Bearded Hipsters are Dreamers Too

It is hard for me to shed too many tears over the issue of gentrification.  It is not hard because I am unsympathetic to the anger aroused when generations-old black communities are disrupted by hordes of bearded suspenders-wearing hipsters.  But it is difficult because sometimes it’s hard to keep one’s eye on the ball.  What to think about Chinese immigrants – who displaced Italian immigrants and blacks – having community meetings to address what to do with all the Hasidic Jews moving in?  But to be completely honest, these gentrification sorts of discussions nearly always devolve into themes of American suburb-hatred and “let’s assume the absolute worst thing about white people” that tend to bore me numb.

What is fascinating to me, though, about gentrification is that it is a clear example of mass immigration on a very local level.  And, as gentrification dramatically shows, mass immigration is inherently disruptive to the current community.

Categorical Imperatives

Sedevacantism and ultramontanism are thorny concepts.  For one thing, both have been used historically – under certain conditions – to denote actual states of affairs regarding the Church.  These states of affairs are easily described and easily indentified.  But a very different other thing occurs when some Catholics dump mere personal opinions onto otherwise rather Catholicism for Dummies-level concepts.

Let’s define – for the purposes of this post – warped sedevacantism to be the position that the man who claims to be and is nearly universally recognized to be the Bishop of Rome is, in fact, not the Bishop of Rome and that there is no current Bishop of Rome.  The see of Peter is empty.  Pope Francis is not the pope – and neither is anyone else.  Those are the sedevacantists.  Ultramontanism is a bit shiftier. But I will take warped ultramontanism here to be the position that some thing (and an important correlate is the lack of any demarcation between what is, and is not, an appropriate thing even to be considered) is right or wrong, morally good or morally evil, because the pope says so.  Those are the ultramontanists – be they the Humanae Vitae type or the Laudato Si type.

Now for practical purposes, sedevacantism and ultramontanism are also interpretive paradigms used by some sorts of Catholics to understand – and to determine the relevance to the interpreter – the acts of the person claiming to be and universally recognized as the Bishop of Rome.

This is not to disdain interpretive paradigms. We all have them, whether they be informed, considered, rigid, etc or no.

However, such interpretive paradigms are additionally categorical positions on the essence of the papacy itself. They don’t just inform our decisions on this pope right here and right now’s words.  They also demand some position – again informed, considered, etc etc or no – on a whole host of essential issues: what is the papacy itself, what does “being pope” even mean or confer upon him who is pope, how is the papacy lost/gained/maintained and on and on.

Discussions of essences have a humbling bottomless rabbit hole sort of feel to them.  However, Holy Mother Church has taught us some things regarding the essence of the papacy.  And it seems to me that the wise path to take – perhaps particularly so in these dark and stormy days – is that one  in which our interpretive paradigms are primarily informed by the essentials of the papacy the Church herself has taught us.  And keeping other contentious issues surrounding the papacy at arm’s length.

See, Ultramontanism doesn’t just “tell you” how to interpret Laudato Si. It also “tells you” to some extent a bit of of what Jesus did when He founded the Church on the rock of St. Peter.  It tells you a very great deal more about moral truth and ultimately The Truth.  Getting right those sorts of things is of eternal importance.

We risk smuggling into the essence of the papacy a whole lot of near-occasions to material heresy that are undoubtedly bound up in interpretive paradigms we primarily construct to make sense of this pope right here and right now’s acts.  And when we don’t agree with – or conversely when we are absolutely smitten with – the current Pope the risks of our interpretive paradigms being less about the pope and more about sinful error-prone us only increase.

Now, none of this should be seen as a refutation of sedevancatism or ultramontanism. That has been done before, by others, and better.  All this is simply to illustrate a little care to be had when making sense of what appears to be a dumpster fire mess.  That said, ultramontanism and sedevacantism are spiritual maladies.  They are somatogravic inversions inflicted at takeoff often in dark and stormy times.  And dark and stormy times may make the inversions more understandable.   But the wreckage is the same.




CCD in Baltimore

169E.  When does a baptized person separate himself from full incorporation in the Mystical Body by schism?

 A baptized person separates himself from full incorporation in the Mystical Body by schism when he openly refuses obedience to the lawful authorities of the Church, particularly to the Pope.

Baltimore Catechism No. 2

A Grand Inquisitor in a Cup of Joe

When I was trying my hardest to convert to atheism there was always a tenuous balance between a romanticism with the “impossibility-and-yet-happening” of my sitting here enjoying a cup of coffee and the existential dread that no cups of enjoyable coffee will ever “mean anything” today or 4 billion years from now. All the coffee did was allow me momentarily to forget the dread.  That – or at least it was for me – is what is so awful about existentialism.  Existentialism made me hate everything I had loved or enjoyed.

Existential dread can be very hard to shake, even for those of us who now know this “valley of tears” ultimately leads Elsewhere.

When the dread – mercifully rare these days – tempts me, I know the answer.  Say what you will, but the Roman Catholic Church puts her money where her mouth is.  And the salve for that dread is the Blessed Sacrament.  This bread right here and right now that can be picked up and touched and tasted – this thing just is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Omnipotent Infinite God.  And – to most – that sounds literally insane.  Almost as insane as getting PO’ed at a cup of joe.

This is no Pacal’s Wager.  Pascal’s Wager always sounded like a fancy pants way of forgetting and forgetting and forgetting that the cup of coffee is meaningless.  The Blessed Sacrament commands a decision: and if it’s true there is no existential dread.  There cannot be.  None of this will convince an unbeliever.  That comes about by other means.  But it can help to recall all this when our own demons come a knocking.  The scandal of scandals is that the coffee does mean something.  Oh, how very much it means.


– H/T great post and comments at Bonald’s.

The Long Game

Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it.  Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.

It is understandable to look at the modern Roman Catholic Church with a bit of dismay.  And that’s just the Catholics.  Non Catholics who are regular social conservative type people are routinely scandalized by the Church.  It’s hard to fault them.

But we must fault them. We must tell them that scandal – as understandable as it may be – is blinding them from Him.  They don’t see that He is sacrificed on the altar for our sins.   They don’t see Him patiently waiting for them in all the Catholic tabernacles of the world.  They don’t see Him forgiving the damned soul in the confessional.

But in a spirit of ecumenism, I welcome the fact there is plenty of fault to go around. The most wretched of folks are those Catholics who are also scandalized into ridiculousness.  Scandalized into a big ole freak out conniption that leads to nothing but trouble.  From Luther to Dreher (and others before and in between), their prayer remains:  “Lord, give me Catholicism just not Roman Catholicism!”

We look to fruits to judge the prophet here and now.  And we may judge a religious faith by its fruit as well.  But judging a faith by its fruit is the long game.  Judging a faith – particularly a millennia old one – by the fruit it’s been growing since last Tuesday is stupid.

She’s a Very Stable Genius

Oprah Winfrey went full out mic dropping barn-burning during some acceptance speech or other at the recent Golden Globe awards.  And apparently some people are considering the implications of a President Oprah Winfrey.  “President Oprah Winfrey” kinda sounds to me like the resulting Rosemary’s baby if Lululemon and Satan had relations.

My dad says things like, “It just shows how strong this country is that it can survive President George Bush and President Barack Obama.”  A President Oprah would dial that up to eleventy.  Regardless, it is fairly remarkable – considering A President Winfrey – that liberalism can seemingly go on cruise control for a bit.  A cruise control beneficial for both driver and car.  I guess the cruise control “works” so long as the audience just keeps smiling and applauding.  “Let them eat free cars.”

Maybe cruise control has taken us towards a final lap.  Maybe we have believed the lie too long that authority need not exist so long as the right pieces of paper and machinery are in place – so we might as well “be inspired” in the meantime.  But I doubt it:  Some saw the election of President Trump as a return to sanity.  “Bout time,” they say.  But for a very, very large number of people (likely even the Trump supporters), what the election has really accomplished is to further entrench us in the optimistic belief that if we just put our heads down and trudge through – if we keep applauding – surely a good President will come along and Make America Great Again.  Part of liberalism’s resilience is that liberalism (despite the streets of blood occasionally needed to assert its supremacy) is generally very serious about protecting its leaders.  I imagine if Oprah Winfrey had been queen of 15th century England, England would have more than likely endured.  But more than likely, Queen Oprah would have not.


On Bombs and Bollards

As a follow up to my previous post, I wanted to offer some personal anecdote (with all the caveats surrounding the soundness of personal anecdote).   My comment regarding bollards was, admittedly, concerned with such a fraction of the overall (and often complex) issues of bollards, bombs, terrorism, counter-terrorism, Islam, etc., etc.

However, everyday I actually wade through bollards – a whole heaping helping of them.  And even in this largely effeminate, wackadoodle Babylon I call home, salt of the earth type people are angry at the site of those dang bollards.  And occasionally, the sentiment can be heard:  “We wouldn’t need those stupid bollards if we would finally just go wipe those Muslims out of existence.  I say we give the women and kids 48 hours to evacuate and them bomb ole Mecca into glass.”  I’m not trying to setup a straw man; rather I just want to illustrate a sentiment that is not all too uncommon.

Now, I really have no firm ideas about how best to prevent Muslim atrocities.  And given that terrorists identify less as nationals and more as religionists makes discussion about initiating war and combating war in this setting complex.  However, there is a temptation – and I wonder if it will only become a stronger temptation in the future – from those bollards to bloodthirstiness.  And I wonder if our bloodthirstiness is attributable to decades of moral complacency in the face of peculiarly American bloodthirstiness.  Time is not the 8th sacrament – either for individuals or nations.  Historical unrepented national sins have a way of seeping into our society and blunting our moral barometers.  Just as unrepented sins can do on the personal level.

And that is why the bollards are worrisome to me.  If the carnage continues those bollards will cry out for vengeance, and our society will not have the moral standing or sanity to face and fight our bloodthirsty temptations.  Until we go back and repent our former sins, until we make a firm purpose of amendment, until we reset our moral barometers, it is true that the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.