“Feed your Flock” Superbowl Ad

Friday, December 31, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

The Pepsi Company is hosting an advertisement contest. The winner of the advertisement contest will air during the Superbowl. Apparently a commercial in the running is titled “Feed Your Flock,” and it exploits and mocks the practice of receiving Holy Communion. The video can be seen HERE on Facebook, or HERE on the Pepsi website. The video is borderline (if not completely) blasphemous and Catholic Christians everywhere should write to Pepsi to prevent this ad from getting on to the air. The video should not air because it exploits Christ, mocks His Church and His community in the Church, and it will perpetuate harmful misunderstandings of Christian belief. Please watch the video and let me know what you think.

Please consider signing a petition to have this ad removed from the commercials during the Superbowl.


A Question for Our Readers

Friday, November 12, 2010 \PM\.\Fri\.

This may seem somewhat ridiculous, but I’ll ask it anyway because I’m curious what people think. What is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a couch? At what point does the expense of the couch become an excess? How does the quality of the couch and the time that you will be able to use the couch affect the legitimate magnitude of the expense? Is it absurd to buy an all-leather sectional?

I ask because I want to know what Christian discipleship looks like in all things in life. And because honestly, I’m not sure. Sometimes, it’s easy to know what Christian discipleship looks like. For example, I know that willingness to die for the faith is very Christ-like. I know that prayer is an essential part of Christian discipleship. And I know that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is our highest good as human beings. But these are high and holy actions for our faith life; what about things not as obviously related to our faith life, like putting furniture in a house or apartment?

I look forward to hearing what you may think, or not think if the question totally bores you. So please let me know – am I the only one who asks these types of questions? Should I just chill out? Or what? In the meantime I think I will try to ask God in prayer.


Healthcare Plan Likely to Include Free Contraception

Monday, November 1, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

Another pertinent reason for Catholics to oppose the Democrats and their health care bill at the polls tomorrow:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Fifty years after the pill, another birth control revolution may be on the horizon: free contraception for women in the U.S., thanks to the new health care law.

That could start a shift toward more reliable – and expensive – forms of birth control that are gaining acceptance in other developed countries.

As Nancy Pelosi said,

“Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”

It’s a cost cutting measure. It’s also a grave sin! But if you’re Nancy Pelosi, or most of the rest of the American Catholic population, you say, “Who cares! We need to have this!”


Ovide 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010 \PM\.\Thu\.

Next week, New Hampshire Republicans, and probably some irritating Democrats, will decide who the Republican Nominee is for the Republican New Hampshire Senate Candidacy. It appears to the best of my knowledge that Ovide Lamontange is the only consistent pro-life and limited government candidate on the ticket. I urge anyone you know who lives in New Hampshire to vote for Ovide. No, he’s not a genius, but he’s principled, more than the others. Primaries should be about principles. Playing Machiavelli can wait until November. We have to choose the right people to put up for office, and the right people are principled people who think that government is more than simply another way to stimulate the economy. We have a debased and corrupt form of politics that only recognizes the material dimension of our lives. We need candidates who understand that material life is not the only good, and that material well-being is in some way really dependent on our spiritual well-being. Our spiritual well-being is in a real way determined by our laws, and our politicians create our laws, not just “our jobs” (which is ridiculous, politicians don’t create jobs). We need to look for politicians who have but an inkling of an understanding of this countercultural idea. Our laws are not just about money; they are about truth and justice and goodness and even beauty.

Republicans are upset about not being in power. Republicans are not in power because they have failed to live up to their principles, and everyone knows it. Republican principles are good principles, and we should not concede them because we have hopes of winning an election. Republicans have won elections, and they have acted frivolously and ignorantly with their power because they were not principled. We need to elect politicians who will behave responsibly with their power, and not just win the election. Elections don’t matter; justice and truth do.


Forgiving God

Sunday, August 22, 2010 \PM\.\Sun\.

“I think everyone has a secret resentment against God, against our very creation, against the fact of our being what we are. Freud called this the death wish, resentment against being born into this pain-full world.”

Peter Kreeft says something surprising in Back to Virtue:  that we need to learn to forgive God. He is quite clear that this is not for any evil or debt he owes us, but for His goodness. As Kreeft says in his book, God loves us more than we would like, and we need to forgive him for interfering with our foolish will again and again”. We need to “forgive him for his blessed but painful surgery on our spirits.”

At first, I thought Kreeft was wrong. Forgive God? Why would we lowly creatures need to forgive God, who is infinite goodness? How absurd! Then, giving the great Peter Kreeft the benefit of the doubt, I thought it over and had a realization of sorts. We need to forgive God lest we hold a grudge against Him. God calls us out of ourselves. He asks us to give up ourselves and our particular desires, and this can be very difficult, even aggravating. Our broken nature rebels against God’s will. We must say with Jesus, “not my will Father, but yours be done,” but we do not want to. We often say, leave me alone to what I want! Christians say this even when they know this is foolishness. We are broken and part of our brokenness is a wrong-relationship with God: we blame him when he is not at fault. Our hearts must be at peace with God. And our hearts, misshapen as they are, cannot be at peace with God unless we forgive him. How ridiculous we are!


Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, July 4, 2010 \AM\.\Sun\.

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

As we celebrate our Independence from the British Empire, let us remember our total dependence on God.


The Television Ethic

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 \PM\.\Wed\.

It seems to me that the shows on TV have gotten worse, much worse than they have ever been. Shows like “Cougar Town,” “Super Nanny,” “One Tree Hill” or “The Bachelorette” – basically any show on any of the major networks. These shows are either a shameless “sitcom” with bad and awkward sexual humor, a boring reality show that smug Americans watch so they can make themselves feel like they’re better than the narcissistic dweebs who end up on those shows, or an overwrought “drama” that lacks any sense of humanity instead substituting gratuitous sexual content.

I suppose what’s most striking is the total absence of anything sacred. If you watch TV, it’s clear there’s nothing special about human affairs and human relationships. Television teaches us that we’re all really only out for ourselves. Other people are a means to increase our “happiness” and to the extent they do that they are valuable. Traditional human virtues like love, gratitude, forbearance, patience, loyalty, faithfulness, and peace are mocked on television. No one on television takes any of these things seriously. In fact nothing on television takes anything seriously (maybe a few rare exceptions e.g. LOST). After all, persons who take things seriously are really just fooling themselves that who they are matters or what they do matters. It’s not who you are, it’s what you have, or who you have. Television teaches an ethic of exploitation for personal gain and I think it’s terrible.

But maybe it’s always been this way and I haven’t paid close enough attention.


The Boston Globe Has a Great Article About Religion?

Monday, May 3, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

It’s true! They let someone onto the pages of the Boston Globe who knows a little bit about religion. Professor Stephen Prothero of Boston University (?) writes about how all religions are actually different, and that these differences matter. We cannot and should not pretend that all religions lead to the same God, because believers do not believe so. To think otherwise is to disrespect believers of all kinds, and it is the opposite of “celebrating diversity” – it ignores diversity and replaces it with a lie. The Professor clearly sees the motivation of advocates of this “all roads lead to the same God” idea in a particularly perceptive passage in the middle of the article:

I understand what these people are doing. They are not describing the world but reimagining it. They are hoping that their hope will call up in us feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood. In the face of religious bigotry and bloodshed, past and present, we cannot help but be drawn to such hope, and such vision. Yet we must not mistake either for clear-eyed analysis.

Those who preach one world religion and who ignore genuine religious differences are reimagining the world, as Professor Prothero aptly puts it. I believe this tendency – the tendency to reimagine the world – is omnipresent in our world today. I get this idea from a philosophy professor of mine from way back when who was fond of saying that the single unifying characteristic of modern philosophy is that tries to project itself onto the world. Modern minds want to project their vision of reality onto the world. This stands in stark contrast to the ancient thinkers, who understood the purpose of philosophy and indeed of reason itself to know the world as it is, and to conform one’s actions to this reality. In ignoring religious differences, modern thinkers indulge in a fantasy that renders them ineffective and unpersuasive. Pretending differences do not exist does not eliminate the differences. In fact, it may aggravate things by obscuring what is truly held in common, these commonalities being the prerequisite of a true conversation. Not to mention, pretending all religions are the same is simply rude. Professor Prothero’s article is a great antidote to the modern way of thinking and I hope read more from him in the future.


The State’s Incentives

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

State funded health care necessarily incentivizes the state to increase the number of abortions, the practice of euthanasia, and the availability of contraceptives.  The state is also perhaps paradoxically incentivized to regulate with great precision the habits of its citizens with specific regard to food, alcohol, tobacco, and exercise. This brief commentary will explain why this is the case and some of the first order ramifications for our culture.

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Consequences of the Love of Equality

Saturday, March 27, 2010 \PM\.\Sat\.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume Two, Part Four, Chapter Six: What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear:

I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn and apart, is like a stranger to the destiny of all the others: his children and his particular friends form the whole human species for him; as for dwelling with his fellow citizens, he is beside them, but he does not see them; he touches them and does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone, and if a family still remains for him, one can at least say that he no longer has a native country.

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Some Hypotheticals

Monday, March 1, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

If you saw someone who was going to jump off a cliff… would you stop them? Assume that you would prevent them from physical death. I think you would probably try to stop them.

Now assume you are an Archbishop, and you know of Catholics who are advocating very publicly for grave sin, and that this itself is a grave sin. Unrepented grave sin, as you know as an Archbishop, brings spiritual death. You know in your heart that spiritual death is eternal, and is God’s most hated thing. You also know that this spiritual death is very real, and very dangerous: infinitely more dangerous than mere physical death. Would you not, as an Archbishop, care enough about your fellow Brother or Sister in Christ to do everything in your power to prevent further spiritual death?

And you would also know, as an Archbishop, that someone who is manifestly and publicly in a state of grave sin ought to refrain from receiving Communion, for their own sake, since receiving Communion unworthily is yet another grave sin that further wounds their soul.

And it would probably strike you, as an Archbishop, that this particular sin is a sin with a pedagogical dimension (public advocacy of sin teaches sin). Would your counsel to this person not also have a public dimension, to correct those who may have been misinformed by this person’s very public advocacy (perhaps even encouragement) of sin?

Would you not see three very important things which demand your prophetic teaching voice? Is not the most pastoral thing to do preventing such a person from further grave sin? Can your message not be delivered in a spirit of charity and sincere concern and love?


The Appeal of True Greatness

Friday, February 5, 2010 \PM\.\Fri\.

Christianity has a twofold challenge: to present the Good News of salvation to explain why the Good News should concern everyone. The second challenge is uniquely modern. After all, the Good News is salvation from sin, and sin is an idea foreign to most modern people. Explaining to someone that they are a sinner in need of a savior is never easy. It’s easy to come off as rude, insulting, or worse: a holy roller.

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Intellectuals

Sunday, January 17, 2010 \AM\.\Sun\.

Thomas Sowell has a new book about intellectuals that looks very interesting. The National Review has a review:

Sowell writes that it “was part of a long-standing assumption among many intellectuals . . . that it is the role of third parties to bring meaning into the lives of the masses.” Many people were shocked when in early 2008 Michelle Obama proclaimed, “Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. . . . That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.” Sowell probably just shook his head in knowing disgust.

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Mass at Midnight on Christmas Morning

Saturday, January 2, 2010 \AM\.\Sat\.

This Christmas my local parish was something to behold. Midnight Mass began with light only from decorations on the Evergreen trees, the Priest, escorted by the Deacon and members of the local Knights of Columbus, processed through the Pews with an icon of the baby Jesus to be laid in the Manger. The entire Church was silent and it was beautiful.

As is typical of Christmas and to a lesser extent Easter Masses, the Church was full. This is an unusual circumstance for my parish, as on any typical Sunday the Church is probably half empty. In New England, people who don’t usually come to Church come to Church on Christmas. This is a disheartening aspect of Catholic life in America. Is there anything that can or should be done about it?

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Philip Hamburgers New Book is a Rare Find

Friday, December 11, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

Michael McConnell, a Law Professor at Stanford, offers this in a First Things review of Philip Hamburger’s new book titled Law and Judicial Duty:

Hamburger traces the development of modern conceptions of the law to the realization, in Europe and especially Britain, that human reason rarely provided clear answers to moral questions and therefore that an attempt to ground law in divine will, or a search for abstract reason and justice, would inevitably lead to discord. As a result, “Europeans increasingly located the obligation of law in the authority of the lawmaker rather than the reason or justice of his laws.” The task of judges, then, was not to seek after elusive notions of justice and right reason but to enforce the law of the land. Natural law shifted in emphasis from moral content to legitimacy and authority, and increasingly to an understanding of authority based on the will of the people.

This seems to me a profound explanation of how and why we understand law today the way we do. It simultaneously shows you what is wrong with the modern conception of the law and what is right.

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Would a Catholic political party be a good thing?

Sunday, November 22, 2009 \PM\.\Sun\.

My short answer is no.

Christ’s Kingdom is, as He says in today’s Gospel, “not of this world.” We are called to build Christ’s Kingdom on earth not by ruling the secular realm and enforcing Christian morality and charity with the force of law, but by living out of vocation as Christians and winning hearts and minds by word and deed. Christians are called to transform society from within – we are “the salt of the earth,” ideally bringing out the best in all of our various communities. In this way, Christians do not need the secular law to be successful. I do not mean to imply that the secular law is not necessary for social order; it is clearly a fundamental component of the common good. Catholics do and ought to work for the common good in our political life, but we should not seek this good in the name of Jesus (of course everything we do ought to be for Jesus). He Himself did not establish a political party or an Earthly kingdom. His Kingdom is “not of this world,” and it is our task as Christians to build this Heavenly kingdom here on Earth. The Heavenly kingdom is not one of coercive political force, but freely given sacrificial Love.


Government Cannot Love

Sunday, October 18, 2009 \AM\.\Sun\.

Archbishop Charles Chaput writing in First Things this month:

We need to rededicate ourselves to the work of Christian charity and the Catholic soul of our institutions. Charity is a duty for the whole believing community. But is also an obligation and privilege for every individual member of the Church, flowing from our personal encounter with the mercy of Jesus Christ. Government cannot love. It has no soul and no heart. The greatest danger of the modern secularist state is this: In the name of humanity, under the banner of serving human needs and easing human suffering, it ultimately, ironically – and too often tragically – lacks humanity. As Benedict foresees in his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est: Read the rest of this entry »


Liberty and Happiness

Friday, August 21, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

A strong belief in free will is an essential component of happiness. We are free to choose good or evil; true happiness consists in choosing what is good. It follows that belief in determinism cannot produce true happiness. It is important that we work, as Catholics and other people of good will, to remind people of the true way to happiness, and to steer people away from thinking that they are helpless with respect to their state of soul.

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Faith and Feeling

Thursday, August 13, 2009 \PM\.\Thu\.

Here is a useful bit of information I find very helpful to many people thinking about religion:

Faith is not some state of feeling we get ourselves into. It is much simpler than that. It is simply believing in God and therefore believing everything he has revealed – no matter how we feel. “God said it, so I believe it, and that settles it.”

Feelings are influenced by external things, like fashions and fads, wind and weather, diet and digestion. But when God gives us the gift of faith, he gives it from within, from within our own free will.

The devil can influence our feelings, but he has no control over our faith.

We are not responsible for our (unfree) feelings, but we are responsible for our (free) faith.

Yet, though faith is not a feeling, it often produces feelings: of trust, peace, gratitude, and confidence, for instance. And faith can also be aided by feelings: for instance, when we feel trustful or grateful to someone, God or man, it is much easier for us to believe him than when we feel mistrustful or ungrateful.;

But even when we do not feel trustful or peaceful, we can still believe. Faith is not dependent on feelings. It is dependent on facts: divinely revealed facts.

– Peter Kreeft, Catholic Christianity

It is easy to reject something because we do not feel it to be true. Personally I can say there are many times when I do not feel something to be true; nevertheless, I know it is true because of faith, or conscience, or experience.

So what is one to do when faced with something that is supposedly divinely revealed but contradicts one’s feelings, perhaps strong feelings? My suggestion is to try out what God says – take a leap, trust in God for a moment. Humbly submit yourself to God’s will. See what happens.


Kudos to Rep. Chris Smith

Friday, July 17, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

A New Jersey representative was on the floor of the House last night clearly and passionately articulating the connection between state-funded health care and state-funded abortions. Sure, the House was empty and he was talking to two other Representatives. His arguments were no less compelling.

The number of abortions will dramatically increase under the coming state-controlled health care plan. This is something we need to amplify for public consideration; especially to those of a religious mindset who may be inclined to favor state-enforced health care.

I hope to find a video soon; let me know if you do!


President Obama, War President

Friday, April 3, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

Our President was elected under the influence of great anti-war sentiment. He was “the anti-war candidate”. It ought to be disappointing then, for his supporters, to learn that he is decidedly not the anti-war President. In fact, President Obama is actively pursuing the war-on-terror, significantly expanding the Afghanistan theatre with another troop surge. And we shouldn’t forget that President Obama hasn’t pulled the troops out of Iraq yet, and the best estimates are that troops will be in Iraq for 2-3 more years – the same amount of time President Bush would have kept them there. (The article says all “combat troops” will be out of Iraq in August of 2010, but this is misleading. The article goes on to say that there will still be 30,000-50,000 troops there until 2011. The Obama administration redefined people who count as “troops”.) President Obama’s continuation of the war on terror says a number of things. First, the silence of his anti-war constituency indicates that they were not opposed to the Iraq war on principle, but rather opposed to the Iraq war when a Republican candidate was president. In fact, they seem to have a great and newfound tolerance for war now that they like the guy at the helm of it all. It also tells us that the foreign policy of President Bush was not offensive enough for the country to elect a President who would have actually changed things.


Pensées 905

Saturday, February 21, 2009 \PM\.\Sat\.

The easiest conditions to live in according to the world are the most difficult to live in according to God, and vice versa. Nothing is so difficult according to the world as the religious life; nothing is easier than to live it according to God. Nothing is easier, according to the world, than to live in high office and great wealth; nothing is more difficult than to live in them according to God, and without acquiring an interest in them and a liking for them.


Election Reflections

Tuesday, November 4, 2008 \PM\.\Tue\.

I wish President-elect Obama the best. In all sincerity, I hope his presidency advances the common good. I pray most of all for the unborn children who will continue be killed unjustly because our Constitution does not protect their right to life. I pray for their mothers and everyone involved in such situations. And I pray President-elect Obama has a change of heart. If he is truly a liberal, perhaps he will support expanding the community for which we are held responsible; perhaps he will grant civil rights to that currently dehumanized segment of our population, the class of unborn human persons. I have to at least have the hope.

As for those who have supported President-elect Obama, I hope they maintain the same level of enthusiasm they exhibited throughout his campaign. I hope they pay attention to the news; I hope they read; I hope they become thoughtful, civic-minded citizens. Complacency and indifference are a great evil, and I hope President Obama is able to shake people out of it.

For those who share my great sense of defeat, I implore you not to move to despair. Conservatives know that politics is not everything, and it is certainly not the first thing. While our country may suffer greatly, we know that life’s important battles are fought in the quiet of the individual soul. We must pray for the conversion of one heart at a time. Remember St. Augustine: “One loving soul sets another on fire”. Let us continue this truly important work, remembering that in the end it isn’t in our hands anyways.


Humanity Without Limits

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 \PM\.\Tue\.

The enlightenment myth of infinite progress has not yet died. This assertion of mine is based largely on anecdotal evidence and the general impression I get from the cultural and political commentariat. It is commonly held that things are getting better or they will get better in the future. Peter Kreeft calls this the religion of progress; or, the belief in change for change’s sake. I think it’s a fair description of a common mindset of some on both the left and the right.

One reason this mindset is so pervasive is because the of the free economy. (I am using the word free here in a sense that means this: our economic actions are no longer under the control of some state or social organization that limits who we can do business with. Free also means generally free from excessive taxation).  The free economy has resulted in the massive creation of wealth which gives us the false impression that humanity has no limits. An important part of conservatism, then, is to remind people that mankind does indeed have limits, and that the idea of a limitless humanity is a dangerous cultural, political, and moral poison.

Perhaps no one expresses this danger better than Wendell Berry, especially in his latest essay on this very subject. It is titled “Faustian economics: Hell Hath no limits”. I think it gives a great outline of the kind of cultural changes that are going to need to occur in the coming years. Read the rest of this entry »