Saturday, August 30, 2014

Swedish Detective Series

There's a Bear in the trunk
The Bear's mate got him watching a Danish detective show, so if you've missed his blogging the last few days, blame her. The Bear thought "a Danish show" was going to be about breakfast pastry, but no. It's called The Killing.

Wow, the Bear can only imagine how complicated it is in Danish. And he didn't call it a thriller for a reason. Even so, it is oddly compelling. Maybe it is some sort of existentialist Danish drama where no clues add up, and we're stuck in an eternally gray Vancouver location (it's set in Seattle, though). It is watchable without being entertaining. Lots of close-ups of a pale redhead looking intense, and pensive. Pentense.

Figures that Danes would come up with that. Apparently there are hundreds of these Swedish (that's what we call all of them) Girl With the Bear Tattoo type glacial dramas the Bear's mate is hooked on.

The worst is -- get this -- we were watching this show together on Amazon prime, and one night she stayed up and watched to the end of the season without her Bear! Who does that?

He'll get back to blogging... just one more episode... no more than two.

In other news Blanquette ran away from home. A couple from a neighboring freehold knocked on the door reporting "a cute little goat with a bell" cropping grass in their yard. By the time our son completed the search, she was back in her pen like nothing had happened.

Three. Three at the most.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

St. Monica

St. Monica's life is celebrated today. She died in 387 at the age of 56. Her story is linked with her more famous son, St. Augustine.

The Weeping Mother
St. Monica was a Christian, but her husband was not. In fact, tradition says he was a man of very poor character and unfaithful to her, although he was converted by the aid of her good example. Yet her son, Augustine, grieved her because he resisted Christianity for many years.

But God did not resist a mother's tears. St. Augustine finally converted in 386. St. Monica got to see the realization of her heart's desire before she died.

St. Monica's intercession is sought for the conversion of loved ones, and she provides an enduring example of patience and persistence in prayer. She reminds us that patience, prayer and a good example are better than harangues.

Prayer to St. Monica

Dear St. Monica,
troubled wife and mother,
many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.
Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,
you prayed daily for the conversion
of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine;
your prayers were answered.
Grant me that same fortitude, patience,
and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
that God may favorably hear my plea for

(Mention your intention here.)

and grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Next Date for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

If you are considering making St. Louis' de Montfort's consecration to Jesus through Mary, you should get ready for your 33-day preparation. The next Marian feast is Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. That means you should start your preparation on September 4.

You can use St. Louis' de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary, or a more contemporary guide, like the excellent 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley. There are even podcasts. (If the dates are different, it doesn't matter as long as you start on September 4 and don't skip.) The important thing is to be consistent.

What is total consecration? It means that you give everything you have and are to Jesus through Mary. Unlike other devotions it is radical. Even the benefits of your good works are given up to be used according to the will of God. So, for example, if you meet the conditions for earning a plenary indulgence, you give that merit up to be used for someone else.

But won't that leave me stuck in purgatory? If you believe Mary and Jesus would punish you for such a selfless act, then, maybe. But if you trust Mary and Jesus will do the right thing, then -- well, that's what it's all about. Loving trust.

The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted by Pope Pius V as "Our Lady of Victory" to commemorate the defeat of the Turkish fleet in the decisive naval Battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571.

What a great day for a consecration, don't you think?

Beau Pupdate: National Dog Day

My bowl is missing something.

Beau had his routine puppy vet visit yesterday and got a s-h-o-t. He weighs 10 pounds now and has learned to go up and down the stairs. He has been practicing his bark.

Beau, Buster and Dahlia wish everyone happy National Dog Day.

Write a paragraph on what
this picture means.

Monday, August 25, 2014

God's Not Dead -- a Review

God's Not Dead the Movie -- it's something else, too?
You may have heard about God's Not Dead and wondered if it was worth a rental. The Bear offers a review.

This is a competently produced Protestant feel-good movie with likable good guys, sneering villains and absolutely no surprises.

Kevin Sorbo (who played Hercules on television) stars as an arrogant, contemptuous, abusively atheistic philosophy professor. In other words, he is a pale shadow of real atheist philosophy professors found in classrooms and faculty lounges across the country. It is revealed that he lost his mother when he was twelve, therefore he hates God.

On the first day of class, he sets the right tone by forcing each student to write "God is dead" on a piece of paper and sign it. Should any student refuse, that student will have to defend God's existence before the class in three lectures, with a third of his grade at stake!

Want to bet one plucky student refuses to deny God? Freshman Josh Wheaton just can't bring himself to play Peter, what with being a Christian and everything. Nobody pats him on the back, though. Not his parents, not even his Christian girlfriend he met six years ago at youth camp. They're all convinced, you see, that this will somehow ruin his chances to get into law school.

Well, you have to have something at stake in a drama. The point is, the Christian may find himself at odds with family and friends, and even risk his position in the world. The movie gets that across in a few heavy blows. Effective, if none too subtle.

Josh shows up for the first session with a slick Power Point presentation that includes professional animations. (Kids these days.)  He wows the class with the theistic implications of the Big Bang theory. Things are looking good for God when the professor, positively slavering, pricks Josh's bubble with a single quote from a scientist Josh had never even heard of. He asks the class who they are going to believe: one of the greatest minds of science, or "a freshman?" What, Josh, you think atheists play fair? How will Josh ever convince the class that God is not dead when the professor can blindside him with a one-liner?

Orbiting Josh are minor characters with their own subplots centered on their own faith issues.

There is the professor's Christian girlfriend who is tired of being humiliated in front of his snotty faculty dinner-guests for not knowing Greek and letting the wine get too hot in her car. "I'm worried we're unequally yoked," she complains to him at one point. Ya think?

There is a snarky female blogger who does ambush interviews of Christians. She tackles one of the Duck Dynasty guys, who makes a cameo appearance. She gets cancer and her jerk boyfriend dumps her twenty seconds after she tells him.

There is a cute girl from a Muslim family who is a secret Christian. In an amazingly non-PC scene, her father beats her and throws her out the door when her little brother rats her out. (Dad, you said I could help in the honor killing!) If you're thinking cute homeless ex-Muslim girl would be a perfect match for Josh, you'd probably be right.

Josh's stand will affect the lives of everyone around him. Has he convinced the class after the third lecture? What do you think?

One would expect a movie called God's Not Dead to serve up plenty of apologetics. The movie provides some, and does a good job with what there is, but this is mainly a story about Josh's courage in standing up for God regardless of the cost. This is probably a good choice by the writers, rather than getting bogged down in tedious arguments.

Kevin Sorbo's atheist philosophy professor might be criticized as a caricature, but only by those who have not run across the species in the preserves of academia. Overall, the acting is good enough. Christian movies are by no means completely amateurish these days. Like Courageous, it has a bright-eyed earnestness that makes it hard to dislike. It gives its intended audience what it wants.

Monsignor Georges Lemaitre
Is it something Catholics would want to see? Any well-made movie where the openly Christian hero vanquishes an obnoxious atheist professor is welcome. It even gives Monsignor Georges Lemaitre credit for the Big Bang theory -- sort of. Josh gets the name out, and says, "who was a--" before the professor conveniently cuts him off. So the intended audience of God's Not Dead will never learn that Georges Lemaitre was a priest at the Catholic University of Louvain.

There is a scene toward the end where someone gets hit by a car, providentially right in front of the movie's Protestant pastor character. The pastor prays over the dying man and says God has forgiven his sins. He immediately expires and the pastor and his friend rejoice that he's in Heaven. The Bear cringed through the scene, wishing a Catholic priest would show up and give the poor guy a chance.

The Bear did not feel it wasted his time, but for apologetics, you would do better to get a book from Catholic author Peter Kreeft.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Misguided Essay on Thuggery

Thugs strangle a traveler.
What to do about the Thuggee, more commonly known as Thugs?

The Bear is certain you have heard of this death cult that is causing so much suffering around the world. They stem from various Muslim tribes in India, but are reported to be devoted to the Goddess Kali.

Kali is a Hindu goddess often associated with death and destruction. She is often depicted with a bloody knife in one hand, and a severed head in the other.

The Thugs are a cult, or guild, of professional thieves and murderers. Their modus operandi is to join a caravan and gain the trust of the travelers. Once their intended victims have been lulled into a false sense of security, the Thugs wait for the perfect moment to attack. Although they will use any weapon if need be, they are most famous for the garrotte: a yellow cord, or scarf with which they strangle their victims.

A group of thugs.
It is difficult to say how many people Thugs have killed worldwide, but the Guinness Book of World Records puts it at two million. A single Thug named "Behram" is associated with 931 killings, although he admitted to actually killing "only" 125 people. Thugs seem proud of their murderous exploits, and enjoy being photographed.

Recently, the Thugs have been active Syria and Iraq. They kidnap Westerners and hold them hostage for so long as they are useful to the Thugs. Their end comes at the edge of the cruel knife as their heads are severed from their bodies.

I feel like Emily Litella.
Wait. What's that?

You say 19th Century British civil servant William Sleeman used profiling and intelligence as head of a special Thugee Department in India to ruthlessly uncover and destroy Thug cells and suppress their evil cult, ending their scourge forever?

Oh. The Bear seems to have gotten one or two facts wrong, because it seems all that happened in Victorian times.

Never mind.

But in any case, the Bear will allow Mark Twain to close this misguided essay with his account of the successful defeat of the Thugs from Following the Equator. Read this passage, and think.

There is one very striking thing which I wish to call attention to. You have surmised from the listed callings followed by the victims of the Thugs that nobody could travel the Indian roads unprotected and live to get through; that the Thugs respected no quality, no vocation, no religion, nobody; that they killed every unarmed man that came in their way. That is wholly true—with one reservation. In all the long file of Thug confessions an English traveler is mentioned but once—and this is what the Thug says of the circumstance:
"He was on his way from Mhow to Bombay. We studiously avoided him. He proceeded next morning with a number of travellers who had sought his protection, and they took the road to Baroda."
We do not know who he was; he flits across the page of this rusty old book and disappears in the obscurity beyond; but he is an impressive figure, moving through that valley of death serene and unafraid, clothed in the might of the English name.
We have now followed the big official book through, and we understand what Thuggee was, what a bloody terror it was, what a desolating scourge it was. In 1830 the English found this cancerous organization embedded in the vitals of the empire, doing its devastating work in secrecy, and assisted, protected, sheltered, and hidden by innumerable confederates —big and little native chiefs, customs officers, village officials, and native police, all ready to lie for it, and the mass of the people, through fear, persistently pretending to know nothing about its doings; and this condition of things had existed for generations, and was formidable with the sanctions of age and old custom. If ever there was an unpromising task, if ever there was a hopeless task in the world, surely it was offered here—the task of conquering Thuggee. But that little handful of English officials in India set their sturdy and confident grip upon it, and ripped it out, root and branch! How modest do Captain Vallancey's words sound now, when we read them again, knowing what we know:
"The day that sees this far-spread evil completely eradicated from India, and known only in name, will greatly tend to immortalize British rule in the East."
It would be hard to word a claim more modestly than that for this most noble work.
Bloody knives, severed heads, right old
Victorian relics, wot?

Fun With Latin!

Bears are natural scholars.
Job 26.13 (Vulgate) "Spiritus ejus ornavit cælos, et obstetricante manu ejus, eductus est coluber tortuosus."

The Bear's translation: "His Spirit has decorated heaven, and His midwife's hand drew forth the winding serpent." (A constellation.) The Bear likes the image of God as a midwife, bringing all the magnificent, surging, struggling elements of creation to birth one by one. Hey, it's even inclusive!

The wonderful 16th century Douay Rheims Bible startles with one of its frequent Latinate firecrackers. "His spirit hath adorned the heavens, and his obstetric hand brought forth the winding serpent." The Bear thinks most people today would picture an OB GYN doc, which is a bit less poetic, and not as accurate, as births were attended to by midwives back in the day. Hence midwife.

Modern translations talk about the hand of God piercing a fleeing serpent, not bringing it forth like a midwife! St. Jerome had access to Hebrew texts long perished. On the other hand, God was abusing the monster Rahab in the previous verse, and the Jews liked their parallelisms. St. Jerome was not perfect, but I'm going with the "obstetric hand" -- or "midwife's hand."  It fits with adorning the heavens, and no one, not even God pierces a fleeing monster with his hand.

Who Torpedoed Queen Isabella of Spain's Beatification?

A very interesting article at Eponymous Flower about Isabella I of Spain. She was a Catholic woman of heroic virtue who united Spain, completed the Reconquista of Granada from the Muslims, and evangelized the New World. Not a bad resume, so it should come as no surprise that her cause for sainthood was opened under St. John Paul II.

Unfortunately, those very resume bullets are not in her favor in today's horizontal Church of Human Dialogue. She also withdrew royal permission for Jews to live in Spain.

Click the link to find out about a controversial new book on Queen Isabella, and how Cardinal Lustiger discouraged her cause for beatification in the name of Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Baby Jihad

Please, don't give them
Teddy Bears.

Catholic Mother: Oh, I'm so happy! Our little Elizabeth gets to be the Virgin Mary in the Nativity Pageant!

Muslim Mother: Oh, little Aisha gets to play one of the Three Mujaheddin at her madrassa play. She gets to cut the head off the doll!

Lest you think this is an example of the Bear's penchant for colorful exaggeration, you can see the (non-graphic -- it's a doll, for now) video at Pam Geller's site. Golda Meier famously said there will be peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us. It's not looking too good, Golda, no, not at all. This is outright child abuse. How can a culture produce non-messed-up people when they treat their kids like time bombs? Of course, it can't.

St. Philip Benzini's Fear of Damnation

Think about Hell every day.
St. Philip Benzini is honored by the Church today. He is not among the more well-known saints, but the Bear wishes to invite your attention to the extraordinary contrition this holy man felt. How it contrasts with the carefree presumption of today! Who gives the real prospect of eternal damnation a thought nowadays? Look at the short lines at the once-a-week penance service, while the pews empty and everybody goes to communion. Hell is never mentioned in a homily. Not seldom, but never. Sin might be mentioned on the rare occasion, but then again, maybe not.

We are in the age of do-it-yourself salvation. That means contemplating your sins and doing penance. Most of all, it means facing the very real fact that people go to Hell. Such has been the unanimous opinion of saints throughout history. Most have said the majority follow the wide road to damnation, while only a minority perseveres to the narrow door of salvation. There is no guarantee that you yourself will be saved. In short: we are all at risk of Hell's fire.

From the Pictorial Lives of the Saints, for your edification:

St. Philip was born in Florence, on the Feast of the Assumption, 1233. That same day, the Order of Servites was founded by the Mother of God. As an infant at the breast, Philip broke out into speech at the sight of these new religious, and begged his mother to give them alms. Amidst all the temptations of his youth, he longed to become himself a servant of Mary, and it was only the fear of his own unworthiness which made him yield to his father’s wish and begin to practice medicine.

After long and weary waiting, his doubts were solved by our Lady herself, who in a vision bade him enter her Order. Still Philip dared only offer himself as a lay brother, and in this humble state he strove to do penance for his sins. In spite of his reluctance, he was promoted to the post of master of novices; and as his rare abilities were daily discovered, he was bidden to prepare for the priesthood. Thenceforth honors were heaped upon him; he became general of the Order, and only escaped by flight elevation to the Papal throne.

His preaching restored peace to Italy, which was wasted by civil wars; and at the Council of Lyons, he spoke to the assembled prelates with the gift of tongues. Amid all these favors, Philip lived in extreme penitence, constantly examining his soul before the judgment-seat of God, and condemning himself as only fit for hell. St. Philip, though he was free from the stain of mortal sin, was never weary of beseeching God’s mercy. From the time he was ten years old, he said daily the Penitential Psalms. 

On his death-bed he kept reciting the verses of the Miserere, [Psalm 51] with his cheeks streaming with tears; and during his agony, he went through a terrible contest to overcome the fear of damnation. But a few minutes before he died. all his doubts disappeared and were succeeded by a holy trust He uttered the responses in a low but audible voice; and when at last the Mother of God appeared before him, he lifted up his arms with joy and breathed a gentle sigh, as if placing his soul in her hand. He died on the Octave of the Assumption, 1285.

Shea, J. G. (1887). Pictorial Lives of the Saints (pp. 366–368). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers.

Islam and Ebola

UPDATE: From the "There Are No Coincidences" department there comes this excellent piece from Church Militant TV's Facebook page. For all you people who have given up on CMTV, today's "Best Of" Vortex was unfriendly to Protestantism, and here we have something that does not mindlessly fawn over Islam like the Catholic world -- except the Archbishop of Mosul, anyway -- does. (Whoops, the Bear forgot, Mosul is -- poof! -- no longer part of the Catholic world, but has been overrun by Islamozombies.) When the Bear decides to say something, he reserves the right to use every rhetorical weapon, from closely reasoned argument to ridicule.

Michael Voris and company may or may not actually come out and say anything against the Pope. But the Bear bets his entire stock of fine, locally-produced orchard honey that you are going to see more episodes taking on the Pope's positions. And that's what we really need, isn't it? And on with the original, fine old rant.

Rorate Caeli has a good piece about Jorge Bergoglio's response (through a spokesman) to Pope Benedict's 2006 Regensburg Speech, which was perceived to be unfriendly to Islam.

We can say Islam is a religion of peace the same way we can say Ebola is a tonic. It may not kill everybody, and may not be killing anyone where you happen to be living now. But how insane would it be for the White House to announce that the CDC is looking for ways to spread Ebola? How clueless would talking heads be if they assured us that Ebola was harmless? What if the Vatican welcomed Ebola infected victims into the Vatican without protective measures?

The Bear does not know how many of you read his long, perhaps rambling, essay on the near and present danger ISIS poses to your soul. It is worth repeating, however, that anyone who tells you:

  • Islam is a religion of peace
  • Islam is not a danger in the world
  • Muslims engaged in mass murder in the name of Islam have nothing to do with Islam
  • Mass murder by Muslims is just a spontaneous outbreak of psychopathy (or zombism) totally unrelated to the religion they keep yelling about

Anyone who tells you these things is a liar. The Bear cannot be more plain about this. We have no "Islamic brothers" (i.e. brothers on account of their Islamic beliefs). "Moderate Muslims" are not going to raise a hue and cry about atrocities committed in the name of the religion. Not ever. Islam cannot be touted as one of the "Three Great Abrahamic Religions," as if it was somehow comparable to Christianity. Islam is an unholy mess.

President, pope or prelate, they are lying. It is a useful test. If they will lie to you about this, they will lie to you about other things, as well.

So how are we to think of Muslims? Realistically, but lovingly. The Bear is not adding that on to polish his PC credentials, either. (Have you noticed he doesn't have any? It's not really a Bear thing.) Seriously, we cannot let the religion of hate infect us with their zombie bite. We cannot hate Muslims, no matter what. Jesus calls upon us to love our enemies. That takes a lot. Especially these days. 

But Jesus didn't say we must pretend they are not our enemies. That's cheap grace. That's 20th century political correctness. It is a fraud. It has nothing to do with Christianity. Pretending Islam is worthy of belief is 20th century political correctness. With some Modernism thrown in. It has nothing to do with Catholicism, and, in fact, runs counter to the historical Catholic stream.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why Branding is Important

A tip from St. Corbinian's Bear! If you're going to start an evil empire, make sure the name is consistent with your aims. "ISIS" is a bad choice if you hate women (Isis is a goddess), hate gods other than Allah (goddess), and hate idols (you get the picture).

In today's crowded field of evil Islamic death cults, you need distinctive branding to set you apart. There's an old brand that still sets the bar for absolute evil. Why settle for anything less? Instead of ISIS, the Bear suggests NAZI. Hey, don't thank me, you've earned it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Francis Fatigue

"He who eats the Pope dies."
From indigestion.
Update: Pope Pius X's essential encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis "On the Doctrine of the Modernists" (1917). It is not a hard read, nor overlong, as is the fashion today. You will be the wiser for having read this great pope's uncovering of the weaselly ways of "the synthesis of all heresies," It is quite relevant today.

The Bear needs a Pope break. He is reminded of a circus act in Vienna several hundred years ago where he was compelled by painful methods to beat a large drum with a stick held in both paws. You would think that act would have gotten old fast. You would be wrong. The Bear would like to say he will not write anything about Pope Francis for two weeks. But who knows what the Pope will do, so no promises.

And, of course, the Bear has to remember what Catholic bloggers wrote about before Pope Francis!

This started out as an article about how best to deal with this perfect storm of papal problems. Then the Bear just got tired of writing about it all. So the world will have to handle it without the Bear's 1000+ years of wisdom. Maybe this is the answer. Check out. Hunker down. Talk about something else.

Please, just give us a break for two weeks. Is that too much to ask? Nothing weird. Just rest up from the trip to Korea. St. Pope Pius X, pray for our Church on this, your day.

St. Pope Pius X

Glorious Pope of the Eucharist, Saint Pius X, you sought "to restore all things in Christ." Obtain for me a true love of Jesus so that I may live only for Him. Help me to acquire a lively fervor and a sincere will to strive for sanctity of life, and that I may avail myself of the riches of the Holy Eucharist in sacrifice and sacrament. By your love for Mary, mother and queen of all, inflame my heart with tender devotion to her.

Blessed model of the priesthood, obtain for us holy, dedicated priests, and increase vocations to the religious life. Dispel confusion and hatred and anxiety, and incline our hearts to peace and concord. so that all nations will place themselves under the sweet reign of Christ. Amen.

Saint Pius X, pray for me.

And for our Church.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Beau the Puppy

Friend Cat seems alarmed!

See the white socks?
Here are a couple of pictures of Beau posted by request. He is very playful, even for a puppy. The Bear is not sure what puppy milestones are worth reporting. He can sleep by himself, which is welcome. He's a lot bigger than when we got him, but just looks like a bigger puppy. His Big Boy Dogness hasn't started yet. Buster our male Yorkie studiously ignores him. "I don't know what to do with you, so you do not exist in Buster's universe." Dahlia, our female Yorkie gobbles up all his food then camps out in front of his food and water bowls so he can't get to them.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Renaissance Prince and His Courtiers

Pope high-fives televangelist James Robison.
A certain blogger has dismissed a segment of Catholic opinion as "Pharisees" for wondering about Mr. Tony Palmer's Catholic (even episcopal, if the Bear has understood properly) funeral. You see, if you were scandalized, you are just like the Pharisees who objected to Jesus casting the demon from the Canaanite woman's daughter. Or something.

I see a bright future for him, as a sort of anti-Bear, boosting the Pope and calling other Catholics nasty names.

Jesus never did anything without a good reason, so the Bear happens to agree that Jesus was probably making a point with the Canaanite woman in today's Gospel. One, however, that has nothing to do with Mr. Palmer. It is surprising that this blogger, who is a priest, should miss that. Or perhaps he didn't, and is just taking a lazy swipe at Catholics Who Are Not As Good As I Am.

Which is kind of ironic, when you have decided upon a new career of calling other Catholics Pharisees.

The Catholics who were scandalized at Tony Palmer's Catholic funeral are the same Catholics who are troubled with Pope Francis' repeated doings and sayings concerning Protestants in general. They are not Pharisees, at least the Bear is not getting that from them. They are faithful Catholics who are scandalized. That is an entirely different thing from feeling superior.

In other words, Pope Francis is causing them to stumble. This is because they know the Church has in the past -- and not just in the 16th century, but in the 20th century, too -- issued warnings about Protestantism. There was the Church, then there was everyone else, including Protestants, who were outside of the salvific embrace of the Church. Catholics were told to respect the difference and avoid doing the special things they did with other Catholics with Protestants.

Like worshiping with them.

Was Tony Palmer's funeral improper? The Bear has not studied the topic. He would suspect yes, but is not going to tear up anybody's campsite over it.

None of this is about Catholics looking down on Protestants. It isn't personal. It is dishonest to try to make it so. It is all about how Pope Francis is looking at his Church. The Bear is willing to stipulate that many Protestants are better than he is. To pretend this is about feeling superior is just a straw man argument. (One thing about an open combox by the way: it helps keep you honest.)

No, this is about one thing: this Pope likes changing the rules. He likes to change small rules. He likes to change big rules. And he doesn't bother to explain to the peasants as he goes.

It is the height of arrogance for any cleric to dismiss the legitimate concerns of faithful Catholics regarding the Pope's apparent belief that the Church is merely one of 30,000 Christian "faces" on the holy polyhedron. Tony Palmer is the very same friend of the Pope whom Francis discouraged from converting, because "bridge builders" were needed among Protestants. It isn't hard to figure out what the Pope thinks of extra ecclesiam nulla salus (no salvation outside the Church) is it?

If the Pope was dealing fairly with everyone, he would lay out his beliefs. Heaven knows he can find himself a "journalist" whenever he wants to, if he can't be bothered to write an encyclical. (A Bear is about the only creature he hasn't personally spoken to.) Is it time for for extra ecclesiam nulla salus to go? Fine! Lay it out for us. Have we entered a New Age with regard to Protestants, and, for all the Bear knows, Jews, Muslims, and everybody else? Great! Tell us how and why this happened and let the good ecumenical and interfaith times roll!

But don't skulk around behind the backs of your sheep while your hirelings snipe at any that bleat. Show a little respect and, well, humility, by not acting like a Renaissance Prince whose word is law.

How ironic that the humble, gentle Franciscan Church, the very embodiment of Vatican II -- which includes the dignity of the priesthood the faithful by the way -- is reduced to what we have seen the past several weeks.

Zoar Update and Miscellany

Sunday in Zoar

Sunday seems like a good time to take it easy with a Zoar Update. ("The Place God Didn't Destroy.") Zoar has been peaceful and secure in the hilly fastness of the Shawnee National Forest.

Blanquette has been acting true to her namesake, M. Seguin's Goat, and escaping. However, once on the wrong side of the fence, she panics, and bleats piteously as she runs around the enclosure, trying to discover her way back in. This was, incidentally, the only way we found out she could talk, since otherwise she is mute.

A Goat Named Shwarma

The Shepherdess has ominously renamed "Hyssop" to Shwarma. We already have "Goatburger." Today she was reduced to fencing against the horned brute with a metal feed scoop. Not a smart move.

All of our dairy goats are dry at the moment, so we are still waiting to try our hand at soap-making.

Jane the gender-confused rooster is off on walkabout, not satisfied with his own farm and hens. Such adventures seldom come to a happy end. A moral there, to be sure.

Beau, our new Mini Aussie is hitting eight weeks old, and is very people-oriented. He's really smart, too, and too cute. He plays with Shelby's favorite toys, which is nice. (We had to put down Shelby several weeks ago, and our Border Collie this week. So it's nice to have a puppy in the house.) He likes to play with Friend Cat and Friends Yorkies (not as friendly as Friend Cat). He is, however, afraid of goats! Well, he is quite little, and goats are very intimidating to him.

Mass Notes

Ah, today the Bear did not want to roll out of his cozy bed and go to Mass. His guardian angel had to kick him out of bed. It was either that or a burst of Holy Stubbornness; sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. Maybe it was the thunderstorms that interrupted his sleep last night.

The church was full, which was nice to see, and there was a baptism, too! The Bear couldn't tell you what the homily was about, which is usually a good thing. We did have to perform the Nazi salute, however, required of all parishioners so they can "bless" the baptized baby with outstretched hand. The Bear does not know where that is in the rubrics, but he can't blow his cover by defiantly folding his arm. So, he made an unenthusiastic and vague gesture.


In other news, the Bear was also gratified to see confirmed something he has long maintained. Redheads are represented in advertising far more than their occurrence in real life would demand.

Redheads rule in commercials.

Research shows that redheads are eye-catching (duh) and desirable (double duh). None more so than the Bear's mate, a.k.a the Shepherdess, a.k.a. the Bear's bodyguard, driver and factotum, Red Death. They are also only 2% of the population, so the Bear is lucky to have made such a rare catch.


Here's a five-minute segment on the truth about the Spanish Inquisition. It is a favorite of "The Black Legend" of English anti-Catholic propaganda. The torture and executions were common everywhere, with England at the top of the list. (Catholics have much to be ashamed of, too, such as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in France in 1572, just a year after the miraculous victory at Lepanto.) The times do not excuse, but they do provide context. As the little history lesson shows, secular criminals would blaspheme just to get under the Inquisition's jurisdiction, since conditions and interrogations were less inhumane.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Is Church Militant TV Irrelevant?

Michael Voris
A respected reader and fellow blogger voiced the opinion recently at St. Corbinian's Bear that Church Militant TV -- more particularly, it's flagship program, Michael Voris' "Vortex" -- was irrelevant. Why? Because they do not criticize Pope Francis, no matter what he does.

It is true that much of the news in the Catholic world, at least among those who are paying attention, revolves around the loosey goosey communication style of the Pontiff, and the curious beliefs he seems to hold. For example, he seems to believe that it is not essential, or even important, that non-Catholics become Catholic to further the cause of their salvation. The Bear says "seems" because the Pope has never articulated his theology of salvation, or his theology of the Church: soteriology and ecclesiology respectively.

Catholics are left to guess about Pope Francis' beliefs. However, we may make educated guesses, and it is not without cause that we wonder what Pope Francis means when he claims to be a "loyal son of the Church." It probably depends on what "Church" means to him. Perhaps it is the broader-than-the-Catholic-Church "Church of Christ" that has caused perennial confusion since Vatican II muddied the previously crystal clear waters of ecclesiology.

Please... just stop.
At any rate, Pope Francis, time and time again, floats the non-explicit, but nonetheless clear, idea that the Catholic Church is one Christian sect among many. He does it when he tells a friend who wants to convert not to, because he is needed as a "bridge builder." He does it when he talks about "unity in diversity." He does it when he illustrates Christianity with a polyhedron: each manifestation of Christian "diversity" is like the face on a three-dimensional multi-sided figure. He does it when he calls proselytizing "solemn nonsense." He does it when tells Anglicans that we do not need them in the Church, we need them where they are. He does it when he announces that there are too many doctrines for Christians ever to agree upon, so we should all just be the best whatever we are.

What does one need to do to be saved? Pope Francis has confused even this fundamental issue of Christianity. Are sacraments important? Or is knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior all you need?

Despite Pope Francis' hobby horses, the poor are not at the heart of the Gospel. Christ is. Unemployment, yea, even of youth, is a real, but temporary problem in the grand scheme. How to get people into heaven should be the occupation of a pope. (Yeah, the Bear knows, crazy stuff, huh?) Pope Francis smiles and waves a hand like this is unimportant and returns to his favorite topics: youth unemployment, the loneliness of the elderly, and his published philosophy of "live and let live."

The Bear has gone from being an early fan of the Pope to deep distrust. Pope Francis has been entrusted with the deposit of the Faith. He should be as cautious as a man carrying a Tiffany lamp on roller skates. Instead, he is careless, reckless, even. He treats the papacy as Jorge's Big Chance to Do Whatever He Wants. To cultivate a Church of the descamisados*. To surround himself with a kitchen cabinet of Protestants on the back channel. To quash the occasional Traditionalist. We have less of a shepherd than a prophet, and less of a prophet than The International Man of Mystery.

What if the Spirit of Francis
is riding the Spirit of Vatican II?
In short, we are seeing the sly superimposition of a Franciscan Church upon the Catholic Church.

Bear believes the Church is in a crisis of historic proportions. Changes do not have to come by way of encyclicals, councils or ex cathedra pronouncements. If we learned anything from Vatican II, we learned that a "spirit" can seize the Church and attack the people where they live. The replacement of the Church with the "Spirit of Francis" is a real and dangerous possibility. (We will see which way the winds are blowing when October's Synod rolls around.)

So, what does that have to do with Church Militant TV?

Simple. We have reached a point where people are confused, discouraged and even frightened. Oh, the low-information crowd will always love Pope Francis because he smiles, or something. His apologists will trumpet every time he mentions "the devil" in a homily as proof of his orthodoxy, but ignore his soft heresy and bizarre actions. But those of us who love the Church -- the real Church, not what we wish the Church could be if only we had women priestesses, or married clergy, or allowed contraception, or installed the idol of the descamisados in the sanctuary, or lowered the Bride of Christ to the level of another sect alongside 30,000 Protestant ones  -- those of us who love the Church and are paying attention are alarmed.

The mainstream Catholic news outlets and blogs are a 24/7 spin machine for Pope Francis. They are a tidal wave to the Bear's tiny sand castle. We need what few heavy hitters we have in the conservative Catholic media to take a stand. Not against the Pope, but for the Church.

The reader who felt Church Militant TV was irrelevant was articulating disappointment that a policy of "silence is golden" when it comes to the Pope is letting Catholics down.

There is an old legal principle that there are circumstances when people might reasonably expect someone to say something. For example, if I seriously accuse you of murder, and you do not deny it, your silence is admissible in a court of law as a tacit admission. Well, history has handed us one of those circumstances where all informed men and women of good will must speak out. If you are not invincibly ignorant, you have to know the dangers Pope Francis is creating. Just in case you don't, let the Bear spell some out:

  • he is using soft heresy to revoke the infallible doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus -- no salvation outside the Church -- and replace it with the Franciscan doctrine of "Jesus wants you to blossom where you are"
  • he is using that same soft heresy to gut what little remains of the Church's missionary spirit and pull the life support from the comatose New Evangelization
  • he is churning the Church's historic and doctrinal sense of herself until no one has any idea what the Church even is anymore
  • he is keeping the faithful in a constant state of turmoil by his ill-considered media forays and actions, which distracts them from their own spiritual development
  • he is making converts wonder why they bothered (often at great personal cost) to enter and promoting general lukewarmness by undermining the teachings of the church, e.g. communion for divorced and remarried, and the practice of traditional devotions
  • he has overseen the suppression of Traditional Latin Masses, alarming and discouraging some of the Church's most fervent children
This is what "meh" looks like.

In a nutshell, for all his vaunted humility, Pope Francis, more than any Pope in memory, has made the papacy all about Pope Francis. He is leading the Church from "wow!" through "huh?" to "meh."

And this is why people look to Church Militant TV. What good does it do to talk about the Pope? There is a lot to be accomplished, actually:

  • Catholics need the comfort of knowing that it isn't just them, there is a problem with Pope Francis
  • Catholics need to be instructed in sound doctrine when Pope Francis seems to go off the rails
  • many Catholics are not in "conservative" or Traditionalist parishes, and benefit from a sense of community where they can freely acknowledge and share their fears
  • Catholics can network and maintain a sense of what the Church is
  • troubled Catholics can receive support and encouragement, e.g. the Bear always reminds people to "nail your foot to the floor in front of your pew and die there"
  • Catholics can be inoculated against "The Francis Effect" and remain true to historic Church teachings

No, the Pope is probably not going to change. He's an old man. He's playing a tune he learned forty years ago. That doesn't mean all of us have to dance to it, because he has proven himself to be not always reliable in basic Catholic teachings. As crazy as it sounds, we can't safely assume the Pope is Catholic in what he says (which makes being Catholic a lot more complicated than it should be).

The Bear has avoided answering the question: is Church Militant TV irrelevant?

In a word, no. 

The Vortex is remarkable when you consider that every day a new, high-quality episode is rolled out of production. Usually, it focuses on a problem in the Church. Let's face it, The Vortex is their "red meat" program. But they do a good job. I can't remember the last time Michael couldn't make it in front of the camera, complete with hair and dimples. Love him or hate him, you have to admit the man's a pro. And not every episode is negative. Today, there was a very moving story about Carmelite nuns executed during the French Revolution. The final scene from Dialogues des Carmelites is one you will not soon forget.

Ironically, it is precisely because The Vortex has been so issue-focused and fearlessly hard-hitting that its silence about Pope Francis is all the more noticeable.

But Church Militant TV is not irrelevant.

  • The Vortex remains a snappy, well-produced show and a faithful watchdog who barks at everybody (except the Pope)
  • Although it seems like the Pope dwarfs everything else, he is not the Church's only problem, and The Vortex still has plenty of work to do
  • The Vortex can provide instruction on doctrines that Pope Francis seems to call into question, without saying anything about the Pope directly
  • The Vortex is only a tiny part of what's available to premium users -- literally a bewildering variety of Catholic programming for 10 bucks a month

While we might hope for more from Church Militant TV, the Bear counsels everyone to let them figure out their own course on this matter. In the meantime, Church Militant TV remains one of the top go-to places for excellent Catholic programming. The worst thing we could do is cut off our noses to spite our face by cancelling subscriptions or tuning out their shows. For once, let's not give in to fratricide. Whether you are a conservative Catholic, prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, or are just an ordinary pewsitter with a growing sense that something is very wrong, we all need to work together and support each other.

Of course, there's always Patheos.

*descamisados (literally "shirtless ones") the poor; affectionately used by Juan and Eva Peron for their poor supporters in Argentina.

A "Best Of" Show: The Martyrdom of French Carmelite Nuns
During the Revolution

Why, Bless My (Kia) Soul

It is almost a visual pun for the Pope to tool around Seoul in a Kia Soul. As a proud humble Kia Soul owner, the Bear appreciates the street cred of driving a genuine Popemobile. This may be a bonding moment for Bear and Pope. The Bear has discovered the commercial that inspired the choice. Pewsitter has several good stories on the visit. At least Pope Francis is talking to Catholics about Catholic stuff for the most part. Bravo!

Here are the dancing hamsters everybody loves (except Renaissance princes).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Warning Catholics about
proselytizing is like warning
Baptists about dancing.
The Bear always gets to thinking when he hears people warn against things that don't exist. Such warnings are a way to shape behavior and perceptions, or signal the virtue of the one warning. It's a form of agitprop. For example, after every Muslim terrorist attack, we are lectured ad nauseam about "backlash," as if rednecks singing Onward Christian Soldiers rounded up thousands of Muslims every time one of them set off a bomb, then forced them to watch Beth Moore videos until they convert or die.

Pope Francis has warned us repeatedly about the evils of proselytizing. The Bear asks: where is this proselytizing going on?

Is it common in Argentina for Catholics to go out into the cities two-by-two Mormon style and strong arm Evangelicals into the Church? Because the Bear can tell you spreading the Gospel is not something Catholics do where he lives. Catholics do fish fries. Maybe some bingo. Catholics don't proselytize. You will see Bigfoot before you will see Catholics going door-to-door to spread the word. It has been bred out of our DNA.

So what's really going on?

The Pope is not talking to Catholics. He's sending Protestants a submissive message. It is the equivalent of a dog rolling over and showing its belly. We are no threat to you. You don't have to worry about us trying to convert you, because we're just not into that solemn nonsense.

Why would the Pope want to do this? One reason might be to get Protestants to reconsider stealing his sheep. Evangelicals and Pentecostals are making a serious dent in the Church in South America through hard sell proselytizing. American Protestants consider South America mission territory. They literally send missionaries to save the poor godless Catholics.

Maybe he figures the Church has the most to gain in a "unity in diversity" message where everybody stays put.

This is sheer speculation, of course. He has always had a strongly ecumenical urge. But despite his personal friendships with televangelists and Pentecostal preachers, no self-respecting Protestant is going to pay all that much attention to the Whore of Babylon.

What it does demonstrate is that Pope Francis has ecumenical dreams that we can scarcely imagine. Dreams that call into question his theology of the Church and raise the shadow of Indifferentism.

Blog Milestone and Lotsa Links!

The Bear is pleased to share that St. Corbinian's Bear has reached a milestone this week!

60,000 page views and 1000 comments.

Not much by the standards of most blogs, but we're still relatively new. The Bear is happy his readership continues to grow. Some of that growth is directly attributable to readers and fellow bloggers sharing the Bear. So thank you. The comments at SCB are exceptionally well-thought-out and well-written, too, so thank you for that, too!

The most popular posts include:

Admittedly, the more outrageous the title, the more popular the post, plus readers seem to have an insatiable appetite for articles about Pope Francis. The Bear doesn't want to turn this into the Father Mario Show, but, let's face it, Pope Francis is making history. How?

The Holy Polyhedron of
Father Mario
He is changing how the Church views herself in the world. He is not doing it through encyclicals, or a council (although there is that synod coming up), but by his actions. For all his displays of humility and phoning up housewives in the middle of the night, he sees himself as less of a pastor than a prophet. He is the Prophet of the Holy Polyhedron, where the Church is one face among many. Any gimcrack preacher who styles himself "bishop" is put on a level of a Catholic bishop who traces his office from the Apostles themselves.

Who knows what our Pope believes? Sadly, we have learned, and are still learning, what he doesn't. So the Bear will continue his twin missions of chronicling the danger Pope Francis poses to the Church, and exhorting his readers to practice the virtue of Holy Stubbornness.

No matter what happens, the Church remains the Church, and we must remain in the Church. The Bear knows you are all tired of hearing this, but nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there. You could receive worse advice in these troubled times.

The Bear's favorite posts are not necessarily his most popular ones:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Michael Voris Blasts Indifferentism

It's not like everybody has to become
Coincidentally following upon the Bear's imaginary interview with Pope Francis, Michael Voris offered a re-run in which he slams the telegenic Fox News Catholic commentator Fr. Morris. Fr. Morris made a problematic remark during coverage of Pope Benedict leaving the Vatican after stepping down as Pope.

Why did Fr. Morris deserve to be the subject of a Vortex? Because, you see, he remarked that "It's not like everybody has to become Catholic."

Michael Voris goes on to make a series of excellent points. Well, he asks, what should they become? He notes that the "New Evangelization" is "dead in the water" with an attitude like that. It is just Indifferentism

Michael was right to Vortex this in the first place. What a shame when a Catholic figure who commands a huge audience goes weak in the knees about the faith and bringing other people to it. Of course, Michael could not ignore the whiff of Indifferentism. People should strive to secure their salvation inside the Church, using the sacraments and all the other help God gives faithful Catholics. So, Fr. Morris got Vortexed, and rightfully so.
Indifferentism rubs my fur
the wrong way.

But wait! Isn't there another Catholic figure who acts like it is not that big of a deal whether someone is inside the Church or not? Who advised a Protestant friend not to convert to Catholicism because he needed "bridge builders" outside the Church who agreed with him? Who has spoken on multiple occasions about the evils of proselytizing? A figure with a far larger audience and much greater moral authority than Fr. Morris?

That's right! Father Mario (the late Tony Palmer's name for him), a.k.a. Pope Francis! The most ecumenical Pope in history!

We know Michael Voris does not criticize the Pope, nor does he approve of those who do. But why re-run an old Fr. Morris comment now, out of all the Vortexes that have been produced? True, they are doing "best of" reruns during their Church Militant TV retreat, but why pick this one?

Michael calls Fr. Morris' comments many things, to which the Bear adds prophetic. Enjoy the Vortex. The criticism of Indifferentism is valid for Fr. Morris, and it's valid for anyone else who advocates it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dear Pope Francis

If the Bear could conduct an interview with Pope Francis this is what he would want to ask.

You have taken a strong stand against proselytizing, and published reports quote your late friend Tony Palmer as saying you discouraged his conversion to Catholicism. Is the conversion of non-Catholic Christians to Catholicism a legitimate goal today?

Should we seek to bring into the Church non-Catholic family members and acquaintances, or should we leave them to whatever faith they already possess?

Is it ever permissible to initiate a conversation with the goal of conversion? May Catholics make use of apologetics, or are they limited to visibly leading attractive lives?

How about non-Christian persons? Is it desirable that Jews, Muslims, atheists and others enter into the Church? If so, what role should Catholics play in bringing them in?

Related to the foregoing is the issue of how you view the Church and its role in salvation. For a long time, the Church taught the doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus -- no salvation outside the Church. Has this doctrine outlived its usefulness? Are you prepared to say that the Roman Catholic Church was established by Jesus Christ as at least the ordinary vehicle for salvation? People who choose to remain outside of the Church are deprived of the sacraments and many other benefits. Does this hurt their chances of salvation, or does God work among them in the absence of sacraments? Can it be reasonably hoped that people who know and are free to investigate the Catholic Church's claims, yet nonetheless choose to remain outside of it, are saved?

If salvation extends beyond the limits of the Church, what is it based on?  A personal sense of faith, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, good works, what?

Does one even need to be a Christian to be saved? Is it reasonable to hope that Jews and Moslems are saved? If so, on what basis? The fact that they are considered "Abrahamic religions?"

With regard to Jews specifically, do you believe that God's covenant with the Jews remained in effect after the death of Jesus, and that God has maintained two covenants, the old and the new? Does the Church have a mission to the Jews?

What is the position of Muslims? Should Catholics avoid engaging Muslims with the goal of their conversion? Is it a good thing when Jews or Muslims enter the Church, or is it better that each remain as he is and be the best Jew or the best Muslim he can be?

Besides non-Catholic Christians, Jews and Muslims, there is a growing number of atheists in today's world. Some are quite vocal in denying Christ. Is it legitimate to cordially engage atheists and employ apologetics and friendly argument to attempt to bring them into the Catholic Church? Or does this constitute proselytizing, which you discourage?

What is the source in Scripture, Tradition or theology for a ban on proselytizing?

What is your definition of proselytizing? Describe your idea of permissible sharing of the Gospel with others. Is the "new evangelization" to be limited to being "attractive?" Or do we just need to clarify what "proselytizing" is?

Just how important is the Church to any particular person's salvation? Do Catholics enjoy a greater hope of salvation because they are within the Church, and have recourse to the sacraments, the saints, and many other helps? If there is a benefit to salvation, should we not desire to share that with others?

Have we reached a point in history when old religious distinctions are less important? Have we placed too much emphasis on the things that divide us in the past? Do you envision the eventual development of some sort of a Pan-Christian alliance where the Church is one expression of God's activity among many others? A "unity in diversity," as you have said? Does this mean that the exclusiveness of the past must be abandoned in favor of a more nuanced valuation of the Church?

Recognizing that there are practical limits on what even the Pope can accomplish, if you could, what would you change about the Church?

  • communion for divorced and remarried Catholics
  • women priests
  • married priests
  • excluding non-Catholic Christians of good will from communion
  • accepting homosexuality as a human variance and allowing practicing homosexuals to receive communion
  • the suppression of the old form of the Mass to foster uniformity and combat division
  • abandoning the exclusiveness of the Church and recognizing that God works equally through other Christian communities

Those would be the questions the Bear would explore if he were given the opportunity. It is quite amazing that any Catholic would desire clarification from the Pope on any of these issues, but Pope Francis has fairly raised the questions.

And they are troubling.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why I Wear My Crucifix Exposed

The Bear went up to Our Lady of the Snows shrine Saturday for a dulcimer festival. While he waited for his mate outside the main building, an elderly lady slowly got out of her car and made her way toward the Bear, resplendent in his silver St. Benedict's Medal crucifix.

The lady walked right up to the Bear and said, "I have to ask. If you say a rosary, but the beads aren't blessed, does it still count?"

"Why, yes, ma'am!" the Bear answered confidently. "It counts!"

"Thank you," she said, clearly relieved, and went on her way.

1. So when you wear your crucifix exposed, you become Catholic Answer Man (or Bear, or Woman) At Large.

Before that, on the same trip, the Bear was heading into a gas station restroom at one of the tiny towns on the way up to the Snows when a tall, skinny, long-haired, scruffy man in a sleeveless shirt stopped him. The Bear's first impression was that he looked like a meth cooker (and the Bear has seen his share).

"Hey, I got one of them crosses like that," he shared eagerly. "It's a CATHOLIC one with the JESUS on it!"

The Bear almost laid some proselytizing on him, then remembered how much Father Mario HATES proselytizing, so the Bear just smiled and mumbled something pleasant.

2. So when you wear your crucifix exposed, you gain instant street cred with scary rednecks.

Do any readers have any stories about times their crucifixes have been noticed by someone?

Book Review: A Catholic's Guide to Depression

What Depression Is Not

For those who have not experienced the medical condition known by the inadequate name "depression," it sounds like a lot of things it's not.

It's not like feeling "blue," even perhaps a deeper shade of blue. It's not a hoax perpetrated by big pharma. "Melancholia" has a pedigree reaching back to ancient times. It's not something someone can just shake off. It is a crushing disease that has real effects on not only the mood, but cognitive functioning and physical energy. It's not a character defect, or an excuse for laziness.

For Catholics, in particular, it is not to be confused with "the dark night of the soul," or "spiritual dryness," or "the noonday devil" or acedia, or any other spiritual condition.

It is something so devastating that death is often looked upon as a release from its unremitting pain and hopelessness. Somebody commits suicide every seventeen minutes in America. (See the Bear's "A Catholic's Guide to Suicide" for more.)

A Gem of a Book

A Catholic's Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty is an excellent book written by a psychiatrist familiar with Catholic beliefs, practices, and spiritual literature. What makes this book a gem is that the author explores the writings of, for example, St. Ignatius Loyola with the same confidence as he outlines drug options and therapies. He does not make the mistake of "spiritualizing" a medical condition, nor does he attempt to treat spiritual conditions as medical problems. In other books, such as Kathleen Norris' otherwise excellent Acedia and Me, the medical and spiritual issues get blurred. While acknowledging that depression (especially the wild roller coaster ride of bipolar disorder) can implicate a Catholic's moral life, Dr. Kheriaty otherwise keeps medicine and spiritual direction strictly separated, at least in the diagnostic stage.

Medical or Spiritual?

Why is it so important to separate the medical from the spiritual in dealing with depression? Too often, Catholics suffering from depression have been told or have concluded on their own that depression is a moral failure of some sort. It's their fault. A good Catholic in a state of grace has no business being depressed! Adding misplaced guilt can only aggravate depression. Or, if the problem is taken seriously, someone who does not fully understand the difference between depression and spiritual conditions might assume it is "a dark night of the soul," or acedia, or even sloth, which is one of the seven deadly sins. For a Catholic who is suffering from depression, such a mistaken "diagnosis" may lead him away from medical treatment that could -- in some cases -- be lifesaving.

For an example, some literate Catholics might have heard of acedia, and have a vague notion that it is similar (if not identical to) depression. Dr. Kheriaty analyzes the two conditions with the precision of a skilled diagnostician. His discussion of acedia is perfect.

Acedia is a moral disorder involving flight from God. It is a disorder to which the will freely consents; there is an element of choice involved. Acedia is listed among the seven deadly thoughts in Evagrius Ponticus, which later developed into the seven deadly sins in the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great... The fathers typically writing within an eremitic or monastic context, referred to this state as the "noonday demon" that may come upon the solitary monk. Rather than engaging in work, lectio divina (spiritual reading), prayer, or other useful activity, the monk who had fallen into acedia could be seen idly watching the sun in the sky, waiting for his one daily meal.

(Page 56)  Dr. Kheriaty then finds the place where depression and acedia separate. While they may seem similar, "in the depressed person, the thoughts pervade all of his life, while in the acedic person, they have to do only with the things of God." He also says:

The depressed person may attempt a few minutes of spiritual reading. Although he wants to follow the words on the page, try as he might he cannot bring his mind to focus on words or follow their meaning. By way of contrast, the acedic individual will simply forego spiritual reading in the first place -- not because he cannot do it, but simply because he does not want to, preferring other activities.

(Page 57)  He treats the "desolation" of St. Ignatius Loyola, and the "dark night of the soul" of St. John of the Cross with equal care. He goes beyond mere diagnosis, however, and prescribes the medicine of confession to a soul mired in sin, even as he acknowledges, however, that mental illness can reduce the moral culpability of someone who commits sin. See e.g. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1735, 2352, and 2282.)

Help for the Depressed Catholic

Dr. Kheriaty explores all available treatment options for the depressed Catholic. Of course, he only summarizes options, but everything is there, from antidepressants and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to exotic measures like implanted vagal nerve stimulation. There is also a brief description of each of the most commonly used talk therapies with their pros and cons.

He acknowledges that diagnoses of depression have skyrocketed, but does not give a reason, other than to speculate that it may be related to the practical nihilism at the heart of Western culture. Ironically, while studies have shown a strong correlation between religion and sound mental health, and a large majority of patients describe themselves as at least "spiritual," psychiatrists are among the most atheistic of all doctors.

Dr. Kheriaty is not afraid to advocate saying the Divine Office, however. Not only is it a simple prayer even a melancholic person may read, it marks the rhythm of morning and evening, an important benefit for the depressed. He also prescribes the rosary, lectio divina, and the confessional. The book also contains a survey of relevant passages from the Bible and is sprinkled with quotations from saints like Josemaria Escriva. Yet another gift Dr. Kheriaty gives is showing the depressed person that while his illness may not be spiritual, it can have a spiritual benefit, like all suffering. The spiritual side of the book complements the medical side beautifully, and offers depressed Catholics a complete understanding of their illness that has been missing.


Dr. Kheriaty has created a perfect balm of medical and spiritual insight into depression. No Catholic whom this illness has touched should be without this book. The Bear gives it his highest recommendation. It will help the reader to distinguish depressive symptoms from spiritual conditions, and provide sure guidance in addressing both. This is the book's real service.

Depression is still misunderstood by many Catholics, including, unfortunately, many of its sufferers. No doubt it is over-diagnosed by harried general practitioners who prescribe heavily advertised antidepressants. Natural conditions such as bereavement (as well as just about any undesired feelings or behavior) are being inappropriately "medicalized." But for those who have fallen into the pit of true depression, there is no doubt that they have experienced something beyond the range of ordinary human experience.

Books like Acedia and Me, and A Catholic's Guide to Depression provide perspective and sound guidance for Catholics. (A Catholic's Guide to Depression has also been favorably reviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online, and Jeff Mirus over at Catholic Culture.)

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