Built on the Rock

Here is a poem for your consideration as we celebrate Holy Week in the midst of sadness over the great damage to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This poem does not come from a post-Christian, unbelieving viewpoint, teetering on the edge of depression. I spared you my comments on those poems. Instead I have a different poem to offer. This is a manly poem, encouraging us to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and start all over again, striding out with confidence in the approaching bright Easter Day.

Built on the Rock, the church shall stand
even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in ev’ry land;
bells still are chiming and calling.
Calling the young and old to rest,
calling the souls of those distressed,
longing for life everlasting.

Not in a temple made with hands
God the Almighty is dwelling;
high in the heav’ns His temple stands,
all earthly temples excelling.
Yet He who dwells in heaven above
chooses to live with us in love,
making our bodies His temple.

We are God’s house of living stones,
built for His own habitation;
He fills our hearts, His humble thrones,
granting us life and salvation.
Yet to the place, an earthly frame,
we come with thanks to praise His name;
God grants His people true blessing.

Thro’ all the passing years, O Lord,
grant that, when church bells are ringing,
many may come to hear God’s Word
where He His promise is bringing:
“I know My own, My own know Me,
you, not the world, My face shall see;
My peace I leave with you. Amen.”

The author was Nikolai Fredrik Severin Grundtvig. It was translated from Danish by Carl Döving.

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Breaking: Notre Dame on Fire

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6925015/Fire-breaks-historic-Notre-Dame-cathedral-Paris.html

Has anyone heard about the causes?

Added information from article.

Notre Dame – which means ‘Our Lady’ – was build in 1160 and completed by 1260, and has been modified on a number of occasions throughout the century.

A spokesperson for the cathedral said the blaze was first reported at 5.50pm (GMT) and the building was evacuated soon after.

Officials in Paris said the fire could be linked to restoration works as the peak of the church is currently undergoing a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project.

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propaganda

Google categorized the new movie “Unplanned” as a “Drama/ Propaganda” film.   They have not categorized other films as propaganda, even films that are famous as examples of propaganda.

After the Christian blogosphere circulated this on Thursday, it got noticed in conservative niche media yesterday.   Today Google quietly changed the category of “Unplanned” back to “Drama.”   Shame on Google.

I expect that all y’all know that “Unplanned” is an anti-abortion film that tells the story of Abby Johnson, who famously flipped from being a successful abortion clinic manager for Planned Parenthood to becoming an anti-abortion activist.   Perhaps you also know that the MPAA slapped it with an R rating, even though it is devoid of sex, violence or bad language.   Maybe you also know that Facebook and Google have refused the publicist’s ads.   And that Google has been downgrading search results related to the movie.

This is just another day in the culture war.   Another state passed yet another anti-abortion law today, adding fuel to the fire that will ensure that Roe v Wade gets a return engagement at the Supreme Court.

Maybe someday America can stop murdering helpless babies.

LORD,  have mercy.

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For David Horowitz Fans

I am listening to this. David Horowitz has a new book, DARK AGENDA: The War to Destroy Christian America. I respect David Horowitz for his willingness to take on his former friends on the left. I am interested on his views since he is a non-Christian on the societal changes in America. Has anyone read this book yet?

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Nigerian land dispute

Jihadis murdered over 7,000 civilians in Nigeria last year.   They continue the killing spree.   It goes unnoticed by western mass media.   It gets a little bit of coverage by Christian niche media.

I saw a headline at the Google News aggregator site, in the sidebar for “fact check.”   It was clickbait just like all the other “fact check” headlines.

“Did ‘Muslim Militants’ Kill 120 Christians in Nigeria in February/March 2019?”

I knew what to expect.   Sure enough, Snopes rated that statement as a half-truth.   Of course, they confirmed that Muslim Fulani tribesmen attacked Christian churches and murdered 120 civilians.   The part they said was untrue was the description of the murderers as “Muslim Militants.”   They said that the violence is just normal clashes between herders and farmers.   They took the occasion to state that the  Christian Post  and Breitbart are whipping up false outrage.

But the article at the  Christian Post  calls them “militant Fulani” and “Fulani militants.”   The words “Muslim” and “Islam” do not appear in the cited article.   Snopes is attacking a straw man, in order to advance a Leftist narrative.   Their problem is that the  Christian Post correctly identified the victims as Christians, and made several references to “persecution” of Christians.

The Left does not want you to know the full extent of worldwide persecution of Christians.   Journalists have been working hard to strangle the news about the bloody violence that rages around the world.

So, Snopes dutifully brushes off the Muslim attacks against Christian villages as just normal herders versus farmers clashes.   Nothing to see here, don’t cha know.

So allow me to provide some context for this violence.

Approximately 8,000 civilians were murdered in this violence in 2018.   Over 6,000 of the victims were Christians.   Approximately two thirds of the remaining victims were adherents of tribal Pagan religions (either animism, spiritism, or ancestor worship, or a mix, depending on the village).   Several dozen Muslims were killed by Christian mobs in reprisal attacks.

That breakdown has held up for the past fifteen years.   The numbers clearly depict a pattern of repeated Muslim attacks against Christians, with occasional reprisals from Christians.   This plays out against a backdrop that includes infrequent government interventions that generally scare Boko Haram militants into hiding for a while but have not changed the situation on the ground.

Ancient Land Dispute

For many centuries the Sahara Desert has been growing.   The desert has inexorably gained territory since long before the beginning of human history.   In historic times, one of the primary reasons for the growth of the desert is overgrazing by the herders.   The herders keep pressing out into settled farming territory, and conflicts arise.   This has played out over and over again over many centuries.

For the past 800 years, the herders have been increasingly Muslim, while the farmers increasingly converted to Christianity.   The herders’ imams have been able to enforce Muslim hegemony among the Fulani.   Among the farmers, the majority is Christian, but there is still a vibrant Pagan minority.

21st Century

What happened to change things in this current century is the rise of Islamicism.   Al Qaeda’s fabulously successful attacks on 9-11-2001 sent a lightning bolt of excitement through the Muslim world.   While many Muslims were dismayed at the news, there was rejoicing in the streets in many parts of the Islamic world.

One thing that happened was a surge of fresh money into the coffers of the Wahhabi Imams who had been the spiritual mentors of the guys that led al-Qaeda.   They used some of the money to reward firebrand professors at western-style universities.   They used some of the money to provide scholarships to bright young men who wanted to study in Wahhabi madrassas.   They used some of the money to start new madrassas in places where they could teach Wahhabi theology unmolested by government authorities who generally view Wahhabi madrassas as subversive.

For nearly 1400 years Islam has been at war with the rest of the world.   Wahhabi theology is a theology of violent jihad, exhorting Muslims everywhere to take up arms against non-Muslims.   There are conflicts whereever there is a large number of Muslims living near groups of non-Muslims.   With fresh funds, the Wahhabis went to work to exploit old tensions and conflicts all over the world.

The southern fringe of the Sahara Desert was ripe for Wahhabi activism.   Starting back in the 1990s they sent some freshly-minted young firebrand preachers, to preach jihad to Muslims who already had grievances with their neighbors.   Those young imams identified bright young men from among the Muslim tribes, and gave them scholarships to go attend madrassas in Sudan and Somalia.   A new generation of homegrown Wahhabi firebrand imams was produced and sent into a world of conflict.

Then, in this century, the surge of Wahhabi money was used to buy black market guns and give them to the Muslim herders.   Herders who could not begin to afford such weapons were steadily acquiring an arsenal.

These facts were easily available to anyone with an internet connection and some curiosity.   But they did not ring alarm bells in places where they should have.

As clashes between Fulani Muslim herders with non-Muslim farmers increased in the level of violence, the corrupt Nigerian government reacted slowly, incompetently, and, typical for corruption, were sometimes bought off by the Fulani.   Then about ten years ago when the violence escalated, the Nigerian military was embarrassed in a couple of incidents that went badly and left a lot of dead civilians.

It was about that time that a missionary couple came to visit my congregation.   They had been at work for many years as Lutheran Bible Translators.   They were stationed in the jungles of southeast Nigeria.   I asked them about the budding religious war in northern Nigeria.   They assured me that it was just an ancient land dispute between herders and farmers, and nothing to get distressed over.   That was the party line and they were sticking to it.

In 2014, the Nigerian military were embarrassed again over the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls.   The result was that, though Muslims are a minority of Nigerians, and though Boko Haram was famously killing and rampaging across the north of Nigeria, Nigerians elected a Muslim president in 2015.   Muhammadu Buhari ran a successful campaign against government corruption.

I do not know if President Buhari has had any success in dealing with government corruption in Nigeria.   The increasing violence shows that he has made no headway against Boko Haram.

Conspiracy Theory

Since I am a conspiracy theorist, I think I see some opportunism in this post at Snopes.   The article appears at a very convenient time.   See, the largest reprisal attack occurred not long ago.   A Christian mob is alleged to have killed 130 Muslims (the true number is at least over 60, may be over a hundred, and it is really hard to get good information).   So the Snopes article points out that recent attack, portraying the 120 Christians killed in February as balanced out, indicating a tit-for-tat situation, and then they throw up some more dust about “ ongoing herder-farmer conflict.”

I smell a Leftist rat.   I searched Google News for “Nigeria.”   Sure enough, the top hit was a post blaming “right-wing media platforms” for fearmongering about Muslim violence against Christians.   Quartz has a post up that blames the Christchurch shooter on this.   Here is their headline:

“Nigerian Christians are pawns in US right-wing media’s response to the New Zealand attack”

They are pushing the “ancient land dispute” narrative.   They cite the Christian Post and Breitbart.   This is business as usual for the Left.

And I see that Snopes’s “fact check” is something they waited to run for an opportunity immediately after a Christian reprisal attack, which has been relatively rare, considering the many years of violence.   They are anti-Christian opportunists.   Google highlighted their clickbait trash.   Shame on all of them.

I am continually disappointed in the disinterest in the global persecution of Christians by conservatives in America.   I learned that Ratburghers value Asian lives at less than 1/100th of the value of an American life.   I suppose that Africans go for an even lower value.

Sad.

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Methodist African Rescue

The United Methodist Church Special Conference ended last week with a surprise victory for traditionalist Christians. You may have seen some celebrating in the conservative Christian blogosphere.

This is not a final victory; it represents one battle in the long war. Leftists marched through the institution of the United Methodist Church, and they still hold the high ground positions in UMC government. But they did not have the votes to push further Leftward at this Special Conference, and they are not likely to have the votes at the General Conference coming up in 2020. I am simply posting here for non-Methodist Christians who may be curious as to what is going on.

I am not a Methodist, but I married into a family of Methodists. When I married Snooks, everyone in her extended family was Methodist (with one Atheist exception who was mostly estranged from the rest). The bruising years of the 1980s and since have resulted in a situation in which there are no remaining Methodists in the family. The last relative who was still a member of a UMC congregation died at the age of 88 two years ago.

Where did they go? Mostly they are now “Non-Denominational” Evangelicals. Some are Baptists. One branch went Catholic. Another branch went Presbyterian. Several are now “nones,” as in “none of the above.”

Methodist Trends

The United Methodist Church was formed by a merger of major Methodist denominations in 1968. In 1970 they had 10.7 million members. The number of American Methodists then began to decline, so that there are now just under 7 million members of the United Methodist Church in America.

The Methodist Church had done good missionary work for two centuries, with particular success in the previous century. They did their church organizing differently than other denominations. Rather than organize new church bodies in the countries where they experienced missionary success, they sort of followed the example of the Anglicans. Each country that achieved substantial numbers became a District of the United Methodist Church, making for a truly global church denomination.

Although the number of American Methodists has been in decline for 45 years, Methodist churches internationally have grown. The number of members of the United Methodist Church is now about 12.6 million members. So, approximately 44 percent of the membership is overseas.

African Methodists

By far the greatest numbers of United Methodists outside America are in Africa. The trend is clear. The UMC in America is going to continue to decline, while the UMC in Africa is going to continue to grow.

Going forward, UMC politics clearly favor the Africans.

Now, I have not met the Methodist Africans, but I have met some Methodist Lutherans and some Methodist Anglicans. I can make a broad stereotypical characterization of African Christians:

They are traditionalists, and they are delightful people.

They are serious-minded Christians who know their Bibles and take the Bible very seriously. They come from a culture that is very different than America. They do not live in a secularist society, where spiritual matters do not make for polite conversation. They live in a world where spiritual warfare is not hidden behind a bloodless cloak of word salads.

Africans live in a world where spiritual warfare is ever-present and frequently violent. Real physical violence is an immediate threat over much of Africa. Spiritual violence including everything from murder and arson to human sacrifice has been experienced in recent months.

For example, in Nigeria last year, approximately 8,000 people were murdered in religious attacks. A couple of hundred were Muslims killed in reprisal attacks by Christian mobs. Several hundreds were Animists or Spiritists; adherents of tribal religions. Over 6,000 of the dead were Christians, murdered by Boko Haram and related Muslim militias.

In Kenya there were only a handful of incidents in 2018, leaving a few dozen murdered Christians, after a very violent 2017. Kenya is one of the few places where these incidents sometimes spill into the western press, on account of the cosmopolitan center in Nairobi.

In Tanzania, albino kids were kidnapped from their families and killed in Voodoo rites, with their hands, feet, ears and internal organs harvested to make magik amulets for use in cursing enemies or placating evil spirits. Other albino children were dumped at fortified orphanages by families too fearful of thugs in thrall to witchdoctors to keep their own kids. Just today, 65 witchdoctors were rounded up for trials involving over 10 murdered children.

Christians from Africa do not take to mincing words about sin and death and demons and angels and bloody spiritual warfare.

It was African votes that carried the day in the Methodist General Conference last week.

UMC future

The Leftists marched through the institution of the United Methodist Church. Leftists are in control of most of the dozens of boards and commissions that make up UMC governance. Only five or six of 54 seminaries on the approved list of the UMC can be said to be conservative, producing traditionalist Christian pastors. The situation for traditionalist Christian Methodists is dire.

However, the demographic trend favors the traditionalists. As the UMC continues to dwindle in America while it grows in Africa, there may come a day when the traditionalists can do more than stop further Leftward advances, and take steps to recover the robust Christian faith of Snooks’s ancestors.

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Ethiopia: Communism Destroyed the Forests. Churches Preserving Them

Church forest in EthiopiaIn the early 20th century, around 45% of Ethiopia was covered by forests.  Due to population pressure and encouraged by the Communist regime in power from 1974 through 1991, which nationalised the land and distributed it to people who cleared forests for subsistence farming, now only 5% of the land is forested.

When you see a forest in Ethiopia today, the odds are there’s a church in the middle of it.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in Sub-Saharan Africa, dating from A.D. 333, when Christianity was proclaimed the state religion.  For much of its history, the church was administered as a branch of the Coptic Church of Alexandria, Egypt, but became independent in 1959, with its own patriarch.

An article in the current issue of Nature, “Biodiversity thrives in Ethiopia’s church forests” describes how “[t]he church, to which more than half of Ethiopians belong, views the natural forest as a symbol of heaven on Earth, where every creature is a gift from God and needs its habitat” has preserved more than 35,000 forests surrounding its churches.

Ecologists studying the biodiversity in these oases are helping churches protect their forests from encroachment by the neighbouring population and their animals.  They’re building walls.


Ethiopia church forest wall

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Media v Evangelicals 2018 part 10

This is the last of a series. Yes; I know it is 2019; this is late because government shutdown. I will provide an index to the other entries in a comment. I have been posting periodically on the hostile coverage of Evangelicals on the part of Big News Media. It is clear that a large driving force in the hostile media accounts was Donald Trump. Big Media has sought to divide Evangelicals from President Trump. They sought to divide Evangelicals from each other, they trashed Evangelicals at every opportunity, and primarily they sought to convince Evangelicals not to vote for President Trump or for any politician who expressed support for President Trump. They wanted Evangelicals to believe it was hypocritical for Christians to support President Trump. They wanted Evangelicals to believe that Republicans were all going to lose badly so it was a waste of time to vote. I don’t know how much success they actually achieved, but they were hard at work to accomplish real voter suppression, while spouting accusations of voter suppression at Republicans.

The cascade of articles seemed to abate, oddly, during the runup to the midterm elections. That was primarily because all of Big Media was in full hair-on-fire excitement over the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. They got themselves worked up real good, anticipating a major defeat for President Trump, and they focused all their energy on that. Other issues were pushed aside. Then, with about two weeks before election day, they resumed running attacks on Evangelical voters.

There was nothing really notable. It was just the usual stuff that I have been observing in nine previous posts in 2018.

Journalists

I did observe some interesting postmortems about the awfulness of mass media news in the runup to the midterm elections. My favorite media critics at GetReligion put up the best ones. They are putting a happy face on the field of journalism. Mostly they are explaining to Evangelicals just why they have been trashed so badly for years, and attributing the problem to ignorance rather than malice.

In part, I see their point. Journalists as a group are very ignorant when it comes to matters of religion. While 80 percent of Americans generally say they “believe in God,” this is only true for 20 percent of journalists. In comparison to average Americans, journalists are three times as likely to say they are Atheist, and five times as likely to say they are Agnostic. Journalists either grew up without religion at home, or in homes with mixed religions, or else they are openly hostile to the faith of their parents.

Journalists do not recognize religious jargon and do not understand the differences between religious groups. Ignorance on their part can go a long way to explaining a lot of bad reporting on religious people and religious issues.

Pew Gap

But there is a lingering matter of open hostility on the part of journalists expressed towards people of faith.  This explains some anti-Catholic bias and general anti-Christian bias.

As Leftists, journalists also share a hostility to all conservatives. This shows up as the “pew gap.” The pew gap is a phenomenon that first got talked about in the 1980s. People who attend regular worship services are more likely to vote Republican. People who rarely attend worship are more likely to vote Democrat. This divide has been increasing for forty years.

In terms of journalism, the upshot is that religious people are usually on the opposite political side from Atheists and agnostics. Which is, I think, the root of so much hostile coverage of Evangelicals. For most journalists, politics is their religion.

Journalists howled when President Trump labeled them the “Enemy of the People.” I think that label is accurate. They are certainly the Enemy of traditionally religious People. They are the Enemy of conservative People.

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Nathan Phillips activism buried by media

Native American Drummer Nathan Phillips was very busy on Saturday.   After a full day of protesting and drumming at the “Indiginous Peoples March,” which had been scheduled for right after the March for Life on Friday in hopes of garnering some attention, he was the toast of media on Saturday.   Leftist “journalists” clamored all day for interviews.   He said some things to some media outlets, and he said some other things to other media outlets.   It would be really interesting to put together a montage of his contradictory statements, but that is not my purpose for this post.

I just searched Google News for “Nathan Phillips.”   There were lots and lots of hits.   Buried way down at the 42nd place in the search results was an item that reported on his activities on Saturday evening.   No, it was not in a mass media outlet, it was a story from a small conservative niche media outlet.   Catholic News Agency (yes, the little guys, not the National Catholic Register) broke a story about a protest event that was led by the intrepid “elder” of the Omaha Nation.

Phillips led a group of about 20 who started to enter the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (400 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC).   Since the evening mass was in progress they were stopped by security guards who ran to close and lock the doors.   They pounded on the doors for a few minutes, and drummed on their drums.  Then Phillips made a statement.

Just a typical Saturday evening in Washington, DC, I suppose, which is a magnet for all sorts of crazies.   But you would think that since the entire country is still arguing over the events of Friday in which Phillips marched into a group of high school kids and beat his drum in the face of one of them, you might think some mass media outlet would pick up the story.

Nope.   Crickets.   It doesn’t help their narratives.

The Enemy of the People were very aptly dubbed “the drive-by media” by Rush Limbaugh over 20 years ago.   They mangled the story, fueled social media hysteria that got the kids and their parents doxxed, threatened, with enough threats to the Diocese to get their school as well as Diocesan offices closed for security reasons.

Then when it turned out that there was video evidence of how badly wrong their reporting was, they dropped the story.   None of them ran the item about Phillips’s Saturday evening attempt to disrupt worship at the Basilica.   As near as I can tell, the only legacy media outlet to cover this story is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and I only found them because the media critics at GetReligion linked to them.

If any other legacy media carried this story, Google is making sure we don’t know about that.

Big Media is a thoroughly Leftist project, and, as such, an anti-American project.   They are to be scoffed and mocked at every opportunity.   They pretend to do journalism.   What they actually do is serve as the propaganda operation of the Progressive movement.

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Catholic Distress

Since the Church of Rome is America’s largest faith group, everyone ought to have a little understanding about the important parts of the scandals that are rocking the Catholic Church. This is a big deal that will affect most of the culture wars and will spill over into politics. Of course, Big Media won’t cover any part of this except the parts that affect politics, and they can be relied on to bury the parts that embarrass the Left. So, here is a long post by a schismatic Lutheran to explain some of the distress in the Catholic Church.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops scheduled a conference last November, intended to get serious about setting up a monitoring and checks and balances system to address the sexual scandals in their own ranks. The lay Catholics, with the whole world watching, had been catching on that there were priests who had committed sexual sins and who had disappeared with some vague words about penance. Then it started coming out that bad priests had simply been moved around, in most cases with their new diocese unaware of their sexually sinful past. It turned out that this had happened in an astonishingly large number of cases, which became clear when the Pennsylvania Attorney General released a long and damning report on an investigation into sexual sins by priests. What really frosted the lay Catholics was that bishops who had preached about the need for openness and clarity and penance and oversight and confession and such, turned out to be the men who had deliberately hid the bad cases, covered for them, and in some cases put sexual predator priests into positions where they could repeat their bad behaviors.

If you are a Catholic who has been paying attention to this stuff, then scroll down to the heading called GetReligion. Most of the next couple of pages is background info.

American bishops put on hold

The USCCB assembly met two months ago with the expectation that they were going to vote on two action items. These were standards of accountability for bishops and a special commission for receiving complaints against bishops. This was part of several initiatives intended to work out a process for improved monitoring/oversight on matters of ecclesial discipline, to make sure that penances were concomitant with the infraction, that real crimes were promptly reported to police, and that violators who were likely to repeat their offense did not get placed into circumstances with future temptations, and that priests so placed would be subject to follow-up counseling and monitoring.

But an odd thing happened when the conference opened. The first thing was that a surprise letter from Pope Francis was read that told them to take no action on the topic. Pope Francis, you see, is planning a super conference in February that will be a global conference to take up such issues for all the world’s Catholic bishops. It would not do for the Americans to get out in front.

A letter that had gone from the Vatican to the USCCB President, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, was recently leaked to the Associated Press. It reveals that DiNardo had been slow to provide information to the Vatican, and this made the Vatican position easier to justify. It makes sense that the Vatican would want more time to consider what the Americans were up to, since it could have ripple effects for ecclesial canon law throughout the Catholic world.

Scandal of 2002 – 2005

In the late 1980s there were a couple of scandals involving sexual sins by predator priests. A couple more were made public in the early 1990s, generating some media buzz. It was a great excuse for some Catholic bashing and some Christian bashing. This scandal got mashed up with other scandals, such as revelations about poor treatment of indigenous peoples by Catholic missions, and a general apology for past bad behaviors was made for several scandals by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Then a blockbuster scandal became a media sensation following an exposé by the Boston Globe in 2002. They produced a long special report on over a hundred victims of one bad priest, plus other victims of sexual misconduct by other Boston area priests. They followed that up with a survey of sexual scandals involving Catholic priests from all over the world. It sparked a media feeding frenzy that kept the Catholic Church in the spotlight for three years.

After three years of solid media attention, the issue went away. It just vanished. It was only a few of us highly-engaged culture warriors who figured out why. Stay tuned.

Pope Francis, friend of homosexuals

Pope Benedict XVI abdicated his position in early 2013. Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina was elevated to the “Throne of St. Peter” that year. He has given conservatives indigestion ever since. Of particular interest to this story is his friendly and accommodating posture towards homosexuality. You just knew we were going to get around to homosexual priests, didn’t you?

Pope Francis is famously squishy when it comes to traditional doctrines on all sorts of social matters. This has won him favorable treatment by mass media (cover of Rolling Stone, Time “Person of the Year 2013,” etc.). One of the first big instances of his papacy involved a throw-away line he said to a clutch of reporters on his plane as he returned to the Vatican from World Catholic Youth Day 2013. Pope Francis said (speaking about priests) “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?” The media exploded with awful distortions.

There were some really unfortunate media accounts predicting that Pope Francis would reverse thousands of years of doctrinal positions on homosexuality and other sexual sins. Pope Francis coyly rebuked some of the excess. Subsequently he has done some things that made some observers call him a “homophile.” For example, in 2017 he appointed Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia as President of the Pontifical Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. That is not so much a scandal as an opportunity for more whispering.

Scandals of 2018

In April and October last year, Pope Francis made a trip to Chile for some damage control involving sex scandals. He de-frocked (“laicized”) four priests. He spoke with a homosexual man who had been a victim of a predator priest. Pope Francis said some happy-talk things to soothe the man, and this got reported and caused a little dust-up within the ranks of conservative Catholic bloggers. Since that is not America, you probably never heard about it. I only bring it up to note that the Catholic Church has problems with homosexual priests all over the world.

In America, two separate sex scandals rocked the Catholic summer.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, age 87, was removed from priestly office last June by Pope Francis because of charges of sexual misconduct. A priest was being tried for sexual misconduct. He was defending himself by saying that he had been introduced to sex and sexual predatory ways by McCarrick back in the early 1970s when McCarrick was serving as secretary to Cardinal Cooke and the victim was a boy of 17. Then a couple of priests said that other people had accused McCarrick of sexual misconduct, and that they had been kept silent with settlement awards.

Then it turned out that it had long been known that McCarrick had been a sexual predator for a very long time. He had been pressing seminarians for sexual favors for decades. Then it came out that Pope Benedict XVI had found out about McCarrick and had instructed him to remove himself from priestly duties, from involvement with seminaries, and from public appearances. But McCarrick had ignored his instructions and then was “rehabilitated” by Pope Francis.

This really blew up in mid-July when the New York Times dug into McCarrick:

In 2000, Pope John Paul II promoted Archbishop McCarrick to lead the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., one of the most prestigious posts in the Catholic Church in America. He was elevated to cardinal three months later.

At least one priest warned the Vatican against the appointment. The Rev. Boniface Ramsey said that when he was on the faculty at the Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in New Jersey from 1986 to 1996, he was told by seminarians about Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual abuse at the beach house. When Archbishop McCarrick was appointed to Washington, Father Ramsey spoke by phone with the pope’s representative in the nation’s capital, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the papal nuncio, and at his encouragement sent a letter to the Vatican about Archbishop McCarrick’s history.

By August most Catholic watching was diverted to a different scandal that had erupted in late July.

The Attorney General of Pennsylvania released a report on an investigation into sexual crimes by Catholic priests. The numbers were staggering. Initially it sounded like sexual mayhem by a majority of priests. Then things quieted down when it turned out that it was a report that summarized prosecutions, settlements and “credible allegations,” over a period of decades. The press release from the Attorney General gave this summary of findings from the grand jury:

  • 301 Catholic priests identified as predator priests who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the church.

  • Detailed accounts of over 1,000 children victimized sexually by predator priests, with the grand jury noting it believed the real number of victims was in the “thousands.”

  • Senior church officials, including bishops, monsignors and others, knew about the abuse committed by priests, but routinely covered it up to avoid scandal, criminal charges against priests, and monetary damages to the dioceses.

  • Priests committed acts of sexual abuse upon children, and were routinely shuttled to other parishes – while parishioners were left unaware of sexual predators in their midst.

This truly ignited a media feeding frenzy. It also prompted other states to launch investigations of their own. People came out from all over with their own stories of abuse. Then, just as quickly as it had erupted and claimed all the media air, this scandal dropped out of the public conversation, almost as abruptly as the previous “pedophile priests” scandal of 2002-2005.

Enemy of the People

First, it turned out that there are only about 64 of the three hundred priests who are still alive. Most of these cases are really old. Then it came out that the overwhelming majority, all but a few dozen, of the victims, were males ages 13 to 18 at the time of the abuse.

Yes, this is similar to the previous scandal. When they learned it was not “pedophilia,” but homosexuals preying on minor teen boys, Leftist mass media lost interest.

Leftist mass media cried “pedophile priests! Pedophile priests!” until traditionalist Catholics started to get some traction with their push-back, and then media dropped the story before they had to run any corrections.

Just like Cardinal McCarrick. Since the predatory misconduct was all homosexual, then it did not help Leftist narratives to report on the scandal. After some hystrionical Catholic bashing, the story quickly dropped out of sight.

Of course, by late August, the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh started taking all the oxygen out of the journalistic world. Between Kavanaugh and the mid-term election campaigns, it was easy for news media to drop the Catholic scandals.

Bad Boy Bishops

The really big scandal in all of this was the way Catholic bishops had kept it all under wraps. They knew about homosexual predator priests and covered up for them, hid them, hired lawyers to quickly bring aggrieved victims into settlements that featured non-disclosure agreements, moved bad priests around, and hid the records. They were afraid such matters would damage the church, but in the end what they did was far more damaging.

Pope Francis apologizes

From Wikipedia:

On 20 August 2018, Pope Francis apologized in a 2,000 word letter [addressing the Pennsylvania] grand jury report confirming that over 1,000 children were sexually abused by “predator priests” in Pennsylvania for decades, often covered up by the Church.[333]

“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives … We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them … The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.”

The Pope said the church was developing a “zero tolerance” policy on abuse (which he called “crimes”) and cover-ups. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke emphasized that the letter was not about incidents in a specific geographic area but relevant worldwide.[334]

 

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò

Archbishop Viganò had served for ten years as the head of personnel for the Vatican when he was elevated to Secretary General of Vatican City. He made a name for himself by cleaning up finances and installing better procedures for checking and auditing. In a really mysterious episode, a letter he had written about apparent corruption was leaked to the press, prompting a public shaming in which he was said to be embarrassingly wrong by three higher-ups in the Curia. Vatican watchers took different sides, and some said it was all over personality clashes. Then the higher-ups prevailed and Pope Benedict XVI assigned Archbishop Viganò as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States in 2011.

Viganò retired in 2016 at the age of 75 and returned to Italy.

On August 25, a damning letter from Archbishop Viganò appeared. It broke in Italy. It also hit the English-speaking Catholic blogosphere, because Archbishop Viganò had copied his letter to a little pro-life blog and aggregator in Toronto. I posted about LifeSiteNews back in the fall, mostly about how they were being harmed by Facebook and other Silicon Valley tech giants. Here is a part of Viganòs letter:

To dispel suspicions insinuated in several recent articles, I will immediately say that the Apostolic Nuncios in the United States, Gabriel Montalvo and Pietro Sambi, both prematurely deceased, did not fail to inform the Holy See immediately, as soon as they learned of Archbishop McCarrick’s gravely immoral behavior with seminarians and priests. Indeed, according to what Nuncio Pietro Sambi wrote, Father Boniface Ramsey, O.P.’s letter, dated November 22, 2000, was written at the request of the late Nuncio Montalvo. In the letter, Father Ramsey, who had been a professor at the diocesan seminary in Newark from the end of the ’80s until 1996, affirms that there was a recurring rumor in the seminary that the Archbishop “shared his bed with seminarians,” inviting five at a time to spend the weekend with him at his beach house. And he added that he knew a certain number of seminarians, some of whom were later ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Newark, who had been invited to this beach house and had shared a bed with the Archbishop.

The office that I held at the time was not informed of any measure taken by the Holy See after those charges were brought by Nuncio Montalvo at the end of 2000, when Cardinal Angelo Sodano was Secretary of State.

Likewise, Nuncio Sambi transmitted to the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, an Indictment Memorandum against McCarrick by the priest Gregory Littleton of the diocese of Charlotte, who was reduced to the lay state for a violation of minors, together with two documents from the same Littleton, in which he recounted his tragic story of sexual abuse by the then-Archbishop of Newark and several other priests and seminarians. The Nuncio added that Littleton had already forwarded his Memorandum to about twenty people, including civil and ecclesiastical judicial authorities, police and lawyers, in June 2006, and that it was therefore very likely that the news would soon be made public. He therefore called for a prompt intervention by the Holy See.

In writing up a memo[1] on these documents that were entrusted to me, as Delegate for Pontifical Representations, on December 6, 2006, I wrote to my superiors, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the Substitute Leonardo Sandri, that the facts attributed to McCarrick by Littleton were of such gravity and vileness as to provoke bewilderment, a sense of disgust, deep sorrow and bitterness in the reader, and that they constituted the crimes of seducing, requesting depraved acts of seminarians and priests, repeatedly and simultaneously with several people, derision of a young seminarian who tried to resist the Archbishop’s seductions in the presence of two other priests, absolution of the accomplices in these depraved acts, sacrilegious celebration of the Eucharist with the same priests after committing such acts.

Leftist Catholic defenders of Pope Francis and the Lavender Mafia went into full character assassination mode. Archbishop Viganò went into hiding.

Viganò has since released two additional letters, from his hiding place, defending himself and describing correspondence that he says vindicates him. The letters he references have not been produced.

GetReligion

In the case of the current Catholic disgrace, Leftist mass media is all on one side. They want to trash the Catholic Church as home to “pedophile priests” while hiding the fact that the scandal is actually a homosexual scandal. Mass media love Pope Francis and act to trash anyone who says anything that makes Pope Francis look bad.

On the other side are intrepid traditionalist Catholic bloggers. They are outgunned, overmanned, overwhelmed, and demoted, deplatformed, censored, slandered and libeled. It takes real determination to cut through the noise with their message.

I have found that the best way to follow any major story that centers on religion is to monitor the media critics at GetReligion.org. These are mostly “pro-life Democrats,” and they are Christian journalists who have focused on religion stories for many years. Their focus has been to observe on the journalistic failures in mass media news reporting that can be attributed to journalists simply not having the background, or not understanding the jargon, or not caring about whether they get the details right, when it comes to religious issues. At GetReligion.org I frequently see not only where and how the journalists failed, but then I also get correct information and links to the best-quality reporting on any religious issue.

Back in the spring when the Cardinal McCarrick story first came out, there was a really interesting post at GetReligion by Julia Duin. She had wanted to write about McCarrick the sexual abuser for many years, but could not get any sources willing to go on record:

I ran into similar blockages everywhere. There were priests and laity alike for whom McCarrick’s predilections were an open secret, but no one wanted to go after him. I heard about various settlements but couldn’t confirm the details. No newspaper can publish such explosive accusations with only anonymous sources and no court documents to back it up.

Various Catholic friends advised me to let it go. “What difference does it make now?” they’d say. “McCarrick is retired.” The archdiocese was represented by a powerful law firm. Did I want to take that on?

After I was laid off in 2010, I sent copies of my files to another reporter on the East Coast so he could have a go at cracking this story. He too ran into the same barriers: People who refused to go on the record and there was always the threat of a lawsuit should he get one detail wrong.

One thing I learned from GetReligion.org was that Theodore McCarrick had a golden rolodex, and had been a very large fundraiser for all sorts of Catholic projects in a variety of locations involving lots of wealthy Catholic movers and shakers and touching on over a dozen major Catholic missions/charities.

 The lead guy at GetReligion is Terry Mattingly, who writes a weekly newspaper column for the Universal Uclick Syndicate. He also does a podcast called “Crossroads.” He had a really interesting discussion about Pope Francis’s upcoming big international assembly of bishops. Mattingly makes a lot of sense most of the time.

What to expect

In the podcast Mattingly discusses the recent resignation of top Vatican spokesman Greg Burke with Todd Wilkins, the “Crossroads” M.C.. (They decided that Burke has a news background rather than marketing, and he doesn’t want to be unable to return to journalism, which he probably would be if he continued in his current position through the upcoming assembly.)

Mattingly said to expect that the assembly is very likely to focus on the grave sin of sexual abuse of children. There are a few dozen actual cases of children under age 12 who were abused, and there are a few cases in which girls were abused. Expect the whole assembly to focus on those cases. As much as possible, the entire proceedings will be engineered to avoid the word “homosexual.” The sex of victims will seldom be mentioned. There will be lots of room for journalists to cover the event without ever noting that the core of these scandals is homosexuality in the priesthood. Unchaste acts between consenting adults will not be mentioned. And you won’t find them saying out loud that the age of majority in Catholic canon law is sixteen, not eighteen.

In short, expect a whitewashing. Surprised? Probably not; we have all grown quite cynical, haven’t we?

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Christmas on December 25th

Hey, gang, we are going to celebrate the Festival of the Birth of Jesus on December 25th this year. We are going to join with all Western Christians and all the saints who have gone before us for the past 1900 years and more. Now, probably on a facebook page near you, sometime this Advent season you will see someone telling you how the Christians selected the date of December 25th by appropriating the date of a Pagan festival. That is a crock, and an anti-Christian slander, and this article is to explain why.

    Most of you plain don’t care whether Christians appropriated a Pagan date. This is the typical reaction from Christians. We don’t really think that there is anything special about the date, it is just the traditional time for an annual celebration of the Nativity miracle. And, since we believe that mankind is corrupted by sin, and because we are all aware that church leaders have let us down on many occasions, we do not find this tale to be particularly troubling, and it sounds believable. So, Christians are generally not disconcerted by this tale, and we generally accept it without question.

Unfortunately, this is the sort of deference on the part of Christians that allows anti-Christian falsehoods to proliferate. Many Christians, such as G.K. Chesterton, accepted this tale as true. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Christmas (which was written in 1908) mentions this theory with the remark that it is “plausible.” Lots and lots of Christians have simply accepted this anti-Christian falsehood, mostly because it is considered an unimportant detail.

There is much to say regarding this anti-Christian slander, so I will provide some long-winded information and some links for anyone who is interested, or who is cornered by someone who finds this particular assault on the traditional Christmas story to be troubling.

Appropriation theory

Anti-Christians have said that the date of December 25th was deliberately picked to coincide with a Roman Pagan celebration. There are several versions, but here are the two most popular ones: one says that it co-opted a solstice celebration, just getting the date off by a couple of days, and the other says it was to co-opt a festival for Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun god). Both versions are falsehoods that keep going around on the internet.

First, neither the Greeks nor the Romans had a solstice festival before Sol Invictus. Sometimes I have seen anti-Christians on the internet raise the fact that other Pagans definitely did, but that does not hold up. There is no evidence that early Christians were in the business of co-opting dates or practices from the surrounding Greek Pagan culture (they opposed it in many ways), and, even if they were, they certainly would not have gone about picking dates from some far-away Pagan culture.

The second version also fails, on the basis that the Sol Invictus festival was initiated long after the Christians had agreed that December 25th is the most likely date for the Nativity. The Christians arrived at the December 25th date by completely independent reasoning that had nothing to do with any December events.

Mea culpa

The Sol Invictus theory was a speculation by a 12th-century writer, and it was accepted by Christians and non-Christians alike as possible and plausible; in those days it was extremely difficult to access the sort of historical records that would have shed light on this theory. This theory was reported later as fact by a Protestant who was using it as a smear against the Roman Catholic Church. It was spread by anti-Catholic Protestants. It has been picked up and used since the Enlightenment by anti-Christians of all sorts, and it gets spread today on the worldwide web by many who seek to undermine the teachings and traditions of orthodox Christians, both Catholic and Protestant.

Early Christian thinking

The Christians of the second century discussed the likely dates for several events in the life of Jesus, in the absence of precise dating in the Gospels. The matter that got the most discussion was the time of the Crucifixion, which was important for dating the Easter festival that commemorates the Resurrection. They were looking to establish the most appropriate date for this important feast, and were employing a Jewish tradition that held that prophets died on the same date that they were either born or conceived.

The short version of the reasoning is: that before John the Baptist was born, when his father Zechariah received his vision, he was serving in the Temple. From Luke chapter 1:

Now while [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. …

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21  And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22  And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

The early Christians reasoned that if Zechariah could not be looked in on, then he must have been in the Most Holy Place, behind the veil, and so the event must have occurred during the annual festival of the Day of Atonement, which takes place in September. This was corroborated by a separate line of reasoning that was based on the rotation of the priests, and informed by a comment found in Josephus to backtrack and learn that Zechariah’s division of priests was serving in September.

If Elizabeth conceived John in September, then it would have been March when Mary conceived Jesus:

26 In the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

They set the Feast of the Annunciation as March 25. Nine months later is December 25. This was established long before the first Feast of Sol Invictus. Clement of Alexandria wrote about it near the year 200 AD, as did Hippolytus of Rome. It appears from their writings that the date had been established prior to their day. Sol Invictus was first decreed by Emperor Aurelian in 274 AD.

Summary

Here is an excerpt from an article by William Tighe:

Thus, December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.

And the pagan feast which the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians.

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Why I am grateful for the Reformation and Martin Luther

We have just had a big thread about the Catholic Church and it has brought something into focus for me. I do not believe the modern world would have happened without the Reformation. The Catholic Church supported Monarchy, centralized control, and a few men accumulating power.

As conservatives we talk about Scottish and French Enlightenments. Well, one was in a Catholic country and one was not. We know how they turned out. Northern Europe, with its Protestant Work Ethic has long been less corrupt in function that Southern, Catholic, Europe. Capitalism as we understand it was born in Northern Europe, with the Dutch, and later spread to England. Would a Catholic England have taken it up?

Further, it was primarily Protestants who settled America at first. The idea of religious tolerance was born from the friction of different Protestant faiths. Granted, it was also born of that fact there was a Church of England, but the marriage of Church and State is something that Church inherited from the Catholic Church, and America continued the Protestant move away from it. I do not believe that any such thing would have happened in a Catholic dominated America. Indeed, since the Catholic Church supported the Divine Right of Kings, it is hard to imagine that America ditching Kings at all. Maybe, even, not to rebel, since no matter how bad the King, rebelling is in violation of God’s law. Then again, the Catholic French did rebel against their King, so maybe those Americans would have too. One hopes with better results. In England, of course, there was a civil war over that Right. Would that have happened if the nation was still Catholic?

The Reformation also put pressure on the Catholic Church to reform. They don’t engage in people buying their way into Heaven anymore (I know buying out of Purgatory, but since you exit into Heaven, it is still buying your way into Heaven). 1517 Luther posted Thesis. 1567 They were banned. Certainly, in matters of temporal corruption around Monarchy it is much better.

It is clear to me that the world in which we live, the one with America as the Shining City on the Hill would not exist without the Reformation. I do not think that capitalism would have flourished, and with it, all the innovations. We would not have gone to the Moon, or have instant communications around the Earth. Progress would have been slowed, weighted down by an organization more concerned with maintaining its temporal power than with saving souls, as indulgences indicated. Thesis 82:

Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.

I Praise God, and I mean that honestly, that 500 years ago, God inspired Martin Luther to take a stand against the corruption of the Catholic Church, and it allowed the great flourishing of Christianity in the world. Without the Protestant Reformation, there would have been no Adam Smith, no capitalism, No Scottish Enlightenment, no British Empire, and no United States of America.

Thank God, for Martin Luther and his great and grand courage to stand up for what was right against a corrupt regime intent on its own glorification, rather than the glorification of God.

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