Friday, October 17, 2014

The tragedy of the Church and its captain

For someone who is 1) Catholic, 2) a frequentor of the blogosphere, and 3) a writer, it is hard to ignore the ongoing drama being played out in Rome, or to keep from succumbing to the temptation to say something about it.  Fortunately, since the readership of this blog is relatively small, I don't always have to have an opinion on everything, and for those times when I do, I can usually do so without having to play up to my audience - to give them raw meat, so to speak, that confirms their own opinions.

Having said that, for those of you who've read what I've written about the Catholic Church in the last year or so, your expectations regarding my opinions are likely to be confirmed over the next few paragraphs.  My feelings regarding the current Bishop of Rome are no secret, nor is my concern regarding the direction in which the Church is headed.  This week's explosive Synod on the Family merely reinforces those concerns - concerns, I would add, that I don't pretend to express as fact.  That's another thing that distinguishes me from other bloggers, I think; while I have a high regard for my own opinion, I don't pretend to have some secret well of knowledge that makes those opinions tantamount to fact.  It's what I think, and while I believe it's an educated opinion, that's all it is.

The one great accomplishment of the Pope is that he's been able to create even more division within the Church than had previously existed.  The Church, at least the orthodox (or "conservative," if you prefer) part of it, has now split into roughly two warring camps: those who think the sky is falling, and those who prefer to say, "nothing to see here, move along."  Each side has its faults; the doomsayers often have the personality of Eeyore, while those who wear the rose-colored glasses seem not only breathtakingly arrogant but utterly dismissive of those who don't see things their way.

Earlier this week I posted on my Facebook page this video, suggesting that it summarized in a nutshell my feelings about the Church:

Now, I know this isn't about the Church, or religion (it's apparently about environmentalism), but it's got a catchy tune and the lyrics ring true to my feelings right now, especially this part:

Save me. Save me from tomorrow
I don't want to sail with this ship of fools
Save me. Save me from tomorrow
I don't want to sail with this ship of fools
Where's it comin' from?
Where's it goin' to now?
It's just a ship of fools

Or perhaps, I suggested, it was this one instead:

Crazy on a ship of fools
Crazy on a ship of fools
Turn this boat around - back to my loving ground
Oh no, oh no - ship of fools --

Now, I don't mean to suggest here that the Pope is a fool, because that would not give him enough credit.  Rather, I think Damon Linker has it about right in this column, excerpted by Rod Dreher, in which he gets to the heart of what he thinks is up with the Pope:

Francis would like to liberalize church doctrine on marriage, the family, and homosexuality, but he knows that he lacks the support and institutional power to do it. So he’s decided on a course of stealth reform that involves sowing seeds of future doctrinal change by undermining the enforcement of doctrine today. The hope would be that a generation or two from now, the gap between official doctrine and the behavior that’s informally accepted in Catholic parishes across the world would grow so vast that a global grassroots movement in favor of liberalizing change would rise up at long last to sweep aside the old, musty, already-ignored rules.

If this is true, it's a serious problem, not only for the Church itself but for those outside the Church who nevertheless look to Catholicism as the keeper of some kind of moral foundation, and indeed there's some evidence that these people feel the Pope has thrown them under the bus.  Regardless, this Pope is having an incredibly destructive effect on people within the Church.

So what does one do in such a case?  One person I talked with, recalling Ronald Reagan's description of being deserted by the Democratic Party, said that she didn't feel as if she was leaving the Church as much as that the Church was leaving her.  I don't think this will be an uncommon opinion in the weeks and months to come.  Dreher wonders what will become of these disenchanted Catholics, and speculates that while few of them will actually leave the Church, many will cease their active involvement with it.  I would add that for many Catholics who adhere to a traditional view of the faith, the the option they will pursue is, in some respects, the nuclear one: aligning with the SSPX, the traditionalist movement that, while in communion with Rome (at least for the moment), has such reservations over the direction the Church has taken since Vatican II that a schism may be inevitable.

And should that happen?  One suspects that the future, in that case, would be a small but vibrant counter-Church, whose members adhere to the Church's teachings without being in formal communion with Rome; a core of conservatives choosing to remain in the Church, denying up until the end that there's any problem at all (and then being shocked, shocked to find out that there is); and a formal nucleus of the Church that is more liberal, less grounded in theology, and so bereft of substance that it, like other mainline denominations, will be even less consequential than it already is. Not a pretty sight, and not the best thing in the world for a Pope to hang his hat (or zucchetto, as it were) to as his greatest accomplishment.

According to the teaching of the Church, the Pope is the Church's captain, entrusted with sailing her to safe port, keeping her away from the hazards that populate the ocean.  For that reason, this Pope reminds me not so much of his predecessor Paul VI (who presided over the implementation of Vatican II) as he does of an actual captain of an actual ship: Edward Smith, the first and only captain of the Titanic, who took a supposedly unsinkable ship and rammed it into an iceberg, sinking it on its first voyage.  A ship of fools, indeed.

Make no mistake, the Church and her teachings will survive, in one form or another.  It may well be that groups such as the SSPX will provide the remnant that will keep the faith alive until a different skipper takes over a rebuilt ship.  After all, Christ Himself promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church.  He did not, however, guarantee that there wouldn't be some rocky times ahead.  Remember, the Holy Spirit does not choose the Pope, but merely acts as an adviser to those who do.  Sometimes, as in the case of the Borgias, they get it wrong.  In our confidence about the ultimate triumph of the Church, let us not blind ourselves to the likelihood that with this Pope, they got it wrong again.  Very wrong.

Christ sought out fishermen, who presumably knew how to sail boats, because they were to be fishers of men.  He did not intend for those boats to be sailed to the bottom of the sea.  And so if we are sailing on a Ship of Fools, we'd better start manning the pumps.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Is art a masculine thing?

One of the more interesting blogs from a few years back, 2 Blowhards, had an article (which fortunately has been archived) which posed a most interesting question: "Why do so many American males consider arty and aesthetic matters to be faggy?"

It's an intriguing question, and a troubling one as well. You should read the entire article because Michael makes a lot of interesting points, but I'll pull out this particular section. After mentioning how in many other cultures the very "artistic" qualities we talk about are seen as masculine, Michael makes this comment:

Where does this aversion to aesthetics come from, historically speaking? My hunch is that it has less to do with Puritanism than it does with our history as a place where people who want to get away from traditional cultures come to. The real American man is felt to be the adventurer and the frontiersman -- the man who escapes the shelter, nay, the claustrophobia of female-dominated "civilization." By these lights, we're all little Huck Finns, forever investing our masculinity in our quest to light out for the territories ahead of the rest. Where a guy from another kind of culture might express his straight-guy masculinity within the parameters of his culture, we straight-guy Americans are masculine because we reject civilizin'.

I think this is particularly evident in the crudity we see so often in young males - the need to be a man is in such conflict with today's PC-enforced sensibilities that their rejection of civilizin' is expressed in a defiance of the most basic types of civilized behavior. Put another way, men don't seem to have much of an opportunity to be men anymore. We've stripped young males of so many opportunities to be masculine that a return to caveman-like behavior is one of the few avenues left. (As an aside, it will be interesting to see, as young women increasingly follow the crude behavior of their male counterparts, if there's some kind of shift of behavior from the men, searching for another way to be unique.)

You see and hear about the same phenomenon in the Church, for example: the preponderance of women in the pews, and increasing numbers of them in leadership positions within parishes. More and more often men speak of the "feminized" (not necessarily "feminist") church, as if there's something vaguely unmanly about religion. It's true that there was nothing unmanly about the early Church, so I"m not quite sure why things are the way they are, other than to say that they are. Perhaps it's the submissiveness required by a true disciple, possibly it has to do with the loss of ownership required when one opens the heart completely to Christ.

While we're at it, we might also wonder why so many of theses artistic endeavors are seen as the province of the liberal establishment, the arts and croissants crowd? Interestingly enough, it's an assumption shared by conservatives as well as liberals - that red Americans turn to NASCAR and country music while blue Americans own opera and literature. It's also one of the main aspects that makes the "crunchy con" movement so intriguing. Is there anything to the linkage between liberal politics and homosexual politics, that they share the same interests? Probably a subject that demands more time and study.

At any rate, what all these things share is a need for diversification among its membership. For years conservatives have decried the liberality of institutions such as the media, academia, and the entertainment industry. The answer has always been the same: if more conservatives were willing to go into those fields (setting aside, for the moment, the obstacles many of them face when they try), diversity would follow. What are you left with? Michael supplies the answer:

The fact that straight American guys consider aesthetic matters to be self-evidently gay becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it means that the aesthetic fields in America in fact become ever-more gay.

And that's not a good thing. In fact, it can become a propaganda tool. The young boy who shows an interest in classical music or interior decoration must be a closet homosexual - why not come out of the closet, show your inner feelings, be the "man" you're supposed to be. If you're told this often enough, might you not come to believe it? I am told, therefore I am.

Not only that, such lockstep thinking denies a difference of opinion, a contrary outlook, a unique perspective. Without that, you wind up with a uniformity of opinion that is neither honest nor intellectually compelling.

Michael's conclusion: "Wouldn't we all be a bit better off if the aesthetic fields had a few more straight guys in them?" To that I heartily agree. It is time to reclaim that which belongs to us, which belongs to everyone. Diversity, the mantra of the very patrons of these fields, would seem to demand no less.

Originally published February 16, 2007

Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day, whether you like it or not

It's Columbus Day today, or as it's called in Minneapolis*, "Indigenous Persons Day."  This is all such dreck; to think that taxpayer dollars go to support a City Council that has time to delve into the PC naming of holidays instead of, you know, something important.  Do they actually think they're accomplishing something with this kind of stupidity?  Or perhaps they're making the case that government really isn't that important after all, that this is the kind of issue that they consider a good use of time.

*And California, I think.

There are many, many reasons I'm glad I don't live in Minnesota anymore, and this is one of them.  Actually, while it's only one of many reasons, so many of them spout from the same font as that.  I think one can go too far in allowing politics and ideology to shape where they live, but when this is the kind of garbage one has to deal with - well, I'm surprised that any conservatives live in Minnesota at all.

Let's face it - this is the only good reason anyone has for not recognizing Columbus Day.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Salome, when she danced

The movie Salome, starring Rita Hayworth, was on TCM the other night. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but it got me to thinking. We don’t really know much about Salome. Most of us think we know her from the Bible, but there she isn’t even mentioned by name, referred to only as the Daughter of Herodias. She’s starred in books, movies, opera – and yet, she was a real person.

Most of what we know of Salome, or think we know, comes from Oscar Wilde’s play Salome. It is here that Wilde creates the most familiar iconic images of Salome, elaborating on the scene from Mark’s Gospel in which, as a reward for her dancing, Herod offers to grant her any desire. It is from Wilde that we get the image of Salome as the teenage temptress with the sexually charged dance, leaving Herod drunk with lust (as well as wine). It’s this version of Salome that most people probably think of, and the version that appears in movies such as King of Kings (which actually uses bits of Wilde’s dialogue).

The best-known fictional portrayal of Salome is probably Richard Strauss’ opera Salome, which was based on Wilde’s play. The role of Salome is a particularly challenging one, insofar as it requires the soprano to demonstrate great vocal prowess while at the same time acting like a nubile teen, particularly in the famed Dance of the Seven Veils (usually performed by the singer, occasionally by a stand-in dancer). It’s a great role, and some of the greatest singers in opera have played it, with varying degrees of success (and believability).

There are other versions of Salome as well, but so much of our iconography comes back to Wilde, which makes the ending of Wilde’s play (and Strauss’ opera) all the more interesting. Wilde fleshes out Salome’s character (no pun intended), but adds a detail that is completely at odds with the historical record: her death.

The climax of Salome (again, no pun intended) features the dancer holding before her the severed head of John the Baptist on the silver platter, after which she proceeds to fondle and caress the head, finally delivering a passionate kiss to the dead head’s lips. Herod, who is terrified and repulsed by this act, orders his soldiers to kill Salome, which they do by crushing her under the weight of their shields.

Now, one is curious as to why Wilde chose to end his play in this fashion. It’s certainly consistent with Herod’s superstitious character – he does, after all, believe for a time that Jesus is John come back to life. But the real Salome actually lived into her 40s or 50s (depending on the account), dying between 62 and 71 AD.

So what might Wilde’s motives have been for introducing such a radical change into his play? There’s no doubt it makes for a great dramatic ending, as anyone who’s seen either the play or the opera can testify. And in a creative sense it does provide closure to a plot which otherwise wouldn’t have much of an ending.

Still, one is tempted to wonder if Wilde was trying to pronounce some kind of a moral statement at the end, with judgment being delivered on Salome for her heresy. We think often of Wilde as the sexual libertine, but in truth the ending of Salome seems much more in line with Joseph Pearce’s portrait of Wilde as a man with a constant fascination with Catholicism and its teachings. As Pearce says in his book, The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, "Once again, Wilde emerges in Salome as a Christian moralist par excellence." And certainly there does seem to be Old Testament justice being meted out in the end.

Heather Marcovitch, in Princess, Persona and Subjective Desire, offers that “Wilde saw Salome as the representation of all the unspoken impulses and desires in Donan Gray.” She suggests that Salome, seen primarily by Herod and his court as an object of desire, uses “power gotten from her persona to destroy the very system that imbued her with this power.”

Other scholars point to Wilde’s use of imagery of the kind favored by Israel's kingly poets “and that the moon is meant to suggest the terrible pagan goddess Cybele, who, like Salomé, was obsessed with preserving her virginity and thus took perverse pleasure in destroying male sexuality.”

There’s often a temptation to read either too much or too little into the thought process of artists, resulting in explanations that are either far too simple or exceedingly complex. And yet sometimes it is the simple or the complex that tells the true story of the author’s mind. Pearce suggests that Wilde’s term in Reading Prison, starting in 1895, was what broke him and forced him to come to terms with his life, and Salome predates that, in 1891. It’s frequently true that, prior to a conversion of any time, hints can always be seen in retrospect, and so it may well be with Salome. Whatever the reason for Wilde’s choice, Salome remains one of his most intriguing works, and the character he created one of the most intriguing in art.

Originally published May 4, 2007

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Abusive courts attack Declaration of Independence

When the United States Supreme Court overturned Constitutions declaring marriage as One Man and One Woman to force five states into the evil agenda of the humanists, the Founding Fathers could be easily angered by the actions of these rogues that, in 11 years, have imposed their ideology on half of the nation (and potentially more) through their whim.

In our fourth grade history books, we had to quote most of the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.  One specific section holds true with these cases.

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."

These activist judges overturning Constitutions have effectively become a tyrant.  When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered marriage redefined in 2003, other states struck back and imposed a check on these rogue judges.  Now, the judges are overturning the checks placed on these judges, effectively making them tyrants.  These actions are reminiscent of six grievances listed by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence:

(1) Obstructing the administration of justices (see the numerous Autogol strategies, where the administration of justice is obstructed by a whim).

(2) Judges dependent on the leader's will. (See court packing to advance the agenda.)

(3) Establishing new government offices (such as "human rights" panels used to enforce homosexual activism).

(4) Trial for pretended offenses (see hate crimes or supporting the Bible, not the state).

(5) Abolishing the free system of laws to make it an arbitrary government (in most cases, same-sex "marriage" is a byproduct of judicial mandates, or large cities using abuses that were developed by courts in Reynolds v. Sims to overturn the Great Compromise;  furthermore, when abolishing the Constitution to develop something they want themselves, that was abuse the Founding Fathers warned against).

(6) Taking away the charters, abolishing valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments (see the courts overturning Constitutions; the check on the judges has been overturned by the judges themselves -- our checks and balances system was designed to protect against rogue judges, so they strike back).

Ponder these points from our Founding Fathers when you consider the rogue activism today.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Jon Vickers on mediocrity

People will laugh when I say it, but I feel there has been for some years now a ground-swell of demand for mediocrity. They don't want excellence. We don't have positive heroes anymore; they're negative heroes. What do we attack? We've attacked all the great pillars of civilization. We take great heroes of history and so far as we are capable we snoop around in the excretia of some of these heroes until we find a flaw. So because a hero is not perfection, which if he was he would be God himself, then he's nothing more than anybody on the street.

Jon Vickers, 1981 interview

Originally published March 7, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Who is Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and why is he saying all these stupid things?

Actually, I'm just kidding about the headline, at least partly.  I know well who Neil DeGrasse Tyson is, as do most of you, I'm sure.  But am I the only one out there who's tired of him? I think not, based on what I've been reading over the last few weeks.  I am tired of reading about his various misquotations, but that's just because it's hard to believe the guy's getting away with it all.  If he were a Christian, or a conservative, or a (horror of horrors) conservative Christian, the media'd be all over him.  As it is, you get to read about it here and there.

The writeup I linked to over at The Federalist gives a good summary of how he's quoted people who never actually said what he said they said, and RedState tells us about his (sort of) admission that he might not have gotten everything right in the past, but that you should believe him rather than your lying eyes, or something like that.

Look, I'll admit that I enjoyed his book on Pluto, but what else has he done for me?  His reboot of a legendary series, Cosmos, bombed - although I'll admit that the original series, which was acclaimed far more than it deserved, wasn't any great shakes either.  (I really should read this sometime.)  He makes ideologically-driven, suspect statements.  And this First Things article from a while back points out his flawed belief in "scientism" that permeates the series.

I've written at the TV blog about how we need more science as part of popular culture, and I have to at least applaud Tyson for that.  But how much stock can you put in someone who, in an age when information (and factchecking) is at anyone's fingertips, can't even produce an accurate quote, or one that's tainted by ideological overtones?  Can we really trust what he says on television?  For all we know there might be only six planets in the solar system.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

PC on campus (yawn) - how much dumber can they get?

The astute social critic John Leo makes some trenchant comments on political correctness at Marquette, ostensibly a Catholic school but in reality a university that should take credit only for its basketball team.  But lest I single out one institute of higher education, be assured that this is commonplace everywhere.

The truly sad thing about this is that universities are supposed to be places where young people go to learn how to think, debate, discover ideas.  Instead, they're just diploma factories that serve the secondary function of indoctrinating, as Rush Limbaugh put it, "young skulls full of mush."  And we wonder why this nation lacks the will to do so much.  I've got a quote appearing on Thursday that's apropos for this kind of thinking.  (Or lack thereof.)


Friday, September 26, 2014

Mr. Ward's lack of responsibility: marijuana proved it

The report from the Ontario County District Attorney and Grand Jury in the case of the August 9, 2014 Empire Super Sprint (360 sprint car) Series event at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in the aforementioned New York township, had a disturbing reference when considering that Kevin Ward Jnr’s irresponsibility led to his death, as was previously mentioned.  The toxicology report of Mr. Ward performed by the coroner of the county uncovered traces of cannabinoids (marijuana) in his system at time of death.

Cannabinoids are prohibited under Section 8 of the World Anti-Doping Code’s Substances Prohibited In Competition.  That matters to Tony Stewart, who has previously applied for an FIA Grade A licence as part of his participation in the Indianapolis 500 (INDYCAR mandates a Grade A licence), and at minimum must hold a Grade B licence (since the 1960’s, NASCAR has required at minimum an FIA Grade B licence – Hurley Haywood angered the SCCA when the autocrosser applied for a NASCAR Grand National licence so he could apply for an FIA Grade B licence, which was approved, promptly finishing eighth at the 1969 Six Hours of The Glen, winning the 2L GT class, in his first professional race, with Peter Gregg, who had spotted him at the autocross event).  Under his FIA licence, he must clear an FIA-approved drug test and face random drug tests.

Mr. Ward had competed in Empire Super Sprint races and some races with a World Racing Group sanctioning.  None of those events has a mandatory random drug testing, and while World Racing Group has a Substance Abuse policy, they do not have mandatory drug testing, which has drawn the ire of drivers in the organisation’s events, with at least two stars telling National Speed Sport News mandatory drug testing should commence.

The lack of responsibility had caused the death of Mr. Ward, and his irresponsibility at the time of his death now was proven with the test showing he had used cannabinoids, prohibited by ACCUS members (NASCAR/IMSA, INDYCAR, USAC, SCCA, NHRA, WKA) under the FIA licences required for competitors.  In light of a huge push by a younger generation pushing for legalization of cannabinoids, pushed by liberal city-states in Colorado, Washington, and California, popular culture, and the Bohemian attitudes of the generation taught by humanism, this death should be another warning shot fired against the pro-pot crowd.  As they said in youth groups at church in my youth, “don’t smoke a pot of pot”.  This incident shows the lack of responsibility by having such drugs in your system.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Cormac McCarthy on the irony of life

Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talking about the right wing this and the right wing that. I ain't even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that's a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I don't like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I don't think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I don't have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm going to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Originally published June 5, 2007