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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Father Rutler: Clerisy

Father George W. Rutler
Samuel Taylor Coleridge indulged his romantic naiveté in suggesting that culture should be governed by an educated elite, which he called a “clerisy.” The word had the same root as “cleric,” since the clergy had a pre-eminent role in erudition. Coleridge meant it to include all who were versed in higher thought. He was ignorant of the dictum that an intellectual is often someone educated beyond his intelligence. Knowledge is not wisdom. Common sense thrives best among those whom the clerisy caste tend to patronize as common.
 
Along with professors and bureaucrats, the clergy have to be careful, since clerisy is a relentless illusion. The clergy are at their best when they proclaim the solid Gospel, and they can be at their weakest when they assume a prerogative to comment on problems outside their competence. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops published in 1983 a pastoral letter on disarmament, “The Challenge of Peace,” which, if taken seriously, might have prevented the fall of the Berlin Wall six years later. Their pastoral letter on economics in 1986, “Economic Justice for All,” prescribed a big-government solution that could have thwarted the economic boom that ensued despite them. The clerisy rejected a cogent critique of “Economic Justice” chaired by the former Secretary of the Treasury, William Simon, and supported by Secretary of State Alexander Haig and J. Peter Grace, among others. Opponents of the peace pastoral, Archbishop Philip Hannan and then-Bishop John J. O’Connor, were ignored even though Hannan was the only bishop who had served in World War II, and the future cardinal was auxiliary bishop for the Armed Forces.
 
Recently, a bishop suggested that anyone who supported laws on illegal immigration might be subject to canonical penalties, a stricture he did not invoke against Catholic congressmen in his state who support abortion. The bishops have also disagreed with the Supreme Court’s defense of the right to work for federal employees. Clerisy often prefers gratuitous politics to doctrinal orthodoxy.
 
Then there is the curious inconsistency of a cardinal who has said that priests “have no credibility” when it comes to marriage instruction because they have not been married themselves. Having prepared over eight hundred people for marriage, I might venture to enlist most of them in witness against his demurral from competence, and would also ask, if that cardinal is correct, why does he not see any inconsistency in declaring this as prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life. Pope Francis has said that “no one better than [a priest] knows” the challenges that married couples face. Clerisy may be well-intentioned, but Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said that the road to Hell is full of good intentions.   

Clerisy does have its flaws, in witness to which one might conjure the ghost of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who, despite his erudition, died from recourse to opium.



Saturday, July 14, 2018

Father Rutler: Three Revolutions

Father George W. Rutler
It may be the seasonal heat that incubates revolutionary sentiments, since both Independence Day and Bastille Day occurred in the feverish days of July. One admires the temperance of our Founding Fathers meeting in Philadelphia in un-airconditioned rooms. The other revolution unleashed more violent passions against a devout monarch who, like Charles I and later Nicholas II, inherited the consequences of less benign forebears. There were excesses in the American colonies, but pulling down the statue of George III was unlike the French actually beheading their king and queen.
 
Inasmuch as the “infamy” that excited the tarring and feathering by Americans was a matter of parliamentary representation and taxation, it was genteel compared to the “infâme” in Paris which meant destruction of the Christian social order. In Philadelphia, no Goddess of Reason was enthroned on the communion table of Christ Church, nor was George Washington drenched in blood when he prayed in Saint Paul’s Chapel before his inauguration. I say this not in a pejorative spirit, for I think many Frenchmen would agree with me, and I have been exhilarated by several Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, with their unsurpassed elegance, albeit absent the concomitant enormities of the Reign of Terror.
 
What differentiates the two revolutions, is the invocation versus the rejection of God. In one sense, the American Revolution was not a revolution at all, for it asserted the historic claims of citizens as Englishmen mantled with the protestations of the Magna Carta, which had been neglected by more recent German occupiers of the throne. My prejudices are compromised by the fact that my French paternal antecedents were compatriots with Rochambeau and Lafayette, and my English maternal ancestors in their Cheshire regiment may even have taken aim at the Massachusetts militiaman who fired the shot heard round the world.
 
In America, there were fanatics like Sam Adams, whose eponymous beer should be a caution to God-fearing men, and Tom Paine, who disdained religion. But many more thoughtful American patriots invoked John Locke and, with a few unmeasured exceptions, would have found zealots like the Jacobins ridiculous.
 
French Revolutionaries tried to substitute the Catholic Church with a mockery of it, rather like what is going on in today’s China. The Constitutional Church would have no pope and its clergy would be compliant state agents, and so forth. The Devil knows how to choreograph religious anarchy. Because Washington did not contradict divine order, he did not end up on the chopping block like Robespierre.
 
All of that pales in comparison with the only revolution that truly counts, for it changed the world permanently: when Christ rose from the dead, he set free vital germs of human rights, social progress, philanthropy, the philosophical matrix for science, universities, the consciousness of a Creator who made the world a channel of grace strengthened by moral order, and, finally—shown by a mercy divine—the prospect of life eternal.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

England Moves to Semi-Finals; It's Coming Home!

Congratulations to England's Three Lions football team for securing a place in the World Cup semi-finals.  "It's Coming Home!"



Friday, July 6, 2018

Conrad Black on Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other

The interviewer is a disgrace who obviously covets a job at CNN, but the very erudite Conrad Black leaves us wondering why the great Dominion has settled for a juvenile, vacuous, groping, feminist as its governmental leader.  In Black they have a man of character, wisdom and letters who could put Canada back on a path to national greatness, if only her people aspired to that.



Saturday, June 30, 2018

Father Rutler: The Light of God

Father George W. Rutler
Now that the Summer Solstice has passed, and amateur Druids have left their plastic litter at Stonehenge for another year, the human mind has the past six months to reflect upon and the rest of the year to anticipate.
 
It is only because humans are in the image of God, which means we are able to think of him and reflect his love that made us, that we have the imaginative gift to picture past and future. Some scientists claim that certain animals have a reduced capacity for doing that, but only humans can say “I can’t imagine . . .” and "Can you imagine...?
 
A professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yuval Harari, has speculated that even if there is some minimal ability for other creatures to remember and anticipate, “Only Homo Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. One-on-one or ten-on-ten, chimpanzees may be better than us. But pit 1,000 Sapiens against 1,000 chimps, and the Sapiens will win easily, for the simple reason that 1,000 chimps can never cooperate effectively. Put 100,000 chimps in Wall Street or Yankee Stadium, and you’ll get chaos. Put 100,000 humans there, and you’ll get trade networks and sports contests.” You also get the Holy Church.
 
The Prince of Lies would twist the imagination so that we are haunted rather than hallowed by the past, and hesitant rather than hopeful about the future. The American Psychological Association surveyed 2,000 people and found that only one percent of them wanted to know about what is to come.
 
Our Lord did not tell the apostles about the future, except to say, “Follow me.” So the doctors of the soul bid us say upon rising in the morning: “Serviam—I will serve.” Whether you are a Latinist or indulge the vernacular when half awake, that consecrates the day.
 
Approximately 3,866 years after the completion of Stonehenge, New Yorkers can watch a similarly spectacular sight when Manhattan becomes a sundial here on our worst and best of streets, 34th Street, viewed from the East River right across to our parish along the Hudson. If you missed the Solstice, you can see this phenomenon on July 12 and 13. The sun becomes blinding as the east-west grid aligns with the sunset and creates a spectacle that has come to be called, in competition with the Druids, “Manhattanhenge.” The sun will sink below the skyscrapers at 8:20 pm on Thursday and on Friday at 8:21 pm.
 
I have the selfish privilege of going into our church to pray after the doors are locked at sunset, with the noise of 34th Street shut outside. The mellow light filters through the nineteenth-century German glass windows. “And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23).


Friday, June 29, 2018

Does Nancy Pelosi Have a Drinking Problem?

Does Nancy Pelosi have a drinking problem?  What had been a problem of chronic brain freeze and the occasional slurred word has become an inability to deliver a sentence.  Given that the aging San Francisco political hack has been losing on every front to President Donald Trump, and is seeing her dreamed of "blue wave" becoming a rout, perhaps the self-medication is not surprising.  One would think, however, the Democrats would do a better job of masking their most embarrassing members, but then this is what is in charge.  Nancy the drunk, mad Maxine, and slippery Chuck Schumer are the face of the once national Democrat Party.