Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year Musings: Eros and Unreality

With actress Linda Spall, New Year's Eve, 2000-2001.

So I'm on a tear today.  Looking back over 2014 can do that to you.

One of the themes in life that I've noticed this year, as I've noticed for many years, is our devotion as a culture (both secular and Catholic) to Unreality.  Unreality is my word for the Controllable Substitute for Reality that we flatter ourselves we can pull out of the air and live in.  Unreality is fundamentally Manichean and Gnostic, in that it is predicated upon denying the penetration of grace into nature: the incarnation, the crucifixion and the second coming must be denied, for they all deal with the life-altering experience of God entering the specific daily world around us.  When Gnostic Catholics like Christopher West attempt to sell a program wherein a sensitive and illuminated minority of believers experience the spiritual elements of sex to the exclusion of the natural realities and consequences of sex, this experience is divorced from the mundane reality of context, which is to say that Gnostic sex or "sex magic" denies that sex makes the family, with all of the daily ups and downs and crosses and joys that the family contains.  The family is too real and uncontrollable for our taste; "spiritual" sex, by contrast, is artificial and thus manageable.

And here's where Eros enters the picture.

The "Entirely Self-Referential" Church-of-the-Whatever

A friend of mine sends along this G. K. Chesterton quote, which is about Christmas ...

God is not bound down and limited by being merely everything; He is also at liberty to be something.

To picture God as being "bound down and limited by being merely everything" is to picture Him the way most of humanity has always tended to picture Him, and the way even most Catholics continue to picture Him.  This is Chesterton's ironic and humorous way of saying that when "God is everything" (a notion which is everywhere), we are, always and everywhere, in the presence of a vague and empty spiritism, a kind of cheesy pantheism that keeps God safe and distant and allows us to be condescending toward Him and toward our faith.   It keeps God Unreal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Blessed are They who Mourn for the Church

Ezekiel, whose vision of abominations in the Temple is told in Ezekiel Chapter 8.

In the book of Exodus, the angel smites the firstborn of Egypt, but spares the Israelites whose lintels are marked with blood.

In the book of Revelation, the mark is not of blood, and it appears not on the tops of doors but on the human forehead.  At the End of Times, distinction is made between those whose foreheads carry the Mark of the Beast (Rev. 13:16) and those whose foreheads carry the seal of God ("Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we shall have sealed the bondmen of our God upon their foreheads." - Rev. 7:3).

The Mark, or seal, then, is a Sign of one's ultimate identity.  It reveals, whether it be a mark of blood atop one's front door, or a supernatural sign atop one's very face, the underlying loyalty of him who displays it.  Those loyal to the Beast (the great Liar) display this loyalty as overtly as those who are loyal to God, who is Truth.

When a Good Bishop Tries to Do the Right Thing

We pray and pray for bishops who give a damn, who care enough about children to protect them and
who care enough about the Faith to take a stand.  But things are so rotten in Denmark that even when a heroic bishop like Martino comes along, Rome, politics, the money trail and other nasty things will keep the Church seriously corrupt and deeply in need of reform. And the Latin Mass is no guarantee of either sanctity or common sense.  

Again, that even a good bishop who tried his best to do the right thing was unable to protect either children from sexual assault or adults from financial fraud is tremendously troubling.  Read the article.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Blonde Bimbo Bye Bye?

My brilliant performance in drag as a bimbo with a bad French accent talking about women and women's bodies and the Synod in Rome has been taken down by the Vatican, which is why the embedded video at my original post no longer works.

But Restore DC Catholicism has bravely saved a copy and links to it here.

The Magical Thinking of Devout Catholics

There was a potential murder mystery client that I was hoping to land.  He had worked with every other murder mystery company around, and at that time there were three or four others in St. Louis.  They all told me the same thing, "The man is impossible to work for."  None of them lasted more than a few years performing at his venue.

"But I can do it!" I said to myself.  "They can't work with him, but I can work with him!  After all, I'm more intelligent and sensitive than they are.  I do well with difficult people.  I'll win him over, get him to like me.  I can succeed where all others failed!"

We lasted three months.  He was a monster.

The Movie and the Meta-Movie: Reflections on "The Interview"

People don't realize how important we are to freedom.  The first thing a totalitarian society suppresses is its comedians. - Groucho Marx
John Lennon said something similar, which was that nobody would ever take him seriously enough to try to assassinate him the way they assassinate politicians, because he and Yoko were just fools - just comedians.  Of course, this was before he was assassinated.

Voegelin and the Two Ways

I am in the midst of reading a number of excellent books, including several by Eric Voegelin, a brilliant writer, who has been recommended to me before.  Blog reader Marianne Bacon is the latest to suggest him - and I'm glad she did, as I've been devouring whatever ebooks I could find of his since last week.  He gives a name to the nameless heresy of our age, and writes profoundly about what I've been calling Unreality, and he analyzes it philosophically, psychologically and historically.

I plan on writing about Voegelin at length and in detail soon.

But here's what he seems to be saying in a nutshell.

Warming Up to Show Biz

Here I am outdoors (under an overhang) at the Pizza Oven at Cedar Ridge Winery in Swisher, Iowa, quickly changing into Bing Cratchit, host of the Cratchit Family Christmas special.  This was last Saturday night, during our performance of I'll Be Homicidal for Christmas.  We perform inside the winery's large event room, but I have to run outside by the Pizza Oven to change, and it was pretty darned cold - down to 12 degrees that night.  I was happy that Bing was wearing a sweater!  Fifteen minutes after this, I had to dash outside and change into Bing's boss, Ebenezer Scrooge, which is why the make-up pencil and clown white are close at hand.

This picture is part of a feature on us that will appear in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.  The photo is copyright Cedar Rapids Gazette.  More photos here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Peace on Earth

Riot police at Midnight Mass at our Cathedral Basilica here in St. Louis ...

Photo by my son Colin, who's at Mass as I post this.  He says the protesters, across the street from this, are peaceful.

Beginning at the Beginning of the Beginning

In Community Theater and even in a few semi-pro or professional productions, the question is typically not "How good is the show going to be?" but "Will the actors know their lines by the time the opening night curtain goes up?"

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas from your Secret Santa and his Reindeer-in-Disguise.

My Latest Performance on Grunky

Apparently I recorded a new Grunky video without realizing it. I make a cute blonde in drag, but my French accent is pretty rotten. 

Thanks to Jim Ridley for passing this along.  It's the funniest thing I've seen in a long time ... though I don't think it's supposed to be.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Pragmatism of the Faith

This will be my shortest post of the year.  It's simply this ...

The Motto of Liberal Catholics: "Let's Get Those Green Beans Off the Buffet!"

One of the readers of my latest post (It's Not the Abuse Crisis - It's the Neglect Crisis) somehow got it into his head that I was making the claim that only the liberals are to blame for the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Church - which would be a pretty insane position for me to take.  Perhaps he hasn't read my criticisms of all of the so-called "conservative" bishops who have enabled abuse, such as Finn, Carlson, Niendstedt, Livieres, etc.

In fact, as everyone knows (but this lone reader), the Abuse crisis cuts across the Big Divide.  If liberals could point to hung-up conservatives as abuse enablers, they would, except that conservatives can point to loosey-goosey liberals as abuse enablers.  The problem continues to be so wide-spread that every single type of bishop is guilty - and while some of the worst are from the right, some of the worst are also from the left.

But this shows how strange our thinking is.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's Not the Abuse Crisis - It's the Neglect Crisis

The Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church, horrible as it is, is simply the flip side of the Neglect Crisis in the Catholic Church.

What do I mean?

I mean that Neglect is a form of Abuse, and for the past fifty years, bishops, priests and lay Catholics have been neglecting the Faith, and the Vatican has accommodated this by neglecting the Neglect.  A predominantly homosexual clergy, covering and enabling a large number of child molesters, is simply one symptom of this Neglect.

The Sin of Enabling

Enabling is a sin.

We don't think of it as such, but we can't repent of sins we don't see or won't acknowledge.  So let me try to point the sinfulness of enabling out to you, my fellow enablers.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Pope Francis and Hell

Here are some highlights of a recent homily by Pope Francis, as reported by CNA.  It's noteworthy because the Pope touches on the least popular and most politically incorrect teaching of the Church today.  He doesn't use the word "damnation", but he's talking about it, about the mystery of our closed hearts, for hell is simply the eternal consequence of a a closed heart ...

... many Christians today ... feel “pure” simply because they go to mass and receive communion, the Pope noted, explaining that God asks for more.
“If your heart is not a repentant heart, if you do not listen to the Lord, if you don’t accept correction and you do not trust in Him, your heart is unrepentant,” he said, observing how the Pharisees were “hypocrites” for being scandalized at the attention Jesus gave to prostitutes and tax collectors.

This is a much more unpopular teaching than you'd expect, especially among the sort of Catholics who read this blog.  I call them Devout Catholics, or sometimes sarcastically "Super Catholics".  I know them well.  I am one of them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Elves, Hobbits, Men and DVDs

There are two projects I've done with EWTN that, in my opinion, are the best things the Network has done, from a production and creative point of view.  The first is our Father Brown movie, The Honor of Israel Gow.  And the second is the show I mentioned the other day, Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings": Elves, Hobbits and Men.

It turns out the latter is available on DVD from the religious catalog - for only ten bucks!  Well worth the price.  You can order it here.

We also just found out that Season Seven of The Apostle of Common Sense, another series I appear on, is also now available.  Only $25 for 13 episodes on 4 discs.

These would make great Christmas gifts!

Filming The Honor of Israel Gow in Hanceville, Alabama.  That's me as Father Brown.

Sterility and the Future of the Church

I have not read the Vatican's report on the LCWR, the notoriously liberal, hateful and pro-abortion feminist collective of "religious" women (nuns and sisters) in the U.S.  Anyone who's had any dealings with any of these ladies knows that the Christian Faith is the furthest thing from their minds.  They worship the Pagan Power Goddess - and her name is not Jesus Christ and she does not demand that we carry a cross.  That the Vatican should back down from correcting this group and calling them out - which they apparently did back down from doing - tells you all you need to know about the Church today.

But I'm not commenting on that report, nor do I plan to read it.  Why?  Because these women are - quite deliberately - sterile.  They do not attract new vocations.  They are old, angry and bitter.  They are on their way out and there are no new "religious" to replace them.

But before we get all complacent about their impending demise, we are often in the same boat.

Searching for an Honest Poet

The Poet writes ...


Ugh!  Open mike night.

I'm just back from the Poet's Conference.  150 losers who look just like me.  It cost $200 to get in, but nobody paid, as we all managed to sneak in the back door.

It was dreadful.  Everybody kept talking about themselves and their "work".  "Work", however, is the one thing these fellows never do.

Elves, Hobbits and Men

I just saw one of the very best things EWTN has ever done.

"Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: Elves, Hobbits and Men", hosted by Joseph Pearce and featuring yours truly as J. R. R. Tolkien, with artwork by Jef Murray, directed by Michael Masny, is a brilliant production.  Sadly, if you didn't catch it or record it yesterday, Dec. 16, when it aired, you'll apparently have to wait until the DVDs come out, as it's not scheduled to be rerun any time soon.

In this special, Joseph Pearce analyzes the Catholic elements of The Lord of the Rings, Jef Murray's illustrations add a wonderful visual flair, the photography is breathtaking, the CGI work very well done, and I even manage to pull off a better acting performance than usual.

All in all, this is a great special - and very profound, spiritual and uplifting as well.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hello Santa!

This year I've been earning a little extra money and having a lot of extra fun by portraying Santa Claus for Hello Santa, a company owned by Jib Jab.

Seasonal Photos

Some photos taken during the fall and winter season ...

Backstage for Transylvania CSI

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What is "What-Is"?

Here's something Flannery O'Connor said,

"What the fiction writer will discover, if he discovers anything at all, is that he himself cannot move or mold reality in the interests of abstract truth.  The writer learns, perhaps more quickly than the reader, to be humble in the face of what-is.  What-is is all he has to do with; the concrete is his medium; and he will realize eventually that fiction can transcend its limitations only by staying within them."

The "concrete" is the spiritual embodied.  "What-is" is the consequential, the actual limitations of reality around us, not the Unreal make-believe that we think we can get away with living in.

But we religious folk don't usually understand that.  We think religion is a fine feeling we get on a Sunday, or a certain thrill we feel watching "Matthew Kelly on a headset" (as a friend of mine puts it).  Christopher West might make a tingle run up our leg, but his version of Theology of the Body has nothing to do with the ups and downs of sacramental marriage as it actually exists and is lived out day to day.

Pope Francis, Remarriage and Flag Burning

Here's a sample of what I've been emailing a few friends lately ...

In 1974, when I was 14, and still an atheist, I served as godfather at my nephew's baptism.  It was my first time inside a Catholic church.  I was neither novice nor professed in the Faith [to be professed in the faith is what the 1917 Code of Canon Law required for all godparents].  Had the parish priest been even minimally vigilant, he would not have allowed this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Archeological Find - Report on Aaron's Synod!

Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments and found something he didn't expect.  His brother Aaron was holding a synod!

In fact, they drafted a document, which I republish in its entirety below.

I Grew Up in Ferguson!

I'll be on Mark Shea's Radio Show tonight, starting in about 20 minutes.  While I was sitting here in my office waiting to go on, my dad called me and reminded me that we lived in Norlakes Apartments back in 1965 and 1966, for about six months.  He had me check the address and it turned out it was in Ferguson!

So there you have it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Integrated Catholics Disintegrating

Here's another repeat, an old post that expands on what I said earlier today about communion ...

Dialogue with a Puritan

In preparing for my upcoming radio interview (which starts in 14 minutes), the subject of which is "Bringing Literature to Life", and which will be directed at an audience of homeschooling parents, my thoughts drift to the challenge of all literature - which is putting life into its proper context.

With that in mind, here's an excerpt from a post of a few years back in which I dialogue with a Puritan about the comedy murder mysteries I write and perform, and in which I attempt not only to justify myself, but the whole point of comedy and drama ...

Trying God

I'm about to be interviewed on the radio on Homeschool Lifeline.  The interview will air on Radio Maria on Dec. 15.  The subject is "Bringing Literature to Life".

With that in mind, here's a post from a few years back on How to Read ...

The Real Divorce - The Pope Splits the Act from the Sign

Hamlet is mad that Claudius only pretends to repent
Pope Francis is not only publicly saying that unrepentant divorced and remarried Catholics need to be integrated into the Church, he is politicking for this big time behind the scenes.

He seems to think that the world above operates as does the world below.  Down here shuffling and equivocating pleases lawyers and other scoundrels.  But up above?

The Pope could learn a thing or two from Shakespeare's Claudius, who (villain that he is) recognizes that in heaven you can't win by redefining or by playing a shell game with Canon Law.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Jesus vs. the Dragon Sickness

"The dragon sickness serves the same purpose in The Hobbit as the Ring serves in The Lord of the Rings. It represents the addictive attraction of sin and its destructive consequences, best summarized in an understanding that the thing possessed possesses the possessor -- or, as the Gospel says, where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)." - Joseph Pearce on the "Dragon Sickness"

So what is the Dragon Sickness?  It's that place that we guard and cherish, that secret and comfortable thing that we hoard in darkness - even though doing so turns us into miserable dragons, the way the ring turns Smeagol into Gollum.  It's the sickness that the Divine Physician addresses - if we let Him (which, I'm sorry to say, we usually don't).

Consider the following examples of otherwise good Christians acting like selfish dragons, of good Christians (like you and me) getting the sickness (like you and me).  I have changed the names, but the stories are all true ...

The Sting of Death

From The Sting.
 Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law.  (1 Cor. 15:56)

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Day I Divorced Facebook the Hussy

"Doctor, I'm in a dysfunctional relationship."

"Tell me about it."

"She's abusive to me and I can't trust her."

"What's the woman's name?"


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Life in Show Business ... To Be Continued!

Dear Readers, you'll have to fork out the big bucks to hear the sequel!

Sex and the Virus that Makes Us Mad

Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD's hand, making the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore, the nations go mad.  (Jer. 51:7)

It's like a virus, this thing.  It infects you.  We drink of the wine of Babylon and we go mad.  We don't just get drunk, we go mad.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Pope's True Agenda

Is the Pope's true agenda liberal or conservative???  Read the SHOCKING ANSWER here!!!

Christians and the Cowardice of the Indefinite

We prefer things blurry.

One of the reasons we are so cowardly, and why Christians have become salt without savor, bland,
lifeless, lukewarm and lame, is that we lack the courage
  1. to see that at thing is
  2. to see what a thing is
  3. to call a thing by its proper name

My Life in Show Business - Part 4

Little did I suspect that my "Living History"
experience would be dead.
Before I talk about how my actors and I were escorted out of Six Flags theme park by a security guard and told not to come back, I have to correct what may be a false impression I've been making.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Immortal Longings and the Human Soul

Our souls have been flattened.  And we don't even realize it.

My Life in Show Business - Part 3

Me as Rhett Butler on the Goldenrod Showboat
in the year 1999 or so, when we were performing
murder mysteries there.
Back in the 19th and early 20th century, before television, talkies and radio, the showboats used to ply the waters bringing popular culture to Americans who were desperate for entertainment.  Melodramas would be performed - which is to say soap operas for the stage - with simple stock characters representing good and evil.  The acting was larger than life, but the audiences were moved and grateful and in awe of what they thought was high dramatic art.  But that began to change.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Catholic are Just Like Everyone Else - Only Worse

I have been making a living in show business for 33 years.  I have dealt with a vast number of clients in all manner of businesses who have booked me to perform or produce a wide variety of shows.

In all those years, with all those clients, I have never had the sort of trouble I have when dealing in the Catholic market.  Clients for Theater of the Word often cannot be trusted.

Catholic Kaleidescope

Here's my interview with Alyssa Bormes from her show Catholic Kaleidescope on Radio Maria.  She talks to her mom about making sausage for the first ten minutes or so, then gets to me after that.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

More of My Life in Show Business

This is Part Two of My Life is Show Business.  

My first actress, Shannon, who never got to perform the show before an audience, and me as Groucho (Dr. Hackenbush), one of the characters in Murder at Bunny & Clyde's, 1989.


In trying to piece together a living by working at what I loved and what God had called me to do, I had done singing telegrams, stand up comedy, and children's theater classes - but a regular and consistent annual income had eluded me.

"Affection at a Distance" vs. The Point of the Piercing of Christ

There is nothing cheaper than affection at a distance.

We can love the poor, as long as we don't have to deal with them up close.  We can love our neighbor, as long as he stays on his side of the privacy fence.

And we can love God as long as He's not among us, as long as He's up there in heaven minding His own business and letting us show Him the cheapest of all of our charades, the shameful sham of "affection at a distance".

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What's Your "Unreality of Choice"?

Richard's comment in response to Rosemary at a recent post is worth repeating here.  In short, we love whistle blowers and truth tellers, as long as they tell the truth we're comfortable with hearing and blow the whistle on the other guy.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Please pray for my city, St. Louis, and our suburb Ferguson.  CNN is catching only the tip of the iceberg.  Looting and fires set all over the metro area at this point.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Show Business and Faith: Scraping, Scrapping and Scrambling

On Dec. 17, 2014 I will celebrate 25 years of performing my own murder mystery dinner theater shows.  So for the next 25 days, I'll mark the 25 years with 25 stories of my life in show business - and (believe it or not), how it all relates to the Faith.  I'll try to keep it clean.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Radio Appearance

This coming Sunday, Nov. 23, at 1:00 pm U.S. Central Time, I will be a guest on Catholic Kaleidoscope, which airs live on Radio Maria.  The show is hosted by Catholic author Alyssa Bormes.  I have no idea what we're going to discuss, but Alyssa has a good sense of humor, so it could be anything!

Potential, Perfection and the Heresy of Inconsequentialism

Our Faith is made to be brought to life in a certain way.  Our Faith is not designed to be shut up and suffocated, placed on a shelf like other dry and dead things.  Our Faith is like a seed, a seed that is designed and programmed to bring forth a certain kind of life in a certain kind of way.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gay Catholic Good Great Gay Hooray!

It's taken me a while, but I think I'm beginning to understand how people think (or don't think) on the internet.

Yesterday I posted a very powerful movie that tells the true story of how an ex-gay porn star escaped the hell that the world of gay porn is.  And I knew, I simply knew, what one of the comments would be, if I got any.

The comment would be, "Of course, this story is shocking and disturbing, but it's not typical!  There are plenty of good things going on among gay people!"  I really should have written the comment and posted it myself, saving Annonymous the trouble, who wrote ...

Upcoming TV Appearances

My actress Maria Romine writes ...

It's almost Advent and once again EWTN is airing A MORNING STAR CHRISTMAS and THE SURPRISE.

A MORNING STAR CHRISTMAS will air December 20 at 10pmDecember 21 at 3amDecember 24 at 6pm  and December 25 at 10am 

THE SURPRISE will air December 24 at 1pm and December 26 at 3am

All showtimes are listed at EST.

TOLKIEN'S "THE LORD OF THE RINGS"-ELVES, HOBBITS AND MEN will be on EWTN on December 14th at 9pm (EST) and December 16th at 5pm (EST)

I'm in all of these shows, and the Tolkien special is a new one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ex-Gay Porn Star Escapes from Hell

Here is a very powerful witness to God's grace and to the evils of the pornography industry and the "gay lifestyle".  It is a difficult video to watch.  It's very well made and quite simple, but it's disturbing.  It points out the great lie-du-jour in a very effective way.

Joseph Sciambra on his website reveals that he's a solidly orthodox Catholic who does not buy in to any of the "gay Catholic" nonsense that's out there.  When you've paid the kind of price he's paid, you're in no mood to play along with the make-believe.

The Right Wing Continues Rallying Around the Wrong People

Edward Pentin, Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register

It pains me to point out that National Catholic Register, once a fairly solid and trustworthy publication, has become the only mainstream journal (to my knowledge) to buy into the trad hysteria over the removal of one of the worst bishops in the world.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Do Mormons Understand Catholic Teaching on the Family Better than Catholics?

I had dinner with two Mormons over the weekend, a husband and wife with three kids.  He's about 20 years older than she is.  I'll call them Henry and Minnie.  She talked about how she had been dating other guys when they met, but that she and her future husband formed an intense spiritual bond and friendship.  She said ...

I was engaged at the time, to someone else.  I remember this moment clearly.  We were at the river.  I said to Henry, "After I'm married, you'll still be my close friend, right?  We'll still email and talk and text and stuff, right?"  He said, "Of course not.  That's for husbands and wives.  If I see you, I'll be friendly to you, but our close friendship will end when you have a husband.  That's the way it has to be."  And I realized he was right!  And that I'd lose him unless I married him.

We Catholics should be ashamed that most Mormons have a better understanding of marriage, family and romance than we do.   Especially since it's the one thing they've kept in their religion that is utterly and totally Catholic.

The Suburban Parish and The Heresy of Inconsequentialism

I have come to a conclusion.  Most Catholics don't believe in God.

At least they don't believe in the Christian God, the God who became man to save us from sin and who died on a cross and rose again, calling us to participate in a life of sacrifice and love until He comes join us in his resurrection by raising us bodily from the dead at the Last Judgment, where some will find they've chosen eternal life, others eternal damnation.

Most Catholic instead believe (to quote H. Richard Niebuhr) that ...

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”


Today at Mass I walked out during the homily.  I've only done that twice in 14 years as a Catholic, counting today.  It wasn't especially bad, as homilies go, but I realized that it was pointless to stay any longer.  I realized at one point that Whatever religion this man is preaching and these people are celebrating, I'm not in communion with it.  In other words, I was at a putatively Catholic Mass at a so-called Catholic parish, but I was not at a service honoring anything resembling the Catholic God.

It was a parish that I was forced to go to because of time and travel constraints.  It had (as most parishes do) a guitar player singing bad songs very badly and very loudly.  He was quite obviously enthralled with the sound of his voice over the loud speakers.  It was a form of bad performance art, or a kind of narcissism on parade.  I imagine when this man enters into an intimate physical relationship with his wife, his favorite part is hearing himself moan at the moment of climax.  Perhaps he records that moan and listens to it over and over again, admiring the tones and cadences of his marvelous voice.  You know the type.  At any rate, he made me moan at this Mass, that's for sure.

Speaking of sex, before Mass a teen aged girl with a Steubenville T-shirt on ran up to an attractive young man and gave him the Christian Side Hug.  It didn't phase him in the least, but she went away quivering and giddy.  She sang the bad songs out loud with the rock star very loudly, in a pew right up front, swaying and all abuzz.

The homily had one simple message: don't be afraid when Christ comes.  Even if He comes like a thief in the night, even though Scripture warns us of "darkness" and "grinding of teeth", even though "our God is an awesome [fear inspiring] God", we Christians can be confident that "when Christ comes, it will be a good thing."

Not for this guy it won't, as Michelangelo imagines it ...

Not for that guy it won't.  But he only finds that out on the day Christ comes, not at his Suburban Mass.

So what is this weird thing that is happening all over the country, and apparently all over the world?  What is this weird religion that calls itself Catholic?

This is the religion of antichrist, of Christ without the cross.  

Others have called it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, but that phrase is not only awkward, it's a misnomer.  For this heresy is neither Moralistic, Therapeutic, or Deist.

There is nothing Moralistic about the Suburban Parish Mass at all.  Universal salvation is offered to everyone, regardless of your ethical beliefs or practices.  There's nothing Therapeutic going on there, either.  Any good therapist challenges his patient to get better, and not to continue wallowing in his addictions and bad choices; I've never heard any homily or modern hymn do anything like that; we are always affirmed right where we are.  And this whole thing isn't exactly Deism, for there is a personal God in the mix and we do more or less pray to Him, or at least we try to if the music isn't too loud.

So what is this sick and bizarre heresy that we find in the vast majority of Catholic parishes, especially in the suburbs, that we find in Mainline Protestant churches and that the "Progressives" at the Synod on the Family are pushing?  If it's not really Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, what is it?

Belloc called it Modernism, but even he acknowledged that it seemed to be a mixture of all heresies and that it was hard to pin down or define.

I think the best name for it is Inconsequentialism.  

It is the belief that the Consequential does not exist.  None of our choices or actions matters.  Nothing we do will lead to heaven or hell.  Our lives are works of fiction written entirely by our own selves.  God stands back and applauds whatever choice we make, like an indulgent public school Kindergarten teacher.  

And since nothing leads to anything (which is what "inconsequential" means), the culture of this heresy is a kind of parody of the Kingdom of heaven: it's hell on earth, a place that is above all else Unreal.  It is a place where we can choose our own genders, our own doctrines, our own way, our own truth, our own life.  It is a place lacking all judgment, for judgment is the Consequential - and by judgment I mean both the Last Judgment as well as personal judgment or discernment: both God's judgment of us and our own judgment-in-practice, our own decision making day in and day out, our own "tough choices", none of which (we are assured) matters in the least, all of which are Inconsequential.

T. S. Eliot described the effects of what I call Inconsequentialism.  "Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing," he said.  Inconsequentialism is isolating, fragmenting, and atomizing.  

But Inconsequentialists gladly pay that price, for their entire goal is to deny the Cross and everything that the Cross implies: sacrifice, suffering, discipline, decision, death, shame, and sin.  To have Christ without the Cross is their goal.  This, according to Bishop Sheen, was the hallmark of the spirit of antichrist: the denial of the cross in all its forms.

But if your entire philosophy of life is devoted to denying the Consequential (and the Cross is the most emphatic expression of the Consequential), then everything you do - especially your religion - becomes Inconsequential - which is to say, unimportant, minor, meaningless, bland, and ultimately (like the loud guitar music) a form of public masturbation.

Why would any normal human being seek something like this out?  Most of us aren't thrilled with Christian Side Hugs, even when we're teen agers.  I can get better pop psychology watching an Oprah rerun than I'll ever get at a Suburban Mass.  Dr. Phil is more challenging than just about any parish priest you'll come across.  If I want loud pop music, I can pull up good (rather than bad) pop music on my computer and put on headphones.  If I want sex, I don't need to swallow the pervy weirdness of a Christopher West or a Mark Driscoll.  If I want a religious experience, I can sleep in on Sundays and take a walk in the woods and pray in peace and quiet.  Of course, I need the Church for the Sacraments and for infallible teaching on morals and faith, but normal people don't see the value of either, as it's never pointed out to them.

The priest said today in his homily that when Christ comes, "all our desire will be fulfilled".  But the Religion of Inconsequentialism is all about denying the purpose of desire, as well as the purpose of anything.  Desire is just a kind of physical manifestation of sentiment to Inconsequentialists.  Loving a woman, marrying her, forming a family that lasts your entire life, and having a bunch of babies is not the point of normal human desire for an Inconsequentialist.  "Getting off" is.  Sterility is the sole sacrament of the Inconsequential Faith.  "Get off" however you will, but make sure nothing comes of it; make sure there are no Consequences.

And heaven?  It's a big dessert buffet where you can eat all you want and not get fat, not suffer the Consequences.  It's a place where no one ever judges anyone any more, where there is no Judgment built into the nature of Reality, where we are all happily Unreal forever more, where our desires are easily fulfilled because our desires are shallow to begin with.

Who would want a heaven like that, or a faith like that?  Rod Dreher writes of the impending collapse of what I've called the Church of Inconsequentialism (my emphasis in bold and my comments in red ) ...

Sociologist Philip Rieff, in The Triumph of the Therapeutic, observed that institutions die when they can no longer communicate their core values to the next generation in a convincing way. He said this to support his contention (in 1966!) that Christianity was dying in the West, because we Westerners have become hostile to the ascetic spirit that is inextricable from authentic Christianity and has been from the beginning.  [In other words, we have rejected the Cross] As you know, I believe Rieff was right, and that his being right is not something that traditional Christians should take comfort in, except in this one way: a Christianity that does demand something sacrificial from its followers is not only being true to the nature of the religion, but is far more likely to engender the kind of devotion that will endure through the therapeutic dark age. Aside from its radical theological innovations that are impossible to harmonize with Christianity as it was known for its first 1,900 years, Progressive Christianity has fully embraced the therapeutic mindset, in the sense that Rieff means. It is dying because it cannot convince young people to embrace its values within the institutional churches. It can’t be denied that many of the young do accept the social liberalism embraced by the progressive churches, but it also can’t be denied that most of them don’t see why they have to be part of a church to be socially progressive.

In that article, Rod points out that the Last Episcopalian has almost certainly been born.  By the time a baby baptized today in an Episcopal church is 80 years old, the Episcopal church will have ceased to exist, at its present rate of decline. The churches that worship Christ without a Cross, the churches of the Inconsequential are reaping what they have sown.

They are finding that they are Inconsequential indeed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Francis vs. Burke - Tickets on Sale Now!

For those of you sane enough to stay out of Church Politics, the story of the past several weeks has been right wing Catholics having a meltdown because Pope Francis hates Cardinal Burke.

But it turns out that the left wing is having a meltdown because Pope Francis loves Cardinal Burke!  Read the comments at this post over at Bilgrimage and you'll see what I mean.

What interests me is that there is some truth to be found here underneath all the hysteria.  As Bill Lindsay writes ...

I'd add that Burke has disproportionate sway within economic elites, particularly in the United States, who try in every way possible to influence the direction taken by the Catholic church at its top leadership level — to mute its teaching about socieconomic justice, and to use select culture-war issues, notably the abortion issue and the issue of same-sex marriage, to continue a politics of divide-and-conquer, reinforced by the religious right, that extends the political power and control of these elites.

There's a great deal of truth to that.

And because we're all miserable sinners, the real schism in the Church runs down this divide:

  • The left wing ignores Church teaching on sexual morality and on the nature of Christ and His Church.
  • The right wing ignores Church teaching on economics, social justice, torture, lying and makes fun of the centrality of the command to "love thy neighbor". 

In both cases, ideology trumps the Faith.  

And this is what Pope Francis has been saying.  Francis has been very even handed in criticizing both the right and the left, and keeps insisting that ideology blinds us, and that the only way to get beyond the narcissistic infighting in the Church is to reach out with love to those in need - which is everybody.  Jesus Christ annoys us because He keeps drawing us out of our comfort zones, including our precious ideologies, our prejudices, our man-made false dichotomies, our "happy blending of good and evil things".

And let me add that I know Cardinal Burke.  He was very instrumental in helping us when we started Theater of the Word Incorporated here in St. Louis seven years ago.  He's a man of deep sanctity and compassion and he doesn't seem to have a political bone in his body.  Honestly.  Any archbishop with a politician's sense would never have tried to fix the problem at St. Stanislaus, for example.  Perhaps with more political acumen, Burke would be more aware of the flames his fanboys are fueling on the internet (Lifesite News, to their shame, has been using this hysteria to try to sell subscriptions, for crying out loud).  

But I've complained a lot about bishops who are nothing more than politicians - people pleasers.  Burke is not that at all, and I doubt that Francis is either.  Maybe that's why the right and the left are finding both of them so hard to read.

And here's a hint that the Catholic Church is what she says she is and that Jesus Christ was more than a mere man.  Where else on this planet or in history does any institution teach consistently things that offend half of its base?  Where else will you find anything on earth that trumps the left / right divide?  The only way to get beyond the limitations of ideology are with love, in friendships, in the family - and (as much as the people in the Church drive me crazy) in the Church that Christ established - divided and torn though it currently is.