Thursday, April 30, 2009

Losing Faith

The post below, the third article by Paul Likoudis originally published in The Wanderer which details that paper's interesting history, contains a lively account of the media's reporting--and misreporting--on the first Vatican Council. I didn't realize that the secular press had such an interest in undermining that Council's declaration on papal infallibility, but it's not all that surprising given what was at stake.

I have to keep this brief, as I'm pressed for time today, but this quote is one I'm pondering:

“Should it happen that a few people fall away from the Church as a result of the definition of the true teaching by the Vatican Council, these will be people who have for a long time already suffered shipwreck of the faith and are just looking for a pretext to make the break public inasmuch as they have left no doubt as to their interior breach…

The same thing happened after Vatican II. And upon the promulgation of Humanae Vitae. And so many other times in the Church's history.

I think that the Catholic who begins seriously to contemplate leaving the Church has, in a real sense, already left her. Should he reconsider before making that final, he has only to confess his temptation to leave--but so few, having begun to think of leaving, will reconsider; many will seize upon the first viable excuse to put into action what they have already long considered doing.

A History of the Wanderer, 1867-1931: Article Three, by Paul Likoudis

(Note: this continues the series of articles by Paul Likoudis which I am publishing each Thursday.)

The Wanderer at 140....

by Paul Likoudis

(Third in a series)

Informed contemporary Catholics are aware of how the press shaped popular perceptions of what the Church Fathers were doing at Vatican II, and how disinformation, misrepresentation and outright lies distorted the teachings of the Council, sidetracking millions of Catholics worldwide.

Less well appreciated is the conspiracy on the part of the press, aided by the governments of the major European powers, to disrupt and derail Vatican I by a barrage of anti-Church propaganda aimed at preventing popular acceptance of the doctrine of the papal infallibility which the anti-Catholic rulers of states rightly understood as an assertion of the Church’s independence from secular control.

In the run-up to the Council, during the Council and in the years after, Der Wanderer, observed Fr. John Kulas, OSB, in Der Wanderer of St. Paul: The First Decade, 1867-1877), played a very important role not only in the United States but also in Europe for its staunch defense of Vatican I, papal infallibility and the independence of the Holy See at a time when much of the Catholic press and most of the secular press was aggressively attacking Vatican I and papal infallibility.

To put this newspaper’s role into perspective, it is important to recall that “the press” – almost all the major European and newspapers and journals of the time – as documented in three books by Westminster’s Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, who played a major role at the Council, opposed the convening of the Council, bitterly assailed the Council’s definition on papal infallibility, and spread the most noxious lies and distortions about the Council and its participants.

In fact, the highly-coordinated criticism of the Council by the press – especially some of the official Catholic press in Germany which fomented the opposition – was much more malignant than the popular press’ coverage of Vatican II, which adopted a different, though more sophisticated, tactic to confuse Catholics.

In The True Story of the Vatican Council, (London: Burns & Oates, 1877), Manning wrote that the major concern of Pius, and many of his cardinals and bishops, notably Bishop Emmanuel von Ketteler of Mainz, was that the modern State was putting limits on the Church’s freedom and, in fact, it was being excluded from civil society. “Modern revolutionary Liberalism,” wrote Manning, “consists in the assertion of the supremacy of the State over the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church, over education, marriage, consecrated property, and the temporal power of the head of the Church. This Liberalism, again, results in the indifferentism which equalizes all religions and gives equal rights to truth and error.”

Among the reports submitted by the cardinals to the Holy Father, Manning revealed, several raised concerns about the “infiltration of rationalistic principles” into Catholic schools, inculcating opposition to the authority of the Church, the breakdown in seminary training for priests, and the widespread disregard of ecclesiastical laws by the laity.

From the Council of Constance (1414-1418) up to the mid-19th century, Manning wrote, one of the thorniest issues for the Holy See was the “constant meddling” in the Church’s affairs by secular powers, especially Catholic rulers, by interfering in the Church’s educational institutions by appointing and protecting “unsound teachers,” especially in canon law and theology courses.

As a consequence, Manning wrote, “the public laws even of the nations in which the people are Catholic are Catholic no longer. The unity of the nations in faith and worship, as the Apostles founded, seems now to be dissolved. The unity of the Church is more compact and solid than ever, but the Christendom of Christian kingdoms is of the past. We have entered into a third period. The Church began not with kings, but with the peoples of the world, and to the peoples of the world, it may be, the Church will once more return. The princes and governments and legislatures of the world were everywhere against it at the outset; they are so again. But the hostility of the 19th century is keener than the hostility of the first. Then the world never believed in Christianity; now it is falling from it....

“Pius IX saw in the Council of the Vatican the only adequate remedy for the world-wide evils of the 19th century.”

From March 1865 over the next several years, the Holy Father queried the world’s bishops on the subjects and schema of the Council, particularly on the matters of papal infallibility and the independence of the Holy See. Due to, at least, one prelate well-placed in the Vatican, the enemies of the Church in governments and the academy were kept well-informed of these secret deliberations, leading to political plots by the major European powers to prevent the gathering of bishops in December 1869 – at a time when Rome was occupied by anti-clerical Masonic revolutionaries.


In The Vatican Council and Its Definitions, a 250-page pastoral letter Cardinal Manning addressed to his clergy in 1871, Manning detailed the machinations of the secular powers, especially through the press.

The major newspapers in England, France, Italy and Germany published numerous reports spreading the belief, he wrote, “that the Council would explain away the doctrines of Trent, or give them some new or laxer meaning, or throw open some questions supposed to be closed, or come to a compromise or transaction with other religious systems; or at least that it should accommodate the dogmatic stiffness of its traditions to modern thought and modern theology.....

“But the interest excited by its preliminary skirmishing external to the Council, was nothing compared to the exultation with which the anti-Catholic opinion and anti-Catholic press of Protestant countries, and the anti-Roman opinion and press of even Catholic countries, beheld, as they believed, the formation of an organized ‘international opposition’ of more than one hundred bishops within the Council itself. The day was come at last. What the world could not do against Rome from without, its own bishops would do from within.....

“A league of newspapers, fed from a common center, diffused hope and confidence in all countries, that the science and enlightenment of the minority would save the Catholic Church from the immoderate pretensions of Rome, and the superstitious ignorance of the universal episcopate. Day after day, the newspapers teemed with the achievements and the orations of the opposition.”

Manning’s depiction of the two sides anticipates that of the major reporters who covered Vatican II:

“[B]y a wonderful disposition of things, for the good, no doubt, of the human race, and, above all, the Church itself, the Council was divided....and by an even more beneficent and admirable provisions, it was so ordered that the theology, philosophy, science, culture, intellectual power, logical acumen, eloquence, candor, nobleness of mind, independence of spirit, courage, and elevation of character in the Council, were all to be found in the minority. The majority was naturally a Dead Sea of superstition, narrowness, shallowness, ignorance, prejudice; without theology, philosophy, science, or eloquence....bigoted, tyrannical, deaf to reason....”


Behind the press’ party line, however, were collaborators in all the governments of the great European powers, Manning showed in The Vatican Decrees in Their Bearing on Civil Allegiance, a series of reports he wrote for a New York newspaper, and syndicated across the United States, later published by the Catholic Publication Society in New York in 1875.

Manning reproduced a letter written in April 1867, allegedly by Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, Bavaria’s foreign minister and future president and chancellor of Germany to the heads of state and the leading diplomats in Europe, urging them to a concerted effort to prevent the declaration on infallibility. The likely author, or source for Hohenlohe’s information, Manning speculated, was a dissident bishop with high sources in the Vatican intent on causing a schism, which eventually formed as the Old Catholics.

“It is evident that this pretension,” wrote the prince, “elevated into a dogma, would go far beyond the purely spiritual sphere, and would become a question eminently political, as raising the power of the Sovereign Pontiff, even in temporal matters, over all the princes and peoples of Christendom. This doctrine, therefore, is of such a nature as to arouse the attention of all those governments who rule over Catholic subjects.....It cannot be denied that it is a matter of urgency for Governments to combine....against all decisions which the Council may promulgate without the concurrence of the representatives of the secular power in questions which are at the same time of a political and religious matter....”


A sample of Der Wanderer’s reports were translated from the German for this series of articles by Fr. John Kulas of St. John’s University, Collegeville, which is one of three repositories holding complete editions of The Wanderer; the other two are the Catholic Central Union in St. Louis and the Minnesota Historical Society.

In an editorial published May 15, 1869, “Vatican Council I and Declaration of Infallibility,” editor Theo Müllenmeister advised readers:

“The Wanderer will be the only newspaper this side of Chicago which will bring complete and timely reports from correspondents covering the great Council in Rome. To this end we have engaged the services of a high-ranking prelate in Rome [Archabbot Boniface Wimmer of St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania] to be a correspondent. His commentaries will interest each and everyone.”

In the February 5, 1870 Wanderer, the paper’s new editor, Franz Fassbind wrote, under the heading “Papal Infallibility”: “A position paper which had already attracted signatures of more than 400 Council Fathers was presented to the assembled Council. It included a petition that infallibility be defined in the following form: [There followed here the Latin text and a German translation]

“To the Vatican Council:

“‘The undersigned Fathers of the holy Ecumenical Vatican Synod humbly and urgently insist that it be affirmed in clear and unambiguous language that the Bishop of Rome exercises the highest authority and thereby is protected from all error when in matters of faith and morals he determines and prescribes what is to be believed and accepted by all Christians or what is to be rejected and condemned.’

“The considerations guiding these conclusions take up six printed pages. The relevant resolutions of the provincial councils of Cologne, Baltimore, and Westminster are attached in the form of notes as well as the text of the allocution delivered in honor of the Holy Father by 500 Bishops on the occasion of the Centennial celebration of 1867.

“We can conclude from press reports from Rome (as is widely reported in the European daily press) that a counter memorandum circulating among the members of the Council had as yet received no signature.”

In the same issue, under the heading “Related Issues,” Fassbind wrote:

“As far as reporting on the Council goes, papers with an anti-Church bias are in a position to offer more interesting and even more scurrilous stories than Catholic journals. Consider the following:

“[Non-Catholic journals] report not only on the facts but also on what is going to happen. They know not only the facts but also know how to speculate about the most secret thoughts of individual bishops. Just seeing the demeanor of the bishops as they leave the council hall and applying other such indices allow them to describe the nature of the council debates. To this end they make things up to their heart’s content, submit very poetic pieces garnished with personal speculation, more or less graphic according to the greater or lesser talent of the author.

“At the present time it is especially the Commission which the Holy Father has chosen to be his advisory group in respect to questions which some bishops wish to present to the Council that has come in for criticism among some bishops. If it is true that some of the Council Fathers are dissatisfied with one or the other point of organization they would certainly feel free to express their feelings to the Holy Father in the liberty of the Gospel. Then their points of view would certainly be given a thorough hearing. But if one considers the size of the majority with which the members of the Commission were voted into office, there can be no doubt that the vast majority of the Council Fathers are satisfied with the composition of the body of advisors for the Pope. But it is also characteristic of our opponents to make a big deal about any difference of opinion they can discover among the bishops....”

One week later, for the February 12 issue, under the heading, “Catholics, Take Note!,” Fassbind wrote:

“The proposal to define papal authority as infallible has led to contentious debate between factions that are friendly to the Church as well those who are enemies of the Church. Obviously, it is of the highest importance to have a clear understanding of the issues involved. In its previous issue this newspaper printed the proposal as presented to the Council. In the current issue we are able to present to our readers the motivations underlying the proposal.…

“[T]he bishops too have chosen, as guardians and defenders of Catholic truth, to accept the task in these times of ascribing through synodal decrees and collegial statements the apostolic See’s highest teaching authority.

“However, the clearer Catholic truth is taught, the more vehement it has been attacked in recent times through broadsides and the daily press. The opponents of the Church are seeking to prejudice the Catholic people against sound teaching or even to intimidate the Vatican Council from proclaiming the truth…

“In the first instance, however, the Catholic people has the right to demand that the Vatican Council teach and declare precisely what is to be believed with respect to a matter of faith that is so important and one which has in recent times been so vehemently debated. This is to prevent people unversed in theology from falling prey to serious error….

“Should it happen that a few people fall away from the Church as a result of the definition of the true teaching by the Vatican Council, these will be people who have for a long time already suffered shipwreck of the faith and are just looking for a pretext to make the break public inasmuch as they have left no doubt as to their interior breach…[source Bishop Martin of Paderborn]

“Thus, there are three factions at the Council. Using political terms one could talk of the right (bishops from Spain, South America, Italy, and Belgium, etc), the center (most of the bishops from France and Germany, England, Ireland, Holland, Portugal, Austria, etc) and the left (a few bishops from Germany, France, and North America). One can assume with certainty that the views of the center will emerge victorious.”

On March 12, 1870, under the heading “German Bishops in Rome,” The Wanderer reported:
“Through a variety of communications in earlier issues of this newspaper the reader will have noticed that the position of the German bishops with respect to the resolution of certain central questions at the Council has been interpreted as a public expression of party affiliation in the press. The published declaration of war a few weeks ago by Canon Döllinger in Munich against papal infallibility was the start and it was asserted in more than one newspaper that the majority of German Bishops in Rome agreed with Döllinger. Among them was said to be Bishop von Ketteler of Mainz. This situation induced this prelate to make a public declaration that, given the circumstances, has extreme significance. For that reason we feel obliged to bring this to the attention of our readers. We print the declaration in full….

“[The signed document was dated 8 February 1870. In it Bishop Ketteler distanced himself from Döllinger’s current stand on the question of papal infallibility even as he expressed his admiration for the theological training he had received from Döllinger. Döllinger sometimes wrote under the penname ‘Janus’ and was against a declaration of papal infallibility, although he claimed his views were ‘essentially’ the same as that of the bishops.] Ketteler: ‘But I have nothing more to do with the Döllinger whom the enemies of the Church and the Holy See crown with honors.’

The Wanderer also published a declaration from the Archbishop of Cologne (dated 9 February) warning against non-factual and intemperate reporting in the secular press.

The April 30, 1870 Wanderer reported, under the heading, “Latest from Rome”:

“Telegraph reports indicate that the 3rd public session of the Council took place on April 24, 1870. It was an imposing event… The four chapters of the schema on faith were read and were approved unanimously. Then the Holy Father promulgated the decrees from his throne…. The Council fathers now turned their attention to the decree on papal infallibility....

The May 7 1870 Wanderer reported, under the heading, “Dashed Hopes”:
“The Council Fathers in Rome are subjected to intense scrutiny by the agents of European states, the gray eminences of the daily press, and especially those men who look forward to the overthrow of all order. No legislative body has ever been the object of such scrutiny. …

“The utterances of individual Council Fathers are turned into evidence of factional controversy. If the well of news seems to be drying up, a ready pen invents an audience with the Pope and attributes to the Holy Father statements which he never made, never even thought of. …

“These journalists intend to paint a picture of a Church torn apart by factions and thereby, as far as it depends on them, to give it the coup de grace. …These expectations were quickly deflated. ..

“A fruit of the freedom [of debate] is seen in the result of the vote. If some prelates had previously held differing views the final vote on the entire text showed that every doubt was removed, and when the Vicar of Christ solemnly promulgated the decree on faith the Catholic Church appeared again in the triumph of unity and indivisibility of doctrine. That is the great significance of the [unanimous decision in favor of the] decision.

The May 14, 1870 Wanderer took note of the disinformation circulating wildly in the European and American press under the heading, “Another Protest”:

“....The New York Herald reports that 21 American Bishops led by three Archbishops have lodged a protest with the Pope against papal infallibility. [There was no proof.]

“The Wisconsin Banner launches an investigation into the positions taken by American bishops and reproaches those whose names are not included in the list of names in this protest.…When the author speaks about the ‘Order of Executioners’ (Dominicans) to which the Archbishop of San Francisco is said to belong he merely convicts himself of charges similar to those made above. No further rebuttal is necessary...”

On June 11, 1870, The Wanderer published its own, unofficial, translation of the Decree on Papal Infallibility, “for which the whole Christian world has been waiting with bated breath,” and editorialized under the heading, “A Significant Pronouncement.”

In its issue of August 13, 1870, Der Wanderer published the full text of the Council’s Second Constitution, Aeternus Pastor, and on August 20, the Pope’s allocution of the day, in which Pius IX said:

“The Supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff, venerable Brothers, does not oppose, but supports; it does not destroy, rather it builds up and strengthens others in their grace; it unites in love and strengthens the bishops in their rights… Since it is only God who can do great wonders may He illuminate minds and hearts so that all may abide in the bosom of the Father…”

And that’s the message The Wanderer has been broadcasting for 140 years.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why Waterboarding Is Torture

I've heard many Catholics claim that what we've done to terrorists really doesn't fall under the definition of torture, because torture is only torture if it causes serious and lasting physical harm to the person being hurt. Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, cold cells--sure, these things are uncomfortable and unpleasant--but they're not torture, because they don't cause any permanent damage.

Setting aside the reality that permanent mental or psychological damage may occur even with these forms of coercive tactics, I think it's important that we Catholics repudiate firmly and unequivocally the idea that torture is only torture if it causes significant and/or permanent injury to the person being tortured. It is possible to cause severe, even excruciating pain, both mental and physical, without leaving any marks, let alone any permanent injury; and the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following:

2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.91

So, what is waterboarding? It is an act of physical violence. The person being waterboarded is strapped to a board without his consent; he is helpless, and can't move. Often plastic is put over his face to increase the sensations that he is drowning and can't breathe. Water is then poured into his nose and mouth; his body reacts to this as if he really were drowning, even if in his mind he realizes that this is not the case--but few people are capable of remaining mentally calm when their bodies are straining at bonds trying to escape death by drowning. This physical reaction can, indeed, cause extreme pain, unconsciousness, and suffocation; it is possible to kill someone using this technique.

The intent of doing this is clearly to cause pain and terror. It is done to force someone's cooperation, to coerce their will, and to frighten them into compliance with the torturers' demands. It is not a legitimate act of restraint or punishment, such as might be said of incarceration and its trappings (e.g. bland food, tiny accommodations, boredom, restriction of movement, etc.). It is done wholly to cause suffering on the grounds that this suffering will then lead to the "good" results the torturer desires.

Waterboarding, like deliberate and extended sleep deprivation done for its own sake (as opposed to the sleep deprivation which can sometimes occur in a prison setting when unruly or noisy prisoners keep others from their rest) and cold cells in which the temperature is significantly reduced in order to cause the pains of hypothermia, treats the prisoner as an object. His human dignity is stripped from him because he is seen to be possessed of some useful information; whether that is true or not does not matter to those who are certain that he will be useful if he can only be broken. He may be guilty of acts of terror and deserve a trial and some just punishment, but the decision to torture him is made whether his guilt can be or has been proven; there is no such thing as "innocent until proven guilty or until we decide to waterboard you," and so torture is an offense against justice as well as against mercy.

I have heard some argue that since we train our military to withstand waterboarding, waterboarding must not be torture. However, this is a misunderstanding which fails to give the proper credit to the notion of free will and of trust; the military member understands that he has consented to the training by the fact of his military position, and he also trusts those training him not to injure or kill him in the course of the training. No such free will or trust is possible to the person being tortured, as he does not consent to the waterboard, cannot escape it, may even break his limbs trying desperately to get away from his restraints, and cannot trust the people pouring the water in his nose and mouth to stop choking and drowning him if he is too close to death.

The question, "Is waterboarding torture?" must be answered, "Yes--if the intent in strapping someone to a board and pouring water over him is to make him feel as if he is drowning, to cause him pain and terror, to coerce his will for some purpose, and to do so in a context in which free will and trust are wholly absent." Catholics must reject the idea that waterboarding isn't torture just because the victim is left in one piece and is usually left alive; that's not good enough to erase the clear intent of those who employ this tactic, when their intent is to do exactly what the Catechism calls "torture."

Catholics and the Flu

Yesterday Mark Shea linked to this letter from Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond, as posted on the Aggie Catholics blog; the bishop has decided that Holy Communion should be distributed under just one species for the present time due to the risk of transmitting swine flu through the common chalices used by the laity to receive the Blood of Christ at Mass.

Today, the Diocese of Dallas has issued its own guidelines:

The swine flu scare has prompted a number of recommendations from the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, including a big one about attendance at Mass.

"If you are not feeling well, especially during this time of concern, please stay at home and do not risk spreading infection to others," said the Rev. Michael Dugan, the diocese's director of the Office of Liturgy, in a statement posted on the diocese Web site.

Dugan added that parishioners who do attend Mass while feeling under the weather should bow or wave during the "passing of the peace" rather than shake hands with pew neighbors. Those who extend a hand and have it refused should not be offended, given the circumstances, he said.

The diocese also posted on its Web site a letter from Bishop Kevin Farrell, who said he has encouraged priests to consider suspending the use of wine during communion, because it's offered from a common cup. Farrell also said he has asked the priests to be sure that all Eucharistic ministers use "proper hygiene" when distributing the bread or host during communion.

The letter from Bishop Farrell is here. For the most part the recommendations are good, except the one about receiving communion in the hand if you are sick; the hands are no less likely to be a vector for the spread of the flu than the mouth, especially after the Sign of Peace, the obligatory but liturgically-incorrect practice of holding hands during the Our Father, etc.

Thus far my bishop, Bishop Kevin Vann, has not issued any guidelines for the Catholics of the Fort Worth diocese; I'll update this post later if he does.

For now, though, I have several observations to make about these guidelines.

In the first place, the direction to stay at home if you feel ill is the most important thing Catholics can do to minimize the spread of the flu. I've had to stay home on Sundays due to illnesses far more this year than in any other recent year I can remember, and it's never fun to miss Mass--we Catholics almost have this tendency to think that Mass just can't go on without us, and that it's better to drag ourselves, feverish and shivering, to church on Sunday than to stay in bed and try to get well. Unfortunately when we do that, we often cause a ripple effect in church, as family after family contracts the bug we were carrying and spreads it further. Until enough people stay home to recover, these darned viruses have a tendency to keep circulating through a congregation, often affecting our pastors themselves, not to mention the elderly and infant members of the parish who will be far more seriously affected by our viruses. And since this is certainly true for the ordinary run of winter cold and flu bugs, it will be just as true for swine flu; should the virus actually take hold in our communities, we will do no one any favors by continuing to take ourselves to Mass when we are feeling ill out of some misplaced sense of obligation, piety, or martyrdom.

In the second place, I've heard the line from Catholics before that they don't think illnesses spread through the common reception of the Precious Blood; there is a pious thought expressed, that He Whom we are receiving protects us from all harm, or at the very least the alcohol content of the accidents of the wine is good enough to wipe out ordinary viruses. But as someone pointed out in the comboxes at Mark Shea's, the alcohol content of rubbing alcohol is significantly greater than the alcohol content of the wine which becomes the Precious Blood; and rubbing alcohol itself is not an instant disinfectant, requiring a couple of minutes to kill germs, from what I understand. While our Lord can, if He wishes, protect from harm those who receive Him in the Precious Blood, there is no requirement upon Him to act in this miraculous way; if viruses aren't known to spread frequently in this way, it is hopefully because those who are actually ill will refrain from receiving under both species. In the presence of a significant viral threat, however, relying on the average Catholic to understand that he ought not receive from the chalice since he is achy and tired and possibly a little feverish may be imprudent, and suggesting instead that the ancient practice of receiving only the Body of Christ would be a more charitable practice for the time being is to be commended.

In the third place, the practice of Catholics seizing each others' hands at Mass is probably not the best one for times like these. I don't have a huge problem with the Sign of Peace, except for its placement, but it should be noted that in the rubrics no command exists to shake hands; in many cultures a simple bow to one's nearest neighbors suffices to express this moment of reconciliation, and I would strongly support American Catholics adopting this custom not only for the sake of not spreading swine flu (or other illnesses) but to retain the sense of reverence proper to the Mass. As for the other "custom" of grabbing hands to pray the Our Father, this custom is completely outside the rubrics, and is not one I am happy about (though I generally put up with it rather than make a scene out of my refusal; it isn't liturgically correct to draw attention to yourself, either, most of the time). Even absent swine flu concerns I would be happy for a correct posture to be assumed for the praying of the "Our Father" which remembers that we're addressing God, not each other, in this prayer; but the threat of the spread of swine flu is a good time for pastors to remind the congregation that all this extra hand-holding isn't the best idea during a time of illness.

While the World Health Organization may be acting prematurely in raising the pandemic level to a "5," and while it may yet be that the approach of warm weather will hold off this threat of a spreading flu virus for now, I still think it's a good time for Catholics to consider our duty to our neighbor when we, or some in our families, are ill. The best rule of all here is the Golden Rule; if you or someone in your family is sick, and you wouldn't want someone as sick as you or your husband or child is to sit beside you at Mass, hold your hand or shake it, and drink in front of you from the chalice of the Precious Blood, perhaps you should reconsider whether the sick person in your family should be coming to Mass in the first place.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Irrelevance of Time

By now you've heard about the Pew Forum's recent report on switching one's religious faith. No surprises, really; I think there are a handful of categories that crop up, which I'd put this way:
  • Protestants who switch denominations, but remain Protestant, when they marry, or find a church that "speaks" to them, etc.
  • Protestants who become Catholic, usually for excellent reasons involving scholarship and pursuit of the truth.
  • Catholics who get around to admitting that they're really Protestants, having elected themselves pope, and who finally leave for a church that marries gays or ordains women or blesses abortion or whatnot.
  • Protestants, Catholics, and others not raised in a strong religious family who are more or less perpetually between churches, though they believe in God and would like to find a spiritual home.
I'm simplifying a bit, naturally. But there aren't any real surprises; it's as if the Pew Forum suddenly discovered that religious believers are actually human, and do things the way other humans do.

It may be a bit much to accuse the Pew Forum of that; but it's not at all too much to consider the egregiously smarmy Time article on the subject in that light:
Forty-three years ago, this magazine published a stark cover with the words "Is God Dead?" stamped in red against an inky black background. The accompanying article predicted that secularization, science and urbanization would eliminate the need for religious belief and institutions before long; in modern society, only the weak and uneducated would persist in their faith. Yet rumors of religion's demise turned out to be premature. Over the past few years, neo-atheists like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens have taken up the cry again, encouraged by studies showing that the percentage of Americans who report no religious affiliation has more than doubled since 1990. But as a new report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows, it is a mistake to conclude that more Americans are rejecting religion. Leaving church, it turns out, doesn't mean losing faith. [...]

Perhaps most surprising to the Pew researchers was that of the 7% of Americans who were raised unaffiliated, only half remained unaffiliated as adults. "Only Jehovah's Witness has a lower retention rate," says Pew analyst Gregory Smith. Unlike the disillusioned Catholics and Protestants who fled organized religion, these new adherents tend to see the positive aspects of being affiliated with a religious institution. When asked for the main reason they joined their current religion, 33% of the formerly unaffiliated cited the benefits of being spiritually and socially connected to a community, and 20% said it was a choice driven by personal spirituality and a sense that something was missing from their life.

These findings won't be music to the ears of Sam Harris or fans of his best seller The End of Faith. But they do confirm that a stubborn, insistent strain of religiosity continues to infuse Americans — even those who claim they've left organized religion behind.

It is interesting to note that Time's paid subscriptions have declined by roughly a million subscribers in the last decade alone; given the way things are going for the publishing industry, I'd be willing to guess that Time will be dead long before religion is.

The surprised tone of the article shows nothing so much as the cluelessness of the media elite when it comes to religion. The notion that there are still people who actually accept the basic tenets of Christianity and seek to worship God according to some form of Christian tradition seems to be a notion that the in-crowd at Time has a hard time accepting. The companion reality, though, that liberalism, especially agnostic/atheistic secularism, is a completely uninspiring set of ideas that, however exciting they may have been in 1966, are now increasingly seen as a philosophical dead end to those who take the study of such ideas seriously is probably one they have never considered--but the increasing irrelevance of their own magazine ought to wake them up to the possibility that perhaps cheerless liberal gloom isn't what people intuitively seek at the heart of their being when they search for truth.

Secularists aren't suprised that people leave a church; they are surprised that people who have left a church will keep looking for another one, one that in some way leads them beyond this life and toward transcendence, toward God Himself, Who is not only not dead, but Who rose from the dead. They probably wonder why anyone who has escaped the chains of religious belief would ever voluntarily return to this kind of servitude, not realizing that they spout such arrogant queries from behind the walls of an intractable prison, beyond which they are serving a death sentence.

A Torturous Equivalence

Here and there in the Catholic blogosphere, the discussion about Mary Ann Glendon's decision to refuse the Latare Medal from Notre Dame continues.

One theme that has sprung into being keeps cropping up rather regularly, almost as if left-leaning Catholics were receiving talking points from somewhere--but as everyone knows, only right-wing conservatives get talking points; liberals are all highly independent thinkers who just happen to reach the same conclusions within moments of each other, which makes it convenient for them to post the same thoughts on multiple Internet conversations all at once. This theme goes as follows:
  • Mary Ann Glendon was ambassador to the Holy See during the Bush administration.
  • The Bush administration condoned torture.
  • Mary Ann Glendon did not resign her position.
  • Therefore, Mary Ann Glendon wholeheartedly approves of the intrinsic evil of torture, and her refusal to accept the award from Notre Dame is a purely partisan act.
  • Thus, Catholics who were already inclined to applaud ND for honoring Obama may continue to do so in perfectly good conscience.
There are a lot of things wrong with this construction, of course. But what is not wrong is that it is clear that the Bush administration was allowing one intrinsic evil, torture, to take place, while opposing another intrinsic evil, abortion. We get nowhere as Catholics if we try to minimize the evil that torture is, or make excuses for it.

That said, however, this notion that the fact that Glendon didn't resign as ambassador sometime during the Bush administration removes her credibility to object to ND's choice to honor the most pro-abortion president this country has ever had is pernicious nonsense. If we are going to claim that only those who wholeheartedly and enthusiastically accept every action of a presidential administration, even actions which for a long time were kept secret or outright lied about, may serve in that administration, then I think we've pretty much made it impossible for any Catholic at any time to serve in any high-level government position. And if we're going to insist that Glendon must have approved of torture, or else she would have resigned her post, then what are we to make of all those "personally opposed, buts..." serving presently in this administration--should we now insist that if they don't resign their positions they must necessarily accept the president's views on infanticide?

Moreover, as some have pointed out already, there is a difference between the Bush administration on torture and this current administration on abortion. If Bush had been elected on the strength of his promise to torture our enemies, if a strong "pro-torture" faction existed which pumped countless thousands of dollars into his campaign, if Glendon in order to serve in the administration had to quell any moral qualms she had about torture and come up with some kind of, "Well, I'm personally opposed to torture, but..." formulation in order to get the post, if her job required her to gloss over Catholic teaching on torture on a constant basis, then perhaps the comparison might be valid. But there is not (as of yet, anyway) a strong, vocal "pro-torture" movement; even in the Republican party itself there are plenty of people who abhor it. There is no such thing as the "National Enhanced Interrogation Rights Action League (NEIRAL);" there is no "Planned Bauerhood" group which celebrates torture as a right and raises money to support it. President Bush did not campaign on a pro-torture platform; the tactic used was to deny torture was happening, and when that didn't work anymore to quibble about "enhanced interrogation" and insist firmly that whatever was going on, if something were going on which they didn't admit, it wasn't torture, because we don't torture people, etc.

So it is perfectly possible to suppose that many Catholics who worked in positions in the Bush administration do not now, and never did, approve of torture, because it is a fact that the Bush administration did not commit itself openly to torture or insist that its appointees pass a "pro-torture litmus test" as a condition of their employment. Similarly, it is theoretically possible for a Catholic to hold a post within the Obama administration and yet to be vocally and openly pro-life (though thus far Obama hasn't even tried to appoint such a person, not even to Glendon's former post as ambassador to the Holy See). But it is not possible to claim that a Catholic university can honor the most pro-abortion president America has ever had with an honorary degree while simultaneously showing in a clear and unequivocal way their disapproval of abortion; and it was beyond disingenuous for Father Jenkins to claim that awarding the Latare Medal to Mary Ann Glendon was a sufficient act of "equal time" that would provide that unequivocal clarity.

To her credit, Glendon recognized both this reality and the clear fact that Notre Dame was ignoring the bishops' instructions in their 2004 letter, Catholics in Political Life, and thus declined the honor. People who think that this is a partisan act, or that her former position as ambassador to the Holy See somehow makes her a torture apologist, are the ones guilty of a partisanship which won't allow them to see the naked evil of Barack Obama's views and actions on abortion for what they really are.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Good For Mary Ann Glendon

By now everyone has heard about Mary Ann Glendon's decision to decline the Latare Medal, which Notre Dame had planned to award her.

I think that Glendon has made an excellent decision, one that I hope her fellow pro-life Catholics will support to the fullest degree. It is one thing to be given an award at the same time that the University makes a disgraceful decision to bestow an honorary degree upon a man who believes that children who survive their own abortions don't deserve to live; it's quite another to have that University point to the award they're giving you as proof that, now, really, they're not so blind to the impropriety of celebrating pro-abortion politicians as all that.

Mary Ann Glendon was being used, and from her polite but firm letter to Fr. Jenkins it's clear that she realized that. It was an unconscionable thing for Notre Dame to do to her, to award her an honor and then claim that she could be "equal time" to balance out the appearance of the nation's Abortionist-In-Chief; the best thing for her to do is what she has done--withdraw, and make it clear to everyone just why she is choosing to do that.

There is a battle being waged for the soul of the Church in America, that goes far beyond our usual Catholic spats about Latin vs. vernacular, ad orientem vs. versus populum, Haugen/Haas hooting vs. Adoremus hymns, etc. It's not that these things aren't important; in a way they relate to the larger battle, which can be summed up as: must we, to be Catholic, accept everything the Church teaches, or can we consider ourselves perfectly good Catholics en route to Heaven while dissenting from any number of important Catholic teachings? The dividing line between the two sides is clear, and hot-button issues like abortion end up being flashpoints for a lot of the associated skirmishes.

Notre Dame, like a lot of other so-called Catholic universities, has come down on the "dissent" side of the equation. Universities like these take an agnostic approach to the truth, whatever their religious "traditions" may be--and however much they like to talk about these "traditions" when they send out fund-raising materials to wealthy, elderly alumni who don't know that things have changed drastically for the worse since their own college days. These sorts of universities don't officially believe in the truth, particularly not as taught by the Church; they are always much more interested in exploring different "faith traditions" and seeking "truths" in the plural; they tend to argue that serious scholarship demands that students not give any sort of pride of place to revealed truth, to Church teachings, or to the Catholic philosophical tradition that has developed over the centuries since the death and resurrection of Our Lord. Faced with some Catholic students who are pro-life, vocally so, and others who are not, such universities tend to chide the former for their "stridency" or for not being inclusive or respectful of the journeys of others, or some such rot--but the latter are almost never called to account for their openly heretical opinions, and are instead considered courageous for "daring" to think outside the Catechism, so to speak.

I don't think we've ever had a president who would so clearly take sides in what ought to be an internal Catholic battle, but President Obama is doing exactly that. He has surrounded himself with American "Catholic" dissenters, ranging from those who make a pious show of their Mass attendance and their reception of Holy Communion despite their slavering enthusiasm for the dismemberment and death of innocent babies in utero, to those who have been informed by their bishops that it isn't seemly for Death Eaters to snack on the Bread of Life. He will now bolster his association with weakling and quisling Catholics by showing off at Notre Dame, and add to his collection of photos of himself being fawned over and toadied to by priests who ought to know better. And he will do so to try to advance even further the big lie being told by American Catholics to themselves--that it is possible to be a good, pious, devout Catholic, in love with the Lord and His Church, while still thinking that abortion is a really terrific idea, a way of keeping the whole "sex without consequences" thing going, a fully acceptable kind of "collateral damage" in which helpless children pay with their very lives for the selfish hedonism of their parents.

Obama and Fr. Jenkins were both perfectly willing to use Mary Ann Glendon's appearance at Notre Dame to further this lie. Good for her, for seeing through them and refusing to play this very evil game.

He Stops

Anyone who reads my husband's blog knows that Thad has an eclectic taste in music; he's especially fond of small, unknown singers or groups, both in America and overseas.

One band he's been following is a local Christian band called Addison Road. I'm not in any way qualified to opine about their music; I'm a classical music geek, and don't really get into much else, except for a handful of tunes to use when I'm exercising. But I have enjoyed reading the blog written by their female vocalist, Jenny Simmons. Jenny and her husband (also in the band) have just had their first child, a girl, and Jenny has been writing about her pregnancy and the recent birth of their baby (induced labor, unexpected C-section, etc.) with her usual down to earth humor and illuminating faith in God.

In the midst of this post detailing it all, though, she just about made me cry when she wrote about life, death, and hospitals--and I'm not the sort of person who gets weepy when I read things on the Internet, believe me. But she writes with great beauty and wisdom (italics in original):
But my floor of the hospital was about life. Little babies everywhere. And I found myself slightly annoyed that there were so many babies. Because in that moment everything came down to this one child I was bringing into the world. And I wanted everyone to stop and be in awe. I wanted everyone to act as though this were the first child ever born. That this was a big deal. That the world would never be the same because this little girl came quietly into its midst.

But the world kept going on around me. The construction workers out my window kept drilling. The cars kept driving. The nurse kept coming in and giving me shots in my butt (as if she did not understand that my body was a holy vessel that had just accomplished something miraculous) and even my friends who came to visit left and went home to their normal lives. The world just kept going.

And I thought about that a lot in the hospital. The life. The death. And the desire we as humans have to want to scream, "STOP! Something big is happening to me here!"

Why can't everyone just stop for a minute? Why does the world keep going even though you and I are facing mountains or valleys? Won't someone stop with me?

Even though the world keeps going during those intense moments of joy and pain, there is a God who is ever-present and mindful, and He stops. He stops with us. He cries in the pre-op room with the couple who are staring death in the eyes. He stops to comfort them. He stops to be there in that moment when everyone else keeps going as if nothing life-changing is happening. He stops.

He stops to be present in that surgery room watching with delight as His little daughter Anniston sees the world for the first time. I am convinced He smiles. He tears up. He is overwhelmed with her beauty and gentle spirit. He stops with me when I am looking at her trying to comprehend this little miracle. He lets me know that He is there. That he is amazed. He stops.

He stops with us. He creates space that the world does not give us. And He rejoices and mourns in those moments with us as if we were the only people on the universe with Him. He stops.

I was thinking about this, about the loveliness of it, and I suddenly thought about what we Catholics call the works of mercy in a new and different way.

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are, of course, as follows:

  1. Feed the hungry
  2. Give drink to the thirsty
  3. Clothe the naked
  4. Shelter the Homeless
  5. Visit the sick
  6. Visit the imprisoned
  7. Bury the dead
  1. Instruct the ignorant
  2. Counsel the doubtful
  3. Admonish the sinner
  4. Bear wrongs patiently
  5. Forgive offenses willingly
  6. Comfort the sorrowful
  7. Pray for the living and the dead
I thought about what Jenny wrote, and I saw these two lists a little differently: as invitations to stop when He stops, with the poor and the suffering and the mournful and the ones shut away from society, to stop and pray, or teach, or forgive, to go beyond our daily existence just a little each day to stop and be mindful of Him and of His presence with the least of His brothers.

It's easy to see the works of mercy as "to-do" lists which are ultimately for our benefit, but to do this is to miss the point, I think. We should see them as a call to stop, for a minute, to come to someone else's aid because we see Christ in the other person, and because we know that He has already stopped to be with him in his hour of need. The Good Samaritan was the one who stopped to help his neighbor; the beloved disciple was the one who stopped at the foot of the Cross, setting aside his own fear of the authorities when the other disciples could not.

At the hour of our deaths, when we face judgment, Christ is going to ask us if we stopped. Did we stop to feed Him, to clothe Him, to shelter Him? Did we visit Him when He was sick or in prison? Because He was there--He stopped to be with His children. Did we stop? Did we see Him in them, and stop to help?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Town Fights Mormon Crickets With Rock Music

Okay, the crickets in this story have to be the country's second scariest looking crickets:
TUSCARORA, Nev. -- The residents of this tiny town, anticipating an imminent attack, will be ready with a perimeter defense. They'll position their best weapons at regular intervals, faced out toward the desert to repel the assault.
Then they'll turn up the volume.
Rock music blaring from boomboxes has proved one of the best defenses against an annual invasion of Mormon crickets. The huge flightless insects are a fearsome sight as they advance across the desert in armies of millions that march over, under or into anything in their way.
But the crickets don't much fancy Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones, the townspeople figured out three years ago. So next month, Tuscarorans are preparing once again to get out their extension cords, array their stereos in a quarter-circle and tune them to rock station KHIX, full blast, from dawn to dusk. "It is part of our arsenal," says Laura Moore, an unemployed college professor and one of the town's 13 residents.
In flyspeck villages like Tuscarora, crickets are a serious matter. The critters hatch in April in the barren soil of northern Nevada, western Utah and other parts of the Great Basin, quickly growing into blood-red, ravenous insects more than 2 inches long.
Then they march. In columns that in peak years can be two miles long and a mile across, swarms move across the badlands in search of food. Starting in about May, they march through August or so, before stopping to lay eggs for next year and die.
In between, they make an awful mess. They destroy crops and lots of the other leafy vegetation. They crawl all over houses, and some get inside. "You'll wake up and there'll be one sitting on your forehead, looking at you," says Ms. Moore.
I can't imagine how horrible that is.
Following an unseasonably warm winter, some in Elko County fear a big crop this year of Mormon crickets, known more precisely as shield-backed katydids, or Anabrus simplex. State entomologist Jeff Knight is using computer models to document when the crickets will hatch, and "once they have hatched, we will start going in and mapping where all the crickets are," he says.
Towns in their path aren't waiting to find out. Elko County officials have stored tons of poison bait, which they'll soon start handing out. Placed properly, it can help. In 2003, which was a bad year, residents organized a bucket brigade to lay poison bait in the countryside, luring many bugs to their doom.
But last year Diana Bunitsky sprinkled the bait too close -- right outside the rural diner she runs, Lone Mountain Station -- and crickets swarmed onto her property to gobble it. Ms. Bunitsky ran outside and sprayed them with a garden hose, "but when I looked back, they had gone around and were all over my walls," she says.
How did the townspeople figure out how to fight off these horrifying pests? History:
But when a throng of crickets began to advance ominously on Tuscarora in the spring of 2006, Ms. Parks, the artist, dug up a 1934 article in the Elko Free Press about a woman who had used a Chinese gong to drive them away. That led to the modern adaptation of a boombox perimeter. [...]
The theory was they'd hate heavy metal," Ms. Parks says. Indeed, locals report, in 2006, at least, many of the bugs stopped in their tracks. Says Mr. Knight, the entomologist: "The vibrations may deter the bugs, but I don't know of any research that says yes or no."
For those who think fighting off hordes of crickets would be no big deal, here's a picture of the Mormon cricket.
Why do I call it the second scariest cricket in America? Well, I know it's a matter of opinion, but I still think these guys, whom I encountered in North Carolina, are scarier.

Entomologists give it the popular name "camel cricket." I call it "hideous mutant cricket-spider bug." If the townspeople of Nevada feel the same way about their Mormon crickets, I'm amazed at their restraint in limiting their weapons to bug poison and rock music; by now I'd be going for boiling oil or flamethrowers. Or both, used together. Or, more likely, moving to a place far, far away from the hideous invaders.


I know I've been a little harsh on social networking technology. I guess that's because I don't have any use for it myself, and have a sneaking suspicion that it was invented by men as a way of ending forever the complaint of millions of women to their husbands: "Are you on that computer again????" Which, if I'm right, was a devious strategy that has worked all too well.

But here, at last, is a good reason for Twitter to exist:
Twitter messages are so short — a 140-character limit — that you have to really think about what you want to say.

For Adam Wilson, thinking is all he has to do.

Earlier this month, Wilson thought of a tweet (the name for a post to the social networking site) and poof, his computer read his mind and sent the darn thing. At just 23 characters, Wilson's message, "using EEG to send tweet," was done with a computer setup that interprets brain waves.

The technology could one day help patients who otherwise can't communicate finally talk to the outside world. Among them are people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain-stem stroke or high spinal cord injury.

Of course, it's not quite as easy as it sounds; users are looking at a "keypad" screen:

"All the letters come up, and each one of them flashes individually," Williams explained. "And what your brain does is, if you're looking at the 'R' on the screen and all the other letters are flashing, nothing happens. But when the 'R' flashes, your brain says, 'Hey, wait a minute. Something's different about what I was just paying attention to.' And you see a momentary change in brain activity."

So for now, this is a slow process; the researchers liken it to having to press a phone keypad up to four times for each letter you want to text. Still, the idea that some communications-impaired people might be able to use Twitter to keep family and friends informed about their health and lives is something it's hard to oppose.

Unfortunately, given our government's increasingly totalitarian approach toward the lives and freedom of its citizens, I could imagine this technology eventually being put to the wrong use. After all, "You have the right to remain silent" doesn't necessarily mean you have the right not to look at a flashing screen of letters while the arresting officers monitor you from their Tweet Decks, or some such thing. And if you refuse to do it--why, surely no one who is innocent would refuse such a thing, right? What are you hiding, that you don't want to tweet your thoughts to law enforcement?

So we'll have to be careful that some futuristic version of Twitter that promises to save us all the hassle of sitting down and actually typing those 140 characters each time we have an urgent need to tell the world that we just had the theme song from a show we watched twenty years ago pop into our head for no reason doesn't ever catch on. Because we're still human, and TwitterThink! would be an unmitigated disaster.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The More Things Change

I'll keep today's reflection on Paul Likoudis' article, below, brief, as this article is a bit longer than the last one. But I am struck by some thoughts about the newspaper business in general.

I'm not enough of a student of history to comment on the tensions between those Catholics who had what Mr. Likoudis calls "Americanist" leanings, and those who did not; clearly we know that assimilation has its dangers as well as its benefits, and adopting an obsequious attitude toward secularism, which we can still see today in the Notre Dame scandal, is never a good idea. But, like last week, what I find most inspiring is that The Wanderer at its beginnings was hardly a "professional" newspaper; most of its contributors and founders were not highly educated professional writers, and a great deal of homespun wisdom seems to have been a feature of the paper from the start.

One hundred and forty years later, traditional newspapers are faltering. Major papers like the New York Times are not immune; circulation keeps dropping, money keeps disappearing, and newspaper editors across the country are at a loss to explain it all.

I think that what really has happened is that newspapers got too big to succeed. Combined with the Internet's capacity to make news feeds available to all without the medium of the paper, the lack of local, small-town, focused coverage makes newspapers less and less relevant to a lot of people's lives. The small, specialty newspapers and magazines, provided they figure out how to make the best use of the Internet, will continue, because the voices they publish are, like the early Wanderer's team, the unadulterated voices of the community itself.

A History of the Wanderer, 1867-1931: Article Two, by Paul Likoudis

(Note: this continues the series of articles by Paul Likoudis which I am publishing each Thursday.)

The Wanderer at 140....

Der Wanderer Debuted At A Time
Of A Sharply Divided U.S. Church

by Paul Likoudis

When Der Wanderer debuted on November 16, 1867, the Church in the United States was sharply divided, not only along ethnic lines, but along ideological ones, and the debate that played out in the Church mirrored a larger cultural debate on whether the United States was to be a “melting pot” where all the various ethnic and immigrant groups were “fired” into a new American, or whether peoples would be allowed to maintain their ethnic traditions.

“The division among American Catholics in the last third of the 19th century was not only a struggle between traditionalists and modernists, but a conflict between the ‘accommodationist’ spirit and an ‘assimilationist’ ethic and the tradition of cultural conformity represented by Irish and Irish-American churchmen,” explains C. Joseph Doyle, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Action League, “who inherited that from post-Reformation English Catholicism.

“The mostly German bishops and priests of the American mid-west in the ‘German Triangle’ running from Cincinnati to St. Louis to Milwaukee wanted to maintain their own ethnic nationalism and separatism from the dominant Anglophone culture.

“If one looks at the threads of this Irish-dominated Church,” Doyle added, “represented by such prelates as St. Paul’s ‘Americanist’ Archbishop John Ireland, Baltimore’s James Cardinal Gibbons, Bishop John J. Keane, the first rector of the Catholic University of America (and later Archbishop of Dubuque) and Monsignor Dennis O’Connell (first rector of the North American College in Rome and later Keane’s successor at CUA), one sees the corporate spirit of 18th century English Catholicism, which sought toleration and practiced appeasement toward the Protestant majority and which was careful to affirm its loyalty to the governing elites.”

This was the spirit of America’s first bishop, John Carroll, who had close relations with the founders of the American Republic, and wanted to minimize papal control over the Church and even sought a vernacular liturgy for the United States. Another early “Americanist” was Charleston’s Bishop, Irish-born John England, who famously told a joint session of Congress that the Pope would never tell him, as an American citizen, how to vote.

At the time of Der Wanderer’s founding in 1867 and Vatican I, 1869-1870, the Americanist bishops were largely opposed to the declaration on papal infallibility championed by England’s Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster, Paul Cardinal Cullen of Dublin and St. Anthony Mary Claret, Archbishop of Santiago in exile.

This opposition was rooted in either theological reservations regarding its expediency or, as it was called at the time, “inopportunism,” or on political grounds that it would force Catholics to choose between allegiance to the Church or loyalty to the state. Among the two prelates at Vatican I who voted against Pastor Aeternus, defining papal infallibility, was the Bishop of Little Rock, Ark., Edward Fitzgerald.

“This was sadly consistent with the previous practices of the American hierarchy who were reluctant to defend the temporal power of the papacy, especially when it came to raising funds, subscribing to bonds or calling for volunteers to support the papal states from rampaging Garibaldian anti-clerical revolutionaries and Freemasons hiding under the guise of Italian nationalism,” Doyle said.

Issues that divided “Americanists” from integralists or papal loyalists have endured: debates over the exclusive use of a vernacular liturgy and popular or sacred music at Mass; aversion versus affection to ultramontane devotions, such as recitation of the Rosary, wearing the scapular, veneration of relics, invocation of the saints, Eucharistic Adoration and Marian piety. Another major issue dividing U.S. Catholics a century ago was the American notion of “manifest destiny”: the Americanists – bishops, priests and laity – applauded the U.S. invasion of Cuba and the Philippines, which President McKinley said was done to civilize and Christianize the Filipinos – a country that was Catholic long before the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock. Later, Americanists supported American involvement in World War I (which led directly to the demise of the last great Catholic power in Europe, Austria-Hungary, ruled by a saint, the Venerable Karl von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, who never lifted a finger against the United States).


Americanist Catholic support for the war against Germany – despite the fact that 25 million Americans had relatives in Germany or Austria – also led to a radical propaganda war against German-Americans, and their customs and traditions were demonized. Sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage” and nativist bigots Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson declaimed against “hyphenated Americans.”

Opposed to the “Americanists” were such German bishops as Michael Heiss, Bishop of LaCrosse and later Archbishop of Milwaukee (1818-1890), who was called to Rome by Pope Leo XIII to discuss the growing problem of “Americanism,” and which resulted in the encyclical Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae which condemned the notion that “the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions.”
Another contentious issue when Der Wanderer debuted was German complaints that German priests were not advancing into the hierarchy in proportion to their numbers, and that the Irish dominated hierarchy was practicing secrecy and showing favoritism in advancing the careers of Irish-American clerics, whose personal relations skills helped shape American politics, which the Irish soon came to dominate in the late 19th century.
(As an aside, an assessment of the Irish-dominated American hierarchy is provided by Fr. James Hennessey, SJ, in his book American Catholics. He quotes Bishop George Conroy, an Irish prelate from Ardagh, sent by the Holy See to investigate the American hierarchy:
“Conroy reported to Rome in 1878,” wrote Hennessey, “that hardly ten in 68 American bishops were distinguished for any kind of talent. The rest ‘hardly reach a decent mediocrity, and in theological knowledge they do not even reach mediocrity.’”

(In fairness to the Irish, it must be pointed out there were prominent Irish opponents of Americanism, such as Archbishop Michael Corrigan of New York, Rochester’s Bishop Bernard McQuaid, and, of course, Rafael Merry Cardinal Del Val’s close confident, Boston’s William Cardinal O’Connell, all of whom served a large number of German Catholics.)
In the post-Civil War era, when German migration to the United States was at its peak, the Germans were firmly convinced that the most efficacious way of preserving the Catholic faith of German-American immigrants was to preserve their German language and culture, and to resist the tendency towards assimilation into WASP America.
From its founding, observed Fr. John Kulas, author of an academic study on Der Wanderer’s first ten years, Der Wanderer of St. Paul: The First Decade, 1867-1877) this newspaper played an important national role in building the German-American community. This newspaper not only emphasized Church and political news, but also devoted separate pages to art, music, theater and literature reviews. The Germans understood that a strong Catholic faith needs a support system, and could not merely be a private conviction afloat in a hostile sea of Protestantism and secularism.


Der Wanderer was the inspiration of Benedictine Father Clemens Staub and a group of German laymen of his Assumption parish in St. Paul, who offered the initial funding to launch the paper, which debuted on the same day as the Minneapolis Tribune and the Minnesota Newspaper Association, under the editorship of Eugen L. Ehrhardt, who had recently arrived in St. Paul from the Rhineland.

Five months later, Ehrhardt “suddenly disappeared,” Fr. Kulas discovered, and the newspaper named no editor until the following September, when Theodor Mullenmeister, a recent immigrant from Prussia was hired to take the helm. It is likely that in the interim Fr. Staub edited the paper.
Mullenmeister, writes Fr. Kulas, brought “a more intense political orientation and an impassioned editorial style.” He was, moreover, “a complex, restless, driven man with powerful convictions often expressed in vehement, intemperate language, a man who seemed to attract controversy and to delight in it, a man who apparently could not hold any job for long.” He left after a year at the post.
Der Wanderer’s third editor was Franz Fassbind, 45, a Swiss-born doctor who came to the United States in 1864 to assume the editorship of Der Wahrheits-Freund of Cincinnati, the first German Catholic newspaper in the United States. Fr. Kulas described him: “Quite the opposite in temperament and character of his predecessor, with his tenure of fourteen years, he finally brought stability to the newspaper. He was milder, more amicable, less belligerent than the flamboyant and caustic Mullenmeister and possessed a more reflective, more literary style, though he was not lacking in convictions and firmness in expressing them.”

Der Wanderer was incorporated in May 1868 as the Deutsch-Katholische Druckgellschaft, with 50 shareholders, an arrangement which lasted ten years until five of the original members bought the others out. Of these 50, Fr. Kulas informs, about half had arrived from Germany in the 1850s, and were well-established professionals or tradesmen, the other half more recent immigrants. Only two were native born.

“Many of these immigrants were skilled practitioners of various trades, and a number of them were already operating their own small businesses. They included six blacksmiths and wagon makers as well as smaller numbers of shoemakers, printers and one brewer. Others provided merchandise – there were seven engaged in the grocery business – and two were saloon keepers. A few might be described as professional people, and these included six priests, three teachers, a lawyer, a coroner, a druggist and a musician. Two were engaged in agricultural pursuits, and three were listed as laborers....

“These men seemed to have had no particular expertise for an undertaking of this kind. Some of them had received a basic education in their homeland, but none, apart from editor Fassbind and the clerics, had any higher education before emigrating. The centennial edition of The Wanderer includes an article on the beginnings of the paper which emphasizes that it was a group of ‘little men’ who met to organize this enterprise, although in a similar story ten years earlier they are referred to as ‘prominent Catholic laymen.’ Both assessments are undoubtedly accurate, for it was these ordinary men, successful in their own way, who emerged as community leaders, willing to labor and commit their resources to the success of a notable endeavor. They were clearly not men of erudition, but if the priests among them were probably the best educated, it was the lay leaders who provided the means and kept the paper in touch with the community....

“These were all pioneers, and not surprisingly they were a generally young lot. The age of these men when the stock association was formed is known for less than half of them, but of these none exceed 50 and twelve and not yet reached 40. They were thus able to communicate the vitality of the frontier to this undertaking and exhibited the pioneer’s willingness to accept challenges and to reject defeat....

“The Catholic readers of Der Wanderer were undoubtedly not any better educated than these leaders, and they were probably on the whole less well situated. It can be assumed that they were typical of the German-Catholic settlers of the region. Like most of their fellow German immigrants of the period they were most likely members of the lower middle class, poor though not indigent, artisans, laborers, farmers and merchants.”

Der Wanderer, in those early years, always printed the names and residences of its readers when they subscribed or renewed, and from that Fr. Kulas determined that one in seven readers came from St. Paul, 70 percent were from elsewhere in the state, and the remainder came from Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Louisiana, “a tribute to the paper’s aspirations of becoming a national journal.”

The inherent conservatism of German Catholics was obvious in the newspaper’s editorials, but the news content was vast. Each issue had news on national and European events, both political and Church-related, and city and state news, and Der Wanderer regularly informed its readers news came via “Cable Dispatches” and “By Telegraph, which “underscored the fact that the telegraph had only lately reached St. Paul,” noted Fr. Kulas.

Der Wanderer had much more, Fr. Kulas revealed: “articles on household and agricultural topics appeared regularly with an abundance of helpful hints ranging from how to can crab apples and how to treat frozen feet to better ways of fertilizing. For their leisure hours readers could turn to the literary page which presented serialized fiction and poetry, and the latter sometimes by local writers. An increasing amount of space was devoted to advertising, and no paper was complete without its column or two of humor....”


Among the advertisements Der Wanderer carried were City of St. Paul legal notices, and State of Minnesota appeals to its readership in Germany and Austria to immigrate to Minnesota. In its early years, an average of 130,000 Germans annually were crossing the Atlantic to settle in Minnesota, and Der Wanderer played a major role in welcoming these immigrants as well as informing its readers of the often-times desperate plight they were in. One early article, Fr. Kulas reports, told of the hardships of single women who traveled in steerage and had no job prospects upon arriving, and advised single women not to take the risk. In another article, the same writer says that there were two million fewer Catholics practicing their faith in the United States than there should be because “of the unfavorable conditions for the practice of the faith to be found in North America.”

One early initiative Der Wanderer engaged in, with others to support German immigrants, was promoting Der Deutsche Romisch-Katholische Central-Verein von Nord America, or Central Union, founded by German professionals, bankers and insurance agents to greet and assist German immigrants, and one of its leaders, Joseph Kolble in New York, was a regular correspondent for the paper.

The Central-Verein, or Catholic Central Union was founded in Buffalo, N.Y., as a mutual-aid society in 1855, but only had about 62 branches in 1865. By 1875, it had grown to 302, a number which nearly doubled over the next 20 years, no doubt due the efforts of Der Wanderer’s Franz Fassbind.

In fact, writes Fr. Kulas, the “immigrant experience” formed Der Wanderer. “Like its contemporaries, it developed its own personality through the lively interaction of editor, community and community concerns.”

Has much changed at all over the past 140 years, despite appearances?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Thad and I are celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary today--well, celebrating as well as we can on a mid-week work-day/school-day sort of anniversary. We may do some actual celebrating on the weekend; in the meantime, I've been smiling a lot today as I remember our wedding day and so many special days since then.

In honor of the day, I'm going to share these thoughts from Christian comedian Tim Hawkins, with the disclaimer that Thad never, ever says anything even remotely like these things to me: :-)

What? Science Can Be Misused?

I'm almost having to stifle my irony-detector on this one:
German and French researchers whose work has been cited by the CIA and the Justice Department to help justify the legality of harsh interrogation techniques, including prolonged sleep deprivation, condemned the Bush Administration on Tuesday for misusing their scientific findings.

"It is total nonsense to cite our study in this context," said Dr. Bernd Kundermann, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University of Marburg.

"I'm disappointed, upset, consternated and even hurt at seeing this," said Dr. S. Hakki Onen, a sleep specialist and geriatrician with the Hôpital Gériatrique A. Charial, part of the Hospices Civils de Lyon in France. "To see [the research] used in this manner is upsetting because [the CIA's] goals run counter to the therapeutic intent of our effort ... In publishing clinical findings like this, you're aware you lose control of them, because they can be read and even abused by people who may have other objectives in mind."

Kundermann and Onen are the second and third European sleep scientists to speak out this week against the CIA's use of published academic literature on sleep deprivation. On Monday, James Horne, a British researcher who was also cited by CIA medical experts in recently declassified memos, called the agency's medical reasoning "nonsense." mean that it's possible for politics to pervert science? It's possible for politics to use science to further its own ends, regardless of ethics? Oh, my. And here I thought that Obama's brand new brave new world pro-science declaration in favor of slicing and dicing embryos to get at all those tasty and lucrative stem-cells proved once and for all that science is always above politics or ethics!


If anything ought to drive the lesson home to our liberal opponents that science is quite capable of being used politically to drive things one group likes (abortion, ESCR) and also to drive things another group likes (torture) it ought to be this. But I'm sure they won't make the connection; they'll read this Time article as proof that science is strictly neutral, except when right-wing extremists use it to tweak their torture techniques. Because to be "strictly neutral" means to agree with the Left; it means to see the ripping apart of unborn children as moral, but the use of sleep-deprivation studies to foster torture in interrogation as immoral.

Both are immoral, and science has nothing to say about that, because science is not capable of any sort of internal morality or ethics. That the scientists objecting to the CIA's use of their work have ethical objections is laudable and honorable; but they don't get those objections from science itself, because science itself has none.

I found the remarks of one scientist quoted by Time to be particularly insightful:

Speaking from Germany, Kundermann said he was powerless to stop others from misusing his scientific work. "There's nothing we can do to defend ourselves against this kind of thing. There have always been people that were nonexperts and would take results out of context and use them for their political objectives," he said. "Information has always been misused."

Indeed it has. And ESCR is a misuse of scientific information, too, even if some scientists, and even the federal government, are perfectly fine with it. Ethics isn't a matter of consensus, and declaring that science is free from politics when it happens to fit your political goals is the height of hubris.

Idiocy on Parade

In one of yesterday's blog posts, we learned that thirteen-year-olds suspected of concealing ibuprofen are at risk of being strip-searched in school. Today, though, we learn that, as anticipated here, the FDA is allowing Plan B to be sold to 17-year-olds, and may soon remove age restrictions altogether:

WASHINGTON -- Seventeen-year-olds will soon be able to buy the "morning after" emergency contraceptive without a doctor's prescription, after the Food and Drug Administration bowed to a federal judge's order Wednesday.

Reversing a contentious policy of the Bush administration, the FDA said in a brief statement it will not appeal a judge's order that overturns restrictions limiting over-the-counter sales of "Plan B" to women 18 and older.

Conservatives called the decision a blow to parental supervision of teens. But women's groups said the FDA's action was long overdue, since the agency's own medical reviewers had initially recommended that the contraceptive be made available without any age restrictions.

U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled last month in a lawsuit filed in New York that Bush administration appointees let politics, not science, drive their decision to restrict over-the-counter access.

Korman ordered the FDA to let 17-year-olds get the birth control pills. He also directed the agency to evaluate whether all age restrictions should be lifted.

Parents, take note: if you are held liable for anything your seventeen-year-old child does, from now on, as I said before, you should point to Judge Korman's decision as a reason why you should be free from legal responsibility for anything your children do.

A seventeen-year-old in many states cannot, without parental permission, have her ears pierced, get a tattoo, or take aspirin in school. But now she can ingest a potentially dangerous high dose of artificial hormones designed to prevent pregnancy (or possibly keep a fertilized ovum from implanting in her uterus) without her parents even knowing about it. And this is considered to be something worth applauding by the bitter agenda-driven feminists who hate our children so much that they want them to grow up to be equally bitter agenda-driven feminists, and are willing to poison them with birth control and "Plan B" to achieve that goal.

When the first minor is seriously injured or even dies (yes, it can happen; these drugs have not been studied in minors, and hypersensitivity to the ingredients--an unknown factor for many young girls who will take the drug--is a contraindication) because of Plan B use, I hope her parents sue everybody connected with this ludicrous decision. Common sense would indicate that we not hand powerful drugs out to children without their parents' knowledge--but common sense, as usual, takes a back seat to the sex-pushers in our government, who won't rest until all our kids are the same degenerate immoral wastrels that they revel in being.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What She Learned In School

So, the US Supreme Court is being asked to decide a really tough case. I mean it. It's going to be hard. It could so easily go either way: should they side with the school district who on the flimsiest of suspicion strip-searched a vulnerable thirteen-year-old, or in favor of the girl?

Administrators at an Arizona middle school are asking the US Supreme Court to rule that they did not violate the privacy rights of an eighth-grade girl who was strip-searched in a fruitless attempt to find suspected drugs.

At issue in the case, set for argument Tuesday morning, is whether the strip search of a 13-year-old girl by school officials is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

Lawyers for the girl and her mother say it was an unconstitutional invasion of the girl's privacy. School officials say their actions were justified because they were trying to protect the student population from a risk to their health and safety.

The case could set a national standard for how far school officials can go in conducting searches of students' property – and even their bodies – while investigating alleged violations of school policies and rules.

"This is the case where the Supreme Court is likely to decide how easy it is for your child to be strip-searched," says Graham Boyd, one of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers representing the girl and her mother.

In addition, the high court is being asked to decide whether the assistant principal who authorized the strip search can be shielded by qualified immunity from a lawsuit filed against him by the girl's mother.

Boyd and ACLU lawyer Adam Wolf say the search was based on just one unreliable accusation by a fellow student, which is not sufficient reason to justify such an intrusive search.

"A child's 'private parts' are not subject to observation by school officials without significant justification," said Mr. Wolf, in the brief for the schoolgirl and her mother.

You'll excuse me if I don't link to the rest of this; just file it under the latest reason to homeschool.

In my opinion, Mr. Wolf, the lawyer, is being very understated. I think that a child's private parts are not subject to observation by school officials ever, for any reason. Schools aren't prisons; what's next, body cavity searches in kindergarten? ("I know you took that tube of glue, Timmy, and I'm going to find it!") Good grief.

The girl was accused of sneaking ibuprofen into school and distributing it--on the word of one other girl. The nightmare of humiliation she endured next was wholly unjustified. For heaven's sake, whatever happened to calling a parent or sending the child home, even if you suspect she's concealing a prescription-strength version of an over-the-counter painkiller? Wouldn't you be protecting the "health and safety" of the student body just as well, if not better, than making the girl remove her clothing in front of adults she barely knows?

But this isn't really about protecting the health and safety of the student body. It's about what it always is about with petty school bureaucrats: power. There were plenty of ways to keep this girl from "harming" others, even if she had been concealing drugs--which she was not. There was only one way to degrade her, shame her, and make her an example to the rest of the student body, to flex their authoritarian muscle while making it clear to the young lady that she had no recourse whatsoever to get away from them except to do exactly what they told her to do without argument or complaint. And, sadly, far too many people who end up in positions of authority at schools are all too willing to become little dictators at the slightest opportunity.

SCOTUS should rule in favor of the girl, overwhelmingly and a bit snarkily, if you ask me. The school didn't just strip her of her clothing; they stripped her of her dignity. What she learned in school is that it's okay for people in power to do that whenever they like, with no notion of justice or respect for her as a person at all. And that's one lesson no one should ever have to learn.

Remaking this Nation?

Continuing on the theme of our new secular religion, I notice Barack Obama's activities today in regard to the call for national service:

Calling on Americans to volunteer, President Barack Obama signed a $5.7 billion national service bill Tuesday that triples the size of the AmeriCorps service program over the next eight years and expands ways for students to earn money for college.

"What this legislation does, then, is to help harness this patriotism and connect deeds to needs," said Obama, a former community organizer in Chicago.

"It creates opportunities to serve for students, seniors and everyone in between," he said. "And it is just the beginning of a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to involve our greatest resource — our citizens — in the work of remaking this nation."

Excuse me--"remaking" this nation? Since when does America need to be "remade?"


The service law expands ways for students and seniors to earn money for college through their volunteer work. It aims to foster and fulfill people's desire to make a difference, such as by mentoring children, cleaning up parks or buildings and weatherizing homes for the poor.

"I'm asking you to help change history's course, put your shoulder up against the wheel," Obama said. "And if you do, I promise you your life will be richer, our country will be stronger, and someday, years from now, you may remember it as the moment when your own story and the American story converged, when they came together, and we met the challenges of our new century."

Bolstering voluntary public service programs has been a priority of Obama, who credits his work as a community organizer in his early 20s for giving him direction in life. The president cited his work in Chicago as an example of how one person can make a difference.

Ah, yes. Obama making a difference. Of course, he's remembered for failing to achieve the goal of getting his community-led group to get the asbestos out of their housing complex, but whatever; it's how you feel about it all that's important, says our secular religion.

Still more:

Obama on Tuesday also nominated Nike Inc. vice president Maria Eitel to lead the federal agency that oversees the country's national service programs.

Eitel, who's also president of the Nike Foundation, would have to be confirmed by the Senate to become CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Congress passed the bill last month with largely bipartisan support and Obama is seeking $1.1 billion to fund it next year. Some Republicans complain it is too costly and is an unnecessary intrusion by government into something Americans already do eagerly and in great numbers — helping their neighbors and communities.

Those silly Republicans! You can't help neighbors and communities without government-funded community activism. Why, you might actually get something done! And, what is much, much worse, you might feel free to witness the Gospel to these neighbors and communities without the promise of government funding to make you sign away your right to freedom of speech--and we can't have that. I mean, you religious people might make those who disagree with your values way too uncomfortable to come eat a free meal in your soup kitchen, or to let you build them a house.

I am beginning to believe that Barack Obama and the Democrats intend a two-pronged attack on religion in America. The first prong is to marginalize and exclude people for holding "Christianist" views on subjects like abortion, gay marriage, ESCR, and the like (note how cleverly Obama conflated opposition to the last with "anti-science" views, a code for those of our Christian brothers and sisters who are skeptics about Darwinian evolutionary theory). The second prong is to build a parallel government-structured "church" which allows people volunteer opportunities, the chance to get involved, the positives that come with knowing you are helping people--without all that messy uncomfortable judgmental stuff about sin and forgiveness and redemption and so on.

Obama betrayed more than he meant to with his "...they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion..." comment during the campaign. If religion is something destructive that bitter people cling to, why not replace it with a new secular faith? Why not replace "Alleluia!" with "Yes, we can!"? And why not replace religious-based volunteerism, which leaves people free to express their Christian faith to those they are helping, with a secular variety that has all the feel-good benefits and none of the "bitter religion" drawbacks?

Americans ought to remind the president that we've been doing fine working in our communities without the help of billions of dollars of federal money, and that we don't need the federal government telling us who to help and how to help them. And there's no need to "remake" America; but I'm starting to think there's a need to protect her from the people who think that the religious beliefs of Americans are some sort of undesirable character flaw.