An Immediate Appeal

Before I post according to plan (to include clarifications concerning my thoughts on Central America and an appraisal of Vladimir Putin), it is urgent that I publicize this appeal from a most venerable society of priests:

“The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter asks all of its apostolates around the world to dedicate Friday, August 1 to a day of prayer and penance for the Christians who are suffering terrible persecution in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

“August 1 is the First Friday of the month and the Feast of St. Peter in Chains, which is celebrated as a Third Class Feast in FSSP houses and apostolates. It is the feast in which we read of the great power of the persevering prayer of members of the Church: “Peter therefore was kept in Prison. But prayer was made without ceasing by the Church unto God for him.” (Acts 12:5)

“This feast of our Patron should be an invitation to the faithful to join us in Holy Hours and other fitting prayers to beg the Most Holy Trinity that these members of the Mystical Body may persevere in the faith, and that, like St. Peter, they may be delivered from this terrible persecution. May such a day serve as a reminder to us of the stark contrast that stands between our days of vacation and ease, and their daily struggle for survival as they are killed or exiled from their homes.”

Omnes sancti Mártyres, orate pro eis.

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Thoughts concerning Central America

For years now, many have been talking about a crisis on the United States’ southern border, but it has perhaps never been so acute as it is now. It looks as though over 50,000 minors, with neither escort nor legal papers, have travelled from Central America to the United States within the past year. The Department of Health and Human Services, into whose custody they are being remanded, is appropriating whatever facilities it can to serve as quarters for them, and the prevalence of infectious disease among these migrants threatens to lead to a public health emergency. What is more, perhaps double or triple their numbers are expected over the next year, and it is doubtful how many will be repatriated. No doubt, this situation calls for a robust response, something we can scarcely expect from the devotees of the tepid and anaemic dogma so broadly adhered to in Washington and in the capitals of so many other supposedly successful nations. Thus, we must defy this dogma, and turn our eyes instead to solutions that may seem radical by today’s standards, despite their excellent historical precedent. Among these would be the annexation and pacification of troubled and troublesome countries and regions, a matter which I propose our political and military establishment consider in the case of Central America.

This migration problem shows clearly the complete failure of the republics of Central America. The countries these young people are leaving have with the highest rates of murder in the world and are riddled with gangs and other criminal syndicates, generally connected with the illegal drugs trade. In a climate as such, it is no wonder that there is little opportunity and much poverty, and that many would leave for another land under the impression that they would get a free ticket-of-entry. Systemic corruption in their governments militates against reform. Thus, the reform so greatly needed by the citizens of these countries can likely only be brought to bear by an outside agent.

That agent would logically be the United States as the powerhouse of the region and the nation forced to shoulder the burden of the vast number of migrants and refugees foisted upon it. Indeed, the matter of unlawful migration is always best considered as an issue of security, particularly that of economic security. Particularly in dismal economic times as these, with unemployment and underemployment rampant and wages stagnant to the point that so many fully employed persons are struggling to eke out an existence, to admit a surplus of labour from abroad cannot but drive wages down ever further, leading to many more on the dole and thus necessitating higher taxation of those persons and enterprises that are profitable. If misguided American policies had not encourage productive enterprises to send their plants overseas, the nation could likely afford to have more porous borders. Today, however, it evidently does not, and yet the borders are more open than ever.

Yet the President seems more than willing to ask Congress for billions of dollars to address this crisis, a very product of the governing clique whose ineptitude he represents. Frankly, caring for El Salvador’s children is not the job of the United States; it is El Salvador’s. If El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala must ask for help in governing their own peoples, then how is it that they are truly independent countries? For the sake of all parties concerned, annex these countries, bring the impressive might of the American military and policing apparatus against the bandits there just as the British suppressed the Thuggee in India, and, the peace of the lands preserved, allow them to prosper. Then, the United States will no longer have to worry about dependents at her doorstep.

I find it rather odd that I should be making such statements, as I have staunchly opposed nearly every American foreign intervention in recent history. The goals have seemed very unclear and the connection to American or even allied security or interests too tangential. Americans have little stake in Afghanistan for instance, or at least not nearly enough to warrant an occupation of well over a decade. Likewise with Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the Ukraine. However, their interests in their own hemisphere are now and have always been very great, and the economic and even physical security of the United States faces a great threat from the massive migration she has lately been enduring from her neighbours.

In the meantime, when faced with a humanitarian crisis as such, one has no choice but to respond with the corporal works of mercy. However, in researching the relief effort, I found something that has me a little puzzled. For all the savaging that the Church has taken from this administration, it amazes me that it has the temerity to ask for her help. It amazes me all the more, however, that certain bishops now on the take from the administration and thus indirectly supporting her ends, rather than suggesting that this money instead go to those dioceses in Central America to assist their educational, medical, and social welfare programs, which would surely do much to mitigate the suffering there and thus this crisis.

The state of the Church in Central America also could bear a little scrutiny, particularly when we consider that Central America’s most illustrious churchman, Óscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, has become quite an important man in this pontificate. His friend Pope Francis, to whom he is considered like in mind, has placed him on the new “Council of Cardinals,” supposedly an inner core of advisers separate from the Roman Curia, which it intends to reform. The Pope has said priests (and most certainly bishops) should be ““shepherds living with the smell of the sheep,” close to their people and serving their needs. I’d ask His Eminence, then, why has his archdiocese among the highest murder rates in the world? Why this exodus of young people? Why are so many of your flock defecting from the faith in favour of Evangelical Protestantism? The Pope has also condemned “airport bishops,” always seeking a new task or new assignment rather than shepherding the flock assigned to them. If would wonder if His Eminence seems to think this applies to him, as he seems to be spending a lot of time in Rome tinkering with the Curia and then giving interviews that just make me cringe about it. Not that I’m making any accusations of malfeasance here, but I do think the world deserves some answers.

Realistically, I don’t believe that the United States will annex Central America any time soon. The problems faced by the countries in question are also faced in many urban areas of the United States as well, and too often go woefully unaddressed or misaddressed. Indeed, the question of whether the US itself is capable of responsible self-government at this point is still very much open, as it seems that almost all foreign and even domestic interventions by the US government only create more problems. Such was the case with earlier American interventions in Central America, and such is the case now; the President of Honduras certainly lays blame where it is due. However, for the sake of global peace and prosperity, the United States needs to drop its adversarialism and begin acting responsibly once again. If it does not, the you never know who might show up in your neighbourhood.

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Faith in the Time of Francis

On March 13, 2013, a man wearing a simple white cassock was acclaimed the 266th successor of St. Peter, and my heart sank down into my entrails. For all my manful attempts to resist that sinking feeling, it kept returning, in each broadly reported statement and writing of this pontificate, in every symbolic gesture seemingly designed to elate the chattering classes, in every fawning essay written by one who but two years before could find no praise whatsoever for the papacy or for the Catholic Church. By last summer, I was reading little of the news from Rome, not through any wilful decision not to, but merely through loss of interest. Within the last month, however, a certain incident (concerning which discretion bids my silence) at last shattered my guard, and a leaden sense of delayed grief finally dragged my spirit, theretofore distracted with other matters, to the floor. Finally, despite every effort to convince myself otherwise, I must confess that I am very, very disappointed by Pope Francis.

What a change he has caused in his 16 short months on the throne of St. Peter, so much so that the legacy of the eight glorious years of Pope Benedict now seems endangered. Never through word or action did Benedict savage the legacy of Pope John Paul, nor did John Paul ever in his long pontificate repudiate Pope Paul. Now, every time I hear the Traditional Latin Mass in all its antique glory, the resurgence of which is among the greatest of gifts of the Ratzinger papacy, I have that nagging thought in the back of my mind that it could be the last time. Surely, this is but anxious hyperbole, but underlying it is a grave misgiving that it would be remiss and, frankly, intellectually dishonest not to explore.

The presumption of continuity in the papacy already assumed, the role of the Bergoglio pontificate in the general trajectory of the Church’s history has confused me. We’ve not seen so abrupt an about-turn in the Church since the reforms enacted in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, and surely their baleful effects merit no review. This was indeed a notable consequence for what was supposedly a rather modest “pastoral council,” resolving no disputes, codifying no new dogma, and, all in all, quite unnecessary. However, no shortage of sins were committed afterwards in the name of this new “pastoralism,” more than decimating the ranks of the clergy and religious, leaving the liturgy and sacred art and music pale echoes of their previous states, and watering down homiletics and catechesis so much that a whole generation grew up with a very weak grasp on the faith that they ostensibly professed. All the while, Pope Paul VI, unable to stem the tide, seemed more a prisoner of the Vatican than Pius IX ever was.

And then we had our philosopher-kings. John Paul II began to reverse the decline, challenging the heresies that had been developing over the dark times and teaching the faith clearly and concisely. Some might say that he didn’t go far enough, that his lack of attention to the liturgy led to further decline or that many of his episcopal appointments left something to be desired. To this I’d respond that he left the Church in a much better state than he found it, championed traditional devotions, and opposed modernistic trends. His liturgical style wasn’t my cup of tea (indeed, I found it painful at times), but he had that rare talent of ingratiating himself among almost all the segments of the faithful. For all of this, to say nothing of his role in the fall of communism in Europe, his pontificate must be considered a smashing success.

Then Benedict XVI was elected, eminent theologian, prolific writer, doctrinal czar under John Paul for nearly a quarter-century. If the Wojtyla papacy was the upsurge from the conciliar chaos, the Ratzinger papacy was the triumph. Every word that man said was pure gold. Hearing him speak must have been like hearing Gregory the Great speak, and I don’t deny that we will one day speak of him as a Doctor of the Church. His promotion of the traditional rite of the Mass, his high liturgies intended to give an example for reverence to the rest of the Church, even his choice of vestments could give one the impression that the chaotic post-conciliar days were but a passing memory, and the Church is now no longer blighted by novelties, but continuing forward as though this unpleasantness had never happened, the same as she had ever been. I doubt there is a public figure I’d ever seen in my life whom I had admired more than Pope Benedict XVI.

However, under Francis we now see another novelty daily. We see perhaps imprudent statements to the press that are taken out of context to attack the doctrines of the Church. We get no meaty doctrine, but vacuous platitudes. I’ll admit that Benedict was a hard act to follow, and that I’d likely have been a little disappointed by his successor anyway, but this is too much, or dare I say too little. He reminds me a lot of some of the parish priests I had when I was a lad: kind and genial, no doubt, but uninspiring and commonplace. For all of his much-lauded humility, however, he seems rather stubborn to me. He wants to do things his way, whether it’s washing girls’ feet on Holy Thursday or refusing any of the trappings of office. By flaunting canon law and showing little respect for tradition, he’s showing a determination to do things his way. I thought that a lot of the trouble with the Church over the past half-century was the arrogance of clergy who just wanted to follow their own fancy. That’s the very antithesis of humility.

It pains me to see this. I wonder if this much-lauded “pastoralism” simply means a sort of saccharine niceness, while at the same time a vagueness that will allow any statement to be taken in any way. People respect Pope Francis much in the same way as they respect the Dalai Lama, and I don’t think too many of those who respect the Dalai Lama know anything about Tibetan Buddhism.

I don’t want to feel this way, though. I really want to like the Holy Father, but he’s making it very hard for me. Everything about this pontificate seems like a rejection of the Pope Benedict’s that came before, and that just feels like a slap in the face. Moreover, I worry about the type of bishops he will appoint, and how their dioceses will be affected. I worry that he might consider those fond of the Traditional Mass to be merely a bunch of Lefebvrists, and that this might underlie the investigation of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. I question, at times, his grasp of doctrine and of canon law. In all, Francis just feels less like a father, and more like a stepfather to whom we’ll never quite warm. A type of benign neglect could be the best likelihood in this case.

Yet, I prepare for the worst, for a revolutionary return to the iconoclasm of the 1970s. We could suffer a lot through this pontificate. So did the saints before us. The one consolation I have is that the Holy Spirit works all things to the good of the faithful, and that we might have the honour of joining our suffering to the Passion of Christ for the life of the world.

Or then again, I could simply be reading far too much into this. Any thoughts are welcome.

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Ladies and gentlemen, for some unknown reason you have stumbled upon my little corner of cyberspace. Therefore, allow me to bid you the heartiest of welcomes. I hope you find the time you pass here to be informative and stimulating.

Naturally, it would first behoove me to state my purpose in writing and maintaining this blog. However, I’m not quite certain what that is, or perhaps more appropriately, what that will become. This is merely something of a repository for my random musings about subjects philosophical, political, religious, cultural, literary, and so forth. To nail it down further than that seems rather unnecessary; let us instead simply see where this goes.

I shall hope to update this at least weekly, but I make no guarantees. Suggestions for topics are most certainly welcomed, after, of course, this has been active for a while and you (and I) can better infer what would seem appropriate here. I should note that civil and polite behaviour is expected at all times in the comments, that I shall be the judge of what is civil and polite, and that there is no court of higher appeal. It is sad that I should have to mention this, but such are the times we inhabit.

In any case, I repeat my welcomes and hope you enjoy your time here. A first essay ought to be posted within a week.

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