Rod Dreher

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Motor Booty Affair Debut

Here is a link to the online file of my son Matt’s first radio show. It’s a funk and “funk-adjacent” broadcast on KLSU, the college station at LSU. It’s really interesting, and I say that not just as a proud father. Matt — DJ name “Brougham d’Elegance,” a joke about the 1980s upper-limit Cadillac trim line — knows a lot about music, and works in Afropop into his playlist, and even music from a fantastic Tuareg blues group.

It’s on Saturday nights, 7 to 9 pm Central. You can listen to it online.

The show title, by the way, is from a 1978 album by Parliament Funkadelic.

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Could The Catholic Church Collapse?

‘Stop! Do not go on!’ If the institutional Church leaders don’t recognize the nature of the crisis, decline and fall is inevitable (Aaron Amat/Shutterstock)

Grady Means, a Catholic who is a professional business consultant, says yes, the American church is on shakier ground than many realize. He says that the Church has made a classic bureaucratic mistake of losing sight of its mission, and coming to believe that its purpose is to maintain itself. Means points out that only a tiny proportion of the Church’s annual operating budget is devoted to pastoral care of souls. I don’t get the sense that he believes it’s wrong for the Church to engage in, say, health care provision, but he does point out that it’s easy to forget under conditions like that the main reason the Church exists.

He writes:

Arguably, the collapse is under way. There are 70 million Catholics in the United States, representing 20 percent of the American population. But that is down from 24 percent six to seven years ago, a 20 percent decline. And that number actually would be 14 percent (nearly a 50 percent decline) if it weren’t for the dramatic inflow of Hispanic immigrants over the past 10 years.

Perhaps Means is blaming the Church’s conduct for this loss of souls. If so, that’s not entirely fair. America is rapidly secularizing, so the Catholic Church is bound to lose people. A priest who ministers in a predominantly Hispanic community told me recently that the US bishops are counting on the Latino influx to keep their numbers high, but it’s a false hope. He said that the children of immigrants are no different than any other Americans, in terms of what they believe and how they behave. Those kids are acculturated by American pop culture as thoroughly as their Anglo peers. In this priest’s view, the Hispanic surge is going to prove illusory in subsequent generations.

I think it’s fair, however, to blame the institutional Church for failing to take seriously the situation, and to respond appropriately. In my view, it is unreasonable to expect the institutional Church to understand the moment, because understanding the moment requires most of its bishops and pastors to regard the world in a way they find deeply disagreeable, and to change their policies and behavior in kind. They would much, much prefer to manage decline than to repent. This is why I tell Catholics (and all Christians) to discern what The Benedict Option means for you, your family, and your small community. If you are waiting for the institutional leaders to get their act together, you are going to go down with them. This week, I have to give a speech to some lay leaders in my own church, the Orthodox Church, and even though some bishops are going to be in the audience too, I am going to have the same message for them. 

The hour is late.

Anyway, back to Means, the business consultant:

The important point is that the corruption appears to be systemic and may go far beyond sexual abuse. Where there is this much smoke, there is often hellfire. It is hard to believe that the corrupt culture of cynicism, arrogance, and lack of leadership and judgment was limited to sexual abuse. It would be a miracle if a secretive and tightly controlled organization with a $170 billion operating budget did not have other hidden scandals.

This is a wild card. Much depends on the feeding-frenzy behavior of the media. If reporters smell blood in the water — that is, signs that the same kind of corruption that caused the sex abuse scandal plays out criminally in other areas — there is a good chance that they will pounce on them.

I believe, though, that the most dangerous story, from the point of view of the Catholic institution, is the non-abusive sexual corruption of the clergy — in particular, the active homosexuality of a large number of priests. In this item yesterday, I mentioned the late Daniel Montalbano, former pastor in Chicago’s Resurrection parish, which has been in the news lately because Cardinal Blase Cupich removed its current pastor for ritually burning a gay-rights flag that Father Montalbano had hung over the altar during his tenure in the 1990s.

I published this view of a 1997 document written by the then vicar of clergy, Father Dan Coughlin, about what Father Jesse Garza, the priest the diocese sent in to take over from Father Montalbano after his sudden death, found there:

What were the horrible, unmentionable things that filled Father Jesse’s van more than once? The Church Militant website — which, fair warning, has a reputation for being sensational — wrote the other day:

Montalbano was close friends with Cdl. Joseph Bernardin, who presided over Resurrection parish’s 1991 inaugural Mass, the rainbow flag draped over the crucifix in the sanctuary. Montalbano was a known homosexual, holding gay parties in the parish basement. He died an untimely death at age 50, his body found in his rectory bedroom hooked up to a sex machine.

A parish staff member who was eyewitness to the event spoke with Church Militant and confirmed the account. After Montalbano failed to respond to knocking on his bedroom door, staff broke down the door to find Montalbano naked and still attached to the contraption. The archdiocese covered up the incident, reporting that Montalbano had died from a “heart attack,” offering him a priest’s funeral shortly afterward.

If you find that to be so lurid as to be unbelievable, let me suggest that you have not spent enough time researching the files of clerical sex scandals. This is entirely believable. That does not mean that it is true, but let me tell you, you have no idea how perverse people can be until you have gone through the files of cases like this.

The main thing that protects the Church from exposure of these non-abuse sex scandals has been the unwillingness of the media to report on them. Some media may have held back out of an admirable sense of editorial restraint, while others may have held back because they don’t want to give aid and comfort to people they regard as homophobes. Whatever the reason or reasons, if muckrakers want to find the truth, they could write any number of stories like this big 2011 one about the gay cabal in the Archdiocese of Miami. 

Increasingly, good priests who are sick and tired of the corrupt ones will be willing to speak out. And I believe that the kind of “independent Catholic media” that Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the secretary to Benedict XVI, praised in his recent Rome speech for telling the truth about the situation in the Church, are emboldened.

The point is, the Catholic faithful should prepare for many more stories like the ones they’ve been hit with this summer. The rot is being exposed, and will continue to be exposed.

Grady Means’s second point about the prospects of institutional collapse has to do with the response of Pope Francis and the senior levels of global Catholicism’s administration. Means says Francis’s method of refusing to address the charges forthrightly, and instead to rely on thundering about how the devil is persecuting him, is a losing strategy. More:

The problem is that the pope is a product of the socialist, revolutionary theology, Latin American wing of the church. He is under extreme pressure from the sex abuse scandal and internecine warfare with church conservatives. As a socialist cleric, his tools are controlling communications, silencing dissent, spending other people’s money and, under pressure, cloaking himself as “God’s voice on earth.”

Unfortunately, he has adopted the favorite strategy of authoritarian socialist leaders when the heat is turned up: resorting to extreme nationalism and creating external “threats.” Venezuela’s former president Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s communist revolutionary and former president Fidel Castro went for “American imperialism.” Pope Francis is going for “the devil.” The problem for socialist leaders is, when their economic and political foundations crumble, such nationalistic trope never works for long.

Read the whole thing. 

At some point, the propaganda ceases to work. It has been over a month since Archbishop Vigano published his sensational charges, alleging cover-up in the Vatican, and that a number of the most senior cardinals and archbishops around Pope Francis are part of a gay mafia. Francis has refused to speak to these charges. The pope’s defenders are trying to maintain the fiction that the Vigano allegations have been disproven.

So far, the line has held at one level. I know for a fact that at least one major media organization has been trying to get Vatican sources to speak about the Vigano allegations, but everybody is silent — for now. Everybody is afraid of Francis. I heard this multiple times when I was in Rome recently. The pope has walled himself off from reality, and will only listen to advisers who tell him what he wants to hear: that he is the victim of conservative conspirators, mostly yanquís.

Meanwhile, the stories keep coming. Maike Hickson of Lifesite News and the Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti have released what could be a bombshell. Excerpt:

Pope Francis told Cardinal Gerhard Müller in 2013 to stop investigating abuse allegations against British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, according to a highly-placed Vatican source who spoke to Marco Tossati. Murphy-O’Connor, as a member of the “Sankt [St.] Gallen mafia,” played a pivotal role in getting Jorge Bergoglio elected Pope in 2013.

A source from England with inside knowledge of the case told LifeSiteNews that a woman alleges the cardinal had himself been involved in abusing her when she was 13 or 14 years old and that she was the reason for the investigation by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

Tosatti and LifeSiteNews have worked together on this joint story for some weeks now. We have shared our findings with each other.

Tosatti had previously revealed what he learned in September 2013 from a high-ranking Vatican source – “an extremely good source, who was then in the government of the Curia,” and he adds that his source has “learned [it] from those directly concerned.” – that Cardinal Müller, then Prefect of the CDF, was interrupted by the Pope while saying Mass at the Church of Santa Monica (next to the CDF building) for a small group of German students. But now Tosatti reveals that the reason for the interruption was to demand that an investigation into Cardinal O’Connor be halted.

More:

Tosatti says he “asked for confirmation from the competent offices, without receiving an answer.” LifeSiteNews reached out to the office of Cardinal Müller, asking for a denial or a confirmation of the story, but the answer was only that there would be no comment made. That is to say, we received a non-denial. LifeSiteNews also reached out to the Vatican Press Office, asking for a confirmation or denial of the story. Should they respond, we will update the report.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor died on September 1, 2017, a year ago, without ever seeing a proper investigation of these charges.

Read the whole thing. From the English side, the article is thinly sourced, depending on a single unnamed inside source. However, it claims that there are unnamed “good bishops” in England who have been fighting to get a fair hearing for this woman, and they have been shut down to this point. Hickson and Tosatti have not proven their case, but they have certainly revealed enough information to warrant further investigation. I hope someone in the mainstream UK press takes up the investigation. Note well that Hickson does not claim that this woman was abused by the late cardinal, only that her allegations have not been treated fairly, and that Pope Francis ordered the investigation closed — presumably to protect his friend, a cardinal who was instrumental in delivering the papacy to him.

If Francis thinks he can ride this out, he’s dreaming. As of this writing, eight US states have announced investigations into the way the Catholic Church in their jurisdictions have handled claims of priest sex abuse. The devastating effect of the Pennsylvania revelations is going to be repeated, over and over. Notice that most of the Pennsylvania grand jury report had to do with old cases. Since the 2002 Dallas reforms, things really have changed in the Catholic Church, or so I’m reliably told. The real blows from the PA report have to do with the credibility of bishops. What the public saw there is the extent to which bishops, in the recent past, covered up grotesque sexual misconduct and abuse by priests, and left Catholic children vulnerable to them. The PA report was, and is, utterly devastating to the reputation and moral authority of the bishops as a class.

And the hits are going to keep coming.

The pope and all the pontiff’s men seem to believe that this is only an American thing. They could not be more wrong. News is emerging out of Argentina, critical of the way Papa Bergoglio handled these matters as cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires. Last week, the leading Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad revealed that over half the Dutch bishops from the postwar period until the present either covered up clerical sexual abuse of children, or were involved in molesting children themselves.

Today the German Catholic bishops released an official report on sexual abuse within its own ranks.  It’s a damning document — and of course most of the child victims were boys — but the truth could be even worse than we know. The report has been criticized for lacking transparency:

The report was commissioned by the German Bishops Conference and researched by experts from the Universities of Giessen, Heidelberg and Mannheim.

The researchers wrote that there was evidence that some files were manipulated or destroyed, and many cases were not brought to justice. Sometimes abuse suspects — primarily priests — were simply moved to other dioceses without the congregations being informed about their past.

“The figures are only the tip of the iceberg,” said Harald Dressing, a psychiatrist from Mannheim University who presented the report together with Marx and others in the central German city of Fulda during a convention of the German Bishops Conference.

“Generally, the risk of sexual abuse of children inside the Catholic Church continues to exist,” Dressing warned. He said celibacy, the clergy’s power and homosexuality inside the church were all issues that promote abuse.

Today in Estonia, Pope Francis conceded that the abuse scandals are driving people away from the Church, and that”we ourselves need to be converted. We have to realize that in order to stand by your side we need to change many situations that, in the end, put you off.”

True enough … but these are only words. Francis is very good with words. On deeds? Not so much.

A German Catholic who attended one of my talks in Rome spoke to me afterwards. He said what is commonly known: that the German Catholic Church is extremely rich, because of the church tax paid by all German Catholics. In fact, the German Catholic Church is one of the biggest employers in Germany. But actual Catholicism — the thing that in theory animates the institution — is in collapse there. My interlocutor said that he expects the institution to follow in the coming decades, and for Catholicism in Germany to become a matter of what faithful families manage to live out in the ruins.

The German Catholic journalist Anian Christoph Wimmer wrote about this last year. Excerpt:

With so much influence and money at hand, one might expect that the bishops would use this embarrassment of riches to spread the Gospel further and evangelise an increasingly secular society.

And yet, this is the one thing that appears to elude the Church in Germany, so flush with money: its core business of spreading the Gospel and watching over the sheep, helping a growing flock better to know, love and serve God.

“The faith has evaporated,” a wistful Cardinal Friedrich Wetter told me in 2014. Wetter, a deeply spiritual, prayerful cleric, was Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1982 to 2007. He followed Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in this role, and was the predecessor of Cardinal Reinhard Marx. We had spent the last hour mostly talking about Edith Stein, a saint he greatly admires. When I asked him why he thought this “evaporation” had taken place, he shrugged, biting his lip. It was the kind of shrug you make when asked about deterministic forces, things you cannot change.

When the Church’s current reality – spiritually impoverished and in decline, yet rich in material means – is actually discussed, two suggestions are brought forward. Some propose that the Church tax should be abolished. They seem to assume that if money will not solve the problem, then the absence of it will. (Though there is some merit to the idea, it is rarely thought through). The other response is an appeal for more heterodoxy.

Bishop Voderholzer, of the diocese of Regensburg, recently noted how “remarkable” these suggestions were. In a sermon that received widespread attention, the Bavarian bishop said: “Again and again, we’re sold the idea that there is a universal solution for reverting these trends and maintaining social relevance. We’re told that we must – I quote – ‘further open up and dismiss conservative dogmas’. We are then also told this means: abolition of priestly celibacy; abnegation of different responsibilities and vocations of women and men in the Church as well as the admission of women to the apostolic ministry.”

Instead of these debates and demands, Voderholzer proposed something different entirely. On the anniversary of a schism that is commonly called “reformation”, the bishop reminded his flock of a different meaning, which is the only way forward for the German Church:

“The first and foremost step on this path is the daily struggle for sanctity, listening to God’s Word and being prepared to start the reform of the Church with oneself. For that is what reformation means: renewal from within the faith, restoration of the Image of Christ, which is imprinted in us in baptism and confirmation. Where that is granted to us, by the grace of God, where this succeeds, we will also make the people of our time once again curious about the faith that carries us. And then we will also be able to bear witness to the hope that fulfils us.”

The historical and social situation for US Catholics is significantly different, obviously, but the trajectory is the same. The “sacrament factory” model of Catholicism can thrive within a culture and society that is basically Christian. But as the nations of the West secularize, and as technology (the Internet, social media) creates a situation of radical transparency, making secret-keeping extraordinarily difficult, the institutional expressions of the Catholic faith will be shaken at their foundations. It’s already happening.

So, the answer to the question, Could the Catholic Church collapse? is: absolutely, yes, in this country. Catholics comfort themselves by repeating the words of Christ to Peter, about the Church: “the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” That does not mean that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it in the United States. Nor does it mean that the Church won’t be decimated by apostasy. In the Soviet Union, the Orthodox Church survived communist persecution, so you could say with confidence that the gates of Hell did not prevail against it. But the Church was all but destroyed by the communists, and the Church in Russia has a very long way to go toward restoration.

All Christians in the West — not just Catholics — must prepare ourselves for the decline, and even the fall, of our institutions. It’s happening now. It’s going to get worse. There is hope, however! In his speech (translated in full here) about The Benedict Option, Archbishop Gänswein said:

Even the satanic “Nine-Eleven” [the sex abuse scandal] of the Universal Catholic Church can not weaken or destroy this truth, the origin of its foundation by the Risen Lord and Victor.

I must therefore honestly confess that I perceive this time of great crisis, which today is no longer hidden from anyone, above all as a time of Grace, because in the end it will not be any special effort that will free us, but only “the Truth”, as the Lord has assured us. It is in this hope that I look at Rod Dreher’s recent reports on the “purification of memory” which John Paul II entrusted to us, and so I also gratefully read his “Benedict Option” as a wonderful inspiration in many respects. In recent weeks, few things have given me so much comfort.

What he’s talking about is the book’s focusing on how St. Benedict and his followers arose out of the ruins of the Roman Empire, and slowly, methodically, built a faithful Christian resistance to the disorders around them — and, over the next centuries, laid the groundwork for the rebirth of civilization. With God’s help and our fidelity, it can be done, because it has been done before. True, the St. Benedict of our time is going to have to be very different. As I say to my audiences, perhaps the new and very different St. Benedict God will send is you. I want to encourage them to be open to that radical call.

We cannot commit ourselves to preparing to live resiliently as faithful Christians in the ruins if we do not recognize how precarious our situation is. For Catholics, that includes recognizing the clear possibility that the institution will not survive in its present form, not in our country. This is not alarmism; this is realism. The electric company, for example, has a clear reason to exist: to provide electricity to people. The Catholic Church’s reason to exist is far more subjective. Should the masses cease to believe that the Church is necessary to their lives, the institution will no longer have a reason to go on.

Those Catholics (and other Christians) who can read the signs of the times and get ready for what’s coming will not be afraid when these terrible things start to happen. Those who have walled themselves off from reality and pretended that somehow, things were going to be okay if they just sat still and waited out the crisis — those are the believers who are going to panic.

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Brett Kavanaugh, Yearbook Monster?

This is really happening. The New York Times is actually reporting this:

Brett Kavanaugh’s page in his high school yearbook offers a glimpse of the teenage years of the man who is now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: lots of football, plenty of drinking, parties at the beach. Among the reminiscences about sports and booze is a mysterious entry: “Renate Alumnius.”

The word “Renate” appears at least 14 times in Georgetown Preparatory School’s 1983 yearbook, on individuals’ pages and in a group photo of nine football players, including Judge Kavanaugh, who were described as the “Renate Alumni.” It is a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school.

Two of Judge Kavanaugh’s classmates say the mentions of Renate were part of the football players’ unsubstantiated boasting about their conquests.

“They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, a Georgetown Prep student at the time, referring to Judge Kavanaugh and his teammates. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”

We are actually at the point in this country where whether or not a man was a jerk in high school — not an attempted rapist, but a jerk — is reported by The New York Times as relevant to his qualifications to sit on the US Supreme Court.

There is no depths to which these people will not sink. Brett Kavanaugh sounds like the kind of person I couldn’t stand in high school. But the more unsubstantiated, and increasingly trivial, garbage they throw at him, the more important it is to confirm him.

What allegedly happened to Christine Ford is not trivial, and I think it’s important that she testify. But the idea that Kavanaugh might have gotten drunk and dropped trou at a party with a bunch of fellow drunken college students — that’s trivial. And the idea that insulting verbiage in his high school yearbook commentary tells us anything about his qualifications for the Supreme Court? It beggars belief. This is the world’s No. 1 superpower we’re talking about, but our elites are acting like the faculty of Antioch College.

The left will stop at nothing to destroy this man. Three years ago, a friend who defected in the 1960s from Hungary told me that he and his wife, also a defector, are observing that our public culture reminds them more and more of Hungary at the advent of communism. I asked him to explain what he meant. He told me that the ideologically-driven eagerness to destroy people that the Left identifies as its enemies is the essence of it. He said that they will say anything they need to say, even if it’s untrue, to professionally and personally destroy people.

I wondered in 2015, when he told me that, if he was exaggerating. I don’t doubt it at all now. Not after this.

Tonight I had a business call with someone who lives in one of the bluest parts of America. She mentioned that this Kavanaugh business terrifies her for her sons. The idea that a man could be destroyed because of these accusations infuriates her and makes her afraid. I think that many on the Left are not thinking about the fact that women have daughters, yes, but they also have sons, brothers, and husbands.

UPDATE: Now this:

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Fr Paul Kalchik: A Kind Of Martyr

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin presides over inaugural mass at Resurrection parish. The cross + gay rights rainbow flag was ritually burned by its current priest, subsequently ousted (From ChurchMilitant.com)

Last week, when I heard news that Father Paul Kalchik and some fellow parishioners from his Chicago parish had burned a rainbow flag he found in the church’s storage, I knew things weren’t going to go well for him in Cardinal Bernardin’s old archdiocese, now administered by Cardinal Cupich. The Chicago Tribune provides context:

Kalchik said he twice was a victim of sexual abuse, the first time by a neighbor, when he was 11, and the second time by a Chicago-area priest when he was a teenager. The priest Kalchik names as the one who abused him died in the 1990s and has not been among those who have been named by the Diocese of Joliet or the Archdiocese of Chicago as a priest with substantiated allegations against them. Kalchik equates the flag with predatory behavior, he said.

The church bulletin further explains Kalchik’s thinking.

“The banner surfaced just when the news of the gay predation of former Cardinal McCarrick broke, and was found by a priest who was a himself a victim of a similar predator,” it read. “We cannot think this happened because God wanted the banner hung back up in our Church. The clandestine nature of the consensual homosexual sex going on among so many in the clergy allowed the intimidation of seminarians and rapes to be covered up also.

“If you don’t like Fr. Paul for burning that banner, at least ask yourself what it represented to him as a victim,” the letter added. It also published the first names of some of those who allegedly made threats, inviting the faithful to pray for the callers.

“Only divine intervention (a miracle) will get them to calm down enough to have a rational discussion,” the note said.

More context, from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Rev. Paul Kalchik says the banner, featuring a cross superimposed over a rainbow, had been featured prominently in the sanctuary at Resurrection Catholic Church but had been taken down and was forgotten in storage at the parish at 3043 N. Francisco for more than a decade.

Kalchik led seven parishioners in a prayer of exorcism Friday, and the flag was burned inside a portable fire pit placed the schoolyard next to the church. The ashes of the flag now rest in a church compost heap.

“That banner and what it stood for doesn’t belong to the Archdiocese or Cardinal Cupich. It belongs to the people of this parish who paid for it,” Kalchik said. “What have we done wrong other than destroy a piece of propaganda that was used to put out a message other than what the church is about?”

Kalchik told the Tribune that he had been advised by the archdiocese’s vicar for priests not to burn the flag.

But he did it anyway, and now Cardinal Cupich has removed him from the parish. 

Church Militant, a conservative activist site, spoke directly to Fr. Kalchik:

The vicars for priests, acting on behalf of Cdl. Cupich, confronted Kalchik just as he was leaving to say 6 p.m. Mass, asking to meet with him privately. Kalchik refused to meet alone, instead gathering parishioners to be witnesses to the exchange.

Lyle and Thomas made clear they were there on order of Cdl. Cupich, who insisted that Kalchik be sent to St. Luke Institute for his “psychiatric issues.” Both vicars for priests had also only days before threatened that Kalchik could have his faculties removed if he failed to comply with Cupich’s orders.

The orders came after parishioners burned a rainbow flag that once hung in the sanctuary back when Resurrection parish was designated Chicago’s “gay” parish. Church Militant broke the news on Sept. 15, which has since been reported on national news outlets, drawing widespread attention to the parish. The flag-burning event took place in spite of Cupich’s warnings to call it off. Kalchik himself did not burn the flag, but parishioners took things into their own hands and held the flag-burning ceremony themselves. In response to what Cupich saw as defiance, he ordered Kalchik to St. Luke (a treatment center with a notorious past, whose former CEO was convicted in 2014 of embezzling $200,000 dollars, which he spent on gay lovers).

“I made it clear to them that I was not just going to cave and walk away from being pastor here at Resurrection Parish, and I stated clearly: I was once worked over by an ordained minister of the Church; it’s not going to happen again,” Kalchik wrote. “I will not leave Resurrection Parish on my own accord.”

The Church Militant piece makes a very serious allegation against a deceased former pastor of that church:

“This was no regular rainbow flag, but a banner merging the Cross with the rainbow,” a parishioner explained. “It was not innocent. It was a signal that this parish would be the new ‘gay’ parish, as Fr. Daniel Montalbano’s previous church, St. Sebastian, home to gay Masses, had burned down.”

Montalbano was close friends with Cdl. Joseph Bernardin, who presided over Resurrection parish’s 1991 inaugural Mass, the rainbow flag draped over the crucifix in the sanctuary. Montalbano was a known homosexual, holding gay parties in the parish basement. He died an untimely death at age 50, his body found in his rectory bedroom hooked up to a sex machine.

A parish staff member who was eyewitness to the event spoke with Church Militant and confirmed the account. After Montalbano failed to respond to knocking on his bedroom door, staff broke down the door to find Montalbano naked and still attached to the contraption. The archdiocese covered up the incident, reporting that Montalbano had died from a “heart attack,” offering him a priest’s funeral shortly afterward.

I looked around online to find out if there was more information about Father Montalbano and this allegation. I discovered something in a big file of legal documents related to a 2005 sex abuse settlement between the Archdiocese of Chicago and the victim of Jesus “Jesse” Garza, a former priest of the archdiocese. Look:

Also in the file, this internal archdiocesan document:

Dan Coughlin is Father Dan Coughlin, who at the time was vicar of priests for the Archdiocese (and who was much later accused of covering up for abuse). Note the first starred point in Father Coughlin’s letter. What are these horrible objects, “hopefully never to be found” — these objects that were so many in number that they filled his van more than once? Was it a sex machine of some sort? Sex toys? Pornography? All of these?

Something evil happened in that rectory, connected to Father Montalbano — something the vicar of priests at the time wanted buried. We have it in writing. But what was it?

On November 20, 2008, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago said:

“We have no record and are not aware of any situation where Father Coughlin withheld any information about sexual misconduct of priests. It is unconscionable that an accusation would be made against someone without any documentation offered at all.”

Well, let’s ask: what were the things in the rectory that Father Coughlin was eager to have Father Garza dispose of, “hopefully never to be found”? Did they indicate sexual misconduct by Father Garza?

This is all important context for understanding why Father Kalchik did what he did. Father Montalbano was the one who, supported by Cardinal Bernardin, installed the rainbow flag with a cross on it as a symbol of what he wanted Resurrection parish to be. What was going on behind the scenes at that parish? What did that priest leave behind that was so wicked that the vicar for priests wanted them hidden forever?

And does the nature of those objects, and the use to which Father Montalbano put them, tell us why Father Kalchik said exorcism prayers over the burning of that rainbow totem? I think the answer is yes. Father Kalchik’s deed occurred within a context, and within a history that the Archdiocese of Chicago would no doubt prefer not to be discussed.

It ought to be discussed. Loud and clear. In a September 2 church bulletin, Father Kalchik made it clear that he believes the Catholic Church is being purified now. He wrote:

It bears repeating: the rainbow flag he burned was not just any rainbow flag. It was one that Montalbano installed over the altar as a sign of that parish’s dedication to merging homosexuality and Christianity.

Here’s part of Father Dwight Longenecker’s take on the Kalchik situation:

But let’s step back from the sensational and try to take the very best possible view of this incident. Let’s give Cardinal Cupich and the Chicago diocesan authorities every possible benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume the Fr Kalchik does have a history of unstable behavior. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that he is some sort of wild eyed conservative homophobic radical who needs taming. Let’s also assume that Cardinal Cupich is a good and caring pastor for his clergy. Let’s assume what he did was a last resort after a long process of dialogue and listening, and that he decided for the best interests of everyone that Fr Kalchik needed a time of rest and re-evaluation. Let’s assume that Michael Voris is throwing gas on the fire, that the parishioners are exaggerating the foul nature of the event and that Fr Kalchik is not on the lam, but has simply agreed to leave and take a vacation while things blow over.

Even if we give it the best possible gloss this is still an unbelievably monstrous way for Cardinal Cupich to behave. Here’s why:

Read it all. Especially this part:

6. Is Cardinal Cupich so completely unaware that he and the rest of the red robes are perceived as sixteenth century prelates–living in their palaces, jet setting off to Rome and mouthing pious words about immigrants and climate change while in fact an increasing number of the faithful regard them as corrupt, devious, Machiavellian Renaissance cardinals desperate to defend themselves and deflect all blame no matter what? Did he think threatening a faithful priest would help?

7. We’re all about building bridges and listening aren’t we? So you build bridges and listen by threatening police action and eviction?

8. The threat of police action was bad enough, but what about the threat of “removal to a pastoral center for psychiatric evaluation”? This is the stuff of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the re-education camps of the Gulag. Is this what will happen to anyone who dissents from the gay agenda? That’s what it feels like.

9. This disaster contributes to the impression that the whole hierarchy from the Pope downward are intent on continuing to cover for gay sex abusers, and they will take every measure possible to shut down dissent from their disastrous decisions.

That’s exactly it. There will be a much persecution against orthodox Catholics coming from inside the Church than outside of it.

I think we can concede that Father Kalchik’s action was rash, and arguably imprudent given that the Archdiocese had warned him not to do it. But this is how Cardinal Cupich responds? This, in a time in the Church’s life when it is becoming ever clearer that many in the Church’s senior leadership are gay, and devoted to protecting other gays in power. Cardinal McCarrick is a condensed symbol of so much of the corruption in the Catholic Church.

Notice this, from a Chicago transgender activist:

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Cardinal Cupich jumps when people like that want to see him. Here’s an irony: according to that entire Twitter thread, that same transgender activist was so upset by Kalchik’s burning the rainbow-flag totem that he/she left the Catholic Church and became a Unitarian.

We can argue about the prudence of Father Kalchik’s deed, but it seems to me to be in the same spirit as Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s whistleblowing: an irregular action that exposes deep corruption in the Church. The fact that Cardinal Cupich comes down on Father Kalchik like a sledgehammer for blaspheming against homosexuality is a clear sign of the situation within the institutional Church, at least in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

There will be more Father Kalchiks to come. And they will need faithful lay Catholics to protect and support them. Start building those networks now. Cardinal Cupich has made Father Kalchik a “white martyr” — a Christian who has not shed blood (therefore not a “red martyr”), but who has otherwise lost everything for standing up for the truths proclaimed by the faith.

Here are some powerful words from a Catholic bishop, spoken over 20 years ago:

[T]he deficits were too obvious: exhaustion of the faith, decline in vocations, lowering of moral standards even among men of the Church, an increasing tendency towards violence, and much else. The words of the Bible and of the Church Fathers rang in my ears, those sharp condemnations of shepherds who are like mute dogs; in order to avoid conflicts, they let the poison spread. Peace is not the first civic duty, and a bishop whose only concern is not to have any problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible is an image I find repulsive.

Those words come from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, taken from Salt Of The Earth (p. 82), his 1996 book-length interview with Peter Seewald.

UPDATE: A parish priest e-mails:

There is nothing that the laity can do to protect priests.  Bishops have total authority over us.  We can certainly walk away.  We can leave.  But Kalchick is a great example of what happens when a priest stands up to his bishop’s agenda.  He’s probably done as a priest.

He can submit to St. Luke’s and get the evaluation, but St. Luke’s has an alliance with the bishops as well.  It’s the bishops who pay the bill.  When a priest goes there the priest must sign a release for everything he discusses to be turned over to the bishop and the diocese.  So how is he supposed to deal with any real psychological issues he might have knowing that the data is going to be sent back to the bishop and put into files or even potentially released or used against him?  Point being, the priest isn’t free.  It’s a coercive environment.  It’s rigged against priests and the information can be used by bishops to continue to manipulate those priests for years to come, all under the guise of “I just want Fr. X to be healthy.”  What they are really after is reconditioning priests to act within a particular safe metric to avoid bad publicity or cause problems.  Sounds a bit Orwellian doesn’t it?

Another side of this is that bishops have to hold liability insurance on their priests and if the priests have some kind of HR problem or Occupational Problem in their parish, the insurance companies are demanding bishops send them to places like St. Luke’s for a kind of “reconditioning therapy” that they don’t actually need.  The priests are not actually in any kind of need of psychological assistance, but for the Diocese to continue to have the covered with liability insurance the insurance company puts pressure on the bishop for them to demonstrate that they have taken measures to lessen liability.  A St. Luke’s program of 6 months of incarceration and therapy with 5 years of outpatient programming is just such a program.  All of this goes into the priest’s file and is held against him the rest of his career to be trotted out any time he gets out of line.

Notice, none of this has to do with the abuse of children.  Perhaps some with moral failure or bad decisions.  Maybe decisions that would cause a layperson to lose their job.  But in the priesthood, you get the shame of six months of incarceration in a lock-down facility and forced psychological treatment that even these facilities know you do not need.  But they participate in the sham because it’s big revenue and they are cashing in on the bishop’s need to cover their liability.  This is happening in large numbers throughout the country to priests.

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American Dystopia

Here are some cheerful words from regular commenter Matt in VA. If you don’t normally read the comments section, he’s a gay Millennial populist who cannot stand either the Democrats or the GOP:

Here’s what’s going to happen:

Kavanaugh will not be confirmed. Grassley (head of the judiciary committee) is foolish and incompetent; Flake, who wants an MSNBC gig as the Republican who criticizes Republicans (always lucrative), is dying to be able to do to the Supreme Court nominee what McCain did to the Obamacare repeal; Corker and Murkowski aren’t dependable; I wouldn’t be surprised if Ben Sasse has the same plans as Flake and ends up going the same way.

No other nominee will get put on the Supreme Court either, as the Republicans are going to lose the Senate in November. They will lose the House in one of the biggest wipeouts in modern times. Naive beliefs that they ought to still retain the Senate will be dashed when even Ted Cruz loses (and he is going to lose — I lived in Texas for a time and worked in government — Republicans are ABSOLUTELY in denial about how fast the state is changing. And Ted Cruz seems to have decided to run a It’s-Still-1996,-right?-style campaign). The Republicans will not even be able to get it together enough to get a new nominee seated during the lame duck, and then that’ll be that. Democrats will hold the Supreme Court seat open for the second half of Trump’s term, during which time, now that they hold Congress, expect to see impeachment and removal proceedings, though they won’t actually impeach or remove him because they want to be able to run against him in 2020.

Tons of powerful people in the conservative “intelligentsia” (I mean the Bill Kristols and all the Weekly Standard and National Review types, all the NeverTrumpers, etc., not to mention all the people who still have power, despite being obviously anti-Trump, because Trump foolishly appointed them to his government anyway) *want* not only to see Trump taken down but the Republican Party as a whole knocked down as low as possible as punishment for betraying them. They believe that when its members have been sufficiently punished for opting for Trump, the Respectable Conservatives can regain control and once more run things their way.

Basically, by the start of 2021, we’ll see a Democratic president elected in a massive landslide, with likely huge Senate and House majorities too, and a fifth seat on the Supreme Court that they will be able to immediately fill to secure a majority there. I think it will look something like how NeverTrumpers expected things to look after the Trump/Hillary election in 2016 — just four years later.

I say all this as someone who voted for Trump in 2016, and someone who despises the establishment Republican Party. One of my main reasons for supporting Trump was because I wanted someone to nuke the Republican Party as it currently stands (we do *not* need a political party that bends over backwards for multinational corporations that hate conservatives; we do *not* need two parties that both want immigration to be as high as possible; we do *not* need a party full of sanctimonious scolds who sell rubes “Conscience of a Conservative” books while actually exercising their power in a manner indistinguishable from corporate lobbyists.)

Well, we are going to get that promised destruction, I think. Trump *does* deserve a great deal of blame. He won the election on issues that really need to be addressed, but he then appointed tons of Bush-type Republicans to posts and has governed as if he were Jeb! That’s on him. But the blame, of course, also goes to the rest of the Republican Party, who still think that it’s 1983 and that people want tax cuts for billionaires, endless corporate bootlicking, military “strength” (that is, endless war) and “look, I moved the embassy to Jerusalem!”…

More people are dying every year of the opioid epidemic and other drug overdoses than died in Vietnam. The drug overdose deaths in 2017 were almost twice the number who died of AIDS in the peak year of the AIDS epidemic. Yet all we hear about are “the economy is so great” from Republicans and how incredibly difficult it is to be an upper-middle-class white woman (rapists at every turn!) from Democrats. (One line I particularly love is about how Christine Blasey Ford was so traumatized by Kavanaugh’s supposed attempted rape that she had to “flee across the country” — to Palo Alto, natch.)

The future for the entire US is pretty obviously California. Though I’m not sure what happens when the white Boomers who bought CA real estate before 1985 finally go. I think they may be the edifice that continues to hold up the state, who really “believe” in how things are going since, after all, *their* houses have gone up 10x in value, right? That means Things Are Working! Never mind the homeless encampments, dirty needles and so much hepatitis on the sidewalks that they have to drive special trucks around and spray chemicals on the concrete, the massive inequality, the industries that are either brutally exploitative and that no parent should want their daughter to get into (Hollywood) or are Building the Censorship of the 21st Century, At Home and Abroad (Silicon Valley), the politicians prioritizing letting people spread HIV without fear over affordable housing, the fact that real estate and rent are so expensive people never have kids… And the rest of the US won’t have California’s weather, either…

I should say — I have family in California. They like it. I’ve been quite a number of times, and certainly it’s not the end of the world. It just means massive inequality and the end of religious or social conservatism as an effective political force. But this is what Reaganism leads to — literally. Reagan came from California, was hugely popular in California, and look what he and his governing mentality did to California. Movement Conservatism, which basically is Reaganism, destroys itself in one to two generations. This should tell you something about how “conservative” it is. At least this disaster of a political program is passing out of the world and I get to see that…

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The Six Days Of Deborah Ramirez

News tonight from The New Yorker: a woman claims she was drunk at a college party with Brett Kavanaugh, who pulled his pants down and showed her his wing-wang:

The woman at the center of the story, Deborah Ramirez, who is fifty-three, attended Yale with Kavanaugh, where she studied sociology and psychology. Later, she spent years working for an organization that supports victims of domestic violence. The New Yorker contacted Ramirez after learning of her possible involvement in an incident involving Kavanaugh. The allegation was conveyed to Democratic senators by a civil-rights lawyer. For Ramirez, the sudden attention has been unwelcome, and prompted difficult choices. She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Ramirez is now calling for the F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh’s role in the incident. “I would think an F.B.I. investigation would be warranted,” she said.

Kavanaugh says it’s a lie. More from the magazine:

Ramirez acknowledged that there are significant gaps in her memories of the evening, and that, if she ever presents her story to the F.B.I. or members of the Senate, she will inevitably be pressed on her motivation for coming forward after so many years, and questioned about her memory, given her drinking at the party.

And yet, after several days of considering the matter carefully, she said, “I’m confident about the pants coming up, and I’m confident about Brett being there.”

So the FBI is supposed to investigate whether or not a drunk college boy pulled down his pants at a drunken college party and exposed himself to a college girl who was so drunk that she can’t clearly remember the event, and had to take six days to think about whether or not it actually happened? It was so devastatingly traumatic to her that she had to ponder for a week about whether or not it happened, and whether or not it was Brett Kavanaugh?

This is what they’re throwing at Brett Kavanaugh now? Even the New Yorker writes that it

has not confirmed with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party. The magazine contacted several dozen classmates of Ramirez and Kavanaugh regarding the incident. Many did not respond to interview requests; others declined to comment, or said they did not attend or remember the party.

But the magazine published the story anyway, because hey, they have a nomination to stop. Disgraceful!

I have never had strong feelings about Kavanaugh’s nomination — I was an Amy Coney Barrett fan — but this is infuriating. They’re destroying this man’s reputation publicly, on the flimsiest of evidence.

His nomination may go down. But this will not be forgotten.

UPDATE: And now, Stormy Daniels’s lawyer weighs in:

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UPDATE.2: Reader Nate J:

Honestly, I don’t see how American political culture comes back from this.

I know it’s fashionable for each side to argue that the other has “reached a new low” over the latest political stunt, but this really feels like a “Crossing the Rubicon” moment. We cannot go back.

I felt some apprehension about the Roy Moore debacle, but I guess I brushed it off because he was a weaker candidate and an obvious target for progressive scorn. This is different. This is a good man. A volunteer. A person who has worked diligently to study his craft. A devoted husband with a nice family. His wife served cupcakes to the paparazzi staking out his house, for cryinv out loud! If he cannot stand, who can?

It seems to me that this story is awfully similar to the first: a politically active leftist suddenly remembers an event from over three decades ago, despite the fact that nobody else mentioned in the story has the faintest clue what she is talking about. Weak evidence stacked on weak evidence does not become strong evidence. This does NOT make Christine Ford’s account (now refuted by all named witnesses and Brett Kavanaugh’s calendar) more credible. Show trial plus show trial does not equal justice.

The bitter struggle for power is all that is left. Terminal stage of the postmodern disease. I don’t know where this all goes, but it’s scary. I don’t think anyone — left, right, or centre — could feel good about any of this right now. Chaos reigns.

Not even the thought of Amy Coney Barrett swooping in to “save the day” for conservatives gives any comfort. I don’t even believe one side could even “win” right now, nor that any one person could salvage this.

UPDATE.3:

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Mazie Hirono ‘Justice’

US Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) (CNN screengrab)

True:

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You have to watch that clip. Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono says point blank that facts don’t matter. Kavanaugh is guilty of attempted rape decades ago because he is a conservative judge.

This is infuriating. Since all this came up with Christine Blasey Ford, I have tried to be open-minded about it. I said at first that even if the accusation was true, I don’t understand what the actions of a drunk 17 year old tell us about the character of a 53 year old. Some of you explained that to me, such that even though I still don’t agree 100 percent with you, you made me significantly more sympathetic to your point of view. I benefited from listening to you.

This Hirono statement, though, is bone-chilling. Truth, due process — none of it matters to her. Last week, she said that American men should “shut up and step up” — that is, stop defending Kavanaugh, or due process, or anything else, and simply accept that he’s guilty on the basis of a single accusation.

This kind of remark from a senior Democratic politician is why many of us vote Republican even though the GOP doesn’t deserve it: entirely out of self-protection. Unless something unexpected comes out of this week’s Ford testimony, I hope that the Senate Judiciary committee will move Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor, and that he will be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Here’s one reason why that’s important to conservatives. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll indicates that the GOP is going to be wiped out this November. Excerpt:

The survey, six weeks before Americans head to the polls, shows Democrats leading Republicans by 52 percent to 40 percent for control of Congress. If it holds, that 12 percentage point margin would suggest a “blue wave” large enough to switch control of not just the House but also the Senate.

“The results could not be clearer about making a change in direction from Trump’s policies,” explained Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster who helps conduct the NBC/WSJ survey. “Once again, Americans are hitting the brakes in a mid-term.”

In each of the last three off-year elections — 2006, 2010 and 2014 — voters have flipped control of one or both houses of Congress away from the incumbent president’s party. This year, the provocative behavior some voters accepted from Candidate Trump in 2016 has overshadowed everything else, including falling unemployment, surging growth and rising stock values.

The story goes on to say that this is entirely about the majority’s disgust with Trump. I understand that. I genuinely do. I like some of what he has done, but on the whole, Trump has been a bad president. The drama is exhausting.

However, let’s be realistic: when the Democrats take power again — first in Congress (as is most likely), then, eventually, in the White House (whether in 2020 or 2024), they are going to come down like a ton of bricks on social and religious conservatives. The best hope we have in the long term is in the judiciary. Again, barring new evidence emerging this week against Kavanaugh, I hope he is confirmed, and that the GOP-controlled Senate works overtime to confirm as many judges as it can. If the Senate flips to the Dems this November, Donald Trump is not going to get another federal judge confirmed in this term. And Congress will be in the hands of the party of Mazie Hirono, who believes that if you hold the wrong philosophy, you are not entitled to a presumption of innocence.

UPDATE: Just saw this tweet. Important.

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The San Luca Madonna

This terra cotta iconic image of the Virgin and Child sits on the mantel in my home. My wife and I were admiring how the image looks in the morning sun. The icon was a gift from Francesco Bernardi, my host in Bologna, who, with his wife, welcomed me into his home for dinner. Such warm, generous Christian people. That the icon is rendered here in terra cotta is a reference to the terra cotta façades characteristic of Bologna’s historic buildings. Further, Francesco explained that the image, the Madonna of San Luca, is iconic of Bologna. The original icon arrived in Bologna in the 12th century, carried by a Byzantine pilgrim who brought it from the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. The bishop of Bologna placed it in a chapel at the top of a hill. Later, a grand basilica was built to house the icon. Below is the original; I will return to Bologna to pray before the original one day, but until then, I am so, so grateful to have this terra cotta reproduction in my home. Grazie mille, Francesco!:

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Ford Case Falling Apart

Credit: C-Span/YouTube Screenshot

Christine Blasey Ford named four people who could corroborate her claim that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party.

According to CNN, none of them do. Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, two of the people named by Ford, deny it. Now:

CNN has learned that the committee has reached out to a longtime friend of Ford named Leland Ingham Keyser.

“I understand that you have been identified as an individual who was in attendance at a party that occurred circa 1982 described in a recent Washington Post article,” a committee staffer wrote Keyser earlier this week.

On Saturday night, her lawyer, Howard Walsh, released a statement to CNN and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Simply put,” Walsh said, “Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.”

The lawyer acknowledged to CNN that Keyser is a lifelong friend of Ford’s.

This comes on top of the denial of the fourth person named by Ford:

In addition, Patrick J. Smyth issued a statement. “I understand that I have been identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person she remembers as ‘PJ’ who supposedly was present at the party she described in her statements to the Washington Post,” Smyth said in his statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

“Personally speaking, I have known Brett Kavanaugh since high school and I know him to be a person of great integrity, a great friend, and I have never witnessed any improper conduct by Brett Kavanaugh towards women. To safeguard my own privacy and anonymity, I respectfully request that the Committee accept this statement in response to any inquiry the Committee may have.”

So that leaves Ford and Ford alone making the allegation.

Maybe we’ll learn something more in testimony. But if not, and if Kavanaugh is denied this Supreme Court seat on the basis of a single uncorroborated allegation of an event she claims happened over 30 years ago, about which she told no one until 2012, and that has been flatly denied by Kavanaugh — that will be a personal and professional travesty for him, and will have a devastating effect on public life. All it will take is an accusation unsupported by anything to torpedo a man’s career. This cannot be allowed to happen, as a matter of simple justice.

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Spiegel Blasts Pope Francis

Detail of cover of newest Spiegel

A German-speaking subscriber to Der Spiegel sent me a copy of the German newsmagazine’s big cover piece on Pope Francis. I ran it through Google Translate, which gave me a reasonable sense of the thing.

It is very, very tough — but fair. If this story had appeared in a conservative magazine, it would not have been remarkable. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a good piece. But the fact that it appears in a German magazine with a generally liberal editorial line — well, that’s a bellwether.

There’s little if anything that people who haven’t been following the Catholic scandal story closely this summer don’t already know, but Spiegel does a good job of gathering it in one place. What the magazine also does, and which I haven’t seen from the US media, is speak frankly about the problem of homosexuality in the priesthood. And the magazine strongly criticizes Francis for his self-pity and stonewalling on abuse and other questions.

Here’s how the report begins. Again, the translation is via Google, so it’s bound to be rough:

The earthquake that shakes the Vatican City is scarcely noticeable in the epicenter. Behind high walls there is silence in the ecclesial state. The curtains in front of the papal apartment in the guest house Santa Marta are closed, a Swiss guard is guarding the entrance, a policeman patrols. The control center of the global Church is like a fortress.

Only behind closed doors do cardinals and archbishops speak. About what has happened to the foundations of the Church. It is about, first and foremost, thousands of documented cases of sexual abuse by pastoral workers worldwide. However, it is also increasingly about Pope Francis. He, who started out as a brilliant reformer, threatens to lose his authority — because he often speaks at an inopportune time, but is silent in important moments.

About lies, intrigues, and “a Holy Father, who like no one questions the truth of faith in front of him,” says a grizzled cardinal at the court of Francis.

Look at this quote:

“I did not believe a word of this Francis from the beginning,” says a staunch cardinal who does not want to be named, within the Vatican walls: “He preaches mercy, but is in truth an icy, cunning Machiavellian and worse, he’s lying.”

There is in the piece a good bit about the abuse scandals that Bergoglio left behind in Argentina. An experienced lawyer for victims says that Francis shows a benign face to the public, but a very different one in private, when confronted about abusive priests.

And look at this opening for the section about the decline of Catholicism in Germany’s Catholic heartland:

While the first beer steins are being served on the Sunday morning in the late summer sun in front of the Munich Frauenkirche, there is a still silence inside the cathedral. Not five dozen worshipers have gathered, lost in the benches of the late Gothic hall church.

The crisis of the church does not stop at the Bavarian state capital: less than a third of Munich residents still profess the Catholic faith.

“The true extent of the catastrophe will only be seen in ten years,” the archbishopric says. The pope, who likes to go to the periphery, must not forget one thing: “Anyone who only thinks of the edges will soon have a hole in the middle.”

However, part of the problem in the archdiocese is home-made: that a high-ranking cleric from Munich unabashedly places his lover in the front pew, that in this city, too, openly homosexual pastors are whispering about the unpredictable pope — that everything contributes to the credibility problem of the church, even in what was once the heart of Catholic Bavaria.

By the way, Spiegel interviews Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who personally serves both Benedict XVI and Francis, asking him to clarify whether or not Benedict imposed sanctions on McCarrick, as Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò alleged.

“I do not say a word about this so-called Viganò memorandum,” replies Monsignor Gänswein. He knows: Whatever he utters, in this historically unprecedented situation with two living popes within the Vatican walls, would be detrimental to either.

This is interesting, because some took Gänswein’s earlier remarks to Tagespost as a denial that Benedict had sanctioned McCarrick. In fact, the monsignor’s words then only indicated that Benedict had not read the Viganò memorandum. They were not a denial of sanctions. In point of fact, Benedict (and Gänswein) remain silent on that point.

The Spiegel piece ends by quoting Gänswein’s speech about The Benedict Option, and by speaking of my book’s warning of the light of Christianity fading in the West. Then, this devastating final paragraph:

The man who is supposed to carry the torch of Christianity sees himself as a victim. During the morning devotion on Tuesday, Pope Francis declares his silence in the face of the allegations — comparing his situation with that of the divine Son of God: “When people called him on that Good Friday and shouted, ‘Crucify him!’, He was silent, because he felt sorry for those people. “

You see the point: with the faith in a world-historical crisis, the Pope is sulking in the Vatican, refusing to address legitimate complaints and serious issues shaking the Church’s foundations, while comparing himself to the crucified Lord.

This can’t last.

 

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Queering Azusa Pacific University

This is a big story. Azusa Pacific University has flipped on LGBT. More:

Effective this fall 2018 semester, Azusa Pacific removed language from its student standard of conduct agreement that prohibited public LGBTQ+ relationships for students on campus. As an evangelical institution, APU still adheres to the Biblical principles of human sexuality—the belief that “sexual union is intended by God to take place only within the marriage covenant between a man and a woman” and it remains a cornerstone of the university’s foundation.

This change is a result of much dialogue between students and administration. For years, LGBTQ+ students at APU have run an underground support group called Haven. However, because they weren’t endorsed by APU as an official club, they couldn’t gather on campus or advertise their meetings.

The group met in apartments around APU because members only knew about Haven by word-of-mouth. Members of Haven were motivated to have their voices heard after an APU faculty member was the target of a hate crime on campus, where LGBTQ+ slurs were used against him.

Last year, with help from LGBTQ+ organization Brave Commons, Haven members started discussing this topic with administration. Erin Green, co-executive director of Brave Commons and recent APU alumni, coordinated much of these conversations.

“We thought it was unfair to single out queer folks in same-sex romantic relationships while it is impossible to enforce or monitor [whether other students are remaining abstinent],” Green said. “Queer students are just as able to have romanticized relationships that abide by APU’s rules. The code used falsely assumed that same-sex romances always involved sexual behavior. This stigmatization causes harm to our community, especially those serious about their Christian faith.”

The students spoke, and the administrative board listened. Associate Dean of Students Bill Fiala, Ph.D., said that as the board evaluated their code of conduct, they wanted to be attentive to equity.

“The changes that occured to the handbooks around sexual behavior creates one standard for all undergraduate students, as opposed to differential standards for different groups,” Fiala said. “The change that happened with the code of conduct is still in alignment with our identity as a Christian institution. The language changed, but the spirit didn’t. Our spirit is still a conservative, evangelical perspective on human sexuality.”

That’s all she wrote at Azusa Pacific. They can tell themselves whatever they like about their “spirit,” but it’s self-deception. This is how conservative institutions surrender: by giving up, then telling themselves (and their donors) that they haven’t surrendered. Saving face is not the same thing as saving the institution’s core values.

Azusa Pacific is an important Evangelical school. It will be very interesting to see what the rest of the CCCU (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities) schools do in response.

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‘Motor Booty Affair’

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The host of the show is my son, Matthew, who loves funk music. Tonight (Saturday) is his debut. Check it out online here, from 7 to 9 pm central.

He walked into the radio station the other day and asked if they had any slots open. When he showed them his playlist, they hired him. He’s got exquisite musical taste.

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Rome Betrays Underground China Church

Cardinal Joseph Zen: ‘They’re giving the flock into the mouths of wolves’ (EWTN screenshot)

The deal has been signed, according to the Vatican:

During that meeting, the two representatives signed a Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops.

The above-mentioned Provisional Agreement, which is the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement, has been agreed following a long process of careful negotiation and foresees the possibility of periodic reviews of its application. It concerns the nomination of Bishops, a question of great importance for the life of the Church, and creates the conditions for greater collaboration at the bilateral level.

The deal, in short, gives the Beijing government the right to approve the appointment of bishops. It also regularizes, canonically, bishops in the state-backed “patriotic” church. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, released a videotaped statement about the deal. Excerpt:

The objective of the Holy See is a pastoral one: the Holy See intends just to create the condition, or help to create the condition, of a greater freedom, autonomy and organization, in order that the Catholic Church can dedicate itself to the mission of announcing the Gospel and also to contribute to the well-being and to the spiritual and material prosperity and harmony of the country, of every person and of the world as a whole.

And today, for the first time all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter. And Pope Francis, like his immediate Predecessors, looks with particular care to the Chinese People. What is required now is unity, is trust and a new impetus; to have good Pastors, recognized by the Successor of Peter – by the Pope – and by the legitimate civil Authorities. And we believe – we hope, we hope – that the Agreement will be an instrument for these objectives, for these aims, with the cooperation of all.

This is a very big deal, the fruit of four decades of negotiations across three papacies. Not everyone is happy with it:

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most senior Catholic cleric on Chinese soil, said he believed the two sides were making a “secret deal”, although he acknowledged he had no connection with the Vatican and was “completely in the dark”.
“They’re giving the flock into the mouths of the wolves.

It’s an incredible betrayal,” he said.

More:

At a time when the Vatican is also under pressure for purportedly covering up a sex abuse scandal in the United States, with one archbishop even calling for the Pope to resign , Zen suggested this China deal would further add to the Church’s vulnerability.

“The consequences will be tragic and long lasting, not only for the church in China but for the whole church because it damages the credibility. Maybe that’s why they might keep the agreement secret.”

China’s roughly 12 million Catholics are split between an underground Church that swears loyalty to the Vatican, and the state-supervised Catholic Patriotic Association.

The potential deal has divided communities of Catholics across China, some of whom fear greater suppression should the Vatican cede greater control to Beijing, but others want to see rapprochement.

Zen said he believed only half the underground church in China would accept a deal and was concerned how the remainder might react.

“I’m afraid they may do something irrational, they may make rebellion,” said 86-year-old Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong and the most outspoken critic of the Pope’s China strategy.

Pope Francis has rejected criticism that the Holy See may be selling out Catholics to Beijing’s communist government.

Zen said he believed any deal with atheist China would deal a significant blow to Pope Francis’ credibility.

“It’s a complete surrender. It’s a betrayal (of our faith).

I had a conversation about this deal last week in Rome, when it was still pending, with someone knowledgeable about the process. He was not sure if he supported it or not, but said that Rome’s hope is to be able to provide valid sacraments for Chinese Catholics, in hope of outlasting communist repression.

Non-Catholics should be aware that in Catholic (and Orthodox) theology, the validity of the sacraments does not depend on the moral qualities of the priest or bishop administering them. This was an issue settled by the Church in the fifth century, with the Donatist controversy. What matters is the validity of the priest’s ordination. This is why in the Soviet Union, even though most or even all of the Orthodox bishops were KGB agents, the sacraments remained valid, and the life of the Church continued, though obviously in captivity.

This is more or less what Rome hopes to accomplish with its new agreement with the communists. Rome’s concession to Beijing of the right to approve bishops is nothing new in the Church’s history. The Church has often conceded to the state power over the choice of bishops. It is a tragedy, though, because the Catholic Church has fought hard over the centuries for the right to administer its own affairs. This is a setback, for sure. Nevertheless, Rome’s gamble is that by extending a lifeline to the persecuted Church in China, it will be able to build a community of Catholic Christians able to endure whatever comes, and to exist on a more stable, permanent basis.

This is not an unreasonable stance to take. I think it’s morally wrong, to be sure, but it is not crazy. Rome is taking the long view. It knows that China will be one of the most important nations in the world for the foreseeable future, and it is trying to assure for itself a place in that future.

I think it’s wrong because — well, because of what Cardinal Zen said. How can it be anything other than a betrayal of the underground Church? Last summer, while traveling I met a Chinese Protestant who told me in conversation that he was thinking of converting to Catholicism. I asked him how a Rome agreement with Beijing that gives the communists greater control over the Church would affect his decision. His face grew severe, and he said under no circumstances would he have anything to do with a collaborationist Catholic Church.

Anecdotes are not data, but I just want to share that. I can’t imagine how the men and women of the underground Catholic Church in China must feel this morning. What if they resist? Well, on what basis would they resist? To this point, the focus of their resistance has been loyalty to the Holy See. As of today, loyalty to the Holy See means submission to Beijing.

As an Orthodox Christian, I’m thinking this morning of the example of ROCOR — the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.  ROCOR was established in the early 1920s by Russian Orthodox bishops driven into exile by the Bolshevik Revolution, and who rejected the Moscow Patriarchate’s subservience to the communist government. In 2007, ROCOR formally reunited with Moscow, but for nearly a century, ROCOR offered Russian Orthodoxy free from communism’s malign control. Under Orthodox ecclesiology, ROCOR’s orders were valid, and therefore so were its sacraments.

Is a ROCOR-like church entity possible for dissenting Chinese Catholics? I don’t see how, given Catholic ecclesiology. Being in communion with the See of Peter is what makes one Catholic, right? The Society of St. Pius X would disagree, but note well that it broke with Rome over matters of doctrine. As serious as this Rome-Beijing concordat is, it’s not at the level of doctrine.

Nevertheless, I think this event increases — to what degree I don’t know — the possibility of a wider schism within the Catholic Church. Hear me out. There will be some Catholics outside of China who will side with Cardinal Zen, and who see this accord with Beijing as a terrible betrayal. These are likely to be the same Catholics who see Francis’s program of reform as a series of betrayals of Catholic tradition and Catholic truth on matters like the meaning of marriage. Some observers, including Francis supporters on the Catholic left, see the Pope’s upcoming Youth Synod as a vehicle for Francis to liberalize Catholic teaching on homosexuality. The Pope has given every indication, by his appointments, especially in this process, that he wants to reach a concordat with the Sexual Revolution.

Meanwhile, he continues to behave bizarrely on the subject of the sexual abuse scandal. Francis shows no awareness — zero, none, nada, nichts — of the gravity of the scandal. He has barricaded himself behind a fortress wall of self-pity, guarded by a phalanx of Vatican yes-men who tell him that this is all a plot by his enemies, and is confined to the United States. Yesterday, Michigan became the eighth US state, post-Pennsylvania, announced an investigation of Catholic dioceses and their handling of sex abuse over the decades.

As a Catholic priest friend pointed out to me last night, most (though not all!) of what these investigations will turn up will be old cases; the 2002 Dallas Charter reforms really have had a meaningful effect in cleaning up the abuse problem. The thing is, though, the information will be vile, and difficult for lay Catholics to absorb. For whatever reason or reasons, they did not face it fully in the first epic round of scandals, post-2002. Now they’re getting it — and they’re going to keep getting it in years to come.

Plus, Francis is in militant denial about the problems that come from networks of homosexuals in the priesthood. St. Jerome once wrote, of the great theological crisis of his day, “The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian.” A Catholic academic friend said to me recently that this should be updated to: “The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself gay.” He’s talking about the world of the Church, of course — specifically, the homosexualization of the clergy. Consider not only the denial that Francis and his top advisers remain in over this reality, even as he appoints pro-LGBT bishops, but think also about how senior gay figures in the Church are driving changes to the Church’s magisterial teaching in a pro-gay way. Again, watch what happens with the Youth Synod.

Mary Eberstadt had another great essay about this lavender mafia problem the other day. Excerpts:

Today the moral coin is flipped: It is the antagonists of tradition-leaning Catholics who are trying to look the other way and carry on against overwhelming evidence that there’s nothing to see here.

They’ve also put new slurs into circulation. Some of the people uncovering the truth have been disparaged as haters, for example, including by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, who is presumed by many to speak for the pope. Haters, like homophobe, is an epithet imported from the antinomian secular political culture. Its suggestion that some people are beyond redemption is profoundly un-Christian. It should never be used by anyone in religious authority.

Another slur is even worse than haters. Many agonized Catholics desiring only to know whether allegations are true are now accused of participating in religious treason—of planning a “putsch” within the church, as Michael Sean Winters has put it in the National Catholic Reporter. Or consider some characterizations of the testimony of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former nuncio to the United States and author of a historically unprecedented and detailed 11-page letter released last month, accusing the pope and others of covering up abuse. Theologian Massimo Faggioli has called the work a “coup operation.” Fr. James Martin has tweeted similarly of a “coordinated attack” intended to “delegitimize” the pope.

This list could go on and on. Such martial language is designed to marginalize and malign anyone interested in the veracity of Viganò’s claims. It also sends the terrible signal that some churchmen and theologians underestimate the sufferings caused by unchecked abusers hiding behind Roman collars. The increasingly hysterical insistence that all will be well if only everyone leaves the pope alone underestimates the intelligence of the laity. Anyone who has read Viganò’s letter knows that the testimonial isn’t some anonymous comment tossed into cyberspace but a series of intricate assertions about who knew what and when—all of which can be verified or not in the long run. That bishops and others in authority have testified to the credibility of its author makes the document even harder to discredit, let alone ignore.

Partisan attempts to deflect attention from both the Viganò report and the scandals are jeopardizing the integrity of the church. In the absence of answers to the charges of coverup, who could blame mothers and fathers newly fearful for their children for withdrawing from the pews? So far as the laity is concerned, and contra what curia-firsters seem to understand, there is nothing Rome needs to do more than address these scandals.

More:

But in this grave moment for the church, the laity knows more than it did 16 years ago. Back then I wrote, “If humility is now required of Catholics, so too is backbone. If it takes shutting down certain seminaries to protect boys of the present and future, close them now. If vocations to the priesthood should be so far reduced by stringent screening for abuse victims that American Catholics have to travel 50 miles to Mass, let them drive.” Today, a laity forged in this latest round of scandal knows all too well that there are worse things for the church than a priest shortage. And thanks again to the Internet, the same laity is scrutinizing the hierarchy as never before.

Good things will come of the evil confronted today. Judging by the signs of newfound courage and questioning, they already are. The ultimate legacy of 2018, whether we live to see it in this world or not, will be a holier and more transparent church.

Read the whole thing.

Anyway, the anonymous priest I mentioned above e-mailed to say:

I think that the net effect of this continual release of historical abuse and cover up is going to have a deleterious effect on the Church.  How could it not?  Ultimately it will mean people walking away out of disgust and/or shame.  And who could blame them?  Yes, the Church has the truth.  Fine.  But no one cares about the truth if you don’t have love.  No one cares about following what the bishops teach if you prove to have not protected children.  All the truth in the world doesn’t matter if you protect predators.

Now, bad church government — protecting predators, making deals with communist persecutors of the Church — does not negate doctrinal truths. But as the priest said, all the truth in the world doesn’t matter if by your actions, you show that those truths do not matter.  Trust me on this: I’ve lived it. You can lose your faith this way. It happened to me. I emphatically urge Catholic readers to dive deep into daily practices — prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, and more — that root your faith deep in your heart. You will be facing in years to come revelations that will shake you to the core. And you will have to deal with the miserable fact that the Pope and all of the Pope’s men are not on your side.

My own rage at this injustice annihilated within me the capacity to believe in Christ as a Roman Catholic. Don’t misunderstand: I am grateful that God brought me into Orthodox Christianity. The lessons I learned from losing my Catholic faith have made me a different kind of Orthodox Christian than I would have been otherwise. It’s not my place to get into Catholic vs. Orthodox here, nor do I want to (so keep your comments on this matter to yourselves, because I’m not going to allow them on the thread). My advice to you Catholics, though, is not to allow yourself to think that your faith is strong enough to withstand any revelations about the institutional Church. It is very clear that this crisis for Catholics is going to get much worse before it gets better.

The Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti, in a new column, writes in part (this has been translated from Italian):

It has been four weeks since the publication of the Viganò testimony. And not one denial of his statements has been recorded. A timid attempt made on the Kim Davis case saw a devastating response from the former nuncio – which was substantiated by a document. Meanwhile, a letter emerged from the then-Deputy to the Secretariat of State Sandri, which confirmed what was declared by Viganò. Not one of the people involved — not one — have said: it is not true. Journalists covering this story, with rare exceptions, have spent their time in the work of personal denigration of Viganò and those who believe in his testimony, and stopped there. And this also reinforces the idea that it Vigano’s testimony is reliable. We imagine that if some journalist of the magic circle would have been able to, they would have played one or two cards by now to denounce the former nuncio. We must think, then, that the cards are actually in Viganò’s hands. And that they are winning cards. We are living in really terrible times, for those who want to try to still have faith in this Church.

Viganò is telling the truth. There are many more truths that will emerge. All that is hidden will be revealed. Count on it. The Chinese underground church are not the only Catholics who will experience a sense of betrayal like a knife in the heart.

Read this incredible, inspiring talk by Cardinal Collins of Toronto. Note this part:

We must become fire, and the fire of purification allows that to happen, for it burns away our sinfulness. As the book of Sirach says: “My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, remain in justice and in fear, and prepare yourself for temptation… Gold and silver are tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation” (Sirach 2:1, 5).

We are all sinners, and as Isaiah says, men of unclean lips. In his great vocation experience in the temple, described in Isaiah 6, God purifies his lips and his life with sacred fire, and makes him ready to be sent. “Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me!” (Isaiah 6: 6-8)

To concentrate our minds, and to keep everyone on the straight path, it is good to remember the fire and brimstone that obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), and the Lake of Fire in the Apocalypse, which is the second death, the death of mortal sin, and which is the destiny of those who are unfaithful to their call (Apoc 20: 10-14). It is a good practice to pray, not only in the Rosary, but all the time, the prayer: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need of your mercy.” Mercy is founded on a recognition of the reality of justice, of right and wrong, of the fact of sin, and of repentance.

Our actions have consequences, as is evident in so many parables of the Gospel, such as that of the rich man and Lazarus. We sometimes forget that Jesus begins his ministry as John the Baptist did, with the words: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near at hand.” And at the end he speaks of the separation of the sheep and the goats. This is sharp, and clear, and calls for a decision. We should listen to the prophet Malachi, who warns the people about the coming day of judgment: “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire…” (Malachi 3:2) Paul helps us to live rightly in the present moment when he speaks of the time to come when “the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Thess 1:7-8) . Any one of us who is tempted to lapse into complacent self – indulgence will be shaken by that vision of the fire of judgment, which is the ultimate sign of accountability.

Disastrously, a toxic sentimentality, in which both the call to repentance and the vision of judgment are obscured,  has entered into the Church, and never more so than in the few decades following Vatican II, from the seventies to the mid-nineties. There was a blurring of the clear lines of morality, and the creation of a distorted and highly subjective concept of conscience. It is no coincidence at all that this was the very period, we now clearly realize, in which most of the devastating incidents of priestly and episcopal abuse that are now in the news took place. Designing policies and other things to deal with this abuse is surely necessary, and largely has already been done. But that is radically insufficient. We surely do not need a policy to stop us from engaging in self-indulgent evil that leads to the Lake of Fire. All Christians, but especially bishops and priests, need to listen to and act on these simple words of Jesus: Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near at hand.

This.

 

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Comrades & Commies In Colorado

Via the Twitter feed of Amir Sariaslan.

Here’s a new form of relationship brought about by the October Revolution. It’s a prisoners’ bedroom in a gulag:

(Wikimedia Commons)

Political scientist Jodi Dean is actually a revolutionary communist.

I have increasingly little doubt that people like Dean — holder of a Princeton degree and two Columbia degrees — would happily see people off to gulags if she had the opportunity — all in the name of “comradeship,” “solidarity,” and fighting hierarchy.

The poli sci department at Colorado College sounds like it runs the ideological gamut from A to B. Dean’s forthcoming lecture on the joy of Bolshevism is part of the Encounters Speaker Series, whose schedule for this academic year is topically … narrow.

We really are going to have to fight this battle all over again.

I didn’t write about it here because I was in Italy at the time, but there was a big row in the UK a few days ago when the LGBTQ student group at a leading London university published a series of tweets, since taken down, defending the Soviet gulag system, in which over one million people perished. Here’s the full story. Screenshots of some of the tweets:

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Le Pen & The Sovietization Of France

Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front

This is totalitarian. The BBC reports:

A French court has ordered far-right leader Marine Le Pen to undergo psychiatric tests as part of an inquiry into her sharing images of Islamic State group atrocities.

Ms Le Pen tweeted pictures of the court order, calling the move “crazy”.

She posted the images back in 2015, including one showing the decapitated body of IS victim James Foley.

She has been stripped of her immunity as a parliamentarian and she could still face a fine or even jail.

More, for context:

Ms Le Pen sparked an outcry when she posted the images, which she shared in response to a journalist who drew a comparison between IS and her party

The other images showed a tank running over a man in an orange jumpsuit, while another jumpsuit-clad man was shown in a cage being burned alive.

The case against her stems from French laws against circulating “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity” and that can be viewed by a minor.

The Guardian reports:

She voiced outrage on Thursday at a court order demanding she undergo psychiatric evaluation in the case.

“I thought I had been through it all: well, no! For having condemned Daesh (IS) horrors in tweets, the ‘justice system’ is putting me through psychiatric tests! Just how far will they go?” she tweeted.

She later argued on BFM TV, a French 24-hour news broadcaster, that totalitarian regimes use such methods against opponents to “make them look like they’re crazy”. She told reporters she would skip the test. “I’d like to see how the judge would try and force me do it,” she said.

Le Pen has argued that she shared the images in response to a French journalist who drew a comparison between IS and her party. She later deleted the picture of Foley after a request from his family, saying she had been unaware of his identity.

The court declined to confirm it had ordered the psychiatric evaluation but magistrates said such tests were a normal part of this kind of investigation.

Le Pen’s argument that she was being persecuted was picked up by others on the European far right. Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini said in a statement: “A court orders a psychiatric assessment for Marine Le Pen. Words fail me! Solidarity with her and with the French who love freedom!”

Absolutely: Solidarity with Marine Le Pen! You do not have to agree with her politics to be revolted by what the French state is trying to do to her, and why. Even Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left French politician, is defending her here. Le Pen posted documentary evidence of actual ISIS atrocities, in an attempt to demonstrate that there is no comparison between ISIS and her political party. So now, in France, simply posting images of actual, real-life events may be evidence of criminal insanity.

Do you not see where this is going? Do you not see why it must be stopped cold?

The Soviet Union used to declare dissidents criminally insane and imprison them in psychiatric units. And now the same sort of thing is manifesting in the West, by those who want to preserve liberalism at all costs. Those who challenge the regime, even with facts and images, will be taken to court and forced to submit to tests to prove that they are not criminally insane.

A breathtaking irony: the French state is doing this to silence those who criticize barbarians who would destroy liberalism.

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Luca Daum & St. Galgano

‘The Temptation of St. Galgano,’ by Luca Daum

After my speech in Genoa, there was a long line of people wanting me to sign their copies of The Benedict Option, or just to say hello. One man handed me a large envelope. I didn’t look to see what was in the envelope until I was back at my hotel late that night in Milan, packing for the next morning’s flight.

It was that image above, produced by the man who handed it to me, Luca Daum.

I have searched for everything I could find about him online. Here’s a piece from a Genoa website reporting on a gallery exhibition he had a few years back.

Here are some images of a series of bookplates he created. For example:

And:

In a note he included in the envelope, Luca asked how artists could be involved with the Benedict Option concept. As a general matter, I believe that the creation of beauty is vital to the survival and expansion of the Church, as it always has been. I would like to put the question to you visual and literary artists who are interested in the Ben Op idea. What role do you have to play? How can the rest of us help you?

Here’s one thing you can do: buy Luca Daum’s art. I have his e-mail address, and will happily share it with anybody who writes to me wanting to reach him. I’m going to drop him a note to see if he has a website where he exhibits his work for sale. If we Christians want the world to be more beautiful, then we must support artists.

By the way, I had no idea who Saint Galgano was until I looked at Luca’s etching for me, and then searched for the saint on the Internet. Turns out he’s Galgano Guidotti, a 12th-century Tuscan saint:

Galgano is said to have led a ruthless life in his early years, but later abandoned it in favour of a pious hermitage in the place now known as Rotonda di Montesiepi. His mother, Dionigia, is believed to have reported that Galgano had two visions, both involving Archangel Michael: in the first vision the Archangel told Galgano that he was going to be protected by the Archangel himself. In the second vision, Galgano was following the Archangel and they arrived to the hill of Montesiepi where they met the twelve Apostles and the Creator himself. After the visions, it is said that Galgano’s horse refused to obey his orders and led him on top Montesiepi where his vision happened. Convinced that this was a sign, Galgano decided to plant a cross. Since he had no way to make one of wood, he planted his sword in the ground. The sword is said to have immediately become one piece with the ground so that nobody could remove it. A story says that in one of the visions, he was told to renounce material things. He, stating that it would be as hard as splitting a rock, decided to make his point by attempting to plunge his sword into one. The story goes on saying that the “stone yielded like butter”.

The sword in the stone can be seen at the Rotonda at Montesiepi, near the ruins of the Abbey of San Galgano. The handle of a sword protrudes from the ground, and is said to be the sword of San Galgano.

In Luca Daum’s etching, the miracle of the sword in the stone helped St. Galgano overcome the temptation, symbolized by the vanquished serpent, to believe that it was impossible to separate oneself from material desires. Luca’s etching serves as a kind of icon helping us to understand a spiritual truth about the power of God to empower us to overcome our disordered desires. Sometimes, we can only access these truths in art and literature. I wrote an entire book about how God used the poetry of Dante Alighieri to lead me out of my own dark wood. Dante’s art connected me in a life-changing way with God, in a way that more prosaic forms did not do. Please, readers, keep squarely in front of you the fact that Luca Daum and Christians like him, and the work that they do, are part of the Church too! If the behavior of the clergy, even the Pope, angers and discourages you, make sure to set your eyes on the good works that the faithful do in gratitude to God, and to glorify Him.

Look what The Guardian reported in 2001:

The sword of St Galgano, said to have been plunged into a rock by a medieval Tuscan knight, has been authenticated, bolstering Italy’s version of the Excalibur legend.

Galgano Guidotti, a noble from Chiusdano, near Siena, allegedly split the stone with his sword in 1180 after renouncing war to become a hermit. For centuries the sword was assumed to be a fake. but research revealed last week has dated its metal to the twelfth century.

Only the hilt, wooden grip and a few inches of the 3ft blade poke from the hill, which still draws pilgrims and tourists to the ruins of the chapel built around it.

‘Dating metal is a very difficult task, but we can say that the composition of the metal and the style are compatible with the era of the legend,’ said Luigi Garlaschelli, of the University of Pavia. ‘We have succeeded in refuting those who maintain that it is a recent fake.’

I love Italy. Keep Christianity weird! It’s important.

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The Cost Of Protecting The Lavender Mafia

St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome (Nicola Bertolini/Shutterstock)

As I wrote here in this space from my Italian trip, the Vatican seems to be living in a dream world when it comes to the US sex abuse scandal. Pope Francis and his team appear to be willfully blind to the on-the-ground reality. They seem to be willing to go to extraordinary lengths to defend the Church’s lavender mafia from scrutiny. A Francis insider was reliably reported to me to have said privately that the McCarrick Affair could cause the Church to “implode.” His public comments — he’s someone you would know — do not reflect this concern at all. In fact, just the opposite. He’s pushing the line that this is merely an American thing, exaggerated and promoted by Americans who don’t like Francis. But I know that deep down, he understands how dangerous this is for the Church.

This e-mail just came in from a reader:

As an attorney, I can see at least one potential path that events could take if the Vatican continues to stonewall the abuse cases, including its role in covering up those cases, and it is not pretty. It runs something like this:

First, U.S. attorneys general open up multiple investigations on the child abuse cases based on the Pennsylvania model. The attorneys general in New York and Missouri have already started such investigations (with New York already issuing subpoenas), and the attorney general in New Jersey has set up a hotline. Attorneys general in five other states (Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Florida) have taken initial steps to begin an investigation or are publicly contemplating such an investigation.

Second, at some point, one or more of those investigations will determine that they need or want information from the Vatican to pursue their investigations. They will reach that conclusion when it becomes apparent to them either that the Vatican instructed one or more U.S. bishops not to publicly disclose certain information about recalcitrant priests or that the Vatican took other steps to cover up the scandal. After several fruitless efforts to get the Vatican to co-operate with their investigation(s), they could issue subpoenas to the Vatican to produce documents and/or witnesses.

Those investigators will know that the subpoenas are not legally enforceable — under international law, the Vatican is a separate country and can assert sovereign immunity to block legal process from another country. But the investigators will proceed to issue the subpoenas in order to increase public, political, and legal pressure on the Vatican to co-operate.

Third, the Vatican will assert sovereign immunity to block the subpoenas. There will be an immediate public uproar against the Church for continuing to block the investigations.

The damage done to the Church from this scenario — and I think there is a reasonable possibility that it could actually happen — would be immense and lasting. And even if it never comes to a legal battle over a state’s subpoena power, the potential for a battle between some state’s attorney general and the Vatican is real and potentially very destructive. Everyone in the world will be watching. Any continuous and sustained efforts coming from the Vatican to stymie these investigations will severely harm the Church.

It is entirely possible that law in the U.S. could move in directions that would undermine the bishops’ legitimate authority over their priests and their dioceses. I would not be surprised to see state legislatures or courts begin to impose burdensome legal requirements or restrictions on the bishops that would make it more difficult for them or for the Church to function. Nor do I think that it would be possible to contain the damage solely to the United States. With the whole world watching and many countries dealing with their own Catholic sex abuse scandals, it is entirely possible the harm will extend to other countries as well.

Nor would it surprise me to see courts or legislatures, following the suggestion of the the Australian Royal Commission, make it a felony for a priest to fail to report incidents of abuse that he learns about from someone’s confession. Non-Catholics generally do not understand the importance of the seal of confession, and it has been potentially vulnerable if placed under sufficient legal and social pressure. If the Vatican continues to insist on stonewalling, it will open up the very real possibility that priests and bishops will go to jail not just for committing or covering up sex abuse, but for protecting the Faith against the power of the State. And, like the other possible developments outlined in this email, that damage might extend to countries outside the United States. Where that story will end, we do not know.

Has the Vatican even considered these possibilities? Do they understand how serious this situation really is? It is long passed time for them to come to terms with this reality and respond accordingly.

Sooner or later, reality will assert itself in an undeniable way. But by then, the damage to the Church’s legal, moral, and social standing will have been immense. One marvels at how desperate these men in Rome are to shield themselves and their dealings from the light.

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Sex, Lies, And Kavanaugh

Here’s a brave and true statement from George Yancey, an African-American sociology professor, made on Facebook:

I am going to wait until after the hearing on Monday before I decide what to think about the accusations against Kavanaugh. But the Clarence Thomas hearings are coming up in conversation and I remember when they were all over the television. So I am going to say something that I could not say back then because I had no platform. To tell an African-American man that a woman will not lie about rape or sexual misconduct is a slap to our face given the history of this nation. A lot of the lynchings were done because a white woman lied about a black man raping her. Maybe she felt pressure from the larger community but that lie cost a black man his life.

I think this is one of the reasons why due process is so important to me and I do not want to deny it to anyone. I know that Kavanaugh is white and not tied to that history but I want him to get due process as well as much as it is possible. I think the best we can do is this hearing on Monday. He may be a wanna-be rapist and information may come out that indicate this. In that case I certainly want his nomination withdrawn. But too many times in our history we have used accusations against someone we do not like as legitimation for punishing that person, and that I cannot accept.

If my above statement make some of my progressive and feminist friends mad at me then I accept that anger. But as a black man I knew what Thomas meant by the statement “high-tech lynching.” I would never use such a statement myself but it does express my frustration at wanting to end sexual violence but also knowing how the accusation of sexual violence has historically be misused. So if you are angry at this statement I ask that you consider that history as you weigh this statement.

George’s remarks made me think about a case from my own hometown, from the 1940s. A white woman was caught having sex with a black man. She accused him of rape. The sheriff and two deputies tracked the black man through the woods, captured him, took him to the town jail, and lynched him on the spot. A couple of days later, the white woman confessed that they had been lovers. She denounced him as a rapist to protect her own reputation. Her guilt overwhelmed her, though.

Nobody paid for the extrajudicial murder of that innocent black man. Not the woman who falsely accused him. Not the sheriff, not his deputies. It was all swept under the rug. That’s how life was back then. If defending the ideology of white supremacy meant allowing white murderers to get away with it, then that was acceptable. The point here is that a woman lied about rape, and a man lost his life as a result, because the lie she told fit the preconceived biases of her society.

I know this is true because one of the men who participated in the lynching confessed to it on his deathbed to a friend of mine. All the people involved in it are long dead, by the way. When I moved back to my hometown in 2011, I tried to research the crime, to find out more, but there were no records, and everyone with firsthand knowledge of it was dead. Still, it happened.

Now, what happened in that 1940s case is not the same thing that happened, or is alleged to have happened, in suburban Maryland in the 1980s, with Kavanaugh. But the principle is the same. We have to do our best to give him due process.

When I first heard about this situation, my instinct was to believe that even if Kavanaugh was guilty — which we do not yet know! — it wasn’t enough to deny him the Supreme Court seat, given the fact that he was only 17, and drunk, and the attempted rape failed, and he has apparently not done anything like that since. For me, his age and possible impairment was a mitigating factor. In the past few days, I recognized for a lot of people, this is no mitigating factor, and it remains disqualifying. I’ve tried to see things from their point of view. Though I’m not where they are yet — again, for me it’s a matter of the mitigating factor of youth and drunkenness — I could be wrong about that, and in any case I’ve come to recognize that for a lot of good people, youth and drunkenness are no mitigating factors at all. Making Kavanaugh a Supreme Court justice even if he is credibly accused of attempted rape as a teenager would be a bone stuck in the collective throat. As a matter of prudence, therefore, if the Ford and Kavanaugh testimony establish that it is likely that Kavanaugh did assault Christine Ford, then I will side with those who believe that Kavanaugh should withdraw.

But: Kavanaugh absolutely deserves fairness. He should not be considered guilty until proven innocent, based only on the accusation of Christine Ford. The hearings are not a court trial, but inasmuch as the procedure can establish what happened, or did not happen, that night in Maryland so many decades ago, we need to allow the process to work. You talk about a bone in the throat? Letting a man’s name and career be destroyed on the basis of an unsupported attempted rape accusation alone will not be forgiven.

Women lie, just like men do, because human beings lie. Let’s not forget that. Either Brett Kavanaugh is lying, or Christine Ford is. We will likely never know the truth with certainty, but the Senate has to make a decision based on what emerges over the next few days. Let’s try to approach this with as much seriousness and rationality as we can manage.

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Defiance, a l’Opzione Benedetto

Screengrab from La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana

Friends send this story from Italy, summarized thus by La Nuova BQ, my favorite source of news and commentary on the Church in Italy. (I’ve translated it with Google):

The mayor plans to distribute condoms during the events related to the feast of the patron saint of Nichelino. The local Church is not there and cancels the procession of St. Matthew and the mass in the square, retiring to the church. A countercultural testimony of the renunciation of a civic space that brings to mind the Benedict Option: retreating to be freer and not to compromise with the world. And in this way to give a stronger testimony to the young than the one he would have given if he had pretended that nothing was wrong.

Details:

And at that point the ruckus that led the town on the front pages of all the newspapers was unleashed. Provocation and anticlericalism, even the most coarse, for an occasion that is born anyway as a religious holiday. The parish priests had to make an announcement and explain in a press release the reasons for that decision.

“For the Christian community, which has always been present in the social fabric of Nichelino as an active part in the service of young people, families and needy people who respect secularism as a space for dialogue and collaboration, it is difficult to understand the meaning of this choice”, say the parish priests, but they do not want to enter into the choice of the municipality. Even if between the lines we perceive something more than the simple “perplexity” highlighted in the communiqué in which we reiterate that “we do not want to enter into merit”.

“The thing that strikes us deeply is the choice of the context in which this initiative will take place, the feast of the patron saint of our city, a feast that by its nature is born and finds its reason for being in the context of the Christian faith to which sum up significant initiatives and events “.

More:

But that is emblematic of a process in progress. Don Robella [the priest], in fact, contacted by the New BQ, asked the newspapers to rely solely on the press release and did not add further details, especially with regard to relations with the mayor Gianpiero Tolardo, which should not be easy anyway. But one aspect in assessing this story has not escaped him. And it is precisely having to be forced to renounce a public and civic space that the Church as an institution has always occupied.

That’s right. It is the withdrawal of faith from the now-dominant private sector. Everything is fine,  as long as you stay at your home. Yet even in a public square we can bear Christian witness because even the civic spaces are subordinated to the creator of the world and are not a foreign body to it.

Instead we witness a soft expulsion, which now happens not because someone with force or violence prevents the Church from occupying a civil area, but forcing the Church into the conditions of defense and retreat. An escape from the world to preserve [the dignity of the faith] and to continue to testify, caused by conditions that made it impossible to be present.

In his own way, it is a Benedict Option: To withdraw not to stop witnessing to the faith, but to do it in a context where you can exercise that freedom without compromising. That freedom that the mayor of Nichelino has limited and humiliated with his misguided decision.

Read the whole thing, in Italian.

This really is an example of the Benedict Option. The insulting culture-war aggression of the town’s progressive mayor is not a humiliation the Church should accept for the sake of keeping the civic peace.  By retiring to the Church to celebrate the holy rites, the priests of the parish kept what is holy, holy. I completely agree that they made a powerful witness to sanctity. This really is, as La Nuova BQ says, “An escape from the world to preserve [the dignity of the faith] and to continue to testify, caused by conditions that made it impossible to be present.”

Some Christians criticize the Benedict Option as retreatist and defeatist, saying that to the contrary, Christianity is called to be “salt and light” to the world, as Scripture says. True, that is what Christianity is supposed to be. This is precisely an example of the parish priests making the faith salt and light to the world, by testifying against the world by example.

 

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Ed Whelan’s Crackpot Theory

Ed Whelan (Fox News screengrab)

Ed Whelan, the influential legal commenter who runs the Ethics & Public Policy Center, blew up Twitter tonight with a bizarre series of tweets naming a high school classmate of Brett Kavanaugh’s as the potential attacker of Christine Ford. I’m not going to link to any of them, because they included the poor man’s name and photos of him. The Washington Post summarizes the thing:

Ed Whelan, a former clerk to the late justice Antonin Scalia and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, pointed to floor plans, online photographs and other information to suggest a location for the house party in suburban Maryland that Ford described. He also named and posted photographs of the classmate he suggested could be responsible.

Ford dismissed Whelan’s theory in a statement late Thursday: “I knew them both, and socialized with” them, Ford said, adding that she had once visited the other classmate in the hospital. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill and White House officials immediately sought to distance themselves from Whelan’s claims and said they were not aware of his plans to identify the former classmate, now a middle school teacher, who could not be reached for comment and did not answer the door at his house Thursday night.

Whelan did not respond to requests for comment. He had told people around him that he had spent several days putting together the theory and thought it was more convincing than her story, according to two friends who had talked to him.

Whelan has been involved in helping to advise Kavanaugh’s confirmation effort and is close friends with both Kavanaugh and Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society who has been helping to spearhead the nomination.

Kavanaugh and his allies have been privately discussing a defense that would not question whether an incident involving Ford happened, but instead would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

You have to read the thread to grasp just how weird it is. It would be merely strange if it weren’t for the fact that Whelan has probably ruined a man’s life. I will be shocked if Whelan is not sued for defamation, even though he puts a line in saying that he’s not accusing the man of attacking Kavanaugh.

Tom Nichols is right:

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It is inconceivable that this Whelan defense will help Kavanaugh in any way. In fact, it’s so nasty and desperate-seeming that it taints Kavanaugh, despite that fact that he might have had nothing to do with it.

This is what our politics have come down to. Many Democrats will say and do anything, however unjust, to bring Kavanaugh down. And now it’s clear that a top GOP activist and close Kavanaugh friend will risk destroying the life of a private citizen — about whom there is not a shred of evidence that he did anything wrong — for the sake of getting Kavanaugh on the Court.

How on earth did Whelan convince himself that it was okay to put that man’s name and face out there under these circumstances? Whelan is not a hack. He’s a former Supreme Court clerk and a very smart man.

UPDATE: So now this:

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Well, I’m glad he recognizes this, but what about the poor middle-school teacher who was held up by Ed Whelan as a possible attempted rapist — this, to protect Whelan’s friend Brett Kavanaugh? It is an utter disgrace, what Whelan did. These two tweets, back to back on my feed, sum it up:

 

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