Friday, April 8, 2011

Please don't ever shut down the Guardian!

This Guardian piece with an ongoing countdown to the Gov't shutdown is priceless. My fave quote is "He may look like a bank manager but Harry Reid has a useful ability to insert a stiletto." Also near the bottom: "As the clock ticks closer to midnight, where is Jack Bauer when America needs him?"

I suppose it shouldn't be all the funny, seeing that Republicans will probably be blamed for it. But it still is humorous to me, somehow. I just hope when everything settles that they push through the Ryan bill somehow and the President is somehow forced to sign it. I.e., I hope he loses.

Big Old Mean Boss

Obama is making sure the military won't be paid if there's a shutdown of the federal government. Hey, isn't he Commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces? That makes him their boss, right? So what we have here is the boss throwing a temper tantrum and taking it out on the workers. Unless I'm very much mistaken. I guess this is the Hand-to-Hand combat the man promised, and our military men and women get to feel the brunt of it. Shameful.

The Templeton Foundation's Latest Article on Religious Scandals

Here's the latest reporting on Catholic scandal issues, a chatty, meandering missive by Rod Dreher of the Templeton Foundation. Excerpt:

The Church indeed survived, but only as a fragment of itself. Justified or not, the Protestant Reformation was an act of spiritual, and often physical, violence that brutally cleaved the body of Western Christendom. The causes of the Reformation are complex, but nobody can dispute that corruption among the Roman Catholic clergy, especially in the papal court, was the prime cause of the catastrophe.

This paragraph displays what I call "pop-ecclesiology". It's how secular journalists who know little about religion describe the events in church history. For example, when he writes "The Church indeed survived, but only as a fragment of itself" what does he mean by "The Church"? At first it seems like he means the Roman Catholic church, but later he clarifies by saying it was "Western Christendom" which was brutally cleaved. The implication is that the Catholic Church is just one of the broken pieces of the smashed cookie jar, albeit the largest piece. We Catholics would see it more like living branches chopped off of a living tree with strong roots and a trunk ailing from disease and weakness. I think that the orthodox Orthodox viewpoint is probably closer to that, but Rod appears to have taken off his religious hat at the moment he wrote that.

My Reformed Protestant relatives and friends would strongly disagree with the statement that "corruption among the Roman Catholic clergy...was the prime cause...." of the Protestant Reformation. To them, the rediscovery of what to them are the truths of sola scriptura and sola fide is the cause for what Luther and Calvin accomplished, and they see all the popes from shortly after the third century as corrupt heretics. They might agree that this corruption was an historical occasion of which the reformers took advantage, but to them the prime cause was one of doctrine. So the notion that nobody disputes this stated prime cause is leaving out the beliefs of many of the pieces which were broken yet have still survived the centuries. Obviously, Rod is closer to the Catholic point of view here, but one has to wonder whether the gaffe of writing "nobody can dispute" follows from a held belief that "corruption among the Roman Catholic clergy" is a prime cause of many or most of the ills in the world throughout history.

Later on in the article we get some references to the attempt being made to revitalize the Catholic church scandal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That paragraph is gossipy and vague, and strains to make something from an off-the-record quote from an anonymous priest-friend from New York City. Bill Donohue's reaction is much more informative and I urge everyone to read it. He doesn't hesitate to criticize the Diocese along with the media for inattention to the due process rights of the accused. So in addition to containing more facts and less insinuation, Donohue's piece seems to be more in line with the demands of the Gospel than the demands of gossip, so you can decide which line of thinking and reporting is more profitable.

Rod touches vaguely on scandals in the OCA, but probably not enough to satisfy our friend, Diane, I'm guessing. Or any of us, really. (This might be because he follows this thread quickly with another blast at the Catholic church featuring another semi-quote from a Franciscan vocations director and an obligatory mention of his "own departure from Roman Catholicism.") He mentions Metropolitan Jonah's criticism of former church leaders as having "raped the church", rhetoric that Obama may wish to consider for the 2012 presidential campaign. He pimps the new site, a site in which a letter of his was recently published. The letter is a must-read, if for no other reason than the fact that he mentions a transvestite and the immortal words of Charlie Sheen in the same breath. This is done to dismiss alleged accusations that +Jonah ("Yo, Plus, whazzup?") had commissioned the aforementioned Catholic-bashing propaganda piece on Orthodoxy. Oooooooh, smell the intrigue. [Correction: The piece being discussed is a piece by Julia Duin which can be read here. Rod states that he was interviewed for the story which ran several days after his OpEd.]

So now we've seen several blasts within a month at the Catholic Church from a guy who claims that his writing is strictly monitored by his employer. Is this lashing out the product of a rigorous Orthodox lent on the disposition of someone used to gourmet food and wine? Or is Rod bashing the Catholic Church to attain respect from his fellow secular journalists? I'm just wondering.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gloria James Slamdunks Valet

Glug, glug, glug. Excerpt:

Sorel Rockfeller told police he was assaulted by Gloria James because she felt her car was taking too long to be delivered. The valet told authorities that he waited 30 minutes for her and when he went to give her the keys, she started cursing at him.

Gloria James then allegedly slapped the valet across the face with an open hand so hard that she fell to the ground. Several witnesses corroborated the account of the incident.

Police say that she smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes when she was arrested.

After being transported to the Miami Beach police station, James told police that she didn't "trust your kind" and refused to cooperate.

What did Gloria mean by "your kind"? Did she mean police officers or non-millionaires? Unclear.

Yeah, Florida, that's the kind of thing she does. Sorry.

What's so appalling about converts?

Rod Dreher used to be a prolific author, commentator and blogger. What happened? He was hired by the Templeton Foundation as a Director of Publications and ostensibly to blog at Big Questions Online. But as you can see, that project never made it off the launch pad. Mr. Dreher explains a little more about why in the combox here. Excerpts follow:

Julie made a wonderful dinner for me tonight, and I told her how much I hate not having a blog, because it's just like me to want to go to the blog and talk about how good the food was, and how much I love her and my family.

I was just down in your part of the world this weekend. I've had a hard last few months -- not being allowed to blog as part of my new job has really been tough, especially because I was hired in large part because of my blog -- and I really needed to see my old friends, and go to Sunday liturgy in my old parish


I really can't say much about my situation, except that my blog wasn't shut down for political reasons. Dr. Templeton, the Foundation president, strongly believed that the things I blogged about did not reflect the priorities of his late father or the Foundation, and was therefore not something he wanted the Foundation to sponsor. This had nothing to do with politics.

We continued to publish BQO columnists (e.g., Shermer) these past few months because we had contracts with them to fulfill, but we have not commissioned new pieces. We are going to begin soon publishing a few new things on the site, but we will not have blogs.

While I have had at least two offers to restart my blog elsewhere, the terms of my employment here that I cannot write outside the Foundation without prior approval. It is impossible to write a blog under that condition, obviously. So, I am blogless for now.

So what does he write on the rare occasions that he gets permission to put something in print? He writes about how Eastern Orthodoxy is better than Roman Catholicism. And he posted it on St. Patrick's Day. Neat. Here's how he starts:

I came to Orthodoxy in 2006, a broken man. I had been a devoutly observant and convinced Roman Catholic for years, but had my faith shattered in large part by what I had learned as a reporter covering the sex abuse scandal. It had been my assumption that my theological convictions would protect the core of my faith through any trial, but the knowledge I struggled with wore down my ability to believe in the ecclesial truth claims of the Roman church (I wrote in detail about that drama here). For my wife and me, Protestantism was not an option, given what we knew about church history, and given our convictions about sacramental theology. That left Orthodoxy as the only safe harbor from the tempest that threatened to capsize our Christianity.

Note how the Catholic church comes up immediately in the discussion, second sentence. This article is mainly about the Catholic church and its supposed deficiencies, not about the Eastern churches per se. Let me rephrase the third sentence in the active voice: "What I had learned as a reporter covering the sex abuse scandal shattered my faith in large part." As a practical pointer to my readers, the Act of Faith prayer can be a good antidote to temptations against that virtue, regardless of their source.

The second paragraph talks about how when Dreher became Catholic, what he really wanted was to be Orthodox and didn't realize it. It contains the obligatory reference to Our Lady of Pizza Hut, one of his biggest laugh-lines on the holy roller comedy circuit.

For the sake of brevity, I'll quote the first and last lines of the 3rd paragraph: "If Catholicism in America had been healthy, maybe we could have held on through the sex abuse trials.... I had been so hollowed out by despair over all this as a Catholic that when the strong winds of the abuse scandal began to blow, the structure of my Catholic belief did not stand." This is probably the key to why the scandals in his Eastern Orthodox denomination don't affect him the same way. He asserts that his church is healthy, so he needn't despair over its problems. This conclusion is obvious from what the man wrote here; I'm not pretending to be inside his head or anything like that.

I say all this not to disparage the Roman Catholic Church – which I still love, and to which I cannot be grateful enough for introducing me to ancient, sacramental Christianity – but to show why Orthodoxy was so attractive to me. When I interviewed him for my book “Crunchy Cons,” my friend Hugh O’Beirne, a convert from Catholicism to Orthodoxy, told me that for a Catholic wearied by the culture wars raging inside American Catholicism, it is blessed relief to find that in Orthodoxy, there is no “war footing.” The kinds of issues that are tearing apart many other American churches aren’t nearly as contentious in Orthodox practice. Though it would be foolish to pretend these conflicts don’t exist in Orthodox parishes, they simply aren’t nearly as much of an issue.

Yes, one thing Rod Dreher would never do would be to disparage the Roman Catholic Church, which he still loves. Let's get that straight.

The main reason why Orthodoxy is so attractive to converts, at least to this convert, is its seriousness about sin. I don’t mean that it’s a dour religion – it is very far from that! – but rather that Orthodoxy takes the brokenness of humankind with appropriate seriousness. Orthodoxy is not going to tell you that you’re okay. In fact, it will require you to call yourself, as St. Paul described himself, the “chief of sinners.” And Orthodoxy is going to tell you the Good News: Jesus died and returned to life so that you too might live. But in order to live, you are going to have to die to yourself, over and over again. And that will not be painless, and cannot be, or it’s not real.

Here we see a prime example of the strawman fallacy at work. You can find Catholic parishes where there are serious priests and serious people going to confession and taking their kids, and you can find the sort of unserious Catholic parish that Dreher likes to compare to the best of the select Orthodox parishes. Thus the real point here is one of purity. Aren't there more "bad" Catholic parishes? Who's religion is more pure? Later in the article he points out as the exception in Orthodoxy what he thinks is the rule in Catholicism, "...the ethnically-oriented older parishes that see themselves as little more than the tribe at prayer," a reference which will surely win friends and influence people who were born Orthodox.

I'll end this overly long post with a short discussion about blog links. First, anyone desiring more context for our ongoing discussion about Rod Dreher's misguided ideas can check out the Rod Dreher tag. For extra reading material, make sure you click the actual blog posts and read the comments from readers. Of course, you can always check out the Contra-Crunchy Conservative blog. That was where everything started.

Lastly... I noticed that when Rod linked to his famous conversion story, "Orthodoxy and Me", in this article his link dead-ends. My non-conspiratorial theory about this is that the post is so long that it was not automatically converted when Beliefnet changed blog formats. You can still see it here by explicitly using the Internet Archive ("Wayback Machine"), but it is funny to me that all the back-links to the original story now lead nowhere. So anybody reading this WaPo piece online who clicked the link missed out on, among other things, Rod Dreher calling our friend J-Carp a "malicious...and petty little Catholic Prufrock named Jonathan Carpenter" early in the article. I think Rod probably wanted for people to read his conversion story which he linked to many times from his blog in later posts, and I think it's interesting that he doesn't realize the link is now dead.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More on this later

Wow. Rod Dreher almost convinced me to become Eastern Orthodox in his latest article about how great Eastern Orthodoxy is. Then I saw the picture...

...and I could not believe my eyes. Orthodoxy has completely sold out and become suburban American as evidenced by that big powder-blue Tupperware pitcher used to fill the baptismal font. Plus that book the deacon is reading from is a paperback. It's like Pizza Hut with an iconostasis. Obviously Eastern Orthodoxy has become just as hokey as Catholicism, and all hope for civilization and transcendent beauty is now lost.