We interrupt this intermission with a brief broadcast…

mr mom tvHi. Me again. Remember me? Yeah, the guy who used to blog here. I’m not dead yet. You might want to take a seat before I tell you this, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been on duty as a full-time Mr. Mom while putting in the occasional freelance hours in a new field I’m hoping to make into a career.

A week or two ago, I went through my dossier of blog drafts and selected about ten that I really want to polish up and post in the next few weeks, and I was going to preview them, but the window in which I was saving the links for reference closed with my browser, so now I need to go back and pick them out again. Aside from such fascinating logistical snags, as you may have heard, taking care of very small kids all day is extremely demanding and distracting. I’ve been in a heavy reading phase of late, and staying fit is essential for my sanity, so I need some time to regain my urge to blog blog, so, for now, you’ll have to get by with a dribble here. 

I will also say that I really appreciate the conversation some of you have been having about religious liberty, and as much as I have wanted to read it all and dive in, well… small kids, weird work schedule, one-driver family, etc. All I will say for now, though, is this:

Enjoining nations to a) afford their citizens the right to practice whatever religion they prefer is not the same thing as enjoining all nations to b) promote the Catholic faith as a civic duty. Tolerance for the practice of religion (a) is logically contained within the duty to promote the Catholic religion (b), and insofar as Dignitatis Humanae stopped at that former principle (a), it failed to enunciate the fullness of the Catholic teaching on what true religious liberty is (b). A half-truth is logically equivalent to a falsehood, and Catholicism, by its very name, is opposed to half-truths and pragmatic compromise. It is the antithesis of true liberty to promote error on an equal footing with truth, for only truth sets man free. Therefore, it is the antithesis of religious liberty to bind true religion, as the pillar of civic order, by the indifferentist chains of mere, Lockean tolerance. 

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By their fruits?

When the spirit of a council dictates, almost from day one, how the documents of a council are to be read and applied, then that spirit is the true fruit of the council, regardless what the documents may say. Luckily, the Church has never fallen into this trap, so keep calm and party on, right?

This is the conservative paradox: the same people who are blamed for “hijacking The Council” are those to whom pious submission must be given in the implementation of The Council. Conspiracy theories are generally taboo among conservatives, but The Tale of Those Nasty Liberals Who Hijacked Poor Ol’ Vatican Two is one conspiracy theory still very much in vogue. The documents have borne the fruits we see (and will probably keep seeing, for a long time to come) because the seeds of said fruit are embedded in the documents themselves. This is why, as Bp. Schneider reminds us, the documents must be subjected to a thorough magisterial pruning, so that the vigor of the Pastoral Mandate can be matched by the tradition of doctrinal security.

Meanwhile, the unrelenting cry for MOAR COUNCIL has a bizarre way of leading to the very abuses which The Council is supposed to have saved us. The Council cannot be a final harbor. It was a milestone, but the Church keeps moving, and I think the Church needs to either enforce the documents with a zeal that any “rad trad” would admire, or needs to admit that The V2 Experiment has failed. The Church will–and must–go on, but, pragmatically speaking, The Spirit of The Council is the clear winner these days. It is heroic of laymen to hold the magisterial line, but it is properly the duty of the episcopal college to get the led out and get our house in order. No “pastoral” strategy is guaranteed infallible immunity.

At the same time, I’m floored that unflinching defenders of Vatican II at least admit that the V2 documents shouldn’t but in fact can be read in a discontinuous, heterodox way. Can the same be said of any prior council? And even if it could be, it was the purpose of a later council authoritatively to rectify such problems. No one in the hierarchy is seriously calling for such a correction. Everything Is Awesome. Except, darn it, this time we need to really implement The Council. There’s that creeping conspiracy theory again.

I don’t see how we can have it both ways. If V2 is to be judged not as a dogmatic intervention but as a pastoral endeavor, and should therefore not be held to such rigorous intellectual standards as prior councils, then the manifest deterioration and disorientation of the Church in certain ways should suffice to show how the pastoral endeavor has been derailed on its own terms. Rather than being read in an orthodox sense, the conciliar ambiguity in question reverses the entire hermeneutic by subjecting past teaching to endless debate and doubt in the superdogma event horizon that V2 has, despite its intended “humility”, become. To cite prior councils is to be labeled a rad trad, which is pretty astounding a charge. As Brunero Gherardini had persuasively argued, what is need is not a declamation of continuity, but a demonstration of it, and the only possible resources for such a demonstration reside in the very things that get one labeled a rad trad. V2 is the most self-referential council in the Church’s history, which is why, like any spiraling mass, it sucks everything else into its gravitational pull, and contorts it all into a shape of its own making.

The documents were not presented as platforms of change. How could a merely pastoral council aim to extend or settle dogmatic issues? The entire premise of the council, at least officially, is that the Church was simply restating long-standing doctrine. Yet, there followed a torrent of adaptation and compromise which the documents had not explicitly decreed. By avoiding the pastoral latitude that it did, the council left the door open for “the spirit of Vatican II”, which is, predictably enough, the impulse which has prevailed for decades. This is why the Church is in the tumult of a collective swing back to the center, and I am baffled why it’s so scandalous for Catholics to point out this disorientation and put V2 in its place, as it were. No one is meant to live at the peripheries of doctrinal coherence. The world has always been crazy. Human nature has not changed. It was the historical chauvinism of the V2 Fathers which led them to presume that the Church was in a new world. Blinded by a naive progressivism, the Fathers gave us a shining example of an old trick: orthodoxy can be defeated by a direct refutation or by being marginalized as optional. The latter strategy has been highly effective for decades now. Dogma doesn’t have to be changed in order to permit a revolution. It can simply be marginalized as irrelevant compared to more pressing Pastoral Needs of The People. Why deny objective truth when you can make it irrelevant?

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Because on the Internet, everyone can hear you scream!

At the risk of coming across as self-indulgent, I wanted to take a moment to expand on why I go by the name Codgitator, and how that shapes this blog.

Almost eight years ago to this day, Dave Armstrong bestowed upon me the name “Cogitator,” and three days later, as in some bowdlerized Passion Play, I rose to embrace the name for myself. Perhaps a couple years later, I tweaked the name from “The Cogitator” into “Codgitator (Cadgertator). The reason is simple: I am a philosopher, but not all philosophers are cut from the same cloth. I’m more of a David Stove or Stanley Jaki man, than an Etienne Gilson or a Josef Pieper man, as far as temperament and style go. All the same, my ideal “voice” is to be as sagacious, concise, charitable, knowledgeable, and witty as the late great James Ross.

Ach, but you’ve caught me reminiscing.

The following was my email signature for a few years (from the mid-to-end of college, when I was a Calvinist, and then in my first years after becoming Catholic):

“For what ought be more attractive to us sick men, than grace, grace by which we are healed; for us lazy men, than grace, grace by which we are stirred up; for us men longing to act, than grace, by which we are helped?” — St. Augustine

When I was becoming Catholic, I was a bit quotation-happy. If someone said Augustine or Chesterton said it, then Augustine or Chesterton said it. It was only years later, while trying to ascertain where I’d gotten such a quotation, that I wrote to the folllowing (from a Facebook thread):

And holy cow, here’s a major blast from the past!!! –  http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/exploringcatholic.html – My first foray into would-be-Catholic dialogue. I can only hope that my writing is not quite as knotty and teeming as it was then. ;)

α1) All right, I finally found a proper citation for that quotation: Letters of St. Augustine 156–210 (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2004), trans./ed. Roland J. Teske, S.J., “Letter 186″, p. 228:

“For what ought to be more pleasing to the sick than the grace by which they are healed or more pleasing to the sluggish than the grace by which they are roused or more pleasing to the willing than the grace by which they are helped?”

α2) http://books.google.com/books?id=cJnjXWQpknIC&source=gbs_navlinks_s

β1) I did, however, find the exact translation I had used on page 146 in John Leith’s From Generation to Generation, although he cites Letter 157 as the source.

β2) http://books.google.com/books?id=DCxNjeuYpJwC&dq=For+what+ought+be+more+attractive+to+us+sick+men%2C+than+grace%2C+grace+by+which+we+are+healed%3B+for+us+lazy+men%2C+than+grace%2C+grace+by+which+we+are+stirred+up%3B+for+us+men+longing+to+act%2C+than+grace%2C+by+which+we+are+helped%3F&source=gbs_navlinks_s

γ1) Surely, though, my source was Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo (p. 356), and he correctly cites it as coming from Ep. 186, xii, 39.

γ2) http://books.google.com/books?id=bJPY1dAZg8cC&pg=PA356&dq=For+what+ought+be+more+attractive+to+us+sick+men%2C+than+grace%2C+grace+by+which+we+are+healed%3B+for+us+lazy+men%2C+than+grace%2C+grace+by+which+we+are+stirred+up%3B+for+us+men+longing+to+act%2C+than+grace%2C+by+which+we+are+helped%3F&hl=en&sa=X&ei=53A-UqugGILs8QTH1IBo&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=For%20what%20ought%20be%20more%20attractive%20to%20us%20sick%20men%2C%20than%20grace%2C%20grace%20by%20which%20we%20are%20healed%3B%20for%20us%20lazy%20men%2C%20than%20grace%2C%20grace%20by%20which%20we%20are%20stirred%20up%3B%20for%20us%20men%20longing%20to%20act%2C%20than%20grace%2C%20by%20which%20we%20are%20helped%3F&f=false

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An obiter dictum on boxing as a metaphor for life…

I just saw a clip of Naseem “Prince” Hased in the ring, and it reminded me that I don’t mind trash talk and grandstanding, as long as you can back it up when it counts. And Hased certainly could back up his trash talk, for a while, at least. Unfortunately, his trash talk betrayed a sloppiness as a professional fighter that undermined his huge potential as a scrapper.

As much fun as a showboater is, I prefer cheering for the perceived underdog, generally a more subdued character, which is why watching Barrera’s victory over Hased (his only loss) was just as exciting as Hased’s usual antics. Barrera fought “old school” and, except for a couple overreactions to Hased’s “antics”, he didn’t resort to any flashy moves.

I’m not a huge sports fan, but I did lots of sports in high school, and still consider myself an amateur adult athlete. I used to be a bit of a trash-talker, but with age I’ve shifted more to the quiet, Ferdinand-the-Bull style of performance.

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Kumbaya, my Lord, gather us in on eagles’ wings…

I know I’m late on this, but I just wanted to review the pope’s recent Decalogue of Happiness, found in his 77-minute filmed interview with the Argentine magazine, Viva, and see if anyone has thoughts on it. As I was reminded this week, effective and intelligent evangelism begins with the things you and your interlocutor agree on. Why stress the small stuff like dogma and morals? It’s exactly these kind of deep thoughts, pitched on the open field of common-sense natural law, which truly “attract” the world to the Church, instead of the persuasive efforts of dread proselytism.

1. Train Your Mind – Happiness is a mental attitude. Education, employment, and knowledge play a crucial part here.

2. Develop Calmness of Mind – A calm mind doesn’t mean to be passive; it is very sensitive and aware and it means to be in control and to respond to situations in the best way possible without the buildup of heavy negative emotions.

3. Build up Positive States – The idea is to free ourselves from negativity. Positive states have a solid basis; they are grounded in reality and are life-supporting.

4. Cultivate Good Habits (and Eliminate Bad Ones) – If we really want to be happy we have to identify the factors that lead to happiness and then cultivate them into habits. Take action. Goals alone have no meaning.

5. Welcome Change – Learning is only the first step. Necessary follow-ups are conviction, determination, action and effort. When we resist this change by clinging to something that is changing, we become attached, stagnant, egotistical.

6. Develop a Long-Term Perspective – To develop good habits and to build up positive states we need a certain inner self-discipline. If we are focused on short-term pleasures this is very difficult. We need a wider perspective, and more opportunities for youth.

7. Know the Meaning of Suffering – Suffering is the opposite of happiness. We have to identify the causes that lead to suffering and then eliminate them. If we suffer it’s not very pleasant of course, but nevertheless it might be a very valuable lesson.

8. Develop Deep Relationships – It’s clear that the quality of our relationships is very connected with our level of happiness. Deep relationships are based on openness, leisure, truth and respect. That allows meaningful communication between two human beings, not of two humans playing roles in a throwaway culture.

9. Develop a Sense of Compassion – In the western world the word compassion comes with a flavor of weakness. But what about a compassion that comes from a very strong and able mind, ah? Genuine compassion is a state of mind which is non-violent, non-harming and non-aggressive. And this is good.

10. Release Your Better Nature – The nature of our mind is very pure. It has the qualities of clarity and knowing. Be like water, my friend. Open your heart. Smile. Go for a walk.

HT to a reader at Fr. Ray’s blog for alerting me to the above translation of the pope’s ten tips for happiness.

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A winsome reflection on place, profit, and Protestantism…

The following is my brief review of E. Michael Jones’s brief essay, “Escape From Globalism: Meditations While Rowing Down the Danube”.

Jones - Escape from Globalism cover

Having done my share of hiking and bicycle tours, as well as six years of crew in my teens, I loved the narrative aspect of this booklet, and would have loved to hear more. This not being a travelogue, however, Jones focuses his anecdotes on a couple key points which have the potential to germinate in the Americanist mind as the yeast for a paradigm change about the warped use and abuse of nature in a capitalist world.

Although Jones does not use these exact terms, I would summarize his thesis like so: a country’s aesthetic connection with nature is a symptom of its underlying view of human flourishing, which can either be sacramental (Catholic and incarnational) or voluntaristic (Protestant and dualistic). Worth a read.

I also recommend Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Joshua Meyrowitz’s No Sense of Place.

And here are few excerpts which I have not (yet?) included in the review at Amazon:

“[I]n Europe, man and nature are not two mutually exclusive propositions, which is what they have become in America.”

“Calvin felt that man had ceased being what we would call human, which is to say a rational creature capable of choosing the good as his final end, because of the fall. … What both Calvinism and the Transcendentalist repudiation of Calvinism has in common is the belief that human beings are both different from and compatible with ‘nature.’ Both reject the notion that grace perfects nature, either because nature cannot be perfected [without being annihilated] or because nature has no need of grace. America would oscillate between these two poles.”

[Citing Bill Bryson:] “In America, alas, beauty has become something you drive to, and nature and either/or proposition–either you ruthlessly subjugate it, … or you deify it, treat it as something holy and remote, a thing apart….”

“If there ever were empirical p[roof that grace perfects nature, it can be seen in a wine-producing region like the Wachau in Austria.”

“The project [to return America to a state of total wilderness] is not only utopian and stupid, it bespeaks a self-loathing of people who are deeply involved in sexual sins against nature. Sins against nature invariably lead to the deification of nature. Abortion and animal rights are two sides of the same coin.”

“Austria resisted the revolution of the religious sort in the 17th century and the political sort in the early 19th century. The COngress of Vienna bequeathed Europe unprecedented peace and prosperity for 100 years, and no country benefited more spectacularly from this peace than Austria, which resisted religious revolution more successfully than Germany, who was torn apart by the 30 years war, and much more successfully than England, who took the wealth which it had plundered from its monasteries and turned it into the engine of cultural subversion that would eventually be known as capitalism, the engine which found its home away from home in America. … Austria … has been a bulwark against revolution and the crackpot schemes of religious revolutionaries of the Anglophile sort, which is why Woodrow Wilson hated Austria and saw to it that it was chopped up into little unstable pieces at World War I, peices which were so unstable that they all but guaranteed the return of war 20 years later. So there are now two paradigms for development in the world. The Austrian/Catholic/Benedictine paradigm and the American/Protestant/Dualist paradigm, which sees man and nature as mutually exclusive possibilities.”

“[A]s an American, I have learned that whenever I see the word freedom, I instinctively reach to see if my wallet is still in my back pocket. Freedom, in the American sense of the word, means the ability of the ruthless to exploit the naive. ” ["I drink your milkshake!"]

“Ted Turner culture promotes the sexualization of children because sexualization is the first step in exercising its control over them. A sexualized child is one who does not listen to his parents, who in turn are unable to convey messages of moral self-restraint, religious piety or ethnic solidarity to their children. … Freedom, according to this system, which is now the system intended for the entire world, means gratification of appetite…. Music and fashion go hand and hand in this regard in the formation of pseudo-ethnic groups based on consumption of one item or another which confers group identity and belonging on the person who buys it.”

Once the Catholic Church gets over its misguided idea that it has nothing to fear from the media, it might once again find itself in a position to influence the culture on its own terms.”

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