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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Father Rutler: The Surprising Good News

Father George Rutler
A bit of unintentional black humor made its way into the news some days ago, in an account of people panicking at rush hour on a commuter train in southwest London outside Wimbledon Station. Rail power lines were cut, disrupting train traffic for nearly twelve hours. The cause? Some sort of evangelist had stood up in one of the carriages and began to read aloud from the Bible.
 
In our neuralgic society, nervous about terrorism, we might empathize with the passengers, especially if the preacher was shouting. In New York our urban protocol is simply to avoid eye contact with people like that. But the first offense was the police description of passengers “self-evacuating.” As neologisms go, this conjured up some pretty frightful images; one expects better from the land that gave us our glorious English language. The bigger problem is that the unhappy passengers “self-evacuated” because the evangelist intoned “Death is not the end.”
 
In a more tranquil moment of human history, these words would be a consolation. In paraphrase they were the comforting motto of Mary Queen of Scots. T.S. Eliot used the words in his Four Quartets, and the crooner Bob Dylan made it the title of one of his most popular songs, but it caused none of his fans to self-evacuate.
 
The utter non-finality of death, the promise of life everlasting, is Good News for those who will listen. But for those who translate the meaning of life according to their limited narcissistic vocabulary, the good news of eternal glory is no more vital than ramblings in the Qur’an or Upanishads.
 
Saint Thomas More said that to be a real Christian is always to be surprised by the Resurrection. The essence of human response to the Resurrection is astonishment: it was not expected. That should be the psychology and flushed complexion of every encounter with Christ. It explains why the first words of the Risen Lord were not formulas for physics or cures for cancer, but “Peace. Don’t be afraid.” Awe, as holy fear, casts out the ignorance of servile fear. In the same vein, Saint John Vianney said that if we really understood what happens in the Mass, we would die, not out of fear but out of love. So one hyperventilating woman who jumped onto the tracks outside Wimbledon, was not altogether wrong when she said that the Bible the man was carrying was a bomb.

Perhaps it is because people do not love enough, that they panic when someone says that death is not the end. Our Lord said something more radiantly harsh than that: “And fear not them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Some who first heard that adored him, but a great many self-evacuated.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

South Carolina Legislators Among Those Who Took Turkey Trips

Best to nip the political career of Rep. Neal Collins in the bud.

State Rep. Neal Collins inside a former church, mosque, now a museum during his 2015 trip to Turkey.
More than a dozen South Carolina legislators have taken trips to Turkey in the past 10 years that were paid for by groups associated with an exiled Muslim cleric who was accused of being behind a failed coup attempt in Turkey last summer, according to an analysis of legislative disclosure forms by The Center for Public Integrity.

Among those legislators are two from the Upstate. Rep. Neal Collins, R-Easley, made a trip to the country in 2015, and longtime Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, who lost his re-election bid in the primary last year, took a trip in 2011.

They were among more than 150 state lawmakers who took trips to Turkey paid for by groups inspired by Fethullah Gulen, who teaches a brand of Islam that seeks to fit the religion's traditional teachings to a modern world.

Read more at GreenvilleOnline >>

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sir Roger Scruton: How to Be a Conservative


In the latest episode from Uncommon Knowledge, Sir Roger Scruton, a formally trained political philosopher, talks about his life and the events he’s witnessed that led him to conservatism. He first embraced conservatism after witnessing the leftist student protests in France in May 1968. During the ensuing riots in Paris, more than three hundred people were injured. Scruton walked away from this event with a change in worldview and a strong leaning toward conservatism. Visits to communist- controlled Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1979 cemented his preference for conservatism and his distaste for the fraud of communism and socialism, initiating a desire to do something about it. From thereon he dedicated himself to helping organize underground seminars for the young people oppressed behind the iron curtain. 
 
Sir Roger examines a brief history of conservatism in the twentieth century of England in regard to Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill. Although he appreciates what Margaret Thatcher stood for, he argues that she had many conservative ideals but never used the conservative framework to organize her overall political strategy. Instead she organized around market economics, which was not always effective in the social, cultural, and legal areas. Peter Robinson argues that Winston Churchill did a much better job of organizing around conservative ideals but eventually lost an election because he didn’t have the vocabulary or the focus on free markets. They discuss the tenuous relationship between free markets and conservative ideals that have not mixed well together in British politics. 
 
Robinson and Sir Roger discuss the 2016 political upset of Brexit in the United Kingdom and how the political analysts failed to predict the vote outcome, much like what happened in November 2016 in the United States. They deliberate how the issues around immigration from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom contributed to Brexit, in addition to general dissatisfaction with the European Union. Thus, in the cases of both the United Kingdom and the United States, the media and intellectuals ignored the will of the “indigenous working classes” who made their voices known through their votes. 
 
About the Guest:
 
Sir Roger Scruton Sir Roger Scruton is an English writer and philosopher who has published more than fifty books in philosophy, aesthetics, and politics. His book discussed in this episode was How to Be a Conservative; it was published in 2014. He is a fellow of the British Academy and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He teaches in both England and America and is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington. DC. He is currently teaching an MA in philosophy course for the University of Buckingham. Sir Scruton was knighted in 2016 by Queen Elizabeth II for his “services to philosophy, teaching and public education.”
 
 

Choir of King's College, Cambridge - Come Down, O Love Divine



Come Down, O love Divine is a hymn that is loved around the world. This particular version is performed by the world renowned Choir of King's College, Cambridge and led by director of music Stephen Cleobury. Verse 2 is particularly charming as the male only first half breaks into a full choir fortissimo harmony for the second half.


Friday, September 29, 2017

One Million Polish Catholics Set to Gather on Their Border for Rosary Crusade

 
Young Polish Catholics during a Marian procession, early 2017

From FSSPX.NEWS

As many as one million Poles are expected to take part in "The Rosary On the Borders," commemorating the Battle of Lepanto.

Polish Bishops have endorsed and encouraged the attendance of their congregations in this event, which takes place on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The organizers of this event hope to attract a few thousand Catholics, but as the publicity and enthusiasm has grown, so have the numbers.

The crusade was organized independently of the Catholic Church in Poland, for the purposes of honoring Mary as Queen of Poland, asking for her protection and intercession, and begging forgiveness for blasphemies. The organizers describe their effort on their website:

On this day we will go to the borders of Poland and we will pray on [sic] the rosary. Through this unprecedented prayer of the rosary, we want to show the faithfulness and obedience of Mary, who tirelessly calls us to recite the rosary. We also want to apologize and pay for all blasphemy, insults against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We wish to implore by the intercession of the Mother of God to save Poland and the world. We believe that if the Rosary is prayed by about a million Poles along the borders of the country, it may not only change the course of events, but open hearts of our compatriots to the grace of God.

A Significant Date

 

The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is a date of significance for this event, particularly for Europeans. On October 7, 1571, one of the most important sea battles in history was fought near the mouth of what is today called the Gulf of Patras, then the Gulf of Lepanto. On one side were the war galleys of the Holy League and, on the other, those of the Ottoman Turks, vying for ultimate control of the Mediterranean. Pope St. Pius V urged the Christian world to pray the Rosary, and ordered churches to be left open day and night.

Following the Christian victory in this battle, and with it, the spiritual, cultural, and political future of Europe, the Holy Father commemorated this date as the feast of "Our Lady of Victory".  His successor, Gregory XIII, would later change the title of the feast to its current form: "Our Lady of the Rosary.


The Event in 2017

 

While the event takes place on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the participants note that it is also on a First Saturday as well as three anniversaries of note: 140 years since the apparitions of Our Lady in Gietrzwald (the only recognized Polish Marian apparition), 100 years following the apparitions of Fatima, and the eve of Poland's 100th year of independence.

The organizers and bishops are encouraging participation at the physical border of Poland, hoping to encircle the country with faithful Catholics reciting the rosary. Yet they welcome joining spiritually on the date and time (12:00 GMT) for those who are unable to travel.

Following the Society of Saint Pius X's Rosary Crusade, which ended just over one month ago, this event is an opportunity for faithful who attend SSPX chapels to join with the Polish people in prayer during this historic and grace-laden feast.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion: Europe is Committing Suicide

On 22 September 2017, an international symposium on the Christian Future of Europe took place at the residence of Russia’s Ambassador to Great Britain. The keynote address was delivered by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.


Your Eminences and Your Excellencies, dear Mr. Ambassador, conference organizers and participants,

I cordially greet all of those gathered today at the Russian Embassy in London to partake in this conference dedicated to the question of the future of Christianity in Europe. This topic is not only not losing any of its relevance, but is resounding ever anew. Experts believe that today Christianity remains not only the most persecuted religious community on the planet, but is also encountering fresh challenges which touch upon the moral foundations of peoples’ lives, their faith and their values.

Recent decades have seen a transformation in the religious and ethnic landscape of Europe. Among the reasons for this is the greatest migration crisis on the continent since the end of the Second World War, caused by armed conflicts and economic problems in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. According to figures by the European Union agency Frontex, more than 1.8 million migrants entered the EU in 2015 alone.[1] Figures from the UN International Migration Report show that the number of migrants in Europe has increased from 49.3 million people in 2000 to 76.1 million people in 2015.[2] According to research  by the UN International Organization for Migration, throughout the world about 1.3 percent of the adult population, which comprises some 66 million people, in the forthcoming year intend to leave for another country in order to live permanently there. Approximately a third of this group of people – 23 million – are already making plans to move. 16.5 percent of potential migrants who were questioned responded that the countries at the top of their list are Great Britain, Germany and France.[3]

The other reason for the transformation of the religious map of Europe is the secularization of European society. Figures in a British opinion poll indicate that more than half of the country’s inhabitants – for the first time in history – do not affiliate themselves to any particular religion. 2942 people took part in an opinion poll conducted in 2016 by Britain’s National Centre for Social Research: 53 percent of those who responded to the question on religious allegiance said that they do not belong to any religious confession. Among those aged from eighteen to twenty-five, the number of non-religious is higher – 71 percent. When similar research was carried out in 1983, only 31 percent of those questioned stated that they did not belong to any confession.[4]

We can see an opposite trend in the Eastern European countries, in particular in Russia. A July opinion poll conducted in Russia by the Levada-Center showed a sharp decline in the number of atheists and non-believers from 26 percent in December 2015 to 13 percent in July 2017.[5] This, of course, does not mean that all the remaining 83 percent are practicing believers. Many defined themselves as “religious to some degree” or “not too religious”, but nevertheless affiliated themselves with one of the traditional religions. However, the number of people who define themselves as being “very religious” is growing steadily.

The contemporary state of religious life in Russian society is directly linked to the tragic events of one hundred years ago. The historical catastrophe of 1917 embroiled Russia in a fratricidal civil war, terror, exile of the nation’s best representatives beyond the confines of their homeland, and the deliberate annihilation of whole layers of society – the nobility, the Cossacks, the clergy and affluent peasants. They were declared to be “enemies of the people,” and their relatives were subjected to discrimination and became the “disenfranchised,” which forced them to the edge of survival. All of this terror took place under the banner of a communist ideology that fought ferociously against religion. Millions of believers were subjected to the cruelest of persecution, harassment, discrimination and repression – from mockery and dismissal in the workplace to imprisonment and execution by firing squad. The Church in those years produced a great multitude of martyrs and confessors for the faith who, as St. Paul said, “were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment” (Heb 11.35-36).

Discussion on the future of Christianity in Europe is impossible without understanding the prospects for the survival of religiosity among its inhabitants.  Research carried out by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Cornwell Theological College, USA, indicates that the number of Christians in Europe will be consistently falling: from 560 million people in 2015 to 501 million by 2050.[6] The calculations of the Pew Research Center are more pessimistic and foretell a reduction in Christians in Europe from 553 million people in 2015 to 454 million people by 2050.[7]

These are alarming prognoses, but they reflect the current trends in the transformation of the religious picture of Europe, and they cannot be ignored. Some are suggesting that, unless special force is applied, Europe cannot simply cease to be Christian on the grounds that Europe has for many centuries been Christian. I would like to remind you all that in Russia before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen and that it would be replaced by an atheistic totalitarian regime. And even when that did happen, few believed that it was serious and for long.

The modern-day decline of Christianity in the western world may be compared to the situation in the Russian Empire before 1917. The revolution and the dramatic events which followed it have deep spiritual, as well as social and political, reasons. Over many years the aristocracy and intelligentsia had abandoned the faith, and were then followed by common people. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia spoke of this in January 2017: “The fundamental rupture in the traditional way of life – and I am now speaking… of the spiritual and cultural self-consciousness of the people – was possible only for the reason that something very important had disappeared from peoples’ lives, in the first instance those people who belonged to the elite. In spite of an outward prosperity and appearance, the scientific and cultural achievements, less and less place was left in peoples’ lives for a living and sincere belief in God, an understanding of the exceptional importance of values belonging to a spiritual and moral tradition.”[8]

In the immediate post-war years Christianity played a huge role in the process of European integration, which was viewed in the context of the Cold War as one of the means of containing the expansion of atheist propaganda and communist ideology. The Vatican relied in its anti-communist propaganda upon European unity, upon the Christian democratic parties of Western Europe. The latter firmly believed that Western civilization is closely tied to Christian values, and had to be defended from the communist threat. Pope Pius XII supported the creation of a European community as “Christian Europe’s historical mission.”

The first president of the Federal Republic of Germany Theodor Heuss said that Europe was built on three hills: the Acropolis, which gave her the values of freedom, philosophy and democracy; the Capitol, which represented Roman legal concepts and social order; and Golgotha, i.e. Christianity.[9] It must be noted too that the founding fathers of the European Union were deeply religious men – for example, the French foreign minister Robert Schuman, the chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Konrad Adenauer and the Italian foreign minister Alcide De Gasperi.

And when half a century after the creation of the European Union its constitution was being written, it would have been natural for the Christian Churches to expect that the role of Christianity as one of the European values to have been included in this document, without encroaching upon the secular nature of the authorities in a unified Europe. But, as we know, this did not happen. The European Union, when writing its constitution, declined to mention its Christian heritage even in the preamble of the document.

I firmly believe that a Europe which has renounced Christ will not be able to preserve its cultural and spiritual identity. For many centuries Europe was the home where various religious traditions lived side by side, but at the same time in which Christianity played a dominant role. This role is reflected, particularly, in the architecture of European cities which are hard to imagine without their magnificent cathedrals and numerous, though more modest in size, churches.

A monopoly of the secular idea has taken hold in Europe. Its manifestation is the expulsion of the religious worldview from the public expanse. Article 4 of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion and Belief, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1981, affirms that “All States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.”[10]

The architects of the secular society have seen to the legal aspect of the issue: formally one can confess any religion, but if one attempts to motivate one’s actions through religious belief and freedom of conscience and encourage others to act in accordance with their faith, then at best one will be subjected to censure, or at worst to criminal prosecution.

For example, if one is a doctor and refuses to perform an abortion,[11] or euthanasia,[12] by referring to one’s religious principles, then one is breaking the law. If you are a Protestant pastor and live in a country in which same sex unions are legal, then you have little chance of refusing this couple the right to a church wedding while remaining unpunished by the state. Thus, for example, the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven recently stated that all pastors of the Church of Sweden ought to be obliged to perform church weddings for same-sex couples, adding that “I see parallels to the midwife who refuses to perform abortions. If you work as a midwife you must be able to perform abortions, otherwise you have to do something else… It is the same for priests.”[13]

         Such political figures are the complete opposite to those who were at the foundations of the European Union, and this type of rhetoric, in my view, is suicidal for the continent of Europe. The legalization of abortion, the encouragement of sexual promiscuity, and the systematic attempts to undermine family values have led to a profound demographic crisis in many European countries. This crisis, accompanied by an identity crisis, will lead to a situation whereby in time other peoples will inhabit Europe with a different religion, a different culture and different paradigms of values.

         Often the language of hatred in relation to Christians is used when Christians insist on their right to participate in public affairs. They enjoy the same right as much as it is enjoyed by adherents of any other religion or by atheists. However, in practice it is not like this: dozens of instances of discrimination against Christians on the grounds of their beliefs are registered every year. These instances are highlighted by the media and become a topic for public discussion, but the situation as a whole does not change as a result.

In modern-day Europe militant secularism has been transformed into an autonomous power that does not tolerate dissent. It allows well-organized minority groups to successfully impose their will on the majority under the pretext of observing human rights. Today human rights have in essence been transformed into an instrument for manipulating the majority, and the struggle for human rights into the dictatorship of the minority in relation to the majority.

Unfortunately, we should note that these are not isolated incidents, but an already formed system of values supported by the state and supra-national institutions of the EU.

In a situation where we have aggressive pressure of the groups which propagate ideas unacceptable from the perspective of traditional Christian morality, it is essential to unite the Churches’ efforts in opposing these processes, to act jointly in the media, in the sphere of legal support, as well as in propagating common Christian values at all possible levels. It is important that the Churches share their experience in this sphere, and develop cooperation between church human rights organizations and monitoring centers.

I believe it important that Christians of Europe should stand shoulder to shoulder to defend those values upon which the life of the continent has been built for centuries, and that they should view the afflictions and dismay of Christians throughout the world as their own.


[1]          Frontex Risk Analysis Network Quarterly Report. Q4 2015. http://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Publications/Risk_Analysis/FRAN_Q4_2015.pdf
[2]          International Migration Report 2015. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/PopulationDivision.
                http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/migrationreport/docs/MigrationReport2015.pdf
[3]          Measuring Global Migration Potential, 2010–2015. Issue No. 9, July 2017. http://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/gmdac_data_briefing_series_issue_9.pdf
[4]          Число неверующих в Великобритании впервые превысило 50%. http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-41154931
[5]          https://www.levada.ru/2017/07/18/religioznost
[6]          http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/research/documents/StatusofGlobalChristianity2017.pdf
[7]          http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/
[8]          Presentation by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill at the opening of the XXV Nativity Educational Readings http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4789256.html
[9]          Христианские церкви и европейская интеграция: параметры взаимодействия. http://orthodoxru.eu/ru/index.php?content=article&category=publications&id=2012-09-17-1&lang=ru
[10]        http://www.un.org/ru/documents/decl_conv/declarations/relintol.shtml
[11]        http://www.intoleranceagainstchristians.eu/case/medical-directors-dismissal-reversed.html
[12]        Catholic care home in Belgium fined for refusing euthanasia. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/07/04/catholic-care-home-in-belgium-fined-for refusing-euthanasia/
[13]        http://www.intoleranceagainstchristians.eu/case/swedish-prime-minister-priests-should-perform-same-sex-marriages.html