Sunday, January 31, 2016

One World Religion (Part II)

Jesus' exclusive status was proven by the Incarnation and the Resurrection. Our salvation is God's gift, not the result of human effort. The Church's role is to proclaim this Good News and to challenge the world to respond.

Neomodernist theologians see this claim to a definitive role in salvation as "scandalous." Saying that to give such a prominent position to Jesus an obstacle to dialogue with other faiths. It prejudges the outcome of ecumenical talks by demoting other spiritualties to a lesser position. Similarly, Leonard Swidler, whom I discuss in Smoke, opines: "there is a deeper reality which goes beyond the empirical surface experiences of our lives, and for us Jesus is the bond-bursting means of becoming aware of that deeper reality (as for Buddhists it is Gautama)." This suggests that, while for Christians the way to the transcendent is through Jesus, for others it is through their own revered figures. Undoubtedly, from an empirical point of view, there is some truth to this. However, there seems to be much more implied here. Neomodernists like Swidler seem unwilling to assign any uniqueness to the revelation in Jesus Christ that could put it on a different level from that which comes from any other created person. Others would explicitly deny that in Jesus anything unique happened in the relationship between God and humanity or that this has universal significance in a way that no other event does. It is the reluctance to assert this distinctiveness that opens the way for syncretistic thinking. Christianity becomes only one way among many in which humanity has sought to make contact with the divine. Christianity is no longer the definitive way in which God made contact with humanity.

The New Testament shows that, from the beginning, the Church rejected the syncretistic approach. St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians is the first clear indication of the Church's early battle with syncretism. For the Apostle, Christian spirituality was built on the risen Christ, not created by merging other ideas and practices. Paul tells Christians not to be captivated by "an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ" (Col.  2:8). As early as A.D. 70, then, the Catholic Church was cognizant that it had a unique identity that ruled its relationships with other spiritual traditions. It was on this basis that it dealt with the Judaism from which it emerged, the various mystery religions which abounded in Paul’s day, and emperor worship which anchored the Roman social and political order.

Dancin' With Mr. D: Planned Parenthood video to teens: sadomasochism is ‘fun’ and an ‘adventure’ | Opinion | LifeSite


Planned Parenthood video to teens: sadomasochism is ‘fun’ and an ‘adventure’ | Opinion | LifeSite:

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tomorrow is... Sexagesima Sunday


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One World Religion (Part I)

A dissident Catholic screed once ran a story about the possibility that the Catholic feminist movement known as Women-Church was losing all connection with Catholic tradition.  Their concern was that Women-Church, in its attempts to be inclusive of all women, was
becoming syncretistic, i.e., willing to regard many different spiritual traditions on an equal level with Catholic faith. The report said that an upcoming Women-Church conference would have, in addition to rituals by witches, rituals led by "Buddhists, American Indians, Quakers and Jewish leaders--as well as by Catholic nuns." (Women-Church discussed at length in the 5th chapter of The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God).

I have observed that this syncretistic mentality is widespread in the Church today.  Consider the following description of the program of a respected Midwestern Catholic center for spirituality:

Readings are selected every day from the sacred texts of
Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Islam, as well as Christianity.
On occasion, ancient festivals of the Celts or Saxons are
remembered, and members dance around a maypole or fire-pit in
the fields or forest.... The Chapel is visually stimulating and
instructive.... Icons of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Risen
Christ are placed side by side with statues of Buddha, Lord
Vishnu and Moses.

This widespread spiritual attitude challenges the foundations of the Body of Christ. At the same time, however, it offers us an opportunity to re-examine those foundations and ask ourselves just what it is that anchors our identity as Catholics.

As I argued in my book, the syncretistic tendency can be understood as the attempt to appropriate
ideas and practices from a variety of spiritual traditions without any attempt to discriminate their truth or value in light of Catholic faith. One way in which the equality and compatibility of various religions is justified is by incorporating their various dimensions under basic categories. So, the writings of different religions are all put on the same level by being labeled "sacred writings." Similarly, different gods are included under the general category of the Transcendent, and various rituals are all considered to serve the same function of contacting and establishing unity with the Transcendent.

Some see religion itself as the unifying concept, though only known through the various "religions." As David Steindl-Rast has said, "Religion, as I use the term, should be written with a capital R to distinguish it from various religions." All "religions" find their source in "Religion." When "Religion" is institutionalized, it becomes merely "a religion." For Steindl-Rast, the content of "Religion" is revealed through "our peak experiences." There "we discover...what we mean by God, if we want to use that term. We experience that we belong to God. Our true self is the divine self."

Since the authentic content of "Religion" can be derived from that common experience, the various "religions" are considered essentially compatible. Hence, for Steindl-Rast, it is possible to have a baptismal ceremony which is totally Buddhist and totally Christian. Neither Buddhism nor Christianity adds anything unique to the ritual. The rite is able to express a prioi commonality of meaning, which was there before the two "religions" were formed. Thus, syncretism assumes common content and, on that basis, is open to incorporating beliefs and practices from a potpourri of spiritual traditions.

If this is so, what are we to make of the Resurrection of Our Lord?  Does the fact that we can know of the physical Resurrection only because of the witness of the Apostolic Church, for whom it was a unique and unrepeatable experience, mean that it is an obstacle to spirituality? As I pointed out in Smoke, many today would answer in the affirmative. Following Rudolf Bultmann, who understands the Resurrection as a myth without basis in history, they see it as having relevance only insofar as it evokes the experience of "new life" in us, i.e., illumines our psychological condition and comforts us.

This is becoming an attractive position for many today. As an example, John Crossan says that there is no biblical basis for belief in the Resurrection. It merely records the apostles' belief that a person of Jesus' character could not have been totally destroyed. If this is correct, then Christianity becomes just one of many sources for "spiritual" ideas. The Resurrection merely opens up realms of personal experience for insestigation. But it is no more than a religious idea on par with others, such as the Hindu belief in reincarnation. The hope for a universal spirituality will then rest on the possibility of integrating all the "best" beliefs and practices of the various religions, however mutually contradictory they often are. 

Ramification for Catholics? Either we are a community whose teachings and practices are based on our faith in the truth of the original witnesses, or we are one that draws its beliefs and practices from a hodge-podge of ideas and personal experiences....

How we answer this question is bound up with how we see the relation between spirituality and community. A living spiritual tradition is always rooted in the historical experience of a particular community. To be a Catholic means to be a committed member of a community of faith with its own specific beliefs, practices, and institutional disciplines. As Vatican II teaches, these may take on a particular bent depending on the local culture, but the community is universal, Catholic. Its center is in Rome and its core beliefs, practices, and disciplines transcend any particular form of it.

As I document in Smoke, those Catholics seduced by neomodernism are open to the syncretistic tendency precisely because they they no longer see commitment to the historical Church as being of any particular importance. They may have a certain preference for the Catholic form of religion because of its ritual, but nothing more. Just as they are physically and socially mobile, so they are religiously mobile. They dabble in various spiritualities.

Thus, the notion of the "searcher;"— those who have freed themselves from the limitations that commitment to a historical tradition involves, in order to search for the "eternally true" which transcends all historical religions. But what value is there to the "search" unless, at some point, it can be brought to a successful conclusion? For the notion of the "search" to be spiritually nourishing, it must include the capacity to commit oneself to specific truths which answer the search when they are encountered. The prince of this world will keep the search-without-the-find ongoing, for He does not want the searcher to find Truth.

It is difficult to see how being an endless "searcher" is compatible with Catholic faith. To be Catholic is to believe that one has found the core truth about human life in Jesus Christ as He is presented to us through the life and teaching of the Church. One thereby enters into a very distinctive, countercultural way of life. For a Catholic the "search" is over. Once the decision for the Church has been made, the Catholic stands committed to a body of religious truth to which he or she must give witness, though an important dimension of "search" remains—the search to understand more fully the content of the faith and how to live it out. Such a belief is highly offensive to a neomodernost syncretist.  For him or her this reeks of a triumphalism at odds with openness to other spiritual traditions.

Theologians like Ron Miller are prepared to say that is ecumenically inappropriate to insist on the unique status of Jesus. He complains of orthodox Christians that, in their "particularism," they cannot "entertain the possibility that, just as Jesus is the name for that Word of the divine which characterizes Christian experience, Krishna is the name for that same reality among
Hindus." Christ and Krishna, then, are merely two different ways of doing the same human thing--breaking through to the divine.

Such a radical parting of the doctrinal ways here! For the Catholic, Jesus is not just one of many names for the divine drawn from experience. For Catholics, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—the person through whom we truly come to know what the divine is, insofar as that is capable of being revealed to human beings. There is no neutral experience of the divine against
which we can compare Christian and Hindu experiences, such that we can say they are both equally valid experiences of the divine. For Christians Jesus Christ is "The Word of God" which judges all other words. All other religious experiences are judged by the standard of the historical person of Jesus the Christ, in whom the Church proclaims God was incarnate.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Dancing With Mr. D: Mr. T and the Murder of Children

Donald Trump has stated that  he could "shoot somebody and I  wouldn't lose voters." Speaking of killing, in 1999 the late Tim Russert asked Donald Trump if he would support a ban on "abortion in the third-trimester" or "partial-birth abortion." "No," Trump replied. "I am pro-choice in every respect." He said that his views may be the result of his "New York background." 

During the first Republican presidential debate, Trump explained that he "evolved" on the issue at some unknown point in the last 16 years. "Friends of mine years ago were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted. And it wasn't aborted. And that child today is a total superstar, a great, great child. And I saw that. And I saw other instances," Trump said. "I am very, very proud to say that I am pro-life."

The Daily Caller's Jamie Weinstein asked Trump if he would have become pro-life if that child had been a loser instead of a "total superstar," Trump retorted: "Probably not, but I've never thought of it. I would say no, but in this case it was an easy one because he's such an outstanding person."

That Trump could go from supporting third-trimester abortion-something indistinguishable from infanticide, something that only 14 percent of Americans think should be legal--to becoming pro-life because of that one experience is a bit hard to believe. At the very least one might think that Trump is not capable of serious moral reasoning.

The more important question is not what Trump said in the past but what he would do in the future. Trump says he's pro-life except in the cases when a pregnancy endangers the life of the mother or is the result of rape or incest, although it remains unclear if he thinks abortion should be generally legal in the first three months of pregnancy (a position that is more accurately described as "pro-choice").

Trump has said he'd sign a ban on abortion during the last four months of pregnancy, when infants can feel pain and are capable of surviving long-term outside the womb. But after undercover videos were released showing Planned Parenthood involved in the trafficking of aborted baby body parts, "The Donald" said he wasn't sure if the Planned Parenthood should lose all of its federal funding. He later flipped, saying: "I wouldn't do any funding as long as they are performing abortions."

Even if Trump followed through on his promises to sign pro-life legislation, what if he appointed liberal justices to the Supreme Court? The Court is just one appointment away from a solid liberal majority that would likely find a right to taxpayer-funded and late-term abortion. Hmmmm.......

Sunday, January 17, 2016

God and Woman at BC

As is commonly known by Catholics who are serious about the Faith, a neomodernist “rival magisterium” established itself in the Church shortly after the closing of the Second Vatican Council. It appealed to a “spirit of Vatican II” in support of its ideas, often in direct contradiction to the official teaching of the Catholic Church as set down in the conciliar documents, Sacred Scripture, and Sacred Tradition.
The story of how this so-called “faithful dissent” began to wreak havoc among the faithful in the United States started with the historical setting in which Paul VI issued his encyclical Humanae Vitae and the reception it received among theologians comprising this “rival magisterium.” Here is an enlightening account of how this phenomenon remains actives at a prominent Jesuit university.

Parent Trap? No, Cohabitation Trap!

And here I thought people were wising up to the fact that living together in sin before marriage wasn't leading to human fulfillment and bliss, and then to come across Mr. Johnston'e piece:

The Co-Habitation Trap

There's no such thing as a trial marriage.
co-habitationRecently, a college classmate told me that her 25-year-old son has a girlfriend about whom he can't make up his mind.  The couple have been going together for two years.  He is serious about the girl, thinks she'd make a good wife, but tells his mother that he's not sure about taking the plunge.  Should he propose?  Should he take more time to think about it?  Maybe date other girls to gain perspective?  The son is at a loss.
My friend is generally a sensible person, and she gave her son what she thinks is good advice: why not move in with her and see how it goes?  In other words, do a trial marriage.  If the sharing of bed and board goes smoothly, then tie the knot.  If it doesn't, you can go your separate ways and will have been spared what nobody wants: a broken marriage.
My friend unfortunately was steering her son into what might be called the "co-habitation trap."  It so happens — contrary to widespread belief — that the divorce rate among couples who live together before marriage is notably higher than the normal divorce rate — up to 40 percent higher, depending on which study you look at.
There are variations within this disquieting statistic.  Couples who get engaged before moving in together do better than couples who don't.  If it's the woman's first and only live-in situation, the divorce rate is lower.  Brief cohabitators are more likely to stay married than longer-term ones.  Whatever the nuances, however, all these categories produce higher divorce rates than that for couples who don't live together before marriage.
Why is this?  It seems counter-intuitive.  A young woman might say to her friends, "I wouldn't dream of marrying a man until first living with him for a couple of years."  And her friends would nod sagely.  It makes a certain kind of sense: take a test drive before committing to a model.
But this scenario doesn't always work in real life.  Years ago, a friend of mine moved in with his girlfriend.  They shared a loft in SoHo and seemed to have a marvelous time being a young Manhattan couple.  After two years, they married.  A year later, the marriage cracked up bitterly.  I said to him one day, "What happened?  The two of you seemed great together."  "I don't know," he replied.  "It's as though all of a sudden all the wrong buttons were pushed."
The point is that there's no such thing as a trial marriage.  As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead puts it, "Living together is not to marriage as spring training is to the baseball season."
Here are some problems with cohabitation:
  • When a couple move in together, they seldom ask the sort of questions one ought to ask about a partner with whom one is going to spend the rest of one's life.  Do I really share this person's values?  Do I want my children to have this person's values?  The worst scenario is sliding into cohabitation and then sliding into marriage.  Decide, don't slide, as the saying goes.
  • It has been well observed that in a good marriage, whenever a wife or husband uses the pronoun "I" he or she also means "we."  But when a cohabiting person uses the pronoun "I", he or she often means "I."  The couple have separate names, separate bank accounts; there's an implicit agreement that either can back out of the relationship.  In brief, they are rehearsing a low-intensity commitment.  But marriage involves a high-intensity commitment.
  • Besides, no happily married couple have ever looked at one another, slapped their foreheads, and exclaimed, "If only we had started having sex six months earlier!"
  • Sex can get in the way of the prudential judgments one should make about the person one is going to marry.  Sex and lucid judgment don't always go together, to say the least.  Sex releases hormones like oxytocin, which, among other things, act like a bonding agent, even when the couple in reality may not be suited to one another.  It is much harder to break up a bad relationship when sex is going on.  Abstaining couples, on the other hand, tend to look at one another with greater clarity.  The emotional growth of their relationship is not short-circuited by an act that presumes more commitment than is the case.
  • Men and women go into cohabitation with very different assumptions and expectations.  A woman will tend to regard living together as a dress rehearsal for marriage, while her partner has much looser ideas about the arrangement.  She will typically take less time than he does deciding in favor of marriage.  In fact, he's happy to postpone the decision for as long as possible.  This can lead to scenes.  She doesn't even have to utter the word "marriage" to make him defensive.  All she has to say is something like, "I don't see where this relationship is going," to set him off.  "You're putting pressure on me!"  "Things are fine the way they are!"  "I don't want to be pushed into anything!"  And so forth.
"We suspect, rightly," James Q. Wilson writes in The Marriage Problem, "that marriage differs from cohabitation.  Cohabitation means that two people agree to live together, sharing rooms, meals, and sex.  Marriage means that two people promise to live together until they die, sharing rooms, meals, sex, and a permanent obligation to care for one's spouse.  The promise is at the heart of the matter."
It's not easy to abstain from sex prior to marriage.  Especially when a couple are already engaged.  But to reserve sex for marriage is to affirm its meaning and ultimately strengthen the bond of marriage.  Sex is the consummation of a solemn promise; it doesn't work so well without it.
Besides, no happily married couple have ever looked at one another, slapped their foreheads, and exclaimed, "If only we had started having sex six months earlier!"  Instead, they can share a fond memory of waiting for the starting gun to go off.


johnstonGeorge Sim Johnston. "The Co-Habitation Trap." The Catholic Thing (August 1, 2015).
Reprinted by permission of The Catholic Thing.

The Author

johnstonGeorge Sim Johnston is a writer living in New York City. He graduated from Harvard with a B. A. in English literature and was an investment banker with Salomon Brothers in the seventies and early eighties. Since then he has been a free-lance writer, publishing with The Wall Street Journal, Harper's, Commentary, Harvard Business Review, National Catholic Register, World Catholic Report, and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Journalism Award from the Catholic Press Association. He teaches marriage preparation and CCD for the Archdiocese of New York and is the author of Did Darwin Get it Right?: Catholics and the Theory of Evolution.
Copyright © 2015 The Catholic Thing

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Contra Contraception

What I find both exciting and encouraging at present is that the discipline of social science, usually understood to be the preserve of progressive secular scholars, in following the data has corroborated the evils Pope Paul had considered in Humanae Vitae. Recent research findings by scholars in the social sciences confirm contraception as the culprit behind the considerable rise in divorce and illegitimacy in the United States, both which in turn have spawned other societal ills such as increased rates of criminal behavior and high school dropout rates. No surprise, it turns out that the poor are especially susceptible to the harms caused by the American contraceptive culture. These findings are the studied work of secular scholars, most regarded as slightly left of center on the sociopolitical spectrum.

To give but a few examples: Robert Michael of the University of Chicago has written that sudden widespread use of artificial contraception and the availability of abortion proved responsible for "about half of the increase in divorce from 1965 to 1976." Nobel prize-winning economist George Akerlof of the University of California at Berkeley has given us an economic explanation for why the pervasive use of artificial contraception resulted in a rise rather than a decrease in illegitimate births, as had been predicted. He argues that traditional women, desiring either to remain chaste or at minimum obtain a promise of marriage from their boyfriend in the case of pregnancy, proved unable to compete with "modern" women who practiced contraception, creating an atmosphere in which fornication became the rule and women felt free or in some cases pressured to engage in premarital intercourse. Thus many traditional women ended up fornicating and having children out of wedlock, while many of the “free” women engaged in contraceptive intercourse or aborted so as to shun childbearing. This finding goes a long way in explaining why contraceptive practice was coupled with an increase in both abortion and illegitimacy. Read More.

Libido Redux: More women lured to pornography addiction - Washington Times

More women lured to pornography addiction - Washington Times:

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The mechanic who transitioned to a 6-year-old girl

The mechanic who transitioned to a 6-year-old girl: (SEE VIDEO POSTED JANUARY 3, BELOW)

It seems  that the relationship between Miss Stefonknee and her "mummy and daddy" is a sexual one with elements of dominance and submission. Miss Stefonknee met up with her adopted "daddy" at a swinger's club.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Professional Photographer? I guess so! (Warning: sexual content)

Paul VI offered libido as one way Satan, the “malign, clever seducer” undermines man’s sexual morality with his “sophistry.” The Devil’s strategy here, as the Pope cautioned, is “eminently logical.” He approaches man with what amounts to a false reason in his mind, which, if dwelled on, can influence the will by rousing him to do something evil which seems to be good. Deceit is basic to his strategy.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Living in the (Increasingly Narcissistic) World

Here is an interesting reflection for Catholics who take their salvation seriously. It makes for an interesting examen....

Casting Out the Demons


The devil knows that the soul whose heart is fixed on God is lost to hell, so he must drag the gaze back from God to self.
devilBut when it comes to someone who has arrived at some measure of strongly conscious spirituality, who has proved a willingness to suffer for God and his truth, the devil must find subtler ways: he must find something which resembles God in this — that it is always present.
What could be better than self? — and what more certain to imprison and ultimately obsess a sensitive soul than awareness of something wrong with self?
Somehow or other the soul must be made to strive to attain a certain level of holiness, a certain peace or at least untroubledness, before abandoning itself to God.  It will be held back by this, prevented from seeing more and more the beauty of God.  The devil knows that the soul whose heart is fixed on God is lost to hell, so he must drag the gaze back from God to self.  He whispers, through a clergyman or friend, or just your own prompting: "You are doing wrong.  Of course you have no peace; you are putting your peace of soul before the happiness of better souls, anyway" — and so on and so on.  If you listen, you half agree; you begin again to examine your motives; you let conflict and anxiety rage in you — which is in itself exhausting.  A vicious circle begins: you are too tired to pray; you think all consolation has been taken from you, aridity sets in....
I feel sure that the treatment is to ignore the suggestions.  Even ignore your own soul: keep your mind on God, on his love....
Do not wait until you feel not uneasy; do not wait to be doing a more prayerful act; do not wait to feel more unity and completeness: offer yourself, your will to do right, your anxiety about not doing it, your being interrupted just now, the act of taking So-and-so's temperature — all, just as it is, to God.  Leave it to God to transform all this into himself.  It's all you've got, and he gave it to you.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Dancing with Mr. D: The Absurdity of Justice Kennedy's Planned Parenthood v. Casey Statement

Siding with the liberal majority in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Catholic Justice opined:

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion by the State."

I often replied to this in class by saying that I then have the right to marry my pet turtles, but now we see how the consequences of this worldview have played out.