Church, State, And The Condition Of The Soul

It’s been a longstanding issue — how does the Catholic Church deal with politicians who are Catholic, but who actively support policies inimical to the faith? Especially now, since Joe Biden, a lifelong Catholic, is in the Oval Office? The nation’s bishops are meeting this week and the matter is coming to a head:

This week at their annual spring meeting, the bishops of the U.S. Catholic Church — the largest faith group in the country — will debate the meaning of Communion and whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be barred from receiving it. The conversation and a vote among the church’s top clerics could have significant ramifications because it centers on one of the most intimate moments of Catholic worship and binds it uniquely to a specific political and policy position.

Intimate moment isn’t quite right; rather, the Eucharist is central to the faith. And within the Church, the centrality of the Eucharist means the stakes are high. But if you’re going to rely on the Washington Post to explain the matter, you’re going to get dogma of a different sort:

The vote comes after two decades of deliberate, passionate focus by Catholic political and theological conservatives to make abortion a litmus test for the sacrament, while church teachings on poverty, climate, racism and authoritarianism, among other things, become more subjective to follow. It also comes after years of hardening toward abortion opponents within the Democratic Party.

Much of that description is doubletalk, frankly. We have 2000 years of history with the Church and arguments about politics have been part of that history from the outset, but poverty has always been an ongoing concern. The default position of Catholicism is faith and works, which is why Catholics build hospitals and schools everywhere they go. And ascribing passion as the prevailing emotion for conservatives is cute, when you consider the behavior of the pro-choice side.

I, like Joe Biden, am a lifelong Catholic. Biden is an ostentatious sinner, but so am I. Understanding my faith has been an ongoing effort for me, especially since the Vatican II teaching I received was equivocal on many issues. I am a graduate of a well-regarded Catholic high school in Wisconsin (Top 50 in the country — just ask them!), but the quality of the religious instruction I received wasn’t very good. Scarcity applies not only to economic matters, but also to clear moral instruction. And in this Archdiocese, which harbored monstrous priests for decades, even the clearest moral instruction is tainted. Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and many other Catholic politicians benefit greatly from this loss of trust. But Biden is a Catholic in a secular world. And I cannot know the condition of his soul; assuming that I do would be a sin as well.

Biden is also a symptom of a larger malady. As time has passed, Catholics in the West have been following the same dismal path that mainline Protestants have followed — the buildings remain, but the people aren’t coming. We still get decent attendance at my parish, but the faithful parishioners are aging rapidly and many young families are otherwise engaged on Sunday.

Still, hope remains. COVID has actually helped our parish school, which remained open while their public school counterparts were on a year-long Zoom call with cameras off. Parents who would not have considered enrolling their kids in a Catholic school gave Catholic education a chance and many of them are returning this year. And there is tremendous energy in the Church, mostly in places that were once missionary lands. It wasn’t a coincidence that the current Pontiff came from South America, even though his worldview is decidedly European, but there is a decent possibility that the next Pope will be from Africa or Asia. A revival is not guaranteed, but the Holy Spirit hasn’t left the building.

Emotional Day

For the last few years, I’ve secretly left candy in the grandkids’ shoes on St. Nicholas Day, a family holiday tradition which stretches back five generations (that I know of) and possibly more. This year, my daughter decided the oldest grandson could take over the role. I’m no longer needed.

I said it was fine with me so long as she gave him the lecture I received from my Mom when I took over as St. Nicholas: He must keep the secret. The little kids are entitled to the magic of Christmas as long as it lasts, same as he was. Never break the spell. Allow them to believe.

I know in my head this is a good thing, passing the torch and involving the next generation. I know the oldest grandson will do a fine job. I didn’t really want to drive all the way over there in the cold and dark anyway.

So why do I feel like crying?

Joe Doakes

I hear ya.

All Shook Up

Modern airplanes are equipped with a “stick-shaker” that vibrates the
control stick with increasing harshness as the airplane approaches a
stalled configuration.  The hope is the pilot will feel the shaking and
correct the airplane’s attitude before the stall occurs.

My work computer has a time-out safety feature.  If I don’t touch the
mouse every so often, it logs me out.  Which would make sense if I only
worked on-line, but I have lots of other stuff to do off-line as well. 
I’m forever logging back in.  I’m stalled.

I need a stick-shaker for my mouse.

Joe Doakes

It’d also be a great feature on credit cards.

Stymied

Gloomy, rainy day.  I have things I should do, but don’t want to.  I have things I want to do, but shouldn’t.  So I’m sitting here, on-line, complaining about it. 
OMG I’m becoming a Millennial.
Joe Doakes

The email’s from last week. But the sentiment – and millennial kvetching – is eternal.

Suggestions Sought?

A co-worker is leaving the office to take a new job. We’re all supposed to sign the card. I have trouble with them. I overthink the message to make sure it’s politically correct and inoffensive, yet sincere and heartfelt.
First I tried “I’m happy you’re leaving,” but maybe that should be re-written as “I’m happy you’re leaving the office to start a new career.” Maybe not.
I thought about “Good luck in your new job,” but that sounds like the implication is “you’re going to need it.”
The problem is, I’m a poor liar. I hate to say “I’m going to miss you,” when I’m not. I hate to say “you deserve it,” when you don’t.
Is there a training class for this? How to be more sincere liar? Where do the politicians get their lessons?
Joe doakes

Have at it, mind hive.

Guilty

US currency is legal tender for all debts, public and private.

80% of all currency contains trace amounts of cocaine

Possession of a trace amount of cocaine on currency in your pocket is a felony, regardless of how the cocaine got on the currency.

You are required to use our money, but you are prohibited from using our money.  Catch 22.  Look, people, that book was satire, not a guide to public policy.  Fix the law.

Joe Doakes

To much of our administrative class, “everyone is an inadvertent felon” is a feature, not a bug.

Miserably Woke

One of the reasons I’m such a yuge fan of Dennis Prager is his weekly “Happiness Hour” – in which he talks not only about the practice and moral imperative of being happy (hint:  it’s not just for you), but about the struggle to become happy.

One of his sayings, and his advice, on the subject comes close to an old Hungarian saying I’ve been fond of most of my adult life; “the best way to become wealthy is to appear as if you already are”.   Prager notes that this basic philosophy applies to so very much in life – about getting in shape, about falling or staying in love with one’s partner, and of course happiness.

There’s some science to the premise as well.  There’s a reason that disciplines from music to the military drill one endlessly on things they want to impress into the human brain – because almost nobody plays a piano scale or a guitar chord or clears a rifle jam automatically or intuitively.  But if you drill on them often enough, they become what people call “second nature”, because your brain develops space – neural pathways – for them.

Happiness works a little like that.  Not entirely – being happy isn’t quite as easy as playing a first-position “F” chord – but the idea of wiring the brain to be something isn’t all that conceptually different.

I believe you can push yourself toward happiness.  There’s some science, not to mention thousands of years of human experience, to support the premise.   It’s basic cognitive psychology.

And since one can wire one’s brain to be many good things via practice – a musician, a soldier, a happy person, whatever – it stands to reason you can do the same with unhappy, useless, miserable, depressing things.

Having raised, and working with roomful of, millennials, I’ve observed that the generation seems to collect psychological and psychiatric maladies in young adulthood the same way they used to collect Pokemon cards in childhood.  “I’ve got mild self-diagosed bipolar, which beats your dysthymia and separation anxiety!”.

Modern academia and media preach some miserable stuff to the kids; a common refrain among the young ‘uns is what a miserable world the “boomers” “left” them, with the misery being expressed in terms of climate change, the changing economy and, er, Trump.

And the few times I engage on the subject I mention that I can kind of relate – when I was a kid, the worries were nuclear war and overpopulation.  Of course, there actually were nuclear weapons all about the place, including 25 miles from my hometown, and there were still famines happening.   The nukes are mostly gone, and the obesity is a bigger problem among the poor than famine for the first time in human history.

And our presidents – Nixon and Carter – actually were corrupt and incompetent (respecively).   So compared with the world I grew up in, my kids have it pretty decent.

But I digress.

I thought about the way the world – academia, entertainment, the media – seem to be wiring the younger generation to be a bunch of dysfunctional, whiny mopes when I read this sad, pathetic story about a guy of color who dumped his perfectly good white girlfriend because, well, read the story.

Or don’t.  Maybe you’ll be happier if your brain doesn’t rewire itself just a little bit wrong with that little bit of dysfunction.

Or make yourself a little happier by considering that if this is all the younger generation has to fret about, we’ve done a good job.

Travelogue

Manny Laureano – principal trumpeter for the Minnesota Orchestra, and a longtime friend of this blog and me personally – went back to his native Puerto Rico. Nothing new there – he goes back roughly once a year.

It’s a little different this time – it’s his first visit since hurricane Maria.

Manny’s got a blog, now, and yesterday he published the first of many parts of his account of his trip home. Check the whole thing out.

Call For Mr. Hobbs

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

If IQ exists (which SJWs debate but serious researchers do not), then the Theory of Evolution through Survival of the Fittest would suggest that average IQ was higher in the past.  It must have been – only the people clever enough to survive, lived long enough to reproduce.

Nowadays, with endless help groups and support networks and government programs, people who would have starved to death in the past are now surviving and breeding, as are their children.  The inevitable result must be a general lowering of IQ.  It’s not your imagination – people really are getting dumber every year.

Imagine that a new Black Death or Spanish Flu kills off 70% of the world’s population.  Would the survivors be smart enough to rebuild?  Or would our civilization disappear, to be discovered centuries from now as stone ruins deep in some jungle where St. Paul used to be?

Joe Doakes

In a semi-related matter, I’ve had a piece in my “drafts” folder for a few months now about how The Walking Dead is the most conservative thing Hollywood has produced in a generation.

I may have to finish it.

Changing Times

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Where did Americans get the assumption that if I work in the same office with other people, they’re automatically bosom buddies entitled to know everything about my life, and entitled to regale me with humorous anecdotes about every detail of their lives?

If I wanted to know about your kid’s Cub Scout dinner last night, I would have asked.  If I wanted you to know the details of my weekend, I would have told you.

Am I a curmudgeon, or is everybody else a gasbag?  Or both?

I asked a friend who said: “Yes, you are a curmudgeon.  The other people are being sociable.  They are assuming (apparently incorrectly) that you are socially engaged with those around you.  It’s a social contract.  When trapped in an elevator or mine shaft or cube farm for 8 hours, you talk a little.  You work in a government bureaucracy, so your social contract requires even more talking, plus loafing, web surfing, coffee drinking and paper shuffling.  There are other rules the social contract.  You are not required to engage in certain topics, for example.  Although that’s where the problems tend to arise these days since under the new and improved version of the social construct you are expected to be diverse, agreeing with the Liberal mantra at every opportunity in your own unique way.  That’s something you’re no good at; hence, the curmudgeon label.  You should work from home making millions in your spare time, I see ads for those jobs every day.”

I suppose he’s right.  Only 13 years until I can retire.

Joe Doakes

I’ve become very thankful that I get to  work from home.

This Hard Land

Note to all you folks thinking of moving to North Dakota to start cashing in on the oil boom:  North Dakota is cold.  

There aren’t a lot of trees.  And outside of the eight or nine significant-sized cities (Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Devil’s Lake, Bismark/Mandan, Minot, Williston, Dickinson, and maybe Valley City), there just aren’t a whole lot of people. 

More below the jump, so the rest of the page can load…

Continue reading

I’ll Take A Moment…

…to send my best wishes and prayers to my friend and former NARN colleague Michael Brodkorb and his family.  Michael was critically injured in an accident last night.

And whatever your political point of view, I’d urge you to do the same.

Not much information is available.

UPDATE:  A demented ghoul tried to comment that I was “defending (alleged) drunk driving”.  No; for starters, it’s alleged.  Beyond that?  The time for hashing that out is after he’s recovered.

It’s been a big day for dementees on this blog.

Alas, Babylon

I thought about writing a long, acerbic piece about Roe V. Wade, the SCOTUS decision handed down forty years ago today.

About how the decision – which sniffed imaginary emanations of penumbras from between the lines of the Constitution – was an incredibly badly-written decision.  About how it was a deeply wrong-headed over-run of the Tenth Amendment.  About the two-faced notion of “rights” that it bequeathed to a couple of generations of identity feminists.

But honestly, it’s all too depressing.  If I were to write a history of the decline and fall of the United States, Roe would have a chapter of its own.

Not just because it legalized infanticide – although that is damning enough.

But because it was, and is, emblematic of the trivialization of thought, of logic and of reason that is degrading our society at every level today.

So celebrate like it’s 1999, baby-killers.

Bruce Springsteen Is America’s Greatest Conservative Songwriter, Part V: The Cross Of My Calling

Rock and roll has always been, ostensibly, about upsetting the existing order.  In the beginning, its very existence upended what passed for “order” in popular culture, at least to the extent of helping create a “youth culture” – something that’d never existed before, and really started in America.  As culture and the genre evolved through the sixties, pop music smeared itself in the “revolutionary” rhetoric of the rest fo the counterculture; in the seventies, the punk counter-counterculture (at least in the English art-school variety) flipped the hippies’ putative idealism on its head in an orgy of self-indulgent nihilism.  Post-punks – U2 would be the most famous and enduring of the bunch) in turn, flipped that on its head in an welter of often self-righteous activism.

And against that backdrop, the music of Bruce Springsteen has always been refreshingly non-revolutionary. Continue reading

Prudence

Joe Doakes from Como Park writes:

I like this analogy, from Instapundit

***

Don’t think that zero is as low as interest rates can go: money as a store of value is also threatened.

Primitive man often faced an interest rate of -%50 per hour, if he caught some meat for instance, and was trying to get it into the bellies of his family it spoiled or was snatched by competitors. Now you can store your income and wealth in financial instruments and only buy meat when you want to eat it, or keep it in the fridge or freezer for even greater convenience. We take all this for granted, but as near-zero nominal interest rates come to be paired with rising inflation–an outcome that is pretty much guaranteed under QE3–even coin and currency will no longer keep stored value from wasting away. We are heading into difficulties that should be a thing of the past, and its not just bedbugs and resistant disease. Government is squandering EVERYTHING.

***

So we need to invest in stuff that won’t spoil, that people will be willing to trade for after the economy collapses. Honestly, gold bullion doesn’t strike me as useful for everyday living. More useful, durable stuff would be:

Whiskey

Bullets

Toilet paper

I’m pretty much good to go.

Joe Doakes

Como Park

Americans at large – other than Mormons – have never really taken the possibility of complete collapse seriously.

It’s looking smarter and smarter.

I bet I just got onto a DHS watchlist, didn’t I?

The Baby Bust

P.J. O’Rourke – the greatest writer of my generation, even though he’s a generation older than me – writes on the dolorous effect of the Baby Boomers on not just American society, but the idea of America.

O’Rourke laments the death of far-sweeping goals – going to the moon, building the biggest dam or the tallest building, being the biggest and the baddest:

But if America is still rich and strong, why should it matter that we’re no longer interested in doing anything spectacular? Maybe critics of an America whose grasp exceeds its reach are victims of atavistic machismo. Maybe we have Freudian issues. Professional help might be in order. No Americans are scheduled to go to Mars, but plenty are scheduled to go to therapy. Perhaps the realities of 2012 demand a change in attitude.

Except the change has already happened, the result of our shift from an exterior to an interior existence. America once valued the high-skilled. Now we value the high-minded. We used to admire bold ideas. Now we admire benign idealism. This doesn’t make us good, it makes us wrong. The bold can be achieved. Of the ideal, there is none in this life.

And why does it matter?

America’s retreat from visible, tangible manifestations of superiority doesn’t hurt just our pride, our economy, and our place in the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s also a bad advertising campaign. America has one great product to sell, individual liberty. It’s attractive, useful, healthy, and the fate of the world depends upon it.

We are the most important and maybe the only country that fully embodies the sanctity, dignity, independence, and responsibility of each and every person. “American” is not a nationality, an ethnicity, or a culture; it’s a fact of human freedom. Our country was not created and is not governed by a ruling class or even by majority rule. America is individuals exercising their right to do what they think is best with due respect (to the extent human nature allows) for the right of all other Americans to do likewise. This is not an ideology or a system. This is a blessing.

You should read the whole  thing.  And vote accordingly.

All Of Life, From Zero To Eleven

Let’s imagine, if you will, a big knob or dial with a scale from 0 to 11.

This dial measures…

…well, anything, really.  For purposes of this article, let’s measure “Liberty” – the prevalence of and respect for the rights to think, speak, act, work and prosper freely.

Let’s say the numbers on the dial mean something like this:

0 – You’re in a North Korean concentration camp.

1 – You are in North Korea, but not in a concentration camp.

2 – You are in Cuba – unfree, and most likely dirt poor.   Your only “opportunity” is found in a bottle of some kind.  You are fed, more or less, and cared for, sorta.  Like a farm animal, really.

3 – You are in Red China – unfree, and a little less likely to be dirt poor.  Like an animal on a farm where the back forty is “free range”, if Farmer Brown Hu lets you live back there.

4 –  You are in Greece – Rioting and living on the dole? You’re “Free”.  Starting a business or excelling on your merits, absent lots of graft and what the Mexicans call mordida (maybe the Greeks call it “Mordidos?”  I dunno), and faced with paying taxes to pay for the problems caused by the earlier excessive taxes?  Not so free.  You are fed well enough, and cared for (or should be, if the government can figure out how to balance its budget) – like a house pet with a badly-organized owner who’s going to have to file for bankruptcy if he doesn’t square his act away, and who seems unlikely to do anything of the sort after the weekend’s household elections.

5 – You’re in the Netherlands or France.  You are “Free” from most wants, and have lots of “Free” time – but taxes and regulations make entrepreneurship exceptionally difficult, although it’s a more orderly form of difficulty than in Greece.    Food and care from the government are plentiful (provided that taxes and borrowing are in turn also plentiful, which is a big “provided” these days); you are like a pet in a well-organized and happy home, albeit one that has to keep renegotiating its credit cards.

6 – You are in a highly regulated United States or the UK – think “the worst of the seventies, on turbo”, run amok.  Entrepreneurship is marginally more free than in socialist Europe, and the social “safety net” is almost as smothering and the taxes almost as debilitating.

7 – You are in what Newt Gingrich might call Mitt Romney’s America – with lower taxes, but still more regulation that the United Freaking States of America, the land of people who risked all to come to the new world to risk all, could do without, and still too many taxes.  A place that is essentially a welfare state with some doors of opportunity left open for the lucky and incredibly motivated (or connected) few.

8 – You are in an America that Ronald Reagan worked toward – where we have the government we actually need, but not too much, and where feeding government comes in second to feeding and educating your family and financing your dream of success – a place where the rising tide lifts all boats, and where we don’t level out the peaks to fill in the valleys, but where we (as Churchill said) spread a net over the abyss.

9 – You’re in the America that Ron Paul’s party line says he works toward; where government is stripped down to the bare minimum, and people have the responsibility – and opportunity – to fend for themselves.

10 – The pure Big-L Libertarian Ideal.   Government guards the borders, enforces laws regarding order and property rights, and adjudicates contracts.  That’s it.  You are free to succeeed or fail precisely according to your merits and work.  And if you fail?  Social policy, especially the whole “Safety Net” thing, is in the realm of society – the individual and their own organic institutions (the church, Packers Nation, trade unions, the Elks, the NRA, the Oprah Book Club or whatever).

11 – One more than ten.

Where do you want to live?

That’s one way of looking at life, anyway.

———-

I was listening to Jason Lewis the other night – something I don’t get to do nearly enough.  And he looks at political life a little differently; “You’re either for freedom, or against it”.  Instead of a dial from 0 to 11, you have a light switch, or an LED; it’s on, or it’s off.

How accurate in measuring anything in life is a lightswitch?

Is your marriage either wonderful, fulfilling and perfect or utterly miserable, abusive and dysfunctional?

Is your job either your dream come to fruition or something that makes you want to stick a gun in your mouth every morning?

Are your children either endless joys that make you thankful to wake up every day or little deviants on whom you can’t find enough dimes to drop?

If your marriage, job and kids aren’t perfect, do you instantly file for divorce, quit, and look up a pack of travelling gypsies?

Of course not.  So – is all of American political life really a choice between either “North Korean Concentration Camp Inmate” or “One More Than Ten?”

Of course not.

You put up with your spouse’s imperfections and insanities (or, in about half of marriages, you don’t).  You tough out a job you may not like until something better comes up (or doesn’t).  You try to focus on and bring out the best in your children, and get them to the point where you can say “I did the best I could”, and others answer “We can tell”, and you both keep a straight face.

Everything in life has a “dial” that goes from zero to 11 – your marriage, your job, your kids…

…and political life isn’t any different.

There are two political battles going on today, if you are a conservative and a Republican.

The big one is against Barack Obama.  Obama’s America is at or below a “Six” right now, and – measured by executive branch action – heading south.  He’s putatively targeting a “five” – but his deficit spending, as any sane conservative knows, pretty much inevitably leads to “four”.  Which, then, can just as easily lead to overreaction on the part of government and those who’ve come to depend on it – the Democrat constituency – that leads to points south of four; see “The Weimar Republic”.

So if you’re sitting at a 5.5, and your options are “Five and dropping” or “Seven (at worst) with the potential to move up, if you keep engaged and don’t let up the pressure?”, what would you take?

Which leads us to the other – and first – battle we face; between those who answer that question “If I can’t get at least a nine, then I don’t care and I’m going to stay home”.

Now, during the caucus and endorsement process, I’m all for accepting no substitutes – for pulling like hell for whomever your ideal candidate is, and eschewing compromise like the plague.

But once the endorsement process is over, there’s another time for choosing.  And if you’re a conservative Republican, at any level, your choice is, ineluctibly, this:

You held out for your ideal.  Now it’s time to choose; the US is at a 6, maybe a 5.5, today. Another term of Obama and we’ll be a weak 5, maybe headed south.  The only realistic choice right now is – at worst – to increment the counter to a 6+.  Maybe a 7, maybe shooting for an 8 if we get a good Congress.  You will not get your 9 or 10 in this election – and if the needle slips further, and more Americans slide into dependence and choose that comfortable, entitled “Five” on the big dial of political life, it’ll become much, much harder to budge things upward again.

Do you let the dial slide?  Or do you push the dial up?

There is no other option.

What do you say?

Some Good News

Jack Jablonski – the kid injured and potentially paralyzed after a hockey accident – is apparently moving his arms, which is a good sign:

Eight days after a check sent the Benilde-St Margaret’s hockey player into the boards breaking his spinal cord and paralyzing him, Jablonski moved his arms.

In an interview with several media members prior to Benilde-St Margaret’s hockey game Saturday night, Jack’s mother Leslie delivered the encouraging news.

Leslie Jablonski says Jack moved was able to flex his left arm at the elbow, something doctors intiially said he would not be able to do.  He also was able to move his right arm away from his body.

I promised someone I’d mention the case on the show over the weekend, and I may have booted it (sorry… :P) but hopefully this helps too…

By the way, the link to learn more about the case is right here.

A Day-Brightener

Every so often, I need something that reaffirms my faith that not everyone is trash.

I mean besides the NY09 election results, of course. That was good too.

No, I’m actually referring to this video, which you’ve no doubt seen: A group of bystanders rescue a motorcyclist who’d slid under (ow, ow, ow ow ow) the BMW during an accident.

OK. Back to the regular news.