule. Hence Boethius [Cf. Cassian, de Caenob. Onst. xii, 7 says that “while all vices flee from Godpride alone withstands God“; for which reason it is specially stated (James 4:6) that “God resisteth the proud.” Wherefore aversion from God and Hiscommandments, which is a consequence as it were in other sins, belongs to pride by its very nature, for its actis the contempt of God. And since that which belongs to a thing by its nature is always of greater weight than that which belongs to it through something else, it follows that pride is the most grievous of sins by its genus, because it exceeds in aversion which is the formal complement of sin.

Reply to Objection 1. A sin is difficult to avoid in two ways. First, on account of the violence of its onslaught; thus anger is violent in its onslaught on account of its impetuosity; and “still more difficult is it to resistconcupiscence, on account of its connaturality,” as stated in Ethic. ii, 3,9. A difficulty of this kind in avoidingsin diminishes the gravity of the sin; because a man sins the more grievously, according as he yields to a less impetuous temptation, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiv, 12,15).

Secondly, it is difficult to avoid a sin, on account of its being hidden. On this way it is difficult to avoid pride, since it takes occasion even from good deeds, as stated (5, ad 3). Hence Augustine says pointedly that it “liesin wait for good deeds“; and it is written (Psalm 141:4): “In the way wherein I walked, the proud [Cf. Psalm 139:6, ‘The proud have hidden a net for me.’] [Vulgate: ‘they’] have hidden a snare for me.” Hence no very great gravity attaches to the movement of pride while creeping in secretly, and before it is discovered by thejudgment of reason: but once discovered by reason, it is easily avoided, both by considering one’s own infirmity, according to Sirach 10:9, “Why is earth and ashes proud?” and by considering God’s greatness, according to Job 15:13, “Why doth thy spirit swell against God?” as well as by considering the imperfection of the goods on which man prides himself, according to Isaiah 40:6, “All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field”; and farther on (Isaiah 64:6), “all our justices” are become “like the rag of a menstruous woman.”

Reply to Objection 2. Opposition between a vice and a virtue is inferred from the object, which is considered on the part of conversion. On this way pride has no claim to be the greatest of sins, as neither has humility to be the greatest of virtues. But it is the greatest on the part of aversion, since it brings greatness upon othersins. For unbelief, by the very fact of its arising out of proud contempt, is rendered more grievous than if it be the outcome of ignorance or weakness. The same applies to despair and the like.

Reply to Objection 3. Just as in syllogisms that lead to an impossible conclusion one is sometimes convinced by being faced with a more evident absurdity, so too, in order to overcome their prideGod punishes certainmen by allowing them to fall into sins of the flesh, which though they be less grievous are more evidently shameful. Hence Isidore says (De Summo Bono ii, 38) that “pride is the worst of all vices; whether because it is appropriate to those who are of highest and foremost rank, or because it originates from just and virtuousdeeds, so that its guilt is less perceptible. on the other hand, carnal lust is apparent to all, because from the outset it is of a shameful nature: and yet, under God’s dispensation, it is less grievous than pride. For he who is in the clutches of pride and feels it not, falls into the lusts of the flesh, that being thus humbled he mayrise from his abasement.”

From this indeed the gravity of pride is made manifest. For just as a wise physician, in order to cure a worse disease, allows the patient to contract one that is less dangerous, so the sin of pride is shown to be more grievous by the very fact that, as a remedy, God allows men to fall into other sins.

Article 7. Whether pride is the first sin of all?

Objection 1. It would seem that pride is not the first sin of all. For the first is maintained in all that follows. Now pride does not accompany all sins, nor is it the origin of all: for Augustine says (De Nat. et Grat. xx) that many things are done “amiss which are not done with pride.” Therefore pride is not the first sin of all.

Objection 2. Further, it is written (Sirach 10:14) that the “beginning of . . . pride is to fall off from God.” Therefore falling away from God precedes pride.

Objection 3. Further, the order of sins would seem to be according to the order of virtues. Now, not humilitybut faith is the first of all virtues. Therefore pride is not the first sin of all.

Objection 4. Further, it is written (2 Timothy 3:13): “Evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse”; so that apparently man’s beginning of wickedness is not the greatest of sins. But pride is the greatest of sins as stated in the foregoing Article. Therefore pride is not the first sin.

Objection 5. Further, resemblance and pretense come after the reality. Now the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 7) that “pride apes fortitude and daring.” Therefore the vice of daring precedes the vice of pride.

On the contrary, It is written (Sirach 10:15): “Pride is the beginning of all sin.”

I answer that, The first thing in every genus is that which is essential. Now it has been stated above (Article 6) that aversion from God, which is the formal complement of sin, belongs to pride essentially, and to othersins, consequently. Hence it is that pride fulfils the conditions of a first thing, and is “the beginning of allsins,” as stated above (I-II, 84, 2), when we were treating of the causes of sin on the part of the aversion which is the chief part of sin.

Reply to Objection 1. Pride is said to be “the beginning of all sin,” not as though every sin originated frompride, but because any kind of sin is naturally liable to arise from pride.

Reply to Objection 2. To fall off from God is said to be the beginning of pride, not as though it were a distinctsin from pride, but as being the first part of pride. For it has been said above (Article 5) that pride regards chiefly subjection to God which it scorns, and in consequence it scorns to be subject to a creature for God’ssake.

Reply to Objection 3. There is no need for the order of virtues to be the same as that of vices. For vice is corruptive of virtue. Now that which is first to be generated is the last to be corrupted. Wherefore as faith is the first of virtues, so unbelief is the last of sins, to which sometimes man is led by other sins. Hence a glosson Psalm 136:7, “Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof,” says that “by heaping vice upon vice a manwill lapse into unbelief,” and the Apostle says (1 Timothy 1:19) that “some rejecting a good conscience have made shipwreck concerning the faith.”

Reply to Objection 4. Pride is said to be the most grievous of sins because that which gives sin its gravity isessential to pride. Hence pride is the cause of gravity in other sins. Accordingly previous to pride there may becertain less grievous sins that are committed through ignorance or weakness. But among the grievous sins the first is pride, as the cause whereby other sins are rendered more grievous. And as that which is the first incausing sins is the last in the withdrawal from sin, a gloss on Psalm 18:13, “I shall be cleansed from the greatest sin,” says: “Namely from the sin of pride, which is the last in those who return to God, and the first in those who withdraw from God.”

Reply to Objection 5. The Philosopher associates pride with feigned fortitude, not that it consists precisely in this, but because man thinks he is more likely to be uplifted before men, if he seem to be daring or brave.

 

“Come with me, if you want to be not dead”: The Lego Movie

About a month before its DVD release, _The Lego Movie_ has finally shown up at the cheap theaters, and we saw it today as a family, my first movie-in-the-cinema since my surgeries and hospitalization last year. It was well worth it, and even better than I’d expected from the very good reviews I’ve seen. It’s a multi-layered allegory and parody. I’d have to watch it again to remember all the fantastic quotations.
There are Batman references from the Adam West series (Batman makes sound effect noises while throwing a batarang) to the 1989 “I’m Batman” to “He’s the hero you deserve,” paraphrased from _The Dark Knight_. There’s even a running joke about the poor reception of the _Green Lantern_ movie. While it superficially plays on the seemingly disparate and conflicting franchises to which Lego has licenses (the fact that there are both “Lego DC” and “Lego Marvel” blows my mind).
However, all the film rights to franchises depicted in _The Lego Movie_–DC being the most prominent–are or have been held by Warner at some point. While _Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles_ is currently owned by Nickelodeon, the first four movies were distributed by New Line and/or Warner (and IIRC, Michelangelo doesn’t get a speaking part). _Star Wars_, while usually associated with Fox and now owned by Disney, had some affiliation with Warner via the _Clone Wars_ series and the first _Lego Star Wars_ animated projects on Cartoon Network (and the brief cameo of _Star Wars_ characters doesn’t end well).
On the serious side, it starts with a dystopian world where mindless anonymous workers awaken in the morning, do exercises, read an instruction book on how to be happy, drink coffee, turn on their televisions, and hear messages from President Business, president of the world and the Octan Corporation, which is a trusted company because it “makes all the TV shows, music, history books and voting machines” (“Octan” is a fictional brand on Lego toys dating back to 1992, when it was first used for a gasoline station set). Everyone eats the same foods, listens to the same song (“Everything is Awesome”), watches the same sitcom (_Where are my pants?_, which has the same story and joke) every night, and drinks the same expensive coffee. It’s like a mixture of _Brave New World_, _1984_ and _Fahrenheit 451_–or maybe it’s really just the world we live in. So we have the basic “brainwashed minion breaks out of his dystopian reality to find a bigger world” trope, even to an ending twist that is more like Plato’s myth of the Cave or perhaps _The Matrix_ than the others. Yet, on the other hand, it plays on the dystopian cliches by having a message of the need for a balance between individuality and creativity on the one hand with teamwork and following the rules, on the other.
Meanwhile, the myth of the cave twist makes the story a story-within-a-story, a kind of masque, and parallels (much like the _Republic_) its social theme with a family theme.

Not only is it another great-for-all-ages film, I think it will stand up to more repeated viewings and in-depth analysis than many children’s films: it manages to be both funny and meaningful, and there were far too many jokes, themes and symbols to catch in one sitting.

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.

Responding to “one of those” friend requests

About once a day, I get a “friend request” and/or private message “from a young lady”. I’m sure many men get them, and some of my female Facebook friends have complained of them as well. Indeed, the usual kind is the stuff of classic “Nigerian prince” spam/phishing: “hi, I wanna be friends! Email me at [insert email address here] to see pics.” No thanks, I think, and mark as Spam.

Every now and then, a more “legitimate” looking request comes along, usually with few “friends”, some of them mutual, and almost all men. A brief viewing if the point lady’s page will indicate she is either an aspiring “model” or else looking for a boyfriend. Since I think it should be pretty clear from my own profile that I have no gold to dig, I don’t know why they bother. I am never sure whether to accept the requests and hide the person from my feed so I can witness or else delete and block to avoid giving others the wrong impression.

Coincidentally, a former student of mine who is a Facebook friend posted on Friday about how young people today seem to have no respect for marriage, how a young woman was flirting with him and, when he said he has been happily married for ten years, she said, in shock, “You mean you never fool around?”

Thus, I was bemused by a combination friend request and PM from a woman who was obviously real, and from South Carolina, saying she was a Christian who believed in being Godly in her personal relationships and felt the Holy Spirit was telling her to contact me. Taking her at her word, which seemed to conflict with her profile pic and timeline “cover photo”, I prayed and drafted the following. I offer it as a template for others facing these situations, choosing between just ignoring the request and missing an opportunity for evangelization.

Hello, I had read your profile-I normally do when evaluating friend requests. Given that you took the time to write a message and that your profile shows you’re a “real person,” I’ve been trying to figure out how best to phrase this. If I have the wrong impression, forgive me, but I was under the impression you are “looking for a [romantic] relationship,” which, if you read my profile, you would know
I am not. If you are simply seeking Christian fellowship, and I was mistaken, I wanted to make sure I replied wisely, as your profile picture and timeline banner suggest otherwise. We live in a society that has little regard for the Ninth Commandment and Our Lord’s corresponding teaching in Matthew 5:28. Perhaps the objectification of women in our culture is a side effect of the truncating of the last two commandments into one and expansion of the first into two: reducing women to property and thus into idols. In any case, modesty indicates both that you respect yourself and your Creator. If you are looking for a relationship, I suggest presenting yourself in a manner that will attract men who respect women. Likewise, if you are looking for Christian fellowship, it would be wise to present the same image. I take CS Lewis’s view that modesty is relative to context, but in this particular context, you may want to rethink your choice of public images. If you are seeking fellowship, and accept my advice in the charity with which it is intended, I will accept your friendship on Facebook.

“Why so Serious?” (or Sarcastic)?

People online, often myself included, can be rather uptight. I discovered tonight that it’s been months since I checked my GMail, and after deleting a bunch of mailing lists I never read, I went through old Disqus notifications, and found a response to a question I asked. Someone had made what was apparently a wise-crack, which I (I’ll admit) took seriously but asked a perfectly innocent question to clarify a term. “I lean towards Montanism,” and I asked what he meant by “Montanism,” since people confuse “Montanism” with “Ultra-Montanism,” and he replied the former, but that he was being facetious,” which would have been a sufficient reply, but then he went on. It’s like people always assume the worst intent with a comment.

Sometimes a question is just a question, and sometimes a joke is just a joke. Things don’t always have to have deeper meanings and ulterior motives.

I’m finally trying out Twitter with a Campaign to Pray for Celebrities

I have had a Twitter account for several years but could never figure out how or why to use it.  I’m way too verbose for blogging and Facebook, much less Twitter’s 140-character maximum, which is impossible to conform to without engaging in an overabundance of “text speech.”  Therefore, I’ve only ever used it to promote my blog.  That’s changing, though, with a suggestion my wife made the other day.

“Pop Star” Katy Perry, who is the daughter of a minister and started out as a “Christian singer,” has given a couple interviews recently proclaiming herself “not a Christian.”  Then there’s her Satanic performance at the Grammy’s.  This should come as no surprise regarding someone whose major claim to fame was “I Kissed a Girl.”  I really know nothing of her work, except that it represents no real talent.  However, she has been a big supporter of Make-a-Wish, and we have a sentimental value for her song “Firework,” which Allie sang at the Give Kids the World “Village Idol” event.

Then there’s Justin Bieber, who seemed until the past year to be a fairly positive role model, was outspokenly Christian and pro-life, and also was a big supporter of Make a Wish and GKTW.  And while his “music” isn’t exactly of high quality even by popular music standards, he seemed to have decent lyrics. Before I get off into the repeated disappointments with “this [person/show] seems to be OK for the kids,” we were talking about the recent scandals involving both of them, and it struck me that their names are the two patron saints of apologists.

Therefore, Mary suggested I should try promoting a Twitter campaign to pray for different saints’ intercessions for the conversions of celebrities, by “hash-tagging” them and the saints, and inviting people to “retweet.”

What is a “Real Journalist”?

This past weekend, I was watching Part 2 of _Karol: the Man Who Became Pope_ on EWTN (one of my FB friends pointed out that the whole miniseries is on YouTube). The previous week, part 1 was on, dealing with his life under the Nazis and ending with Poland’s “liberation,” was on, and I thought, “This is what’s coming.” Watching Part 2, I thought, “This is what the US already has”:
1) The government spying on the Church (we know they were doing it at least as early as Clinton, and that the current regime has gone so far as to bug the Papal conclave)
2) The government talking about “the will of the People,” and then responding to complaints that they’re *not* doing the “will of the People” with “The people don’t know what’s good for them; we do.”
3) Independent journalists being silenced and “disappeared.”
This also raised one of those “Why do we think anything’s different now?” issues. For the past 10 years or so, a debate has raged about whether the “new media” constitute “journalists.” Earlier this year, Senator Dianne Feinstein (Communist from California) proposed an amendment to the superfluous “Media Shield Law” (a law which basically says that journalists fall under First Amendment protection, which just shows how Washington fails to understand the Constitution) which identifies a “journalist” as one who “draws a salary” and specifically limits the First Amendment rights of bloggers and other “new media” types.
Blogging, Tweeting, Podcasting and so forth may make it easier to generate an audience (my dad is fond of bragging that I have an “international blog”, which had my nurses at the hospital thinking I was some kind of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist or something), but “independent journalism” is nothing new. Indeed, it wasn’t too long ago, in the scope of human history, that *all* journalism was “independent.” After the invention of the typewriter, anyone who had the wherewithal could produce a “newspaper” or “magazine” or “newsletter.” The personal computer and printer made production quality and distribution cheaper and easier.
Twenty years ago, when I was in college (wow!), one of my professors used to speak of growing up in New York City in the early 20th Century, when his family subscribed to at least 6 different newspapers (and there were many more available). They represented a range of political ideologies, and it was just understood, “This was the conservative paper, this was the liberal paper, etc.” The consolidation of media to a few conglomerates (even locally–here in the Augusta, GA, area, the “local” channels mostly operate out of one building, through some kind of legal agreement that skirts the FCC’s rules) has led to this notion of “unbiased” journalism that really just means “liberal bias,” “corporate/government control.” FOX News (which, in this household, is considered just another example of liberal anti-Catholic TV news) is challenged by the Obama regime for it’s “bias” (meaning that FOX reporters are the only ones doing their jobs right now–the bright spot that CBS recently reported on Benghazi was dashed when the reporter recanted), and commonly referred to as “Faux News” by liberals.
It’s always been the “independent journalists” who have forced reform. This country was founded by “independent journalists” like Benjamin Franklin and James Madison. The First Amendment exists precisely to protect the speech of those who don’t “collect a salary” to promote propaganda for those in power. The fact that a “Media Shield Act” even exists is absurd.

How are you using your “talents”, and *why* are you using your “talents”?

I happened to hear Mass on EWTN this morning, and the Gospel reading was the one that haunts me most, the Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30). Knowing that this tends to be a proof text for “liberals” that vita activa is superior to vita contempliva, or that it’s used as a proof text for “conservatives” that interest is OK in spite of the many Biblical teachings (including in the Gospels) against it, I tend to dread homilies about it. OTOH, as a passage in itself, I tend to see it as one of the most basic and hard hitting passages for examination of one’s own conscience: Am *I* using my talents the way God wants, or am I making excuses?
The visiting priest gave what turned out to be a very good homily, though it started out sounding like a combination of both the two common uses I alluded to. He began by talking about his lawn mowing business he had in his teens, and how successful he was at it, and the full time job he picked up just out of high school, until God called him to the priesthood five years later. However, it turned out to be about how God challenges us out our comfort zones, how in each stage of his ministry, he’s resisted God’s call, then answered it, then become comfortable in a role only to be called to something else. He talked of how we can become improperly attached even to an apostolate or ministry, a theme I’m constantly revisiting in my own life.
That ties in to the latest brouhaha in the Catholic blogosphere–this time after Michael Voris did a video about the salaries earned by people like Al Kresta and Karl Keating, and the responses to that video, and now the usual back-and-forth of who are truly the “faithful Catholics” versus “professional Catholics” out for money or ambition.
As someone put it in a Facebook thread just now: “There is so much jealousy among the faithful and there really is not reason for it. There is enough missionary millage [sic] to go around. Stop attacking Voris; it is not coming from God!” I agreed with the first two sentences, and then the person totally contradicted herself with the last sentence.
The priest’s homily also applies to more legitimate debates that have arisen in the past few years regarding certain “celebrity priests” who’ve been recalled by their bishops or Orders and responded either in obedience or rebellion.
In all these cases, people rally around their “heroes” who seem to be “under attack” and label the “attacker” as doing the devil’s work. Most of these things could be avoided if when A points something out about B, B is willing to say, “You may be right; I’ll take it under consideration.” C. S. Lewis stepped out of apologetics altogether for almost 10 years after some of his key arguments were refuted by Elizabeth Anscombe at a debate: during which time he wrote _The Chronicles of Narnia_ (which, in turn, got a lot of criticism from J.R.R. Tolkien). However, too often the reaction to such situations in the “New Media” is not humility but petulance and defiance, which results in a back and forth that comes to sound like a fight among children: “He started it!” “No, she did!”
Often, the argument in the comboxes or Facebook is, “X is doing God’s work. He [or she] is the only one speaking the Truth!” [or “the only one standing up for the unborn” or whatever]. That mentality is always a red flag for me and seems to be the salient point in all these squabbles. The phenomenon we have in the Church today is very much what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians:

I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to 5 Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 6 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? . . . Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.(1 Cor 1:12-13, 3:4-9)

Today, it’s “I am of Voris,” “I am of Catholic Answers,” “I am of Fr. Corapi,” “I am of Medjugorje,” “I am of EWTN,” etc. It sounds like the very thing we criticize Protestants for doing. There is only one person in the Church with the charism of infallibility, and that is the Pope, and even then only under specific circumstances. Otherwise, all of us, including the Doctors of the Church, are subject to human error. Some errors may be worse than others, but if we’re constantly looking for heresies under every rock, where does that put our own souls?
I spent most of this past April unconscious, following my aortic surgery, and I had a lot of hallucinations or dreams or whatever. In many of these, I and most of my family ended up in Hell. I even at one point said I would rather spend eternity in Hell with my family than go to Heaven and be “alone,” at which point I realized what a grave error I’d committed (and confessed as soon as I was able), that even if they all ended up in Hell, Jesus should be enough. A month or so later, a seminarian who was interning as a hospital chaplain was assigned to my floor, and he told me a story of his early days in the seminary–when he was lamenting to a classmate about the “loneliness” of their vocation. His classmate said, “Jesus should be enough.” He went to Adoration, felt God’s love surround him, and has never felt lonely since. It was a fantastic inspiration that he chose to tell me that story.
If you’re doing God’s work, you should be primarily concerned with obedience to His will for *you*. That may mean doing a podcast or a blog. It may mean speaking to stadiums full of people. It may mean pro-life activism. It may mean staying at home and praying, raising a family, or being pastor of a parish. As soon as we start thing of yourself (or someone else) as the “only person” doing God’s work, we’re demonstrating a lack of faith in God. “For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matthew 3:9). Your apostolate isn’t about other people; it’s about you. People say, “God needs us to stop Planned Parenthood.” In some sense, that’s right, but only because God chooses that way. If He wanted to, He could force the conversions of all abortionists while you’re reading this, but He wants us to choose Him freely. The best way we can challenge the disobedience of others–be it the overt disobedience of Planned Parenthood or the more subtle disobedience of our neighbor in the pew–is to improve our own humble obedience.
As Bl. Teresa of Calcutta put it:

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

“I’m mad that they stole what I stole first”

Earlier, I posted about some of the various issues raised in the conviction of Bradley “Chelsea” Manning for his involvement in Wikileaks and the ongoing pursuit of Edward Snowden, a central figure in exposing the fact that the NSA has been spying on US citizens.
A New York Post columnist, John Podhoretz, insists that the bottom line is “the Snowden material was stolen.” Podhoretz focuses on the fact that contemporary technology makes it more convenient to steal “intellectual property” than, say, carrying a stack of thousands of floppy disks or thousands of file folders, but says it is still “theft.” This raises several questions related to whether what Manning or Snowden did constitutes “theft.”
One problem that has arisen with the Internet, kind of parallel to the Manning and Snowden cases, is that of people who steal pre-release products from factories in China or wherever, then sell them on EBay. I’m aware of this in the toy industry, but I’m sure it happens with appliances, electronics, etc. Others buy these pre-release items for exorbitant sums, usually to be the first to post reviews of them on their blogs and reap the rewards of ad revenue. A few years back, when I was more active in following such matters, there was a bit of a row in the Transformers community about a collector/blogger who was mad that someone hacked into his account and “stole” his pictures of the “prototype” he had bought on Ebay and planned to write about, thus “scooping” his “scoop.” In other words, the guy was mad that someone else “stole” his photos of “stolen” property that he had bought illegally. This is is Pat Buchanan’s take on the matter of Snowden: the government is mad that Snowden “stole” information that the government itself “stole” to begin with!
Is it really theft to steal something back that was stolen to begin with? I honestly don’t know, but that’s certainly a question to ponder.
Was it “theft” for a tobacco company researcher to reveal to the press and in court that the tobacco companies were adding Coumarin, a known carcinogen, to cigarettes? What about the corporate scandals of a decade ago–ENRON, Tyco, etc.–and the “whistleblowers” who “stole” “company secrets” to expose corruption? What about the “theft of information” that has led to the exposure of cover-ups of priestly misconduct within the Church?
While the Vatican has certainly had its own controversy surrounding Wikileaks, and seems to have come down harder on the whistleblowers than on those engaging in the corruption they exposed, some of the same issues are involved. I’m raising these questions for discussion and offering no certain conclusions:
1) Does leaking “private” information about a corrupt governmental bureaucracy constitute a sin against the 8th Commandment, when there is no other recourse? For example, Vatican officials have claimed that the allegations made in the media during the “VatiLeaks” scandal were exaggerated, though Pope Benedict reportedly had the results of his internal audit read to the college of cardinals before the election of his successor, and Pope Francis has since confirmed (albeit, again, in a talk that was “leaked”) the existence of a “gay lobby” at the Vatican.
2) Does such leaking of information constitute a violation of the 7th Commandment?
For example, there’s the question I touched on in my previous post on the subject: are “we” the “enemies” of the government? Regardless of the particulars of how Manning and Snowden did what they did, the result was revealing to “the people” secrets of “the government” via “the Press,” which would seem to be the essence of what our Constitution is about: reminding the “Government” that it works for “us.” Doesn’t information that “belongs” to the CIA or the military ultimately “belong” to the people?
If the shareholders are the real owners of a company, and an employee reveals information about corruption in the company to the shareholders, is that really “theft”?
How do “we the People” keep tabs on “them the Government,” who supposedly work for us, if not for people like Manning and Snowden who are willing to divulge “government secrets” to the press? The use of flash drives certainly makes it more convenient for someone like Glenn Greenwald versus the lengthy investigations of Woodward and Bernstein, but are Snowden and Manning any more traitors or thieves than Mark Felt?
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

An Admirable Apology from Mark Shea

And one that I have to say I identify with.

It works this way:

If I am arguing with somebody who seems to me to merely be in intellectual error (like somebody getting their sums wrong or having an honestly mistake idea) I will treat that one with respect. But when I feel as though I am engaged with somebody who is wilfully refusing to get the point, I will generally reach a point where I decide “Okay, you refuse to listen honestly or reply honestly, so I will henceforth respond to you only for the sake of those third party bystanders watching the conversation who will listen. You have just been reduced to a Thing: a means to the end of talking to them.”

In addition, my attitude toward Public Figures is much the same. I tend not to see them as human beings, but as sort of semi-fictional characters. People who don’t fully exist but who are In the News and therefore symbols or representatives of ideas.

The upshot is this: Irony of ironies, a friend asked me today if I had contacted Lila Rose. I said that I had contacted her organization–recently. He said, “Why didn’t you contact her at the start of the contretemps?” I had no answer. It had never occurred to me. Those familiar with the history of the controversy will recall that when it erupted, I basically was of the school that saw no big issue and said pretty much what most LA defenders say. It wasn’t till various readers, Dawn Eden among them, challenged me and I could not find a way to argue with them that I changed me mind. Honest, you can go back to the Register blog archives and watch the progression of my change of mind in February 2011. Anyway, as the conversation moved along, I was basically thinking on the fly and in public and as opposition to the change of mind increased, it never occurred to me to contact Lila Rose because, well, my argument was primarily with people talking about her and she was a public figure acting publicly like, say, a movie star or politician or philanthopist in the headlines. And so, instead of doing what Matthew 18 says and going privately and speaking in love, I simply treated her as though she wasn’t so much a person as a thing–a Figure in the Headlines and therefore a means to an end wherein I made some points about things I wanted to say to third parties I wanted to convince.

If you are noticing a certain irony (the more accurate term is “sinful hypocrisy”) in that, so have I. Because it has been right at the heart of my complaint about Live Action’s tactics. Physician, heal thyself.

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.

And Consequentialism Has Come Down to This: Catholic Bloggers Defending Swearing

Many of the debates that erupt in the Catholic blogosphere revolve around whether something is an objective moral issue or a matter of prudential judgement, and one of the terms that gets batted around is “consequentialism.” On the one hand, it’s a principle of Catholic ethics that the ends never justify the means. On the other hand, both in terms of personal culpability and in terms of the objective evil of an act, the Church puts quite a premium on motive. In some cases, such as incidents of “double effect,” the motive may change the objective nature of an act. So when Jean Valjean steals his loaf of bread (we’ll set aside breaking the glass or holding a gun on the baker), he’s acting in accordance with Catholic ethics: he’s not stealing because his family is starving and will die without food. When Sr. Simplice “lies” to Javert, she’s not really “lying” according to Catholic teaching–He asks if she is alone in the room, and she says “Yes”. As Obi Wan Kenobi would put it, Valjean is “in a manner of speaking” not in the room because he’s hiding. Javert asks, “Have you seen the criminal Jean Valjean,” and she says, “no.” She’s not lying: she has only seen Mayor Madeleine whom she knows to be a saintly man.

So we had the Great Torture Debate: is waterboarding “torture”? Does the urgency of a “ticking time bomb” scenario take away from the nature of torture the way starvation takes away from the nature of theft?
The Great Lying Debate: If masking the truth the way Sr. Simplice does in _Les Miserables_ or the way Christians did to protect Jews from Nazis (or Catholics from the English in the Elizabethan era) mean it’s OK to do “undercover work”? And if it’s OK for “authorities” to do “undercover” work, what about self-proclaimed activists and investigative journalists?
Does a “Celebrity priest” with an “important ministry” have the right to disobey a legitimate order from his bishop and/or the superiors in his order for a higher cause?
The Great Christopher West Debate: Do West’s extrapolations of JPII’s “Theology of the Body” constitute advocacy of lust?
In all these debates, two concepts that keep coming up are “consequentialism” and the slippery slope. In some cases, such as West, critics have argued that his teaching will lead to dangerous trajectories, and apparently they’re right. Recently, an article in a major Catholic site proposed that the best way to deal with the temptation of pornography is to indulge it until one gets burned out (the link is to one of Kevin O’Brien’s articles on the subject, not the article itself). In all these debates, one side is saying, “But we’re doing it for a good reason,” and the other side is saying, “That’s consequentialism.”

Well, whatever the merits of whichever side in those previous debates, the voices warning of consequentialism have had their fears realized: Catholics are now arguing on the Internet in defense of swearing.
That’s right. “Do not take the Name of the Lord Thy God in Vain” doesn’t apply if you’re doing it for a good reason, such as declaring Michael Voris to be full of excrement.

In one of Michael Voris’s most recent podcasts–and that’s why I preceded this article with a discussion of my “take” on Voris–he apparently made an argument in favor of Catholic monarchy. This of course ruffled a lot of modernists’ feathers, and my advice there is for people to brush up on St. Thomas Aquinas’s _Treatise on Kingship_, Bl. Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors, Benedict XVI’s _Caritas in Veritate_, and maybe some Gilson and von Hildebrand, then reconsider Voris’s arguments.

So, a blogger named Calah Alexander (and how one person gets “famous” versus another in the blogosphere is beyond me, given that I’ve been doing this now for almost 10 years) “critiqued” (and I use the word loosely) Voris’s argument. The gist of her actual content is that her parents aren’t Catholic, and she loves her parents, and they should have the right to vote, and non-Catholics are good people, too. Uh-huh. She’s arguing from a completely different world view than the one Voris is coming from. Yes, the very definition of Natural Law is that non-Catholics should be able to know and accept Natural Law without accepting Catholic Revelation. However, is it really practical that a non-Catholic knows *every* aspect of Natural Law? How many non-Catholics, for example, support the notion of making contraception illegal? The other issue she touches on is the old “cradle Catholic” versus convert debate. In both cases, she unwittingly undermined her own argument.

Her post starts with that ubiquitous and highly offensive textspeak abbreviation, “OMG.” A commentor identifying herself as “KAT” said, “You lost me after the first three letters. What good come [sic] follow?” It gets worse. She proceeded to call Voris’s beliefs (and mine) by a crude word meaning excrement. Then she says “Don’t excuse my French, because I totally mean that word. . . . ” So this has led to a sideshow of debating the use of profanity. There are so many people foaming at the mouth to “Get Voris” that they’re not only ignoring but excusing and even supporting Alexander’s use of profanity. According to this guy, Voris’s use of online demagoguery is worse than Alexander taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Indeed, very little of the brouhaha has revolved around her taking the Lord’s name in vain–it mostly pertains to her use of a certain Anglo-Saxon word for execrement. Now, it’s interesting that, as a textbook on language from my wife’s college studies that I often refer to points out, we consider Latin-based words for body parts and functions to be OK, but Anglo-Saxon based words are considered obscene because they’re more guttural. A case may be made that it’s rather silly to consider “sh–” to be a bad word *in its proper context.* Indeed, the MPAA rates a movie differently if sh– refers to manure or the f word is used in its proper definition than if these words are used as mere expletives.

Patrick Madrid invited Alexander to come on his show and defend her use of profanity. By her own admission, she did a bad job on the show (I haven’t heard it), and in her follow up on her blog (“D-word” right in the title), and Patrick came right out with pointing out that it’s sinful, and she didn’t have much of a response, so she tried to make a response on her blog.

Alexander’s points in defense of profanity are, basically:
a. “There’s no such thing as a bad word”: Perhaps not in its proper context. “Hell” is not a bad word. Even telling someone, “If you proceed on that course of action, you put yourself in danger of Hell” is not bad–it is quite good; it’s a spiritual work of mercy (one for which Michael Voris often gets lambasted). “Damn” is not a bad word if used in its proper context. Certainly, the Lord’s Name is not a “bad word,” and one of the reasons why it’s wrong to take the Lord’s Name in vain is that you’re trivializing it.
Alexander’s argument is basically the same as that of people who say, “God made all things good, so cocaine and marijuana are OK.” They may be OK in the *proper* use God intended them for, but that doesn’t mean He intended them for “getting high.”
I’ve relayed the story before of the time when it was announced that Hasbro took away the comic book license for GI Joe from a company called “Devil’s Due.” I said on a message board that I’d always been uncomfortable with the name. A member who was a secular liberal said, sarcastically, “You do know they don’t mean it literally, don’t you?” I said, “Well, if they don’t, then they’re trivializing spiritual things.” “Oh, I never thought of it that way.” Taking the Lord’s name in vain can mean taking to oneself authority that belongs to God (declaring something worthy of damnation) or using profound concepts in a manner that loses all meaning.
It gets to the dilemma Flannery O’Connor illustrates with the Grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”: when most people exclaim “God” or “Jesus” as a form of profanity, then it sounds profane when someone exclaims in authentic prayer.
This leads to another of Alexander’s arguments:
b. She claims there’s nothing wrong with exclaiming a curse word when one stubs one’s toe, etc., because everyone does it and it’s so common. No, as above, that’s still trivializing the concept, it’s trivializing the emotion. Yes, I am the first to note that the Church teaches that habit can mitigate culpability for a sin, but it’s still a sin. You may not have to confess every specific incident of cussing if you have a total potty mouth, but you should still confess the fact that you have the bad habit to be a potty mouth, and you should strive to overcome that habit, not justify it!
And what’s really wrong about cursing is the emotion behind it (see Matthew 5:26). It would be *ideal* if people had such a habit of virtue and such inner peace that they lose something and immediately say “St. Anthony, help me,” or they stub their toe and immediately say, “I offer this pain up with Jesus on the Cross.” It would be great if we could *not* react in anger to life’s inconveniences. It would be great if we could approach hardship with peace and serenity.

c. Alexander claims that particular words are not inherently profane, and if everyone used the same words, the new ones would be the new curse words. She seems obsessed with excrement, but I’ll use the example of “heck” instead. According to Alexander, if everyone started saying “What the heck,” that would eventually take on the same meaning as referring to Hades. Perhaps she is right, but in our *current* language usage, consciously opting for a less-offensive term will show some level of self-control and build up everybody.

d. Alexander says that some of her critics have said that it causes scandal for Catholic bloggers to use profanity. She doesn’t see how this is possible. She also says that “causes scandal” is a shorthand for people who don’t really have an argument. No, sorry, avoiding scandal is like a kindergarten level principle of Catholic morality, and to dismiss that concern is to negate the argument that started it all–that she objected to Voris a) saying non-Catholics don’t know as much about morality as Catholic do, and b) Voris supposedly saying or implying that there are areas of Catholic teaching that converts are a little weak on.

Alexander also seems to ignore the fact that swearing breeds swearing. Her kids will grow up to swear because they hear their mother doing it–that’s called scandal. She’s setting an example of sin for others. Conversely, setting a habit of saying a less offensive term, or not saying anything at all, or saying something nice, helps build up virtue in others. I’ve always insisted that of “sex, violence and language” in the media, offensive language is the worst because it’s the most easily replicated, and it sticks in one’s head.

I feel like I’m missing something, but it strikes me that in making her case, Alexander never one refers to the Bible or the Catechism. If the Commandments–2nd, 5th, 6th, and 8th in particular–aren’t enough reason not to use profanity, vulgarity and obscenity, what about Matthew 5? Colossians 3:8, Ephesians 4:29, Matthew 15:11, James 3:6-13, Ephesians 5:4, Matthew 12:36-37, 2 Timothy 2:16, Proverbs 21:23, Psalm 19:14, Luke 6:45, Colossians 4:6, Proverbs 4:24, Proverbs 6:12, Psalm 10:7, etc.?

And then there’s the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2146-2148
Catechism 2149 is particularly useful in rebutting Alexander’s “defense”:
“Oaths which misuse God’s name, though without the intention of blasphemy, show lack of respect for the Lord. The second commandment also forbids magical use of the divine name. ”
If words aren’t important, why does the Catechism say that eve one’s name is sacred? (2159).

This post is running long, but there’s a related issue I hoped to talk about, where a popular blog “Chicks on the Right” nearly lost its Facebook page for use of profanity, and “conservatives” were jumping to the defense of these potty-mouthed bloggers.

It’s shameful. Chesterton once said, “Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.”

e.