Friday, January 30, 2009
The SSPX is schismatic. The press usually frames it as with respect to the Latin Mass (and ad orientum) but it is deeper than that. The SSPX has its origins in the discontent by some on the French Catholic right with the secularization of the French Republic. The impetus was opposition to Vatican II reforms to be sure, but the real genesis was a desire to return to the "throne and altar" Catholicism of the Old Regime. So the SSPX is as much a political organization as it is a religious one.
The excommunications took place in 1988 and were automatic as the result of Lefebvre consecrating four bishops (one of whom was Williamson). An Archbishop has the power to consecrate another bishop, but the consecration must be approved by the Vatican (which had told Lefebvre NOT to consecrate the four). So while the consecrations are valid in some respects, the Vatican does not permit the four to act as bishops. Lefebvre did it to ensure the SSPX would continue after his death. The Vatican bent over backward to keep SSPX inside the church. Pope John Paul II offered Lefebvre one new bishop of his choosing. In addition, the SSPX would have become a personal prelature of the church in a similar situation as Opus Dei. The organization would therefore have been permitted to continue its work but under the direct authority of the Pope. Considering the then strong and continuing opposition of many bishops to traditionalist Catholicism, it would have allowed SSPX to operate in dioceses were the hierarchy was hostile or indifferent.
Lefebvre refused and consecrated the bishops. By doing so, he engaged in a schismatic act for which the penalty was excommunication to him and all participants. This in turn led to the effective casting out of the SSPX from the Church.
Since the act, some other things have happened. One is that the SSPX in turn has fell into schism. Second, the Church has taken steps to help traditionalist Catholics stay within the church. These include:
- The founding of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter by a group of former SSPX priests
- The issuance of Ecclesia Dei in 1988 (issued in reaction to the consecrations) which directed bishops to allow the traditional Mass.
- The issuance of Summorum Pontificum in 2007, which essentially took the decision out of the hands of the bishops and into the hands of the parishes.
I was and remain quite happy that the Latin Mass is making something of a comeback, even though it will never replace the vernacular. But even this has not been enough for SSPX. For one thing, they still complain about the Missal – traditionalist Catholics in communion with the Church use the official 1962 Roman Missal. The SSPX demands use of the 1950 Missal (and offshoot of the SSPX uses an even older Missal). To a large extent the problem is political – the Catholic Church has moved away from a throne and altar philosophy while SSPX wants to go back there.
One good thing has been the fact that the church has been able to get ordinary traditionalist Catholics back into the church. Most of those who attended SSPX masses were not there because they had an interest in the philosophy of Joseph de Maistre but rather because they liked the devotions of the “old” Church. They now have a place to go. The hard core of the SSPX though will never be happy. The church continues to bend over backward to keep the SSPX in communion and all we get for it is biting. If you ever get into a conversation with a true believing SSPX member, every sentence contains the words “Satan”, “Jews”, or “Freemasons”. Despite the action, the SSPX still remains outside the Church.
Which brings us to Williamson. The guy is a loon. It is not just the Holocaust; he is also a 9/11 Truther, JFK conspiracist and God knows what else he really believes. But he has not been "reinstated" as bishop, he cannot celebrate Mass in a Catholic church, he has only had his excommunication revoked. While I understand the concerns raised by some in and outside the church, his loony beliefs have nothing to do with the cancelation of his excommunication. One irony is that the father of Archbishop Lefebvre died in a Nazi concentration camp during World War Two.George Weigel in a Newsweek article discusses the Lefebvrist puzzle here.
Maybe there is some life in the old party after all.
Friday, January 23, 2009
I think bin Laden has left us for the hereafter. With most al Qeada tapes, you get fairly new video footage and speeches. With bin Laden, you get recycled footage of him walking around some rocks while someone claiming to be him does a voice over. And in some cases, the voice over is just speaking in generalities, they rarely mention Obama by name or talk about specific current events.
Bin Laden is either dead (my guess) or in really bad shape. I think he died in such a way that no one will ever be sure (for example he died in a cave collapse thanks to a bunker buster). He is just a few wisps of DNA under 100,000 tons of rock.
It was never really about him, and it was a mistake to make it about him.
Anyway, I have looked around at some of the left side blogs to see how this is playing. For the most part, it has been seen positively.
The Huffington Post for a while had this as their main news item with the headline:
FIRST MISSILE STRIKES LAUNCHED SINCE OBAMA TOOK OATH
The site had a split picture, President Obama on one side wagging his finger and looking all stern and serious and Islamic Rage Boy's idiot Pakistani cousin on the other side acting all, well, full of rage (other than soccer balls and rage, does Pakistan actually produce anything?). I tried wadding through the comments to see how this was playing to HP's fans, but it is useless. I think 3/4s of the commenters there are trolls (of both left and right).
In any event, I understand why it is being done. When Bush was president I was uneasy about these attacks in Pakistan. That country is barely a country and I worry that these attacks might take down the government and lead to anarchy. By the same token, Waziristan is where the bad guys are, and the Pakistani government barley has any authority there.
I also believe that these attacks take place with a wink and a nod from the Pakistani government. They get to act all enraged to placate domestic audiences while getting rid of bad guys.
On Taylor Marsh's site one of the commenters wonders if President Obama knew about this before hand, or if this was simply a carryover of Bush's ROE. I can understand why some on the left would feel angry at these attacks continuing (though, from my quick view, it is positive, including from Marsh herself).
It is hard to believe now, but back in 2000, Bush promised a "more humble" foreign policy and I remember being annoyed that a day or so after his inauguration, the Air Force bombed some site in Iraq. I remember thinking that it must have been simply a continuation of Clinton's ROE and that Bush knew nothing of it beforehand (ah, those innocent days!) and that he would change the ROE.*
By the same token, this is the policy that President Obama said he would pursue.
Now you see why I pray for the president? Who would want this job?
* Yes -- to preempt the comments, I supported the invasion of Iraq, I supported the surge and I hope that our troops can now leave Iraq, and that Iraq will be mostly stable and most democratic. If you asked me at 8:58 a.m. on September 11, 2001 what my thoughts on Iraq were, I would have said end US enforcement of the no fly zone and come up with a sanction regime that allowed Iraq to buy and sell everything except weapon programs. 9/11 temporarily stopped the drift toward non-interventionism that I started around 1992.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Are their any Catholic writers today that fill this gap? I am told that the work of Mary Higgins Clark is informed by her faith, but I have never read her (I am not into thrillers). Obviously, there are novelists who are Catholic. But are there any Catholic novelists today?
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Someone named Andy Levy, who I admit I never heard of before, set forth a list of "Don'ts" for conservatives in the Age of Obama that should be required reading for all on the right.
And after looking at the celebrity pledge*, I decide I too would make a list of pledges to President Obama.
- I pledge I will be adult and principled. If you propose something I can agree with, I will support it. If you propose something I disagree with, I will oppose it but based on principles, not narrow partisanship.
- I pledge that I will ignore every silly conspiracy theory regarding you (including but not limited to, theories that you were born in Kenya, that Malcom X was your father (yes, someone is actually claiming that), that you are a secret Muslim, and any other crazy theory that ends up in my e-mail in box).
- I pledge that I will not engage in "assassination porn."
- When you prepare to send troops in harm's way,** I pledge I will look at the evidence with dispassion.
- If Congress approves sending troops into harms way based on "conventional wisdom", even if I opposed it, I pledge I will not accuse you of lying.
- If you send troops into harms way, even if I opposed it, I pledge I will support victory. I know that the quickest way to get the troops home is through winning. I also believe that once American arms have been engaged, places where we were successful*** are generally better off than places where we were not.****
- On the off chance that you and I ever meet, I pledge that I will be respectful, even though I may ask you a question that you find "hard." Please note that I am not being disrespectful, I just have a question.
In short, I promise not to act for the next 4-8 years like those on the unhinged left acted for the past 8. I also promise to chasten those on the right who act unhinged.
I also promise not to be your servant. You are mine. I promise not to make you forget that.
I also promise to pray for you.
* Some friends and my wife objected to my description of the video as creepy. If you watch it without feeling the same way, no matter your politics, you have a stronger stomach than I do.
** And you will. The last president not to send troops into harm's way was, I believe, Herbert Hoover, but even he inherited a few occupations.
*** For example, Western Europe, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Grenada, Panama, the Balkans.
**** For example, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon.
In the last few days, we have seen:
- War in Gaza
- A North Korean general on TV threatening the South
- Rumors of Somali terrorists in the US trying to disrupt the inauguration
- Hugo Chavez talking about Obama's "stench" (seriously, this guy should be a comedian, with oil now trading in the $30s, he may be due for a new career soon)
- Someone claiming to be Osama bin Laden releases a tape threatening Obama (I think OBL is dead, but the threat of al-Qaeda remains)
- Iranian rent a mobs setting fire to pictures of Obama and signing up for martyrdom operations
- Rumors that Saudis are in talks with Pakistan to buy nuclear weapons to counteract the threat of Iran's nuclear program (this has been floating around for years)
- The UK threatening to nationalize its banks.
And let's not forget the day after Obama's election, the Russians announced they were moving nuclear missiles to Kalingrad and the ongoing economic crisis.
Why does ANYONE want this job?My personal safety and prosperity depends much upon what that one man does (too much on one man under my philosophy, but that is a discussion for another day). And he bears a heavy burden. So I pray for him.
Praying for the president to fail in our world means praying for poverty and death for Americans and most of humanity. Obama was clearly not my choice for president (5 seconds reading this blog and you get this I hope).
And yes, I am creeped out by things like this
(And things like this are not new, it has been going on for over a year now). To answer one friend's message, being inspired is one thing (my parents inspired me), this is something else.
But to pray for the president to fail? That is like praying for the strength to cut of my nose to spite my face.
EDITED TO ADD -- I finally made it to the end of that video. Go to 3:54. I am not a servant to the President. He is mine.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I really have not been making a big deal about it. Partly I think it is because I always thought the first black president would be a Republican, named Powell or Watts or Steele. So there is a little jealously there.
But mostly I hope because I do believe in colorblindness. I hope that the next time a black man is elected president, no one will think much about it.
My hope is that skin color be reduced to a mere accident of birth. That it is a part of someone (the way my ethnicity is part of what makes me up). Yes, I fall short of that ideal all to often, but I can still try.
I imagine Byrd, back in his KKK days 65 years or so ago, telling a friend "If a black man ever gets elected president it would kill me." As President Obama is only half black, Byrd collapsed but recovered.
This is only funny of course because Senator Byrd is OK.
"Obama was not my choice and I am appalled and a bit creeped out by the near-worship of him I’m seeing, but I do pray for him, and want the best, not the worst, for him, and for my country."
Amen sister, amen.
The book itself is based on a series of papal audiences given in 2006 and 2007. So it is conversational, not scholarly (if this Pope could wrote anything that is not scholarly that is). Each of the subjects (and it goes beyond The Twelve to also discuss Paul and some of the early Church's co-workers) is presented in a way to make their life lesson relevant to today.
With the exception of Paul, who was an educated man, the Apostles mostly were what today we would call "blue collar" types. They were working men (and women too), ordinary people with ordinary concerns and lives. I think about that when I think about people like my Uncle Joey -- a big gruff tough guy who none the less would use a finger rosary to pray while driving. Like several of the Apostles, he also liked to fish. He never had it easy in life, yet he accepted the bad things and worked hard to persevere.
Holiness can be found in the most unlikely places.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Back in 1968, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley were hired by ABC to give commentary on the election. While both Vidal and Buckley hated each other (during the Democratic Convention they almost came to blows, so for most if not all of the remainder of the campaign they never sat in the same studio) the advice they gave on Election Night still is relevant.
Heed the ghetto as well as the boardroom, but also remember that the best run country in the world is Switzerland, and no one knows the name of that country's president.
Still, I wonder if Mark Sanford is the future face of the GOP. Everyone right now is focusing on Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal. But Sanford is one who is calling for fiscal responsibility when every other politician has their hands out or is dumping cash around as fast as they can.
Back during the campaign I saw Sanford as a possible vice presidential candidate. But he comes from South Carolina, and while his reputation is not one of being an evangelical social conservative, he may be pigeonholed as one by the press. I also have heard that he has promised his wife that the 2006 governor's race was his last.
There is a long time until Election Day 2012. It is and should be WAY to early to think about it. Unfortunately, given our system and the front loaded primary schedule, anyone seriously looking to run in 2012 will start almost immediately.
As for me, my plan is to forget presidential politics for a while. Best case, not until November 2011. But this plan will probably be forgotten almost immediately.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I guess I find he whole inauguration process a bit distasteful, no matter who is president. It seems a bit non-[small r] republican to me and somewhat monarchical. But I agree with the Anchoress -- if McCain was elected you would be hearing complaints about the cost. So let soon to be President Obama have his party, he has a heavy burden the next four years.
So good luck President Obama. You will need it.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Yet, right now, the choices for my new Senator seem to be the daughter of a president and the son of a governor.
I am not sure exactly what Caroline Kennedy has done to think she should be a Senator. Yet, American politics is filled with mediocrities who thought that they should be elected and used money and family connections to get there. What I think has struck a nerve here is the feeling of entitlement that Ms. Kennedy exudes with little to really back it up other than her name and some vague commitment to the correct causes over the years. While Andrew Cuomo may be unliked in many quarters (he comes off as abrasive at times), he has been a cabinet secretary and has run for office (he is currently Attorney General). He at least has put himself and his views out there. If Ms. Kennedy feels she will be a good Senator, run for it.
I really do not care much either way, no matter who Governor Patterson appoints is unlikely to agree with my beliefs -- so a Kennedy or a Cuomo, if I really had to choose, I'll go with Andrew Cuomo, as at least he has been in the arena.
But that got me thinking, (small r) republican theories aside, political dynasties have always been a part of American politics. From the very beginning, the Adams family was central in American politics. In New York, the Clinton family was prominent. Are political dynasties undemocratic and unrepublican?
I recently finished reading Polybius's Histories which examined Mediterranean history (focusing on Rome and Greece) for the period from about 290 BC to 140 BC. Polybius, though Greek, lived in Rome for much of his life and was a friend to many in the Roman elite. And one thing that struck me was that many of the names in the various eras were the same. Rome at this period was a Republic and while at the beginning of the era still technically confined to Latinum, the beginnings of the empire were taking shape. So granted, Rome was drawing from a small pool of possible leaders, but still, you would think that more new families would appear.
Roman history is often taught as a conflict between the patricians and the plebeians. It is true that in the early days of the Republic there were real differences between the two orders, as the Republic progressed, the distinctions disappeared. By Caesar's day, the real difference was that certain offices were reserved to members to each order (most importantly, the "Tribune of the People," who held the vital veto power, had to be a plebeian). Some patricians became poor and their families faded into obscurity. Some plebeians became rich and their families prominent.
In Rome, therefore, the real distinction was between those whose families had members elected consul and those who had not. As the Republic disintegrated, "new men," those whose families had not included consuls, became more and more rare. When the great Cicero was elected consul in 63 BC, he was the first new man in more than 30 years. I have felt that this lack of new blood was one of the causes of the downfall of the Republic. People began to enter politics to advance their family interests rather than out of public service. We should keep that concern in mind.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already underway. The work of dying well is, in largest part, the work of living well.
Catholic prayer books often had prayers asking for "a good death." I think about my parents and how they faced their deaths. My father faced his disease and fought it hard. When I was asked by the deacon how I would describe how he faced his disease, I gave four words -- faith, hope, humor, and courage. He died at home, in bed, in his sleep.
My mother died one year to the day thereafter. In some ways she welcomed it, hoping to be with my father. The strength she exuded to all around her disappeared the day my father died. Her family and friends were not surprised when the end came. For her, it came after 3 months in a hospital room.
What does make a truly good death? For no matter what we do, how much tofu we eat or laps around Central Park we run, we all die. Most of us hope and believe that there is something on the other side of death. One prayer to Saint Joseph asks "drive away those enemies of my soul so I can end my life in peace."
So to have a good death, we should accept our fate that we will, someday die, and not lose heart before the end.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
From the Real Life Rosary Weblog (HT Happy Catholic)
That is the great thing about us Catholics, we never deviate from the rubrics of the laity. Child puking in your hand? Genuflect and make your way to the bathroom. Toddler have a flesh wound? Cross yourself and then continue with direct pressure. A plane crashed into the back of Church? Make your way to the nearest exit, bless yourself with Holy Water and then exit the Church.
Back in November, I suggested that you look to the example of John Profumo. When he was disgraced he acknowledged his wrongdoing and retired from public life. He then spent the rest of his life serving the homeless of London, rehabilitating himself in the eyes of society.
I know his case was more involved than yours -- the woman tied to Mr. Profumo was also tied to the Soviet military attache and there was the possibility of Cold War spying. Yours was a simple case. But take the example of that honorable man. Retire for public life, at least for a while. You are a wealthy man, concentrate of rehabilitating yourself and your reputation through good works and charity.
Bill (both Barker and Buiter) is preaching to the choir here. President Bush is afraid of being accused of doing nothing like Herbert Hoover. Of course, Hoover did actually do lots of things, mostly what President Bush is trying now, a stimulus package and loans to industry. They did not work and when tied with the 1930 Fed's decision to tightened credit, turned a bad recession in the Great Depression.
The problem is bad debt which is causing a lack of confidence. If I was in charge, I would have not done the bail out. I would keep interest rates moderately low and allow the banks liquidity, but put the worst entities into bankruptcy. They could have then restructured if they had value in an orderly fashion.
With respect to the debt crisis, I would recognize the problem is too much debt and bad debt at that. Again, no bail out, but as necessary loosen up laws to make it easier to renegotiate the debt, or write off debt in bankruptcy equal to collateral. Spend the money assisting those in greatest difficulty due to the financial crisis.
But no one listens to me (or Bill for that matter). So we will have more bail outs and a "stimulus" plan we cannot offer which will have dubious value. Speaking of which Barrack! Where is my check!
Monday, January 5, 2009
What bothers me most is the "rah rahing" I see from supporters of both sides. No matter what you think of Hamas, you cannot be happy with the increasing civilian casualties and the humanitarian disaster. Israel has proved its point. Unfortunately, I fear Hamas will not stop. So in a year or two we will again see the recurring spectacle of Palestinian rockets followed by Israeli bombs and more war, death and destruction.
The Byzantines had I think the best view of war. To them, war was tragic, but some times necessary. They were surrounded by enemies on all sides and rarely knew peace. But while they hailed the victors and honored their heroes, they did not see anything particularly heroic about war itself. Soldiers who killed the enemy in battle were expected to do penance.
War was avoided by a combination of nuanced diplomacy, bribes and brute force. The Byzantines would make a cost benefit analysis but always had the power of a strong army to back up negotiations. Every now and then, a barbarian who asked for too much would suffer the consequences of Byzantine power, to make an example for the others. In this way, the Byzantines were able to 1000 years to fend off enemies from all sides.
So let's cut out the rah rah -- war is not a football game,. Many people have died, and I fear many more will in the coming days.
If I had my way, the CIA as it currently exists would be disbanded and replaced by a small central clearinghouse of an agency. In my world, civilian intelligence would be transferred to the State Department, Commerce Department, research bodies of certain other government agencies, the NSA and NRO (and as necessary, the FBI). The CIA would function coordinate the information from the civilian and military intelligence departments.
This pick further helps the cause of Italian world domination. If my father, staunch conservative Republican that he was, was still around, his comment would have been -- "Do you know he is Italian?"
Sunday, January 4, 2009
In church this morning, I explained it to my children that on Epiphany we celebrate the first Christmas presents.
As the homilist this morning explained, the really funny thing is that Matthew's Gospel does not refer to three persons, and does not call them kings. Rather, they are an indeterminate number of "magi" or wise men. Little is given of who they were or where they came but the general "from the east." The gifts too are symbolic -- gold of Christ's kingship, incense of his priesthood, and myrrh for his death.
So Happy Epiphany!
Saturday, January 3, 2009
- Israel's offensive against Hamas will end in a week or so. Hamas will be severely wounded, but rocket attacks will continue. When all is said and done, Hamas will claim victory.
- Soon after the inauguration, the Obama administration will announce that Iran is close to building a nuclear weapon. Within 6 months of the inauguration (and without Congressional authorization), President Obama will order missile strikes on Iran.
- The Iraq War will continue to wind down to the point that no US troops are in combat. There will be the occasional al-Qeada suicide attack and al Sadr will make occasional threats, but the Iraqi government will strengthen its hold on the country.
- Some of President Obama's earliest supporters will become disillusioned by President Obama's centrist governing style.
- The bailouts of the economy will have seemingly little effect, but the economy will self correct. The Dow will be in the high 9000s by December.
- In New York, Mayor Bloomberg will defeat court challenges to the repeal of term limits. He will win reelection with less than 50% of the vote.