Thursday, May 30, 2013

What is Truth?

"What is truth?" so says Pontius Pilate to Truth Himself.

Frank Weathers quotes Thomas Merton  on What is Truth.

How is it that our comfortable society has lost its sense of the value off truthfulness? Life has become so easy that we think we can get along without telling the truth. A liar no longer needs to feel that his lies may involve him in starvation. If living were a little more precarious, and if a person who could not be trusted found it more difficult to get along with other men, we would not deceive ourselves and one another so carelessly.
But the whole world has learned to deride veracity or to ignore it. Half the civilized world makes a living by telling lies. Advertising, propaganda, and all the other forms of publicity that have taken the place of truth have taught men to take it for granted that they can tell other people whatever they like provided that it sounds plausible and evokes a kind of shallow emotional response.
And Thomas Merton quotes St. Paul ...

The truth is in Jesus: [so] put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error And be renewed in the spirit of your mind:  And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.   (Eph. 4:21-24)

And Frank Weathers frankly sums it up ...

The Catholic Church’s teachings are true. It is sad that we so easily undermine this fact through actions that point to another conclusion: recognizing the truth is not enough. We have to do something about it.

He then goes on to encourage us to pray for Cardinal Dolan and all the bishops.

Why?  Because when Cardinal Dolan says, "We must never pay for abortions and contraception - not even indirectly through insurance premiums!" and then himself goes and pays for abortions and contraception indirectly through insurance premiums - making light of and glibly excusing the whole affair - when Cardinal Dolan does that, he is not conveying the Truth.

Any normal man on the street would say, "If you believed what you teach, dear sir, you'd live by it.  Your lips say it's true, your actions say it's false."


My friends, I am tired of lying by word and by deed.  I am tired of some of you defending it.  I am tired of wishing in my sinful heart to defend it myself.  I am tired of the part of me that loves the lie and wants to live by it, for the lie is a comfortable fiction, while the truth is disturbingly distressing.  I am tired of the old man within me, who is "corrupted according to the desire of error" (elsewhere translated: deceitful desires).  I am tired every day of falling shy of being conformed to the new man, in justice and holiness of truth.

And I am tired of the tribalism.  It's not Live Action vs. Mark Shea.  It's not Cardinal Dolan vs. Kevin O'Brien.  It's not My Interpretation of the Catechism vs. Your Interpretation of the Catechism.

It's One Faith, One Baptism, One Lord of all.

And it's us trying to live up to Him but failing every day - and feeling more and more comfortable with explaining away our failures and with excusing the failures of our shepherds, as if we could Live the Lie and make ourselves happy in doing so.

Well, the main thing my recent 10 month Dark Night of the Soul has taught me, it's that you can't live the lie.  Without that V, live becomes lie, and living becomes a living death.

The Truth, after all, will indeed set us free.


You Think I'M Tough on Dolan?

Here is an excoriating piece by the Pro-Life Corner.  Harsh, but true.

Cardinal Dolan seems to be a good man, and he loves Chesterton and the St. Louis Cardinals - but I'm afraid it's hard to argue with the following (from the article, entitled Dolan has Taught Us a Few Important Things)

Cardinal Dolan has taught us you can be a Catholic (Gov. Cuomo) who promotes the unlimited and legal killing of babies by abortion, a Catholic who uses their political power to promote homosexual marriage and you’re still a Catholic in good standing.
Cardinal Dolan has taught us it’s OK to pay for abortions and contraception if you have an excuse.
Cardinal Dolan has set a standard for every Catholic in America to participate in things like the HHS mandate as long as you say you object to doing it.
Cardinal Dolan has taught us that if employees of a Catholic nstitution demand that the Catholic Church pay to murder their babies – the Church can comply.
Cardinal Dolan has taught every enemy of the Church that Catholics will go along quietly and participate in contraception and abortion programs as long as we say we object to it.
Cardinal Dolan has made null and void Cardinal George’s statement concerning secular forces attacking the Church and our need to be brave,
I expected to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”  No need now to stand-up for any principles.  If Cardinal Dolan, the head of the Bishops Council can pay for abortions and tell us all we have to do is say we object to it, no Catholic need to take a risky stand to defend Christ or life.  Cardinal Dolan has taught us we can go along with the culture of death as long as we object to doing it.
Cardinal Dolan has taught the Supreme Court whose members may have seen these situations in the news and will be hearing the HHS mandate cases that it is really no big deal for the head of the USCCB to allow his Archdiocese to pay for abortions and contraception as long as he can publicly say he objects to it.
Cardinal Dolan has taught politicians, voters, the abortion industry, and the media that the Catholic Church will pay for abortions and contraception as long as we can say we object to it.

That's most of the article, but there's more, including a chilling conclusion about child abuse.

Choosing Our Battles while Sleeping with the Enemy

Well, everybody it seems, comes up with "talking points" - shorthanded ways of answering an argument without thinking, points that your team is leading with and that become handy cliches.

The talking points of Janet Smith and her ilk re. the Dolan Scandal - the ones that they're trying to make stick - are twofold.  They claim ...

1. Dolan's position is tenable.  Indeed, I admit that it might be, morally speaking - it's simply shameful and it ruins any chance of him leading the fight against the HHS Mandate.  
2. Dolan is shrewdly picking his battles.   The problem with this is you can't choose your battles if you're sleeping with the enemy.  To be compromised on a moral issue, when it's the very issue for which you're campaigning - even if your compromise is "tenable" - is to lose all moral authority on that very issue.

Meanwhile, Mark Shea (the evil Mark Shea) has written a brilliant, thoughtful and Chestertonian piece on Arguing.   Let's hope that this current "argument" continues so that we can move beyond talking points and engage the real issue - which is (as usual) how to follow Christ.

Christian Minimalism

Lots of folks are abuzz about Janet Smith's defense of Cardinal Dolan, which I link to and discuss a bit in my post Love vs. Expediency.

Janet Smith
I will repeat what I said there - I am not claiming that the cardinal, in allowing the archdiocese to pay insurance premiums that fund abortion and contraception, has necessarily sinned.

What I'm saying is that, sin or no sin, his behavior is shameful, as are the lame excuses being advanced to cover for him - particularly in light of Cdl. Dolan's leadership on opposing the HHS Mandate.  The bishops have resisted publicly the very compromise the archdiocese of New York has accepted privately for 20 years.  Dolan has lost all credibility on this issue in the eyes of 95% of all Catholics - and rightly so - despite what Janet Smith and others may say - and even correctly say - in his defense.

This is why Christian Minimalism is such a problem.

We are called to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.  We are not called to set the bar as low as possible and say, "If it's not a sin, I may do it!"  Or to say, "Even if it's condemned by the catechism, I may ignore the catechism!"  Or to say, "I have the best of intentions, which is a free pass!"

We can see the errors of Christian Minimalism even in the official response of the archdiocese, which is

We had to choose between violating our religious beliefs and not offering health insurance, so we chose to violate our religious beliefs!

and Dolan's unofficial response, which is

We will not allow the government to force us to do what we've been doing willingly all along!

Imagine this.

TEENAGE BOY:  I demand religious liberty!

DAD:  To do what?

TEENAGE BOY:  I demand you let me go to Mass every Sunday, which is my right as a Catholic!

DAD:  But I have never stopped you.  I've never told you you couldn't go, and yet you never go to Mass on Sunday anyway.

TEENAGE BOY:  But I demand that right!

(DAD, confused, goes to the internet.  He reads an article by JANET SMITH.)

SMITH:  There are some cases where teen-aged boys may not go to Sunday Mass without sinning!

(DAD, confused, turns on the ballgame.)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Love vs. Expediency

Msgr. Pope has written a terrific piece on Love, Anger and the "Miserable Truce of the Modern Age".

In it, he quotes my buddy Chesterton, my buddy Ahlquist, and gets a few zingers in himself.  Most notably ...

Lovers fight, lovers get angry, and well they should, for when love is in the mix, things matter, truth matters, error and harm matter. Lovers want what is best, not merely expedient or convenient.

It is this "miserable truce" with expediency and convenience which marks the modern Christian.  Look no further than Cardinal Dolan, who although in many ways passionate and forthright for Christ, is busy excusing a "miserable truce" his archdiocese has made, a "miserable truce" which he is supporting, a truce which utterly discredits the cardinal as moral leader of the fight against the HHS Mandate.

I say this whether the "miserable truce" is a sin or not - for Janet Smith (who in recent years has made herself noteworthy as an apologist for Lying and a fan of the strange sexual psychology of Christopher West) has now busied herself defending Cardinal Dolan in this instance.  In fact, I think Dr. Smith may be correct that this situation is not technically a question of sin - but it is certainly nothing to be proud of.

As I said in my last post ...

According to Mr. Zwilling [Dolan's mouthpiece] the Archdiocese faced the "dilemma" of "choosing between providing health care to employees or violating its sincere religious beliefs". They have chosen evidently to violate their sincere religious beliefs.  And the Cardinal himself seems to be saying, "We willingly compromised in the past.  We will be forced to compromise in the future!"

Because in the end, in our fleshy selves, it's not about Christ.  It's about compromise.  It's about expediency. It's about convenience.

But God shows us love and the anger of love, not the anger of selfishness, but the anger that refuses to compromise with anything less that what is pure and holy - an anger that sacrifices Himself and transforms us.  Msgr. Pope says ...

 Yes, lovers fight, lovers get angry. And the anger of the Greatest Lover of them all, God, is evident in the downward thrust of the cross into the soil of this world and its manifold lies and half truths. The cross is the downward thrust, like a sword, of God’s non placet to the rebellion and error this world holds so arrogantly.

Cardinal Dolan's Response

Despite taking the lead against the HHS mandate and encouraging lay Catholics to risk their businesses by resisting an attack on religious liberty, Cardinal Dolan has allowed his archdiocese to pay insurance premiums that cover abortion and contraception, the exact thing he insists we must not do, a moral compromise he insists we must not make.  The archdiocese has been doing this for twenty years.

The archdiocese has had options here.  The insurance in question has been in place per a union contract - and such contracts can be negotiated when they expire, which is usually every few years.  In addition, if this issue is as fundamentally immoral as Cdl. Dolan is telling us, then the archdiocese is under no obligation, for one cannot be compelled by contract to perform a grave evil.  Concern for the covered employees can be addressed by the archdiocese self-insuring, which any Catholic diocese in this country has the resources to do.

The cardinal's official response is lame.  In fact, it is shameful.  As a friend of mine points out,

According to Mr. Zwilling [Dolan's mouthpiece] the Archdiocese faced the "dilemma" of "choosing between providing health care to employees or violating its sincere religious beliefs". They have chosen evidently to violate their sincere religious beliefs.

His unofficial response is not much better.  It amounts to this ...

We willingly compromised in the past.  We will be forced to compromise in the future!

Cardinal Dolan, we are with you in this fight.  If you take the lead and clean up your own backyard, we're with you all the way.  If you don't take the lead, or if you compromise because you're compromised, then we'll move forward without you.  But we'd rather not do that.

You are a good man, a good bishop, and a St. Louis Cardinals fan.

Don't let us down.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Synopsis on the Lying Debate

Apparently, there are at least two of you who are arguing in good faith on the Lying Debate.  One of you is Stu (or so he claims), who has challenged me on Mark Shea's blog to answer the questions that keep coming up and that have been answered again and again.  Stu says he does not have time to wade through my 65 or more posts on this issue, and I can understand that.

So here we go, and I will link to this post often when the same objections keep being raised.  It's old hat, all of it, but here it is in a nutshell.


  • The Catechism is very clear on this point.
2482  “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.”281 The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: “You are of your father the devil,... there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”282 (392)
2483    Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.
2484    The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. (1750)

2485    By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. The culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray. (1756)
2486    Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships. (1607) 


2488    The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the Gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it. (1740)
In other words, if someone has no right to the truth, we may keep silent.  But we may not lie.


1753    A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).39 (2479596)
Note that an act that is INTRINSICALLY DISORDERED may never be done under any circumstances, not even for a good cause.


This is the argument of people who say, "Until the Pope rules on this ex cathedra, I may believe what I will!"  Note that supporters of abortion and contraception say the same thing.
The fact is that the Catholic Church teaches infallibly on matters of Faith and Morals when the Magisterium speaks - and the Magisterium is more than just the Pope speaking ex cathedra.  Indeed, a large portion of infallible Church Teaching is communicated by the Ordinary Magisterium - bishops in union with the pope teaching the same thing over the millenia, as well as the lay faithful holding views in common over the course of Church History.
Even the Lying Apologists call the teaching that Lying is Intrinsicallly Evil "the majority view".
The problem is, even the teaching denouncing contraception can be seen as merely a "majority view", Humanae Vitae being but one element of the consistent teaching from the Church from the beginning, but with lots of dissenting views competing with it, popping up here and there, especially in the modern age.  
Dissent does not make a Magisterial teaching less so.  Dissent does not turn the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium into one opinion among many.  "A majority opinion" - especially when espoused by Scripture, Augustine, Aquinas, the Catechism of Trent and the Modern Catechism - is more than a "majority opinion".


Yes, after the first edition, it was changed to reflect more accurately the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium, that Lying is Intrinsically Evil.  That more restrictive teaching has appeared in every subsequent edition, including the current one.


People are fond of telling Mark Shea and bloggers like me that we are not the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  They are right.  Neither are the folks you mentioned.


Peter Kreeft argued that our "moral common sense" tells us it is OK to lie when, in our judgment, the situation warrants it.  The problem is the "moral common sense" of 95% of the world today tells them that fornication is just fine, and many folks have a "moral common sense" that tells them that "gay marriage" is a good thing.  Our "moral common sense" is, in fact, fallen and in need of a redeemer.  It's not our "moral common sense" that we should consult in this case, but the mind of the Church - the mind of Christ.  And His teachings shock and offend our "moral common" sense much more than His teachings soothe and affirm them.


As I understand it, even in wartime, we may not deliberately take the life of another.  We may use deadly force if the situation calls for it and if we have no other alternative, knowing that the deadly force may in fact kill - but the death of the criminal or of the enemy is not our intent; stopping him is.  This can be seen clearly that when a cop fires and fells a suspect - and even when a soldier shoots and wounds an enemy combatant - they call in the medics to save the life of the fallen perpetrator or soldier, as soon as the danger is clear.  That's because our intent is to stop, not to kill.
In the sting videos, our immediate intent is to deceive the victim -the deception of the target is not an unintended consequence, but a means to an end.  Thus it's wrong. 


No, read what I just said.  We may not do evil so that good may come, but if evil results as an unintended consequence of a good action, we may do the action - under very strict and limited conditions.  This you can read more about elsewhere.



To "lie" is to lead another into error deliberately.  Audiences in the theater are not "lied to" by the actors playing roles.  Audiences are "in on" the deception, which is not an "ontological deception" - not a deception at the level of our existence in the real world.  The same applies to games and to fiction.  What sting actors do, however, is lead their unwitting audiences (their victims) into error in the real world in a real way.  The sting videos are about deception, not fiction or acting - for the targets are genuinely deceived, and without any prior consent or suspension of disbelief on their part.


Yes you are.  Of course you can always say, "I love you no matter how you look."  She will hit you, but you can always say this.


I'm not saying such a "socially conventional" lie ("No, you don't look fat!") is a major sin, only a minor one.  That's why we call it a "little white lie".  It is indeed a lie, albeit little and white.  Of course, one can make the case that all social intercourse, even between husband and wife, is usually a kind of game, and certain rules apply to the game so that people don't take every social utterance seriously and no "ontological deception" is involved.


Just War doctrine and what may be done during war has a special place in Moral Theology.  Again, if war is a kind of "game" or "convention" where words aren't taken at face value, and that is mutually understood, perhaps a case can be made that lying in wartime is not really "lying", since communication is no longer taken seriously and "game rules" apply.  We understand that politics, for example, is such a game, and we believe nothing any politician ever says.  But we still get mad when they "lie" to us, so ultimately this analogy doesn't work.  And war can only be declared by a legitimate authority, not assumed by individual combatants.


Most certainly not.  Theology is simply using reason and applying it to what God has revealed.  The point of theology is to understand God as best we can and to praise Him, especially by living up to the life He has planted in us.


  • OBJECTION: Jesus lied!
  • ANSWER: No he didn't.  Ever.  From CCC 1381 "St. Cyril says: ‘Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.’”212 

  • OBJECTION: If what you say is true, then undercover cops can't do their job!
  • ANSWER:  Most undercover work can be done without the cop positively asserting a false identity.  For example, if an undercover policeman approaches you and says, "I want to buy some drugs from you," he is telling the truth - for if you sell him drugs, he can arrest you and get you off the street.  Much of this kind of stuff can be done without lying.

  • OBJECTION: Without lying, we'll lose this battle!
  • ANSWER:  Look to the Cross.  Winning in the world is not what this is about.  Witnessing to Christ (even if it includes the "ultimate loss" - martyrdom) is what this is about.

  • OBJECTION: Santa Claus!  What about Santa Claus!  Am I lying to my son when I tell him about Santa Claus?
  • ANSWER: Santa Claus is real.  He's St. Nicholas, a bishop of the Catholic Church.  And he's very much alive, in the communion of saints.  The love that's shared at Christmas is real.  Even Fairy Stories are "true" if not "real" - true at a sense that children may not realize until they get older, but examples of "fiction", not lying.  The limited apprehension of children, an apprehension that slowly grows as the child matures, makes actual deception on a legitimate level difficult to achieve.  But I will personally concede that while Santa Claus is real and helps to enlighten the truth of the Season, the Easter Bunny is not and helps obscure it.

  • ANSWER:  You may not.  You may remain silent, even if they beat you and shoot you.  You may say, "I would be terrified to hide Jews from you," which is quite true.  But even if you lie to them, do you think they still won't search your house?  In any event, you are obligated NOT to reveal where you have hidden them.

  • OBJECTION: Quit picking on Lila Rose!
  • ANSWER: Lila Rose is a very well-intentioned brave woman who is doing what she sees best in the trenches fighting the great evil of abortion.  She is using the wrong methods, thereby endangering her soul and those of her supporters.  But we admire her and freely admit the next answer.

  • OBJECTION:  Even if Lying is wrong, is it as bad as abortion?
  • ANSWER:  Of course not.  But itty bitty iniquities are iniquities all the same.  And if we start excusing the little ones, we're compromised.  And if something may never be done, per the teaching of Christ, woe to us if we start telling ourselves it's OK to do it.


  1. Even if Lying for a Good Cause can be justified, ridiculing and victimizing abortion clinic workers only makes them and their supporters angry and alienates them from the Truth.  It's not the sort of thing that converts hearts to Jesus or the Pro-life cause.  And these sinful victims are children of God as much as we sinners are, and they need a witness to Christ, who is Truth, not to the lie, whose father is Satan (John 8:44)
  2. If even the best and most devout Catholics among us say, "To hell with Church Teaching, we're in it to win it!" we are in big big trouble - even if "to win it" means to win the war on abortion.  Such a moral compromise is to be compromised indeed!
  3. Our call is to personal holiness, and Lying - even for a Good Cause - is no way to get there.  Neither is tying ourselves in knots to rationalize our behavior.

In brief, what Lila and company are doing is commendably motivated, but ultimately harmful on many levels.

Beyond that, if we get into the habit of rationalizing things we want to do, of soothing our consciences with sophistries, we can hardly call ourselves Christians.


ADDENDUM!  [Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, 2014] One of the "Lying is Good!" crowd is now saying, "G. K. Chesterton may become a saint!  And he said lying is just fine!" No, he didn't.  Click here for the full story.

Meanwhile, the Internet Game Continues.  This has been a battle raging for three years or more.  The Liars continue to ignore and dodge the points our side is making.

So in conclusion, I say to them, in all seriousness, "If you really think you're justified in lying, lie your ass off."

But a troubled conscience is a terrible thing.  And rationalizing sin is more important to them than sin itself.

Don't Believe Me ...

Don't believe me that Lying for a Good Cause is wrong.  Don't believe the Catechism.  Don't believe 2,000 years of Church Teaching.

Believe instead pro-life warriors Robert George and Bernard Nathanson:

George: “When you were promoting abortion, you were willing to lie in what you regarded as a good cause. Now that you have been converted to the cause of life, would you be willing to lie to save babies? How do those who hear your speeches and read your books and articles know that you are not lying now?”
Dr. Nathanson: “No, I wouldn’t lie, even to save babies. … You said that I was converted to the cause of life; and that’s true. But you must remember that I was converted to the cause of life only because I was converted to the cause of truth. That’s why I wouldn’t lie, even in a good cause.
Mark Shea has more on this. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cardinal Dolan's Hour has Come and What to Do If He Shuns It

As I passed along last night, the New York Times has reported that despite Cardinal Dolan leading the US Bishops in their battle against the HHS Mandate
the [New York] archdiocese’s own money is used to pay for a union health plan that covers contraception and even abortion for workers at its affiliated nursing homes and clinics.
The Times reported this in their Sunday edition over the holiday weekend, so the reaction has yet to hit.  We are given a moment here to guess how this might play out.

Now, here's the worst case scenario ...
  1. Bill Donohue of the so-called Catholic Defense League will point out that Cardinal Dolan was not the one who agreed to this, and New York state law requires this and the archdiocese is paying the premiums in protest, and the New York Times is an abortion-loving liberal rag trying to bring down a good and holy man, and it's all a left-wing conspiracy, and on and on.
  2. Conservative Catholics (many of whom are secretly pro-contraception anyway) will rally behind Cardinal Dolan, regardless of how he handles this situation.
  3. Dolan will say, "Well, the plans are in place and we can't take insurance benefits away from families, and I didn't know about this and I'll sure as shootin' look into this right away and we'll see what can be done, and on and on."
Sad if such prevarication, equivocation and game playing happens, but it probably will.


Here's another worst case scenario.  Paul described it to his church in Thessalonica 2,000 years ago.

At the End Times, some may will perish eternally, says Paul

because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: That all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity. (2 Thes. 2:10-11)

Do we know Catholics who refuse to love or to believe the truth, who consent to believe Lying?  Do we know Catholics who consent to iniquity - itty bitty iniquities, done to shame and ridicule our enemies, abortion clinic workers?

Certainly lay Catholics, especially conservative lay Catholics, would not prevaricate or equivocate the way the bishops do, would they?  Good solid Mass-going conservative lay Catholics will not be damned when Jesus comes again, having participated in the "operation of error" in order to believe and put their faith in Lying, would they?


Don't fool yourself.  The Lying Debate has not been about words.  It has been about the fate of the Church and the fate of our souls.


Here's the best case scenario.


1. Dolan shows that he lives the faith he preaches.  He immediately and without hesitation cancels the policies in question, and instructs the archdiocese of New York to "self-insure" the employees who have been covered.  The insurance the archdiocese will provide will not henceforth pay for any procedure that's contrary to Catholic teaching - which is precisely what he and the bishops have been fighting for all this time.  Dolan apologizes publicly and does public penance, offering nary an excuse or a PR spin.  He behaves like a true Prince of the Church, like a true Apostle of Christ.

or (I know that's pretty far-fetched, but he is a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and so he has some character) ... or ...

2. Dolan does what Dolan does, and either way, lay Catholics man up.  If the bishops fail us (again), we will simply step in as we've done before - since bishops and cardinals and even popes have been  failing the Church from the get-go.  If Dolan drops the ball and hems and haws and (frankly) lies in this case to save himself from embarrassment (lying for a good cause, you see), we man up.  

We reject Lying, even for a Good Cause.  We stop playing games with the Catechism.  We stop attacking each other on the internet.  We stop worrying about defending a Church that Christ assured us will never fall.

We start living holy lives.  We mortify the flesh, repent of our sins, give ourselves to the life of the Spirit, and seek first the Kingdom of heaven.

If we must, we will let the bishops - our teachers - learn from us.

We All Know What Cardinal Dolan Should Do Now ...

Here's a kicker.  The Archdiocese of New York has been paying health insurance premiums that cover both contraception AND abortion for decades.

Cardinal Dolan, every sane and caring Catholic knows what you should do next.

Will you do it???

You're a St. Louis Cardinals fan.  Don't let me down.

You're a bishop of Jesus Christ and a Prince of the Church.  Don't let Him down.

You've been leading the fight against the HHS mandate, and now we find you're compromised.  Don't let us down.

Do the right thing.

C. S. Lewis: The Truth, the Lie, and the Lion

Troy Hinkel writes an excellent post on the modern disdain for truth and C. S. Lewis' answer to that in The Last Battle.  

But, good as that article is, and good as C. S. Lewis' insights into morality are - of course if someone else is scornful of the truth, I need not be particularly worried about it.  I'm mostly truthful, except when the small lie suits me.  If they lie for their Bad Cause, I may lie for my Good Cause, or else their Bad Cause will win.  Right???  And Scripture, Augustine, Aquinas, Trent, and the Catechism - they're not Magisterial, right???  Lying for a Good Cause is a good thing, right????

Then there's this.

Fear of scandal prompted the cover-up of child sex abuse allegations within the Catholic Church, Australia’s top-ranking Cardinal George Pell admitted Monday.

Now Pell is one of OUR guys.  He's not a liberal Jesuit lying to keep an abusive priest out of jail.   He's an orthodox bishop who has taken heat for his opposition to liturgical abuse and his devotion to Church teaching.  He's even been the victim of a lie - a man who falsely accused him of abuse in 2002.

So when Cardinal Pell tells us why the Church in Australia lied, and says

“The primary motivation would have been to respect the reputation of the church ...  There was a fear of scandal.”

... my questions, dear readers who are gung-ho for Lying for a Good Cause - are these

  1. May a Catholic lie to avoid scandal?
  2. May a Catholic lie to protect the reputation of the Church?
  3. May a Catholic lie if his lie might put innocent children in harm's way?

And before you answer that, read Hinkel's article.  Read, as he did, C. S. Lewis' The Last Battle, about which Hinkel says ...

There are many profound themes Lewis skillfully weaves through his book: manipulation of sentiment versus pursuing the truth, ends justifying means, cynicism versus conversion, as well as a scary portrait of the minimum necessary conditions needed for evil to appear triumphant over good.

The minimum necessary conditions for evil to triumph over good?  Doing bad so that good may come would be one of them.  But I can think of others.

Mature Purity, the Illuminati, and Eucharistic Ministers

I am tired of making people angry at me when I write about Lying.

I want people to be mad at me when I write about Christopher West and the Westians.

Here The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the Illuminati ...

The name assumed by some false mystics who appeared in Spain in the sixteenth century and claimed to have direct intercourse with God. They held that the human soul can reach such a degree of perfection that it contemplates even in the present life the essence of God and comprehends the mystery of the Trinity. All external worship, they declared, is superfluous, the reception of the sacraments useless, and sin impossible in this state of complete union with Him Who is Perfection Itself. Carnal desires may be indulged and other sinful actions committed freely without staining the soul. The highest perfection attainable by the Christian consists in the elimination of all activity, the loss of individuality, and complete absorption in God (see QUIETISM).

This is an old story.  The Gnostics of the first centuries and the Stoics before them came up with the idea that sexual indulgence was not an issue for those who were Enlightened (how convenient!).  Indeed, if you're one of the Illuminati of any era, the horrible things you do with your body are not even sinful - since you, yourself, by definition, cannot sin.  You cannot sin because you have achieved the interior sinless state.  Got it?

Perhaps West means something other than this when he says that "custody of the eyes", for example, is no longer an issue for one who has achieved "mature purity".  How a teaching like this, defended staunchly even by clergymen in the Church, can lead to anything other than an excuse for sexual indulgence and to a new class of Illuminati is beyond me.

Funny how the "Spirit of Vatican II" was supposed to eliminate hierarchical distinctions in the Church.

Now most of us are made to cool our heels at Mass while a whole gaggle of the New Hierarchy receives before we do ("Eucharistic Ministers").  And now I find I'm taking a back seat to all of those around me who have somehow achieved Mature Purity on this earth.  Waiting a bit at Mass I don't really mind, but not being able to look at porn like my Maturely Pure neighbor - that kind of bothers me!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

We are Called to Heroic Virtue

I began this series of posts by noting how we're all compromised.  Then I talked about how our compromises show through, whether we think they do or not.  And most recently I talked about how the antidote to this is to cultivate the life of grace within us.

But there's one more thing, and it became crystal clear to me in this latest round of the Lying Debate.


I have written before of how the actresses I've known tend to settle, to compromise their aspirations in love and marry the first guy who breathes - even if it's through his mouth.

I've also written a bit about the forgotten virtue of magnanimity, and its matching vice pusillinimity.

In both cases, one can see how compromise can damage our lives in the world.  We can aim low in love, or aim low in our careers - though most commonly we aim high in both and settle for something in the middle.

And, really the world is all about compromise.

But the Spirit isn't.


Of course we must all compromise in worldly matters, but in the same way that we can never compromise on matters of principle, we must never compromise on matters of the Spirit.

One of the reasons I'm holding firm, along with Mark Shea and others, on insisting that the Teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium that Lying is Intrinsically Evil is exactly that: the Teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium that Lying is Intrinsically Evil  - one of the reasons I won't budge on this Truth is that giving in on this would be giving in on something that is a matter of principle and a matter of Faith.  It would be compromising the Law that is written in our hearts, the Law of Christ.

But that's not exactly what I'm talking about.

I'm not just talking about the temptation to budge on principles or even on Church Teaching.

I'm talking about that persistent desire to settle, to settle spiritually - to find a comfortable spot in our Christian life where we just kind of "veg out".  Oh, sure, we may pray devotions and go to Mass a lot and we may hit all the right pro-life notes, but come on - we ain't gonna give back the Ring.  We won't stop hoarding that secret thing.  Mortification, after all, is for people with serious sins, not for you and me.


If the Lying Debate has taught me anything, it's taught me that ordinary virtue won't do.  I have been as patient and charitable in this debate as human nature can bear - and yet I'm still accused of uncharity.  And while this charge is somewhat spurious (the last defense to an argument that can't be countered - "You're mean and I don't like you!" - in Catholic-speak: "You're uncharitable!") - and while this charge is ironically often made by people who have done their best to treat me like dirt, the fact is they're right: I am called to be patient and charitable beyond what human nature can bear.

For charity is not natural.  It is, strictly speaking, a gift of God - supernatural.  It is, like all grace, the germ of Eternal Life within us.

If our charity has a limit - we are less than fully Christian.  If our patience has a limit - we are less than fully Christian.  If our service to Christ has a limit - we are less than fully Christian.


This is one of the reasons so many people are so divided on the Morality of Lying for a Good Cause.  Not to lie when every fiber of your "moral common sense" tells you it would be the right thing to do, runs against our human nature, our human nature that is so comfortable with compromise.

But we are called to more than that.  We are called not just to natural virtue - which even the pagans and atheists can attain - we are called to super-human virtue, to heroic virtue, to the virtue of Christ.

Hilaire Belloc sums it up, speaking of the un-compromised quality of the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ.

The Catholic Church will have no philosophies. She will permit no comforts; the cry of the martyrs is in her far voice ; her eyes that see beyond the world present us heaven and hell to the confusion of our human reconciliations, our happy blending of good and evil things.
By the Lord! I begin to think this intimate religion as tragic as a great love ... Yes, certainly religion is as tragic as first love, and drags us out into the void away from our dear homes. 

Our dear homes are filled with "human reconciliations", with "our happy blending of good and evil things".

But beyond is the deep, the waters to which Christ calls his fishermen, the waters of the great catch. (Luke 5:1-11)


You are right, Defenders of Lying!  You are right - not to lie in certain situations would require heroic virtue.

But that is exactly what Christ requires of us.

To Cultivate the Mustard Seed

Now in the same way that our secret faults cause tremors at the surface no matter how well we've hidden them (as I write about here - Our Faults Become Fissures of Men), so something else hidden within us eventually shows forth.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”  (Mark 4:26-32)

Every day we members of the Fraternity of St. Genesius pray an extra mystery of the Rosary - the Hidden Life of Jesus.  This refers to the time in Our Lord's life that we know nothing of - the silent period between Mary and Joseph Finding Him in the Temple at age 12 to the beginning of His Public Ministry at about age 30.

Why such a long period of preparation for the Son of Man?  What was going on quietly in the workshop in Nazareth all those years?

What goes on when the seed takes root in the dark and hidden soil, while we sleep?

Something similar happens to the Apostle Paul.  Shortly after his miraculous conversion, he travels to Jerusalem and meets with Peter and James.  Then he is sent quickly away from Jerusalem and has what some scholars count as up to 14 years of "preparation time", the "Hidden Life of Paul", before he begins his First Missionary Journey.  14 years of silence - about which we hear almost nothing in Scripture - years that must have included prayer, study, and "workshop productions" (as we call them in showbiz) - dress rehearsals for ministry.  The Hidden Life of Jesus in the carpenter's workshop in Nazareth; the Hidden Life of Paul in the tent maker's workshop in Tarsus.

Both Our Lord and the Apostle are showing us the mystery that Jesus describes in parables above.

But here's the important part - while our hidden faults will cause tremors and earthquakes that kill and maim, the Mustard Seed within - the Hidden Life in our Hidden Lives - can bear fruit abundantly; for our hidden sins are death, while our hidden glory is the Spirit of God within us.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  (Col 3:3)

Realize that, if you can - we bear within us the hidden seed or the germ that can blossom into sanctity and Eternal Life - if we cultivate it; or at least if we don't smother it with sin and resistance; for it will grow of its own with just a little cooperation on our part.

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.  (1 Cor. 3:6)

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange says that sanctifying grace (the grace that we receive at Baptism and that is restored to us when we are absolved at Confession) is nothing less than the Kingdom of God within us, the beginning of Eternal Life here and now ...

Fundamentally, the same divine life exists as a germ or a seed in the Christian on earth and as a fully developed life in the saints in heaven. ... This explains why Christ said also: "He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day." (John 6:55) "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say: Behold here or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-21)  It is hidden there like the mustard seed, like the leaven which causes the dough to rise, like the treasure buried in the field.

We all have faults and sins that lead to earthquakes and suffering for us and for others.

But we Christians all have the grace of God - the Kingdom - within us, though hidden in the same way the underground fault lines are hidden.

May we mortify the one and cultivate the other.  The fault line is the flesh, which dies; the grace is the Spirit, which lives.

Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  (Gal. 6:8)

Our Faults Become "Fissures of Men"

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it  -(Prov. 4:23)

Geologically speaking, faults can cause big problems.  A hidden fracture, buried ever so deeply, can devastate the land above, causing horrible earthquakes.

Psychologically speaking, faults can cause big problems.  A hidden fracture, a flaw in our characters, buried ever so deeply, can have similar devastating results.

When we compromise, we become compromised.   We think our secret deal with the devil will go unnoticed - a hairline fracture, buried ever so deeply - a bite of the apple (and who's around to see it?)

But faults have a way of being magnified as they work their way upwards from their hidden source; and then the ground shifts and buildings crumble.

  • I knew a man who was studying for the priesthood.  While he seemed pious and devout, it was obvious to everyone that there was a problem.  The years I knew him, he was utterly unreliable and disorganized to such an extent that he created a chaos and a panic with everything he touched.  Was there a deeper source to these tremors?  Then one day came the earthquake.  Complaints from several people to his superior eventually brought out much of the secret - a pathological addiction to homosexual encounters.  This was not the source of the fracture, but it was an indication of what had been a hidden crack that kept the landscape above jagged and broken for so long.

  • I knew a woman who was a pristine Catholic - pure, devout, caring.  But there were disturbing shakes and rumbles, of increasing alarm on the Richter Scale.  Her boyfriend, for example, was one of the most emotionally troubled people I've ever met (and I've known actors, for crying out loud).  Their relationship was clearly a mistake, but her family had enough financial clout in their diocese to allow the couple to be married without the necessary Marriage Preparation counseling and instruction.  After the wedding, the buildings crumbled and people were trapped in the rubble.  I never knew the source of the fracture, but the fault ran deep - and its source was not just in the woman herself, but in her bizarre and dysfunctional family.

  • Another woman - unmarried, good family, truly faithful, the epitome of virginity.  She was so seriously devout that I suspect she kept her physical purity more or less intact during the whole of her life as a single woman.  But even virgins can be compromised - spiritually speaking. An odd disloyalty and selfishness would sometimes pop up, shaking the placid waters above.  One day a tsunami hit me, from an offshore quake that remained unseen.  The wave that washed in was colored with that pollution I had come to know the stench of - rejection of Church teaching and an abandonment of principles for the sake of expediency.  She was compromised - but these were not sexual compromises - though I suspected some of that was going on, too - for faults have a way of ringing church bells for miles around once they slip.

  • Another man, a famous priest.  A serious and deep fault, a fracture that ran almost to the magma below, spreading in cracks and fissures noticed by some for a long time, by many at the very end when the ground dropped from under this man's feet.  And from the fissures bubbled up lies, falsehoods, untruths.  Eventually, an outright eruption - and his defenders, deliberately blind to his faults, could no longer ignore the volcano that was exploding in their midst.

When Christ dies on the cross, the earth quakes, the rocks are rent, and the graves are opened - freeing some of the dead (Mat. 27:51 & 52).  When Paul is in prison in Philippi, the earth quakes, the doors of the prison are flung open, the very chains holding the prisoners fall away (Acts 16:26).  In Ezekiel's vision, the bones of the dead come together, and the Resurrection is prefigured, after a violent earthquake (Ez. 37:7).

It is then, in some odd way, a happy fault indeed, these faults that we think we so cleverly keep buried within us.  Our faults are happy at least so far as they bring about God's judgment.  For God's judgment is seen in the Consequential - His Reality shows forth in the earthquake - and the earthquake shakes off our shackles, opens our prison doors, blows the tops off our tombs, and rearranges our precious hoard of dead men's bones.

Sometimes, then, the best thing for us is the earthquake.  For then can the fracture be reset, and the unhappy fault happily healed.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Interview with a Typical Catholic

Q:  I understand you're a Typical Catholic.  Where do you go to Mass?

A:  Well, I don't usually go to Mass, but when I do it's at St. Somewhere.

Q:  St. Somewhere.  Is that a suburban parish?

A:  Yes.  You see, the churches in the city - the big beautiful old churches - have all been taken over by the rainbow sash community.  And the neighborhoods are dangerous.  St. Somewhere is a nice new building with lots of banners and air conditioning and a really nice shopping-mall feel.  And a Blessed Sacrament chapel - or room or something.  I don't know.  They tell me we keep the tabernacle somewhere.  And the only "rainbow" guy we have is our associate pastor, but the ladies love him and he's funny - but in that weird and creepy way that priests sometimes - well, my wife likes him.  And the music minister is annoying.  "Good morning!" he says before Mass starts, and who wants to say "Good morning" back? - though my wife perks up.  "Good morning," she says with a smile, louder than anyone else.  But the music minister isn't satisfied.  GOOD MORNING!  I DIDN'T HEAR YOU! he'll say.  God, that's hard to take before noon on a Sunday.  Even that guy he married in New York last year - the one who stands next to him and plays guitar - gets annoyed with him.  And those horrible hymns!  Talk about gay!  But my wife likes them.

Q:  Are you sure you're not at a rainbow sash city parish?

A:  No, suburbs.  And we've got some good normal Catholics who go there, you know - regular guys, go to all the games their kids play, drink beer - regular fellahs.  No different from anybody else!  And that's what makes them such good Catholics, in my opinion.  They don't put on any airs.  No "holier than thou" nonsense.  They volunteer at the fish fry, too.

Q:  How do you live your faith in your daily life?

A:  Oh, in many ways.  I'm tolerant, for one thing.  I mean, who can judge?  And I'm Republican.  And I'm pro life.  Except - you know - for the tough cases.  And I voted for Romney.  He was pro-life, wasn't he?

Q:  No.

A:  Well, I voted for him.  And I give money to the United Way and the pink breast cancer thing.  And I'm nice, you know.  Well, I try to be.  That's what Jesus was - nice.  It's all about being nice.

Q:  Are there any Church teachings you disagree with?

A:  Well, we let my daughter's boyfriend sleep in her room when he stays over.  But they love each other.  She's loved each of her boyfriends, you know.  And I'm glad the Church changed their mind on contraception; that was just stupid.

Q:  Actually, the Church still teaches that the use of contraception is a grave evil.

A:  I don't think so.  The priest never mentions it.

Q:  No really, the Church teaches -

A:  Oh, artificial contraception, you mean.  But rubber is from trees.  It's a green thing, sort of.  I'm into recycling, but not as much as my son - he's kind of nuts in that regard.

Q:  The Church also criticizes unrestrained capitalism, condemns usury, torture, lying - even for a good cause.  Fornication.  These things are all -

A:  Oh, Father doesn't care.  He's a nice guy.  Very tolerant.  So is the associate, he's very nice - but the parish secretary.  Damn, that woman is just plain mean.  She thinks she runs the freaking place!  I guess she kinda does.

Q:  You say you have a daughter and a son.  Do they go to weekly Mass?

A:  My son is an atheist.  He read something on the internet and stopped believing.  Plus he watched that Discovery Channel special on how Jesus was made-up.  "Son," I said, "What difference does it make?  Just believe!"  That didn't seem to help.  But my daughter is very strong in her faith.  She worships Maya, the Earth Goddess.  Very sincere about it, too.

Q:  What sort of Faith Formation did they have?

A:  Twelve years of Catholic schooling - both of them.  Cost a pretty penny, too.  I love Catholic Education.  Diversity!  That's the message.  I'm not a liberal, but we need that.  And they learned one big lesson - be nice and don't ever love anything enough to fight for it.  Good schools.

Q:  That's your children.  But is there anything else you'd like to tell me about your faith - your own personal faith?

A:  Well, look, I'm spiritual, not religious.

Q:  I see.  Well, thank you, Typical Catholic, for this fascinating -

A:  And I sleep with the devil.

Q:  You ... what?

A:  I sleep with the devil.  I don't mean my wife.  I mean symbolically, I'm in bed with the devil.  I don't, like, let him do me or anything.  I'm just in bed with him.

Q:  Why do you ... sleep with the devil?

A:  Oh, I sold my soul.

Q:  You ...

A:  Long ago.  For thirty pieces of silver and a split-level ranch house.  And cable.  That came with the deal. I also got a good discount on a 50 inch TV.  And all I have to do is crawl in bed with the Prince of Demons at night and go to sleep.  That's all I have to do!  My wife kind of likes it.  It means I leave her alone.

Q:  Well, thank you, Typical Catholic, it's been nice talking to you.

A:  Nice talking to you too!

Q:  Sleep tight.

A:  You bet!

The Christian Shakespeare

Lots of activity on my site The Christian Shakespeare.

Six new posts!   By Thomas Merriam, Ken Colston and Joseph Pearce.  Check it out!

Graduation Photos

Here are some photos of my daughter Kerry, who graduated from Rosati-Kain High School last Monday, with the ceremony held at the beautiful Basilica of St. Louis.