I think Betty Duffy is one of the best writers on the internet


A tired pattern

Everyone once and a while there is a news story about "the Vatican". "The Vatican" issues a document of some sort. The document says something about current affairs. Immediately there are two very predictable reactions, depending on whether the person is inclined to agree with the Church or not.
1. "Look! The Church teaches that Catholics have to think like I think! My opinions have acquired divine authority. The world would be a better place, and the Church would be a better Church, if every Catholic just obeyed Church teaching like I do."

2. "I don't have to obey the Church - I can think for myself. It's fine if some old white men in Rome think that, but I don't have to and I am still a good Catholic."
These are, of course, caricatures, but I think they express two attitudes that are quite common. They are alike in that they are both dogmatic and reactionary. The certainty that is often expressed in these convictions about Church teaching displays a closed-mindedness that is antithetical to true discipleship. These opinions often are voiced with no further study, no investigation, and no thoughtfulness.

As always, the saints show us the true and good way to live. Think of that wonderful phrase from St. Ignatius of Loyola: "sentire cum ecclesia": think with the Church." When we hear about a new document from the Church, we should read it! In reading it, we are likely to learn a lot about what The Church is trying to teach us, rather than what the media thinks or what some commentator thinks. We will also learn about what kind of document the Church has given us. As even the neophyte theologian knows, there are different kinds of Church teaching, and different teachings carry different weight, and different teachings require different levels of assent. The Church, for better or for worse, is very nuanced in the way She proposes to us. This is no doubt a result of the admixture of the human and divine elements of Her teaching - and it can be an obstacle for true understanding, but it ought not be.

In lieu of responding in the vein of one of these two reactions, I propose we reflect and we study. And above all, we be obedient.


Helplessness Blues

The Fleet Foxes have written a beautiful song with beautiful lyrics. Look at the opening lyrics:
I was raised up believin' I was somehow unique like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes unique in each way you can see.And now after some thinkin' I'd say I'd rather be a functioning cog in some great machinery servin' something beyond me.But I don't, I don't know what that will be. I'll get back to you someday Soon you will see.What's my name, what's my station oh, just tell me what I should do. I don't need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you. Or, bow down and be grateful and say "sure, take all that you see" to the men who move only in dimly lit halls and determine my future for me.And I don't, I don't know who to believe I'll get back to you someday Soon you will see.

Whether they know it or not this song has a deeply Christian, even Catholic theme. Interesting to see a group of artists simultaneously lament the plague of individualism, which isolates, and recognize the cure, which is life lived in community as a part of "something beyond me". We fit into nature because we were made for nature! The human heart can never accept that it is simply an accident of matter, space and time. Thank God!


Anthony Esolen

As I write, several thousand young people are squatting near Wall Street, insisting upon some kind of change or other. Change, of course, is the natural state of affairs on earth. "Change and decay in all around I see," says the great hymn.

Not so long ago people praised the virtue of steadfastness, the loyalty that binds the heart to this place, these neighbors, these children, this spouse, and God above all. To sever those bonds was to be changeable, that is, fickle.

But there is nothing so definite about what these protesters desire. They are not holding placards that read, "Everyone back to his station! Long live the neighborhood!" No, they are there to protest some hypostatized "system," though what exactly the system is, nobody can tell.

Some seem to believe that "corporations" are free-floating entities brooding malevolently over the waters, creating misery for mankind. They do not consider that, if Godfather's Pizza is to make a profit and return money to shareholders who have risked their investments, it must actually make something that people will declare to be good, and must offer it at a price that people will think reasonable.

In other words, at the base of all businesses lie an idea (here is something that people will find useful or sweet), hard work (here is how we will create that thing), and capital put at risk (here is the means for making the creation possible).

What the protesters are demanding, though, is magic – and that makes them strangely similar to the high-rolling brokers and financiers they despise. We've come far from the time when investors searched into the workings of a business, its ethos, the character of its managers, the skill of the workers, and decided to invest accordingly.

Some reforms of the financial market, if only to settle its dangerous volatility, and to discourage the building of air-castles, are in order. But they will require considerable perspicacity, and they are not going to be whipped up by silly children who are themselves building castles in the air, and whose education has left them foggy about what a percentage means, and how interest accumulates.

The protesters, for example, are demanding the forgiveness of all debt – an Old Testament jubilee year, without fields and farms and flocks, and of course without rejoicing in the love of God. 

No matter that such a thing, sprung upon an unsuspecting people, would constitute the greatest act of theft in the history of the world. No matter that banks would fail and that the savings of ordinary people would be wiped out. No matter that it would reward those who have not paid their bills at the expense of those who have.

It should just "happen" – with a wave of a political wand. Glinda the Good Witch will simply appear out of a pink bubble and grant a clean bill of financial health to everyone, and Toto, too.


What a dramatic and persuasive stand!

MANCHESTER — Members of Occupy New Hampshire on Wednesday night willingly formed a line for police officers as they were issued summons or arrested for refusing to leave Veterans Memorial Park when the park's 11 p.m. curfew arrived.

Several times, the movement's members reminded each other that police officers were there simply to do their jobs and told each other to remain calm and stay nonviolent.

“It's not that I'm planning to be arrested. I'm planning not to leave the park because I believe it's my right to peaceably assemble,” said Matt Richards.
Our country is increasingly a "rights" nation rather than a "rule-of-law" nation.


Wall Street Protests

I caught a glimpse of this story, that there are protestors on Wall Street. Liberal protestors, nonetheless. Their complaint? The folks on Wall Street, whom they call "the 1%", are hoarding all the money at the expense of the protestors, "the 99%". Temporarily disregarding whether this is actually true or not, I'm tempted to ask the question: What makes the protestors on Wall Street think they have a right to money (wealth) they did not earn? This, it seems to me, is one of the fruits of the entitlement attitude that our nation has been fostering ever so gingerly over the past, say 100 years. Other people have made themselves wealthy - and I am not wealthy - therefore, the wealthy people are immoral, and I will try to shame them into giving me their stuff. Maybe the protestors would respond to one of the arguments they themselves frequently employ against "the religious right": that they should stop trying to force their morality on the rich people that excites such jealousy in them.

That being said, I do think it's immoral that people so wealthy hoard their money. This is a contradiction that I cannot resolve at present due to time constraints.