“The contemporary world, so apparently connected…”

(emphasis added) –Papa Francesco to the UN.

A more successful trip than the Redskins had
A more successful trip than the Redskins had

I am glad you are connected to me, dear reader–and genuinely, I hope. The Pope reads these posts, too, I see, since he made a point of declaring this morning:

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic.

(emphasis, once again, added)

…For those of us familiar with Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’, this morning’s UN talk contained no surprises. For those of us familiar with the speeches of Papa Benedetto XVI at the UN and German parliament, this morning’s UN talk contained no surprises. For those of us familiar with the magisterium of JPII–no surprises. Beautiful (to me anyway) how Pope Francis lavishes love on Paul VI, quoting him extensively at crucial moments, like:

The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests.

The fundamental idea of this morning’s talk: God does indeed rule the world. Law–that is, what is right, the checking of absolute human power–law proceeds from God. Justice entails submitting oneself to law, submitting oneself to the order inherent in things as God has made them, giving everyone and everything their due. The Creator has given us the earth as a gift, so that we could flourish and give Him glory. Papa F. adds the novel idea: The environment, too, has rights.

In my little book, His Holiness made an enormously important point this morning when he noted that war causes the worst pollution and environmental degradation. Any student of war knows this painful truth. Battle tacticians regularly employ ordnance detonation for the sake of desertification as a means of military victory. This happened over and over again during the Civil War, and it took the earth decades to recover.

…Now, regarding the joy of the Gospel, Cardinal Dolan has my vote for Man of the Papal Visit. I carried the Timothy-Dolan-Fan card while reading Priests for the Third Millennium fifteen years ago. Then I let my membership lapse. But now I have the card back in my pocket. Here’s the best moment of the Holy Father’s visit so far:

New Yorkers who actually go to Mass having their moment to love on our Papa. Thank you, Cardinal Dolan.

Terrorism Against the Unborn

The king summoned the invited guests. But they refused to come.

God invites us to a kingdom of peace, fraternity, communion, and love. In God’s kingdom, the innocent have the right to live, to grow, and to thrive, according to the divine plan. Who refuses to come to such a beautiful banquet? Well, those who commit acts of unjustifiable violence against the innocent. Killing the innocent means saying a big, fat, rude, ‘No, thank you!’ to God’s invitation to the Kingdom.

The evil acts of terrorism committed in the Middle East have stunned us all. A couple weeks ago, President Obama lectured the United Nations’ General Assembly about this. He concluded, “At this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done.”

Barack Obama UNI stayed up late to watch the re-play of the speech on CSPAN. The camera panned across the joyless faces of the representatives of the countries of the world. I could not help but think to myself: One of these ambassadors could reasonably raise his or her hand and ask our president, “Yes, Mr. President Obama, yes. We condemn terrorism just like you do. But are you Americans so innocent?”

Now, maybe this ambassador would be referring to the bombs we drop from the sky, which regularly kill innocent bystanders. And we do not, as a nation, seem to give that a second thought. But there’s more.

Continue reading “Terrorism Against the Unborn”

St. Denis, Beheaded

Stunning statue of St. Denis in Virginia Museum of Fine ArtSt. Denis was beheaded by pagan priests 1756 years ago today, at the top of Montmartre in Paris. He picked up his own head and then walked six miles to a cemetery, which is where the magnificent basilica of St. Denis now sits.

Countless statues depict St. Denis holding his own head in his hands, including one from the 1400s which is kept in the Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

Among other things, a St.-Denis statue reminds us of man’s grim capacity to do violence to man. When I was growing up, I remember hearing plenty of people dismissing such things as relics of a barbaric past now vanished forever. Such ugliness has been conquered by our modern enlightenment!

But we have learned that man still has the same capacity for inhumanity to man. 2014, the year that has given us the iPhone 6, has also given us plenty of public beheadings.

The malice of the fallen human race does not die. But there’s a difference between beheading people, on the one hand, and letting yourself be beheaded on the other—in order to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.

The great moment of ‘enlightenment’ for the human race does not occur when “all great religions accommodate devout faith with a modern, multicultural world,” as President Obama put it at the UN last month.

No, the great moment of enlightenment for the ugly and violent human race came when God became man and died on the cross.

If we, as a race, think we can cross the river from barbarity to civilization by ourselves, without divine aid, we fall into a dangerous fantasy. The only boatman Who can get us from the darkness of beheading our enemies to the light of loving and praying even for those who would behead us—the only boatman to a world of light is Jesus Christ crucified.

Quick War-Speech Dental Exam

Our jovial dentist used to glide in after the hygienist finished. With his metal pick, he would wiggle each tooth to determine the solidity of its foundation. He could tell by touch if a cavity had developed.

If I might, I would like to touch the teeth of our Islamic State strategy, as outlined by the president last night.

Tooth #1, the pre-eminent, most-important tooth: Having cause for war with the Islamic State. Do we?

Do they pose an immediate danger to our people? I don’t know, really. But it seems like they do, much more than any other terrorist organization ever has.

Flag_of_Islamic_State_of_Iraq.svgBut another legitimate question, by way of establishing casus belli might be: Is the Islamic state demonstrably guilty of crimes against humanity? If the decent people of the world tolerate these crimes, could we reasonably hope for peace in our time? Would not the innocent victims have legitimate cause to reproach us? Yes, no, and yes appear to be the answers to these questions.

The most solid grounds for war, then, are not necessarily the matter of a direct threat to U.S. citizens, even though that threat seems quite real. Rather, the unassailable cause, it seems to me, is the consensus among God-fearing people that to tolerate the crimes of these men would imply an abandonment of hope for a decent world to live in.

Now, I think this tooth would stand probing a little better if we explicitly listed the charges against al-Baghdadi and his collaborators. (I believe that the UN has done so already, at least in a preliminary fashion.) We should demand that the accused give themselves up and stand trial before a legitimate court of law, which could include Muslim judges. Then, when they fail to hand themselves over, we stipulate that our war aim is: To apprehend the criminals and their associates.

My quibbles notwithstanding, this tooth has no cavity. I am do dentist, no expert, but the crimes that have been committed—murder, enslavement, rape, attempted genocide, wholesale robbery of lands and goods—these crimes can be documented; they must be prosecuted; the guilty must be punished. If the defendants do not present themselves for trial, they forfeit the due protections of law and stand in peril of their lives. The decent people of the world would all agree on all this, I think it’s fair to say. We have proposed to go to war against genuine enemies of the human race. We have just cause.

Okay, tooth #2: “Iraqi partners.” The “inclusive” new Iraqi government. An effective Iraqi military.

The questions we need to ask in order to tap this tooth: Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, at our hands, a decade ago, have the ‘Iraqi’ people acted in harmony as a nation? Has the Iraqi military shown genuine signs of decisive action, even at peril of life and limb, aimed at protecting all the people of the nation of Iraq?

That would be a negative, I think.

Can the blame for this be laid completely at the feet of Nouri al-Maliki’s choleric temperament?

Can a reasonable person expect the new, more phlegmatic Shia prime-minister, who has put together a government with Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds in the same proportion as the old one (actually, there are apparently more Shias in the government now than there were under al-Maliki), who has yet to appoint a defense minister—can a reasonable individual expect Prime Minister Abadi to unify the nation of Iraq successfully and orient the military, in time to address the crimes that have been committed, before the victims of those crimes fall into despair?

This tooth has a very large cavity.

Tooth #3
. “Partners in Syria.” In an interview in early August, President Obama himself said that the moderate opposition in Syria had never really come together. He said that the idea that arming rebels in Syria could make a difference “has always been a fantasy.”

WeAreNWe have a policy of regarding Assad as an ‘illegitimate leader.’ Nonetheless, under international law, he has the right to refuse us access to Syrian airspace. Who has consistently championed President Assad’s prerogatives? Russia. Without Russia on our side in this war, we lose the diplomatic tool of the UN Security Council. (Not to mention all the constructive help which Russia could, and probably would, give us.) Without the UN endorsing our actions, we will have serious problems retaining allies. Fighting IS without Russia will make it much harder to win. Big, big cavity.

Tooth #4. “Partners in the region.” On August 15, the United Nations Security Council adopted a strongly worded, militarily toothless resolution against Islamic State. Today, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and United Arab Emirates agreed on the ‘Jeddah Communique,’ which confirmed their commitment to the UN resolution. The Jeddah communique includes no mention of military commitment. Turkey did not sign on. Syria, of course, was not invited.

This tooth appears to have a cavity. If the only fighting we need from our ‘partners in the region’ is the implementation of financial sanctions and travel restrictions, then we’re good. Maybe.

But: If we are not going to march—which the president says we won’t; only bombs from above—if we are not going to march; if we cannot reasonably expect Iraq to march anytime soon; if there really isn’t anyone in Syria who we could expect to march against IS in any kind of commensurate force; and if no one in the Gulf Cooperation Council, nor Lebanon, nor Jordan, nor Egypt, nor Turkey intends to march—then who is going to march? Who will march to apprehend the criminals in time to save the victims from despair?

st-augustineI do not think the plan, as it stands, has the prospect of success. The more I think about it, the more feckless it appears. Which renders it unjust, since a legitimate casus belli must be implemented with a war plan that enjoys the solid probability of success.

I think the plan as outlined by the president will lead to dangerous diplomatic strains and to the deaths and injuries of many innocent people. Our airstrikes will cause greater animosity against the U.S. and more terrorism.

The huge military elephant in the room is of course Israel, way too touchy a subject to be mentioned by the president or Secretary Kerry, I guess, at this point. But who can fail to imagine a scenario in which IS attacks Israel? Then we will have a wide Middle-East war, and we will inevitably lose ‘partners.’

Operating in Syria without authorization from Assad, coupled with all our saber-rattling over Ukraine, we could wind up at war with Russia.

Grim scenarios, indeed. I would welcome anyone with better information to talk me down off this particular ledge.

Anyway, it seems to me that it would be better to open our borders to the refugees who would prefer to come here, and welcome them in the U.S. Then await a more propitious moment for making war against IS—a moment when we have a genuine international military coalition organized and we are prepared to fight a real war with our own troops involved, so as to minimize airstrikes, which always cause unintended casualties and just make things worse.

St. John the Baptist Society

We call ourselves the Holy Roman Catholic Church, the People of God, the Body of Christ. We have some exalted titles for ourselves. Another one we might have to adopt: The St. John the Baptist Society.

“The marriage is not lawful.” (Mark 6:18)

St. John said these words to the tetrarch of Galilee because his putative wife Herodias had another living husband, namely Herod’s half-brother, who was the tetrarch of Judea. And marriage is for life. That’s what people who marry each other say: “Till death do us part.”

head-platterWe know that St. John the Baptist preached a lot of spirited sermons. He bellowed with passion about Judgment Day and the coming of the Savior. But it would appear that his message to Herod came quietly, unobtrusively– but firmly: Your marriage is not lawful.

The Church follows John in the message and the approach. “Lawful” marriage means: faithful, fruitful, committed, irrevocable. Anything else is not lawful. We quietly deliver that message.

And the powers rage. The Church, supposedly, is mean to people by insisting on the divine laws of marriage. Better just to have mass weddings of whoever shows up at the Grammys. Now, even the UN has officially declared our teachings to be mean.

But the St. John the Baptist Society will persevere. No matter what it costs, even if it costs us our lives.

The Lord made something exquisitely beautiful, exquisitely wonderful, and exquisitely challenging when he made marriage.

It is not lawful to try to tamper with the handiwork of God.


yanniC’mon Caps! Another loss in Pittsburg. Now we have fallen to 2-2 in the series, after a 2-0 start.

Quick turnaround for the next game: tomorrow night. Yanni rules the roost in Pittsburgh.

…Click here to read the text of Archbishop Burke’s talk at this morning’s Catholic Prayer Breakfast. (My favorite part is when he cited the Baltimore Catechism in paragraph three.)

Forgive me for saying that overall I find his speech rather turgid.

I agree with everything he said, of course. But I do not think this speech advanced the pro-life, pro-family argument very much.

I wish he had given a speech focused exclusively on what he said in paragraph 24. In my opinion, this is the territory that needs to be covered: the relationship between morality, law, individual freedom, and disputed metaphysical questions.

Archbishop Burke InterviewIn other words: Why is it legitimate for us to say that the law must bind even people who disagree with our positions? How can we answer the supposed ‘separation of Church and state’ objection?

When the Holy Father visited the U.N. last spring, he tried to address this problem. Unfortunately, I think few people paid attention and/or understood what he was talking about.

robinsonWhat we are up against is: What is obvious to God-fearing people is NOT obvious to everyone else. In fact, many people think that we are obviously wrong to insist that human law must harmonize with God’s law. This Pulitzer-prize winner is one of those people.

Archbishop Burke rallied the troops. But he did not say anything that we troops–and everyone else–have not already heard.

Easter Season Exegesis, Part I

fourthhorsemanWhen he broke open the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature cry out, “Come forward.” I looked, and there was a pale green horse. Its rider was named Death, and Hades accompanied him. –Revelation 6:7-8

If you have not given a listen to this Johnny Cash song, I heartily recommend it. (Click the link and the audio play button. The video is a Johnny Cash look-alike, who does not do the song as much justice as this guy.)

…All kinds of strange things in the water bottles these days. Sometimes it is hard to keep your cool.

Here is the first in a four-part series of homilies on Pope Benedict’s message to the United States when he visited a year ago…

Continue reading “Easter Season Exegesis, Part I”