Friday, July 29, 2005

Separation of Church and State gone to seed and silliness

This just in from the Harold Sun:

... a high school brass band in Columbia in the US has been told it can no longer practise Christmas tunes that mention Jesus, even though the songs are all instrumentals.

Meanwhile in Tennessee, primary school children have been banned from reading Bibles during recess after a complaint from atheist parents.

And, in Milwaukee, a man has been sacked from his Chamber of Commerce job for wearing a cross on his lapel that could "offend" non-believers.

In England, a local council ordered the removal of a wooden cross from a crematorium chapel for fear of offending non-Christians.

And hospitals in England and Canada moved to remove Gideon's Bibles from patients' bedside tables to "control infection" and also because "the patients might not all be Christian."

Meanwhile, Students in Scotland voted to ban the Bible from the halls of residence at Stirling University because they thought the book's presence might bother followers of other religions.

Of course, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists in Western nations seem less offended by such things than politically correct secularists.

In the name of respecting all religions, a new form of secular hostility against Christianity has emerged.

Speaking at a conference on religious intolerance this month in Spain, the head of a Vatican delegation called on Europe to halt spiralling anti-Christian discrimination.

Archbishop Antonio Canizares said: "This must be combated with the same determination with which we combat anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims."

Read more here. (A tip of the hat to Adam Holland)

From two-bit whore houses to Bertha-sized Berlin brothel ...

Back in the olden days, Bertha, Brunhilda and their sisters in the red lantern district of Kiel used to service the maritime clientele who frequented that northern German port on the Baltic coast. Much later, in the 1980s, Frankfurt and other central German towns, boasted Sex Mit Herz, a line of "full service" short-order sex franchises across the German midlands. And today we've come all the way to this: "Berlin readies giant brothel for 2006 World Cup." Netscape News reports:
BERLIN, July 29 (Reuters) -- A German company is looking to cash in on an expected boom in the sex trade during next year's soccer World Cup with a 60-room brothel a walk away from Berlin's Olympic Stadium, German media reported on Friday.

Named after the virgin huntress of Greek mythology [pictured right], the "Artemis" complex is due to open for business in September with whirlpool, sauna, cinema, buffet restaurant and a staff of 100 prostitutes, mass circulation daily Bild reported.

"This is no flash rip-off joint where clients are taken for a ride," a spokesman for the Artemis GmbH investment company behind the project, told the newspaper.
"No flash rip-off joint where clients are taken for a ride"? Oh, come now! [You fill in the
blank: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _!] This is pathetic.

"The Roe Effect"

A friend of mine just sent me James Taranto's remarkable article, "The Roe Effect" on how the right to abortion has diminished the number of Democratic voters since 1973, published in The Wall Street Journal's online editorial page, Opinion Journal (July 6, 2005). Here are a couple of paragraphs from the piece:
Compounding the GOP advantage is what I call the Roe effect. It is a statement of fact, not a moral judgment, to observe that every pregnancy aborted today results in one fewer eligible voter 18 years from now. More than 40 million legal abortions have occurred in the United States since 1973, and these are not randomly distributed across the population. Black women, for example, have a higher abortion ratio (percentage of pregnancies aborted) than Hispanic women, whose abortion ratio in turn is higher than that of non-Hispanic whites. Since blacks vote Democratic in far greater proportions than Hispanics, and whites are more Republican than Hispanics or blacks, ethnic disparities in abortion ratios would be sufficient to give the GOP a significant boost--surely enough to account for George W. Bush's razor-thin Florida victory in 2000.

The Roe effect, however, refers specifically to the nexus between the practice of abortion and the politics of abortion. It seems self-evident that pro-choice women are more likely to have abortions than pro-life ones, and common sense suggests that children tend to gravitate toward their parents' values. This would seem to ensure that Americans born after Roe v. Wade have a greater propensity to vote for the pro-life party--that is, Republican--than they otherwise would have.
If you have not yet read this, by all means do. It's full of pages of hard statistical data revealing the effect of political liberals literally aborting themselves out of office. (Gratia tibi, Chris Garton-Zavesky)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

40 goats offered to buy Chelsea

On a recent trip to Kenya, former US President Bill Clinton was apparently offered 40 goats and 20 cows for his daughter by a love-struck African government official, named Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor. The Sky News report stated that the dowery was a very generous one by the country's own standards. The report failed to note, however, whether Chelsea was flattered by the offer or not. Mr. Clinton is reported as saying that had the offer succeeded in wooing Chelsea, he would have had a grand wedding, at which he would have invited South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu to preside. The report concluded by noting that Chelsea's suitor, Mr. Chepkurgor, said he was impressed by Mr. Clinton's wife, Hillary, for standing by Mr Clinton during the Monica Lewinksy scandal. He said Mrs. Clinton acted like a "like an African woman." Indeed. I wonder how many cows and goats it would take to persuade Mr. Chepkurgor to adopt the whole Clinton family and have them nationalized as Kenyan citizens. A brief but pleasant daydream ...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Hell, the apotheosis of the self, & the Schiavo killers

Gilbert Meilaender, in an articled entitled "Being Dependent" in The Cresset (unavailable online), a Lutheran publication out of Valparaiso University, does a take off from the Terry Schiavo case to illustrate our dislike of dependency. We, as human beings, want autonomy. He points out that in his book on Augustine and Modernity, Michael Hanby traces out in detail the way in which Descartes' "modern self," instead of being a natural development of the Augustinian tradition, actually "deforms and distorts it." The reason for this, says Meilaender, is because Descartes has a "Deus without Trinitas." That is to say, he has no "God-man" to mediate between time and eternity, or between creature and Creator. This loss, according to Hanby, "is always accompanied by the substitution of another figure: the Man-God." Accordingly, "the individual will -- distinct and separated from the love of beauty, the longing for God, or the praise of Christ -- becomes a will to power."

Meilaender concludes his brief but fullsome article, which devotes significant space to such phenomena as "living wills," with the following observation:
Yet, of course, to be dependent on no one -- that is hell. As Iris Murdoch once put it, "Kant's man [offspring of Descartes's] had already received a glorious incarnation nearly a century earlier in the work of Milton: his proper name is Lucifer."

Unless we want to be dependent, to share in the kind of giving and receiving that is the leitmotif of God's triune life, we cannot be saved -- saved from our isolated independence, from our illusory will to mastery, from (as C.S. Lewis wrote) "that ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration upon self that is the mark of hell."
Which brings me to an article about George Felos (pictured below), the lawyer Michael Schiavo hired to see to it that Terry was soon dead. The article, entitled "Portrait of a Spiritual Killer: George Felos, in His Own Words," is by Benjamin D. Wiker, Senior Fellow with the Discovery Institute, and published recently in Crisis magazine. The article is profoundly disturbing, not in any way that reflects negatively on Wiker, in my opinion, but in what he reveals about Michael Schiavo, and particularly about his lawyer, Felos. The article begins thus:
I don't believe I have some kind of extraordinary spiritual sense, but something alerted me the very first time I saw George Felos (pictured left), the lawyer responsible for killing Terri Schiavo: Something is deeply wrong with this man. Very deep, and very wrong.

I had no such spiritual warning on the radar in viewing Michael Schiavo. He looked like the kind of man who could kill his wife. And he did. On March 31, 2005, he successfully starved and dehydrated Terri Schindler Schiavo to death. Cold-blooded murder, but entirely transparent. ... He finally finished her off with the death-camp treatment: no food, no water.

Cold-blooded murder, sanctioned by the state of Florida, watched by millions. Horrible; but again, quite transparent. Michael wanted the money. His wife, Terri, had to die for him to get it. And so he hired a "right-to-die" expert, lawyer George Felos.
But what he says about Felos is what makes your hair stand on end:
Felos exudes a different moral odor than his client, and I wasn't the only one who noticed. He wasn't just morally wrong; he was creepy. One has the nagging feeling that he represents a more hidden and poisonous evil.

His words were foul enough. The continual cheerful chanting of "death process," "peaceful," and "beautiful" during Terri's final torture. The chastisement of Rev. Frank Pavone, who had the dignity and courage to describe the death of Terri with blunt accuracy: "This is a killing." Tsk-tsk, cooed Felos. "Instead of words of reconciliation, words of healing or words of compassion, which you might expect from a spiritual person," Felos retorted in an unctuous scold, "he used it [i.e., press coverage] to drive his ideological agenda."

But this was only the bubbling up of something fouler still. His looks, his voice, his clothes, his mannerisms -- all set off a profound danger signal. Not being able to ignore my spiritual alarm, I was forced to yield to its signal and look more closely at Felos. I bought his book and think I now understand the inner alarm. Reading it, I am convinced that he represents an entirely new and even more dangerous aspect of the euthanasia movement -- the spiritual killer.
From here the article launches into a biographical history, backed up by plenty of hard data, of Felos and his psychological development and his pathological necrophilia that is profoundly disturbing. Wiker also reveals what both Michael Schiavo and Felos (pictured together right) stood to gain financially from Terry's death. The case is appalling. Furthermore, and here I can't help making a connection between Wiker's article and Meilaender's: at the heart of the "spiritual killer" in Wiker's portrait, is a man who embodies the neurotic apotheosis of a soul curved in upon its self (curvatus in se), which is the essence of psychological hell described by Meilaender. Profoundly disturbing. Read more of Wiker's article here.

Friday, July 22, 2005


"In 24 years of clinical experience, I've never had someone come to me troubled over his heterosexuality and wanting to change."
( -- Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, Director of Comprehensive
Counseling Services, West Conshocken, PA.)

"Ex-gay." That little word touched off explosive controversity back in July 13-15, 1998, when a coalition of Christian organizations ran a series of full-page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. Dominating the first ad was a photo of an attractive young woman identified as "Anne Paulk -- wife, mother, former lesbian," above the headline: "I'm living proof that Truth can set you free." A second at showed a large group of smiling faces with the headline: "We're standing for the truth that homosexuals can change." A third featured NFL football star Reggie White making a plea for homosexuals to take the cure.

Reporting on the event, Mike Aquilina published an article in Our Sunday Visitor (September 6, 1998) entitled "Debate: Can homosexuals be 'straightened out'?" The newspaper ads, he says, were largely the work of Exodus International, a worldwide network of ex-gay ministries. Co-sponsoring the ads were 15 organizations, including the Christian Coalition and Family Research Council. The article reports:
Reaction was swift -- and shrill. Within days, a coalition of pro-gay organizatins contributed their own full-page ad, in the same newspapers, countering Exodus' claims.

In the opinion pages of The New York Times, columnist Frank Rich attacked the premises of the ads, countering with his belief that homosexuality is "innate," unchangeable and normal. The ads' sponsors, he charged, "are putting [homosexuality] in the same category as kleptomania and alcoholism."
The article continues by suggesting that probably neither the members of Exodus or the Catholic Church would deny the charge. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is an objective moral disorder (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, amended edition, no. 2358). This is where Christian tradition parts company not only with the "gay" subculture, but also with the mainstream of the medical, psychiatric and psychological professions -- at least since 1973 when, not for reasons of science but under pressure from the National Gay Task Force, the board of the American Psychiatric Association voted to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Other professional associations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, have followed suit. Members of the APA who specialized in the treatment of homosexuals protested their board's decision, but to no avail. Yet a growing number of professionals have dissenting from these positions from their onset in the early seventies and have continued to treat homosexuality as a curable disorder. The article continues:
That is the position, for example of Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, director of Comprehensive Counseling Services of West Conshocken, Pa.

A psychiatrist, Fitzgibbons draws from his own clinical experience as well as published research. He dismisses as nonsense the APA's claim that homosexuality is a normal variant. "In 24 years of clinical experience," he told Our Sunday Visitor, "I've never had someone come to me troubled over his heterosexuality and wanting to change."

Fitzgibbons said he has, however, helped many homosexual clients to develop an opposite-sex attraction. "People can overcome same-sex attractions and behaviors," he said.

"There are at least nine major studies that show that the recovery rate is about 30-50 percent, which is the recovery rate you'd expect from most addictive or emotional disorders." He added that, if patients "bring in the spiritual component," the recovery rate is "significantly higher."

Fitzgibbons does not hesitate to classify homosexuality with disorders such as slcoholism and kleptomania.

"A growing number of professionals see same-sex behavior as a type of addictive disorder," he said. "We're looking at a lifestyle in which people have, on average, 20 to 40 sexual partners per year, sometimes engaging in sadomasochistic practices. Forty percent engage in unsafe sexual practices in the era of AIDS, when 50 percent of males in the homosexual lifestyle are HIV-positive by the time they're 50. All of this indicates the sort of highly reckless behavior usually associated with addictions."
Still, while the Catholic Church calls homosexuals -- along with those who struggle with any moral disorder -- to "chastity" and "self-mastery" (CCC, no. 2359), the Church takes no position on whether or not they should seek to develop heterosexual attraction.

For example, Fr. John Harvey, the founder of Courage, an international Catholic support group for men and women who struggle with homosexual attractions, admitted to Our Sunday Visitor in an interview with Aquilina that for 20 years he doubted that homosexuals could develop a true heterosexual attraction. But he began to change his mind in the 1970s.
That was when two men I knew became heterosexual without really trying. They had had homosexual attractions and had acted out physically -- it wasn't just a mind game -- but they later turned over. One of them is married now, with several children. I watched another young lady, who fought me in the beginning, become happily married, now with her third baby on the way.

I changed my mind because I saw the facts. Against a fact, no argument is valid.
Nevertheless, it remains also a fact that some men and women fail in their attempts to change. Many critics of The New York Times ads were quick to point out that the two founders of Exodus eventually "fell in love," left the movement and moved in together in a "familial" partnership. To be fair, however, Fitzgibbons counters by noting that such behavior occurs in recovery from any addictive disorder. "People fail for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the sexual addiction is accompanied by substance abuse and alcohol abuse. That makes it very hard to walk away from it. In any recovery, you might have to stop five times before you really stop." Aquilina continues:
Carl's experience seems to bear this out. Speaking with Our Sunday Visitor on condition of anonymity, Carl (not his real name), an East coast man in his 30s, admits that he proceeded to recovery only by fits and starts.

A former gay activist who had been sexually active for seven years, Carl made the decision to leave the lifestyle behind in 1992. But he stopped short of pursuing a heterosexual attraction. "I could have, but I didn't -- on purpose. I had such a bias against it that I chose to seek chastity only."

But, after three years, he noticed that, in pursuing chastity, he had begun to change anyway. "I began to notice a gradual growth in heterosexual attraction and a diminishing of homosexual attraction and identity. I guess God is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

Carl acknowledged that the change is difficult. "I didn't have a heterosexual adolescence, and in some ways I had to go through that at 35. I had to look around for role models and reliable men who could give me advice."

Though once a skeptic, Carl said he now believes that change is possible. "I know from my own experience, and I probably know around 30 others who have successfully made the transition."
To be fair, again, Aquilina reports Carl as saying that he does not believe that heterosexual attraction is possible for everyone who seeks it. "It's wrong to say that everyone can change," Carl says, "just as it's wrong to say no one can. Some can and do. In general the younger the person is and the less they've acted out physically, the better their chances of a complete change."

Carl follows Fr. Harvey in placing the main emphasis on chastity. "Whether or not you can develop a heterosexual attraction, you can be chaste, and you can be happy. People need to know that, no matter what the media say, there is a way out."

For further reading:

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"Three Liturgical Movements"?

The latest issue of the Adoremus Bulletin (July-August 2005) carries a letter I wrote to the editor (p. 11, unavailable online), which reads as follows:
In response to Linda Smith's letter ("AB Should Be More Thoughtful," May 2005), alleging insufficient sensitivity to letters by traditionalists concerned with abuses in the Novus Ordo, you reaffirmed your commitment to liturgical authenticity, beauty, and reverence, extending your sympathy to "the vast majority of Catholics who ... have no alternative to often dismal" liturgies. "That is why," you added, "for nearly ten years, we have worked very hard for the authentic 'renewal of the Sacred Liturgy' according to the genuine intention of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council ...."

This raises several questions. There are three liturgical movements in Roman Catholicism today: (1) the Tridentine rite, which continues under an officially encouraged indult, (2) the reform of that rite called for by Vatican II, and (3) the Novus Ordo, which incorporates numerous innovations never envisioned by the Council, and which Pope Benedict has called a "rupture" with liturgical tradition. The Council never envisioned the elimination of Latin, Gregorian Chant, the Communion rail, or statues. It never imagined a free standing "Communion table," the reception of Communion in the hand while standing, the priest facing the people, the removal of the Tabernacle from the Altar, female "altar servers," lay Eucharistic ministers, or folk masses. Yet all these innovations have insinuated themselves into the now officially approved Novus Ordo liturgy. Further, numerous officially condemned abuses have become effectively institutionalized in the Novus Ordo through widespread acceptance, including the ROUTINE use of lay Eucharistic ministers, the eliminations of kneelers, standing during the Eucharistic prayer, liturgical dance, and much, much more.

This raises a question about the mission of Adoremus. If Adoremus is devoted to the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy "according to the genuine intention of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council," wouldn't you be committed primarily to #2 above? Yet over the last decade, you have been occupied almost exclusively with abuses within the Novus Ordo, which, even with its abuses eliminated, incorporates numerous innovations never mandated by the Council. Doesn't this suggest that Adoremus is more concerned with #3 than with #2? The only places in the world where I know of decided attempts to implement the Roman rite in accordance with the actual mandates of the Council (#2) have been the Brompton Oratory in London [pictured right] and Fr. Joseph Fessio's celebration of "The Mass of Vatican II" in Latin, facing God (not the "audience"). [The preceding sentence was omitted by the editor in the print edition.]

This brings me to two final questions: First, how can the Church expect her faithful to take seriously her calls for liturgical renewal when virtually nothing is being done to address what the Council itself mandated (#2)? Second, how can the Church deny her faithful, in the meantime, a much more generous application of the Tridentine indult (#1 above) -- a stable, well-established liturgy -- especially when #2 seems nearly a dead letter, and #3, far from being a settled liturgical rite, is an unendurable burlesque of ceaseless innovations, which Pope Benedict himself calls a "rupture" with what the Council itself envisioned?
Adoremus Bulletin Editor, Helen Hull Hitchcock, responds as follows:
You seem to suggest that working for authentic reform of the Sacred Liturgy would preclude working to correct liturgical abuses. We do no regard these as mutually exclusive efforts; indeed, we see them as inseparable. Clearly we do not agree that "virtually nothing is being done," nor that this is a "dead letter."

As we have said in our Mission Statement (see AB June 2005, p. 12): "Adoremus believes that the liturgical reform legitimately mandated by the Second Vatican Council cannot be furthered by a simple return to the pre-conciliar Liturgy; although Adoremus does not oppose those who make lawful use of the present discipline which permits celebration of the pre-conciliar Liturgy under certain conditions.
First, I agree with the editor that working for authentic reform does not preclude working to correct liturgical abuses. I don't think I really suggested otherwise. Second, I agree that the Council did mandate a reform of the Tridentine Liturgy, so that a simple return to that Liturgy would be to return to the status quo ante, rather than a fulfillment of that mandate. Third, I do think, however, that forty odd years of ceaseless innovation is not at all what the Council Fathers had in mind, and that we have ample testament to the disastrous results of this "Novus Ordo Missae" not only in the utter disillusionment of the Church's own top liturgical scholars like Fr. Louis Bouyer with the implementation of Annibale Bugnini's proposed "reforms" by the late 1960s, but also by the results we see around us virtually every time we assist at a Novus Ordo Mass. My concern is that we have drifted so far from the pre-conciliar Liturgy that few people any longer have much of an idea what was supposed to have been reformed. If for no other reason than providing this benchmark, I see the broad and generous implementation of the "Ecclesia Dei" provision mandated by Pope John Paul II as indispensable. Of course, there are volumes more that could be written about the Tridentine Mass from which we could spend our lifetimes learning, but so much for now.

For further reading:
  • Joanna Bogle, "Brompton Oratory Has Lessons for Parishes" ("The Brompton Oratory, where the Novus Ordo is done as it should be done, attracts vast crowds. The cause of restoration calls for greatness of vision")

  • Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., "The Mass of Vatican II" ("With regard to the Mass we have now two extremes and a moderate position. One extreme position is the kind of informal Mass, all in English, facing the people, with contemporary music, which does not at all correspond with what the Council had in mind. But it is legitimate, it is permitted; it is not wrong. And we have on the other extreme those who have returned, with permission, to the Mass of 1962 and, as others have noted, it is thriving and growing. But it is not what the Council itself specifically had in mind, although it is the Mass of the ages. Then you have the moderates.")

  • Thomas M. Kocik, Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate: Reform or Return (San Diego: Ignatius Press, 2003) -- an excellent little book.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The death knell of modernity

Do you hear the bell toll? Kneel down: the bell tolls for a dying world -- the world of liberal secular humanism. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Church. Have you ever wondered why liberals are always so insufferably bitter? The reason is not hard to guess. They are graying. Their ranks are thinning. The ideals they were brainwashed into accepting during their heyday no longer bear any hope of semblance to the present and future reality of the Church. Their hopes and dreams about seizing the helm of the Church and steering her off in new direction has been exposed for what it always was: pure fantasy.

Below are a couple of delightfully elevating quotations from a book by our friend, Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College (that's a Jesuit College, not a Catholic one, as he reminds us). In his 1988 book, Fundamentals of the Faith, Kreeft writes:
  • "Secularism is dying. The modern world is dying. The new Roman Empire is dying. The new world order of secular, scientific humanism is dying.... The Church is no longer the embattled establishment trying desperately to hold on. The Church today is the revolutionaries, the guerillas, enlisting freedom fighters for her wild and wonderful cause. We orthodox Christians are the young today; the Modernists are the old. We are not trying to save a tired, old Church; we are trying to save a tired, old world and make it young with the youth of Christ's Church." (p. 23)

  • "The modern mind ... does not know the theocentric God, for the modern mind is anthropocentric, not theocentric. God and the cosmos are thought of in relation to man and their effect in human life. Modernity prefers a 'realistic' religion. But this anthropocentrism is precisely the opposite of realism, i.e., living reality, conforming to reality. For God really is the center, not man. The medieval Christan mind was most realistic; the modern mind takes refuge in superstition and fantasy. Anthropocentrism is like Hamlet thinking that Shakespeare exists for him and is to be judged by him." (p. 119)


(1) Pathology: pathological fear of the heterosexual and/or heterosexual family system.

(2) Heterophobia pathology manifestations:
  • Exploitativeness: Takes advantage of others to indulge own desire; strong disregard for the personal integrity of others; inability to recognize how pathology negatively impacts others and/or society i which they live; narcissistic.
  • Rapid shifts to anger. Preoccupation with imagined wrongs (delusions) committed against the heterophobic which is frequently accompanied by temper tantrums and argumentativeness. Delusions of persecutions. Tendency to be easily slighted and quick to take offense.
  • Confusion about discussing origination of pathology with "attacks" on personality and may be accompanied by death threats to those they imagine have wronged them.
  • Consistent avoidance of rational discussions (without resorting to emotional blackmail, manipulation and/or exploitation) of heterophobia pathology. Fear of scrutiny by others via history, evaluation/assessment, consequences of not abiding by heterosexuality, medical consequences, business/financial consequences, consequences to civil governments, etc.
  • Consistent manifestations of bigotry, prejudice, ignorance of consequences, emotional blackmail, etc.
  • Feelings of entitlement. Expectation of special favors without assuming reciprocal responsibilities. Feel things are "owed."
  • Pathology frequently identifies with victim role (emotional blackmail) while victimizing others (i.e., attempts to control, manipulate and impose will on others). Strong assertions and emotional statements that civil government (e.g., federal, state, county, local) plus society at large "owe" imagined debt.
  • Frequently accompanied by heterosexual bashing.
    (1) Overt: Name calling, cursing, raising voices in an attempt to intimidate so others are fearful of hearing opposing viewpoint and/or so opposing viewpoint cannot be heard, especially at social gatherings/fuctions (e.g., caughing, talking, etc.), ridicule, mockery, etc. Favored form of overt heterosexual bashing is at social functins and, preferably, when major media cameras are not present to record event....

    (2) Covert: covert and more sophisticated heterophobic heterosexual can frequently be viewed on national TV talk shows and some major media anchors.
(1) A group of individual who demonstrates the pathology of heterophobia.

(2) An individual or a group who is terrified of a traditional family system (e.g., male father and female mother who are married and may/may not have children). The fear is translated in the form of bigotry and prejudice in all areas of life (e.g., politics via voting pro-homosexual legislation, feminism's fear of commitment, [public schools'] encouragement of youth to seek alternative parent-figures primarily [among] teachers, guidance counselors, [members of] political groups ... homosexual rights groups, multiculturalists, premarital sex groups, abortion "rights," etc.).

(3) The fear of the heterophobic stems from not understanding the role and history of the heterosexual family system and how it relates to the success/decline of the society in which it lives.

(4) A heterophobic's arguments center around the bigotry, prejudice and ignorance of a healthy heterosexual family life. Rather than acknowledging same, the heterophobic seeks, through emotional blackmail and other forms of manipulation, a way to politically, educationally, [and] legally ... control or impose its pathology on others.
[Credits: Beverly Schmidt, "Heterophobia," Chalcedon Report, June 1994), pp. 35-36.]

"Angry Twins" set sights on O'Leary

Fr. Joseph O'Leary has finally fallen in the sights of The Angry Twins, a pair of self-professedly "obnoxious" and diehard Catholic Chinese twins, who offer a display of his time log in one comment box and offer a bit of advice, including the recommendation of another Tokyo priest who could possibly help him with his internet addiction. Our Irish priest will doubtless enjoy the coverage. Read more here.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Two book recommendations

If the recent comment boxes on this weblog are any indication, there is considerable interest in the controversial topic of homosexuality and its relationship to the Christian Faith. Of its nature, the topic cannot avoid being controversial in the contemporary social milieu, but one of the key questions concerning this topic that has surfaced not only among commentators on this blog but students in my classes writing term papers on this topic is this: What does the Bible have to say about homosexuality? As anyone knows who has read the comments of Fr. Joseph O'Leary or any of the dime-a-dozen Google-able defenses of gay/lesbian revisionist readings of biblical texts traditionally understood as proscribing homosexuality, the issue can very quickly seem to become quite murky indeed. Those who wish to find such revisionist readings need look no further than a Google search or Fr. O'Leary's (doubtless forthcoming) dissenting recommendations. However, for those who might wish to consider what the best lights of traditional biblical scholarship has yielded, I have the following recommendations.

The first is Robert A. J. Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press, 2002). Gagnon, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Pittsburg Theological Seminary, presents a meticulously detailed, substantial traditional reading of the relevant biblical passages, yielding an impressive defense of the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding of the Bible as unequivocally opposed to same-sex intercourse as sin. He deals with the classic Old Testament passages from the accounts of Sodom and Gomorah and the book of Leviticus, as well as the New Testament passages from Paul's epistles. But a chapter of exceptional interest is the one in which he treats "The Witness of Jesus." Revisionists often argue that Jesus is silent on the question of homosexuality. But Gagnon does a remarkable job not only of showing that an argument from silence is no argument at all, but in drawing out inferences from the things that Jesus explicitly does say about sexual behavor, as well as from the Jewish historical perspectives, to render a decisive conclusion about what Jesus' view of homosexual behavior would inevitably be.

The second is a debate between Robert Gagnon and Dan O. Via, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2003). Dan Via argues in support of the view that Christians should accept and "sanctify" the sexual unions of practicing gays and lesbians, while Gagnon argues that the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexual practice as sin. While the participants may be short on subjective existential-phenomenological "heuristic" and hermeneutical "nuance" of the kind that some of our anti-traditionalist friends would enjoin, it will provide a more than an ample challenge for any dissenter who still takes seriously the conventional semiological framework of historical textual interpretation.

I highly recommend both volumes. The former is probably the best biblical-exegetical work available on the subject from a traditional Christian perspective. The latter ventures beyond that framework by offering a debate between this traditional perspective and the pro-homosexual argument from the perspective of a postmodern theological framework. Both volumes provide the broad base and exposure necessary for any further engegement of the issues in question.

Son Nathan awarded US NAVY honor

One of my sons, Nathan, is currently serving in the Persian Gulf in the US Navy. He spent two of his earlier years in the Navy in Rota, Spain, just west of Cadiz and Gilbraltar, where I had the pleasure of spending some time with him several years ago. Nathan is trained in radiology, and is currently serving in the medical quarters of the assault ship, the USS Kearsarge, which has a crew of over 1000 and is also involved in the transport of marines to and from Iraq. Nathan, shown (below) on the occasion of his Enlisted Surface Warfare pinning, is shown standing between Masterchief Terry Scott, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (the highest ranking enlisted man in the Navy) on his left and Captain Joseph Sensi, Captain of his ship, on his right. He also had the opportunity of meeting the Commandant of the Marine Corps (the highest ranking commissioned officer in the Marines). The Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist designator is awarded when a Sailor passes the respective qualifications involving a broad knowledge of all the weapons systems and main components of all the departments on a ship. Nathan's next goal is the Aviation Enlisted Warfare Specialist designator, for which he is currently studying. He has already passed the written exam, but must now prepare for an oral board scheduled within the next two weeks. Nathan is also actively involved in the religious life aboard ship, assisting his priest at Mass and freely sharing his faith with others. He also says that the captain of his ship, Captain Joseph Sensi, is a practicing Catholic. We are proud of Nathan, as we are of all our children, and should be glad to have any of you help keep him in your prayers, along with all our men and women in uniform.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Another candidate for priesthood in the Diocese of Charlotte

Just about a year ago (July 28, 2004), we ran a report on Benjamin Adam Roberts, a former student of ours, who had just graduated summa cum laude in philosophy from D'Youville College in Buffalo, NY, where he was completing his pre-novitiate with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Ben, who has subsequently appealed for admission to candidacy for the priesthood in the Diocese of Charlotte, just received word on Thursday from Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis that he has been officially accepted as a seminarian and will be attending St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia starting in August. Ben is a Lutheran convert to Catholicism from North Carolina where he previously attended Lenoir-Rhyne College. Those of us who have known Ben over the last four or five years during his sojourn of discernment join in expressing our congratulations to him and our gratitude to God for answered prayer. Best wishes, Ben.

Supreme Court future

The Supreme Court's record over the last few decades has rendered it "a court of supreme surprise." This, anyway, is the opinion of Tom Ashcraft, a Charlotte, NC lawyer who is a columnist for the Charlotte Observer. In an article dated July 9, 2005, he asks his readers to consider these surprises:

First, whereas voluntary group prayer in public schools was an old custom in many localities by mid-20th century in the United States, the Court decreed in the early 1960s that this tradition had to cease. Writes Ashcraft: "Without any new amendment to the Constitution, the Court eliminated a long-practiced freedom for American communities and planted a seed which has grown into intolerant secularism. Court-inspired confusion about religion has only gotten worse over time. In decisions last month, each 5 to 4, the justices approved display of the Ten Commandments outside the Texas State Capitol and struck down display of the Ten Commandments inside two Kentucky courthouses."

Second, until 1973, all 50 states had laws criminalizing abortion in some degree, reflecting an ancient Judeo-Christian commitment to protect innocent human life in the womb. Ashcraft observes: "The multiple generations of Americans who sustained these laws believed they were perfectly compatible not only with the Constitution but also with much older Western legal traditions. Based on parts of the Constitution ratified in 1791 and 1868, the 1973 Court in Roe v. Wade said, in effect, 'What we have here -- even though you Americans out there missed it all these years -- is an implicit constitutional right to privacy which includes the right to destroy an unborn child. Traditional anti-abortion laws are unconstitutional and henceforth void.'"

Third, notes Ashcraft: "The Supreme Court got off on the wrong foot interpreting the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Correcting 'separate but equal' took nearly 60 years." But then, having made this correction and moved the country toward the Constitution's promise of racial equality under law, the Court surprised everyone by reauthorizing government classification of citizens by race -- this time to the detriment of whites. Ashcraft writes:
In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the Court approved, 5 to 4, the use of race for diversity purposes in admissions to the University of Michigan law school. Justice Clarence Thomas, the only black member of the Court, wrote in dissent, "No one would argue that a university could set up a lower general admission standard and then impose heightened requirements only on black applicants. Similarly, a university may not maintain a high admission standard and grant exemptions to favored races."
Fourth, in 1986 the Supreme Court declared that nothing in the Constitution prohibits the states from enforcing criminal laws against homosexual sodomy. Such laws, as Ashcraft points out, predate the founding of the Republic. "Yet in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Court voted 5 to 3 to reverse the 1986 case, and created a new and surprising federal constitutional right to sodomy. When the Massachusetts supreme court announced in late 2003 that homosexual marriage had to be recognized under state law on the same basis as traditional marriage, the first case cited was Lawrence."

Fifth, whereas the framers of the 5th Amendment allowed the taking of "private property" by the state only for "public use" and only with "just compensation," in Kelo v. City of New London (2005), a five-member majority of the Supreme Court decided that Americans' private property could be taken by power of eminent domain and conveyed to other private owners when part of a development plan to revitalize the local economy. "It certainly surprised the nine owners who wanted to keep their property," writes Ashcraft, "including one whose family had owned the same house for over 100 years."

According to Ashcraft, the Constitution itself furnishes a number of means by which the American people can seek to put a stop to these and other like suprises. "One readily at hand is the appointment of more justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas who respect the Constitution's text and history." If the Court is permitted to continue its activist agenda of re-shaping American law in defiance of any semblance of a notion of original intent, however, it should come as no surprise when the Constitution becomes no more than a quaint museum piece of American history.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

"War on terror set to finish"

This just in from today's Charlotte Observer in a letter to the editor: "According to a report we just got on the Internet, the Pentagon has announced formation of an elite fighting unit called the U.S. Redneck Special Forces (USRSF).

"These volunteers from North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Tennessee will be dropped into Iraq. They have been given the following information about terrorists:
  • "The season opened today.
  • "There is no limit.
  • "They taste like chicken.
  • "They don't like beer, pickups, country music or Jesus.
  • "They are directly responsible for the death of Dale Earnhardt.
"This mess in Iraq should be over in a week."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Lutheran converts & the ELCA "brain drain"

On July 12, 2005, the following cri du coeur, an open letter from Lutheran theologian Carl E. Braaten to Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), was circulated by email to pastors of the North Carolina Synod of the ELCA, as it was to pastors of the other ELCA synods throughout the country:

An Open Letter to Bishop Mark Hanson
From Carl E. Braaten

The Reverend Dr. Mark Hanson
Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, Illinois 60631

Dear Bishop Mark Hanson:

Greetings! I am writing out of a concern I share with others about the theological state of affairs within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The situation might be described as one of "brain drain." Theologians who have served Lutheranism for many years in various capacities have recently left the ELCA and have entered the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church in America. Why?

When Jaroslav Pelikan left the ELCA and became a member of the OCA, I felt it was not terribly surprising. After all, he had been reading and writing about the Fathers of Eastern Orthodoxy for so many years, he could quite naturally find himself at home in that tradition, without much explanation. A short time before that Robert Wilken, a leading patristics scholar teaching at the University of Virginia, left the ELCA to become a Roman Catholic. Then other Lutheran theological colleagues began to follow suit. Jay Rochelle, who for many years was my colleague and the chaplain at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago joined the Orthodox Church. Why? Leonard Klein, pastor of a large Lutheran parish in York, Pennsylvania, and former editor of Lutheran Forum and Forum Letter, last year left the ELCA to study for the Roman Catholic priesthood. Why? This year Bruce Marshall, who taught theology for about fifteen years at St. Olaf College and was a long-standing member of the International Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, has left the ELCA to enter the Roman Catholic Church. Why? David Fagerberg, formerly professor of religion at Concordia College, although coming from a strong Norwegian Lutheran family, left the ELCA for the Roman Catholic Church, and now teaches at the University of Notre Dame. Reinhard Huetter, a German Lutheran from Erlangen University, came to the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago fifteen years ago to teach theology and ethics, now teaches at Duke Divinity School, and this year became a Roman Catholic. Why? Mickey Mattox, a theologian who recently served at the Lutheran Ecumenical Institute in Strasbourg and now teaches at Marquette University, has recently begun the process of becoming a Roman Catholic.

In all these cases the transition involves spouses and children, making it incredibly more difficult. Why are they doing this? Is there a message in these decisions for those who have ears to hear? All of these colleagues have given candid explanations of their decisions to their families, colleagues, and friends. While the individuals involved have provided a variety of reasons, there is one thread that runs throughout the stories they tell. It is not merely the pull of Orthodoxy or Catholicism that enchants them, but also the push from the ELCA, as they witness with alarm the drift of their church into the morass of what some have called Liberal Protestantism. They are convinced that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become just another liberal protestant denomination. Hence, they have decided that they can no longer be a part of that. Especially, they say, they are not willing to raise their children in a church that they believe has lost its moorings in the great tradition of evangelical (small e) and catholic (small c) orthodoxy (small o), which was at the heart of Luther's reformatory teaching and the Lutheran Confessional Writings. They are saying that the Roman Catholic Church is now more hospitable to confessional Lutheran teaching than the church in which they were baptized and confirmed. Can this possibly be true?

I have decided, without any doubt about it, that I could not re-invent myself to become something else than I was raised to be by my Magadascar missionary parents -- an heir of the Lutheran confessing movement. Through theological study and ecumenical engagement, I thought I had learned something about what it means to be Lutheran. I have written many books and articles, preached and published many sermons -- leaving a long paper trail -- over a period of five decades, explaining what it means to be Lutheran. There is nothing in all of those communications that accommodate liberal protestantism, which Karl Barth called a "heresy," an assessment with which I fully agree. If it is true that the ELCA has become just another liberal protestant denomination, that is a condition tantamount to heresy. The most damning thing in my view that can be charged against the ELCA is that it is just another liberal protestant denomination.

Are all these theologians wrong in their assessment of the ELCA? I wish I could deny it. I have been looking for some convincing evidence to the contrary, because I am not about to cut and run. There is no place I know of where to go. I do know, however, that the kind of Lutheranism that I learned -- from Nygren, Aulen, Bring, Pinomaa, Schlink, P. Brunner, Bonhoeffer, Pannenberg, Piepkorn, Quanbeck, Preus, and Lindbeck, not to mention the pious missionary teachers from whom I learned the Bible, the Catechism, and the Christian faith -- and taught in a Lutheran parish and seminary for many years is now marginalized to the point of near extinction. In looking for evidence that could convincingly contradict the charge that the ELCA has become just another liberal protestant denomination, it would seem reasonable to examine what is produced by its publishing house, theological schools, magazines, publications, church council resolutions, commission statements, task force recommendations, statements and actions by its bishops. The end result is an embarrassment; there is not much there to refute the charge. As Erik Petersen said about 19h century German Protestantism, all that is left of the Reformation heritage is the aroma from an empty bottle. A lot of the pious piffle remains, but then, so was Adolf von Harnack a pious man. All the heretics of the ancient church were pious men. Our pastors and laity are being deceived by a lot of pietistic aroma, but the bottle is empty. Just ask these fine theologians -- all friends and colleagues of mine -- who have left the ELCA. They are not stupid people; they don't tell lies; they don't make rash decisions. They are all serious Christians. What is happening is nothing less than a tragedy. The ELCA is driving out the best and the brightest theologians of our day, not because it is too Lutheran, but because it has become putatively just another liberal protestant denomination.

I would think that this is a situation that ought to concern you immensely, as well as all the leadership cadres of the ELCA. But might it also be the case that the very persons who ought to be troubled by this phenomenon will say to themselves (perhaps not out loud), "good riddance, we won't be bothered by those dissenting voices anymore? We wish more of their ilk would leave."

I must tell you that I read all your episcopal letters that come across my desk. But I must also tell you that your stated convictions, punctuated by many pious sentiments, are not significantly distinguishable from those that come from the liberal protestant leaders of other American denominations. I do not disagree with your political leaning to the left. I am a life-long political liberal, unlike many of my friends. My wife and I opposed the unjust war against Vietnam in the 60's and 70's, and we have with equal conviction opposed the foolhardy invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration. We also supported the ELCA in its ecumenical actions to re-institute the episcopal office by means of passing the CCM as well as to adopt the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Vatican. But none of that equates with transforming Lutheranism into a liberal protestant denomination, in terms of doctrine, worship, and morality.

When I finished my graduate studies at Harvard and Heidelberg, I was ordained by the ELC and served a parish in North Minneapolis, simultaneously teaching at Luther Seminary. At that time I was instrumental in founding Dialog, a journal of theology, together with Robert Jenson, Roy Harrisville, Kent Knutson, James Burtness, and others, in order to draw midwest Lutheranism into the world-wide orbit of Lutheran theology. We were not ecumenically oriented at the start. At that time no Luther Seminary professors were dealing with the issues posed by Bultmann, Tillich, Bonhoeffer, Barth, Brunner, Aulen, Nygren and many others. Dialog got the reputation of being a journal edited by young upstarts who thought they knew better. It seemed to us then that most of our professors were not very well informed. But they were good Lutherans, not a single heretic among them. Heresy was not the problem at that time. The journal that our group founded in 1961 has now become the voice of a liberal protestant version of Lutheranism. Robert Jenson and I resigned from the journal as its editors in 1991 to found a new journal, Pro Ecclesia, a Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology. In the last fourteen years we have published the articles of theologians of all traditions -- Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical, and Orthodox -- exhibiting the truth that we all share common ground in the Great Tradition. The same cannot be said of Dialog anymore. It has become a function of the California ethos of religion and morality, nothing seriously Lutheran about it anymore, except the aroma of an empty bottle. Too bad. I was its editor for twenty years and Jenson for ten years, but now in our judgment it has become, perhaps even unwittingly, the very opposite of what we intended. The journal now expresses its belief that to be prophetic is to become the mouthpiece of the denominational bureaucracy, that is, to attack the few dissenting voices in the ELCA.

One day a church historian will write the history of Lutheranism in America. There will be a few paragraphs trying to explain how the self-destruction of confessional orthodox Lutheranism came about around the turn of the millennium and how it underwent a metamorphosis into a liberal protestant denomination. Recently in an issue of the Lutheran Magazine you expressed your hope that Lutherans could some day soon celebrate Holy Communion with Roman Catholics. My instant reaction was: it is becoming less and less likely, as the ELCA is being taken hostage by forces alien to the solid traditions Lutherans share with Roman Catholics. The confessional chasm is actually becoming wider. So much for the JDDJ [Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification]! The agreement becomes meaningless when Lutheranism embarks on a trajectory that leads to rank antinomianism.

Where do we go from here? I am going nowhere. Meanwhile, I am hearing rumors about a possible schism or something about the formation of a dissenting synod. None of that will redound to the benefit of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church we confess in the Creed. Each person and congregation will do what they deem fitting and appropriate in view of the apostasy that looms on the horizon of our beloved Lutheran Church. My friend Wolfhart Pannenberg has stated that a church that cannot take the Scriptures seriously is no longer a church that belongs to Jesus Christ. That is not an original statement of his or mine, but one said by every orthodox theologian in the Great Tradition, including Athanasius and Augustine, as well as Martin Luther and John Calvin. Does the ELCA take the Scriptures seriously? We will soon find out. Whoever passes the issue off as simply a hermeneutical squabble is not being honest -- "we have our interpretation and you have yours." Who is to judge who is right? The upshot is ecclesiastical anarchy, sometimes called pluralism. To each his own. Chacun son gout!

I am extremely sorry it has come to this doctrinally unstable situation in the church I was ordained to serve almost half a century ago. My father and two of his brothers served this church in Madagascar and China. My brother and sister served this church in the Camaroons and Madagascar. My cousins have served this church as ordained ministers in this country and abroad for decades. Knowing them as well as I do, I am confident in stating their belief that this church in some of its expressions is not remaining truly faithful to the kind of promises they made upon their ordination to the Christian ministry.

Can the situation which I have described in stark terms be remedied? Have we reached the point of no return? Are we now hopelessly mired in what Karl Barth identified as "Kulturprotestantismus?" I know of about half a dozen Lutheran renewal groups desperately trying to call the ELCA back to its foundational texts and traditions. Would they exist if there were no problem that needs to be addressed? How many congregations and pastors have left or are leaving the ELCA for other associations?

One day we will have to answer before the judgment seat of God as to what we have done for and against the Church of Jesus Christ. There will be no one by our side to help us find the words to use in response. All of us will have many things for which to repent and to implore God's forgiveness. And we will all cry out, "Lord, have mercy!"

Sincerely in Christ our Lord,
Carl E. Braaten

Related reading:

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"From Consensus to Culture War"

In the July 2005 issue of the Knights of Columbus periodical, Columbia, Russell Shaw has an article titled "From Consensus to Culture War," in which he puts Pope Benedict's famous words about the "dictatorship of relativism" to the political test. Cardinal Ratzinger had said to the College of Cardinals on April 18, 2005, just before the conclave that elected him pope that we are "moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires." His words have provoked widespread commentary and are likely to continue evoking discussion.

Shaw noted that some observers have attacked his comments, arguing that a "dictatorship of relativism" seems a contradiction in terms, since a philosophy of life that says there is no final or devinitive "good" or "truth" would seem to be tolerant of competing claims. But Shaw writes:
Think again. Recent political and social trends show that relativism does not result in tolerance. Some examples: pharmacists forced to fill prescriptions for abortiofacients against their consciences; Catholic Charities required, against Church teaching, to provide contraceptive coverage for employees; clergymen in Europe and Canada threatened with legal action for citing Scripture against homosexual acts; hospitals under religious sponsorship pressured to allow abortions. Such episodes have multiplied lately, with more to come. They reflect relativism in its intolerant, coercive mode.
Furthermore, says Shaw, upon reflection one sees that this is inevitable:
The central creed of relativism can be stated like this: No statement is absolutely true except one -- the statement that no statement is absolutely true. That is what's technically called a self-referential proposition. And self-referential propositions refute themselves."

Thus, standing as it does on shaky intellectual ground, relativism has few ways of winning in the public squre other than resort to force. Here we find the source of relativism's real-life intolerance.
Cardinal Ratzinger spoke to the heart of the matter several years ago, writing on the subject of -- of all things -- environmentalism. Shaw quotes Ratzinger: "The pollution of the outward environment that we are witnessing is only the mirror and the consequence of the pollution of the inward environment, to which we pay too little heed.... Man's self-pollution of his soul is to be treated as one of the rights of his freedom." Again, wrote Ratzinger: "There is a discrepancy here. We want to eliminate the measurable pollution, but we don't cosider the pollution of man's soul.... Instead of making it possible to breathe humanly again, we defend with a totally false conception of freedom everything that man's arbitrary desire produces."

Those, as Shaw observes, are "fighting words" to the ears of relativists:
Predictably, therefore, some were troubled by his pointed remark about the dictatorship of relativism just before becoming pope, because he sounded like a man who thought he actually knew what was true. As any good relativist will tell you, to believe truth exists and can be known in the first step toward some form of totalitarianism.

In fact, though, that view gets the situation exactly backwards. It is relativism, not the idea of real and knowable truth, that leads to trouble.

Studies of public opinion show Americans to be highly tolerant folks. The only thing many won't tolerate is making moral judgments. People who do so are thought to be judgmental, and in the jargon of relativism, there's hardly anything worse than being judgmental.
As Shaw goes on to point out, the issues at steak go far beyond words at this point. "For a pluralistic democracy to work," he writes, "society must balance tolerance and willingness to compromise with an underlying consensus on what the Declaration of Independence calls 'self-evident' truths and 'unalienable' rights." When that consensus is eroded -- as happens whenever and wherever relativism undermines conviction that human beings are capable of grasping truth -- compromise and the balancing of interests become impossible. "Conflicts can only be settled by resort to the coercive force of law."

We have been seeing the steady erosion of bedrock convictions about truth in the United States for years. Shaw offers as an example the fact that in Congress, "the old willingness to dialogue and seek common ground has largely disappeared." The reason for this, says Shaw, goes beyond mere political partisanship. "It lies instead in relativism's corrosive message that there is no common ground to seek." Shaw concludes:
Instead of consensus we have culture war -- the clash of fundamentally opposed value systems, each ready to battle the other to the death. This is what the "dictatorship of relativism" means in the political order.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Liberals willing to "let Roe die"

The U.K. Observer (Guardinan Unlimited) carried an article by Gaby Wood in New York Sunday, July 3, 2005, with the headline: "Liberals Ready to Abandon US Right to Abortion." Excerpts:
Last autumn, in the midst of a presidential election, America's Democrats were fighting furiously to protect what they described as a constitutional right - to have an abortion.

But in an extraordinary turn of events, some argue that it is the single issue standing in the way of their election prospects. They are daring to say what once was regarded as heresy - that it is time to let the argument go.

Abortion may still be the most divisive issue in the US, but in a move indicative of creeping conservatism, Democrats now seem happy to amend - even relinquish - their position on it.
On Friday, of course, the news of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement rocked the nation, with the prospect that a new appointment would likely go to a conservative. Wood continues:
There has been unprecedented discussion about 'letting go of Roe' - meaning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that decriminalised abortion. Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks argued that 'unless Roe v Wade is overturned, politics will never get better'. Liberals, he believes, have lost touch with working-class Americans because they rely on the courts to impose their views and have never had to debate 'values' with those voters.
But it is not only conservatives arguing this case. Cynthia Gorney, who wrote A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars, is reported as saying that she has "heard it coming from people who you certainly wouldn't have heard it from three or four years ago." She says, according to Wood: "It's people who are ardent Democrats, fed up with the vacillations and ineffectiveness of the party. One aspect of that was: we've hung on too long to things that are destructive to us ultimately and clinging to Roe is costing us more than it's gaining us." The reason for the debate, of course, is the very real possibility of the judicial overturning of Roe v. Wade. Wood reports:
In the Atlantic Monthly, avowed pro-choicer Benjamin Wittes advised abortion-rights supporters to 'let Roe die'. Commitment to it, he wrote, 'has been deeply unhealthy for American democracy'. The battle over Supreme Court nominees is likely to become 'an ugly spectacle in which a single narrow issue pushes to the sidelines discussion of a broad array of other important legal questions' and liberals should have faith in the pro-choice majority.
Well, we've heard top Democrates, like Hilary Clinton, declare that it's time Democrats reintroduced religion back into their political discourse and stopped alienating themselves from the mainstream of American family values. Whether that's more than smoke and mirrors is not exactly hard to say, though a reinvigorated public discussion of the role of religious values in politics would be a welcome change in the national debate. As to what Wood's Observer report signifies for the future of the NARAL-NOW-PRO-CHOICE-PLANNED-PARENTHOOD coalition of death culture forces, it's much too early to say, though it's never too early to pray. Read more here. (A tip of the hat to Chris Garton-Zaveski for the reference. Gratia tibi.)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Let freedom ring ...

"Freedom finds its true meaning when it is put to the service of the truth which redeems, when it is spent in seeking God's infinite Love which liberates us from all forms of slavery. Each passing day increases my yearning to proclaim to the four winds this inexhaustible treasure that belongs to Christianity: 'the glorious freedom of the children of God!'" -- St. Josemaria, Friends of God, 27.

At this tail-end of the Independence Day holidays, the foregoing words of St. Josemaria Escriva are a fitting reminder of the many thanksgivings we owe for the freedoms we have received in Christ.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Andrew Sullivan, ancient Romans, & the prospects same-sex "marriage" today

We've been hearing intermittently about Andrew Sullivan over the last weeks and months. There was his piece, "The Vicar of Orthodoxy: The Pope's dogma is a circular system that's immune to reasoned query," which appeared in TIME following the election of Pope Benedict XVI. There were the commentaries on his piece, including that of the then yet Episcopalian priest, Al Kiemel, entitled "The Apoplectic Andrew Sullivan" in Pontifications, as well as my own piece, "The Vicar of Heterodoxy: Andrew Sullivan's dogma is a circular system that's immune to reasoned query" in a post on this blog (May 4, 2005). Most recently, however, Leland Peterson, of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, has come out with a cool analysis of Sullivan's fevered prose in an earlier article in TIME (July 26, 2004), in which Sullivan painted a glowing picture of the future of same-sex "marriage" in these salad days of our Empire, as we prepare to reenact our own brave new cultural interpretation of Petronius' Satyricon. Peterson's piece is reprinted below, with permission of the publisher.

A Rosy Future for Same-Sex "Marriage"?

Leland D. Peterson

Ed. Note: This article contains sexually graphic content, which is unavoidable given the topic. This article may make you throw up, in which case YOU SHOULD NOT READ IT. If you do read it, don't send us any letter of complaint. You've been forewarned.

In an essay for the popular newsweekly Time magazine (July 26, 2004), Andrew Sullivan, an out-of-the-closet homosexual and self-proclaimed conservative, boldly attempts to refute the gloomy predictions of those such as James Dobson who see "a presaging [of] the fall of Western civilization" if marriage eventually includes the same-sex union of "gays" and lesbians. Sullivan argues that homosexual marriage is not merely licensed sodomy, but is really a "conservative measure," for recently married homosexuals in Massachusetts must now live up to the traditional standards in marriage of "fidelity, responsibility and commitment." Instead of destroying heterosexual marriage, homosexuals are really strengthening it, argues Sullivan, and those such as President Bush who politicize the issue by "turning a tiny minority into a lethal threat to civilization" serve to divide, not unite, American civilization.

Sullivan, a Catholic not much impressed by his Church's negative view of same-sex "marriage," holds advanced Ivy League degrees in the humane studies, but never seems to be concerned with precedents in the ancient world that would test his abstract notions of felicity in the future of "gay marriages." If he would choose to investigate, he could find out easily that "gay marriage" was a key element in the collapse of the Roman Empire. Something very much like the AIDS epidemic that has been the scourge of such "gay" meccas as San Francisco, and is now a worldwide epidemic, can be identified in the second century A.D.

Same-sex "marriage" was the invention of the Emperor Nero in the first-century A.D. In a comparatively long reign among the first-century Caesars (A.D. 54-68), he began as a talented and generous though youthful friend of the people, but degenerated in a mere 14 years to become the prototype of Lord Acton's axiom: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Paranoid in his last years, Nero lived in constant fear of assassination as he in turn ordered the assassinations of members of the Senate and nobility, or sent orders to others to commit suicide. Suetonius, a second-century Roman historian, began "to list his follies and crimes," which included at least three same-sex "marriages." Nero's first same-sex "marriage" was preceded by a transgendering operation on his intended bride that was thought to be successful:
Having trued to turn the boy Sporus into a girl by castration, he went through a wedding ceremony with him -- dowry, bridal veil and all -- which the whole Court attended; then brought him home, and treated him as a wife. He dressed Sporus in the fine clothes normally worn by an Empress and took him in his own litter not only to every Greek assize and fair, but actually through the Street of Images at Rome, kissing him amorously now and then.
Sullivan's assumption that "gay marriage" would require its partners "to live up to the standards of fidelity, responsibility and commitment never before asked of them" is certainly not true in the case of Nero. His infatuation with Sporus did not prevent him from pursuing an incestuous love with his mother, Agrippina; when Court politics moved to block him, he engaged a mistress who looked like his mother, but visual evidence suggested to the onlookers that he and Agrippina had intercourse "every time they rode in the same litter -- the state of his clothes when he emerged proved it." Not even his mother was able to satisfy his passion for long; shortly after his "marriage" to Sporus, he "married" a freedman, Doryphyrus, but this time Nero played the bride, "and on the wedding night he imitated the screams and moans of a girl being deflowered." In time, Nero arranged the murders of his mother and his aunt, Domitia Lepida.

Long before his nuptials with Sporus and Doryphyrus, Nero had married his adoptive sister, Octavia, whom he divorced and later had executed as an adulteress. He then married Poppaea Sabina (who already had a husband) 12 days after his divorce from Octavia. Pregnant and not feeling well, she had the effrontery to complain when he came home late from the races, which prompted an early instance of wife abuse "when he kicked her to death." His second wife after Octavia, Statilia Messalina, was also previously married, and Nero "was obliged to murder her husband, a consul."

Nero, then, was not merely incestuous and bisexual, but omni-sexual, as a reading of Suetonius will document. Exploiting fully the unlimited possibilities for pleasure available to an absolute emperor, he apparently arranged a third same-sex "marriage," though there is no mention that he had ever divorced either Sporus or Doryphyrus. According to Tacitus, A Roman historian and public official, Nero was again the bride:
Nero was already corrupted by every lust, natural and unnatural. But he now refuted any surmises that no further degradation was possible for him. For a few days later he went through a formal wedding ceremony with one of the perverted gang called Pythagoras. The emperor, in the presence of witnesses, put on the bridal veil. Dowry, marriage bed, wedding torches, all were there. Indeed everything was public which even in a natural union is veiled by night.
That we have three distinctly different names for Nero's one male wife and two male husbands argues that three individuals were involved, and that tradition was not merely confusing the name of the one individual. Detailed references to these marriages are discussed by Craig Williams (see bibliography).

That Nero's well-publicized male/male "marriages" influenced succeeding generations of Romans is confirmed in the satires of Martial and Juvenal written some four and five decades after Nero's death. As Williams has noted, "Still, as a rule Martial and Juvenal appropriate actual practices in their satiric commentary on Roman society, and it seems that weddings between males, though certainly not officially sanctioned, were a feature of the social landscape." But was not the practice of an emperor an "official sanction"? I find no references in the century following Nero that any emperor threatened with penalties or criminalized those participating in male/male "weddings." In the early third century A.D., the emperor Elagabulus followed Nero's precedent of becoming "a bride to a male partner." Not until the fourth century A.D., when Christianity was becoming the religion of the empire, were legal penalties enacted prohibiting male/male "marriages." It is reasonable to conclude that male/male "weddings" were a part of Roman culture for approximately 250 years after the death of Nero (A.D. 68), a practice that could have been causative for the Empperor Constantine in moving the seat of government from Rome to Byzantium in A.D. 315.

Martial, a satirist who came to Rome in his early 20s during the last year of Nero's life and reign, lived there for 35 years. His first book of Epigrms was published around A.D. 85, after he had observed Roman life for some 20 years. As chronicled in his "indecent" Epigrams (about one quarter of the 1,171 entries in 12 books pertain to this subject), seemingly every form of homosexuality practiced by Nero became a part of Roman sexual mores. The reader interested in exhaustive detail of Roman homosexuality must take up Williams's study, which, in the "Index of Passages Cited," gives precedence to Martial with 169 citations, comparted to 59 for Juvenal and 42 for Horace. Juvenal was old-fashioned, a satiric critic of sexual corruption, but Martial was obviously a participant, very much a part of the "in" crowd for whom there was obviously nothing approximating the sexual moral code that had governed Rome in its earlier days.

Martial is not conscious of the possibility of any sort of romantic love between man and woman. He reveals why there may have been serious differences between him and his wife: "Catching me with a boy, wife, you upbraid me harshly...." Later, he invites his wife to leave the house or "conform to [his] ways." Finally, the last straw: "you won't let me sodomize" you, unlike other famous women and their husbands.

As his sexual interest in his wife apparently waned, Martial's interest in prepubescent and adolescent slave boys grew proportionately. Whereas Juvenal never exploits the homosexual practices he satirizes, Martial makes clear his affinities with upper-class Romans who always had at hand their sex slaves. For his friend Flaccus, he details the physical qualities he would prefer in his boy slave, not dissimilar to the sentimental lyrics we find in early 20th-century American popular music idealizing feminine beauty, including the fairest complexion, eyes like the stars, flowing soft tresses (no curly hair), classic forehead and nose, and rosy red lips formed for kissing. Going beyond the reticence of American pop music, he would like the boy to be temptingly resistive but ultimately submissive.

Goaded by his lust and intenting to buy a slave boy for his pleasure, Martial is outbid by Phoebus, who has cash to match his lust. Straining to the utmost to find comparisons, Martial sentimentally imagines the sweetness of an apple bitten by a young girl, the Corycian saffron, fresh grapes in a vineyard, the myrtle eastern incense, the turf with summer rain, all of which is like the perfumed kisses of Diadumenus given too sparingly. In a pornographic epigram he imagines himself approaching the climactic moment but frustrated when the boy tells him to speed it up. In all, as the topic index in the third volume of the new Loeb Classical Library edition indicates, there are some 35 epigrams celebrating kissing, amorous by-play, and anal intercourse with prepubescent or adolescent slave boys, similar in all respects to the 21st-century sex scandal in the American Catholic Church, except that the violated boys in America were often able to receive through secular courts handsome rewards in financial compensation for pain and misery they endured. Martial and his adult male friends assumed that non-complaining slave boys enjoyed this intercourse as much as they did.

Commenting on the sexual proclivities of his contemporaries, Martial has fun with homosexuals such as Cotta, who invites for dinner well-endowed males he has observed at the bath. A fellow with "rough hair," not in the least effeminate and a true follower of Nero, had become a male bride the day before. Like Nero and Agrippinia, Amminanus is incestuously involved with his mother. The pedophilia celebrated in the Satyricon of Nero's day was obviously a precedent for Martial.

As Williams argues, there was a caste system among Roman homosexuals, the upper class being those who penetrated anally, but were never themselves penetrated. They scorned the lower classes who provided the rectums they loved to penetrate, including the untouchables, or cinaedi -- effeminate men who offered the anus to anyone with a denarius, or performed fellatio. Female prostitutes were expected to be ready for either vaginal or, preferably, anal intercourse, as Martial wanted of his wife. The reader may consult the topic index of the new translation of the Loeb Classical Library for further examples of Roman sex life in Martial's day.

If Martial mirrors the mores of upper-class Rome, it is evident that homosexuality set the tone for all classes. Juvenal may hearken back to the primitive mores of Republican Rome and criticize contemporaries for degeneracy, but Martial is the poet celebrating the Neroian aftermath. The Roman family of the Republic for the purpose of raising children is not seriously considered, certainly not esteemed or celebrated, exactly like some predict will be the aftermath of same-sex "marriage" in the contemporary U.S., "because children and motherhood [are] no longer ... the centerpiece of marriage" (Peter Sprigg; see bibliography). Inevitably, the sterility of homosexuality would encourage a population decline not immediately evident. As Juvenal noted, a sexual disease associated with anal intercourse could in time have disastrous consequences. Martial tells of a man dying from a "wasting disease" that chokes him and blackens his face, which could be AIDS, but not indisputably.

As I noted in an earlier NOR article (Jan. 2004), if the venereal disase identified by Juvenal among Romans of his day was AIDS, its spread was very likely "rapid and lethal throughout the Roman Empire," as it has spread throghout the world in our own day. A possible record of this epidemic may have been in the Antonine Plague of D.D. 161, which, according to one source, killed a fourth of the Roman population and one was one of the "first signs of the decline of the Roman Empire." As the symptoms of this plague are never precisely identified, I am assuming that a coincident AIDS epidemic contributed to the disaster. This plague, not quite a century after the death of Nero, was apparently the beginning of a long-term depopulation of Rome, which, at its height was a city with a population variously estimated at 500,000 to a million people, with 750,000 a good compromise figure. By the Middle Ages, about 20,000 to 30,000 remained in Rome, a loss of about 97 percent in six or seven centuries.

The Antonine Plague of second-century Rome is different from the Black Death of 1348 and the Great Plague of 1665. For one thing, the Antonine Plague seems more prolonged than the other two, which had devastated London and England for two or three years before subsiding and eventually disappearing. Second, the Antonine Plague seems to have permanently depressed Roman population growth, which was certainly not the case in England in the 15th and 18th centuries. Third, the Roman army was decimated in the Antonine Plague, while England had no standing army posted throughout an Empire in those centuries. Ultimately, the Roman army made up for its shortages by recruiting barbarians who had little background for traditional Roman discipline. In short, after the Antonine Plague, the traditional Roman family was in disarray and Roman decline followed the declining population. Nero's bequest to Roman posterity may rightly claim most, but not all, of the credit for the continuing decay of the ties that bound Roman society.

Same-sex "marriage" by itself did not bring about Roman decadence. But it signaled unmistakably the triumphant emergence of a society dominated by a homosexuality dedicated to insatiable sensual experiences without the responsibilities of producing and raising children.

Andrew Sullivan, who is HIV-positive, wrote in his book Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality that "gay marriages" serve as a model for heterosexual marriages: "There is more likely to be a greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman." These extramarital outlets, he claims, make "gay marriages" more likely to survive than heterosexual marriages. It sounds like Sullivan is advocating the ways of ancient Rome. The U.S. in the 21st century -- with legalized abortion, readily available contraception, a consistently high rate of divorce, rampant adultery, and teenage fornication resulting in high rates of sexually transmitted diseases -- has only to elect as its president a bachelor with same-sex partners who will have a wedding ceremony in the White House in which he wears the veil, and then to await its plagues, barbarian invasions, and epidemics to hasten its decline and fall. I predict the electin of a president fulfilling those qualifications in A.D. 2068, two millenia after the death of Nero.

  • Andrew Sullivan, "If at First You Don't Succeed ...," Time, July 26, 2004.
  • Andrew Sullivan, Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality, Knopf, 1995.
  • Suetonius, "Nero," in The Twelve Caesars , trans. Robert Graves, Penguin Books, 1957.
  • Tacitus, "Nero and His Helpers," in The Annals of Imperial Rome, rev. ed., trans. Michael Grant, Penguin Books, 1971.
  • Martial, Epigrams , 3 vols., ed. and trans. D.R. Shackleton Bailey, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard Univ. Press, 1993.
  • Martial Epigrams, vol. 1, "Introduction," ed. and trans. Walter C.A. Ker, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard Univ. Press, 1919.
  • Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity, Oxford Univ. Press, 1999.
  • "Rome," in Enc. Britannica, 1929 ed., 1952 rpt., vol. 19, pp. 472-83, 5050-07.
  • R.J. and M.L. Littman, "Galen and the Antonine Plague," The American Journal of Philology, 94, no. 3 (1973), pp. 243-255.
  • J.F. Gillam, "The Plague Under Marcus Aurelius," The American Journal of Philology, 82, no. 3 (1961), pp. 225-251.
  • Leland D. Peterson, "Homosexuality & Same-Sex 'Marriage,'" New Oxford Review, vol LXXI, no. 1 (Jan. 2004), pp. 34-36.
  • Peter Sprigg, Outrage, pp. 46-49. Regnery Pub. Incl., 2004.
[Leland D. Peterson is Emeritus Professor of English and Latin at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. His scholarly articles have appeared in such periodicals as Modern Philology, PMLA, and the Harvard Library Bulletin. This article was originally published in the NEW OXFORD REVIEW (June 2005), pp. 38-42. Reprinted with permission from NEW OXFORD REVIEW, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706, U.S.A.]

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