First Things: The Return of Ethno-Nationalism

A conversation earlier this week about the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ observation that the Catholic Church is literally a “here comes everybody” sort of institution — a living embodiment of Christ’s command to preach to the ends of the world.

So it is not without a bit of concern that many Catholics see the rise of ethno-nationalism in the wake of economic tightening, as Brandon McGinley writes in the pages of First Things:

Whatever else is said about the election of 2016, we will remember this campaign for the reemergence of explicit ethno-nationalism as a force in American politics. Rather than listing and litigating the well-publicized instances of pandering to white identity politics that have marked this campaign, let me make some personal observations that I believe are widely shared: I have seen and heard—in public, in private, and online—more unambiguous racism in the past year than I can remember from the rest of my (admittedly rather short) life, combined. I have been exposed to terms of racial abuse that I had not known existed. I have communicated with non-white Americans who are frightened by our politics in a way they never were before.

I was one of the many foolish people who thought a resurgence of explicit white identity politics in America was impossible. The politics of race is an area in which American conservatives often apply a whiggish hermeneutic: We want to believe that the politics of racial and ethnic hierarchy are well and truly behind us—that our society has evolved. This optimism has been encouraged in part by the success of salutary norms of public discourse that mark out of bounds any rhetoric that gestures toward racial supremacy. (This is not “political correctness,” but a humane response to more than four centuries of de facto or de jure oppression on the basis of race.) These norms are currently being eroded at an alarming pace.

Ditto here.

Of course, the Catholic experience in America has typically smacked of these labels: the Irish, the Italians, the Slavs, and today the Hispanics.  As McGinley observes, the Catholic Church has traditionally been on the side of the downtrodden and poor — if for no other reason than the Catholic Church has been the faith of the very same.

Many Catholics of the intellectual bent are struggling with the rise of a populism that is completely alien to the idea of “here comes everybody.”  In that sense, Catholicism is far more globalist than nationalist, and traditionally has served a role that transcends nationalism in the wake of the Protestant Reformation (and earlier than this — certainly during the collapse of the Roman Empire, this was the precise political role of the Catholic Church).

McGinley argues that mainline Americans did not want Catholics in the past, and we are discovering very quickly that we are inconvenient to the political religions of the present day.

Perhaps he is right.  Then again, the temptation to reduce ourselves to our little Trotskyite platoons was never an option.  Rather, Catholics ought to remain and speak contra mundi.

After all, this is the Great Commission, whether we are welcomed to do so or not.

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Open Thread: Convince Me

trump_yelling_600pxI would like to think myself to be a fair man.  Perhaps not always right — but at the very least, fair to others and willing to hear a decent argument.

So here’s your chance to convince a #NeverTrump guy as to why this pro-life, pro-2A, small government Catholic ought to vote for Donald Trump.

Instant DQ’s?

  • Arguments as to why the “other guy” is worse.
  • Slogans.
  • Platitudes.
  • The current political climate being horrible.
  • How bad Obama is.
  • How bad Bush is.

What am I looking for?  Specific, credible, concrete policy positions that Trump has held over the course of two decades or longer.  Something where Trump has bled in the trenches and stood firmly on despite criticism.  Convictions that demonstrate who this man really is and what he believes.

I will be honest, I do not believe Trump supporters really can make this case.  One suspects (hypothesis) that the argument really centers around how much one defines themselves as anti-establishment… in which case, electing the textbook definition of a crony capitalist seems rather apposite towards the overall goal here.

…but nevertheless, let’s see what folks offer.

I’m listening.  Convince me.

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No One Cares About The RNC Convention


This 2016 election is quickly boiling down to whether or not the American electorate hates the status quo (and by extension, Hillary Clinton) enough to inflict upon it the persona of Donald Trump.

That’s it.

There is literally nothing else to this election.  Except perhaps the entertainment value of watching the Party of Lincoln and Reagan nominate their very own version of LBJ.

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Your Two Minutes of Civilization

Courtesy of the Court of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, I give you the Pavana la Battaglia!

Just to set the mood for the week.

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MacIntyre, Godot, And The Benedict Option


VLADIMIR: You have a message from Mr. Godot.
BOY: Yes Sir.
VLADIMIR: He won’t come this evening.
BOY: No Sir.
VLADIMIR: But he’ll come tomorrow.
BOY: Yes Sir.
VLADIMIR: Without fail.
BOY: Yes Sir.

— Samuel Becket, “Waiting For Godot” (1953)

This is my problem with the Benedict Option in a nutshell:

The Benedict Option is about forming communities that teach us and help us to live in such a way that our entire lives are witnesses to the transforming power of the Gospel.

This statement is totally meaningless.  The Church does this.  Why do we need a Benedict Option? Continue reading

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Cardinal Sarah: Be Prophetic, Be Faithful, Pray

Cardinal Sarah’s remarks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. this week are certainly making the rounds.  Of note, Sarah’s prescription for the ills of the modern age:

Before such a distinguished gathering, I offer three humble suggestions.

  1. First: Be prophetic. The Book of Proverbs tells us: “Where there is no vision, discernment, the people perish” (29, 18). Discern carefully – in your lives, your homes, your workplaces – how, in your nation, God is being eroded, eclipsed, liquidated. Blessed Paul VI saw that in 1968 when, for the Church, he so courageously wrote Humanae Vitae. What are the threats to Christian identity and the family today? ISIS, the growing influence of China, the colonization of ideologies such as gender? How do we react?

  2. Be faithful. This is my second suggestion. Specifically for you, as men and women called to influence even the political sphere you have a mission of bringing Divine Revelation to bear in the lives of your fellow citizens. Uphold the wise principles of your founding fathers. Do not be afraid to proclaim the truth with love, especially about marriage according to God’s plan, just as courageously as Saint John the Baptist, who risked his life to proclaim the truth. The battle to preserve the roots of mankind is perhaps the greatest challenge that our world has faced since its origins. In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena: “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”

  3. Third: Pray. Sometimes, in front of happenings in the world, our nation or even the Church, the results of our prayer might tempt us to become discouraged. Like Sisyphus in the Greek myth: condemned to roll a large boulder uphill, only to see it roll down again as soon as he had reached the top. Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est  encourages us : “People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone.”

Cardinal Sarah also took a moment to defend Pope Francis’ papacy against the critics — not a direct defense, but an oblique one:

In his post-synodal Exhortation on the Family, Amoris Lætitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis states clearly: “In no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur … proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.”  This is why the Holy Father openly and vigorously defends Church teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, the education of children and much more.

Such comments should settle the fears of many a student of Pope Saint John Paul the Great, as well as perhaps many a traditionalist — as Cardinal Sarah is not only numbered among the more conservative members of the Catholic hierarchy, but also among the papabile.

It is on this similar note that the SSPX — deemed by many and even among the most strident of Catholics to be in borderline schism — is even feeling the love from Pope Francis’s pontificate.  From the National Catholic Register (the good NCR):

That message was reinforced this week when Pope Francis himself hinted reconciliation could be close, telling the French Catholic daily La Croix May 16 that the SSPX are “Catholics on the way to full communion” and that “good dialogue and good work are taking place.”

According to Bishop Fellay, the Vatican is telling the society, through nuanced words, that it is now possible to question the Council’s teachings on religious liberty, ecumenism and liturgical reform “and remain Catholic.”

Note the way the baby is split here.  For decades, the SSPX has declared the Second Vatican Council has never taught anything new regarding ecumenism, religious liberty, and liturgical reform.  The admission from Bishop Fellay that yes indeed, the Second Vatican Council taught something definitive on all three is admission enough — and a critical step forward.

Needless to say, what is interesting here — if one chooses to attempt to read these tea leaves — is that one of two options may perhaps be developing: (1) that the SSPX will claim that the Second Vatican Council indeed taught novelties, but they are precisely that… and are in no way binding on the Catholic faithful — a dubious effort, or (2) that the Second Vatican Council did indeed perhaps point the way on these three areas, that such considerations are worthy of belief… but are in no way binding on the Catholic faithful — a curious effort.

The latter — which might sound like music to a traditionalist ear — has pitfalls when applied elsewhere… say for our more heterodox or “progressive” cousins within the Church.  The only crutch the SSPX will have to lean on is the concept that has been hammered home so many times by the traditionalist set: what was Catholic before is Catholic today.  Perhaps it’s better to take Pope Francis in his own words:

– Would you be ready to grant them the status of a personal prelature?

Pope Francis: That would be a possible solution but beforehand it will be necessary to establish a fundamental agreement with them. The Second Vatican Council has its value. We will advance slowly and patiently.  (emphasis original)

Pope Francis also makes a delineation between Bishop Fellay and Bishop Williamson and the “radicals” so to speak (Francis’ words — not mine).

Of course, my longstanding position has been that of Pope Saint John Paul the Great — the Second Vatican Council did indeed teach instructively on ecumenism, religious liberty, and the liturgy and that this is binding on all faithful Catholics.  Dissimulation on these three teachings of the Second Vatican Council is the reason why Pope Benedict XVI slammed the breaks on reconciliation talks in 2012.  It is perhaps also the reason why Pope Francis re-opened those doors so soon after becoming pope.

What is interesting — and perhaps, what links healing the schism with the SSPX and Cardinal Sarah’s remarks this week — is the great task laid before us.  From Sarah’s remarks:

When he prophetically announced the Second Vatican Council in the Apostolic Constitution Humanae Salutis, Saint John XXIII remarked that the human community was in “turmoil” as it sought to establish a new world order where humanity relies entirely on technical and scientific solutions instead of God.

Today we are witnessing the next stage – and the consummation – of the efforts to build a utopian paradise on earth without God. It is the stage of denying sin and the fall altogether. But the death of God results in the burial of good, beauty, love and truth. Good becomes evil, beauty is ugly, love becomes the satisfaction of sexual primal instincts, and truths are all relative.

The SSPX could be viewed as a human response to a spiritual war, a retrenchment in the past to fight the war of the future.  No question, the loss of rubric and liturgy in the modern Church (and the open resistance of many bishops regarding granting permission for the Tridentine Mass to be said at the parish level — an understandable resistance, mind you, as we don’t need to develop “high” and “low” Masses within each diocese) is a painful reminder that prayer is the life of the Church.  Yet all the rubric and liturgy and devotion to the form of prayer is no substitute for the substance of the Catholic Faith…

As it has been said before, extra ecclesiam nulla salus.  Without the Church there is no salvation.  Both Cardinal Sarah’s challenge and the example of the SSPX’s wanderings in the modern desert are signs of the times.

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Crux: Fr. Rosica Condemns National Catholic Reporter

francis_800px…just kidding!  Fr. Rosica is talking about Catholic bloggers:

Both Rosica and his “Salt and Light TV” Catholic network in Canada have occasionally been targeted for on-line criticism, especially from conservative and pro-life Catholic organizations.

The Internet, Rosica said, “can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space.” He also described it as “an immense battleground that needs many field hospitals set up to bind wounds and reconcile warring parties.”

“If we judged our identity based on certain ‘Catholic’ websites and blogs, we would be known as the people who are against everyone and everything!” he said. ” If anything, we should be known as the people who are for something, something positive that can transform lives and engage and impact the culture.”

I actually have a very high opinion of Fr. Roscia and the work that he does at Salt and Light TV — especially his motivations and the inspirations stem from a deep love of the Catholic Faith, the Magisterium, the liturgy of the Church and the rubrics of the Mass.

Of course, there are a good number of Catholics inspired by Pope St. John Paul the Great’s call for “the New Evangelization” that are leading in this effort as well, inspired by the very same motivations — and always in the spirit of fidelity, fidelity, fidelity.

Yet it is disappointing to see the Crux report not dive in to the impact of heterodoxy or — as Archbishop Chaput has urged the Catholic faithful to resist — the infection of secular religions within sacred religion.  This would have been helpful to read, though perhaps not helpful to those who seek to color Fr. Rosica’s thoughts.

I do not doubt that Fr. Rosica feels similarly regarding heterodox publications such as National Catholic Reporter and the coterie of arguably politically leftist bureaucrats that seem to have distorted the “social arm” and how this is impacting and confusing the laity.  Those looking for the spirit of division and disunity ought to look there first…

Yet the delineation between Catholic “bloggers” asking for fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic faith (Salt and Light TV might even be among them; Church Militant comes to mind as well) and post-contemporary print media is an interesting one.

The post-contemporary print media outlets such as NCR seem putatively active in telling the Catholic faithful to surrender the teachings of the Magisterium on “abortion, gay marriage and birth control” — and women priests, women deaconesses, and all sorts of other so-called theological considerations to meet the demands of the modern age.  A real tragedy, because the dissent is so often enveloped in a particular and piercing hatred of the old way of doing things: tradition, fidelity, liturgy.  I have never particularly understood this, but it is easily detectable and utterly destructive.

Yet despite these voices, that Pope Francis is continuing in the tradition of his predecessors is a remarkable achievement.  Continuing in the tradition of the Second Vatican Council, no less.  That others continue to seek to confuse the Church as a parliament, distort the teachings of the Council, or assert that we moderns are somehow more enlightened than our predecessors?  Smacks of the phantom heresy…

This is no small charge, but it must be stated again.  George Weigel explains:

This new form of Catholicism Lite, a not-so-phantom hash of ideas that poses real problems for the integrity of the Church and its evangelical mission, breathes deeply of two winds that have long blown through American Christianity: the ancient Pelagian wind, with its emphasis on the righteousness of our works and how they will win our salvation; and the Congregationalist wind, with its deep suspicion that Catholic authority is incompatible with American democracy. As for the older Americanist controversy, I think the classic historiographers of U.S. Catholicism were largely right: The “Americanism” of which Leo XIII warned in Testem Benevolentiae was far more a phantom concocted by fevered, ancien-régime European minds than a heresy that threatened Catholic faith in the United States. But the problems that Leo flagged are very much with us over a century later. They are at the root of the internal Catholic culture war that has intensified as religious freedom has come under concerted assault, and as the new Americanists, who form a coherent party in a way that Isaac Hecker and his friends never did, have either denied that assault — or abetted it.

The phantom heresy still haunts the Catholic Church in North America — even today, it refuses to take form, but still patiently whispers, wants, and waits…

Nevertheless, Fr. Rosica is right to condemn the Pharisees of our day.  Tone is important, and restoring all things in Christ even more so.  (Eph. 1:10)  To be — in the words of Fr. Rosica — “unafraid to confront the sins and evils that have marred us” is critically important in the advancement of the New Evangelization…

What remains isn’t to pit one faction against the other — progressive or conservative, as if those distinctions mattered — but to find those who are operating in goodwill; orthodoxy contra heterodoxy, fidelity contra dissent, truth contra mediocrity.

If mercy is predicated on judgment, then Pope Francis’ call for misercordiae is predicated on the existence of sin as it leaves judgment to God the Father.

We are indeed a hospital for sinners, yet neither a museum for saints nor a mass psychiatric ward.  The discussion over Catholic “bloggers” or the heterodoxy of the National Catholic Reporter is in itself an expression of Francis’ call for mercy… a charity that when not employed, results in the pedophile/pederast scandals that have marred the moral standing of the Catholic Faith for too long.

Such are the times.

If there is a grand enemy of the modern age, it is the voices within Catholic media that instruct the faithful to wallow in one’s acedia, that asks the faithful to be defined by their sins rather than by their salvation.  In that, Fr. Rosica is a great help to those who seek amendment rather than accommodation.   Long may he strive for such goals.

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Noonan’s Call For Civility On Trump Falls Precipitously Flat

Peggy Noonan is perhaps the last of the great conservative thinkers and writers from the Reagan era, so her opinions carry a great deal of currency with me (and with others).

On this, however, she is tragically wrong.  From the pages of the Wall Street Journal:

Those who oppose Mr. Trump should do it seriously and with respect for his supporters. If he is not conservative, make your case and explain what conservatism is. No one at this point needs your snotty potshots or your supposedly withering one-liners. I confess I have lost patience with many of those declaring they cannot in good conscience support him, not because reasons of conscience are not crucial—they are, and if they apply they should be declared. But some making these declarations managed in good conscience, indeed with the highest degree of self-regard, to back the immigration proposals of George W. Bush that contributed so much to the crisis that produced Mr. Trump. They invented Sarah Palin. They managed to support the global attitudes and structures that left the working class jobless. They dreamed up the Iraq war.

Of coiurse, it would be helpful if — in response to such high-minded evaluations that Peggy is asking for — Trump supporters did not imitate their candidate… and respond with “supposedly withering one-liners,” etc.

Sadly the world is trained to think in 140 characters or less… Goldberg’s observation “if it’s funny (or vulgar) it must be true” seems to have captured the Republican nomination.

Why should Trump’s critics hold themselves to a different form of informational exchange?

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The Campion Option


Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posterity shall never die, which beyond seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league—all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practice of England—cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.

Andrew Haines writes over at Ethika Politika concerning the charge of how the Benedict Option assisted in the nomination of Donald Trump.  The debate back and forth over at EP is worth reading, though the actual efficacy of the so-called Benedict Option is barely up for debate… as few people seem to be observing the idea in actual practice.

Haines is of course correct against the critics of the Benedict Option in one salutary regard: the idea that it should produce some sort of instantaneous effect on culture is, perhaps, the very problem that the Benedict Option is seeking to address — culture isn’t something you pop in a microwave.  It takes time.

This having been said, even in an era of recusancy, it has never been the particular calling of Catholics to withdraw from public life.  Perhaps more than anything else about the hard vs. soft Benedict Options, this is the one aspect that strikes me as the most peculiar, the most deleterious, the most harmful.

St. Edmund Campion was a Jesuit priest and martyr during the English Reformation, one who defied the Anglican priest hunters in an era hostile to religious freedom.  Campion was eventually drawn and quartered for his activities, but his salutary gift to future generations would have to be the now-famous Campion’s Brag.

In an era far more hostile to the Catholic faith than our own, Campion’s solution was not to retract, but to engage:

My charge is, of free cost to preach the Gospel, to minister the Sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reform sinners, to confute errors—in brief, to cry alarm spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance, wherewith many of my dear countrymen are abused.

The Benedict Option is safe; the Campion Option is bold.  The former is made for monks; the latter made for men.

Naturally, neither option is mutually exclusive.  The calls for Catholic identity in a world growing increasingly hostile to sacred religion in favor of secular religions remains true.

And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league—all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practice of England—cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.

The rise of authoritarians in a world lacking all connection to Truth is a grave concern in the modern age.  While it is premature to blame the Benedict Option, it is growing increasingly clear that withdrawing from the public square is no option at all.  Something to bear in mind as the seeds of the New Evangelization begin to take root.

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Steel Magnificat: What Happened To The Pro-Life Movement?

I am not instantly familiar with Mary Pezzulo’s writing over at Steel Magnificat, but this seems to be making the rounds on social media.  To wit:

For the record: I’m pro-life, and I denounce the misogynistic and hypocritical loons. I denounce Priests for Life for their ludicrous fawning over whoever the Republicans have churned out for a presidential candidate, no matter how obviously they’re lying about abortion and no matter what other mortal sins they publicly support. Steel Magnificat is not going to endorse any presidential candidate, because no candidate who stands a chance at the White House this year is consistently pro-life. I’m not saying don’t vote, I’m saying don’t get played; don’t make your decision based on lip service to abortion and don’t claim that falling in line behind a Republican will magically change anything. I denounce the Quiverfull movement for its disrespect for women and advocating of child abuse. I denounce everyone, Republican and Democrat, who thinks that killing American children through abortion is evil but killing civilians through drone strikes is okay.

It continues.  The call is an angry one, as the author admits.  Such sentiment is of course on substance correct, and perhaps even admirable… if the call hadn’t been wrapped up in the very judgment Pezzulo sought to denounce over and over again.  Sadly, Pezzulo embraced the very form she sought to condemn.

That is a tragedy.

Of course, there is no end to the litany of problems the pro-life movement has.  Utterly parochial, in many instances self-serving, with incredibly high stakes and a great deal of personal investment in the cause resulting in bruised feelings that take many months if not years to heal if treated improperly.

Yes, the pro-life movement has its hucksters and moneymakers.  Yes, there are those who are pro-life right up until a child is born, then abandon those values in every other aspect.

…and yet?  You will find some of the most selfless and noble and decent human beings on the planet embedded in the movement.

…and yet?  A true commitment to the pro-life ethic will treat those who are not “whole life” with the same sort of care and respect for souls that we would treat anyone else: a scared mother, a preborn child, the wounded and the abused.

Rather than focus on the “what ifs” and bad actors, Catholics (and pro-lifers in general) are far better served focusing on the good actors and encouraging their work.  Better still, one should take $10/mo and donate it straight away to your favorite pro-life charity or pregnancy resource center.

More than anything else, if the pro-life generation is truly in the ascendancy, then that rising generation deserves our support even if it may be abused from time to time, not our denunciation (even if heartfelt).

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