Not singing Kumbaya (and other bracing things)

  1. Not singing Kumbaya;
  2. Left vs. Right;
  3. Stupid disruption;
  4. May the Mad Twitter King block dissent?;
  5. One of The Greats;
  6. How Federalism (sorta) works;
  7. Sacred Cows;
  8. When the fullness of the time had come


I understood that The Week was a conservative news magazine. I understood wrong.

It is an awfully good and interesting news magazine, with such stars as Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, Michael Brendan Dougherty and Damon Linker, each of whom is consistently worth reading, and the first two of which are pretty conservative.

But this was just off the scale. I admire the author, Matthew Walther, for not mincing words and for reminding us of where the boundary stones had been of old:

The fact that contraception is even legal is wrong, and a judgment on the nation. (A winning platform, I know: Please cut the checks to Walther For President 2032.)

Though I am gloomy about the pro-life movement’s prospects for the future, I am pleased that this [Evangelical-Catholic] coalition exists. What I am not pleased about is the prayer breakfast committee’s scandalous decision to invite Vice President Mike Pence, a man who has publicly renounced the Catholic faith, to speak at a nominally Catholic event on issues pertaining to faith and morals.

You may be surprised to hear Pence — whom The New York Times calls “one of the country’s most outwardly religious and socially conservative legislators” — get thumped by a traditionalist Catholic. But Pence has renounced Catholicism. Why on Earth are Catholics asking him to stand for us?

My coreligionists who protest that it doesn’t matter because he is faithful to the right causes are missing the point. To the devout, the only cause that matters is that of Catholic truth, ancient and undefiled. Schism is a mortal sin, one that endangers his immortal soul …

Pence grew up one of four brothers who served Mass at St. Columba in Columbus, Indiana … It was while he was an undergraduate at Hanover College that he found himself seeking “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” (which is admirable, though it should be noted that as far as personal relationships go, literally eating someone is a pretty high bar to clear) …

Pence came of age during a period of crisis in the Church, the years of confusion and experimentation and indifferentism following the Second Vatican Council and the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass. Its fruits are everywhere in evidence: empty pews, a decline in vocations to the priesthood, the near-collapse of women’s religious life, people taking Communion every week who have not been to confession in decades, ostensibly catechized adult Catholics who do not realize that the Mass is a sacrifice at which the priest asks the archangel Michael to carry his offering to Christ’s altar in heaven rather than a tawdry historical re-enactment of the Last Supper with breaks for hand-holding and quaint little songs.

… He described himself with evident affection as “the son of two devout American Catholics” and noted how proud his mother would have been to see him on that stage. He joked about being “from a mid-sized Catholic family: only six children.” And he spoke almost wistfully of the role that “the hymns and liturgies of the Catholic faith” played in his youth. “I stand before you today as Michael Richard Christopher Pence,” he said, referring to his confirmation under the patronage of St. Christopher. Here my hair stood on end. Intentional or not, this sounded like a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that, despite his willful attempt at separation, he is still one of us.

Though we disagree about many things, I like Pence. He is my kind of politician, a charming, down-to-earth Midwesterner and a fundamentally decent man. Which is why I am praying that the vice president will repent and submit to the pope. I am worried about our vice president’s immortal soul.

(Emphasis added) The falsest note in all this, it seems to me, is the call to “submit to the pope.” Is that really what it means to be a Roman Catholic? Is that even what it means for a schismatic to reunite with Rome?

Considering the connotations of “submit,” that call seems about as winning a platform as outlawing contraception, and brings to mind the 1960 Presidential Election (the first election I really remember), when there was concern that Jack Kennedy might be a sleeper agent of universal Roman theocracy.

I’m glad, though, that I didn’t post this immediately after encountering Walther’s article. After I wrote the above, I saw the trivializing press coverage, and I really, really empathize with the urge to shout “Look! Leaving the Roman Catholic Church of your birth isn’t a trifle! Like it or not, there are major differences, and they matter!”

And don’t miss this, too:

[T]here really is no such thing as an “ex-Catholic.” Catholicism is not a congregationalist religion. Membership is not a self-defining proposition. Grace—the grace of baptism—makes one a Catholic. The Church teaches that “by baptism, one is incorporated into the Church of Christ and is constituted a person in it.”

Catholics believe that baptism has certain objective and unalterable consequences. That Catholic identity is not the subject of self-definition. Nor is it the consequence of proper Catholic behavior, or assent to the Church’s teachings, or even obedience to the Magisterium.

In 2009, Pope Benedict affirmed that Catholicism comes without an escape clause: Once a person is baptized or received into the Church, there is no getting out.

Of course rejecting ecclesiastical communion or the Church’s doctrine has consequences, among them the penalty of excommunication. But excommunication is a punishment, not a shunning. Disobedient or dishonest Catholics might face damnation for their choices, but they will go their deathbeds as members of our Church.

[W]e blaspheme when we presume to undo the consequences of baptism by differentiating between “so-called Catholics” and the genuine article. We also capitulate to the dictatorship of relativism when we substitute the sociological idea of “religious identity” for the objective reality of religious fact.

We can’t credibly oppose self-defined genders or marriages while redefining the meaning of our Church’s own sacraments. We teach that some facts cannot be altered by judgment or force of will. Men are men. Women are women. Catholics—no matter how odious or recalcitrant—are Catholics. Our task is to call them to be saints.

Please note that the second writer, J.D. Flynn is not denying that, as a matter of law, Churches are voluntary societies in the United States, and that the Roman Catholic church has no legal claim on Mike Pence.

That doesn’t mean its claim isn’t real, but that it’s stronger and more real than our legal conventions. Call it “toxic” or call it “strong medicine.” It’s sure not sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya.


Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry unleashed a Tweetstorm Tuesday afternoon. I’m reformatting and excerpting:

[T]he Left correctly identifies a problem, puts forward a solution that makes the problem worse; the Right doesn’t put forward a better solution, it denies the problem is real.

My go-to example on this is the minimum wage. The minimum wage is a terrible policy! But stagnating middle class wages are a real problem! We can’t just say “the minimum wage is bad”, we have to talk about NGDPLT, wage subsidies, payroll tax cuts, whatever. Which “we” do if by “we” you mean people like Oren [Cass] and Ross [Douthat] and me who write for a living, but they *never* percolate down to policy.

With the exception of RyanCare, good new ideas are a taboo on the Right, and it’s incumbent on people like “us” to do something about that. What that thing is, I’m not sure. Beyond kicking and screaming. But kicking and screaming should be a start!


I don’t mind that Trump is being disruptive. I very much mind that he is being stupid about it …

Sooner or later, Mattis, Tillerson, and H.R. McMaster are going to have to resign to protect their own integrity. And then what?

(Rod Dreher: Trump to Qatar: Drop dead)

The high officials of the Trump administration are in a terrible position. I’m not going to try to name names (partly because the administration is so unseemly that I’ve averted my eyes and don’t have much sense of who’s who), but some of those high officials probably are power-seekers while others are probably patriots who decided to hold their noses and take one for the team — Team America, not Team Trump. Dreher tacitly puts Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster in the latter category.

I can tell you that, for better or worse, I could not personally hold my nose tight enough and long enough to serve in this administration for a single day. It’s hard to maintain respect for those who can so serve, and not to imagine them all to be opportunistic power-seekers, but so far I’m more or less succeeding.


Some questions Trump raises are less momentous. F’rinstance, can a Mad Twitter King, consistent with the First Amendment, block some users from his Twitter account based on their viewpoint?


One of The Greats living today is Cornell West — a black Christian progressive of fierce integrity who nonetheless is capable dialog, as with his close friend and colleague Robert P. George. In the process of looking at Patrick Deneens’ forthcoming book “Why Liberalism Failed” (no, not political “liberalism”), which will feature (jacket?) blurbs by West and Abp. Chaput, I came across West’s mini-bio on Twitter:

1 of America’s most provocative public intellectuals; a champion for racial justice through the traditions of the black Church, progressive politics, & jazz.


American Federalism at work:

Marijuana has been decriminalized and regulated by various states, but it remains forbidden by federal law. This means that state-legal marijuana growers might still face federal charges, though federal prosecutors could choose not to enforce the federal ban in such situations.

But it also means that private citizens (here, a couple named the Reillys) could sue neighboring marijuana growers under the federal RICO statute, on the theory that the growers are interfering with the neighbors’ use of their land — as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit just held Wednesday in Safe Streets Alliance v. Alternative Holistic Healing, LLC. And this would not be affected by a Justice Department policy of not enforcing the criminal ban on marijuana production and distribution in those states that allow marijuana. The decision thus further highlights the precarious status of marijuana in Colorado, Washington, California and other such states, so long as Congress declines to officially allow such state legalization.


Imagine if Saturday’s three London Bridge killers had been British Nationalist party thugs, ramming their car through a Pakistani neighborhood. Would a single decent person have heard the news and immediately said, “Well, this number of dead people is statistically insignificant compared to those that die in car accidents. These punks can’t threaten our society!” Would anyone have asked, “Why are we talking about the killer’s politics? There are thousands of gun murders in America every year and those killers don’t have their politics talked about.” Would they have felt like singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” the next morning to conjure up a vision of a day when people of all political creeds can get along?

We all know the answer.

And yet, even before the victims on London Bridge had stopped bleeding, this was the reaction among society’s best, brightest and most morally self-assured members on social media. The pattern is by now familiar. Even as an Islamic terrorist killer’s proclamations about Allah’s will are still ringing in victims’ ears, these individuals are already declaring that the true danger from the attack is an Islamophobic backlash, and that you’re more likely to die by drowning in your own swimming pool than from a terrorist attack.

Do they know how callous that sounds? Do they not realize that sensible human beings react differently to a car accident than to a murder plot? Or that states and car manufacturers are constantly working to decrease the lethality of driving, while terrorists are constantly trying to improve the lethality of their enterprise?

(Michael Brendan Dougherty at National Review, H/T Rod Dreher) The softness on Islamic terrorists is tied to support of immigration which is tied to low fertility and the consequent need to prop up social welfare benefits with taxes and services from other people’s children.

We’re following that same course, though The Mad Twitter King, somewhere in his reptilian brain, seems to understand that immigration isn’t an unmixed blessing.

Dreher aptly pivots from Michael Brendan Dougherty to other sacred cows:

Was it Hitchens who said that if you want to know what a society’s sacred cows are, ask what it is you are not allowed to say in public? A sacred cow is a taboo thought necessary to observe for the sake of keeping society together and stable. Every society — including smaller societies, like churches, families, schools, and so forth — needs them. But at some point, they end up as the Emperor’s New Clothes: official lies that most people don’t believe, and that prevent people from seeing and dealing with truth. In that case, the fervor for protecting the sacred cow can end up destroying the thing the taboo was meant to protect.

I recommend both Michael Brendan Dougherty and Dreher’s thoughts.


I bookend today’s offering with another religion-themed item:

M* asks:

  1. Given that time is nothing in the eyes of God, why do you suppose God would reveal himself in human history, through the written word, during a time of massive illiteracy and before the printing press got invented?

Let us assume that all the historical details that are assumptions behind this question are correct.

God came at an ideal time anyway.

How can I say this given illiteracy?

First, God did not come as a book. Jesus came in the flesh … You did not have to be literate to see the carpenter from Nazareth.

When Jesus went back to God, He left the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a book … We are people of the Book, but we are not a people because of a Book.

We are a people because God is real and we experience His reality. The literate are not privileged over the illiterate when it comes time to see, hear, and know ….

(John Mark Reynolds)

* * * * *

Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.