The orthodox Catholic position regarding the Holy Father is that his authority comes from Christ, and therefore is a fact we must live with whether he is a living saint, a silly old fool, or a degenerate scoundrel. No one knew this better than St. Francis of Assisi who dealt with some of the scummiest of the scummy Popes at one of the worst times in the history of the Church, yet who resolved nevertheless to obey them in all things but sin and to make a spirituality of that obedience in order to inspire and transfigure the faithful. This authentically Franciscan orthodoxy made clear the way forward for genuinely holiness-minded Catholics living through difficult times: we need not like the man who is Pope any more than we need like the man who is our father, we may even be inclined to complain to like-minded friends about this or that injurious decision of theirs, but both remain nevertheless our fathers with a legitimate claim to our piety and our prayers, which we sin by withholding.
The modern Western Catholic, who is basically just that and in that order (modern, Western, and only then Catholic), wants and desires to be pious toward the Holy Father but, lacking even a remotely effective formation in history or spirituality or anything else, cannot conceive of such piety and obedience being offered on anything other than (essentially modern) consensual terms. So he convinces himself that he does not love and obey the Pope because he is the vicar of Christ but because he is a good man who never ever says anything stupid, and if you disagree, go to Hell with the rest of the Pharisees.
What Pope Francis is showing Catholics about Catholics is that, what they lack in St. Francis’ holiness, they make up for by being remarkably competent suck-ups.
Is it just me, or nowadays is every other writer at First Things a self-professed “gay Christian”? Not that I object to people who are fighting different temptations than mine, but it does warp the magazine’s perspective on the great battle of our age. One would think that all this fighting over same-sex “marriage” was motivated by concern one way or another about how sodomites organize their lives–about making them happy, regularizing their dalliances, or saving them from mortal sin. No, this is a battle over the meaning of all the existing heterosexual marriages, a fight to defend the patriarchal family and with it the sex roles that give our lives grace and nobility. What is most missing from our spokesmen is not a vision of how celibate homosexuals can avoid loneliness, but an honest statement of what marriage should be: of indissolvability, of masculine and feminine roles properly embraced, of male headship. Get that straight, and it will be obvious to anyone that such an institution is necessarily heterosexual. Of course, we won’t hear this from any conservative publication or even from Rome itself, even though all of it is clearly and definitively laid out in sacred Scripture. They begin the argument already fatally compromised.
That’s not the subject of this post, but as you’ll see, it’s related.
When I discovered First Things a decade ago, it was a tremendous consolation to me. It was the first intellectually serious, unapologetically orthodox and conservative Christian publication I had found. To this day, when I imagine what an ideal conservative magazine would be, I think of First Things as it seemed to me when I first encountered it. Here were historians, theologians, philosophers, and political scientists taking the Church’s side against the world, rather than scolding the Church and apologizing to the world for Her inexcusable failure to get with the program.
At the center of it all was Richard John Neuhaus, who brought something indispensable to the whole endeavor.
is promoting sodomy, according to the New Mexico Supreme Court. That’s what I expect from the ruling class, but I don’t expect it from ex-editors of First Things.
The redoubtable Paul Gottfried, one of the best living analysts of liberal-theocratic absolutism and its weird mental gymnastics, and more than that, a relentless critic of so-called conservatives who accommodate and facilitate liberalism, is well-known for his books and articles. Gottfried has established his own website, The Gottfried Report, where he does what he does best without being filtered through a third party’s wont or sensitivity. I strongly recommend The Gottfried Report to readers of The Orthosphere.
Over at First Things: At EU Faithful Christians Need Not Apply? I was all set to cheer on a besieged faithful Christian. Then I learned more about him:
Borg was grilled for three hours at a hearing before the European Parliament last Tuesday afternoon. Right out of the box, leftist MEPs demanded to know his position on LGBT rights and abortion. Borg had been accused of saying derogatory things about homosexuals and of denying them basic rights. He disarmed his accusers by outright denying he had ever said anything unkind about homosexuals and asserted that not only did he agree with European laws on non-discrimination, but that they should seek out and put an end to all forms of homophobia anywhere in the European Union.
So, Mr. “faithful Catholic” Tonio Borg promises to launch a merciless persecution to eradicate every religion and culture that embraces the truth about men and women (“homophobia”). He will seek out and obliterate every law and custom that recognizes the patriarchal family as normative (“discrimination”), and he will impose the androgynist utilitarian system everywhere, even though this would mean the extinction of his own putative faith and national culture. Not long ago, we were lamenting this same pathologization of moral sanity by Justin Welby, ArchWeasel of Canterbury, but really the Maltese Catholic Borg is much worse. At least the Anglicans aren’t making tyrannical threats about “seeking out and putting an end to” all non-approved thoughts over an entire continent.
And the outcome?
Through a combination of canniness and capitulation, Tonio Borg was approved last week as the new European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection. The final vote was 386-281 with 28 abstentions…
Borg joins 26 other “Commissioners” as the rulers of Europe on what is perhaps the least democratic “democratic” body on Earth.
I feel somewhat foolish now for my earlier uncharitable ribbing of our shepherds in the Church, and bad enough that I took it to confession yesterday (and I offer my apologies to any readers scandalized by my gratuitous insults of the Lord’s anointed). Our bishops may often be silly, foolish old men, but we’re lucky to have them, especially in light of the alternative.
Speaking of which, check out Dr. Charlton’s remarks on the new head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Cantebury Justin Welby, the “inexperienced mediocrity” who looks like a state-sponsored therapist of questionable sexuality and sounds like a terminally anxious employer being threatened with a hostile work environment suit, whose duplicitous waffling will surely doom a Church that is already in decline and probably cannot survive a long reign by another pallid platitude-peddler.
I knew it! I knew there was something rotten about Wendell Berry. So now the supposed Christian defender of natural living has endorsed gay marriage. From Dreher’s quote, it seems that he also endorses divorce and abortion. We see this again and again, don’t we? Anyone who will not explicitly renounce Leftism will eventually cave completely to the Left. Well, congratulations, Wendell! You’re sure to make yourself very popular with this repudiation of natural law, not with the One Christians are supposed to be trying to please but with the group you apparently care about. Go ahead and win more praise for yourself by slandering (for example, by saying that we endorse adultery and fornication) those of us who defend the natural law in its entirety and refuse to betray our Saviour for the sake of a loathsome perversion. Letting us know about your openness to prenatal murder and spousal abandonment certainly makes the break easier. I really do feel sorry for the good men at Front Porch Republic who misplaced so much admiration on this man.
Some random rants for the end of finals week. (I assume that’s why it’s been so quiet around here lately.)
…is this: If liberalism were a church, “conservatives” would be its heretics, while reactionaries would be its apostates. “Conservatives” yearn for an earlier, “truer” form of liberalism—be it the industrial society of the 19th Century for some paleos and libertarians, or the New Deal and/or Civil Rights era for some neocons. This is why one often hears American movement conservatives claiming, not without warrant, to be “just old-fashioned liberals.” And much like Chesterton’s heretics of old, the “conservative” insists that he is the real liberal: “It [is] the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who [are] heretics. He [is] orthodox.”
The reactionary, on the other hand, is an apostate: He has left the Church of Liberalism altogether, and has no more interest in claiming its orthodoxy for himself than Richard Dawkins has in claiming to be the real bearer of the Anglican tradition.
In the Leftist theological journal Concilium, Belgian professor Johan Verstraeten accuses Pope Benedict XVI of selling out to the capitalists. Basically, the Vestraeten accuses His Holiness of concentrating too much on personal morality and individual charity instead of focusing on “unjust institutions”, for maintaining a generally positive view of business competition, and for stressing subsidiarity and refusing to equate Catholic social teaching with European social democracy. Cheisa has here reprinted a defense of the pope by Italian professor and senator Stefano Ceccanti (H/T The Pittsford Perennialist). Ceccanti accuses Verstraeten of distorting Catholic social teaching by taking the few parts of the tradition that he likes and discarding the rest. So far, so good.