Pope Francis zags back into Orthodoxy

If nothing else, the pontificate of Francis is never dull.  For much of this year, the faithful have been roiled with accounts of drastic changes to doctrine, including the ordination of women and the blessing of "irregular" relationships.  Though the term is broad, everyone knows that there is no one pushing to legitimize adulterous relationships, it's being pushed by homosexuals and their allies.

Last week the pope spoke with remarkably firmness on both issues, and liberal Catholics have to be feeling pretty bad about it.  On the recent 60 Minutes interview the pope was giving a rather long-winded question about allowing female ordination.  It's a remarkable clip because he almost immediately releases the thrust of the question shows clear irritation and boredom with the setup, and when finally given an opening to respond, leans forward to give a firm "No," rejecting it outright.

Similarly, the confusion of Fiducia supplicans, had prompted a large swath of Catholic theologians and senior clergy to call for its retraction.  Apparently that will not happen, but the pope did "clarify" that it only applies to individuals, can never be used to affirm homosexual unions and that Church teachings on homosexuality remain unchanged.

Lest there be doubt, Cardinal Fernandez was dispatched to Egypt to heal the rift with the Copts.   This is clearly an effort to save the pope's legacy, which at this point is looking pretty bleak.  The Coptic Church had been steadily moving closer to Rome, but FS created a rupture.  The pope's recent statement that: “Blessing a homosexual union goes against the law, the natural law, the law of the Church,” will likely heal this wound. 

It's no secret that Francis is not in good health, and I've seen some of his critics claim that he hasn't presided over a public Mass in two years.  Much of what has been going on in his name may very well be happening behind his back.  This does not exculpate him, however because personnel is policy.

If he can heal the schism with the Copts, much of this confusion will be forgotten.

The Church offers new rules for supernatural events

When word came out that the Vatican was going to release new rules for discerning supernatural events, it was hard not to be pessimistic.  The mess of Fiducia Supplicans continues to spread, but at the same time his pontificate is never consistent, so good regularly follows bad.

Based on the initial coverage, the guidelines seem reasonable, but I will have to dig deeper.  One of the elements used to determine if a vision or event is authentic is whether it is compatible with existing doctrine.  Would that this would also shape current policy!

Another point that stuck out to me is that the Pope has claimed authority to make a final judgement.  This is consistent with the increasingly autocratic rule of Pope Francis, which completely undermines the "Synodal Way," that he's been dragging out for years.  Is it a blind, or just a disordered mind?

Only God knows.

At any rate, I see this is something of a response to the growing spiritual turmoil in the world.  The Enemy is pressing the attack, and overt displays of Satanic beliefs are being mainstreamed.  There are increasing reports of demonic possession and oppression and exorcism seems to be a hot topic.

Indeed, I'm trying to finish a book on the topic, but between grandkids and yard work, reading time is limited and this is also why my posts have been less frequent.  Still, being outside in great weather is a good problem to have.

The return of "No Mow May"

UPDATE:  One of the neighbors has decided to bail out already, and has cut down all the tall grass.  No doubt this was because their toddler is now roaming the year, and I'm sure the mother suddenly realized that tall grass and toddlers don't mix.

There are less signs this year, but No Mow May is  back!

As happened last year, some yards have gone completely to weeds, while others are showcasing their virtue by only letting the right-of-way become overgrown.  The latter strategy is pure Yard Sign Calvinism because it keeps the area around the house nice, tidy, and relatively bug-free, but everyone who walks along the sidewalk gets savaged.  One of the core concepts of Yard Sign Calvinism is you get the salvation while others carry the cross.

Overall, there seems to be less interest.  One of the houses that has gone "all-in" seems to be abandoned.  Another which has signs up indicating it is embracing pollinators, also seems to be occupied on a part-time basis.

Setting all of that aside, the fact is that if one wanted to boost pollinator habitat, one would simply plant more flowers!  We have been doing this and it is not only attractive, but sustains bees for more than a month.  That was also the deal - the pollinators get to spread dandelions for a month, and then they were exterminated.

Here at Chateau Lloyd, we have an abundance of flowering, fruit-producing plants so this is not an issue.  Even so, for aesthetic and functional reasons, this year should see even more flowers going into the ground.

We also don't have to put up a sign to tell everyone about it.

The United Methodists formally embrace sodomy

I was actually surprised that this was not already the case, but apparently the rump United Methodist Church has now formally declared itself a sodomite worship community.

All manner of sexual perversion is now licit, and of course it's not only licit, but encouraged!   First Things has a nice summary of what happened, and also notes the underhanded way that this was achieved.

I think that's an important aspect of this shift.  For the last two decades, the UMC leadership was actively thwarting attempts to enforce its own rules against deviant behavior.  There was an actual process to change their doctrine, but radicals knew they didn't have the votes, so instead of accepting defeat, they simply used their influence to thwart all attempts at enforcing their own rules.

This included attacking traditionalists, forcing them out of local councils and boards, regardless of their many years of service.  All of this was done in the name of "compassion," of course.

This is classic progressive/woke behavior, Yard Sign Calvinism at its finest because breaking rules is just fine so long as you are part of the elect.  There's also a strong element of justification by rage alone because as always, the righteousness of the cause obviates every nasty thing done in advancing it.

The resounding irony here is that Methodism started as a call to individual holiness, a way of achieving individual perfection through Christ.  The aspirational Methodist did not smoke, drink of swear.  They not only met but exceeded Biblical standards of behavior.

This vote is a resounding repudiation of their faith.  It is a theological purge to ensure that none of the traditionalist can possibly remain in the denomination.  It is an open declaration that the United Methodist Church stands squarely on the side of sexual perversion and license.

I'm old enough to remember people saying that "gay marriage" would actually reinforce Christian values by teaching sexual deviants the virtue of monogamy - as if they needed a scrap of paper to realize the virtue of not banging everyone within reach.

But of course there will be no sanctions against any UMC minister for extra-marital sex.  That would be "judgemental," and I expect the next step will be plural marriage, which after all, is just another exciting experiment in love - and as we all know, "love is love."

I for one welcome the UMC finally being honest about what it stands for.  They have chosen their side, and they will surely receive their reward.

The call to conversion

British comedian Russell Brand has announced his intention to be baptized this Sunday.  He is the latest in a series of celebrities to convert (or revert) to Christianity.  Apparently Hulk Hogan and his family have been baptized, along with a smattering of people I'm only vaguely aware of (but am assured are famous).  Shia LeBeouf has followed through with his pledge to enter the Catholic Church, and he has been joined by political commentator Candace Owens and Tammy Peterson, the wife of Dr. Jordan.

Is it opportunism or sincerity?  Perhaps it is a mixture of both.  One could argue that "finding religion" is a someone worn-out trope in American culture, typically the result of having destroyed all other career opportunities.  Everyone loves a redemption story.

However, the culture has never been more hostile to people of faith.  It's interesting that Kanye West has gone from church-like Sunday concerts to contemplating building a pornography empire.  Satanic imagery and overt denigration of Christ has never been more popular.

As Brand himself has observed, there's something deeply wrong with the world right now, with every institution crumbling into ineffectiveness if not a tool of downright oppression.  The Catholic Church is not immune to this, however the strange diktats coming out from the Vatican seem to be producing the opposite of the intended effect.  Both the laity and the clergy are becoming more stridently orthodox, decisively proving that the Church is more than its leadership.

I think people are realizing the reality of spiritual warfare.  Technology - once held as the solution to the mysteries of faith - has been exposed as a mindless recording of our follies, spitting nonsense back at us even as it tries to lock us into a virtual reality of endless depravity.

At the same time, the allure of Yard Sign Calvinism is wearing off.  Oh, the signs are still up, the virtue signalling continues, but as the situation deteriorates, there are more pressing issues than asserting "love is love" or that "science is real."  The latter is actually becoming a problem because so much of science has been shown to be false, from the effectiveness of masks against Covid to treating gender dysphoria with medical mutilation. 

As is their wont, humans have erected new gods, which have predictably failed.  It should not be surprising that a number of them (perhaps a remnant?) should turn to the true God as a result.

Cameron and Ringwald epitomize Hollywood's cheap penance

One of the hallmarks of the ongoing Cultural Revolution in the United States is the desperate efforts of successful entertainers to try to stay relevant and ingratiate themselves to their new moral masters.

Exhibit One is James Cameron now repenting of his wildly successful Terminator franchise, which had two good movies and then a bunch of crappy ones.  I don't actually know how many there are at this point as I stopped watching.

There are a couple of things to unpack in this particular "confession," because what Cameron is doing is a clear case of Yard Sign Calvinism.  His alleged regret for "fetishizing" firearms is actually a pretty bold claim that Hollywood didn't push gun violence until he, James Cameron, entered the scene.  Death Wish and Dirty Harry would like to have a word with him.

This is of course the cheapest for of repentance, because he's not giving up anything, and actually trying to ingratiate himself with the current power brokers. 

"Gosh, I'm sorry I made a boatload of money and am now fabulously rich.  This apology relieves me of any obligation to donate to charities that benefit the victims of violent crime.  I'm going to go play with my submarine now."

Similarly Molly Ringwald has also announced that - after decades of affluence thanks to movies she merely acted in - she now thinks that they are wrong.

Again, her statement contains no pledge to spend the fruit of her ill-gotten gains on charities or in any way inconvenience herself, it's just about letting everyone know she's now a better person than she was, and also a better person than anyone who likes her previous work.

One of the worst abuses of Catholicism is when the Rite of Reconciliation is treated as something of a box-checking exercise.  You do the sin, go to the priest, confess, say some prayers, and then do it again.

No.  That's now how it works.  Without sincere remorse, the sins aren't forgiven.  Without sincere acts of penance, the sins aren't forgiven.

There is an increasing emphasis on this in the Church.  I'm noticing that penance is no longer an arbitrary number of prayers, but also requires some effort to heal the wound that sin has caused.

This is as it should be.  Simply telling God you're sorry is not enough; one must then go and make amends for the harm one has caused.

Because so much of Hollywood (and its elite wannabees) are immune from consequences, this is an alien concept to them.  (Heh)

One of the Enemy's most effective snares is the combination of pride and complacency, perhaps with a dollop of self-righteousness on top.  The signs of repentance are not directed toward God, but the popular culture.

Their goal is not to clear their conscience to to maintain (or regain) access to the decadence of their youth.

As scripture tells us, they shall have their reward.



Debating the 1990s

There's a bit of a back-and-forth going on at Bleeding Fool over the worth of the 1990s.

I think the perception of any period is heavily colored by one's personal experience of it - either having lived through it, or its art, politics, and entertainment.

It's hard to separate a time of personal misery from the larger zeitgeist.  Still, I think my take is an objective one.  The pre-9/11 world was a better one, and while I found myself frustrated and depressed during that period, I still had a lot of fun.  Indeed, I recognize that with better judgement, I'd have had a better decade.

The other issue with sitting in judgement is that culture and life don't simply flip with the page of a calendar.  The decades bleed into each other, and what one thinks of as the epitome of a particular era may have happened before or after the actual dates in question.

For example, the decay of Protestantism didn't start in the 1990s, it was merely revealed then.

One can't look at the cultural tides in music, art, entertainment and politics in isolation.

At the same time, it is easy to fall into the trap of overdeterminism - the notion that the out come of a recent event was inexorably set in motion by a distant one.  I see a lot of otherwise reasonable people insist that the Union victory in the Civil War is the direct, inevitable cause of all our contemporary problems.  Apparently the people living and ruling in intervening decades were denied any form of agency.  It's very much a Calvinist approach to history.

It is true that historical writers often were able to predict the future by examining contemporary trends.  C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and even J.R.R. Tolkien did this.  But as Tolkien in particular might admit, nothing was fixed - no one was forced to follow that path.  It's also true that many dangers fail to materialize, or that their impact is mitigated.

There are many currents in the stream of history, and some of them are hard to see.  It's also the case that there are other powers at work, the Unseen who most analysts completely ignore.

Combine a purely secular materialist frame with overdeterminism and the result will likely be devoid of any useful analysis.

The Remarkably Respectful Song of Bernadette

Being a convert, I'm still getting up to speed on what might call "modern" Catholic history.  For example, I assumed the famed healing waters at Lourdes was an ancient shrine, not something that came into existence less than two centuries ago.

Because I'm building out my religious film collection, I decided to grab a disc of The Song of Bernadette, starring Jennifer Jones.  Made in 1943, this film sets itself squarely on the side of the titular saint.  There are lots of "direct to video" films of that nature, but this was an Academy Award-winning mainstream film with an excellent cast.

Vincent Price is his usually brilliant self as a secular businessman who has no use for "superstition."  At first, the skeptics seem to have a point, because like many mystics, Bernadette speaks to persons unseen and sometimes seems completely lost in a world of her own.  To those who have closed themselves off from the spirit realm, there is nothing to see.  But the more I open myself to it, the more I feel its presence, often in strange and unexpected ways.

By strange coincidence (or was it?) I also recently attended a funeral one of my past employers, a good man with every mark of success who was well-loved.  The church was packed, and extra seating had to be set out in the hallways and into the lobby.

I mention this because it was a Baptist "celebration of life," and felt more like a variety show whose guest of honor was absent.  The church itself was typical of the type - utilitarian and sparsely decorated.  The main chamber (I hesitate to call it a sanctuary) had white walls, natural wood support beams and single austere wooden cross in the center.  The dais had four comfy, high-backed armchairs flanking a podium, which I assume was considered to be a pulpit.  To video screens flanks the cross, and offered photos and even a family video celebrating the deceased.

The whole thing seemed strangely sterile, and true to doctrine, the emphasis of the service was that all one had to do was believe in Christ in order to straight to heaven when death came.

There is no place in such a worldview for saints, relics, sacraments or mysticism.  No place for healing springs or sacred spaces.  It was very much "of this world," and the presiding pastor was the son-in-law of the recently departed.

One line the pastor said particularly struck me, which was how the success and prosperity, wonderful (and believing!) family showed God's favor.  Is there a space for someone like St. Bernadette in such a faith?  What would happen if a young Baptist girl dug a hole and clean, healing water came out of it?  Would it be witchcraft?  Would someone's brother-in-law bring a backhoe in to fill it?

Then again, God knows what He is going, and bestows signs on those who can understand them.

Easter illness

I had big plans for Easter.  We'd all go to the 11 o'clock Mass and then come home to a hearty brunch.  Afterwards, the Easter egg hunt.  We'd close out the festivities with lamb stew.

Alas, it was not to be.  There are a bunch of nasty bugs about, and our family has collected most of them.  I rarely get sick, but even I have been afflicted.

In days gone by, I'd still go to Mass, but the priests have actually been urging people to stay home if they are sick, lest the rest of the parish be stricken.  I will obey, but with a certain amount of sadness.  Easter is one of my favorite Masses, a source of many happy memories.

In some ways, it's better than Christmas because it lacks the many fraught emotions common at that time.  It also is why Christmas even matters, and Christ's triumph over death is something we should all keep in mind.

I'm also having flashbacks to 2020, when the vicious statists closed the churches.  Those materialist narcissists consider faith to be something of a hobby, discarded when it is inconvenient. 

It is not, for it transcends life itself.  I will accept this loss secure in the knowledge that I can go to Mass during the week and of course next Sunday, once I am well.

In the mean time, have a blessed Easter.

The theological impact of the 1990s

One of my colleagues at Bleeding Fool has written an essay condemning the 1990s and the associated nostalgia for it.

I'm working on a rebuttal (I did a similar one over his take on Underworld), but I wanted to do a deeper dive into one of the most consequential aspects of the 1990s, which was the most dramatic overhaul of Christian theology since the Reformation.  In fact, I would argue that this is even bigger.

It doesn't seem that way because it took place gradually, and without violent upheaval, but while we were discovering the internet and the wonder of smart phones, the very essence of faith has been completely re-written. 

How else to describe the speed with which so many mainline Christian denominations abandoned ancient theology regarding sex and marriage in an attempt to legitimize homosexuality and other deviant behavior?  Christian sexual norms survived the rise and fall of empires, plagues and famines, but crashed down before America's hyper-individualistic culture and modern decadence.  It's nothing short of amazing.

The strangest thing was that there was nothing behind the change other than the desire to be seen and nice and compassionate.  Salvation went from submitting to God's laws to changing them to suit human pleasures.

As the formerly dominant religious authorities embraced sodomy, even to the point of elevating practitioners to their hierarchies, the ground work was laid for the subsequent redefinition of marriage.  The unthinkable became inevitable.

After "gay" liberation was achieved, the "trans" movement came forward, which has inflicted untold harm on vulnerable children who have been mutilated in the cause of "affirming care," all with the blessing of the old mainline churches.

Yes, this triumph has been immensely destructive to the same bodies that pushed it.  One would think that the United Methodists, Anglican Communion, etc. would be flooded with converts as a result of their "compassionate" and "tolerant" pivot on morality.  Instead they are rent by schisms and their membership has collapsed.

But a lot of damaged came about because of this rapid surrender to heresy, and unwinding it will not be easy.