Two book reviews I recently composed…

…are up at One Peter Five.

1) BOOK REVIEW: The Book of Gomorrah by St. Peter Damian

book of gomorrah hoffman cover

The Book of Gomorrah and St. Peter Damian’s Struggle Against Ecclesiastical Corruption, Translated and Annotated with Biographical Introduction by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman (Ite Ad Thomam Books: New Braunfels, TX, 2015;

2) BOOK REVIEW: Science Was Born of Christianity by Stacy Trasancos

trasancos - Science Born Christianity - Jaki

Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki, with a foreword by Rev. Dr. Paul Haffner, by Stacy Trasancos (The Habitation of Chimham Publishing Company: Titusville, FL, 2014 [e-book 2013])

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The Church must not be appropriated by political and business interests…

December 13, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

Parameters are measurable factors that define a system, in the sense of a criterion or framework—like the parts that make the whole. The parameters of religion and science complement and serve each other, but are not to be confused. Thus, Cardinal Baronio told his friend Galileo that the Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.

The Third Sunday of Advent is about heaven, and our Lord commissioned his Church to make people fit for it. The parameters of religion cannot estimate how many people can fit into heaven, since that would mix physics and eternity. But holy religion is obliged to remind physical science of its own limits. The human race was given authority to name all living creatures. That means that we are stewards of God’s creation. “Ecology” is the understanding of all things animate and inanimate, as part of God’s “household,” and thus is related to economics. Debates about climate change invoke serious moral responsibilities and require that religion and science not be confused, so that saving souls not be overshadowed by saving the planet, the latter being an ambiguous concept anyway. This point was lost on a crowd that prostrated themselves on the floor of a chapel in Paris praying that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change save Planet Earth, just days after so many people had been killed in that same city by terrorists.

Jesus loved the lilies of the field, more beautiful than Solomon in all his glory, but he beautified this world incomparably by passing through it with a reminder of its impermanence: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The Church has dogmas, but her parameters do not include making a dogma of unsettled science, just as in religion “private revelations” are not binding on the faithful. Science, by its nature, is unsettled, and today’s certitudes may be disproved tomorrow, as with geocentricism centuries ago. Given these parameters, the Church must not allow herself to be appropriated by political and business interests whose tendency is to exploit benevolent, if sometimes naïve, naturalists.

The eleventh-century King Canute is often mistakenly used as a symbol of arrogance for setting up his throne on an English beach and ordering the tides to withdraw. Just the opposite, he set up that drama to instruct his flattering courtiers in the limits of earthly power: “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.” He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix in Winchester and never wore it again. It was commentary on God’s words to Job: “This far you may come and no farther . . . Do you know the laws of the heavens?” (Job 38:11, 33).

Christmas Giving

The parish relies greatly on the Christmas offering and especially invites visitors to take this opportunity to support our parish’s witness in Manhattan. This is particularly important at a time of rising costs and difficulties in the world economy. Significant gifts may make use of current federal tax laws, which may change in future legislation.

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Jesus submitted to the judgment of Pontius Pilate…

  December 6, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

During the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia [cf. Culture Wars, November 2015], a relatively unknown figure, the Archbishop of Krakow and future John Paul II, said: “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel . . . . The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is . . . a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously.”

Those words in Philadelphia certainly were as prophetic as the voices in Judea thousands of years ago. In the subsequent generation, crammed with breathtaking events of universal and historic significance, heroic and tragic, we can count the manifold ways in which that future pope seemed to see the judgment of God at work.

The Second Sunday of Advent points attention to two kinds of judgment. First, and most immediate for the human condition, is the particular judgment each of us will experience at the moment of death, when our life passes before us. Christ as Judge makes no arbitrary decisions, but rather avails himself as the measure of our compatibility with his love. The other judgment is the social judgment of the whole world. This will happen at the end of time when all created things and time and space themselves will end. There was an intimation of this in the earthquake when Christ died on the cross, as prelude to his resurrection when he could “die no more.”

Confronting the Judge, we have the option of two kinds of fear. The first is the perplexity of the person who knows only self-love and has lived life as though the self were God. The second is the joyful awe sensed by the person who has loved God and neighbor as much as the self.

In the moral order, people have to make judgments for the sake of sanity, but those judgments must be based on standards outside one’s sentiments, rather than the way we measure objects according to the standards set by the Bureau of Weights and Measures. Jesus submitted to the judgment of Pontius Pilate, and by so doing, he took on the suffering of those who are wrongly judged. But Jesus did not deny Pilate’s right to pass judgment, while reminding Pilate that he was answerable to a higher authority: “You would have no power over me were it not given to you from above” (John 19:11). The command not to judge others is about defining justice without accountability to God. “He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day” (John 12:48).

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The most important facts of the human condition…

November 29, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

The Church has a long memory. One might well say that she “is” memory. She is in fact the memory of the human race. In her nascent form in the history of Israel, she was already recollecting the human drama: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 77:11). As Christ is the Beginning and End of all things, he can call to mind events and circumstances from before recorded history. The Pharisees knew the history of the Mosaic Law, but only Christ knew what life was like from the beginning (cf. Matt. 19:8).

While philosophers animate and amplify the cultural memory, Christ is the source of the truth that philosophy seeks. This is why Christ is not a philosopher and can only be understood as the ultimate object of philosophy, the eternal Wisdom, Logos, which shaped the logical order of the universe. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col.1:17). So Saint Paul told the stately philosophers in Athens that Christ is the mysterious “unknown god” who replaced their questions marks with an exclamation point.

As the memory is part of the soul, tyrants dehumanize people by manipulating their memory. They describe heroes as villains and villains as heroes, and erase events that are inconvenient to their narrative of the world.

This also happens in the private conscience. People try to forget the truth when they want to lie. But since lies contradict the way things are, liars have to fabricate a false history. So it is that liars need a good memory. They have to remember what they have denied. This is the protocol of all moral confusion.

A common way to lie is to change words. Euphemisms are verbal gymnastics to avoid the truth. For instance, vice can be made to sound attractive by calling it liberating. Or, as Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” A recent headline on the front page of the New York Post told of a criminal horror: “Baby Ripped from Womb.” The subtitle said: “Bronx Mom Slain for Fetus.” Now, a baby is a fetus, and a fetus is a baby, but why not just call it a baby? It is hard to extricate oneself from euphemisms. As Sir Walter Scott wrote: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

Advent awakens the moral memory to the most important facts of the human condition: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. These truths can be erased from memory by ignoring Advent altogether and celebrating Christmas early with little understanding of it. But then we would cease to be Christians entrusted with the memory of the human race. “I have said these things to you, that when the hour comes, you may remember that I told them to you” (John 16:4).

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No evil to resist, and no holiness to attain…

November 22, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

Our former church was begun in 1857 and rebuilt after a fire in 1892. When I kneel before the high altar, which was moved to its present location in 1907 to make room for the Pennsylvania Station, I think of how the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been offered there through the Civil War with its Draft Riots and lynchings, and two World Wars, as well as Korea and Vietnam, with their victory parades and funerals for the young men killed in them. Workers and firemen who worshiped at this altar were killed at the World Trade Center. Every altar in the world is a focus of the human drama, and while Christ died once and rose in victory never to die again, his death transcends time in his merciful union with all human suffering. This is why Pascal said paradoxically in his Pensées that the Risen Christ “is in agony on the Mount of Olives until the end of the world.”

When the haters of remnant Christian civilization struck Paris last Friday the 13th, many kept saying that it was “unreal” and “inexplicable.” But the blood was real, and the cruelty was totally explicable by the history of false religion and its embrace of evil. Fittingly, when the attack began in that concert hall, the band was playing a cacophonous piece, barely distinguishable from gunfire, called “Kiss the Devil.” Only those afflicted with the illusion of secular progressivism as a substitute for the Gospel seemed bewildered. Evil is real and explicable by the Fall of Man. Through the battles that have been fought and endured as Mass was being said on our altar, those who knelt here have promised to renounce Satan, and all his evil works, and all his empty promises.

It is different now that a whole generation has been taught to think that there is no evil to resist, and no holiness to attain. The highest ambition of our new “therapeutic culture” is no loftier than the desire to “feel good” about oneself. We were solaced by politicians [and pontiffs] telling us that ISIS has been “contained” and is less dangerous than climate change. While Christians in the Middle East were being slaugebhtered in what the pope himself called genocide, although our own State Department refused to call it that, coddled and foul-mouthed students on our college campuses were indulging psychodramatic claims of hurt feelings [or feeling ‘socially wounded’] and low self-esteem. They are not the stuff of which civilization’s heroes are made, and when the barbarians flood the gates, their teddy bears and balloons will be of little use.

Christ is the King of the universe because “He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). To deny that is to be left in a moral whirlwind, thinking that evil is unreal and the actions of evil people have no explanation.

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Fugazi, fugazi, fugazi…

(A “fugazi” is mentioned shortly after 0:38.)

I’m always taken aback to learn that “normal people” and “people I consider friends” don’t know who Fugazi is, much less have never listened to their music.

Not that I’m “being that guy”, saying that “I was a fan before they were cool”. No, no. I was graciously exposed to Fugazi (which formed in 1987 and has been on hiatus since 2003) in 1995 or 1996, and I instantly became a fan, taking their mainstream popularity for granted.

And yet–countless times over the years since then, I have had the awkward experience of mentioning Fugazi among polite company, only to be met by blank stares.

Well, if you are among the beloved unwashed, you may begin here:

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“If you are against privilege…”

“…this college is privilege.”

HT to Crude.

Microaggression is so 2015.

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