I know many are waiting for my promised article on the nature and tactics of the satan. That is the next big article coming. But I hate to write about him…and I am trying to get my bearings. A family member died Thursday night. Almost everyone I know among family and friends are facing crises of some sorts right now. That is not exactly unexpected, but it still takes a little time to get adjusted to.
I know there are several big things I need to write bluntly about – primarily the nature of the satan and about Islam, among some other heavy, unpleasant topics. I need to approach them with care and precision. But I am discombobulated by the disorder that is coming in waves from all directions now. It is like a video battle game: in Level 1, you face attackers that are few in number, slow and easy to bat away. By Level 8, they are coming fast and furious from all directions and no matter how many you defeat there are a dozen more to take their place. We are in Level 8.
First, there is the personal, which I have already mentioned. Then there is the world. I am astonished that this week, the American president unilaterally released five terrorists from Guantanamo Bay literally less than a week after the terrorist attacks in Paris. The 2,000 Christians brutally slaughtered last week by Boko Haram in Nigeria barely got noticed because of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter. When I was young, I loved reading the “Year in Review” editions of various magazines. Right now, more disasters and mass slaughters happen in three days than happened during entire years back then. Level 8.
On the economic scene, the cracks are getting visible and investors are quietly beginning to panic. In Greece, they are gearing up for a major run on their banks. Switzerland has detached itself from the Euro. I read articles explaining why it really is not as big a deal as it seems…and they read like the historical raw source material I used to read by European papers constantly explaining in painful detail why Hitler was not as big a problem as some thought – at least before he invaded Poland. In America, our national debt is not only bigger than the annual income of all Americans combined; it is not only bigger than the annual income of every person in the world combined; it is bigger than all the money and assets that exist in the entire world. Level 8.
I read articles constantly referring to how North Korea is helping this nation or that in the Middle East to develop and refine nuclear capabilities…and no one seems to notice. I used to be asked to posit what political opponents’s overall strategy was by their day-to-day actions. I got asked because I was pretty good at it. I watch this administration and this president and I can see no coherent “endgame” in mind at all. Frankly, the consistently anti-American actions it takes resemble nothing so much as tyrants of collapsing regimes throughout history who, bitter at their failures and overreach, often punish their own people in the conviction that it was the people who were not worthy of them. Never happened in America before. Then I read comment sections from supposedly mainstream publications like the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times…well, you get the idea…and it is like I am in a Bizarro Universe. The majority of the commenters maintain the president is brilliant and a savior and that all criticism of him is just because he’s black. Really?! The dead job market, collapse in health care, frantic increase in Islamic terror, global insecurity, racial division egged on in the streets by the administration, efforts to impose things like transgender bathrooms and ban Christian expression…all of these things have NOTHING to do with such criticism? I am honestly baffled. I don’t know whether there really are that many really stupid people out there or whether they are just so desperate to believe in their own superiority that they are completely impervious to all reality. And to what end? Doom, when it comes, comes to all…not just those with whom you disagree. If you’re driving a culture towards doom, at some point, it would seem it has to dawn on you that you need to suspend the smug self-satisfaction at holding the wheel long enough to try to actually survive. One could argue that these are all trolls paid by George Soros…but the overwhelming majority of establishment reporters are equally invincibly ignorant and smug about it, so I think it is probably an organic division of the lines of battle ahead.
I know many are nervous about various comments Pope Francis makes off the cuff. While there is nothing yet that cannot be explained by taking the most innocent construction possible and recognizing that the media likes to promote the most anti-Catholic and anti-freedom construction possible in his words, I recognize there is a lot to actually be nervous about. I chuckled in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, when he nicely stated what ends an economy should serve, than recommended means that, whenever they have been tried, have impoverished everyone but a small elite that ends up running the society. That was ameliorated when he noted, with humility, that it was not for the Pope to determine the means; that it was up to secular workers to devise means that would most safely take a society to the ends which he spoke of.
I never quite bought into the “I am Charlie” line following the Paris attacks (even though I am, literally, Charlie). The magazine is repugnant, juvenile and offensive. We don’t have to like speech to defend one’s right to engage in it. In fact, a “freedom” of speech that does not protect politically or culturally offensive speech is not freedom at all. I hope the Pope meant that decency means people should not engage in such ugly offensiveness when he said there are limits to freedom of speech. But if he meant that governments should coercively ban such insults, well…that has been tried. When Henry VIII formed Anglicans. He executed a whole bunch of people for simply remaining Catholic – including St. Thomas More, one of his chief aides. When there was a Catholic revival, the new rulers oppressed and killed more than a few who remained stubbornly Protestant. When the Protestants re-emerged victorious under Cromwell, the anti-Catholic pogroms began anew and with more viciousness than ever. Officially forbidding offensive speech has led to extensive strife, murder and repression in the name of religion.
The Pope plans an encyclical on Climate Change – and has hinted that man is primarily responsible for the phenomenon. Notwithstanding that there has been no warming for over a decade and a half now, notwithstanding that actual events have consistently acted differently than the prediction of the rent-seeking “scientists” producing results that confirm what the people who provide the grants want them to confirm, even though their predictions keep failing, if the Pope comes up with anything that purports to be a scientific directive, it is going to be a divisive embarrassment. When I was in high school and college, the loud “scientists” agreed that we were headed to an unstoppable new ice age. Then they agreed that the ozone layer was unstoppably being destroyed. Then the agreed that global warming was an unstoppable disaster, Then they agreed that climate change is the issue when global warming stopped. In every case, their solution was the same: Put millions out of work, destroy the capacity of middle and lower class people to provide for their families or hope for a better future, and give unprecedented coercive power to a tiny elite ruling class that would have absolute authority over everyone’s lives.
I marvel at the inspiring sincerity and effectiveness of Pope Francis pastoral ministry. But it is becoming a pattern, almost a default setting, that when confronted with a secular problem, he instinctively seems to prefer vesting coercive power in secular governmental entities. That has ever worked out badly for both freedom and for people of faith. In at least two cases where it has actually been tried, it has consistently led to exactly the opposite results he favors. That troubles me. Of course, these are areas outside his prudential responsibility, anyway, though that does not mean his words don’t have effect – and there’s probably not one in a hundred Catholics who understands what a division of prudential responsibility is – and so don’t know when a Pope’s pronouncements have no authority and when they have absolute authority. I completely admire his fidelity to sound theology when dealing with matters of faith and morals – and even his shrewdness in drawing out dissent to see what value there may be in it. But I worry he is playing with dangerous fire at a dangerous time.
I worry that Pope Francis is liable to make a major official blunder in an area he has no authority over. My fear may be somewhat different than that of most. On the visitation of Dec. 20th last year, I was warned that satan’s minions have gone out to exploit the flaw in all this year, “even the best of men.” I do not fear that the Pope’s soul would be damaged if such a blunder came: rather, I believe it would be refined, leading him to redouble his efforts in those areas in which he is called to lead – and in which he has done so well and inspirationally, while eschewing portentious pronouncements on matters that do not fall under his prudential responsibility if he is not thoroughly studied in them – and then firmly noting that his pronouncements have to do with ends, not means. What I fear is that such a fall could cause a great division, inflaming the passions of those who are already trying to undermine the Pope’s legitimate authority in those areas in which he is and must be, supreme, while discrediting much of his moral authority with people who are listening with ever more interest in what the Church has to say these days. Right now, his words can be explained with the common legal doctrine of innocent construction. But they reveal an unnerving pattern that could lead to an immensely damaging unforced error. What will come will come. God has a plan.
The world is more volatile right now than it has been in my lifetime…maybe more volatile than ever. The Storm is already blowing at gale force – and is only going to get more violent before it gets better. In personal things, world affairs and Church matters we are in very choppy waters. Next week I will retreat to a cabin in the mountains for a few days – to write the semi-final draft on prayer groups and to try to get my sea legs adjusted to the violent waters we find ourselves surrounded by.