Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Open Comment Thread (2015-10)

A little late on posting this. Have at it.

Wow, I said "have at it" last time. What an old, predictable coot I'm becoming.

("Becoming!?" said his kids....)

The Real Sexual Revolution

The real "sexual revolution" took place in the early Church, and the one people talk about in the sixties was just an attempt to undo it. Many people who have rediscovered the restoration of the beauty and integrity of the human person are converts to the Catholic Faith, and a number of them (130 to be precise) have delivered what I think is by far the most gracious, balanced and respectful letter voicing the concerns of the Catholic faithful with regard to the Synod on the Family. Excerpt:

With respect to the bewildering diversity of contemporary opinions about the human good, especially where questions about the human body are concerned, we understood that the radical nature of the Christian claim − that God, the Son, had taken up all flesh into Himself − was at stake. Christ “revealed man to himself” (Gaudium et Spes 22). He thereby “made clear” the meaning of our humanity – and with it the meaning of the body, of sexual difference, of sexuality, marriage and the family. He did this, for example, when the Pharisees asked him about divorce, and he turned them (and his own disciples) back to “the beginning,” to human nature as it was created. What is more, he brought something new to that same humanity, bestowing on it, mercifully, a share in His own fidelity to the Church. It was not by accident, then, that early Christians were drawn to the Church through the radiant humanity of His followers, manifest, for example, in their unique attitudes toward women, children, human sexuality, and marriage. And it was not by accident that, for the same reasons, we too were drawn to the Church many centuries later.

We are keenly aware of the difficult pastoral situations that you will be confronting at the Synod, especially those concerning divorced Catholics. We also share something of the burden you carry in confronting them. Some of us have experienced the pain of divorce in our own lives; and virtually all of us have friends or close relatives who have been so afflicted. We are therefore grateful that attention is being paid to a problem that causes such grievous harm to husbands and wives, their children, and indeed the culture at large.

We are writing you, however, because of our concerns about certain proposals to change the church’s discipline regarding communion for Catholics who are divorced and civilly re-married. We are frankly surprised by the opinion of some who are proposing a “way of penance” that would tolerate what the Church has never allowed. In our judgment such proposals fail to do justice to the irrevocability of the marriage bond, either by writing off the “first” marriage as if it were somehow “dead,” or, worse, by recognizing its continued existence but then doing violence to it. We do not see how these proposals can do anything other than contradict the Christian doctrine of marriage itself. But we also fail to see how such innovations can be, as they claim, either pastoral or merciful. However well meaning, pastoral responses that do not respect the truth of things can only aggravate the very suffering that they seek to alleviate. We cannot help but think of the abandoned spouses and their children. Thinking of the next generation, how can such changes possibly foster in young people an appreciation of the beauty of the insolubility of marriage?

Our current Holy Father is quoted in the letter:

"Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion….They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever,’ because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the time; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love." - World Youth Day, 2013

Here's the concluding statement, but I hope everyone goes and reads the letter in its entirety: "It is our hope that our witness will strengthen yours so that the Church may continue to be the answer to what the human heart most deeply desires." That's why I became a Roman Catholic. I discovered that it is the only religion which answers the longings of the human heart.

To me, the details surrounding the process of annulment-granting is not really interesting at all. Loosening the requirements or tightening them are not even the point. I just feel a deep sadness thinking that people could go through so much pain and then realize that, if indeed their marriage was null, they didn't get one bit of grace from it. What a complete waste of their time and of themselves. Unless maybe they learned something from the experience and can actually make a sacramental marriage the second time around.

I heard a woman casually discussing her annulment with another woman in line for confession one time and I thought that it's no big wonder people think it's Catholic divorce. They treat annulments with more respect than their own marriage.

The list of people who signed the letter contains a great list people whom I deeply respect: J. Budziszewski, Jeff Cavins, David B. Currie, Dawn Eden Goldstein, Scott & Kimberly Hahn, Marcus Grodi, Austin Ruse, Tim Staples, etc. I'm humbled and happy to be a small follower in their larger footsteps.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

No, no, no, possibly and it's hard to say

I liked this article on the Synod on the Family from CNN. It's short and to the point. Here's a cliff notes summary:

1. Will the church change its position on same-sex marriage?


2. Will the church change its teaching on birth control or abortion?


3. What about euthanasia?


4. So will this meeting change anything at all?


5. If the synod does recommend any changes, when will they take effect?

It's hard to say.

Number four is the placeholder for the liberals hopey for changey. The strategy for "this meeting" is the same as always for liberals: to take some tossed-off lines from Pope Francis or from others that are written down into documents which can have interpretations read into them. Then they will base their actions on the agenda they inject. This is what they've done for years with Vatican II, so I highly doubt they will do anything different for this synod.

For example, notice this line: "Pope [Francis] has said the communion is 'medicine' and not a 'prize for the perfect.'" This is not a Pope Francis thing, this is basically the traditional Catholic response to the Jansenist heresy and there is nothing new or innovative about the statement at all. The priest who first gave me instruction went even further stating that "Holy Communion is medicine for your soul not a reward for being good". So forget perfect for a minute, you don't have to even be good to receive communion! All you need to be is in a state of grace and not in some persistent state of sin like being in an unlawful marriage.

Normal Catholics and people in general will note how much middle ground exists between perfection and a persistent state of sin. Most of my friends and acquaintances are somewhere in between. But liberals love to spend their time at the poles. So they will treat the whole thing like a binary either/or proposition. For example, many liberals give the impression that if you don't approve of and celebrate every immoral act of an active homosexual then you are no better than people who physically attack and kill homosexuals. And if you make distinctions — like the Church does — between valid and invalid marriages then you really don't think that those people in the latter love each other. Which of course has nothing to do with being either in a state of grace or a persistent state of sin.

I'm not worried that anything horrible is going to take place within the context of the synod. I do think that some people will take it as a green light to push a liberal agenda, and it is amusing to see them pretty much doing this already when this meeting is just getting underway. The worst I fear is that the Church might lose an opportunity to clarify its constant teaching in the interference of all the gay talk. But it wouldn't be the first of the last time that's happened. But I think that TFP and MBD are overly worried.

Is Disqus killing your Web conversations?

Hopefully Pauli will indulge me in this little exploration of one of the weirder things I've run across recently and not, believe it or not, said or instigated by Rod Dreher.

No, I'm talking about Disqus' increasingly dreaded Terminator "Detected As Spam" filter.

I actually tried Disqus myself some months ago before just throwing in the towel, thinking, well, maybe it's just my pugnacious writing style (I know, I'm probably being way too hard on myself). But when I started asking around, I was surprised to find, at least in my circle of friends and acquaintances, that I was in the majority, not the minority, including a few who ran their own Web sites and had previously tried to use Disqus as a comment manager.

The main thing that infuriated both ordinary commenters and Webmasters who utilized Disqus alike was its crazy positive feedback learning algorithm (don't ask me what that means). In other words, it uses its own automatically marking someone's comment as spam as a rule that reinforces its automatically marking someone's next comment as spam as a rule that reinforces its automatically marking someone's next comment as spam as a rule that reinforces... You get the idea. Those acquaintances who ran their own little sites finally had to kill the Disqus beast because it was costing them viewers irritated at their treatment, not to mention the time wasted digging into their logs to un-spam Disqus victims.

Disqus actually has a page where its victims can petition for relief, but, as one might expect, it reads like an early draft of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Joseph Heller's Catch-22, mainly because Disqus uses its filter on that page, too, which means, yes, you guessed it, penitents wishing to be absolved of their spamnation so as to avoid further spamnation only find their petitions marked as spam, thus - yes, furthering their spamnation.

Overall, this process is not unlike dealing with too large a population of medical patients by giving everyone something marginally lethal in order to reduce the problem to manageable proportions.

Am I just running with the wrong crowd? Or have you or your friends had a run-in with Disqus, too?

Thank God for Pauli using Google, who in its severest moments only asks if one is a robot.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Could Benedict Option communities be MORE susceptable to child sexual abuse?

An unfortunate "BenOp" community member?

The clickbait-inspired blog war instigated by Rod Dreher against an obscure Moscow, ID pastor named Doug Wilson - before, having ginned up the attention to himself he sought, Dreher subsequently demurred

I don’t want to get dragged into an extremely bitter fight that has way, way more layers than I am capable of understanding from this far away.

nevertheless leads one necessarily to think of the possibilities for child sexual abuse in small, semi- and self-isolated Christian communities "thickened" in their own particular ways according to the particular interests driving each one.

As more than one commenter on Rod's blog remarked, "good thing you didn't raise this as an example of the Benedict Option." Yes, good thing, but he really didn't need to, did he. The question of children vulnerable to abuse, sexual and otherwise, in Dreher's speculative communities was already implicit in Dreher's "BenOp" concept itself.

In other words, the conceptual architecture of Dreher's proposed Benedict Option itself raises the perfectly reasonable question of whether Benedict Option communities might naturally be more susceptible to child sexual abuse than their more traditional, mainstream, more fully culturally invested, more fully transparent to public scrutiny, normal Christian alternatives.

Take, for example, the world wide Catholic Church which Rod, who never met a sexual perversion that didn't interest him, gleefully made a name for himself writing about during the Scandal. The reason there was in fact a Scandal at all that someone with even Dreher's rudimentary journalistic skills could eventually stumble over was due overwhelmingly to the mainstream role the Church played and continues to play in modern culture and the public exposure that must inevitably accompany such a public cultural role.

Now take the similar scandals which have plagued Rod's own Orthodox Church, including those involving church officials he personally supported and lobbied for internally. One reason these haven't seen as much light of day, of course, is that Dreher has studiously avoided reporting on them.

But the larger reason is that the churches themselves are far more peripheral to mainstream culture, tiny, on the fringes, virtually invisible and unknown to most people. Rod's own current backwoods ROCOR church was created out of nothing, virtually bought and paid for by Rod himself, its space leased from a long time Dreher family friend, Rod's wife installed as the Rodfather's consigliere power equal of the priest's wife, and, most recently, the priest himself personally beholden to Rod for the money that saved the life of his newest child.

So let's try to imagine how prone to either (A) discovery and relentless public journalistic exposure or (B) quiet, in-house application of X-number of really very stern prayer rules any child sexual abuse occurring in Rod's own particular back bayou church itself is likely to be. Yeah, I'm LMAO, too.

But even Rod's communion at least has a long-standing historical pedigree dating back to the Apostles themselves. While one cannot help but love any religious movement whose founder first looks to smartly fitting reference to it into 140 character-limited Twitter before even bothering to be able to tell you what it is, not necessarily so the impromptu Rod-coined "BenOp" communities their founder and ur-patriarch Rod Dreher is promoting.

Those Christian-flavored assemblies will, by Rod's account at least, "strategically withdraw" from the world while "thickening" themselves according their own interpretations of Scripture and its applications to those under their control.

Frankly, I'd be concerned for any children marooned in "strategically withdrawn" fringe communities where things might be unilaterally "thickening".

But, as much as Dreher bangs on whatever he can press into service as his gong o' the moment, it's never been "about the children" and most certainly never about any children who may find themselves unwillingly trapped in Moscow, ID or even potentially in his own "BenOp" compounds.

It's only and always and forever been about promoting Rod Dreher as the ultimate Kardashian of Christianity, today's and every day's click boy winner of the Internet. Any real children have only and always and forever been nothing more than a means to that end.

Maybe someone could somehow launch a GoFundMe account that could just buy out Dreher's whole "BenOp" book ambition contractually once and for all.

Just think of how many innocent children that effort might potentially save.