Monday, June 29, 2015


[first published June 29, 2014]

by Dr. David Pence

Every Sunday at Mass, Catholics stand to profess in the Creed that we believe in "the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." What does it mean to say the Church is Apostolic, and why is the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul one of the ten holy days of obligation in the Catholic Church? The feast day reminds us that the Church wants us to reflect on these men and their office as apostles, in the same way we reflect on Mary’s Immaculate Conception or Christ’s Ascension into heaven. These are central truths that organize the way we understand reality and live our common life as a Church.

Saint Paul

Both Peter and Paul had their names changed in their encounter with Christ.  Saul became Paul and Simon was re-named Peter.  Christ the new Adam re-organized humanity, not as the blood sons of Adam and Eve, but now as a sacral brotherhood that would allow entry into the life of the Trinity. “Those whom He foreknew, he predestined to share the image of His Son, that the Son might be the firstborn of many brothers.” David drew Jonathan (the blood son of Saul) away from his own kinship claims to succession, into the newly anointed Davidic Kingdom.  So Christ configured the first twelve apostles -- all loyal sons of Jacob -- into the new priesthood that would be the twelve foundation stones of the Church. Calling Paul an apostle a decade later showed that some vital aspect of the apostolic duties and office of the original Twelve would live on in other elected men through the ages. The joining of Paul to the apostolic office and his mission to the Gentiles gives evidence that the Church built on a highly localized brotherhood of Galileans was to spread all over the earth, and yet still be fully manifested in such crucial Catholic local forms as the parish Mass and the diocesan Bishop.

The fraternal relationship of Christ to his chosen men forms the living sinew of the new Temple, in which the presence of God will be carried to the ends of the earth. This is the sacramental order that the Church establishes as the central organism to reorder humanity under the Father. Holy Orders is the third of the sacraments which imprint an indelible mark on the soul; and, like Confirmation, it shows again how indispensable is the communion of the bishops to the Church’s sacramental order. Peter and the apostles live on in the pope and the bishops, and the bishop and his diocesan priests. These are the patriarchal fraternities that mirror the Trinity, and provide the Catholic framework for the baptizing of nations, and the public ordering of human beings necessary to prepare for the Second Coming.

To this priestly apostolic order are given particular powers to forgive sins, cast out demons, and definitively proclaim the message that God dwells among us and invites us to dwell in Him.  This priestly authority to beseech the Father -- to send the Spirit to bring us back in the presence of the Son’s sacrifice -- is the Mass. The priests have been given the keys to a mysterious "time/space machine" which binds dispersed humanity into the one Body of Christ.

"Crucifixion of St.Peter" - Rubens

It was Peter’s proclamation, not that Christ was the Messiah (a big deal in itself) but that he was the Son of the living God, that evoked from Christ His ordaining of the Petrine office. Christ did not award Peter’s faith. In fact, he told him clearly that Peter was not talking on his own. The Holy Spirit allowed Peter to profess the divinity of Christ, and upon that central theological truth was the Church built. The real rock is not so much Peter, but the accurate testimony of Peter that Jesus is God-become-man.  Christ is the cornerstone, and the apostles are the twelve foundation blocks. The keys are given to Peter to unlock mysteries in teaching, and unlock jail cells in releasing men from their sins. It is no mistake that the second reading of the feast day is an angelically engineered jailbreak for Peter -- recalling an earlier prison tomb that was evacuated so that hell might be harrowed. The priestly powers  are conferred, not on every man who chooses Christ, but on certain men whom Christ chooses.  Peter was not Superman dressed like a fisherman who burst out of prison to work miracles.  He was Peter who was led out of prison by an angel, and called out of his fishing boat by Our Lord. And that Peter was given the authority to work the miracles of healing the sick and, more importantly, forgiving men their sins.

Christ asked, “Who do men say the Son of Man is?”  Whenever Christ called himself the Son of Man, he was affirming his human identity. In Hebrew, he would have called himself the Son of Adam.  Peter, by power of the Holy Spirit, answers Christ’s directed question to the apostles about his identity: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That was the instance the Holy Spirit spoke through Peter, speaking for the whole church with an infallible statement. We share that infallible authority every time we also comply with the Spirit, and read Scripture or profess the Creed together at Mass. It is all part of being an apostolic church with real authority given by Christ through the Spirit.

In these recent weeks of the Church liturgical year, we meditated on the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Trinitarian nature of God on Trinity Sunday, and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist on Corpus Christi. Today let us give thanks and praise for the Apostolic priesthood that makes the bridge between those spiritual realities and our lives in the practice of our sacramental life.  


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, June 27

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


In Yemen there are people starving. This disaster is true religious persecution: evidence of Saudi savagery toward an enemy religion in a foreign country. Where are the defenders of national sovereignty who objected so strongly to the voluntary union of Crimea and Russia? Shouldn't the  bombing and embargo against the Shiites of Yemen by salafist Sunnis of Saudi Arabia evoke an even greater outrage? Recently leaked Saudi documents revealed Riyadh's goal of limiting Shiite Islam throughout the region as well as tracking Shiites as far away as the Philippines and Australia.


Essayist and Russian translator Paul Grenier has written two thoughtful articles which challenge the mainline views on Russia: one about  a conference of Russian political thinkers and another on rethinking the three Russian writers (Berdyaev, Solovyev, Ilyin) whom Putin has recommended and often quotes.

The 'Wall Street Journal' has published a terrific summary of Russia after three revolution - the French, the Bolshevik and 1991 collapse of Soviet Union. A recurring theme of post-revolutionary Russians is their unique heritage as Russians: the spiritual leaders of Eurasia [if body of article not available, type in title at Google].


Pushing the "tough woman" forward - a bipartisan error: diplomat Vickie Nuland.

(Here is an article about her husband, Robert Kagan, and his working relationship with Mrs. Clinton).


An excellent review of the role of the CIA in policy and strategy under President Obama.

The deep inroads of Sunni Muslims in shaping "interfaith dialogue" and the American perception of Islam are revealed in a new book Catastrophic Failure by Stephen Coughlin.


The most established nuclear power in the Mideast is Israel. The most aggressive nuclear power in the Mideast is Pakistan. Pakistan normally directs its enmity toward their old countrymen - the Hindus of India. A new generation in Pakistan may turn their attention to the struggle for Sunni dominance in the Mideast. If that happens, Israel and the Shia states will be most at risk with only Israel able to play the nuclear card in response. We are not aware of a clear and comprehensive narrative explaining the changing rules of membership in the nuclear club, and the Byzantine history of how different countries came to their possession of nuclear power or nuclear weapons.


Rod Dreher of 'American Conservative' on the basic theological-anthropological insights of the Pope's encyclical Laudato Si. David Brooks of the 'NY Times' offers a criticism that stings; while Phil Lawler shares a good summary at Catholic Culture.


The killing of nine black Christians at a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, by a twenty-one year old lone-wolf male was certainly a godless act of racial disdain. Unlike the pseudo-race events of Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, which led to rioting, this real act of racism was answered with the powerful response of Christian love. Let the Dixie flag come down and let us raise the Cross high over our beloved Stars and Stripes so we might be one nation again under God. The miracle in Charleston-America and the public profession of Christianity.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday BookReview: DANTE (d. 1321)


Dante was born in Florence, where he achieved literary renown and political power... but was forced into exile for twenty years, and died in his mid-50's in Ravenna on the east coast of Italy.

Here is a brief video introduction to his DIVINE COMEDY. 

The journalist Rod Dreher has a new book on how that classic work lifted him out of illness and the 'slough of despond' -- and renewed his heart to appreciate the glory of the eternal Lord.


The thing that jumped out at me in Dreher's musings was his insistence that Dante Alighieri kept two things in balance -- he absolutely loved Holy Mother Church, while he shook with hatred toward clerics who had made their peace with the stench of deep corruption:
"The poet was able to stare down the evil of the clergy, including its Supreme Pastors, condemn them as devils, and yet affirm the goodness of God through the Church, despite its rotten state. This astounded me."    (page 157)
Rod Dreher told a friend: "Dante decided that his wrath was keeping him from doing what he needed to do to get back on the straight path. Virgil told him to use good memories, peaceful memories, to fight off the ones that provoked him to wrath."

I wasn't expecting so much of the tale told by Mr. Dreher to revolve around his family in rural Louisiana, but it works well as a vehicle to gradually draw the reader into the medieval world of Italy and to appreciate the poet's imaginative limning of what awaits each of us when "the roll is called up yonder."

Dreher came to realize that when he moved back to the small town of his parents, he "made false idols of family and place" -- not making those goods subservient to "the ultimate good, which is unity with God." Hoping for a deep reconciliation with his father, Rod ended by realizing that he was "searching for unconditional love where it cannot be found... I had enthroned family and place -- and their personification, my father -- in my heart in the place of God. This was the greatest sin that led me to the dark wood in the middle of the journey of my life."

Mr. Dreher is also blessed to have a wise pastor (a former cop who got burnt out) instructing him:
"The Church is a spiritual hospital... Grace is the medicine that will heal us. Prayer and fasting open our souls to grace."

How did Dante Alighieri view sin? As a metaphysical phenomenon.
Mr. Dreher explains: "To sin is to introduce disharmony into the system... [T]he entire universe runs on the power of love. Sin, therefore, can be thought of as being like a blood clot that disrupts the smooth flow of love... Sin is not an abstract idea but something that is woven into the fabric of reality."    (page 130)

The historian Christopher Dawson called Dante the "truest son of Thomas Aquinas." In the poem, the Florentine encounters the Angelic Doctor who urges humility and patience on him -- to rein in his judgment of others, to "affirm the goodness of life despite its injustices." Exile is the human condition; thus, begging mercy from God -- and being merciful -- is our only hope.

Guided by Virgil (L), Dante visits the gluttons in Purgatory

Dreher praises the audio teaching series on Dante's classic by Bill Cook and Ron Herzman. A listener's review included this anecdote: 
"[The two men have had] extensive experience in teaching Dante (a) at the university level, (b) in the Attica maximum security prison [in western New York], and (c) to a group of monks. One of the fascinating revelations was how the young university students preferred reading 'Inferno'; the prison inmates preferred 'Purgatorio'; and the Trappist monks preferred 'Paradiso.' 
But what about Dante's original readers in the Middle Ages? ... [They] would have embraced the totality of the mystical experience, as opposed to any single portion of the poem."

The character Dante says: "Then it was clear to me that everywhere in heaven is Paradise, even if the grace of the highest Good does not rain down in equal measure."
(All forms of Procrustean egalitarianism -- along with mindless libertarianism -- will forever cease, along with so much else, when we depart this vale of tears.)

Here is an EWTN interview with Mr. Dreher.

UPDATE: Take a listen to this sublime Franz Liszt meditation on the DIVINE COMEDY.

Here is an excerpt from an essay that Mr. Dreher wrote for 'Intercollegiate Review' --
For Dante, all sin results from disordered desire: either loving the wrong things or loving the right things in the wrong way.This is countercultural, for we live in an individualistic, libertine, sensual culture in which satisfying desire is generally thought to be a primary good.  

For contemporary readers, especially young adults, Dante’s encounter with Francesca da Rimini, one of the first personages he meets in Hell, is deeply confounding. Francesca is doomed to spend eternity in the circle of the Lustful, inextricably bound in a tempest with her lover, Paolo, whose brother—Francesca’s husband—found them out and murdered them both.
Francesca explains to Dante how she and Paolo fell into each other’s arms. How could she have controlled herself? she says. 

"Love, that excuses no one loved from loving, / Seized me so strongly with delight in him / That, as you see, he never leaves my side. / Love led us straight to sudden death together." 

She ends by saying that reading romantic literature together caused them to fall hopelessly and uncontrollably in love—unto death, at the hands of her jealous husband.
To modern ears, Francesca’s apologia sounds both tragic and beautiful. But the discerning reader will observe that she never takes responsibility for her actions. In her mind, her fate is all the fault of love—or rather, Love. We know, however, that it is really lust, and that her grandiose language in praise of romantic passion is all a gaudy rationalization. It’s a rationalization that is quite common in our own time, as everything in our popular culture tells us that desire is the same thing as love, and that love, so considered, is its own justification.

Monday, June 22, 2015


An Introduction to the Religious, Ethnic, and Geopolitical Makeup of the Horn of Africa

By A. Joseph Lynch

The "Horn of Africa" refers to the far eastern region of Africa which juts out into the Indian Ocean. Although Somalia comprises much of the horn itself - aptly called the Somalian peninsula - the region also includes Eritrea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.

Christian Ethiopia is by far the region's dominant nation. Not only does it control 60% of the region's land area, Ethiopia is home to roughly 85% of the region's 100 million people. Ethiopia's Lake Tana provides the source of the Blue Nile flowing out of Ethiopia's highland core where the capital city of Addis Ababa sits at the foothills of Mt. Entoto. Ethiopia is, however, landlocked and dependent on its neighbors (mostly Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia) for transportation of its exports. Ethiopia is the continent's greatest supplier of coffee, and also exports agricultural goods and gold. Militarily speaking, Ethiopia has an army of roughly 135,000 men with another 3,000 in air forces. The landlocked nation has no navy. Ethiopia is also the third largest Christian nation in Africa (behind only Nigeria at #1 and the Democratic Republic of Congo) and the ninth largest in the world. Christian roots in Ethiopia run deep as the evangelist St. Matthew brought the faith to Ethiopia in the first century, and Scripture records St. Phillip's conversion of the Ethiopian court official (see Acts 8:26-38). Christianity was made the state religion of Ethiopia around the year AD 330, but with the rise of Islam across north Africa in the seventh century Ethiopia was cut off from its brethren in the north.

At around nine million people and about one third of the region's land area, Somalia is the second largest country in the Horn of Africa and the region's largest Sunni Muslim country. Where Ethiopia has no coastline, Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa and is situated near the geostrategic choke point of the Bab El-Mandeb strait (which links the Mediterranean-Suez-Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea). Despite its access to the sea and its strategic location, Somalia has been wracked by civil war for decades. While some stability is growing from its southern coastal region around the capital of Mogadishu, Islamic terrorists networks (like Al-Shabab) remain strong in the southern hinterlands while the northern-most region of Somaliland (the former British colony) has declared independence and is considered an autonomous region within the country, Dangers from Isalamist forces have led to interventions by Christian Ethiopia (2006-2009) and Christian Kenya (2011's Operation Linda Nchi - "Protect the Country").

Eritrea is the region's other country with a substantial coastline. Unlike Somalia, however, Eritrea's coast is contained within the Red Sea, oriented toward Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and its southern-most point is located at the northern boundaries of the strategic Strait of Bab El-Mandeb. Eritrea is also torn between Islam and Christianity -- with Christianity holding a slight majority in the nation. Having been incorporated into Ethiopia in the years after World War II, Eritrea fought a 30-year war of independence from Ethiopia ending in 1993. From 1998-2000, Eritrea sparked (and lost) a border war with Ethiopia. With Ethiopia still holding lands in Eritrea, the region's two most populous Christian nations have relatively poor relations with one another. Eritrea also began a short border war with its southern Islamic nation of Djibouti and yet holds a observer status in the Arab League. Eritrea, it seems, is thus neither integrated into the Islamic nor Christian worlds. Eritrea's strategic location and large copper, gold, granite, marble, and potash reserves, however, make it a potentially important regional ally to whoever can forge a lasting relationship.

With a population just under that of South Dakota (approximately 810,000) and amassing just 1% of the region's land area, Djibouti is the Horn of Africa's smallest country. In spite of this, the port city and capital of Djibouti City, provides an important commercial hub at the entrance of the Bab El-Mandeb strait. Although Djibouti is 94% Sunni Muslim and only 6% Christian, it practices religious freedom and acts as a key partner of Christian Ethiopia as 70% of all port activities involve shipments for the landlocked nation. As a member of the Arab League, Djibouti also maintains strategic ties to the wider Sunni-Arab world.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, June 20

                                              by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


Hugh Pope on lessons from NATO's only Muslim-majority nation.


China's infrastructure projects to rival Roman roads.

From Pepe Escobar of 'Asia Times' on China's open seas and new Silk Road.


Rebuilding our diplomatic corps.


International Yoga Day proposed by India's President Modi sparks interesting communal responses.


Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini and the Soviet-era Gorbachev on God and the State. Gorbachev did not take the Iranian's chastisement well, but Vladimir Putin as president of Russia is much more religious in geopolitical thinking than secular westerners can imagine. From 'Asia Times.'

Alexander Dugin is one of the most important intellectuals helping to shape the Putin view of Russia's role in the world.


June 15, the Magna Carta: 800 years ago. Not so much a document celebrating the rights of all men, it was recognition of a plurality of institutions under law and God -- the king, the Church, the barons. It was a blow against the autonomy of tyranny, not a celebration of the autonomy of all men. The role of religion and the Church in the Magna Carta,


When the US reevaluates our policy of allying with the Saudi approach to Sunni Islam, we might consider three Muslim (but non-Arab) nations of the northern tier: Three Musketeers of non-Arab Muslims.

The participation of the U.S. in the Saudi bombing and economic blockade campaign against the Houthi Shiittes of Yemen cries out as religious persecution -- and we are on the wrong side. The anti-Shiite rhetoric has turned to violence against the minority Shiites in Saudi Arabia.


Is the Church a criminal or are there criminals in the Church?


Five Catholic cardinals and 45 bishops meet in Ghana.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday BookReview: "Shop Class as Soulcraft"

"It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas."
- Charles Peguy


Some excerpts from Francis Fukuyama's review of Shop Class as Soulcraft:
[This] is a beautiful little book about human excellence and the way it is undervalued in contemporary America. 
Matthew B. Crawford, who owns and operates a motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, Va., and serves as a fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, notes that all across the United States, high school shop classes teaching mechanical arts like welding, woodworking or carpentry are closing down, to free up funds for computer labs. There is a legion of experts denigrating manual trades like plumber, carpenter and electrician, warning that the United States labor force needs to be “upskilled” and retrained to face the challenges of a high-tech, global economy. Under this new ideology, everyone must attend college and prepare for life as a “symbolic analyst” or “knowledge worker,” ready to add value through mental rather than physical labor. 
There are two things wrong with this notion, according to Crawford. The first is that it radically undervalues blue-collar work that involves the manipulation of things rather than ideas. Expertise with things permits human beings to have agency over their lives — that is, their ability to exert some control over the myriad faucets, outlets and engines that they depend on from day to day. Instead of being able to top up your engine oil when it is low, you wait until an “idiot light” goes on on the dashboard, and you turn your car over to a bureaucratized dealership that hooks it up to a computer and returns it to you without your having the faintest idea of what might have been wrong. 
The second problem with this vision is that the postindustrial world is not in fact populated — as gurus like Richard Florida, who has popularized the idea of the “creative class,” would have it — by “bizarre mavericks operating at the bohemian fringe.” The truth about most white-collar office work, Crawford argues, is captured better by “Dilbert” and “The Office”: dull routine more alienating than the machine production denounced by Marx. Unlike the electrician who knows his work is good when you flip a switch and the lights go on, the average knowledge worker is caught in a morass of evaluations, budget projections and planning meetings. None of this bears the worker’s personal stamp; none of it can be definitively evaluated; and the kind of mastery or excellence available to the forklift driver or mechanic are elusive. Rather than achieving self-mastery by confronting a “hard discipline” like gardening or structural engineering or learning Russian, people are offered the fake autonomy of consumer choice, expressing their inner selves by sitting in front of a Harley-­Davidson catalog and deciding how to trick out their bikes. 
This glorification of manual labor would seem patronizing but for the author’s personal biography. Crawford grew up in a commune in the Bay Area with a theoretical physicist for a father, and worked his way through high school and college as an electrician. Along the way he picked up the ability to rebuild the engines of old Volkswagens, something that stayed with him even as he went on to get a Ph.D. in political philosophy at the University of Chicago...  
Crawford argues that the ideologists of the knowledge economy have posited a false dichotomy between knowing and doing. The fact of the matter is that most forms of real knowledge, including self-knowledge, come from the effort to struggle with and master the brute reality of material objects — loosening a bolt without stripping its threads, or backing a semi rig into a loading dock. All these activities, if done well, require knowledge both about the world as it is and about yourself, and your own limitations. They can’t be learned simply by following rules, as a computer does; they require intuitive knowledge that comes from long experience and repeated encounters with difficulty and failure. In this world, self-­esteem cannot be faked: if you can’t get the valve cover off the engine, the customer won’t pay you. 
Highly educated people with high-­status jobs — investment bankers, professors, lawyers — often believe that they could do anything their less-educated brethren can, if only they put their minds to it, because cognitive ability is the only ability that counts. The truth is that some would not have the physical and cognitive ability to do skilled blue-collar work, and that others could do it only if they invested 20 years of their life in learning a trade. “Shop Class as Soulcraft” makes this quite vivid by explaining in detail what is actually involved in rebuilding a Volkswagen engine: grinding down the gasket joining the intake ports to the cylinder heads, with a file, tracing the custom-fit gasket with an X-Acto knife, removing metal on the manifolds with a pneumatic die grinder so the passageways will mate perfectly. Small signs of galling and discoloration mean excessive heat buildup, caused by a previous owner’s failure to lubricate; the slight bulging of a valve stem points to a root cause of wear that a novice mechanic would completely fail to perceive. 
Crawford asserts that he is not writing a book about public policy. But he has a clear preference for a “progressive republican” order in which the moral ties binding workers to their work or entrepreneurs to their customers are not so readily sacrificed at the altar of efficiency and growth. He argues that there is something wrong with a global economy in which a Chinese worker sews together an Amish quilt with no direct connection with its final user, or understanding of its cultural meaning. Economic ties, like those between a borrower and a lender, were once underpinned by face-to-face contact and moral community; today’s mortgage broker, by contrast, is a depersonalized cog in a financial machine that actively discourages prudence and judgment. 
In the end I must confess that it would have been hard for me not to like this book. While I make my living as a “symbolic knowledge worker,” I have both ridden motorcycles and made furniture — my family’s kitchen table, the beds my children slept on while growing up, as well as reproductions of Federal-style antiques whose originals I could never afford to buy. Few things I’ve created have given me nearly as much pleasure as those tangible objects that were hard to fabricate and useful to other people. I put my power tools away a few years ago, and find now that I can’t even give them away, because people are too preoccupied with updating their iPhones. Shop class, it appears, is already a distant historical memory.

Pence, you say that today's culture could use a big dose of the spirit of Thomas Edison. What do you admire about him?

Edison studied materials. He experimented with them. He understood their practical properties. The light bulb was not a summation at the end of a mathematical calculation, nor did it come from the so-called scientific method of hypothesis, experiment, observation, and conclusion. Needed was a material that responded to electrical current with much more illumination than heat -- a slow bright burn, if you will. Edison's work-space looked a lot more like a farmer's work bench than a university laboratory. He knew how lots of things worked. He tried things out.

What is science?

In general I think there are many sciences. They are bodies of knowledge about defined subjects based on categories and definitions accepted in each field. I don't believe there is a Science with a capital S. That is an epistemological claim of modernists who have abandoned the disciplines of theology, philosophy, and a branch of philosophy called epistemology.

Is there an American science or American sciences?

I think historically there is an approach to the physical world and the various science disciplines which is peculiarly American. Celestial navigation, wood work, surveying, metal work, and the agricultural sciences were worked in with traditional school subjects in certain colonial schools. This was a pretty unique American approach. They didn't start as vocational tracking or class-based disciplines. I wrote my Educational Masters Thesis on the history of shop, agricultural classes and at the end of the 19th century, home economics, in American education. I then argued to reintegrate these tactile disciplines in a renewed, more integrated, approach to teaching the sciences. When we think of that peculiar American genius for different sciences, I see farmyard inventors, kids on computers late at night, and bicycle mechanics before I see German professors on their blackboards.

Come on, Pence, try imagining America's atomic bombs without German physicists scribbling on blackboards!  

Actually, that's one of my favorite examples.  We needed certain physicists (not at all like Einstein) who were working with uranium as a material, and we needed General Leslie Groves of the Army Corps of Engineers to actually make them. But, you are right; I will concede in this case a good deal of credit to the German blackboard.

One of the big initiatives in science education is STEM -- a program to stimulate more interest in engineering and the sciences among secondary students. As a high-school science teacher, what was your take on that?

It was too focused on pushing kids into more math. It needed more of the Engineering E in its name, and much less of the ideology of science. If it could have stressed the tactile arts-shop, woodworking and electronics (including the use of  power tools), it might have discovered  a real untapped group of boy scientists. Instead, the special focus on girls in the sciences represents another victory of ideology over reality.

Is there any political or educational movement that might address these concerns?

Some community and vocational colleges are trying to get much earlier pathways into their institutions for high-school students. Those schools have the trained staff and facilities which have been driven out of our high schools. The vocational colleges actually grew out of local school boards, not state institutions. This is a kind of full circle. The great majority of high-school boys will be liberated if this movement by vocational college teachers and counselors can free them from the mechanical deficiencies and institutional biases of their high-school teachers and the ever drifting colleges of education which shaped them.

                       "Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys." 
- Sam Walton

UPDATE: On Ron Schara's outdoors program (show #741 -- go to the 6:30 mark), they had a good four-minute segment about city kids who put their heart and soul into learning the craft of boat-building.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


by Dr. David Pence

In Minnesota, Archbishop John Nienstedt and Bishop Lee Piche have resigned after a devastating criminal complaint against the Archdiocese by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi showed the roles of both men in the protection of Curtis Wehmeyer, a defrocked priest now spending five years in prison for sexual abuse of young males. The criminal complaint against the Archdiocese for an "institutional and systemic pattern of behavior" sets the stage for civil procedures to interfere with self-governance by the Church. The one defense the Church could mount as an institution is that these were crimes of individuals. If the Church as an institution is deemed criminal, this may cut victims off from insurance compensation. The Church as a system and institution is built on a purity code of fatherly and fraternal love which was severely abused and undermined by the last three Archbishops and their Vicars General. It is not our purity code, or our system of a hierarchical celibate male clergy, which is the problem. The problem was a corruption of our purity code and the brotherhood of fathers. This corruption was similar to mob takeovers of labor unions; and the mobsters all have names. The men involved clearly were not carrying out the mission of the Church to be good shepherds and fathers as they acted more like a protection racket among hirelings. If there was a man among them, he would ask that the prosecutor redirect the charges against himself as an errant churchman and not against the Church herself. The resignation by Archbishop Nienstedt did not hint that he would consider protecting Mother Church by shifting the blame upon himself. He didn't start his public ritual with the Confiteor. He assured all assembled that he left with a clear conscience.

The resignation of Bishop Lee Piche along with Nienstedt implies the Vatican request for resignations  was a direct result of the criminal complaint which implicated Piche more greviously than revealed before. Some bishop or the papal nuncio for the U.S. must have gotten word to the Vatican that this required immediate action. Nienstedt has said repeatedly he would not resign unless asked by superiors. The priests of the archdiocese gathered in Rochester, Minnesota, at the biannual presbyteral assembly from Monday June 15 to Thursday June 18.  Bishop Nienstedt  wrote to the priests: "I would have preferred to share this with you in person, but the desire of the Holy See to announce this made it impossible to wait."

One welcome 'Pope Francis effect' has emerged very clearly. There are mechanisms emerging whereby bishops of a nation or the nuncios can communicate to Vatican authorities a problem with a local bishop and an effective timely process for removal is now in place. The criminal indictment was issued on June 5. Their resignations came June 15. This incredible shrinkage of response time bodes well for the future. How the Church (regardless of civil actions) will accuse and render judgment on Archbishops Flynn and Nienstedt, Bishop Piche and Father McDonough for their immoral behavior is not at all clear. Losing an honorific office is hardly a judgment or punishment for crimes against the Church. It is also becoming increasingly clear that without the establishment of facilities for confinement, punitive labor, and penance, there will be no true reform of the priestly fraternity within the Church.    

Archbishop Nienstedt with Bishop Piche in the background


In Minnesota, Catholics are enduring a host of  media-selected progressive priests, progressive theologians, and progressive lawyers explaining  how the fall of Nienstedt may lead to the inclusive Church they have been championing all these years. They like to add that Pope Francis is on board with their project. This hopelessly flawed narrative will not last long as it runs into a multitude of inconvenient truths. Here are three:
  1. The reality of Pope Francis is that his love of humanity is coupled with  his disdain for "gender ideology."
  2. The reality that the culture of abuse and deceit in the Archdiocese of St. Paul rose out of  the embrace of open and covert homosexuality by Catholic priests and seminarians in the last forty years under the "progressive" regimes of Archbishop Roach, Archbishop Flynn, and Vicar General McDonough. The advancement of this subculture in place of the purity of the Eucharistic priesthood  was the primary reason for the breakdown of protective fraternity and fatherhood in the priests of our local church. It was not the system of a hierarchical celibate masculine priesthood which led to the abuse scandal. We didn't have that system. The priests lost a sense of the sacred in their liturgy and prayer life; they stopped cultivating purity in thought, word and action. Their personalities were desacralized and emasculated. The masculine priestly fraternity meant to protect widows, orphans, and  Mother Church was corrupted and hijacked by careerists and con men in a huge racket of employment opportunities for gays, feminists, and their fellow travelers.
  3. The third truth the media narrative will not be able to face is the personality structure of their favorite villain, John Nienstedt. His masquerade as a "warrior bishop " for orthodoxy (as the local paper called him) is in fact the costume of another repressed closet homosexual at war with his own manhood and priestly identity. Can the media even ask what it is about John Nienstedt that allows this dismal parody of a shepherd to depart "with a clear conscience"? There is a reason the Vatican in its document on the admission of homosexuals to seminaries has said that the psychological deficiencies of this affective disorder make spiritual paternity impossible.
The secular media, the favored spokesmen among our local priests, and the repressive personality of John Nienstedt will not tell this tale well. (Someone who does, however, is Mr. Lawler at 'CatholicCulture.') Let us pray the Catholic laymen and priests of our local Church shall not stutter. May a new fraternity of purity and courage be invigorated by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Like the first apostles and followers of Christ, we were scattered by our fear and lack of faith. Let us implore the Holy Spirit to reunite our spiritual fathers to protect the purity of the Bride of Christ, the integrity of the Eucharist, and message of the Gospel.

The progenitor of corrupt priests flees into the night