Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dr. Ken Howell, Reinstated by the University of Illinois! #Catholic

This is fantastic news, not only for Dr. Howell, but for all who cherish our freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Continue to hold Dr. Howell and all Christian teachers in prayer. The battle is heating up.
Earlier today we received confirmation from the University of Illinois that it is reinstating Dr. Kenneth Howell as an adjunct professor this fall. The University terminated Dr. Howell’s employment earlier this summer after a student complained that he was “offended” by Dr. Howell’s academic discussion of the Catholic Church’s position on homosexual behavior in an Introduction to Catholicism course. The student was not even enrolled in the class.

In a letter to ADF, the University states that Dr. Howell will be asked to teach Introduction to Catholicism this fall. This is a tremendous win for Dr. Howell’s academic freedom and First Amendment rights. However, ADF will continue to monitor the situation.

I Fought For You

No amount of thanks will ever be enough to repay their sacrifices. But we should always endeavor to thank them and say, "I will never forget." God bless our military and God bless America. Have some tissues nearby. I've watched it several times and cried at each viewing.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm With Fr. John Trigilio, Jr.! Well said! #Catholic

In light of the comments from my last post, I found this online regarding Fr. Trigilio's response to a book written that criticized EWTN. (The original article, written by Matt C. Abbott for the site Renew America, was removed from Matt's archive.)

While I love and appreciate the Tridentine Mass and hope it is celebrated more often and in more places, I also fully accept the validity and liceity of the Novus Ordo Mass of Paul VI. I think it can be improved, but I also have been celebrating it throughout the 18 years of my priesthood. When done well, reverently and with full solemnity, it can be very beautiful and edifying.

I find the Masses televised on EWTN to be what the Novus Ordo should be, and the Masses celebrated at the Eucharistic Shrine in Hanceville even more so. Whether 'ad orientem' or 'versus populum,' Latin or English or both, solemn high with sung choir or simple quiet Mass with no music or chant, in all instances, when the proper rubrics are obeyed and the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with reverence, love and conviction of his beliefs, the Novus Ordo is as grand as the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom.

While the Tridentine Mass is gorgeous when done properly, there have been those who celebrated it mechanically, hurriedly, sloppily and without much devotion. Yet, no one cites the very few exceptions as reasons to abandon the Tridentine Mass, nor should they. Likewise, bad celebrations of the Novus Ordo do not negate the proper, reverent celebrations done elsewhere by other priests.

Amen, Fr. Trigilio. You said it much better than me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Michael Voris' "The Vortex" on the Traditional Latin Mass #Catholic

I've been watching more of these Real Catholic TV videos online. I like Voris more and more! Here is a Catholic broadcaster who is completely devoted to Catholic teaching and promoting Catholic identity.

Everything he says in this video is so true. I love the Traditional Latin Mass exactly because it isn't "watered down." The liturgy is strong and un-tampered with; and it encourages me greatly that this is the Mass that built our strong saints. When I am participating in the TLM, I feel a powerful connection with my Catholic lineage, the history of those who have gone before me, and a sense of encouragement from our heavenly brothers and sisters in Christ.

My focus is on what Christ has done on the Cross. I still get teary-eyed when our priest lifts up the Holy Eucharist and offers it up, raising his arms toward heaven and repeats the words our blessed Lord said to His disciples on the last night of His freedom on earth. The Last Supper, which Jesus Christ celebrated before entering His Passion, is not "a meal," but a commemorative act, giving thanks to His Father for providing all things, most especially the Perfect Sacrifice to atone for mankind's sin.

These thoughts do not come easily when I'm at a Mass where the priest rushes through the offering or adds different phrases to "embellish" the act. And through all the years that I grew up with the Novus Ordo Mass, I have finally realized what I missed. Now that I'm reclaiming what has rightfully been my birthright as a believer, I will not yield it so easily and I will place my efforts toward promoting the Traditional Latin Mass as often as I can.

My faith has been strengthened by the TLM in ways I never expected. It's my hope that if you as a Catholic have never attended one, that you would at least once. Allow the silence of that profound moment at the altar permeate your soul. Allow yourself to rest and meditate on the work of our Lord. Yes, there are certainly N.O. Masses being offered that have reverence, but you can know that when you attend a TLM, it will always be there.

Praise God for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who has restored this precious rite. It is giving life to so many, including me.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Rock On, Real #Catholic TV! Another Powerful Episode: A Pure Heart

I have become increasingly interested in Real Catholic TV's Internet show "The Vortex," with commentary by Michael Voris, S.T.B. (The letters stand for Bachelor of Sacred Theology, given through a Pontifical university.)

I really like Voris because 1) He is not afraid to name evil or sin and 2) He is unapologetically Catholic and continues to call the Catholic Church back to its mission.

I think his commentary below, "A Pure Heart," is especially timely with regard to the University of Illinois firing of Dr. Ken Howell. On one hand, you have a Catholic Church that promoted a show of support for the Pride Parade in New York. On the other, an almost silent response occurred when a Catholic professor is openly fired from his job because he presented the Catholic Church's beliefs on homosexuality.

I'm also adding the episode, "Midnight Call." Vorhis hits the nail squarely on the head with this one!

If you like this video, consider joining Real Catholic TV by subscribing. Let me know what you think. I thought it was superb.






More videos can be seen at their YouTube Channel.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Will It Matter? Diocese of Peoria to Meet With UI Officials Over Firing of Howell #Catholic

I'm not sure whether to remain hopeful or not regarding a scheduled meeting between the officials of the University of Illinois and the Diocese of Peoria, regarding the firing of Catholic Professor Ken Howell.

This issue is far more important than the reinstatement of one professor to his job. It is the harbinger of truth regarding freedom of religion and speech in our country. When a university offers a religion course -- and then decides to punish the explanation of that religion's tenets, the noose has been tightened in many ways upon individuals freely expressing themselves.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall during that meeting. How can the University of Illinois defend themselves? They knew Dr. Howell was Catholic, and the course he taught was called "Introduction to Catholicism." It isn't a secret that Catholicism does not believe homosexuality is an accepted sexual choice, and within the Catechism, is called "intrinsically disordered."

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (CCC, Part Three: Life In Christ, Section 2: The Ten Commandments, Article 6: The Sixth Commandment, II The Vocation to Chastity, Chastity and Homosexuality)

If one were to take a course called "Introduction to Judaism," they would find that sexual relations between men is clearly forbidden by the Torah (Lev. 18:22). Although the sexual act is forbidden, they, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, also makes the distinction between act and orientation; the latter being a desire that presents a choice to act upon or not. I suspect that speaking of "choice" in a religion class in regard to homosexuality, would also be punished.

And that is the source of my growing concern. Not that the concept of freedom of religion and speech is at stake, but the idea of personal choice. Never more has it been made clearer than in today's culture that there is no such thing as decision and choice.

The outcry from the radical progressives isn't so much that the Catholic Church says homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered," but over the claim that personal choice is involved. There are still many who believe homosexuality is genetic. But many lesbians disprove that theory by openly admitting they became a lesbian for political reasons. So there is no "gay gene" as much as some may want it.

And the world's idea of "personal choice" has no rhyme or reason. It isn't a personal choice if one is living a homosexual lifestyle but yet it is a choice for a woman to kill her unborn child. It isn't a personal choice for an impoverished youth to kill someone (because they were raised in an unhealthy environment and "couldn't help it") but it is a personal choice for that same youth to join hateful, racist organizations under the guise of "empowerment."

For the University of Illinois, it isn't a personal choice to allow a diversity of opinion but it is a personal choice to punish and condemn a person or group for expressing their own personal opposition to other people's personal choices.

Because at the end, we as Christians aren't supposed to "judge." Judging, in the world's terms, basically means Christians believing what they believe. I know very few Christians who hang around street corners and tell people they're going to hell if they continue to sin and not repent. Most churches have been successfully neutered on that count. But there are a few bastions of morality hanging around and the Catholic Church is one of them. Because the world has silenced many by egalitarian philosophies, those who dare to stand and name their own beliefs that contradict the world's; are targeted not just for punishment, but extermination. Sound familiar?

Cases such as Dr. Howell's are meant to convey this threat: Oppose us and you will be destroyed. Dr. Howell is a good professor. His students voted him as one of the campus' best. But that didn't matter when it came down to it because one person was able to trump all his accomplishments with the accusation that Dr. Howell was being "hateful." Even if the class was an introduction to Catholicism, and even if it is historically known and proven that the Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality is rooted in Natural Moral Law, it doesn't mean anything when compared to the more modern position of "anything goes."

When it comes to hatred, the legion of professors espousing hatred for the United States and Western Civilization is ignored. The perversion of American history is ignored. The expulsion of our military recruitment offices from university campuses is ignored. The false accusations of the Duke lacrosse players was initially ignored. The harassment and physical violence toward guest speakers who represent fair debate on issues such as immigration, is ignored. Ann Coulter had a speaking engagement for a Canadian university cancelled because the animals who call themselves students were throwing rocks and sticks at her. But not one person who claimed to represent "diversity" of viewpoints, could be found to defend any of those situations.

This is what the world has wrought. Under the cloak of "inclusivity" and "diversity," it instead has ushered in a new age of fascism. All opinions and arguments are accepted -- as long as it agrees with their worldview. If it is outside of that worldview, forget it. You're suddenly looked upon as a neanderthal, barely able to rub two sticks together for fire.

We who are Christian know the score. We know that the world has hated and will always hate the truth. I suppose I should be grateful that Dr. Howell's was able to last as long as he did in the den.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dear Robert Stacy McCain: You Need to Become "The Old Spice Guy" to Get @Alyssa_Milano to Notice You

I've been reading Robert Stacy McCain's blog, The Other McCain, for awhile now. If you are a regular reader, also, you'll notice that he has been doing everything possible (well, almost) in order to be noticed by the Real Celebrity Queen of Tweets, Alyssa Milano.

Milano has made herself a Twitter favorite because 1) it's obviously her who is doing the "tweeting" 2) she's a huge baseball fan, which pretty much makes her just about every guy's fantasy: a gorgeous woman who can tell the difference between a forkball and a slider and 3) she actually talks to her fans and recommends them.

So R.S. McCain has been on an ever-intensifying mission to get Alyssa Milano to notice him. Except someone else finally beat him to it. And the dude's only wearing a towel.

Introducing... "The Old Spice Guy"



Old Spice has hit a Grand Slam with their "Old Spice Guy" whose videos have gone viral on the Internet. Not only are the commercials funny, The Old Spice Guy has even responded personally to those who've tweeted about him. Including Alyssa Milano, who actually received a bouquet of flowers and declaration of love from the sensual shower stud.

So, the lesson? Perhaps you best be setting up a video cam in your bathroom, Stacy; and don a nice white towel. Maybe that can increase your traffic and help you pay off your daughter's wedding. You never know... it could happen!

Rearranged My Little Blog-house

I moved up the links to other blogs and also my archive. If you like this blog, you may like some of those I've linked. I just got a referral for a funny one and added it: Orwell's Picnic (Gotta love the subtitle of it. Visit and laugh!)

I am completely jealous of anyone who gets to live in Rome.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Response to My Email from President Hogan of UI and My Response #Catholic

Well, that was quick!

On Jul 13, 2010, at 9:01 PM, President Hogan wrote:

Dear Mary Rose,

Let me begin by thanking you for expressing your concerns. Academic freedom is at the core of our teaching and research missions. It’s vital to our ability to explore new ideas, educate our students, and promote the civil and free exchange of alternative viewpoints in a democracy.

I learned of this action on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) campus late last week and immediately asked Chancellor Robert Easter, who oversees the campus, to provide me with a briefing on the matter. I want to assure you that the University administration shares my commitment to the principles of academic freedom. At the same time, we do believe it's important to fully investigate all of the details related to this situation. As I'm sure you're aware, it is sometimes the case that public reports may convey only part of the story. I think it important to reserve judgment until I have all of the facts and I hope you'll agree.

We have asked the UIUC Senate’s standing Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure to immediately review this action. This is the mechanism on the campus through which these matters should be vetted. We expect this review to be completed very soon. By using our channels of shared governance and review, we are in the best position to make informed decisions that afford a fair process for all.

Again, I’m grateful to have heard from you and others about this and I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond. It reaffirms the deep commitment that so many have to the University and public higher education and to ensuring that the University of Illinois continues to be a beacon of excellence, as it should be for the state, the nation, and the world.

Sincerely,

Mike

Michael J. Hogan
President
University of Illinois


My response:

Dear President Hogan,

Wow. Color me thoroughly impressed and touched. First, what a speedy response! And secondly, a very thoughtful and sound one. I agree about having all of the facts. I know that at times certain tidbits of a situation can leak out and many will jump to conclusions. I admit that I've only read both the original email from Dr. Howell and then the student's email of complaint. I'm not sure what else went on, but the complaint (and subsequent action) seems heavy-handed at this point.

However, you're the president who has to make those inquiries and from your email, it seems like the wheels are already in motion.

I truly appreciate your response and will post it on my blog. (http://www.catholicprodigaldaughter.com)

Thank you and I wish you the best in handling a very difficult situation. I remain hopeful that Dr. Howell will be reinstated.

Respectfully yours,

Mary Rose

My Email to President Hogan at Univ. of Illinois Over the Firing of Dr. Howell #Catholicism

Subject: You Overreacted Re: Dr. Ken Howell - And This Is No Way to Bring Funds to Your University
Date: July 13, 2010


Dear President Hogan and Dr. McKim (Head of the Department of Religion),

By now I suspect you've been deluged with emails regarding the firing of Dr. Howell over one student's objection to a philosophical email which he apparently did not comprehend.

The Catholic blogosphere is in a raging fire of their own outrage. Many have said, "Enough is enough."

When an esteemed professor, an obvious thought leader within your university; is kicked to the curb over an exaggerated sense of injury -- fair and thoughtful debate has died. I am appalled by the lack of critical thinking students are receiving by this action. If anyone were to thoroughly read Dr. Howell's very helpful email, which illustrates utilitarianism and the application of it toward one of the more pressing issues of our day; and come to the conclusion that such earnest intellectual inquiry is "hate speech", then I shudder to think of the type of young person your university will unleash upon the world after four years of "higher education." Don't you teach students how to hold their own and defend intellectually their arguments instead of pandering to cheap and easy emotional babble? My, God. I'm afraid for our country's future.

I attended a university and loved philosophy. I found it challenging to defend whatever I thought of was right by employing the principles I was being taught within classes such as rhetorical theory, logic, and empiricism. I would have found it laughable if a student tried to engineer a professor's firing simply because she couldn't hold her own intellectually. And that's what it looks like to those of us who've already been around this mountain. The student took the coward's way out. And you followed suit.

If you will not permit the teachings of philosophy its due course, or remain true to your mission of offering religion courses, you dilute a student's education which will have consequences upon enrollment and fundraising. People study religion to understand its tenets and inception. They study it to become equipped to make decisions in their life. Can you imagine teaching Islamic Studies without the Koran? Judaic Studies without the Tanakh? How is Catholicism to be accurately taught without the Catechism of the Catholic Church? How is Catholicism to be taught without being punished for being "Catholic?"

This is bad publicity of the worst kind for UI. Not only do you look like knee-jerk reactionaries catering to a whining mental toddler, you also present your education in an unflattering light by not being able to distinguish presumption from actual wrongdoing.

Firing Dr. Howell was not a solution, but the beginning of a far larger problem for your university. Reinstate him to his position and allow him to do what he does best. Teaching students not what to think -- but how to think.

Respectfully yours,

Mary Rose

Monday, July 12, 2010

And So It Begins: #Catholic University Instructor Fired Over Utilitarian Application to Homosexuality


The University of Illinois has fired an adjunct professor who taught courses on Catholicism after a student accused the instructor of engaging in hate speech by saying he agrees with the church's teaching that homosexual sex is immoral.

The professor, Dr. Ken Howell of Champaign, said his firing violates his academic freedom. He also lost his job at an on-campus Catholic center.


I remember the controversy that surrounded the "Hate Crimes Bill," which was signed last year in October by President Obama, officially known as the Matthew Shepard Act. Many Christians were rightly concerned that they would be targeted by the bill and that organizations would use it to limit their freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Well, here's one example. Ken Howell.

This is what is so wrong with this scenario: Dr. Ken Howell is a known Catholic teaching Catholic doctrine. His students aren't in the dark. They didn't sign up for a Wiccan course on basket-weaving. The course is called "Introduction to Catholicism."

Mr. Howell sent an email at the end of the spring semester explaining Catholic beliefs to his students to help them prepare for an exam. (The student's email that led to his firing is here.)

"Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY," he wrote in the e-mail. "In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same."

An unidentified student (Don't you love that? An "unidentified student" is allowed to send an email that has in essence destroyed a man's career. But he can remain anonymous.) sent an e-mail to religion department head Robert McKim on May 13, calling Howell's e-mail "hate speech." (Hate speech? Hardly. Howell was describing utilitarianism and the application of it toward homosexuality.) The student claimed to be a friend of the offended student. (Right. The offended student couldn't be bothered to express their own disappointment/anger/rage. So they had someone else do their bidding.) The writer said in the e-mail that his friend wanted to remain anonymous.

"Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing," the student wrote. "Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another." (Wrong answer. Dr. Howell was teaching students the tenets of a religion, which was clearly defined in the course description, which I'll show below. If you read the original email from Dr. Howell, you will see the context, which includes Natural Moral Law. The student's email reveals that he wasn't even tracking accurately with Dr. Howell's arguments.)

Howell said he was teaching his students about the Catholic understanding of natural moral law.
From the University of Illinois, Department of Religion RLST course catalog (emphasis and comment mine):
RLST 127
Introduction to Catholicism
Credit: 3 hours.
Introduction to the academic study of Catholicism in its historical, philosophical and religious dimensions with an emphasis on its historical diversity. ("Philosophical" may not have been thoroughly explained to the students, or some may not have understood its meaning. Philosophy addresses questions that have to do with existence, reason, and values. If that's termed "hate speech," then you may as well throw out Platonic Realism for being "hate speech" against the color green. The students were being introduced to philosophical thought as well as the tenets of Catholicism.)

After visiting the University of Illinois site, I was amazed to see they still had their announcement congratulating Howell for "being recognized for excellent teaching" for Fall 2009, voted by the students. Obviously he is admired and valued for his teaching methods. It is thus even more of an outrage that a university would oust a professor who evidently is well-respected by most students because a minority of one was offended.



This is the new rule in America: the tyranny of the minority. Instead of being ruled by law (and reason), we are now witnessing a complete breakdown of logic and fairness. From this scenario, I have concluded that no one can teach anything if it runs counter to liberal or progressive thought; even if the original email was one of sound explanation, certainly not attacking homosexuality but instead questioning the criterion used to determine right and wrong. (Interestingly, the email does not reference Scripture or God.)

Dr. Howell presents a philosophical premise: Utilitarianism (the idea that the moral worth of beliefs, choices, and actions are predicated upon the utility [usefulness] of how much pleasure it provides the individual) in its modern form, is a moral theory that judges right or wrong by its practical outcomes.

These thoughts are in themselves, fascinating -- and should have led to a lively discussion or debate. (And although I'm speculating, the email seems to reveal that the discussion became a little heated within the classroom.) Dr. Howell is in my humble opinion, the best kind of professor. He is teaching his students how to think. Nowhere in that email did I read a denouncement of homosexuality based on Scripture. Instead, Dr. Howell made a compelling argument that criterion for which to evaluate homosexuality morally, Natural Moral Law, was often left off the table. I agree. I don't know why it isn't obvious to those who support homosexuality that it is not "natural" in the sense that two men do not complimentary fit one another, but it is certainly a blind spot.

Dr. Howell also briefly talks about the progression toward separating our sexual nature from our moral decisions. Again, provocative thoughts meant to generate discussion and examination. Instead, Dr. Howell has been punished.

What is further outrageous is that the St. John's Catholic Newman Center (SJCNC), would also fire Dr. Howell. This is a Catholic organization, and -- one of their entities is The Institute of Catholic Thought. If anything, SJCNC should have supported Dr. Howell from the very beginning as initiating Catholic thought and subsequently (yes, I know...) supporting Catholic doctrine. (Some may say that should be the other way around and I would concur.)

But if you have a Catholic student organization that is to help students explore their Catholic faith (Dare I say develop Catholic identity in a post-modern Christian culture?); then they would do well to keep one such as Dr. Howell's caliber, on staff.

What seems clear to me is that this course was presented in the student catalog as a Catholic course. Anyone who hasn't heard of Catholicism's stand on homosexuality is living under a rock. The other concern I have is that with the inexcusable sin of sexual abuse by priests (mostly same-sex abuse); a Catholic organization would fail to pursue a clear and defining answer to the increasingly ambivalent morality of the world.

Instead, a Catholic thinker who is strongly making their case for the consequences of such moral ambiguity; is targeted and denounced.

I strongly urge all Catholics to write to the University of Illinois on behalf of Dr. Howell, and the St. John's Catholic Newman Center. This is an important issue and I fear if not addressed, will only give rise to more punishment of Catholics for being Catholic. Information is below.

Please be polite when writing. Reread your comments and make them thoughtful, not inflammatory or incendiary. We need to show the University of Illinois and St. John's Catholic Newman Center that we object to the firing of Dr. Ken Howell because he is being fired for remaining true to his course objectives and his faithfulness to Catholic doctrine.

I'm not sure if this address still works for Dr. Howell, but here is his email for SJCNC:

Kenneth J. Howell, Ph.D., Director & Senior Fellow, Institute of Catholic Thought
kenneth.howell@sjcnc.org


University of Illinois
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department of Religion
Dr. Robert McKim
Head of the Department of Religion and Professor of Religious Studies and of Philosophy
3080 Foreign Languages Building
MC 166
707 S Mathews
Urbana, IL 61801
E-mail: rmckim@illinois.edu
Phone: (217) 265-6350

President Michael J. Hogan
University Relations
414 Administrative Ofc. Bldg.
1737 W. Polk St., MC-971
Chicago, IL 60612
Email: presmike@uillinois.edu
Tel: (312) 996-3772
Fax: (312) 996-1836

Lisa Troyer
Chief of Staff
troyer@uillinois.edu


Loren Taylor, UI Alumni Association
Chief Executive Officer, President, and Publisher

University of Illinois Alumni Association
Board of Directors
Chair: Gary Chico
Chico & Nunes P.C.
Partner


St. John's Catholic Newman Center
Msgr. Gregory Ketcham, Chaplain and Director
Newman Hall
604 East Armory Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
(217) 344-1266
(217) 344-6606 (fax)

Fr. Anthony Co, Assistant Chaplain
anthony.co@sjcnc.org

Charles Hanson, Chief Financial Officer
chuck.hanson@sjcnc.org

David Hazen, Director of Communications and Annual Giving
david.hazen@sjcnc.org

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reflections on "Atlas Shrugged": Dagny's Win #tcot #sgp

Atlas Shrugged is epic. It is the most intense novel I've ever read, perhaps because the storyline could easily be seen as a modern tale in the midst of our current economy. I have fallen in love with the young heroine, Dagny Taggart. She is the heiress of a railroad line and does not know the meaning of "can't." Her wimpy brother, Jim, on the other hand; is a mess. He is fearful, catering to the naysayers instead of focusing on how to make the railroad business successful.

There are so many messages in this story. For those unfamiliar with the book, the plot goes something like this: there is a group of businessmen and one business woman (Dagny) who is seeking to produce something they are proud of, that will advance something; whether that is an idea, a service, or a product. They love being able to chase their dreams and make something that will employ others and make a profit.

Then you have the government and groups of people unable to create anything unique, who continue to criticize the group of producers for being "selfish" for wanting to make a profit. Their idea of society is one where larger groups control others and edge out competition. Unbelievably, there was an "Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule" that sounded exactly like the "Too Big to Fail" bailouts that were just given to businesses. As much as I didn't like Ayn Rand's personal life choices, the woman was sharp. Atlas Shrugged is eerily prescient when it comes to today's headlines.

I'm including an excerpt of the book below. To set it up:

Dagney is trying to build a railroad line for her family's business. She is using a brand new product from another company, Rearden Metal. All other railroad lines used steel but Henry Rearden came up with a new metal that is stronger and more economical. A over-bloated scientific group has denounced the metal as "unsafe" although they've never tested it. The government is involved and will benefit if the railroad line fails.

Dagny was up against a wall. She agreed to step down as the Vice President of Operations and start her own railroad line to take the heat off of Taggart Transcontinental. She starts the John Galt Line, named after a mysterious man who seems to embody rebellion. (In the book, the phrase, "Who is John Galt?" is often said as though to say, "what's the point?" Dagny doesn't like the phrase and chose it to goad her attackers.)

Henry Rearden has proposed building a bridge made of his new metal. Dagny believes in him, but many others do not. There is increasing pressure to stop Dagny from going forward with her plans. A union representative has asked for a meeting. And now, from the book:

“Well, it’s like this, Miss Taggart,” said the delegate of the Union of Locomotive Engineer. “I don’t think we’re going to allow you to run that train.”

Dagny sat at her battered desk, against the blotched wall of her office. She said, without moving, “Get out of here.”

It was a sentence the man had never heard in the polished offices of railroad executives. He looked bewildered. “I came to tell you --”

“If you have anything to say to me, start over again.”

“What?”

“Don’t tell me what you’re going to allow me to do.”

“Well, I meant we’re not going to allow our men to run your train.”

“That’s different.”

“Well, that’s what we’ve decided.”

“Who’s decided it?”

“The committee. What you’re doing is a violation of human rights. You can’t force men to go out to get killed -- when that bridge collapses just to make money for you.”

She searched for a sheet of blank paper and handed it to him. “Put it down in writing,” she said, “and we’ll sign a contract to that effect.”

“What contract?”

“That no member of your union will ever be employed to run an engine on the John Galt Line.”

“Why... wait a minute... I haven’t said --”

“You don’t want to sign such a contract?”

“No I --”

“Why not, since you know that the bridge is going to collapse?”

“I only want --”

“I know what you want. you want a stranglehold on your men by means of the jobs which I give them -- and on me, by means of your men. You want me to provide the jobs, and you want to make it impossible for me to have any jobs to provide. Now I’ll give you a choice. The train is going to be run. You have no choice about that. But you can choose whether it’s going to be run by one of your men or not. If you choose not to let them, the train will still run, if I have to drive the engine myself. Then, if the bridge collapses, there won’t be any railroad left in existence, anyway. But if it doesn’t collapse, no member of your union will ever get a job on the John Galt Line. If you think that I need your men more than they need me, choose according to that. Now are you going to forbid your men to run that train?”

“I didn’t say we’d forbid it. I haven’t said anything about forbidding. But...but you can’t force men to risk their lives on something nobody’s ever tried before.”

“I’m not going to force anyone to take that run.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to ask for a volunteer.”

“And if none of them volunteers?”

“Then it will be my problem, not yours.”

“Well, let me tell you that I’m going to advise them to refuse.”

“Go ahead. Advise them anything you wish. Tell them whatever you like. But leave the choice to them. Don’t try to forbid it.”

The notice that appeared in every roundhouse of the Taggart system was signed “Edwin Willers, Vice-President in Charge of Operation” It asked engineers, who were willing to drive the first train on the John Galt Line, so to inform the office of Mr. Willers, not later than eleven A.M. of July 15.

It was a quarter of eleven, on the morning of the fifteenth, when the telephone rang in her office. It was Eddie, calling from high up in the Taggart Building outside her window. “Dagny, I think you’d better come over.” His voice sounded queer.

She hurried across the street, then down the marble-floored halls to the door that still carried the name “Dagny Taggart” on the glass panel. She pulled the door open.

The anteroom of the office was full. Men stood jammed among the desks, against the walls. As she entered, they took their hats off in sudden silence. She saw the graying heads, the muscular shoulders, she saw the smiling faces of her staff at their desks and the face of Eddie Willers at the end of the room. Everybody knew that nothing had to be said.

Eddie stood by the open door of her office. The crowd parted to let her approach him. He moved his hand, pointing at the room, and then at a pile of letters and telegrams.

“Dagny, every one of them,” he said. “Every engineer on Taggart Transcontintinental. those who could, came here, some from as far as the Chicago Division.” He pointed at the mail. “There’s the rest of them. To be exact, there’s only three I haven’t heard from: one’s on a vacation in the north woods, one’s in a hospital, and one’s in jail for reckless driving -- of his automobile.”

She looked at the men. She saw the suppressed grins on the solemn faces. She inclined her head, in acknowledgement. She stood for a moment, head bowed, as if she were accepting a verdict, knowing that the verdict applied to her, to every man in the room and to the world beyond the walls of the building.

“Thank you,” she said.

Most of the men had seen her many times. Looking at her, as she raised her head, many of them thought -- in astonishment and for the first time -- that the face of their Operating Vice-President was the face of a woman and that it was beautiful.

Someone in the back of the crowd cried suddenly, cheerfully, “To hell with Jim Taggart!”

An explosion answered him. The men laughed, they cheered, they broke into applause. The response was out of all proportion to the sentence. But the sentence had given them the excuse they needed. They seemed to be applauding the speaker in insolent defiance of authority. But everyone in the room knew who it was that they were cheering.

She raised her hand. “We’re too early, “ she said, laughing. “Wait till a week from today. That’s when we ought to celebrate. And believe me, we will!”

I cried when I read this part of the book. It moved me because I could feel the desire of the men to do what they were trained to do. Run a train. They simply wanted a job and the chance to do something that hadn't been done before. You could feel the excitement as they imagined running a train over a brand new bridge, made of something the world had never seen before.

This is the type of spirit that built America. It was a "can-do attitude," not a "can't do." The character of Dagny, Henry Rearden, and to an extent, Francisco D'Anconia (who had the spirit at first but is now involved in a struggle to overthrow the "moochers" and "looters" of society) all celebrate the accomplishments of the human spirit. Ayn Rand grew up under the suffocation of communism in Russia. She knew firsthand the experience of control, stifling creativity and progress. You can tell in her writing that she loves America.

She has no use for those who feed off the success of others while damning them for that success. She calls such people "moochers" and "looters." Henry Reardon, for example, has his extended family of a mother and brother living with he and his wife. His brother, is unemployed. However, he is involved in some kind of an organization that condemns successful businessmen like his own brother. In fact, I was stunned by a part of the book that had the brother complaining that he couldn't raise funds for this group and his brother generously offered to give him a check for $10,000. (This book was written in the 1950's, so that sum of money was worth even more then than today.) The brother was sullen as he grudgingly accepted, then had the gall to ask if the money could be given to him in cash since he didn't want the group to know the money came from Rearden Steel. Rearden's family is a perfect example of moochers.

Looters are those who grab a business after its been pushed out and claim it as their own. Again, it's amazing to me how Rand had the foresight to see all of this, but maybe it's not such a surprise. As the saying goes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Rand was making a strong statement against a "collectivist" society, where the good of the many outweigh the interests of the few -- even if those few will provide jobs to the many by doing what they do best.

It is the punishment of success that is seen over and over again in Rand's novel. I have always thought that those who punish success, never have had it themselves. And we see it today. Those who are unable or unwilling to produce hate those who do. Like Dagny, I say fight it. Even if it looks hopeless, at least I'll sleep peacefully knowing I did.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What I Love About Catholicism: It Names Evil #Catholic #tcot #sgp

If you really dig into the precepts of Catholicism, you will see absolutes. There is such a thing as good and evil, sin, redemption, mercy, forgiveness, and judgement. Jesus Christ, dying for the sin of mankind, hanging on a cross of wood - was the most profound and awe-full image of absolutism the world had ever witnessed. Never since and never will there be such a message of clear and defining truth.

It is this absolutism that I appreciate within Catholicism. However, there have been evil forces at work during the years I was gone. These forces have been subtle at times, and during others, overt; as they seek to destroy Truth. I am not afraid to name evil for what it is, for evil to me is whatever raises a hand against Almighty God and declares itself superior.

I experienced part of that evil within my Catholic school system. Some may say, "Come, now. Aren't you being a little overly dramatic? It may have been bad, but... evil?" Yes. Evil. When you don't teach students that there is a right and a wrong so that they lack the tools necessary to choose good; because they've been taught that to choose that good is somehow wrong -- that is evil.

I read with interest an article by Fr. James V. Schall, Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University. In "The Rise of Cross-less Catholicism," he said:

Cardinal Pell's remarks recalled an e-mail from a man I do not know. He teaches in a Catholic high school and was assigned a summer school course. He chose to offer one on C. S. Lewis and Tolkien – surely worthy topics – and sent in a prospectus to the program director. The response was that his outline included too many "negative" things, like "good vs. evil, vice and virtue, honor and shame." The students would not react well to such harsh concepts.

I was "terrified," as I told the man, that students could not face the most basic of Christian truths at a Catholic school. But it is true that what are called the "negative" elements in Christianity are seldom heard in our schools or universities anymore.

Redemption, it seems, has nothing to do with one's personal sins or deeds. The students are "upset" by core doctrines, or at least teachers think they are. "Don't upset the students" becomes censorship. No doubt ways of presenting such doctrines can be excessive, but I suspect that is a rare problem today.

Faith is thus transformed into a social movement. That is where we deal with the "negative" things: We work against bad causes to make the world "better" through judicious selection of movements that "do good." We do not need to attend to ourselves. We do not like to know that our thoughts and deeds have anything to do with something that transcends the going political correctness in the local culture.

Diversity teaches that whatever anyone does is all right. Multiculturalism teaches that if such is the way they do it in Baluchistan, it must be great everywhere. The only "sin" is that of prejudice. Prejudice means that you acknowledge a truth, but you have no problems with anything anyone does. Our moral world has just about accepted every classical vice as a virtue. We fear that we will be against something because it is "evil."

I like this: We work against bad causes to make the world "better" through judicious selection of movements that "do good." We do not need to attend to ourselves. We do not like to know that our thoughts and deeds have anything to do with something that transcends the going political correctness in the local culture. How completely correct! How often do we see people aligning themselves with one cause or another "to make the world a better place" but yet fail to see their own sin as contributing to its failings?

Engaging in promiscuous sex is seen as a "right," even though it often leads to disease and unwanted pregnancies. But that freedom is celebrated and paraded in our society as an entitlement. Meanwhile, overlook the far-reaching ramifications of such behavior, which include healthcare costs, abortion, or unwanted children who grow up to be unproductive members of society because their immature parents could not love their children and rear them in a healthy environment. Overlook how promiscuous sex can damage a woman's psyche and cause her to be depressed. Overlook how such a lifestyle caters to self-centeredness and the exploitation of others.

This is the evil that must be exposed to students. The only way for it to be exposed is for students to learn what true goodness is. There must be a comparison but I fear such teaching methods are fading, if not fallen by the wayside altogether. If you're over the age of 40, perhaps you remember this during school examinations: Compare and contrast... That exercise molded my mind well so that as I grew older, I continued to view arguments from different angles. In essence, I learned how to think. Students aren't being taught how to think, anymore. They're being taught how to submit to mob rule.

Bear with me as I seemingly go off tangent, but I'll circle back.

Not everything is "right." It's the same irritation I feel when someone wants to call "everything" art. No. Michelangelo Buonorrati's Sistine Chapel and breath-taking David is art. Some numbskull nailing a bunch of old Converse sneakers to a wall in a pretentious gallery, is not. The former is a creation of skill, artistic principle, and inspiration. The latter is a pathetic attempt to do something stupid and masquerade itself as brilliant. Few places are the playground of Emperors Without Clothes, as the art world.

When you call something as silly and mundane as a sneaker show, "art" - what does that mean for something like Michelangelo's creations? It robs those creations of their grandeur, their transformative power, the ability to amaze their viewer. I don't care what anyone else says, art, as it was intended and inspired by the Divine, the Creator Himself; was meant to elevate our souls.

It is this effort to minimize the true purpose of art that is seen within the attempt to minimize the true impact of good vs. evil in the world. Once the lies start to take hold, truth dies. The students in classrooms today are being taught that it is wrong to discern differences, to make judgements between right and wrong because after all, "what's right for me may not be right for you." Enough of this hogwash. It is time to stand up to these mealy-mouthed, brainless wimps and proclaim loudly the truth: That there is such a thing as moral absolutism and there is such a thing as evil. There is such a thing as God and He punishes evil. If they don't like it, too bad. We can't continue to allow them to destroy our children because they can't face the truth.

This truth should be taught in our Catholic schools and universities. Sadly, it looks like it is not. I remembered noticing moral relativism creeping into my own all-girls Catholic high school in the late seventies. We were taught about contraception in biology class. The teacher carefully said, "I am not teaching you whether you should use this or not. I am only teaching you that it exists." So I learned of the diaphragm, the sponge, and the Pill; all the while thinking, I wonder if this is right? Where was the religious teacher at the time, telling us why sexual relations should be contained within a sacramental marriage, and why it was important to obey and trust God?

So teachers didn't want to teach what was right. Meanwhile, as I sat at my desk, something in me snapped. Somehow I knew instinctively there was such a thing as right and wrong and I needed adults to step up to the plate and tell me. Thank God I had strong parents and a pretty wise extended-family that communicated these principles to me. I shudder to think of what would have happened to me if I had not had this firm foundation. As much pain as I've had in my life, it is miniscule to the amount I suspect I would have had without wise and loving parents. The beauty of God is that He reaches down and shows everyone the truth if they seek it. He has saved the most wretched of us from certain damnation because He loves us so much.

Meanwhile, we have to watch out for our youth. We cannot assume they are learning the truth within their schools -- whether that is a Catholic school or public school. Because if they're not learning the truth, they are simply being led into bondage.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bishop Trautman, the Liturgy, Tradition, and Rubrics #Catholic

This past Sunday while at Mass, I had another one of those "aha" moments regarding the liturgy. It has to do with children. First, my understanding of children and security:

Children need a loving home in order to grow into secure adults. A home where love and protection exists will give a child the necessary sense of security that enables him to absorb the rest of his world. If a child is worried about being fed or avoiding physical abuse, then not much is left of their reasoning skills to analyze the world. They are in constant survival mode. It isn't a surprise then when these children become teenagers -- living off the street, always in survival mode, never looking beyond themselves in order to contribute something meaningful to society.

This past Sunday, I realized this is one of the gifts of the liturgy. It gives God's children a sense of security. When we uphold tradition, we are strengthened and bonded to one another in a spirit of unity. However, the tradition must have its historical connection explained, otherwise it can become an empty shell of ritual that fails to communicate the blessings it was meant to convey.

This is what happened to me as a young woman: I saw no connection to the past with regard to tradition. The liturgy had become dry and lifeless because during my spiritual formation -- it was not consistently explained (and consistent is the operative word) how the liturgy began with Jesus and the Last Supper and then traveled all the way to me. I never received that explanation of continuity, which makes me wonder how much my life would have been different if I had. I was restless, looking for security, and since I didn't understand what the Catholic Church had, I left.

Family identity is a powerful thing. In my own family, we joke about certain traits as being a part of our identity. Why should it be any different with God's family? We also have traits, those of God's Son, Jesus Christ, which we should seek and embrace with full affection. Traits such as compassion, forgiveness, love, mercy, kindness, discipline, and a commitment toward doing what is right. Study Jesus Christ and you'll see those traits and more. We are to follow Him and the world is to recognize it and say, "They have been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)

So where do we, as God's family, learn about our identity? Where is that identity strengthened? I say the liturgy is what supports that identity, shapes it, and emphasizes it. The liturgy, as it has been passed down to us from generation to generation, gives us a sense of security as it reminds us that God is in control. He loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son for our salvation. He will love us enough to provide for everything else we will need.

The new English translation of the Roman Missal is about to be introduced to the United States Catholic parishes. There has been much debate about it, and from what I can tell, the most vociferous responses have been from those who want to continue experimenting with it. It doesn't seem to phase them that this "experimentation" led to thousands of Catholics leaving the Church because the liturgy was neutered. They also seem to defy further proof by not only ignoring the growing encroachment of sinful philosophies such as radical feminism and homosexuality, but receiving such with open arms.

In 2005, Bishop Donald Trautman gave an interview in which he reflected upon the liturgy and the reasons behind the changes. First, I had no idea the revision of the Roman Missal was in the works for that long. But what struck me was the bishop's views on liturgy. For instance (emphasis mine):

The people who are fighting to go back to Latin, for example, had a wonderful experience when Mass was in that language. They're saying they met the Lord that way, and they're trying to keep that form, not understanding that the form and language of the liturgy is never an absolute. Only God is absolute, and there are different ways we express our love and our prayer.

"Fighting to go back to Latin" seems misunderstood. Latin never was outlawed or in Catholic Church terms, abrogated. (I had to look that one up. Abrogated: to abolish by authoritative action, to treat as non-existent.)

And why can't the form and language of the liturgy be absolute? This statement doesn't sit well with me. I am a firm believer in absolutes with every fiber of my being. I admit I struggle with understanding God's mercy toward us who are sinners. But I believe with everything within me that if God is absolute, then He has given His Church absolutes to follow. There is a right way, and a wrong way. Disrespectful money-changers in the Temple found out from Jesus' righteous anger that their way was the wrong way. The sinful woman who washed and anointed Jesus' feet with her tears and perfume, found the right way.

Whenever someone starts to talk about something "never being an absolute," red flags start flying all over the place. For instance, Bishop Trautman talks about the Latin Mass as though those who love it are trying to fight some evolutionary impetus toward a more civilized understanding of the liturgy. However, from everything I've been observing and studying, almost the complete opposite seems to be true. After over 40 years, the liturgy has been abused, often remade into a worship of self. Obviously I'm no liturgist, but when you have a priest dressing up on Halloween like Barney the Dinosaur and an EMHC woman wearing devil's horns on her head, even I can recognize that something has seriously gone awry.

What happens when children have no adult supervision? Sure, they may feel delirious with their freedoms, but does this serve them well? Do they know how to act responsibly or is that freedom an exercise in self-indulgence that often leads to bad judgement?

This is what I see when I discover liturgical abuse which to me, stems from a worldly idea to "experiment" and cast doubt on any such old-fashioned idea as an "absolute." To me, a priest is indeed a spiritual father. We have a crisis of fatherhood right now in the Catholic Church. We need strong fathers who aren't afraid to lovingly discipline their children. We need men who will stand up and say, "Yes. There are such things as absolutes and our liturgy contains them, for they are the bones of our faith - these bones are what holds the Body of Christ together." We need fathers who will ensure that we get the proper nourishment in order to have strong bones, because believe me -- the world is looking to break our bones.

When I look at fathering, I cannot help but be thankful for my own father. (Hi, Dad!) He taught my brother and I absolutes. There may be a few ways to complete a task, but there are more wrong ways than right and he taught us as many "right ways" as possible. I grew up recognizing that there is a reward from seeking God's right way. Our heavenly Father protects us and provides for us. Nothing happens to us that is not for our own good. As Christians, we grow into an understanding that life is not always easy, but God uses every circumstance to draw us closer to Him and to mold us into the shape of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Because of my earthly father, and my heavenly one - I am a fairly secure woman. I have my moments where I may feel a little anxious or shaky, but for the most part -- I know God is in control. When I attend the Traditional Latin Mass, that message is sent to me strong and clear. I am worshipping God as He has been worshipped since the beginning of the Church, not necessarily because of the Latin (which wasn't spoken by Jesus or His disciples), but because the Latin has preserved for me the meaning of the liturgy. The Latin hasn't been tampered with or forced into some wacky "experiment." The Latin language is solid, like a mountain, a sure plane to stand upon, a sturdy oak tree to hold onto.

Again, Bishop Trautman shows his opinion of standards (emphasis mine):
In Roman Catholic liturgy, we have rubrics-the liturgical laws that define how a priest is to celebrate Eucharist, how a congregation is to respond. But do we want to be rubricists, legalists? No, it's the spirit of the law that we want to live.

Why is it that following the rubrics is cast in a legalistic light? Is tradition always such a burdensome yoke that we must fight to escape? Why are the rubrics not presented as beautiful treasures that help guide us to safety? There is commonly an accusatory tone toward the rubrics when progressive Catholics speak of them. It is narrow-mindedness and uncreative thought that leads to such opinions.

I hear this "spirit of the law" often named when conversation turns toward religious matters. But what about the spirit of the law? Do we really know it well enough to start going off the tracks into our own imaginations? There is a saying among artists: You first need to know the rules before you start breaking them. When we're talking about our faith, I don't believe we can break any rules and not pay for it. The moment someone says, "Well, I know what the rubrics say but I'm going to do it this way instead," is the moment a slippery slope has been introduced. Because no matter how badly we'd like to think of ourselves as being honorable and capable of doing the right thing; there is a greater chance of us doing the wrong thing because we forget the rules.

We need to be constantly reminded of the rules. If for nothing else, because our flesh is a wild thing, never relenting from seeking its own will.

And so the rules to me are the rubrics. To me, we are to live "the spirit of the law" in our daily lives. But for our Sunday obligation, the rubrics within the Mass are to instruct us, remind us, and encourage us not to forget what Jesus Christ has done for us.

For those of us who yearn for that security and the Catholic identity that binds us together, I believe this new translation will do something good. It will start the process of cleaning up the house and putting it back in order after reckless and irresponsible teenagers had an unsupervised house party. Let the renewal begin.