Wednesday 11/30/16

  1. The King’s Banquet
  2. Francis and The Dubia
  3. What use is “middle ages”?
  4. How convenient!
  5. France’s wart

First Things


Blessed are they that will share in the King’s banquet; but already on earth You give me a foretaste of this blessedness. How many times with Your own hand have You held out to me Your Body and Your Blood, and I, though a miserable sinner, have received this Sacrament, and have tasted Your love, so ineffable, so heavenly!

Glory to You for the unquenchable fire of Your grace.
Glory to You, building Your Church, a haven of peace in a tortured world.
Glory to You for the life-giving water of baptism in which we find new birth.
Glory to You, restoring to the penitent purity white as the lily.
Glory to you for the Cup of Salvation and the Bread of eternal joy.
Glory to You for exalting us to the highest heaven.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

(Excerpts from Akathist Hymn Glory to God for All Things)

Secondary Things


Were I a Roman Catholic, I think I’d very unhappy and uneasy right about now.

Hypotheticals are always tricky, but I thought “If I were a Catholic, I think I’d be a Benedict XVI Catholic.” I also used the think that if I weren’t Christian, I’d be Bahai. Go figure. When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.

So why “right about now”?

Well, four Cardinals apparently thought that Pope Francis had sown some uncertainty in the Church with his encyclical Amoris Laetitia. So they exercised a canonical option by posing four dubia to the Pope, seeking clarification. His Holiness declined to answer.

Meanwhile one of those four dubia authors, the combative traditionalist, Cardinal Raymond Burke, gave an interview suggesting that papal silence might require a “formal act of correction” from the cardinals — something without obvious precedent in Catholic history.

(Ross Douthat) Now

Archbishop Pio Vito Pinto, Dean of the Roman Rota, told a conference in Spain that Cardinal Burke and the three cardinals who submitted the dubia to Pope Francis “could lose their Cardinalate” for causing “grave scandal” by making the dubia public.

(Rod Dreher) The standoff could be quite — ahem! — consequential.

Q: How can the doctrine of papal infallibility survive this?

A: Fans of logic will note that it can’t. If Pope Francis continues on the course he has chosen, he will prove, empirically, that this teaching was never true in the first place.

Q: What will that mean for the First Vatican Council?

A: That council, and every other council the Catholic Church has held since the great Schism with the Orthodox in 1054, will be called into question. The Orthodox theory, that it was Rome which went off the rails back then, will start looking pretty persuasive. Last time I checked, making the case for that was not the Roman pontiff’s job.

(John Zmirak)

If you want more background, read Rod Dreher. I’m with him up to the point where he begins “You, reader, might be thinking: Rod, as a former Catholic turned Orthodox, must be pretty happy with this.” Rod isn’t happy and explains why.

His unhappiness is viscerally conservative, amounting, in my paraphrase, to “Rome is wrong on divorce and remarriage, but Pope Francis is flirting with reform in the right direction for the wrong reason of mollifying post-Christians who misunderstand sex and marriage. And goodness knows what collateral damage could be done by reform on this point, which may be more integral to the whole edifice than you think.”

But can that understandable gut reaction withstand reason, when Rod concedes that Francis is talking in ways that echo the correct Orthodox position? Can the bad consequences of abandoning the wrongful dogma of infallibility justify continuing to hold it (or should I say “abandon it much more slowly and deliberately”)?

I’m not at all sure it can. But I’ve thought for a long time that Vatican I’s dogma of Papal Infallibility painted the Roman Church into a corner from which I, a bystander, could see no escape without putting the whole structure at the gravest possible risk.

Tertiary Things


Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry has a bone to pick with “the middle ages” — not the era, but the term:

Today, we are told a very simple story about the grand sweep of European history. It goes something like this: There was once the Roman Empire, technologically advanced and sophisticated; after the Roman Empire fell, Europe fell into a millennium of darkness, poverty, and religious superstition; then came the Renaissance, when the West recovered the glories of Greco-Roman thought and science, and the wheel of progress started turning again, leading to the “Enlightenment” when philosophers threw off the fetters of irrational religion to advocate for free inquiry, human rights, and so on.

Historians typically pick 475 AD, the formal end of the Western Roman Empire, as the start date for the “Middle Ages,” while acknowledging that it is an arbitrary pick, since the disintegration of the Roman Empire happened gradually over centuries. For the other bookend, they typically either pick 1453, the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, or 1492, the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America.

But I would like to make a modest proposal: Let’s retire the phrase “Middle Ages.” It’s not just misleading and ideologically biased, it’s also, on its own terms, entirely meaningless. We can do better.

I appreciate his point and I like his better alternative, for which you’ll need to read his piece.


As you may already know, every couple of years Congress considers whether to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a federal statute that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, much as discrimination on the basis of race, sex, etc. are already banned. So far, the legislation has not yet been enacted, and that was about where things stood when I was in law school, although since then one attempt, H.R. 3685, passed the House in 2007 by a 235-to-184 vote, and another, S. 815, passed the Senate in 2013 by a 64-to-32 vote.

So I have been somewhat intrigued in more recent years as an argument has emerged quite prominently in some federal courts that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is already illegal. The argument is that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination also entails a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and it has gotten enough momentum that it is coming to the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit on Wednesday in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College.

While it may seem surprising for a decades-old statute to suddenly be discovered to have an important new implication like this, the argument has something going for it ….

(Will Baude at Volokh Conspiracy)

Well, yes, it would seem “surprising for a decades-old statute to suddenly be discovered to have an important new implication like this.” Although “How convenient!” might be better than “it would seem surprising.”

The ability of courts (aided, of course, by the sophists of the ACLU or the like) to find progressive policy in the constitution or prior law after long failure to the legislatures to enact them, should strike anyone as very, very fishy — prima facie, albeit not ultima facie.

I suspect that such proclivities contributed to the election of President Disaster-Waiting-to-Happen.


Just when I start longing to go to France, I learn that this video was banned (as “not of general interest”) from French airwaves:

It seems that the French have a particular horror about Down Syndrome, aborting fully 96% of Down Syndrome children when the condition is discovered prenatally and using it as a way to mock and satirize. Yes, I mean Charlie Hebdo. Details here (headline hyperbole alert).

* * * * *

“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.