Brief collection 9/13/18

1

Pope Francis has called a global meeting of Catholic bishops to discuss how to prevent sex abuse …

The Vatican statement said the topic of the gathering, scheduled for Feb. 21-24, would be the “prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.” It wasn’t clear whether the agenda would also include the disciplining of abusive clergy and of bishops who cover up or neglect abuse by priests under their authority.

Wall Street Journal

I think the Roman Church has had a fairly good idea how to reduce pedophilic child abuse since the report 14 years ago in the wake on the 2002 scandal.

But I don’t see much sign that it has made progress on homosexual predation on adolescents, seminarians and priests, or any progress at all at dropping the hammer on high-ranking enablers.

 

2

What will the Supreme Court look like when neither side has to walk on eggs to win the favor of the one in the middle? It will be a more conservative court, for sure, and maybe a more honest one. Justices may feel more free to say what they really think, and the public will ultimately judge the result by expressing itself in electoral politics. History does not stop in 2018.

Linda Greenhouse

Greenhouse is often outrageously biased even in her news reporting, not just in opinion pieces, but this one’s worth reading — with a grain of salt.

 

3

Public health experts dismiss [Critical Reviews in Toxicology, and Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology] as unreliable vanity journals. “These two journals exist to manufacture and disseminate scientific doubt,” says David Michaels, a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and the author of “Doubt Is Their Product,” a book about product defense science. “They provide the appearance of peer review and credibility to ‘product defense’ science — mercenary studies not designed to contribute to the scientific enterprise but to forestall public health and environmental protections and to defeat litigation. Corporations opposing public health or environmental regulations enter the rigged studies and questionable analyses published in these mercenary journals into regulatory proceedings or lawsuits to manufacture scientific uncertainty.”

Then, Michaels says, companies can say, “Look, the studies have conflicting conclusions, so there is too much scientific uncertainty to issue regulations to protect the public or to compensate victims.” ….

Paul D. Thacker, Scientists know plastics are dangerous. Why won’t the government say so?

I had no idea. The industry didn’t want me to have any idea. The “forensic” scientists (as in “‘forensic dating’ is the world’s oldest profession”) did their dirty duty.

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Thursday, 9/6/18

1

The sole reason that there are still secular laws on the books that prohibit and punish pedophilia is that Christianity came to dominate culture in the West through evangelization. The only reason that we have accepted homosexuality in culture and in law is the increasing de-Christianization of the culture in the West. As we become even more secularized (i.e., repaganized), pedophilia will soon be accepted, just as homosexuality, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia have already been embraced.

This is a massive, massive crisis in and for the Church because a deeply-embedded worldwide homosexual network among our priests, bishops, and cardinals is actively engaged in bringing about the full de-Christianization of the world by preying on boys between 12-18, literally recreating Greco-Roman sexual culture in our seminaries and dioceses. If you want to know what it was like in the sordid sexual days of ancient Greece and Rome, just read the Pennsylvania Report.

That’s a rather horrible irony, isn’t it? The very men most authoritatively charged with the evangelization of all the nations are full-steam ahead bringing about the devangelization of the nations. In doing so, these priests, bishops, and cardinals at the very heart of the Catholic Church are acting as willing agents of repaganization, undoing 2,000 years of Church History.

Benjamin Wiker, From a Moral-Historical Perspective, This Crisis is Worse Than You Realize (H/T Rod Dreher).

For some reason, my personal reaction to male homosexuality has always been “Meh.” Don’t ask me either to think fondly about it or to join those who vocally express revulsion for the characteristic acts.

Yes, I can explain why, from a Christian standpoint, homogenital acts are morally wrong. You can find my answer, ironically, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2357, which says it better than I could.

So I take seriously analyses like Wiker’s; they just don’t stir my blood. That’s probably a character defect.

Of more interest to me, on a person-to-person level, is that I believe that the moral law is, to a significant extent, so written on the heart that we can’t not know it. I’m interested in Romans 1:18-32 not to “slam” people in debate but to plead with them (preferably privately, where confusion about “personal dignity” is less likely to cloud thought) to forsake behavior that will trouble their consciences and draw them away from God. Since we ultimately are meant for union with God, behavior that draws us away is the most “massive, massive” mistake of all.

2

One of the first ways you can discern whether to dismiss a protester, pundit, or politician as a serious person is whether they pay any attention at all to The Handmaid’s Tale as some sort of allegory for our times. The president is a libertine philanderer who pays off porn stars and playmates, but somehow we’re about two steps from Gilead. Yet sure as the night follows day, the Handmaids showed up to Kavanaugh’s hearing ….

David French, The Democrats’ No Good, Frivolous, Ridiculous Day.

3

I guess Anonymous won’t make it into a Nike commercial “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything”

Mark W.

What the hell good did he expect this article to do, for the country? The author must have known it’d make Trump utterly wild and he’d quadruple down on hunting leakers and not trusting his advisors – so if the author really believes what he’s doing is necessary, why has he gone public knowing that this article will provoke Trump in such a way as to make this ‘management’ much harder?

GR

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My blog overfloweth

Oh dear! So much that’s shareable today!

The Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal

1

Nike reportedly is facing a boycott for an ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, who famously “took the knee” during the NFL’s repulsive and gratuitous pre-game patriotic frenzies.

Kaepernick

We’ll see if Nike actually believes in something, “even if it means sacrificing everything.” Nike has set itself up nicely to illustrate how “courage” no less than “patriotism” can be insincerely weaponized for commercial purposes.

Contrast:

Viganò

2

Ross Douthat … in a twitter thread which noted, among other things,

One of the striking things about the Hebrew Bible is that it’s the record of a people that makes extraordinary claims for itself — that their tribal god is the Only God, that they are His chosen people, that all nations will eventually worship him, etc.

And they buttress those claims with an extensive history in which they are … terrible. Morally terrible, politically impotent, constantly apostasizing, ignoring their prophets, the works.

Basically the Hebrew Bible says: “Hi, we’re the true chosen people of God, and to prove it let us tell a long series of stories about how our patriarchs were sinners, our kings were even worse, and we failed God completely time and time again.”

The best king of Israel, the awesome all-conquering one, is a philanderer and murderer. The second-best one, the temple-builder, becomes an idol-worshiper. And about the rest, the less said the better.

Pace certain evangelicals-for-Trump and certain RC churchmen, this is not an argument for tolerating ugliness in service of some higher good. God and His prophet deal very harshly w/David when he kills Uriah, and the attitude of the prophets throughout is horror at Israel’s sins.

But for all their horror the prophets never doubt that Israel is the elect, the chosen people, God’s intended bride. And if the Old Testament is supposed to be a revelation with big implications for the new covenant, for the Christian church, that part is important.

Eve Tushnet quoting, obviously, Ross Douthat.

Trump & the Vichy Republicans

3

News:

Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff.

(Another damned Tweet by our Tweeter-in-Chief, who thinks an Attorney General is a wingman.)

News analysis by Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos:

  • His tweet over the holiday weekend chastising Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for the Justice Department’s recent indictments of two Republican congressmen because it could cost the party seats in November crossed lines that even he had not yet breached, asserting that specific continuing criminal prosecutions should be decided on the basis of partisan advantage.
  • “I think it was appalling,” Senator Susan Collins of Maine, another Republican, told reporters asking on Tuesday about the tweet. “It’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable.”
  • Over nearly 20 months in office, Mr. Trump has repeatedly castigated the Justice Department and the F.B.I. for investigating his associates and not investigating his enemies. He has threatened time and again to fire Mr. Sessions because his recusal from the Russia investigation meant that he could not protect the president from the inquiry.
  • Mr. Trump’s suggestion would have been a major scandal under any other president, veterans of past administrations said. “His interference in an ongoing criminal investigation may be the single most shocking thing he’s done as president,” said Walter E. Dellinger, a former acting solicitor general under President Bill Clinton.
  • Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican who has been among the president’s most outspoken critics in his own party, had the same reaction. “Those who study this kind of thing say it’s a lot more evidence for abuse of power or obstruction,” he said. “I just know it’s not healthy for the institutions of government to have the president want to use the Department of Justice that way.”
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, likewise criticized the president’s comments. “I’m looking at them just as you are looking at them,” she told reporters. “I thought that yesterday’s comments were not appropriate and they upset me.”

I agree with Walter Dellinger. If Trump is impeached, I hope his browbeating of law enforcement people for doing their jobs is prominent among the charges.

4

Ross Douthat imagines the defense theme of the Vichy Republicans in the court of public opinion:

Yes, they would say, the president is erratic, dangerous, unfit and bigoted. But notwithstanding certain columnist fantasies you can’t impeach somebody for all that — or for pretending to be a dictator on Twitter, for that matter. And by the standards of any normal presidency we still have him contained.

Sure, the trade wars are bad, but every president launches at least one dumb trade war. We stopped the child migrant business, his other immigration moves are just stepped-up enforcement of the law, we’ve stepped back from the brink (however bizarrely) with the North Koreans, we’re still sanctioning the Russians.

Meanwhile he’s nominated the most establishment Republican jurist possible to the Supreme Court, and we won’t even let him fire his own attorney general, let alone Bob Mueller.

Look, we’re not enabling an American Putin here. We’re just babysitting the most impotent chief executive we’ll ever see, and locking in some good judges before the Democrats sweep us out.

5

I have given my qualified approval to President Trump’s defense of religious freedom. The qualification is that he hasn’t shown any solicitude for the religious freedom of anyone other than Evangelical Protestants (though we other Christians collect crumbs from their State Dinner Table).

Here’s someone else’s expression of one instance of where Trump has been bad on religious freedom.

Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings

6

Ben Sasse Conducts a Two-Minute Master Class in American Civics

7

Democrats Open Contentious Hearings With Attack on ‘Partisan’ Kavanaugh

When the New York Times puts in scare-quotes “partisan” as a description of a Republican Supreme Court nominee, I think it’s a sign that the Democrats beslimed themselves pretty good yesterday.

Is Steve Bannon fit for polite company?

8

A Venn diagram showing New Yorker readers and Trump fans would contain two circles miles apart. The folks in the New Yorker circle are far more likely to believe that Trump is a nascent despot than to believe that he is anything like a normal president. Nor are they likely to change their minds simply by spending an hour in the physical presence of Bannon.

Left-leaning cultural arbiters became too skillful with their weapon of choice, mastering those institutions so completely that certain kinds of progressivism became not merely normal, but mandatory. But by leaving less and less room for dissenters, the hegemons created a counter-tribe of outsiders who reject their authority as vehemently as they exert it. And thus, for the same reasons that the beliefs of New Yorker readers are in no danger from Steve Bannon, the views of Trump fans are entirely safe from David Remnick.

What’s left is a kind of ceremonial cleansing of the sacred city, a mighty labor to make sure that the two circles on the Venn diagram never, ever come into contact. There’s something admirable about uncompromising ethical purity, but also something rather dangerous. For it means that outside your circle, there’s an entirely different normal. And if you abdicate any influence over that alternate normality, while rigorously expelling your own heretics, you may one day awake to find that your impeccably maintained ring of truth has been swamped by that other normal, now grown entirely beyond your control.

Megan McArdle

9

I agree with those who think that he should never have been invited. Steve Bannon keeps failing in his various projects to overthrow the establishment or create a political mass movement. Were it not for the lavish media attention he still gets, he’d be a classic coffee-house revolutionary, regaling strangers about how he came “this close” to ruling and how, with a little help from you, he can get the revolution restarted. But because he provides relatively good quotes and calls back journalists, the mainstream media have an investment in keeping him more relevant that he really is. He was fired by Trump, defenestrated by Breitbart and the Mercers, and lives on largely as a useful prop for the media he claims to despise.

Jonah Goldberg

10

New Yorker, editor David Remnick, explaining why he had extended, and then quickly rescinded, an invitation to former presidential adviser Stephen K. Bannon to be interviewed on a public stage.

[I]t’s worth considering what Remnick’s disinvitation has actually achieved. Here’s my list:

It has kept Bannon’s name prominently in the news, no doubt to his considerable delight. It has turned a nativist bigot into a victim of liberal censorship. It has lent credence to the belief that journalists are, as Bannon said of Remnick, “gutless.” It has corroborated the view that the news media is a collection of left-wing group thinkers who, if they aren’t quite peddling “fake news,” are mainly interested in advancing only their own truths. It has kept readers of The New Yorker locked in their usual echo chamber. It has strengthened the belief that vulnerable institutions can be hounded into submitting to the irascible (and unappeasable) demands of social media mobs. Above all, it has foreclosed an opportunity to submit Bannon to the kind of probing examination that Remnick had initially promised, and that is journalism at its best.

The next time we journalists demand “courage” of the politicians, let’s first take care to prove that we know what the word means, and to exhibit some courage ourselves.

Bret Stephens

As Rod Dreher points out, The Economist did it better.

Miscellany

11

John McCain, well aware of his impending death, orchestrated a Resistance Funeral.

It’s currently obligatory to overlook his flaws as well as to remember his virtues, and I’ll not breach my obligation just yet. Indeed, I expect canonization forthwith.

But what I didn’t expect is hectoring pundits posing “WWJMD” criticisms every time Republicans do something deemed insufficiently bipartisan.

12

If you consider yourself a sane conservative, I’d suggest you bookmark the US edition of the Spectator. It’s pretty lively, with some voices other than the usual suspects.

It was there, for instance, that I learned that:

The Pussy Church of Modern Witchcraft (PCMW) in Maryland has just been afforded Tax Exempt Status by the IRS, which recognised it as a legitimate place of worship, or rather a ‘place of lesbian faith’. Serving a lesbian-feminist congregation, the PCMW is described on its website as, ‘a congregation of female-born, lesbian-led Women devoted to the liberation of Women and Girls from the oppression we face based on our sex.’

 

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Tuesday Tidbits, 9/4/18

1

Douthat: … [I]t will be interesting to watch Obama on the campaign trail, since he’s distinguished himself thus far as the most Zen of all prominent Democrats about the Trump phenomenon: The sheer, deliberate normalcy of his post-presidential conduct has been an interesting counterpoint to the prominent Democrats determined to reject anything that smacks of “normalizing” in our Trumpian times …

Bruni: … Obama is something akin to but slightly different from the road not taken. He’s the boulevard sorely missed … He’s the opposite of the boy who cried wolf. He’s the man who communed with his inner lamb. And voters may well be in the mood for something soft and fleecy right about now.

Douthat: But my general take on this election is that it’s really Trump vs. Trump. By which I mean, whether the Democrats can turn their advantage into a rout will depend on something beyond their control — the president’s own conduct in September and October, which could be worth a few extra points to Democrats if it’s manic and authoritarian and kooky, and a few extra points to Republicans if it’s (relatively) restrained. What do you think of that framing?

Bruni: Will Trump’s conduct be a central factor? Yes, yes and yes. A few weeks ago, I talked extensively on background with a prominent Republican strategist who’s involved in the party’s efforts this fall, and he made the point that the party can find the right messaging, get all of its candidates in line, deploy the right amount of money to the right races — all of that — and then be utterly foiled by a presidential temper tantrum in the final week. The strategist noted that there’s one person in the party who can never, ever be expected to swallow his pride, suppress his emotions and follow a prudent script, and that’s the party’s leader, one Donald J. Trump.

Ross Douthat in dialog with Frank Bruni.

2

[T]he Reformation never was necessary, though much needed to be reformed back then. As it turned out, the Reformation didn’t reform what needed to be reformed. Instead, it reformulated Christian beliefs and fashioning a new religion, Protestantism.

D.G. Hart. Full disclosure: This is cherry-picked from a longer blog, of which it is not representative. The blog — on the departure from Catholicism of Damon Linker and matters related thereto — is interesting in its own right.

Linker, by the way, appears to have gone into hiding — okay, maybe just on vacation — after renouncing his Roman Catholic faith eight days ago. I hope he’s well.

3

I follow Seth Godin’s blog, though I’m retired, because he occasionally comes up with a gem like First, Fast and Correct.

4

Ms. Heng isn’t your father’s GOP nominee. In 1983 her parents arrived in the U.S. as penniless refugees from communist Cambodia. She grew up working after school at the little grocery store in Fresno that her family still runs.

A product of Fresno’s public schools, Ms. Heng was valedictorian at Sunnyside High School. She then got her bachelor’s degree from Stanford, where she became student body president. She helped start a string of T-Mobile stores with her brother, earned a master’s in business administration from Yale, and worked for Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She also served on the Trump inaugural committee.

It seems her time spent running a business with her brothers was what drove her into politics. She found the combination of state and federal regulation overbearing. “Instead of focusing on jobs, we were focusing on government regulations,” she told the Fresno Bee. Today she is running as a strong fiscal and deregulatory conservative.

William McGurn, An Ocasio-Cortez for the GOP? (extolling Elizabeth Heng of California’s 16th Congressional District)

5

How do you say “I am not a crook” in church Latin?

Rod Dreher on the Viganò letter and the Pope’s response so far.

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Right-wing discriminators

This week’s GetReligion podcast, How did investigating McCarrick turn into a right-wing thing?, brought back unpleasant memories.

The New York Times broke the story of the McCarrick scandal, a scandal about a charismatic, but retired, U.S. Cardinal’s sexual predations (should any reader have been living in a cave, or should this blog turn up in an internet WayBack Machine some century hence).

The story was “newsworthy” until Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò steered it in a direction that made Pope Francis look bad. Now the newsworthy story in some quarters is the Vast Viganò Right-Wing Conspiracy against the current Pope, who is styled a “reformer” with all that connotes.

I’ve been here before — the place where truth or falsity is irrelevant because … Tribe.

* * *

Decades ago, a City Councilman in my hometown introduced an amendment to add sexual orientation as a protected class in our Human Relations Ordinance (a pretty weak and ineffectual thing, really, but the symbolism was big). The Councilman was acting, it was reported, in the wake of his son “coming out.”

There was a fierce debate over the amendment. My City Council patiently pretended to listen to concerns — I’ll give them that; no odious limits on public comments — before they passed it. The press, of course, supported it.

A few years later, that “out” son was accused of spiriting two adolescent boys away from the home for troubled boys where he was employed as a counselor, and sodomizing them in his parents’ Rec Room. He seemed to make a habit of it, taking them one at a time.

The accusers were savaged in the press and public opinion despite, whether their stories were true or false, the scandal that this self-acknowledged homosexual, one Greg Ledbetter, was employed as a fox to guard the henhouse of the Cary Home for troubled boys.

If you want to know where press bias is shown, think “story selection,” not “spin.” The “news” was that some adolescent pawns had been incited to accuse the poster boy of a progressive ordinance, not that a young man who lusted after young men had been given sexual access to a whole house full of already-troubled young men.

Go figure. No, on second thought, don’t bother.

When the lads recanted their stories, the press did a victory dance and reminded everyone how cruel we right-wing conspirators had been to the Ledbetter Family and young Greg, even mysteriously finding some way to force these lads into telling a cock-and-bull story.

Greg Ledbetter is now in prison in Wisconsin for buggering ten adolescent boys there. In the Wisconsin investigation, videos were found of his sodomizing the two accusers who had recanted their (true) charges. And they found scrapbooks on how, with the help of his enablers, he avoided a reckoning here.

I’ve written here, here and here about the Greg Ledbetter affair should you be interested. My role was one of the right-wing conspirators. I never opined that the charges against Ledbetter were true, but I found them basically plausible, and Ledbetter’s employment in a job where he could gain sexual access to troubled boys absolutely appalling. As I once put it:

[O]n the theory that “we’re just like you except that we prefer the same sex,” I consult my own feelings (especially when I was a younger adult) about sexually mature adolescent girls. Hmmm. It seems to me that it would be highly imprudent to put a young straight guy in a position where he could finagle sexual access to nubile female charges.

Nobody in any position of authority ever publicly admitted that the homosexual orientation of a young male applicant, for a job involving unsupervised access to trouble adolescent males, was a relevant factor, perhaps even disqualifying. In fact, in every local jurisdiction in my county, we still have ordinances categorically forbidding discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation, with no qualification that it be “invidious” discrimination, nor any nod toward sexual orientation being relevant to at least a few jobs.

I can only hope that we have scofflaws in positions of hiring authority for those jobs, and that our Human Relations Commissions are not too packed with ideologues to wink at non-invidious discrimination.

“Discrimination” in the sense of “treating differently” should be the beginning of a conversation or analysis, not a “conversation-stopper.” But it’s not so. At the mention (“but that would be discriminaaaaaaation!”) eyes glaze over and visages turn fierce.

We’ll never begin to reduce sexual predation of adolescents until we wise up that allowing adults, especially young ones, unsupervised access to adolescents of the sex they prefer is not an enlightened progressive policy but a vice indistinguishable in practical effect from turning a Russian Roulette gun on the kids — but with two or three chambers loaded, not just one.

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The semi-discerning have been noting that the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Church these days involves ephebophilia, not pedophilia. I’ve fallen into that myself, and I might yet again.

But I think that “ephebophilia” is not quite right, either. I don’t think the problem is any version of chronophilia, “sexual attraction limited to individuals of particular age ranges” (emphasis added).

The problem of priests molesting adolescent males is an epiphenomenon of homosexual priests. Period. Full stop.

Consider that carefully. 100% of the abusers are male, and 81% of their victims are underage males. What kind of men systematically abuse boys and male teens?

Our liberal media does not want to answer that question, for obvious reasons. They have their agenda, and the flourishing of the Catholic Church is not on it.

Eric Mader

Some day, the refusal of homophiles (i.e., all major cultural institutions) to admit the nexus between unchaste homosexual priests and predation on adolescent boys will be seen as a terrible ideological sin (pas d’ennemi au gauche) that enabled continued predation.

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Monday Mélange 9/3/18

 

1

The narrator provides us with one final parcel of information that he has learned about Bartleby, a rumor he has heard that before the young man entered his employ, he worked in the dead letter office in Washington, D.C.:

Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters, and assorting them for the flames? For by the cart-load they are annually burned. Sometimes from out the folded paper the pale clerk takes a ring:—the finger it was meant for, perhaps, moulders in the grave; a bank-note sent in swiftest charity:—he whom it would relieve, nor eats nor hungers any more; pardon for those who died despairing; hope for those who died unhoping; good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. On errands of life, these letters speed to death.

Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!

James Gardner, in a “Masterpiece” review of Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener.

2

[E]ven a silent and secluded Benedict sends a message. Italian friends have told me that The Benedict Option has become for many in Italy a refuge from the Francis stuff. I find that discouraging, to be honest, because I did not write the book with an anti-Francis agenda in mind, and don’t want it to be taken as anti-Francis. Nevertheless, Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, a major Francis mouthpiece, and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago have both publicly denounced the book and the idea as counter to Pope Francis’s vision, so what can I say? My book is certainly infused with the spirit of Ratzinger, who I think of as the second Benedict of the Benedict Option.

An interesting blog of Rod Dreher, drawing parallels between the first Benedict’s retreat from a “dangerous and godless gulf” and the reported motivation behind Benedict XVI’s resignation — the loss of a Vatican battle over cracking down on the likes of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

However his resignation came about, there’s reason for hope in his continued relevance:

Years ago, when I was in college, I read Thomas Merton’s great autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. In it, Merton, who wrote it as a new Trappist monk, talked about the World War II years, and said that maybe the entire world was held together by the prayers of monks hidden away in monasteries.

3

Since the authorities announced on Aug. 22 that Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farmworker from Mexico, was charged with first-degree murder in her death, politicians and pundits have used the arrest to push for stronger immigration laws.

In a column in The Des Moines Register on Saturday, her father, Rob Tibbetts, encouraged the debate on immigration. “But,” he added, “do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist.”

The Register on Friday published a column by the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in which he blamed Democrats for Ms. Tibbetts’s death and said claims that conservatives and Republicans were politicizing her death were “absurd.”

Melissa Gomez, New York Times.

You might as well ask bears not to shit in the woods, Mr. Tibbetts. And that steaming pile? “Fake news!” “Absurd.”

4

Oh, the horror!

Rolling Stone accuses the Education Secretary of ‘listening to the men’s rights groups she’s met with’.

Cockburn at Spectator USA.

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Spleen ventings (and more)

1

Spleen venting #1: I’m pleased that the American Bar Association, which marginalized itself over decades, will now be denied its long preeminence in advising the Senate on federal judicial nominees.

I’m one of those who quit the ABA in 1992 when it endorsed abortion. I still say “to hell with ’em.”

They can line up with all the other conservative and liberal interest groups, as a liberal interest group is all they are these days.

2

Spleen venting #2:

This is what court evangelicals do. They tell the president to fire an Attorney General who rightly recused himself from the Mueller investigation. Falwell Jr. wants Sessions fired in the hopes that his replacement as Attorney General will end the investigation. In other words, Falwell Jr. wants to protect Trump against accusations that he is an adulterer, a liar, and a felon.

John Fea, Jerry Falwell Jr. Told Trump to Fire Sessions

This strikes me, a former Evangelical, viscerally, as I was enrolled for three semesters, during the Vietnam War, in a Christianish educational institution where support of that war was a litmus test.

I don’t think that educational mis-step of mine was why I left Evangelicalism; it certainly was not the proximate cause (the proximate cause was disenthrallment with Dispensationalism and discovery of Calvinism, which I also left decades later — see below). But I’ve never given a dime to that place after leaving.

Falwell, too, is making enemies of many of his growing number of former students.

And because all American Christians are judged disproportionately by the doings of “Rome” and Fundamentalists/Evangelicals, I’m feeling a bit slimed again.

(Hereditary Evangelical fiefdoms, by the way, are a scandal too rarely highlighted.)

3

Trump hates the media because he hates the news, and he hates the news because the news about him is bad. Unable to attack the news itself, he attacks those who report it. He isn’t the first president to attack the press, but he’s the first to label it “the enemy of the people” — a Stalinist term so odious that Nikita Khrushchev banned it. President Richard Nixon said, “The press is the enemy,” but at least he said it privately, as a means of venting, not on social media or to raucous crowds who prefer the Second Amendment to the First.

In his book The True Believer, Eric Hoffer wrote, “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.” …

Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that colleges were turning young people into sensitive snowflakes. Trump is the ultimate snowflake. He wants all of cyberspace to be his safe space.

As Harry Truman famously didn’t say, if you can’t stand the heat, complain about the heat, lie about the heat, and, if possible, ban ovens and stoves.

To find out what Truman really said, Google it.

Windsor Mann, Please be sensitive to our snowflake president’s need for safe space.

Gotta either laugh or cry. I try to choose laughter, even if derisive.

4

It’s interesting to consider, but the Protestants I’ve known who became Catholic were not angry at the church they left behind. They’re been simply grateful to have embraced what they consider to be a more truthful, richer form of the Christian faith. The ex-Catholics I’ve known tend to be angry. In all honesty, I haven’t known many ex-Catholics who were Protestant or Orthodox. Almost all of the ex-Catholics I know ceased to practice any form of the Christian faith. It hadn’t occurred to me until this morning, but I think that’s interesting. Why might they leave Christianity entirely, instead of just become Episcopalian or Southern Baptist?

The answer, I believe, is that Catholicism is such a totalizing faith. That’s not a criticism at all …

I describe having lost the ability to believe in it anymore as like leaving a bad marriage. I wanted so bad for this “marriage” to work, but I realized one day that my bride didn’t love me, that she loved herself, and was going to do whatever she wanted to do, and to hell with me and the kids. Staying in this marriage meant putting up with her abusiveness. I couldn’t do it anymore ….

Believe it or not, one reason I write so often about this current Catholic scandal is that I want the Catholic Church to be healthy and holy. I may not be part of it anymore, but if she is sick unto death, then that affects the entire Body of Christ. If I had no Christian faith at all, I would still want the Church to be healthy, because as that scintillating atheist Camille Paglia has said in the past, the Church is a pillar of our civilization. No church, and we descend into barbarism.

Rod Dreher, reflecting, musing broadly on Damon Linker’s leaving the Roman Church (bold in original, italics added — though italics seem to disappear in this stylesheet).

I may have mis-gauged how coherent this excerpt would be without the elided material. It’s another powerful way of expressing the sense of loss Rod felt and still feels. I hope Linker feels it too, and finds Christ too compelling to forsake His Church (a very loaded term in this context) entirely.

For what it’s worth, my experience echoes Rod’s in this regard: I left Evangelicalism for Calvinism, pretty bitter about what I perceived as its pervasive Dispensational Premillennialism (it dawned on me later that I did not get that from my parents, but from my Christian Boarding School — proof, had I noticed it, that nondispensationist Evangelicalism was possible), but left Calvinism for Orthodoxy “simply grateful to have embraced … a more truthful, richer form of the Christian faith.” I still consider Calvinism a pretty good place to come from, and I don’t think that would change even if my wife had followed me from Calvinism to Orthodoxy.

5

Consider recent state and local actions punishing those who decline to use an individual’s pronouns of choice. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last year threatening jail time for health-care professionals who “willfully and repeatedly” refuse to use a patient’s preferred pronouns. Under guidelines issued in 2015 by New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, employers, landlords and business owners who intentionally use the wrong pronoun with transgender workers and tenants face potential fines of as much as $250,000.

… For those with a religious conviction that sex is both biological and binary, God’s purposeful creation, denial of this involves sacrilege no less than bowing to idols in the town square. When the state compels such denial among religious people, it clobbers the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion, lending government power to a contemporary variant on forced conversion.

[I]ndividuals need not be religious to believe that one person can never be a “they”; compelled speech is no less unconstitutional for those who refuse an utterance based on a different viewpoint, as the Supreme Court held in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943). Upholding students’ right to refuse to salute an American flag even on nonreligious grounds, Justice Robert H. Jackson declared: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” This is precisely what forced reference to someone else as “ze,” “sie,” “hir,” “co,” “ev,” “xe,” “thon” or “they” entails. When the state employs coercive power to compel an utterance, what might otherwise be a courtesy quickly becomes a plank walk.

Abigail Shrier, The Transgender Language War (emphasis added)

6

Socialism moves human goods outside of market relationships and currency exchange. Most of the programs people now describe as socialism simply entail a more muscular welfare state liberalism. It must be repeated over and over again: “the government pays for stuff” is not socialism. And from my vantage, much of the [Democratic Socialists of America]’s national platform is precisely “the government pays for stuff.”

Fredrik De Boer, hyperlink added.

7

[W]hen people ask me why I didn’t try life among the Trads instead of leaving for Orthodoxy, the answer is right here in this tweet. Some of the best Catholic friends I have, and those I most admire, are Trads, but my general experience with Trads is that too often an intense bitterness, a hardness of heart, and barely-banked anger prevails among them. Our Lord told of the Good Shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 sheep to go after the one who is lost. Far too many Trads would deride that lost sheep a weakling and a quitter.

Rod Dreher, reflecting on this pharisaic Tweet:

* * * * *

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Too interesting times

I’m starting light. I’ll end very heavy.

1

What is this? Pronoun pickiness run amok?

2

Signs of wretched excess: Pumpkins Spice in August.

Some pleasures are just meant to be seasonal.

(H/T Smokey Ardisson on micro.blog)

3

I’m sincerely hoping, and strongly suspect as I’ve not read of this elsewhere, that this is a small eddy in an already-small fetid swamp of AlexJonesish conspiracy theorists:

McCain conspiracists say his brain cancer was a hoax

4

Brett Kavanaugh Is a Mensch: When Bethesda, Maryland went NIMBY on a Synagogue, Kavanaugh pitched into the defense of the Synagogue.

5

Within 45 minutes of Ronald Reagan’s announcement that Robert Bork was his pick to replace the retiring Justice Lewis Powell on the high court, Kennedy introduced him to America this way:

“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.”

Now compare this, for sheer style, with the attempt by Elizabeth Warren, current occupant of the seat once held by Kennedy, to do the same for Mr. Trump’s nominee:

“Judge Kavanaugh is part of a movement to twist the Constitution in ways that are deeply hostile to the rights of everyone but those at the top. He’s been a part of that movement for the majority of his professional life, both before and after he became a judge. And now, he has a record of 12 years of judicial decisions that demonstrate his loyalty to that radical ideology.”

Here’s some bad news for Sen. Warren. I remember Ted Kennedy. I watched when Ted Kennedy turned Robert Bork’s name into a nasty verb. And I say this to the woman who now holds the late senator’s seat: Ms. Warren, you are no Ted Kennedy.

After so many years of crying Bork, Democrats have forgotten an essential in politics: count your votes. Brett Kavanaugh will take his seat on the Supreme Court in the end. And yours truly is betting it will be with the votes of at least two Democratic senators.

William McGurn

6

Well, at Least Sheriff Joe Isn’t Going to Congress

Most heartening headline of the day

Cast aside and left to wallow in the knowledge that his moment has passed, he has a fitting end to the public life of a true American villain.

I’ll forgive Mike Pence the praise he lavished on this villain if he repents publicly and convincingly. That was a moment when I understood why many of my fellow Hoosiers contemned a man I felt was too great a cipher to warrant contempt.

7

President Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, announced Tuesday that the administration is “taking a look” at regulating Google’s conduct, given Trump’s complaints earlier in the day that the company’s search results suppress conservative views. Kudlow’s statement raises First Amendment concerns of the highest magnitude.

Floyd Abrams. Click that link to “taking a look.” That’s pure, venomous effort to chill a free press and its modern adjunct, the search engine.

What is potentially dangerous is the assertion in the president’s tweets that “This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!” and Kudlow’s intimation that a regulatory response was actually being considered. Of course, Trump and Kudlow may not mean it. Or they may mean it and will not pursue it further. But one cannot tell, and so when such statements are made, it is worth responding immediately ….

And when Floyd Abrams responds this way on a First Amendment matter, it is a warranted shot across the bow of would-be tyrants. Don’t you think for a minute that Brett Kavanaugh will be so grateful to Trump that such nuances will be lost on him.

8

I close with sad but notable news.

I first became aware of Damon Linker when he was at First Things magazine around 16-18 years ago. “First Things” is pervasively Roman Catholic in its staffing, though not in what it publishes, so I sort of assumed that Linker was Catholic. I had no idea he was a new convert when he arrived.

Now he’s leaving. Although I’m skipping most news of American Clergy Abuse Scandal II, personal stories are likely exceptions. I’ve distilled what I find most compelling in Linker’s story:

The core of the church’s problem isn’t personal immorality, or institutional corruption, or hypocrisy. The core of the problem is ugliness.

People too often fail to appreciate the role of beauty in religion …

The singular importance of beauty or nobility to the most profound moral and religious experience was noted centuries before Christ in the dialogues of Plato, where the character of Socrates frequently asks his interlocutors searching questions about elevation. What do we admire? What acts stir us and move us to tears? Often it is those acts involving self-sacrifice, devotion to something loftier, something purportedly higher …

When I converted to the Catholic Church 18 years ago, I did so in large part because I was deeply moved by the act of self-sacrifice that the church places at its heart …

If I didn’t really believe in all of the theological precepts taught by the church, at least I wanted to — because I considered them beautiful, and because I wanted to be a part of the beauty, to elevate myself by assimilating myself to it.

That impulse seems very far away from me now. It began to fade in the church scandals that broke less than two years after I entered the church. The crisis deepened by working for a devout priest who responded to the scandals by circling the wagons against the secular press and its impertinent reporters looking to harm the church with their pesky attachment to uncovering the truth.

[T]o wade through the toxic sludge of the grand jury report; to follow the story of Theodore McCarrick’s loathsome character and career; to confront the allegations piled up in Viganò’s memo — it is to come face to face with monstrous, grotesque ugliness. It is to see the Catholic Church as a repulsive institution — or at least one permeated by repulsive human beings who reward one another for repulsive acts, all the while deigning to lecture the world about its sin.

No thanks. I’m done.

And I bet I’ll have a lot of company headed for the door.

The “devout priest” he worked for was the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, himself a convert, who I thought very highly of — and still do. But “circling the wagons” and whanging on people like Rod Dreher (“‘Shut up’, he explained”) was both wrong and ugly.

I don’t know if Linker is leaving Rome for another Christian tradition or if his entire faith is crushed, but his brokenness is a sad, sad commentary.

Millstone. Neck. Sea. Kyrie eleison!

* * * * *

Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.

Greg Coles.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

Populism and corruption

Last week I couldn’t shake Andrew Sullivan’s introduction: “We always knew this would happen — that the rule of law and Trump would at some point be unable to coexist.”

This week, I can’t shake Alan Jacobs:

Norms are created by institutions, and we live in an age of weak and despised institutions. This is how populist leaders arise: when a great many people believe that institutions exist merely to serve themselves, they come to despise not just those institutions but also the norms associated with them, and applaud leaders who scorn and seek to tear down the whole edifice. And if those leaders make their disdain known in sufficiently charismatic ways, few will notice when they are guilty of the very sins they decry. Moreover, when people see the sheer size of the institutions at which they’re so angry, they despair of any real change happening, and are content with listening to leaders who channel their own frustration.

General contempt for our institutions, government and church alike, makes them too weak to enforce their norms, which first enables corruption — the kind of corruption American Catholic bishops and members of the Congress of the United States are guilty of — and then produces populist figures who appear to want to undo that corruption. But the institutions are too weak to control the leaders either, so those leaders are empowered to do more or less whatever they want to do. This is the case with Trump, who will surely last at least until the 2020 election, and also, I think, with Francis, who will probably last until he dies or chooses like his predecessor to resign.

Moreover, since neither Trump nor Francis is interested in doing the work needed to repair their corrupt institutions — they don’t even have any incentive to do so: the ongoing presence of “swamps” is what lends them such legitimacy as they possessall the products and enablers of corruption are safe. This is why the American bishops who spent decades enabling and hiding sexual abuse are probably feeling pretty good about their prospects right now.

(Bold added, italics in original) I have read so many Catholics in this dreadful hour asking “Lord, where shall we go?” — specifically about the longing for a valid Eucharist, ex opere operato — that I sense another facet of why Francis has little incentive for repairing what’s broken.

Jacobs’ P.S. is an interesting speculation, too.

We’re conditioned to think of populist autocrats as reactionary conservatives, aren’t we? But remember that Trump was widely (and accurately in my opinion) excoriated as “no conservative” or things along those lines, and Pope Francis has been hailed as a “breath of fresh air” and such, suggesting a reformer of a stale and conservative institution.

I once read (sadly, I think around and of the Roman Church’s “long lent” the last time sexual abuse was in the spotlight) that sociology defines “corruption” along the lines of “lacking resources for self-correction.” It takes someone or something from outside to fix things.

Peter Beinart thinks he discerns a different, semi-fascist meaning of “corruption” at work among the President’s supporters, citing Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley:

Corruption, to the fascist politician … is really about the corruption of purity rather than of the law. Officially, the fascist politician’s denunciations of corruption sound like a denunciation of political corruption. But such talk is intended to evoke corruption in the sense of the usurpation of the traditional order.

According to that school of “corruption,” I guess Trump is supposed to be America’s restorer of the traditional order, Pope Francis the Vatican’s bringer of a new, better order. The two construals of “corrupt” converge.

That, I guess, brings us back to Alan Jacobs sense that neither is going anywhere.

(This all feels a little bit half-baked and inelegantly written even to me, but it’s the best I can do on a notion (insight?) that came to me and has already exceeded any reasonable time budget for writing it down.)

* * * * *

Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.

Greg Coles.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

Monday Potpourri, 8/27/18

1

I tend to think of the encyclical Humanae Vitae (which I’ve never finished reading) as all about the evils of artificial contraception. That’s a blind spot.

Carl Trueman points to its prediction of the moral and social chaos sexual revolution would leave in its wake, and to contemporaneous commentary by Dietrich von Hildebrand that entails “a moving account of human love and a critique of a society that reduces love to sex and sentiment.”

In this volume, von Hildebrand clearly draws upon earlier arguments from his 1927 book In Defense of Purity: Love is ecstatic and joyful, transcending rational analysis. Von Hildebrand’s key text is Song of Songs, the biblical poem that captures the mystery, power, longing, and exuberance of erotic love. Much conservative Protestant writing on marriage typically neglects the Song for a prosaic, patriarchal focus on male authority and female submission. Those tempted by such a drab view of love ought to read von Hildebrand, for whom passion, mystery, and ecstasy all play their biblical parts.

Still, the part of Humanae Vitae that leaves me leery is the insistence that every marital act instantiate both the unitive and procreative purposes of sex. I’m willing to admit mistakes in how I’ve lived my life (my blogs are not my confessional, but I’ll not deny here what I confess there), but I’m not conscience-wracked — even now, when I know so much more about the Christian tradition on contraception than I knew then — that my wife and I tooks steps to prevent pregnancy during our first year of marriage so she could complete her college degree.

Granted, the same contraceptive technologies, by Supreme Court decisions of half a century or so ago, must be available to fornicators and adulterers as well as married couples, but to put it in reductionist terms that the encyclical presumably avoids, is delaying or spacing pregnancy in marriage a slippery slope to all the evils of the sexual revolution?

Apart from the possibility that I’ve thought more about that than most people, my response lacks any authority, but here goes: that’s not my lived experience.

2

Alan Jacobs, who doesn’t write all that much about matters political, musing on two heads of state, the U.S. and the Vatican:

Norms are created by institutions, and we live in an age of weak and despised institutions. This is how populist leaders arise: when a great many people believe that institutions exist merely to serve themselves, they come to despise not just those institutions but also the norms associated with them, and applaud leaders who scorn and seek to tear down the whole edifice. And if those leaders make their disdain known in sufficiently charismatic ways, few will notice when they are guilty of the very sins they decry.

He’s not expecting either The Donald or Pope Francis to be “forced out” or to change course.

So why do we get the vapors so badly when news breaks?

The big social-media companies function as what I have called the Ministry of Amnesia, and the result is that we lack temporal bandwidth. Unless we work hard to cultivate that temporal bandwidth, we won’t have the “personal density” to resist the amnesia-producing forces that make us think that whatever happens today is more important than anything that has ever happened.

Increasingly, I think, the people who rule our society understand how all this works, and no one understands it better than Donald Trump …

[T]he greatest of social changes tend to happen, as Edward Gibbon put it, insensibly. Even when they seem sudden, it is almost always case that the suddenness is merely a very long gradual transformation finally bearing fruit. There’s a famous moment in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises when one character asks another how he went bankrupt. “Two ways,” the man replies. “Gradually and then suddenly.” But the “suddenly” happened because he was previously insensible to the “gradually.” Likewise, events are always appearing to us with extreme suddenness — but only because we are so amnesiac that we have failed to discern the long slow gradual forces that made this moment inevitable.

Alan Jacobs again, elsewhere. Do read it all. There’s a payoff.

3

Jeffrey Bilbro, Learning to Distinguish between Demonic and Redemptive Technologies, at Front Porch Republic responds to a Christianity Today essay that tends to reduces Agribiz to “genetic seed modification and GPS-guided harvesters,” ignoring assaults with on crops and earthy by chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Bilbro’s most important contribution, it seems to me, is a not-too-vicious debunking of what the CT author seems to think is the only alternative to Agribiz in the manner Monsanto pursues, and some allusive hints we may just be cruising gradually toward sudden calamity.

* * * * *

Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.

Greg Coles.

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.