Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday BookReview: The many ways we trip over Africa


“I prefer clarity over agreement.” (Dennis Prager) 

One of the best smackdowns to appear in the 'New York Times' in recent years was when travel writer Paul Theroux took on Irish musician Bono.

                                     

The opening line, plus a few others:
"There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can't think of one at the moment." 
"I got a dusty reception lecturing at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when I pointed out the successes of responsible policies in Botswana, compared with the kleptomania of its neighbors... Mr. Gates has said candidly that he wants to rid himself of his burden of billions. Bono is one of his trusted advisers. Mr. Gates wants to send computers to Africa - an unproductive not to say insane idea. I would offer pencils and paper, mops and brooms: the schools I have seen in Malawi need them badly." 
"Africa is a lovely place - much lovelier, more peaceful and more resilient and, if not prosperous, innately more self-sufficient than it is usually portrayed. But because Africa seems unfinished and so different from the rest of the world, a landscape on which a person can sketch a new personality, it attracts mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth. Such people come in all forms and they loom large. White celebrities busy-bodying in Africa loom especially large. Watching Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie recently in Ethiopia, cuddling African children and lecturing the world on charity, the image that immediately sprang to my mind was Tarzan and Jane."


What happens when an American newspaper sends a black reporter to cover Africa, and it turns out his allegiance to political correctness is negligible? A fine book results: Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa.


Author Keith Richburg, a native of Detroit, says:
"I'm tired of lying. And I'm tired of all the ignorance and hypocrisy and the double standards I hear and read about Africa, much of it from people who've never been there, let alone spent three years walking around amid the corpses... Talk to me about Africa and my black roots and my kinship with my African 'brothers' and I'll throw it back in your face... Thank God that I am an American [and] thank God my ancestor survived [the] voyage [to America on the slave ship]..."

Some excerpts from a review by Arch Puddington (1997):
[I]t is his observations on the pathology of African politics, and how that pathology intersects with our own racial perplexities, which ultimately make Out of America not only a provocative but an important book. Richburg has a powerful and very American sense of right and wrong, and he is especially sensitive to the cynical and manipulative use of the racial trump card in relations between Africans and Americans. The brazen exploitation of racial guilt by the thieves and murderers who are the continent’s despots especially appalled him...  
Richburg was present at a 1993 conference in Gabon attended by leading black American civil-rights activists. Among the guests of honor, he reports, was the continent’s youngest dictator, Valentine Strasser of Sierre Leone, a twenty-eight-year-old soldier who had seized power through a coup and proceeded systematically to arrest and execute officials of the previous regime. When Strasser strode into the hall, garbed in the standard-issue outfit of African strongmen—a camouflage uniform and Ray Ban sunglasses—the Americans erupted into cheering and frenzied applause...  
From Douglas Wilder, the first black governor of a Southern state, came the observation that “We cannot and should not expect [African governments] to undergo a metamorphosis in seconds . . . our job is not to interfere.” Benjamin Chavis (now Chavis Muhammad), then-director of the NAACP, warned against attempting “to superimpose a Western standard of democracy.” And Jesse Jackson heaped accolades on the ruthless Nigerian dictator Ibrahim Babangida, calling him “one of the great leader-servants of the modern world in our time.”

Jesse Jackson in Ivory Coast

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Africans and Anglicans: A Catholic Anthropology for the Priesthood


[Editor's note: It is a good time to look back at this relevant article in the wake of the Vatican discussion of family life. We will soon write specifically about the synod, and the pregnant lessons of African taboos.]


by David Pence (published October 24, 2012)



Archbishop Rowan Williams will end his ten-year term as Archbishop of Canterbury in December 2012. He is the primate of the Church of England, and holds a special place of honor among the other primates of the 44 autonomous national and provincial churches in the 80-million-member Anglican Communion.

His final General Synod of the Church of England will be held in November; and Williams has published a letter strongly advocating a resolution to allow female bishops.  He wrote:
"A Church that ordains women as priests but not as bishops is stuck with a real anomaly, one which introduces an un-clarity into what we are saying about baptism and about the absorption of the Church in the priestly self-giving of Jesus Christ.  Wanting to move beyond this anomaly is not a sign of giving in to secular egalitarianism – though we must be honest and admit that without secular feminism we might never have seen the urgency of this or the inconsistency of our previous position.”
Thanks be to secular feminism, indeed! While the first Anglican female bishops came from overwhelmingly white churches (USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand), the Anglican provinces who have resisted any female ordination (deacon, priest, or bishop) are from the growing churches of the global South: Central Africa, Melanesia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia, Tanzania. (The Anglican church of South Africa is an exception.) The Church of England has not yet joined the other white churches because a compromise to accommodate traditional parishes was deemed too hurtful to the feminists, and thus they ended up voting against the last resolution allowing female bishops. 

A general rule in Anglican and Protestant churches has been that a failure to defend the masculine communal nature of the ordained priesthood has been followed by an incoherence in defending the heterosexual character of marriage. American Episcopalians led the way in this peculiar form of progress. It is not really a surprise that one of the new female bishops is an open lesbian. 



Archbishop Rowan Williams wants to finish his term without the glaring contradiction of accepting female priests and deacons while denying women access to the episcopacy. Most Asian and African Anglicans agree this shows a deep ontological inconsistency. They, too, choose not to split out sacred offices of the deacon-priest-bishop hierarchy as bargaining chips in the battle of the sexes. Williams finishes on a note of consistency in a full capitulation to the heresy of his day; while the more Biblical primates fight to build their churches on a more stable form.

Catholics have not helped our African brothers enough in facing down this last most sinister form of white racism and cultural poisoning. We have not vigorously provided an anthropological and biblical defense of hierarchical masculine communal forms.

[Pope Benedict has taught that original sin "falsifies the fundamental relationships: with God, between man and woman, between man and the earth."  Pope John Paul II saw original sin as an attempt to "abolish fatherhood."  Proper relationships bind and perfect man.  Disrupted relations leave us our wounded nature.]

Adam and his sons never completed their ruling role on earth – which was part of the original mission of Adam.  They never properly joined one another in a patriarchal fraternity to contest and exorcise the dominion of the Evil One.  Fallen and broken man had to wait until the second Adam showed the filiation of an obedient Son, and instituted the public apostolic fraternity shaped by that love. While the Catholic priesthood under the episcopal hierarchy has not always been the best sacrament of manly public love, it is that Christic priestly love which still shapes its essential character after all these years.  

Five centuries ago, Anglicans broke from that sacramental fraternity but maintained much of its form. Now they watch the communal fraternal form dissipate, and can mount neither an apostolic nor anthropological defense.  After years of discussing the “theology of the body,” Catholics need to contribute a theology of the corporate body which explains the ordained masculine philia of Christian brotherhood. This is about the sacred manner in which men love one another unto sacrificial death. It is the unpolluted love that ties Christ to the most newly ordained of His priests today. It is the ordered public love that built our church and inspired our nations. It is the socio-biological fact that explains the territorial and communal masculine affiliations – which distinguish humans from lower animals.

Our Christian brothers in Africa are unafraid in staring down the bizarre new theologies of the imperial white Anglicans.  (Contrast this with American Catholic men who stutter at explaining to twelve-year-old girls why they don’t belong on the altar). The African men are unafraid because a more troublesome enemy is at their doorstep. They rub shoulders with an armed male presence. They have smelled the wreckage of a bombed church on Sunday morning. If African men seem impatient with the “justice claims” of mitered feminists, it may be the unsheathed swords they see outside the bedroom windows of their wives and children that turn them rude.

Is it not time that Catholic men in ecclesial apologetics and civic military policy lend them a hand? We are entering a war and we are not assembled as organized publics in the proper liturgical and military order to protect our women, our children, and our Holy Mother the Church.  The African Anglicans are warning us. Let us see them clearly as our brothers in their fight against the urbane and sophisticated Rowan Williams, making his last bow to the feminist mistress of the modern age.  The archbishop may look like our uncle and sound vaguely harmless in an English sort of way. But he speaks for the great delusion of our age: the comfortably familiar, but perversely sinister, program of the white sexual revolutionaries.  Let us serve the more sacral brotherhood.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Map on Monday: The Spread of Islam to 750 AD


Between the death of Muhammed in 632 and the Battle of Tours in 732, Islam conquered ancient Persia, much of the Byzantine (eastern Roman) Empire, North Africa, Spain, and parts of what is today southern France. Within this area were the ancient Christian Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, and the Holy City of Jerusalem itself. After the Islamic conquests, Christianity (a great eastern and African religion) became isolated to Europe and was seen by many historians and Christians as a "western" religion. Christianity would come to the Slavs during the 9th-13th centuries. The division between Orthodoxy and Catholicism would be exacerbated by the Mongol invasions, which began during the 1230's. (More on that map-changing world event at a later date.)

While Islam would continue to spread further eastward -- into what is today Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and even southern Philippines -- valiant Frankish and Visogothic Catholics halted the Islamic advance in western Europe, while Byzantine soldiers fought off an Islamic attack on Constantinople in 717 through use of Greek fire. Although Constantinople eventually fell to the Muslim Turks in 1453, the Catholic military Reconquista of present-day Spain and Portugal began around the year 800 and ended in 1492 -- just 39 years after the fall of Constantinople.

Islamic fleets and armies continued to be a danger in eastern Europe and were only limited by Catholic forces in the Battles of Lepanto (1571) and Vienna (1683). The religious soldiers of the Spanish empire and the missionaries they protected would bring Christianity in 1492 to the new world of the Americas.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, October 18

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:
Eventually the war against ISIS is going to determine the military composition of Lebanon. There we will see an unfamiliar Mideast sight -- organized armed Christians, namely the Maronite Catholics. Their most natural ally against the jihadist Sunnis will be their Shiite countrymen. The strongest Shiite force is Hezbollah. Here is a comparison of Hezbollah and ISIS forces from a multilingual source which specializes in Lebanon.

While Seattle has followed the city of Minneapolis in declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous People Day, we find their insensitivity to Spanish history and Catholic culture appalling. Far from showing an appreciation of cultural diversity, the spoiled white children of baby boomer excess need a good history lesson. Columbus did not "discover America." He introduced Christianity which is the fertile seed and soil that sprouted the great nations of the American continents.

The Ebola Virus is a challenge to a political culture that confuses rational separations and distinctions as acts of immoral discrimination. The pattern of the infections suggests the mode of transmission has not yet been properly characterized. The obstacles to contain the virus will not be a problem of funding, but clarity of thought and a willingness to employ the protective police powers of traditional public health measures. This isn't the first infectious disease in our history. The US Public Health Service has an office and person in charge of emergencies like this. It may be another careerist posing as a protector, but we don't really know because most of us have not heard of her.

Cardinal Walter Kasper revealed his true colors in an interview this week. Showing great disdain for Catholics in Africa, Asia, and the Mideast, Kasper identified himself with the views of the sexually disoriented, atheist West. While some were dismayed at Pope Francis' apparent silence, we rejoice that the Pope asked men to converse and let them converse. It is always better when the serpent reveals himself rather than hide in the shadows.

Some of the best reporting on the Catholic Bishops Synod on the family has been at Catholic World Report. This is a summary with two sidebar links to 1) the Pentin/Kaspar interview on African bishops and the taboo of homosexuality; and 2) Cardinal Pell on not collapsing before the modern zeitgeist.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday BookReview: Archbishop Ireland and "the days of the two-fisted Irish clergy"





Years ago I read this superb biography of John Ireland (who died about a month before the end of the First World War). He was the leader of the Catholic Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota; close friend of railroad tycoon James J. Hill and of Teddy Roosevelt; and church builder extraordinaire.

The book was written by Father O'Connell, a priest of our archdiocese, who taught for many years at Notre Dame.


To begin to understand Saint Paul's first archbishop, it helps to view him against the backdrop of "Dagger John" Hughes -- the first archbishop of New York City.

                                     
                                                     

From 'National Review' magazine:
In 1844, faced with a Nativist threat to burn down St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral (at Prince and Mott streets), John J. Hughes, the Irish-born bishop (and later first archbishop) of New York, gathered several thousand of his mostly Irish parishioners and deployed them around the church. Any attack on the cathedral, warned the man known as “Dagger John,” would be repulsed with force. The Nativists backed down. 
During the Civil War, Hughes undertook a secret mission to Europe at the personal request of Abraham Lincoln, to rally support for the Union cause and keep Britain from entering the war on the side of the Confederacy. This he did in part by explaining the facts of life to the English: that they’d have no luck in raising troops in restive, famine-stricken Ireland to fight against America, and a great deal of trouble if they tried. 
Those were the days of the two-fisted Irish clergy, who understood their dual American roles as both the spiritual leaders of their people and — when necessary — political figures as well. 


Archbishop Hughes died in 1864. During the previous year, John Ireland finished his stint as Civil War chaplain for the Fifth Minnesota Regiment.

(To me, there is a bit of Jimmy Cagney -- the Lower East Side street-fighter -- in both men.)
                                                           



From a profile of Archbishop Ireland by Maria Stella Ceplecha:

"He is best remembered for several achievements: his lifelong crusade for temperance, his early and staunch support for the founding of the Catholic University of America (CUA), his establishment of the St. Paul Diocesan Seminary and the College (now University) of St. Thomas, and the construction of two edifices, the imposing Cathedral of St. Paul and the graceful Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. The cathedral sits on a bluff overlooking downtown St. Paul and the state capitol building. A long, double boulevard, appropriately called John Ireland Boulevard, stretches down from this spiritual center to the government center. Across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis is the Basilica of St. Mary. The first to be built in the nation, it was almost lost not too many years ago to an ever-encroaching freeway system."

                                           


For a Minnesotan traveling around America, to gaze upon other Catholic cathedrals is to be brought up short -- even in Chicago, the bishop's church strikes one as a glorified sacristy with attached broom closet!

                                     



Some photos of the Basilica of St. Mary:

                     



"Law is order in liberty, and without order liberty is social chaos."                           (Archbishop Ireland)


                                  


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15: Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, Virgin and Doctor



 "Lord you have told us that you live forever in the hearts of the chaste. By the prayers of the virgin, Teresa, help us to live by your grace and remain a temple of your Holy Spirit."
               (Morning prayer from the Common of Virgins)


                                                     


Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was born in the same Spanish era that sent  Columbus across an ocean to plant the  Christian cross in the Americas. Praying the Church's office of this day prepares our minds to understand the feminine and the sacral character of that other land to explore: the interior life. The Church's teaching on the romance of monogamy is always set against the deeper truths of interiority and virginal fruitfulness which are lived out in the lives of virgin saints and the present practices of religious sisters.


An excerpt from the writings of Saint Teresa:

If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight.

Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.

What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart...



From a 1948 column by Dorothy Day in the Catholic Worker paper:

St. Teresa of Avila has a great deal to say of women's ailments. "The first thing we have to do," she writes firmly in The Way of Perfection, "and that at once, is to rid ourselves of love for this body of ours -- and some of us pamper our natures so much that this will cause us no little labor, while others are so concerned about their health that the trouble these things give us (this is especially so of poor nuns, but it applies to others as well), is amazing. Some of us, however, seem to think that we embraced the religious life for no other reason than to keep ourselves alive and each nun does all she can to that end. In this house, as a matter of fact, there is very little chance for us to act on such a principle, but I should be sorry if we even wanted to. Resolve, sisters, that it is to die for Christ, and not to practice self indulgence for Christ, that you have come here. The devil tells us that self indulgence is necessary if we are to carry out and keep the Rule of our Order, and so many of us, forsooth, try to keep our Rule by looking after our health, that we die without having kept it for as long as a month -- perhaps even for a day . . ."

Newman writes that the greatest tragedy is that so few of us have even begun to live, when we die. Not even to make a beginning! 
St. Teresa goes on, "No one need be afraid of our committing excesses here, by any chance -- for as soon as we do any penances our confessors begin to fear that we shall kill ourselves with them . . ."

                                                     


"Virgins show forth the beauty of God’s grace. They are the image of God that reflects the holiness of the Lord; they are the more illustrious members of Christ’s flock. They are the glory of mother church and manifest her fruitfulness. The more numerous her virgins are, the greater is her joy." 
          (From a sermon by St Cyprian, bishop and martyr)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The 'bambino' born to a 19th-century Tuscan family: Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria PUCCINI


And with his God-given talents, Signor Puccini enlarged the precious store of this earth's sublime melodies.

"In the second half of the 19th century, the two greatest opera composers of the age, Verdi in Italy and Wagner in Germany, still had some of their greatest years ahead of them, and Puccini drew on the strengths of both. From the former, he inherited the great tradition of Italian opera, with its emphasis on expressive singing, and learned something from Wagner about the fusion of music and drama."

Even if you're convinced you are no opera fan, listen to this pair of selections (combined time of less than six minutes):

Here is the incomparable Pavarotti (who died seven years ago).

And an aria by Kathleen Battle, the daughter of an Ohio steelworker.


[Take a glance at this poem about the fiery soprano, in which her tone is compared to warm caramel.]