Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trinitarian foundations of Christian Environmentalism

This post, like some others on this blog, will introduce themes to which I will return occasionally.  One *could* write a Summa about Christian environmentalism, and some have, but this is neither the time nor place for such.

The Creed, in case you hadn't noticed, proceeds in Trinitarian fashion:

Holy Spirit

Looking west down the Mohawk River valley from the North American Martyrs' Shrine in Auriesville, New York.

OK, so what?  Well, attend to language:  

Friday, April 29, 2016

the development of doctrine seen through 80s hair metal

No, seriously.

source;  Facebook--with slight edits by yours truly.

Three years ago, in this blog's infancy, I threatened an extensive post on "hair metal" bands of the 1980s.  Folks, that day has arrived.

Advice:  Turn up the volume--then continue reading.

Prologomena:  "Metal" is both an adjective and noun, and no, I don't mean the chemical form.  Metal means heavy metal music: loud, abrasively rhythmic, searing guitar riffs and solos, usually piercingly high (male) vocals, and often dark, gothic lyrics.  Metal sings both of human depravity and resistance.  Metal songs can celebrate the crass debasement of sexuality...or it can illuminate the downtrodden nobody else knows about. It does so retaining some sort of melody, too.  Metal is not punk, at least not in its origins.  Crafted and spawned in American, British, and Canadian working classes, metal has defended "the rock and roll lifestyle" long after other genres sold out for better sales, better haircuts, and more exposure.  Hence the adjective:  "metal."  Something metal means it's tougher, harder, unfiltered...and transcendent. 

Metal  resurrects because in its frequent celebrations of death it also looks to life beyond death. If it's metal, it might be dangerous, occasionally unholy, and a stark threat to your entire personal being...and afterward you'll want another shot.  Metal is not a drug;  in fact, most illicit drugs offer only ersatz metal experiences.  Metal overwhelms, pulverizes, and remakes your previous self.  Metal is simultaneously cathartic and converting.  Overkill's 1989 classic "Elimination" includes the defiant line "Fatal?  You're sh*****g me!  A second opinion's what I need!"  Metal resists, even when it might seem all resistance is futile.  Metal certainly disdains--and, let's face it, often seeks to destroy--Victorian tact and prim morals.  Nevertheless, metal certainly understands Christian martrydom and the question of (apparently) unredeemed suffering.

Prologomena, part II:  Thus, despite stereotypes rooted mostly in the shallowness of white, evangelical Protestantism, metal and Christianity are not mutually exclusive.  Roman Catholics especially enjoy theological, spiritual, and even historical connections to metal.  Born-again Christians are stuck eschewing Led Zeppelin's classic Stairway to Heaven, concerned that nobody goes to the Father except through Christ (John 14:6).  They are, of course, correct on one level, but, really, who can listen to that song and not see Tolkien's Lady Galadriel pondering Frodo's free offer of the One Ring?  (H/T to Hillsdale's Dr. Bradley Birzer for that hermeneutic.)  The song itself balances acoustic grace with, well, leaden guitar chords, just like a Gothic cathedral's own chiaroscurro.  Led Zep recalls Tolkien--whose Catholic credentials need no defense here--in several other songs:  "Misty Mountain Hop," "Ramble On," etc.  Sometimes metal recognizes with frank clarity how the Christian faith's struggles amid the world's turmoils, needing God's grace and intervention to make it through.   Skid Row's 1991 Quicksand Jesus (written by guitarist David Sabo, whose lyrics exude Catholic sensibility) offers an eloquent example.

Bishop Barron on Bill Nye and Philosophy

Why rage against Bill Nye when Bishop Barron does it so well?  Sophisticated, clear, charitable, and well-informed.

Oh...and RIGHT.

And at 7:17 through the end, Barron makes a devastating link between the crisis of the humanities in American education and Nye's scientism by way of Plato's Cave.  That alone makes Barron's refutation worth considering.

The Church, created by Christ and devoted to following Him back to God, loves and defends the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  We obviously need and use science in that pursuit, but Barron reminds that scientism actually impairs and inhibits it.  May we remain mindful of the difference!

Friday, April 22, 2016

penny-wise & pound-foolish

Thomas Williams writes at Crux about the recent conflict over bathroom access.  Should transgendered persons--born biologically as one sex but identify (and usually dress) as another sex or androgynous--have access to the bathroom of their choice, not their biology?  Willams sees a longer game at work here.

In his recent letter on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia(“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis said that sex education should teach “respect and appreciation” for sexual differences, including self-acceptance and learning to embrace the body with which one is born, rather than playing with fictional identities that deny reality.
“The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created,” he wrote. Thinking that we enjoy “absolute power over our own bodies,” Francis warned, leads to the delusion that “we enjoy absolute power over creation.”
This could turn out to be the most unpopular stance the pope took in the entire letter.
Scott Eric Alt and a few others have lately had to fend off the rad-trad crowd, Dien Bien Phu style, over Amoris Laetitia.  This blog has covered those here and here.  Williams, though, brings up a crucial point perhaps missed in that first onslaught:  Pope Francis reiterates the principle common in Catholic circles:  human freedom arrogantly assumes complete control of nature when only God possesses such power.  We are part of the creation, not the actual creators.  Every undergraduate student writes that note in a college classroom (or at least they should), but it takes somebody like Pope Francis to apply that idea to reality. The results, Williams notes, can cause significant discomfort.  Williams notes a recent video wherein college students demonstrate the problem generating the current bathroom access issues:  nobody wants to say anything negative about somebody's assertion of self-identification.  Age, gender, and ethnicity are all social constructs in which we decide to participate.  The only limitation recognized, apparently, is height;  the videographer could not get any of the interviewed to agree with his assertion of being six foot five inches tall (he's much shorter).  One of the students interviewed, Williams notes, responded:

Another summed up her opinion by saying: “I feel like it’s not my place, as like another human, to say someone is wrong or to draw lines or boundaries.”

So as long as you don't identify as tall or short--physical realities we're apparently forced to accept--you can identify as male, female, trans, Asian, African, African-American, white, Irish, whatever. Your self-assertion creates your reality.  Thus Williams:

Twenty-five years ago, Saint John Paul II argued that allowing the will dominance over reason and reality will end up leading society over a cliff.
In his 1991 encyclical letter Centesimus Annus, John Paul wrote that in the political organization of the state, the only alternative to reason is will. If things are not based on what is, they must be based on what we want them to be.
The “we” in question here is always the strongest, whether expressed as a majority or simply as the most powerful interest group.

Williams is quite right, and his use of St. John Paul II is exactly on target.  Williams traces John Paul's career of survival through both National Socialism and Marxist Communism.  In both cases, the totalitarian system in power determined reality based on the perception of those in power, not reality itself.  (Not surprisingly, the influence of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, "the sacred monster of Thomism", can be see here, especially Book 4 of his Reality.).  Williams sees the past as prologue, except now the totalitarianism in power is democracy.  Williams:

As a society, we’ve now passed seamlessly from defining people by their sexual “orientation” to defining them by their subjective belief of who they are, regardless of what biology or genetics says, and all in less than a generation.
Where this will ultimately lead is anybody’s guess, but if the opinions of the millennial generation are to be believed, the trend has not yet nearly run its course.
And if St. John Paul is to be believed, it will not end in the flourishing of democracy, but in its demise.

Scary but probably to prove true.  The Church does not seek to persecute the transgendered. If anything those individuals need help and support--spiritual, psychological, and physical.  That being said, our care for the marginalized cannot lead us to deny reality itself.  Unlike those college students, we need to be able to say to others "I understand you feel that way, but that's not the reality you face."  After all, Bishop Barron makes a similar point about the nation's now-recognized problem with pornography.  Freud told us that liberating the libido would liberate us.  Like the college students, the nation doesn't want to be seen as restricting the expressive freedom of others--even it's becoming clearer and clearer that such expressions suppress life itself.  Where will this short-sightedness lead us?

Read all of Williams's article here.
Read Bishop Barron's column here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

J Robert Sheehan singing Danny Boy in the Cathedral

Bob Sheehan broke every bond that tried to hold him.  He had a great love to teaching, for vocal performance (some of which this video captures), for Ireland, and the Church, and of course his family. Bob always had a hearty laugh, some choice swear words, and extended middle-finger, usually jabbed in the air for additional emphasis, for everybody he met--student, administrator, or faculty colleague.  Bob died earlier today--here is the obituary--and is already missed.  At least we have a legacy like this, recorded in Albany's beautiful and under-appreciated Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, to remind us.  Eternal rest and light perpetual, O Lord...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When the Levee Breaks Amoris Laetita version

When the levee breaks, got no place to stay...

Yes, it's important to remember the classics.

When reading R. R. Reno's reservations about Amoris Laetita, the image of resisting an apparently impending flood kept recurring.  Given my previous post about the AL tidal wave--an apt image for all the reactions it has generated--I wondered if Reno trying to stop the leaks by sticking thumbs in dyke walls or whether he, having seen the first floor of home flooded, decamped to the second or third or higher floors.

Reno recognizes the face value of the new document;  nothing has changed.

Francis doesn’t actually say that divorced and remarried Catholics can receive communion. Amoris Laetitia explicitly affirms the church’s teaching on marriage. But in long digressions into the complexities of moral and pastoral discernment, Francis provides plenty of justifications for others to say that, yes, in particular situations, divorced and married Catholics can receive communion. All the while, Francis insists that the Catholic teaching on marriage must be affirmed. The ambiguity seems intentional, designed to increase scope for pastoral discretion.
The Catholic teaching on marriage is clear: It is permanent and cannot be dissolved. This is not a merely canonical matter, as though church officials at some point resolved to make indissolubility a feature of Catholic marriage. Christ warns us not to put asunder what God has put together. St. Paul associates the covenant of marriage with the unbreakable bond of God’s love for us in Christ. Then, in a move characteristic of Catholicism, the Church teaches that in our wedding rites, the sacramental promise of permanence becomes real, just as Christ’s promise to be with us until the end of the age becomes real in the transubstantiation of the bread and wine on the altar.
Marriage's reality--beyond the mere psychological or emotional apprecation--is where the trouble starts.  

Rusty Reno on Catholic Social Doctrine in Transition

Succinct lecture in New York given recently (March 22, 2016) by First Things editor R. R. Reno.  His focus on dignity and subsidiarity, surely two of the most familiar concepts in Catholic social thought, makes a great about the balance between resisting both collectivism and individualism.  Reno moves from there to discuss the ways in which the Church, being part of human existence, also participates--at least somewhat--in the exaggerations (Reno's characterization) of either pole (collectivism or individualism).  An interesting point and one worth considering, especially in light of Amoris Laetitia and, for that matter, Reno's reservations thereof.