Feeling at Home

I used this quote over at Patheos but given the excitements round hyeh the last week or so, a reminder about being strangers and aliens from a Roman Catholic intellectual invoking Augustine might be useful. I will include as well Peter Lawler’s comments about the Confederate Flag for good measure:

I really was quite moved when, driving through the heavily gay midtown section of Atlanta last Sunday, I saw so many homes and businesses flying the rainbow flag with the American flag. It’s not a a small thing that so many gays now feel fully at home in their country, where they’re free to live openly as who they are. But I wish more people were moved by Catholic writers calling for the American flag to be removed from the sanctuaries of their churches. Some argue that it never should have been there in the first place, and a Christian should always think of himself, as Saint Augustine says, as an alien or a pilgrim in his country. Still, many Christians have written in the last few days they have come to think of themselves, for the first time, as aliens in their country, and they know they will soon be marginalized if they live loudly and proudly (and charitably) as who they are.

Notice that I’ve managed to avoid waxing judgmental about the Confederate battle flag, although Apple moved to banish Civil War games that show that flag in the context of Confederate soldiers actually going into battle. Well, let me add one point: The main flag fact about the South today, especially the small-town South, is not the Stars and Bars; it’s the Stars and Stripes seen everywhere in places public and private, commercial and residential. The Confederate flag, it goes without saying, is hardly at all and shouldn’t be at all a sign of some present-tense form of allegiance. That doesn’t mean Americans should be deprived of historical literacy just because one flag lost and even deserved to lose. And it shouldn’t be a thought crime to believe that Lee and Jackson were really great generals and even good (although certainly misguided) men.

Now all we need is for President Obama to apologize for flying the gay pride flag.

No, wait. I forgive him. Who says Old Life is angry?

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25 thoughts on “Feeling at Home

  1. DG,

    Aside from the obvious, a key clue to the problem with Peter Lawler is:

    “the pro-American Catholic scholar Peter Lawler was quick to call out Deneen as “repulsively lacking in gratitude” toward an America which has treated Catholics so well.”

    As long as the influential ones (politicians; intellectuals like Lawler) betrayed the on the moral, political and economic teachings of the Church, of course.

    I didn’t know Lawler or Deneen, btw, but I think Deneen says some useful things in the article Lawler was reacting against. Deneen’s thoughts seem to be basically: forget “Liberal Catholic” v. “Conservative Catholic” – the action is ‘Americanist Catholic’ (often neocons) v. ‘Radical Catholic’ (which might also be called, well, “Catholic”).

    It may be of interest that he mentions Hillsdale (as a center of Progressivism) and “the Benedict Option” (both things I learnt of from this blog, fwiw).

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/2014/02/06/a-catholic-showdown-worth-watching/

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  2. Kevin, if you really don’t want an Americanist church, you’ll need to turn back the clock before Vatican 2. Not even JPII or Benedict 16 tried that.

    And if Deneen really wants a society where Edgardo Mortaras are possible, he needs to step up and say so. And there goes Notre Dame graduate programs.

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  3. DG-

    Clocks don’t run backward, and neither society nor the Catholic Church need look like the 1940s or any supposed golden age. But I do believe right principles are better adhered to at some places and times than others, and they are worth learning from.

    Benedict and JPII did good and bad like all men. The good is a guide, the bad a warning.

    I had never heard of Deneen, and have little to no knowledge of theose he names (save John Medaille, whom I esteem, and who recommends challenging and almost realistic economic solutions a libertarian might find of interest). If you have a suggestion for Deneen , find his email address.

    Notre Dame is a sick institution in great need of reform. But is your implication higher ed would suffer if the disciplines assumed a backing in Catholic metaphysics and theology? You’d have to argue that.

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  4. Who says Old Life is angry?

    Nobody I know. Anger implies passion. Crabbiness is about as high as they can rise above their customary torpor and even that takes more effort than it’s probably worth. Pissiness is the default setting.

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  5. Tom, are you familiar with Charles Coulombe? He’s in LA (as I believe someone mentioned you are). Writer and speaker, lived in “Ed Wood’s” house, member of the Royal Stuart Society, loves the Latin Mass. Hours of videos on Youtube. Simultaneously quite serious and entertaining.

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  6. Kevin, “Catholic metaphysics”? What happened to Plato and Aristotle? Now Rome claims to have hung the ontological moon?

    Notre Dame pre-Vatican 2 was not what it is today and the liberalism of post-V2 RC’sm is at least a reflection if not the basis for the change. How do you have so many non-RC’s teaching at an RC institution with an RC mission?

    But my main point is that you don’t have endowed chairs for folks like Deneen unless you have a capitalist society, the kind that Pope Francis condemns.

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  7. Hard not to notice that a guy who looks a bit like David Byrne headlined his Patheos piece with a Talking Heads line. Well done.

    And, Tom — who are you? Bubbles McHappyface? How about Bitter in Beverly Hills?

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  8. DG –

    “Catholic metaphysics” – En arche en ho logos – the neoplatonism of the Fathers – Pseudo Dionysius the Areopagite’s chain of being – Aristotelian scholasticism – the ongoing incorporation of ‘secular/modern’ philosophy. A coherent body of concepts and concerns, continuously sponsored and promoted by the Church, so why not “Catholic” -?

    As a result of a loss of in this grounding (i.e., the development of divergent metaphysical systems), a number of academic disciplines have gone off the rails:

    -biology (evolutionary biology is mathematically improbable and philosophically problematic, even if there is no similarly elaborate competing theory),
    -physics (string theory – all matter is 11-dimensional vibrating strings?),
    -psychology (complete misunderstanding of the ultimate purpose of a human being and therefore what he needs in this world),
    -literary studies (the worst hit),
    -economics (i.e., formerly political economy – considerations of justice have been divorced from description of exchange and much economic policy advocacy).

    Wish I had more time to read, but it seems to me history is probably the most reliable discipline these days amongst the secular. But on the whole I think things are a bit better than the 1970s-1990s – sometimes pluralism/diversity does make space for correct positions by neutralizing false consensuses (can I get away with “consensi”?). But you’re in academia, not me.

    Notre Dame pre-Vatican 2 was not what it is today and the liberalism of post-V2 RC’sm is at least a reflection if not the basis for the change.

    Agreed. Are you setting up for another point, just checking my perspective, just habitually professorial (nothing wrong with that)?

    How do you have so many non-RC’s teaching at an RC institution with an RC mission?

    Easy. Sacrifice the mission. Be sure to keep the money coming in by talking about Catholic identity with the alumni and parents. Control opposition – dismiss (or fail to renew) professors who make too much noise about the problems; form alumni/parent advisory groups which are ostensibly to address problems, and keep them to a defined and ineffectual space.

    N.D. is under a half-lay board of directors (part of Hesburgh’s corruption of the institution), by the way – not sure it qualifies as Catholic in any significant sense.

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  9. cw l, I am not going gray. (don’t even think I’m referencing Fifty Shades of Gray, which I haven’t seen, don’t plan to see, and bringing up doesn’t mean anything)

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  10. kevin, at least you haven’t drunk the koolaid about the hermeneutic of continuity. Even so, you write: “A coherent body of concepts and concerns, continuously sponsored and promoted by the Church, so why not “Catholic” -?

    Why not? Vatican 2, which cut off the tradition of scholasticism in favor or resourcement (and oh by the way, incoherence). Just so you know, Protestants used scholasticism for a long time also. We just never had a pope — duh — who underwrote an academic procedure/metaphysic.

    Since you seem capable of acknowledging the problems within Roman Catholic institutions, why do you think a Protestant should convert? It would be one thing if this were the church of Leo 13 or Pius 10. But since it’s not, why bother?

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  11. “Retain” my nether regions. He’s surely got a bottle of dye in his bathroom. Being a public figure and all.

    Me, I’m going to yield to the gray and eventually let it do what it wants, ending up somewhere between Roger Daltrey and Albert Einstein.

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  12. DG –

    You take a sociological approach to the Catholic Church – which is quite interesting, and perhaps essential for identifying and resolving problems – and give it primacy over the Church’s own definition of itself.

    Quick thoughts (not looking anything up):

    I’m not thrilled with the phrase “hermeneutic of continuity”; I take the Church’s Magisterial teachings (basically equivalent to “Catholic principles”) to be adhered to – or not – to varying extents at different times. Bishops & Popes can depart from them, but in so doing they are not carrying out the functions of their office.

    Call this “convenient” or involving “post-hoc justifications”, but this is how the Church understands itself (again, as this non-theologian layman sees it); perhaps it is the only way Jesus could reconcile the inconsistency of human nature (c.f. Original Sin) with a reliable Church. (FYI, I can’t forestall in this one comment every criticism you’re capable of raising).

    There is no complete list of Magisterial teachings because there can’t be. The Catechisms (CCC, Pius X, Balt Cat, Trent) lay out the faith well (some more appropriate to certain contexts than others). But there is more to be said, and always will be (baby steps). That is the nature of man’s continuous (or intermittent) pondering of the Logos – in itself, with relation to creation (including man), and in human history. You may be able to find things that could be stated better, but the Magisterial teachings don’t contain contradictions.

    Catholics who depart from Catholic principles are asking for trouble, and find it.

    Non-Catholics applying scholastic methods and possessed of faith in Christ will arrive at truths; they may also make mistakes, just as Catholics may make mistakes. If I thought the advice would be heeded, I’d suggest patience be their watchword – that they be ready to reconsider any assumptions which seem to them to conflict with Church teachings (as they would consider anything else they read which surprised or puzzled them – in history or sociology, for example).

    Usually those assumptions contain some truths and some errors (they are, after all, propositions involving collections of concepts). Once clarified, this thinker may arrive at relatively new insights. He’ll be developing a more coherent worldview, and will be able to share the fruits of his labors with others (if he so chooses).

    Perhaps that is part of what motivates some serious, intelligent, non-Catholics to come to the Catholic Church. It ain’t today’s typical liturgy or thriving parish life (except in a significant number of pockets – often, but not always, associated with the Latin Mass).

    why do you think a Protestant should convert?
    For something ridiculed and attacked on this blog:

    Participation in the sanctifying life of the Sacraments, resulting in substantial growth in supernatural virtue which is really pleasing to God. Confession & absolution – the truly flesh-and-blood Eucharist – communion with the saints.

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  13. Kevin, thanks.

    Protestants have sacraments too. We also have discipline — something Rome abandoned. Amazing how discipline and oversight can help with sanctification.

    We also have communion with saints — every Sunday I gather with saints and we communion with living and dead ones. Don’t need a papal commission to determine them.

    When you say, “I’m not thrilled with the phrase “hermeneutic of continuity”; I take the Church’s Magisterial teachings (basically equivalent to “Catholic principles”) to be adhered to – or not – to varying extents at different times. Bishops & Popes can depart from them, but in so doing they are not carrying out the functions of their office”

    you seem to put teaching above office. But the teaching depends on office. It’s not magisterial unless the bishops teach it. And that leads to the situation you have with Vatican 2. The bishops can decide things that undermine if not contradict magisterial teaching. But it’s the bishops who did. So pay, pray, and obey (and don’t pay too much attention to the sensum fidei.)

    I do appreciate the answer even if I find it unsatisfying.

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  14. Speaking of communing with dead saints, what better way to do so than to sing psalms to simple tunes? When doing so you may be singing words and tunes in common with English speakers of the last 400 years or so, and tunes in common with all types of believers back at least 500 years. And, if you take certain musicologists to be correct, much further back if in fact the Genevan tunes were based on Gregorian chant tunes (in some cases) which may have been based on Jewish tunes. And of course the psalms go back to…wait for it…the psalmists — REAL LIFE JEWS. Or you can just sing Hillsong, Gettys, Indelible Grace, Maranatha…whatever.

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  15. “CW:Or you can just sing Hillsong, Gettys, Indelible Grace, Maranatha…whatever.”

    aww CW, something against new songs along with the old Rev5:9

    “Kevin: I’d suggest patience be their watchword –”

    in part, bottom line that is what we are told… “do you want us to go and gather the tares up? No for while you are gathering up the tares you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; Matt 13: 28-30

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  16. Poor effort, O diminutive mono vowel. The song they sung was inspired, no? And who was playing the skins and the guitar? Not mentioned? Oh.

    Simple contrarianism or unfounded defense of a precious preference — still those are normal faults. And I wasn’t sure you were a normal human.

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  17. CW And I wasn’t sure you were a normal human.

    aww cw. just for you https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXhZOgKht_o&feature=related

    hope you can handle it, mon ami

    He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a NEW SONG in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD. How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. Psalm 40: 2-3

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  18. So right, the new song was recorded in Psalm 40, which we can sing with the OT and NT saints. Or we do praise jingles.

    And I prefer my secular love songs with lute and misery.

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  19. CW –

    Speaking of communing with dead saints, what better way to do so than to sing psalms to simple tunes? […] you may be singing words and tunes in common with English speakers of the last 400 years or so, and tunes in common with all types of believers back at least 500 years. And, if you take certain musicologists to be correct, much further back if in fact the Genevan tunes were based on Gregorian chant tunes

    I agree on the value of singing psalms in continuity with cultural tradition – and very much enjoyed the Covenanter psalm singing CT recommended. While it’s praiseworthy to want people to understand the texts, I don’t think we should simplify or modernize them – I prefer to stick to the words used throughout history, and simply teach people how to come to understand them. Lots of benefits here.

    As for Gregorian chant, don’t forget the chant tunes are still a part of a living tradition (there are plenty of chant scholas around)- no reason we can’t use both traditions!

    The text of the psalms used in chant is, by the way, the “Old Latin” translation – 1800 or so years old. I find the continuous use of the same text throughout the entire history of Western society to be a deeply meaningful tie. It’s relatively easy to understand if you spend some time with it (helps to know Spanish, etc.) and already know the English translation.

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  20. a full stop –

    Love the scripture quotes (I read them), but sometimes I am playing a guessing game to figure out why you’ve selected a particular quote. Would be great if you would expand on your thoughts.

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  21. DG-

    I appreciate hearing your thoughts clearly stated on issues which are intrinsically contentious.

    Protestants have sacraments too.

    By my count, you have:

    1. Baptism (although perhaps with a slightly different theology; and you don’t recognize the priesthood of all believers with regard to it);

    2. Marriage (although you may deny that it is a sacrament, and in truth it is between the couple uniting and God, so independent of your theology, worship, and discipline).

    3. In the unlikely event you have any former priests as ministers who retain the Catholic Church’s intention with regard to the Eucharist, you might potentially have that as well. Your affirmative understanding of the Eucharist seems to me fine or mostly so; but you need a priesthood – nothing intellectual replaces that. I understand your theology is strongly opposed to Catholic theology on the issue.

    We also have discipline — something Rome abandoned. Amazing how discipline and oversight can help with sanctification.
    Do you know the old Italian saying ‘Peter sleeps’ -? Sometimes the pope isn’t doing everything he ought to. It happens periodically. It’s a problem.

    We also have communion with saints — every Sunday I gather with saints and we communion with living and dead ones. Don’t need a papal commission to determine them.
    How do you determine sanctity, and what level of assurance do you reach? The papal commission is to ensure we attain a reasonable level of assurance at the individual’s sanctity.

    How certain are you that you are in communion with Francis de Sales, Catherine Emmerich, Newman, John Chrysostom, St. Dominic, Bishop Neumann of Philly, Mother Cabrini (who was quite active in my own parish in Newark)? Without some sort of organized investigative process and a traditional consensus of who meets the criteria selected, how can you know?

    you seem to put teaching above office. But the teaching depends on office.
    Teaching is a responsibility of office, as is leading (discipline) and sanctifying (mostly through ordaining priests). All are essential, but if I had to prioritize one, it would be sanctifying – which facilitates teaching and discipline.

    It’s not magisterial unless the bishops teach it. And that leads to the situation you have with Vatican 2. The bishops can decide things that undermine if not contradict magisterial teaching. But it’s the bishops who did.
    Being magisterial does require it having been taught (trivially true if “magisterial” refers to the body of defined teachings), but Bishops can teach things which are not magisterial (c.f., Arian heresy). The issues here are thorny, and given I have to replace bathroom tiles and deal with friction amongst groups of tenants, I prefer to let the successors of Bellarmine, Suarez, and Cajetan figure it out.

    I don’t immediately grant your conclusion on V2 (which requires a criticism both nuanced and emphatic; Michael Davies is great on this, give him an hour of your time via Youtube, and if interested check out Keepthefaith.org and above all his books).

    So pay, pray, and obey (and don’t pay too much attention to the sensum fidei.)
    There are elements of truth here. But you are leaving out “participate in the liturgy and be sanctified” – which goes beyond prayer. I’ll try to think of a catchy phrase for you.

    I do appreciate the answer even if I find it unsatisfying.
    I don’t expect to be able to satisfy, but thank you likewise.

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  22. Kevin, “How certain are you that you are in communion with Francis de Sales, Catherine Emmerich, Newman, John Chrysostom, St. Dominic, Bishop Neumann of Philly, Mother Cabrini (who was quite active in my own parish in Newark)?”

    Not certain at all. Nor am I sure I care (no offense) to be in communion with those selected by the Vatican. My parents are saints but your not in communion with them by your church’s standards.

    I know about Davies. Rare is the Prot-turned-Roman Catholic who does. That’s a little more Roman Catholic than anyone bargained for.

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