Culture, Politics

That Sounds Like Something Hitler Would Have Said

That Sounds LIke Something Hitler Would Have Said(From November 30, 2016)

Yesterday morning, president-elect Donald Trump laid out his plans to build concentration camps around the United States in order to begin his work of exterminating all minority groups.

Actually, I’m lying.

In reality, Trump didn’t say anything like that at all. But anyone who’s read the rhetoric flying around on Facebook could be forgiven for thinking that he had.

It’s been three weeks since the U.S. elections brought an unexpected victory for “the Donald.” Video footage from across the country on November 9 showed weeping, hand-wringing Democrats lamenting what seemed to be nothing less than the end of the world. It was only a matter of time—and very little time, as it turned out—before the memes and articles comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler began popping up in Facebook news feeds.

The comparisons between the president-elect and the German dictator certainly came as no surprise. If the election had gone the other way, we all know that nearly identical memes targeting Hillary Clinton would have flooded social media just as heavily as those targeting Trump did.

In the United States, we love comparing our political opponents—or anyone else with whom we seriously disagree—to Hitler. Doing so is an easy way to discredit those we don’t like.

It’s also lazy. And dangerous.

Regardless of how you might feel about keeping new immigrants out of the country or about deporting those already here in violation of the law, it’s hard to deny that there is a world of difference between policies like these and the mass execution of millions of innocent people. To portray the two as morally equivalent is an insult to the countless victims of the Nazi regime.

Giving insult, however, is not the worst result of these shoddy comparisons. Far more serious is the fact that these associations desensitize us to what true dictators actually look like. It’s much like the story of the boy who cried wolf or that of Chicken Little making his claim that the sky is falling.

If we continue on this path of lazy arguments and quickly-generated memes, I’m afraid we’ll one day get to the point where most of us will brush aside or gloss over genuine concerns about a particular candidate or office holder. That’s definitely not a place we want to be.

In order to avoid getting ourselves into this situation, I think it’s important that we try to focus on and debate the actual issues at stake. Doing so might take a little more effort than making rash comparisons to Nazi dictators, but in the long run it will be much safer for everyone.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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History, Military History, Politics, Uncategorized

The Praetorian Guard, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and Michael Flynn: Dangerous Precedents

The Praetorian GuardOn the first day of my Ancient and Medieval Civilizations class, I always ask my students why we study history. One of them always replies that if we don’t learn from history, we will be doomed to repeat it.

I think this is true. I also think that we as a people never learn from history.

The early weeks of the Trump administration brought up an interesting case in point. President Donald Trump’s National Security Director, Michael T. Flynn, was forced to resign after someone in the intelligence community intercepted and leaked to the media a recording of a conversation between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, in which Flynn seemed to suggest that relief of U.S. sanctions against Russia was possible under Trump.

Many in the media hailed the leaker as a hero who’d exposed an alleged violation of the 1799 Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from engaging in diplomacy. After all, Flynn wasn’t appointed National Security Director until a few weeks after the conversation with Kislyak.

Not everyone, though, viewed this development in a positive light. Nor was it only Trump supporters and fellow Republicans who expressed concerns about the wiretapping and leaks. Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who is perhaps best known for his attempts to impeach President George W. Bush in 2008, gave an interview in which he strongly condemned the actions of the mysterious leaker and warned of the secret power plays at work in the CIA. “The American people,” Kucinich said, “have to know that there’s a game going on inside the intelligence community where there are those who want to separate the U.S. from Russia in a way that would reignite the Cold War. That’s what’s at the bottom of all this.” He also mentioned that “what’s going on in the intelligence community with this new President is unprecedented. They’re making every effort to upend him.”

Whether they like Trump or hate him, I think all U.S. citizens should be troubled to learn of unknown and unelected bureaucrats working covertly to sabotage a presidential administration. We are not the first civilization to tread over this dangerous ground.

For much of its early history, the city of Rome did not tolerate armed troops within its official boundaries. Returning armies marching through the city in victory processions had to leave their weapons outside the city limits. The presence of armed troops within the city was viewed as too great a danger to the freedoms of Rome’s citizens.

This policy changed with the rise of Caesar Augustus and the emperors who followed in his footsteps. Augustus, arguing that he needed bodyguards, allowed armed troops into the city in the form of his elite Praetorian Guard. As the years passed, the Praetorian Guard grew more influential and more accustomed to protecting its own interests. It eventually became so powerful that it was able to depose emperors and proclaim new ones.

Over the centuries that followed Augustus’s reign, a total of thirteen Roman emperors died at the hands of those who were supposed to be their bodyguards. It’s true that many of these rulers were evil or incompetent or both, but the Praetorian Guard wasn’t just looking out for the good of Rome. It had a vested interest in ensuring that there would always be an emperor in need of its protection. Thus, after the Praetorians murdered the vicious emperor, Caligula, they moved quickly to thwart the plans of the senators for restoring the Roman Republic by declaring Caligula’s uncle, Claudius, the new emperor. By doing so, they ensured that they would maintain their position of power within the Roman government.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Trump or any future President is going to get assassinated by the CIA or any other government agency. But I am questioning how comfortable we should be with unelected bureaucrats pulling strings and calling the shots from the shadows, especially when those bureaucrats belong to an agency known around the world for its role in regime changes.

In the United States we have a Constitution with a system of checks and balances in place to prevent any branch of the government from becoming too powerful. If a President (or one of his subordinates) does something illegal, he needs to answer to the people’s representatives in Congress. That’s how our system is supposed to work. While it might be easier to let the intelligence services take care of the problem, it’s also far more dangerous.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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Culture, Politics

The Dreher Option Roundup

The Dreher Option RoundupI have spent some time criticizing Rod Dreher’s book, The Benedict Option, because it is a seriously flawed “manifesto.” It is as confused as it is shallow, and will accomplish nothing other than ceding more of the culture to our progressive rivals. Throughout the series of articles I renamed The Benedict Option to the Dreher option because there is nothing Benedictine about the suggested quasi-minimalist Christian movement constructed by Dreher. It would be unfair to the legacy of St. Benedict to associate a movement predicated on surrender to his rule of life, which is why I thought it fitting to associate the weak-kneed treatise with the author of the document giving up on the culture war.

Almost as troubling as the Dreher option itself, is the amount of praise the capitulating manifesto has received from notable Catholics in the priestly hierarchy. This demonstrates that many in the Church have been persuaded into the false notion that the Great Commission is about getting along with liberally pluralistic societies rather than converting them. If the apostles had followed the advice of Dreher they would have never left the room they were gathered when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Instead of preaching at pentecost, St. Peter would have encouraged everyone to band together in small familial enclaves until the time was right to assert the Church’s political influence on society. If there were ever a politically and religiously marginalized group of people it was the early apostolic Church, and yet they emerged from their seclusion full of the Holy Spirit prepared to take on an ungodly empire with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It should shame us that the apostles had more fire and courage to move on behalf of God in their dire situation than the 1 billion Catholics alive in the world today. How is it that a handful of apostles could initiate the conversion of the worlds greatest empire and we can’t even secure the basic right to life for the unborn? Instead of shrinking into tiny ghettos the Church, the true Church, must remember her identity as the Church Militant. In order to reclaim the characteristics of spiritual warriors, the identity of the liberally infused Church ecumenical committed to a faceless global Christianity must be cast aside. The first step toward accomplishing this would be rejecting the Dreher option, or anything else suggesting an ecumenism that instills the errors of religious indifferentism.

The Church Militant has been commissioned by the King of kings to baptize the nations. It is time to reclaim our apostolic heritage and get to work.

Here are the articles in the series:

Part I – A Schismatic Teaches Stability

Part II – Misunderstanding the Ambitions of Our Enemy

Part III – Misunderstanding the Trump Phenomenon

Part IV – What is Called the Church?

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

 

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Culture, Politics

The Hoax of White Nationalism

The Hoax of White NationalismThe alt-right political narrative is largely a reaction to the racialist politics of the atheistic progressive left. The emphasis on racial diversity, multiculturalism, the demonization of the mythic entity of “white privilege”, and the invented pseudo-Platonic metaphysical form of “whiteness” has naturally created a dialectical counterpart in the “White Nationalist” movement. The reactionary alt-right markets themselves as awakened Europeans who have discovered their true heritage, culture, and identity. This identity is linked to being a member of the white race. On this view, European heritage is reduced to the accidental feature of skin pigmentation. And this is supposed to be a motivating and powerful narrative against the progressive antifa enthusiasts. One might notice, however, that when the alt-right and antifa cultures clash there are a lot of white people fighting in the battle.

The fact that white identity is ignored when the alt-right and antifa collide exposes the transparently futile suggestion that racial ideology is enough to unite a community and culture. It suggests that being white has a prepackaged cultural distinctiveness and philosophical worldview embedded in the genes of the individual. This is entirely incorrect and introduces a kind of materialistic determinism in the development of culture, which is then expressed through some variant relativistic moral praxis.

The most significant error of the alt-right narrative is the idea that European heritage can be reduced to a collectivized genotype. The predominant European tradition isn’t the discovery of racial categories imbued with various cultural characteristics; it is the religious inheritance of the Catholic faith.

Christendom is the true European identity.

This historic truth demonstrates something important for a culture that is trapped in a dialectical hall of mirrors – unity can only be established under the Catholic banner of Christ.

Let’s say the alt-right were successful in carving out a section of society for whites only. Does it follow that this racial accord would entail a unified culture which share in the same values and beliefs expressed through common civil and religious actions? Not even close. The pluralism would be just as extensive as it was prior to the collectivization of white people into a single community. White people can be atheist, religious, or pagan; they can be moral degenerates or have a deep commitment to the virtues of chivalry; they can be sexual revolutionaries or puritans; they can be backstabbing schemers or hyper-loyal stoics. The bottom line is that “white” isn’t a worldview. Ask 10 white people what their worldview is and you might get 10 different answers.

The flimsiness of a racially constructed worldview falls apart when it is realized that true unity is deeper than skin-color.

Consider for a moment the inheritance of a truly Catholic identity united in common cause for the reestablishment of Christendom. The Catholic worldview brings with it an organic unity that transcends the racial categorizations of modern society. Under Christ the King there is, “One body and one Spirit; as you are called in the hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”[1]

The depth and richness this biblical truth brings to the human communal experience surpasses everything the secular world has attempted to create in order to replace the majestic throne of Christ. Among the endless parasitical ideologies masquerading as political anecdotes for the sacred tradition of the true Church lays the idol of secular autonomy. Replacing the revelation of the imago Christi is an endless array of theories posing as scientific solutions for the rejection of the Triune Creator. Instead of finding harmony in the Mystical Body of Christ, our godless materialistic culture has molded society into an organism conditioned to search for solidarity in economic, gender, sexual, or racial classifications. When these classifications fail to impart a meaningful realization of the human desire for transcendent meaning nihilistic relativism is often the next path taken.

“White Nationalism” is just another idolatrous political creed pursued by those who would rather bend their knee to the golden calf than to Christ the King. It isn’t race that divides a nation; it is sin. It isn’t race that can heal a nation; only the Gospel can do that. The emptiness of this movement, or any movement for that matter, which denies the Social Kingship of Christ inexorably leads to an endless abyss of dialectical identity crises.

Our identity, men and women made in the imago Christi, is only fulfilled when the grace of God prompts us toward the realization of our cruciform theosis.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Ephesians 4:4-6 (Douay-Rheims)

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Ethics, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics

The Catholic Church & Capital Punishment

The Catholic Church & Capital Punishment“Between 1796 and 1865, Giovanni Battista Bugatti executed 516 condemned criminals, more than four-fifths for murder. Some of them were hanged, some guillotined, and some decapitated with an ax. In the case of especially heinous crimes, the methods of execution were harsher. Some criminals had their heads crushed with a mallet, after which their throats were cut. Some were drawn and quartered.

Who is Bugatti? He was the official executioner of the Papal States, a devout Catholic who carried out his work as a loyal servant of the Holy Father. Indeed, the popes and the Church were active participants in the process of execution, which was highly ritualized and freighted with spiritual significance. On the morning of the execution the pope would say a special prayer for the condemned. A priest would hear Bugatti’s confession and administer Holy Communion to him in advance of the event. In the hours before the execution, a special order of monks would cater to the spiritual needs of the criminal, urging confession and repentance while there was still time and offering the sacraments. They would then lead him to the site of execution in solemn procession. Notices in local churches would request that the faithful pray for his soul. As the sentence was carried out, the monks would hold the crucifix up to the condemned, so that it would be the last thing he saw. Everything was done to ensure both that the criminal received his just deserts and that the salvation of his soul might be secured. When asked in 1868 to stay an execution, Blessed Pope Pius IX, though he certainly had legal power to do so, apparently thought he morally ought not to, replying, ‘I cannot and I do not want to.’”[1]


There are many in the Catholic Church today working to abolish capital punishment. Those participating in this progressive social justice campaign would recoil at the above description of capital punishment being legislated by the Papal States. Confronted with these descriptions of historic realities the aforementioned social justice warriors would most likely react with banal modernist slogans and emotionally triggered outrage. Underneath the reactionary platitudes the typical claims being made against capital punishment is that it is intrinsically unjust, immoral, and undermines a culture of life.

This view is in error to say the least, but unfortunately many in the Church are impressed with mantras coming from liberally compromised clergy rather than looking to the official teachings of Mother Church concerning the execution of justice against evil and violent criminals.

There is, however, a corrective remedy for this problematic position gaining momentum in the ranks of the Mystical Body of Christ.

I recently received my copy of Edward Feser and Joseph M. Bessette’s book, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, and it is devastating to opponents of the death penalty. This book contains a systematic proclamation of the truth taught by the magisterial authority of the Church, as well as a complete refutation of the modernist position seeking to abolish capital punishment.

Feser is typical in his brilliant exposition of Thomistic natural law theory, and in my view, thoroughly dismantles the New Natural Law Theorist (NNLT) position, which considers capital punishment to be intrinsically immoral in every instance of its application. The NNLT movement is comprised of many prominent Catholic intellectuals, so it is important that Feser interacts with their arguments. Not every moral position articulated by NNLT advocates is problematic. Indeed, their stated positions on marriage, abortion, euthanasia, and many others are often exemplary. Ultimately, however, the philosophical foundations are where the problems initially arise, which lead to negative unintended consequences despite the good intentions of NNLT advocates. Feser makes this point clear and shows that without the proper philosophical foundation, that is, a perennially grounded metaphysics of the Aristotelian-Thomistic sort, NNLT collapses into itself and can no longer justify their extreme positions on the death penalty. Traditional natural law theory and NNLT differ on key foundational issues,

“The NNLT differs from traditional natural law theory in several crucial respects. As we have seen, for the traditional natural law theorist, what is good for us is grounded in human nature, where ‘nature’ is understood in terms of the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics of formal and final causes. Given formal and final causality, ‘value’ is built into the very structure of the ‘facts,’ and there is no metaphysical space between them by which David Hume and his positivist followers might pry them apart. NNLT proponents, by contrast, tend to endorse the Humean fact-value dichotomy. Like Hume, they insist that an ‘ought’ cannot be derived from an ‘is.’ Thus, like Hume, they deny that morality can be grounded in a metaphysical analysis of human nature.”[2]

Referencing David Oderberg, Feser highlights another key difference,

“Traditional natural law theory is ‘world-centered’, whereas the NNLT is ‘agent-centered’. For the traditional natural law theorist, an agent knows the good by taking an objective, or ‘third-person’, view of himself. He asks what sorts of ends human beings have, given the kind of creatures they are, and thereby knows what is good for him qua human since he is one instance of that kind among others. According to the NNLT, the agent knows the good from the subjective, or ‘first-person’, point of view. Considering what reasons he has for acting this way or that, he asks what sorts of good are self-evidently desirable and for whose sake he might pursue other goods. That is by no means to say that his judgments are, according to NNLT, ‘subjective’ in the sense of being arbitrary or idiosyncratic. They are taken by the NNLT to reflect human practical reason as such, not merely the practical reason of this or that agent, and are thus in that sense ‘objective.’ But they are ‘subjective’ in the sense that it is from the agent’s introspection of his own practical reason in operation, rather than from mind-independent facts of a philosophically informed anthropology, that he finds a guide to action.”[3]

Finally, there are five main divergences between traditional natural law theory and NNLT (these are the words of the author and not my summary of the positioned differences),

  1. First, it is essentially an attempt to reformulate natural law without either nature or law and is therefore not really a ‘natural law’ theory at all. For since it denies that the good can be grounded in the natures of things in general or human nature in particular, there is nothing ‘natural’ about it; and since it denies that our obligation to pursue the good has anything essentially to do with conforming ourselves to the will of the divine lawgiver, its imperatives lack the character of true ‘law’. [4]
  2. Second, the endorsement of Hume’s fact-value dichotomy is a dangerously radical concession to the philosophical naturalism, positivism, and scientism that are fundamentally at odds not only with the systems of philosophy historically favored by the Church, but with Catholicism itself. This concession is also completely unnecessary, since the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysical foundations of traditional natural law theory’s account of the good are entirely defensible, and since the fact-value dichotomy has in contemporary philosophy been severely criticized, not only by writers sympathetic to the natural law tradition but by others as well.[5]
  3. Third, the approach to political philosophy taken by some NNLT writers also involves dangerous concessions to modern philosophy, owing more to the liberalism and individualism of Hobbes, Locke, and Kant than to the natural law political tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas.[6]
  4. Fourth, the NNLT account of intention is excessively subjectivist and has implications that are simply bizarre from the point of view of traditional Catholic moral theology. As the craniotomy example shows, what would historically have been regarded as an absolutely forbidden direct abortion becomes, on the NNLT, a kind of indirect abortion that is permissible in principle. Meanwhile, because any war appears obviously to involve intentional killing, the very idea of a just war becomes highly problematic. The problem can be dealt with only via implausible and convoluted reasoning to the effect that the deaths of enemy soldiers are not intended but rather a foreseen but unintended side effect of combat.[7]
  5. Fifth, the NNLT list of basic goods (which varies somewhat from writer to writer) is arbitrary and ad hoc, formulated precisely so as to guarantee that certain desired conclusions will be reached and certain undesirable conclusions will be ruled out. The NNLT’s eschewal of philosophical anthropology deprives it of a way of providing an objective criterion by which to determine which goods are really basic, and its appeal instead to the ‘self-evidence’ of some goods and not others seems merely dogmatic.[8]

Following this comparative analysis, Feser demonstrates that by NNLT’s own principles capital punishment does not necessarily need to be considered intrinsically immoral, that the NNLT approach to capital punishment is incoherent, and finally, that the NNLT position on capital punishment cannot be squared with official Catholic teaching on the issue.

As important as the philosophical treatment of capital punishment is, I contend that the essential issue needing to be settled is Scriptural authority. What does the Sacred Page have to say about capital punishment? Feser clearly demonstrates that the abolitionist position cannot be associated with Biblical authority. The most explicit endorsement of capital punishment is found in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” This is an explicit command in favor of the death penalty, and it is based on the moral implication that man is made in the image of God. In addition to this, God reveals in the Mosaic Law specific scenarios calling for the death penalty, and God Himself utilizes the death penalty in some of the most significant events in the Old Testament. The Flood is an obvious instance, and the Egyptians dying while attempting to cross the Red Sea is another. And since I brought up Exodus, I cannot overlook the slaying of 3,000 at the command of Moses for worshiping the golden calf.

Instances like these take place in the New Testament as well. Consider for a moment the situation in the Book of Acts concerning Ananias and Sapphira. St. Peter, presumably by the power of God, basically strikes these two dead for lying to the Holy Spirit; as soon as St. Peter speaks their condemnation they drop dead. This is not exactly the same as capital punishment, but it is evident that taking their lives was used to enact justice of a specific sort.

Philosophically combatting against errors of reason is vitally important, but even more important is to remind those who are in the Church where the ultimate authority can be found – Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium. If newly invented philosophical systems amount to revoking the authority of Scripture, then the philosophy is in error and must be corrected. As every major Saint and Doctor has taught, including St. Thomas, revelation and theology guides and corrects human reason in the philosophical arena. Philosophy is the handmaiden to theology not its judge.

In my view, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, settles the issue in systematic fashion. There is no way around the arguments being presented and the only reaction against its necessarily corrective teaching is to remain in the state of modernistic incredulity.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, Feser & Bessette, Pg. 9, 10

[2] Ibid, Pg. 81

[3] Ibid, Pg. 81, 82

[4] Ibid, Pg. 86

[5] Ibid, Pg. 86

[6] Ibid, Pg. 86

[7] Ibid, Pg. 86, 87

[8] Ibid, Pg. 87

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Politics

The Politics of Pontius Pilate

Pontius PilateThe political climate surrounding the decision to free Christ or succumb to the pressures of the mob seeking his death reached a fevered pitch. Pontius Pilate had to worry about another uprising within the territory he governed, and he also had to figure out a way to satisfy a mob seeking blood at all costs. In order to satisfy the mob, Pilate would knowingly have to condemn an innocent man to death, which would potentially save his political career. But is this moral? Should an innocent man have to die for political expedience and career ambitions? Pilate attempted to maneuver the situation with a bit of pragmatism. First, he offered an exchange, a chance to pardon the convicted murderer Barabbas or the self proclaimed God-Man innocent of any crime. The crowd chose the murderer. The first attempt of pragmatic governing was crafty, but a mob inebriated with madness is not interested in adroit practical compromise, they have demands that must be met. Bloodlust and democracy don’t usually yield positive, rational results. The second attempt at compromise was to chastise, or scourge the captured Christ. Surely the crowd would see a beaten man and have mercy. Instead, they shouted with a fanatical zeal, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Mercy was not to be had on that fateful day. Pilate was now faced, once again, with the task of identifying justice associated with truth, or choosing to condemn a blameless man to save his career. Political pragmatism had completely failed, and to ensure that Pilate knew exactly what was at stake, the beaten and bloodied carpenter from Nazareth reminded the Governor from where his authority truly came, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above…”[1] This proclamation gripped Pilate for only a moment until the Jewish leaders of the mob reminded him of Caesar.

Pilate washed his hands and released Christ to the mob, where Jesus was then crucified like a common criminal. Pilate chose political expediency over truth; he chose to be “neutral,” or he deluded himself into believing he was neutral. Political pragmatism and moral compromise betrayed the truth of justice, falsely deified the state against the God-man Christ, and for all time revealed the true nature of pragmatism in pursuit of “results” as the ultimate form of political and moral cowardice.

Pilate’s weakness is the spirit saturating the soul of the Republican Party. The G.O.P. is feckless when it comes to fulfilling the promises of their campaign rhetoric. So called conservatives are washing their hands clean on every major issue they were voted into office to fix; and therefore, deceiving themselves into the belief that they will not be held accountable for denying the Truth on judgment day.

The G.O.P. claims to be the party of prudence, tradition, objective morality, cultural preservation, limited government, and sound fiscal policy. Campaign rhetoric and grandiose speeches at Congress do not comport with the results of their governing. The last time the Republican Party held as much power at the federal level as they do now, the outcome was two lost wars, a foreign policy in total shambles, the construction of a massive security state apparatus, increased size and scope of federal involvement in health care, further centralization of the education system, a continued increase in the national debt, the collapse of the housing bubble, and a financial crisis so vast that it almost destroyed the world economy. In addition to this, they totally failed to end the destructive practice of abortion, which is a promise made during every election cycle – vote for the Republican and the end of abortion will be just around the corner – or so we are told. This issue seems to keep getting kicked down the road no matter how much power the “pro-life” party has.

That was then. What about now? Have they learned anything from their past mistakes?

Well, the record is pretty much the same thing. The federal government is still fully involved in destabilizing America’s health care. The bill passed in the House of Representatives intending to fix the problems of the ACA will actually do more to bolster the progressives in the Democratic Party, which will inevitably lead to a shift in majority power resulting in single payer system. Securing the border and solving the immigration issues our country is facing has been placed on the shelf. The federal budget is as bloated as ever with no end in sight to the destructive end of our national debt. Tax cuts to the middle class are nowhere to be found. The implementation of a reasonably sane foreign policy is being abrogated in order to perpetuate the neocon madness of the Bush administration following 9/11. Planned Parenthood remains subsidized while abortion remains a legal medical practice. And finally, nothing has been done to counteract the Obergefell decision, which is basically accepted as law by judicial fiat.

There is literally no reason whatsoever to vote for a Republican candidate at this point. They are a totally worthless opposition party when they are the minority in Congress, they accomplish nothing when they are the majority power, and whatever it is they do accomplish is likely to end up in complete disaster for the country generally, and middle America specifically. Winning elections by duping Christians is about the extent of their political talents.

But isn’t politics a game of pragmatics? Is it naïve to expect governing to take place within the parameters of truth, beauty, and goodness?

If truth, beauty, and goodness are found within the parameters of political naiveté, then this is an indication of how corrupt American politics has become.

Should we compromise on truth? Should we compromise on policies regarding the budget, foreign policy implementation, regulatory practices of the economy, and on issues concerning the preservation of life and marriage? How can we justify comprising moral principles in politics when doing so at the individual level is a violation of integrity and conscience?

This too is a modernist error, that the private and public realm of the moral order can be strictly demarcated where duty binds the individual, but pragmatic abandonment of truth in the public realm is a sign of moral prudence ensuring the “right results.”

Contemporary politics is guided by a diabolically deceptive principle that subordinates truth to results. Both political parties have internalized this deception and falsely proclaim its merits. Republicans concentrate their efforts toward the “result” of winning elections and holding office so that backroom favors might be fulfilled to the donor class pulling the legislative strings. The lust for power and prestige are the false idols sought after in the endless parade of election cycles. Far from the personal character of the modern statesman is the desire to wield the sword of justice according to God’s law, the natural law, and the common good.

The G.O.P. has chosen political pragmatism over truth. They have allowed the spirit of Pilate’s spinelessness to prevail within their chambers.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] John 19:11

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Culture, Politics

The Dreher Option: What is Called the Church?

The Dreher Option - What is Called the Church?St. Francis de Sales and his cousin travelled light when they set out to bring Calvinist Geneva back to the Catholic faith. In preparation to do spiritual warfare against the heresiarchs, St. Francis brought with him powerful tools for the purpose of refuting the pretended ministers of the Reformation – the Sacred Scriptures and Bellarmine’s Controversies.[1] Following the long journey, St. Francis gazed upon a sight bringing him to tearful anguish,

“Francis only sighed deeply. Leaning on the parapet, he looked sadly forth over this fair land whose glorious beauty was ravaged by the signs of persecution – ruined churches; presbyteries and castles burned to the ground; crosses overthrown; gibbets erected instead: desolation everywhere. All this he saw from the height on which he stood, and he could not restrain his tears as he thought of millions of souls plunged in the darkness of schism, separated from the True Church.”[2]

The Calvinists had reduced “seventy-two parishes, containing 30,000 persons” to a mere handful of Catholics.[3] Considering the spiritual terrain he must traverse, St. Francis prayed that God would bless his work so that he and his cousin might “rebuild His sanctuaries, re-erect His altars, and gather the lost sheep into the true fold.”[4]

St. Francis began his mission by preaching the word of God to all who had ears to hear, but his efforts were thwarted when the people were forbidden from listening to his message. In true perseverance, however, St. Francis would begin to write pamphlets exposing the errors of the pretended ministers while also explaining the true Catholic faith. His determinations in written form began to see fruitful results.[5] Many were enticed by the warmth and clarity of his exposition. But political power built upon the sands of heresy becomes jealous when exposed to be a façade. The Calvinists zealous after their power looked to have the priests assassinated. There were several attempts made on the life of St. Francis.[6]

Through the miraculous providence of God St. Francis endured the persecutions and his mission would eventually be accomplished,

“The ruin and desolation over which he had wept four years previously had vanished. The inhabitants of the Chablais were no longer aliens from the True Fold, and he, under Providence, had been the means of converting them. In this land, where, on his arrival in 1594, there had been only a hundred Catholics, there were now scarcely a hundred Calvinists. It is estimated that about Seventy-two thousand people were received by Francis de Sales and his fellow-missionaries into the Church.”[7]

The story of St. Francis’s missionary work in Geneva during the ongoing hostilities of the Protestant revolt teach us something very important about the nature of the true Church. The Church is not a pluralistic entity containing any and all peoples claiming to be Christian. If this were the case, St. Francis would not have wept over Calvinist Geneva prior to its conversion. The tears he shed were symbolic of the truth that there is no salvation outside of the Church. The numerous heresies of Calvinism put souls in danger of eternal damnation. St. Francis knew that only the true Gospel of Jesus Christ delivered to the Apostles and protected by the one, true Church over the course of history could rescue the people from the deceptions of John Calvin and Theodore Beza.

Applying this lesson of evangelization and passion for Christ’s Church allows us to recognize another significant weakness in the Dreher option. Dreher treats the Church of Jesus Christ as a pluralistic entity of disparate individuals who are all expressing competing truth claims regarding revelation. Dreher asserts,

“…I will discuss how the way of Christian living prescribed by the Rule can be adapted to the lives of modern conservative Christians of all Churches and confessions. To avoid political confusion, I use the word ‘orthodox’ – small ‘o’ – to refer to theologically traditional Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodoxy Christians. The Rule offers insights in how to approach politics, faith, family community, education, and work. I will detail how they manifest themselves in the lives of a diverse number of Christians who have lessons to teach the entire Church. Finally, I will consider the critical importance of believers thinking and acting radically in the face of the two most powerful phenomena directing contemporary life and pulverizing the church’s foundations: sex and technology.”[8]

Dreher later argues,

“Of course every age has its morally lax people, and people who have forsaken ideals and commitments to pursue their heart’s desire. In fact, every one of us Christians is like that at times; it’s called sin. What’s distinct about the present age, says Taylor, is that ‘today many people feel called to do this, feel they ought to do this, feel their lives would somehow be wasted or unfulfilled if they didn’t do it.’

What is ‘it’? Following your own heart, no matter what society says, or the church, or anybody else. This kind of thinking is devastating to every kind of social stability but especially to the church. The church, a community that authoritatively teaches and disciples its members, cannot withstand a revolution in which each member becomes, in effect, his own pope. Churches – Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox – that are nothing more than a loosely bound assembly of individuals committed to finding their own ‘truth,’ are no longer the church in any meaningful sense, because there is no shared belief.”[9]

These paragraphs highlight a major flaw in the Dreher option, which is the suggestion that Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox all share the same mantle of the “Church.”

This is false. Protestants reject the Catholic faith and her teachings on numerous points, hence the reason for their protest. Catholics and Protestants cannot both be the Church because of the extreme divergence of views on what has been revealed by God as binding truths delivered to the Apostles in the deposit of faith. The only “common ground” Protestants and Catholics might have with each other are those truths promulgated over the centuries by Rome. This, however, is only an illusion of commonality. It would be similar to an author picking up a forgery of his own book and looking for things he agrees with among the plagiarized words.

Similarly, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox cannot equally share the mantle of the Church because the Orthodox have rejected the divinely instituted authority of the Pope. And while the East and West do in fact share much in creedal and theological commonality, there can ultimately be no agreement when the Vicar of Christ is rejected.

There can be no unity in the Church with heretics and schismatics. The spread of heresy by the pretended ministers of the Reformation and the schismatic act of rejecting the binding authority of the Pope are the kind of revolutionary acts decried by Dreher in the referenced paragraphs above, and yet he endorses the disharmony by trying to fuse truth with error.

What then is the Church?

The Church is the mystical body of Christ instituted by our Lord through which we share in the meritorious fruits of His Redemption. The Church is made up of the congregation of baptized peoples united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, partakes of the same Sacraments, and is governed by the priests and bishops in union with the Pope. The true Church also carries with it four distinctive marks, that is, the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. And these marks alone are found in the Holy Roman Catholic Church.[10]

When the true Church is properly recognized and defined, those who are outside of the Church can also be readily identified. The Council of Trent teaches,

“Hence there are but three classes of persons excluded form the Church’s pale: infidels, heretics and schismatics, and excommunicated persons. Infidels are outside the Church because they never belonged to, and never knew the Church, and were never made partakers of any of her Sacraments. Heretics and schismatics are excluded from the Church, because they have separated from her and belong to her only as deserters belong to the army from which they have deserted. It is not, however, to be denied that they are still subject to the jurisdiction of the Church, inasmuch as they may be called before her tribunals, punished, and anathematized. Finally, excommunicated persons are not members of the Church, because they have been cut off by her sentence from the number of her children and belong not to her communion until they repent.”[11]

St. Robert Bellarmine echoes this teaching of Trent,

“Heretics retain those indelible characters outside of the Church, just as lost sheep retain the branding in their back and deserters of the army military signs: but they are not in the Church for that reason because those characters do not suffice to constitute someone in the Church; otherwise the Church would also be in hell. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the damned are not members of Christ in either act or potency. Besides, the character does not properly unite a man with the head, rather it is a sign of the power of a certain union, and consequently, in hell they are recognized by that sign as men who were members of Christ. Nevertheless, that it does not unite them is clear since something that is invisible cannot unite outwardly, nor interiorly, when it is not in act or when it is not an operative habit. For that reason St. Thomas places the first internal union in faith.”[12]

Identifying schismatics, Bellarmine says,

“Several Catholics deliberate whether schismatics are in the Church, on the other hand there are those who affirm that they are in the Church, such as Alphonso de Castro in the place we cited. Yet it is easy to teach the contrary from the Scripture and from the tradition of the Fathers. In the first place, when it is said in Luke that the nets were torn, schisms in the Church are understood through the tearing of the nets and the exit of fish from it, and the exit of heretics and schismatics, as St. Augustine explains.

Besides, Scripture calls the Church, ‘One, sheepfold,’ ‘One body,’ ‘One spouse, friend and dove.’ Moreover, schism tears that which is one into parts, as is clear from its name…Consequently, schismatics are not in the Church nor are they of the Church. For the part that is torn from the body is no longer a part of that body.”[13]

The Dreher option is attempting to reignite an “ecumenism of the trenches,”[14] which perpetuates the problem of institutionalized liberalism rather than solves it. This pseudo-Christian movement, then, suffers from a false ecumenism resulting in a religious indifferentism condemned by the true Church.[15] What Dreher is proposing is a multitude of tiny “Christian” enclaves where each little community not only gets to decide what Christianity amounts to, but also, what the suggested cultural option amounts to as well. Rather than bringing unity to the Church Dreher solidifies the fracturing which already reverberates throughout the culture.

There is a better way.

The Church Militant has been commissioned by the King of kings to baptize the nations. The only real option available to the Church, the Roman Catholic Church, is the one practiced by St. Francis de Sales during his mission in Geneva – The Gospel Option.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] St. Francis de Sales: A Biography of the Gentle Saint, Stacpoole-Kenny, Pg. 31

[2] Ibid, Pg. 32

[3] Ibid, Pg. 32

[4] Ibid, Pg. 33

[5] “The heretics, though they would not come to listen to his sermons, read these documents through curiosity; but many found them so convincing that they desired to learn more of a doctrine that appealed, not only to their reason, but to their hearts. Therefore by slow degrees, by twos and threes, they went to hear the discourses of the Provost and the Canon.” Ibid, Pg. 39

[6] “When the news of this straying of their flock reached the ears of the ministers, they became, if possible, more infuriated against the priests, and resolved to have them assassinated. Several times they hired ruffians to attempt their lives, but particularly the life of Francis, believing that if he were once removed Louis would return to Annecy.” Ibid, Pg. 39

[7] Ibid, Pg 73

[8] The Benedict Option, Pg. 5

[9] Ibid, Pg. 44

[10] These brief descriptions are taken from the Baltimore Catechism One, Pg. 25, 26

[11] Catechism of the Council of Trent, Pg. 104

[12] On the Church Militant, Pg. 24

[13] Ibid, Pg. 25, 26

[14] Pg. 136

[15] On Liberalism, Pope Gregory XVI, Paragraph 13. See also the Syllabus of Errors promulgated by Pope Pius IX, section III on Indifferentism and False Tolerance.

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