Tag Archives: The Catholic Thing

The New Pro-Life Moment

By George Dunlap, May 20, 21019, Do we stand and watch or say “enough is enough”! As many of you know this is a topic very dear to my heart as a Catholic and Citzen of the World. We have the power and we must pray to God to bless us the mental strenght to Say NO! We must not wait for permission, but pray for action.

By Robert Royal Monday, May 20, 2019

Something out of the ordinary happened this past week. On Saturday, over 10,000 people walked the streets of Rome in defense of children in the womb. Italian lay people have organized a march for nine years now, and it grows – despite no support from the Italian bishops – including the pope. On Friday, Francis did encourage members of the Catholic Medical Association to “defend life,” though so vaguely that you couldn’t tell whether he was talking about abortion, euthanasia, immigration, climate, poverty – or all of them (more of this below). But as usual no Italian bishops participated in the Marcia– they’ve been saying that they don’t want it to be seen as only “Catholic,” though why is not clear. And that they prefer to work through elected officials rather than public protest (though they seem to support other public demonstrations, e.g., on immigration and poverty, and don’t have any natural partners in government now that the Christian Democrats have splintered). Italian television, accordingly, didn’t even mention the march occurred. The lone Italian prelate in the past, Archbishop Viganò, was missing, for good reasons. None of this was out of the ordinary. And neither, basically, were the large pro-life marches in London last week and Ottawa. There are marches in many other countries in Europe and Latin America as well, though we rarely hear about them outside of the Catholic press, and not very much even there. No, the real novelty is that Alabama essentially banned abortion last week with a  bill that was passed by the legislature and signed into law by governor Kay Ivey who, like large numbers of women, believes abortion is the taking of innocent human life.

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Fr. James V. Schall S.J. – Pray for me

By George Dunlap, April 23, 2019 –

April 17, 2019 Fr. James V. Schall S. J. died, my first read of one of Fr. Schall’s books was, Another Sort of Learning, on my quest to a deeper understanding of my Catholic faith and awareness of my lack of a solid Catholic education; I found direction, I looked for answers. During my journey I found many writings by Fr. Schall. I read and re-read Another Sort of Learning and like many others was hooked on Fr. Schall’s teachings. Below are a few of the articles about Fr. Schall, I trust you may find his life enlightening in our Lord Gods love. Pray for me.

Fr. James V. Schall S.J.

(from The Catholic Thing) James V. Schall, S.J. 1928-2019, who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, was one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. Among his many books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, Reasonable Pleasures, Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught, Catholicism and Intelligence, and, most recently, On Islam: A Chronological Record, 2002-2018.

In Praise of James V. Schall S.J. By The Catholic Thing Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Fr. James Schall on Books and Teaching– April 19, 2019 Roland Millare

In Praise of Father Schall – by George Weigel 7 . 28 . 10

Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., has died at the age of 91April 17, 2019 Carl E. Olson

Father James V. Schall, S.J., R.I.P. By Kathryn Jean Lopez

Who Will Convert Us? The Life of James V. Schall, S.J. By Ken Masugi| April 18th, 2019


Wetwork: a Review of “Unplanned”

Brad Miner Monday, April 1, 2019

My anti-abortion views solidified in 1976 when I bought a copy of Esquire magazine. There was something in it by or about George Plimpton that I wanted to read, but thumbing through the pages I came to an article titled “What I Saw at the Abortion” by Richard Selzer, M.D.

I’d been a Catholic for about three years and knew what I was supposed to believe about abortion. I’d recently read Humane vitae for the first time and been deeply impressed by its clarity: “all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, [is] to be absolutely excluded.” But it was when I read Dr. Selzer’s article that my view was forever set.

What knocked me for a loop was Selzer’s reference to a “flick,” a resistance, the fetus defending itself against its murder. Read it for yourself (The Human Life Review has reprinted it here), but here’s the good doctor’s conclusion:

I am not trying to argue. I am only saying I’ve seen. The flick. Whatever else may be said in abortion’s defense, the vision of that other defense will not vanish from my eyes. What I saw I saw as that: a defense, a motion from, an effort away. And it has happened that you cannot reason with me now. For what can language do against the truth of what I saw?

So, it seemed to me before I watched the new movie, Unplanned, that the defining scene would have to be just such a moment, one in which Abby Johnson (played by Ashley Bratcher) witnessed the abortion that changed her life. (The film is based on her book of the same title.)

UNPLANNED THE TRAILER

That moment is set up nicely in an earlier scene in which Abby, the youngest clinic director at Planned Parenthood, banally counsels a young woman not to worry: “The one thing that all experts agree on is that, at this stage, the fetus can’t feel anything.”

But then she witnesses a “procedure” during which she sees (via ultrasound) the child “twisting and fighting for its life” against the abortionist’s cannula, which causes her to look anew at her participation in the 22,000 abortions that happened during her tenure. This begs the question of how one could ever not have known what the hell was going on, but that’s life, I guess. We must suppress what we believe we must not accept.

As the Psalmist says (34: 14-15), “Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” And that’s what Abby Johnson did, a change of heart and mind, however, made more difficult for her because she’d had two abortions herself.

The scenes in which Ashley Bratcher acts through Abby Johnson’s descent into abject misery and ascent into pro-life glory are very fine indeed.

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The Coming Storm

Robert Royal Thursday, February 21, 2019

Many people – even many Catholics – who only follow Church matters vaguely, have been puzzled by the Vatican’s conspicuous lack of a sense of urgency about the sexual abuse crisis. Yes, there’s a “summit” on abuse that starts today, but only after months and with a program that looks very carefully stage-managed to keep the most troubling questions at a distance from the Vatican itself.

And it is strange, given that – as many in Rome are certainly aware – instantaneous communications in our digital world make the slow response look less like the Vatican’s usual leisurely procedures and much more like a desire not to know too much – or how high the problem may reach.

But it’s rapidly becoming impossible to keep the lid on. Just two days ago, for example, The Washington Post carried a story about a case in Argentina (available here) involving the abuse of minors at an institute for deaf children. An Italian priest, Nicola Corradi, was spiritual director there and later at a similar school in Italy, and along with others abused dozens of underage children for decades.

This story is not entirely new – there had been reports about abuse at the Argentinean school for several months. In many ways, it seemed to be just one more case of sexual exploitation of the vulnerable and a lack of Church oversight.

What is new, however, is quite shocking: “The Italian victims’ efforts to sound the alarm to church authorities began in 2008 and included mailing a list of accused priests to Francis in 2014 and physically handing him the list in 2015.” If the accusations are to be believed – and they seem quite credible on the basis of the Post’s investigative reporting – this means that the pope knew of the abuse of minors, at an Italian school under the supervision of the Vatican. And either he or those who, under his direction, should have acted, did essentially nothing.

That story has been widely circulated in America and victims in Argentina and Italy are now demanding justice – one has even begun a hunger strike. But if you think that it has caused much of a reaction in Italy or in Rome, you would be wrong. And that may be one reason why officials in the Vatican seem to continue to believe that they can manage the revelations that have come out and, no doubt, the others that we will see in the next few days. But they can’t.

It may be difficult for most American Catholics to believe, but there’s little interest about the abuse summit in Italy, or most of Europe, at the moment. The New York Times, in its bigoted anti-Catholicism, may run “news” stories intended to discredit the Church almost every day. But in a way, that’s a backhanded tribute to the fact that even the Times believes that the Church means something and is worth the trouble of attacking.

By contrast, you’d have to work hard to find news about the summit or the abuse crisis in Europe’s mainstream media. There’s been a little interest in a related story that just appeared about the Vatican’s rules about how to handle the children of wayward priests – 50,000 of them according to the Vatican itself. But about the global abuse crisis and the lack of response by figures from the pope on down, all but nothing.

[Late addition: Owing to time changes, this couldn’t be included in the original article, but the BBC, which takes an interest in Britain’s former colonies, is reporting that Mumbai’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias also failed to act on allegations about abuse that were brought to him. Furthermore, Gracias is one of the four main organizers of the summit. And as is the case with Pope Francis, this did not happen in some distant past when policies were different but as recently as 2015.]

An Italian journalist who, though a serious Catholic, has worked at the very highest levels of the secular media here, told me the other day that most Italians are virtual “nihilists” (his term) when it comes to corruption in the Church. They believe that it’s always been that way and always will be. They don’t show anything like the anger and outrage – or simple surprise – that is common in places like America and, increasingly, Latin America.

Italian friends who know the Roman landscape well say that the gay lobby in the Vatican – and the Vatican more generally – continue to exercise a very effective, old-school-style control over Church-related news. And not only locally, but in some of the most prestigious news outlets in Italy.

Vatican officials have for some time made it clear that they believe that, by contrast, the  American bishops mishandled the abuse crisis and let things get out of hand in the American press. They even occasionally give the impression that they – and perhaps the pope – think the American bishops are their enemies.

Neither charge is true. In fact, it would be truer to say that the bishops in America have a better – not perfect, but better – grip on the priestly abuse problem now than do bishops in any other country. (Holding bishops accountable, of course, is still unfinished business – and Rome hasn’t much helped with that.)

Their conflicts, such as they are, with Pope Francis mostly stem from the fact that – given constant media exposure, criminal investigations by civil authorities, and demands of justice for victims – they can’t count on media to ignore problems or a largely cynical laity to just go along, as in Europe. They need to act – and be seen to act.

And it’s not only in America that a storm is brewing. Abuse survivors from several continents met yesterday with the organizers of the summit – though not with the pope, a sore point among them. It’s hard to say whether their collective efforts will bring enough pressure to bear on the Vatican that it will break through the logjam. On the whole, you’d have to say: it appears not. But the victims are playing a prominent role now and are not going away.

To really address the problem would mean some painful moments of truth, such as we have experienced in the United States. Corruption this serious would, of course, require that some heads roll (not only McCarrick’s), in the Vatican and elsewhere, and that there be public acts of repentance. But the very general and broad program the organizers have published seems designed to make sure no one in the Vatican will need to lose much sleep.

I’ve been expecting for the last several weeks that there’s going to be some surprise announcement near the end of the summit, some striking move that will dominate news coverage creating the impression that some radical breakthrough has been achieved.

I don’t know exactly what that would be or whether it would be some real step forward or mere window dressing. But just as “synodality” materialized out of nowhere at the end of Synod on Youth, there is probably some plan in place to do something newsworthy to make it appear that the Vatican has turned a corner in dealing with abuse.

It’s had to believe that that will be really so or that it will convince the victims who have now assumed a public role in holding Church officials accountable at the very highest levels. But keep an eye on those victims. They will provide us with the best insights into what, if anything, has changed.

Much to Lose, Much to Gain

Much to Lose, Much to Gain

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation of several Pennsylvania dioceses pertaining to the sexual abuse of minors, including the trafficking of minors across state lines for the purpose of abuse. A U.S. Attorney in New York has subpoenaed the Diocese of Buffalo as part of an investigation of similar offenses. The attorney general for the District of Columbia has opened a civil investigation to see whether the Archdiocese of Washington is liable, as a nonprofit institution, for its handling (or mishandling) of child sexual abuse.

And then there are the investigations that have been announced or are currently being conducted by attorneys general in New York, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Maryland, New Jersey, Florida, New Mexico, Arkansas, Kentucky, Vermont, Virginia, and – it appears – California.

Notably, Louisiana’s attorney general is not conducting such an investigation on sensible grounds: “[T]here have been no criminal complaints made to the Louisiana Department of Justice. And smearing the Church and its clergy without specific complaints of criminal acts is irresponsible.” Still, Louisiana appears to be the exception that proves the rule.

Some Catholics will see these investigations as welcome news: a necessary, if painful, step towards accountability for bishops and priests who have betrayed their flocks. These investigations might finally bring justice to victims who have, in some cases, waited decades for it. They might also put to rest the nagging suspicion in the minds of so many Catholics who have learned the hard way not to take the bishops’ word that abusers have been properly dealt with.

There’s something to be said for such hopes, but there’s also reason for apprehension.

Even innocent priests and bishops will have reason to be anxious when ambitious prosecutors looking to make a name for themselves (and to prove their toughness to voters) start dredging through the past looking for something, anything, to pin on the Catholic Church. If the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was any indication, few new cases will result in criminal charges since most abusers are either dead or the statute of limitations has expired, or there’s simply not sufficient evidence to prove the charges.

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When there’s no one to put on trial, no one who can be made to pay, the stink of scandal has a way of clinging to anyone in proximity, guilty or not.

There will be renewed calls in state legislatures to drop or extend statutes of limitations, as we’ve seen already in Pennsylvania. The Church’s resistance to such changes is inexplicable to many, Catholics and not, who can’t understand why the Church would profess concern for victims while at the same time opposing legal changes that might bring justice to the same.

But the cost of litigating large, protracted civil cases creates a huge incentive for dioceses to settle. In recent years, more than a dozen dioceses and archdioceses have filed for bankruptcy over abuse cases. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone paid out $660 million in 2007. Earlier this year, the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul went through bankruptcy and still paid out $210 million.

There’s certainly no injustice in victims being awarded monetary damages for abuse they have suffered, the tens of millions being raked in by their lawyers notwithstanding. But justice has two sides and the fact is that the financial burden for these settlements doesn’t fall on the predator priests or the bishops who covered for them: the brunt of it falls on parishes and diocesan ministries and those who depend on them today and into the future.

Bishops who take seriously the Church’s obligation to seek justice for victims must also think seriously about what justice there is in making the next generation of Catholics pay the price for the sins and crimes of a past generation.

In coming months and years, more than one bishop is going to have to make some very hard choices balancing the demands of justice for victims with his duty to protect the patrimony of his flock. Losing that patrimony – hospitals, schools, charities, food banks, universities, to say nothing of church buildings and a thousand and one other ministries – or seeing it greatly diminished, would not be an occasion for joy. It would be a disaster, both for the Church and those she serves.

Of course, the greatest loss for the Church is not stuff (however conducive to the mission) but souls. Maybe the humiliation and suffering the Catholic Church in the United States is undergoing will bear fruit in the long run. Faith says that’s not too much to hope for. But it’s hard to see how good comes from this unless there is a renewed sense in the Church that what is at stake is the salvation of souls. I wish more bishops, more priests, and a whole lot more lay people were clear on that.

I have wondered many times in recent months how this latest round of scandals will affect the Church. Will Mass attendance decline? (Probably.) Will Millennial flight to the ranks of the “Nones” accelerate? (Maybe.) Will vocations decline? (I don’t know.)

Pope Francis has spoken of his desire for “a Church that is poor and for the poor.” Perhaps that’s where we’re headed in the United States, though not by the road anyone would have imagined. And perhaps, stripped of her worldly goods and cares, the Church in the United States will also look something more like what Pope Benedict XVI had in mind when he mused about the possibility a “smaller, purer” Church.

Perhaps that’s the Church of the New Evangelization we’ve been talking about for so long: not a Church that has prevailed, but one that has been brought low. Perhaps. I don’t know.

I do know that it has happened before.

 

*Image: The Miracles of Saint Francis Xavier by Peter Paul Rubens, 1617-18 [Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna]. Rubens, a devout Catholic, was a master of Baroque art and a champion of the Counter-Reformation.

Stephen P. White

Stephen P. White

Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.

 

A Cleansing Fire – Pray for the truth…… Silence no more.

Silence is acceptance we must pray for the truth. We, the people, the church, must pray for truth.  A cleansing fire will ensue……. God is watching over…his sheep.

A Cleansing Fire

As virtually the whole world now knows, Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, has published a blockbuster 11-page letter, naming names of people involved in sexual abuse and cover-ups in America, and their enablers in Rome, up to the very highest levels, including Pope Francis. He provides dates and details and information on where the relevant documents may be found; speaks of persons who can corroborate his story; and has called on everyone implicated, including the Holy Father (who already knew about McCarrick in 2013 and did nothing, he says), to respect the Church’s Zero Tolerance policy, become an example to others, and resign.

I knew Viganò somewhat in Washington and always liked him; he was the best Vatican ambassador we’ve had in recent years. My esteem had grown, even prior to this letter. At Rome’s Marcia per la Vita (March for Life), bishops do not participate (the Italian bishops’ conference, displaying deeply misplaced faith, thinks it should work through elected politicians, not public demonstrations). At the last one, I saw Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider; as for other bishops – only Viganò.

Many call him as a man of honesty and integrity. This comes through clearly in passages from his letter such as this:

My conscience requires me also to reveal facts that I have experienced personally, concerning Pope Francis, that have a dramatic significance, which as Bishop, sharing the collegial responsibility of all the bishops for the universal Church, do not allow me to remain silent, and that I state here, ready to reaffirm them under oath by calling on God as my witness.

Defenders of the pope have already raised questions about specific details of the letter. Those will all be settled in good time. But no one has disputed the overall picture, which can be easily confirmed – and probably will be, if there’s any real accountability. The Vatican has so far been silent; Francis declared that he would not say a word for now on the flight back from Dublin to Rome.

Today, I’d intended to give a wrap-up of the papal trip to Ireland (I left as he was arriving because it’s actually easier to follow the pope’s movements via electronic media than in the mob). One Irish journalist was already lamenting before the pope even arrived that “this visit feels too much like a ceremonial procession.” Given the destruction that sexual abuse has caused not only to numerous individuals and families in Ireland, but Chile, America, Honduras, Australia, and many other nations, I suggested weeks ago that the World Meeting on Families should be canceled and a penitential procession, to be repeated annually, should take its place.

That all seems like ages ago now on a planet far away. Just Friday, at the alternative conference on the family sponsored by the Lumen Fidei Institute in Dublin, somewhat to my own surprise, I played the prophet and predicted that more major revelations, in addition to the McCarrick case, were going to erupt within weeks.

And it’s just at the beginning.

We are in for a long string of painful days now, but I believe it will become a “cleansing fire.” Many in the Church hierarchy, especially in Rome, are still under the delusion that they can manage this monstrosity. They can’t.

The American bishops took a while, but finally realized that they had to take at least some action after the McCarrick revelations. In his letter to American victims of abuse – and in remarks during his visit to Ireland – Pope Francis basically expressed his confidence that existing safeguards can deal with the various situations. No need to create special tribunals, etc. This is fantasy and will soon be widely seen as such, to the further detriment of the pope’s credibility if he doesn’t take serious, large steps. As one commentator put it: “Pope to U.S. Church: You’re on your own.”

*

Pope Francis already found in Ireland that expressing the Church’s sorrow and shame over failures placates no one. People want action – and answers. To begin with, Viganò says McCarrick was 14thon the list to become archbishop of Washington. Who in Rome moved him up to the top? Cupich and Tobin were not on the lists of bishops submitted to the Vatican for Chicago and Newark. Who promoted them? And why?

We also have to start asking the right questions about the mess as a whole. It wasn’t “the Church” that committed crimes and abused power. Neither was the problem a general “clericalism,” but the acts of specific individuals and others who protected them. Unless, as the anti-Catholics say, the Church is really a criminal syndicate, we want to separate the sheep from the goats now.

According to Viganò, McCarrick and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga (himself under suspicion for financial misdealings and widespread scandal at his seminary), were instrumental in the appointments of Cardinals Cupich and Tobin (Newark), as well as Cardinal Farrell to the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. And in the election of Jorge Bergoglio as pope.

At the very least, every one of those named now – and the list goes one – is under a cloud, given that the Catholic bishops themselves have, sadly, put in question their own right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. How for instance, was Cardinal Tobin just appointed by Pope Francis as one of his personal choices to participate in the upcoming Synod on Youth? Tobin, it should be recalled, said he knew nothing about payouts and settlements over McCarrick in the very diocese he currently heads. Same with Farrell. Same with Cardinal Wuerl, though Viganò provides convincing evidence and says Wuerl is lying shamelessly.

His whole letter is worth studying carefully. One episode I find quite revealing: when Viganò first met the Holy Father as Nuncio, Francis asked him in conversations about McCarrick and Wuerl, what they were like or whether they were good. (Francis also said American bishops must not be “ideologized” [sic] – neither right nor left, but he specifically mentioned “Philadelphia,” i.e., Archbishop Chaput.) Viganò only realized later that Francis was really asking whether he, Viganò, would support McCarrick and Wuerl, despite the damning information he’d just provided.

The pope had never been to America before his trip in 2015, knows little about us, and relies on figures like McCarrick and Maradiaga, and others like Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, who have expressed a quite laughable view that traditional Catholics and evangelicals have forged an “ecumenism of hate” in America. Even liberal Catholic outlets were embarrassed by that spectacle. In fact, if you put together the various names in Viganò’s letter, almost all of Francis’ closest advisors lie close to the heart of the problem, not its solution.

If there is a solution now, it’s going to come primarily from lay people and the few bishops – so far – willing to speak candidly and do something. All Catholics everywhere now must firmly keep pressing the Church to come clean. Completely. No one gets a partial or plenary indulgence. No one. Nothing else will do.

As for those who are compromised: it would be wise to be careful what you say and do next. The old days of deception and delay, even in Rome, have ended. People are watching who steps forwards and who doesn’t; who tries to spin obvious facts and hide behind pious platitudes; whether heads roll or it’s all talk.

Much of what was hidden – including any further lies or actions – will become known now. Stonewalling will only make the ultimate day of reckoning even worse.

 

*Image: Catherine of Siena escorted pope Gregory XI at Rome on 17th January 1377 by Giorgio Vasari, c. 1550 [Sala Regia, Apostolic Palace, Vatican]

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Dr. Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

 

How blind we are

How ironic this writing below is…just last night we talked about how our faith will be downsized….but only to be reborn to a stronger more blessed Church.

How blind we are

If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are! We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. It will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning . . . But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. Then, they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

 

Noli impedire muisicam

 

Noli impedire musicam

Lenin – who gave the world the socialist murder machine formerly known as the Soviet Union – loved music when he was in exile. Once he returned to Russia, to spark the Bolshevik Revolution, he said he couldn’t much listen to music anymore: “It affects your nerves, makes you want to say stupid nice things and stroke the heads of people who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell.”

There was, is, and always will be a kind of radical Lover of Mankind who will sacrifice saying “stupid nice things” and even actual living people to some harebrained scheme that makes our fallen world still more vile. But there’s a lesson here, even for us in well-off, tolerant-to-a-fault societies, who may be tempted to think that our whole lives should be consumed by cultural, political, or spiritual wars.

People in a position like mine may be especially susceptible to this temptation, which is why active measures, in a different key, are necessary. I myself try to play the piano at least a half-hour every morning because it reminds me – if not necessarily people in the house who have to listen – that God’s Creation is a harmony, a discordant harmony to be sure, but a definite concord of creatures, not perpetual warfare.

Many people send me books, good books, about our current turmoil. I appreciate these, but as someone always engaged in heavy reading for several book-writing projects of my own, often can’t get to them or even acknowledge the favor. But a generous TCT supporter gave me a book at dinner this week that has captured my attention: Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Cavanaugh, a conductor who is also director of the Christian Performing Arts Fellowship.

It’s a succinct and clear account of the religious beliefs of twenty well-known classical composers, from Bach to Messiaen – and many greats in between, a wonderful record of how close music and spirit have been, until very recently, in Western culture.

The great Johann Sebastian Bach, for example, had no difficulty in seeing God and music intertwined. As he once said, “Music’s only purpose should be for the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” A humble, if prodigious, musical worker (he famously walked 200 miles to hear then-celebrated organist Dieterich Buxtehude), he regularly put J.J. (Jesus Juva– “Jesus help”) on the page before composing.

There were similar examples in the same period. A servant stumbled in on Georg Friedrich Handel just as he finished writing the Hallelujah Chorus for the Messiah, and found him in tears: “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” (Incredibly, if you discount divine inspiration, Handel had produced the 260-page score of this evangelization in sound in just twenty-four days.)

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These musicians were quite at peace and confident in their Christian faith. Kavanaugh doesn’t much write about the times in which they lived. But it’s significant that they could attribute their works to God’s gifts, despite the fact that their lives overlapped with several of the major anti-Christian figures of the Enlightenment such as Diderot, Hume, and Voltaire. You won’t read that in most mainstream accounts of our roots in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

Bach and Handel were, of course, Protestants, but it’s striking and little known how many of the greatest classical composers have been Catholic (in varying degrees) over the centuries: Haydn (the most steady and orthodox of them all), but also Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Chopin, Bruckner, Gounod, Dvorak, Elgar, Messiaen. (Stravinsky, perhaps the greatest 20th-century composer – was Russian Orthodox – but wrote a Mass and other sacred music.) Despite their differences, they were virtually all united in believing that inspiration came from and returned praise to the Creator Himself.

The great modern Catholic poet Paul Claudel was fond of the phrase Noli impedire musicam (“Don’t impede the music”), a rather loose translation of Sirach 32:5 about not gabbing during a feast when there’s music playing. He suggested it had a larger meaning: that we often mar the natural music in the world with our self-important preoccupations.

There’s much talk these days about that mysterious phrase from Dostoyevsky, “Beauty will save the world.” St. John Paul II and Alexander Solzhenitsyn have given us some valuable reflections on that theme.  And there’s this from Benedict XVI:

The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgement and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: “Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true.”

I’m not entirely convinced. Bernstein and many modern musicians seem to make the music itself into an idol, and doubt the God behind the music in whom so many of the great composers believed.

But Benedict is certainly right about how important is the “wound” that beauty inflicts on the heart – and the importance of such wounds in opening us up to realities that our arguments and logic often deal with poorly or even overlook.

Whenever I write about subjects like this, usually in the summer or other times we can breathe a little more deeply and look to larger realms, someone inevitably writes to say that I should give up aery-faery things, because what we really need is a militant political party. True, of course, to a point. We also need a Church Militant.

But I also remember Lenin – and the value of saying “nice stupid things”  – and the dangers of letting the Bolsheviks impede the music and dictate the whole agenda.

 

*Image: Joseph Haydn playing in and conducting his string quartet by an anonymous 19thcentury artist [Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna]

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Dr. Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

 

Vesting in Lavender

Vesting in Lavender

Do you remember a time, readers, when you could spend a whole day, actually a whole month, occasionally even a year, and not give one passing thought to the issue of sexual perversions?

Do you remember a time when not one liberal in a thousand would have thought it a good idea to have drag queens do story-hour for children in a public library? When people who fell into sexual perversion, or who are alleged to have done so, or who are alleged to have wanted to do so though they did not, or who are alleged to have been the sorts of people who would have wanted to do so if they had known What We Know Now, were not held up for the admiration of children, in their school textbooks?

Do you remember a time when not one liberal in a thousand would have thought that a man who said he was a woman or a woman who said she was a man was in touch with reality and not prey to a destructive fantasy or delusion?

Do you remember a time when liberals, precisely because they were liberals, held men and women up to high standards of sexual decency, and (wrongly) believed that they were capable of maintaining those standards without the ministrations of the Church?

Do you remember a time when it would not have occurred to you in a hundred years that your priest was anything other than an ordinary man, a real man, following the special call of the Lord? A man who in another life, with a different call, would have been married with a passel of children, a pillar of his community?

Do you remember a time when a priest could march alongside miners and auto workers and look like one of them, not like a breathless female reporter in the locker room of a football team? Do you remember when nobody, absolutely nobody, would have considered that a female reporter should even be in that locker room?

Do you remember a time when divorce was a scandal? I do. Do you remember a time when family-owned motels would not let unmarried people book one room instead of two? Do you remember a time when boys and girls actually dated, and when the vast territory between loneliness and going to bed as a married couple had not been strafed and scorched and left with not a single healthy custom standing – a cultural Nagasaki and Hiroshima, from sea to sea?

And now this, about Cardinal McCarrick. 
The cardinal, choosing his words precisely, says he has no memory of ever having engaged in the sexual abuse of the erstwhile young man who is now accusing him.

About that accusation I have no confident opinion, nor need I have. For when you have a gorilla in the living room, thrashing the furniture, chewing the upholstery, and defecating in plain sight and smell, you do not ask whether it was also the gorilla who smashed the light bulb.

*

The cardinal has cautiously denied one sin, while not bothering to address the thousand others. For all these years, according to witnesses at last speaking out, he has been vesting in lavender, compromising young men in his charge, including those who he made sure would see his misdeeds though they did not participate in them, and exerting all the subtle pressure of power and prestige to keep those who demurred – who did not enjoy bunking with Uncle Ted – from speaking out.

He has pointedly not said, “I have never had sexual relations with a seminarian or a priest.”
 It was a perversion of the male protective brotherhood, whose noblest and purest manifestation is the apostolic band.

Unlike those brothers the apostles, who went forth into the world to lay down their lives for Christ and the Church, these bands in our day have used the Church as a cover, and a means of procurement. They have turned the Church inward upon themselves and their essentially narcissistic and childish desires and deeds.

We should not then be surprised that the Church, in their hands, becomes contentedly anti-apostolic and anti-evangelistic. The leaders make common cause with ambitious women against their enemies: ordinary, healthy, self-assured, masculine men and the women who love and esteem them.

The Mass itself is made soft and effeminate – neither masculine nor feminine. I have often noted that every single hymn in vast repertory of Christian hymnody that has anything to do with fighting for Christ, hymns going back all the way to Prudentius and Venantius Fortunatus, has been banished from the hymnals, except for For All the Saints.

That one exception we may attribute to the need to have something or other for All Saints’ Day, and even then, in many hymnals I have seen, the lyrics are made squishy, or the stanzas with the most fight in them are simply dropped.
 These leaders are simply not interested in taking on the world.

But that is the raison d’être of the brotherhood. Men who are friends, soldiers in the field, do not gaze into each other’s eyes, melting. Your drill sergeant does not call himself Uncle Ted. He does not write lovey letters to you, after he has snuggled you into a compromise. He does not engage in spiritual bribery and blackmail.

Men who stand shoulder to shoulder – you can picture them in your mind’s eye, leaning against a fence or a car or a tank – look out in the same direction, towards the world to conquer. That has been the orientation, the direction to take, of every true leader of men the Church has known, from Peter and Paul to Benedict, from Francis and Dominic to Ignatius, from John Bosco to Jose Maria Escriva.

We have the Lord’s own choice to follow, ordaining men to form that band of brothers. Men, not just anatomical males. They might get something done.

 

*Image: The Last General Absolution of the Munster Fusiliers at Rue du Bois by Fortunino Matania, 1916. It is assumed that the painting was destroyed during the German blitz of London in WWII. Certainly the original is missing.

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. His latest books are Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. He directs the Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts.

 

De-homosexualizing the American Church

 

De-homosexualizing the American Church

Note: Professor Carlin makes an argument here about changing discipline on priestly celibacy that is not my own or, it hardly needs saying, that of The Catholic Thing (which takes no official positions). It’s an extreme remedy for what may soon be revealed to be an extreme problem. We publish it as a spur to conversation about the extent of homosexuality among Catholic clergy and what may be necessary to deal with it. – Robert Royal

For years I’ve been opposed to the proposal that the Catholic Church drop its priestly celibacy requirement.  I’ve opposed it for two reasons.  First, it was a proposal put forward by “liberal” Catholics. Since I believe that a drift toward liberalism is gradually ruining the Catholic Church in America, I fear that giving in to any liberal demands – even sensible ones – will further contribute to the ruination of the Church.  Second, I fear that an end to mandatory celibacy will be an awful shock to ordinary Catholic believers who want the Church to maintain its traditions.

The changes introduced by Vatican II were relatively minor, but these minor departures from tradition proved to be a tremendous shock for many Catholics, including many priests and nuns.

But I’ve changed my mind – thanks to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired Archbishop of Washington DC, who was the other day exposed as a homosexual who on at least one occasion, fifty years ago, was guilty of sexually abusing a minor.  The best account of the McCarrick horror story that I have so far read was written by Rod Dreher under the title:Cardinal McCarrick: Everybody Knew.”

According to Dreher’s account, McCarrick’s sexual misbehavior was not limited to one case early in his priestly career.  Far from it.  Very far.  He engaged in homosexual seduction and conduct with young adult men – seminarians and young priests – when he was the bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey.  Dreher doesn’t tell us what happened when McCarrick rose higher in the ecclesiastical world, becoming the archbishop first of Newark and later of Washington.  I assume we’ll be hearing more of the story soon.

I don’t know how many Catholic priests are homosexual.  I doubt that anybody really knows.  I’ve read of estimates ranging from fifteen percent to fifty percent.  Everybody in a position to make an intelligent guess seems to agree that the percentage of gay priests greatly exceeds the percentage of gay adults in the general population (about 2 or 3 percent).  Of course, not every priest with a homosexual orientation is a practicing homosexual.  And since so many of our priests are elderly, it is likely that many who used to engage in homosexual conduct no longer do so.  Either the urge has waned, or they can no longer get a date.

And it’s not just that we have too many gay priests.  It’s that they form networks within the priesthood.  They stick together.  They protect one another.  They help one another advance.  The McCarrick case is a splendid example of this.

It was no secret to insiders that he was a practicing homosexual, yet this did not prevent him from climbing the ecclesiastical ladder, from ordinary priest to bishop of a minor diocese (Metuchen), and then to Archbishop of Newark, and then to Archbishop of Washington, and finally to prince of the Church.  And nobody stopped him along the way.  He was well protected.

A sub-group doesn’t have to represent 51 percent of the whole in order to dominate the entire group.  In big corporations, 10 percent ownership is often enough to win control of the whole corporation.  In the old days, a well-organized gang of fifteen train robbers could rob a thousand passengers.

The Catholic Church in the United States, it is evident, has a homosexual tilt.  If (like me) you had some doubts about this before today, the McCarrick horror story should be enough to remove these doubts.

No wonder it is a rare priest – a very rare priest – who denounces homosexuality or same-sex marriage from the pulpit.  No wonder bishops don’t fight back against the gay movement, even though this movement is every day persuading thousands of young Catholics that their religion is wrong, and has been wrong for 2,000 years, in teaching that sodomy is sinful and unnatural.

And no wonder that the Church in America puts up virtually no resistance to our culture of sexual freedom.  How can a homosexually tainted religion complain about fornication and unmarried cohabitation?  Can it even complain about adultery?

And can anybody be surprised that our Church in America is feeble in its opposition to abortion?  For if you fight against abortion, you will have to fight against sexual freedom; and if you fight against sexual freedom, you will, of course, have to fight against sodomy.  One domino after another.

And will a priest, even one who is quite definitely non-gay, be able to be a good sexual counselor – regardless of whether the person he is counseling is straight or gay – in a Church that has a “soft spot” for homosexuality?

The Church must be de-homosexualized as soon as possible.  The best way of doing this, maybe the only way, is to open the priesthood to married men, the way the priesthood has been open to married men for many centuries in the Orthodox churches.

This is risky.  It will be a shock to many old-fashioned Catholics.  It will encourage liberal Catholics to intensify their demand that the priesthood be open to women.  Ironically, it will encourage liberals to demand that the Church ordain openly homosexual men (and women) to the priesthood provided they sincerely take a vow of celibacy.

But the risk has to be run.  Not to do so would be madness.  Thanks to the exposure of McCarrick, the secret is out.  It will no longer be possible to fool the average parishioner.  We are moving in the direction of becoming a gay-dominated religion.  There are many factors, not just this one, tending to ruin the Catholic Church in America.  But this one is especially lethal.

Let us hope it is not too late.  Let us hope we still have in our midst a critical mass of courageous bishops who are untainted and uncompromised.

 

David Carlin

David Carlin

David Carlin is professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.