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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If you find this filthy book in your home, burn it

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

I don’t believe in book-burnings, but for the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy, I’ll make an exception. I prefer charred books to scarred people.

The 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy, for those of you living outside “civilization,” is a repulsive and poisonous stack of porn novels that celebrates the seduction and manipulation of an insecure girl by a powerful businessman who happens to like spending his recreational time engaging in what is now popularly known as “BDSM.” For those of you who are fortunate enough never to have heard of this glorification of sexual assault, the acronym stands for bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. In 50 Shades of Grey, the man in question inflicts all sorts of pain on the girl, because he is a sadist, which used to be a bad thing. (How utterly confusing it is to see the “feminists” of Planned Parenthood and elsewhere celebrating this phenomenon—wasn’t domination something they sought to subvert? Didn’t bondage used to be something one wanted to be freed from? And sado-masochism—I could vomit.) And now this trash has been developed into a film, the trailer of which is all over Facebook.

50 Shades of Grey and the new “BDSM” phenomenon are nothing more than the celebration of pain, rape, and destruction.

A lot of people seem to be taken with these books, especially based on the number of people I’ve seen unashamedly reading it at airports. These porn novels are “hot,” many reviewers tell us confidently. Yes, hot as Hell and halfway there, I think.

Consider this, for just a moment: In a culture where broken families are often the norm, we have a generation of girls often growing up without fathers, never receiving the paternal love and affection that they need. Thus the famous “Daddy Issues” that so many comedy sitcoms repulsively mock, as if hurting girls seeking love and affection in all the wrong places is some sort of joke. Conversely, boys are also growing up without fathers, never having a positive male role model in the home to teach them how to treat women with love and respect. And what is teaching them how to treat girls? At an enormous rate, the answer is online pornography, which increasingly features vicious violence against girls and women. The average first exposure of boys to pornography is age eleven. It is an absolutely toxic mess—insecure and hurting girls seek love from boys who have been taught how to treat them by the most vicious of pornography.

Introduce into this situation a book, written by a woman, glorifying the idea that girls should expect or even enjoy pain and torture inside of a sexual relationship. How does a girl, insecure and unsure, know what to think? The culture around her now expects her not to need a safe relationship, but a “safe word” to employ in case her sadist partner gets a bit too carried away in the pain-making. Boys who might never have dreamed of asking a girl to subject herself to such pain and humiliation are now of course emboldened to request or even expect this fetishized sexual assault as a matter of course in a relationship. After all, much of pornography now features this degradation of girls and women, and a woman wrote a book celebrating such things. It might seem sadistic and rapey, but hey, sexual freedom has allowed us to celebrate “bondage” and sexual liberation has allowed us to liberate our darkest demons from the recesses of our skulls and allow them out to play in the bedroom. Boys used to get taught that they shouldn’t hit girls, but now the culture is telling them that it’s actually a turn-on.

I genuinely feel sorry for many teenage girls trying to navigate the new, pornified dating landscape. I genuinely feel sorry for the legions of fatherless boys, exposed to pornography before they even had a chance to realize what it was, enfolded by the tentacles of perverted sexual material before they even realize what, exactly, they are trifling with. It brings to mind something C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Wouldn't it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men start going wild inside, like the animals here, and still look like men, so that you'd never know which were which.”

50 Shades of Grey and the new “BDSM” phenomenon are nothing more than the celebration of pain, rape, and destruction. Find out if the “sex educators” in your area are pushing this garbage, and speak out. Join campaigns to make sure that promotion of this filth isn’t being funded by your tax dollars. And if you find these books in your home, burn them.


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Leaving the Matrix: what is the cost of conversion?

Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary
By Hilary White

What do you do when you decide to leave a sexually disordered lifestyle? What do you do, when all the people you have contact with, all your friends, even your family, have accepted and embraced a way of living and thinking about life that you have realized is harmful, psychologically and morally destructive, and which you know you must leave? What is the cost of conversion?

We can easily get caught up in the tumult of the ever-escalating legal, political, and cultural war against the traditional worldview and anthropology, so much that we forget that the “issue” is about real, individual human beings and how they should, concretely, order their lives. We culture warriors must remember that what we are asking people to do is difficult, that it can incur huge sacrifice and loss and will often require enormous upheaval and change. We are asking people to leave not only a “lifestyle” of sexual activity, but an entire world, populated with family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and an entire global culture that embraces and aggressively promotes it.

I include not only the experience of leaving the “gay lifestyle,” but of leaving a worldview, a cultural paradigm that accepts and promotes sexual license of any kind in general. It is more than the questions surrounding the so-called “ex-gay” movement, and more than the issue of living chastely in an increasingly sexually obsessed world.

How ought a person who experiences same-sex attraction react when it begins to dawn on him that, for whatever reason, he cannot continue to live according to the world’s paradigm? We know how the homosexualist movement says he ought to react, and we know that the secular world (nearly all the world, therefore) is in more or less complete agreement. He should reject such self-negating thoughts. He should embrace his “orientation” and start to seek out same-sex sexual relationships, and carry on in the way that they tell us life is now normally lived.

He should engage in sexual encounters with various people, sometimes setting up “relationships” for varying lengths of time, breaking up, moving on, finding someone else, perhaps cohabitating, and maybe, some day, “settling down” with one person, either in “marriage,” or not, as the mood strikes. This is what the world now presents to us as normal. Nearly every television show and movie set in our times says this is just how people live nowadays. 

It is only too easy for those of us who live out here in The Real to forget how totally different our lives are from that of the majority of our fellow men. We shout, “jump!” because we see a whole other lush, green and happy world, but they see nothing but the shadows on the cave wall.

But those few of us left who think this is not a very good way to live, that it is morally and psychologically destructive, have in large part to forge our own way in life, figure out a set of rules and standards to live by alone, all the while fighting the pressure to conform. Even for those of us not plagued by sexual feelings towards people of the same sex it isn’t easy.

It is particularly not easy for those of us who have decided later in life to try to embrace a different path, but who had previously followed the world’s advice, and who had never known any other way of living. What does it take to totally change a worldview, a method of organizing one’s life and all social relationships? How hard is it to reinvent a way of life that the world has not only abandoned, but aggressively rejected and condemned?

The cost will usually be, at least, the loss of nearly all one’s friends, sometimes even very close friends. Very often it will include alienating, sometimes permanently, one’s own family. Since the Sexual Revolution’s paradigm has now been embraced by three or four or more generations, it will often mean alienation from parents and siblings.

It will sometimes mean the loss of good relations with co-workers and colleagues, and sometimes even the loss of jobs and careers. I know a man, a previously highly respected author, who was totally rejected by the entire literary establishment of his home country, a heavily secular nation, when he embraced Catholicism, including its sexual moral teachings. He told me that he expected he would never be published again outside the Catholic niche press. None of his previous friends would speak to him and for the first two years his mother had refused to take his calls.

He had been asked again and again why, if he felt he had to become a Christian, he could not have become an Anglican. And why this “sudden obsession” with “outdated” and “retrograde” sexual morality? He said that, in essence, he was treated as he would have been in the 19th century had he “come out” as a homosexual. Chastity, in other words, is the new perversion.

It is a momentous decision to leave that world, and people who make that transition compare it to leaving the Matrix: a painful, shocking and revelatory experience of a totally new and previously unguessed-at world that can leave the person disoriented, feeling as though he is now living in a kind of “parallel universe” in which he is alone and alienated from friends and family and fellow citizens.

There is an increasing number of us “converts” to a more morally sane life, who often find that once we have made the transition we are alone again. And even when we find others, a new community and friends – usually in a church – we learn that we must keep the door to the past closed. It’s not that we fear rejection, far from it, and it is not even a matter of shame.

But we understand that in a civilized society, no one wants to hear about barbarity, and we learn that to keep our past life closely in mind is to allow it to continue to rule the present. Close friends will know about our past, but, outside the most intimate circles it is passed over silently. We have reinvented ourselves and moved on, but the price is sometimes to become people with no past. To be wholly remade, it is necessary to leave behind the person we were.

It works. I can say that it is possible to be radically morally rebuilt, that one can reconstruct an entire personality, consciously dismantle past habits of thought and approach to life and replace them with better ones. The damage from the previous life, whether physical or psychological, can be permanent, but it is possible to construct a way of living that is morally and psychologically and physically healthy, and reorder a life in such a way that the damage does not rule your present. 

But it’s expensive. For me, it started when I was still living in British Columbia. I felt something new beginning in my mind and felt a yearning spring up that could not be satisfied by anything I’d experienced… the usual convert’s tale.

I’d been aware all my life that the kind of world we lived in, and the kind of life we lived in it, was somehow just not right. I loved old films and television shows that depicted a totally different way of living. I was close to my grandparents and wondered why we no longer lived that way. When I moved to the mainland in my early 20s, I somehow started going to Mass again, and that was when the real struggle began. I knew full well that the way I lived and thought about life was deeply at odds with the Church.

But I was alone. None of my friends were Catholic and none of them could begin to understand what it was I had begun to talk about. And I had made no friends at the large inner city parish I attended. I had tried to join a few things, and had volunteered a bit, but I could see that I had nothing in common with them. It seemed as though these people lived in another universe, one I could not even want to enter. A priest suggested I get involved in the pro-life movement, and I rejected this idea out of hand as totally absurd.

I thought I could only ask God for help. I prayed for “Catholic friends.” This brought no change, so I scaled down and said, “All right then, just one. Just one Catholic friend.” In the end, I simply got up and left one day. I’ve written elsewhere that I just got in a car and went “on holiday” out east, and never returned. When I landed in the far-eastern Canadian town where I was to undertake my own radical conversion, I only stopped there because I had run out of continent.

And it was there I discovered a whole new world, a moral universe of whose existence I had been previously totally ignorant. I met my “Catholic friends,” and was able to start the painful task of first deconstructing and then rebuilding my entire worldview, my character, my beliefs, my total understanding of life, the universe, and everything.

“Painful”? I barely survived. It took a year but I emerged a new kind of person in a new kind of world that I had never suspected existed. I met a group of other people who had undergone the same experience and we traded war stories. We agreed that it was like living in a parallel universe, and we bonded over the loss of previous friendships and family relationships. We helped each other, this little group of Catholic refugees on the rain-washed East Coast, to figure out a way to live in a world to which we no longer belonged. 

We talk about the programs set up by various individuals and groups that propose to help people, (mainly men) leave the homosexual lifestyle. We defend the right of psychotherapists to offer healing and help for people who have been damaged by their own choices and by the violence and sins of others. We lobby our Parliaments, we write articles, we even argue in comment boxes on the internet. We sometimes get brave and give talks and engage in public debates where we confront our ideological opponents in public venues. In all this, we rightly speak against the New Paradigm that the world has embraced and we urge people to reject it. It’s a form of evangelization.

But I think we need to keep in mind, while we are doing this good work, that what we are asking people to do, concretely, is momentous. Indeed, from the point of view of heaven, it is of cosmic significance. In less exalted terms, however, we are asking something almost unimaginably difficult of people ensnared in a way of living and thinking that they may not even completely understand themselves.

So much of our anti-culture, our death-culture, has been simply absorbed unconsciously, so much of it has been fed to us with our Fruit Loops and Saturday Morning Cartoons from earliest childhood, that we often have no way of knowing anything else exists. We have become people trapped in Plato’s Cave, knowing only the vaguest shadows of reality.

It is only too easy for those of us who live out here in The Real to forget how totally different our lives are from that of the majority of our fellow men. We shout, “jump!” because we see a whole other lush, green and happy world, but they see nothing but the shadows on the cave wall.

Ultimately, the Matrix is not only unreal, it is designed to make men miserable, but in such a way that they are hardly aware of being miserable. It not only enslaves, but tortures its victims. There is a reason that suicide, divorce, drug use, violent crime, self-harm, eating disorders, depression, … misery, in short, have grown to such colossal proportions in our societies.

If I may make a suggestion, maybe we could start writing and talking about how much better it is to live in The Real. How much happier it is possible to be when living a morally integrated life of self-control, not being pushed around either by lust or by the merciless demands of a lust-worshipping culture...a life of real freedom, in other words. It might help make the jump less frightening.


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Alexandre Duret-Lutz / Flickr

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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