Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday: a few thoughts on Inquisitions and Penitentiaries

(first published March 3, 2014)


An interview with Dr. David Pence:

We've come round to another Ash Wednesday. Do you remember how Father Neuhaus [the late founder of First Things magazine] referred to the American bishops' response to sexual abuse as "The Long Lent of 2002"?

The American bishops and their fraternity of priests never had a long Lent or any Lent at all! Lent is confession of sins, repentance, reparation, and reform. There has been no real confessing of sins nor repentance nor judgment and punishment of any group of bishops or priests inflicted by churchmen on churchmen. Newspapers have exposed and courts have punished, but the Church herself has not acted to purify the priesthood by her own standards.

Eastern State Penitentiary, one of the prisons visited by Tocqueville in 1831

You contend that Church leaders have to use ecclesial institutions to punish priests who have offended. Why does it seem that nowadays if an evil priest hasn't been convicted in a criminal court, we shower him with "disability pay" and other perks?

Reform in a hierarchical Church comes from the Pope and bishops, but each in his own place. Diocesan reform will be initiated by a particular bishop who has a critical mass of priests with him ready to truly purify an existing diocesan prebytery. The reform of bishops will require another mechanism, but it will be more local and synodal than papal. Just like we need model saints who inspire all of us, bishops need a model bishop to clean not the whole world but a particular diocese. A bishop who wants to lead the bishops of his nation and the Church must put his net down right where he is -- and reform his local presbytery. The diocese will be the locus of the deepest reform. All reform will start with a true aggressive investigation and assessment of priests. This can be carried out by a well-known Catholic instrument: the Promoter of Justice. This man must look much more like Eliot Ness searching for the trails of crime than an ACLU lawyer insisting on Miranda rights. This is what once was called an INQUISITION. An aggressive questioning in pursuit of real justice for the Church which means unfaithful, sacrilegious, and immoral priests are pursued, confronted, judged, and punished. Professor Mirus does a good job of explaining this in a recent column.
Offenses against the Creed, the Sacramental/Liturgical Order, and Morality are the standards by which bishops must purify the priesthood. These are sections of our Catechism. No court of law will uphold these standards. No secular newspaper will be outraged at a breach of these duties. The Church has a legal system and a demanding code of conduct. Pope Benedict, in an interview in 2010, talked about the role of punishment in church governance:
"The Archbishop of Dublin told me something very interesting about that. He said that ecclesiastical penal law functioned until the late 1950’s. Admittedly it was not perfect -- there is much to criticize about it -- but nevertheless it was applied. After the mid sixties, however, it was simply not applied anymore. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but rather a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people. 
Today we have to learn all over again that love for the sinner and love for the person who has been harmed are correctly balanced if I punish the sinner in the form that is possible and appropriate. In this respect there was in the past a change of mentality, in which the law and the need for punishment were obscured. Ultimately this also narrowed the concept of love, which in fact is not just being nice and courteous, but is found in the truth. And another component of the truth is that I must punish the one who has sinned against real love."

Explain your notion of how we provide for these priests according to canon law, while having them live a life of penance. And what is this about donning a distinctive cowl?

We hear that canon law requires that the local diocese must "provide" for all priests.  "It's simply justice," they say. Well, fine... let's be serious. Get a building, and provide housing and simple food while requiring prayer and labor. They should wear a distinctive garb showing they are penitents, and special markers if they are sexual predators. This is meant as punishment. It is meant as reparation -- and if a priest will not comply -- then his disobedience is grounds for laicization. Criminal priests are exploiting their clerical state and playing on the interests of their superiors in preserving an employment entitlement program. The idea that these guys are on a voucher system which we owe them, is a sham perpetuated by clerics who see the priesthood as lifetime employment. This is how the previous vicar general, Fr. McDonough, sounds in most of his pronouncements on these questions -- he was an unholy blend of urban ward-heeler, union steward, and defense attorney.
No reform in any diocese could bolster the worldwide church more than instituting a real place of penance and public acknowledgement of betrayal by predator priests. This reform must be enacted by a local bishop; it cannot be a papal reform. The pope knows what we all know.  Local bishops must govern; and to govern is to punish when crimes are committed. Abbotts too. A place like St John’s Abbey [in Collegeville, Minnesota] should immediately require a clear and distinctive garb for all monks under restriction. St Benedict in his original Rule provided a multitude of ways to distinguish monks following the Rule and those being disciplined.
The Church did not sin. Men sinned, and individual men should do penance -- not Holy Mother Church, who Herself has been besmirched.

"Christ among the Doctors of the Law" (Paolo Caliari, 16th century)

What is your reaction to the comments of Fr. Kevin McDonough in this recent news story at MN Public Radio? How could the vicar general thoroughly delude himself that a pastor -- arrested separately for trolling for young men in a public park and in a bookstore -- posed no danger to the boys in his parish?

Father McDonough throughout his career has run interference for the huge homosexual subculture in the St Paul Seminary system and the local priesthood. This most notably included his homosexual priest brother who was teaching seminarians “the gift of gay celibacy” decades ago. It is an axiom in the Catholic gay subculture that homosexuals are no threat as pedophiles. (It was a corollary that they made better priests because of their sensitivity and non-interest in football, war, or any male group effort to organize the protective use of force). That is why McDonough remains so adamant to this day that "there was no evidence Curtis Wehmeyer was a threat to children."  For Father McDonough, stubbornly not “outing” the homosexual proclivities of a predator took precedence over protecting young males. The corrupting role of an influential secretive "gay subculture" in a priesthood -- whose most fundamental oath is tied to a purity code -- is the story that the vicar general kept hidden for decades,  and that our secular newspapers still can't quite figure out how to tell. The Church will properly practice Lent when a bishop takes his priests behind closed doors as individuals and as a group, and institutes a program of priestly purification which must include aggressive questioning (call that the Inquisition) and just punishment for the sins of omission and commission which have corrupted the fraternity (call that the Penitentiary). We could call that a good Catholic Lent.

If a Catholic is completely fed up with the decadent rot of the Petrine face of the Church -- almost tempted to flee -- how should he fight that?  

He must focus on that reality of the Church which has never sinned. The Marian Church is still pure. The Church herself has been defaced and dragged through the mud, but still she is holy. Churchmen have sinned, not the Church. Ponder the heart of Mother Church. Do what the devout women did during the 1970s: they kept alive the adoration of the Eucharist while trendy seminarians ridiculed the “wafer worshipers." The spotless Church and her corrupted priesthood has the Eucharist; and we must eat to live. The Church has the Spirit, and He will reform the Church. The Ark has a noxious stench, and a lot of the present crew are cowards or worse, but we can’t jump the Ark. It was built at too high a price. Look outside before you jump; the Flood waters are even worse.  


Monday, February 8, 2016


The Physical Ecology, Communal Loyalties, and Geopolitics of Southeast Asia

by A. Joseph Lynch 

Physical Ecology: Natural Resources and Physical Geography

Mainland southeast Asia forms a long, north-south peninsula bordered by (from northeast to northwest) the Gulf of Tonkin, the South China Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, the Strait of Malacca, the Andaman Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. Within the boundaries of these waters may be found the five nations of this regional post: Vietnam,(92mill) Cambodia(15mill), Laos(7mill), Thailand,(68mill) and Myanmar (or Burma)(52mill). At roughly the size of Texas, Myanmar is by far the largest nation in the region. The rest, compared to US states, fall into the following order: Thailand (larger than California), Vietnam (New Mexico), Laos (Minnesota), and Cambodia (North Dakota).

The physical geography of the region is marked by a mountainous north, with ranges extending southwards along Vietnam's border with Laos and Cambodia, and down the Kra Isthmus dividing Myanmar and Thailand. The region's lowlands are generally minimal, with Vietnam's low-lying coastal plains wedged in between the mountains and the sea. Myanmar's central valley region extends southward toward the Andaman Sea with mountain chains running along its east and west. Cambodia and south-central Thailand (the "rice bowl of Asia"), however, enjoy the benefits of the Mekong and Chao Phraya river systems and the low-lying areas for agriculture.

The region's climate is dominated by a monsoon cycle of wet, humid, hot summers and dry winters. Natural resources vary from nation to nation, with Thailand rich in tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, fish, gypsum, lignite, fluorite, and arable land; while Laos is relatively poor in resources beyond its dense forests, and some deposits of gypsum, tin, and gold. Vietnam's access to the South China Sea makes it a regional competitor for natural energy resources like gas and oil, but it is also rich in coal, iron ore, and copper. Cambodia's limited natural resources include its forests, energy resources in the Gulf of Thailand, along with some moderate amounts of mineral resources. Myanmar is a mineral-rich nation with an estimated ten trillion cubic feet of natural gas off its coast - but its state of extreme low development often leaves its resources untapped.

Communal Loyalties: Ethnicity, Language, and Religion

With the exception of Myanmar's 135 distinct ethnic groups, the region's nations are each relatively uniform in ethnicity. Roughly 96% of Thailand's inhabitants are ethnic Thais, while 90% of Cambodians are of Khmer descent. About 86% of Vietnamese are of the Viet ethnicity and 60% of the population of Laos are ethnic Laos. Myanmar, despite its vast ethnic diversity, remains 68% ethnic Bamar and 10% Shan (both peoples originate in south China's Yunnan region). Myanmar, however, has seen years of internal conflict with the ill-treated Shan forging a national movement and waging guerrilla wars for independence.

The region's majority languages are formed by the Austro-Asiatic Languages ("austro" meaning "south") spoken in Vietnam (i.e. Vietnamese) and Cambodia (i.e. Khmer) and the Tai-Kadai Languages of Laos (i.e. Lao), Thailand (i.e. Thai), and part of Myanmar (i.e. Shan). Myanmar is also home to the Burmese language related to the broader Sino-Tibetan family of languages. The colonial history of Britain and France has also left a lasting French and English presence in the region. Beyond these languages, however, is a host of diverse languages rooted in the region's small ethnic groups.

Theravāda Buddhism is the most practiced religion in the region with 67% of Laos, 80%-89% of Burmese, 95% of Thais, and 97% of Cambodians adhering to the religion. The path to enlightenment and Nirvana in Theravāda Buddhism is marked by a seven-stage Path of Purification: (1) Purification of Conduct, (2) Purification of Mind, (3) Purification of View, (4) Purification by Overcoming Doubt, (5) Purification by Knowledge and Vision of What Is Path and Not Path, (6) Purification by Knowledge and Vision of the Course of Practice, and (7) Purification by Knowledge and Vision. This Path of Purification was written around the year AD 430 by Buddhaghosa, whose works comprise the orthodox understanding of Theravāda Buddhist doctrine and systematized summations of Buddha's teachings.

Almost half of Vietnamese practice "folk religions" while decades of Communist rule have left roughly 30% practicing no religion.There are 6million Catholics and 12 million Buddhists.

Geopolitics: Political Geography and Foreign Policy

Bordering the nations of this regional post are other important actors in the broader southeast Asia: Malaysia (and Singapore), Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, India, and China.We will look at the geopolitics and military history  of each country in future individual postings.

Some Additional Resources 

For more information on Cambodia, visit its page on the CIA World Factbook.
For more information on Laos, visit its page on the CIA World Factbook.
For more information on Myanmar, visit its page on the CIA World Factbook.
For more information on Thailand, visit its page on the CIA World Factbook.
For more information on Vietnam, visit its page on the CIA World Factbook.

See also the video from Geography Now! on Cambodia.

This post originally appeared on Anthropology of Accord on November 16, 2015

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, February 6

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


POPE ON MARRIAGE:  This beautiful uncompromising papal message to the Rota. For all who think the Pope's reaching out to the many victims of modern sexual immaturity means he does not appreciate the indissoluble nature of Christian marriage - this message should be reassuring. It might also cause self reflection for those so eager to disparage the Holy Father as not quite up to the doctrinal demands of his office.

A PROBLEM THAT WILL NOT GO QUIETLY IN THE CLOSET:  Sympathy for priests coming out. A metropolitan US cardinal in an interview with national news said the "Church has not been as welcoming as we might have been with gays".  During the last 40 years of the 20th century American seminaries opened their doors to a dominating influx of homosexuals in our priesthood. They continue to exert a huge cultural influence as "conservatives" or "progressives."  The American clergy has a huge problem with talking straight about homosexuality and loving like a brotherhood of fathers. Even straight priests are compromised  by their accommodations  and lifelong interrelationships with "brother priests " who cannot relate as brothers or fathers.

RAP GETS RELIGION: Rap and religious themes.Some of us once hoped that the purpose of rap was to bring the WORD back into music which had been destroyed by heavy metal and electronics. That prayer is still to be answered.

ORTHODOXY- CAN IT BE A FORCE FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY? The strength of Orthodoxy should be its Eucharistic local presence in a city or nation (book review of 'Eucharist, Bishop, Church' by Zizioulas). The scandal of Orthodoxy has been its capture by local ethnicities even exporting the "local church" to a new locality where several ethnic Orthodox churches live in not-so-loving harmony. Can the Orthodox meet as Christian brothers? An ecumenical council of orthodox bishops and patriarchs.

CHRIST IN ASIA:  The Buddha is not Christ, nor is he the anti-Christ. The differences between Buddhism and Christianity are not trivial. As the Dalai Lama said: "You believe in a personal God and I do not."   The tradition of Confucius is quite different.  Anthony Clark of the Catholic World Report praises the best introduction to the relationship of a worldview shaped by Confucius and Christianity: Ways of Confucius and of Christ. As Christianity grows in China, Confucius too is making his proper comeback as a source of ethics and worldview beyond materialism. A review of Michael Schuman's book "Confucius and the World He Created."


SAUDI ARABIA INTERNAL SAFETY FOR SHIA: Deadly attack on a mosque in Saudi Arabia says the CBS headline. Guess what kind of mosque got bombed? (from Al Jazeera). The best summary of the serious ills of the Kingdom. The narrowing at the top of the Determined audi ruling family is no time for Israel and the US to let our foreign policy be shaped by them.  The Saudis are also no longer the leading supplier of China's oil - another cause of tension between Riyadh and Moscow.

IRAN AND VATICAN: Shia and Catholics - a God-centered dialogue. The Pope and the Vatican seem to have a better hold on the potential important role of Shia Muslims in shaping a world in which the sovereignty of God and necessity of religious liberty go hand-in-hand.

LEBANON CHRISTIANS RECONCILE IN PREPARATION FOR WAR: The Christians must be united. Will US Christians understand the religious alignments  in Lebanon before we align with the enemies of the Christians. It will be difficult for our allies in Israel to see Hezbollah as an ally but that is precisely how the Christians see them. That is the real meaning of this new Christian alliance.

SYRIAN PATRIARCH LAUDS RUSSIA, BESEECHES THE "WEST":Who has actually defended Christians?


ON TRUMP: Sean Trende is editor of Real Clear Politics - a good daily clearing house of articles (Real Clear World and Real Clear Religion are all excellent sources).  He was co-author in 2014 of the Almanac of American Politics (the biennial bible explaining American history and elections edited for many years by Michael Barone). This is his insightful three-part essay on Why Trump? Why Now?

NATIONAL SECURITY AND BREACHES: Before Hillary Clinton, there was a significant breach of American security that led to less than draconian punishments. How Petraeus avoided a felony.

EUROPE AND NATIONS: Daniel Mahoney on Manent. Manent has argued for a long time that political life depends on real territorial entities like cities and particularly nations. I have never thought he has a vigorous enough masculinity or religious sensibility to really explain nations, but he is a formidable thinker. His rejection of Rene Girard on violence is another plus. Professor Mahoney is an excellent guide to his thought.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday BookReview: W.H. Auden on LORD OF THE RINGS

(first published October 10, 2014)

One of Tolkien's earliest defenders was Mr Auden; here is a portion of his 1956 book review that appeared in the 'NY Times' -

In "The Return of the King," Frodo Baggins fulfills his Quest, the realm of Sauron is ended forever, the Third Age is over and J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy "The Lord of the Rings" complete. I rarely remember a book about which I have had such violent arguments. Nobody seems to have a moderate opinion: either, like myself, people find it a masterpiece of its genre or they cannot abide it, and among the hostile there are some, I must confess, for whose literary judgment I have great respect...

Mr. Tolkien has succeeded more completely than any previous writer in this genre in using the traditional properties of the Quest, the heroic journey, the Numinous Object, the conflict between Good and Evil while at the same time satisfying our sense of historical and social reality...

As readers of the preceding volumes will remember, the situation in the War of the Ring is as follows: Chance, or Providence, has put the Ring in the hands of the representatives of Good, Elrond, Gandalf, Aragorn. By using it they could destroy Sauron, the incarnation of evil, but at the cost of becoming his successor. If Sauron recovers the Ring, his victory will be immediate and complete, but even without it his power is greater than any his enemies can bring against him, so that, unless Frodo succeeds in destroying the Ring, Sauron must win.


Evil, that is, has every advantage but one -- it is inferior in imagination. Good can imagine the possibility of becoming evil -- hence the refusal of Gandalf and Aragorn to use the Ring -- but Evil, defiantly chosen, can no longer imagine anything but itself. Sauron cannot imagine any motives except lust for domination and fear so that, when he has learned that his enemies have the Ring, the thought that they might try to destroy it never enters his head, and his eye is kept toward Gondor and away from Mordor and the Mount of Doom.

Further, his worship of power is accompanied, as it must be, by anger and a lust for cruelty: learning of Saruman's attempt to steal the Ring for himself, Sauron is so preoccupied with wrath that for two crucial days he pays no attention to a report of spies on the stairs of Cirith Ungol, and when Pippin is foolish enough to look in the palantir of Orthanc, Sauron could have learned all about the Quest. His wish to capture Pippin and torture the truth from him makes him miss his precious opportunity.

The demands made on the writer's powers in an epic as long as "The Lord of the Rings" are enormous and increase as the tale proceeds -- the battles have to get more spectacular, the situations more critical, the adventures more thrilling -- but I can only say that Mr. Tolkien has proved equal to them.

Frodo with cousin Bilbo

[For more background on Auden and the early fans of Tolkien's masterpiece, check this out].

UPDATE: Here's a powerful clip of the final battle (from the animated version).

One of the most beautiful segments of "The Lord of the Rings" is about Tinúviel.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Christian Realism & Christopher Dawson: WHAT IS CHRISTIAN REALISM?

by David Pence

AOA begins a weekly series considering thinkers in religious history and geopolitical military strategy. We will try to faithfully record and introduce thinkers such as Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukyama, Walter Russell Mead, or realists in international relations. Our goal is to engage the best thinking in international relations, military history, and geopolitical strategists with the religious/cultural/historical approach of Christopher Dawson. We understand that "realism" in international relations is a fairly well-defined school of thought. We do not concede, however, that such a spiritually nihilist materialism and Social Darwinism can ever give a true description of REALITY. There are many particular present-day events which the Darwinist professors explain very well and we want to learn from them. Their clarity makes even more striking the absence of serious Christian thinkers addressing the realities of life among the nations. There are many Catholic  intellectuals who write about the thought and aesthetics of Dawson. But Dawson worked with the material of nations, men, wars and the rise and decay of civilizations. To illuminate the interrelations of men and nations by the light of Christ necessitates knowing geography,  military history and the religious cultures  of many peoples. Dawson worked in this difficult medium -- he was a realist. His true progeny will not write about him as a thinker but will help explain  the life of nations, the history of cultural civilizations and the present purposes of war and diplomacy in terms of the unfolding of Divine Providence.  

The term "Christian Realism" has been used before to describe the thought of Reinhold Niebuhr chastising  Christian pacifists during the wars of the 20th century. Our project is not his. We are not erecting philosophical arguments for just-war theory. We believe state violence is a biblical given which raises significant moral dilemmas -- but much more of prudence than justice. All discussions of international relations must be grounded in an understanding of physical ecology, communal loyalties, military history, and biographies. But these physical realities can only be interpreted in terms of the deeper reality of our final destiny as spiritual beings. Our Catholic thinkers are long on philosophy and short on geography, military history and the spiritual role of nations. The international realists are long on the conflicts of nations and their competing interests, but blind to the spiritual nature of nations, men, and history.

Professor Dawson said it best:
"The mystery of the Incarnation is the birth of a new humanity through which man is incorporated into the unity of the Divine Body... All temporal events and all changes in culture are in some way to be related to this central reality."  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Map on Monday: YEMEN

The Physical Ecology, Communal Loyalties, and Geopolitics of Yemen

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

Physical Ecology: Natural Resources and Physical Geography 

Yemen is a small middle-eastern country at the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, 1500 miles long and 500 miles north to south. Its location at the mouth of the Red Sea's egress into the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea via the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait makes it an important nation geostrategically in the region. Yemen has a hot and humid coastal plain with a young, rugged, and mountainous interior. To the north and east is the "Empty Quarter" of Yemen (Rub' al Khali) where the desert leaves no place for human civilization to prosper -- no water or vegetation, just Bedouin nomads herding camels across the desolate wasteland. Off its coasts, Yemen also controls five islands, some in the Red Sea and others in the Arabian.

Yemen is the poorest nation in the Middle East with few natural resources. It has limited oil and natural gas reserves. Roughly 60% of Yemen's inhabitants live off of agricultural production (25% of the overall Yemeni economy stems from agriculture). Coffee has been produced in Yemen for hundreds of years (in fact, "mocha" coffee is named after Yemen's historic Red Sea trade port town of Mocha just north of the Bab-el-Mandeb strait). Most agricultural production occurs in the Shia-dominant western Yemen. Despite not having any internal waterways or lakes, Yemen's proximity to the ocean gives it access to fish and seafood. Further inland may be found marble and minor deposits of coal, gold, lead, nickel, and copper. Water scarcity is a rising problem for Yemen. The problem stems largely from a lack of natural water reserves above ground, illegal use of aquifers, and the 40% decrease in annual rainfall over the past decade. There is even a looming possibility that Yemen's capital, Sanaa, will run out of water by 2025. 

Communal Loyalties: Ethnicity, Language, and Religion

Yemen is home to roughly 24 million people, 63% of whom are under the age of 25. Yemen is dominantly an Arab nation (and Arabic is Yemen's primary language), though Monsoon trade brings some populations of South Asians and African-Arabs. Yemen is a Muslim country, but one that is divided between Shiites and Sunnis. About 40% of Yemen is comprised of Shiite Mulsims, and most of these live in the northwestern side of the country surrounding the capital of Sanaa (see map at bottom). A major tribe of the Shiites are the Houthi who recently (January 2015) displaced the American-backed Sunni president. They know they cannot run the whole country and have not organized a coup.

Geopolitics: Political Geography and Foreign Policy

Yemen has land borders with two nations on the Arabian Peninsula. Its northern border is with Saudi Arabia (29 million in 2013). Oman (3.6 million) is to its east. Yemen is also located in proximity to the Horn of Africa. Across the Red Sea from Yemen is the split Christian-Muslim country of Eritrea. Djibouti - which is 94% Sunni Muslim - sits astride the western side of the Bab-el-Mandeb. To Yemen's south, across the Gulf of Aden, Somalia (home to the Sunni Muslim terror group, Al-Shabab).

The eastern part of Yemen was called Southern Yemen (see map at right) in the decades it was ruled as a socialist state during the Cold War. That is where Al Qaeda is strongest. Northern Yemen was the western non-Marxist entity. These were united in 1990 but never achieved an integrated national communal identity. Muhammad is said to have told his followers to flee to Yemen as a last refuge because of its mountainous geography.

The reconstitution of Al Qaeda in Yemen by jihadists fleeing Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan is the theme of the best book on the country's last century. Gregory Johnsen, author of The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda, and America's war in Arabia, believes Yemen (like Syria and Iraq) is set for a dramatic redrawing of its borders. The same author describes how the recent bombing campaign of Saudi Arabia against the Houthis of Yemen is helping Al Qaeda. The Sunni government of Yemen, in a similar way to the the Saudi monarchical families to their north, usually comes to some arrangement with Sunni Salafist purists like al Qaeda -- don't overthrow us and we will nod approval as you fight Shiites and Americans.

For more information on Yemen, visit its page on the CIA World Factbook.

This post originally appeared on Anthropology of Accord on January 26, 2015.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, January 30

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


POPE VISITS SYNAGOGUE IN ROME - A JEWISH PLEA FOR THE FEAST OF THE CIRCUMCISION: One of our favorite feast days in which Christ was enrolled in the Jewish nation gets a plug at Pope Francis' Rome synagogue visit from a Jewish elder brother.

POPE ALLOWS WOMEN IN THE FOOT-WASHING: Meanwhile the Pope shows he is no longer taking marching orders from his loyal and cheering sons at AOA. He says, as did Pope Benedict before him, that the foot washing on Holy Thursday is a sign of universal service. If that is true, then washing men and women (as well as non-believers) would make lots of sense as a sign of the missionary Church serving all of humanity.

We have made a much less recognized argument that the foot washing was a priestly apostolic act aimed at washing clean a Satan infected priesthood. We think the ritual should return to the Chrism Mass and be centered on bishops and their priests.This ritual is very old, but its reintroduction into the Holy Thursday liturgy is recent (1955) -- and significant theological discussion of its meaning is surprisingly scant. The Pope is following the example of Peter who also thought it was an act of service and tried to forbid Christ from washing him. The best theological-scriptural argument we have seen that Christ's washing of the apostles' feet was an exorcism of the priesthood, not a sign of universal service, can be found here. This disagreement with our Holy Father about the primary meaning of the ritual is no disrespect to him. Many parishes and priests have opened the foot-washing to males and females, though the 1955 instructions was clear about men. Most of those insistent that the washing be male-only have never made a convincing argument that the gesture is about something other than humble service. Pope Francis is bringing the gesture in line with the present teaching.

It turns out that the previous rules of the ritual were carrying a truth which our present teachings have not yet discovered. We all live in a day that the anthropological arguments for the masculine character of the priesthood and the distinct corporate duties and identity of men are quite weak. In fact, one might venture that suppressing the ancient feast of the Circumcision (which is a male-only incorporation into a national bond) and missing the masculine priestly character of the foot-washing stem from a similar blind spot.


EGYPT - A NON-ELECTED PRESIDENT, BUT HE OFFERS RELIGIOUS RECONCILIATION: He overthrew an elected Islamist government. He courageously defends and befriends the Christian Copts. Is Egyptian President Abdel el-Sisi the Sunni ally we must cultivate? Is religious liberty more crucial than democratic elections?

PAKISTAN - FORCES WITHIN FOR REFORM: Pakistan is different than Saudi Arabia. Can it divorce itself from the Salafist movement that runs its intelligence and military? Can they break the Saudi alliance? Pakistan is 5 to 15 percent Shia, so the Salafist movement promises civil war if instituted at home.

PEW 2009 REPORT ON SHIA AND SUNNI MUSLIMS BY COUNTRY: 1.6 billion Muslims. What are the big four (each with over 100 million believers)? Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh.

IN LEBANON TWO COMPETING CHRISTIAN FACTIONS HAVE ALLIED UNDER ONE CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT WHO ALSO WOULD BE FAVORED BY SHIITES: The next battleground against Salafist Sunnis will be Lebanon, and Christians there do not see Hezbollah as their enemy. A new Christian alliance paves the way for a Shiite-Christian alliance. To understand the coming fight for Lebanon, we must understand there is a battle  among Sunnis for the soul of Sunni Islam. Meanwhile Christians and Shiites must unite to oppose Salafist Sunni groups and ally with Sunnis who are not salafist. The US is unfortunately propping up the two governments who institutionally support the terrorist/jihadist type Sunnis. Those States are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

IN SUDAN THE RISE OF SALAFIST GROUP MEANS TROUBLE FOR SHIITES: Sudan's  new line against Shiites -nothing to do with their old ally Iran.

ISIS MAGAZINE - A WHOLE ISSUE TO WIPING OUT THE SHIA; A LESSON HERE FOR CHRISTIANS ABOUT OUR NATURAL ALLIES? The latest issue of ISIS magazine is centered on the Rafidah - eliminating the Shia. All the multiculturalism courses we have taken, and no one can see that one branch of Sunnis,the Salafists, is waging a religious war against a religion called Shia Islam! There is no significant branch of Shia Islam that calls for the purification of Islam by eliminating the Sunni non-believers.

SOUTHERN SUDAN - BREAKING APART BY MEN, TRIBE AND LAND: Christianity and a new national identity are not as deeply embedded as the older loyalties that split the country again. Southern Sudan (12 million population Christian and animist) became independent from Sudan (population 33 million Islamic and Arab) in 2011. The South Sudanese Civil War began in December 2013. It is drawn along tribal fault lines.


“We are going to protect Christianity. I don’t have to be politically correct. From Two Corinthians: 'Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.' Isn't that the one you like - isn't that the one? I love it. We are going to protect Christianity and if you look at what is going on around the world; you look at Syria ,where if you are a Christian, they are chopping off heads. You look at the different places and Christianity is under siege. I’m a Protestant, Presbyterian to be exact and very proud of it and we have to protect because bad things are happening. Very bad things are happening and I don’t know what it is. We don’t band together maybe. And frankly other religions are banding together and using it… here we have, if you look at this country its gotta be 70%, 75% , some people say even more. The power we have to band together, we have to unify. We have to really in a very large version what they have done at Liberty. Somehow we have to unify… Liberty has banded together and created one of the great universities…"
Entire one hour video of speech: Religion comments are at the 19:00 to 21:00 minute mark.

BE A NATIONALIST, NOT A CONSERVATIVE: Advice from an old conservative, Sam Francis, twenty years ago in a Chronicles article to Pat Buchanan seems to be the campaign strategy of Donald Trump. The key loyalties of men are Religion, Nation, and Family. The Trump campaign appeals to corporate identities as Americans and Christians. He is not running as the best Christian, but as the candidate who will defend Christians the best (and we mean the Christians being beheaded, not those disputing insurance coverage policies).


TO RESET RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, REMEMBER THE LESSONS OF ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN: Excepts from the 'CWR' article, Revisiting Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's warnings to the West:

"Following writers such as Fyodor Dostoevsky and N.M. Karamzin, the Russian conservative tends to interpret modern history as a struggle between those who would preserve Russia’s spiritual integrity and those who would impose Western culture upon the motherland. It is no coincidence that the most frenzied and destructive characters in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov, and Demons are those most intoxicated with trendy European ideas. Nor is it a coincidence that in his Memoir On Ancient and Modern Russia Karamzin, fervent monarchist though he was, ventured to make a negative evaluation of the celebrated Peter the Great [died in 1725 at the age of 52]. “We became citizens of the world,” said Karamzin regarding Peter’s campaign to Westernize his empire, “but ceased in certain respects to be the citizens of Russia.” To Karamzin the Europhile sovereign’s heavy-handed attempt “to transform Russia into Holland” reflected more zeal than prudence. 
Solzhenitsyn went further and openly detested the reformist tsar, for he doubted that Peter had really appreciated anything about Western culture aside from its most superficial trappings: wealth, glamour, gunpowder. The Petrine program had caused Russian elites to abandon their roots, and had even set the stage for Bolshevism. How could those incapable of relating to their own people hope to understand those of faraway lands?"
"Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevents independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life."
THE UNIVERSITY AND THE ORGANIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE - HUBRIS OR WORSHIP: An essay on the organization of the disciplines and the overweening hubris of the modern empiricists by a young Villanova teacher of literature and religion, James Matthew Wilson. In Practicing Catholics, Educational Reform we make a similar argument that the Catholic school is centered on worship, and then organizes the disciplines of study. The Catholic University should breathe a very different spirit than the German research university. That mighty institution of Germanic intellectual hubris crowned the atheistic enlightenment, and prepared the way for the militarization of that hubris in German empire and Reich.