Archive for the ‘Catholicism’ Category

The large plane crash involving Poland’s president and other key leadership oddly mirrors the tragic events of Katyn, which this generation of leaders were flying to Smolensk, Russia to honor.  Of course, the scale of the 2010 crash is many times smaller than Katyn, where some tens of thousands of Polish Officers and intelligentsia were murdered by the NKVD during the early stages of World War II.

Poland has been an unlucky country in many ways:  its national borders snuffed out for most of the 19th Century, its leadership beset by infighting in the 18th, conquered by Germans and Soviets in the 20th, some 6 million of its citizens murdered by Nazis and some several hundred thousand more murdered by Soviets and their lackeys thereafter.  Yet it has risen again, many times over, no matter what it has endured.  Indeed, the 20 years in its post-Communism phase have largely been a period of expanded wealth, military power, and good relations with both Germany and Russia.

The glue that has held Poland together through all of these events is Catholicism, which is believed widely and more sincerely there than in nearly any other European country.  Let us hope that the Polish people’s Catholic faith sees them through this latest tragedy.

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A rather depressing article in the NY Times about how late charges, penalties, post-judgment interest, and garnishments leave many debtors treading water in spite of significant payments towards their obligations on their modest wages. These payments get eaten up by interest charges, late fees, and all the other tricks of the trade.

Whatever happened to the widespread condemnation of usury?  This doctrine of Christianity, widely held by everyone from Hilliare Belloc and Henry Ford to the Pope and FDR 75 years ago, has apparently fallen into complete disuse, even among Catholics and liberals ostensibly concerned with the poor.  Is the fear of being labeled anti-Semitic so great that unjust practices get a pass?  A mealy-mouthed discussion at Catholic Answers suggests the uncertain rates of return in the 13th Century were the root of the condemnation and the condemnation of usury is today rather narrow, viz., “In some market situations—apparently the ones prevalent in the thirteenth century—the likelihood of growing money through investment was seen as greatly uncertain. But in contemporary market situations, investment growth is virtually assured.”  How quaint!  As always with “changing values,” we should never forget that social life and its problems are not new.  People were not simply “mean” or “stupid” in the old days.   The old-fashioned prejudices and attitudes often were borne of hard experience and will re-emerge as modern fads and fashions are discredited by experience, such as our recent collective experiences with “interest only loans,” high levels of debt (labeled “leverage”), low banking reserves, financial “engineering,” moral license, disunity, and all the rest.

Times have not changed for the poor.  The injustice of usury has not changed either.  Modest interest rates in situations of created and secured wealth–as in real estate lending–have long been allowed, even in the Middle Ages.  But charging interest for consumables is economically unwise for the borrowr, morally unjust for the lender, and the high interest rates charged can grind down the wealth and motivation of people too unsophisticated and impulsive to know better.  In other words, the poor and working classes would be better off without the credit cards, payday loans, and all the rest.  And the laws should give them more than the binary choice of paying down their debts or declaring bankruptcy.  Their debts could be paid, but for usury.

Just as condemning usury went out of fashion, the recently dominant faith we all had in banks, experts, money-lending, and markets is fast becoming passe.  On Good Friday in particular, Catholics should remind themselves what the Catechism says about the usury so central to the modern, unstable economic order of the entire world:  “The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them. (CCC 2269)”

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Ireland is about to discover that its life as the archetypal ethostate is incompatible with multiculturalism.  Ireland recently enacted a controversial anti-blasphemy law, which defines blasphemy as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.”


Ireland always had a blasphemy provision in its Constitution.  Until very recently, this was only presumed to protect Christian beliefs, but the provision was never defined by statute and fell into desuetude.  For murky reasons–perhaps fear of a Dutch cartoon scandal–Ireland recently defined blasphemy broadly in a revision of its defamation laws.  The neutrality of that law is not entirely surprising.  Since 1916, Ireland damaged its ethnic unity through a recent wave of immigration.  Ireland’s new residents, especially Muslims, are infamously touchy on matters religious.  Furthermore, the Irish, as a religious people who long labored under official persecution, are naturally inclined to respect the religious beliefs of others.  Finally, Ireland is under pressure from E.U. overseers to remain neutral and multiculturalist in all things.  This nihilistic crap about “everyone being right” is apparently the new defining ethos of Europe.

This new law will be impossible to apply in practice.  Here is the problem:  what Islam teaches–for example that Jesus is only a prophet–is blasphemy.  Jews teach that Jesus is not the Son of God, nor was He the Messiah; this too is blasphemy.  Muslims and Jews think that my Roman Catholic beliefs are blasphemy as measured against their own beliefs.  In other words, religion itself involves many competing, overlapping, and mutually exclusive claims to the truth, where the core tents of any one religion may reasonably be called blasphemy by another.

When different confessions must exist side by side one another, and one is not clearly the national majority religion, two things must happen.  These religions will cease to be vital defining aspects to those communities and their collective life, or those religions will be in endless conflict with one another.  The relegation of religion to a private matter is one of the hallmarks of the modern age, and it did bring about a certain peace (at the very least from religious wars) in those lands where it was embraced.  But in the process religion has become weak and irrelevant.  The Irish nation, formerly defined in many ways by its militant Catholicism, has apparently lost its way in the fog of liberalism in a way that it never did under Protestant persecution.

While some privileging of Catholicism would be wholly appropriate in Ireland, the liberal treatment of religion with legal silence would be preferable to the multiculturalist’s enforced respect of all religions under the rubric of “blasphemy.” In Ireland, I predict absurdities, such as prosecutions against the “blasphemies” inherent in the core doctrines of the Catholic religion.  Such a gesture will prove the sincerity and fairness of the Irish regime to the Eurocrats in Brussels, the nascent Muslim community, and other good multiculturalists.  A show trial against Catholics will ensure that the real religion of Europe today, that of liberal Indifferentism, will not be offended.

We can only hope such an absurdity, if it comes to past, will rouse the Irish from their slumber so that, once again, they can undertake the work of re-evangelizing Europe starting with their homeland.

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I received this book by Hilaire Belloc for Christmas and can’t recommend it enough.  Literally every page is packed full of a concise narrative history, insight into the development of Church doctrine and its dicontents, and Belloc imbues the whole story with unusually elegant writing and a real sense of drama.  I believe one of the best ways to understand Catholicism–or anything–is to understand precisely what it is not.  The Church developed most of its doctrines in detail as a response to different heresies.  For example, nearly every line of the Nicene Creed (promulgated at the Council of Nicea) is a response to some heresy or other, i.e., “God from God, Light from Light . . . begotten not made, one in being with the Father” is directed at Arianism, “one holy catholic and apostolic church” is aimed at Gnostics and other schismatics.

Belloc is one of the great turn-of-the-century Catholic writers, along with Ronald Knox and G.K. Chesterton.  Their times were much like our own, because the bacillus of modernism was already present, even if personal decency carried on through some inertia.  Much of what they had to say remains relevant and is, indeed, even more relevant than when it was written.

One of Belloc’s more important insights–especially for a book written in 1938–was that Islam was something of a sleeping giant, because it had clarity of ideas, sincerity, numbers, and only a temporary technological inferiority to the West.  Belloc suggested–quite fantastically given its present circumstances–that the Muslim world presented the most coherent and likely competitor to Western dominance, whether or not the home-grown heresy of Modernism and its arch-manifestation in Communism reduced Catholicism to a small minority sect.

He writes:

These things being so, the recrudescence of Islam, the possibility of that terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our civilization again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy for a thousand years, seems fantastic. Who in the Mohammedan world today can manufacture and maintain the complicated instruments of modern war? Where is the political machinery whereby the religion of Islam can play an equal part in the modern world?

I say the suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic but this is only because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate past: one might say that they are blinded by it.

Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe; the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today. The bad work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancestral doctrines the very structure of our society is dissolving.

In the place of the old Christian enthusiasms of Europe there came, for a time, the enthusiasm for nationality, the religion of patriotism. But self-worship is not enough, and the forces which are making for the destruction of our culture, notably the Jewish Communist propaganda from Moscow, have a likelier future before them than our old-fashioned patriotism.

In Islam there has been no such dissolution of ancestral doctrine or, at any rate, nothing corresponding to the universal break-up of religion in Europe. The whole spiritual strength of Islam is still present in the masses of Syria and Anatolia, of the East Asian mountains, of Arabia, Egypt and North Africa.

While liberals were horrified by 9/11, I don’t believe inherently doubtful liberals have the guts or the certitude needed to counter radical Islam.  Liberals will always buckle when tough choices–such as mass expulsion of corrosive foreign elements–must be made.  Without a Christian revival, Europe is likely lost to Islam, which is conquering Europe through mass immigration, while America has half a chance because the Christian religion is not completely destroyed here.

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So much is passing and ephemeral. Spiritual questions remain. I participated in an interesting discussion of sola scriptura over at Protestant Pontifications. Enjoy.

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Much of English historiography consists of dreadful caricatures of the Catholic world: cruel Spaniards in the Americas, disloyal Irish revolutionaries, and ignorantly slavish Slavs. We inherit this tradition from the English, whose Church separated from the Catholic Church on the basis of the high-minded claim that King Henry VIII should be able to divorce (and then murder) his wives. Arthur Schessigner was right when he said anti-Catholicism was “the deepest-held bias in the history of the American people.”

I was glad to see that the cartoonish representation of Queen Elizabeth as a moderate protector of religious freedom castigated in this review of the new film in the Elizabeth triology (starring the lovely Kate Blanchett):

Franco Cardini, who holds the chair of medieval history at Florence University and once taught at the Lateran University, has said that the new film, ‘Elizabeth: the Golden Age’, ‘profoundly and perversely falsifies history’ and is part of a “concerted attack on Catholicism” by atheists and “apocalyptic Christians”. I haven’t seen the film, but that sounds about right to me. Any account of those years that depicts Elizabeth as the good guy and Philip as the bad guy is comic-book history. What happened in the middle of the 16th century was that to satisfy his ‘beastly lust’ (William Cobbett) Henry VIII imported a foreign religion and nationalised the Church. His bastard daughter Elizabeth continued this work, persecuting the old religion — the religion that had been England’s for a thousand years — and turning what until then had been known (by me at any rate) as Mary’s Dowry into a land of thieves, pirates and bankers.

What a pity the Armada failed.

Here here!

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