Monday, August 15, 2016

Push in the Right Direction

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a day commemorated by entering religious orders (and anniversaries thereof) and a round of Marian piety in the Catholic social media universe. The Gospel today features the Magnificat, a wonderful prayer in its own right, and today a reminder of the personal particularity through which the Christian faith comes.  

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Through Mary God accomplished the salvation of the world.  And through Mary the Christian tradition's penchant for antitriumphalism and unmerited grace see its first and greatest exemplar.  The Marian charism, especially with Pope Francis' support, will remain a revitalizing force within the Church.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

backing off...a cliff

While saying Mass late last month, Father Jacques Hamel was murdered by two jihadists.  And already some of the Catholic world wants to, whoa, pull back the reins because y'know, celebrating "martyrdom" comes too close to the jihadists themselves.

Allen Jacobs:
But worse than the incoherence is this: the question of whether Fr. Hamel isgenuinely a martyr is one that Vallely desperately wishes to avoid. For him, the Church is not to acknowledge its martyrs unless such acknowledgment serves what Vallely believes to be the proper political calculation of the moment. For him this is the key: “we must resist the notion that a fundamental clash of civilizations is the issue.” Nothing can be done that stands a chance of feeding a political narrative which Vallely finds tasteless. Thus: “The real problem is the pathology of a perverse minority of extremists with distorted notions of holy war and martyrdom.” Ah yes, the real problem at last! This is moral equivalence at its most loathsome: those who would seek Fr. Hamel’s canonization are morally indistinguishable from his murderers, because both belong to that “perverse minority of extremists with distorted notions of … martyrdom.”
So let not the Church call its martyrs martyrs, lest by doing so she fall into “extremism.” Let not the ancient commitment to honor the martyrs of Christ get in the way of political convenience. 

Read all of Jacobs' criticism here.

Jacobs is exactly right here and, ya' gotta admit it, part of this reticence he targets comes from the Catholic tradition itself. Or at least an interpretation of the tradition.

It's also, and this is where, if not already, I lose friends on the Left, part of the New York Times worldview:  one where moral individualism reigns supreme and any claim that restricts or denies that is anathema. Furthermore, the NYT appreciates culture and learning, but only insofar as they uphold the a priori moral individualism.  So something as grotesque and bloodily real as "martrydom"--by anybody--must be held at arm's length.  It's easy to do this with ISIS-martyrs, but when Roman Catholic Christianity--that tradition from which the ersatz NYT worldview itself grows (and from which it, the NYT, has long since severed itself)--then distinctions and clarifications must be made.  The last thing the NYT wants is for any of its oh-so-smart readers to be something other than itself.  If the NYT itself challenges, well, that's fine.  But gads, not that Catholicism stuff...again.

And throughout that little rant you probably could substitute "liberal middle-to-upper class and their progressive friends." This worldview encompasses most of liberal mainstream Protestantism and not a few swaths of liberal American Catholics.  This group still insists that "embracing the world" requires first bracketing one's own beliefs.  So, if we're confronted with ISIS and we want their religiously-infused violence to stop (a worthy desire!), then, in this worldview, we throttle back first on our own views.  With Father Hamel, that means toning down all this martrydom stuff.

There are many responses ("You're just plain wrong" comes to mind), but Karl Barth has a good one:


There, that wasn't so hard, was it?  Instead of backing up, start first with statement of belief, a credo.  Then, as William Placher wrote in 1989, proceed unapologetically. Stop seeking prolegomena;  you'll never find a universal common ground that includes virtually everybody.  Proceed instead with the Church's beliefs and the given issue at the time.  In doing so you won't insult your dialogue partner, either.  Let's be honest, ISIS' notion of "dialogue" is "convert to Islam." That's just as unhelpful as the NYT worldview.  For example, one of best known images of Father Hamel (seen above) came from a Muslim artist in France.  Hey, that's real interreligious dialogue; the recognition and appreciation of the other's views without sacrificing your own.  

Because if you start with an apology as so many of our cultural elites want, we'll end up with no ground on which to stand.  We'll have backed ourselves off a cliff.

Meanwhile, pray for the respose, and intercession, of Father Hamel and all holy martyrs.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Between Jest and Earnest: Remember When Catholics Were The "Political Proble...

Between Jest and Earnest: Remember When Catholics Were The "Political Proble...:

Great recent post by my good friend, Art Remillard from Pennsylvania's Saint Francis University.  In musing on Paul Blanshard's American Freedom and Catholic Power (1949), Remillard traces the ascendency of American Catholicism's rise over narrow-minded concerns.  Powers which, Remillard notes, wielded considerable political and social power (e.g., Norman Vincent Peale).

And it turns out the lesson has been short-lived. Nowadays some American Catholic leaders espouse views that appear identical to what was once voiced against Catholicism itself.  Thus Remillard:

But one thing is for sure: Catholics have changed the face of America. And America has changed Catholicism too, by, among other things, giving some among them a very short memory.

That's a powerful conclusion, and he is not wrong.  This is, in part, why the 1960s saw counter-cultural Catholic celebrities like Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton emerge (something Remillard notes and which, by the time it happened, indicated that "the moment" had actually already passed).  Although he does not state it, I do think Remillard's point about short Catholic memories could be applied to other Catholic cultural situations, not just political ones.