The Political Establishment, Crony Capitalism, and the Christian West: Steve Bannon is the key to deciphering what to make of Trumpian policy

Many people are trying to explain the national phenomenon which carried Donald Trump into the White House. It’s true that his election signaled a revolt among the non-coastal voters and these voters regard Washington as broken. But why exactly did this unusual candidate resonate? I’d submit that the vast majority of his most fervent supporters couldn’t even fully answer this. Typically the answer to this sort of question would best be revealed in a candidate’s past words and actions, a history that helps one understand exactly their governing philosophy. But Trump isn’t typical and a coherent political past doesn’t exist. He has changed his mind many times and has never had the need to take action in the arena of politics. This leaves many befuddled trying to understand this new Trumpian philosophy. What direction exactly is this administration going to take us? What is their view of America’s position among other nations? How does the White House understand the role of Christianity in the world?

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The best way to make sense of these questions is by focusing on a man other than Donald Trump. Sometimes we must ignore the attention Trump naturally draws and see the big picture. Let us shift our attention to Steve Bannon, Trump’s current Chief Strategist and recent campaign chief executive. He is painted by the mainstream news as a racist, nationalist scumbag. The left’s argument can be persuasive, even to conservatives, especially when one is familiar with some questionable episodes in his past, the antagonistic manner his former website (Breitbart) has been run, the fact he has respected-by-conservative enemies such as Ben Shapiro, and, truthfully, his general scumbag appearance. But the mainstream media is shallow, offering only sensational headlines, and this is why the opinions of many seem to be of equal measure. Don’t be fooled, Steven Bannon is a man of depth in almost every way. While indeed controversial, the man is smart with well thought out philosophies and he has Trump’s ear. Mr. Bannon is well decorated, so to say: he is a Navy veteran, graduated from Virginia Tech, holds a masters degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown, received an MBA from Harvard Business School, worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, was an executive producer in Hollywood (boasting 18 films), was CEO of Affinity Media (after he persuaded Goldman Sachs to invest in them), and, until recently, was the CEO of Breitbart News. Steve is also a practicing Roman Catholic.

“If you read Bannon’s Vatican speech, what you meet is a man almost obsessed by concern for the fragility of freedom and peace in our fallen world. Someone consumed by care for the vulnerable among us, and unafraid to confront their powerful oppressors. Steve is tough, like the sheepdogs described in American Sniper—tough enough to defend the defenseless. He once joked about learning from Lenin, but Bannon won’t break eggs to make human omelets, as Lenin did. No, he will break the omelet-makers—the Islamists and globalists who recklessly threaten the innocent…So if you’re committed to genuine Catholic social teaching—to peace, open markets and the sanctity of human life, Steve’s your man.

-Jason Jones, The Steve Bannon I know

While the ascent of Mr. Bannon may put liberals in hysterics, it’s the Republicans who should brace for impact. As you will soon read, Mr. Bannon DGAF about party politics. With Steve as strategist, it is clear there is a new philosophy in town and Republicans might need to rethink all the positions they have been told by the establishment is gospel. Bannon takes issue with Republican politicians, labeling most as crony capitalists and blaming them for the dire situation we find ourselves in. His opinions and insights carry particular weight since he was a banking insider himself for many years. While we still aren’t positive what policy forms these opinions will take, an attractive argument can certainly be made that it is good to have the comfortable establishment shaken to its core. What we have had for decades clearly doesn’t work for the majority of the country anymore. Many who voted for Trump are in agreement with Bannon: it’s time to rethink everything: trade, labor, the middle class, social policy, national sovereignty, our Christian roots, and the government working for us rather than the other way around.

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Liberal outrage after Trump picked Bannon for White House staff

So what exactly does Steve Bannon think? What is the prevailing philosophy in the White House? Briefly: Fixing a collapsed western economy and culture with a focus on the roots of Judeo-Christian-oriented capitalism, strengthened by economic nationalism, to regain the fruits of which we have taken for granted…and are losing. Less-briefly: the best insight we have right now can be gathered by a conference Mr. Bannon headlined at the Vatican in 2014. In it, he repeatedly discusses the importance of the “Judeo-Christian” underpinnings of the West and the importance of the Church in society. He discusses what caused the crisis in 2008, the reasons voters are revolting, and the problems we face in a series of discussion questions. Buzzfeed posted the entire transcript recently but it is quite long and I contend that a lot of people who might otherwise be interested have avoided it for this reason. Below is some of what I think readers of this blog will find most interesting. Quotes are in order but for full context please read entire transcript. Emphases mine.

Human Dignity Institute Conference, Vatican, Summer 2014

[Steve Bannon:] I want to talk about wealth creation and what wealth creation really can achieve and maybe take it in a slightly different direction, because I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian west, is in a crisis…and it is a crisis both of capitalism but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian west in our beliefs.

…100 years ago, at the exact moment we’re talking, the assassination took place in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that led to the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of the bloodiest century in mankind’s history…There was trade, there was globalization, there was technological transfer, the High Church of England and the Catholic Church and the Christian faith was predominant throughout Europe of practicing Christians. Seven weeks later, I think there were 5 million men in uniform and within 30 days there were over a million casualties.

That war triggered a century of barbaric — unparalleled in mankind’s history — virtually 180 to 200 million people were killed in the 20th century, and I believe that, you know, hundreds of years from now when they look back, we’re children of that: We’re children of that barbarity. This will be looked at almost as a new Dark Age.

But the thing that got us out of it, the organizing principle that met this, was not just the heroism of our people…really the Judeo-Christian West versus atheists, right? The underlying principle is an enlightened form of capitalism, that capitalism really gave us the wherewithal…That capitalism really generated tremendous wealth. And that wealth was really distributed among a middle class, a rising middle class, people who come from really working-class environments and created what we really call a Pax Americana…And I believe we’ve come partly offtrack in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union and we’re starting now in the 21st century, which I believe, strongly, is a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.

We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the Church Militant [TSP: so traditional, oh my!], to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.

I think that you’re seeing three kinds of converging tendencies: One is a form of capitalism that is taken away from the underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity…

I see that every day. I’m a very practical, pragmatic capitalist. I was trained at Goldman Sachs, I went to Harvard Business School, I was as hard-nosed a capitalist as you get. I specialized in media, in investing in media companies, and it’s a very, very tough environment…So I don’t want this to kinda sound namby-pamby, “Let’s all hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ around capitalism.”

But there’s a strand of capitalism today — two strands of it, that are very disturbing.

One is state-sponsored capitalism. And that’s the capitalism you see in China and Russia. I believe it’s what Holy Father has seen for most of his life in places like Argentina, where you have this kind of crony capitalism of people that are involved with these military powers-that-be in the government, and it forms a brutal form of capitalism that is really about creating wealth and creating value for a very small subset of people. And it doesn’t spread the tremendous value creation throughout broader distribution patterns that were seen really in the 20th century.

The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing, is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism. And, look, I’m a big believer in a lot of libertarianism…However, that form of capitalism is quite different when you really look at it to what I call the “enlightened capitalism” of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost

The other tendency is an immense secularization of the West…especially millennials under 30, the overwhelming drive of popular culture is to absolutely secularize this rising iteration.

That call converges with something we have to face, and it’s a very unpleasant topic…jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.

That war is expanding and it’s …, unfortunately, something that we’re going to have to face, and we’re going to have to face very quickly.

So I think the discussion of, should we put a cap on wealth creation and distribution? It’s something that should be at the heart of every Christian that is a capitalist — “What is the purpose of whatever I’m doing with this wealth? What is the purpose of what I’m doing with the ability that God has given us, that divine providence has given us to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth?”

And so I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.

[the following quotes are parts of responses to various questions]

If you look at the leaders of capitalism at that time, when capitalism was I believe at its highest flower and spreading its benefits to most of mankind, almost all of those capitalists were strong believers in the Judeo-Christian West. They were either active participants in the Jewish faith, they were active participants in the Christians’ faith, and they took their beliefs, and the underpinnings of their beliefs was manifested in the work they did.

…the middle class, the working men and women in the world who are just tired of being dictated to by what we call the party of Davos. A group of kind of — we’re not conspiracy-theory guys, but there’s certainly — and I could see this when I worked at Goldman Sachs — there are people in New York that feel closer to people in London and in Berlin than they do to people in Kansas and in Colorado, and they have more of this elite mentality that they’re going to dictate to everybody how the world’s going to be run.

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Photo taken moments after popping a motorcycle wheelie leaving his Goldman Sachs job

I will tell you that the working men and women of Europe and Asia and the United States and Latin America don’t believe that. They believe they know what’s best for how they will comport their lives. They think they know best about how to raise their families and how to educate their families. So I think you’re seeing a global reaction to centralized government

…we believe in the benefits of capitalism…However, like I said, there’s two strands of capitalism that we’re quite concerned about.

One is crony capitalism, or what we call state-controlled capitalism, and that’s the big thing the tea party is fighting in the United States…The tea party in the United States’ biggest fight is with the the Republican establishment, which is really a collection of crony capitalists that feel that they have a different set of rules of how they’re going to comport themselves and how they’re going to run things. And, quite frankly, it’s the reason that the United States’ financial situation is so dire…we’re the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement…

…middle-class and working-class people — they’re saying, “Hey, I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked. I’m getting less benefits than I’m ever getting through this, I’m incurring less wealth myself, and I’m seeing a system of fat cats who say they’re conservative and say they back capitalist principles, but all they’re doing is binding with corporatists.” Right?

… there’s a relatively obscure agency in the federal government…called the Export-Import Bank…it was a bank that helped finance things that other banks wouldn’t do. And what’s happening over time is that it’s metastasized to be a cheap form of financing to General Electric and to Boeing and to other large corporations. You get this financing from other places if they wanted to, but they’re putting this onto the middle-class taxpayers to support this.

General Electric and these major corporations that are in bed with the federal government are not what we’d consider free-enterprise capitalists. We’re backers of entrepreneurial capitalists. They’re not. They’re what we call corporatistthe fight you’re seeing is between entrepreneur capitalism and the people like the corporatists that are closer to the people like we think in Beijing and Moscow than they are to the entrepreneurial capitalist spirit of the United States.

The 2008 crisis, I think the financial crisis — which, by the way, I don’t think we’ve come through — is really driven I believe by the greed, much of it driven by the greed of the investment banks…traditionally the best banks are leveraged 8:1. When we had the financial crisis in 2008, the investment banks were leveraged 35:1…That made the banks not really investment banks, but made them hedge funds — and highly susceptible to changes in liquidity. And so the crisis of 2008 was, quite frankly, really never recovered from in the United States…

And one of the reasons is that we’ve never really gone and dug down and sorted through the problems of 2008. Particularly the fact — think about it — not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with 2008 crisis. And in fact, it gets worse. No bonuses and none of their equity was taken… I think you need a real clean-up of the banks balance sheets.

I think you really need to go back and make banks do what they do: Commercial banks lend money, and investment banks invest in entrepreneurs and to get away from this trading — you know, the hedge fund securitization, which they’ve all become basically trading operations and securitizations and not put capital back and really grow businesses and to grow the economy…the underpinning of this populist revolt is the financial crisis of 2008. That revolt, the way that it was dealt with, the way that the people who ran the banks and ran the hedge funds have never really been held accountable for what they did…

…it’s incumbent upon freedom-loving people to make sure that we sort out these governments and make sure that we sort out particularly this crony capitalism so that the benefits become more of this entrepreneurial spirit and that can flow back to working-class and middle-class people.

[QUESTIONER:] …What was the feeling on Wall Street when they bailed out the banks? How should Christians feel about advocating or being against that?

[Back to Bannon:] I think one is about responsibility. For Christians, and particularly for those who believe in the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian West, I don’t believe that we should have a bailout…it was a lot of misinformation that was presented about the bailouts of the banks in the West.

Middle-class taxpayers, people making incomes under $50,000 and $60,000, it was the burden of those taxpayers, right, that bailed out the elites. And let’s think about it for a second. Here’s how capitalism metastasized, is that all the burdens put on the working-class people who get none of the upside. All of the upside goes to the crony capitalists.

The bailouts were absolutely outrageous, and here’s why: It bailed out a group of shareholders and executives who were specifically accountable…

One of the committees in Congress said to the Justice Department 35 executives that they should have criminal indictments against — not one of those has ever been followed up on… there’s a sense between the law firms, and the accounting firms, and the investment banks, and their stooges on Capitol Hill, they looked the other way.

So you can understand why middle class people having a tough go of it making $50 or $60 thousand a year and see their taxes go up, and they see that their taxes are going to pay for government sponsored bailouts…and that is what I think is fueling this populist revolt.

It’s all the institutions of the accounting firms, the law firms, the investment banks, the consulting firms, the elite of the elite, the educated elite, they understood what they were getting into, forcibly took all the benefits from it and then look to the government, went hat in hand to the government to be bailed out. And they’ve never been held accountable today. Trust me — they are going to be held accountable.

[QUESTIONER:] What do you think is the major threat today, to the Judeo-Christian Civilization? Secularism, or the Muslim world?

[Back to Bannon:]  I certainly think secularism has sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals.

If you go back to your home countries and your proponent of the defense of the Judeo-Christian West and its tenets, often times, particularly when you deal with the elites, you’re looked at as someone who is quite odd. So it has kind of sapped the strength.

[Talking about a different topic now] When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism…

I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy. However, we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.

[QUESTIONER:] …How should the West respond to radical Islam and not lose itself in the process?

[Back to Bannon:]  I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam.

…If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world…

And I would ask everybody in the audience today, because you really are the movers and drivers and shakers and thought leaders in the Catholic Church today, is to think, when people 500 years from now are going to think about today…ask yourself, 500 years from today, what are they going to say about me? What are they going to say about what I did at the beginning stages of this crisis?

Because it is a crisis, and it’s not going away. You don’t have to take my word for it. All you have to do is read the news every day, see what’s coming up, see what they’re putting on Twitter, what they’re putting on Facebook, see what’s on CNN, what’s on BBC.

Prevailing political philosophy has just shifted monumentally in the White House. Your thoughts? ☩

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Trump v. Chris Matthews: A Clueless Discussion on Abortion & The Church

If someone were to ask me who the two biggest buffoons on TV were, I’d likely answer Donald Trump and Chris Matthews. So it was really something special (Trump voice) to see the the two blowhards go back and forth at a town hall event in Green Bay. I have argued for months that Trump is completely unprincipled and will simply say or do anything to reach the White House (in a sense he’s more of a politician than any current politician). Sure, he might say some things that sound agreeable to political conservatives, but it’s obvious he has no clue why he actually has the position. Chris Matthews, while no doubt knowledgeable, has become a grouchy liberal blowhard, championing some of the most ridiculous left-wing sentiments on MSNBC.

There was one segment in particular that seemed to highlight the worst these two men have to offer though. Both men speak about something they have no clue on: Trump on being pro-life and Matthews on what it means to be a Catholic American. A young woman asks Donald, “I have a question on…what is your stance on woman rights, and their right to choose, and their own reproductive health”. I mean, I guess that’s a question.

Now Trump hates these questions for a number of reasons. First, he likely doesn’t believe what he’s saying. Second, he seemingly has no depth of any knowledge on the positions he touts. And third, his bread and butter is immigration and the economy, not pesky social issues. Matching the poorly thought-out question, he tries to get by with a brief clumsy answer, “I’m…as you know…I’m pro-life…uh…with exceptions…with the three exceptions. Pretty much that’s my stance. Is that okay, do you understand?” What an eloquent testament for life.

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Hey, I can’t see real good, is that Pope Frank over there?

Sensing blood in the water (the water here being a college campus, MSNBC audience), Matthews pushes him by asking what exactly the law should be. But of course the only detailed answers Mr. Trump ever seems to have are his daily poll numbers and who is saying what about him on Twitter. You can see the gears moving behind his orange face as he tries to buy time.

Trump Pisses Off Everyone

Trump fumbles more when Matthews presses further asking just what being pro-life means to Mr. Trump, asking if there should be a punishment to women who get an abortion. After trying his hardest to dodge the question, Trump eventually says that there should be some sort of punishment for women. This has created a firestorm from both sides of the abortion debate. This was the ultimate “gotchya” moment for the pro-abortion, political left: “See, the Republicans want uniquely punitive measures for women!” It’s safe to say that this line will be used in campaign ads.

The pro-life movement, which has gained a ton of traction in the past decade, is upset because they recognize they have just been set back by Trump’s thoughtless comments. Most pro-lifers will say that their goal is not to punish a woman who is obviously going through a very difficult time. If the operation were to be banned, their position typically is that “doctors” who preform abortions would be subject to punishment under the law. At the same time it would be society’s responsibility to offer the support a mother needs as she goes through this difficult time.

Matthews “Respects” The Moral Authority of The Catholic Church

But then The Donald attempted to turn the tables on Chris, asking what his stance is on the subject, wondering if he knows the stance his Church has on the subject.

From there we see two frauds talking about something they don’t really know anything about. Chris says that he accepts his Church’s “moral authority” but that, unlike Spain, the Church does not run the state, implying that his being “pro-choice” in a political sense can be easily reconciled with him thinking the Church is right on abortion being morally wrong. Just like I personally am for stealing from people, but I recognize the Church’s authority to tell me it’s wrong (eye roll). Matthews further adds a memorized bit of scripture, Mark 12:17, as if it somehow backs his position up: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Be warned: hearing the two go back and forth on topics clearly neither of them understand will induce laughter, and possibly weeping.

Fearing that this video might display true microcosms of the current voter bases in this country, please excuse me as I bury my face back in my palms over what a complete disaster this presidential race has become.

Justice Scalia’s Catholic Life

Our country lost a remarkable Supreme Court justice over the weekend. Justice Antonin Scalia, despite being considered a foe of many progressives, was still generally admired by all for his keen intelligence and thoughtful (if not downright entertaining) decisions. Justice Scalia saw the Constitution as the objective beacon that anchored the United States instead of a document that could be manipulated to conform to the fashions of the day (I’ll spare you the Catholic/protestant analogies here). While he issued opinions on many cases, many supporters consider his District of Columbia v. Heller to be a crowning achievement wherein he opined that our God-given right to self-preservation, and according to our Second Amendment, allowed Americans to bear arms on and in their property regardless of what state or boundaries they found themselves within (in this case, Washington DC).

“Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation. This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment. We look to this because it has always been widely understood that the Second Amendment, like the First and Fourth Amendments, codified a pre-existing right.”

– Antonin Scalia’s Majority Decision in DC v Heller, 2008

But you can find plenty of other places to read about his opinions, I want to talk about his very public Catholic identity. Antonin Scalia’s career and jurisprudence was formed by classical Catholic thought. As a staunch intellectual and defender of moral law, he venerated Saint Thomas More, patron to politicians, statesmen, and lawyers. A portrait of the JPII-canonized saint hanged in his office and he even wore a replica of More’s famous hat to President Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration.

Furthermore, Justice Scalia showed that the Catholic intellectual tradition provided a deep reservoir of insights into law, the role of judges, and even our own written Constitution. It’s no coincidence, for example, that Justice Scalia argued that originalism should accept some nonoriginalist precedent to protect the rule of law. The rule of law, fully articulated by the time of St. Thomas, is a central component of the common good, and originalism should protect it, where it can, for the sake of the common good.

Lee Strang, Georgetown & Toledo College of Law

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Rev. Paul Scalia serving the Traditional Latin Mass. Yes, he’s the one that looks exactly like Antonin Scalia
But he wasn’t just some shallow CINO (Catholic in name only). He wasn’t a ‘cultural Catholic’ politician that used his religious identity to his benefit. From all third-party accounts available, Justice Scalia walked the walk. Scalia was the father of nine children and a grandfather to 36! When asked in a 60 Minutes interview about his large family, he said he and his wife “didn’t set out to have nine children […] We’re just old-fashioned Catholics, playing what used to be known as ‘Vatican Roulette,’”

One of his sons actually is a priest. Fr. Paul Scalia served a number of dioceses before most recently being the pastor at Saint John the Beloved parish (which offers TLM) in the Arlington, VA diocese. In fact, Paul is apparently very active in the Latin Mass movement in Washington DC. Paul is known to preach about orthodoxy and the “errors of modernism”–indeed similar to his father’s philosophy of the Constitution.

Actually, Antonin Scalia was a “Latin Masser” himself. He was frequently spotted at the Solemn High Mass at St. Catherine of Siena in Great Falls, VA. Actually, he often went with his colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas. Pretty cool huh? For a biography (American Original) he was asked about his liturgical preferences, “We have always traveled long distances to go to a church that we thought had a really reverent Mass, the kind of church that when you go in, it is quiet — not that kind of church where it is like a community hall and everybody is talking,”

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Scalia donning a replica of St. Thomas More’s at 2013’s presidential inauguration
The justice proved obedient to the Faith that had done such a good job forming him. Many people expect a ‘traditionally-minded’ Catholic to openly criticize some of Pope Francis’ endeavors and quotes, but when asked by New York Magazine what he thought of Francis’ quote (which was interpreted by many secular sources to mean Catholics need to focus less on marriage and abortion), Scalia retorted, “He’s the Vicar of Christ. He’s the chief. I don’t run down the pope.”

Also in the New York Magazine interview, he was asked if he “believes in the Devil”, unable to wrap their head around the fact that an otherwise [very] intelligent person could possibly buy into such an antiquated concept of an immaterial presence seeking to do harm in the world. I mean, surely this successful, smart, and thoughtful man only calls himself a Catholic to keep up appearances and for a sense of childhood nostalgia. But the justice answered, “Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.”. The interview goes on:

NYM: Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
Justice Scalia: If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.

Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?

You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

No.
It’s because he’s smart.

So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

[…Y]ou’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. […]

Right.
What happened to him?

He just got wilier.
He got wilier.

Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

I’m sorry to have offended you!
Have you read The Screwtape Letters?

Yes, I have.
So, there you are. That’s a great book. It really is, just as a study of human nature.

Scalia will be remembered as a champion for legal and spiritual truth. He understood that the Constitution’s strength lay in its rock-hard objectiveness, rights adhering to the truth of God. It’s hard to imagine being such a staunch defender of this understanding had he not first understood that that this too is the strength of moral law as handed to us by the “pillar and foundation of Truth” (1 Tim 3:15), the holy Catholic Church.

We ask that the Heavenly Father look favorably upon Antonin Scalia that he might enter Heaven as he so looked forward to while here on earth. We ask for the prayers of Thomas More, his patron saint, that he be made worthy of eternal life beside Jesus.

May he rest in peace.

V. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
R. Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

Thoughts on Pew’s In-Depth Poll of American Catholics

Pew Research conducted a thorough poll of American Catholics leading up to the Holy Father’s recent trip to the United States. The study covers a lot of issues facing American culture today, attempting to understand where Catholics stand on these topics. The findings are interesting even if expected. The entire poll is over five “chapters” long but let’s discuss a few glaring points. If you have time, make sure to check out the entire thing–handy graphs and all–at their site with the table of contents below:

There’s been a lot of polling over the past few years showing that fewer people than ever consider themselves Christian. While I don’t doubt that, percentage-wise, fewer people are Christian (let alone Catholic), something we need to keep in mind is that many of the people checking the “no” box on these polls feel the same way they did 20 years ago, only now there’s less of a stigma associating yourself with non-Christian or even atheistic beliefs. I’d submit that many people are just actually being more honest now than ever (how virtuous!). So, a non-Mass-going ‘Catholic’ dad in 1995 might have felt uneasy about admitting he really has no connection to the Catholicism he was raised with back then but now, with the popularity of open secularism in the West, this same man doesn’t feel so ashamed that he and his family have no connection to any formal religion. In fact, statistician and Catholic Leah Libresco drew my attention to this poll through her post discussing a similar point on First Things: Statting While Catholic.

This theory isn’t to view the situation with rose-colored glasses though, there’s an undeniable problem. And, to cut right to the chase, I am looking at all the careless, lax, fluffy, and lazy priests that have infected the American Church over the last half century. I’m looking at the priests that have led their flocks astray by downplaying reverence, up-playing sentimentalism, allowing sacred art to be discarded, using their homilies as a time to tell stories that hardly resemble any sort of Catholic thought, not teaching the faith to their parishioners with adult logic and philosophical intellect, and ignoring the difference between virtue and vice. We also need to recognize the destruction left in the wake of the Vatican II to properly contextualize these numbers. Fifty years later, it is obvious, especially to young Catholics, that the Second Vatican Council, despite its intention, has created more confusion, chaos, and empty pews than anything else in recent Church history. The Second Council is like a poorly written contract with countless loopholes to be taken advantage of, allowing relative interpretation to creep in…and that’s just what these crappy priests did. In many parishes, Mass has become something that more resembles a protestant worship service only with worse music and lower attendance.

Today's homily: God loves it when you say "please & thank you"
Today’s homily: God loves it when you say “please & thank you”

We have had time for the dust to settle. Now it is no longer the traditional Mass goers and lovers of Catholic orthodoxy that are viewed as the ones “haunting the turrets of outdated and reactionary Catholicism” (quoting Rachel Lu) but rather the aging progressive modernists that are either responsible for or a product of this debacle. The crop of impressive and faithful young laity and clergy supports the old saying “the Church outlives all heresies”. The tables have indeed turned, it’s the progressive modernist-style Catholics in the rear-view mirror of this unfolding history. However, as the data from Pew shows, we still have a huge mess to clean up.

So back to the whole point of this post: the poll. Let’s discuss some numbers. We see that almost half of Catholics consider unmarried partners of any gender combination raising children just as good as a man and woman in marriage raising a family. How can this possibly happen? I have some theories (it involves crappy lazy priests) but I’ll save you the rant.

We see that 83% of Catholics don’t understand the teachings on artificial contraception and with some even thinking the Church is wrong. Now, there is a notable difference between cultural Catholics (who rarely attend Mass) and weekly Mass-going Catholics, but not by much. Another topic many priests shy away from, confession, a SACRAMENT, is something few Catholics participate in, with 56% of them either never going or going less than once a year!

We see that parents either are not doing a good job or are not getting the support they deserve because half of children who grow up Catholic leave the Faith. So, since most Catholics seem to have no more than two children, that means…well you do the math.

We also see the trend of men becoming less engaged. While I applaud the strong female Catholics leading their families, this has caused many problems in attendance and vocations. Many of the liturgies you come across at some parishes are enough to make sure a man never thinks about setting foot in a Roman Catholic church again. At many parishes women (again, to their credit) nearly run the entire operation, but it shouldn’t be so lopsided. We need engaged men.

guitar massThe poll has a chapter asking which actions, if any, constitute a “sin”. These results show, in my opinion, that many Catholics don’t understand what “sin” means. This is something we’ve discussed on this blog before. Popular culture (and protestants) has a done a great job diminishing what “sin” is. Of course, many Catholics haven’t had explained that sin is simply taking an action contrary to the natural order in the world; that God is–in the most basic sense–the unseen order of the universe and a sin is any action that frustrates that order. That’s it. It’s not some outdated, judgmental term. But again, many Catholics aren’t aware of this because their priests likely decide to talk to the congregation as if they are children, incapable of any intellectual or adult discussion. Pastors need to lead their congregation’s spiritual growth by discussing the disorder that vice causes in our lives, and about the holy saints that lived lives of heroic virtue.
So, fellow Catholics, keep praying, keep evangelizing, and keep hope. We’ve about hit rock bottom–it’s only up from here. There’s an amazing crop of young priests seeking to “fix the fix” of 50 years ago. These young priests are in love with their bride, the Church, and they want to share everything she has to offer with their congregations. Liturgies are embracing Gregorian chant in the music and Latin in the ordinaries again. The Traditional Latin Mass is exponentially growing worldwide. We have tools at our disposal that help us communicate like never before. We have young men and women who desire big and beautiful families. We have a laity on fire with the Faith. Because of all this, the dire numbers we see are getting better every day.

So, yes, there’s some very unfortunate facts we must face temporarily. Luckily, all that’s right with the Church is strong enough to overcome anything that’s currently wrong. So be patient with your eyes on Christ and, in the meantime, pardon all the snark on TSP.

For an incredible breakdown of American Catholics by the numbers check out the linked table of contents above. There’s a ton of stats not mentioned in this article.

Our American Values – The Dignity of Lions and Babies

“American Values”. It’s the traditional slogan for everything our nation holds dear: life, liberty, hard work, and so on. But what about modern American Values? What would they be? It’s something I’ve pondered for a while, but the thought really came to a head this week.

On the same day that news broke of Cecil–a famous lion in Zimbabwe–being killed by an American hunter, the third undercover Planned Parenthood video was also released. One story is about a beautiful animal that was slain for enjoyment under such effortless conditions that we can’t even call it “hunting”. The other story is about raw imagery offering a glimpse into the dark world of abortion at the hands of a taxpayer-subsidized group, unveiling to the country what has happened to millions of babies over the decades. The lion was protected by law, the unborn were not. Only one of these stories has garnered [intense] media attention and [even more intense] public outrage; can you guess which one?

kimmel
Kimmel nearly loses his composure talking about the slain lion.

Everyone is reporting on Cecil. Even entertainers like Jimmy Kimmel are expressing outrage (and tears) at the violent passing of the beloved lion. People on social media cannot avoid the news out of Africa, or the emotional outrage of their friends. While a lion halfway around the world can cause such an emotional response, it should seem shocking that videos of a non-profit organization candidly discussing the dismemberment of unborn babies, perhaps selling their parts for profit along, and actually showing these “doctors” sorting the body parts for sale are getting very little coverage from mainstream news sources. It should also seem shocking that Americans are not plagued with a similar emotional response to the idea of the most innocent and defenseless among our species literally being torn apart by their own kind. It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario where Kimmel or his late-night peers would ever express outrage in a monologue over Planned Parenthood’s anti-human practices.

Perhaps there would be more outrage if there were more coverage of these videos rather than the boring headline of “GOP Wants to Defund Planned Parenthood” that they know the casual news followers will quickly glance over. Our society is driven by visuals, not text. Sometimes until we see something, we cannot really comprehend what’s going on and, thus, cannot be properly outraged. A recent example of this would be how everyone knew that NFL player Ray Rice was abusive towards women, but people were only outraged once they saw it on video footage in an elevator. If only more people were exposed to these videos showing the callous discussion of “crushing” human life and how brutal the actual practice of abortion is. Instead, most casual news followers will be insulated from reality by the soft and caring tone that accompanies “reproductive health”, taking the PR-drafted talking points at face value.

We need to really look at the path America is heading down. We are moving into an era where animals have more rights than some humans. Our priorities are becoming severely perverted against the sanctity of human life. When our reverence for all human life goes, so goes our civilization. Yes, Animals are beautiful creatures of God, and we shouldn’t be callous in how we engage them, but human beings are made in the “image and likeness” of God, with unmeasured dignity. It’s time we heed Saint John Paul II’s words on the “culture of life”.