01 March 2007
04 February 2007
25 January 2007
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
-- Ronald Reagan
12 January 2007
15 September 2006
11 September 2006
10 September 2006
Editor's note: Mark Helprin wrote this article five years ago. We think that it is worth rereading.
We Beat Hitler, We Can Vanquish This Foe Too
By Mark Helprin
Posted September 12, 2001
Wall Street Journal, editorial page
America, it is said, is slow to awaken, and indeed it is, but once America stirs, its resolution can be matchless and its ferocity a stunning surprise.
The enemy we face today, though barbaric and ingenious, is hardly comparable to the masters of the Third Reich, whose doubts about our ability to persevere we chose to dissuade in a Berlin that we had reduced to rubble. Nor is he comparable to the commanders of the Japanese Empire, whose doubts about our ability to persevere we chose to dissuade in a Tokyo we had reduced to rubble. Nor to the Soviet Empire that we faced down patiently over half a century, nor to the great British Empire from which we broke free in a long and taxing struggle that affords a better picture of our kith and kin than any the world may have today of who we are and of what we are capable.
And today's enemy, though he is not morally developed enough to comprehend the difference between civilians and combatants, is neither faceless nor without a place in which we can address him. If he is Osama bin Laden, he lives in Afghanistan, and his hosts, the Taliban, bear responsibility for sheltering him; if he is Saddam Hussein, he lives in Baghdad; if he is Yasser Arafat, he lives in Gaza; and so on. Our problem is not his anonymity but that we have refused the precise warnings, delivered over more than a decade, of those who understood the nature of what was coming — and of what is yet to come, which will undoubtedly be worse.
The first salvos of any war are seldom the most destructive. Consider that in this recent outrage the damage was done by the combined explosive power of three crashed civilian airliners. As the initial shock wears off it will be obvious that this was a demonstration shot intended to extract political concessions and surrender, a call to fix our attention on the prospect of a nuclear detonation or a chemical or biological attack, both of which would exceed what happened yesterday by several orders of magnitude.
It will get worse, but appeasement will make it no better. That we have promised retaliation for decades and then always drawn back, hoping that we could get through if we simply did not provoke the enemy, is appeasement, and it must be quite clear by now even to those who perpetually appease that appeasement simply does not work. Therefore, what must be done? Above all, we must make no promise of retaliation that is not honored; in this we have erred too many times. It is a bipartisan failing and it should never be repeated.
Let this spectacular act of terrorism be the decisive repudiation of the mistaken assumptions that conventional warfare is a thing of the past, that there is a safe window in which we can cut force structure while investing in the revolution in military affairs, that bases and infrastructure abroad have become unnecessary, that the day of the infantryman is dead, and, most importantly, that slighting military expenditure and preparedness is anything but an invitation to death and defeat.
Short of a major rebuilding, we cannot now inflict upon Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden the great and instantaneous shock with which they should be afflicted. That requires not surgical strikes by aircraft based in the United States, but expeditionary forces with extravagant basing and equipment. It requires not 10 aircraft carrier battle groups but, to do it right and when and where needed, 20. It requires not only all the infantry divisions, transport, and air wings that we have needlessly given up in the last decade, but many more. It requires special operations forces not of 35,000, but of 100,000.
For the challenge is asymmetrical. Terrorist camps must be raided and destroyed, and their reconstitution continually repressed. Intelligence gathering of all types must be greatly augmented, for by its nature it can never be sufficient to the task, so we must build it and spend upon it until it hurts. The nuclear weapons programs, depots, and infrastructure of what Madeleine Albright so delicately used to call "states of concern" must, in a most un-Albrightian phrase, be destroyed. As they are scattered around the globe, it cannot be easy. Security and civil defense at home and at American facilities overseas must be strengthened to the point where we are able to fight with due diligence in this war that has been brought to us now so vividly by an alien civilization that seeks our destruction.
The course of such a war will bring us greater suffering than it has brought to date, and if we are to fight it as we must we will have less in material things. But if, as we have so many times before, we rise to the occasion, we will not enjoy merely the illusions of safety, victory, and honor, but those things themselves. In our history it is clear that never have they come cheap and often they have come late, but always, in the end, they come in flood, and always in the end, the decision is ours.
13 August 2006
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails;
I shall believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good to me;
And, though I weep because those sails are battered,
Still will I cry, while all my best hopes lie shattered,
"I trust in Thee."
I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I shall believe it is an all-wise Love
Which has refused those things for which I yearn;
And though at times, I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.
I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And though troubles swarm like bees above a hive;
I shall believe the heights, for which I strive,
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And though I groan and tremble with my crosses,
I yet shall see, through all my severest losses,
The greater gain.
I will not doubt, well anchored in the faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale,
So strong its courage that it will not fail
To breast the mighty, unknown, sea of death.
Oh, may I cry when body parts with spirit,
"I do not doubt," so listening worlds may hear,
With my last breath.
- William Butler Yeats
Editor's note: Fare thee well, Lawrence of Rome, and Happy Trails.
"We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and best that we can find in our travels is an honest friend."
-Robert Louis Stevenson
"Don't walk in front of me,
I may not follow;
don't walk behind me,
I may not lead;
Walk beside me, and
just be my friend."
Editor's Note: We present today's "Quotes" in honour of friendship. One of our writers, Lawrence of Rome, leaves Videat Dominus et Requirat tomorrow for an extended sabbatical. Though seperated by many miles, we rejoice in the journey that stretches before him and hope to convene, one evening long from now, at a tavern not unlike those described by Tolkien and Lewis, where, beneath a heavy cloud of smoke, with a cheery fire, and many a hearty drink upon the rough-hewn table, we will speak of great things.
07 August 2006
06 August 2006
How to Lose to Terrorists
by Ben Stein
We are in real serious trouble, and I'll tell you how and why I know it:
* Because the Hezbollah -- as has been well reported -- launches missiles at purely civilian targets in Israel as a matter of course, and no one in Europe or in the American left says "boo" about it. It's considered the Hezbollah's "right" to kill Israelis and when they do, they boast about it and promise to do more;
* Because it's been also well documented that the Hezbollah hides behind civilian targets and adjacent to civilian dwellings in Lebanon to fire its rockets at Israel, and when Israel fires back and mistakenly hits a home with civilians, the world of "intellectuals" and "thinkers" blames Israel and calls Israel bloodthirsty;
* Because when the Israelis kill civilians, they apologize, but when the terrorists kill civilians, they brag -- and the beautiful people scream at Eretz Israel and excuse the terrorists;
* Because if you substitute "America" for "Israel" and the "terrorists in Iraq" for the Hezbollah, you get what's happening in Iraq;
* Because it is impossible to beat a terrorist movement without using terror tactics, and we as a people of compassion and restraint, both in Israel and the U.S., will not use terror tactics even when survival is at stake, and this means we will not survive.It is very much as if, after Pearl Harbor, after the bombing of London, we said, "We will fight the Japanese and the Nazis, but we will only use humane means, and we will show total restraint and will never kill civilians. And we will search our souls and agonize about every move.
"It is this attitude that kept the United States from winning in Korea, in Vietnam, and now in Iraq. If we had followed that code of suicide, we would have lost World War II and the world would have been plunged into eternal darkness. You cannot fight inhumane people with humane means. You cannot fight savages with one hand -- no, two hands -- tied behind your back. No wars were ever won using restraint and only civilized means. That's a formula for complete defeat and for the end of civilized life. If we allow our media and French intellectuals to prevent us and the Israelis from using the means necessary to win, we'll lose...in Lebanon, in Iraq, and everywhere and this civilization is very well worth preserving. Yes, as sad as it would be to use terror tactics to win a war, it would be incomparably worse to lose. At the end of the war we win, there is light. At the end of the war we lose, there is the end.
Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He also writes "Ben Stein's Diary" in every issue of The American Spectator.
The Flying Inn Reconsidered
By Hal G.P. Colebatch
Published 8/3/2006 12:07:46 AM
When I was a child going through my late father's library my maternal grandfather pointed out an old copy of G.K. Chesterton's The Flying Inn, published in 1914, and said: "That's a good story!" I wish now that Grandfather had lived long enough for me to talk to him about many things. I am not sure why he, Mayor, Member of Parliament, Knight, and general pillar of the community, with no sign I could detect of even my father's bohemian streak, thought this tale of rum-disbursing rapscallions in flight from the law was a good story, but I took him at his word and when I read it found he was right. It is also curiously prophetic.
It was condemned to many years of neglect, presumably because of what was then seen as the quaintness and irrelevance of its subject matter -- an Islamic attack on and infiltration of England. It has, however, recently been reissued in the U.S. by Dover publications.
It is, as one of its excellences, a swinging hit at political correctness, penned a couple of generations before the term political correctness was dreamed up. The British politician, Lord Ivywood, by a piece of legal trickery, bans the drinking of alcohol in England. That is, alcohol is not banned outright, but can only be sold by an inn displaying a sign, and the signs are banned.
The good people, like irresponsible vagabonds, travel the country just ahead of the law, first with a donkey and then a motor car, with a keg of rum and a cheese, as well as an inn-sign rescued from the destroyed inn "The Old Ship," dispersing cheer to the workmen who have been denied a drink, singing merry songs on the way (naturally most of the establishment figures who support prohibition still manage to evade it for themselves in other ways).
But there is more sinister parallel development. Targeting the traditional English pub is only part of the politically correct targeting of all English institutions, traditions and identity, enforced by a British establishment enthralled by Islamicism. We also hear little asides about the cross being gradually banned, or rather, replaced by a combined cross-and-crescent symbol ("The Crescent, the growing thing...the religion of progress"). Smart art circles adopt Islamicist art. Then there are growing hints of political preparations for polygamy, the institution of the harem and the suppression of women.
Anticipating what would be one of the characteristics of 20th century totalitarianism and 21st century relativism, history is rewritten to show that England was originally an Islamic country. The old pub name "The Saracen's Head," probably dating from some memory of the Crusades, is, so the people are told, really a corruption of "The Saracen Is Ahead." "The Green Man" (another traditional English pub name which is in fact probably a fossil reference to very ancient fertility beliefs) was actually, according to the new revisionists, a corruption of "The Agreeing Dragoman."
One might think this pseudo-history a flight of fantasy too far. But in 2004 the Mufti of Australia and New Zealand, Taj Al-Din Hamad Abdallah Al-Hilali, who has described the holocaust as a Zionist lie, also claimed that Australia was originally Islamic land, settled by Afghans. The Australian Aborigines were their descendants. (In fact Aborigines reached Australia several tens of thousands of years ago. Some so-called "Afghans" -- actually mostly Iranians - arrived in the 19th century to work as camel-drivers in the outback.)
This real-world Mufti claimed as evidence of the Aborigines' Muslim origins the facts that they "have customs such as circumcision, marriage ceremonies, respect for tribal elders, and burial of the dead -- all customs that show that they were connected to ancient Islamic culture before the Europeans set foot it Australia." This real-world rubbish actually surpasses the tortured rationalizations and historical revisionisms of the fictional Islamicists in The Flying Inn. Apparently no one told the Mufti that circumcision (actually many Aborigines practiced subincision, a very different thing) far predates Islam and is characteristically Jewish, and marriage ceremonies, respect for elders, and burial of the dead are features of practically every society.
The same claim has been advanced by some modern Islamic writers for America, including statements that Columbus found mosques there. (The point here is that Islamic law states Muslims possess by right any land that once formed part of the House of Islam. This is a key element in Islamic claims against the existence of Israel.)
As The Flying Inn goes on it gradually becomes apparent that Ivywood is working towards destroying the entire Christian and Western identity of England. As Catholic priest Addison H. Hart pointed out in a recent essay, while Ivywood is using Islamicism as a tool, he is also a creature of pseudo-Nietzscheanism. "I see the breaking of barriers," he says. "Beyond that I see nothing." They are words that could be straight from modern deconstructionism and they encapsulate its ultimately Hellish nature. Ivywood is, ultimately, the voice of Antichrist. His associates and tools, his "false prophets," are a strange little Turk, Misysra Ammon, and a miserable crawling journalist, Hibbs However.
Against Ivywood is an at first tiny resistance movement: a giant, red-haired, hard-drinking Irishman named Patrick Dalroy, a thoroughly English pub-owner named Humphrey Pump, dispossessed landlord of "The Old Ship," who loves Pickwick and has the history of the country in his bones, and Lord Ivywood's poet cousin, an aesthete who is, as a later generation would put it, mugged by reality. After many adventures the story concludes with England roused, a decisive battle against the Islamicist Army which Lord Ivywood has been secretly shipping in, and Dalroy getting the girl. Like Nietzsche, Lord Ivywood goes mad, babbling of the Superman in an asylum.
As with other books by Chesterton, when I first read it I was puzzled but liked it. Perhaps part of what appealed to me was its obviously fantastical nature. When Chesterton wrote it, on the eve of the First World War, the great perceived threat to England and to the "Western and Christian heritage" was not Islamicism, which had been out of such questions for centuries, but German militarism. When I read it, the Cold War had been on for all my life, and showed no signs of ending -- or at least not of ending in victory. The Flying Inn had nothing to do with such "present discontents." But it is in my mind yet, when those other things are gone.
Hal G.P. Colebatch is a lawyer and author and lectures part-time in legal studies at Notre Dame University in Western Australia. His book Blair's Britain was selected as a Book of the Year in the London Spectator.
A poem, in honour of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, born this day in 1809. He requested this poem be placed as a requiem, at the end of any collection of his poetry.
Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
03 August 2006
by Bishop Robert Vasa
The operative word of the week has been heat. The 100-degree-plus temperatures have made any afternoon activities nearly impossible and have been conducive to naps in the shade. Clearly, this is the situation not only in southern Malheur County, but nationwide as well. In many ways, southern Malheur County is a good place to be when it is this hot, since the July heat seems to fit perfectly well with the desert terrain. In other words, the heat is not unexpected. The situation would be a lot different if one expected moderate temperatures and then encountered these furnace-like conditions.
I have found over the years that the expectations we bring to a situation determine, to a very large extent, the ease or difficulty we experience in coping with that situation. Expecting brutal heat and encountering it makes the bearing of that heat much easier than expecting moderate temperatures and smacking into the wall that is the reality. Expectations, whether about weather or what others ought to do or about how life ought to be or what people will do or how a particular situation will be resolved, determine to a very large extent our immediate emotional reactions.
I believe the same holds true for expectations about Church teachings. When there is an expectation, as held by many people, that some stable and traditional teachings of the Church will change or even that they can change, then there is a lot of room for disillusionment, frustration, anger and distress when those unrealistic expectations are not met. In many ways, the difficulty is not what the Church teaches but the expectation that those teachings should be done away with or that they will change in the future.
I had the opportunity on Saturday to watch some 4-H equestrian events. These were very simple. The youngsters simply had their horses walk, trot or gallop in the circle of the arena both clockwise and counterclockwise.
I discovered that there were a lot of subtle, and some not so subtle, rules that these youngsters needed to learn. First, they needed to stay on the horse if they expected to receive some kind of award. Seems pretty obvious, but how many adults seem to think that they are still in the ecclesial running even if they do not go to church. How the young people held their free hand, whether their legs were too straight or their heels too far in or too far out and how they sat in the saddle were all taken into account in the “judging.”
They were also evaluated on how well they were able to regulate their horses. This meant that the horse, which often has a mind of its own, had a major impact on whether the youngster received an award or not.
One of the things that I clearly do not understand, and I have yet to encounter someone to give me a satisfactory explanation, is the concept of having a horse in the right or left lead. As I understand this, when a horse gallops or runs, it leads with either its right or left front leg. Even though both front legs stretch out at the same time, one leg “leads” the other, and apparently there is a way to instruct the horse which lead to use. In the arena, as I understand it, it is proper for the horse to have one lead while going clockwise and the other lead while going counterclockwise. I honestly do not know what difference it makes to either the horse or the rider — or the judge for that matter — but it is apparently important.
In watching the horses, I thought that some of them understood quite well and almost automatically which lead was proper for the given direction. Others clearly had a preference for one lead or the other and tended to use that lead regardless of the arena direction.
Thus a given horse that tended always to use a left lead appeared to be wonderfully obedient and well trained when he was going in one direction, but his persistence in using that same lead when he was going the opposite direction indicated that he was obedient only when “asked” to do what he was going to do anyway. Then the young rider had to be vigilant about repeatedly instructing the horse about which lead to use.
Again, I thought of Church teaching and how easy it is for each of us to accept some teachings of the Church, not because the Church teaches them, but solely because it happens to be what we personally hold anyway. I would call this convenient obedience. In that instance, we are like the horse with the left lead which undoubtedly felt pretty obedient and “good” when what it was going to do anyway was consistent, at that moment, with what its master was asking.
On the other hand, in those instances when the Church asks us to do or accept something which we may not automatically or emotionally easily embrace, then we need to change or convert or alter our mindset in order to bring ourselves into compliance with those teachings. This is inconvenient obedience; it challenges us.
Unfortunately, if there is an expectation that the Church must, should or will change, then the tendency is to hold on to the erroneous belief or practice and even to do so with a certain degree of self-righteousness. The persistence of some horses in returning to their preferred lead was matched by the persistence of young riders in “asking” their mounts to use the correct lead. I do not expect that the horses’ tendency to choose their own lead will incline the judges to change this evaluative criteria.
It seems to me, and I acknowledge that I clearly lack “horse sense,” that using a right or left lead is rather arbitrary, and yet I do not expect the criteria to change. The Church is relentlessly persistent and consistent in Her teachings, and those teachings, contrary to modern relativistic tendencies, are not arbitrary. Despite the lack of arbitrariness, many are just as relentlessly and consistently recalcitrant in their perception that the Church, and not they, needs to or will change.
Obedience is not an easy thing, but a recognition that it is a loving Lord, a Good Shepherd, who asks and instructs us to abandon our own ways and more fully adopt and accept His ways does make true obedience possible — not only convenient obedience but the “inconvenient” type as well.
Vasa is the bishop of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. This article appeared originally in the Catholic Sentinel of Oregon.
02 August 2006
01 August 2006
Could Kerry be practicing for his role in the afterlife? We'll leave that one to Dante.
"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."
And this after reading Shakespeare for the first time at age 29: "Dolt ... that I am, I have lived more than 29 years, & until a few days ago, never made close acquaintance with the divine William. ... I now exult over it, page after page."
by Father Jan Larson
(From the July 6, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
I was recently watching a part of the daily televised liturgy on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). The liturgy there is an odd mix of English and Latin, while following the texts of the current Roman Missal. The priest and ministers of the liturgy look way too somber and serious. The ritual is performed with all the exaggerated exactness of the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy. The Mass is overly formal and mechanical. Needless to say, there are no women allowed in the sanctuary area, there is no procession with the gifts, no Sign of Peace, and, of course, no Communion from the cup for the lay people who are present. The liturgy, in effect, is unlike anything that Catholics experience in the vast majority of Catholic parish churches.
I am certain that the planners of these liturgies would explain their differences from parish liturgies with the familiar refrain that the post Vatican II liturgical reforms have taken too much of the mystery away from the Holy Mass. Certainly, they say, allowing the congregation full, active and conscious participation in the ritual is what empties the rites of their mystery, so the further we keep the secular congregation away from the clerical activity and space, the better to preserve the liturgy’s mystery. Thus the need to eliminate any personal touch with the lay folks, and, by all means, do not allow them to communicate with each other, even to wish one’s neighbor the peace of the risen Christ. (One wonders what these people think of the pope as he hugs and kisses the children who present him with the gifts to be offered, giving each of them a small gift as a remembrance of the liturgy. Perhaps it is all right for the pope to be warm and personable during the liturgy, but inappropriate for lesser souls.)
I think the folks responsible for these stuffy liturgies are confusing mystery with mystification. Rites that express mystery will invite people into the unknown, into what lies beyond the action of the ritual. Liturgy done well this way will cause people to ask, “How does this ritual which I can see, and in which I am participating, lead me more deeply into the beyond, into life of the God of mystery whom I cannot see?” Mystification, on the other hand, leads one to ask, “What on earth does that mean, and why in God’s name is he doing that?”
Luke Timothy Johnson, author of The Creed and other works, wrote recently in Commonweal magazine about the concerns of many conservative Catholics that paying attention to one another during the liturgy (what he calls “horizontal” values) have distracted us too much from the “vertical” values – our relationship with God and Christ. He writes:
“Critics who complain that these ‘horizontal’ values have been realized at the cost of ‘vertical’ ones, that mystery and a sense of the transcendent have disappeared among all the folksiness, need gently to be reminded of the difference between mystery and mystification. We who grew up in a Tridentine liturgy and who witnessed the travails of reform can bear an important witness to those of a younger generation who hanker after the ‘good old days.’ Some fear they have missed the solemn richness of Catholic piety, believing that the reformed liturgy comes dangerously close to Protestant worship, and that the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the essential expression of authentic Eucharistic theology. But we are in a position to state that for every example of splendid monastic liturgy in the old days there were countless examples of parish worship that appeared meaninglessly mechanical.
“We know that birettas and fiddle-back chasubles, mumbled (and often mangled) Latin, and truly execrable renditions of Gregorian chant were no more aesthetically than theologically impressive. Having lived through ‘speed-typing’ Masses guaranteed to last no more than twenty minutes, we can point to the greater seriousness, even greater solemnity, of parish worship today. Those who call contemporary worship insufficiently sacred literally do not know what they are talking about.
“As for the growing similarity among the Eucharistic celebrations of Catholics and Protestants, we should rejoice that Catholics now feel at home at Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopalian worship, and that our Protestant neighbors have gained much through our process of renewal and reform. The Catholic form of worship remains a strong motivation for conversion among adults. As we have known all along, God works powerfully through the words and gestures of the liturgy; the hard work of renewal has served to make God’s work plain and public each Sunday when we gather as ‘church.’”
(Father Larson is a liturgical consultant for the Archdiocese of Seattle. This ought not come as a surprise.)
30 July 2006
Editor's note: In his letter below, Dr. Harding is extrapolating the arguments the Episcopal Church is making in defense of its stance on homosexuality. Absurdities abound, and we suspect that is by design. Dr. Harding wants readers to see the foolishness, blasphemy, and arrogance the EC USA's leadership shamelessly perpetuates. They are guilty of leading their flock astray, and we all know what Sacred Scripture has to say about folks who do that. They best be visiting the mason soon to be fitted for their millstones.
"Whosoever shall lead astray these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." Mark 9:42
"Do I Understand What You Are Saying?" An Open Letter to Bishops and Deputies who Participated in General Convention 2006
By Dr. Leander S. Harding, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
Dr. Leander S. Harding of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry summarizes the theological arguments that he has heard from Episcopal Church leaders in support of their revisionist position on human sexuality. He offers this summary not to endorse the revisionist arguments, but rather to help orthodox church members understand and rebut those arguments more effectively. The IRD has received Dr. Harding’s permission to publish this piece, for the interest of its readers in various denominations.
I was able to observe the House of Bishops and House of Deputies briefly first hand during the convention and I have followed closely the proceedings on the internet and through the media. Below are some conclusions I have developed as a result of my observation both by following the official deliberations and through more informal conversations. I wonder if I have heard correctly, and I welcome remarks from bishops and deputies about whether I have an accurate take on the center of opinion in the national leadership of the Episcopal Church. What follows are statements that I believe reflect the consensus of opinion in the national leadership of the Episcopal Church, particularly as reflected in the General Convention that just met in Columbus, Ohio. Do I understand correctly?
As I hear it, you are saying that:
1. God is the author of same-sex attraction by an act of special providence that includes biological and social-psychological secondary causes. Because we know through reports of the spiritual experience of same-sex attracted people that God is the primary author of these experiences, inquiry into the relative contributions of nature and nurture to same-sex attraction is of no significance for the church’s moral teaching or pastoral care.
2. This recognition of the source of same-sex attraction in the direct intention of God means that the categories of “Gay” and “Lesbian” are part of God’s order of creation in the same way as male and female.
3. Bisexuality is also created by God as an act of special providence through a combination of biological and social-psychological secondary causes.
4. It is likewise irrelevant to the church’s moral and pastoral response to this phenomenon to inquire into the relative contributions of nature and nurture in the development of this sexual orientation.
5. The recognition of the source of same-sex desire in the original intention of God for the creation and humanity is a revelation of the Holy Spirit in our time.
6. The General Conventions of 2003 and 2006 are witnesses to this new revelation of the Holy Spirit.
7. The Holy Spirit has not yet revealed what amendments in the church’s received sexual ethic will be necessary to accommodate bisexual and transgendered people, but we can expect further leading by the Holy Spirit in this regard. In the meantime such persons should be considered fit candidates for Holy Orders.
8. Certainty in moral or theological judgments which is based on an authoritative reading of a text, whether that is the text of the Bible or any other part of the dogmatic tradition of the church, is inherently an example of over-reaching.
9. Contemporary reports of personal spiritual experience by same-sex attracted people and their supporters affirming the spiritual blessedness of same-sex relationships provide a basis for moral and theological certainty on this question which the scriptures and the traditional teaching of the church cannot by virtue of the nature of the documents provide.
10. Christians who feel bound by the scriptures should understand that the fact that there are different interpretations of the scriptures which touch on same-sex attraction means that no single interpretation can possibly be authoritative.
11. Since the scriptures cannot possibly be authoritative on this issue and since self-reported spiritual experience provides the only reliable certainty on the subject, any objections to same-sex blessings on the basis of scripture are irrelevant a priori.
12. Exegetical discussion of specific texts which seem to forbid blessing same-sex erotic behavior can only be for the benefit of quieting the consciences of people who take the bible literally. At the end of the day the inherent uncertainty of the scriptures must give way before the certainty of the personal spiritual experience of the same-sex attracted and their supporters and the felt experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit in two succeeding General Conventions.
13. The most meaningful dialogue in which the church can engage is dialogue that allows same-sex attracted people and their supporters to share their perceptions of the ways in which God has blessed individuals and specific Christian communities through covenanted same-sex relationships. Actual argument about scripture or the teaching tradition of the church or the state of the scientific question could never produce any legitimate objections to the new thing the Holy Spirit is doing.
14. The experience of people who describe themselves as having been cured or freed from same-sex attraction is irrelevant and the church should not give such people a serious hearing. They either were never really same-sex attracted to begin with or are deluded about their claim to be freed or cured. The personal religious experiences of such people are not of the same quality and reliability as the experiences of the same-sex attracted in the church. These experiences are not to be seen as legitimate experiences of the power of the Holy Spirit in spite of all claims to the contrary. Likewise, scientific reporting of the overcoming of same-sex attraction is deeply suspect as ideologically tainted and can with confidence be dismissed without a serious reading.
15. Same-sex attraction and same-sex relationships should be recommended to our children as entirely equal to and as preferable as marriage between a man and woman. If any young person feels any same-sex attraction, it is by God’s express intention and not to act upon it is to dishonor God. To discourage young people from acting upon same-sex attraction is to dishonor God’s intention in the creation. The question is not whether young people should act on their same-sex attractions but when and under what circumstances. Young people who are experiencing same-sex attraction can be helped by being mentored by older same-sex attracted adults, and the church should be proactive in facilitating these relationships.
16. It is wrong for the Episcopal Church to dictate to any other province of the Anglican Communion what its policy on same-sex relationships should be.
17. It is wrong for any other province of the Anglican Communion to interfere with the leading of the Holy Spirit in this province. What the Holy Spirit demands at any particular time must be determined locally.
18. What the Holy Spirit is demanding must be determined provincially. Those dioceses which are members of the Episcopal Church and which resist the new teaching cannot legitimately be thought to be led by the Holy Spirit and must be resisted with all the canonical and legal means available.
19. A variety of interpretations of scripture can be tolerated in the church. But the canons of the church, especially with regard to the territorial integrity of Episcopal jurisdiction, allow for no variation in interpretation.
20. The proposal of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a new Anglican covenant, and for churches to choose constituent or associate status in the communion, represents a dire threat to the capacity of the church to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It represents the prospect of a quenching of the Spirit.
21. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has been uniquely privileged to hear from the Holy Spirit in a way that has been denied to the rest of worldwide Anglicanism, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches and Protestant Evangelicalism. The Episcopal Church must at all costs maintain its witness to the unique agency of the Holy Spirit in its midst. Those who oppose the new teaching are enemies of the Holy Spirit who are making an idol of the past at the expense of the future to which God is calling us.
These numbered observations above are my take on what the dominant party in the leadership of the Episcopal Church is saying. If I have not got it right, I would like to know.
I suspect that anyone who is not disturbed by such an opportunity is the perfect
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25 July 2006
24 July 2006
-Monsignor Domenico Bartolucci, who was appointed director (maestro) of the Sistine Chapel by Pope Pius XII in 1959.
Read an interview with Monsignor Bartolucci here.
10 July 2006
By Charlotte Allen - July 9, 2006
The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which several parishes and even a few dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.
Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.
Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.
It is not entirely coincidental that at about the same time that Episcopalians, at their general convention in Columbus, Ohio, were thumbing their noses at a directive from the worldwide Anglican Communion that they "repent" of confirming the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire three years ago, the Presbyterian Church USA, at its general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., was turning itself into the laughingstock of the blogosphere by tacitly approving alternative designations for the supposedly sexist Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the suggested names were "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer and Friend." Moved by the spirit of the Presbyterian revisionists, Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher held a "Name That Trinity" contest. Entries included "Rock, Scissors and Paper" and "Larry, Curly and Moe."
Following the Episcopalian lead, the Presbyterians also voted to give local congregations the freedom to ordain openly cohabiting gay and lesbian ministers and endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana. (The latter may be a good idea, but it is hard to see how it falls under the theological purview of a Christian denomination.)
The Presbyterian Church USA is famous for its 1993 conference, cosponsored with the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other mainline churches, in which participants "reimagined" God as "Our Maker Sophia" and held a feminist-inspired "milk and honey" ritual designed to replace traditional bread-and-wine Communion.
As if to one-up the Presbyterians in jettisoning age-old elements of Christian belief, the Episcopalians at Columbus overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord. When a Christian church cannot bring itself to endorse a bedrock Christian theological statement repeatedly found in the New Testament, it is not a serious Christian church. It's a Church of What's Happening Now, conferring a feel-good imprimatur on whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct.
You want to have gay sex? Be a female bishop? Change God's name to Sophia? Go ahead. The just-elected Episcopal presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a one-woman combination of all these things, having voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, N.J., bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ's divinity, to address her priests.
When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12% (17 million out of 135 million). Some of the precipitous decline is due to lower birthrates among the generally blue-state mainliners, but it also is clear that millions of mainline adherents (and especially their children) have simply walked out of the pews never to return. According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, in 1965, there were 3.4 million Episcopalians; now, there are 2.3 million. The number of Presbyterians fell from 4.3 million in 1965 to 2.5 million today. Compare that with 16 million members reported by the Southern Baptists.
When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church.
It doesn't help matters that the mainline churches were pioneers in ordaining women to the clergy, to the point that 25% of all Episcopal priests these days are female, as are 29% of all Presbyterian pastors, according to the two churches. A causal connection between a critical mass of female clergy and a mass exodus from the churches, especially among men, would be difficult to establish, but is it entirely a coincidence? Sociologist Rodney Stark ("The Rise of Christianity") and historian Philip Jenkins ("The Next Christendom") contend that the more demands, ethical and doctrinal, that a faith places upon its adherents, the deeper the adherents' commitment to that faith. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which preach biblical morality, have no trouble saying that Jesus is Lord, and they generally eschew women's ordination. The churches are growing robustly, both in the United States and around the world.
Despite the fact that median Sunday attendance at Episcopal churches is 80 worshipers, the Episcopal Church, as a whole, is financially equipped to carry on for some time, thanks to its inventory of vintage real estate and huge endowments left over from the days (no more!) when it was the Republican Party at prayer. Furthermore, it has offset some of its demographic losses by attracting disaffected liberal Catholics and gays and lesbians. The less endowed Presbyterian Church USA is in deeper trouble. Just before its general assembly in Birmingham, it announced that it would eliminate 75 jobs to meet a $9.15-million budget cut at its headquarters, the third such round of job cuts in four years.
The Episcopalians have smells, bells, needlework cushions and colorfully garbed, Catholic-looking bishops as draws, but who, under the present circumstances, wants to become a Presbyterian?
Still, it must be galling to Episcopal liberals that many of the parishes and dioceses (including that of San Joaquin, Calif.) that want to pull out of the Episcopal Church USA are growing instead of shrinking, have live people in the pews who pay for the upkeep of their churches and don't have to rely on dead rich people. The 21-year-old Christ Church Episcopal in Plano, Texas, for example, is one of the largest Episcopal churches in the country. Its 2,200 worshipers on any given Sunday are about equal to the number of active Episcopalians in Jefferts Schori's entire Nevada diocese.
It's no surprise that Christ Church, like the other dissident parishes, preaches a very conservative theology. Its break from the national church came after Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Communion, proposed a two-tier membership in which the Episcopal Church USA and other churches that decline to adhere to traditional biblical standards would have "associate" status in the communion. The dissidents hope to retain full communication with Canterbury by establishing oversight by non-U.S. Anglican bishops.
As for the rest of the Episcopalians, the phrase "deck chairs on the Titanic" comes to mind. A number of liberal Episcopal websites are devoted these days to dissing Peter Akinola, outspoken primate of the Anglican diocese of Nigeria, who, like the vast majority of the world's 77 million Anglicans reported by the Anglican Communion, believes that "homosexual practice" is "incompatible with Scripture" (those words are from the communion's 1998 resolution at the Lambeth conference of bishops). Akinola might have the numbers on his side, but he is now the Voldemort — no, make that the Karl Rove — of the U.S. Episcopal world. Other liberals fume over a feeble last-minute resolution in Columbus calling for "restraint" in consecrating bishops whose lifestyle might offend "the wider church" — a resolution immediately ignored when a second openly cohabitating gay man was nominated for bishop of Newark.
So this is the liberal Christianity that was supposed to be the Christianity of the future: disarray, schism, rapidly falling numbers of adherents, a collapse of Christology and national meetings that rival those of the Modern Language Assn. for their potential for cheap laughs. And they keep telling the Catholic Church that it had better get with the liberal program — ordain women, bless gay unions and so forth — or die. Sure.
CHARLOTTE ALLEN is Catholicism editor for Beliefnet and the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus." This op-ed appeared recently in the Los Angeles Times.
09 July 2006
Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
by William Shakespeare
Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.
07 July 2006
Russell Kirk (1918-1994)
06 July 2006
Anglican Rev. Philip Chester, vicar of St. Matthew's in Westminster, UK, has a modest proposal. He wants to change England's patron saint from St. George to St. Alban. The purported reason? Lack of clear evidence St. George existed. Umm, right. The real reason? St. George is associated with the Crusades and this could offend Muslims.
"We are sure St Alban is a real figure," barked Chester. Well, in that case go right ahead. What defense could we possibly muster against such compelling logic?
St. Alban was martyred in England in the early 4th century. He is a martyr because he refused to compromise his faith in the face of adversity. Apparently his faith offended someone. In dumping St. George because his presence might offend Musilms, Rev. Chester is proposing the Anglican Church do precisely what St. Alban died to avoid. How ironic, and sad.
05 July 2006
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.