Monday 8/22/16

  1. P.T. Barnum vs Lady Macbeth
  2. Swetlandism and infallibility
  3. Imagine a competent GOP Candidate
  4. When do we go back to school?
  5. Who still speaks for conservatism?



… Monsignor Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College in Kansas City … scolded Catholic deacon Robert Spencer on the radio and in print for denying that Islam is “a religion of peace.” Indeed, Spencer has spent more than a decade documenting just the opposite in news reports and books such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and Religion of Peace.

It’s not that Swetland simply disagreed with Spencer, and the millions of other Catholics who find such a claim bizarre. No, Swetland went on to say that every Catholic must believe that Islam is a religion of peace, regardless of contrary evidence, on pain of rejecting the Catholic Church’s divine authority. That’s right, Swetland claimed that the assertion “Islam is a religion of peace” is part of the body of Christian doctrine that the Catholic Church has passed on from the apostles, which it’s a mortal sin to publicly contradict. Hence you are putting yourself outside the Church by saying otherwise, and you might even go to Hell for sinful disobedience.

(John Zmirak) Zmirak goes on to demonstrate that Swetland is a humbug, with forays into the real, non-caricature, meaning of Papal Infallibility (which infallibility I deny but Zmirak doesn’t):

There are only a few, narrowly circumscribed areas where the Catholic Church claims divine protection from error.

  1. Truths of faith that the apostles received from Jesus, and passed on to their successors. One example is the fact that Jesus is divine, co-equal with his Father. Early on, not everyone read the Bible as implying this, and the Church held multiple councils to clarify and reaffirm this crucial teaching. Some putative “gospels” suggested otherwise, which let the Church’s bishops know they were inauthentic.
  2. Facts of history that are essential to the story of salvation. For instance, that Jesus really existed, and that the Apostles actually knew him personally, followed him, and spoke with him in the flesh after his resurrection.
  3. Instances of divine revelation that were granted to the Apostles during their lifetimes, such as the Revelation to St. John. All public revelation, essential to eternal salvation and hence binding on Christians, ended with the death of the last apostle.
  4. Truths of morality that accord with the natural law that God wrote in the human heart, and which the Church has consistently and universally taught since the age of the Apostles. Hence abortion, adultery, sodomy, and murder are all things we know with absolute certainty to be wrong.

There are various ways in which the Church has historically formulated and asserted truths from each of these four categories: statements by Church councils, official proclamations by popes, or the unanimous testimony of Church fathers and early Christian tradition. (There is no direct condemnation of abortion in the Bible; that didn’t stop Martin Luther from knowing that it was wrong, from the ancient Christian consensus.) There has never been an infallible statement by a Church council or pope condemning incest or murder, for instance; the historic Christian consensus on such issues is so powerful that it never seemed to be necessary.

When a pope or a council of the Church makes a statement about some issue that does not fall into category 1, 2, 3, or 4, it might or might not be true ….


Think of what a normal Republican candidate, with normal big-party resources, and an acceptable level of party unity would have done with the following stories that relate to Clinton’s judgment and competence:

1. FBI Director James Comey’s lashing indictment of the careless way Clinton handled classified material, with the heavy implication that under normal circumstances a person would lose their security clearance for this behavior.

2. The renewed bombing campaigns over Libya, where Clinton’s “smart power” foreign policy created chaos, cost thousands of human lives, and created a Mediterranean beachhead for ISIS.

3. The tax documents of the Clintons revealing that they give nearly all their charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation, whose resources pay for much of their family’s travel, and for staff that spends most of their time serving them.

4. The Clinton Foundation’s announcement that it would — soon, eventually — cease taking foreign and corporate donations, even though any fair reading of these gifts makes the foundation look like a form of legal bribery.

Clinton should be happy that all of these stories come out and Trump doesn’t have the resources or the common sense to put her on the defensive about them in any serious or sustained way.

(Michael Brendan Dougherty)


As I’ve found in my research for the Benedict Option book, classical Christian schools are leading the way forward through this new Dark Age, often dragging local churches and Christian families along in their wake. Something very important is happening in this country in the classical Christian school movement. If you’re looking for a Benedict Option, there it is!

(Rod Dreher) Of Sequitur Classical Academy students out mucking flooded houses, the school’s headmaster writes (within the Dreher article):

Of course, you have the practical questions: when do we go back to school? How many of our families were affected by the floods and how greatly affected? Then you have the philosophical questions: should our students be studying right now or serving hot meals to refugees? In a community with this much need, what is the purpose of a great education? While tearing out dry wall from a flooded home, I got to thinking: classical Christian education is one of the only places in our society where students will truly be equipped to deal with these kinds of disasters, to be a calm in the manic and an able and willing hand in the reconstruction of the city, both literally and metaphorically, locally and nationally.

Consider for a moment those institutions in our society. Consider even the “religious” ones. Not one of them, including our academic institutions, have the moral fabric, rigorous demands, and goals required to raise future men and women, truly matured from adolescence and able to serve something greater than themselves. Our modern youth group model doesn’t challenge students to think well, communicate clearly, or work hard, despite the extemporaneous and helpful service projects done a few times a year. Think for a moment of our present definitions and modes of shaping masculinity, shaping future men who love, understand, and pursue courage. It’s gone, flooded and crumbled worse than any house here in South Louisiana.

Many people ask if classical Christian education is practical. “It sure is philosophical and heady,” they say after looking at a little less than half the curricula. There is no better test for the practicality of this kind of education than to see how classical Christian education is building a generation of men and women who will be best equipped as leaders and workers in the most practical situations.

I am not at present using this flood as an opportunity to ax grind, to find yet another crease we may pry open and say, “Aha! Classical Christian Education. Told ya!” My goal here is to make some very important connections between what our communities need at various times and how classical Christian academic institutions are some of the only institutions poised to provide for those needs ….


I am convinced that the designation “conservative” is losing any substantive meaning, except for attachment to Republican operatives and donors and the label that particular media personalities choose to give themselves …

It is exceedingly odd that what were common American beliefs through most of my life should now be associated with the far Right—and no longer be fully shared by misnamed American “conservatives.”

Even weirder is the fact that advocates of gay marriage and placing illegals on the path to legalization and eventual citizenship are attacking GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump as a fake conservative. This charge, which I encounter constantly on such GOP websites as Red State and Townhall, reeks with foolishness and hypocrisy. Let’s not forget that we’re dealing here with GOP boosters who were happy to praise the conservative convictions of such lackluster, conflict-averse centrists as George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney. I recall Karl Rove a few months ago laying into Mr. Trump for questioning the political wisdom of our last GOP president and Mr. Rove’s former boss. Mr. Rove was beside himself that anyone would even challenge W’s conservative credentials. He assured us that this president, who proposed bringing American democracy to the entire globe, still rates very high with registered Republicans. Presumably so does Martha Stewart, although I suspect not for ideological reasons.

The fact that one of Mr. Trump’s most conspicuous “conservative” haters, Erik Erickson, runs something called “Red State” may speak volumes about our political imbecility. Mr. Erickson stands not for a political worldview but for a sports team under another name. He and his red team rumble with the other side, which is colored “blue.” ….

(Paul Gottfried, Who Still Speaks for Conservatism? Emphasis added)

Yeah. In particular, let me say that if my formerly relentless attacks on Trump ever included “he’s not a real conservative,” I repent in sackcloth and ashes. It’s true, by my lights, but then I have some substantive, and not merely partisan, idea of “conservatism.”

By the lights of today’s (faux) conservatives, I am far Right insofar as I hold them, which is pretty far. On the other hand, I cannot say that I would have considered some of the positions of the American Solidarity Party “conservative” a few years ago, and to call them “conservative” today would only add the cacophony. In world terms, they’re “Christian Democrat” or “Center Right.”

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

About readerjohn

I am a retired lawyer and an Orthodox Christian, living in a collapsing civilization, the modern West. There are things I'll miss when it's gone. There are others I won't. That it is collapsing is partly due to calculated subversion, summarized by the moniker "deathworks." This blog is now dedicated to exposing and warring against those deathwork - without ceasing to spread a little light.
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