The Sunlit Uplands

Follow Sunlit Uplands by E-Mail

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Father Rutler: The Transfiguration of Our Lord


Father George W. Rutler
The Transfiguration of our Lord did not change him into another form of nature. After the event he was the same man taking the apostles down the mountain as he was when he took them up. As for us, said St. Thomas Aquinas: “Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.” Christ was already perfect, and the light that transfigured him was a portent of the power that can glorify human creatures.

This confounds the Gnostic mistake of treating nature as an evil construct, destructive of the human spirit that struggles to be free of it. That perennial heresy is now a fashion in the form of gender politics. “Transgender” is a misnomer. Gender pertains to grammar and not biology: for instance, in French a pen is feminine and a pencil is masculine, but the pen is not a woman and the pencil is not a man. A Gnostic agenda treats the body as though it were merely an irrelevant noun that can be changed to what it is not. This is mutilation and not transfiguration. Mutilations are “against the moral law” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2297). The Second Vatican Council rejected Gnostic dualism: “Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity…he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.” (CCC, n. 364) Imaginary redefinition of the self has widely become a political “right” and sane rejection of that is called “hate speech.” Where is George Orwell?

The Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, Dr. Paul McHugh explains that sex change is “biologically impossible” and “people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.” Confusing children about their identity comes “close to child abuse.”

Insinuating into the Armed Forces people with such psychological problems harms them and the national defense. It was done as a political act, and to repeal that is simply a nod to reality. Taxpayer dollars could pay the Pentagon at least $1.3 billion in the next ten years for “reassignment surgery.” Nearly four hundred medical conditions can disqualify people from military service, and identity confusion is a serious one. An illness, even a mental one, is not a sin, for an illness is a material disorder, while a sin is a moral disorder. The Greek word for sin, hamartia, means missing the bull’s eye on a target. It is a sin try to move the bull’s eye, pretending that one has not missed the mark, but nature has a way of staying constant.

Current headlines tell of huge military parades in China, naval displays in Russia, and missile launches in the rogue state of North Korea. They would very much like to see more Gnostic dreaming in our armed forces. But fantasy is not the strategy that wins peace among nations or peace of soul.




Father Rutler’s book, He Spoke to Us – Discerning God's Will in People and Events, is now available in paperback through Ignatius Press.

Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Father Rutler: Dunkirk and Spiritual Evacuation

Fr. George W. Rutler
Jan Struther (1901-1953) wrote popular hymns but is best known for the book that became the 1942 film Mrs. Miniver, starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. The Dunkirk evacuation figures in it and was emotive propaganda as the United States was just getting involved in the war. A new film about Dunkirk is educating many young people who never knew the story, and who may not realize that if it had not been for the “miracle” of events from May 26 to June 3 in 1940, the world would be unrecognizable today.

With 338,000 troops of the British Expeditionary Force and the French Army in danger of being annihilated, optimists expected that no more than 30,000 could be saved. The British civilians manned every boat they could muster: barges, tugboats, pleasure crafts, lifeboats and fishing trawlers and, led by the Royal Navy, rescued 335,000 soldiers.

One of the great characters I knew, the novelist Barbara Cartland, told me stories of the period, but spoke little of her beloved brother Ronald, who was killed behind the lines at Dunkirk, an anti-appeaser and the first and youngest Member of Parliament to die in the war. She wrote his biography, and her good friend Winston Churchill wrote a preface to it.

In the House of Commons on June 4, Churchill delivered perhaps the greatest speech of the twentieth century. The text I have has 3,767 words, but every line is riveting, especially its conclusion: “Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . . ” But what he said is disserved if his warning halfway through is forgotten: “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”

In the spiritual life, too, there must be strategic withdrawals from time to time. “. . . (f)lee from any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). So the spiritual fathers enjoin us to flee from the Devil. In our own trying times, we have all the saints to help in the evacuation, like those who lent their boats for Dunkirk. But spiritual wars are not won by evacuations. The Church regroups and then charges the enemy.

Father Rutler’s book, He Spoke to Us – Discerning God's Will in People and Events, is now available in paperback through Ignatius Press.

Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Archbishop Chaput Responds to Vatican Attack on Faithful American Catholics

'It is an odd kind of surprise when believers are attacked by their co-religionists merely for fighting for what their Churches have always held to be true,' the archbishop said


Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has hit back at the controversial article by Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa in La Civiltà Cattolica, calling it an “exercise in dumbing down” and saying it fails to understand the forces that have drawn Catholics and Evangelicals together.

The archbishop said the article inadequately presents the nature of cooperation between Catholics in Evangelicals in the United States, adding that it seems “wilfully ignorant” of the cultural battles they face.

The Civiltà Cattolica article, published last week, launched a scathing attack on American conservative Catholics, accusing them of joining with Evangelical Protestants in an “ecumenism of hate” on issues such as immigration.

Read more at Catholic Herald >>



Sunday, July 16, 2017

Father Rutler: The "Christ of Nations"

Fr. George Rutler
In the nineteenth century, the poet Adam Mickiewicz dramatized the theme of his suffering Poland as the “Christ of Nations” and, in an image used by many others, Poland was crucified in the twentieth century between the two thieves of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. It was not the West’s proudest moment when President Roosevelt complained to Stalin at the Yalta Conference that “Poland has been a source of trouble for over five hundred years.” Pope John Paul II lamented Yalta in the encyclical Centesimus Annus. That will resonate in the annals of papal teaching more than recent magisterial concerns about the responsible use of air conditioning and the like.

On July 6 in Warsaw, the President spoke of a culture with which a generation of “millennials” have been unfamiliar: “Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”

Comfortable journalists, for whom the “Christ of Nations” is an enigma, resented “a tiny speech, a perfunctory racist speech,” “xenophobic” and “a catalogue of effrontery,” and a comparison was made with Mussolini. Solzhenitsyn once was pilloried for similar themes, and Reagan was advised by his Chief of Staff and National Security advisor not to tell Mr. Gorbachev to take down the Berlin Wall.

The Warsaw speech mentioned three priests: Copernicus, John Paul II and Michael Kozal. The latter was the bishop of Wloclawek who was martyred by the Nazis in Dachau along with 220 of his priests in 1943.

Among the irritations in the Warsaw speech were these words: “We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives.” As that was being said, the parents of a gravely ill child, Charlie Gard, in London were tussling with government officials who did not want to release their infant to them.

A Polish philosopher, Zbigniew Stawrowski has written: “The fundamental cleavage is not the West v. Islam or the West v. the rest, but within the West itself: between those who recognize the values of Judaeo-Christian, Graeco-Roman culture and those who use terms like "democracy," "values," "rights" but pervert the latter. So it means democracy of the elites, values of secularism, rights to kill Charlie Gard, marriage that has nothing to do with sex, sex that … is a “private” matter to be funded by the confiscatory state and your duty to support this incoherence…”

The Polish king Jan III Sobieski rescued Christian civilization at the gates of Vienna in 1683. That was one of the “troubles” that Poland has caused in the past five hundred years. We survive because of such behavior.




Father Rutler’s book, He Spoke to Us – Discerning God's Will in People and Events, is now available in paperback through Ignatius Press.

Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).

Friday, July 7, 2017

Melanie Phillips: Trump in Poland


In his magnificent speech in Poland, President Trump asked whether the west “still has the will to survive”.

If he’d listened to BBC Radio’s Today programme this morning (approx 0840), he might have lost his own.

The issue that seemed to have startled the BBC was the suggestion that there were now threats to western bonds of culture, faith and tradition. (The fact that some of us have been writing about this for years has of course totally passed the BBC by). Two guests were invited to discuss this question: Margaret MacMillan, professor of international history at Oxford university where she is also Warden of St Anthony’s college, and Lord Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff.

The interviewer’s loaded question about Trump’s speech, “Is he in any sense right?” invited them to agree that no, there could be no sense in which he was. Both duly agreed. Three against Trump, then. But if anything illustrated precisely what he was talking about, this conversation could scarcely have been bettered.

Opined Professor MacMillan: “There are bonds that hold us together and there are often bonds of history, but the idea there is something called ‘the west’ seems to me very dubious indeed. There are many wests, there are many different ways of looking at who we are, and I’m worried by the whole tenor of his speech. The talk of the ‘will’, the family, traditional values, what does that all mean?”

Lord Dannatt was equally perplexed. “What threat does he have in mind? From Russia? Islamic State? From climate change? Well he ruled that one out by pulling out of the Paris agreement. Or is it the nuclear threat from North Korea?”

Helpfully, the interviewer observed that what Trump had meant was a waning of cultural self confidence; he further ventured to suggest, with appropriate BBC diffidence, that “the project that we’ve all been involved in for centuries is a decent one”.

Professor MacMillan agreed there was a “decent side to what the west has done”. But just in case anyone might have thought she believed it to be better than other societies, she added there were many sides that weren’t decent at all “when you think of some of the things we’ve unleashed on the world” (presumably as opposed to the unlimited decencies that countries which don’t subscribe to respect for human life, freedom and democracy have bequeathed to humanity).

She conceded that the west had built a “liberal intentional order since the first and second world wars”. She agreed that respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions were very important and that these should be defended. “But if you talk about defending the power of the west and the dominance of the west that’s very different and I’m not sure that does make the world more stable… What worries me is that part of the enemy is seen as those who live among us… Islam, or Islamic fundamentalism, is [as presented by Trump] in some way a threat, and that means not just from outside but inside and that to me is really troubling”,

This professor of history, who teaches the young and thus transmits the culture down through the generations, didn’t even seem to know what that culture was. She implied that the will to survive was something out of Nietzsche or fascist ideology rather than the impulse to defend a society and a civilisation. She seemed to find incomprehensible the very idea that certain values defined western civilisation at all, or that it had a coherent identity.

She found something frightening or sinister about traditional values or the emphasis on the family: the very things that keep any society together. The one good thing she conceded was associated with the west – the “liberal international order” – had developed only after the two world wars. So much for the 18th century western Enlightenment, the development of political liberty and the rise of science.

The idea of the west having power filled her with horror; but without power the west can’t defend itself. And she thought the idea the west was threatened from within as well as from without was “troubling”. In other words, she doesn’t believe home-grown radicalised Islamists pose a threat to western countries. Now that really is troubling.

As for Lord Dannatt complaining Trump wasn’t specific about the threats he had in mind – well, talk about missing the point! Russia, Isis and North Korea are all threats to the west. The question was whether the west actually wanted to defeat any or all of these and more.

And Lord Dannatt’s reference to climate change was unintentionally revealing – about himself. Climate change supposedly threatens the survival of the planet. No-one suggests it poses a threat to the west alone! So it was irrelevant to the issue under discussion. Its inclusion implies that Lord Dannatt knows one thing: that Trump is wrong about EVERYTHING. So he just threw in climate change for good measure to show how wrong about everything Trump is.

So what exactly did Trump say to produce such finger-wagging disdain? Well, he produced an astonishing, passionate and moving declaration of belief in the west, its values of freedom and sovereignty and his determination to defend them.

He summoned up Poland’s resistance against two terrible tyrannies, Nazism and the Soviet Union, to make a broader point about western civilisation. Most strikingly, he identified Christianity as the core of that civilisation, that it was Christianity that was crucial in Poland’s stand against Soviet oppression – and that, in an echo of Pope Benedict’s warning years ago, the west has to reaffirm its Christian values in order to survive.
    “And when the day came on June 2nd, 1979, and one million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish Pope, that day, every communist in Warsaw must have known that their oppressive system would soon come crashing down.  They must have known it at the exact moment during Pope John Paul II’s sermon when a million Polish men, women, and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer.  A million Polish people did not ask for wealth.  They did not ask for privilege.  Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words:  ‘We Want God.’
    “In those words, the Polish people recalled the promise of a better future.  They found new courage to face down their oppressors, and they found the words to declare that Poland would be Poland once again.
    “As I stand here today before this incredible crowd, this faithful nation, we can still hear those voices that echo through history.  Their message is as true today as ever.  The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out “We want God.”
    “Together, with Pope John Paul II, the Poles reasserted their identity as a nation devoted to God.  And with that powerful declaration of who you are, you came to understand what to do and how to live.  You stood in solidarity against oppression, against a lawless secret police, against a cruel and wicked system that impoverished your cities and your souls.  And you won.”
    “Our adversaries, however, are doomed because we will never forget who we are.  And if we don’t forget who are, we just can’t be beaten.  Americans will never forget.  The nations of Europe will never forget.  We are the fastest and the greatest community.  There is nothing like our community of nations.  The world has never known anything like our community of nations.”
    “We write symphonies.  We pursue innovation.  We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.
    “We reward brilliance.  We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God.  We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression.
    “We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success.  We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives.  And we debate everything.  We challenge everything.  We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves.
    “And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom.  That is who we are.  Those are the priceless ties that bind us together as nations, as allies, and as a civilization.
    “What we have, what we inherited from our — and you know this better than anybody, and you see it today with this incredible group of people — what we’ve inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before.  And if we fail to preserve it, it will never, ever exist again.  So we cannot fail.”
But the danger is that we might do just that.
    “We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will.  Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have.  The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.  Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost?  Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders?  Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?
    “We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive”.
The millions who voted for Trump did so because of the promise he made them that he would defend America and the western values of life and liberty that it embodies. They understand very well that America and the west are not just being threatened from outside but are being undermined from within by the kind of people who are engaged in a fight to the death to destroy him – and by the kind of people who took part in that discussion on Today.