Saturday, March 16, 2013

Raging on St. Patrick's Day

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Raging on St. Patrick's Day

By Philip Jenkins

Among the many millions who celebrate Irishness every March 17, scarcely any wonder for a second whether there is any historical substance to the figure of St. Patrick, any more than to a host of other medieval wonderworkers. Treating such a tale as serious history, they assume, makes about as much sense as writing a critical biography of the Easter Bunny.
Sadly, such indifference means that moderns are missing a story that is not just rock-solid history, but is one of the most moving in early Christianity.
Normally, reconstructing the life of an early saint means picking through wildly exaggerated tales written centuries after the events occurred, and Patrick's later followers certainly concocted such accounts. Alongside the hagiography, though, we also have Patrick's very own writings. Let me repeat that: we have two documents actually written by the man himself, during a whole century when virtually no other contemporary text survives from the whole British Isles.
Patricius was born in Britain around the year 390, from a respectable Roman family, the son and grandson of Christian clergy. As an adolescent, he was kidnapped by Irish slavers. After some years, he escaped and returned to his native land, but he was persuaded to go back to Ireland to build the cause of Christianity. Though his mission achieved much, he was criticized for what looked like questionable financial dealings. This controversy drove Patrick to produce a remarkable Confession, which begins with the stark words Ego, Patricius -- I, Patrick.
It's a confession, not an autobiography, as Patrick defends his mission. Reading it today makes us think of emerging churches in the global South, where conversions are common, but where established churches and agencies worry about shady evangelists or revival crusades, about self-proclaimed bishops. Patrick, too, disturbed the bishops of Gaul and Britain, who had a poor sense of the very different conditions prevailing in the mission field. They had heard rumors about all the presents he was giving: was he trying to buy people's faith? How could he really expect to win genuine conversions? By what right did he call himself a bishop?
With all the patience at his command -- which was not immense -- Patrick told his critics about his extraordinary labors in a frightening and often dangerous pagan society, while they were living comfortably. He also stressed the practical realities of operating in this very different kind of emerging Christian society, where gift-giving was a standard part of life. Had he made gifts to influential leaders? He certainly had, and would do so again. I may be ignorant and unlearned, he says, but in winning this country, never doubt that I am doing God's will.
The defensive tone of the Confession is utterly lacking in Patrick's other surviving text, his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. After years of struggle, Patrick had won many Irish for Christ -- not the overnight conversion of popular mythology, but more than enough to be proud of. Suddenly, though, the ruthless soldiers of the British king Coroticus attacked these Christian settlements, and right after a mass baptism ceremony. Patrick's fury is easy enough to understand, all the more so when we recall his own history. He knew at first hand what it was like to see your homeland devastated by soldiers, and to be carried off into slavery. Everywhere he looked in Ireland, he saw enslaved Christian women who had been seized from their British homes. But these latest horrors were the work of men who claimed to be Roman and Christian.
Patrick wrote to Coroticus himself, excommunicating him in vitriolic language that would have the prophet Jeremiah blanch. He urged those who read the letter to declare it publicly, even to Coroticus personally.
Even the letter's title proclaims Patrick's rage and contempt. He should have written to his "fellow Romans", but instead, "Notice I don't call you 'my fellow Romans' -- No, your crimes have made you citizens of Hell. You live like the worst barbarians, including your Pictish friends...Your hands drip with the blood of the innocent Christians you have murdered -- the very Christians I nourished and brought to God." (I'm using Philip Freeman's translation). Calling someone a "barbarian" today is less than polite; in the British Isles in 450, it meant reading someone out of the human race.
Summoning the other worst insults he could find in Roman custom, he denounced Coroticus's "Christians" as parricides, fratricides, bandits, apostates, murderers. He calls them sceleratissimi, which implies an ultimate degree of wickedness: translating it as "monsters of evil" comes close. Elsewhere in the world, he writes, other Christians try to ransom slaves, but you, Coroticus, enslave innocent people and sell them far from their homes, giving away young girls as prizes.
Patrick had probably never heard of St. Augustine, who lived a generation before his time, but the questions he was asking would have been familiar to the African saint. How could a state or a king boast of Christianity, if their every action betrayed the faith, if they showed neither mercy nor charity, even to fellow believers? If Coroticus did not live according to the church and its laws, then he was worse than a pagan, worse than a savage. His was not the City of God but the City of Hell. Christian kingship -- Roman kingship -- was a title that had to be earned. Christians? No, they were "rebels against Christ."
As for the murdered Irish Christians, they would dwell in Paradise, and "rule over wicked kings."
This March 17, then, forget the snakes and the green beer. Think of the prophetic Christian leader who demanded that rulers live up to the faith they professed, and who had no hesitation in damning violent oppressors to Hell.
Philip Jenkins is a Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University and a columnist for RealClearReligion. His latest book is Laying Down the Sword.
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Book Review: 'Between Man and Beast' by Monte Reel

An explorer emerges in 'Between Man and Beast'
By Harper Barnes
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 16, 2013

On the evidence of “Between Man and Beast,” Monte Reel’s entertaining and provocative story of the life and adventures of explorer Paul Du Chaillu, fame in the middle of the 19th century could run the same course it so often does in the early 21st century — a burst of glory and adoration is followed by suspicion and then come the attacks, driven by envy and the media need for new fodder.
Du Chaillu was the first explorer of European ancestry to penetrate deep into the jungles of West Africa and observe up close the elusive gorilla, which many believed to be a mythical or imaginary creature. In 1861, when Du Chaillu published the results of his explorations and displayed in London the stuffed skins of gorillas he had shot, daily and weekly newspapers and even scientific journals in England played the role taken up today by cable television gossip shows and the Internet. At first, they lionized him, but fairly quickly, Paul Du Chaillu was turned from a hero into a villain, from an intrepid adventurer into an imposter, “a mere spinner of yarns.” And worse, as if it mattered, “a mongrel,” a person of mixed race.
Du Chaillu was the son of a French trader in West Africa who willingly turned the boy over to an American missionary couple, who educated him. From childhood, he was fascinated by tales of a mysterious, possibly mythical animal who stood upright taller than a man and was covered with hair — the gorilla.
In 1852, his adopted father sent him to the United States to study and teach, and in 1856, in his mid-20s, outfitted by scientific foundations, Du Chaillu returned to Africa as an explorer. He spent three years on expedition, shooting and sending back thousands of birds and other specimens, including the skins and skulls of gorillas. (Killing specimens for study was the common practice at the time of naturalists, notably John James Audubon. As Reel notes, “Today science has uncoupled itself from hunting, but the two realms were indivisible for most of the nineteenth century.”)
Du Chaillu had several of the gorilla skins stuffed and displayed them first in New York and later in London where, in 1861, he published a book describing his explorations and his findings. The explorations of men like Richard Burton and David Livingston had created what Reel calls a “public mania for exploration” in England, and Du Chaillu’s book added to it and helped induce “gorilla fever.” Some thought the gorilla might be a “missing link” between man and apes.
And then the reaction set in. In part, Du Chaillu got caught in the middle of a ferocious zoological battle spurred by the recent publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” But there also were noted academics who, despite never having been to Africa, knew that gorillas lived in trees, not on the ground as the explorer had said, and never beat their chests and roared. At least one scientist had managed to acquire his own stuffed gorilla and was furious at Du Chaillu for beating him to the lecture circuit. And there were the sensation mongers who claimed (with some truth) that Du Chaillu’s mother was a mixed-race native of the African island of Reunion.
Bewildered and angered by the attacks, Du Chaillu eventually decided to stage another expedition and this time lug a camera along. In the midst of it, he decided he couldn’t bear to shoot another gorilla and took pictures instead. He succeeded in restoring his reputation and continued exploring the world for the rest of his long life. When he died in Russia in 1903, his body was shipped back to the United States for burial. A Presbyterian minister said in eulogy, “As an explorer, as lecturer, as author, as social companion and investigator, he made the world largely his own. Known and welcomed on three continents, he had everywhere, yet nowhere, a home.”
Reel, author of “The Last of the Tribe” and a former reporter for the Post-Dispatch and the Washington Post, does a superb job of telling the engrossing story of Du Chaillu and tying it into the events and thoughts of the time, from the intense debate over racial differences in light of the theory of evolution to the habit of Abraham Lincoln’s political enemies of referring to him as a “gorilla.” The book appears to be scrupulous in adhering to the facts, to what was actually said and done. At the same time, it has the narrative flow and evocative language of a fine historical novel.
Harper Barnes is the author of “Never Been a Time,” a history of the 1917 East St. Louis race riot.

‘Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm’
By Monte Reel
Published by Doubleday, 352 pages, $26.95

People who love Papal

By Andrew Klavan
March 16, 2013

This is NBC News!
There’s an old saying that goes something like, “Everyone has two businesses, his own and show business.” I think something similar could be said about the Catholic Church. Everyone who cares about Christianity — perhaps everyone who cares about western religion at all — feels he has a stake in it. A Catholic would say this is because his is the one true church, but it’s probably just because for so many centuries the history of the Catholic Church and the history of the west were fully intertwined.
In any case, when someone wants to talk about Christianity as oppressive or backward, they immediately begin a learned discussion about how the pope killed and devoured Galileo. If a screenwriter needs a character to battle the devil, he brings in a Catholic priest. (If you just want to make the devil laugh, you call an Episcopalian.) And when a new pope is chosen, everyone seems to take an interest and everyone seems to have an opinion. This remains true even if the person with an opinion doesn’t know a single thing about the Catholic Church or religion or history or anything — by which I mean, he’s an American journalist.
I was in L.A. when the announcement was made — which is to say I was stuck in my car listening to the whole thing on the radio. And the coverage by our friends in the media was genuinely hilarious — really laugh-out-loud, wipe-your-eyes funny. The going theory seemed to be that there had been some sort of tension in the conclave between choosing a new pope who would adhere to the 2,000-year-old teachings of Catholicism or choosing one who would lighten up and finally begin to accept the deeper truth of the journalist’s trendy opinions. To the media, it was clearly a disappointing surprise when church doctrine won out.
My friends at the Media Research Center caught the tenor of the coverage by linking to this NBC.Com “To Do List,” for the new pope, which included this gem:
6. Modernization. Majorities of Catholics in the United States have said in surveys that they want the pope to lead the church in a more liberal direction. A New York Times/CBS News poll of Catholics last week found that six in 10 support gay marriage, and seven in 10 want the church to allow birth control. Three-quarters supported abortion in at least some circumstances. In Argentina, then-Cardinal Bergoglio clashed with the president over a 2010 law allowing gay marriage. “It is a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God,” he said.
Here’s my “To Do List,” for
1. Get a Clue.  Guess whose job it isn’t to bring the church in line with public opinion? If you answered, “The Pope,” you are correct. Knuckleheads.
Much more on the next page.
Another good one, still via MRC, was this exchange between NBC’s Matt Lauer and Cardinal Dolan of New York:
LAUER: I think when he stepped out on to the Loggia yesterday, there was some stunned silence for a second. I think some had expected a younger man, he’s 76. Some had expected someone who at least visually seemed to epitomized a more modern Church. When you looked at that image of the new pope standing with some members of the Church hierarchy, visually, Cardinal Dolan, it didn’t exactly scream a modern Church.
DOLAN: Oh, why don’t you go soak your head, you superficial clown!
Okay, I made the Dolan part up. The cardinal, in fact, exhibited his usual patience, politeness, and skill in turning aside the presumption, dishonesty, and stupidity of Lauer’s question. How did Lauer know what the crowd was thinking? As far as I could tell, they were screaming like bobby-soxers for Elvis.[Sinatra, I meant! ]Why not just phrase the question honestly:
LAUER: For myself, who hasn’t been inside a church since I sold my soul to get this job, this whole thing has been a massive disappointment. I was hoping for a younger man. Or a woman even. Maybe a lesbian. Black. Someone who would symbolize and even incarnate my hope that the church would so meld with modern concerns and prejudices that there would finally be no way of distinguishing the wisdom of the centuries from the leftist fad of the moment. Then Catholicism could disappear just like Episcopalianism has and for exactly the same reasons. That would’ve made my job a lot easier, let me tell you. SAY YOU LOVE SATAN, CARDINAL! SAY IT! SAAAAAAY IT!!!!
DOLAN: Oh, why don’t you go soak your head, you superficial clown!
My own first impression is that the new pope is clearly a boon for actor Jonathan Pryce, who should be able to dine out for free on separated-at-birth jokes for the next few months.

More seriously, he seems to be a good dude, who takes his Jesus seriously and has shown humility in the modest way he has lived and courage in the way he’s faced down the leftists who run Argentina. I hope he’s brought along his official Jesus-in-the-Temple knotted rope. He’s going to need it to clean out the corruption, abuse, and ignorance that has riddled the institution.
And after he’s done with NBC News, he can move on to cleaning out the Vatican.
(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified image by

The Axis of Torpor

Mark Steyn: An unstable truce with the Axis of Crazy

2013-03-15 14:39:18
I greatly enjoy the new Hollywood genre in which dysfunctional American families fly to a foreign city and slaughter large numbers of the inhabitants as a kind of bonding experience. Liam Neeson takes his estranged wife and their teenage daughter for just such a vacation in "Taken 2," in which the spectacular mountain of corpses in Istanbul brings the family back together again and ends with them (spoiler alert) enjoying a chocolate malt back at the soda fountain in California and getting to know the daughter's new boyfriend. "Don't shoot this one, Dad," she cautions. "I really like him." And they all have a good chuckle over it. In "Die Hard 5" or whatever we're up to, Bruce Willis and his estranged son fly to Moscow and do to the Russians what Neeson does to the Turks and Albanians. I gather that in the forthcoming "Finding Nemo 2," Marlin and Dory's marriage is going through a rocky patch until Nemo is kidnapped by a Ukrainian sex cartel, and Marlin and Dory swim up the Dnieper River and gun down every pimp in Kiev.
Alas, outside Hollywood, foreigners are somewhat less pliable than the body count of Liam Neeson's and Bruce Willis' obliging extras would suggest. The funniest line in "Taken 2" was Neeson's advice to his daughter in an emergency: "Go to the U.S. Embassy. You'll be safe there." It opened a couple of weeks after Benghazi.
There are drones, of course, which offer the consolations of technological bad-assery, as if Liam Neeson could take out all the Albanians from the X-Box in his basement. But don't worry. According to Politico, at a recent meeting with Senate Democrats, President Obama assured them that they had no need to worry about his awesome power to rain down death from the skies because, as he put it, he's not Dick Cheney.


Meanwhile, back at the GOP, Sen. Rand Paul is no Dick Cheney, either: At CPAC this week, the narrow bounds of his smash-hit filibuster – questioning drone assassinations of Americans in America – broadened somewhat, not just to questioning drone assassinations of Americans anywhere, nor to questioning drone assassinations of anyone, nor even to questioning the "war on terror" or war in general, but to questioning the very assumptions of American global order, starting with our bankrolling of Mohamed Morsi in Cairo. The Egyptians send mobs to torch the U.S. embassy, the Saudis wage ideological warfare against Western civilization, the Turks call Israel a "crime against humanity" and threaten a cultural and demographic takeover of Europe, the Pakistanis are ramping up nuke production to sell to any loon in town – and those are just our "allies." With friends like these, who needs foreign policy? There are fewer and fewer takers for the burdens of global superpower, and whoever wins the nomination in 2016 will be considerably less Cheney and more Randy.
And, to be fair, even Dick Cheney isn't Dick Cheney, at least in the sense that Dick Cheney isn't Darth Vader. After a decade of inconclusive war, Americans are understandably receptive to the notion that it's time to "come home." Thus, newly appointed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faces, in the words of the Associated Press, "the jarring difficulties of shutting down a war in a country still racked by violence." "Shutting down"? Yes, the Defense Secretary is now doing to the Afghan war what Romney's Bain Capital did to Midwestern factories. Its business model no longer makes sense. Some personnel can be reassigned, but thousands of EU nation-building consultants, cousins of Hamid Karzai and tribal pederasts enjoying free Viagra from Washington (seriously) may have to be laid off.
"Shutting down" Afghan wars can be a tricky business, as the British discovered during their 1842 retreat from Kabul, when the locals offered them "safe passage" and then proceeded to massacre all 4,500 troops plus 12,000 wives, children and attendant locals, leaving only Dr. William Brydon and his horse to make it through to Jalalabad. His mount died upon arrival; Dr. Brydon lived to tell the tale, albeit missing part of his skull, sheared off by a Pushtun tribesman.
No doubt things will go better this time. Two more Americans died this week at the hands of one of their Afghan "allies," a man trained, paid and armed by the United States. If you slaughter thousands, you can still just about get our attention, as Mullah Omar discovered after 9/11. But the slow bleeding of two deaths here, three deaths there, week after week after week takes a psychological toll, rotting out purpose and strategy. So in Washington this will be a war we "shut down"; in Kandahar and beyond, it will be a war we lost.
As one war "shuts down," are any others likely to open up? This week Obama told Israel's Channel 2 TV that "we think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon." So Tehran, fresh from playing the bad guys in Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning blockbuster, is going nuclear? Hey, relax, says the president: "I continue to keep all options on the table." And, every time he says that, you get the vague feeling he continues to keep the table somewhere in the basement. The best option would be if the Israelis just got on with it, absolving everyone else from a tough decision and simultaneously affording them the deliciously irresistible frisson of denouncing the Zionists for their grossly disproportionate response.
More likely, Iran will be permitted to go nuclear – followed shortly thereafter by Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and anyone else who dislikes being conscripted under the Shia Persian nuclear umbrella. North Korea and Pakistan both anticipate a lively export market.
Pakistan has a nominal per capita GDP of about $1,200, with North Korea's barely detectable. By comparison, Sweden's is about $58,000 and the Netherlands' about $50,000. But North Korea is a nuclear power, and the Netherlands isn't, and has no plans to become one, and any party so minded to propose otherwise would soon find itself out of power. The assumption that developed nations will get richer under Washington's defense welfare has been the central tenet of the American era. So now the wealthiest countries in history cannot defend their own borders, while economic basket-cases of one degree of derangement or another are nuclear powers.
Perhaps this improbable division will hold. Perhaps the Axis of Crazy will be content just to jostle among itself, leaving the Axis of Torpor to fret about lowering the retirement age to 48 and mandatory transgendered bathrooms and other pressing public policy priorities. But, even under such an inherently unstable truce, the American position and the wider global economy would deteriorate.
As the CPAC crowd suggested, there are takers on the right for the Rand Paul position. There are many on the left for Obama's drone-alone definition of great power. But there are ever fewer takers for a money-no-object global hegemon that spends 46 percent of the world's military budget and can't impress its will on a bunch of inbred goatherds. A broker America needs to learn to do more with less, and to rediscover the cold calculation of national interest rather than waging war as the world's largest NGO. In dismissing Rand Paul as a "wacko bird," John McCain and Lindsay Graham assume that the too-big-to-fail status quo is forever. It's not; it's already over.
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Friday, March 15, 2013

'Go and Repair My House'

  • The Wall Street Journal
I'll tell you how it looks: like one big unexpected gift for the church and the world.
Everything about Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's election was a surprise—his age, the name he took, his mien as he was presented to the world. He was plainly dressed, a simple white cassock, no regalia, no finery. He stood there on the balcony like a straight soft pillar and looked out at the crowd. There were no grand gestures, not even, at first, a smile. He looked tentative, even overwhelmed. I thought, as I watched, "My God—he's shy."
Then the telling moment about the prayer. Before he gave a blessing he asked for a blessing: He asked the crowd to pray for him. He bent his head down and the raucous, cheering square suddenly became silent, as everyone prayed. I thought, "My God—he's humble."
I wasn't sure what to make of it and said so to a friend, a member of another faith who wants the best for the church because to him that's like wanting the best for the world. He was already loving what he was seeing. He asked what was giving me pause. I said I don't know, the curia is full of tough fellows, the pope has to be strong.
Columnist Dan Henninger on what can be gleaned from Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's background about how he might deal with China and Islam. Photo: Getty Images
"That is more than strength," he said of the man on the screen. "This is not cynical humanity. This is showing there is another way to be."
Yes. This is a kind of public leadership we are no longer used to—unassuming, self-effacing. Leaders of the world now are garish and brazen. You can think of half a dozen of their names in less than a minute. They're good at showbiz, they find the light and flash the smile.
But this man wasn't trying to act like anything else.
"He looks like he didn't want to be pope," my friend said. That's exactly what he looked like. He looked like Alec Guinness in the role of a quiet, humble man who late in life becomes pope. I mentioned that to another friend who said, "That would be the story of a hero."
And so, as they're saying in Europe, Francis the Humble. May he be a living antidote.


He is orthodox, traditional, his understanding of the faith in line with the teaching of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He believes in, stands for, speaks for the culture of life.
He loves the poor and not in an abstract way. He gave the cardinal's palace in Buenos Aires to a missionary order with no money. He lives in an apartment, cooks his food, rides the bus. He rejects pomposity. He does not feel superior. He is a fellow soul. He had booked a flight back to Argentina when the conclave ended.

Peggy Noonan's Blog

Daily declarations from the Wall Street Journal columnist.
But these two traits—his embrace of the church's doctrines and his characterological tenderness toward the poor—are very powerful together, and can create a powerful fusion. He could bridge the gap or close some of the distance between social justice Catholics and traditional, doctrinal Catholics. That would be a relief.
And he has suffered. Somehow you knew this as you looked at him Wednesday night. Much on this subject will come out.
The meaning of the name he chose should not be underestimated. Cardinal Bergoglio is a Jesuit and the Jesuits were founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, who said he wanted to be like St. Francis of Assisi.
One of the most famous moments in St. Francis's life is the day he was passing by the church of St. Damiano. It was old and near collapse. From St. Bonaventure's "Life of Francis of Assisi": "Inspired by the Spirit, he went inside to pray. Kneeling before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with great fervor and consolation. . . . While his tear-filled eyes were gazing at the Lord's cross, he heard with his bodily ears a voice coming from the cross, telling him three times: 'Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.'" Francis was amazed "at the sound of this astonishing voice, since he was alone in the church." He set himself to obeying the command.
Go and repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Could the new pope's intentions be any clearer?
The Catholic Church in 2013 is falling into ruin. The church has been damaged by scandal and the scandals arose from arrogance, conceit, clubbiness and an assumption that the special can act in particular ways, that they may make mistakes but it's understandable, and if it causes problems the church will take care of it.
Pope Francis already seems, in small ways rich in symbolism, to be moving the Vatican away from arrogance. His actions in just his first 24 hours are suggestive.
He picks up his own luggage, pays his own hotel bill, shuns security, refuses a limousine, gets on a minibus with the cardinals. That doesn't sound like a prince, or a pope. He goes to visit a church in a modest car in rush-hour traffic. He pointedly refuses to sit on a throne after his election, it is reported, and meets his fellow cardinals standing, on equal footing. The night he was elected, according to New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Vatican officials and staffers came forward to meet the new pope. He politely put them off: Not now, the people are waiting. Then he went to the balcony.
The church's grandeur is beautiful, but Francis seems to be saying he himself won't be grand. This will mean something in that old Vatican. It will mean something to the curia.


After the conclave, I'm grateful for two other things. First, after all the strains and scandals they still came running. A pope was being picked. The smoke came out and the crowd was there in St Peter's Square. They stood in the darkness, cold and damp, and they waited and cheered and the square filled up. As the cameras panned the crowd there was joy on their faces, and the joy felt like renewal.
People come for many reasons. To show love and loyalty, to be part of something, to see history. But maybe we don't fully know why they run, or why we turn when the first reports come of white smoke, and put on the TV or the computer. Maybe it comes down to this: "We want God." Which is what millions of people shouted when John Paul II first went home to Poland. This is something in the human heart, and no strains or scandals will prevail against it.
I viewed it all initially with hope, doubt and detachment. And then the white smoke, and the bells, and the people came running, and once again as many times before my eyes filled with tears, and my throat tightened. That in the end is how so many Catholics, whatever their level of engagement with the church, feel. "I was more loyal than I meant to be."
Much will unfold now, much will be seen. An ardent, loving 75-year-old cardinal in the middle of an acute church crisis is not going to sit around and do nothing. He's going to move. "Go and repair my house, which you see is falling into ruin."

Pope Francis - Against the West?

By Patrick J. Buchanan
March 15, 2013

"The Faith is Europe. And Europe is the Faith," wrote Hilaire Belloc after that bloodbath we call World War I. "Either Europe will return to the Faith or she will perish."

By 1938, Belloc concluded Christian Europe was done:
"The bad work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancient doctrines -- the very structure of society is dissolving." He was right. Europe is the dying continent.
And looking back at the history of the Old Continent, we see the truth of G.K. Chesterton's insight: When men cease to believe in God, they do not then believe in nothing, they will believe in anything.
Consider the idols to which European Man has burnt incense since losing his faith: Darwinism, Marxism, Bolshevism, fascism, Nazism, now globalism -- the idea of a secular paradise where mankind's needs are met by the state and people spend their lives consuming cultural and material goods until the time comes for the painless exit.
Wednesday, even as Europe has said goodbye to Rome, Rome began to say goodbye to Europe, where the fastest growing faith is manifest in the mosques rising from Moscow to Madrid.
The College of Cardinals, for the first time ever, chose a pope from the New World: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.
To be exact, Pope Francis is not of the indigenous peoples of the New World. His father was an immigrant from Italy who came to Argentina before he was born. Yet, though by blood an Italian, Pope Francis, heart and soul, does not belong to Europe.
The reaction of our secular media to the election of this first Jesuit pope, who lives his "preferential option for the poor," was easily predictable.
On redistribution -- "Is he a conservative, or a Great Society liberal who will push the 'social gospel'?" -- the new pope passes with honors. He has a simple apartment, rides the bus and lives among the Buenos Aires poor.
But on the "social issues" -- "Is Pope Francis a progressive who will move the Church to a more 'tolerant' view of abortion and same-sex marriage?" -- the disappointment of the media elite was evident.
Pope Francis adheres to orthodox Catholic teaching that abortion is the killing of an unborn child entailing automatic excommunication for all involved. He has denounced same-sex marriage and regards homosexual adoptions as a crime against children.
That the media showed visible disappointment at learning this makes one wonder if they know anything at all about the Catholic Church.
To be Catholic is to be orthodox.
Indeed, let us presume the impossible -- that the Church should suddenly allow the ordination of woman, and decree that abortions in the first month of pregnancy are now licit, and that homosexual unions, if for life, will henceforth be recognized and blessed.
This would require the Church to admit that for 2,000 years it had been in error on matters of faith and morals, and hence is not infallible. But if the Church could have been so wrong for so long, while the world was right, and many had suffered for centuries because the Church erred, what argument would be left for remaining Catholic?
If the Church were to admit it had been wrong since the time of Christ about how men must live their lives to attain eternal life, why should Catholics obey the commandments of such a fallible and erring Church? Why not follow our separated brethren of the Protestant faiths, and choose what doctrines we wish to believe and what commandments we wish to obey?
And how have those churches fared that have accommodated themselves to the world?
Of the Christian denominations, the closest to Catholicism has been the Anglican or Episcopal Church. For a time, Anglicans were not regarded as heretics. For though they had rejected the primacy of Rome, they had not rejected the truths fundamental to Catholicism. They had been seen in the time of Henry VIII as schismatics.
But lately the Episcopal Church has been in the vanguard of all Christian churches in ordaining women priests and consecrating women and homosexuals as bishops.
Result? No church has suffered greater losses, as Catholicism has benefited from a steady stream of defecting Anglican clergy.
What the secular media reaction to Pope Francis reveals is that traditional Catholicism is today almost as deeply alien to our present-day West as it was in Roman times, only the West chooses to ignore Catholicism, where Rome feared and persecuted it.
One hears that President Obama will send to the official installation of the Holy Father to represent America our ranking Catholic officeholders, Vice President Joe Biden, along with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
One wonders what His Holiness will be thinking as he greets these ornaments of American Catholicism, both of whom regard Roe v. Wade, which has resulted in 53 million abortion deaths, as a milestone of progress for women's rights and homosexual marriage as the civil rights cause of the 21st century.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

'Leading by example' and the Keystone Pipeline
While many have long seen America as the global bad boy, everybody likes Canada. If Uncle Sam tucks his pack of Marlboros under his T-shirt sleeve and plays by his own rules, the Canadian moose — or whatever their Uncle Sam equivalent is — always wears his blue blazer and school tie and does his chores without being asked. Canada is a global citizen, a good neighbor, a northern Puerto Rico with an EU sensibility that earns its gold stars from the United Nations every day.
This fact should have relevance below the 49th parallel. Right now, we’re all waiting for President Obama to decide on whether the Keystone pipeline can go forward. The pipeline would take oil from the tar sands of northern Alberta and deliver it to refineries in the U.S. It would extend all the way down to ports in Texas.
The prospect that Obama might approve the pipeline has environmentalists ready to handcuff themselves in a drum circle around anything that moves. For a while, they insisted that their core objections had to do with fears of spills in environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska and elsewhere. As many suspected, this was always political cover. When the proposed route was changed to accommodate these concerns, opponents weren’t mollified. They were only further enraged.
Opponents of the pipeline want America to lead by example, and the pipeline is a step in the wrong direction. “Who wants the U.S. to facilitate the dirtiest extraction of the dirtiest crude from tar sands in Canada’s far north?” asks New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Well, first of all, the Canadians do! Second, if we won’t, the Chinese would be happy to facilitate (a point Friedman ignores). Canada and China have made it clear that if the U.S. doesn’t allow the pipeline to go south, they’ll make one that goes west to the Canadian coast. In other words, the oil is going to be pumped out no matter what. Moreover, the risks of a bad spill increase if we don’t build the pipeline. Oil tankers heading to China are a bigger threat to the environment than a pipe over or through dry land to American refineries.
But my aim isn’t to defend the pipeline, which strikes me as a no-brainer in every way. It’s to make a larger point. If the idea is that America is somehow “leading by example” when it kills projects like Keystone, or cracks down on oil drilling on federal lands, as Obama has done, then we’re not fooling anyone — not even the Canadians!
All around the world, governments are expanding their oil and gas operations. In Russia, oil output keeps going up. Brazil is racing to expand offshore drilling. Mexico recently announced another huge oil field it won’t hesitate to develop. Experts are predicting a South Atlantic oil boom to rival the North Sea craze of the 1980s.
Meanwhile, thanks to technological advances, the International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will be the world’s largest oil producer by 2017 and a net exporter by 2030. And again, Greens, who’ve insisted for years that we need to wean ourselves off foreign oil, aren’t cheered by the news. They’re ticked off that they lost another convenient talking point.
While it’s true that President Obama brags about how oil and gas production are up, his policies have nothing to do with it. A new report from the Congressional Research Service confirms: “All of the increased [oil] production from 2007 to 2012 took place on non-federal lands.” Since 2010, federal oil production is down 23 percent.
To what end? As global-warming activists will be the first to admit, global warming is global. Whatever CO2 we’ve declined to pump into the atmosphere has been more than replaced by emissions from growing economies in Asia. We could cut our emissions to nothing, and in a few years the increase in China’s emissions alone would replace them. 
You know what else are global? Oil and gas markets. Whatever oil we’ve denied ourselves has been made up for by development in other countries. All that we’ve done is make oil prices higher than they needed to be and denied ourselves billions of dollars that would have stayed here rather than go to the Middle East. No country, save the U.S., seems at all interested in denying itself or the world much-needed economic growth by letting oil and gas sit in the ground.
In other words, when you’ve lost Canada, you’ve lost the argument.
— Jonah Goldberg is the author of the new book The Tyranny of ClichésYou can write to him at, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Along the Watchtower: Meditating on Bob Dylan and Pope Francis

Posted By Jeanette Pryor On March 14, 2013 @ 7:30 am In Catholicism,God,Happiness,Religion | 7 Comments
Seconds after the ”white-smoke alert” was sent, people who couldn’t or didn’t want to rush to the Vatican poured instead into the “Twitter Square.” As posts flooded the site, I couldn’t help thinking of these words from Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”:
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate.
It was Fr. Robert Barron, the rector of the largest seminary in the United States and director of the New Evangeliziation, who got me listening to Dylan. The lyrics above describe perfectly the cacophony of sentiments expressed as the world waited to meet the new pope.
Many of us here feel life is but a joke.
There were the usual, tired Catholic-bashing Tweets. There were also honest, tragically justified condemnations of heinous human acts hidden under the cloak of religion badly lived. Women, angry the pope was not female, joined others who, like Piers Morgan, parasitically used the news to wave their arms for attention.
Genuinely sad, annoying, often understandable. And yet… they were there waiting too; instinctively grasping that beyond their cynicism, the Catholic pope is more than a punchline; somehow above the crime of being male, not truly synonymous with sex scandals.
But you and me, we’ve been through all that and this is not our fate.
There were those who understood that “this is not our fate”; that our lives are not a joke and the man about to emerge on the balcony, watched in person by over 100,000 in St. Peter’s Square and billions by media, is somehow the living symbol of the deep meaning of human life.
There are as many paths to this conclusion as individual souls. Eight years ago when Pope Benedict became the man in white, I believed that the entire Catholic Church had more or less eschewed Her role as guardian of the deposit of faith. I lived in a twisted universe where I believed the pope and the entire Roman Catholic Church had abandoned the faith at the time of Vatican II and were actively pursuing a plan to advance a global, Judeo-Masonic world government and a universal religion of man.
Some teenagers do drugs in high school, I did radical. The journey back was long and excruciating.
But today I knelt on the floor in my office for the papal benediction and cried because, for the first time in my entire conscious life, I understood the joy of being a Catholic in communion with Rome in this transcendent moment. The pope, the Catholic papacy, was actually the key to my return.
It was almost amusing to watch the mad dash for details about the man who came forward after the timeless greeting:
Anuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Hebemus Papam!
The chatter-class, friends, foes, or mercenaries, will spend the next few days hunting for every biographical scrap on Pope Francis. The Catholic secret is that none of it matters. Some of it will have relative significance. I do not mean to minimize the good or harm that can depend on the personal sanctity or rectitude of the vicar of Christ. But ultimately, the reason life ground to a halt while a billion people were fixated on the election of the pope is not because the elected individual was so important, but precisely because he is not. The pope transcends time, space, and all the comings and goings of the noisy human commerce of this world. The pope even transcends his own person.
Roughly two thousand years ago, a teacher crossed the “Holy Land.” He preached a code of life for three years before being executed by the occupying potentates of His age. One thing differentiated this man from other philosophers whose teachings survived them: He claimed to be God.
Before He died, Jesus Christ established a Church with a specific characteristic: it would be governed by a supreme authority. This leader would have a clearly defined job description: preserve twelve core teachings, instruct the disciples to practice love of God and neighbor by keeping the Ten Commandments, and hand down the seven sacraments — outward signs instituted to transmit the inner strength we all need to keep the commandments. The pope exists only to ensure that anyone who wants to know what Jesus taught can always find the essential message without alteration or perversion, along with the resulting morality and power to live it.
History has offered mankind a parade of successors of St. Peter, the first pope. Some were notorious sinners. Some were sublime saints. Most were a mix of both. Many non-Catholics mistake the outpouring of devotion and enthusiasm shown the pope for guru-worship or “idolatry.” It is precisely the opposite. The temporal, fleeting human being (even when he is holy and beloved by the people) is not the object of our respect and attachment. In the pope we honor the means Christ chose to pass on his teachings. We look at the pope and see another link in the chain that stretches, unbroken, back to the day when Jesus Christ set up the structure that would carry His gifts across the rise and fall of empires, the infection of plagues ,and the discovery of new worlds in spite of the evils in a broken world and every human weakness or corruption in His Church.
What appears superficially to be an arcane symbol of oppression and choreographed despotism originated with a person familiar with human nature who wished to be sure His followers would never have to say:
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
We all want to know the meaning of our lives, particularly the suffering and injustice. The idea that our existences are nothing but jokes is profoundly painful and disorienting, and we crave, more than anything else, a “way out of here.”
This week, the world watched while “all along the watchtower,” the cardinals, princes of the Church, did keep the view. Today, two riders approached: the man who first built His keep two thousand years ago, and the one holding down the fort until the wind is done howling.

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The First American Pope

Rome — The swift election of Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J., as bishop of Rome is replete with good news — and not a little irony. To reverse the postmodern batting order, let’s begin with the good news.
A true man of God. The wheelchair-bound beggar at the corner of Via della Conciliazione and Via dell’Erba this morning had a keen insight into his new bishop: “Sono molto contento; e un profeta” (“I’m very happy; he’s a prophet”). That was certainly the overwhelming impression I took away from the hour I spent with the archbishop of Buenos Aires and future pope last May — here was a genuine man of God, who lives “out” from the richness and depth of his interior life; a bishop who approaches his responsibilities as a churchman and his decisions as the leader of a complex organization from a Gospel-centered perspective, in a spirit of discernment and prayer. The intensity with which Cardinal Bergoglio asked me to pray for him, at the end of an hour of conversation about a broad range of local and global Catholic issues, was mirrored last night in his unprecedented request to the vast crowd spilling out of St. Peter’s Square and down toward the Tiber to pray for him before he blessed them. Gregory the Great, in the sixth century, was the first bishop of Rome to adopt the title Servus servorum Dei (Servant of the servants of God). That ancient description of the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church will be embodied in a particularly winsome way in Pope Francis, who named himself for the Poverello of Assisi, the most popular saint in history.
A pope for the New Evangelization. The election of Pope Francis completes the Church’s turn from the Counter-Reformation Catholicism that brought the Gospel to America — and eventually produced Catholicism’s first American pope — to the Evangelical Catholicism that must replant the Gospel in those parts of the world that have grown spiritually bored, while planting it afresh in new fields of mission around the globe. In our May 2012 conversation, the man who would become pope discussed at some length the importance of the Latin American bishops’ 2007 “Aparecida Document,” the fruit of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. The essential message of that revolutionary statement (in which there was not the least bit of whining about Protestant “sheep-stealing” but rather a clear acknowledgment of Catholicism’s own evangelical deficiencies in Latin America) can be gleaned from this brief passage, which I adopted as one of the epigraphs for my book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church:
The Church is called to a deep and profound rethinking of its mission. . . . It cannot retreat in response to those who see only confusion, dangers, and threats. . . . What is required is confirming, renewing, and revitalizing the newness of the Gospel . . . out of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ that raises up disciples and missionaries. . . . 
A Catholic faith reduced to mere baggage, to a collection of rules and prohibitions, to fragmented devotional practices, to selective and partial adherence to the truths of faith, to occasional participation in some sacraments, to the repetition of doctrinal principles, to bland or nervous moralizing, that does not convert the life of the baptized would not withstand the trials of time. . . . We must all start again from Christ, recognizing [with Pope Benedict XVI] that “being Christian is . . . the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

Here, in a statement that then-cardinal Bergoglio had a significant hand in drafting, is what John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called the “New Evangelization” in synthetic microcosm:
  The Church of the 21st century cannot rely on the ambient public culture, or on folk memories of traditional Catholic culture, to transmit the Gospel in a way that transforms individual lives, cultures, and societies. Something more, something deeper, is needed.
  That “something” is radical personal conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ and an embrace of the friendship he offers every human being: a friendship in which we both see the face of the Father of Mercies (who calls us out of our prodigality into the full dignity of our humanity) and learn the deep truth about our humanity (that it is in making our lives into a gift for others, as life itself is to each of us, that we come into human fulfillment).
  This conversion of minds and hearts builds a community that is unlike any other: a “communion” of disciples in mission, who understand that faith is increased as it is offered and given away to others.
  That communion-community best embodies the truth of the human condition if each individual member of it, and the Church itself, fully embraces the entire symphony of Catholic truth, and in doing so, lives the moral life as a life of growth in beatitude, in compassion for others, and in evangelical charity.
  Finally, this communion-community lives “ahead of time,” because it knows, through the Easter faith the Church will celebrate in a few weeks, the truth about how the human adventure will end: God’s purposes in creation and redemption will be vindicated, as history and the cosmos are fulfilled in the New Jerusalem, in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, where death will be no more and every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:2–4).
That is the message that Pope Francis will take to the world: Gospel-centered Catholicism, which challenges the post-mod cynics, the metaphysically bored, and the spiritually dry to discover (or rediscover) the tremendous human adventure of living “inside” the Biblical narrative of history. 
A reforming pope. One of the principal dynamics of Conclave 2013 was a settled determination among a clear majority of the cardinal electors to see that the next pontificate addresses, in a root-and-branch way, the incompetence and corruption that has made too much of the Roman Curia an impediment to the New Evangelization, rather than an instrument of it — and in doing so, to empower the good people of the Curia to give the world Church the benefit of their remarkable talents. Pope Francis is not going to have a happy time reading the 300-page report on Vatileaks and related Roman messes that is waiting for him in the papal apartment. But he will read it with a reformer’s eye, with the aid of some very shrewd and reform-minded veterans of the Curia, and with a clear understanding from his own experience (as related to me last May) of what went wrong in the management of the Church’s central administrative machinery under the leadership of Benedict XVI’s cardinal secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B. It may be reasonably expected that real reform, in both curial culture and curial personnel, will follow in due course. The sooner the better, many would say.
A pope in defense of human rights and democracy. Pope Francis has left behind an Argentina in which he was a stern critic of the Cristina Kirchner government’s deepening of that beautiful country’s democracy deficit, and of Madam President’s commitment to a public policy of bread and circuses wedded to legally enforced lifestyle libertinism — what Benedict XVI aptly called the “dictatorship of relativism.” At a moment when the momentum of the democratic project in Latin America is flagging (while new opportunities are opening up in places like post-Chávez Venezuela and the inevitable post-Castro-brothers Cuba), the new pope should be able to rally Catholic forces in defense of religious freedom and other civil liberties in a continent where they are now under assault. And if he can do that at home, he can do it throughout the world.
Pope Francis is also deeply committed to the Church’s service to and empowerment of the poor, as he made unmistakably clear in his ministry in Buenos Aires. But those Gospel-based commitments should not lead anyone to think that he will be Paul Krugman in a white cassock. That seems very unlikely.

And now for the ironies.
The 2005 runner-up takes the checkered flag in 2013? Well, not really. Cardinal Bergoglio was used in 2005; he knows precisely who used him and why; and while he is a man of the Gospel who is not looking to settle scores, he is also a man of prudence who knows who his friends, and who his enemies, are. Here’s the story:
In April 2005, the progressive party (which was a real party then) came to Rome after the death of John Paul II thinking it had the wind at its back and clear sailing ahead — only to find that the Ratzinger-for-pope party was well-organized; that Ratzinger had made a very positive impression by the way he had run the General Congregations of cardinals after John Paul II’s death; that he had deep support from throughout the Third World because of the courtesy with which he had treated visiting Third World bishops on their quinquennial visits to Rome over the past 20 years; and that, after his brilliant homily at John Paul’s funeral Mass, he was indisputably the frontrunner for the papacy.
Confronted with this reality, the progressives panicked. Their first blocking move against Ratzinger was to try to run the aged Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, S.J., emeritus archbishop of Milan, who was already ill with Parkinson’s disease and had retired to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. The idea was not to elect Martini pope; it was to stop the Ratzinger surge. Then, when Ratzinger blew past Martini with almost 50 percent of the vote on what was assumed to be the “courtesy” first ballot (where some votes are cast as gestures of friendship, esteem, etc.), and subsequently went over 50 percent the following morning, the panic intensified. Martini was summarily abandoned (or may have told his supporters to forget it). The progressives then tried to advance Cardinal Bergoglio — who was very much part of the pro-Ratzinger coalition; who embodied “dynamic orthodoxy,” just like John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger; who had been persecuted by his more theologically and politically left-leaning Jesuit brethren after his term as Jesuit provincial in Argentina (they exiled him to northern Argentina, where he taught high-school chemistry until rescued by John Paul II and eventually made archbishop of Buenos Aires); and who was doubtless appalled by the whole exercise on his putative behalf.
It was a last-ditch blocking move, perhaps constructed around the idea that a Third World candidate like Bergoglio would peel off votes from Ratzinger. In any event, it was a complete misreading of the 2005 conclave’s dynamics and a cynical use of Bergoglio, who would almost certainly have been abandoned had the stratagem worked — and it failed miserably.
Thus it may be safely assumed that the coalition that quickly solidified and swiftly elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope in 2013 had little or nothing to do with the eminent cabal that tried to use him in 2005. Pope Francis was elected for who he is, not for taking the silver medal eight years ago.  
The first Jesuit pope? Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. Bergoglio is an old-school Jesuit, formed by classic Ignatian spirituality and deeply committed to an intelligent, sophisticated appropriation and proclamation of the full symphony of Catholic truth — qualities not notable for their prevalence among members of the Society of Jesus in the early 21st century. I suspect there were not all that many champagne corks flying last night in those Jesuit residences throughout the world where the Catholic Revolution That Never Was is still regarded as the ecclesiastical holy grail. For the shrewder of the new pope’s Jesuit brothers know full well that that dream was just dealt another severe blow. And they perhaps fear that this pope, knowing the Society of Jesus and its contemporary confusions and corruptions as he does, just might take in hand the reform of the Jesuits that was one of the signal failures of the pontificate of John Paul II.
There will be endless readings of the tea leaves in the days ahead as the new pope, by word and gesture, offers certain signals as to his intentions and his program. But the essentials are already known. This is a keenly intelligent, deeply holy, humble, and shrewd man of the Gospel. He knows that he has been elected as a reformer, and the reforms he will implement are the reforms that will advance the New Evangelization. The rest is detail: important detail, to be sure, but still detail. The course is set, and the Church’s drive into the Evangelical Catholicism of the future has been accelerated by the pope who introduced himself to his diocese, and to the world, by bowing deeply as he asked for our prayers.
 George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center. His new book isEvangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church.

Pope Francis: A Disappointment for Catholics Who Don't Like Being Catholic

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March 14, 2013

By Drew Belsky

How can we tell that the conclave made a good decision in elevating Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy?  Exhibit A (through at least D): liberals are annoyed.  But leftists' problems with Pope Francis, well-emblazoned as they were within hours of the announcement, reveal some crucial truths about the Church that even many Catholics are loath to confront.

When it came to Benedict XVI, the willfully uninformed chattering class had a field day -- rather, a field eight years -- with the thoroughly discredited"Nazi pope" meme.  (We might call noted luminary and theologian Susan Sarandon the "Nazi ambassadrix" in this effort.)  In the same vein, media outlets in all corners are itching to label the new Holy Father, and despisers of the office may find purchase in Francis's hard-line -- or, to put it more accurately, quite Catholic -- stance on "gay rights" and homosexual acts.

The caviling has already started.  Indeed, as Saint Peter's Square erupted with applause, and as the newly elected Pope Francis gave his first address to the Catholic faithful, Cavan Sieczkowski of the Huffington Post was already flexing his fingers for the first of a procession of disappointed jeremiads.  "Pope Francis Against Gay Marriage, Gay Adoption," Sieczkowski's headline blared, with the new pontiff's vestments still settling on his shoulders.  He quotes GLAAD President Herndon Graddick, who decries a "Catholic hierarchy ... in need of desperate reform."

There's more to this lashing out than just "Francis the Homophobe."  From the parade of hand-wringing gay activists in Sieczkowski's piece to theaggrieved commentators at Mother Jones, what really dismays the dismayed is the inflexibility not just of Francis, but of the Church herself.  At MJ, we read, "I think this is a missed opportunity to bring the papacy closer to where the people are," and even at Forbes, John Baldoni, an ardent admirer of the Jesuits (Francis's order), writes of "a Catholic Church that is resistant to change but one that must certainly adapt (and rather radically) if it is going to continue to attract well-intentioned men and women who adhere to its faith but also are willing to devote themselves to its perpetuation."

As for leftists from the likes of HuffPo, these are the same people who were disappointed when Vatican II didn't result in female priests and an ecclesiastical shrug of the shoulders on marriage.  What they share with Baldoni and other beaters of the "resistant to change" drum is a fundamental misunderstanding of Catholicism.

Granted: in a representative republic like the United States, where a dedicated force can use public opinion to effect sweeping social change, it can be hard not to project a similar democratic system onto the Catholic Church.  The same temptation proliferates when professedly Catholic politicianswave around misleading polls about the number of Catholic women who use contraception -- implying that, as in a democracy, a majority of people wanting something should be grounds for rewriting policy.  And when other professed Catholics aggressively seek to cement their state's position asthe abortion capital of the world, it's hard to blame outsiders looking into the Church when they throw their hands up in plain bafflement.

But of course, all these people are seeking to define the Church policy based on the opinions or actions of a single (albeit highly visible) Catholic, or from a group of Catholics.  This can't work, because we all sin.  Catholics acknowledge that we all fall short of the glory of God.  So how could any individual Catholic indicate in full the tenets of the Church?  (And no, not even the pope does this.  He knows -- probably better than most of us -- better than to try.)  How could any group of Catholics, with their discrete sins, do any better?

In short, here's the thing about the Catholic Church that cannot be repeated enough: she is not a democracy.  There is no veto power against the Word of God; as the cliché goes, God does not change to accommodate the Catholic.  The Catholic changes to accommodate Him.  (When even avowed atheist Penn Jillette is strongly defending this point -- against a Catholic, no less! -- we know we're approaching objective truth.)

Catholics acknowledge that Jesus Christ gave his flock a pope and the Magisterium -- the former to lead, and the latter to teach.  (By the way, both of these precede the Bible -- and, it bears repeating, they came directly from Jesus.)  So we Catholics count on the Holy Spirit to guide the Magisterium, and we count on the Magisterium to guide us.  Even if 98% of American women use birth control (preposterous), that doesn't entitle Catholics to vote on whether the Pill is no longer sinful.  No matter how much activists like Herndon Gladdick clamor for an ex-cathedra embrace of homosexual behavior, Catholics are not entitled to rewrite the Catechism (nor Romans 1, for that matter, nor Matthew 19).

And if we're talking about laws revealed to us by an everlasting, all-powerful, all-knowing God, what could make more sense than that?

So those who blast Pope Francis for his "doctrinaire" stand on marriage, family, and homosexuality need to remember that the leader of the Catholic Church is always going to be pretty solid on Catholic doctrine.  And those who furrow their brows over a Church "resistant to change" should recall that (according to Catholics, at least), the Word of God is eternal, therefore resistance to change sounds not half-bad.

So what's the best that Catholics can hope for from Pope Francis?  Namely, that he keep doing what he's been doing.  The man who forsook a mansion and a chauffeured limousine in favor of "a simple bed in a downtown room heated by a small stove" can teach us a lot about holy living, if we'll listen.  And if he has strong words against the dissolution of marriage or against homosexual couples adopting children, dissenters must remember that, like it or not, the Catholic Church does condemn homosexual acts as sinful -- but as Pope Francis knows, Jesus enjoins us to love the sinner even more strongly than we hate the sin.  So we should have little patience for accusations of homophobia or cruelty against the man whokisses and washes the feet of AIDS victims and drug addicts.

We have a new pontiff who has made his lifestyle a breathtaking example of humility and poverty -- who has eschewed sensual pleasures and bodily ease to better turn his thoughts and his will toward Christ.  Catholics can look on our Holy Father as an exemplar of how to show boundless love and compassion for people from all walks of life, all the while holding fast to the God-given principles that spur the functioning of our society.

This is a beautiful thing.  Catholics should cherish Pope Francis for as long as we have him, and it won't hurt for those outside the faith to see what he can teach them.

...In fact, best start learning from our Holy Father immediately.  "Little patience"?  On second thought, we should have a lot of patience.  With all we've got on the horizon, we'll need it.
Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor.  You can reach him at

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