An Ancient Law Written on the Heart

When I studied Akkadian, the language of Mesopotamia, we would occasionally spend class time reading ancient legal texts. It often provoked discussion because laws reveal much about a society’s concerns. While laws regarding homosexuality in the Near Eastern codes are relatively rare, Tablet A, 19-20 of the Middle Assyrian Law Code (ca. 1400 BC) describes the punishment for falsely accusing someone of engaging in a homosexual act as well as the penalty for the act itself:

“If a man has secretly started a rumor about his neighbor saying, ‘He has allowed men to have sex with him,’ or in a quarrel has told him in the presence of others, ‘Men have sex with you,’ and then, ‘I will bring charges against you myself,’ but is then unable to substantiate the charge, and cannot prove it, that man is to be caned (fifty blows), be sentenced to a month’s hard labor for the king, be cut off [hair], and pay one talent of lead.”

The very next law establishes the penalty if the accusation is proven in court:

“If a man lay with his neighbor, when they have prosecuted him [and] convicted him, they shall lie with him [and] turn him into a eunuch.”

Continue reading “An Ancient Law Written on the Heart”

The Vatican Bank May Be Running Out of Time

In canon lawyer Ed Condon’s recent article critical of the Pope’s actions against the Knights of Malta, he makes an astute observation about possible unintended consequences:

The disregard for the mutually sovereign relationship between the Holy See and the Order sets a precedent in international law, which will now lurk under the Secretariat of State’s dealings with other governments like an unexploded bomb.

Cardinal Parolin should prepare to see today’s actions cited as legitimate precedent when the IOR, commonly called the Vatican Bank, finds its sovereign independence under renewed pressure from other countries or international bodies. [emphasis mine]

With respect to the bank, one has to ask just how long the Italian government’s going to tolerate this institution? While the current pontiff had promised to clean up Vatican finances, he recently ordered Archbishop Becciu to abruptly cancel an outside audit of the bank by PricewaterhouseCooper. According to journalist Edward Pentin, it was over the issue of transparency: Continue reading “The Vatican Bank May Be Running Out of Time”

300 Years of Masonic Mischief

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Shriners on parade

While Freemasonry originated in 1717, it was in 1870, the same year the American order, the Shriners, were founded, that it began a concerted assault on the institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. It was a portentous year as the government of Italy seized the Papal States, leaving the Church with no sovereign home. It was also the year of the Franco-Prussian War, won by the Germans in a rout that was viewed by many in northern Europe as a victory over Catholicism. The Kulturkampf was instituted in Germany after the victory leading to the imprisonment of thousands of priests. In France, Church-run institutions like education and hospitals were seized and secularized. Discriminatory laws against Catholics were also passed in Switzerland and Italy. Continue reading “300 Years of Masonic Mischief”

Charles Johnston’s Hanging it Up

I was asked by a CNS reporter last summer in private email correspondence what I thought of Charles Johnston, the seer from Denver who has made predictions of immanent civil unrest and social collapse. Unfamiliar with him, I listened to an interview the reporter provided a link to and gave the following response (additional commentary is in brackets):

“Thanks for the link and I listened to the interview. What he said was a little vague so I looked at his site [link]. He predicts a worldwide economic collapse followed by civil wars followed by a confrontation with Islam. This is also what Hildegard predicts for the era of the grey wolf; but that’s where the similarity ends. Charlie adds that there will be a major miracle followed by a prolonged period of peace. And this is all supposed to take place in the next year and a half. [He claimed that his Guardian Angel had told him these things]. The era of the grey wolf as Hildegard described it hasn’t started yet.

Continue reading “Charles Johnston’s Hanging it Up”

The Demolition of Political Correctness

pc1In a historical analysis of political correctness, Boston University’s Angelo Codevilla argues that the phenomenon will not only eventually define the post-Cold War era, but its demise is at hand. It is as inevitable as was the Soviet Union’s:

“Progressive parties everywhere have sought to monopolize educational and cultural institutions in order to force those under their thumbs to sing their tunes or to shut up. But having brought about the opposite of the prosperity, health, wisdom, or happiness that their ideology advertised, they have been unable to force folks to ignore the gap between political correctness and reality.”

Continue reading “The Demolition of Political Correctness”

Nostradamus and the False Trumpet

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In honor of Nostradamus’ birthday (Dec. 14), a number of news websites quoted the following quatrain:

Man with a false trumpet claiming he’s right,

Will rise from the tower’s of the New World

On dames he will spew tangerine venom

But victorious he will be, despite allegations being hurled.

This, they suggest, was a reference to the victory of Donald Trump. The prophecy is typical of Nostradamus’s style; there’s just enough ambiguity to make a connection appear compelling, but not quite. He actually wrote horoscopes for a living and was the court astrologist for Catherine de Medici. Astrology was closely aligned with astronomy and generally respected at the time. Paid astrologers were tolerated by the Church but not considered as having the prophetic gift. Continue reading “Nostradamus and the False Trumpet”

St. Hildegard on Reclaiming Marriage through Christ

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“Creation and Fall”, illumination from Scivias, Rupertsberg MS.

One consequence of the fall of man was the corruption of marriage and the eventual institution of legal divorce. Even in Hildegard’s day (12th-century) divorce and remarriage were common in Latin Christendom. Marriages were utilitarian and pre-arranged, and consequently, loveless. They facilitated alliances between noble families in order to protect their respective fiefs or wealth. When circumstances would change and an alliance was no longer advantageous, the nobleman would discard the wife who was the basis of the pact and form another one with a different feudal lord.

One of the best weapons the Church employed to break down feudal society’s marriage customs was its insistence on consent as the basis for a valid marriage. Girls in their early teens were considered too young to grant consent and arranged marriages precluded it. Invalid marriages were a problem for the nobility because any children produced in them would be regarded as illegitimate and unable to inherit. The people of Christendom finally accepted that it was Church law, not civil law, that determined the validity of a marriage.

St. Hildegard (1098-1179), explaining her vision of the creation and fall in her mid-12th century work, Scivias, revealed that through Christ, marriage could be restored to its original ideal, the marital union of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: Continue reading “St. Hildegard on Reclaiming Marriage through Christ”

William. F. Buckley Jr. on Humanae Vitae

buckley1Twenty years ago Buckley wrote Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith, sharing his personal thoughts and experiences as a life-long Catholic. Writing in his typical high-brow conversational manner, you might feel as though you were sitting next to him on the panel of Firing Line. And indeed there is a panel; he structured his essays around answers to questions he had posed to his unique “Forum”, a group of intellectuals that had come to the Catholic faith as adults. His insights and outlooks remain relevant and valuable today.

On the subject of contraception (chapter 12), the opinions of his Forum were divided. But Buckley doesn’t bother to engage them; the publication of Humanae Vitae rendered the question pointless. “…[T]he answer, for a Catholic, has got to be: the position of the Pope, as spokesman for the magisterium.” He shifts the conversation to a question he finds more challenging:

“It is that the law against contraception is quite simply ignored. No, not by everyone; but the data suggest that contraceptives are sold in similar quantities to Catholic and to Protestant men and women. There is no way to establish what percentage of Catholic women (or men) who use them confess to having committed a sin. And in any case, if absolution is not valid in the absence of the penitent’s subjective determination not to sin again, one must assume—simply from one’s view of crowded communion rails—either that the sin is not being confessed or else that the determination not-to-sin-again is widely irresolute.”

Continue reading “William. F. Buckley Jr. on Humanae Vitae”

Historical Perspectives on the Pope’s Chinese Accord

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Joseph Cardinal Zen

The Pope has cut a deal with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that gives the Vatican a say in the selection of Bishops for the state-sanctioned Catholic Church. The deal is supposed to give the Vatican the ability to approve episcopal appointments made by the Chinese government.

To Joseph Cardinal Zen, Retired Bishop of Hong Kong, the Pope would be making a choice for the government-controlled church over the faithful underground church.  His opposition is impassioned, calling it a “surrender”, and a betrayal of Christ. The underground Catholic Church is substantially larger and carefully guards its independence from the government and maintains loyalty to the Holy See, but at the price of persecution.

Neither the state Church or the underground Church have a direct connection to Rome; this is obviously what the Pope wants to fix by the compromise. But first he might want to consider a number of historical precedents that suggest such accords don’t end well and consider a more conservative path: Continue reading “Historical Perspectives on the Pope’s Chinese Accord”

Humanae Vitae and Low Birth Rates

baptism2In July of 1968 Pope Paul VI, by issuing the encyclical Humanae Vitae, unequivocally upheld the Church’s long standing prohibition on contraception. In hindsight, we can see that its publication had created the circumstances for a divergence in birth rates between Catholics and the rest of society. This would have had a major impact on both the Church and the nation. But by means of a well-coordinated effort to discredit the encyclical, its message was disregarded. The expected divergence in birth rates turned out to be a correlation.

While it’s hard to find figures on birth rates for specific groups like Catholics, researchers from CARA have noted that the number of baptisms per 1000 Catholics in a given year is strongly correlated to the overall national birth rate which has been in decline since 1957. Continue reading “Humanae Vitae and Low Birth Rates”