Friday, August 15, 2003

A Nice Little Blog on Our Lady's Assumption

Today we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. Why was she granted the singular privilege of being taken up into heaven, body and soul? Well, I couldn't do much better than the Preface for today's Mass puts it:

Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven
to be the beginning and pattern of the Church in its perfection,
and a sign of hope and comfort
for your people on their pilgrim way.
You would not allow decay to touch her body,
for she had given birth to your Son, the Lord of all life,
in the glory of the incarnation.

Mary is who she is because of and for the sake of Christ and who He is. And the great dignity that is hers, and the privileges and graces she was granted, all flow from and are the result of the Incarnation. If you are to believe that God truly came among us as a real flesh-and-blood man, then the Virgin Birth, far from being a pious legend, is actually pretty much the only way the incarnation could happen. And if the God-Man born of a virgin be truly human, He had to get His human nature from the human nature of his mother (he couldn't get it from anyplace else). But that human nature had to be spotless and pure, without taint of sin. Thus you have Mary's Immaculate Conception. And given that this woman, the mother of God-made-man, is all holy and spotless, and lived her whole life as one great fiat, it would only be fitting that God, who granted her a human nature not subject to the corruption of sin, would not allow her to experience the consequence of sin's corruption, that is, the corruption of death.

The Church's belief and teaching about Mary is profoundly Incarnational, and follows quite rationally from that belief in God-made-man. To believe that Jesus was sent by God to save us and reject things like the Virgin Birth or the Assumption is to swallow a camel and strain at gnats.

Some People Are Just Incapable of Civilized Discourse

That's the conclusion I have been forced to accept regarding one of my frequent commentors.

I had the early Mass this morning at my parish, so I thought after Mass I'd put up a nice little blog on Our Lady's Assumption. Well, I checked my e-mail and the comments to my blog, and I discovered that since yesterday afternoon, when I had last checked the comments to Tuesday's blog, this commentor had spewn his poisonous bile all over my comments box, in a manner and amount unprecedented even for him. Evidently he had discovered in his soul some heretofore untapped suppurating pustule and decided that my blog was the place to lance it.

This blog is something I do in my spare time, because I enjoy writing and debating about events and ideas. I have a comments box because I am genuinely interested to see my readers' reactions to my writing. But I have neither the time nor inclination to check my comments every few hours to make sure that no one is being boorish or offensive.

I have been exceptionally tolerant and forbearing of this commentor's offensive conduct up till now. I merely warned him when he monopolized comments threads with his lengthy diatribes, extending through 3 and even 4 succesive comments boxes. I endured his idée-fixe upon the Pope, and his attempts to turn almost any topic into a ride on that favorite hobby-horse of his. I have endured his disruptions of perfectly good conversations with irrelevant interjections. I have even put up with personal insults directed at me and other bloggers and commentors.

But when this person, in the space of a few hours, contrives to abuse another commentor with mockery and derision, make snide and bitchy speculations about the Pope's sexual orientation, insult a friend and fellow blogger and make obnoxious remarks about his marriage, the line has most definitely been crossed. I won't tolerate such outrageous conduct. That it comes from someone who has on numerous occasions persumed to instruct us on what the Christian faith really means is simply grotesque.

I have rarely banned commentors, in fact I have only done so twice in the year or so I have had this blog. If you want to disagree with me; tell me I'm wrong: fine, go right ahead. I'll even put up with a fair amount of personal abuse. I only banned those other commentors for the most egregious behavior. And, in my view, this latest episode falls into the category of egregious. So he is gone, and he'll never come back. I'll make sure of that. (I discovered, in the process of banning my poisonous commentor, that he is using no less than 13 different IP addresses and 3 different e-mail addresses to spew his bile from. Here's some advice to him: Get a life!) If he wants a place to spew his venom, he can get his own blog.

I thought of deleting the offending comments, but I won't, at least for now. I want people to see and know the measure of the man, and why I banned him.

I apologize to Christine and to Mark Shea, and any other reader who has been offended or insulted by that poisonous little man.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Are Lutherans Going to Be Next?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is picking up the question of ordaining practicing homosexuals and blessing same-sex unions at their meeting this week in Milwaukee. According to an article in today's Chicago Tribune, their hearings on the matter begin today.

The church has undertaken a study (obtain the study documents here) on these issues which is to be completed in 2005, but gay activists and other liberals are pushing for change now:

There is no need for this delay," said Rev. Daphne Burt, associate dean of Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago who went to Milwaukee to distribute fliers for the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, a coalition of advocates for gay clergy and same-sex marriage. "This delay is harmful to the church. ... I think it is past time for the church to offer its blessing.

As a bisexual pastor, Burt is in a quandary.

Yes, she is in a quandary indeed, as she has adopted a lifestyle which is at odds with Scripture and the constant witness of Church teaching, which should render her unfit for leadership in the Church.

And the Lutheran Church itself is in a quandary: one of the pillars of the Lutheran faith is Sola Scriptura. They have been gradually hollowing out the meaning of that phrase over the last 20-30 years. If they adopt such a clearly contra-scriptural practice as ordaining active homosexuals, they will demonstrate that they don't even take their own doctrine seriously.

The ELCA already tacitly permits congregations to bless gay unions, so they may be past the point of no return. Not only that, but they are in full "altar and pulpit" communion with the Episcopal Church. That means that Lutherans and Episcopalians may receive communion in each other's churches, and their ministers may preside at one another's liturgies. So the ELCA will be under great pressure to recognize gay ministers in the Episcopal church. And the ELCA responds to pressure from the left about as well as the ECUSA.

In recent decades, the ELCA has responded to liberal pressure by compromising and watering down their doctrine. They have become so wishy-washy on the subject of abortion that they are for all intents and purposes "pro-choice" (indeed, the only pro-life Lutheran clergy I have ever met were Missouri Synod, not ELCA). The ELCA crumpled in the face of demands for women's ordination. So I think it's just a matter of time before they also admit active gays to ministry, and probably not much time at that.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Lawrence's Logic Sacralized

The Episcopal Church's recent decision to elect V. Gene Robinson as it's first openly-gay bishop, and to, as a church body, permit gay unions is nothing more or less than dressing up the logic which informed the Supreme Court's Lawrence decision in pseudo-Christian language.

A while back I commented on the Lawrence decision, saying that it enshrined in law a concept of "absolute personal autonomy that owes nothing to anyone: family, community, society, much less God." Lawrence essentially says that the state must equally favor any sexual arrangement arrived at between any consenting adults. Well, the ECUSA's decision to elect Robinson and permit gay marriages says that the Episcopal Church henceforth will give its blessing to any sexual arrangement you can concoct. And in place of Scripture and the universal witness of church Tradition, it too has substituted absolute personal autonomy, and devolved marriage into a purely private expression of whatever the two "spouses" decide it expresses.

The proof can be seen in "Bishop" Robinson's own remarks (from Mark Steyn's excellent column in the Chicago Sun-Times:

I believe that God gave us the gift of sexuality so that we might express with our bodies the love that's in our hearts,'' he announced to his fellow bishops. ''I just need to tell you that I experience that with my partner. In the time that we have, I can't go into all the theology around it, but what I can tell you is that in my relationship with my partner, I am able to express the deep love that's in my heart, and in his unfailing and unquestioning love of me, I experience just a little bit of the kind of never-ending, never-failing love that God has for me. So it's sacramental for me.

Robinson attempts here to clothe his experience of his gay relationship in religious language, and to the religiously ill-informed it may work, but no committed and reasonably catechized Christian could fail to notice that what he describes doesn't even come close to the Christian understanding of marriage. Christian theology describes marrriage as analogous to and symbolic of the union of Christ and His Church, which union was effected by Christ's self-donating sacrifice for Her on Calvary. Alternately, Christian marriage can be described as a sacramental covenant between man and woman founded upon their complete gift of self to one another in Christ, by and through which they participate in one another's sanctification. Robinson's description revolves around sexuality as expressive of his feelings for his "partner". This is the sort of talk one might expect from a self-absorbed nineteen year old, but not from someone professing to be a serious thinker, or even a mature person, not to metion a serious Christian. In short , Robinson's own words demonstrate the narcissism of which Steyn and others accuse him, and the entire gay movement.

Robinson's statement is not suprising: I hear similar attitudes, the product of immersion in popular culture, from immature and ill-catechized teen-agers all the time. But of course, that this attitude should come to characterize a supposedly Christian church's position on marriage is tragic. The ECUSA has simply become a parrot of the dominant culture, albeit a parrot tastefully presented and echoing the culture in elevated Jacobean tones.

As others, most notably on have said, marriage has traditionally been regarded as an semi-public act, in which society has an interest both in supporting and regulating. It was seen as having a quasi-objective nature which went beyond merely the two individuals involved. Most significantly, it was seen as intrinsically linked to the family and procreation of children. But now Lawrence has undone that at the civil level, and the Episcopal Church has declared its willing complicity with the process. Marriage is whatever you decide it is, depending on how you feel about it. And the rest of us are expected to affirm you in your feelings.

Mark Steyn and others have commented on the arrogance of the Episcopal church's election of Robinson, and of Robinson's arrogance in comparing himself to Christ, and comparing his election to "Easter Sunday". But this arrogance has another name: Pride. The Pride that says God wasn't sufficiently "up to date" when he created Man's nature and determined what was Lawful for that nature. The Pride that says God wasn't sufficiently "tolerant" when he decreed that marriage was the union of Man and Woman. The Pride that says God wasn't sufficiently "open minded", when he decreed that sodomy was a perversion and crime. The Pride that says that Our Lord Jesus Christ wasn't sufficiently "inclusive" when he established His Church and laid down, through his apostles, what sort of men were suitable for the apostolic office. When you boil this sordid matter down to it's essence, what you have is a group of people deciding that they know better than God.