Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pernicious nonsense

Hi, there! I'm NOT blogging just now. No, really. I'm almost at 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo and I should be crossing that line today. Plus I want to finish the manuscript so I'm shooting for 70,000 words, but that's my own private insanity that shouldn't trouble anyone else.

However, someone shared this piece by Taylor Marshall with me on Facebook and asked me to comment. So I did. Quickly and off-the-cuff. And then someone else asked me to share those comments here.

So: this is not a blog post. It is quite literally what I just put up on Facebook with the slight alteration of the link placement.  I'm not even changing the font:

I had someone ask what I thought of this piece. My reply: it's pernicious nonsense. I'm not blogging just now because fiction writing is taking up all of my time, but here's a few random observations:
1. There are, according to the UN, 9 million Syrian refugees. Even if every one of them was an observant Muslim bent on imposing Sharia law on America, and even if our nation granted them instant citizenship (two very big "ifs"), there aren't enough of them to create a 51% voting majority. Now, perhaps Marshall is arguing that eventually there will be enough of them to do this (given a few generations and assuming no American assimilation whatsoever). But I'm pretty sure St. Thomas Aquinas wouldn't allow us to neglect charity in the present to avoid, preemptively, a potential future ill.
2. It is arguably true that a greater threat to the common good of our nation (as Catholics understand it) exists right now from militant secularists who are already voting in their own "Sharia law" of sexual license and rampant immorality (and taking steps to punish those who disagree). Yet these, mostly, are our fellow citizens by birth. I do not think St. Thomas Aquinas would advise us to go all Maccabees on reckless secular humanist revolutionaries' hindquarters even though they threaten public morality and virtue way more than a Syrian widow and her children do. It would sort of be against order and whatnot.
3. Marshall falls off the rails with his "homeless person" analogy and his "Good Samaritan = hotel accommodations" analogy. To take the latter first, the Samaritan paid to put the wounded man up in a hotel because the Samaritan was traveling on business and presumably far from home, not because he cravenly feared having a wounded man in his house, which is so blindingly obvious I'm surprised it even has to be said. To go back to the first: I think that it depends on who the "homeless person" is. If you refuse to open your home to a homeless person who happens to be, say, your own son, brother, nephew, cousin etc. who is in dire need and who promises to respect your property and live according to your house rules (and you have no legitimate reason to suppose he won't keep those promises) then you would indeed be sinning against charity if you refused. But how does that relate to the analogy of the refugee? No one is demanding that we turn our homes into *either* homeless shelters OR refugee shelters. Some extraordinary individuals actually do invite the homeless or a refugee to share their homes, and this heroic charity models Christ better than all of our fearful formulations do. But such an act of charity remains the proper discernment of the individual. What the Christian *state* ought to do, in terms of both homeless shelters and refugee populations, is ask itself, "How can I welcome the stranger?" not "How can I make sure that none of my personal tax dollars are going to bums or Muslims?" Alas, we are not a Christian state.

Okay, then! Back to noveling. :)

Monday, November 16, 2015

What if the pope doesn't like you? Or, guest post # 2: my sister writes again!

My awesome sister, Heather Sprinkle, wrote a guest post for this blog last week that was quite well-received. She has sent a second installment that I'm sure you will also enjoy! I appreciate so much that she is willing to write a few posts for me during National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. November) because right now I'm about 38,000 words into a space adventure in the middle of a war involving people who move ships by teleportation (otherwise known as: Tales of Telmaja; see the sidebar for links to more information especially regarding the three books in this series I've already published!). So having Heather's take on some of the ongoing issues in the Church and the world to share with all of you is especially nice!

So here, without further ado, is her latest:

What If the Pope Doesn’t Like You? 
Heather Sprinkle

Edward Pentin wrote a post on his blog at the National Catholic Register titled: “Pope Francis on Keys to Authentic Christian Humanism” in which he focuses on the Holy Father’s apparent dislike of “conservatism and fundamentalism.” Pope Francis, according to Pentin, was addressing the Italian Church in Florence in “a lengthy address,” but Pentin’s quotes largely deal with the Pope’s rejection of conservatism and fundamentalism as demonstrated by what the Holy Father defines as Pelagianism and Gnosticism.

Cue the wails of those leaning toward sola historica. Comments immediately ensued moaning about the state of the Church, the imminent preaching of heresy at the highest levels, fear for the future, and just how horrible horrible horrible this pope of ours is.

And I started to wonder: What if the Pope doesn’t like me?

Yeah, just think about that for a minute. We all want to be liked, don’t we? We want to be affirmed in our okayness and esteemed. And it’s personal. It really is. When the Pope; someone we should respect and to whom we should give the benefit of the doubt says, according to Pentin, “…it is useless to look for solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of practices and outdated forms that even culturally aren’t able to be meaningful,” it seems like he’s looking right at those of us who care about the historical forms and practices of the Church and saying, “I don’t like you. Your insistence on dressing nicely for Mass is meaningless. Your study of Gregorian Chant is a waste of time. Your organization of forty hours devotions is obstructionist.”

What to do, what to do…? Well, what not to do is get upset and call the Pope ugly names. What not to do is assume that a) you have the whole story, and b) the Pope is addressing you personally and c) that you are one hundred percent perfectly totally right in your interpretation of the Holy Father’s words. Maybe a little examination of conscience is in order. You know, it’s possible to go to Mass nicely dressed and spend time looking down on, and feeling sorry for those poor dweebs who don’t know any better, isn’t it? It’s possible to give a great appearance of being good so as to become a burden to those who look to you for an example but can’t measure up to your perceived perfection. It’s possible to get so caught up in this novena or that appearance of Our Lady that we spend too much time measuring our lives against certain promises that we forget to live. Maybe a little perspective is in order. The Holy Father has a world full of children to minister. Just because we have instant access to nearly every word that drops from his lips doesn’t mean that every word is directed to us, personally. In other words, “It’s not about you!” Remember there was a time prior to the internet when this address of the Pope’s would have been recorded by a journalist, archived, and forgotten until an official biographer dug it up.

But what if the Pope really doesn’t like you? Does it really matter? I mean if you’re respectful of his official words, mindful of the unchanging and unchangeable teachings of Holy Mother Church, doing your best to be the best Christian you can be, day by day, always learning and growing in the Faith, then what can it matter? None of us is so important that the Pope has to like us or the Church will suffer. None of the “practices and outdated forms” we like or find meaningful or spiritually healthy are so essential that the Pope has to like them or the Church will suffer. Those leaning toward a sola historica mentality often accuse ordinary Catholics who give the Pope the benefit of the doubt of “popolotry.” Yet it seems to me that getting upset about everything he says is just as bad as thinking everything the Pope says is Inspired-by-God. It’s another kind of popolotry. So what if the Pope doesn’t like us? He doesn’t have to. My wise mother taught me that we don’t have to like anybody; we just have to love everybody. So as long as the Holy Father love us, and we him, we’re all good.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sola historica--a guest post!

I'm so sorry it took me all day to find the time to put up the guest post that I told you about on Friday. Here it is!


Heather Sprinkle

Modernism, that heresy of “anything goes,” has been with us a long time. Condemned in 1907 and 1910 by Pope St. Pius X, it essentially holds that the Church must change with the times. It has reached its tendrils into all aspects of Catholic thought where that thought informs the sciences and modern life. It even seems that it has now been around long enough to engender a reaction that goes beyond a vigorous opposition. This reaction is Modernism’s counterpart; its “equal and opposite,” so to speak. This trend of thought in its most extreme form engenders a break with the Church as with the Pius X groups or their more extreme brethren. It also has a form which is becoming more prevalent, or at least more vocal. This trend of thought has certain characteristics that both align it to and set it apart from Modernism, as well as some distinct dangers to the faith of its own.

This growing trend has been noticed with some concern by other Catholics who have tried to define just what they think is going on. For example, it has been called neo-Pelagian in nature, perhaps because of its appearance of relying more on forms of virtue than on indwelling grace to achieve salvation. This characterization, I think, fails to grasp the essence of this trend and only looks at the externals. Jansenism is another possible characterization, with its rigid morality and emphasis on the difficulty of attaining salvation. This may be somewhat accurate, but it also fails to tell the whole story.

This new trend of thought has several important aspects which characterize it.

One: A deep distrust of modern Church leadership that goes beyond merely having rational concerns about this or that individual prelate. It evinces a “guilty until proven innocent” mentality and also “guilt by association.” It often assumes the worst possible interpretation of a prelate’s actions or words. For example, you might hear something like, “Cdl. Kasper is a liberal theologian. Pope Francis obviously likes him. Therefore Pope Francis must have a secret Modernist agenda.”

Two: A dislike of both Vatican II and the Novus Ordo that goes beyond rational concerns about the wording of this document or that prayer. You might read something calling the Novus Ordo illicit, or Vatican II heretical.

Three: An impressive knowledge of Church history and doctrine, coupled with a willingness to use that knowledge to make accusations of heresy regardless of the dictates of charity. You might hear, “That interview proves that Pope Francis is promulgating heresy. St. Thomas Aquinas makes it perfectly clear. We have a duty to warn the faithful!”

Four: A willingness to tolerate certain sins for what is perceived to be the greater good. Arrogance is perceived as strength, wrath is always righteous, and rumor and gossip are the only means to the truth.

Five: A belief in a sort of crypto-Church. This one’s a bit difficult to explain, but essentially it is the belief that the post Vatican II Church is in all important aspects a new religion, though the old true Church still exists underneath, protected and passed down by her faithful few who reside in a type of mental catacomb.

All of these beliefs combine to form a trend of thought that, while it may have its roots in a resistance to Modernism, has become something else, something that like Modernism can be a danger to the faithful. It is a mentality of, perhaps, sola historica: a divorce from the entirety of Catholicism and a reliance on bits and pieces of Church history and doctrine, read and studied but used not to deepen faith and understand the Church as a whole, but to do war on a church that is increasingly perceived as an enemy. It foments distrust, derision and despite between laity and leadership and ignites fear and confusion. It cannot be Catholic. It must be resisted.


--Heather Sprinkle writes from the Midwest, where she has been attending the Extraordinary Form Mass for over twenty years. (She is also my awesome older sister, the mother of seven of my nephews, and the kind of homeschooling mother who makes the rest of us look like pikers.) 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Watch this space

I've been working hard on my new NaNoWriMo novel, but I wanted to pop in here for a second to tell you that I'm going to have a guest-poster on Monday!  She has written something that I think is a really interesting look at the various reactions we're seeing to Pope Francis and his endeavors. Stay tuned!