Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Governing Cancer of Our Time

We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics.

Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.

The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.

But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.

As Bernard Crick wrote in his book, “In Defence of Politics,” “Politics is a way of ruling divided societies without undue violence.”

Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

Read the rest here.

Christian student expelled for opposing gay marriage

A Christian postgraduate student has been expelled from his course, effectively ending his chances of a career as a social worker, for voicing opposition to gay marriage in a Facebook discussion.
Felix Ngole, a 38-year-old father of four, expressed support for Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky in the US who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licences after the introduction of same-sex unions in September last year.

 He argued that homosexual activity is against the teaching of the Bible, quoting a verse from Leviticus describing it as an "abomination".
The post, from his private Facebook account, was part of a discussion thread in which other users voiced their opinions on all sides of the debate. It was not until two months later that he was summoned to a disciplinary hearing at Sheffield University after a fellow student complained about his post. He said he was initially not even told what he was accused of doing. He was eventually told that it involved breaching social work guidelines on "personal conduct" and "bringing the profession into disrepute".

Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pope calls Italy’s foremost abortion promoter one of nation’s ‘forgotten greats’

February 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- In a February 8 interview with one of Italy’s most prominent dailies, Corriere Della Serra, Pope Francis praised Italy’s leading proponent of abortion – Emma Bonino -- as one of the nation’s “forgotten greats,” comparing her to great historical figures such as Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman.  Knowing that his praise of her may be controversial, the Pope said that she offered the best advice to Italy on learning about Africa, and admitted she thinks differently from us. “True, but never mind,” he said. “We have to look at people, at what they do.”

At 27, Bonino had an illegal abortion and then worked with the Information Centre on Sterilization and Abortion which boasted over 10,000 abortions. There are famous photos of Bonino performing illegal abortions using a homemade device operated by a bicycle pump.  Arrested for the then-illegal activity she spent a few days in jail and was acquitted and entered politics.

When she was appointed Italy’s foreign minister in 2013 there was a general outcry from life and family leaders at the appalling situation.

Responding to the Pope’s praise of Bonino, pro-life leaders in Italy expressed disbelief.  “How can the pope praise a woman that is best known in Italy for practicing illegal abortion and promoting abortion?” commented Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro, who was until last year the head of the Rome office of Human Life International.

Read the rest here.

This Pope is an unmitigated disaster.


Grand Imam of al-Azhar denounces Episcopal Church bishops for being un-Christian

The Grand Imam of the al-Azhar in Cairo has denounced the bishops of the Episcopal Church of the USA for endorsing gay marriage saying the innovation was contrary to the clear words of Scripture. Speaking at the University of Syarif Hidayatullah in Indonesia this week Sheikh Amhed el-Tayeb asked American Christians whether their actions were faithful to Christ. Sheikh el-Tayeb, held to be the highest Sunni religious leader and Islamic jurist in the Muslim world, also denounced US government policy of pressuring less developed nations to adopt its views on homosexuality in return for foreign aid. He further stated liberal church leaders in the US were complicit in this blackmail by giving moral sanction to an immoral agenda.  “Unfortunately some Heads of Churches in the United States accept same-sex marriages. I wonder what is left of the Bible in those Churches. And what will they say in front of Jesus, peace be upon him", Sheikh el-Tayeb said in a question and answer session, according to a spokesman for the university. Speaking at a question and answer session at the School of Theology at the University of the South on 11 Feb 2016, the chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, said that in the eyes of many African and Asian religious leaders, the Episcopal Church was an arm of US foreign policy. Dr. Tengatenga said the heavy handed approach taken by the State Department under the Obama Administration in advancing gay rights in Africa, Asia and the Middle East was resented as a colonialist intrusion into the affairs of independent states. The retired Malawian bishop said it was not uncommon for local activists in Africa to be undermined by the well-intentioned but misguided support from overseas groups, often leading to the unfortunate outcome of a hardening of attitudes against gays and lesbians.


You just can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Ceterum censeo Trump delendum esse

Donald Trump’s victory in South Carolina proves that in 2016, the GOP has split into two. There is the Trump party. And there is the not-Trump party.

In raw terms, the Trump party isn’t especially strong. Voting has concluded in three states. The results there and all kinds of polling on favorability among Republicans suggests he’s got a natural ceiling between 35 and 40 percent. An AP poll conducted this week says 60 percent of GOP voters—60 percent!—have a negative view of Trump.

This is the not-Trump party.

And yet, in that same AP poll, 86 percent of Republican voters say they think Trump can win in November. In light of their dislike, Republicans appear to be making a depressing concession to the dark reality of the present moment—the same dark reality with which everyone who is not in Trump’s thrall is grappling.

With apologies to Shakespeare, Trump is the Colossus of 2016, bestriding the narrow election while other candidates walk under his huge legs and peep about, seeking a little media attention.

The not-Trump party doesn’t want him but to its members and to everyone else he is beginning to seem inescapable.

So what does the not-Trump party do now?

Everybody knows what needs to happen. The GOP field needs to consolidate so that the not-Trump party can speak with one voice, back one candidate, and knock him over.

But that’s not going to happen...

Read the rest here.

Donald Trump is probably going to win the GOP nomination. But with one exception, I see no reasonable possibility of his winning the general election. (If Hillary is indicted all bets are off.). With Trump as its nominee the GOP is likely heading for a once in a generation electoral shellacking. He is going to be the Republican George McGovern.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quote of the day...

"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian..."

-Pope Francis responding to a question about Donald Trump's views on immigration.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Justice Scalia's Funeral

It's going to be at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. Given his staunchly Traditionalist Catholic faith, he used to drive for hours to attend the pre-Vatican II Mass, one wonders if his Requiem Mass will be celebrated using the old rites.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


If I wanted to do a satirical rif on the occasional nutty convert to Orthodoxy that we all hear about (but happily is not all that common) there is no way I could have equaled the commentary of Mr. R Michael Warren, a sampling of which can be found here. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure he is serious.

My response can be found near the bottom of the com box.

Update: It has been suggested in a comment that this may be a "false flag" propaganda stunt. I am compelled to admit that the thought had crossed my mind as well. As a rule I have little use for conspiracy theories, but the commentary of Mr. Warren is so over the top and nutty, that it fits like a glove with the caricature that anti-Orthodox Catholics like to paint. Honestly I have never encountered this level of unvarnished polemical idiocy even among the most rabid Old Calendarists. Who knows.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Memory Eternal

Justice Antonin Scalia, quite possibly the greatest public servant of the age

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pope invites divorced, remarried Catholics to Vatican audience

ROME — As the countdown builds toward a major document in which Pope Francis is expected to address the controversial issue of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, the pontiff has invited a group of divorced and remarried believers to a private audience.

While the outreach certainly confirms Francis’ interest in better pastoral care for divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the Church, it doesn’t quite tip his hand in terms of which way he may be leaning on the Communion debate.

Francis invited a diocesan group in Italy that started a program to reach out to those who are in what the Church calls “irregular unions.” A date has not been set.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ROCOR and the "Catholic Church of the East" - It's not looking good

OK, it is all over the web. And since it has been the topic of discussion on multiple recent posts on this blog... here is the latest, less some of the more salacious details. The hoped for reception of the self identified Catholic Church of the East into Holy Orthodoxy has hit a major speed bump and is now in doubt. Metropolitan Hilarion is directly involved and dealing with the situation.

Let's keep the comments classy and avoid unnecessary gossip. Prayers for all involved would be appreciated.

The Council of Havana

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Is Ted Cruz Eligible to be President? No - Says U of Chicago Law Professor

With Ted Cruz the victor of the first contest of the GOP nominating calendar, we can no longer avoid the question mischievously posed by Donald Trump: Is Cruz ineligible to be president? Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father. The Constitution says that only a “natural born citizen” can be president. Is Cruz a natural born citizen? (You may recall that before he attacked Cruz on this front, Trump spent months flogging a ludicrous version of this critique against President Obama, who was actually born in the United States, unlike Cruz.)

The words natural born citizen, and their original meaning at the time that this constitutional clause was crafted, go a long way to answering this question. In founding-era America, like today, a person could be a citizen by virtue of birth on American territory; a citizen by virtue of a statute that granted citizenship to him at birth; a “naturalized” citizen, meaning one who entered the country as an alien but later obtained citizenship via a process determined by law; and a foreigner.

A natural born citizen cannot be a foreigner. Foreigners are not citizens. A natural born citizen cannot be a person who was naturalized. Those people are not born citizens; they’re born aliens. Most important for the purposes of the Cruz question, a natural born citizen cannot be someone whose birth entitled him to citizenship because of a statute—in this case a statute that confers citizenship on a person born abroad to an American parent. In the 18th century, as now, the word natural meant “in the regular course of things.” Then, as now, almost all Americans obtained citizenship by birth in this country, not by birth to Americans abroad. The natural way to obtain citizenship, then, was (and is) by being born in this country. Because Cruz was not “natural born”—not born in the United States—he is ineligible for the presidency, under the most plausible interpretation of the Constitution.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

US Court of Appeals Strikes Major Blow for Civil Liberties

In a major victory for gun rights advocates, a federal appeals court on Thursday sided with a broad coalition of gun owners, businesses and organizations that challenged the constitutionality of a Maryland ban on assault weapons and other laws aimed at curbing gun violence.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said the state's prohibition on what the court called "the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles commonly kept by several million American citizens" amounted to a violation of their rights under the Constitution.

"In our view, Maryland law implicates the core protection of the Second Amendment -- the right of law-abiding responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home," Chief Judge William Traxler wrote in the divided ruling.

Provisions that outlaw these firearms, Traxler wrote, "substantially burden this fundamental right."

Read the rest here.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Delaware judge: priest-penitent privilege may be unconstitutional

A Delaware superior court judge has questioned the constitutionality of a state law that protects the secrecy of sacramental confession.

State law mandates the reporting of suspected child abuse except in cases covered by the attorney-client privilege and conversations “between priest and penitent in sacramental confession.”

Ruling in a case involving the failure of elders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to report child abuse, Judge Mary M. Johnston said that if “priest,” “penitent,” and “sacramental confession” are interpreted narrowly, then the law is unconstitutional because its “effect would be to advance certain religions over others.”

If, however, the law were interpreted broadly to include confidential conversations in which members of any religious body express sorrow for their deeds to their religious leaders, then a ruling that the law is unconstitutional could be avoided, Judge Johnston said in her January 26 decision.

“A broader reading may be justified because the terms at issue are neither defined nor upper case,” she added.


Statement from Metropolitan Hilarion regarding the Conversion of the "Catholic Church of the East" to Orthodoxy

Over the past several months, the leader of an independent church movement called the "Catholic Church of the East," the former Archbishop Ramzi Mussalam, has begun a remarkable transition: to bring his entire movement, of over 60 parishes, into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). The former archbishop was received into the Orthodox Church and ordained a deacon and priest with the encouragement and blessing and by the hand of Metropolitan Hilarion, ROCOR’s First Hierarch. The former archbishop is now Hieromonk Elias. Father Elias grew up in the Scranton area of Pennsylvania as a communicant of the Polish National Catholic Church, in which he was ordained to the priesthood.

The process of Orthodox catechization has now commenced, with the gradual reception of the former clergy and faithful of the "Catholic Church of the East" into Orthodoxy, with their regularization within the canonical embrace of the Orthodox Church. It is expected that this will be a long and complex process but one of that will bear an abundant spiritual harvest. A number of parishes have already been received: St. Irene Church in Pittston, PA; St. Ann Church in Pottsville, PA and St. Mark Church in Milford, CT.

Let us welcome these people with joy and do all that we can to help them integrate into the Orthodox community. Let us give thanks to God that He has led Fr. Elias and his faithful people into Orthodoxy.


Thanks to blog reader Thundercat for the link.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill to Meet in Cuba on February 12

Moscow, February 5, Interfax - - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will meet with Pope Francis on Cuba on February 12, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, told a press conference in Moscow on Friday.

"The issue of the persecution of Christians will be central in this meeting," the metropolitan said.

He said the patriarch and the pope will discuss issues relating to bilateral relations and international policy. The meeting will comprise a meeting in person at the international airport in Havana and will lead to the signing of a joint declaration.

"This meeting will become the first meeting in history and it will mark an important stage in the relations between the two Churches. The Moscow patriarchate and the Holy See want this meeting to become a sign of hope to all people of good will and it causes Christians to pray much for the upcoming meeting to yield good results," the hierarch said.

Metropolitan Hilarion said the problem of the actions taken by Greek Catholics (Uniates) in Ukraine has not been resolved in the relations between the two Churches, specifically, "the destruction by the Uniates of three dioceses of the Moscow patriarchate in Western Ukraine, the transfer of the center of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from Lviv to Kyiv, the persistent desire of this Church to give itself the status of patriarchate, the spread of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to the traditional lands of Eastern and Southern Ukraine, and the support of schismatics by the Uniates."

"The situation that now develops in the Middle East, in Northern and Central Africa and in some other regions, where extremists are carrying out true genocide of Christian population, requires urgent measures and even closer interaction between the Christian churches," he said.

"In this tragic situation, there is a need to set disagreements aside and unite efforts to save Christianity in these regions where it is being subjected to the toughest persecution," he said.

The metropolitan said it was stated from the very beginning that the meeting should take place on neutral territory, and that the patriarch did not want the meeting with the pontiff to take place in Europe "because the difficult history of division and conflicts between Christians is associated with Europe."

The fact that the patriarch is visiting the countries of Latin America at the same time when the pope is visiting Mexico provided an opportunity "to hold a meeting in the New World, which we hope will turn over a new page in the relations between the Churches," the metropolitan said.


Wow. I did not see this coming.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


The GOP: It's a three man race now. Everyone else can go home. Trump got schlonged by Cruz but is hardly out. The (un)civil war within the right wing of the party is likely to continue. Meanwhile it looks like the GOP establishment have finally found their candidate.

The Democrats: Hillary is in trouble. She needed a win badly and she ended with a statistical tie. Sanders is very likely going to win comfortably in New Hampshire which means he now has the momentum. Efforts to declare Clinton's nomination inevitable or to convince the left wing of the party that Sanders was a pipe dream have categorically failed. That said, South Carolina comes after NH and the deep South is not likely to be friendly territory for a self described socialist, even among Democrats.

The Bottom line: This is likely going to be a long and bruising campaign season in both parties.