Monday, November 14, 2016

Why I Won’t Wear a Safety Pin (Warning: SL)

If you’ve followed my posts over the last few months, you’ll know I never had any intention of voting for Donald Trump. You’ll know I despised his race-baiting, fear-mongering demagoguery, and that I was appalled at the degree to which his voter base ate it up. And you’ll know I believe his Administration will be utterly disastrous.

But I won’t wear a safety pin. To me, safety pins are for diapers. And now, they’re perfectly emblematic of the infantilization of American politics.

You’re Part of the Problem

The people who know me already know I’m safe to be with and talk to. If people need me to wear some sort of badge or tchotchke to figure it out, then I’m doing Catholicism wrong. But if all you care to know is that I’m a white Christian male — and you hate or fear me because of those facts — then you, my friend, are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

You’re part of the problem because, in your own smug, superior way, you’re just as much a bigot as any group in your heroine’s “basket of deplorables”. You’re part of the problem because you rationalize your bigotry with stereotypes, demon-terms, and sanctimonious blather about “privilege”, certain that you’re justified in doing so because you’re fighting for the oppressed. You’re part of the problem because you discount or shout down any opinions contrary to yours. You’re part of the problem because you treat a large chunk of the American population as backward, “low information”, mouth-breathing hicks who don’t deserve any consideration or representation. You’re part of the problem because, being on average marginally more intelligent and educated than conservatives, you wrongly think it means that you’re wiser, that you have better judgment, and that your reasoning is more rational and less biased, and that you are therefore more qualified to decide what should be done. You’re part of the problem because, for all your self-congratulating chatter about love and inclusiveness, when faced by opposition or disappointment you become as hateful and intolerant as those to whom you hold yourselves superior.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fighting sin with sacrilege? Dumb.

Fr, Frank Pavone. (Image source: lifenews.com.)
When you’re the good guys fighting a horrific evil, you can do no wrong … not even sacrilege. That is the best way we can sum up Priests for Life’s Fr. Frank Pavone’s defense of placing an aborted child on an altar and making a video of it for social media distribution.

The Activist’s Mistake

In an email to Matt C. Abbott, Fr. Pavone said,

The issue is not how I’m treating a baby. (I’ve been providing funerals and burials for these children for decades, with full legal and canonical counsel, and those concerned about these things would do well to talk to me rather than the media.) [Am I the only one who finds this statement incredibly pompous?]
The issue is how the abortionists, supported by the Democrats, are treating these babies. What’s sacrilegious is abortion, and voting for those who support it. [Tu quoque much?] It’s time we get our heads screwed on straight about who the bad guys are. [Ah, yes, the classic explanation offered by every half-a$$ed radical who ever perpetrated some outrage against the sensibilities of others: “Don’t look at me! I didn’t do anything wrong! Look at them! They’re the bad guys doing bad things!”]

You’d think someone who is older and more experienced than I would have figured out by now that upsetting and offending people is a counterproductive strategy. But Fr. Pavone is either stuck in the 1960s or is too busy communing with his superior knowledge and experience to realize he’s making the same mistake leftist activists make by burning the flag or dissing the National Anthem. Wherever his head is, Fr. Pavone needs to extract it and take a good look at what’s really going on.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Ask Tony: Is It a Sin to Vote Democrat?

Image source: KFMB CBS8 San Diego.
Doubtless, you’ve heard of the San Diego Catholic church where a flyer inserted in the weekly bulletin asserted that it’s a mortal sin to vote Democrat. The flyer was a cut-and-paste job, reprinting material from Catholic Answers’ “Voters Guide for Serious Catholics”,[1] adding a chart comparing CA’s list of “non-negotiables” to the Democrat and Republican Parties’ platforms. On top of that, the church’s pastor wrote an article which goes beyond to name ten different forms of “enslavement” which “have come from our elected officials, appointed judges, and Catholics who have voted for them and supported them.”

Bp. McElroy Responds

Immaculate Conception’s pastor, Fr. Richard Perozich, claimed, “the flyer was written by an outside group, wasn’t reviewed by him and ‘went a little beyond’ the approved message.” “I would never tell anyone to ‘vote this’ or ‘vote that,” Fr. Perozich said. However, Keith Michael Estrada of Proper Nomenclature notes, “a review of bulletins published online shows that the parish has been sharing questionable material, at odds with the guidance of the US Bishops — even criticizing [San Diego] Bishop [Robert] McElroy on at least one occasion — for quite some time.”

The San Diego chancery finally responded on Friday with a statement by Bp. McElroy, in which His Excellency stated firmly that Immaculate Conception had violated a duty to “participate in discussions about the election with civility and balance.” He continues, “… [Thus] it is essential to make clear: 

  • “It is contrary to Catholic teaching to state that voting for a Democrat or Republican automatically condemns the voter to hell;
  • “It is contrary to Catholic faith to state that gun control legislation is a form of slavery;
  • “It is contrary to Catholic faith to fan the flames of hatred against Muslims or any religious group.”


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Love and the Broken “Hallelujah”

Still from the Pentatonix video “Hallelujah”.
(Image courtesy of Billboard.)
[EDIT: In all the fretting and concern over the election, I completely missed the news that Leonard Cohen died Monday, Nov. 7, at the age of 82. Now I’m glad that I had the chance to write this post before his passing. Shalom, Leonard, and thank you for this gift you gave us.]

Recently, the Texas a cappella quintet Pentatonix released a cover of Leonard Cohen’s 1984 song “Hallelujah”, which at 300 covers and counting may be the most re-recorded single in popular music history. My sister Peggy came across the official video on a Christian website and linked the page to her Facebook feed. Our parents sang in barbershop choruses when we were growing up, and we both sang in high school choruses, so we both appreciate good vocal music.

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to the song the whole way through before. I’ve seen Shrek only once — the penalty of never having your own children and living hundreds of miles away from your siblings’ kids; since I didn’t remember it was featured in the soundtrack, it must not have made a big impression on me at the time. Since then, I’d heard the first and second verse here and there, but not performed in any way that would grab my attention. But I’ll listen to anything Pentatonix records, even “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. They’re that outstanding.

Listening to the Pentatonix version did more than wring out tears. I realized I’d heard the song before, but I’d never listened to it. It’s more than a love song; it’s an epiphany.

This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled, but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by “Hallelujah.” That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, “Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.”…

 The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say, “Look, I don’t understand a f**king thing at all — Hallelujah!” That’s the only moment that we live here fully as human beings. (Leonard Cohen, quoted in Rolling Stone, “Book Excerpt: Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ in ‘The Holy or the Broken’”)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ask Tony: Is Voting Third-Party or Write-In a “Sin of Omission”?

This is how political ideology distorts religion.
As the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign staggers toward its finale, Catholic supporters of Donald Trump are going all out to push pro-life voters to cast their ballots for the Republican nominee. Some are even going so far as to engage in what can only be called doctrinal strong-arm tactics. Because Hillary Rodham Clinton is pro-abortion, a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood, and has a restrictive view of religious rights, it’s taken as granted that a vote for her is tantamount to approving her policy choices on these fronts, and therefore formal cooperation in evil.[*] However, the reasoning is extended: by failing to vote for Donald Trump, a third-party/write-in voter is wasting their vote, and therefore committing a sin of omission.

Defining Our Terms

First, let’s define our terms. But before we do, let me remind you: Infallibility applies to the Catholic Church only on matters of faith and morals, and only under specific conditions. Individual Catholics, especially lay bloggers, are not infallible. With that caveat:

In Catholic moral theology, sins can be divided into four categories: sins of thought, sins of word, sins of commission, and sins of omission. A sin of omission, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, is “the failure to do something one can and ought to do. If this happens advertently and freely a sin is committed. Moralists took pains formerly to show that the inaction implied in an omission was quite compatible with a breach of the moral law, for it is not merely because a person here and now does nothing that he offends, but because he neglects to act under circumstances in which he can and ought to act.”

Sins are also classified according to whether they are venial or mortal. “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it” (Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1855). A mortal sin is committed when the object is grave matter (i.e., a violation of the Decalogue), and when it is committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent (cf. CCC § 1857; see link above).

Material and formal cooperation pertain to the degree that an accomplice actually participates in the sin of the principal agent. Says The Catholic Encyclopedia, “For example, to persuade another to absent himself without reason from Mass on Sunday would be an instance of formal cooperation. To sell a person in an ordinary business transaction a revolver which he presently uses to kill himself is a case of material cooperation.” Formal cooperation pertains, then, when the person assists a person in an evil act freely and in full knowledge of its wrongness. With material cooperation, “the action of the accomplice is assumed to be unexceptionable, his intention is already bespoken to be proper, and he cannot be burdened with the sin of the principal agent since there is supposed to be a commensurately weighty reason for not preventing it.” There is also a distinction between proximate and remote cooperation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

In Response to Fr. Frank Pavone


Courtesy David Wanat.
On October 10, Priests for Life director Fr. Frank Pavone, who not only supports Donald Trump but advises his campaign on pro-life issues, released a statement which begins:

The lewd comments, made over a decade ago and for which Mr. Trump has apologized, and which I, like everyone else, find repulsive, do not in the least change my intentions of voting for him, of urging others to do so, and of advising his campaign. The reason is simple: this presidential election is not about a choice between him and someone better; it’s between him and someone far worse.

Moreover, it is not ultimately about either one of them, but rather the good of the nation as reflected in two things: a) What will they do, and b) Who comes into power with them.

Hillary is worse. For over a year now, Trump supports have been parroting that mantra as if it were infallible dogma. That Hillary Clinton has shown herself both corrupt and inept is difficult to deny; even liberals dislike and distrust her. That she will probably be elected with less than a majority of the popular vote and have a lower approval rating coming into office than her husband did is foreseeable. And that the worldview, philosophy, and policy preferences she will bring into office ought to be categorically rejected is unquestionable. But to say Clinton is a worse choice for president than Donald Trump requires considerable, willful blindness to the many flaws Trump has displayed — not just over the last year but over the course of his public career as well.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Brutal Truths? Meh. Some not so brutal, some not so true

Artist unknown. (Image source: pulsslag.dk.)
In Inc.com, contributor Matthew Jones puts on the mask of the sage on the mountaintop and offers us “20 Brutal Truths About Life No One Wants to Admit”. It’s always tempting, especially in one’s middle years, to give others general advice about life you learn from The School of Hard Knocks, a school that — unlike strip-mall colleges — will never shut down. Heck, I’ve done it myself.

But I don’t admit to all of Jones’ brutal truths because they’re not all true, or at least not true as stated. Though much of what Jones says is true, and could have been taken at least indirectly from the wise Msgr. Charles Pope, there are other points where in trying to be a libertarian Zig Ziglar he depends on ideas people commonly take as fact but which are really false. Let’s go through them, shall we?

1. You’re going to die and you have no idea when.
Stop pretending that you're invincible. Acknowledge the fact of your own mortality, and then start structuring your life in a more meaningful way.

2. Everyone you love is going to die, and you don’t know when.
This truth may be saddening at first, but it also gives you permission to make amends with past difficulties and re-establish meaningful relationships with important figures in your life.

3. Your material wealth won’t make you a better or happier person.
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who achieves his or her materialistic dreams, money only amplifies that which was already present. [I must admit this was odd to find in Inc.com, a Forbes wannabe.]

4. Your obsession with finding happiness is what prevents its attainment.
Happiness is always present in your life — it’s just a matter of connecting to it and allowing it to flow through you that’s challenging. [Especially since it generally involves paying more attention to others than to yourself.]

5. Donating money does less than donating time.
Giving your time is a way to change your perception and create a memory for yourself and others that will last forever.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Next Step — Blogging Under Obedience?

Devin Rose on The Journey Home. (Image: EWTN.)
After a month and a half of working on other projects, I seem to have gotten my blogging mojo back. (Of course, this means the other projects have gone back to the back burner.) However, as much as I kvetch about the culture-warrior role I’ve been stuck in for lo these eight years — more, if you count my long-lost-and-best-forgotten first blog — I keep returning to politics, every once in a while mentioning God or the Catholic Church to remind myself and others that I am a Catholic writer. Fortunately, über-apologist Devin Rose recently wrote a post on obedience which is not only worthy of comment but isn’t about politics (well, it’s not directly about politics).

“Demand I Do Something!”

Says Devin:

I recently finished Rod Dreher’s book on life lessons from Dante’s Divine Comedy, and one fascinating part of his story was his interaction with his Eastern Orthodox priest.

Dreher left Catholicism and became Orthodox in response to the priestly sexual abuse scandal. His local priest at their small Orthodox church is also a convert to Orthodoxy, and this priest became Dreher’s spiritual director, confessor, and pastor.

Well, we have that in the Catholic Church, too, but what’s different is the level of pastoral care that his priest could give him. Dreher’s priest put him under obedience to pray 500 Jesus prayers each day.

Now think about that: has a Catholic priest ever put you under obedience to do any spiritual discipline, beyond a few Hail Marys for a penance after Confession? I’ve never experienced that, nor even heard of it happening.

One Catholic friend of mine has actually begged his priest to put him under obedience! “Please, as pastor of my soul, demand I do something!”

Monday, August 29, 2016

Catholic Stand: Political Control and the Freedom of Weakness

There’s a certain freedom in powerlessness, the loss of control. Recently, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote that the “astonishing flaws” of both major candidates was “depressing and liberating at the same time. Depressing, because it’s proof of how polarized the nation has become. Liberating, because for the honest voter, it’s much easier this year to ignore the routine tribal loyalty chants of both the Democratic and Republican camps.”

Control of Our Lives

It’s liberating when you realize that, no matter what you do, the results will be the same. You don’t always have the luxury of knowing that your action will have only minimal effect on the outcome. It’s like a message from God: “Dude, I got this. You go do the right thing, and let Me handle the rest.”

Have you ever just sat and thought about all the ways in which your life is affected, impacted, changed for better or worse, by people whom you will most likely never meet and over whom you have no control or even influence? I’m sure commercials promising you security from identity theft and credit-card fraud have got you to thinking, now and again, how your financial security is tied up in a network of computers over which faceless strangers must keep perpetual watch against other faceless, more malicious strangers. Think of the people in the security agencies and defense services laboring 24/7 to prevent a terrorist attack from occurring or a war from breaking out.

Something so simple and quotidian as filling your gas tank doesn’t just involve you and the pump. It involves hundreds of people in a number of industries moving the original oil from the well to the refinery to the distributor, as well as making the pumps, the tanks, the trucks, the pipes, and the car you’re putting it in. And as you’re cruising down the six-lane expressway, do you think about all the people who labored for months to expand the original two-lane blacktop highway while you suffered delays and jams in frustration? Whatever made you think you were independent? Whatever made you think you had complete control of your life?

Usain Bolt hits the gym every day for 90-minute workouts to develop explosiveness and build stability while staying lean. He controls when he shows up at the gym, how rigorously he follows his workout routine, and what he eats. He can’t control the possible rise of another runner even faster than him, or the potential for career-ending injury, or the slow wear of entropy that will eventually subtract from his speed. Why worry about these things, when worrying about them won’t prevent them from happening?

“Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:27)

Read the rest at Catholic Stand!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ask Tony: Forgiveness and Sincerity—UPDATED

Hypothetical situation: A friend, loved one, coworker, or acquaintance has a certain behavioral trait, one that is objectively sinful and hurtful. At times, you are the one s/he hurts. Every time s/he hurts you, s/he apologizes. After n apologies and n +1 times being hurt, though, don’t you have a right to feel his/her apologies are insincere? Shouldn’t the behavior have been corrected by then if s/he really meant it? In sum, aren’t you justified in refusing to forgive, or making your forgiveness contingent upon some material act?

Seventy Times Seven

There are only two passages in the New Testament where a finite number is connected with forgiveness. The first occurs in Matthew 18:21-22:

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Jesus then follows this injunction with the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (vv. 23-35). The “seventy times seven”, of course, is hyperbole meaning that we forgive as often as asked: “... and if [your brother] sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:4). However, you don’t have to wait to be asked forgiveness in order to grant it.

As for sincerity — nope. Don’t find it connected to forgiveness of others anywhere in the NT. It’s not a condition. Nor do you find any passage that allows you to make forgiveness conditional. Catholics have done penitential acts over the centuries. However, those acts were reparative; that is, they were ordered towards repairing the relationship between the person and God, and not as a condition of His forgiveness. Making your forgiveness contingent upon fulfilling a material condition as “proof” of sincerity is spiritual extortion.