Patrick Craine

US Bishops: Bloggers play ‘critical role’ in defending the Church

Patrick Craine

Relations between Catholic bloggers and Church officials have at times been quite strained as the new media has developed in the last couple years. Some prelates, clergy, and chancery officials have expressed strong reservations about the Catholic blogosphere, with some even speaking quite derogatorily.

Church leaders have been angered by the penchant of many bloggers to call them out on their failures to expound and defend controversial Catholic teachings on moral issues like contraception, homosexuality, and abortion.

The difficulties got to the point that last year the Vatican convened a special conference for bloggers to try to build bridges and learn more about this new method for advancing the Gospel.

But now even the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is saying Catholic bloggers have a “critical role” in defending the Church.

In a new statement on religious freedom released today they write:

The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom.


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Let us arise and go home

Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony
By Anthony Esolen

A few days ago, Stratford Caldecott, the wisest writer on education in our time, passed away at the all too early age of sixty. He had written many books, on a wide range of things: on the theological imagination of Tolkien; on the liturgy; on the cosmos; on charity; and on beauty, especially as regards a truly liberal education. 

It's time for us to return home, and Stratford Caldecott can show us the way. But first we must understand that we are in a very strange land, and we can no more “apply” the wisdom of Mr. Caldecott to the schooling we have, than we can put icing on mud and call it cake.

Our schooling is ghastly. We must face this fact. At its least inhuman, it is crassly utilitarian, and inept to boot. But it has grown worse than utilitarian. Russell Kirk long ago described its progress in degeneration. We reject the “moral imagination” that could be built up in us by patiently receiving what the greatest artists have to teach us. We do not stoop to learn from Marcus Aurelius, the grave, dutiful, tranquil emperor meditating upon life from his barracks on the German frontier. We will not humble ourselves to heed the lessons that Shakespeare can teach us – about the fickleness of popular sympathies, the transience of power, or the beauty of the pure body and pure soul. If we study the old masters at all, it is to find that they are conveniently modern and “progressive,” or to teach them a lesson in the schoolyard sense, taking them apart and exposing their supposed weakness or cowardice.

An education that does not order the soul towards truth and beauty, that does not instill the intellectual virtue of seeking the truth, and the practical virtue of putting moral truths in action, is no education at all. It is not fit for a human being. It may be fit for a robot, or a beast, or a devil.

Having rejected that, Kirk says, we seize upon the “idyllic imagination,” a paradise of fools. We dream up utopias on earth, and will spare nothing old and venerable, nothing genuinely tolerant, nothing that comes to terms with human fallenness, human limitations, and human error, in bringing these utopias into being. The last hundred years have been drenched in utopian blood. At its least destructive, the idyllic imagination breeds flies of a summer day, songs like “The Age of Aquarius,” or books like I'm OK, You're OK; or the foolish feminist dreamworld of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland. 

But the idyllic imagination fails, because it is founded upon a lie. So, Kirk says, it is succeeded by the “diabolic imagination,” whereby we embrace darkness for its own sake. We allow our souls to be twisted; we crave what is bent, perverse, cruel, hideous, and sick, while praising ourselves for our bravery. Mass entertainment is now an engine of this diabolic imagination, and our schools have eagerly gone along with it. Vampires; teenagers committed to murder one another; celebrations of sodomy and statutory rape (The Vagina Monologues); in short, the works of death.

These things are worse than the pods that are fed to swine. When your belly is empty and cramping up, what good is it, really, if you “get” to root around with swine in a sty? You have two immediate troubles: everything you are not eating, and everything you are. So in our schools. What's wrong is everything the students don't learn there, and everything they do.

It is time to arise and go back to the Father's house.

Listen then to these words, from Caldecott's Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-Enchantment of Education:

It is the nature and calling of the human being to know: truth, being, wisdom, goodness, and virtue – the forms, or the highest causes. It is in knowledge that we transcend our limitations (including the limitations of mortality) and become identified with the truth that is our highest and deepest ground, beyond all that the senses can offer. But knowledge can only be attained by the systematic ordering of the soul or personality in pursuit of integrity; that is, the discipline of thought (by logic) and will (by virtue).

For Caldecott, these are not airy abstractions. Beauty is real; it is the rich efflorescence of the glory of being. The greatest scientists, he observes, are in love with the beauty of what they study; they would study it regardless of any use to which their discoveries might be put. An education that does not order the soul towards truth and beauty, that does not instill the intellectual virtue of seeking the truth, and the practical virtue of putting moral truths in action, is no education at all. It is not fit for a human being. It may be fit for a robot, or a beast, or a devil.

How do you build up the soul of a child? That is what great literature and the arts are for. They are for everyone. You can judge a school by its syllabi, or the books in the library, or the poems and the songs the students know and love. Every child should go down to Mordor with Frodo and Sam, or sit atop the mizzen with Jim Hawkins, or float down the river with the worthy Mole and Rat, or ride with Paul Revere, or watch while the beggar Odysseus strings his bow on the fatal day for the wicked suitors. Every child should enter the sunny gardens and the shady groves of poetry; to be with a swinger of birches with Frost, a barefoot boy with Whittier, a sailor on the doomed ship with Coleridge.

And when they are a little older, they may confront the titanic moral imagination of Hugo, Dostoyevsky, T. S. Eliot, and Dickens; they may be ready for the poetry of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Wordsworth, and Tennyson. Again, these are for everyone, as beauty and goodness are for everyone. We don't say, “I'm sorry, but you are only average, so Bach is not for you,” or, “It seems you are quite ordinary, so look at this chintzy portrait of Elvis on velvet, while the others look at Rembrandt.” What kind of phony charity is that?

Stratford Caldecott has patiently done the work our school principals and teachers should have done. He has shown us the sorts of things we ought to be teaching, and why. He has not just said to the prodigal in the sty, “Don't you know that you are in a miserable place?” He has said, “Here, son, let me lead you the way back home.”

It's time we let him do that.


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The abortion of JFK’s children was evil – but it’s also a tragic loss

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren
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Did you know that John F. Kennedy had more than four children? That writers Christopher and Peter Hitchens had two other siblings? That Marilyn Monroe actually had a large number of children?

I’m not particularly fond of the argument that I’ve heard many pro-lifers use: “Abortion is wrong because of all the amazing people we’ve aborted. One of them could have had the cure to cancer!” Abortion is fundamentally wrong because it ends the life of a developing human being, whether that human being would turn out to be a drug addict or the president of the United States. However, it is an interesting thought experiment—not least of all because so many people considered heroes by the Left have aborted their children or had their children aborted.

For example, I think of liberal icon President John F. Kennedy. The Kennedy Family is probably the closest thing America had to a royal family, although revelations over the last several decades have rather firmly repudiated the idea of an impossibly happy Camelot, as historians reveal anecdote after sordid anecdote of relentless philandering. Anecdotes of President Kennedy’s devastation at the 1963 death of his two-day old son, Patrick, are well-documented. The Kennedys also lost a daughter in 1956—Arabella, as her parents intended to name her, was stillborn.

Revolutions famously do not discriminate in their grim reaping of human life. The Sexual Revolution is no different.

But stories abound of JFK’s affairs ending in abortions. Mimi Alford, a White House intern that JFK had a relationship with for over a year, reported that when she told the president she believed she was pregnant, he “took the news in his stride.” Shortly afterward, she was contacted by a White House staffer named Dave Powers, often assigned to protect the president’s reputation.

“An hour later,” Alford recalls, “Dave called the dorm and told me to call a woman who could put me in touch with a doctor in New Jersey. The intermediary was a necessary precaution, because abortion was illegal. That was pure Dave Powers: he handled the problem immediately, and with brute practicality. There was no talk about what I wanted, or how I felt, or what the medical risks might be.”

Another of JFK’s famous mistresses, Judith Campbell Exner, reported having an abortion in 1963 after becoming pregnant by the president. Not all Kennedys, it seems, end up in Washington, D.C. Some of them end up in trash cans behind seedy clinics, victims of their parents’ sexual ideology.

Another icon of the Left that comes to mind when I think of the human cost of abortion is the late author and columnist Christopher Hitchens. Fans of the Hitch are fierce in their devotion, with his brother Peter, a well-known conservative author, noting that his brother’s fans often burn with fanatical hatred against him, furious that a conservative Christian (who wrote his brilliant book The Rage Against God partially in response to his brother’s philosophically feeble atheist tome God Is Not Great) could bear the same last name as their hero. Both brothers are extraordinary writers and journalists, having collectively written dozens of books and published essays and columns in the most prestigious publications.

What many people don’t realize is that there were originally four Hitchens siblings, not two. As Christopher relates in his Vanity Fair essay “Fetal Distraction”:

I was in my early teens when my mother told me that a predecessor fetus and a successor fetus had been surgically removed, thus making me an older brother rather than a forgotten whoosh.

Christopher noted further that at least two children of his own had their lives ended by abortion, recalling sombrely that, “at least once I found myself in a clinic while ‘products of conception’ were efficiently vacuumed away. I can distinctly remember thinking, on the last such occasion, that under no persuasion of any kind would I ever allow myself to be present at such a moment again.”

Perhaps this was because Christopher Hitchens allowed himself no illusion, writing that, “Anyone who has ever seen a sonogram or spent even an hour with a textbook on embryology knows that emotions are not the deciding factor. In order to terminate a pregnancy, you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain, and, whatever the method, break some bones and rupture some organs.”

Although to my knowledge Peter Hitchens has never addressed the fact of his aborted siblings in print, on abortion he has much to say. “Those who wonder what they would have done had they lived at the time of some terrible injustice now know the answer,” he has said. “We do live in such a time. And we do nothing.”

When considering the lives and careers of the Hitchens brothers we know, we cannot help but wonder what the lives of the two that we do not would have been like.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

The list of politicians, writers, and cultural figures who have discarded their own children are myriad. Comedian Chelsea Handler has talked openly about having an abortion. Sharon Osbourne calls having an abortion at seventeen the mistake of her life. According to author Norman Mailer, the tragic Marilyn Monroe had twelve abortions by her late-twenties. Whoopi Goldberg of The View, Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy, Judy Garland of The Wizard of Oz all aborted children. Ava Gardner reportedly aborted two of Frank Sinatra’s children, while the smut-peddling rapper ‘Lil Kim aborted the Notorious B.I.G’s child, which they conceived during an affair. Famed singer Sinead O’Connor had an abortion while on tour in Minneapolis.

It’s especially bizarre, I think, when those on the Left turn out to enthusiastically celebrate any new revelation of a cultural figure having an abortion. The more they admire the person, it seems the happier they are at the “courage” of said person having had an abortion. A bit unintentionally insulting, don’t you think? I admire you so much! I’m so glad you terminated a child that might have had your talent or been a lot like you!

Revolutions, however, famously do not discriminate in their grim reaping of human life. The Sexual Revolution is no different, even though we’ve replaced guillotines with Planned Parenthood clinics. The crowds cheered both, and the similarity between a howling mob and a pro-choice rally is striking to say the least. Perhaps it is Peter Hitchens who has the best explanation: “I think that abortion is much beloved by revolutionaries,” he noted gravely, “because they always like the mob to get their hands in blood and commit some sort of crime of their own.”

Abortion is evil because it violently destroys a human being. But one of the reasons abortion is tragic is that it has robbed us of so many who might have given so much to humanity.


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Video highlights of Canada’s National March for Life 2014

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine

Kevin Dunn of DunnMedia and Entertainment has put together some excellent highlight videos from the 2014 National March for Life in Ottawa. Take a look!

Highlight Video of the National March For Life 2014

 

Candlelight Vigil 2014 Highlight Reel

 

Pro-life Masses during the 2014 March for Life

 

Tribute to Fr. Tony Van Hee


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