I’ll See Your 2 Popes and Raise You 5 Presidents

That would be, after the next inauguration, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all improving the world during the reign of Hilary or Donald. I wonder if Michael Sean Winters had President Obama in mind when he wrote:

All politicians should write their memoirs. After that, they should retire from the public stage beyond the occasional speech and whatever work the management of a presidential library entails. It is unhealthy for a democracy if new slots on the stage are not opened with regularity. Stroking the egos of former presidents is redundant. And, creating these personalized, secular and necessarily politicized charities will, beyond doubt, harm the brand of charity over time.

When professional athletes retire, they have a long life ahead of them. But they have precedents. Color commentators. Coaches. Automobile dealerships. Not so with presidents. Where do you go after being the most powerful man in the free world? Even presiding over Harvard seems like slumming.

Winters thinks the Clintons’ problem is moral earnestness:

The real problem here is not so much the foundation itself as the tone deafness of the Clintons to the suspicions of their motives. I have noted before that there is something creepy about the ethics of the Clintons, something commonly found among the do-gooders of the world. It goes like this: I am a good person, and X is not a good thing to do, yet I did it, therefore X must not be such a bad thing after all. It is true that they no doubt mix up their prideful motives with their altruistic ones. Find me the politician who doesn’t? But they take it to a level that is noxious.

I think it has more to do with their former lack of wealth. Hilary had to find a law job after Bill lost the Arkansas governor in 1980. They were supposedly in serious debt. How do you rub shoulders with the rich and famous (and Yale Law alums) if you aren’t rich? Well, you speculate in real estate, you take really really big speaking fees. Once out of the White House, you form a charity like the Gates. That shows you are philanthropic and rich. But it doesn’t play well with the hillbilly/hound dog in Bill, just as Huma’s break with Anthony Weiner doesn’t make Hilary look all that virtuous for standing by her man.

What’s In Your Hymnal?

I am generally sheepish about singing Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts since both hymn writers knocked the Psalter off its congregational song pedestal and the former, Wesley, is a — well — Wesleyan. But on Sunday, when we sang, “Arise, My Soul, Arise,” the cold heart in this vinegary Calvinist warmed:

Arise, my soul, arise,
shake off your guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice,
in my behalf appears;
Before the throne my Surety stands,
Before the throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

Chorus: Arise (arise), arise (arise), arise
Arise, my soul, arise.
Arise (arise), arise (arise), arise
Arise, my soul, arise.
Shake off your guilty fears and rise

He ever lives above,
for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love,
His precious blood, to plead;
His blood atoned for every race,
His blood atoned for every race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears;
received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers;
they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

My God is reconciled;
His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child;
I can no longer fear
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

After attending a marriage service at a Roman Catholic parish this winter, I was surprised to learn that Christians in fellowship with the Bishop of Rome have Wesley and Watts available to them. But I can’t imagine any Roman Catholic who thinks he or she will wind up in purgatory singing “Arise, My Soul, Arise.” I know for some of the readers here, the sense of guilt and fear of condemnation that gripped Luther is not the sort of angst that full confidence in the magisterium, or papal supremacy, or 2,000 years of uncontested (really?) history yields. At the same time, sentiments like Wesley’s were the target for Trent’s condemnations of Protestant teaching on assurance.

So for those Christians who put so much confidence in the papacy, what kind of hymns would they sing? How about the Pontifical Anthem?

O happy Rome – O happy noble Rome
O happy Rome – O happy Rome, noble Rome
You are the seat of Peter, who shed his blood in Rome,
Peter, to whom the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given.
Pontiff, You are the successor of Peter;
Pontiff, You are the teacher, you confirm your brethren;
Pontiff, You who are the Servant of the servants of God,
and fisher of men, are the shepherd of the flock,
linking heaven and earth.
Pontiff, You are the vicar of Christ on earth,
a rock amidst the waves, You are a beacon in the darkness;
You are the defender of peace, You are the guardian of unity,
watchful defender of liberty; in You is the authority.

Pontiff, you are the unshakable rock, and on this rock
was built the Church of God.
Pontiff, You are the vicar of Christ on earth,
a rock amidst the waves, You are a beacon in the darkness;
You are the defender of peace, You are the guardian of unity,
watchful defender of liberty; in You is the authority.
O happy Rome – O noble Rome.

Or, how about “Long Live the Pope His Praises Sound“:

1. Long live the Pope! His praises sound
Again and yet again:
His rule is over space and time;
His throne the hearts of men:
All hail! the Shepherd King of Rome,
The theme of loving song:
Let all the earth his glory sing,
And heav’n the strain prolong.
Let all the earth his glory sing,
And heav’n the strain prolong.

2. Beleaguered by the foes of earth,
Beset by hosts of hell,
He guards the loyal flock of Christ,
A watchful sentinel:
And yet, amid the din and strife,
The clash of mace and sword,
He bears alone the shepherd staff,
This champion of the Lord.
He bears alone the shepherd staff,
This champion of the Lord.

3. His signet is the Fisherman’s;
No sceptre does he bear;
In meek and lowly majesty
He rules from Peter’s Chair:
And yet from every tribe and tongue,
From every clime and zone,
Three hundred million voices sing,
The glory of his throne.
Three hundred million voices sing,
The glory of his throne.

4. Then raise the chant, with heart and voice,
In church and school and home:
“Long live the Shepherd of the Flock!
Long live the Pope of Rome!”
Almighty Father, bless his work,
Protect him in his ways,
Receive his prayers, fulfill his hopes,
And grant him “length of days.”
Receive his prayers, fulfill his hopes,
And grant him “length of days.”

I’ll stick with the Wesleyan.

The Real Peril of Discovery

National (Roman) Catholic Reporter has two stories about the Doctrine of Discovery that raise intriguing questions for those who put their hopes in papal supremacy, authority, antiquity, and infallibility.

First, the Doctrine (which is not what attorneys do):

The first bull of consequence was issued in 1436 and titled Romanus Pontifex, he said. It concerned “the concession of the right of domination over the Guanches people” and the Canary Islands, which was taken over by the crown of Castile, a medieval state in the Iberian Peninsula.

The bull marked the first time the papacy “made it look as though no one was living there,” or had any ownership over the land being pursued by European powers, “because there were no Christians there,” Newcomb said.

That “pattern of thought” then began marching through history.

In 1452, the papal bull Dum Diversas instructed the Portuguese crown “to invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ, to put them into perpetual slavery, and to take away all their possessions and property.”

In 1454, another bull titled Romanus Pontifex furthered that thinking, sanctifying the seizure of non-Christian lands in parts of Africa and restating the legitimacy of enslaving non-Christian people.

In 1493, after Christopher Columbus’ fateful voyage, Inter Caetera granted Ferdinand and Isabella “full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind,” over almost all of the Americas, save for a portion of modern-day Brazil and a few island outposts.

Notice again that the social teaching of the church was going on a long time before Leo XIII, but it’s not always so congenial to modern sensibilities, so Roman Catholic social thought winds up being predominantly a 20th-century concern.

Second, what the progressive Roman Catholics want the papacy to do:

The letter called on the pope to “formally and publicly repudiate and rescind the Dum Diversas Bull of 1452, and other related bulls, which grant the Pope’s blessing ‘to capture, vanquish, and subdue the Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ and put them into perpetual slavery and to take all their possession and their property.’ We also call upon the Pope to repudiate and rescind the Inter Caetera Bull of 1493 that granted authority to Spain and Portugal to ‘take all lands and possessions’ so long as no other Christian ruler had previously claimed them. These bulls instilled the Doctrine of Discovery, the papal sanctioning of Christian enslavement and power over non-Christians.”

The letter stated the papacy had done some positive work regarding the rights of indigenous peoples — such as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s supporting the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Pope John Paul II’s asking of forgiveness for the misdeeds “of the sons and daughter of the church” — but not nearly enough.

(Recently, Pope Francis asked forgiveness in South America “not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”)

The Loretto letter included a message from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Religious Friends (Quakers), which stated:

“You [as Pope] have the power and responsibility to do more, by issuing a new papal bull that formally, directly, unequivocally rescinds and revokes the Doctrine of Discovery and the horrible, cruel, un-Christian language in those bulls that denigrates entire peoples with no justification.”

Comeaux said the Loretto letter was sent to the Vatican and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. She said the Loretto community received no response from the Vatican. U.S. bishops’ conference president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz sent a note with a “polite thank you for including me,” she said.

The sisters have contacted Kurtz, who heads the Louisville, Ky., archdiocese, and “he’s expressed interest in getting more information,” she said, “and we’re preparing [that] for him.”

The important question is why a pope should be believed in apology when we haven’t believed the truth of an earlier utterance. If the encyclicals supporting the Doctrine of Discovery were wrong, why isn’t the papal statement that says the Doctrine of Discovery was wrong and asks for forgiveness also erroneous? How do you know when the pope is right? When he conforms to modern notions of fairness and equality? But what if in 500 years, in some sort of Mad Max world, when the current civilization has collapsed and another phase of globalization is starting, with certain people discovering people previously unknown, and the former interact with the latter the way that Europeans treated natives in America, it makes sense to colonize and enslave? If those explorers and exploiters discover papal apologies for the Doctrine of Discovery and judge those apologies to be out of synch with the times, might a pope apologize for the apologies?

One last thought, do the progressive Roman Catholics always think that what comes latest (what is up-to-date) is the best guide to truth? In other words, since we moderns find Christopher Columbus barbaric (even though in Columbus’ day he was considered civilized), is whatever is most recent the way things are supposed to be? That’s an odd view for people who are looking for a papal apology since the papacy is (apparently) an ancient institution. If you really want Roman Catholicism to be up to date, don’t you get rid of the papacy altogether? Who actually believes in ecclesiastical monarchs (except perhaps the gospel allies in their most celebrated status)?

Somewhere between the Crusades and the National Council of Churches

That somewhere is the Land of 2k.

The reason for this reminder stems in part from a post over at Rorate Caeli about modernized Roman Catholics who don’t have much to offer Muslims:

What does modernized Catholicism do faced with Islam and its terroristic religion of violence?

Does it ask Islam to accept modernity? Does it ask it to put the person at the center in the place of God? Does it ask Islam to accept the trinomial of the Revolution, freedom-equality-fraternity? Modernized Catholicism, reinterpreted, has the audacity to expose itself, by submitting that the Catholic Church, after an erroneous refusal of 200 years, has [finally] understood how to embrace modernity, by restructuring itself into a more mature phase of religion. Consequently, the modernized Church is asking Muslims to try and take the same steps, so that they can join the assemblage of the modern religion which puts man at the centre.

What will real Muslim believers understand from this invitation? They will understand that we no longer believe in God, that we have become agnostics, that the dogmas of the Masonic religion, which support the centrality of Man, have thrown out the true dogmas – the dogmas of God!

What a disaster!

The Muslims will be confirmed in their idea that the Christian West is immoral and should be opposed.

Conservative Protestants know the feeling. If you asked Protestant modernists what they offer to Muslims, you’d also likely want to duck if you were the one to deliver the answer to the inquiring Muslim. But when this Roman Catholic op-ed writer says that Traditional Roman Catholicism has the right proposal for Muslims, you do wonder what he or she means by traditional. As much as Pope Benedict XVI might have proposed reason instead of power, plenty of popes well before Benedict showed muscle rather than intellect to Muslim infidels — think Crusades and Inquisition.

In which case, the alternative to a modernist Islam is a spiritual Islam — one that regards the spiritual as more important than the temporal. The papacy may have learned this lesson the hard way after 1870 when the pope lost his temporal estates. Even so, between 1870 and 1962, the papacy did seem to know implicitly that its power was spiritual not temporal, and it still ran a conservative church with lots of condemnations of departures from the truth.

The Turkish Republic may have also taught Islam a similar lesson when it abolished the caliphate and turned the nation’s mosques into centers of religious as opposed to political life.

Separating the spiritual from the temporal also bears on the recent discussion between Rod Dreher and Noah Milman about whether Republicans have anything to offer social conservatives. In response to Dreher’s earlier suggestion that social conservatives may need to adopt the Benedict Option of cultural withdrawal, Milman points to a Jewish community that did withdraw and is still as politicized as an Blue or Red state constituency:

Consider Kiryas Joel. This village in Orange County, New York, was designed as an enclave of the Satmar Hasidic sect. Satmar are the most insular of Hasidic sects, going to enormous lengths to keep themselves uncontaminated by the larger culture. But they participate in commerce – and they most certainly participate in politics. Specifically, they vote as a bloc for whichever candidate best-supports the narrow interests of the community.

And, funny thing, but politicians respond to incentives. This is a community that rigidly separates the sexes and imposes a draconian standard of personal modesty – and that strives mightily to impose that norm as a public matter in their community. Don’t even talk about homosexuality. But none of that prevented a Democratic candidate for Congress from earning their support by promising to help them with facilitating the community’s growth. And with their help, he narrowly won his election against a Republican who had previously earned the Satmar community’s favor.

I am not writing a brief for Kiryas Joel or Satmar. I think that kind of insulation is extremely destructive, not only for the individuals involved but for any kind of authentic spiritual life. But it seems to me that this is what the Benedict Option looks like in the real world – or, rather, this is a somewhat extreme end of what it might mean.

And my real point is that that approach – a focus on nurturing a spiritual community, maintaining however much integration with the rest of the world as is compatible with that priority, and orienting one’s politics on the specific needs of your community – is completely compatible with playing the two parties off against each other. Satmar stands opposed to basically everything the Democratic Party stands for. Heck, it stands opposed to basically everything America stands for. For that matter, it stands opposed to basically everything the rest of the American Jewish community stands for as well – it’s resolutely anti-Zionist, extremely socially conservative, refuses to cooperate with non-Hasidic groups – it even has a hard time getting along even with other Hasidic groups. And it still gets courted by Democrats.

The really funny thing may be the recognition that confessional Presbyterian communions like the OPC get courted by neither Republicans nor Democrats. Part of that owes to the fact that Orthodox Presbyterians do not inhabit a Congressional District. But it also has to do with the doctrine of the spirituality of the church (still disputed in OPC circles, mind you). If the church is a spiritual institution with spiritual means for spiritual ends, and if the temporal matters of this life are just that — temporal — fading away in comparison to what is coming on That Great (not Pretty Good) Day, then the best alternative to either a sword-wielding pope or caliphate, or a pandering set of pastors or bishops, is a spiritual church. That means, a group of believers who worship together each week under a ministry reformed according to the word of God and who know that in the light of eternity political parties, geographical territories, and military conflicts don’t matter.

Winning

Unless the local priest can be just like Jesus Francis, why bother? Why not go to church with the flabby evangelicals?

After a television interview, I was talking with a young producer who told me of her experience. She had been raised Catholic, but stopped going to church in college. Now she is engaged and was encouraged by her fiancé and Francis to give the church another try. After going to church a few times, she felt called to go to the sacrament of reconciliation. It was a disaster. The priest yelled at her and told her that everything bad that had happened to her was because she had not gone to confession in 10 years.

There will be no “Francis effect” if when people return to the church they do not meet someone like Francis at their parish. Going to confession today is like playing Russian roulette. You don’t know whether you will meet the compassionate Jesus or some angry, judgmental crank who thinks it is his job to tell people how bad they are. This is a form of abuse about which the church has done nothing.

Nor should we limit our focus to the clergy. Parish staff can be tempted to clericalism, and parish communities can ignore new parishioners who can feel lost in a crowd of people.

Try this experiment. Go to a Catholic church you have never attended and see how long it takes before someone initiates a conversation with you. Then go to an Evangelical church and try the same experiment. The Evangelicals will win every time.

Papal audacity only goes so far (sort of like wishing after hearing White Horse Inn that Mike Horton and Kim Riddlebarger could be your pastors).

Where Would Christian Europe be without the Emperor?

That’s what Peter Heather makes readers ask in The Restoration of Rome:

Thanks to Charlemagne’s attentions, the papacy was enriched, visited, courted and paid enormous respect, but all these gains came with a price tag. The emperor’s respect for the papacy was genuine, but he was equally convinced. . . that he had his own hotline to the Almighty. No mere vassal of St. Peter, he had no hesitation in making use of the papacy for his own purposes . . . for this too was God’s will. Nor was Charlemagne afraid actually to disagree with the Pope — even on matters of doctrine. The example par excellence is the Council of Frankfurt. There and to the Pope’s face (at least, to those of his legates) Charlemagne had his churchmen declare that Pope Hadrian’s acceptance of Constantinople’s new teaching on icons was in fact mistaken. A second, less charged example is provided by the famous filioque clause. . . .

As such, we can place [Charlemagne] firmly in a tradition which stretched back for the best part of half a millennium. From the time of Constantine onwards, overarching responsibility even for the identification of correct doctrine had been part of the Christian ruler’s job description, and Charlemagne’s attitude to Rome was nothing more than its direct continuation. Indeed, it would be extremely easy at this point to go through the same checklist we have used before, and come to the inescapable conclusion that Charlemagne was undoubtedly the head of the Church within his domains. He appointed all the leading churchmen, he called all the major councils and authorized most of the rest, and great tranches of legal directions on the practicalities of both clerical and lay piety were drawn up in his name. (332-33)

So much for that audacious papacy. Turns out the Pope would not have been the official he turned out to be without the audacity of the emperor. In fact, transformers of culture, Roman Catholic or Protestant, will never see their hopes for a Christian society realized until the ruler embraces the faith and enforces it. Not even Boniface VIII in all his pomp and show could make Europe Christian. It took emperors, kings, princes, and magistrates.

Overreach

Peter Leithart is reading about the French Enlightenment and Revolution and comments on Tocqueville‘s observations:

The root of the hatred was not dogma but the church’s role as a “political institution.” Because of the church’s role in the old society, it too had to be “dashed to pieces” to make way for the new society.

Rome had been overreaching for some time and no matter how Brad Gregory romanticized the medieval world, a plausible reading of the West is that if the Vatican had not been so caught up in its own prerogatives — spiritual and temporal, the Reformation and Enlightenment may have had different outcomes.

Leithart continues:

What catches Tocqueville’s eye, though, is that it didn’t work: “As the ancient political institutions that the Revolution attacked were utterly destroyed; as the powers, influences, and classes that were particularly odious to it were progressively crushed; and– ultimate sign of their defeat– as even the hatreds they had once inspired withered and the clergy separated itself from everything that had fallen along with it, one began to see a gradual restoration of the power of the Church and a reaffirmation of its influence over the minds of men.”

He finds the same pattern everywhere: “There is scarcely a Christian church anywhere in Europe that has not undergone a revival since the French Revolution,” and this, prescient as ever, he thinks is due to the compatibility of democracy with Christianity and Catholicism.

Well, popes from Pius IX to Pius XII didn’t get the memo about democracy and Roman Catholicism. But that aside notwithstanding, the French Republic overreached against the overreach of the church and crown (the French monarchs made the English kings and queens look like pikers). People don’t like to be coerced, whether by the church or the state. And the reason for the American people’s support for gay marriage, I believe, has less to do with rational public policy or fairness and more with pushing back the “family values” that religious conservatives incautiously pushed for three decades. At the same time, if this push back pushes too hard (which it may be doing between the Affordable Care Act and Duck Dynasty), Americans will find their underdog inner selves and rally to beleaguered religious conservatives.