Friday, March 30, 2007

Love, Contraception, and All of Us Stuffy Catholics

Well, I have actually hated some bits of the past few days of blogging to be quite honest. Although I was able to tie things back to deeper realities than modern events at times, I still felt as though I had sold my soul and was beginning to sound like a political pundit. Today, I would like to use an earlier blog as the educational opportunity about which I spoke, namely on the subject of contraception.

Now, I am quite aware that many, if not most people, reading this wonder, “What about contraception? There is no controversy with it…. except with the Catholic Magisterium and the Mormons.” I would like to just breach the surface in this short reflection and talk about why the Church’s stand on contraception, while seeming stuffily anti-sexual, anti-love is nothing more than an affirmation of the true Form of Love.

I suppose we should begin by asking “Why is sex an act of expressing love?” The most blatantly obvious is the fact that showing one’s naked body to another is the removal of many barriers of protection. In a materialistic way, it is truly laying oneself bare before another, an act which should only be done before one who loves you. However, if you end here, there is not much left. Indeed, I would argue, at this point, that the act of sex, used with contraception only for itself, is not an act of love but only of manipulation and use of the other for pleasure. I am willing to hear the arguments, but to me, heaving and grinding don’t intrinsically bring two individuals closer together in love.

However, I must stress this heavily: I do not think that the act of sex is intrinsically evil, not in ANY way whatsoever. Nonetheless, this begs the question: What makes uncontracepted sex a true experience of love? In such an encounter, another element is involved, an element which is absolutely necessary for love to truly be itself: Time. Love always looks toward eternity: “You shall be my beloved forever.” Therefore, if a sexual encounter is to be truly loving, it too must look to eternity. In the case of uncontracepted sex, the sexual act is one that affirms, “I love you enough to mix our destinies. I am willing to have a child with you, even though that appears to limit my freedom. I am willing to take that chance, to bind our tomorrows, for I truly love you.”

The Catholic ban on contraception is nothing more than a protection on sex, an aggrandizement of sex, indeed the salvation of the sexual act. Without a gaze for the future, the sexual act becomes nothing more than a materialistic utilization of both parties involved. For sex to truly be itself, it takes an endless love, one which says, “You are mine and I am yours, come good or ill.” This is why sex is the restatement of the marital vows: “I do… till death do us part.”

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Politics as Usual

Well, after having talked on wonderful theological and philosophical subjects for the past couple of entries, I feel that I am about to sell out my humanity as I prepare to discuss a very recent political episode.

With great fanfare, the American Democratic Party announced that they were in to eliminate the culture of political corruption laid into place by the American Republican Party. Mind you, I think that the Republicans sold out the American populace as well as their own base, so they indeed needed to be cleaned out. However, when a cleanout happens, shouldn’t we perhaps use clean water to scrub out the pipes? Oh no, we Americans are so naïve that we think we can just run to the other career politicians to fill the void. Of course, what we did was replace scum with crud and have ended up all the same.

Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, gave a press conference on a set of legislation in the House and Senate which not only funds the war in Iraq but also is laced with pork projects (no surprise from any – Republican or Democratic – politician). The clincher, however, is a provision to end the Iraq war with a set date, an action which all involved know will have only one of two consequences. On one hand, if the President passes the bill, they will have a definite end to the war, something which they want. However, the more heinous option is if the President vetoes the bill, which is more likely to be the case.

Ms. Pelosi has (in words at the press conference) confirmed that this bill is nothing more than partisan hackery being done to force a veto. In her own words, she said that if President Bush vetoes this bill it will mean: He doesn’t support the soldiers; he doesn’t support veterans whose hospitals need funding; he doesn’t support farmers throughout America. In other words, by the means of a single provision, the pullout date for the Iraq war, the Democratic Party is loading their gunwale for the 2008 election to have commercials about the heartless Republicans who don’t care about the troops, veterans, farmers, etc.

This is but another example that politicians are nothing but a bunch of partisan hacks. The Republicans had their chance to change the way we do business but failed in many ways. Now it is time for the Democrats to screw up in all the same ways. To all of you who thought you were getting a positive change by replacing one set of politicians with another, even if you didn’t agree with their policies, I have one thing to say: “I told you so.”

Our government reflects our culture, a culture which is highly corrupted by crass individualism and relativism. Only by means of a cultural revolution will we have the bedrock necessary to rebuild this wonderful country, flushing out the filth that fills it. Until then, it will be politics as usual.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

From Relativism to Loving Judgment (or Better-Yet Discernment of Fault)

Well, we move now with a seamless transition to a subject which has come up over and over in my life and was brought to the forefront once again by my attendance at the musical Godspell as well as at Mass this weekend. A classic claim which is raised against all Christians (and perhaps even more so against Catholics because of our long heritage) is that we are nothing more than a bunch of judgmental hypocrites. Often cited to us are words like "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone" (Cf. John 8:1-11) or "How canst thou say to thy brother: Brother, let me pull the mote out of thy eye, when thou thyself seest not the beam in thy own eye?" (Cf. Luke 6:42). Now, first of all, I believe that you can see the relativist undertones to the accusations hurled at Christians using these scripture verses. In but a moment, you will see why I think that their twisting of Christ's words is the most vile of misuses of scripture.

Before that, however, let us have several words about “judgment.” Relativism has taken such deep roots in our Western mind that it is often difficult for us to even justify the use of the word, let alone enact any sort of discernment of the actions of another person. It is often considered the quintessential hypocrisy to tell someone that they have done something wrong. I ask you this: Does not Love require that we rebuke the faults of others (and also be open to such a rebuke from those who love us)? I would argue yes because Love demands the most of us, that we become the best person possible. It is quite unloving to allow someone to persist in self-destructive behavior and is therefore unloving to not rebuke the faults of another. Now, let us turn to the “forgotten” parts of the verses cited above.

In the Gospel of John, we are so ready to hear Jesus rebuke the crowd that we often miss 8:11, “Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.” Jesus has prevented the condemnation of the crowd; he has stopped them from passing an immutable, ontological judgment on the woman for her adultery. However, he has not let her go off free of rebuke. Helping her up, he does tell her to “sin no more,” and does so lovingly to prevent her from taking part in the self-destructive act of adultery. Luke 6:42 is another one of the oft-unfinished verses from the Bible and is truly the standard of how to discerningly judge. It ends saying that one must remove the beam in his eye before removing the speck in another’s. It doesn’t say “remove thine beam and leave thy brother’s mote untouched.” Indeed not! It merely affirms that a pure heart and conscience are necessary to inspire conversion and truly discern fault in another person.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rosie, Al, the Acceptance of the Rise of Relativism, and the Death of Liberalism (Part III)

Now, in very short order, we have discussed the relationship among some popular figures (Rosie O’Donnell and Albert Gore) and some undercurrents of relativistic thought. Now, I know that it would be preposterous to claim that these individuals are nothing more than walking putsules of relativism, waiting to explode with modernistic thoughts that would deny truth. However, there are definitely shades and shadows of relativism, particularly in how they lack the capacity to have open dialogue on issues. Now, why does the growth of this type of thought matter to you and me?

Well, although there are a variety of schools of liberalism, at its core, liberal thought is nothing more than an affirmation of the importance of the individual first. I think that nobody can refute this basic tenet of liberalism, even though everyone can find something to complain about when they look at any full school of thought in isolation. Nonetheless, liberal thought affirms the primacy of the individual, the importance of the one among the many. While this can lead to radical (and even crass) individualism, it also is extremely exaulting for each and everyone of us to realize this fundamental truth of liberal thought.

Now, relativism seems like “true liberalism”, making the individual a god, for it sets forth an epistemology (a philosophical school on the nature of knowledge) which is based wholly on the perceptions of each and every individual. This means that to each person, his or her worldview is completely determinative of reality, that his or her thoughts and ideas are absolute unto themselves.

You may cry havoc and tell me that I should cut my fingers off and let the relativists go, for this seems acceptable and even aggrandizing of man. I ask you this, though: Is humanity made bigger by means of individual work or by its capacity to collaborate, to realize that there is something bigger? If someone is able to perceive (at least part of) the nature of an all-embracing Universal Truth, is that not more aggrandizing than telling him that he should remain a god unto himself. Truly relativism, in the last analysis, only tells people that their beliefs and ideas are not important enough to be shared with others. (Although power can force such ideas, coercion is not equivalent to sharing.)

Additionally, the walling-up of the individual prevents the greatest of ontological realities, Love, from penetrating into the lives of humans. At its core, love is a task of dialogue, an interpenetration of my I with your I, the interaction of my I with your thou. If my “I” and all that goes with it are relative and only power can be used to force my person and worldview onto you, love would be impossible, for there would be no chance for the dialogue of being necessary in love. No interpenetration of the subjective is possible where power must be used to overcome the other person.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rosie, Al, the Acceptance of the Rise of Relativism, and the Death of Liberalism (Part II)

Well, my friends, your favorite bloviator has returned to the blogosphere to pick up where he left off last week, discussing the links between several popular figures, relativism, and the death of liberal thought.

As I said last time, at the core of Rosie O’Donnell’s defense is the fact that she has the power to assert her opinion the most strongly on the show The View. Now, I do know that she comes to the table with facts, but notice how she rarely wants to analyze the facts in a different light and how she has no true openness to dialogue. Now, this is something we all do from time to time, so it is of great importance that we heed the rotten, relativistic root of these attitudes.

Like Rosie, Mr. Albert Gore is just as guilty of invoking the tyranny of opinion to suppress dialogue about global warming. However, Mr. Gore’s power lies not in his individual ability to speak but instead in his invocation of “scientific consensus,” a term which merely indicates the tyranny of a majority. Notice how the defense offered by Al is not about well-tested hypotheses which have been cross-tested against opposing views. Instead, we receive his thesis as the gift of a majority vote on a matter. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) has a quote attributed to him saying, “Truth is not determined by a majority vote.” Alexis de Tocqueville, having experienced the French Revolution as well as studied post-Jacksonian America, spoke of this tyranny of the majority which was merely the dark twin of the tyranny of the king. In the case of Al Gore’s invocation of the majority to support his view, he is working from a semi-relativistic framework which doesn’t speak in terms of an Absolute but instead in terms of incontrovertible evidence, ultimately meaning evidence which cannot be over-powered.

Now, these proclaimed “truths” are most-often absorbed by individuals by means of passive acceptance (or at least semi-passive). Unquestioning minds will grasp onto the arguments raised by these power-wielding speakers and will believe their relative world views without question. This need not be a naïve acceptance, for if the proposed idea synchronizes well with the listener’s own biases, then he or she will accept them because they are acceptable in his or her relative worldview. In either case, the acceptance of said argument is derived from the power to proclaim (and believe) a given relativistic argument.

Tomorrow, we will wrap up these reflections with a few thoughts on how the general acceptance of relativistic arguments is nothing more than the death of liberal thought. More importantly, I hope to show you why we must keep the frame of liberal thought alive against this storm. Until then, best wishes!


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rosie, Al, the Acceptance of the Rise of Relativism, and the Death of Liberalism (Part I)

Well, it is time to get down and dirty with popular culture for a few moments this evening. There is an eerie growth of silencing in the world which I have experienced personally and have seen out in the popular culture. In my own life, I have often been told to "cool it" with my opinions because they were contentious in comparison with those of others. Ironically, this pugnacious young man has never attempted to silence those whose viewpoints differ from his. Instead, I (shift from 3rd to 1st person, please) have always enjoyed intellectual sparring, even if (much to my chagrin) I end up with egg on my face at times. If anyone means a damned thing by liberalism, that is it, my friend. Oh yes, I just labeled myself within the box of liberalism, at least insofar as liberalism is an affirmation of the liberty of the individual to find the Truth (with a capital "T"), wherever it may be.

Now, what does this have to do with Rose and Mr. Albert Gore? Both are explicit examples of the greatest threat to liberal thought: relativism. At its core, relativism proclaims that there are no absolutes by which actions, objects, experiences, etc. can be evaluated and judged. For the relativist, the relative view of the individual, his or her lens on the world, is the absolute standard. This means that nothing can be held in common, for all is relative to the lonely individual. The only means by which an accepted "truth" can be declared are: (1) Power; (2) Apathetic Acceptance.

In the case of Rosie number one is blatantly obvious, particularly in an exchange on the show The View on March 20. Now, Rosie is quite known for making her opinions known on the show, spouting off on a variety of topics and making claims that are unfounded (and often uninformed). Without a doubt, she has her right to free speech, and her pontification does not bother this pontificator one bit whatsoever. In the final analysis, our arguments are placed under the scrutiny of the Truth and will be judged by others in that light (except to the relativists…) Anyway, on said episode, Rosie silenced her co-host, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, telling her that she was not to be blathering on her opinion, an ironic bit of advice from the pontifex maximus of opinions. However, Rosie, by means of her overbearing personality, has silenced the opposition on this matter.

Notice that it is not the Truth which is invoked in this matter but instead merely the power of her to overcome Elizabeth. This is indicative of the first path to a “truth” in relativism: Power. For Rosie, there is no absolute measure by which to ascertain the Truth… except for her own opinion. Although everything is relative to her, the opinion which she holds is “higher” than Elizabeth’s because she holds the power to assert it.

On Monday, I will continue with this reflection mini-series. Until then, enjoy life! :-)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Liberalism, Conservatism, and the Long-Forgotten Primacy of Truth

There was an article by Fr. Thomas J. Euteneur blasting Sean Hannity for legalistic rhetoric about Lenten abstinence from meat and for imprudence in declaring his views on contraception. (The article is available at:

Let me begin with saying that I agree with Fr. Euteneur in his reflection on the situation. Mr. Hannity has done exactly what so many other Catholics do in profusely apologizing for eating a chicken sandwich but disagreeing with major Church teachings. On one hand, people would like to live with a peppering of religiosity in their lives but seem to desire to live in their own relative moral spheres. The issue here, however, is not with Sean Hannity so much as it is with the primacy of Truth and how that should inform one’s worldview.

The primary motivator in our actions must be our worldview on the Truth and the necessities which are concomitant with that view. However, day-to-day life often weighs us down, making us limit ourselves to the “strictly practical matters.” In the world of community action, this means that our political affiliations often become our formative element. Without realizing it, we often slip into the boxes of “Liberal,” “Conservative,” “Moderate,” “Libertarian,” etc. Our worldview is therefore informed by our surroundings in the box into which we place ourselves. In many ways, such a lens onto the world can be great. However, these “ideologies” suffer from two major flaws. First and foremost, the definition of “liberal,” “conservative,” etc are constantly shifting and are truly relative terms, only making sense in comparison to each other and not on their own. More importantly, since none of these “ideologies” are full participants in the Truth, Truth transcends them. Indeed, that’s the true crux of the problem: Truth transcends all boundaries. For the Catholic, Truth requires both progress (the progress of salvation history…) and conservatism (the eternal love of God, the past events by which salvation progresses…). It is impossible to view the world through anything other than the dual lenses of Truth and Love, for they are a priori to all else; it is from them that all ideologies flow and is to them that all must proceed.

As for the argument from Fr. Euteneur to Sean Hannity, I must say that I am lukewarm. Sean’s problem is that he has allowed Reagan Conservatism, with all of its goods, become the formative principle of his show and many of his ideas. By using such a limited lens, he limits the scope of his vision and is therefore out of line with the Church. However, I think that those (including me) who object to Sean’s views should not open a lambaste against him but should use such a time a teaching opportunity. This is quite a superb time to teach on what it means to publicly call yourself a Catholic, what communion with the Church entails, and even talk about the contentious topics of chicken and contraception.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A New Format; Marry the Man Today

Well, I have been doing some reflecting and self-imposed ass-kicking as of late for a variety of reasons. It was the confluence of two "events" which have brought me to this exciting day for the blog. First of all, I started listening to a podcast by Newt Gingrich and was astounded by something I noticed about the podcast itself. While we may disagree on some of Gingrich's policies, ideas, and actions, I think we can admit that, flawed as he may be, the man is intellectually talented. Therefore, when I noticed that his podcast was merely 1.5 minutes long, every day, I thought, "Wow, Matt. You have always said that constriction breeds innovation. No doubt ol' Newt's doing that with his podcast." Therefore, I have decided to make my blog entries smaller (contained within 250-500 words with an occasional "extended editorial" more of the length of my older entries). The second event was while watching the video podcast for Glenn Beck's television show. (Yes, I get my news from other sources than iTunes. Don't worry!) Glenn referred to how he pontificates on everything, and I thought, "You know, Matt, your blog is really nothing more than your own pontifications on everything. Maybe you should start writing shorter podcasts on a variety of topics more frequently." Therefore *drum roll*.... We have the newer, more concise Pontifications of a Coding Catholic!

Pontification of the Day: Marry the Man Today

In the musical Guys and Dolls, the final non-ensemble song is a piece between Adelaide and Sarah Brown called "Marry the Man Today." (See: for the lyrics. Enter at your own risk. I did not get any spyware but will not guarantee anything!) Two years ago, when we were doing this show at Saint Vincent College, Kimberly Andrews and I used to bemoan this song’s lyrics. With a little thought, however, I decided in passing time that I did not dislike this song as much as I thought I did, and here's why.

We often say that those who get married must love their spouse as they are, accepting them as they are. I think that implicitly, this means what I'm about to say, but would like to be more specific. I most firmly believe that love is an ontological reality, that is a reality of being, one in which the lover and the beloved share in each other's very being (in a communion of sorts). Therefore, I do indeed think that one should love someone for who they are, but this love does not require that you love what somebody does. Instead, love demands that the lover always shape the beloved in the Truth, perfecting his/her being, therby making their interpersonal more intense.

"Marry the Man Today" is a mixed bag with respect to this. While it is somewhat fatalistic in the "codependent relationship" way and is manipulative, the song does have a golden kernel: That if you love somebody, you should want to perfect them. Since this is a musical, the scope of the song is much smaller than a personal reflection, but it goes without saying that both parties must be open to these acts of perfection. However, the kernel is this: If I love you for who you are, I will pursue you to my heart's content, even if I don't always agree with what you do. However, I love you for who you are precisely because you are a good person and will not completely scoff at my attempts to help you better yourself.

So, in the final analysis, it's not a bad thing to love someone but what to change what they do. Of course the spheres of ontology and praxis, that is the sphere of practical action, are not completely separate. It is quite possible that the lover may desire to change something the beloved does, with that change only being possible by changing who the person is. Now, this presupposes the belief that humanity, no matter how decadent, is good at its core, although fallen. When I say who someone is I mean moreso "what makes that individual a unique person, capable of loving in a particular way." Since evil is a lack of being, I refuse to even slightly misconstrue it as such.

And so, I stand someone ambivalently for "Marry the Man Today," a song which has its weaknesses but is perhaps not as bad as I once thought.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Brief Further Exposition into my thoughts on the West and its Fall

In an online conversation with good sir Matthew P. Morley, I had to somewhat (although incompletely) explain my position on the West and its imminent fall. The content of that response is found below.

Well, I suppose we enter into the realm of the relative when we each speak of the "West" without specific definition. I suppose the first bit that should be reflected upon is the role of the Judaism and the Church in the West as both constituent and formative element. While the Judeo-Christian heritage is not strictly Western in character, I would without reservation argue that it most certainly cannot be considered strictly Eastern. (However, it indeed has some characteristics of what I like to call "Eastern Hopelessness in the Created Order," particularly present in Qoheleth. However, the Jewish affirmation of the body and created order as a necessary constituent of salvation sets it apart from the East.) Now, when I speak of the West, I speak in particular of that grand confluence of cultures all around the Mediterranean which took an orientation (although tremulous at times) to the Truth as both cataphatic and apophatic. The fullest refulgence of these convictions was unleashed in unmitigated splendor by the Church, the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth. Therefore, I see the West as being that construct that is intrinsically bound with the Church, as well as the political sensibilities of the Mediterranean, however flawed they would be at times.

Now, as a matter of rhetoric, I often speak in somewhat highly-pessimistic language. However, I do indeed have hope, precisely because the Church is the bulwark of civilization, the True West. What I lament is the fact that we have fallen from the base which the Faith gave to civilization. My cry issues forth in response to the fall of the political reality which used to have such an undergirding from the religious sensibilities of Faith in the Absolute. Therefore, one could say that I believe that the West will indeed live on and will (as I said in my rant) give birth to something greater: “However, when Zion falls to Rome, Rome to the Vandals, and America to her foes (be they proponents of Radical Islam or Secular Progressivism), the phoenix of Divine Election arises from the ashes anew, with more glorious splendor.”

As an afterthought, I think that we focus too often on the final effects of no-fault freedom in our society. While the atrocities of abortion, euthanasia, etc. must be prevented at all costs, I think it only to be one symptom of not understanding the true nature of freedom. It is a destruction that spreads far and wide because of governmental intrusion into life, replacing the family and community with our Big Brothers and Sisters in Washington (and, to a lesser but still important degree, the state capitals). This, coupled with the isolation often inspired by (although not necessarily concomitant with) our media-driven society, is tearing the fabric of responsibility from the heart of humanity. Since Truth and Love are ultimately the most responsible of all affairs, we are destroying our capacity for loving and living under the mantle of the Truth by trying to have a no-fault, anti-responsibility society. This is why I find America to be the political promise of the world, for in its essence (although not in its practice anymore thanks to socialism/Marxism) it is nothing more a country founded on the principle of the preservation and promotion of liberty. This ability to be free enables man to truly be himself, to reach his potential, to live in the Truth and to love.

Also, if the spirit so moves you, look at the following post, for the very brief poem that I wrote was truly about these thoughts: