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Sunday Night Journal, July 16, 2017

I suppose Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J. and his co-writer, Marcelo Figueroa, thought "ecumenism of hate" was a clever turn of phrase. They were wrong. It is unjust and seems to be malicious, though perhaps less malicious than ignorant. The article as a whole (I assume you've heard about it, it's in La Civilta Cattolica, considered to be something of a mouthpiece for the pope) is so incoherent that it doesn't warrant much further comment. It's not entirely wrong, but that could be said about almost anything from the people it attacks. 


I know someone who is associated with the anti-Trump movement called "Indivisible." He has said forthrightly that he "has always despised" the religious right, apparently not noticing the irony. 


"Lord, I thank thee that I am not as this Pharisee" rather misses the point.


I remember when my children were young thinking that observing them gave me a very different view of Jesus's counsel that we must "become as little children." Before that I had tended to think of the prescribed surrender as a sort of passivity, accepting without much thought what one was told about grownup matters. But one evening at dinner I remarked to my wife that of the three people at the table, the two-year-old was clearly the most intellectually active. Young children may be ignorant of a great deal, but it is certainly not because they aren't trying to learn. They are relentless inquirers, testers, and speculators. There's nothing passive about the "childlike faith" which we attribute to them. The faith they exhibit consists not in their lack or suppression of intellectual energy, but in their trust that we are telling them the truth.  

This has been on my mind a lot in recent weeks, as two of my grandchildren, boys ages 5 and 7, are spending several days a week with me while school is out for the summer. Except when they're asleep, they never stop looking, wondering, questioning, investigating, experimenting, and in general trying to figure out literally everything in the world, as far as they can see it. They noticed this stack of back issues of The New Criterion.


It was jumbled, and they--mainly the seven-year-old for this--put it in order by year and month. They noticed that an issue was missing, and we looked around the house until we found it on my desk. Then they put it in its proper position. They hypothesized that each month had the same color every year (I had never bothered to notice), and to the extent that they could verify that, they did, and rearranged them to put like colors together. They wondered why the September issue was black (the 15-year-anniversary of 9/11/2001, I think). It was mid-June when they started this, but the June issue had not yet arrived, and they wanted to know why. They asked every day if it had arrived, until it did, and then they put it with the others. Once July had begun they wanted to know why the July issue hadn't arrived. When I told them that the magazine is not published in July and August, they were a little offended, and wanted to know why. And almost every day they ask me if I've finished reading the June issue yet (not quite), and why not (well, something to do with dealing with two small boys all day).

Why? Why? Why? I read somewhere years ago that the average four-year-old asks some great number--in the hundreds I think--of questions every day, and I believe it. And no doubt a large percentage of them begin with "Why?"

"All men by nature desire to know," said Aristotle. Well, ain't that the truth? And much of what they want to know involves purpose: what is it for? why do you do that? why do I have to stop playing games on the iPad? Why? 

Watching my grandsons gives me confidence that the commitment of the modern world to suppressing the question of ultimate purpose will not stand indefinitely. One way or another, that empty space will be filled. I hope it will be filled by truth.  


I've been reading The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography by Alan Jacobs, and I recommend it to anyone who has any interest at all in the Book of Common Prayer itself or the history of Anglicanism in general. It is just what the title suggests, the story of how the BCP came into existence, and how it has developed over the centuries since its birth in 1549. Well, before that, actually, because Jacobs goes into some of its antecedents, and naturally has to deal with the whole matter of the establishment of Protestantism in England. 

I think I've been half-consciously half-suppressing my awareness of that history. I know it, of course--what Catholic has not seen A Man for All Seasons at least once? But having grown up in an Anglican-ish tradition (Methodism), and spent some time in the American Episcopal Church, and now being a member of the Anglican Ordinariate (which is not what we're supposed to call it), and having a great love of many elements of the Book of Common Prayer, I didn't especially like to contemplate how thoroughly rooted in heresy and schism it really is. I found myself wondering "Why do I want to be associated with this thing? Is it really salvageable?"

Of course most of it is salvageable; a prayer written by a heretic needn't be heretical; I can (and do) pray right along with most of what would be included in any Protestant prayer. And in fact it has been salvaged--thank you, Benedict XVI--and purged of its heretical elements. And as to why I want to be associated with it, to use it: the prose. Ecclesiastical criminal Cranmer may have been, but he was also a great writer of devotional prose. 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

 That is a sample of what I loved, what as a Catholic I missed, and what keeps me going in the effort, always on the edge of failure, to keep our local Ordinariate group alive. 

Chesterton has a great commentary on the Prayer Book in The Well and the Shallows, one of the books I read long ago when I was considering conversion.


Distant rain, 6/29. We're having a rather wet, cool summer so far.




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I have thinking a lot lately about what a crummy summer most kids have nowadays. They go straight from school into some kind of daycare. Catholic Charities has a program called "Camp Love and Learn" that takes place at our school. They do all kinds of really neat things, like go on field trips and bring in a petting zoo for the day with "train" rides and other delights. They do the best they can, but what they can't provide is lazy summer days driven entirely by the children's imagination and inclinations. Your grandsons are so blessed to have that freedom--not to mention the bay.

I love the arranging of the magazines because it is exactly the kind of thing I did as a kid--heck, I do it now. Surely you have other things that could be organized in that way. Maybe they will notice them while they're waiting for you to finish the June issue.


At the CSL Society Meetings, our opening prayer comes from the edition of the BCP that Lewis would have used. I have always really liked the prayers.


I just read that La Civilta Cattolica uses the phrase "Catholic Integralism". What is your assessment of what is meant by it in the article?

You use the word trust, (children trust), but belief is more accurate. For instance, I believe Africa exists because belief is knowledge grounded on others. Belief is natural to man as political animal.

Janet, If all the kids did was organize the house, we would be "sitting pretty," as they say, even if they just organized the books. But...you should see our dining room table and the Calvin and Hobbs books!

Love the girls, I agree with your definition of belief, but how would you define trust, and why don't you think that applies.


Karen, I can imagine.


Yes, for everything they organize, they un-organize three.

Well, I wasn't suggesting they organize for your sake or anything, but only because they enjoy it. I'm sure the un-organization is fun, too.

Our 6 yo is more of a categorizer than an organizer. She puts things in groups, and that really leads to a lot of putting things back where they belong when she leaves. However, I love to watch her do it, and to see where things have landed after she leaves. I would leave them where she put them, but then what would she do next time.

Her two-year old brother, unfortunately, puts things in things--basically hiding them. I almost never open a container of any sort without finding some little treasure.


The un-organizing is apparently more fun.

Ltg, I think "trust" is the applicable word for what I mean here. They believe what is said because they trust the person saying it.

As for "integralism"--well, my grandchildren are here, but I think even if they weren't I wouldn't put much time into trying to explicate what the article means by it. It's not an American thing, certainly not an American Catholic thing. I would think real integralists would be hostile to typical politically conservative Catholics precisely because they accept the American separation of church and state. The article is massively confused and misinformed.

I meant to say earlier--I agree, Janet, about summers. The whole two-income thing that necessitates summer daycare...well, what can one say? I figure school will be year-round in time.

The reason belief is better is because it better signifies the relation between accepting the Faith and and other occurrences of belief that occur by nature in society.

I was simply pointing out that belief is more accurately what occurs by nature.

I very much like your observation, and is one more example of how being around children teaches us the Faith. For instance I never understood Christ's willingness to sacrifice until I had children where I find myself not only willing but wanting to sacrifice myself for them.

At the risk of running this into the ground: you said "belief is knowledge grounded on others." It seems to me that there are two mental actions involved in that: you have to have confidence that the others are telling the truth (trust), and then you believe what they say. Without the first, the second doesn't happen.

Regarding sacrifice for one's children: yes, and I think many or most men are very surprised when that happens. Maybe women, too. But it seems to me that the whole complex of feelings we have for our children seems to be something men are less likely to have anticipated.

The point is, there are not the two mental actions anymore than there is a mental action in a child to form a social compact with his society. Just as a child is by nature grafted into society because we are by nature political animals, so likewise does a child accept what his parents teach.

There is not an act of the Will by a child to accept what his parents teach him.

Belief can include an act of the Will, i.e. to trust this person, but that is different from the belief of a child which has more the character of certitude through his parents.

You might be interested in John Allen' response. Without trying to defend Spadaro's essay, per se, the reaction to it seems more heat than light. I think Allen's point that this is not a perspective entirely unique to the Francis papacy is important.

Actually I had read that before I managed to track down the piece itself. It's ok. It struck me as politic. More later.

I think a lot of politically and/or theologically conservative Catholics have made fools of themselves with their knee-jerk extreme reaction to Francis's political statements. I also think a thoughtful critique of those statements can show a lot of deficiencies in them. The knee-jerk vituperation undermines the thoughtful critique.

Spadaro & his friend have basically just reversed this pattern. They've made fools of themselves. "Ecumenism of hate," indeed. All the Christians of many stripes who for decades have worked together for what they sincerely believed to be the furtherance of the kingdom, and in resistance to trends that oppose it--just a bunch of theocrats motivated by hate and fear? This is Salon material.

It's not that everything they say is wrong, but the essay is just a mess and I really have trouble seeing it as other than malicious. It serves no one well.

If it really does represent the pope's views, well, that only confirms conservative reservations about him. I have had those and have made a sincere effort not to let them get out of hand. This doesn't help at all. I've often gotten the impression that Francis has a spiteful streak. This lends credibility to that impression. It's as if Ratzinger/Benedict had gone around saying "Well, those social justice people are basically just a bunch of communists.

Since you asked...sorta...:-)

There's a list of further reactions in this post at the Ordinariate blog:


I haven't read them all.

While your is certainly the more common reaction, I had the opposite. Sapdaro and his friend in LA CIVILTÀ CATTOLICA have basically and correctly understood the shifting of the wind away from Locke, i.e. disorder, towards an integral society, i.e. order. What was a very light breeze has been steadily gaining force.

What we see occurring clear across society is a shifting towards the human scale as reaction against the modernist understanding of man.

I agree with you that most writers and similar who call themselves conservative are not integralist in so far as the views they espouse. But as with much of modern life, what the intellectual types think they hold, and what they actually do hold, as in life lived, are often at odds with each other.

I don't quite know what to think of the Francis papacy. Most of what I read, admittedly from conservative Catholic online sites leads me to be very skeptical...the rude dismissal of Cdl. Muller, the asking about the orthodoxy of Amoris Latitia after the fact etc... But the negativity generated by those sites is very worrisome, if not scandalous. I don't remember quite the vitriol in liberals criticisms of JPII or BXVI. Course the growth of the Internet may have something to do with that.

Recently I came across a piece, also on Crux, about Cdl Paglia and the new Academy of Life explaining its approach, which helped to make some sense of what might be the perspective of the Francis papacy. You can see in that piece why someone like Dreher with the Benedict Option might misunderstand the calling for engagement and dialogue with different perspectives of modern culture as a rejection of his approach. But it isn't really. Anyways, you can find it here, if you haven't already seen it.

Ltg, I don't understand what you see in the CC piece that makes you say that. I don't see anything in it about scale, and to the extent that it mentions an integral society it seems not to like the idea.

Jack, I don't know what to think, either. I don't want to give in to suspicion, hyper-criticism, etc. And I do think some of the negativity--make that "hostility"--is scandalous. Yet I've felt a little uneasy about Francis literally from the moment he stepped out on that balcony after his election. And I really didn't know why.

For the most part over the past year or so I've felt like the best course of action for me is to tune out, especially on things like the Amoris Laetitia controversy.

One thing is certain: the hostile factionalism within the Church has gotten worse under Francis. I was sick at heart when I saw this happening, because I've always hated it, and thought it was on its way out. Most people have someone else they want to blame for it, but whoever one picks, the fact is there. For me it's another reason to tune out.

As for Paglia...fine, sounds good. But I've heard so much similar language used over the years as a way of de-emphasizing crucial questions that I can't help feeling a little cynical.

Here's an interesting piece: "Why Aren't Catholics Rallying Around the Pope?"


Thanks, Mac. That was an interesting piece. I can think of a lot of people who would benefit from reading it.

"What we see occurring clear across society is a shifting towards the human scale as reaction against the modernist understanding of man."

On one level this is accurate, but this shift involves a fundamental self-contradiction, in that it's seeking to found "community" out of radical individualism, an attempt at a house-on-sand edifice if there ever was one. What makes the enterprise alarming are the increasingly forceful demands that we all move into the damn thing, or at very least pay lip service to its goodness and beauty.

I don't even see it "clear across society". I see instances, but also a lot of push in the other direction.

True -- I think that in some cases that's evidence of its self-contradictory nature.

I think the more predominant movement is the one that conservatives have been pointing out for many years now: the reduction of society to the individual and the state. Or maybe the individual, the state, and the corporation.

Oh, for sure. But the corresponding counter-move towards community and inclusivity is not so much opposing it as running interference for it, albeit ignorantly in many cases.

Right, it's not so much community in any real sense as pure individuals claiming rights under the aegis of the state and calling that a community. Drives me crazy whenever I hear someone equate the federal government with "the community."

Rob G.,
I think a better way to look at it is people are trying to find their way towards community from the individualism they grew up in. We see this among Catholics in their plethora of various communities such as CL, TFP as well as local and personal parishes becoming more community oriented.

A far better sign of the shift is in housing where micro communities with shared living and walkable mixed use micro cities are the new trend.

Further, my thought on the subject went far beyond communities and towards the entire shift of how people see themselves, for instance the shift towards a more holistic understanding of man as seen in the movement towards attachment parenting including home birth, alternative medicine, organic food, clothing etc.

The contradictions are found in peoples cultural shibboleths that contradict the shift such as each person is now his own sexual orientation as opposed to simply looking to nature, but I expect that to cease as the movement continues towards a more holistic understanding.

Mac writes : "I don't see anything in it about scale, and to the extent that it mentions an integral society it seems not to like the idea."

True, they don't like the idea an integral society. The global community they embrace is unnatural with unnatural results such as individualism multiculturalism. As you notice, the complaint made against the article tended to be "hey we are just like you, how dare you accuse america of being integral, i.e. grounded in the natural order.

Be all that as it may with regard to society at large, I still don't see how you got any encouragement for your view out of the CC article.

"I expect that to cease as the movement continues towards a more holistic understanding."

I expect that to cease when some kind of major catastrophe (or maybe just gradual decline) forces people into a more direct encounter with reality.

I don't know what you mean by "encouragement for your view"

I mean that I don't see what in the CC article makes you say "Sapdaro and his friend in LA CIVILTÀ CATTOLICA have basically and correctly understood the shifting of the wind away from Locke, i.e. disorder, towards an integral society, i.e. order."

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