Sunday, December 30, 2012

Counting Our Blessings... a good thing to do as the New Year approaches. Yesterday was the Third Anniversary of this blog, and what an amazing three years it's been. However, my mind right now is focused on gratitude to God for more recent events.

I reconciled with a good friend of mine last weekend with whom I had not spoken for a year and a half. While it's hard to say what was going on, emotionally, on her end, I know that either way I had a large responsibility in creating that rift over the years (the final break only manifested a tension that had been simmering for a long time, I think), and certainly the event that served as the final catalyst on my part was inexcusable. I was quite surprised, then, to get the phone-call from her, as I had written a message a few weeks earlier (in a very dark place) and heard no immediate response. I was so happy to see her again; really, her absence had meant that a significant part of my own self and respository of my own personal history...had been entirely missing, and I was just recently realizing how profoundly harmful that rupture had been to my own soul on a deep (if not immediately apparent) level, and so the restoration was an important part of restoring balance. I don't know if our relationship will be the same as it used to be in the future or what, but either way I was so happy, we spent seven hours catching up, saw some other friends together the next day, and I'm supposed to go visit her in California sometime in the New Year.

I am grateful in general for getting to see so many friends recently, from that long "catch up" with my recently reconciled friend, to our trip to the zoo with a couple other friends the next day, to a crazy night ending with a bar-fight with four of my oldest friends the next day (we've known each other about 15 years now), to Solemn Midnight Mass at the Institute of Christ the King for Christmas with another friend from college (our third year in a row going), to a trip I took today to the aquarium in Chicago with a really good friend of mine. It's most special in groups. It's nice enough to have individual friends going back to ones childhood, but to be part of a group of four or five that have all known each other over that span...really does create a wonderful sense of hometown groundedness and stability and continuity that I think is important for a person. I also, in the context of one of these group get-togethers, reconciled with another friend of mine who had drifted away over a misunderstanding sometime in the past year. Though she is not nearly as important to me on a personal level as the other, this is someone who goes back to first grade, who formed an integral part of one sub-group who are supposed to be friends for life, and whose loss would have introduced significant difficulty in the future when it came to having such group reunions. I feel like I've driven some people away in my life as of late (always so much more painful than when people drift away organically) and so having two reconciliations like this, and re-affirming all these different friendships through meeting, really helped me feel like harmony was being restored.

On the other hand, I am also grateful for recently making the decision to purge from my life several acquaintances who were toxic in their homophobia or general Catholic identity-politicking. The last thing I need right now is a (mostly online) "audience" of Catholic judges to make me feel trapped in a persona. My attitudes and approach towards engaging religion and spirituality have undergone a pretty profound shift recently, and I am grateful for the sense of spiritual freedom this has afforded me. Interestingly, this very liberation makes it, perhaps, feel unlikely that I'll ever get into specifics in terms of writing posts synthesizing these realizations online (which, for me, has often been more an act of "convincing myself") though, on the other hand, maybe someday or in some format I will, given that I might think my musings could be helpful for other people (though, really, I think they're understandings that people can only ever learn for themselves; the last thing I'd want is to go from one dogmatism to another; at best, then, reflecting on my journey could only help others by providing them with a language for expressing their own evolutions when they are ready). Suffice it to say, it's clear that in the past I was appropriating religion in a fundamentalist or legalistic sense, and so much unnecessary stress and artificial constraint and anxiety was being invested in this. Eventually, I became an absurd caricature in spite of my own innate qualities of self-awareness and criticality. It's nice, for once, to not feel like I have to fight battles to sustain an invisible edifice lest it (for whatever reason) threaten my own sense of self too much or something like that. It's nice to be able to read viewpoints, even if I disagree with them, and not feel a burning, anger, or sense of "Hmm, they may have a point...No! Better do damage control to cover this up!" Most of all, it's nice to feel honest with myself rather than feeling like I have to put energy into maintaining an elaborate intellectual facade by repression. It's nice to raze the bastions, it's nice to know God is love and mercy, and to focus on grace rather than the Law as I go forward on my spiritual journey and grapple with this Faith I have been given.

I am also so grateful, as I discussed in my last post, for coming out officially. Only a couple of my remaining friends did not know already, but it was really great to come out to my family and have a long drunk conversation with my dad about sexuality and all the hidden stories of my life of which he was entirely unaware (but whose very absence created, I'm sure, a very unbalanced image of who I am in his head). He said he already basically knew, and that such suspicions have already been discussed with my siblings, but he was so proud, and though we were really drunk (he broke a glass and it was gently hinted we should leave the pub, actually) I felt really close to him. He actually expressed more appreciation for religion and spirituality than I'd ever seen before too. Then the next day it turned out he had forgotten large chunks of the conversation (and, actually, all of it beyond a certain point) on account of his inebriation, which made things a bit awkward in terms of how to proceed (with a "recap"?) but it's a step I'm so glad was taken.

I'm grateful for having steady work close to home for now, and for finding a friend at work to help get me through the long dull days. I'm grateful for seeing family at the holidays and good food. I'm grateful that I didn't get many gifts, because I don't want much else in my life right now materially. 

I'm grateful the world did not end.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sexual Healing

I've always been pretty open, if selectively or discreetly so, but I decided to "officially" come out as gay recently. I don't update this blog with substantial posts anymore, but I thought it was important to make this clear here, given the role this blog played at a certain stage of my development, my spiritual journey (and, indeed, my social and romantic life). From now on, though, using the Internet for identity-craft is not a high priority for me (in fact, it is probably downright unhealthy for both my psyche, my relationships, and my Faith).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

God Plunged Out of His Hiding Place

First a childhood, boundless and without
negation and goal. O unthinking joy.
Suddenly fright, limit, schoolroom, slavery,
and fall into temptation, into loss.

Defiance. The bent knee now becomes the bender
and seeks revenge on others, makes them succumb.
Loved, dreaded, rescuer, wrestler, victor
and vanquisher, role by role.

And then alone in vastness, lightness, cold.
Yet deep in that erected figure
a breathing toward the First, the Ancient…

Then God plunged out of his hiding place.

[Rilke, "Imaginary Career" (Imaginärer Lebenslauf)]

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

800th Post

And maybe the last. But, either way, some Cabaret...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Crossed Purposes

This is just a shout-out recommending a new venture that a friend of mine is involved in (link), a dialogue of theology with pop culture. Check it out!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I have no hard-and-set opinion on this question, and naturally tend to err on the side of caution. However, I do have a few thoughts that I'll air here. 

The first thing I'll point out is that whether deaconesses are the Sacrament of Holy Orders or just a sacramental comparable, perhaps, to minor orders or something like that…is really an abstract debate. 

Given that deacons have no “new” sacramental powers that can't also be delegated to the laity (baptisms and witnessing marriage)…this question will never affect the validity of any Sacraments, so it is of no practical effect. 

So someone claiming it will never happen is, in some sense, making a completely non-falsifiable declaration, because it is merely equivalent to saying “No woman will ever receive the indelible character of the Sacrament of Holy Orders in any of its three grades” which is an invisible reality. 

It doesn’t mean, however, that a ceremony (possibly even involving a laying on of hands) won't ever be approved (with similar language to a deacon’s ordination) to create something called a “deaconess” again. It just means that the speaker is of the opinion that this would be a sacramental rather than the Sacrament of Holy Orders. 

But, as the Catholic Encyclopedia article on sacramentals says, they “are named sacramentals because of the resemblance between their rites and those of the sacraments properly so-called.” 

So “it will never happen” is a non-falsifiable claim. Because even if something “looking like” an ordination of deaconesses occurred, supporters of this opinion could just say, “Yes, but that’s just a sacramental resembling Holy Orders, like the minor orders, but not the Sacrament proper; just as it also was in the early church.” 

Don’t expect most lay people, however, (nor the Eastern churches) to grant much importance to this theoretical theo-ontological distinction, however! Especially when there wouldn’t have to be any difference practically speaking.

This, of course, could lead to a slippery slope (pushing for priestesses, etc) that could invalidate Sacraments. This is why I tend to think, whether they are the Sacrament or merely a sacramental, any sort of restored deaconesses should likely be limited to monasteries of cloistered nuns.

As for the theoretical question itself, I think the essential unity of the three grades of Holy Orders is the strongest argument against deaconesses being the Sacrament proper. However, I had a thought the other day that it might be possible to argue that the exclusion of females from the higher two grades of Orders might be "accidental" to the essence of the Sacrament itself. Which is to say, it could be argued that the essential unity between the three grades of Orders is simple the character. On the other hand, the fact that priests can celebrate Mass and absolve and anoint and confirm and that bishops can ordain and, also, have the magisterial something that is different between the three grades (since deacons can't do any of that, and bishops have roles simple presbyters don't) and therefore can't be called part of their essential unity. 

Therefore, though we know that females are incompatible with the higher two grades for sure, the question of whether they are incompatible with the lowest grade depends on why they are incompatible with the higher grades. If it is because the female sex is incompatible with the essential character itself, then the unity of the Sacrament would exclude them from the diaconate. If, however, what excludes them is simply that they are incompatible with the adjunct features of Sacramental powers, especially of acting in persona Christi at the eucharistic consecration...then female deacons would not necessarily threaten the essential unity of the Sacrament anymore than the fact that priests can celebrate Mass even though deacons can't, or that bishops can ordain even though the lower two grades can't. Under such an argument, women would not be considered ontologically incompatible with Holy Orders in itself (as souls are not male and female) but nevertheless would be necessarily invalid recipients of the higher two grades for reasons of something (acting in persona Christi) that is necessarily and intrinsically adjunct to those grades of the character.

Either way, I think the very fact that the topic is being discussed so much lately is interesting and means something is afoot. Those pushing for women priests have been vocal for decades, but do seem pretty much marginalized at this point, at least in terms of influence over the institutional Church. But I think it is indicative of some sort of "moment" in the Church that this more moderate proposal is now being floated, and that even conservatives like Ed Peters are admitting that "Ordinatio says nothing, however [...] about ordaining women to diaconate nor, strictly speaking, does it address (at least not definitively) ontological questions about female ordination. In that regard, discussion may continue" even while personally being disinclined to the idea.

What will come of this moment remains to be seen. Perhaps a firm assertion that it is impossible. Perhaps a declaration that it is. Or perhaps a restoration in cloisters of deaconesses, with a corresponding declaration that "Whether this is a Sacrament or a sacramental is a matter for speculative theology, as it has no practical effect either way." Or perhaps just greater administrative roles for women even while reserving Sacramental or liturgical roles to males. Who knows.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Notes on "Pro-Life" Voting

As I implied in my last post, I'm really trying to not post much here anymore. At a certain point, blogging was taking up too much of my life and causing too much bad blood. Frankly, I haven't been participating too much in any online conversations lately, and am glad for it. I still like to read and keep up with the news of the Catholic and traditionalist worlds, but am less inclined to jump into the fray; you can't correct everyone and it gets tiring making the same points over and over again. At most, I've made some short comments merely referencing ideas I've already worked out in-full before. Besides, they're all here on the blog, searchable from Google, for people to find who want to do so.

Plus, I haven't had much "new" to say; my thoughts have pretty much all been fleshed out here before, and other thoughts I have been having (usually, now, of a socio-political and economic nature and how that structure relates to Faith and notions of the Good; religious hegemony versus pluralism, the relationship of the State to the individual and other non-power/money-based communities and institutions, etc) are not nearly fleshed out enough yet and might take months or years to think over and come to some basic synthesis on. 

Suffice it to say, I wouldn't defend the burning of heretics anymore. Or rather, I might say that, like slavery, it might not be possible to absolutely condemn in context. Even John Courtney Murray admitted that "the exercise of religion is to be free unless, in some case, it seriously disturbs the public peace, violates public morality, or results in infringement of the rights of others." So Catholics are free to debate whether heresy "seriously disturbed the public peace" in the Middle Ages, that's a prudential question (if holocaust denial can be illegal in Germany as a threat to the public peace and order, I find it hard to see how religious beliefs could be absolutely different in nature).

And I certainly would not agree with Murray that Vatican II represents a "development" (read: change) in doctrine that somehow came from outside the Church, from the Enlightenment or Revolutionary narrative, as if a "progressive" understanding of socio-political evolution in history is true; I still very much fear that dogmatizing democracy in a democratic age will be just as bad as dogmatizing feudalism in a feudal age. If the Church is to affirm religious liberty, it cannot be in the "Liberal" sense or carry with it all the baggage and ideological and anthropological assumptions of those values.

But context, nevertheless, might be the very problem: a system can be generally condemned even if we cannot say something is absolutely immoral or unethical for people living within that system (I think the same thing, perhaps, about those who participate in the usury of the modern debt-money system. Is every such act a personal sin? Not necessarily, but the system is bankrupt nonetheless.) And I am less and less inclined to advocate a Christendom; His Kingdom is not of This World. I now suspect feudalism was actually simply an extreme form of capitalism/communism (the same thing, I've concluded!) that, in its extremity, mimicked externally what a social credit society might look like in its piety and values, but that this was actually entirely a disguise, a mere tempting illusion.

But, anyway, since we do live in a democracy, and since this is an election year, I thought I'd share something I did write in response to a Republican-pushing friend of mine on Facebook regarding voting "pro-life" and how imperative it is, or not, on Catholics:

Not that we want to advocate some sort of political pure utilitarianism, necessarily. But, there is lots of information suggesting that when it comes to structural demographic changes to the abortion rate, it is not at all clear that criminalization policies actually lead to the greatest decrease.

Obviously, in an ideal world, criminalization could exist alongside a variety of tactics. But then, obviously, in an ideal world we wouldn't need criminalization at all! Combine that with the fact that the unborn are not the only lives we have to take into account, and it's far from clear that a pro-somewhat-unenforceable-criminalization ("pro-life") candidate is always the choice that will maximize lives saved vs. lives lost when it comes to the prudential judgment which is our vote.

Especially when that judgment also needs to take into account things like the likelihood that a given candidate (even if their official stance is good in this area) will actually affect policy in this area. If I vote for a Republican legislator who is nominally "pro-life" but who I judge has little chance of actually affecting policy in that regard in the current legislature, but think that his vote may very probably tilt the balance in favor of all sorts of other awful things (war, pollution, big business, anti-poor, etc etc)...his pro-life stance is little more than a meaningless token, and I've actually wound up supporting all those other awful things. 

When casting my vote, is it worth an 80% risk (should that candidate win) that all sorts of people will be denied medicaid (and, surely, some will therefore die) for a 5% chance that some sort of hard-to-enforce legal limitation will be placed on abortion (though, likely, it wouldn't even be in all States, nor would most States have an "absolute" ban)? To me, it's pretty hard to be absolute about such a judgment.

Frankly, I'm not even sure a Catholic politician has to support criminalization. Supporting a positive legal "right" can never be upheld, of course, nor positive funding; certainly Catholic politicians must consider the life of an unborn person absolutely equivalent to every other human life and of irreducible value, and when making their prudential judgments about policies they think will maximize lives saved, they must count unborn lives in that equation just as much as born lives. But decriminalization, or at least a lack of any after-the-fact punishments for anyone, is hard to absolutely condemn. 

The State has a duty to protect innocent life, of course, but also has limited resources, and squadrons of abortion-stopping officers may not be the best use of those resources when it comes to maximizing lives saved. Certainly, I think, that is a legitimate prudential judgment to make even for a politician who does account the unborn as full human persons. Reducing or stopping abortions and criminalizing abortion...are definitely two separate things, two separate questions, and the former may well be achieved (even achieved better) without the latter.

And seriously, how would that even work? How would they even find out an abortion was imminent (or had already taken place)? As specious as the "right to privacy" justification for publicly advertised abortion providers may be, there is something to be said for the fact that there is a right to doctor-patient confidentiality that would make it rather hard to tell when an ob/gyn was privately preforming abortions unless we start probing invasively into women's medical care. When a woman is restrained by police in the process of seeking an abortion, would she be strapped down for nine months in a facility and not released until she had safely given birth? 

And without a reasonable right to privacy, to protect the unborn would we start insisting all women of child-bearing age take a weekly pregnancy test to alert the State to the existence of any unborn persons as soon as possible, and then insist that a Federal Marshal be present at all gynecological exams of these pregnant women, and then investigate every "miscarriage" from these pregnancies to make sure that it wasn't really an abortion, or treat it as a Missing Person Case when one of those pregnancies that was registered with the government earlier doesn't later result in a registered birth at the expected time (unless the mother was issued a Certified True Miscarriage death-certificate)???

Of course, few people probably imagine a totalitarian regime surrounding pregnancy like that. And yet, that's what would be required to truly enforce an abortion "ban." Yet if the State is not required by the Church to use any specific active or offensive tactic (such as those listed above, or just after-the-fact imprisonment, etc)...I'm not sure how one can claim there is an absolute requirement to instate any such tactic at all. I mean, what (specifically and concretely) would conservative Catholics claim the agents of the State should be required to do, as a practical ethical minimum, as regards abortion? In a fallen world, what is the minimum duty of the State in terms of specific concrete offensive tactics aimed directly against abortion? Saying "Make it illegal!" is not at all specific or concrete...this issue of what criminalization would concretely look like is the underwear-entangling question that made Bishop Tobin look like such a political patsy in that Hardball interview back in 2009.

In the end, I suppose, it really comes down to whether you think it's more important for the State to pay lip-service to a theoretical principle, or whether you think the important thing is to concretely minimize the number of lives lost on a concrete level (even if that maximization of lives saved is actually achieved through indirect means, through structural improvements to the socio-economic issues which cause abortion, rather than imagining some sort of unfeasible active government offensive against abortion directly ala the interminable war on drugs...)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Really Slowing Down

As you may have noticed, this blog has been rather neglected. This has happened before, of course, but never so severely; this is only my second post this month, for example.

In truth, I don't know how much, if at all, this blog will be updated in the future. It's a transitional time for me in a lot of ways. Of course, really, the past 5 years of my life in general have been transitional, something like constant transition; welcome to ones early 20's in the early 21st Century!

My Faith is as strong as ever, though there are times when I feel so frustrated at my lack of spiritual progress and general stagnation, and worry about taking Faith for granted. It's the thought-space I live in now comfortably and without even being able to imagine any other system, like a house lived in for a long time or an old book read and re-read countless times. But sometimes, then, it can thus feel like there is nothing new left to find (though I know this isn't true!)

Part of me hopes that's just because I'm the sort of person who tends to focus on one thing at a time, and have for some time been putting my mental and emotional energy into very particular personal projects prioritized because I believe success on those fronts would provide a sort of architectonic foundation for further growth and happiness. 

Yet another part of me thinks that this is an excuse or chasing a rainbow, and that you can't "wait for life to start" like that, but rather have to just start living the way you want to live conditionless and independent, with no "if onlies." I don't know. I'm hoping, though, that this latest transition will be, broadly speaking, over the next year or so, a transition out of transition, out of the liminal space of wandering.

But either way, my interest in this sort of internet pontificating and theorizing is waning. I still am always philosophizing in my head, seeing and analyzing things in terms of the Catholic imaginary and the theological. And I still try to keep an eye on the Catholic news and blogosphere and several pet subcultures within them, just because I am intractably part of the community now. And I still get involved (though much less so than ever before) in conversations in forums or in blog comment boxes if I feel like there is an interesting point to address, or a grave flaw in the logic.

But at a certain point, I am just done discussing things. I have said my peace. I've wrestled with the questions, formulated my position, and written about it here; if you want to know what I think, check the archives. Over 800 posts, I've probably addressed it and taken a (hopefully nuanced) stand!

I just can't bother writing anymore regarding my thoughts about analogies involving NFP and raincoats, or trying to dispel the ignorance on Left and Right, or trying to get people to make subtle but crucial distinctions that they won't. I think, in large part, I have engaged in such discussions in the past (including through this blog) to crystallize my own thoughts on the matter. In a sense, to work out my own thoughts or ideas on the questions, to formulate clearly my own positions, refine them through debate, adjusting them to address holes pointed out by this process, and so to have a world of pre-prepared phrases and scripts of debate and exempla and analogies in my head to deploy if ever I need. 

In a certain sense, I guess, I was trying to convince myself. But now I am convinced. Now there are much fewer nagging questions for me to answer, or teachings that I don't have a large body of discourse, of point and counter-point, to reference in my mind. The system seems largely all stitched up for me and, either way, I have a group of friends whom I can discuss such things with now without having to start at square one with strangers every time to examine a point or test a new thought. For the foreseeable future, I think any further refinement of my thoughts will be done in this more private context.

To invoke psychological principles, I think I have largely finished up the work of forming an "identity," at least in the sphere of my theoretical ideological positions, and am confident and comfortable in that vision and those principles and values. And so I really am now just much less interested  in wrestling with questions I've answered before, and much less threatened by (and thus much less inclined to engage) blatant errors I see repeated again and again by ignorant people, because I've seen all the regular objections, know all the points of contention, and have answered them all before too. 

New debates will always come up I'm sure, and I'll have to figure out my position on this or that question as they emerge, but that will be rather infrequent, and the great body of the work of my own particular paradigm is mostly complete.

Or maybe something will cause a new flurry of inspiration and I'll suddenly start writing here a lot more one day! Maybe I'll get new information or exposed to new ideas which I will then need to integrate. But part of me doubts now there is that much new under the sun. Rather, I think, it's time to start trying to live my values in practice. My faith has been very self-conscious up until now, because I was still establishing a self in the first place! Was still determining just what I did, in fact, believe, and why, and getting comfortable and confident in that idea-space of where I stand. But in the realm of religion, at least, I have that self now and know where I stand. So now it's time for the much harder work of dying to self.

God bless.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Political Detante?

A recent thread on Vox Nova has given me some interesting thoughts regarding politics. Politics is a topic I wish I didn't have to think about; but, then, concentrating purely on ones private morality and disregarding the social questions of collective, in itself, to shirk ones responsibilities and to thus be selfish, no matter how "privately" ethical one is otherwise, so we must think of politics, even if holding our noses while doing so.

I wrote in that post some things about the real meaning of "democracy," and how I wish there was some word other than "democracy" to describe the political ideal of properly diffuse power (because the d-word has so much liberal baggage), and about how the essence of it certainly doesn't consist in the voting, which is really just a sort of procedural ritual to show force without having to actually use it. I may write about that more later, about how "democracy" (or whatever we want to call this concept) is actually more about the structure of the social network as regards how power is distributed, and not the "procedural" or constitutional details.

However, I do want to quickly share here one thought I expressed in that thread. Basically, one of the posters made the claim that a Catholic confessional State would have to, by its own logic, require the "absolute criminalization" of abortion, even if this was against the will of much of the populace, even if people would still desire abortion it in spite of the law (because a mere law does nothing to change the culture of promiscuity that leads to unwanted pregnancy), and even if it was leading to more deaths through continued illegal abortions and such. The provocative question was asked, "American Catholics are commanded to support the legal realization of the absolute criminalization of abortion through constitutional republicanism. And yet, would constitutional republicanism survive if abortion criminalization were realized?"

I answered basically disagreeing with the premise that Catholics are commanded to support the legal realization of the absolute criminalization of abortion.

In reality, the State is allowed to be "pragmatic" to a certain degree. It cannot command positive evil, and it does have a duty to protect each and every human being, every human being has a right to be protected by the State's policing power. But the State does not have criminalize each and every immoral or even unethical (ie, unjust) act, nor does it have to necessary fulfill a sort of "ideal" justice. No, the State is supposed to maximize the common good, and sometimes peace and order require letting people get away with things, even horrible things. That's why governors and presidents can pardon even murderers.

Now, as this applies to abortion, I thought...perhaps recognizing this is a way to reach a certain political compromise, then, between conservatives and liberals. Because this abortion issue has made the entire political atmosphere toxic, has worked as a polarizing issue that has been a huge part of making the discourse shrill. 

Even liberals admit this; my dad (an attorney, who personally has no particular opposition to abortion in itself) is always saying how the Supreme Court should have left that question to be resolved by the constitutional process in each and every State, which would perhaps have created a constantly shifting landscape with different laws in different jurisdictions (ala the current gay marriage landscape), but at least one in which people could feel that consensus was creating a tolerable compromise. Imposing it by decree on everyone in the form of judicial activism, on the other hand, far from settling the question, has just made it a national flashpoint that has become all-consuming at the heart of the culture wars because it doesn't feel like a compromise that was reached by the democratic process, but rather something enforced from on high. 

And ever since then, I'm not sure our elections really give a good sense of where the country stands on other issues when this one is out there creating so many one-issue voters like myself who (reluctantly) vote for candidates because they are pro-life, even when they disagree on so many other things (though I know, really, that I don't have to, and that perhaps that is an ethical cop-out for me; if you don't think a pro-life candidate will really effect anything, then you are free to vote even for a pro-choice candidate, as long as you don't vote for them because they are pro-choice. But sometimes one feels so powerless on this question, taking a symbolic stand is all you can do.)

But, I mused in the thread, perhaps something like the following could at least be tolerable to both liberals and conservatives:

A) The "life of the mother" idea should be taken off the table. As I've explained before, I am convinced that there is no case in which removal of a fetus as necessary to save the mother's life (especially if they would both die otherwise) actually constitutes the moral object of "abortion," even when death results as a foreseen but unintended side-effect of the removal (because, presumably, if transfer to an artificial womb or something like that was possible, they'd do that in such cases; so the death is clearly willed neither as an ends nor a means. It is the removal, not the death, which is necessary for the intended end.)

B) The police (and, if necessary under the principle of defense of innocents, even private citizens) are empowered (and, indeed, duty-bound, if possible) to protect the unborn through stopping imminent abortions they learn are going to occur, to restrain the aggressors from following through on their intended harm. This would also include, probably, shutting down clinics specifically aimed at providing abortions (or which publicly advertise themselves as such, etc.) The State has a duty to protect all people, and that should at least mean that if I learn an abortion is going to occur, I shouldn't be helpless before the law to defend that life. The policing power should at least be able to stop abortions through restraining intended aggressors before the fact.

C) Nevertheless, after the fact, no particular punishment need be attached to abortion. If the State thinks this would lead to more civil unrest, or would lead to more lives being lost in "illegal" abortions, it does not need to slavishly apply the logic by which they are equal to every other murder, because it is not the State's job to enact God's Divine Justice (in Whose eyes, they are equal to any other murder), but rather to maximize the common good. And if the State prudentially judges that this sort of criminalization is not an effective deterrent, but rather makes things worse, then the State is free to decide that it will not attach any particular punishment to the action, or only a token one, or will not pursue prosecution, etc.

I imagine what this would wind up looking like in practice, is that abortion mills and abortionists would be put out of business, but hospitals and gynecologists would continue to provide abortions discretely or with a wink-wink attitude under the umbrella of their wider practice, and as long as it was kept discrete (but not "back alley" mind you), the State would not probe into the private dealings between doctor and patient. If someone (like the father of the baby, say) learned of an imminent abortion, the police could stop it from happening by restraining the aggressors, but there would not be any prosecution for attempted murder or anything once the child was born safely. The government would not do "sting" operations trying to "catch" doctors, and would not probe, based on mere hearsay or suspicion, respecting doctor-patient confidentiality.

Perhaps such a compromise could be tolerable to liberals and conservatives and return some sanity to the situation, could make the discourse more civil again. Pro-lifers would get to know that abortions before the fact could still be stopped, that we are not helpless to defend the innocent, that the State is still fulfilling its duty to protect innocents by restraining imminent aggressors with its policing power, and that explicitly self-identified death-mills are not allowed to just brazenly continue their work so openly. 

But pro-choice folk would get to know that, after the fact, doctors or mothers were not being punished, that there would be no legal penalty for abortions which had already occurred, that the government was going to respect doctor-patient confidentiality and not probe (ie, the police might be bound to act on reports they receive, but would not actively seek out abortions to stop), and that there would be no criminal prosecution of the abortions that would remain available discretely in hospitals and ob/gyn practices.

It goes without saying that the government should not actively fund abortions or require their funding. But funding a specific procedure is not necessary to fund hospitals or clinics (which may be providing it discretely and confidentially among other services). And insurance companies should not be allowed to publicly list "abortion" as a service on plans. But perhaps that's part of the discretion that would be tolerated; something like "elective gynecological procedure" could be listed instead that might describe a few different things (or maybe doctors would "wink" by listing it officially as "removal of a miscarriage," etc, and no one would ask any further questions). The point being, I guess, liberals would be expected not to flaunt, but conservatives in turn would be expected to take on a sort of "don't ask, don't tell" attitude.

If we did get to a point in the culture where some prosecution did start to become more acceptable, then we should agree that the regular legislative process (without judicial activism or executive obfuscation) should be the means for deciding just when prosecution does or doesn't occur, or to what degree, under the above principle. So, we might find that partial-birth abortion is treated as cold blooded murder legally, but maybe that abortions in the first trimester or which happened due to the mitigating factor of rape...are not treated so harshly or even prosecuted at all. If we could get to this point, this question might vary from state to state, etc.

However, for now, couldn't we all agree to a compromise of having the State stopping abortions before the fact when a specific report is received (either from a third party, or because a clinic blatantly advertises its intent that way)...but then not prosecuting or punishing people after the fact and refraining from probing into private doctor-patient dealings or from actively seeking abortions to stop (in the form of "stings" based on mere suspicion or hearsay or whatever.) But, maybe things are already too polarized for that sort of solution. But, personally, I could tolerate something like that. Then the onus would be taken off the State, off the political question, and put back onto building a culture of life.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In July, Far Far I Fly... August, away...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

His Love

God's not angry anymore, I decided. 

We can't anthropomorphize God ultimately, but on the other hand any analogy always has some validity, I suppose. And I'm certainly not some sort of Marcionite rejecting the description of God in the Old Testament. 

But a reader posted on some of my recent posts some quotes by Julian of Norwich that I really liked:

“For I saw no wrath except on man's side, and He forgives that in us, for wrath is nothing else but a perversity and an opposition to peace and to love…we, because of sin and miserableness, have in us a wrath and a continuing opposition to peace and to love.”

“I saw truthfully that our Lord was never angry, nor ever shall be, for he is God: He is good, He is life, He is truth, He is love, He is peace; and His power, His wisdom, His love, and His unity do not allow Him to be angry (For I saw truly that it is against the character of His power to be angry, and against the character of His wisdom, and against the character of His goodness). God is the goodness that cannot be angry, for He is nothing but goodness.”

And this too: “…when I saw all this, it was necessary to agree that the mercy of God and the forgiveness is in order to abate and consume our wrath, not His.”

Peace to you all, my friends.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Carpe Diem!

Paul and Marriage: Beggars Can't Be Choosers

I've often heard it suggested that something along the lines of Paul's "better to marry than to burn" should justify homosexual sex acts within the context of a permanent committed exclusive partnership. The logic allegedly applied here is that not everyone is called to celibacy, in fact most aren't, and so (in spite of Christ speaking of people "born eunuchs or made so by men") this must be equally true for homosexuals. And, indeed, I have warned of the hazards of conflating anything but a vocation to celibacy with a vocation to celibacy; specifically, I've said that assuming someone with a vocation to the priesthood also has a vocation to celibacy has led to a lot of problems, as the two things are not equivalent. Therefore, it may well be true that homosexuality does not simply equal an automatic call to celibacy.

However, does that mean homosexual sex acts are ever justified? Not at all. Because beggars can't be choosers. Although I find the concept rather strange, mixed-orientation marriages are possible, valid, and some people apparently find them satisfying. As I wrote about in another post a while ago, there is a framing problematic among both liberals and conservatives that essentializes sexual orientation, to the point of saying things (on both sides) like "gays can't marry." As I pointed out, this is untrue; gays can marry members of the opposite sex like anyone else, and likewise (in places where gay marriage is legal) heterosexuals can enter into same-sex marriages civilly. There is no "orientation test" either legally or morally (talk about something impossibly subjective!) as if we are dealing with two separate species of creature with two separate standards for morality. 

That is not good Christian anthropology. Different temperaments or desires do not define different goods for different people or classes of people (as the progressive narrative of liberty might believe). Because the Good should define desire rather than desire defining the Good. We are to conform our desires and passions to the objective good. But this does not mean a leveling of all diversity, nor does it mean I am suggesting anything as odious as some sort of "ex-gay" orientation-change imperative. Indeed, the Church recognizes both celibacy and marriage as valid paths to the Good (but you do have to choose one or the other!) and I've argued recently (and, apparently, quite controversially) that, although it is wrong to express it genitally, the love (though not the lust) between same-sex couples (most of such arrangements presumably involving homosexuals or bisexuals) is still real and good, and the relationships and eros abstracted from whatever immorality they may or may not contain...are still valid, and should be recognized as such by the Church without any double standard.

Indeed, the Church's teaching about homosexual sex acts existed long before consciousness of orientation was ever raised or socially constructed, and applies to everyone. It says "these acts are sinful, and these are potentially virtuous" for everyone, regardless of the state of ones passions (about which, outside disordered desire for sinful acts specifically, the Church renders no moral judgment). Any other idea involves an essentialization of homosexuals and heterosexuals into two separate species, basically. And also raises weird questions like: under that logic, could a bisexual still be obligated to pursue only the heterosexual "half" of his attractions? Of course, the evil logic of the sexual revolution is that, once you allow something for one class of people based on a plea of necessity...that essentially means it cannot be bad absolutely, and thus is okay absolutely even for those for whom it is not "necessary." I've written about this sort of argumentative bait-and-switch involving the claim of "necessity for some" to "allowed for all" before.

Now, I have to assume that, if mixed-orientation marriage is to be pursued, there would have to be complete openness and honesty about things, however. It would be unfair to the straight party if there wasn't. Still, the point is that it is possible if a sort of bare minimum sexual release is what you need.

And that's just the thing; people who try to apply the logic of Paul's statement to justify homosexual sex acts within an equivalent "marriage," are I think forgetting that what Paul says is already a concession to human weakness, and a concession based on the assumption that natural marriage is the bare minimum sort of morality, and that the open-to-life structure of the acts in such a marriage is not irrelevant morally. Applying this to homosexual sex acts in stable relationships seems to assume that the "burning" Paul primarily referred to was only fornication (or masturbation) and so this argument "begs the question" of itself by already implicitly containing the assumption that contraceptive acts (including same-sex) are not wrong (as long as they are institutionalized in something stable). But begging the question is a logical fallacy.

Paul did not say "You have a right to satisfy your lusts." This would be a huge misunderstanding of his statement. He said, to paraphrase and interpret, "It is better to be celibate, because this world is passing away. But it seems well nigh impossible for many, because sexual release is a need almost like going to the bathroom for them. Sure, it's not strictly necessary for the individual in the same way, but rather for the species as a whole, yet it's a reality that some people are just too weak to abstain entirely. Many people aren't called to total abstinence from all release, since humans are programmed with strong urges, and so if you're going to do it, you'd better at least do it within the bare-minimum moral context."

However, this is the point about "beggars can't be choosers." Paul did not say "you get to have a maximally sexually and emotionally satisfying partner in the same person, as long as you limit yourself to just one at a time." No, Paul's advice regards only a bare minimum sort of sexual release. And while this "outlet for concupiscence" notion of marriage may seem un-romantic to us today, let's remember that in the past (and indeed, in Church teaching outside the recent befuddlement of Theology of the Body) people were more down to earth, and sex was viewed in a much more functionalist way, the "expression of love" idea not having the (misguided) hegemony it does now.

So, Paul's advice to someone tempted to fornicate or sleep around would be, "Well, then you'd better take a spouse so that you can get off in a moral context, and that will at least temporarily clear such desires from your mind" (and at the end of the day, an orgasm is an orgasm, and does have the effect of silencing carnal desire for a time no matter how it is achieved.) But this would likewise be his advice to people tempted to have sex with another man's wife, with children, with prostitutes, with themselves masturbating, or with members of the same sex. Paul would have viewed all such desires as disordered lusts, and his advice was certainly not that they should be indulged but, rather, if such temptations can't be sublimated completely, then they should be dispelled through natural release with a spouse (but he never said that release would be anything other than perfunctory on the subjective level.)

That notion requires buying into an essentialism whereby not just release, but some sort of full subjective satisfaction, is a "necessity" to people, or at least to those not called to celibacy. Which (when that logic is then applied to homosexuals) requires buying into the notion that some people are called by the mere fact of their desires to neither celibacy nor heterosexual marriage, which is simply foreign to the Christian tradition (and which assumption, in this argument, constitutes begging the question.) Rather, Paul's advice was "if you really can't keep it in your pants, if you really need release, then at least do it in a marriage. It might be perfunctory, it may not satisfy all your fantasies, but at least it will provide the release to quiet the flesh for a time." He never promised that marriage would be maximally sexually or emotionally satisfying; beggars can't be choosers, he was already offering it only as a bare-minimum-morality concession to human weakness, at least natural if not the perfection found in the evangelical counsels and their full ascetic ideal. His advice was never equivalent to "You have a right to satisfy all your specific desires, as long as you domesticate them and they don't hurt anyone, if you cannot sacrifice them completely."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pet Peeve, Perfect Example

I've written before about how I detest the bizarre sort of populism that demands "participation" in the sanctuary by a cadre of lay people. Of course, this group is still very small, still only 1% of the congregation, but the idea is that somehow they "represent" the rest of us

Of course, the problem with this is: why can't the clergy represent us? In fact, that's exactly what they're supposed to do! People will say, "Oh, but the lay class or dimension of the Church needs to be seen actively up there too!" 

But that misses the whole point by actually conceding a strange sort of clericalism which essentializes the clergy as "other." In reality, all "clergy" meant originally (and should mean) is the class of people deputized to represent the Church publicly, especially in liturgical roles. By the very fact of taking on a public liturgical role, the person in question is by definition taking on a [pseudo-]clerical status and role!

Anyway, I saw a particularly egregious and obvious example of this mindset quoted on Rorate Caeli. Some liberal Spanish reporter went to an SSPX chapel to do a story and described the traditional Mass by saying it had: "no participation of any faithful in the readings or distribution of communion." a priest, a deacon, a subdeacon, or someone in minor orders of lector or acolyte not one of the "faithful"!?! How can you say, then, that there was no participation by "any faithful" in these things?? Of course, I'm sure he means there was no participation of any of the laity. But that's the whole point! By traditional definitions, the moment you are deputized to represent the congregation in the sanctuary with a role like are a cleric, or at least doing something essentially clerical! That's all a cleric ultimately is: a member of the faithful deputized to represent the Church publicly, especially in worship.

But, in the modern world of paradoxical "lay ministries," definitions have gotten messed up, and so there is this weird "us/them" construction of the laity/clergy. I blame, as often I do, mandatory celibacy. It has made the "essence" of the clergy, in so many people's minds, lay and cleric alike, not the status of public pray-er and representative of the Church (under which definition the idea of a "lay" person in such a role is simply contradictory), but rather a specific unmarried lifestyle (analogized to religious life) and state of institutional employment. The problems resulting from this are endless.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Two Calendar Examples

I was looking at my TAN Catholic calendar today. I like the TAN calendar because it is very detailed, having the feasts for the current calendar and the 1962 calendar, as well as indicating the fasting/abstinence, the devotions for the months and days of the week, etc.

I noticed some interesting jumping around of feasts this weekend. In the 1962 calendar, St. Henry II is on June 15th, and St. Bonaventure is on June 14th. In the current calendar, Henry is on the 13th, and Bonaventure is on the 15th, which corresponds to their actual dies natales, their historical days of death.

Except, in the 1962 calendar, there is nothing on the 13th. So why wasn't Henry on his actual day of death? Well, a little research reveals that on the Tridentine calendar, St. Anacletus was on the 13th. (However, it was later concluded that St. Anacletus was the same as St. Cletus, the third pope, and so his feast was removed much later.) Henry was originally added as a commemoration on the 13th about a century after Trent, but when his feast was upgraded to the rank of a semidouble it was placed on the 15th (technically, I think these were supposed to be conceived of as a "perpetual transfer") because Anacletus was on the 13th, and Bonaventure was already on the 14th. I have no idea why Bonaventure was on the 14th instead of his real day on the 15th, because there was nothing on the 15th in the Tridentine calendar. Perhaps there was something there in the Middle Ages and so when Bonaventure was originally added it was impeded, and then it was already so established that they just kept him there after Trent even though there was no longer anything impeding the 15th.

This reminds me of a similar case, this time involving St. John Vianney and St. Dominic. At Trent, St. Dominic (who actually died on the 6th of August) was placed on August 4th because the Transfiguration, of course, falls on the 6th. Apparently, the presence of St. Donatus stopped them from picking the 7th (from a "purist" perspective, transference of an impeded feast would ideally only occur "forward" in time at the next free day, not backward), Sts. Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus stopped them from picking the 8th, and then came the vigil of St. Lawrence and his feast and Octave. And, working backwards, the Dedication of St. Mary Major is on the 5th, so they picked the 4th.

Later, when John Vianney, who actually did die on the 4th, was added to the calendar, he was placed on the 9th, apparently because they no longer considered the Vigil of St. Lawrence (patron of Rome) that important universally. Later still, in the 1962 calendar, many of the old Roman Martyrs who fill the traditional calendar (but are really rather obscure and important only at Rome itself) were reduced to commemorations, and so John Vianney moved up to the 8th with Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus merely commemorated. Then, when they did the Novus Ordo calendar, they put John Vianney on his actual dies natales on the 4th, and then Dominic on the 8th (even though the only things on the 7th are optional memorials of St. Sixtus II and St. Cajetan, the latter of which had actually overtaken Donatus on that day about a century after Trent; this suggests that Donatus wasn't so important at that point, and that if Dominic had been added later, he would have simply taken the 7th like Cajetan did).

Both of these examples highlight important issues in the calendar question. It is clear that as the calendar has evolved over the course of history, certain Saints (especially the obscure old Roman martyrs; let's remember that the general calendar promulgated by Trent was the local calendar of Rome itself, and that medieval calendars were much more local) have become less and less emphasized, while other Saints have risen in popularity. As this has occurred, Saints whose feasts once required transferring someone to a day other than their death...have been removed or reduced in rank, even reduced to just commemorations (or, at least, greatly surpassed in importance by the transferred Saint). This has allowed, sometimes, Saints to move back to their real dies natales (usually, the Martyrology notes the real day and the feast) or at least closer.

However, there has been a tricky question of balance here. As the calendar evolved organically, it was not "revamped" from scratch at each stage, so you wind up with weird vestigial situations like in 1962 where Henry II remained on the 15th even though the 13th had been cleared up by the removal of the supposed Anacletus. Or the historically "circular" causation whereby John Vianney was able to be placed on the 8th because by that time Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus were just a commemoration, even though they are the ones who had originally prevented Dominic from taking that spot in the first place (who himself, in turn, prevented Vianney from taking his own proper day on the 4th)!!

The Novus Ordo reforms did take more of a "from scratch" attitude. It seems like they went back and tried to create the calendar that "would have" existed if the universal calendar had always been more abstracted from the local Roman calendar, if the the local Roman martyrs had never effected where the more popular "universal" Saints were placed. In other words, they decided which Saints they wanted to have on the calendar today, and then placed them onto (or as close to) their real dies natales as possible, with no regard for the tangled historical effects of feasts which were no longer on the calendar. Only very occasionally was some other date chosen (for example, because Bl. John Paul II died on the feast of St. Francis de Paola and since it usually occurs during Lent or Eastertide, his feast was placed on the day of his installation on October 22).

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the "purist" in me actually does like the principle of keeping Saints on their real date of death as much as possible or, when you can't because it is impeded by a prior feast (and, I'd add, a higher ranking feast; if the new feast is higher ranking, then it is the old which should be transferred), then at least transferred to the next free day in the future. The Novus Ordo basically creates a calendar that sticks to this principle (although its selection of Saints is a bit arbitrary and sometimes feels more like an attempt at a "United Nations" calendar; I'd prefer many local calendars each with their own "complete set" of locally relevant Saints and Blesseds, like the great religious orders have, rather than an attempt at a one-size-fits all international "diverse sampling.")

On the other hand, there is something to be said for letting tradition stand. Dominic was on the 4th for hundreds of years. And he was no minor feast either (which have jumped around quite a bit), but a Greater Double. If you referred to "the feast of St. Dominic" in the past, you meant August 4th. The switch to the 8th frees up the 4th for John Vianney, but it doesn't give Dominic his own real day either, since that will always be the Transfiguration. So was that change worth it? Worth leveling the traditional dating? I don't know. 

Like I said, I have mixed feelings. Technically, the dates on the old calendar that didn't correspond to the real date of death were really just supposed to be "perpetual transference," the implication being that if the original day was ever freed up of whatever was impeding, the feast would just naturally move back. So in some ways the new calendar is merely implementing this "theory" in practice. But I'm not sure it was worth upsetting the traditional calendar in the first place. However, I would say, now that it has been upset...all bets are off. At this point, we might as well go with the more slavish adherence to the original dies natales and try to create as "ideal" a calendar in that regard as possible.

There is often talk nowadays about reconciling the calendars of the ordinary and extraordinary form. I think we should be very careful about messing with the traditional liturgy. I think it would probably best to just let it sit for another generation and re-establish itself in the life of the Church first. However, I am not against the idea on principle, as I've written before how I think there are some reforms the old liturgy (mainly in the direction of maximizing rather than minimizing) could undergo (and should if it is to become something more than a museum piece). 

I've never actually gotten around to doing it in practice, but I've often thought about trying to construct the ideal calendar I would have currently, by comparing the Tridentine, 1954, 1962, and Novus Ordo, and cross-referencing with the actual dates of death in the Martyrology or Catholic Encyclopedia. The temporal cycle would have to be taken from the old liturgy, no doubt (meaning restoration of Septuagesima, the Ember and Rogation Days, etc). However, the Sanctoral would be more of a mix. I think the Novus Ordo needs to reconsider the list of Saints it includes to be more traditional. 

At the very least, the Tridentine Calendar should be taken as a reference point or starting point in that regard (if not all the "clutter" that had been added by the 1950's). So I think my first step in such a project would be to start with the Tridentine calendar to provide the basic outline of which Saints must be included. Then, however, I would do what was done by 1962 and reduce the obscure local Roman martyrs to commemorations, even perhaps optional, and encourage the idea of each locality creating its own cycle of more obscure local Saints (in Europe especially this would be easy, and there are medieval calendars to reference in this regard) to replace them in each locality (except, perhaps, those mentioned in the Canon; although, I'm not opposed to letting local churches switch-out the local martyrs for their own in the Canon either, like Milan does in the Ambrosian rite). Then I would see how this freed up any actual dies natales for the remaining Saints and move them back accordingly. Finally, I would then add back in newer Saints added since Trent from the 1954 calendar and the Novus Ordo, sticking to the principle of placing Saints on their actual day of death, or transferring the lower-ranking to the next free day if there is a conflict.

So, to summarize: 1) start with the Tridentine calendar, 2) reduce the Roman martyrs to commemorations as in 1962, 3) move remaining Saints to their actual day of death when possible if they are not already, 4) add Saints since Trent (as on the 1954 and current calendars), especially Doctors, Founders, and those of special popularity or "national" importance like the large groups of national martyrs, 5) stick to the principle of keeping Saints on their dies natales, or perpetually transferring the lowest ranking the next free day when there is a conflict (with the understanding that it would "automatically" go back if the day was ever freed, or if the ranks of feasts changed relative to each other.) 

I might also, between steps 2 and 3, take into account the thought of trying to reconcile the feasts of the Apostles with the Eastern churches as I wrote about before, though that would require more research on my part regarding what was actually being commemorated on those days in each church originally (usually it was a transfer of relics rather than purporting to be the actual death-date of the Apostle). However, this would likely require a mutual ecumenical effort, and I would not let it effect any current reform of the Roman Rite calendar; if it happened later, any transference that required (or "un-transference" it allowed) would just work according to the rules/principles I've laid out.

I think this is something that, with a little effort, could be be sorted out in a rather satisfactory manner.

Monday, July 9, 2012

An Elegy for Lonesome George

I’ve heard it said often that no man’s an island,
but how could a tortoise then be?
Had you grown a shell around your heart,
in that long lonely century
when you were yourself the universal:
sheer particularity?

And so did the philosophers think you to death;
made an Idea, a Form, an Explanation?
Did you know you were a great existentialist?
A Darwinian case-demonstration?
The postmodernist’s hard deconstruction?
Or tragic Hegelian negation?

“Here at last is a creature who defines his own essence!”
Was all that freedom too great of a load?
“Here’s a proof of adaptive genetic selection!”
But what good, at the end of the road,
is all that evolution-struggled-for “progress”
if extinction is all you’re bestowed?

You, the vessel for all of those vain stillborn dreams,
like some sterile tortoise eggs given late birth,
We can only inquire of your Galapagan sorrows:
without friends, just what is pain worth?
And will there be, finally, any kind of salvation
for the very last man left on earth?