In Defense of Beauty

It’s said that the three marks of the divine–that which is transcendent–is beauty, goodness, and truth. That which is beautiful, good, or truthful points towards God. This is why Catholic churches have traditionally been built with rich artwork and soaring architecture.

Modern society is at battle with these marks of transcendence. Not only is popular culture seeking to make goodness and truth relative, it also seeks to destroy beauty in favor of efficiency. We see examples of this with the literal destruction of beauty in Catholic churches across the country: high altars ripped down, intricate altar rails thrown away, detailed stained glass imagery replaced by abstract colors, beautiful vestments replaced by schlocky polyester sheets, and many more examples. Secular life has many examples too; most modern buildings favor high-efficiency materials to produce cookie-cutter strip malls dotting our roads, deep and meaningful music, artwork, and literature exists but seems to be harder and harder to find. Gone are the days when someone who cherished authentic beauty in society is to be regarded civilized.

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The soul’s longing for beauty may be hard to easily satisfy in today’s world but those who seek to live a counter-cultural, authentic, better and joyful life need to try. One must ask of everything surrounding their life, “does this reflect goodness, truth, or beauty”? It’s not the most efficient way of living, but it does produce better results. This point is reflected over and over by Rod Dreher in his book Crunchy Cons, “beauty is more important than efficiency”:

Appreciation of aesthetic quality–that is, beauty–is not a luxury, but key to the good life

In my now-heightened awareness of the lack of beauty plaguing both our churches and culture, I found the recent article by Paul Krause particularly edifying. He more eloquently states the same point while citing ancient thinkers such as Cicero and Platinus and their impact on classic Christian philosophy. These notions were once obvious to Christians. This unfortunately is no longer.

What’s hopeful, however, is the recent “re-renovations” of previously destroyed churches, the formation of architectural firms specializing in traditional beauty, and priests interested in offering reverent Masses (especially the TLM).

Quoting only parts from A Defense of Beauty and Excellence from the Classical Tradition (emphases mine):

There are many serious problems facing moderns, but one of the most troubling—and worrying—is the loss and degradation of beauty, not just in the arts, but in society as a whole. Classical Greek philosophy, to which Catholic philosophy largely inherited and preserved, maintained that beauty and morality were intertwined with one another. When Christianity began to spread, the Christian encounter with Greek philosophy was largely positive. However, over the last two centuries, the widening chasm between aesthetics and virtue, and the postmodern assertion that aesthetics is oppressive (and therefore needing deconstruction), has brought immeasurable harm to culture and society.

Culture means life. And for life to be truly flourishing in a teleological sense, Greek, Roman, traditional Jewish and Christian philosophy, always affirmed beauty as an integral aspect of the good life. In his masterpiece, Enneads, Plotinus opened his most famous section—on beauty—by writing, “Beauty addresses itself chiefly to sight; but there is a beauty for the hearing too, as in certain combinations of words and in all kinds of music, for melodies and cadences are beautiful; and minds that lift themselves above the realm of sense to a higher order are aware of beauty in the conduct of life, in actions, in character, in the pursuits of the intellect; and there is the beauty of the virtues. What loftier beauty there may be, yet, our argument will bring to light.”

More…

[Plotinus stated] “Then again, all the virtues are a beauty of the soul, a beauty authentic beyond any of these others.”… As Plotinus explains, the ugly lacks a proper cultivation of reason, torn by lust and discord, lashes out and destroys beauty in the process—which also destroys harmony. It is interesting to note that Plotinus associated the ugly soul with the person preoccupied with only material things.

Catholics, best of all, understand the importance of the union of aesthetics with arête. Beauty, itself, demands a value judgement. There is nothing harsh or unfair with proclaiming this truth. That which is beautiful is good, and that which is ugly, as Plotinus recognized, is neither beautiful nor good. There are natural gradations of beauty. As Augustine explained, the gradations of beauty lift one up closer to Heaven and the Supreme Beauty that is God. This follows the insights of both Plato and Plotinus who recognized that the experience of even low beauty awakens an innate desire for greater beauty that drives one to greater excellence in search for beauty.

Cicero equally noted that people in their folly, are prone to destroy things beautiful and admirable. Nihilism is the end result of anti-intellectualism and relativism, not just the mere absence of values but the abject negation—destruction—of beauty and values.

The quote above is great. Relativism of beauty, truth, and goodness has an end result of not just the simple absence of each mark but a destruction of each. What did we see bishops and priests do in the 70’s? They didn’t just simply start making ugly new churches, they quite literally destroyed the beauty of old churches. The “art” that replaced traditional sacred art in many suburban parishes are kitschy felt banners and horrendously cheesy guitar music. Gross.

It is the inheritance of the classical marriage of aesthetics and moral excellence that had historically been a cornerstone of not just Catholic philosophy, but Western philosophy more generally—inspiring all aspects of culture: art, music, engineering, and literature, to reflect the highest excellence demanded of beauty itself. And in that beauty there exists an irresistible draw for the virtuous to defend all that is beautiful. The compulsion to defend the beautiful, itself, reflects the moral excellence of the person.

…in Confessions, Augustine stated that reading Virgil and Cicero had brought him to belief in God. Beauty is the brilliance of truth, and as Augustine said, “All truth belongs to God.” And we know where that road ultimately ends.

We all should start discerning what is beautiful in our homes and lives. Then we should slowly start surrounding our minds, bodies, and souls not only with what is truthful and good but also is beautiful. ☩

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Cliffs Notes on ‘Return to Form’

There is a wonderful essay on First Things by Martin Mosebach, translated from the original German published last December. It discusses the true meaning of “reformation” as in “returning to form” when it comes to the liturgy of the Roman Rite. It then describes the chaos and upheaval that took place in the wake of the Second Vatican Council paired with Bl. Pope Paul VI’s changes to the Mass. It’s long but worth reading. For those who have trouble reading things online longer than 140 characters, I have attempted to shorten it with a TSP Cliffs Notes™ (emphases mine):

Return to Form | Martin Mosebach

Great forms are characterized by their ability to outlive the age in which they emerge and to pursue their path through all history’s hiatuses and upheavals. The Greek column with its Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian capitals is such a form, as is the Greek tragedy with its invention of dialogue that still lives on in the silliest soap opera…Among the Greeks, tradition stood under collective protection. The violation of tradition was called tyrannis—tyranny is the act of violence that damages a traditional form that has been handed down.

One form that has effortlessly overleaped the constraints of the ages is the Holy Mass of the Roman Church…

…For the rite that came from late antique Mediterranean Christianity was not “relevant” in the European Middle Ages, nor in the Baroque era, nor in missionary lands outside Europe. The South American Indians and West Africans must have found it even stranger, if possible, than any twentieth-century European who complained that it was “no longer relevant”—whereas it was precisely among those people that the Roman Rite enjoyed its greatest missionary successes. When the inhabitants of Gaul, England, and Germany became Catholic, they understood no Latin and were illiterate; the question of the correct understanding of the Mass was entirely independent of a capacity to follow its literal expression. The peasant woman who said the rosary during Mass, knowing that she was in the presence of Christ’s sacrifice, understood the rite better than our contemporaries who comprehend every word but fail to engage with such knowledge because the present form of the Mass, drastically altered, no longer allows for its full expression.

…The [Second Vatican] council had upheld the Roman Rite for the most part and emphasized the role of Latin as the traditional language of worship, as well as the role of Gregorian chant. But then, by order of Paul VI, liturgical experts in their ivory towers created a new missal that was not warranted by the provisions for renewal set forth by the council fathers. This overreaching caused a breach in the dike. In a short time, the Roman Rite was changed beyond recognition.

…When Pope Benedict had the greatness of soul to issue Summorum Pontificum, he not only reintroduced the Roman Rite into the liturgy of the Church but declared that it had never been forbidden, because it could never be forbidden. No pope and no council possess the authority to invalidate, abolish, or forbid a rite that is so deeply rooted in the history of the Church.

Not only the liberal and Protestant enemies of the Roman Rite but also its defenders, who in a decades-long struggle had begun to give up hope, could barely contain their astonishment. Everyone still had the strict prohibitions of countless bishops echoing in their ears, threats of excommunication and subtle accusations…Benedict XVI did even more: He explained that there was only a single Roman Rite which possesses two forms, one “ordinary” and the other “extraordinary”—the latter term referring to the traditional rite. In this way, the traditional form was made the standard for the newly revised form…

There can be no question that the council fathers regarded the Roman Canon as absolutely binding. The celebration of the liturgy ad orientem, facing eastward to the Lord who is coming again, was also uncontested by the majority of council fathers. Even those who undertook the Pauline reform of the Mass and who swept aside the will of the council fathers didn’t dare touch this ancient and continuous practice. It was the spirit of the 1968 revolution that gained control of the liturgy and removed the worship of God from the center of the Catholic rite, installing in its place a clerical-instructional interaction between the priest and the congregation. The council fathers also desired no change in the tradition of church music. It is with downright incredulity that one reads these and other passages of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, for their plain sense was given exactly the opposite meaning by the enthusiastic defenders of post-conciliar “development.”…

While still a cardinal, [Benedict] let it be known that the demand for celebration of the Eucharist versus populum, facing the congregation, is based in error. He endorsed the scholarly work of the theologian Klaus Gamber, who provided proof that never in her history, aside from a very few exceptions, had the Church celebrated the liturgy facing the congregation…

One of the most important consequences of the Second Vatican Council has been the destruction of the organizational structure of the Church by the introduction of national bishops’ conferences, something entirely alien to classical canon law. This diminishes the direct relationship of each individual bishop to the pope; every Vatican intervention in local abuses shatters when it hits the concrete wall of the respective bishops’ conference. This is what happened recently when the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship called for a return to the celebration of the Eucharist ad orientem.

the greatest achievement of Pope Benedict, at least in a liturgical sense, will remain Summorum Pontificum. With this instrument he accorded the Roman Rite a secure place in the life of the Church, one protected by canon law.

The places where the Tridentine Mass is celebrated today have multiplied. The traditional Roman Rite can now be celebrated in proper churches, which causes many people to forget the cellars and courtyards where those who loved the ancient rite long maintained a fugitive existence. The number of young priests with a love for the Tridentine Mass has increased considerably, as has the number of older priests who have begun to learn it. More and more bishops are prepared to celebrate confirmation and holy orders according to the old rite.

The time has come to set aside a widespread assumption in the Catholic Church that the liturgy and religious education are in good hands with the clergy. This encourages passivity among the faithful, who believe that they do not have to concern themselves with these matters. This is not so. The great liturgical crisis following the Second Vatican Council, which was part of a larger crisis of faith and authority, put an end to the illusion that the laity need not be involved.

The laity of today differs from the laity of forty years ago. They had precise knowledge of the Roman Rite and took its loss bitterly and contested it. The young people who are turning to the Roman Rite today often did not know it as children. They are not, as Pope Francis erroneously presumes, nostalgically longing for a lost time. On the contrary, they are experiencing the Roman Rite as something new. It opens an entire world to them, the exploration of which promises to be inexhaustibly fascinating.

The Catholic religion with its high number of believers has actually become the most unknown religion in the world, especially to its own adherents. While there are many Catholics who feel repelled and offended by the superficiality of the new rite as it is frequently celebrated today, by the odious music, the puritanical kitsch, the trivialization of dogma, and the profane character of new church buildings, the gap that has opened up in the forty years between the traditional rite and the new Mass is very deep, often unbridgeable.

Summorum Pontificum makes priests and the laity responsible for the Roman Rite’s future—if it means a lot to them. It is up to them to celebrate it in as many places as possible, to win over for it as many people as possible…The odium of disobedience and defiance against the Holy See has been spared them by Pope Benedict’s promulgation, and they are making use of the right granted them by the Church’s highest legislator, but this right only has substance if it is claimed and used. The law is there.

Perhaps it is even good that, despite Summorum Pontificum, the Tridentine Mass is still not promoted by the great majority of bishops. If it is a true treasure without which the Church would not be itself, then it will not be won until it has been fought for. Its loss was a spiritual catastrophe for the Church and had disastrous consequences far beyond the liturgy, and that loss can only be overcome by a widespread spiritual renewal…This is the trial by fire that all reformers worthy of their name had to endure. The Roman Rite will be won back in hundreds of small chapels, in improvised circumstances throughout the whole world, celebrated by young priests with congregations that have many small children, or it will not be won back at all.

Recapturing the fullness of the Church’s liturgy is now a matter for the young…The revolution that was to disfigure the Mass cast a long shadow ahead of itself…In many countries, the liturgical architecture of the rite was obscured or even dismantled. There were silent Masses during which a prayer leader incessantly recited prayers in the vernacular that were not always translations of the Latin prayers, and in a number of places Gregorian chant played a subordinate role. Those who are twenty or thirty today have no bad habits of these sorts. They can experience the rite in its new purity, free of the incrustations of the more recent past.

The great damage caused by the liturgical revolution after Vatican II consists above all in the way in which the Church lost the conviction with which all Catholics—illiterate goatherds, maids and laborers, Descartes and Pascal—naturally took part in the Church’s sacred worship. Up until then, the rite was among the riches of the poor, who, through it, entered into a world that was otherwise closed to them. They experienced in the old Mass the life to come as well as life in the present, an experience of which only artists and mystics are otherwise capable. This loss of shared transcendence available to the most humble cannot be repaired for generations, and this great loss is what makes the ill-considered reform of the Mass so reprehensible. It is a moral outrage that those who gutted the Roman Rite because of their presumption and delusion were permitted to rob a future generation of their full Catholic inheritance.

It has been observed that the Roman Rite has an especially strong effect on converts, indeed, that it has even brought about a considerable number of conversions. Its deep rootedness in history and its alignment with the end of the world create a sacred time antithetical to the present, a present that, with its acquisitive preoccupations, leaves many people unsatisfied…The Catholic religion is, in the words of T. S. Eliot, a “philosophy of disillusionment” that does not suppress hope, but rather teaches us not to direct our hope toward something that the world cannot give. The liturgy of Rome and, naturally, Greek Orthodoxy’s Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom open a window that draws our gaze from time into eternity.

Read the rest at First Things. ☩

 

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? ☩

NCR’s Tiresome Idea for Renewing Parishes

While I typically avoid National Catholic Reporter for obvious reasons, I came across their article titled Parish Renewal Groups Teach Lessons from Megachurches. Interested by how a catholic website would openly advocate for the adoption of protestant/non-denominational/new-age megachurch practices, I decided to click.

The article pretty much suggests what most crusty progressives yearning for fleeting cultural acceptance have been saying since the 70’s, that we should ‘modernize’ Catholic parishes musically, architecturally, and liturgically. While this half-century-old message has been heard and tried many times, it still manages to elicit cringes and eye rolls when someone who genuinely thinks this idea is somehow novel or in any way appropriate for the Roman Catholic Church/Kingdom of God/Holy Sacrifice of Mass.

Below I’ll give the article the ‘TSP Cliffs Notes’ treatment:

I [suggest] that Catholic pastors take a look at what was happening with evangelical megachurches. Inspired by the Willow Creek congregation outside Chicago, evangelicals were tapping into the power of good old-fashioned American business marketing, finding out what people wanted in a church and delivering it to them.

He is correct that megachurches tap into business marketing and are good that that. That said, while megachurches may follow certain business practices and try to “deliver” to people “what they want” that is not the mission of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Roman Catholic Church as founded by Jesus Christ. The writer’s suggestion shows a lack of understanding of the Kingdom of God because the Church does not exist to give people what they want, it exists to give people what they need (as a loving Mother) and save souls in the process. Obviously it’s a twofer if the will of an individual also wants what the Catholic Church offers, but that is simply a secondary pleasantry. The point is the Church exists to form souls, not the other way around.

Willow Creek, an independent congregation, was established in the 1970s, free from denominational constraints, via a process of intensive surveys of what people in the growing exurbs were seeking in a church. Willow Creek became famous for its non-churchy look, welcoming small communities and contemporary music. A visit there researching the book indicated that Wednesday night gatherings, held in a shopping mall-like food court, were as important to the congregation as Sunday morning worship.

Ah, there’s that whiff of religious pluralism you knew was coming; Catholicism is simply one of many denominations, right? And the denominational labels are constraints to what people really want from their church. We need modern, round-edged buildings, and songs that reflect persuasions of pop culture to remain relevant to young people! <sarcasm/> It’s as if thousands of Catholic parishes haven’t already tried this following the “reform” in the 70’s. You show me a Catholic parish with a ‘modern’ feel, and I’ll show you empty pews with few Millennials.

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Catholic pastors are beginning to pay attention thanks in part to a growing number of businesses and nonprofits intended to assist them in a time when many baptized Catholics have stopped going to church.

Sure, misguided Catholic pastors who are also decreasing in number.

RENEW (group dedicated to make churches more attractive) preceded Willow Creek and is based largely on Vatican II theology. It grew out of renewal movements popular with Catholics in the 1970s… Catholic parishes can no longer wait for people to come to the pews. There has to be a concerted effort to bring them in.

Ah, so this effort to protestantize the Catholic Church is rooted in the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II. Again, this all so predictable. Let me get this straight, this is based on efforts out of the 70’s–over 45 years ago–and even though the attempts to “reform” the Church that took place in the 70’s are widely argued to be the catalyst for the most destructive era for the Church in its 2000 year history with empty pews, confusion, and scandal, we are to continue forging this failed path. You have to almost feel bad for the people who keep thinking these efforts will somehow work all of a sudden.

The critique Willow Creek faced in the evangelical world can apply here as well: is this Catholic lite, an effort to make hard truths easier…And extensive studies of the Willow Creek megachurch model indicates that these groups, much like Catholic parishes, have difficulties holding on to their people, with high attrition rates after five years.

As we have already seen with parishes that have tried to implement this modernist, pop-culture environment and it indeed is Catholic lite, if even to be considered Catholic. And, from what we have witnessed, they often don’t seek to make “hard truths easier”, but skit these truths all together if not openly preach the opposite! However I’m happy the author made the point that these megachurches have poor retention rates. They may have lots of young people but their interest is fleeting, inherent of anything that is not rooted in something objective or eternal, especially when it’s rooted in American popular culture.

It’s often repeated that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome…this definition I’d like to submit to people like Peter Feuerherd who wrote this piece. Why do they think that doubling–no–quadrupling down on this effort born out of the era of freelove and relativity to throw Catholic Tradition, beauty, and understanding out the window will somehow result in anything other than the repulsion of disciples, disinterest in the priesthood, and more.

I’ll end by quoting Rachel Lu writing about the reaction of aging snooty left-wing Catholics now becoming irrelevant that the base of Catholicsm is moving back towards sacred beauty and orthodoxy:

Liberal theologians see this too, which is why they feel unsettled…They sense that they are now the ones haunting the turrets of outdated, reactionary Catholicism. Their “springtime of Vatican II” has yielded confusion, empty pews, and horrific scandals. Their “courageous” protest of Humanae Vitae has led countless souls astray, but far from being retracted, the document is still very much in force, with its predictions fully vindicated by modern culture.The old guard of liberal champions is aging, while the Church’s young enthusiasts are too often admirers of St. John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or even (gasp!) the Latin Mass.

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Seminarians following evening Vespers

Cliffs Notes on Pope’s Recent Interview

Just yesterday the Holy Father sat down for an interview with French magazine La Croix for an interview on a wide range of topics covering issues from terrorism, to the role of secular governments, to the SSPX coming into communion with Rome, to Amoris Laetitia. Some particularly notable parts are pasted below but it is encouraged to read the entire text as context is very important with this pope!

– On April 16, you made a powerful gesture by bringing back the refugees from Lesbos to Rome. However, does Europe have the capacity to accept so many migrants ?

Pope Francis : That is a fair and responsible question because one cannot open the gates wide unreasonably. However, the deeper question is why there are so many migrants now.

The initial problems are the wars in the Middle East and in Africa as well as the underdevelopment of the African continent, which causes hunger. If there are wars, it is because there exist arms manufacturers – which can be justified for defensive purposes – and above all arms traffickers. If there is so much unemployment, it is because of a lack of investment capable of providing employment, of which Africa has such a great need. […]

A completely free market does not work. Markets in themselves are good but they also require a fulcrum, a third party, or a state to monitor and balance them. In other words, [what is needed is] a social market economy.

Coming back to the migrant issue, the worst form of welcome is to ‘ghettoize’them. On the contrary, it’s necessary to integrate them.

I am thinking here of Pope Gregory the Great, who negotiated with the people known as barbarians, who were subsequently integrated. This integration is all the more necessary today since, as a result of a selfish search for well-being, Europe is experiencing the grave problem of a declining birth rate. A demographic emptiness is developing.

– The fear of accepting migrants is partly based on a fear of Islam. In your view, is the fear that this religion sparks in Europe justified?

Pope Francis: Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. […]

Ultimately, co-existence between Christians and Muslims is still possible. I come from a country where they co-habit on good terms. Muslims come to venerate the Virgin Mary and St George.

– How would you characterize a positive form of [separation of church and state]?

Pope Francis: States must be secular. Confessional states end badly. That goes against the grain of History. I believe that a version of [separation] accompanied by a solid law guaranteeing religious freedom offers a framework for going forward. We are all equal as sons of God and with our personal dignity. However, everyone must have the freedom to externalize his or her own faith. If a Muslim woman wishes to wear a veil, she must be able to do so. Similarly, if a Catholic wishes to wear a cross. People must be free to profess their faith at the heart of their own culture not merely at its margins.

The modest critique that I would address to France in this regard is that it exaggerates [separation of church and state]. This arises from a way of considering religions as sub-cultures rather than as fully-fledged cultures in their own right.

– In a secular setting, how should Catholics defend their concerns on societal issues such as euthanasia or same-sex marriage?

Pope Francis: It is up to Parliament to discuss, argue, explain, reason [these issues]. That is how a society grows.

However, once a law has been adopted, the state must also respect [people’s] consciences. The right to conscientious objection must be recognized within each legal structure because it is a human right. Including for a government official, who is a human person. The state must also take criticism into account. That would be a genuine form of [separation of church and state].

You cannot sweep aside the arguments of Catholics by simply telling them that they “speak like a priest.” No, they base themselves on the kind of Christian thinking that France has so remarkably developed.

– What does France mean to you?

Pope Francis: It is the eldest daughter of the Church, but not the most faithful! (Laughs) However, during the 1950s, they also spoke of “France, the mission country.” In that sense, it remains a periphery to be evangelized. However, to be fair to France, the Church there does have a real creative capacity.

France is also a land of great saints, great thinkers […]

– Who is your favorite?

Pope Francis: Saint Therese of Lisieux.

– As elsewhere, the Church in France is experiencing a serious crisis of priestly vocations. How is it possible to manage today with so few priests?

Pope Francis: Korea provides a historical example. That country was evangelized by missionaries from China who later left. Then, for two hundred years, Korea was evangelized by lay people. It is a land of saints and martyrs that now has a strong Church.

So there is not necessarily a need for priests in order to evangelize. Baptism provides the strength to evangelize. And the Holy Spirit, received at baptism, prompts one to go out, to take the Christian message with courage and patience. The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of whatever happens in the Church, its motor. Too many Christians are ignorant of this.

– On April 1, you received Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior-general of the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X. Is the re-integration of the Lefebvrists into the Church again under consideration?

Pope Francis: In Buenos Aires, I often spoke with them. They greeted me, asked me on their knees for a blessing. They say they are Catholic. They love the Church.

Bishop Fellay is a man with whom one can dialogue. That is not the case for other elements who are a little strange, such as Bishop Williamson or others who have been radicalized. Leaving this aside, I believe, as I said in Argentina, that they are Catholics on the way to full communion.

During this year of mercy, I felt that I needed to authorize their confessors to pardon the sin of abortion. They thanked me for this gesture. Previously, Benedict XVI, whom they greatly respect, had liberalized the use of the Tridentine rite mass. So good dialogue and good work are taking place.

– Would you be ready to grant them the status of a personal prelature?

Pope Francis: That would be a possible solution but beforehand it will be necessary to establish a fundamental agreement with them. The Second Vatican Council has its value. We will advance slowly and patiently.

– You have already convoked two synods on the family. In your view, has this long process changed the Church?

[…] I think that we all came out of the various processes different from the way that we entered. Including me.

In [Amoris Laetitia], I sought to respect the Synod to the maximum. You won’t find canonical prescriptions there about what one may or may not do. […]

It is a serene, peaceful reflection on the beauty of love, how to educate the children, to prepare for marriage…

I think this interview does a pretty good job telling us just where the Holy Father’s head is on some important issues–whether you agree with him or not. I’m happy he did this interview. Please continue praying not only for Pope Francis’s intentions but also for him! ☩