Why doesn’t Pope Francis view Islam as his namesake St. Francis did — As Christianity’s mortal enemy?

St. Francis of Assisi

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis and his namesake Saint Francis of Assisi have totally opposite views on Islam.

In a column titled “PBS Broadcasts Crusade Myths & Falsehoods” Andrew E. Harrod writes:

The Crusades were a Christian reaction to centuries of Islamic jihadist aggression that directly targeted the Catholic Church and Francis’ followers. Frank M. Rega, a Secular Franciscan and author of Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslimshas noted that an army of 11,000 Muslims sacked Rome itself in 846 and desecrated the tombs of saints Peter and Paul. Rega’s fellow Secular Franciscan Vail noted that Muslims later in 1240 attacked the Franciscan Poor Clare monastery in Assisi, which the order’s founder herself, St. Clare, successfully defended.

Contrary to Moses’ claims, Rega has observed that “unreserved support of the crusade had become normative in the Order” of St. Francis. Rega’s book noted Francis’ praise for “holy martyrs died fighting for the Faith of Christ.” Vail also observed that “one leader of later crusades was St. Louis IX, the king of France, a Franciscan tertiary who is now patron saint of the Secular Franciscan Order.”

Francis personally reflected such sentiments when he crossed the front between the Christians and Muslims fighting around Damietta, Egypt, on a personal evangelization mission to the sultan. Rega noted Francis’ words to the sultan: “It is just that Christians invade the land you inhabit, for you blaspheme the name of Christ and alienate everyone you can from His worship.” Francis’ frank words reflect that he “was fully prepared for martyrdom” and initially experienced rough treatment in Muslim hands, as the film portrays. As Rega’s book has noted, al-Kamil had vowed that “anyone who brought him the head of a Christian should be awarded with a Byzantine gold piece.” [Emphasis added]

Harrod states:

Francis’ behavior exemplified the common practice of his order in which friars often sought martyrdom by direct rhetorical challenges to Islam. Reflecting the negative judgment of Catholic saints upon Islam throughout history, Francis in Rega’s book tells the sultan that “if you die while holding to your law [sharia], you will be lost; God will not accept your soul.” As Notre Dame University Professor Lawrence Cunningham has observed, Francis “saw himself and his friars as Knights of the Round Table fighting a spiritual crusade.” [Emphasis added]

Saint Francis of Assisi sounds more like President Donald J. Trump than Pope Francis. President Trump during his Speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit said:

Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED. [Emphasis added]

Perhaps Pope Francis should read what his namesake said about Islam. How his namesake was part of the 5th Crusade and tried to convert Muslims to Christianity?

Sadly those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Especially Pope Francis.

The Curious Progressive Love of Islam

Among present-day American leftists (who prefer calling themselves progressives), a curious characteristic is their sympathy for Islam. They deplore what they call Islamophobia, regarding it as a sin as bad as racism or sexism or homophobia or transphobia; and they are horrified that a man they consider to be an Islamophobe, Donald Trump, should be in the White House.

Why is this sympathy for Islamic “curious”? Because no religion could be more at odds with progressive ideas than Islam. For one thing, Islam believes in God, an all-powerful God who controls everything in the created world. Progressives, on the other hand, tend to be atheists or at least semi-atheists.

For another, Islam has always taught that women must be socially inferior to men; it is a strongly patriarchal religion, and progressives hate few things more than they hate patriarchy. Islam also puts a strong emphasis on chastity, condemning adultery and fornication and – especially – homosexuality. And it considers monstrous that progressive favorite, same-sex marriage.

Of course, many Muslims (Muslim men, that is, not Muslim women) have over the centuries violated these pro-chastity values, but the religion nonetheless affirms the values. By contrast, although they regard sexual prudence as a good thing (and sexual prudence often bears a resemblance to chastity), progressives laugh at the idea that chastity is a virtue.

Why, then, are progressives sympathetic to such an anti-progressive religion and its adherents? Ask this question of a progressive, and he or she will tell you, “Because we believe in freedom of religion and in diversity.”

Maybe so, but I’m not convinced. For one thing, if they truly believed in freedom of religion, they would be at least as sympathetic to Christianity as they are to Islam. But they aren’t. They would never dream of compelling Muslims, against their conscience, to eat pork.Yet they are quite willing to force a conservative Christian baker to participate in the celebration of a same-sex wedding (by baking a wedding cake specifically designed for that wedding) even though this goes against the baker’s conscience.

And they are quite willing to compel a Catholic employer to pay for birth control for his female employees even when the employer’s conscience tells him it is wrong to do so – even when the birth control in question is an abortifacient. If an employer says with regard to the abortifacient, “I believe this is homicide,” the progressive replies, “Do it anyway.”

Of course, the leftist will tell you that Christian morality, correctly understood, has no objection to same-sex marriage, to contraception, or to abortion. For Jesus commanded his followers to love their neighbors and to judge not. Moreover, he never condemned homosexuality or abortion. Therefore, by compelling Christians to violate their erroneous consciences, we are doing nothing wrong, they say.

Now, leaving aside the exceedingly dubious qualifications of progressives to pronounce on what counts as true Christian morality, it is an ancient Christian teaching that a person is obliged to follow conscience, even an erroneous conscience provided that it has been arrived at carefully and sincerely.

As for the progressive contention that they are sympathetic to Islam because they are great believers in diversity; the more diversity the better – here again, I have my doubts.

Let’s suppose a purely secular organization, reacting to the excesses of feminism, appears on the American scene advocating the social inferiority of women. Such an organization would certainly be a contribution to that glorious thing, diversity – that thing which, according to progressivism, has made America great. Will our progressives demand that this organization be given respect by all diversity-loving Americans? Of course not.

I suspect there is something else behind this curious progressive sympathy for Islam, namely hostility to Christianity. Not all Christianity, to be sure. For progressives are not hostile to liberal Christianity, which, being barely Christian, in large measure supports the progressive agenda of abortion rights, LGBT values, and so on. No, this progressive hostility is directed at conservative Christianity, e.g., Catholicism, old-fashioned Protestantism, Mormonism.

From the progressive point of view, one of the great merits of Islam is that it has been, ever since its inception in the first half of the 7th century, an anti-Christianity religion. And since, as the old proverb has it, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” progressives are able to look on Islam as a friend (ally) in the great battle against Christianity.

Being pro-Islam is an indirect way of being anti-Christianity. When Christianity is sufficiently destroyed, the progressive alliance with Islam can be dissolved, just as the USA-Soviet alliance was dissolved after Nazism had been destroyed; and then progressivism can turn to the task of destroying Islam – if Islam does not destroy progressivism first, which is the more likely outcome.

But Islam is hostile not just to Christianity but to Judaism as well. This is another of its great merits in the eyes of progressivism. For progressivism is strongly anti-Israel. And being anti-Israel (or anti-Zionist) is the most modern and up-to-date form of Jew-hatred; it is today’s fashionable form of anti-Semitism.

What’s more, being anti-Israel is an indirect way of being anti-American. Much of the Israel-hatred that is so common among European and American leftists (including, weirdly, leftists who are themselves Jews) is motivated by a hatred for America. Israel and the United States having been so closely connected from 1948 to the present, he who hates Israel hates America.

This is not to say that American progressives hate America pure and simple. No, they hate America as it has been up until now. They wish to do away with the old and bad America, and replace it with a “new and improved” America, a progressivized America.

By being a pro-Islam progressive, then, you win a trifecta. You get to strike three blows at once: one against Christianity, another against Israel, and a third against the “old and bad” America. For a progressive, what could be better?

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.

EDITORS NOTE: © 2018 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

VIDEO: A Hallelujah Christmas

A Very Merry Christmas and May God Bless Us All.

LYRICS

“A Hallelujah Christmas”
(originally by Leonard Cohen)

I’ve heard about this baby boy
Who’s come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I’m singing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, HallelujahA couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay
So in a manger filled with hay
God’s only Son was born, oh Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said
You’ll find Him in a manger bed
Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east
To Bethlehem, the wisemen three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You
And to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh
They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

An Otherwise Uneventful Desert Evening

It was an evening like any other in Bethlehem. The desert was enveloped in a quiet darkness characteristic of any other night.

But this particular evening was colossally different. Yes, there was a uniquely bright star that had settled to the east, a celestial body that was likely a comet, but this was not the reason this evening was so special. Nor was it the unusual bustle gripping the city as it struggled to accommodate Caesar Augustus’s mandate that all citizens present themselves to their hometowns to be counted.

No. This evening was special because of a birth. On this particular night, a boy was born to a couple married under suspicious circumstances, as the mother, who claimed to be a most blessed virgin, was pregnant and was so before being married.

But the boy to be born that night would grow to have a presence so monumental, so pervasive, and so immense that he could only be divine. This little, vulnerable boy would deliver a heretical message. For those who believed, he was the messiah. For those who didn’t, his presence was an existential threat to the very existence of the Jewish religion.

This boy’s message was peace and hope. He was the innocent lamb to be killed for the sins of man, and his life the quintessential example of the path to salvation.

And he would bring with him a new edict, one that would permanently transform relations between men. It was a simple command, but so difficult to execute: You shall love God with all your soul and all your might, and your neighbor as you love yourself.

It was the latter provision that was so incredibly cutting edge, and religious authorities shuddered in disbelief upon learning of it.

“You mean to tell me that a man I have never met, a prostitute, a tax collector, a cheater, a murderer, or a thief deserves the same respect, affection, and love as my very own children? And you really expect me to offer my other cheek when that person who has become my enemy strikes me in hatred?”

Although Jesus was no politician — he spoke only to the individual — his message would transform governments. Because of him, some dared believe that every person has a direct relationship with God. Because of him, some dared believe that God loved the lowliest as much as the privileged. Because of him, some dared believe that government ought to be subject to the consent of the governed rather than the other way around. And because of this edict, great nations arose, or at least nations with the potential to achieve greatness.

But of course, evil would not recede in the presence of this infinitely beautiful man with his untiringly wonderful message. No. Instead, its instruments worked even harder to suppress the Word and destroy the message, first by having Jesus put to death by crucifixion and then by arguing that his message went against the will of God.

And when men and their governments drifted away from his edict, sometimes so perversely that they would invoke his name in so doing, the seeds of evil germinated, and death, injustice, and suffering spread. But when men complied with his message, justice would prevail, and love and charity would reign.

Evil’s response became even more tenacious, blaming the deaths and injustices on Jesus himself.

But every year, at about this time, we are once again given the opportunity to reflect upon the events of that otherwise inconspicuous night with the birth of a little boy, in a small little town, in the middle of the desert, who would later reveal the secrets to eternal peace, happiness, and joy.

Merry Christmas, and May God bless us all.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.

The Paradoxical Structure of the Kingdom

In 1970, the noted Catholic philosopher Frederick Wilhelmsen published a little book entitled The Paradoxical Structure of Existence. Wilhelmsen was a great teacher and also a very clear writer who could make Thomistic metaphysics intelligible, even for us non-professionals. Following St. Thomas, Wilhelmsen glories in the transcendence of the principle of existence in both created an uncreated being, and thus he escapes the limited philosophical perspectives that have paralyzed our thinking for centuries now.

My subject here, however, is not the paradoxical structure of existence, but rather the paradoxical structure of the Kingdom of God – established by God’s Word made Flesh. I am not a metaphysician and I struggle with deeper matters of theology. But it seems clear to me that this structure of the Kingdom follows quite Theo-logically from the principle of St. Thomas that grace always builds upon nature.

So, if the created order of being, the natural order, has a paradoxical structure inherent in its very being, then the Kingdom of God created by grace would be expected to have a similar paradoxical structure. And there is all kinds of evidence of this fact in the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole. But it all begins with the Incarnation itself, the first manifestation of which we are about to celebrate on Christmas.

What Christians believe about the Incarnation involves, perhaps, the greatest paradox of all. The infinite Son of God, the creative Word, has quite literally become a finite creature – not by a synthesis of opposites (divinity/humanity, creator/creature, as understood by Hegelian dialectics). That would have suppressed both the humanity and the divinity: and resulted in something else altogether. Instead, there is a transcendent synthesis, in which divinity and humanity are both perfectly preserved in the transcendence of the Divine Person who is made incarnate.

Paradox is the only literary vehicle we have even to begin to understand this great mystery. The infinite becomes finite without ceasing to be infinite. Because the divine person is pure existence, Ipsum Esse Subsistens, which transcends being itself, He does not become a human person but remains what He is, the perfect image of God the Father, and Creator.

Theologically, everything flows from this paradox of paradoxes. And thus many aspects of the Kingdom that He came to establish can only be described in paradoxical terms. For instance, in the Kingdom of God, you only find yourself if you lose yourself. We cannot understand who we really are nor become what we are meant to become unless we “lose” whatever there is in our “self” that contradicts the purpose for which God has created us. The “ego” that we have corrupted by our sins and self-aggrandizement, has to be “lost,” i.e., purified and transformed into the image of the perfect Image of God whom we call our Savior.

That’s just one wonderful example of this paradoxical structure, and there are many others. For instance, when Jesus says to St. Paul  (2 Corinthians 12:9), “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Surely, this paradoxical principle of the Christian life is traceable back to the Incarnation itself: God’s divine power was made perfect here in this world in the weakness of the human nature assumed by the Son. The full manifestation of this paradoxical truth takes place on Calvary, when the weakness of Jesus reaches its zenith, and the power of God brings about the redemption of the human race. But it was first manifested in that stable at Bethlehem where an infinite divine person was born into this world in all the weakness and vulnerability of an infant. Isn’t this what fills us with wonder and joy every Christmas, this ultimate paradox of paradoxes?

Certainly St. Paul learned a great lesson from this supreme paradox, necessary to help him grow stronger spiritually “in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.” He learned to imitate Christ in His weakness, and thus he concludes with great confidence and even joy, “For when I am weak, then am I strong.”

A last example: this one from Luke 22. There Jesus teaches his disciples “let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.” This paradox echoes a similar text, earlier in the Gospels, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus is speaking here specifically to those whom he is calling to lead the Church, his Apostles. They above all have to learn the lesson of this paradox.

In the Kingdom of God, where the order of grace fully operates, true greatness is the result of humility and service of the other, just as Christ humbled himself in obedience unto death and was Himself the Servant of the servants of God. How interesting, then, that these very words have been used, since the time of Gregory the Great, to describe the office of the pope.

How wonderful and joyful it is to meditate on the multiple paradoxes found in the Gospels. Let me repeat: all of them are grounded in that ultimate paradox of the Incarnation and lead us constantly back to that mystery.

And all of them help us to understand how this paradoxical Gospel teaching and the order of grace not only changed the perception of the dignity of the human person, but they enabled the human person to transcend the very limitations of his sinful nature in order to become a true child of God, in and through that order of grace.

Even the greatest pagan philosophers never really understood the true dignity of the individual human person. Only with God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, was the transcendence and ultimate destiny of the human person made manifest.

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at littlemoretracts.wordpress.com.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is titled Light of the Incarnation by Carl Gutherz, 1888 [Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN] © 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

A Christmas Reflection

At Midnight Mass all over the world, the words of the prophet Isaiah are proclaimed: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Is. 9:1) Ever since the summer solstice, we have been losing a little bit of light each day. The sun rises later in the morning and sets earlier in the evening. Some of us walk out the door in the morning into darkness and then return home in darkness. Our days are framed by darkness; there is always more of it in winter.

Our lives are also darkened, due to sin. With every lie, slander, false accusation, our lives are darkened a bit more. If we rationalize enough, we will no longer distinguish the light of grace from the darkness of our sins. Why is it that a great many of the sins we commit are sins of the tongue?

Speech is God’s way of drawing us into the folds of His love. In former times, the Letter to the Hebrews says, God spoke to us in partial and fragmentary ways. Now, in the Incarnation, the Lord has spoken to us through His Son. (cf. Heb. 1:1)

The Word became flesh and we saw His glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:14) This is the way Saint John describes the birth of Christ. There is no stable, no manger, and no shepherds in the field. How do we know, then, if we are in the presence of something glorious? Well, if you have ever been to Rome, you know the glorious by the fountains, the obelisks, etc. It’s glorious that antiquity has been preserved and we can revel in it thousands of years later.

The glory of the Incarnation is revealed to us in the One Who speaks truthfully. Jesus speaks truthfully in His birth. But infants do not emerge from their mothers’ wombs speaking; they come out crying.

Near the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus stands accused before Pontius Pilate. He is accused of being a king. In His own defense, Jesus says, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” (Jn. 18:37)

After hearing Jesus’ testimony, Pilate is satisfied. He orders that the inscription JESUS OF NAZARETH KING OF THE JEWS be placed on top of the Cross. (cf. Jn. 19:19) What we have is a King Who suffers and dies for the truth. More to the point, what we have is the embodiment of Truth suffering and dying. To the question then what good is truth if it results in suffering and death, we have this wonderful reply from Saint John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor:

[Christ’s] crucified flesh fully reveals the unbreakable bond between freedom and truth, just as his Resurrection from the dead is the supreme exaltation of the fruitfulness and saving power of a freedom lived out in truth. (87)

Among the first things babies are taught is how to speak. Initially, the words are badly formed, mispronounced, even unintelligible. After some practice, the words come more easily. Some of us actually become glib and clever phrasemakers – a kind of verbal gymnastics. We bend and shape our bodies in various ways; we do the same with our words. We stretch, pull, and manipulate them so that, often, their common meanings are no longer recognizable.

Jesus was born and came into the world to teach us how to speak truth. Not how to fast-talk our way out of trouble, not how to “spin” things. He doesn’t teach us to dodge and equivocate.

Jesus teaches us that we should let our Yes mean Yes, and No mean No. (cf. Mt. 5:37) This does not rule out speaking prudently, tactfully, or diplomatically. It does mean, however, that we call things by their right names.

The power to name was given to Adam before the Fall. (cf. Gn. 2:19) After the Fall, Jesus, the New Adam, restores our capacity to name things properly. Those who revel in the Messiah’s birth cannot fail a second time by accepting the myth that language never reveals things as they are.

Usually, adults teach babies how to talk. On Christmas, we permit a Baby to teach adults how to talk. He is the Babe of Bethlehem and upon his shoulder dominion rests. (cf. Is. 9:5)

In Greek mythology, Atlas is a god who supports the sky on his shoulders. Superhuman strength is needed to bear such a weight.

There is weighty responsibility when we open our mouths to speak. We decide if our words are going to reflect truth. Or if our words are going to mirror fashionable denials of what the natural law and revelation tell us are good for individuals and society.

Christmas can never be separated from a virgin who assented to God’s plan and brought forth for us the Christ Whose birth, life, death and Resurrection open up for us the prospect of eternal life. Christmas holds words and their meanings together so that we don’t divorce language from reality.

After proclaiming that He is the Bread come down from heaven, which causes some of the disciples to depart, Jesus asks the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave? (Jn 6: 67) Simon Peter speaks truth, “Master, to who shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6: 68)

Jesus possesses the words of eternal life because He is the Word, the Word made flesh. (cf. Jn 1:14) The Holy Eucharist changes darkness into light for each of us; falsehood gives way to truth and our words go silent before the only Word that matters: The Word through Whom the universe was made, the Savior sent to redeem us.

Let us listen attentively to the Lord’s word and be ever more mindful of its power to make us children of God (cf. Jn 1:12) unto eternity.

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at littlemoretracts.wordpress.com.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is titled the Nativity by Antonio da Correggio, c. 1530 [Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden] © 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

VIDEO: A Muslim convert explains how Jews are really Muslims?

This video is both funny and sad as a rather smart Muslim backs himself into an absurd condudrum from which he has no way out.

In over thirty years of dealing with Muslims it never ceases to amaze me how even the nicest of intelligent Muslims can lose their logical bearing when it comes to facts about Jews and Christians.

If you are a student of Islam, as I am, you come to realize that Muslims have a systemic inferiority complex when dealing with the obvious superiority of the Judeo-Christian way of life over the Islamic Sunni or Shia way of life.

Just look at the deplorable conditions of the 56 Islamic countries when it comes to any competitive metrics of countries in the West. If it were not for “Arab oil” most Islamic countries would look Like Somalia or Syria, self-destroyed because of internal tribal or religious battles. War, death, destructionand Judeochristaphobia are part of Islamic DNA, rooted in Islamic doctrine, hardened in the heat of Islamic battles.

In this context platitudes like, “Religion of Peace,” and “One of the world’s Great Religions,” really are vacuous terms that tickle the ears of the softheaded but have no relevance to the informed. Islam is a cultural house of cards that is kept aloft by its sheer immensity and incomprehensible incitement of fear in the hearts of the non-believers.

When you spend time with the Muslim world, reading, writing, speaking, debating, protesting, discussing, counseling and fighting you quickly realize that violations of Aristotle’s canons of logic, by Muslims, are a requirement in order to confront and defeat anything Jewish.

This sad state of affairs is graphically illustrated in this short video interview that Tom Trento had with a Muslim regarding President Trump’s proclamation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the US Embassy will be moved to Jerusalem.

Watch and listen carefully as a very nice Muslim backs himself into an absurd logical and historical position all to deny Jews the right to their capital, Jerusalem.

Deus Vitae!

On Feelings

James V. Schall, S.J.: The verb, “to feel” has, in many instances, replaced the verb “to think,” indicating a civilizational shift (and not a good one).

he administration of a major university recently sought information about the success of a new initiative. A survey was sent around. The respondents were asked in various ways to express their “feelings” about the program. About “feelings,” of course, no controversy or disagreement can follow. If “feeling” is the category under which we find out about things, we can have no argument. “Feelings” as such, however fleeting, are absolute. Either we have them or we do not.

Such is the meaning of the old Latin adage: De gustibus non est disputandum – about taste there is no dispute. In a world of “feelings,” no middle ground can be found. No common principle exists except: “Yes, I ‘feel’ this way” or “No, I do not ‘feel’ that way.” Suppose someone says to you: “Let me convince you that the beer that you claim ‘tastes’ so good is little better than warmed over lemon Jell-O.” Your answer remains: “I still like it best.”

The verb, “to feel” has, in many instances, replaced the verb “to think.” At first sight, these two verbs might seem to be synonyms. But on closer examination they differ tellingly from each other in a manner that indicates a civilizational shift. The society that “feels” is not the society that “thinks.” Both words have a specific meaning and they belong together in a certain order of priority. Our “feelings” are, or should be, at the service of our thought, but they are real enough in their own order.

“To feel” is the verb we use to indicate the status and nature of our passions or desires. It refers to those movements of our soul that are conjoined to our bodies. Hence, we say: “I feel sick.” “I am angry at Charlie.” Or “I laugh at Harriet.” But it is not sufficient to tell someone of his illness, anger, or humor. We need also to know whether such feelings are reasonable or not in the circumstance in which they arise. They may be. But if they are, it means not just how we “feel,” but whether our feelings are under the guidance of our reason. Further, it implies that our reason itself is measured by a standard that is not subjective. The standard was not created solely out of one’s own interests.

Aristotle is still master here. We have sensory knowledge. We “feel” pain. We touch something warm. We smell that foul odor. We taste the salt in the salad. We hear and understand the fib or joke that George told us. Without our sensory powers, we could not know these things that we deal with every day. Yet, the sense of smell does not itself know what smell is or how it differs from taste. Since we have minds that are not simply extensions of sensory powers, we know what smell, hearing, touch, and taste mean. We can hold all these differing aspects together at the same time.

Another thing we quickly learn about ourselves is that our sensory powers are subject to the rule of ourselves. We can learn why we have these powers. We see that we can be too angry or not angry enough. They each have proper purposes from which we can conclude to their proper place in our lives. By trial and error, by doing the right thing or wrong thing we become virtuous or vicious. We habituate ourselves in the way we use each of our sensory powers. Our character is manifested to others in the habitual way we respond to others. The central issue of our moral lives quickly comes to the surface in the way we act. Are we ruled by our passions or do we rule them?

If they rule us, does it make any difference? It turns out that our reason itself is oriented to an end, to a good that is not simply arbitrary. Our passions themselves, in other words, are faculties that look to reason’s guidance. Hence, their good or bad use arises from the end that our intelligence provides for us to choose and follow.

Thus, if our minds are skewered, so, in all likelihood, will be our passions. In this sense, the path from a civilization of reason to a civilization of “feelings” is quite intelligible. A civilization that places the primacy of “feelings” over a civilization of reason is one in which disorder has been habitualized and, indeed, customized and legalized.

One cannot be civilized and have no “feelings.” Civilization means freely implanting reason in control of our “feelings.” But it also means directing all of our passions to an end that places everything else in order. Passions, when given primacy, can become sophisticated “reasons” for replacing reason. But when this replacement happens, it is because we deliberately direct our minds away from their proper end.

James V. Schall, S.J.

James V. Schall, S.J.

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. Among his recent books are The Mind That Is CatholicThe Modern AgePolitical Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic ReadingReasonable PleasuresDocilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught, and Catholicism and Intelligence.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth by J.M.W. Turner, 1842 [Tate, London] © 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

FULL MOVIE: The Nativity Story — The Birth of Jesus our Savior

As we approach Christmas Day let is not forget what this national holiday is all about – the birth of a Jewish child named Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Savior of the world.

Please take the time to watch “The Nativity Story – The Birth of Jesus our Savior” with your family and friends.

Luke 2:1-20

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,

18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Brooke Simpson sings Amazing Grace.

Have Yourself a Very Subversive Christmas

Michael Pakaluk suggests that, just as early Christians had a special sign to identify one another, we need one now to exchange Christmas greetings.

Christmas puts Christians in a position where we have to prove our loyalty. That’s not a position anyone has ever liked. Catholics in the United States have basically spent centuries trying to get out of it. We are more American than the next guy. We uphold the neutral standards more strictly than anyone. We’ll let you know in advance that we’d certainly never follow a bishop or pope over the U.S. Supreme Court. Entire universities have been devoted to this project. Yet to the extent that we have succeeded, it has harmed us.

Our loyalty to secular authorities must always be conditional, or better, derivative. “The king’s good servant, but God’s first,” does, after all, imply that we are prepared to choose God over the king, if they conflict, and lose our head for it. The king wants us to be his good servant, period.

Christianity does not demand from us disloyalty, but an act of more fundamental loyalty, which is political too, because ultimately all authority is one. Maybe you have never sat through to the end of Handel’s Messiah, but its great concluding Amen goes, “Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.”

Indeed, the last words on earth of the Teacher who said “render unto Caesar” were: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” If you accept this, then all bets are off, except the bet on God’s really being the God of providence and good order.

But can truths like this reach through to us, between verses of “It’s a marshmallow world in the winter” and “Baby it’s cold outside”? Christmas as frivolity; Christmas as seduction by a Duraflame fire (“Tonight’s the night!”). Or maybe we do not even have seduction any longer, just arousal and sating. So: Christmas as desperate frivolity solely.

God will use the world to force our minds toward more serious things. We apparently are not in a position yet where Herod’s henchmen are the necessary remedy. Headlines seem enough: “The British Government refuses to state whether proclaiming the divinity of Christ is a hate crime.” “New York City bans the Catholic bishops’ message of goodwill on city buses.” And so on. They certainly get the point that proclaiming someone else as king is serious business. Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum.

And yet Herod’s henchmen weresent to us, forty-five years ago, and it boggles the mind that we go through another Christmas season and do not feel the utter and complete contradiction between abortion on demand and “Merry Christmas!” Yes, the contradiction is too horrible to contemplate, but that should be at least one reason why we are not contemplating it. But is it? Does our implicit awareness of the contradiction translate later into any action – such as a bus ride to the Mall, after frantic trips to the malls?

The Incarnation is one thing, the birth of the Christ is something else. He is incarnated as God. He is born a king. St. Matthew is well aware of this, in his telling of the Gospel. He describes the Incarnation at the end of Chapter 1, since he needs to explain how, although X begat Y who begat Z, etc., Joseph did not beget Jesus, who was “conceived of the Holy Spirit.” But the birth of the Christ child is described in the next chapter, and there it is a clash of kings.

The Magi arrive from the East. They go directly to Herod’s court. Later there was “Herod the tetrarch.” This earlier Herod, in contrast, was a king. Thus Matthew deliberately and explicitly refers to him repeatedly as “the king, Herod” and “Herod the king.” So the magi go to the court of the reigning king and ask him where the king has been born! The Church Fathers in their commentaries are amazed by this. What chutzpah to ask the king where the King (true king? rightful king? higher king?) has been born!

The Fathers say: it appears a traitorous act. We might say, the Magi of their own accord place themselves in a position where they must henceforth “prove their loyalty.” No wonder tradition represents them as kings themselves, since Herod’s deference to them looks otherwise unaccountable.

No one is particularly “merry” in Matthew 2. The King Herod and the people along with him are disturbed and thrown into a tumult. Amazingly the learned men stay cool and dispassionate (or were they frightened out of their wits?), discerning correctly where the “King of the Jews” may be expected to be born. Herod is furious when he discovers he has been hoodwinked. Joseph must flee hurriedly with the Holy Family from this hostile kingdom until the competing king is dead.

We like to throw ourselves into the Christmas story, so long as it gives us the warm fuzzies and allows us to sing “It’s a time for play, it’s a whipped cream day,” or if we aspire to higher things, “Silent Night.” Certainly, no one can speak badly about a creche, invented as it was by the holy St. Francis. It is good no doubt to kneel by the manger with shepherd boys and sing lullabies to the baby.

But it might do us good to amplify the crèche scene, to include the whole Christmas reality – not (foolishly) buff naked men with washboard abs – but, in the background and among the shadows, a tall, wraith-like, and sinister figure, brandishing a sword. More than the greed of a Scrooge threatens the spirit of Christmas. He stands for the jealous State, and he threatens anyone who would dare honor this newborn child as “my liege and sovereign Lord.”

The early Christians had a code greeting at Easter, which we know so well. We need one for Christmas too. Not a merry but a subversive Christmas greeting: “Our king is born. – He is our king indeed.”

Michael Pakaluk

Michael Pakaluk

Michael Pakaluk, an Aristotle scholar and Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, is professor at the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. He lives in Hyattsville, MD, with his wife Catherine, also a professor at the Busch School, and their eight children.

EDITORS NOTE: © 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

About Our Epidemic of Sexual Aggression

Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons: The sex-abuse crisis presents a moment for the Church to communicate more fully the Lord’s liberating truth about human sexuality.

The current revelations of an epidemic of sexually aggressive behaviors (SAB) against women, particularly by men in the media over many decades, has led to calls to address this highly prevalent “disease” in our culture.

Peggy Noonan, however, has boldly identified its spiritual origins in the Wall Street Journal

An aging Catholic priest suggested to a friend that all this was inevitable. “Contraception degenerates men,” he said, as does abortion. Once you separate sex from its seriousness, once you separate it from its life-changing, life-giving potential, men will come to see it as just another want, a desire like any other. Once they think that, then they’ll see sexual violations as less serious, less charged, less full of weight. They’ll be more able to rationalize. It’s only petty theft, a pack of chewing gum on the counter, and I took it. 

The crisis provides an opportunity to acknowledge the full extent of SAB and, especially, its enablement by the culture, families, and schools because of the failure to take seriously the dangers and harm of using persons as sexual objects.

This crisis is not limited to adult males. The troubling reality is that this epidemic is prevalent in adult females, as well as in singles and in adolescents of both sexes.

A recent clinical experience with an adolescent male demonstrates this reality. When he refused the request of a female high school classmate to have sex, she responded with the hostile, insulting comment that he must be homosexual. This was followed that night by a telephone call from her irate mother to his mother, claiming that he was harming her daughter’s self-esteem and her right to have good sexual relationships.

Another example: a college freshman told her mother that the only reason she refused to date anyone in the Catholic high school she attended was because the males expected sex on the first and all following dates.

Many Catholic parents and educators do not recognize or are in complete denial about the extent of SAB in young people, its support by the contraceptive mentality, and its enablement, particularly by females, who crave acceptance and affirmation.

Over the past forty years as a busy psychiatrist, on many days I have felt like an army medic on a battlefield littered with severely wounded adults, teens, and children who have been used as sexual objects by other adults or by their peers. Their symptoms are similar to those with posttraumatic stress disorders.

A number of psychological conflicts are present among those who engage in SAB – the leading problem being severe selfishness/narcissism. This personality disorder is widespread in our time and results in the belief that one has the right to use others as sexual objects.

A leading academic psychologist on narcissism, Dr. Jean Twenge has examined this serious personality disorder in youth and has rightly entitled her book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement because what we are seeing is definitely of epidemic proportions.

Many young people have absorbed this model through exposure to the same personality weakness in one or both parents – or were never taught by parents how to grow in virtues of generosity and self-control to overcome it.

Other important psychological origins of SAB include severe lack of confidence (most often, from rejection experiences in the father relationship and to a lesser degree with mothers); dominating and controlling compulsions; intense loneliness; strong anger that is misdirected sexually; abusive treatment by a spouse, parent, or peers; mistrust of one’s spouse and severe stress.

These factors regularly lead to compulsive pornography use and later SAB.

Such psychological conflicts can be addressed by a commitment to grow in forming and maintaining a healthy personality. This requires a decision to engage in the hard work of pursuing virtues such as respect for control issues, self-denial for selfishness, forgiveness for anger, trust for emotionally distant behaviors, hope and cheerful self-giving for loneliness, and faith for severe stress and anxiety.

The leading cultural factor in this epidemic is the media – particularly television shows and movies whose goals are celebrating sexual “freedom.” Hostility toward Judeo-Christian morality among politicians, educators, celebrities, and public figures is also a contributing factor to SAB.

St. John Paul II’s writing can be an important place to begin in countering SAB in the culture, especially his Letter to Women, which provides strong guidelines for appreciating how women should be valued and treated.

He also offers a crystal clear understanding God’s plan for sexuality in Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World). He wrote there:

. . . husbands and wives should first of all recognize clearly the teaching of Humanae Vitae as indicating the norm for the exercise of their sexuality and they should endeavor to establish the conditions necessary for observing that norm. [34]

Less well-known, but also quite important is The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality,which was released by the Pontifical Council on the Family during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, and can point us towards the cultural purification process needed to reduce the epidemic of sexually aggressive behaviors.

This current sexual-abuse crisis presents an important moment for the Church to communicate more fully – and without fear – the Lord’s liberating truth about human sexuality by placing it, finally, on a lampstand where it can shed some light in a darkened age. It is time to bring to an end the decades of silence about this much-needed truth, beginning with responsible and conscientious parents who, further, can count on support and backup from Catholic educators, priests, and bishops.

Rick Fitzgibbons, M.D.

Rick Fitzgibbons, M.D. is a psychiatrist in Conshohocken, PA who has treated youth and adults with gender dysphoria, and written on the topic. He is the co-author of Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope .

RELATED ARTICLE: Can the Church Recover Its Fighting Spirit?

EDITORS NOTE: The featured painting is titled Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, 1599 [Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome] © 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Defining Religion

The American Founding Fathers gave much thought to the proper relations between church and state. They did this when they put the “no religious test” provision into the U.S. Constitution. They did it again when, a few years later, they drafted the First Amendment with its two religion clauses pertaining to “free exercise” and “no establishment.” Earlier, Jefferson and Madison did it when they drafted the Virginia statute of religious liberties.

If you had asked the Founders for a general definition of religion, they would probably have given examples: Christianity is a religion, or rather that the many branches of Christianity are so many religions. Islam is a religion, as are Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. And then there were the pagan religions of ancient Greece and Rome, the many religions found among American Indians, and many other religions around the world and throughout history.

They might have disagreed with one another if asked, “Is Deism a religion?” Some would have said no, arguing that Deism, while it includes a system of belief and even a system or morality, lacks a system of worship; and worship is an essential element of religion. What’s more, the objectors might add, the Deists of the world don’t constitute a sacred community, whereas all genuine religions are felt by their adherents to be sacred communities.

Some of the Founders, on the other hand, would have said yes to the question of whether Deism is a religion. Some (e.g., Jefferson) might even have gone so far as to say that Deism is the world’s one true religion. And to the objection that Deists don’t have a system of worship, they could answer that Deists do indeed worship God, not by wasting an hour or two in church on Sunday mornings, but by promoting the happiness of God’s human creatures.

As for the objection that Deists don’t constitute a sacred community, a Deist could reply: “We are a sacred community, not indeed a structured, hierarchical community, but a kind of invisible church – as befits free men and women.”

Now, let’s say our Founders had the ability to look ahead to the 20th century. What would they have said about the Communist and Nazi parties? Would these count as religions in their eyes? After all, they provided their faithful members with some of the important psychological satisfactions that conventionally religious persons received from traditional religions. If you were a Communist in the heyday of that movement, you had the feeling that your life was meaningful.

You as a mere individual, a speck of human dust floating in this immense universe, may not be of any importance. But who can doubt that the CP is a thing of importance? And so you, as part of the CP, are important – just as a person’s finger, unimportant and meaningless all by itself, is important and meaningful as part of a living body.

Further, as a member of the Party you are given a moral code. It tells you how to conduct your life. It tells you what’s right and what’s wrong. It is right to fight against capitalism and in support of the hundreds of millions of victims of capitalism both at home and abroad. It is wrong to co-operate with the police in their defense of the capitalist-imperial regime, or to nod your agreement with journalists who defend the capitalist ideology and its pseudo-democratic political parties. It is right to violate the rules of conventional morality when these violations advance the noble Communist cause, which is the cause of mankind.

And if you were a German Nazi in the heyday of Nazism, you were able to obtain similar quasi-religious satisfactions – a feeling that your life is meaningful plus a code of ethics, even though the Nazi code happened to be somewhat different from the Communist code.

Do we have similar phenomena in the USA today – I mean thoroughly secularized ideological movements that function very like a religion? Yes, I think so. For many women, feminism has become a quasi-religion, and for many gays and lesbians, the homosexualist movement has been a quasi-religion.

I think feminism-as-a-religion, while not yet dead, is over the hill; its heyday was the 1970s and 1980s. But the LGBT movement is still going strong. My guess is that it has not yet reached its peak.

More generally, we have what is often called secular humanism: a comprehensive worldview that includes, as subsections of itself, the two movements just mentioned. This larger movement is characterized by (1) atheism or near-atheism, (2) a disbelief in life after death, (3) moral relativism, (4) a great belief that individual persons should be free to do whatever they wish, provided they don’t harm others in a tangible and obvious way, (5) a great belief in sexual freedom, and (6) a confidence that the state – properly staffed, organized, and funded – can guarantee a high degree of average human happiness.

It is clear that our Founding Fathers didn’t want the state to promote, for example, the views of the Episcopal Church to the detriment of the views of Baptist or Presbyterian churches. But would the founders be okay with the promotion of secular humanism to the detriment of old-fashioned Christianity? Yet that’s exactly what happens when the state promotes the values of secular humanism to the detriment of the values of traditional Christianity – for instance, when public school teacher A is free to tell his/her pupils that same-sex marriage is a good thing while public school teacher B is forbidden to tell his/her pupils that abortion is wrong.

I will be told that secular humanism is a philosophy, not a religion, and that the state, which has no right to promote a religion, has every right to promote a philosophy if it judges this philosophy to be true. I reply that that is a distinction without a real difference – and confusion on this point is doing great damage to our constitutionally protected religious liberty.

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.

RELATED ARTICLE: What the Founders Understood About Religious Freedom That We Must Recover

EDITORS NOTE: © 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own. The featured image is by Simone Golob/Corbis.

Political “Science” – in Good Faith

Few contemporary political science students know the checkered history of their discipline, which has principally become an empirical field devoid of metaphysical questions. Aristotle, the “father of political science,” argued, however, that, in a properly and prudently governed polis, the good citizen will be coincident with the good man.

The nature of goodness was thus an essential matter of political inquiry. That simple idea is profoundly significant, for it captures a key element of genuine political science, which aims at developing and inculcating virtue. “The main concern of politics,” Aristotle writes in the Nicomachean Ethics, “is to engender a certain character in the citizens and to make them good and disposed to perform noble actions.”

St. Thomas Aquinas thought that political administration was good if, and to the extent that, it was ordered to holiness. Good people would lead good governments; without virtuous leadership, the citizens would largely fail in the cultivation and practice of virtue. In fact, Aquinas quotes from Proverbs 28:12, 15, 28 and 29:2, the theme of which is that oppressive rulers are ravenous beasts who impair virtue and the common good.

By “virtue,” Aristotle meant excellence of the soul (as did Aquinas), so that “the student of politics must obviously have some knowledge of the working of the soul.” Obviously? Today’s academics?

When almost two millennia later Machiavelli taught that rulers required virtù (not virtue), he argued for might over right, and for the acquisition of power regardless of divine consequences. If Solomon, in Proverbs, warned against oppressive princes, Machiavelli exalted them as effective, contending that the love of power was greater by far – and much more practical – than the power of love.

Since then, political science had become more concerned with what is, than with what ought to be. Cynics argue that we have no reliable measurements of what virtue is, but we have a warehouse of tools for measuring more “useful” matters (such as voter tabulations and public opinion polls).

Lenin defined politics as Kto/kovo (or Who/whom – who does what to whom?) Harold Lasswell (1902-1978) described politics as “who gets what, when, how.” And systems theorist David Easton (1917-2014) said that politics is “the authoritative allocation of values.” Nothing there about virtue, rectitude, or nobility. Nothing there, either, consistent with the Catechism’s observation that “ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action, and morals” (#407).

The American man of letters Russell Kirk (1918-1994), however, struggled to restore the Aristotelian-Thomist understanding that politics is “the application of ethics to the concerns of the commonwealth.” There is a necessary connection, Kirk and his students would say, between Athens and Jerusalem, between the virtues of love and of prudence, between Ought and Is. In conscientiously and continuously seeking that connection between the Perfect and the Possible, one finds both the purpose and the pity of politics.

Philosopher Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) saw clearly the danger of our day, warning of the evil sure to result from “the degradation of political science to a handmaid of the powers that be.” Genuine political wisdom proceeds, from knowledge that “the truth of man and the truth of God are inseparably one.” There is a measure, after all, for determining right and wrong in political life. If Protagoras and all subsequent positivists or secularists proclaim, “man is the measure,” they are grievously mistaken, for, as Plato told us, “God is the measure.”

In the absence of proper diagnosis – that “the whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil” (Gaudium et Spes 37) – the medicine of politics curdles and corrupts. Politics is seen either as messianic (with would-be political saviors in the political arena) or as despicable (with debauched despots vying for power and attention).

Here, then, is modern politics: a political convention in Charlotte which boos God and a raft of politicians who, as Walter Lippmann once put it, “advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate” the public, to whom they present themselves as servants of the people.

When we scoff at the true, the good, and the beautiful; when we worship the false and fleeting and call the profane sacred; when we conflate what is noble with what is noisome; when fraudulent education creates, as C. S. Lewis said, “men without chests” – then we will continue to look for solutions to problems in all the wrong places and by all the wrong means. We will create hell and call it heaven; we will kill babies and the elderly and call it mercy (cf. Is 5:20). We will cheer what is filthy and loathsome and call it sublime. We will not know that we do not know. And we will not care, for a drugged and decadent society will divert us.

And what of those who seek to restore virtue in public policy and to remind us that we are creatures of a loving God? What of those who speak faithfully of the moral law and of a political science which tells us – against those who boo God – that we are neither angels nor beasts but beings made in His image and His likeness, trying to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12)?

Political science, wisely taught and wisely practiced, tells us always that we must know, first, Whose we are (1 Cor 7:6:19, 7:23). Remembering that, we might heed Churchill’s advice: “The day may dawn when fair play, love for one’s fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forward serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinchnever wearynever despair.”

James H. Toner

Deacon James H. Toner, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Air War College, and author of Morals Under the Gun and other books. He has also taught at Notre Dame, Norwich, Auburn, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Holy Apostles College & Seminary.

EDITORS NOTE: © 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Libs on Speech: Succumb, All Ye Faithful

Churches used to be where people went to escape the turmoil of the world. Now, with an outbreak of violence, the turmoil is coming to them. A wave of radicalism is boiling over, and America’s houses of worship are bearing the brunt. In the three months between January and March, there were more than 100 bomb threats called into Jewish community centers. Arsonists are attacking mosques at a furious rate. And I don’t have to tell you what happened at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

“Unfortunately, our society no longer seems to place the same value on religious belief,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said somberly.

“In fact, it often feels that in this modern society, religion is met with disdain and an attitude of militant secularization. We live in a time where violence and threats of violence are routinely used to scare people from practicing their religious beliefs.” As a culture, he went on, “we must make clear that we value this vital right to exercise religious freedom, and do what we can to encourage and foster this faith, for the good of the country. That’s why it is important we make clear that threatening places of worship, threatening religious institutions, and deterring good people from practicing their faith and exercising their right to do so, will not be tolerated.”

This week, members of Congress put their full force behind his words, passing — almost unanimously — a bill called the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017. By a vote of 402-2, leaders from both parties are sending a powerful warning to anyone targeting men and women of faith: you will pay. Specifically, the law would give faith leaders more tools to fight this outbreak of violence, vandalism, and harassment. Threats to property, like bomb threats or anything else that keeps Americans from worshipping, will be severely punished. Congress wants to clamp down on the extremists putting faith in the crosshairs, upping the penalties to three years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. It’s an important policy, but an even more significant message that this Congress won’t stand by while evil men try to shake the faith of our country.

We applaud the House for protecting the churches physically — now it’s time to protect their freedom to speak. The secular Left is doing everything it can to keep that from happening, including an impressive takeover of the mainstream media’s talking points on the Johnson Amendment. For the last couple of weeks, while Congress deals with the snags in the two tax bills, liberals have ramped up their misinformation machine — spitting out dire warnings about the supposed effects of letting religious groups speak openly.

Their predictions, that churches will become underground PACs which funnel “dark money” through the process, is being passed off as legitimate journalism in places like CNN (which is apparently less concerned about fact-checking than it is about keeping Christians from engaging in the political process). Liberals scream that this is campaign finance law in disguise, another ridiculous talking point that the authors of the legislation have repeatedly debunked. Under the language of the House’s tax bill, nonprofits can use political speech only in the ordinary course of business and with very limited money.

As Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), House Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) have explained until they’re blue in the face that there is absolutely no way under this bill that churches are suddenly going to become underground party operatives. This is just about leveling the playing field that was tipped more than 60 years ago — and interpreted by liberal administrations like Obama’s as an excuse to go after religious groups with the full weight of the IRS behind them.

If the Senate agrees to the House language, Lankford, Scalise, Hice and Johnson explain, this is what will happen (hardly the stuff of nightmares): “An environmental nonprofit that sends out an e-newsletter educating its readers about the climate positions of candidates wouldn’t have to fear an audit. A church employee who distributes election voter guides (for which her church did not incur any cost for distribution) could not be punished by the IRS.” Besides, the trio continues:

“The bill also requires that any expenditure related to these activities are de minimis — that is, only minimal and not outside the usual expenses of the organization — to ensure that the organization’s primary function remains charitable or religious in nature… The criticism that our legislation would subsidize religious organizations’ politics demonstrates a double standard for faith-based entities. Leaders and employees of other entities that receive federal funding — such as hospitals and universities — are welcome to advocate for political causes and contribute to them. The IRS does not threaten to punish them when they engage in political speech.”

Liberals are scared all right — but not of churches becoming political PACs (a claim even they can’t substantiate). What they’re terrified of is greater engagement from the Christian community. After last year’s election, they understand how influential evangelicals can be, and they’ll do anything to keep history from repeating itself. If they can keep pastors from firing up their congregations on moral issues, they think they can limit the churches’ influence in the culture. The Framers, John Daniel Davidson points out in the Federalist, would have found this whole idea absurd. “Certainly, the idea that pastors and other clergy aren’t allowed to weigh in on elections or political issues from the pulpit would have struck the Founding Fathers as not only strange but inimical to the idea of a constitutional republic (especially since one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Witherspoon, was a Presbyterian minster).”

“Pastors, rabbis, and imams can’t be expected to stay silent on social matters like abortion, gay marriage, and transgenderism — or, more to the point, stay silent about candidates who espouse views of those matters that are hostile to the teachings of their faith. The same goes for more conventional political matters, such as war, immigration, and welfare. Religion has a lot to say about all those things, and religious leaders have a First Amendment right to speak to their congregations candidly about them — and about the candidates and officeholders who will make laws pertaining to them,” Davidson argues.

This is a priority of the president, as he reiterated to me again yesterday at a meeting with evangelical leaders in the Oval Office — and it should continue to be a priority of this Congress as it finishes up its work on tax reform.

Contact your leaders and remind them that free speech is for everyone.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


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Fake News: Pope Francis Is Not Changing the Lord’s Prayer!

It appears that President Trump isn’t the only world leader who suffers from fake news reports. The Holy See Pope Francis has fallen victim to the same shoddy reporting.

In The National Catholic Register Jimmy Akin in an article titled “No, Pope Francis Is Not Changing the Lord’s Prayer” reports:

This is a classic case of the pope saying something and the media distorting it.

Newspapers and websites erupted over the weekend with headlines like:

Shame on all of them.

The pope didn’t call for any changes.

This is a classic case of the pope saying something and the media going hog-wild and completely distorting it.

How did all this start?

Italian television aired an hourlong interview with Pope Francis in which he was asked about a new version of the Lord’s Prayer in France.

You can watch the interview (in Italian) here.

What did the French church do?

They adopted a new translation of the Lord’s Prayer for use in the liturgy. It went into effect on the first Sunday of Advent (which is why Pope Francis was being asked about it).

Basically, they changed the line that in English reads “and lead us not into temptation” to one that means “do not let us fall into temptation.”

What did Pope Francis say about this?

He reportedly said:

The French have changed the text and their translation says “don’t let me fall into temptation,” . . . It’s me who falls. It’s not Him who pushes me into temptation, as if I fell. A father doesn’t do that. A father helps you to get up right away. The one who leads into temptation is Satan.

Various accounts also report him saying that the “lead us not into temptation” rendering is not a good translation because it is misleading to modern ears.

So he isn’t about to impose a new translation on everybody?

Read more.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

The Lord’s Prayer resembles other prayers that came out of the Jewish matrix of Jesus’ time and contains three common elements of Jewish prayers: praise, petition, and a yearning for the coming kingdom of God. It consists of an introductory address and seven petitions. The Matthean version used by the Roman Catholic Church is as follows:

Our Father who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us,

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

The words of the Son of God as written in the Gospel of St. Matthew 6:9-13 are not changing.

Blessings and Merry Christmas.