Miscellaneous Meanderings on the signs of the times
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
October 1, 2015
~A recent survey of Catholics (see story here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-practice-and-catholic-faith-a-survey-looks-at-the-us-24855/) shows some good and some bad when comparing those who practice their faith with those who don’t practice their faith and with those who are Americans among the general population. Here’s one revealing take-away: “Around 81 percent of practicing Catholics said abortion is morally wrong, compared to 60 percent of Americans and 51 percent of non-practicing Catholics. Asked about substantial restrictions on abortion, 91 percent of practicing Catholics supported restrictions while 84 percent of Americans as a whole did.” Another way of looking at this is to say that the more Catholics faithfully live their faith’s moral teachings, the greater the chance unborn babies have of not being aborted.
~A family agreement policy between parents and Catholic schools in one Illinois’ diocese (see story here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/illinois-diocese-new-policy-tells-families-what-to-expect-from-catholic-schools-19798/) holds great promise. The bishop there said the policy “will be used for all parents to indicate that they understand and agree that children in the school will be taught the teachings of the Catholic Church in their fullness.” Truth in advertising for all concerned: students, parents, teachers, and staff.
~The anti-porn group Enough Is Enough and Comcast have teamed up (see http://www.internetsafety101.org/news.htm?id=295). Here’s an idea for you: If Comcast would stop carrying porn channels, anti-porn groups such as EIE wouldn’t have to team up with them to offer anti-porn safety measures (I realize that there are other online dangers in addition to porn and groups such as EIE deal with those too).
~George Will has now accepted physician-assisted suicide (see his column here: http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will082915.php3). It’s hard for me to write those words, as I’m a fan of his writing and agree with many of his positions. In his column, “Dying by choice,” he writes: “There is nobility in suffering bravely borne, but also in affirming at the end the distinctive human dignity of autonomous choice. Brittany Maynard, who chose to be with loved ones when she self-administered her lethal medications, was asleep in five minutes and soon dead.” Ah yes, “the distinctive dignity of autonomous choice.” But what of the actual content of that supposedly autonomous choice? Just because a choice is autonomous doesn’t necessarily make it right. This unfettered autonomy is one major source for our present cultural woes.
~September 1st was (is) the official meteorological first day of Fall (Officially this year Fall arrived on the 23rd of September). Wouldn’t it be so much easier to chart the seasons the meteorological way? (Fall=September, October, November; Winter=December, January, February; and so on)
~Today it seems that a police officer is either shot and/or killed every day. It’s hard to keep track of the cases.
~When it comes to the Clintons, we may need to reserve the word lying for ordinary liars (e.g., see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/state-dept-finds-about-150-clinton-e-mails-with-classified-material/ar-AAdOmyA?ocid=U305DHP and http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/clinton-wrote-sent-classi%ef%ac%81ed-e-mails-on-private-server/ar-AAdRhsC?ocid=U305DHP) and invent a new word for their kind of extraordinary (and creative!) lying.
~World War II ended 70 years ago on September 2nd. For some of the fast-dwindling veterans of that war, I’m sure it feels not like history, but like yesterday.
~More on lying: In this case, Catholic philosopher Christopher Kaczor’s sympathetic review (http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/09/15606/?utm_source=The+Witherspoon+Institute&utm_campaign=17a6748aa2-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_15ce6af37b-17a6748aa2-84093501) of fellow Catholic philosopher Christopher O. Tollefsen’s book defending the absolute prohibition of lying, Lying and Christian Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2014). It seems rare today for a thinker to change his mind or at least entertain second thoughts about a long-held position, as Kaczor admits to doing the latter in the review. Good for him.
~We hear repeatedly from preachers today that Christianity is not about a work or a program, but a person – Jesus. This is true. But why then does it feel like our work and programs (and my seminary committee assignments!) have grown exponentially over the years for those of us who work directly for the Church?
~I was looking forward to reading Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book, Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Princeton University Press, 2008). Then, proving that even accomplished scholars can make a whopper of a mistake, he writes this bit of nonsense about the Catholic legal and moral philosopher John Finnis’ position: that he “quite intentionally interpret[s] natural law in Aquinas as not ontologically grounded in human nature.” [Kindle, 1021; my emphasis] But of course Finnis thinks that the precepts of the natural law are grounded in human nature (How could they not be!). He just doesn’t think that we come to know them through speculative reasoning about human nature. He believes the same is true of Aquinas’ thought.
~In the matter of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was sent to jail for her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses on account of her Christian faith, I ask: Whatever happened to the “an unjust law is no law at all” in all of the talk about the “rule of law” and “We are a nation of laws”? (Cf. http://dailysignal.com/2015/09/03/10-public-officials-who-defied-the-law-over-gay-marriage-mostly-silent-on-kim-davis-case/?utm_source=heritagefoundation&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=morningbell&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRohvazPZKXonjHpfsX56uouW6%2B2lMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4ATcJhMq%2BTFAwTG5toziV8R7jHKM1t0sEQWBHm and this thoughtful piece: http://dailysignal.com/2015/09/04/how-kim-davis-can-be-released-from-jail-without-agreeing-to-violate-her-conscience/?utm_source=heritagefoundation&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=morningbell&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRohvazPZKXonjHpfsX56uouW6%2B2lMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4ATcJhMq%2BTFAwTG5toziV8R7jHKM1t0sEQWBHm). In rejecting Davis’ stance, David Blankenhorn, the founder and president of the Institute for American Values and former opponent of same-sex marriage, tries to make the distinction between a private citizen’s “principled civil disobedience” (good) and a public official’s “principled lawlessness” (bad) [see http://m.deseretnews.com/article/865636354/No-church-stamped-permission-slips-for-abusing-societal-rule-of-law.html?pg=all?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com]. But would this distinction hold in every case – even in a democracy – especially when the opposed activity violates natural law and such a natural institution as marriage? Clearly it wouldn’t in an unjust political system (e.g., Nazi Germany or Stalin’s U.S.S.R.).
~For those such as me, who have been on social media for quite some time, getting off of it (as I did in the early summer) can make you feel as if you’ve disappeared from the world.
~A recent column by George Will, “There are so many things to be offended by, and so little time to agonize about each” (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will090515.php3), comments on the renaming rage – of buildings, teams, dinners, etc. – sweeping across our country. He notes how this liberal logic (if that’s the word for it) should lead to the renaming of all kinds of things: even cities (e.g., San Diego), states (e.g., Oklahoma), schools (e.g., Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School), and newspapers (e.g., The Washington Post, named as it is for a slave owner). This memory cleansing, or what Will calls our “new national passion for moral and historical hygiene, a determination to scrub away remembrances of unpleasant things,” puts me in mind of the communists’ own practice of renaming cities (e.g., St. Petersburg to Leningrad, 1924) after they took power. But then, progressives have so much in common with communists; more than they think.
~Phil Lawler’s thoughtful piece, “Why Kim Davis should not have resigned” (http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?id=1111), contains these lines: “If a court can redefine marriage, it can redefine any institution touched by the law. If the term ‘marriage’ means no more or less than what five justices happen to prefer at the moment, then the most fundamental institution in society is at risk. Are you really married, or could the state suddenly declare your union invalid? Could the government take custody of your children, having ruled that there is nothing special about the bond between parent and child? With the Obergefell decision the Supreme Court overthrew not only the laws of the several states, but the laws of logic as well. In a blatant display of illegitimate power, five justices ordered not merely a redefinition of ‘marriage’ but a redefinition of reality. And to date, no one but Kim Davis has actively resisted that usurpation.” Many Catholics no longer accept the more-than-human authority of the Church’s magisterium but have substituted the “magisterium” of the Supreme Court or the secular culture for moral guidance. They are willing to obey its authority, but not the divinely-invested authority of the Church’s teaching office.
~More so than Democrats (because the secular media have their backs), Republicans are always aware of (and fear) how they are perceived. That’s why it’s easier for a Democrat to be a Democrat than for a Republican to be a Republican.
~In conjunction with the “Celebrating LGBT Pride Month,” the Cleveland Public Library issued a little flyer/bookmark with what it calls a “Recommended Booklist for Children.” In addition to the classic Heather Has Two Mommies, we find such titles as Daddy, Papa, and Me; Mom and Mum Are Getting Married!; and It Takes Love (and some other stuff) to Make a Baby. That “other stuff” is probably modern artificial reproductive technology. Be that as it may, I’m waiting for a book titled Me, Mom, and the Woman Trying to Look Like a Dad.
~As a Catholic Christian, I’d rather change the times than be changed by them.
~In the clash over same-sex marriage – the Kim Davis case being the latest high-profile skirmish – we see two vastly different worldviews and value systems in play. We also see two vastly different views of government and the courts. How can we reconcile these two visions? (Cf. Ramesh Ponnuru, “Why Judicial Supremacy Isn’t Compatible with Constitutional Supremacy,” http://www.nationalreview.com/article/423781/supreme-court-marriage-abortion-constitution?utm_source=jolt&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Jolt09102015&utm_term=Jolt). It can often be more difficult to reconcile fundamental visions than reach agreement or settlement on specific moral issues.
~As I walk and think at the same time, I realize that my thoughts get lost in the mist of the length of time it takes me to arrive home (usually about 80 minutes). It’s as if my thoughts are extended in time or travel the distance with me (about 5.2 miles). But as I get farther along on my daily walk, each succeeding thought often becomes a distant memory unless I keep it firmly planted in my mind.
~One word that doesn’t mean what it used to mean is “devout” – as in devout Catholic. Whether we’re talking about celebrities (e.g., see http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/09/stephen-colbert-opens-up-about-his-devout-christian-faith-islam-pope-francis-and-more.html) or ordinary Catholics, the word as used today allows for you to be pro-abortion (and who knows what else) and still call yourself “devout.”
~There’s a picture of a 14-year-old me sitting next to my late father at my uncle and aunt’s Christmas party in the late 1970s. I have a clear memory of the party and the picture, but no idea of what I was thinking at the time the picture was taken or indeed the entire evening. It’s strange how you can look at yourself in a photo and seem a stranger to yourself.
~It’s been 9 years since my dad passed away on this date. Sometimes the further away in time it gets, the closer in memory it gets.
~Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is another one who has apparently caught the disease of our age (see http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/09/11/stable-gay-relationship-is-better-than-a-temporary-one-says-cardinal-schonborn/#.VfMjDZqJ2N0.facebook): trying to find novel ways (=excuses) to explain away immoral activity.
~We see more and more stories with the phrase “active shooter” (e.g., see http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/2015/09/18/active-shooter-situation-reported-western-hs/72391404/). It seems redundant: Is there such a thing as an “inactive shooter”?
~Americans are obsessed about their hair. So much so that they’d probably be more willing to let a robot operate on their heart than to cut their hair.
~Is Catholic identity changing? (See http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/pope-faces-changing-catholic-identity-in-us/ar-AAev1Sq?li=AA54ur&ocid=U348DHP). A Pew research survey found about 4% less of Americans identify as Catholics in 2015 than in 2007. Depending on how you count them, Catholics in America number anywhere between 68.1 million and 81.6 million. Pew’s recent findings show a Church that is more Hispanic but with less sacramental participation and Mass attendance. On particular moral issues, many Catholics “want to see changes in their church to: Allow Catholics who are cohabiting to receive Communion (61% say so). Allow Catholics who have divorced and remarried without obtaining an annulment to receive Communion (62%). Recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples (46% say yes while and equal percentage are opposed).” On the question of “essential” teachings to Catholicism, the importance of a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ was cited by 68%. That was only 6% more than those who said “working to help the poor and needy” are essential. What were the other 32% thinking? Almost as many said helping the poor is as essential to being a Catholic as a relationship with Christ?
~LGBT Catholics supposedly are hopeful about Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. (See http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/awaiting-pope-francis-visit-to-us-lgbt-catholics-and-supporters-are-hopeful/ar-AAemu6C?li=AA54ur&ocid=U348DHP). One “married” lesbian Catholic says this is what she would tell Francis: “What I would say is that church teaching and pastoral practice are hurting a lot of people in the church, and it’s causing a real crisis. Catholic families have LGBT members. It’s really hard to have to think that their faith rejects them or that it requires them to reject someone they love who is LGBT.” Reject them? Reject someone? Only if you think you can’t love someone while at the same time rejecting their behavior. The Catholic faith requires giving up actions that are incompatible with the Gospel and Church teaching, i.e., sin. Exhorting others to stop behavior that is harmful to themselves and to others – as sin surely is – is really a form of charity.
~When the rich young man in the Gospel of Mark (see 10:17-31 and the parallel in Mt. 19:16-30) asked Jesus what he had to do to attain eternal life, our Lord responded by setting forth the (10) Commandments. The young man responded by saying he had kept them all. If true – and we have no reason to doubt it – then the rich young man would be pretty much near perfection. How many of us can say that we have kept all of the precepts of the Decalogue – from our youth? [See a much longer reflection on my blog: https://mlatkovic.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/are-we-really-keeping-the-commandments/]
~A story in The Washington Post, “Poll: Americans widely admire Pope Francis, but his church less so,” quotes a Catholic from Wilmington, Del. saying, “People separate the pope from the church [!]. You look at this man trying to lead the movement for everyone, past and present.” William D’Antonio, a Catholic University sociologist who researches U.S. Catholicism is also quoted: “The church is not grounded in the human experience. The pope is. This pope has an understanding I’ve not seen in any other popes. He talks like a person who actually knows something about human life.” The article continues: “But the pope’s pop culture popularity helps obscure this fact: He has made no significant changes to Catholic teaching on issues that sometimes put the papacy at odds with the church’s American parishioners. That’s why Mary Barry, 57, a small-business owner in Arlington, Tex., and her husband said they are taking ‘a wait-and-see approach’ on whether to attend Mass regularly, three years after stopping. They decided that the church no longer spoke to them (see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/poll-americans-widely-admire-pope-francis-but-his-church-less-so/ar-AAewOSb?li=AA54ur&ocid=U348DHP). I know I’m not the only one who sees great arrogance in statements such as these. Basically, they want a Church in their image, not Christ’s. And what “movement” are we talking about here?
~I never listen to music when I walk or run. It disturbs my thinking.
~I’ve always thought that “godchild” was an odd-sounding word.
~Molly Ball, “Why Pope Francis Sounds Like a Democrat” (http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/why-pope-francis-sounds-like-a-democrat/ar-AAeI8v3?li=AAa0dzB&ocid=U348DHP) contains some interesting observations. See also the insightful interview with the editor of First Things, R.R. Reno (http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/hes-disruptor-interview-first-things-editor-rr-reno-pope-francis-us-visit). We need all the help we can get. But speaking just for myself, I can say that I haven’t figured out Pope Francis yet nor do I think I ever will. There are so many conversations we wouldn’t be having were it not for the Holy Father’s ambiguous style of speaking and leadership.
~Although Pope Francis told the U.S. bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral during his visit that “Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing” (see the full text here: http://www.cruxnow.com/papal-visit/2015/09/23/pope-francis-remarks-to-us-bishops-at-st-matthews/), he himself has not shied away from such language when, e.g., scolding the Roman Curia back in December 2014 (see story here: http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2014/12/22/pope-warns-vaticans-upper-echelon-against-spiritual-diseases/).
~Shakira sang John Lennon’s secular humanist anthem “Imagine” at the opening ceremony of the UN General Assembly before Pope Francis’ speech to that body (see video and article here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3249503/Shakira-looks-radiant-white-performs-John-Lennon-s-Imagine-pope-United-Nations-General-Assembly.html). The atheistic song was appropriate for a run-of-the-mill gathering of bureaucrats at the UN but not for a pope’s visit.
~Listening to Pope Francis and reading the secular media, one couldn’t be blamed for getting the impression that it was the US bishops who brought on the culture wars. For the most part, however, the Church has been reacting to having abortion, same-sex marriage, assisted-suicide, the Obamacare contraception mandate and the rest foisted upon it and the culture by President Obama, Congressional Democrats, the Supreme Court, and various governmental agencies and activist groups. Was the Church supposed to roll over and play dead in the face of this assault? For decades, especially in the 1980s, the bishops here were accused of being wishy-washy on the life issues, while they wrote liberal-leaning pastoral letters on war and peace (1983) and the economy (1986). They largely took Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s “seamless garment” approach to these issues, i.e., being opposed to abortion but linking that opposition to the abolishment of capital punishment and the fight against homelessness and poverty, and so on.
~Michael Pakaluk has a sound critique of the proposal of Cardinal Schönborn in “The Folly of Lifestyle Ecumenism” (see http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/09/the-folly-of-lifestyle-ecumenism). It makes you wonder about the quality of our bishops’ thinking – even supposedly good bishops – these days.