Subscribe via email


Monthly Archives


Post Categories

Tag Index

1st Corinthians 1st Peter 1st Timothy 2nd Corinthians 2nd Peter 60 Minutes 1970s A. G. Sertillanges Abby Abortion Absurdity Academia Accordance Adoration Advent Aesthetics Affluence Agenda Aging AIDS Alan Keyes Alasdair MacIntyre Alexander Solzhenitsyn Algebra Al Gore Alienation Alvin Plantinga America American Culture American Enterprise Institute Americanism Amnesty International Anand Giridharadas Andrew Hacker Andrew R. Grainger Andy Rooney Angela Merkel Anglicanism Anthropocentrism Anthropology Anti-Bullying Anti-Christ Anti-clericalism Antigonish AP Apologetics Apostle Thomas Appearances Archangel Raphael Archbishop Charles Chaput Archbishop Harry Flynn Archbishop Sean O'Malley Art Asininity Assassination Athanasius Atheism Audio Books Austria Authority Avery Cardinal Dulles Balkanization Banality Barack Obama Barbara Bellar Barney Frank Beatles Belgium Belief Ben Johnson Berlin Wall Bias Bible Bible.org Bible Explorer Bible in English Bible Software Reviews Bible Translations BibleWorks Bill Cottle Bill O'Reilly Bill Whittle Bishop Robert Morlino Bitterclinging Black Friday Blackmail Blessed Sacrament Bloggers Unite Blogging Bloomberg Bobby Jindal Bob Schieffer Bono Book of Tobit Book of Wisdom Books Bosco Peters Boston.com Boston Bruins Boston Globe Boston Pilot Bourgeois Ethics Boyhood Boys Bozo BP Brendan O'Neill Bullying Bureaucracy Burial Cacophony California Campaign Funding Cancer Canon Law Cap 'N Trade Capitalism Car Seats Catechesis Catechism Catherine Lawless Catholic Church Catholic Culture Catholicism Catholic Lane Catholic Schools Causation CBA CBO CBS CCD CEB Celebrity Celebrity Psychopath of the Week Censorship Certain Urgency Charismata Charity Charlie Baker Chattering Class Chernobyl Chicanery Children Children & Media China Chris Christie Chris Squire Christendom Christian Art Christianity Christina Harms Christmas Chuck Colson Church Citizenship Civics Civility Civilization Civil Rights Civil Unions Clarence Dupnik Clergy Sexual Abuse Close to the Edge CNSNews Coercion Cognitive Dissonance College Culture Comedy Commerce Clause Commonweal Communism Community Commuting Competition Compromise Computing Condoms Confiscatory Taxation Conflict Congregationalism Congress Congressional Powers Conservatism Constantinople Constitutionality Consumerism Contempt Contraception Conversion Coping Cosmology Counterculture Cover Up Creativity Credentialing Credo Cremation Criminality Crisis Magazine Cult Culture Culture Wars Dad Daily Mail Damien of Molokai Dante Darfur Darwinism Dave Bainbridge David B Hart David Brooks David Frum David Linsky David Mills David Thompson Daylight Saving Time DDC Death Debt Deficit Commission Deficit Spending Definitions Dehumanization Democracy Democratic Socialism Democrat Party Department of Education Dependency Der Spiegel Despair Deuteronomy Deval Patrick Development Devotion Dichotomy Disbelief Discernment Discipline Discrimination Disease Disorder Dispensationalism Disrespect Dissent Dissipation Diversity Divinization Do-Goodism Doctor Assisted Suicide Douglas Farrow Dred Scott Drinking Dualism Earth Day Easter Eastern Religion eBooks Ecclesiology Echo Chamber Economic Crisis Economics Ecumenism Ed Markey Ed Morrissey Ed Schultz Education Edward Feser Edward Winslow Egalitarianism Eleanor Clift Election '08 Election '10 Election 2012 Electronic Publishing Elizabeth Scalia Elizabeth Warren Empathy Empiricism England Enlightenment Entertainment Entitlement Entitlements Environmentalism Envy Ephesians Epiphany Episcopacy Episcopal Church Epistemology Equality Equating Eric Holder Eschatology ESV Eternity Ethics Eucharist Eugenics Euphemism Europe European Union Euthanasia Evangelization Evolution Evolutionism Ewald Stadler Experience Experts Extortion Ezekiel Facebook Faith Faith & Reason Faithfulness Fall of Rome Family Fascism Fashion Fast & Furious Fatherhood Fausta Wertz FCC Fear Felix Just Feminism Fidelity First Amendment First Things Folly Forgiveness Founding Fathers Fourth Estate FOX News Frances Titchenor Franciscan University Fraud Fred Baumann Freedom Free Lunch Free Speech Free Will Friendship Funerals G. F. Handel Gabrielle Giffords Gaia Galatians Garage Light Gay Marriage Genesis George Carlin George Orwell George Tiller George W Bush George Weigel Georgia Warnke Gerry Dembrowski Gerush92 Glenn Beck Global Warming Gnosticism God Good Good Friday Good Samaritan Gorecki Gospel Gospel of John Gospel of Luke Gospel of Mark Gospel of Matthew Gospels Gossip Government Grace Graciousness Great Britain Great Entitlement Society Greece Green Movement Grief Guardian Gun Control Gunwalker Handel & Haydn Hannah Arendt Hans Urs von Balthasar Harry Christophers Harry Potter Harry Reid Hating HCSB Health Healthcare Healthcare Reform Heaven Hegel Henri de Lubac Henry E Hudson Heresy Heritage Foundation Hidden Treasure Higher Education Hiroshima History Hitler Holiday Season Holiness Homosex Hope Hospitality HotAir Housing HTML editors Hubris Human Dignity Human Flourishing Humanities Human Nature Human Rights Humility Hypocrisy Hysteria iBreviary Idealism Ideas Identity Ideology Idolatry iEducation Illness Imago Dei Immorality Imperialism Incarnation Incivility Individualism Indulgence Infantilism Insipidity Insurance Intellect Intercession Intergenerational Theft Interiorizing Culture Iona Iowahawk Irony Irresponsibility Isaiah Islam Italy J.E. Dyer J. Gresham Machen Jack Wagner James Pethokoukis James V. Schall Janet Daley Jay Rockefeller Jazz Shaw Jefferson Starship Jeff Jacoby Jeremiah Jesus Christ Jewish Advocate Jews JFK Jill Stein Jimmy Carter Joanne Hogg Joe Biden Joe Carter Joe Scarborough Joe Wilson John Henry Newman John Jalsevac John Kerry John Locke John McCain John Roberts John Sommerville John the Baptist John Ziegler Jonah Jonathan Last Jonathan Sperry Joseph Stalin Journaling Journalism Joy Joyce Judaism Judgment Judgmentalism Judiciary Jurisprudence Justice Just War K-8 Kant Kathryn Lopez Keith Olbermann Ken Cuccinelli Kermit Gosnell Keynesianism Killing King David Kingdom of God KKK Knights of Columbus Knowledge L'Osservatore Romano Labor Laity Language Larceny Law Lazarus Laziness Learning Lectionary Leftism Legacy Legality Lent Leprosy Letter to Hebrews Letter to Romans Leviathan Liberal Education Liberalism Libertarianism Liberty Libraries LibraryThing Libretti Libya Licentiousness Lidwig Feuerbach Lies LifeSiteNews LifeWay Light Light Dawns on Marble Head Limited Government Liturgical Calendar Liturgy Liturgy of the Hours Logos Lordship Love Luciano Storero Lumen Gentium Lying Macintosh Magi Manhattan Declaration Mara Hvistendahl Marcel Guarnizo Marco Rubio Margaret Becker Margaret Marshall Marketing Mark T. Coppenger Marriage Martin Cothran Martin Heidegger Marxism Mary Eberstadt Mary Magdalene Mary Rose Somarriba Massachusetts Massachusetts SJC Massasoit Materalism Maternity Mathematics Matthew Hanley Matt Labash Mattress Girl MaybeToday.org Mayflower Meaning Media Ethics Media Hype Medicaid Medical Ethics Medicare Memory Mercy Methodology Mexico City Policy Michael Hanby Michael Moore Michelle Bachmann Michelle Malkin Mike Pence Milos Forman Miracles Misanthropy Misbehavior Miscenegation Mitch Daniels Mitt Romney Moammar Qaddafi Mockery Modernism Modernity Modern Scholar Mom Moral Doctrine Moral Imbecility Moralism Morality Moral Philosophy Mortimer J Adler Motherhood Mother Teresa Motives Movies MSBA MSM MSNBC Music NAB NABRE Nancy Pelosi Nanny State Naomi Achaefer Riley Nasta & Yulia Natick National Council of Churches National Day of Prayer Nationalism National Review National Socialism Natural Rights Nature NEA Negligence New American Bible New English Translation New Marriage News Product Newsweek New Testament New York Times Niall Ferguson Nigel Farage Nighttime Nihilism Noli me Tangere Nonsense Now Reading NY Times O Antiphons ObamaCare Occam's Razor Occupy OEB Old Testament Olive Tree Ontology Operation Rescue Opinion Ordinary Time Organ Sales Origen Original Sin Orthodoxy Osama bin Laden OWD Paganism Papacy Parables Parenting Partisanship Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry Passion of Christ Pat Caddell Patheos Pathology Patriarchy Paul Erlich Paul Ryan PC Study Bible Pearl of Great Price Pederasty Pedophilia Pentecostalism Permissiveness Perpetual Outrage Perseverance Personhood Pete Jermann Peter Augustine Lawler Peter Kreeft Peter L. Berger Peter Sanchioni Peter Seewald Peter Thiel Phenomenology Philosophical Naturalism Philosophy Pieta Pieties Piety Pilgrims Pink Floyd Planned Parenthood Plato Plenty Plymouth Plantation Poland Political Correctness Political Discourse Political Economy Political Resistance Political Science Pop Culture Criticism Pope Benedict XVI Pope John Paul II Pope Leo XIII Pop Music Pornography Postmodernism Poverty Power Pradis Prayer Preaching Priestcraft Priesthood Principles Priorities Prison Fellowship Prisons Privacy Private Schooling Privatization Pro-Lifers Procrastination Producers Progressivism Propaganda Property Property Rights Propheticism Prosperity Prostitution Protestantism Pseudo-Morality Public Discourse Public Order Public Schooling Public Spending Punishment Puritans QotD QuickVerse Racialism Racism Radicalism Rape Rape Culture Rationality Rationing Ravi Zacharias Reading Reality Rebecca Reconciliation Redemptionis Sacramentum Reform Regeneration Regensburg Regulations Relationships Relativism Religion Religiosity Religious Art Religious Dialog Religious Liberty Religious Repression Rent Seeking Repentance Republican Party Rerum Novarum Resomation Responsibility Resurrection Revelation Revolutions Rhetoric Richard Fernandez Richard John Neuhaus Richard Nixon Richard Wright Rick Santorum Rick Wakeman Rick Warren Righteousness Rita L. Marker Robert Barron Robert R. Reilly Robert T. Miller Rock Music Rod Decker Roe v. Wade Roger Vinson Roman Empire Romans Romanticism Romneycare Ronald Reagan Ron Dellums Ross Douthat Rush Limbaugh Ruth Ruth Marcus Ryan Messmore Sacrality Sacramentalism Sacraments Saint Augustine Saint Francis Saint Francis de Sales Saint Ismeria Saint Jerome Saint Maximilian Kolbe Saint Nicholas Saint Paul Saint Paul School Saint Peter Salvation Same-Sex Marriage Sanctification Sanctity Santa Claus Sarah Palin Satisfaction Scandal Scapegoating Schooling Science Scott Brown Scott Harrington SCOTUS Sean Bielat Self Discipline Self Knowledge Sentimentality Sermonizing Sexuality Sexual Revolution ShareThis Sharon Angle Sigmund Freud Sin Singing Slander Slavery Smoking SNAP Social Contract Social Engineering Socialism Socializing Children Social Justice Social Studies Sociology Socrates Solidarity Solutions Sonia Sotomayor Soteriology Soul Southern Poverty Law Center Soviet Union Speeches Speech Police spiked-online Spirituality SSM St. Augustine Church St. Patrick Church Standardization Statism Stem Cells Stephen Kinzer Stephen Prothero Sterilization Stewardship Strange Fire Stress Study Study Bibles Stupidity Subjective Objectivity Subjectivism Subsidiarity Suffering Sunday Readings Supernatural Superstition Symbolism Syncretism Tabernacle Talk Radio Taxation Tax Shelters Teaching TEA Party Technology Ted Kennedy Ted Koppel Temporizing Temptation Terl Bryant Tetragrammaton Thanksgiving The Catholic Thing Theism Theology Theology of the Body Theosis Theotokos Therese of Lisieux The Telegraph TheWeek.com Thinking Thomas Aquinas Thomas F Madden Thomas G. Guarino Thomas Jefferson Tim Cahill Time Timothy Dalrymple Tolerance Tom Coburn Tony Blankley Tony Melchiorri Touchstone Townhall.com Trade-Offs Tradition Training Transcendence Transhumanism Transparency Treasure Trinitarianism Trivia Troy Donockley Truth Tunisia Turkey TV Tyranny U.S. Senate U2 UFOs Unbelief Unintended Consequences Unionism United Church of Christ Unity Universal Declaration of Human Rights Universalim Universities Upon this Rock USA Today USCCB US Congress Usurpation Utilitarianism Utopianism Vatican Vatican II Verbal Engineering Verbum Vice Victimhood Victor David Hanson Violence Virginia Postrel Virtue Vocation Voluntary Insanity Voters Voting Vulgarity w.bloggar W. Norris Clarke Waiting Walk for Life Wall Street Journal Walter Russell Mead War Warren Buffett Washington Post Watergate Wealth webEdit Weekly Standard Wesley J. Smith Western Civilization Wicca Will-to-Power William Callahan Will of God Windows Live Writer Winter Wisdom Witchcraft WordPress Words WORDsearch WORDsearch 5 WORDsearch 7 WORDsearch 8 WORDsearch 9 WORDsearch 10 WORDsearch 11 Work Works Worship WWJD Yes Yom Kippur Youth ZBS Zero-Tolerance ZfEval-Searching Zondervan

Tag Archive: Authority

It is hard to imagine zero-tolerance bullying prevention without schools becoming mini-bureaucratic-police states

Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 (3:10 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Wednesday, September 14th, 2011:

Mary Rose Somarriba, writing yesterday at Public Discourse, on the recent anti-bullying legislation recently enacted in New Jersey (hewing closely to Obama administration policies), in an article called “A Bully-Free World?”:

Why, one might ask, would the president lead a conference on preventing something like bullying, which is ultimately impossible to prevent? It could be, perhaps, because bullying is something that everyone agrees is wrong, and it is something that everyone can relate to, because everyone has been bullied at some point.

But sadly, bullying is like any unfortunate human conflict and will exist as long as humans do. This does not mean it is okay to bully; it means it is problematic to imagine that we can create a world in which conflict doesn’t exist. It is hard to imagine zero-tolerance bullying prevention without schools becoming mini-bureaucratic-police states—the likes of which only belong in films like Minority Report or Adjustment Bureau—where kids could be criminally charged for hurting each other’s feelings, “different” kids could be targeted as “likely to be bullied,” and so on. But that is exactly what this boils down to: a child’s version of hate crimes.

In reality, laws like New Jersey’s risk worsening the problems of bullying. There is reason to believe that hotlines where kids can anonymously text-message tips to incriminate bullies are yet another technology that kids will abuse for the purposes of bullying. Further, bullying prevention is arguably the wrong goal altogether. It would be better to focus on conflict resolution than on conflict prevention. Devoting all effort to preventing the inevitable is not only wasteful policy; it is a failure to do what actually might lessen the damage of real-life conflicts.

One of my kids – probably the youngest one – mentioned something during dinner the other night about the latest anti-bullying campaign at her school, and I was too tired and cranky to resist letting out a snort. The kids were a little flabbergasted when I said I thought the current anti-bullying hysteria is moronic. Of course, they assumed that anyone who didn’t “like” anti-bullying must therefore “like” bullying – that’s the way these things are framed society-wide, the way immature minds tend to work naturally, and certainly fits the Facebook zeitgeist we and they inhabit. I pointed out the hypocrisy of adults shoving anti-bullying propaganda down the throats of helpless populations of schoolchildren, and made some references to the long stream of social do-goodism in the schools, of which anti-bullying is not merely the latest fashion, but an almost inevitable consequence of previous efforts by the same kinds of “progressive” people to coddle school children, eliminate discipline, abandon authority, and eradicate the stain of “judgmentalism”.

I don’t think I did a very good job of explaining myself, and fortunately, Somarriba does a pretty good job in this article of explaining at least why the anti-bullying agenda is impractical. But I really dislike the agenda for reasons she comes close to, but doesn’t address. She suggests that perhaps President Obama wants to get out in front of this because everybody agrees that bullying is wrong, and she’s dead right about that: it’s a convenient platform for cheesy moralism. You won’t lose any votes by thundering denunciations against bullies, after all. And that’s the real problem here: it’s symptomatic of a culture that feels the need to find something phony with which to fill a glaring void, a void where genuine morality deserves to be found, but cannot be allowed expression lest it upset the libertarian apple cart of mutually assured disregard of vice.

O Clavis David

Posted: Monday, December 20, 2010 (6:30 am), by John W Gillis


“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” (O Antiphon for Dec. 20th)

The antiphon today focuses on the authority of Christ:

The Holy One, the True One, the One who has the key of David, who opens and no one will close, and closes and no one opens Revelation 3:7 (HCSB)

No small part of a genuine faith in Christ must be the hope that His authority is real and actual. Admittedly, it’s not entirely evident that such is the case. We indeed proclaim Him King (not just King-elect), and we know His law well enough, yet it is abundantly clear that He is not calling the shots in this world on a day-to-day basis – or at least that very few people pay the so-called King much heed.

It will not suffice to say that His time of authority within the historical sphere is yet to come, for the Gospel tells us plainly that He delegated His authority, to Peter (cf Mt 16:19), precisely for the sake of being exercised "on earth," within history. Yet, even many Christians today do not recognize that authority in Peter, insofar as the Petrine authority continues to be delegated down through the generations in history. Protestations that the delegation of authority was intended to be less personal and more broadly apostolic are empty, because, well, even if this were true – and were every bishop in the world to speak with one voice – the world would still yawn, along with many self-styled Christians, Catholic or otherwise.

The fact remains that the manifestation of Christ’s authority, delegated or not, seems far off. It is this manifestation that we pray for when we say "Come, Lord." But we should not be so naive as to think that the judgment executed at His coming will be as indifferent to justice as is the contemporary regime of public order, which ignores His authority (delegated or not).

And if that is true, then should we be so eager for His coming? For whether we are prepared for judgment ourselves or not, should we be so indifferent to the forthcoming judgment of others as to seek the coming of the Lord in times which are so notoriously unjust and indifferent to Christ’s Lordship?

Only If Liberty Is Beautiful… Can It Really Be Worth the Courageous Risk of Life

Posted: Monday, December 6, 2010 (8:29 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Monday, December 6th, 2010:

With the Thanksgiving holiday still lingering in the air, I found this excellent article on the continuing value of America’s Puritan forebears over at the always worthwhile First Principles Journal site. Written by Peter Augustine Lawler, it is entitled: Praising the Puritans:

Because the Puritan conception of political freedom wasn’t based on the apolitical, selfish, rights-obsessed, and duty negligent Lockean individual, it both not only demanded virtuous civic participation but also connected political freedom with the creature’s charitable duty to the unfortunate. It set a high or virtuous standard for political competence and incorruptibility, and it didn’t seem to need to rely on institutions with teeth in them to restrain the spirit of faction and boundless ambition of leaders.

Whatever Puritan government was, it was not another name for a band of robbers, just as Puritan freedom could never be confused with another name for nothing less to lose. The Virginians’ view of freedom was finally merely useful or materialistic; it is the liberty of beings with interests and nothing more. The Puritans distinguished themselves by their “beautiful definition of freedom,” “a civil, a moral, a federal liberty,” “a liberty for that only which is just and good.” That’s the liberty for which it makes sense “to stand with the hazard of your very lives.” Only if liberty is beautiful or for the display of the most admirable and virtuous human characteristics can it really be worth the courageous risk of life.

The citizens of New England took care of the poor, maintained the highways, kept careful records and registries, secured law and order, and, most of all, provided public education for everyone—through high school when possible. The justification of universal education was that everyone should be able to read the Bible to know the truth about God and his duties to Him for himself. Nobody should be deceived by having to rely on the word of others; they had the democratic or Cartesian distrust of authority without the paralyzing and disorienting rejection of all authority. That egalitarian religious understanding, of course, was the source of the American popular enlightenment that had so many practical benefits.

readersmIn contrasting the worldviews of two early colonial communities within what would become the United States (Virginia and the New England Puritans), Lawler sketches out a sound defense of the much maligned New Englanders, showing how their characteristic reading of man’s place in the world laid the groundwork for much of what came to be the best of the American genius, and how it could provide an important corrective today to some of the more narcissistic and utilitarian tendencies that threaten to undermine the American community.

HT to Joe Carter over at FirstThings for the link.

Divine Manifestation and Humility: Pentecostalism and Eucharistic Hope

Posted: Friday, June 25, 2010 (12:21 am), by John W Gillis


monstrance_sm I was wondering, a while back, what kind of difference it might have made in my life to have encountered a perpetual Eucharistic Adoration chapel when I was a young man seeking some sort of religious grounding for my spiritual life. I’m wondering about it again as I sit before the Blessed Sacrament on another Sunday late-night. Specifically, I’m thinking about that year or so I spent huddled in my apartment, trying to piece together the shards of my shattered life in the wake of the disaster that was my twenties, and seeking a path to actualize my nascent faith in God.

Sitting in the Adoration Chapel each week, I see young people coming in and going out, some acting out elaborate and affected pieties, others more reserved and seemingly more recollected. I was drawn, at a similar age, toward a pentecostalism that promised to substitute an engaging and spiritually charged enthusiasm for the indulgent sensuality and attendant emotional crises I had been embroiled in, and was seeking to escape. I knew that I needed more than a prayer life, that I needed Christian community, that I needed to belong to something that was more than an idea – or worse, a projection of my own interior life.

But I was put off by the worldliness that seemed to underpin the life I witnessed in what I suppose I would have called organized religion. I was a thoroughly beaten young man at that point, an poor as dirt, and all but ready to embrace apocalypticism as the last station call for optimism. Pentecostalism in particular seemed constructed to marginalize me from the very community of the marginalized I felt spiritually bound to. On the surface, with its focus on the breaking-in to the world of the Spirit in charismata, it seems to exemplify the “in the world, but not of the world” ethos of the gospel. But in reality, it seeks the manifestation of God’s blessing in very concrete and even material forms. That’s why “the gifts” tend not toward a deep, quiet, and subtle prudence, but a public form that approaches spectacle. And that is also why the health and wealth gospel is so at home in pentecostalism. If the manifestation of God’s blessing is not actually the end of pentecostal faith, it is at least taken as evidence of the reality of grace in the life of the believer.

As a fragile, immature believer with nothing to show for my relationship with God but a deep sense of sorrow and repentance, pentecostalism was both intriguing for its promise of an affirming manifestation, and foreboding for its unspoken but unmistakable contempt for spiritual poverty and unapologetic humility. What is taken as being “not of the world” in pentecostalism is actually very worldly, insofar as it is public manifestation of blessing itself which is taken as the revelation “in the world.” In the end, I felt out of place in my poverty – not because I lacked manifestations like the glossolalia (which I had, even some fifteen years earlier, learned not to overvalue), but because I so thoroughly lacked the worldly successes that are taken to be signs of the blessing.

The sacramental economy stands in stark contrast to all that. The revelation of God is made manifest in the world in the simplest and humblest manner: a small piece of bread, water, a touching hand, a few softly spoken words. True, the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration is often enthroned within an elaborate gold monstrance; the places of worship themselves, where the sacraments are celebrated and dispensed, are often grand in form and rich in substance. Yet these displays of the wealth of the world are not understood as the blessings God gives to his people, but the blessings God’s people bring to Him in reverence. This is wealth that is “wasted” on God, as Judas had it, while God, in His manifestation, remains the bread of sacrifice: His depiction by the faithful being that of a Man crucified.

The sacraments, far from being evidence of the presence of the Spirit in the life of the believer in blessing, are evidence of the presence of the Spirit in the life of the Church, which the believer approaches in utter poverty and humility. Christ Himself, then, is manifest in humility, and the believer approaches in humility (“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…”) to be joined in a sacramental communion of humility (“whosoever would follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”), in which the eschatological manifestation of God’s self-revelation in humanity (“by the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity”) is pregnant as a Spiritual first fruits of Eternal life (“the guarantee of our inheritance”).

What has become abundantly clear to me is that the extraordinary charismata of pentecostalism and related religious movements have emerged as some kind of substitute for the sacraments: one more compatible with the modernist spirit of the age. I find it no coincidence that the historical context for this reemergence of the charismatic gifts aligns with the powerful rise of Modernism as a broad philosophy of culture, as well as the emergence of phenomenology as an epistemological method. Epistemologically, Modernism is basically phenomological: able to perceive knowledge only in that which is experienced, which in reality reduces ‘truth’ to, at best, factualism, or, at worst, subjectivism. One could make the argument that objectivism and subjectivism are instead polar opposites which I am here conflating, but they share a common ground in the observing self, and in a difficulty (if not inability) to overcome a consequent self-centered rationalism in order to perceive the transcendent. Pentecostalism, of course, seeks the transcendent, but it seeks it in the experience of the self; in phenomena.

Likewise, it can hardly be a coincidence that the charismatic movement in Catholicism emerged in the decade of the modernizations following Vatican II, when a deep sacramental understanding seemed to evade much of Catholic culture: pizza was known to be offered as Eucharistic sacrifice in one of the more bizarre incongruities to emerge from the era; greater symbolism came to be sought in baptismal rites through the reintroduction of baptismal baths (such emphasis on symbolism exposing a growing vacuum of meaning born of a declining sacramental sensibility); lines were blurred between lay and priestly roles; confession fell into disuse; and marriage fell prey to contraception, divorce, and other – even worse – sacrileges.

Through the 19th and 20th centuries, Modernism sowed the seeds of a wasting dissolution in the liberal denominations that had held to a semblance of sacramental theology after the Reformation, made possible because their sacramentalism was in reality only formal or religious, not essential. From Luther’s denunciations of indulgences in the 16th century, to John Smyth (re)baptizing himself near the beginning of the 17th century, to Napoleon crowning himself Emperor in front of Pope Pius VII two hundred years later, the history of the West from the Protestant Reformation to the rise of Modernism is one of accommodating a religiously Christian society to a repudiation of the authority of the Church – a repudiation not only of authority as power or religious superiority, but of authority as an ontological reality, a sacramental gift: of the knowledge of the Church as the authentic and authoritative continuing presence of Christ in the world.

The repudiation of an authoritative Church by both by Protestant Christianity and early-Modern or Liberal skepticism did less to correct ecclesiastical abuses than it did to provide religious cover for skepticism, which carried on its own program of pseudo-orthodoxy in the guise of “science,” moving steadily toward Modernism’s atheistic naturalism, even removing God from the cosmos (never mind the curriculum), by first removing the presence of God among men in the form of the miraculous, including the sacraments, but more importantly in the form of authority in the Church – more important because religious anti-papists could happily hitch their wagons to the same “progressive” worldview, unaware of and unprepared for anti-clericalism’s final destination in godless totalitarianism. And now, majorities in these denominations cozy up to abortionists, and cluck their tongues at the sight of “conservatives” who are so unenlightened as to fail to embrace the new homosex norms…

Reacting against Modernism, however, were Fundamentalism proper and the main thrust of contemporary conservative Evangelicalism. They rejected the wholesale naturalistic skepticism of the miraculous, to say nothing of atheism, but they retained a skepticism of the miraculous nature of the Church, and formed (often after initial denominational schisms) an astoundingly fragmentary collection of staunchly anti-sacramental faith communities. Furthermore, despite fundamentalist hostility toward Modernism, it is widely perceived that fundamentalism and naturalism share a common set of (modern) assumptions about the relation of facts to reality, as is evidenced in fundamentalism’s insistence on facticity in its understanding of Biblical inerrancy. What  seems less often observed is that pentecostalism, which emerged at about the same time as a sister movement, sharing similar concerns but eschewing the fundamentalism’s focus on dogmatic Biblicism for a more personal (and miraculous) religion of encounter with God, taps into the same mindset of believing exactly what is seen: experienced-based belief.

But experience is peripheral to sacramental faith, and experiential religion turns out to be a poor substitute for the sacramental life. The point of contact between sacramental manifestation and the believing community is faith in the power of God’s promise that He is indeed present, even despite appearances, if necessary. The point of contact, in other words, is not experience, not “what is seen,” but hope. Being rooted in hope, sacramental worship seeks no signs, but looks behind symbols to the realities they re-present, being open to the transformative movement of grace through the sacraments in ways that are often subtle – even humble. Not phenomena, but a still, small voice.

Despite my mildly Catholic upbringing in the 1960s, I think I would have been shocked, in the 1980s, to encounter God present under the form of bread, even sitting on an altar in a gold monstrance. I think I would have realized that, despite the trappings, God was, in all His glory, even more impoverished than me. I think that may have led me to see how profoundly true it is that for God, all things are possible, and that the meanness of my condition was not an alienating factor that kept me from full communion, but a vector for God to embrace me through the agency of His continued manifestation among men. I think I may have discovered the restorative and integrating power of genuine Christian community. I truly praise God for the Eucharistic faith of these young people; I hope they appreciate someday what a gift they have.

O, Key of David

Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2008 (11:17 pm), by John W Gillis


“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” (O Antiphon for Dec. 20th)

The antiphon today focuses on the authority of Christ:

The Holy One, the True One, the One who has the key of David, who opens and no one will close, and closes and no one opens Revelation 3:7 (HCSB)

No small part of a genuine faith in Christ must be in the hope that His authority is real and actual. It’s not entirely evident that such is the case. We proclaim Him King (not just King-elect), and we know His law well enough, yet it is abundantly clear that He is not calling the shots in this world on a day-to-day basis – or at least that few people pay Him much heed.

It will not suffice to say that His time of authority within the historical sphere is yet to come, for the Gospel tells us plainly that He delegated His authority, to Peter (cf Mt 16:19), precisely for the sake of being exercised “on earth,” within history. Yet, even many Christians do not recognize that authority in Peter, insofar as the Petrine authority continues to be delegated down through the generations in history. Protests that the delegation of authority was intended to be less personal and more broadly apostolic are empty, because – even if this were true – were every bishop in the world to speak with one voice, the world would still yawn – along with many self-styled Christians, Catholic or otherwise.

The fact remains that the manifestation of Christ’s authority, delegated or not, seems far off. It is this manifestation that we pray for when we say “Come, Lord.” But we should not be so naive as to think that the judgment executed at His coming will be as indifferent to justice as is the contemporary scene which ignores His authority (delegated or not). And if that is true, then should we be so eager for His coming? For whether we are prepared for judgment ourselves or not, should we be so indifferent to the judgment of others as to seek the coming of the Lord in times which are so notoriously unjust and indifferent to Christ’s Lordship?

Upon This Rock: Royal Authority & Stewardship

Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2008 (3:46 pm), by John W Gillis


A few observations on the Gospel reading for this week…

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

19 I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. 20 On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; 21 I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. 22 I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. 23 I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family; [NAB]

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! 34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?" 36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. [NAB]

13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. [NAB]

Knowing & Knowing Of: It’s interesting to note the way Jesus frames the two questions he presents to the disciples: Who do people say the Son of Man is? vs. Who do you say that I am? The people, who are remote, know "the Son of Man," but He is to them a remote figure, whom they know inadequately, in a kind of third-person relationship. Really, they know of Jesus; they don’t know him. But the knowledge of the disciples is personal, and therefore able to be brought to completion. Not long before this, Matthew tells us, Jesus had explained to His disciples: "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted." (Matthew 13:11, NASB). Peter’s confession is the logical conclusion to this string of ideas showing the disciples as the privileged stewards of God’s revelation.

On Peter: Much is made in certain circles of the difference in the Greek between the masculine form of the name now given to Peter (Petros), and the feminine form (petra)of the "rock" upon which Jesus will build His ecclesia. The difference, it is said, is as one between a stone and a large rock mass. The usual rejoinder is that, in the Aramaic which Jesus would actually have been speaking that day to this Galilean fisherman, there is no such distinction, and the word used in both cases would have been kepha. This may be so, but I like to think the inspired character of the text given to us in Greek offers us insight that goes beyond any extrapolation back into the Aramaic.

The obvious Old Testament parallel and type for this passage is the passage from Isaiah 22 that we see in the first reading. The oracle, pronounced against Shebna, the king’s steward ("master of the palace"), makes reference to his being thrust from his office, and replaced by Eliakim, who unlike Shebna would act as God’s servant in his fulfillment of the office. This stewardship was not a singular role that was intrinsic to Shebna personally, but an office that he filled – and that others would fill so long as there was a Davidic king to be served as steward. I think this may be a useful interpretive key to the linguistic differentiation of the two "rock" words in the Greek.

Perhaps Jesus is saying here that He will build His Church not simply "on you, Peter" but "on Peter writ large." In other words, not only on Peter personally (though He certainly did that), but on the office of royal authority that Peter would inaugurate anew and serve as the paradigm for – as the following verse about the giving of the keys of the Kingdom makes clear, referring quite evidently back to Eliakim’s taking on of the stewardship of the Davidic kingdom.

The focus on the stone/rock mass distinction often seems offered as a rather coy means of minimizing the significance of Peter’s foundational role, and more importantly, by extension, of writing off the claims of his successors to a role of chief stewardship (claiming that Peter himself is not the foundational "rock mass" after all, despite the obvious parallelism at play in Jesus’ pronouncement). However, I think the Petrine claims to such an office become even more convincing when this passage is seen in its broader Biblical context, and the scale differentiation in the Greek text actually points forward beyond the personal (which would have made the statement mythological) to the historical unfolding of that Church which not appear in an instant, but will , we are told, be built. As the rest of the passage makes clear, Jesus was conferring real authority – His authority – upon Peter, and Peter could not possibly have exercised that authority personally until the Church prevailed against the "gates of the netherworld" in the resurrection.

The Rock: Even more interesting to me is Jesus’ choice of the name "Rock" for Simon. He could have called Simon anything, but He chose a term that had been widely used in Scripture to refer to God Himself. This says simply amazing things about Peter, or more properly, about the nature of the authority Jesus was conferring on him. It is clear that Jesus intended that those who heard the voice of Peter should consider that they heard the voice of God. If this is not clear enough in the gospel text, it is recapitulated, by inference, in “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: [NAB] where the Risen Lord, seated in authority, uses language that hearkens back again both to Peter’s commission as foundation of the Church, and to Eliakim, a faithful servant become steward whose name is "God raises up."

And so we see at Pentecost, Peter, the faithful servant become steward of Christ, proclaiming to the world "God raised Him up" “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.[NAB]Peter testifies with the Pentecostal Spirit of Truth to the Lordship of Jesus “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” [NAB]which is the faithful fulfillment of his commission.

Peter Receives the Keys to the Kingdom (Perugino, 1481)

The Keys to the Kingdom: The association in the liturgy of the Isaiah 22 passage and Mt 16:19 makes clear both how Christ intended the kingdom He was inaugurating to be the fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom, and the kind of authority He was handing Peter as steward. The authority is historical. That is to say, while it is certainly a "spiritual" authority, it is temporal, even if it has eschatological implications. The authority of the Kingdom is not something waiting to be revealed in a mythic or even eschatological future – the Kingdom is now.

While it’s certainly true that the breaking in of the Kingdom is far from complete, this passage alone utterly repudiates the popular American Evangelical theology known as Dispensationalism – a recent variation on millenarianism which denies the present reality of the Kingdom, and expects instead a future 1000-year temporal reign of Jesus from modern Jerusalem, inaugurated in apocalyptic mayhem. It is quite ridiculous to think of Peter exercising Christ’s royal authority in such a scenario, with Christ somehow both reigning on earth as in heaven, and yet still building His Church!

Benedict’s Challenge to American Anti-Authoritarianism

Posted: Saturday, April 26, 2008 (10:01 pm), by John W Gillis


Pope Benedict XVI’s Yankee Stadium homily last Sunday was quite a celebration of American Catholicism, but the pontiff never strayed far from his theme of the unchanging need for faithful Christians, as a community rooted in the apostolic heritage, to be a sign of the gospel’s hope for mankind in the face of sin and death, through bearing witness to the unity of the truth found in the Word of God, revealed in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

This rootedness is not something Benedict sees simply in the hierarchical form of the Church (even if he makes a point of the necessary visibility of the Church’s apostolic unity), but also in the faithful handing down of the gospel from generation to generation, and in the public presence of the fruits of our life in the Spirit, as manifested in various works of mercy and charity. He praised the “successive waves of immigrants” for the ways they have enriched American society, and called upon their descendants to faithfully follow in their footsteps, so as to “hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom in this land.”

In a society, not unlike the one he himself hails from, that suffers from distorted understandings of freedom, it was important that he speak of what freedom truly means. For too many Americans (and other Westerners), freedom is what excuses one from being subject to authority, or bound to obedience. Even in our families, the idea that parents have, by nature, an authority over their children is coming into conflict with the sensibilities of the age. The notion that children owe their parents obedience is being eroded by the new sensibility, which maintains that parents should reason with children, of any age – that parents owe their children explanations for every decision. Furthermore, it’s a cultural expectation that children will rebel – indeed, must rebel – against their parents, in order to “come into their own.” The public schools are a mess with rampant disrespect. And in the spheres of religion or morality, the idea of the legitimacy of authority has become almost laughable.

The concept of authority is in disrepute, indeed.

In all relationships that are not governed by either the power of actual or implied violence, or the hierarchy of economic dependency in employment, authority is generally viewed as an unwanted relic of a now-overturned, oppressive order from a pre-critical age. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Authority can no more be put aside than air could be put aside – it can be polluted, but it cannot be “replaced” by freedom.

Indeed, what we see happening in Western culture is not at all the disappearance of authority into a new order of egalitarian bliss, but instead the movement of the locus of authority from relationships based on community order, to relationships based on the exercise of dominative power. Authority is being reduced to having the power to exercise one’s will: do this, or I will hurt you, jail you, fine you; this is legal because we have the votes, or we have the money. In short, might makes right. This is the predictable offspring of ideology. In fact, isn’t power the whole point of ideology?

But as the Catholic Church rightfully understands authority, it is not reducible to power. Indeed, power is itself subject to authority, because authority comes from God. Authority is ultimately nothing but the truth. Authority is that which is authoritative. It is reality. It is what is, and reflects Him who said “I am who am” (Exod 3.14).

When human exercise of authority is not in conformance with the revelation of the Author, it ceases to be genuinely reflective of the good, becomes socially dysfunctional, and leads to idolatry. But this is not a valid reason to reject authority itself; it is reason to work to ensure that authority is exercised in conformance with the truth – meaning not as a function of opinion and ideology. The rejection of authority itself is the rejection of the order established by God – it is, in other words, a rejection of reality, and every bit as much a descent into idolatry as any kind of impious authority worship.

This is why freedom cannot be coherently understood as existence outside of, or beyond, authority. Such an existence is an existence in falsehood. Any attempt to be one’s own authority, to make up, or “discover,” one’s own morality – or “reality” – is an attempt to take the place of the Author. And this is not freedom, but rebellion – which leaves one enslaved to sin, as it manipulates the passions.

Freedom, on the other hand, – true freedom – can exist only when it is aligned with reality, when it is grounded in the truth that Christ promised would make us free (Jn 8.32). Freedom must be subject to truth, or it is false. The Holy Father put this quite well in his homily:

The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. “In his will is our peace”.

In this, Benedict’s penultimate address during his apostolic visit to America, he left no doubt that he thinks it is time for the Church in America to pick itself up from its recent troubles, seek the unity of faith found in the freedom of a lived fidelity to the living apostolic witness, and go about the task of bearing our own witness to the liberating truth of the gospel – in particular the truth of the Divinely defined dignity of the human person, a truth so often obscured in our day by ideologies – and religions – that would reduce the human person to a means to an end.

Hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom in this land, and bear witness with the authority of the apostolic faith, and so honor our fathers and mothers.

ΑΩ