Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How I Found Religion - or - How Religion Found Me

Rod Dreher is asking for readers to submit stories on "How I Found Religion".  Since today happens to be an anniversary date for me in that regard, I posted the following ...

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    At the age of nine I saw Madeline Murray O’Hair, the famous atheist, on TV. She made perfect sense to me. I became an atheist from that point on, and was an adamant one, back in the day when this was not the fad that it is today. I stood out in my small town Missouri high school in the 1970′s, where everybody else was “Christian”, or claimed to be.
    But it was my experiences on stage as an actor that began to change me. I found that no matter what I did in preparing for a role – no matter how well I knew my lines, my blocking, or how intensely I researched my character – my performance would be lifeless, lacking a certain spark, a gift of spontaneity that was not of my making. All I could do was prepare for the performance and then invite the “spirit” in. In fact, I had to lose my control and abandon my preparation in the moment of performance or else things would seem contrived and stilted.
    This was tangible evidence of something beyond my own control, something quite real but spiritual. I thought of it as the “life force” as George Bernard Shaw called it. So for about fifteen years after these experiences on stage, I considered myself “spiritual but not religious”. I read the entire collected works of C. G. Jung (Freud’s disciple) and was rather awash in a Gnostic New Age worldview.
    But then something happened. I was physically assaulted by a guy I was working for (I tell the whole story here), and the pain and confusion that sprang from that – plus the free time that I suddenly had on my hands – led me to start reading books from the library.
    I stumbled upon C. S. Lewis, who was the first Christian I had encountered who made a clear and rational defense of the Faith, and who was a tremendously talented writer to boot. Lewis kept mentioning this guy G. K. Chesterton, whom I began to read. Chesterton kept mentioning his friend Hillaire Belloc – and once you follow that chain: Lewis to Chesterton to Belloc, the only thing left to do is to pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and pray.
    And in fact it was 17 years ago today – Sept. 23, 1997 – that I said my first prayer since before the age of 9, a prayer that was answered in an immediate and stunning way … but sometimes these things are too personal to describe. I’ve told the story more than once on EWTN’s “The Journey Home”, and the only thing I can add is the grace of God is utterly fantastic.

So I leave that as a kind of teaser, but this image from the internet is as close as I've come to illustrating that night 17 years ago visually.

The Grunky Book Club Podcast: The Poetry of G. K. Chesterton

Click here to listen!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Arm of Flesh vs. the Body of Christ

Sennacherib and the Assyrian army besiege Jerusalem, 701 BC.

The are times when the darkness rises like a flood, threatening to engulf us all.  Bad bishops and bad lay Catholics and the badness in our hearts are all quite real and undeniable, at least if we wish to jettison the Unreality we cling to and face the situation squarely.

But as situations go, the one in 701 BC was also rather bleak.  King Sennacherib and his Assyrian armies stood before Jerusalem, ready to attack it.  The people, terrified, looked to Hezekiah, the King of the Jews, to encourage them.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” (2 Chron. 32:7-8

Most of us arm ourselves with the flesh, not with the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18).  And the works of the flesh are these ...

Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

Before us we see this played out.  The horde at the gates are armed with these weapons only, even if some of them are dressed in bishops' mitres, even if some of them pray daily devotions and pride themselves in their righteousness.  And some of the Assyrians look an awful lot like us in our more selfish moments.

For as dark as the invading darkness seems, its weapons are not of the Spirit.  Narcissistic bishops, craven and cowardly cardinals, neurotic and fearful devout lay folk - all of them - all of us - conspire against the New Jerusalem as Sennacherib conspired against the old one.  But there is nothing to pit against light but darkness: and darkness cannot do what light does: dispel the gloom.

And so, when things seem very dark and dreary and when the wolf is at the door - worse than that, when the men are at the gates, whose hearts are hungering for slaughter and for spoil, when those people or things other than God that we have put our trust in (such as priests, bishops, fellow Christian friends, our own talents, resources or efforts) - when those we have banked on have all betrayed us, when the City of God seems about to fall (traitors within cooperating with barbarians without) remember - the enemy's only weapons are the sins we cherish (the pitiful works of the flesh), his only strategy is life without light, his only hope is to sling his miserable lies against the Truth.

Fr. Angelo Mary Geiger, who (along with his order) been besieged in a number of ways over the past few months and years, rises to a level of poetic insight into the simple worldly fear that is at the heart of the civil war within the Church and within our souls.  He speaks of "conspiracy theory", but substitute almost any phrase for "conspiracy theory" and you can explain the dynamics of panic and despair.  You may replace his phrase "Conspiracy theory" below with "addiction" or "heterodoxy" or "judgmentalism" or "arrogance" or "narcissism", etc., and it would ring just as true ...

Conspiracy theory is willfulness bubbling up from wanton fear.
There is only one solution to conspiracy theory, just as there is one, and only one, solution to scruples: breaking the will, not satisfying the intellect.  In the Church that means supernatural obedience.
Fear of the Church is a horrible thing.  There are plenty of things to be afraid of.  But this is why we have hope in Christ through His visible Church.  That is why Christ said He who hears you hears me.  Man is not in charge.  Christ is in charge.  Either one believes in the providence of God or one does not.  There is no place in conspiracy theory for the providence of God.
I am not saying that everything is great in the Church.  It is not.  But if one thinks that the providence of God is somehow related to how great things are, he is making the same mistake common among so many in the Old Covenant, namely, that God is present only when it seems that way.

Stare out at the armies of Assyria besieging Jerusalem and ask yourself, "Is God present?"  It certainly doesn't seem that way.  But put aside the "willfulness" that bubbles up from "wanton fear" and trust in God's Providence - which is (contrary to what we expect) not related to "how great things are".

For that which besieges us is armed only with arms of flesh and with the works of the flesh.  But we are the Body of Christ, which includes the Arm (and the army) of God.

Fr. Angelo quotes from Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse.  I will counter with another quotation from that great poem, and I send it out to you, my readers, especially to those of you who feel overwhelmed and desperate in the face of some sort of rising darkness in your life.  We cannot peer through the darkness, but that's what Faith is all about.  For God is present and Christ is in charge - even in our darkest hours, and even in His Church, which we sinners keep besieging.

Chesterton puts these words into the mouth of the Mother of God ...

"The men of the East may spell the stars,
          And times and triumphs mark,
          But the men signed of the cross of Christ
          Go gaily in the dark.

          "The men of the East may search the scrolls
          For sure fates and fame,
          But the men that drink the blood of God
          Go singing to their shame."

Recent Photos

Since just the thought of taking more pictures of the Cakeway to the West cakes fills me with an uncontrollable rage, I've decided to post a few other pictures instead.

The Missouri River near St. Charles, MO.  From a recent hike.
My temporary dye job and comb-over does the trick!  This is for a character I play, but I'm trying to get my wife Karen to let me do this all the time.  She adamantly refuses.  She probably suspects that this look will help me pick up chicks.

Octagonal one-room schoolhouse, Watkins Mill State Park, Lawson, MO

Interior of the octagonal school house, which features an octagonal skylight.  I doubt that the skylight is original to the structure, which was built in the 1870s.

Actress Maria in front of the Hall of Waters, Excelsior Springs, MO.

Interior of the Hall of Waters.  The light fixtures are original to the building, c. 1936.

About to enter as Professor Henry Higgins, My Fair Murder, Terre Beau Winery, Dover, MO.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Shop of Ghosts

Season Seven of G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense continues on EWTN this week with the episode "The Shop of Ghosts".

Starring Dale AhlquistChuck Chalberg, and (sometimes) me, this series is a fantastic way to get to know the greatest writer of the 20th century, G. K. Chesterton.

Episodes air in the U.S. on Sundays at 9:00 pm Eastern Time (8:00 pm Central), and on Wednesdays at 2:00 pm Eastern Time (1:00 pm Central).

Life as a Great Parade

My fear is that my posts about Cardinal Dolan will be taken in the worst possible way.  And I don't mean that certain super-Catholics will be offended that I have the temerity to criticize a "Prince of the Church".

I mean that people will simply assume that I hate gays, or that I'm obsessed with shaming homosexuals, or that I think Dolan is making a horrible mistake by serving as grand marshal of the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade.  In fact, I think a good case could be made for Dolan sticking by his guns and leading the parade; but the case he made is not it.  The reasons Dolan gave for his decision simply insult our intelligence and tell us more about Dolan's vanity, imperiousness and contempt for his critics -which was wrapped in a faux folksy "aw shucks" bonhommie - than anything else.  But my point is not gay bashing or even bishop bashing.  My point is that to parade under a banner identifying your sin is to endorse that sin, and it is to demand public endorsement of your sin. 

But being misunderstood worries me because I've known openly gay men and women all of my life.  You can't make a living in show business and not work closely along side them.  And while their sins are no source of pride (despite what they sometimes rather defensively assert), these folk are like all the rest of humanity: loving, trustworthy, compassionate, petty, untrustworthy, cold-hearted - in other words, a mixture of things both divinely good and abysmally bad, like all of us.

They are part of the Vast Parade, the ongoing line of cheaters, swindlers, lovers and saints who pass by as the band plays, who pass by along that Main Street that stretches from cradle to grave.

Anthony Esolen has a brilliant essay in Crisis in which he looks at what it means to march in a parade - in fact to march in the great Parade of Life (thanks to reader Chrisitan Le Blanc for pointing this article out to me).

I am imagining a parade down Main Street of Anyville.

It’s the typical American parade. Some people are tootling on flutes, braying out almost-G on the trumpet, or banging the big bass drum. A group of high school girls in short skirts dance and twirl their batons. Old men with bellies stuffed into their faded Army uniforms march along with rifles slung over their shoulders. The gladhanding mayor comes waving in a limousine, a smile frozen on his face as people cheer or hoot. Fire engines one two three and four roar down the road with siren and horn. Middle-aged ladies from the middle-aged lady association come bearing friendly banners, smiling to the children in the crowds. A troop of boy scouts, a troop of girl scouts, a clown with big floppy feet, random boys running into and out of the festivities, somebody hawking cotton candy, parents along the sidewalks carrying small children on their shoulders; everything and everyone you expect.

In the parade are liars, cheats, gossips, Sabbath-breakers, and people who drink too much. In the parade are adulterers, a thief or two, a pleasant civic-minded taker of bribes, a man who beats his wife, and a wife who beats her husband. In the parade are people hooked on porn, and at least one woman who has produced some of it herself. In the parade are parents who have hurt their children and children who have hurt their parents. In the parade are fornicators, and some who have snuffed in the womb the natural result of their fornication. In the parade is a doctor who let an elderly patient die of an overdose of morphine because her relatives wanted it. In the parade are the angry, the false-hearted, the covetous, the slothful, the vain, the blasphemous, the licentious, the ambitious, the perverse, the cruel, the petty, the lukewarm, and the obscene.

In the parade are human beings. In the parade are sinners. We are in the parade and we are lining the streets to watch the parade.

In the town next to mine when I was a boy, the Italian immigrants had brought over from Gubbio a great festive parade, the Race of the Saints. Three teams of men, carrying seven-hundred-pound statues of Saint George, Saint Anthony, and Saint Ubaldo, Gubbio’s patron, would race up and down the hilly streets, to the cheers of most of their four thousand townsmen. Sin was carrying sanctity; sinners bent their backs and strained their legs to give honor to the saints.

That is why we have a parade. We who are not always honorable show our appreciation for honor.  We who are not always holy show our reverence for holiness. We who are small pay our respects to what is great. We who have received great benefits show some modest gratitude for those who have conferred them upon us.

Now let us suppose that the Royal Order of Wife-Beaters wants to add their float to the parade, with a jaunty young lady bending over to invite the man with the big paddle. Let us suppose that the Fornicators for Freedom want to march, dancing to “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.” Let us suppose that a group calling itself Porn Again Christians wants to strut, with bikini underwear and thongs. Let us suppose that the Rumor Rustlers want to march, advertising their raison d’etre, to ferret out other people’s ugly secrets and to spread them abroad in gleeful caricatures.

We can imagine other groups too: The Ponzi Perps, The Brothers of Brawling, The Sharks of the Payday Loan, The Morphine Mavens, The Salacious Sluts, The Kiddie Korruptors, The Ku Klux Klan, The New Nazis, The Legal Thieves, The Sowers of Discord, The Peddlers of Public Office, The Gladhearted Gluttons, The Bloodsucking Leeches, The Refusers to Lift a Finger, and so forth.

Now suppose that the parade were ostensibly held to celebrate the feast day of a saint, and that a leader of the saint’s faith were to occupy the seat of honor. That would not be a case of sin carrying sanctity. It would be a case of sin marching right over the backside and the head of sanctity. Saint Patrick, according to legend, cast all the serpents out of Ireland. The new Patrick is more “inclusive.” He welcomes the serpents back in.

I deal with this a while back in my post on other forms of public celebrations of sin ...

Several new sites will be on display here in my home town of St. Louis, and the tour buses will be busy incorporating the new stops for eager vacationers.

  • One is a statue of Henry Flurg, proudly on display in the public square in the heart of downtown.  Henry was a middle-aged St. Louisan who spent most of his time masturbating.  He had no social life and contributed nothing to society, but, "He led the way in something we should all be ashamed of," noted Earl Glurp, President of the Pride for Self-Indulgence, which was awarded a Federal Grant to fund the statue.

  • Shirleen Smink worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles and made customers' lives miserable.  She saw to it that some folks stood in line for several hours before being told in a rude and dismissive way that they didn't have the right paperwork.  In her personal life, she was selfish and nasty to her closest friends.  She has been honored with a plaque on St. Louis' Walk of Fame.

  • Thad Schlub managed to father three children whose mothers he abandoned, in spite of the fact that he did literally nothing but play video games, collect disability, and smoke an "unbelievable" amount of "weed" while listening to loud and annoying music.  Four local streets and a fountain will be named after him.

We are all sinners and we march in the Great Parade while other sinners cheer and catch the candy we throw at them.

But we do not demand that they cheer for our sins.  And the garbage Cardinal Dolan is throwing at us sure the heck ain't candy.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ardor and Love

Well, the Cardinal Dolan posts have gotten lots of views and lots of comments (especially on Facebook and via email), but let me try to get back to something a bit more helpful to all of us.

If you're anything like me, the ardor of your faith waxes and wanes.  Sometimes you feel more serious about God, sometimes less.

But here's something that occurred to me last night.  In my moments where I'm really stirred up, where I really can pray and pray quite honestly, "I love you, Jesus.  I will do anything for You.  Forgive my many sins and backslidings, and use me in any way You wish.  I want to give my all to You, like St. Paul the Apostle, like the Prophets, like those who have been on fire for Your love," - in those moments when I see the core of the meaning of life, and I know (as we all do, though sometimes it slips out of focus) that the meaning of life is giving ourselves entirely in a gift of love, then perhaps I can add a little prayer, "P.S., remind me of this the next time I'm tempted to sin.  Remind me of how true and genuine my love for You is.  Remind me of my ardor."

Now this takes some chutzpah.  After all, our love has to be strong and our ardor has to be genuine if we are to be reminded of it.

But I suspect that each of us, miserable and selfish souls that we all are, have someplace in us where we love with a great fervor, a shocking purity, an uncompromised devotion.  If we do, it is God's grace, the seed of eternal life in us, the key to the Kingdom.  If we do, though it be hidden and buried (sometimes deliberately buried out of cowardice and out of disdain for the suffering we know letting it out will bring) - if we have this, it is God's presence stirring and growing within us as it stirred and grew within Mary when she said Yes to the angel those many years ago.

To Clarify - on Cardinal Dolan, Gays and Personal Dispositions

I've been hearing from a lot of folks via Facebook and email on my recent posts on Cardinal Dolan and the St. Patrick's Day Parade issue.  Let me clarify a few things ...

  • I think it's well within the cardinal's prerogative to decide if he should or should not serve as Grand Master of a parade that includes GAY PRIDE banners and groups.  It's a matter of prudence, not doctrine.  Indeed, I think a very good case could be made for him to stick with leading the parade.  These reasons include the fact that he doesn't decide who's in and who's out, the fact that his presence can stir up debate (as it has), the fact that there are plenty of other sinners marching in the parade who don't have their own banners devoted to their particular sins, etc.  But the reason Cardinal Dolan gave, that to parade one's inclination to sin is not to endorse that sin, is either disingenuous or stupid.  As I pointed out, if I were to march under the banner IRISH ADULTERERS, I would be advocating not only my predilection toward that particular sin, but also my pride in it and my flaunting of it.  To march under a GAY PRIDE banner (in a public square, in front of God and children and everybody) is to endorse gay sex.  Period.  Everybody but a bishop is able to see that.

  • Gays can certainly be loving people - perhaps far more loving than I am, and far more loving than most of my friends.  But they are loving in spite of their sins, not because of them.  Anal intercourse (for instance - whether between heterosexuals or homosexuals) can never, by its nature, be a proper or true expression of love, for love is always self-sacrificing and creative, making new life.  Buggery, by contrast, is self-indulgent and sterile.  The Church teaches that any sexual activity outside of the marital act (sex between a married man and woman) which is not open to emotional union and to the creation of new life (babies and families) is sinful and selfish.  This is a hard teaching.  But it's the teaching of Christ.  If it's not, then the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be.  And it's the Law of Love.  And we know in our hearts that it's true.

  • Some of my younger friends tell me that being "gay" does not necessarily mean being sexually active with others of your own gender; it is just a disposition, an orientation, a general inclination, and that it's part of a bigger picture.  I frankly admit this.  Indeed, a disposition toward homosexual behavior might be part of a general sensitivity or might often be aligned with a specific talent or two - this is something psychologists can study.  But we all deal with this: our dispositions are mixed blessings, and everything we're disposed to needs to be either mortified or perfected by God's grace.  And if it's true that "gay" men are prone to artistic sensitivity (to use a stereotype), this does not mean that it's therefore a good thing to turn your "sexual identity" into a banner to march under, simply because your disordered sexual disposition happens to include aspects of your personality that dispose you toward other things that are not disordered.  But these things do, indeed, seem to come in clusters.  I know many men who are disposed toward adultery (you might say that's their "sexual identity"), and who also happen to be very effective at sales.  It's part of the same package - great salesman, wandering eye.  Since their disordered appetite toward sex is part of a larger disposition that includes valuable talents and abilities in other directions, does that mean they should be proud of the fact that they don't want to keep their penises in their pants?  Our characters are gifts from God, and they are all mixed bags.  "Gays" have nothing on "straights" in that regard.

  • "Gays" should not be persecuted or discriminated against, any more than any other sinners.  Some of them deal with grave and burdensome struggles to be chaste, or even to be happy.  This is why Dolan's flippant, folksy, casual and condescending attitude toward this really rankles me; he is being particularly dismissive of men and women who struggle with same sex attraction and who make great sacrifices day in and day out to be virtuous.  

  • "Why are you Catholics so focused on gay sex?  Let it go!" I've been hearing.  Glad to.  But we're not the ones with an agenda here.  This is the first time the St. Patrick's Day Parade has been hijacked by this issue, as far as I know, and it's not because of the obsessive compulsive Catholic Church.

When the Leading Cardinal in America is Simply a Careerist

For those of you who haven't been following, let me summarize in brief.  Cardinal Dolan has given what I consider to be a poorly reasoned, condescending and annoyingly folksy rationalization of his decision to serve as Grand Marshal of New York's St. Patrick's Day parade, which will now show the children along the route a group of "gay Irish" marching under a banner identifying themselves as such.  Dolan rightly points out that we condemn the sin, not the sinner - and of course gays have been marching in parades for centuries (though not parading about as gays).  He wrongly points out that if a man or a woman marches under a Gay Pride banner, it's merely a way of indicating his or her sexual identity, and is in no way an endorsement of the sins that such a sexual identity seeks out.

I countered with an Open Letter to Cardinal Dolan in which I asked to march under the banner of IRISH ADULTERERS.  I point out that, even though the sin of adultery is condemned, and even though I have not given in to consummating fully the temptations of adultery, I still consider this my sexual identity and the Church should not judge me for that, and certainly by marching under a banner in which I identify myself as having an inclination to adultery, I'm not endorsing adultery.  Heavens no!  I'm simply Proud of my inclination.  I simply identify with my temptations.  I could have said more.  I could have suggested groups marching under such banners as GREEDY IRISH EMPLOYERS, or LAZY SLOTHFUL IRISH DRUNKS, or IRISH CHILD MOLESTERS.  I mean, we can't judge a child molester's soul, only his sins - although if Dolan is affirming anything in this scandal, it's that we are defined by our sins.  

So that's our story so far.  And the general take on this situation is that Cardinal Dolan is a naive fool.

Today, however, Kevin Tierney comments on the Dolan Situation at Red Cardigan's blog (my emphasis)...

Maybe we have to consider the unpleasant possibility that His Eminence knows exactly what he is doing, he is not the fool, and that these are conscious choices.
Too many events have happened in Dolan's history to suggest naivete or [foolishness]. There's something else at work here.
No, it's not him being a heretic, modernist, or whatever you want to say. Plain and simple, Dolan is a careerist. All of his controversial decisions from the Sheen dustup, to his role in the abuse scandals, to Holy Innocents, to now the parade have been about what's best for the bottom line ... his bottom line. What advances his profile is what is best for business.

This is one of those theories that fits all the facts - which means it's probably true.

Of course, I must insert a caveat: to acknowledge the truth of a person's character is not to judge that person's soul or his relationship with God.  That's not our business, and we are not to do that.  But to trust a man like Timothy Dolan, to hope from him adherence to Catholic principles, especially when the pressure's on or the chips are down, to expect him even to teach or to administer with any conformity to Christ, after he's shown us again and again what he's made of, is to be a dupe.

But why is it so hard for us to admit this?

We know how all of the original apostles failed in their loyalty to Christ.  We know of the lack of sanctity in various bishops throughout history, and how many, then and now, are simply scoundrels.  We know, if we haven't shut our senses to it, that most bishops aren't even Christian enough to protect Catholic teaching, the Holy Mass, or the safety and innocence of children in their own dioceses.  We know they lie.  We know they are often narcissists filled with grandiose self-importance.

By the same token, we know that the Church tells us to expect this.  We know that the Church tells us that the Holy Spirit protects the Magisterium from teaching error on matters of Faith and Morals, but gives them free reign - without protecting them from error - to be a witness in other ways either to their love for God or to their love for their own sorry selves.  God has never prevented any of us from sinning, and the grace conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders can be tarnished and peed on like the grace the rest of us are given to follow Christ every waking moment of the day.

But bother us it does.  And this is hard to admit or to comprehend.  The leading prelate in America - the most public bishop of the Catholic Church in the United States, who is a cardinal and who should be, by virtue of his position, a role model - is a careerist who is more interested in pleasing men than in pleasing God.  See Gal. 1:10, where St. Paul says - emphatically and with emotion - that to do this is to cease to be a "servant of Christ".

So he's a careerist.  There are worse things that can be said of a man.  There are worse things people could say about me.  There are worse things I could say about you.

But this is a tragedy all the same.  It's not even a tragedy, for a tragedy (in the literary sense) requires nobility of character and high aspirations gone wrong.  This, then, is not tragic.  It's pathetic.

I wrote yesterday of our unwillingness to face the facts, to see plainly the darkness in our own hearts or in the hearts of people in whom we've placed our hopes, people in whom we have a vested interest.  Of course, there's an opposite danger, which is rank cynicism, and which is giving yourself over to the demagoguery of Catholics-with-a-schtick like Michael Voris, who make a career of bishop bashing and playing to the most brutal element in our souls.

But if we are anything, we Christians, we are men of truth.  And the truth will set us free, even the ugly truth.  And having the leading cardinal in America be a careerist who sells out his fidelity to Christ any chance he gets is certainly an ugly truth.

I am told that in Roman days, the laity would turn their back on prelates like Dolan in public, refusing to look them in the eyes.

That would be the worst thing you could do to a careerist - and also the most charitable.  Such a move might even prod him to repent.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dialogue with Spam

Blogger filters out a ton of spam comments from my comboxes.

Here's a fun one that invites a dialogue ...

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Dear Cardinal Dolan: I'm an IRISH ADULTERER and I'm Proud of It!

Dear Cardinal Dolan,

A friend on Facebook suggests I write to you.  Of course I've not only written to you in the past, I've even written short speeches for you, which (as far as I know) you haven't used.

And I'll keep this brief, too.

You claim that if a person marches behind a "gay banner" in a public parade, he's simply self-identifying as having same-sex attraction, which is something the Church does not judge.  We're concerned with actions, not inclinations.  Marching behind a banner that advertises your sexual orientation is not only fine, it's something that has elicited a "bravo" from you in the past.  After all, nothing trumps the great and wonderful truth of sexual identity, right?  And being tempted to commit sodomy is no big deal - though the Church teaches that if I willingly give in to it, I could go to hell.  In fact, that temptation defines who I am, correct?  And I should be proud of that; in fact I should parade that in public - in front of little kids and everything.  I mean, this is what your recent defense is saying, in effect.

But, your excellency, what if there were a group in the St. Patrick's parade that marched under the banner IRISH ADULTERERS?  As we know, adultery is common and many adulterers have marched in many parades in the past, though covertly, as have many "gays".  Now, I'm Irish-American and, while I don't have an inclination to members of my own sex, I am quite strongly attracted to women who are not my wife.

This being my "inclination", could I walk under the IRISH ADULTERERS banner?  After all, I'm not (as I write this) actively committing adultery, even adultery of the heart.  But, boy, I sure the heck am tempted to.  In fact, even though I have not had sexual intercourse with a woman other than my wife since I've been married, I consider IRISH ADULTERER to be a pretty accurate description of my identity - of who I am, way down deep.

So I could walk under an IRISH ADULTERERS banner and this would be fine, correct?  It would give no mixed messages about Church teaching or my own assent to it, right?

And my wife should not be upset with me, either - correct?

I'm just following your own logic, your grace.  Tell me, please, if I'm at all wrong.

Yours in Christ,


Cardinal Dolan's Astonishing Naivete

In a stunning display of naivete, Cardinal Dolan, who presides over a Church that in modern times has gone queer over banners at Mass, is utterly clueless about the meaning of queer banners in a public secular parade.

But that's not my point.  We know our bishops are either clueless or cowardly or complicit in all kinds of garbage.  So this is to be expected: that Cardinal Dolan does not even see that the promotion of "gay identity" is promotion of a "gay agenda".  Any idiot knows that.  This has not been an argument against "gays" marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade, as they have done covertly for years.  It's not an argument about the question of loving the sinner but hating the sin.  It's an argument about civic life in the public square and the forced celebration of sin, which is what the gay pride banners are pushing, as anybody but a bishop can easily understand.

But my point is not that.  My point is this.  What really gets on my nerves is how he opens his vacuous and rather condescending defense ...

I haven’t been in this much hot water since I made the comment, right after I arrived as your archbishop five-and-a-half years ago, that Stan Musial—my boyhood hero of my hometown St. Louis Cardinals—was a much better ballplayer than Joe DiMaggio!
Now I’m getting as much fiery mail and public criticism over my decision to accept the honor of Grand Marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. According to the critics, I should have refused, due to the Parade Committee’s decision to allow a group of self-identified Gays of Irish ancestry to march in the parade with their own banner.
As with Stan Musial, I’ll stand by my decision.

As I said to a group of friends on Facebook (excuse my expletive) ...

I hate that kind of "suburban parish make light of the situation" bull crap. This is not about baseball, your grace. Don't try to get everybody chuckling when you've made this problem by ignoring a very serious issue - the sin of sodomy is serious, the turmoil in the souls of "gay" men trying to live chastely is serious, the witness you're giving by either marching or not marching in the parade is serious. Cut the banal bullshit.

But, alas.  Such is the level of ecclesiastical administration these days.



If you think about it, Cardinal Dolan is probably neither naive nor foolish.  He's just a politician, doing what politicians do, cowering and caving in to pressure.  He simply adds to that the annoying clerical dose of condescension and moral superiority.  But at least some of our bishops have risen above mere politics.  St. Paul, for instance.  "Am I trying to please men or God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10)


I follow this up with An Open Letter to Cardinal Dolan as well as a post that's bound to bother some people.  And one that goes into more detail on the theology and psychology of this issue.  And one about what it means to march under a banner in a parade. Crazy times where to defend the normal requires a dash of foolhardiness and heroic virtue.