Miscellaneous Meanderings on the signs of the times (Vol. 8, No. 87)
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
April 1, 2017
~Why are the Democrats allowed to have litmus tests (say for Supreme Court justices), but the Republicans aren’t?
~St. Joseph’s Academy (Cleveland, OH), the all-girl high school run by the feminist nuns of the Congregation of St. Joseph, will most likely turn out more feminists than Christians.
~Victor Davis Hanson (see e.g.: http://victorhanson.com/) may well be the most insightful commentator writing about Trump and his presidency. If you don’t read him now, you should. He will help you navigate the Trump years.
~We shouldn’t worry about the future, as Jesus implores us in the Gospel (see Mt. 6:34), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for it. There’s a difference between being a worry-wart and a prudential planner. As is true of the past, so too of the future: we can’t change it. But we can try in the present to make sound choices that prepare us to meet (and in some way shape) the future.
~“Battling Francis: Civil war in the Vatican as conservatives battle Francis for the soul of Catholicism.” This is yet another sensational headline in the age of Francis (See http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/civil-war-in-the-vatican-as-conservatives-battle-francis-for-the-soul-of-catholicism/ar-AAnNo5E). A theologian is quoted in the piece saying, “The Vatican status quo is behind this. It is a cultural and political opposition that was already visible a few weeks after Pope Francis’s election. They are against changing the style and position of the church from a western one to a global religion.” I find this last line ridiculous. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI were committed to this global project long before Cardinal Brogolio was elected pope.
~In last month’s MM’s, I pointed out how the media is frequently editorializing in its stories and headlines on all things Trump. Now, National Review’s John O’Sullivan provides another example (see http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445376/trump-speech-shocked-hostile-critics). Though, we could be here all year long giving examples.
~Well, now news comes that there’s a “smart condom” for, let us just say it, the dumbest part of a man’s body (see https://www.cnet.com/google-amp/news/icon-smart-condom-ring/).
~For many people, what I call the Age of Aspiration has given way to what I call the Age of Desperation. Especially as we read stories of new research that shows the white working class “dying disproportionately from what one expert calls ‘deaths of despair’ — suicides, drug overdoses and alcohol-related diseases.” (See http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-white-working-class-deaths-of-despair-20170324-story.html).
~In an interview with America magazine, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Donald Wuerl (see http://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/03/06/cardinal-wuerl-pope-francis-has-reconnected-church-vatican-ii) speaks of the “emphasis in ‘Amoris Laetitia.’ [Francis] told us that we have to get back, as the [Second Vatican] council said, to a moral theology that rests on scripture and Jesus’ command to love and to the virtues that are the signs of a moral life, not the rigid following of the letter of the law.” Of course, Veritatis splendor said that 23 years earlier and said it more clearly. Wuerl continued: “So, when I look back over these four years, I see that Francis has accomplished all this refocusing, even though we have a long, long way to go to begin to change the direction of an institution as big as the Catholic Church and to get it focused back again on the path that I believe the council set out on. I think what he has done is already a huge accomplishment.” So, is Wuerl saying the years (1978—2013) of the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI got the Church off the path the Council had set upon? That’s a stunning remark. It appears that Cardinal Wuerl has his head in the sand too. Without a word of critique, he overlooks the confusions of the last 4 years.
~Ah yes, the “comedy” of an atheist pop singer calling himself “Father John Misty”; his upcoming album is titled, Pure Comedy (See http://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2017/03/05/518617909/father-john-misty-questions-virtual-reality-and-religion-on-saturday-night-live). That’s cute. There’s nothing smugger than the smugness of a smug atheist. The arrogance is stunning: everyone’s a doofus and a clown except you! I take it that atheism isn’t really about “Love Trumps Hate.” It’s about “love yourself, hate your fellow man.” This is one “Father” we can be glad isn’t hearing Confessions. Sadly, however, he is “preaching.”
~In a story about “fake news” in America magazine, one can very easily get the impression that the phenomenon emanates only from the right and never from the left (See http://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/03/07/media-nun-we-need-become-cultural-mystics-combat-fake-news). Well, as we used to say in the 1990s: “Not!”
~“[Cardinal Nichols] said that the pope is correct in not responding to four cardinals who submitted a request, called a dubia, seeking further explanation on ‘Amoris,’ saying that such a response would be tantamount to legalism, which he believes the pope is trying to avoid. ‘To enter into that field is actually to step back from the very thing he wants to help us understand, that we have to respond to people and help them in their journey to God and to do so is not simply to apply a law,’” he said (See http://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/03/08/cardinal-nichols-pope-francis-toughness-will-see-catholic-church). But sometimes the only way to move forward and be faithful to the truth is to “apply a law” – particularly when we believe that law (especially the moral law) is all about guiding our free choices to the truth. That’s not the current bogey man of “legalism,” but simply sound moral practice.
~What about all of the “missing” girls killed by abortion? Their loss that should be the real message of the bogus “A Day Without a Woman” (March 8). But you won’t read that here http://www.allure.com/story/day-without-a-woman-strike-information or in other secular and/or feminist forums.
~I think my former The Catholic University of America classmate, Helen Alvaré, makes a good point when she writes (see http://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/02/14/what-has-pope-francis-taught-us-4-years-his-papacy) that Francis’ “wide, sweeping gestures…contain the seeds of some frustration. Details matter sometimes.” In other words, the many good things he does will be lost amidst the continual ambiguity and lack of clarity (See also William Doino Jr.’s excellent critique: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/03/pope-franciss-achilles-heel).
~Catholic social teaching (CST) has been used to critique the GOP’s proposed health care plan, e.g., by the social justice crowd (see http://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/03/10/what-does-catholic-social-teaching-say-about-gop-health-care-plan). Whatever happened to CST’s general moral principles and their prudential application? And how, on the latter, good and faithful Catholics can have legitimate disagreements? (See also http://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/03/20/catholic-bishops-proposed-obamacare-replacement-contains-serious-flaws).
~Meanwhile, in a Newsweek interview, longtime feminist activist Gloria Steinem told the magazine, “All over the world we are struggling as females to be valued for our brains as well as our wombs, and to be in control of both.” (See http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445643/why-day-without-woman-strike-failed-biggest-victim-contest). But why should women be valued for their wombs when Steinem claims women need to be in control of them, i.e. to be able to abort the tiny human lives growing in them? A womb implies a place to generate and nurture life, male and female; that’s its telos. So, no need for babies, no need for wombs.
~Years ago, if you wanted to see a certain band perform, you had to actually go and watch them in person perform live. Today, however, if you see a band play in a bar, for example, you can share their music with someone by sending them the band’s webpage (if they have one) or take a video of their performance on your cell phone. Of course, it takes away the excuse for and the fun of a road trip, but it sure saves money in travel and tickets.
~Training is one of those words I don’t care for. It usually implies not only more work for me, but work outside my comfort zone, and work usually done in concert with others. I’d rather have the manual (if there is one) and learn by myself, on my own, and on my own time.
~Going without power during hot summer months can be tough – no AC, among other things. But losing power from high winds in the winter, with wind-chill temperatures in the teens for several days – as happened to us in southeast MI for almost 4 days in early March – can be downright paralyzing. DTE called it a “historic storm,” with over a million people losing power (see http://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/index.ssf/2017/03/consumers_dte_under_review_for.html). It makes you appreciate, as the cliché goes, the many things you don’t often appreciate when you have power. Since it happened during Lent, I could at least offer it up.
~Racism is a term and concept that seems to have expanded in recent years. So, opposing illegal immigration, for example, is ipso facto racism. As well, everyone allegedly seems to have a phobia about something or the other. Homophobia and now transphobia are allegedly everywhere. Many of these terms have come to describe not so much objective, observable behaviors, but, according to their users, to describe subjective and hidden intentions and motives – nefarious ones you don’t even know you “really” have. As if someone who accuses you of being “homophobic” can read your heart. Your opposition to homosexual activity, then, is not based on your moral principles but on your alleged fear of gays. This makes any kind of civil dialogue impossible.
~The at times radically different ecclesiastical responses to Francis’ Amoris Laetitia has had the unintended effect of showing exactly how much we are need of the pope to clarify its teaching on the question of communion for divorced-and-civilly remarried Catholics. Then again, we hope that the “clarification” isn’t more confusing than the original cause of the confusion.
~Rob Dreher’s “The Benedict Option” has been getting its share of reviews (e.g., see http://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2017/03/16/what-rod-dreher-gets-right-benedict-option-just-important-what-he-gets). In case you’re wondering, the “Benedict Option” doesn’t refer to bringing back Pope Benedict XVI as pope.
~People born into our post-Christian world today often seem to be hatched without parents or family, only to be snatched by the secular culture, and then ultimately detached from everything and everyone when they are discarded by that same culture.
~A movie review of Disney’s new live-action, Beauty and the Beast (see http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column/movie-review-beauty-and-the-beast-3722/), tries to make the case that the brief “gay” stuff in the film is so minimal – e.g., one gay couple among many heterosexual couples – that little kids won’t even notice. But it seems to me that precisely because it is only one pair that it will stand out as obvious.
~Whenever I walk by an outdoor statue of Our Lady, I feel a sense of peace come over me that’s hard to describe. I wish more yards would have her.
~The 2017 freshmen summer reading list at St. Joseph’s Academy leaves much to be desired (see http://files.constantcontact.com/c0f08a1b201/d011e92e-f062-41fa-b50e-8248239e8cf3.pdf). The theme for this year is books that explain the idea of “Empathetic Justice.” Now, why does justice always seem to need to be qualified by empathy? It’s like talking about “chaste fortitude.” We’re now mixing and matching virtues that each has their own integrity, their own point. All in the name, it seems, of the contemporary PC “social-justice warrior” trend in all things (in)justice. Even in the Catholic schools.
~Ever wonder how you define a generation? Well, this article attempts to do so (See https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/). It brings a humorous perspective to it too. In case you’re wondering, I’m one of the younger Baby Boomers (1946—1964), having been born in late 1963, and the only one among my two siblings.
~For an interesting article on the reform of Islam, see https://www.mercatornet.com/above/view/is-it-possible-to-reform-islam/19532. We must hope and pray that reform is possible…and soon.
~If speed bumps are supposed to slow your vehicle down, then why aren’t they called slow bumps?
~I think some Catholic schools are more prone to the formation of cliques when the students go through the same school together, K-8, and then even more so if K-12. In public schools, however, you may often have students attending elementary school together, but not middle school and/or high school. So, students are often forced to “start over” and make new friends by the time they get to high school.
~The language of technology is often impersonal and strange. Take a term such as “click bait.” It sounds like something mildly pornographic.
~“Trump’s ‘care’ for the environment is the opposite of Catholic social teaching” (see http://www.americamagazine.org/faith/trumps-care-environment-opposite-catholic-social-teaching). Well, at least according to these two authors it is. But here again, whatever happened to moral principles and their careful application? (See too Jeffrey Mirus’ helpful commentary: http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/the-city-gates.cfm?id=1439).
~“Working on Trump’s wall is ‘treason’ and ‘immoral,’ Archdiocese of Mexico says.” (See http://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/03/27/working-trumps-wall-treason-and-immoral-archdiocese-mexico-says)? Really? Treasonous and immoral? This is truly an exaggeration by the Archdiocese. I see nothing intrinsically wrong or even simply wrong with building a wall. It’s definitely not immoral – at least if you believe a country has a right to control its borders.
~If thinking didn’t have to involve thought, some people would be virtual geniuses.
~I have often thought that Pres. Trump will have a hard time of it, i.e., of governing – witness the recent healthcare debacle – without a set of clear moral and political principles to guide him. Political scientist Michael Barone puts it well when he writes that “Trump is only attitude, not principle.” (See https://townhall.com/columnists/michaelbarone/2017/03/31/doesnt-anybody-know-how-to-play-this-game-n2306630). That pithy line seems to get it mostly right to me.
~I can assure you that among these April MMs are no “April Fools’.”