Mark 9:24

Archive for the ‘Pursue Truth’ Category

Vernacular or vulgar, learn it anyway

In Pursue Truth on July 1, 2012 at 12:15 am

There are few lies among ecumenists more irritating than that we really don’t disagree, that we’re just saying the same thing in different ways. This is such a pervasive lie among certain well-groomed leaders that it has in the last decades ruined the name of ecumenism.

The Apostles had the advantage of speaking in tongues. Why would we need any less?

Yet because there is truth everywhere we must acknowledge the central insight: If only sometimes, we are not separated by doctrines but by liturgical language. Case in point: When attending the ordinations for a religious order, there was a great deal to admire in the pomp and ceremony, which contributes to what gets called the extrinsic merit of the Mass. (This is as opposed to the intrinsic merit of the Mass, which is Christ’s one sacrifice on Calvary.) However, when the women in choir came up in cassock and surplice, I was flabbergasted. This is a parish noted for fidelity to Catholic teaching and identity, and a religious order relatively unscathed by the insane 1960s. What do they think they’re doing?

Thing of it is that cassock and surplice worn by women here means something other than what I’m used to, and so my reaction is my problem, not theirs. Here, a woman in a cassock is not active dissent in favor of the ontological impossibility of womenpriests. Here it just means choir dress; here, choir dress just means what the choir wears. There may be something to be said about the appropriateness of cassock and surplice for seminarians and the ordained and there may not. Casting aspersions from assumptions will not get us to understanding. Read the rest of this entry »

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Presumption for Catholicism

In Pursue Truth on June 16, 2012 at 3:11 am

Catholicism, even in a century when it feels tired-eyed and lazy, has a huge, if silent, case going for it. Others stand on their tippy-toes, others on their best behavior, but fat, indolent Catholicism laying drunken in the gutter, belly up to oblivion, from her back to her beating heart still stands taller than everyone else combined.

What sin is greater than silence or sleep when you know you know better?

The more you resemble Catholicism but are not Catholicism the falser you ring; if you share anything with Catholicism at all you must defend it with your life. Otherwise the silent testimony of history and reason would silently convict you of being a second-rate imitation. You must clutch the scripture, ignore Church history and dismiss our fruits if you would win against the silent testimony of ages.

There remains a trickier puzzle. You must prove yourself against centuries of doctrinal scavengers, those before you and those yet to come. An already impossible case multiplies endlessly. All the while, should the plain sense of scripture sometimes seem to point one direction, we can point out another, larger principle to correct our folly. If we acknowledge gaps in historical clarity, we still marvel at how few there ever could be. We admit the worst sinners, but even Jesus said that it is “impossible” that there should not be scandal, that wheat and tares will be sorted but not by us.

Catholicism is at least as scriptural while being more historical and demonstrably fruitful. Here’s the real sting of it: None of the Catholic cases require a well-timed nudge as much as typical Protestant cases.

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Opposed even to God, opposed to the mandate

In Pursue Truth on February 20, 2012 at 5:41 am

I know of an atheist, opposed even to God, who stated that the Health and Human Services mandate amounts to a rope around his neck — how much more ours?

If you are in favor of this mandate — which compels all employers to pay, through an insurance company, for contraception coverage even when the employer considers it religiously objectionable — you do not give the devil the benefit of the Constitution.

We did not want this fight.

I understand this impulse but for the clear objection: What then when the devil turns round on you?

If you don’t care for freedom of religion, consider that leaving undefended any point of the Bill of Rights is a dangerous precedent. If you don’t care for the Bill of Rights, I wonder with what bread and circuses we’ll ignore the guillotine. Yes, I liken this rope about our necks to be more of a guillotine; no, I do not mean this in a silly, chest-pounding, partisan way.

But before I explain why, I note that, in perhaps a routine pose that I hope is not its most substantial defense, the Obama administration does not yet argue that this action is Constitutional; the Department of Justice — by the by, not consulted — filed a motion to dismiss, instead arguing that the issue is not ripe. This amounts to saying: “No harm yet, therefore no foul.”

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Chesterton and Lewis show a crossroad

In Pursue Truth on January 31, 2012 at 4:19 am

In reading more and more of Chesterton, and having finished my first time through the bare-bones central corpus of Lewis some time ago, I sometimes come to places where I see apparently inherent contradictions between them. Shallow skeptics of YouTube comment threads would delight in this if they noticed. Alas, it’s left for us to contemplate two truths and their contradiction.

It is not the goal of Christianity to stand for a moment. Rather, our goal to stand forever.

For example, Chesterton wrote:

There are an infinity of angles at which one falls; only one at which one stands.

… while Lewis wrote:

How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.

These men aren’t at all opposed, of course, but if we approach the two men as the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible approaches Holy Writ we will gleefully gape at their nakedness though in fact they are perfectly clothed. After all, our former quote is central to Chesterton’s best, most popular apologetic, titled Orthodoxy, just as our latter quote is central to Lewis’ best, most popular apologetic. In fact, Mere Christianity is probably the most popular apologetic among any works we’d recognize as strictly apologetic. How do we reconcile these giants?

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Everywhere, at least a little truth

In Pursue Truth on July 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Even as atheist blogger PZ Myers desecrated the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, there are specific points of wisdom in which Myers might as well be Aquinas, though we must take care to rope off his modern chauvinism.

You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity’s knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality.

The Temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas, by Diego Velazquez. St. Thomas here shows us his virtue, but it is not his intelligence. Intelligence, though good, is not a virtue.

His call to thinking and learning parallels the affirmation by Thomas Aquinas that we should use, we should exercise our God-given faculties. While he cites glory of God and gratitude for His blessings, the effect is certainly to advance humanity’s knowledge, and this is a solemn duty for those capable. If we are free to dismiss this as him being a distant heir of Aquinas through his association with a university — Scholasticism being the immediate progenitor of the universities — we at least then see the incredible debt any sort of intelligentsia has to Christendom.

Moreover, atheists do winnow out the errors of the temporal Church Militant, the excesses and absurdities of unsophisticated fundamentalism as much as the greatest wickedness and sins of Catholics. For this service we owe them gratitude. No man can have too much humility.

He spoils it all with a final falsehood.

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Augustine’s modernity

In Pursue Truth on July 16, 2011 at 6:49 am

Reading for the first time St. Augustine’s Confessions, I come to the startling realization that, despite the tack of modern secularists to reject all knowledge before Descartes — and even then to regard Descartes as something of a funny-smelling befuddled grandfather — people knew things back then anyway, and true things. In the first hundred pages of Confessions we have a forceful denunciation of throwing our lives away on a circus of sophistries, a sharp understanding of what moderns call early childhood development, and a keen insight into the chalk today’s Manichees falsely offer in the name of real food. Replace his contemporaries’ artifice with ours and we at each point have a strong portrait of the human condition today. Demonstrably eternal is the condition of man, and demonstrably great are those who break that cycle.

Augustine was a dramatic influence on fellow Doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas.

Augustine’s early life is piercingly familiar, and he rings true on so many levels and in so many ways. Speaking from my life, it wasn’t long after hanging around adults that I realized what some call quirks and others vices are no less an influence upon us when we turn 18 years old than they were a decade earlier. In reading this book I found only the latest of many fine examples of occasions when after believing to have finally thought something both true and original I find this prized thought of mine was not only unoriginal but better understood in the fourth century.
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