Hillary Clinton’s Catholic Fan Club

Under Pope Francis, Progressive Catholics exaggerate papal authority.

Photo: Getty Images

In Catholicism, “ultramontanism” is a worldview in which the pope is accorded exaggerated authority. Ultramontane means “beyond the mountains,” and it is today a remnant of European struggles from centuries back when some looked to the pope who lived over the Alps in Rome over their own authorities.

For most of its history “ultramontanism” has been a temptation of the right. But the leaked John Podesta emails on Catholics suggest that there now thrives a progressive ultramontanism—one that welcomes papal authority so long as it confines itself to subjects such as income inequality or fossil fuels.

Just to recap, Mr. Podesta, chairman for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, back in 2011 received several emails expressing contempt for “Conservative Catholicism.” One of them voiced hope for a “Catholic Spring” that would bring about “the end of a middle ages dictatorship”—and with it the bishops’ fight against the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. Mr. Podesta replied that he had helped create pressure groups such as Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good “for a moment like this.”

Yet far more illuminating than the WikiLeaks Podesta dump has been watching Progressive Catholicism’s rapid-response team swing into action. Most interesting was the contribution by a friend of this columnist, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne. In addition to echoing the nothing-to-see-here-folks line, Mr. Dionne added that Pope Francis is in fact leading the “Catholic Spring” Mr. Podesta’s correspondent had wished for.

It’s a revealing take. For the great commission of Progressive Catholicism is not about bringing the Gospel to a modern world. It’s about bringing the modern world and its orthodoxies—especially the sexual revolution—into the Catholic Church.

No doubt this is what John Halpin of the Center for American Progress meant when he emailed Jennifer Palmieri, Mrs. Clinton’s current communications director, on how conservatives “must be attracted” to the church’s “severely backwards gender relations.” It is also what the Catholic on the bottom half of the Clinton ticket, Tim Kaine, meant when he expressed his confidence that the church will come ’round to the Democratic platform on same-sex marriage.

Now, nothing disturbs the Progressive Catholic more than the preference for the Republican Party shown by American Catholics who attend Mass regularly. But let’s not give the GOP credit for any genius. Most of these Catholics moved to the Republican Party when the Democratic Party of their parents and grandparents moved sharply against them in the 1970s and 1980s.

Say what you will about the prominent Catholics associated with the GOP, moreover, dozens signed a public manifesto co-written by theologian George Weigel and Princeton’s Robert George loudly declaring Donald Trump unfit to be the Republican nominee. These are not people who just go along. In sharp contrast, Progressive Catholicism is all about silence and obedience, to the point where Mr. Kaine tells us Roe v. Wade is beyond question.

Yes, Pope Francis (or at least their interpretation of Pope Francis) has brought them hope. When the pope declares that climate change is man-made or condemns “the increasing use and power of air conditioning,” suddenly they go full St. Augustine: Roma locuta, causa finita est—Rome has spoken, the matter is finished, in the famous paraphrase of the great saint.

This is liberal ultramontanism, in which Pope Francis is deemed to speak authoritatively when he sounds like the Democratic Party but not so much when he makes less-publicized comments on, say, gender confusion or unborn life.

To defend this pick-and-choose, Progressive Catholicism invokes Catholic social teaching. It is true, this teaching has a richness and breadth far beyond abortion. But it is also true that this teaching is more about principles than conclusions, as in the calculations of a just war. So how is it that the much-covered “Nuns on the Bus” seem to know exactly where He would stand on Citizens United?

It’s telling that in his email Mr. Halpin complains about people “throwing around” terms such as “subsidiarity.” The reference is to a key principle of Catholic social thought, which holds that issues ought to be resolved at the lowest or least-centralized level possible.

No surprise that a Progressive Catholic would not find this congenial. For it might be translated as this: The answer probably isn’t a big fat federal program. Even more ironic is how far these priorities have strayed from those of the original social-justice warrior and candidate for sainthood, Dorothy Day, who found scandalous the idea of turning care of the poor and marginalized over to what she liked to call “Holy Mother State.”

It’s hard enough being a Catholic who believes popes have something to say to the world on faith and morals and the dignity of the human person. But to celebrate the pope as an authority on the details of everything from energy to global finance requires a faith far beyond this poor sinner’s.

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Luther At the Stake. No, At the Altars. The Double Vision of the Jesuit Pope

Yesterday he saw the Protestant Reformation as the root of all evil. Today he celebrates it as “medicine for the Church.” But he doesn’t appear to have retracted his critiques. Here they are, word for word

by Sandro Magister

ROME, October 27, 2016 – In four days, Francis will fly to Lund, Sweden, where he will be welcomed by the local female bishop, to celebrate together with the Lutheran World Federation the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation:

> Apostolic journey of the Holy Father to Sweden, October 31- November 1, 2016

No pope before him has ever shown such warm admiration for Luther.

Asked about the great heretic during the press conference on the return flight from Armenia, Francis said that Luther was moved by the best of intentions, and that his reform was “medicine for the Church,” skimming over the essential dogmatic divergences that for five centuries have pitted Protestants and Catholics against each other, because – these are again his words, this time spoken in the Lutheran temple of Rome – “life is greater than explanations and interpretations”.

The ecumenism of Francis is made like this. The primacy goes to the gestures, the embraces, some charitable act done together. He leaves doctrinal disagreements, even the most profound, to the discussions of theologians, whom he would gladly confine “to a desert island,” as he loves to say only half-jokingly.


But Jorge Mario Bergoglio also formed his own idea about Luther, Calvin, and Protestantism in general. An idea that he now keeps bottled up inside, but that in the past, when he was neither pope nor bishop, he was not afraid to let out in the open.

It was the summer of 1985 when Bergoglio, an ordinary Jesuit at the time, gave a conference in Mendoza, Argentina dedicated precisely to the strenuous five-century battle between the Society of Jesus and the Protestants. And the passages in which he lashed out with devastating fury against the thought and work of Luther and Calvin are reproduced further below.

Thirty years later, none of that invective is to be found in the highly friendly words and actions that Bergoglio, having become pope, addresses to the Protestants. But that does not necessarily mean that he has disowned those radical criticisms on the inside.

These, in fact, have been republished as-is, in Spanish and Italian, in two books that he authorized and that were released after his election as pope:

> J. M. Bergoglio – Francisco, “Reflexiones espirituales sobre la vida apostólica”, Grupo de Comunicación Loyola, Bilbao, 2013

> J. M. Bergoglio – Francesco, “Chi sono i gesuiti. Storia della Compagnia di Gesù”, EMI, Bologna, 2014

The Spanish edition of the book was edited by Grupo de Comunicación Loyola, an official expression of the Society of Jesus.

And the Italian edition also has a preface by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” the Jesuit closer than any other to Pope Francis, his advisor, confidant, and ghost writer. Who, in summarizing Bergoglio’s anti-Protestant indictment, not only does not distance himself from it in the least, but even presents it as “a sumptuous tapestry from which one can easily understand the pope’s manner of proceeding, founded on two pillars: reality and discernment.”

When the Italian edition of the book came out, in the middle of 2014, the eminent Protestant theologian Paolo Ricca, a Waldensian, expressed his desolate astonishment in an editorial in the magazine “Riforma”:

> Una brutta sorpresa. Per Bergoglio Calvino è “un boia spirituale”

Ricca wrote, with one eye on the preface by Fr. Spadaro:

“I find it hard to believe that the current pontiff would think these things about Calvin and the Reformation, when they have no place in heaven or on earth and no Catholic historian, at least among those I know and read, has said them in a long time. And given that the Jesuits, when they were formed, took upon themselves the task, in addition to the mission among the pagans, of combating Protestantism in every way possible, as in fact happened, then if the Protestantism that they fought is the one ‘frescoed’ by Bergoglio, they must know that they fought a phantom Protestantism that never existed, a pure polemical idol created only out of their imagination, which had little or nothing to do with the famous ‘reality,’ which they nonetheless wanted to take as a ‘pillar’ of their ‘way of proceeding’.”

And he concluded:

“I wonder how it is possible still to have today, or even thirty years ago, such a deformed, distorted, mistaken, and substantially false vision of the Protestant Reformation. It is a vision with which one cannot begin a polemic, let alone a dialogue: this is not worthwhile, because it is too far away from and out of step with reality. One thing is certain: on the basis of such a vision, an ecumenical celebration of the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, in 2017, appears literally impossible.”

And yet Pope Francis has done it. His festive journey to Lutheran Sweden is the proof. “The audacity of the impossible” is also the rallying cry of the new superior general of the Jesuits, elected a few days ago.

To perform the miracle, all it took was for Bergoglio to pretend to have entirely forgotten about his talk thirty years ago in Mendoza.

Here it is. All of it worth rereading, on the verge of the celebration in Lund.


Luther: a “crazy idea” developed in heresy and schism

by Jorge Mario Bergoglio

Many times Saint Ignatius has been called the bastion of the Counter-Reformation. There is truth in this, but [. . .] the Jesuits were more worried about Calvin than about Luther. [. . .] They had shrewdly grasped that the true danger for the Church lay there.

Calvin was the great thinker of the Protestant Reformation, the one who organized it and brought it to the level of culture, society, and the Church; he shaped an organization that Luther had not envisioned. He, the impetuous German who probably had planned at the most to give life to a national Church, was reinterpreted and reorganized by that cold Frenchman, a Latin genius versed in jurisprudence, who was Calvin.

Luther was viewed as a heretic. Calvin, moreover, as a schismatic. Let me explain myself. Heresy – to use Chesteron’s definition – is a good idea gone mad. When the Church cannot heal its madness, then heresy turns into schism. Schism implies rupture, division, separation, independent consolidation; it progresses by subsequent stages until it gains its autonomy. Saint Ignatius and his successors would fight against schismatic heresy.

And what is the Calvinist schism that would bring about the struggle of Ignatius and the first Jesuits? It is a schism that touches upon three areas: man, society, and the Church. [. . .]


In man, Calvinism would provoke the schism between reason and emotion. It separates reason from the heart. On the emotional level the man of that century, and under the Lutheran influence, would live out the anguish over his own salvation. And, according to Calvin, that anguish was nothing to worry about. All that mattered was attending to the questions of intellect and will.

This is the origin of Calvinist wretchedness: a rigid discipline with a great distrust in that which is vital, the foundation of which is faith in the total corruption of human nature, which can be put into order only by the superstructure of human activity. Calvin effects a schism within man: between reason and the heart.

Moreover, within the faculty of reason itself, Calvin provokes another schism: between positive knowledge and speculative knowledge. This is the scientism that shatters metaphysical unity and provokes a schism in the intellective process of man. Every scientific object is taken as absolute. The most sure science is geometry. Geometric theorems will be a sure reference guide for thought. This schism, having taken place within human reason itself, strikes at the whole speculative tradition of the Church and the whole humanistic tradition.


The Calvinist schism then strikes at society. This will remain divided by it. As the bearers of salvation, Calvin privileges the middle classes. [. . .] This implies and involves a revolutionary disrespect for the people. There is no longer people nor nation, and what instead takes shape is an international association of the bourgeoisie.

With an anachronism we could apply here the formula of Marx: “Bourgeoisie of the whole world, unite,” despising anything that might signify the nobility of the people. With this attitude Calvin is the true father of liberalism, which was a political strike at the heart of the people, at their way of being and expressing themselves, at their culture, at their way of being civic, political, artistic, and religious.

On the social level, this is probably most noticeable first in the elaboration of Hobbes (according to whom men had to brought to live together by means of deception and force, while the state, the “modern Leviathan,” existed simply to keep egoism at bay and avoid anarchy, legitimizing a logic of authority, since there was no natural law) and then of Locke, much more sophisticated but no less cruel.

Hobbes asserts a heartless “power,” with an absolutist and rationalist justification. Locke dresses all of this in “civil composure” and seeks to redefine society while excluding the people.

Locke’s position is the following: he begins from the admission of a certain natural law and wields the slogan “reason teaches that. . .” in order to then draw – as if by magic – conclusions that justify that social schism: man – because he transcends his natural corruption through activism – can possess the fruit of his work as long as that fruit is not corruptible. This leads to money and the money-focused character of liberalism.

Moreover, reason teaches that man has the right to buy work; and this gives rise to two kinds of workers: those who possess incorruptible goods and those who do not possess them. The state has the function of keeping order between these two categories of workers, preventing the rebellion of the latter against the former. At bottom, Calvinist-schismatic-liberal thought is claiming for the second group of workers the power of rebellion, what we would call today the rebellion of the proletariat. In the end, Marxism is the inevitable child of liberalism. [. . .]


In the third place, the Calvinist schism wounds the Church. [. . .] It supplants the universality of the people of God with the internationalism of the bourgeoisie. [. . .] It decapitates the people of God from unity with the Father. It decapitates all the professional confraternities, depriving them of the saints. And, by suppressing the Mass, it deprives the people of God of mediation in Christ really present. [. . .]

At bottom, Calvin had tried to save man, whom the Lutheran perspective had thrown into anguish. In Luther one encounters the intention of saving man from Renaissance paganism, but that intention had developed into a “crazy idea,” or heresy. Thus Calvin, with the legislative coldness that characterizes him, starts from the distressing Lutheran framework and progresses in this way: man is corrupt; therefore, discipline.

This leads to what we know as “Protestant rigor.” This proposes signs of salvation that are different from those of Catholics – the ones that we cited previously – and the sign is the work of accumulation. Almost as if one were to equate the fruits of work with the signs of salvation. We could simplify it in a caricatured form with this axiom: “You will be saved if you obtain the wealth that is obtained with work.” And so the middle class is formed.


Starting from the Lutheran position, if we are consistent, there remain only two possibilities from which to choose in the course of history: either man falls apart in his anguish, and he is no longer anything at all (and this is the conclusion of atheist existentialism), or man, basing himself on that same anguish and corruption, makes a leap in the void and declares himself superman (this is the option of Nietzsche).

At bottom Nietzsche regenerates Hobbes, in the sense that the “ultima ratio” of man is power. Authority is possible only in opposition to love, on the basis of the opposition within man between reason and heart. Such power, as the “ultima ratio,” implies the death of God. This is a paganism that, in the cases of Nazism and Marxism, would acquire organized forms in political systems.

The Lutheran perspective, since it is founded precisely on the divorce between faith and religion (it in fact conceives of faith as the only salvation and accuses religion – acts of religion, piety, and so on – of being a mere manipulation of God), generates divorce and schism; it entails all the forms of individualism that, on the social level, affirms their hegemony.

Any sort of hegemony, whether religious, political, social, or spiritual, has its origin here.


In 1985, when he gave this conference, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was 49 years old and was rector of the Colegio Máximo di San Miguel. From 1973 to 1979 he had been provincial of the Society of Jesus in Argentina.

On his current approach to Lutheran and Calvinist Protestantism, see:

> A Pope Like None Before. Somewhat Protestant (22.7.2016)

One example of this new approach concerns Eucharistic communion.

Among the radical criticisms that Bergoglio made against Reformed Protestantism in his 1985 conference was that of “suppressing the Mass,” and therefore of “depriving the people of God of mediation in Christ really present.”

Which leads to the incompatibility between the two visions of the Eucharist.

But in practical terms today Pope Francis is showing himself more than willing to remove the prohibition on receiving communion together between Catholics and Protestants, as he conveyed in his answer to the question from a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic last November 15, while he was visiting the Lutheran church in Rome:

> Response of the Holy Father…


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.


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A statue of Luther in the Vatican and a new papal definition of ‘lukewarm’

[ Emphasis in red type by Abyssum ]

catholic , ecumenism , evangelization , lutheran , martin luther , pope francis

October 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis will travel to Lund, Sweden, next week to assist in the launch of a yearlong commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses to the door of the castle church of Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

In a lead-up event at the Vatican on October 13, the Pope received a group of 1,000 Lutherans and Catholics from Germany in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall and addressed them from the stage where a statue of Luther was erected. The sight came as a shock to many Catholics because Luther was excommunicated and his theses rejected by Pope Leo X in 1520. The split he caused in Christianity remains as one of the most damaging in the Church’s 2,000-year history.

At the meeting, Francis reinforced his admonition from earlier this month against converting people. Weeks after saying it is a “very grave sin against ecumenism” for Catholics to try to convert Orthodox Christians, Pope Francis told the pilgrims “it is not licit” to “convince [non-Christians] of your faith.” In that meeting, the pope also offered a novel definition of “lukewarm,” which according to Pope Francis is when Christians “are keen to defend Christianity in the West on the one hand but on the other are averse to refugees and other religions.”

The word ‘lukewarm’ has significant meaning to Christians because of the words of Christ revealed in St. John’s Revelation (3:15-16): “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” The common interpretation of the verses was to condemn the practice of picking and choosing among the Christ’s teachings rather than holding to all of them. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “Half-hearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to Christ.”

In answer to a question about what he likes about the Lutheran Church, the pope said, “I really like good Lutherans, Lutherans who really practice their faith in Jesus Christ. What I don’t like are lukewarm Catholics and lukewarm Lutherans.” Italian daily La Stampa’s Vatican Insider quotes the pope as saying it’s a “contradiction” when Christians “are keen to defend Christianity in the West on the one hand but on the other are averse to refugees and other religions.”

The Pope’s application of Christ’s strong condemnation to those who would be averse to other religions is perhaps a warning to those who would object to his coming praise for Luther scheduled for October 31. Swedish Catholic professor Clemens Cavallin points out in an essay on the upcoming celebration with Pope Francis in Lund that the common prayer service to be used has a very positive view of Luther.

“The text,” he says, “paints a picture of Luther as a religious hero who found the way to a more true form of Catholicism.” Cavallin notes that in the liturgical guide, the Common Prayer, a section called Thanksgiving, is intended to express, “our mutual joy for the gifts received and rediscovered in various ways through the renewal and impulses of the Reformation. After the prayer of thanksgiving, the whole assembly joins in singing thanks for and praise of God’s work.”

“The ecumenical journey enables Lutherans and Catholics to appreciate together Martin Luther’s insight into and spiritual experience of the gospel of the righteousness of God, which is also God’s mercy,” the text says.

The section concludes with the following prayer of gratitude:

Thanks be to you, O God, for the many guiding theological and spiritual insights that we have all received through the Reformation. Thanks be to you for the good transformations and reforms that were set in motion by the Reformation or by struggling with its challenges. Thanks be to you for the proclamation of the gospel that occurred during the Reformation and that since then has strengthened countless people to live lives of faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Celebrating 25 Years of Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court: His Close Friend Spills the Beans

Despite the setback 25 years ago caused by Anita Hill’s accusations during his confirmation hearings, even left-wing scholars agree that Thomas has become one of the most esteemed justices on the high court.

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By Rachel Alexander Published on October 21, 2016

October 23 marks Clarence Thomas’s 25th anniversary as a Supreme Court Justice. I spoke with his longtime friend Mark Paoletta about his legacy. Paoletta got to know Thomas while serving as Assistant White House Counsel to President George H. W. Bush, where he was central to the campaign to get Thomas confirmed to the high court. Paoletta is now in private practice in Washington, D.C., and spends time with Thomas and his wife Virginia.

The Confirmation

I asked Paoletta how they were able to get Thomas confirmed, considering the Reagan administration’s failure to convince Senate Democrats to confirm conservative Robert Bork. The attacks on Thomas began as soon as he was nominated. It was like “whack-a-mole,” he said, fighting accusations as soon as they popped up. To his credit, Bush never gave up on Thomas’s confirmation.

But nothing, he continued, “prepared us for fabrication by Anita Hill.” She alleged that Thomas had sexually harassed her when she worked for him. Refuting the accusation was difficult because they had to prove a negative.

Both sides of the Senate Judiciary committee decided there was not enough evidence against Thomas. After political maneuvering designed to embarrass Thomas, the committee held open hearings, broadcast over C-SPAN, so everyone could watch them, unfiltered by the media.

“Her testimony didn’t add up. She was not telling the truth,” Paoletta said. The American people agreed. They believed Thomas by more than 2-1. And there was no gender gap: Only 26 percent of women believed Hill. The Washington Post ran an editorial saying she had had a low bar to hurdle and didn’t even do that.

There were good reasons for this. Hill twice refused to let the FBI interview her. When she finally agreed, her testimony was far different from her congressional testimony. She claimed as a corroborating witness a conversation that occurred before she worked for Thomas.

She gave the Senate the names of two women co-workers who she said would corroborate her account, Nancy Fitch and Allyson Duncan. They disputed Hill’s allegations and Fitch actually testified for Thomas. Indeed, many women who had worked with Thomas supported his version of events, and were very complimentary of him. Not a single co-worker of Hill’s testified on her behalf.

One other fact continues to speak in Thomas’s favor: In contrast to other high-profile men who have been accused of sexual harassment, like Bill Cosby and Roger Ailes, no other women came forward to report similar incidents about Thomas.

Anita Hill’s Motivation

Why would someone make such allegations against a respected man like Thomas, knowing it was something she’d be remembered for too? Paoletta thinks she never intended the accusation to go public. She wanted to make the allegation behind the scenes and force Thomas to withdraw.

There seem to have been personal and ideological reasons as well. Influenced by left-wing academia, she became increasingly hostile toward the conservative Thomas.

She was a Yale-educated lawyer in merely a bureaucratic government career job, who hadn’t done well at the EEOC, or at her previous job at a law firm where, co-workers say, she was passed over for a promotion by another black woman. Thomas had hired her as a favor to a friend. Hill followed Thomas to his next job. Some of her co-workers said she had a crush on him.


While Anita Hill has drifted into obscurity, the cloud of alleged sexual harassment has followed Thomas for years. Paoletta says the left will never stop bringing it up. Since most people’s memories are foggy about the events of 25 years ago, the left has been rewriting the story.

Paoletta contrasts the way treatment Washington liberals treated Thomas with the way they served Bill Clinton. Liberal women’s groups are 100 percent fine with Clinton’s sexual harassment, and with Hillary attacking his accusers.

Hill herself appeared on Meet the Press to defend Bill Clinton against his female accusers. When confronted by host Tim Russert on whether she had a double standard when it comes to sexual harassment, she responded, “We live in a political world and the reality is that we want — there are larger issues, larger issues other than just individual behavior.”


Despite suggestions that Thomas must not be terribly bright because he rarely asks questions during oral arguments, legal scholars on the left have acknowledged his brilliance in recent years.

Left-leaning lawyer and founder of SCOTUSblog, Tom Goldstein, observed in 2009, “No other member of the court is so independent-thinking.” He dismissed accusations that Thomas was merely a copycat of Scalia, and went on, “I disagree profoundly with Justice Thomas’s views on many questions, but if you believe that Supreme Court decision-making should be a contest of ideas rather than power, so that the measure of a Justice’s greatness is his contribution of new and thoughtful perspectives that enlarge the debate, then Justice Thomas is now our greatest Justice.”

Mark Tushnet, a liberal Harvard Law professor who opposed Thomas when he first joined the bench, wrote in his 2005 book A Court Divided that “what [Thomas] has done on the Court is certainly more interesting and distinctive than what Scalia has done and, I think, has a greater chance of making an enduring contribution to constitutional law.”

Thomas, by the way, has explained that when the justices ask questions during oral arguments, they are really talking to themselves — and they can talk to themselves anytime. And the justices rarely asked questions until the 1980s.

The Hard-Working Thomas and the Racist Elites

Thomas is one of the most hardworking of the justices. He wrote 39 opinions last term, including many concurrences and dissents. In contrast, Justices Samuel Alito wrote 19 and Elena Kagan wrote 12, the fewest of the justices. Paoletta believes there has always been some racism behind the accusations that Thomas doesn’t perform as well as the others. No one has ever suggested that Kagan is under-performing for writing the fewest opinions.

Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall, the Court’s first black justice. Just as Thomas has been called a puppet of Justice Antonin Scalia, Marshall was labeled a puppet of Justice William Brennan. When said of Marshall, this was recognized as racism, but not when it’s said about Thomas.

Thomas spoke candidly about the way he’s been treated as a black conservative during a speech two years ago. “The worst I have been treated was by northern liberal elites. The absolute worst I have ever been treated,” he said. “The worst things that have been done to me, the worst things that have been said about me, by northern liberal elites, not by the people of Savannah, Georgia,” where he is from.

He is aware of the racial dynamics in the cases he analyzes. For example, in Missouri v. Jenkins, where the court held that Kansas City was not required to integrate inner city, predominantly black schools with suburban, predominantly white schools, Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion, “It never ceases to amaze me that the courts are so willing to assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior.”

Thomas v. Scalia

While Thomas and Scalia are rightly perceived to be very conservative justices, their judicial philosophies are slightly different. Both are originalists, who believe the Constitution should be interpreted as it was written, not as a “living document” that changes its meaning over time.

However, Scalia was also a textualist, who limited his analysis of language in a statute to the words only, avoiding outside factors such as legislative intent. Paoletta describes the difference between the two: “Thomas has an original meaning jurisprudence in which he looks to understand and faithfully apply the provision at issue, as it was intended to be applied by the drafters,” he explained.

He will look at the text of the provision, the common meaning understood at the time, and also the ratification debates and other source material to really flesh out how that provision was intended to be applied at the time. Scalia was focused more on the text and common meaning of the provisions at issue and did not look as widely at other sources as Thomas does.

Paoletto also distinguished Thomas from the other conservatives on the court. “Thomas is firmly grounded in an original meaning jurisprudence, and has been the court’s most faithful adherent to that approach,” he told me. In contrast, “I do not think Roberts or Alito are in that mold. Thomas is also less constrained by precedent more so than anyone else on the Court.”

Thomas is unique among the justices in frequently citing The Declaration of Independence in his opinions. This comes from his core belief in the necessity of protecting individual rights and liberty, Paoletta says.

“It helped him make sense of the terrible injustices and flaws that have been present throughout our country’s history,” he told me. Thomas also relies extensively on treatises outside of case law, such as the Magna Carta, the writings of the English philospher John Locke (who influenced the founding fathers) and Blackstone’s Commentaries.

Thomas’s written legacy will probably be his opinions relating to race and to the Second Amendment. He has also been called the staunchest defender of the First Amendment by liberal civil libertarian Nat Hentoff.

Thomas the Person

How did this black man, raised by a single mom in the deep South, who attended a segregated Catholic school where he was the only black student, end up as such an outspoken conservative? Paoletta thinks it was due to an upbringing that instilled in him the values of personal responsibility. He learned conservative values from his grandfather. At first, he rebelled against them growing up, testing what he’d learned.

A defining moment came at Yale Law School when he talked with longtime Republican official John Bolton. Bolton asked him why he would want to rely on a government that enslaved his race for years. Thomas realized that government could be a threat to liberty, and that the the Constitution was structured to prevent that from happening.

Another profound influence was discovering black conservative authors like the economists Thomas Sowell, particularly his book Race and Economics, and Walter Williams. At the same time, Richard Wright’s Native Son and Black Boy were great influences.

Paoletta notes that Thomas never forgets those who helped him. His eighth grade teacher, Sister Virgilias, had such a profound influence on him that he kept track of her, and for 10 to 15 years after his confirmation, would drive to visit her at a retirement home for nuns in New Jersey at least once a year, especially on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Paloetta would go with him, and says Thomas would sit and talk with her for hours.

He is well liked and thought of by his colleagues, and the most accessible justice on the court. He knows everyone at the court down to the janitors, often asking about their families, and has lunch with his law clerks and former law clerks once a month, usually about 12 to 25 people. It is a very diverse, nontraditional set of clerks, with a large percentage coming from non-top tier law schools. The familial connection with his clerks is unprecedented; many clerks never get to know the justice they work for.

In his free time, Thomas enjoys sports. He is a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He is also a car and NASCAR enthusiast.

Always Overcoming

Yet his accomplishments are not always recognized. The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in D.C. last month — and it barely mentions him. However, Anita Hill and her version of the story are prominently featured.

Paoletta believes Justice Thomas will leave “a robust judicial legacy of original meaning jurisprudence.” More importantly, perhaps, he has been and will be “an inspiring figure who was born into poverty in the segregated deep south to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.”

His other legacy is of a man who overcome an almost unprecedented public attack when he was nominated for the court, and years of criticism and insults since, and done so with great and rare dignity.


For more information on Justice Clarence Thomas, visit, a site created by Mark Paoletta. Follow Rach_IC on Twitter.

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In the foreground, the Pskov River; in the center, The Flat Tower, to the left, the tower of the Pskov Kremlin wall, and in the distance he towers of the Pskov Kremlin.  On the right, The Great River.  Photo by David Owen


23 October 2016


It is not often that the Church, that is, Our Lord, starts off the Gospel of the Mass with  a direct challenge.

The Mass for today starts off with a parable that gives us the basic theme for today’s Mass.  It is addressed to those who are convinced of their own goodness and who look down on their neighbor.

The parable challenges us to think about our own humility.

It helps one to know that the English word, humility, comes to us from the Latin word, humilitas, which comes from the root word humus, or earth.

In other words, humility is the measure of how much we are ‘down to earth’ with ‘our feet on the ground’ not having an exalted opinion of ourselves that causes us to ‘look down’ on others.

The virtue of humility may be defined as a quality by which a person considering his own defects has a modest opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and others for God’s sake.

St. Thomas Aquinas defines humility as the virtue that consists in keeping oneself within one’s own bounds, that is, ‘keeping one’s feet on the ground’ and not having one’s nose ‘stuck up in the air.’

Because I spent ten years of my life as a Benedictine monk before I became a bishop and learned the basics of humility in the spiritual life during that time, I would like to share with you the way prescribed by Saint Benedict for the monk to grow in humility.  I have adapted the words of Saint  Benedict to fit the life of everyone, not just monks, and I call it THE PROGRAM OF TWELVE STEPS TO  HUMILITY.

When you hear the phrase “Twelve Step Program” these day you automatically think of Alcoholics Anonymous and their wonderful program for fighting addiction to alcohol.

Saint Benedict’s guide for humility could well be described, as I have just done, as a  Twelve Step Program to give up the sin of pride because the sin of pride is addictive. It is so easy to become a proud person before God and men if one does not from time to time take stock of where we are,  as we are doing on this Sunday


The first step in humility is to always have a healthy spiritual fear of offending God in one’s mind.  As we walk over ground covered with broken glass and other dangerous objects, we are consciously and unconsciously carefully choosing where we walk.  Similarly as we walk through each day we encounter situations that a healthy fear of offending God will help to keep us from sinning against God.


The second step in humility is to willingly accept the precepts, the commandments of the Lord and to seek to live them in one’s daily life.  Some people seem to live solely by whim, acting with respect to what they desire at the moment.  For the Christian humility consists in joyfully following the path laid out in the Gospel by Christ.


The Third step in humility is to imitate the Lord by willingly accepting the lawful authority others have over us, whether it be, for example,  parents, a spouse, the Church, civil authorities, teachers, law enforcement, etc.  Obedience leads to the tranquility of order.  Our Lord “became obedient even to his death” so that we could have eternal life.


The Fourth step in humility is to control the way we react to unpleasant things that are required of us by lawful authority, such as our parents.  We should accept their decisions with patience and even temper, not sulking or worse yet, shirking our duty.


The Fifth step in humility is to strive to be open with the ones we love, such as parents, spouses, siblings, etc.  Not hiding one’s disagreement or anger from them, but seeking peacefully to make one’s true feelings known to the other.


The Sixth step in humility is to accept with genuine simplicity the hard situations and circumstances life at times subjects us to without cultivating bitterness and such deep seated resentment that our relationship with others is poisoned.


The Seventh step in humility is to resist the temptation to inflate one’s importance by boasting or ‘putting on airs’ in order to impress others.


The Eighth step in humility is when one avoids ‘rocking the boat’ by causing crises in the lives of ones family, circle of friends, fellow workers, or others.  In other words, disturb the peace!  Peace is the tranquillity of order.


The Ninth step in humility is when one keeps strict control of ones speech.  When I was a child, children used to say:  “Sticks and stones my break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  That was not true then and it is not true now.
When I was in elementary school in Texas City, Texas I was a skinney, sun-browned little boy and my classmates called me Mahatma Ghandi, a man in India who was very much in the news at that time. Calling me that was a racial slur and it hurt.  Recalling it still hurts.
You can call a person bad name and the wound will never heal. Physical wounds heal in time, but insults can hurt for a lifetime.
Similarly, do not hurt others by gossiping !!!


The Tenth step in humility is to avoid silliness.  Humor is good.  Life without humor would be unbearable.  I have a ‘far out’ sense of humor and I must be one my guard that I do not come across in my conversation as silly.  A silly person is often  just a proud person who seeks attention.


The Eleventh step in humility is when a person consistently thinks before he speaks.  Only a fool gives expression to every thought that crosses his mind.  I sure  you have met people who babble on and on and on.  After a while you come to recognize that they are really not a thoughtful person; they are a thoughtless person.


The Twelfth and final step in humility is to make the prayer of the tax collector in today’s gospel the prayer that comes most often to your mind when you start to pray:  “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
O God, be merciful to me a sinner!
O God, be merciful to me a sinner!

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Crazy clericalism at Houston’s University of St. Thomas

October 18, 2016

Some clerics in leadership at Catholic universities give lip service to “empowering the laity”—when their real agenda is enforcing their own ideology.

Dr. Randall B. Smith


Some institutional dramas are so ridiculous, the actors’ motivations so bizarre, that you couldn’t sell it as a movie script. Any decent producer would immediately send it back saying: “Your characters make no sense. They’re just not believable. The story is too absurd.”

Clericalism masquerading as concern for the laity

Imagine this scene: Three lay faculty members at my institution, the University of St. Thomas in Houston, noted their concern in a memo to their colleagues that a member of the Basilian religious order, which founded the university, was not among the finalists for the presidency of the university. For this sin, they were called into the president’s office to be upbraided by none other than the religious superior of the selfsame Basilian order, who said to them, in effect: How dare you ask that someone from my order be among the finalists for presidency of an institution my religious confreres founded and sacrificed for over many decades?

And now get this: This priest, this cleric, then proceeded to scold these three Catholic laypeople (two men and one woman) for not respecting lay leadership in the Church, claiming their attitude was inappropriate “in the Church of Pope Francis.” He clearly missed the irony. Here he was, a cleric, dismissing the opinions and concerns of the laity with the usual disdainful brush-off—keep your thoughts to yourselves—and then accusing them of “clericalism.” Seriously? You couldn’t make this stuff up. (And quite frankly, if I hear one more cleric using the phrase “the Church of Pope Francis” to silence the legitimate concerns of laypeople, I may have to strangle him.)

To get a sense of how absurd this is, try to imagine a group of lay faculty at a Jesuit institution—say, Georgetown—pleading with the governing board of the university that a Jesuit be considered for the presidency (already I’ve engaged in a bit of fantasy). And now imagine that the Jesuit superior general tells them: “How dare you ask for a Jesuit to run this Jesuit school!” The scenario is simply too absurd; no one would take it seriously.

Now granted, there is a Jesuit cleric who serves as president of a major Jesuit university who, when asked recently what he would like to see in 15 years at his institution, replied: “I would like to see a lay woman lesbian as president of this university.”

But this man’s comment had nothing to do with empowering either lay women or lesbians. We all know the Jesuits aren’t giving up their power and control over these institutions any time soon. This cleric was merely burnishing his “liberal” credentials. These are comments he can make without having to do anything or make any personal sacrifices. Nothing will disturb his clerical status quo.

The truth is I could call this man’s bluff, since I know several Catholic lay women lesbians—women dedicated to the liberal arts, to the education and character formation of students, and to the Catholic faith, who also have been open about their same-sex attractions—who would make a much better president of that university than this Jesuit cleric.

But this Jesuit wouldn’t find any of the women I have in mind acceptable, given their devotion to their Catholic faith, to the liberal arts, and to disrupting the current liberal status quo. His comments weren’t about empowerment; they were liberal ideology masquerading as empowerment. This man would never surrender power to anyone, let alone a woman or even another Jesuit (dozens of which are superb), unless he could be certain he or she would carry out his ideology faithfully. His inability to insure this result is one reason neither he nor any of his confreres will be giving up power any time soon. They “favor the laity,” but only when the laity do what they want.

These clerics give lip service to empowering the laity when their real agenda is about enforcing their own ideology. People talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing; this is pure, unadulterated clericalism in a support-for-the-laity guise. Many of us at Catholic institutions want to support and encourage the clerics who have served us so faithfully for so many years, and who we believe can help turn the tide against secularism. What is especially galling in these self-justifying claims about support for the laity is the hypocrisy and mendacity.

Ideology masquerading as concern for diversity

So too at my own institution, the smack-down in the president’s office of the three lay faculty members had nothing to do with empowering laity—you don’t need a Ph.D. to understand that. Rather it had everything to do with ideology and making sure that a Basilian with the “wrong” (that is to say, more conservatively Catholic) ideology didn’t get a chance to interview for the presidency.

It’s worth noting in this regard that it didn’t make a bit of difference to this room full of powerful, self-righteously liberal men that one of the faculty members they were verbally berating was a woman—and not just any woman, but a woman of high scholarly and administrative accomplishment, who was herself a finalist for the presidency of another prominent Basilian institution. Although, come to think of it, her success in that previous instance might have made a bit of difference. Powerful men don’t like being upstaged by upstart women. They say they prefer defiant women, but truth be told, they mostly only like the ones who agree with them ideologically.

And the other two faculty members? One is a man who has engaged in the oftentimes risky work of lecturing in the People’s Republic of China on politics and democracy. The other is a tax specialist who for the past 20 years has organized dozens of his former students to prepare tax returns for poor people in Houston for free. These are the faculty members who got called into the principal’s office—sorry, president’s office—to get balled out for speaking out: for making a simple, accurate observation in a note to the faculty. It must have been odd for a man who has spent so much time speaking freely in Communist China to find himself silenced on his own campus in the US.

In a world where people talk endlessly about “diversity” and “letting a thousand flowers bloom,” some people seem convinced that certain flowers of a more “Catholic” hue have to be stamped out and torn up by the roots rather than be allowed to grow, bloom, and possibly spread. To such people, a certain type of faithful Catholic witness is like a cancer that must be cut out, put in a jar of formaldehyde, and placed on a shelf to show future generations of surgeons what a dangerous tumor looks like.

Some Catholics wonder why Catholic faculty members are so solicitous and protective of tenure. They mistakenly accept a narrative that says bold Catholic administrations are out there trying to reform Catholic schools, but have to deal with “tenured radicals” who won’t go along. I’m sorry, but this is rarely the case.

What happens more often is that certain faculty members try to call their institution back to its founding principles, and those in academic administration who increasingly see faculty as “grunt employees” would prefer to rid themselves of these troublemakers. The only thing that keeps them from doing so is the protection afforded by tenure.

Bureaucratized administration masquerading as concern for students

More and more university presidents look upon their faculty as “line workers” in the shop. To “move up” and get better pay, you need to move into administration. That’s where the six-figure salaries are. Since none of “the workers” in the plant can be allowed to make more than their “bosses,” nearly everyone of any importance in the administration makes more than any of the faculty members. And if things get tight, the guys on the line are the first to go. If we don’t need to make as many cars, then we should just lay off a bunch of workers. We’ll still need all the guys in the front office, however. This is why so many administrators have been working against tenure. These presidents don’t see faculty as the intellectual heart and soul of the university; they see them as salary burdens. As the number of students goes up and down, they want to rid themselves of “useless, underproductive” faculty. But the need to fill out all the bureaucratic forms will always remain constant. This, however, is precisely the attitude and approach that caused dozens of America’s once-great businesses like Ford, GM, and Chrysler to go into bankruptcy. And who paid the price for that? The taxpayers and the workers. The executives who drove these companies into bankruptcy walked away flush.

And like those large, bureaucratically-laden corporations, when the current “education bubble” bursts (that debt load of over a trillion dollars that students are supposed to pay back, but which people are increasingly realizing they will not be able to do), then there will be a lot of university presidents and their staffs sitting in posh, wood-paneled offices trying to figure out how to save their skins by securing a tax-payer bailout. “Can education in America be allowed to fail?” they will cry. “What about the children?” Others who bear responsibility will already be in a cozy retirement.

Do the Catholic, liberal arts faculty members at my institution understand that our tuition costs are too burdensome for middle-class families? Yes. Are they anxious about giving our students maximal educational value and helping form them for a life of faith and flourishing? Yes. Do we enjoy the support and encouragement of an administration that shows it understands the needs of our faculty and students? Sadly, no. This is why we voted no-confidence in our administration last spring. It is why we elected these three faculty members to a “Budget Advisory Committee” to watch over the university’s budget, since we have seen not only dropping enrollments, but budget shortfalls of several million dollars each of the past several years, resulting in cuts in faculty and low-level staff, although we seem to have the same number of vice presidents and mid-level managerial positions.

We took these steps because we the faculty wanted to be sure we were prepared for whatever troubles lay ahead, since in the past several years, we would hear rumors of trouble, but nothing definite, only to be told in the spring, that we had a several-million-dollar budget deficit that we had to make up for—by across-the-board cuts in every area!

Administrative incompetence masquerading as concern for “the process”

In their first report to the faculty this year, the faculty-elected Budget Advisory Committee noted both positive signs as well as some worrisome storm clouds on the horizon, including their concern that the Basilian candidate for the presidency was not among the semi-finalists for the position, even though according to the by-laws of the university, a Basilian should be given preference if a suitable candidate can be found.

Naturally much depends in such circumstances on what one means by “suitable,” and this gives those intent on maintaining the status quo a great deal of room to hide their true intentions. If all one wants is money and to be like every other secular educational institution in the country, then a devoted Catholic is clearly less “suitable” than, say, a hedge-fund manager, such as Mount Saint Mary’s University hired, and then had to fire when it became known (clearly against the wishes of the president and the chairman of the board) that this man had described ridding the school of low-achieving students as having to “drown the bunnies.”

In our own case at the University of St. Thomas, when the first of the three finalists for the presidency met the campus community several days ago, he was asked, “If elected president, would you openly contradict Church teaching?” His answer: “I might.” When asked about the Basilian character of the school, he said: “I read about it on the website.” This would be akin to a candidate for the presidency of a Jesuit school answering the question “Do you understand the Jesuit charism?” with the reply:  “Well, I read about St. Ignatius on Wikipedia before I came. Is he the one from Antioch or Loyola?” Or better yet:  “I read a book published by Ignatius Press once.” That answer would certainly get him the job!

Yes, I think we can all see now why this man was considered a more “suitable,” more “qualified” candidate to lead a Catholic, Basilian university than, say, a Basilian priest who was executive vice president and academic dean at St. Patrick’s Seminary and who now works raising funds for the indomitable Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco. There was no contest, really.

This interview certainly went a long way toward reassuring everyone’s faith in the selection process, especially since one of the next two candidates to arrive on campus is the president of the exact same institution where the man we already interviewed is provost. That won’t be at all awkward. And yet, we continue to be reassured that everything is going smoothly and that the process has been unqualifiedly superb. Any expression of displeasure with it is being taken as disrespectful and disruptive, potentially damaging to the university.

Bullying masquerading as academic due process

Undoubtedly we should have seen this insistence on quieting any potential dissent coming, since the mere mention of the fact by the three members of our faculty-elected Budget Advisory Committee that a Basilian candidate was not among the finalists for the presidency caused them to be called to the president’s office to receive a severe scolding by the chairman of the board, in the presence of the current president of the university, the provost, the superior general of the Basilian Order (whose odd comments I mentioned above, and who, to my knowledge, has never been allowed direct involvement in personnel matters at the university before), and most ominously, the vice president for human resources. Whenever HR is called in, the idea that your job might be on the line hangs in the air like the heavy Houston humidity on a sweltering hot summer’s day. It’s designed to make you sweat.

“No, no,” they were told, “we don’t want to kick you off of anything.” This was not a disciplinary process, they were assured. But it was made clear to them that they had been very, very bad. They were making trouble, potentially disrupting the presidential search; and worst of all, they had offended the Basilian superior. How? By asking why a Basilian was not being considered for the presidency! If you thought that a Basilian superior general would express offense only if faculty members had demanded to know why a Basilian should be considered for the presidency at all—why do we need one of them?—this assumption would make obvious sense to most people. But we’re talking now about a world that doesn’t make any sense.

So after being sent away like children and told that they should “think very hard” about what they’d done—seriously, this is how faculty are treated these days—our three faithful faculty members went back to the business of teaching their students, reading books, and writing articles. Several days later, however, they each received an official letter of reprimand from the president, urging them “to refrain from any further action of this type relating to the Basilian Fathers and to the search process.” Their “failure to do so,” they were told, would “result in disciplinary action up to and including potential termination of tenure/and or employment.” So with no due process, with no adherence to the policies and procedures of the university, after a Star Chamber hearing, three honored, tenured members of the faculty are now threatened with dismissal.

Now I had always been under the impression that a university could strip faculty members of tenure and terminate them only if they had been guilty of breaking the law, abusing students, or not fulfilling their contractual obligations to teach. The sad fact is that a good number of such violations get swept under the rug at a lot of places. But how dare faculty members have the unadulterated gall to speak up about the person who will be leading their institution over the next 10 or 15 years and on whose job performance in that position their livelihoods depend? And then to be scolded by a room full of men, none of whom has anything to lose financially if the institution has serious difficulties in the coming years—not one with any real “skin in the game” as my wife likes to say (borrowing a phrase from Warren Buffett)—well, it’s enough to make your head explode. “Just trust me,” says the gambler, whose losses have been mounting up, as he rolls the dice with your money on the craps table. What reason could anyone have to complain?

When administrators threaten termination in this way just for speaking out, one begins to suspect that they don’t quite understand what “tenure” means. Indeed the whole affair makes one suspect that there was little or no appreciation for what “academic due process” entails. It’s hard to imagine, for example, that anyone at any secular institution (let alone anyone who understood the role of the laity in the “Church of Pope Francis”) would have tolerated the presence of the superior general of a religious order at a university disciplinary hearing.

What could any reasonable person conclude about such a process, other than that the whole affair was simply harassment and institutional bullying? I am reminded of that wonderful scene in A Man for All Seasons when Thomas More is brought without warning, without due process, before a small group of powerful men to be questioned:

MORE: You threaten like a dockside bully.

CROMWELL: How should I threaten?

MORE: Like a minister of state, with justice.

CROMWELL: Oh, justice is what you’re threatened with.

MORE: Then I’m not threatened.

The faculty members in question have broken no law, no published regulation of the university, and done nothing in violation of their contracts. What they have been denied is any proper due process. So perhaps we should all agree that they have not been threatened; they have merely been bullied. They have been harassed (and I believe a court would agree) in the legal sense of that term. They are now suffering in an atmosphere of fear in the workplace for no other reason than they have aroused the ire of some powerful men who were offended at the gall of the “hired help” to speak up and disrupt their plans.

Whatever disagreements I’ve had with my colleagues over the years, they have always shown that they care deeply about our students, and to me, nothing is more important. At the University of St. Thomas, we have a gifted, engaged faculty, and a special blessing that many other Catholic institutions do not:  theology, philosophy, and English literature departments that are absolutely orthodox and completely on-board with the notion of a Catholic, classical, liberal arts education. And we have a science faculty that I think is second to none, along with an international studies program of a quality and character unique in the nation. We have faculty across the disciplines who understand the basic spreadsheet statistics of the institution better than anyone in our own administration, and business faculty who understand budgeting and marketing better than any of the highly-paid consultants we hire. All of these faculty members have earned the right to be listened to—not stifled, not silenced, not treated as though they were ignorant children who needed to be patted on the head and ignored, or scolded when they “get out of line.”

Presidents come and go every six to 10 years. The only people who will still be at the university in 30 or 40 years are the faculty and some of the members of the staff who dutifully clean and fix our buildings, along with some of the invaluable secretaries who keep the place running and without whom we’d all go insane. These people are the heart of the university. Indeed they are the university. Administrators who don’t understand that should find other jobs—preferably ones that don’t involve people.

What we need now: A miracle (and maybe a good lawyer)

What the University of St. Thomas needs most now is prayer—a great deal of prayer—that the university will not succumb to the constant temptations pressing upon it to become another one of those Catholic institutions, like so many others, that have tried to keep themselves alive by becoming just like every other secular school in the country; and in doing so, not only failed miserably to do what they were founded to do, but often failed in every other way as well. The thoughtful board members and faithful alumni of the institution—along with Catholics across the nation—need to rise up and insist:  “We reject this vision which has taken over so many other schools and destroyed them: gradually killing their spirits, weakening their academic lives, and causing them to become mere shadows of what they once were. We demand something better. We want the sort of Catholic education that great visionaries such as Father Vincent Guinan, Étienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Father Gerald Phelan, Father Armand Maurer, and our own Father (now Archbishop) J. Michael Miller intended.”

I ask that every Catholic college and university in this country be remembered repeatedly in prayer. Without those constant prayers, and without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will not survive. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, patroness of Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Speaking of survival, one burning question I have in my mind is whether a faculty member at a small Catholic university can be stripped of tenure and terminated because he writes something truthful, but critical, of his administration in a public venue such as Catholic World Report.

Well, I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

And gentlemen, if you’re tempted to pull that bogus administrator’s ploy of claiming that I have been guilty of using my sabbatical time to do something other than sabbatical work, I have witnesses at a local coffee shop who can testify that I wrote this column on a Sunday evening between 6 and 11 pm, while everyone else was watching football. I take it that what I do in my free time on a Sunday evening is still my own business—I mean, since I’m a layman.

About the Author

Dr. Randall B. Smith

Dr. Randall B. Smith is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston where he holds the Scanlan Foundation Endowed Chair in Theology. His book Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide will be published in late October by Emmaus Academic.

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I will not watch the 3rd Presidential Debate tonight.  Instead, I will spend the time of the debate praying in my private chapel in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.  I will ask him to reveal to the nation during the debate that Hillary Rodham Clinton, in addition to the 1001 reasons why she is not qualified to be President of the United States, is in fact suffering from a debilitating neurological illness and that should she be elected on November 8 she would pose a terrible threat to the security of our Nation should she have to cope with an international crisis.

You have but to watch this YouTube to understand what I am writing about:

I invite you to join me in prayer tonight during the debate.








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Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics

Americans talking about theology sound about as competent as country singers rapping.
G. Shane Morris


Evangelical writer { actually Eric Metaxas is a practicing Greek Orthodox } Eric Metaxas remarked on BreakPoint last week that if Americans took a theology exam, their only hope of passing would be if God graded on a curve. He’s right. In knowing both the content of the Bible and the doctrinal foundations of Christianity, we Americans aren’t just at the bottom of our class. We are, as Ross Douthat argues in his book, “Bad Religion,” a nation of heretics.

A survey of 3,000 people conducted by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Ligonier Ministries found that although Americans still overwhelmingly identify as “Christian,” startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions. These are not minor points of doctrine, but core ideas that define Christianity itself. The really sad part? Even when we’re denying the divinity of Christ, we can’t keep our story straight. Americans talking about theology sound about as competent as country singers rapping.

We’re an Embarrassment to Heretics Everywhere

Seven out of ten respondents in LifeWay’s survey affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity—that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons but one God, and six in ten agreed that Jesus is both human and divine. Their orthodoxy—and consistency—ended there. More than half went on to indicate that Jesus is “the first and greatest being created by God,” a heresy known as Arianism, which the Council of Nicaea condemned in 325 A.D.

Of course, most of these accidental blasphemers aren’t preparing to revise the resulting Nicene Creed and preach a creaturely Christ. Rather, bizarre contradictions like this illustrate how many Americans don’t understand or even care what the Trinity means (although they say they believe in it, likely out of habits learned growing up in church).

The responses to other questions were no less heterodox or headache-inducing. Seventy percent of participants—who ranged across socioeconomic and racial backgrounds—agreed there’s only one true God. Yet sixty-four percent also thought this God accepts the worship of all religions, including those that believe in many gods.

Two-thirds admitted that everyone sins a little bit, but still insisted that most people are good by nature, which directly contradicts scripture (See “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”). Over half said it’s fair for God to exercise his wrath against sin, but seemed to waffle about which sins deserved wrath (not theirs!). Seventy-four percent said the “smallest sins” don’t warrant eternal damnation, in contrast to Saint James, who when writing at the Holy Spirit’s inspiration taught that even one infraction of God’s law is enough to sink someone. But really, what did he know?

A full 60 percent agreed that “everyone eventually goes to heaven,” but half of those surveyed also checked the box saying that “only those who believe in Jesus will be saved.” So either these folks are saying everyone will eventually believe in Jesus, or they hired a monkey to take the survey for them.

Evangelicals Didn’t Even Study for This Test

It’s one thing for Americans in general to lack basic theological knowledge. After all, many of the 75 percent of the country who call themselves Christians don’t take their faith that seriously, and the rest are either members of other religions, or have no religion. But what about those who wear their Christianity on their sleeve? Surely such a group—evangelicals, for instance—would perform much better.

That’s what the folks at LifeWay thought, too. In a similar project conducted two years ago, researchers asked participants to self-identify, resulting in an inflated number of professing “evangelicals. Not surprisingly, this group Christmas-treed the survey, espousing all kinds of unorthodox views.

So this year, LifeWay used more stringent criteria for evangelical faith, as defined by some group called the National Association of Evangelicals. Only participants who called the Bible their highest authority, said personal evangelism is important, and indicated that trusting in Jesus’ death on the cross is the only way of salvation, were labeled “evangelical.” They totaled 586 survey-takers.

Everyone expected them to perform better than most Americans. No one expected them to perform worse. Seven in ten evangelicals—more than the population at large—said that Jesus was the first being God created. Fifty-six percent agreed that “the Holy Spirit is a divine force but not a personal being.” They also saw a huge increase in evangelicals (28 percent, up from 9 percent) who indicated that the Third Person of the Trinity is not equal with God the Father or Jesus, a direct contradiction of orthodox Christianity. The Holy Spirit is, of course, used to being overlooked. But sources say he seemed bummed about these results.

As before, it’s really the contradictory answers, not the outright heresies, that should most concern us. By definition, the evangelicals in this survey believed that “only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.” Yet nearly half agreed that “God accepts the worship of all religions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.”

Two-thirds of evangelicals—more than Americans in general—said heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones. That such a high percentage of Billy Graham’s camp is now talking like Rob Bell isn’t even the real story. The most striking thing is how many of these folks evidently see no contradiction between their casual universalism and the evangelical creed that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone.

“There is a lot in this survey which shows that the respondents are not even being internally consistent,” Timothy Larson, a professor of Christian thought at Wheaton College, told Christianity Today. He suspects the wording of the survey, itself, may have thrown off the participants.

But could it also have something to do with the fact that two out of five evangelicals say “worshipping alone or with family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church”? Come to think of it, should we marvel that so many Christians shrug off church when so few congregations teach the foundational doctrines of the faith, or even delve very deeply into the book from which those doctrines come?

The Bible Ain’t a Lucky Rabbit’s Foot

Former Newsday religion reporter Kenneth Briggs recently told Religion News Service that the faith he finds in “mega-type churches” is a “Bible-less,” “alternative version of Christianity.” Scripture, he says, has become “a museum exhibit, hallowed as a treasure but enigmatic and untouched.”

In his book, “The Invisible Bestseller: Searching for the Bible in America,” he describes a two-year pilgrimage across the country, visiting hundreds of churches to find Christians who were still literate in their own sacred text.

The Bible remains phenomenally popular, of course. Practically everyone has one in his or her home, and many families own four or five. But Briggs characterizes our love for the Bible as love for an “artifact,” a “keepsake,” or a lucky “rabbit’s foot.” This talisman of faith mainly stays on the shelf or mantle next to the urn filled with grandpa’s ashes.

Briggs says it was in a prison, not a church, where he encountered the most vibrant and intimate familiarity with God’s Word. Most everywhere else, his observations confirmed a recent Barna survey conducted for the American Bible Society, which found that less than half the country can name the first five books of the Old Testament, and that a similar number think John the Baptist was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples.

Why does it matter that we’ve become a nation of doctrinal dunces? What harm is there in flunking Christianity 101? Well, for Christians, the answer is obvious. If we really believe what we profess—that the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important fact of history and eternity—then we’d better improve our grade. Knowing who the God we claim to worship is can no longer be a third priority if we want the world to take us seriously as his followers.

Recall also that Jesus told us knowing the truth sets us free. Believing lies enslaves people. It should be a priority for us to continually seek truth, rather than comfort. Christ also told us the greatest commandment includes loving God with our minds. That means dusting off grandpa’s Bible, and revisiting a catechism or confession.

For those who don’t profess Christianity, gaining a basic understanding of the creeds and Scriptures of the religion that built our civilization isn’t a bad idea, either. As Indian Christian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi writes, the Bible created the modern world by making the West a reading and thinking civilization, and by grounding this reading and thinking in the idea that truth is knowable.

In the subduction zone between a nominally Christian culture and a distinctly post-Christian one, sparks are flying—in florist’s shops, bakeries, universities, legislatures, and bathrooms nationwide. Those who want to live in peace with the still-sizeable Christian remnant need to move past lazy dismissals of religious “bigotry,” and learn why Christians have come to the conclusions we have for 2,000 years.

The results of this survey ought to embarrass all of us. But they should also serve as a kick in the pants to re-familiarize ourselves with our own religion—or at least our own history. There’s no excuse to be a nation of heretics. But even that is preferable to being a nation of ignoramuses.



G. Shane Morris is assistant editor at BreakPoint, a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He’s also written for Summit Ministries and The Christian Post. Shane lives with his wife and two children in Leesburg, Virginia.
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So Many Errors, Your Holiness. And Some Marked With Red

Francis likes his talk freewheeling, with all the risks that go with it. Here is a review of his latest blunders, a dozen in four months. The most sensational with China

by Sandro Magister

ROME, October 19, 2016 – Last June, http://www.chiesa registered and analyzed a certain number of misinterpretations, gaffes, memory slip, errors in the discourses of Pope Francis:

> The Pope Is Not Infallible. Here Are Eight Proofs

Since then, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has again fallen into two of the errors pointed out there.

The first was that of flattering Cardinal Christoph Schönborn with a role that he has never held: that of “secretary” of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

The first time the pope had promoted him to this role was April 16, during the press conference on the return flight from the island of Lesbos. And that time, in transcribing the pope’s words in the official bulletin, the Vatican press office had corrected the mistake, replacing the title of “secretary” with that of a simple “member.”

But on June 16, in a discourse to the priests of Rome at the cathedral of Saint John Lateran, the pope repeated himself. In telling the priests how to interpret “Amoris Laetitia” correctly, he advised them to pay attention to the “great theologian who was secretary of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Cardinal Schönborn.”

This second time, in the official transcription of Francis’s words, the error was not corrected.

A bit further on, however, in that same discourse of the pope, a corrective “ex post” intervention was made.

In describing the episode of Jesus and the adulterous woman, Francis is supposed to have said, according to the official transcription: “And Jesus sort of plays the fool, he lets time go by, he writes on the ground. . . .”

But in reality the pope had said: “And Jesus sort of plays the ‘scemo’…,” an expression that sounds rather harsh in Italian (comparable to “retard”).


The second relapse has to do with an imaginary translation – coined in the West and fashionable in the United States on the lips of politicians – of the Chinese word “weiji,” conflict, according to which this is made up of two ideograms, one of which stands for “risk” and the other for “opportunity.”

The first time the pope had presented this “hearsay” was on April 24, in a conversation with members of Focolare.

And he repeated it a second time on June 18 on a visit to the community of Villa Nazareth.


But then Francis stumbled into new mistakes, to be added to the list.

One of these has created a certain amount of discussion and has been corrected in the official transcription of the pope’s words.

In the already-cited discourse of June 16 at Saint John Lateran, Francis at a certain point said that he maintained that “most of our sacramental marriages are null,” because the spouses “do not have the awareness” of what they are doing.

In the subsequent official transcription, “most” has been scaled down to “some.”

Few noted, however, that immediately afterward in the same discourse, Bergoglio expressed a somewhat conflicting opinion.

After having said, in fact, that he holds most sacramental marriages to be null, he said that on the other hand he maintains as “true marriages,” endowed with “matrimonial grace,” the simple cohabitation practiced in rural parts of Argentina, where – he explained – they start families young but marry in church only later in life.


Another questionable opinion that Francis loves to repeat concerns a capital in the medieval basilica of Vézelay, in France.

“On that capital,” the pope has said on at least three different occasions, “on one side there is Judas hanged, with the eyes open, the tongue out, and on the other side is the Good Shepherd taking him with him. And if we look carefully, with attention, the face of the Good Shepherd, the lips on one side are sad, but on the other side they form a smile.”

In reality, no art historian identifies Christ as the second figure, who is simply taking Judas away for burial. But the pope likes to interpret it this way, in order to confirm the mercy of God for the last of sinners. And this is how he spoke out on June 16 with the priests of Rome, on August 2 with the bishops of Poland, and on October 2 with journalists on the return flight from Azerbaijan to Rome.


Moreover, Bergoglio sometimes falls into linguistic misunderstandings. For example, with the word “estracomunitario,” which in Italy simply indicates someone who does not belong to the European community.

Francis, however, is convinced that this word has an underpinning of cruelty: “That very cruelty which turns you, who are from another country, into an ‘extra-comunitario’: they take you out of the community, they do not welcome you. Which is something against which we must fight very much.”

The pope said this to young Italians on July 28 in Krakow, during world youth day.


Still other times the error is descriptive. For example when on October 12, in addressing the conference of “Christian World Communions,” Francis cited the martyrdom of the “Coptic Orthodox friars slaughtered on the shores of Libya.”

Who were indeed Coptic Egyptians, but laymen, not “friars.” No correction was made “ex post” to this part of the address, in the official transcription.


Then there was the case of the Spanish transexual whose story Bergoglio told during the return flight from Azerbaijian to Rome on October 2.

The story told by the pope differs on various points from the one told by the transexual in the days of his audience with the pope, which took place on January 24, 2015, together with his “wife.”

But above all the story told by the pope took it as a matter of course that absolution and communion should be given to “married” transexuals, remaining silent on the fact that the applicable discipline of the Church does not permit for transexuals the celebration of sacramental marriage.

More than an omission, here Francis has carried out a deliberate break with this discipline, but without making a declaration.

See, in this regard, the commentary of Christian Spaemann, a psychiatrist by profession and the son of the illustrious German Catholic philosopher Robert Spaemann:

> Papa Francesco e i transessuali. Le obiezioni di Spaemann Jr


On another occasion the pope made a mistaken prediction, with the result of then finding himself on a collision course with an entire episcopate, that of Colombia.

The error regarded the outcome of the October 2 referendum on the agreement between the Colombian state and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Francis, speaking on September 26 at Santa Marta with representatives of the World Jewish Council and foreseeing the victory of the “yes,” had gone out on a limb, praising the supporters of the agreement as persons who “risk everything for peace,” and instead dismissing the opponents as persons who “risk everything to continue the war, and this wounds the soul.”

Only that what ended up winning was the “no,” and among the opponents was a large part of the Colombian Church, this also desirous of peace but not under the conditions established in the accord. So much so that for the signing of the document on September 27 Cardinal Parolin came hurrying in from Rome, but no bishop was present, and the episcopal conference had invited Colombians to vote for or against according to their conscience.

Fortunately those words of the pope did not go into the official records, since they were spoken in a private meeting. But they were made known by participants at the meeting:

> Papa Francesco dialoga con membri del Consiglio ebraico mondiale

An attempt at stitching up the rift – in contradiction with the pope – was made by the president of the episcopal conference of Colombia, Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, who told Vatican Radio:

“It’s not that some say yes to peace and others say no. Those who say no consider that the agreement must be corrected in some points, but they too want peace. This is not a case of war and peace.”


But perhaps the most sensational error into which Bergoglio has stumbled lately concerned China.

On October 2, on the return flight from Azerbaijian to Rome, Francis gave a couple of news items that at the time no one was able to verify.

The first: “The Vatican Museums have presented an exhibition in China, the Chinese will present another at the Vatican.”

The second: “The other day there was a conference at the [Pontifical] Academy of Sciences on ‘Laudato Si’,’ and there was a Chinese delegation from the president. And the Chinese president sent me a gift.”

On October 7, however, the agency “Églises d’Asie,” the authoritative voice of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, published a thoroughly documented note that demolished both news items:

> Le président Xi Jinping a-t-il vraiment envoyé un cadeau au pape François?

To begin with, the Vatican Museums did indeed organize an exhibition, from February 5 to May 2 of this year, on the papacy, the Catholic mission to the Orient, the liturgy and the sacraments. Not in the People’s Republic of China, however, but in the house of the . . . enemy, in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.

As for the presumed gift from Chinese president Xi Jinping to the pope, the thoroughly detailed reconstruction made by “Églises d’Asie” ends up defining it as nothing less than “unthinkable.”

On October 11, the agency “Asia News” of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan conveniently made the reconstruction by “Églises d’Asie” available to readers of Italian, English, Spanish, and Chinese:

> Églises d’Asie, “Did President Xi Jinping really send a gift to Pope Francis?”


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.


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New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (YouTube image)
Ross Douthat

The anti-Catholic Catholics (and the bishops who support them)

By Phil Lawler

 Oct 14, 2016

Yesterday Ross Douthat of the New York Times embarked on a lengthy Tweetstorm —21 tweets in all—questioning whether it’s accurate to refer to the leaked emails from the Clinton campaign as evidence of “anti-Catholic” bigotry. Douthat—who is no friend of the Clintonite perspective—makes a quick, convincing case that the reality is more complicated.

It’s not just that John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman at the center of the email exchanges, identifies himself as a Catholic. More important, Douthat notes, “the reality is that his vision is shared within Catholicism.” You will have no problem finding priests, religious, professors at Catholic universities—yes, and bishops—who defend the arguments that Podesta and his allies advance. So the public appearance of these emails offers (Douthat again) “a window into how the Catholic civil war is fought.”

We now know that Podesta helped to set up groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, hoping to swing Catholic opinion toward liberal positions, in opposition to clear Church teaching. Frankly that shouldn’t be too surprising; it’s been going on for at least 50 years. What’s more remarkable, really, is how smoothly staff members have moved between the US bishops’ conference and Podesta’s pet groups. Anne Hendershott supplied some details for Catholic World Report. Consider the personnel of one liberal front-group, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG):

  • Alexia Kelley worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development before she became founding director of CACG. (She later moved to the Obama White House staff.)
  • John Gehring was assistant media director for the US bishops’ conference, then became media director for CACG, then moved over to Faith in Public Life.
  • Tom Chabolla also worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, then joined the advisory board of CACG.
  • Francis X. Doyle, once the associate general secretary of the US bishops’ conference, became the treasurer-secretary of CACG.

Thus the CACG drew much of its leadership from within the staff of the US bishops’ conference. Presumably they held much the same views, and worked toward much the same goals, while they were employed by the American hierarchy. If they are “anti-Catholic,” then it seems “anti-Catholicism” has found sanctuary and support from our bishops. Make of that what you will.

(An early version of this essay mistakenly referred to the liberal group described above as “Catholic for the Common Good.” In fact, the organization of that name is a group of loyal Catholics dedicated to preserving marriage. I regret the error.)

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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