Saturday, December 24, 2005

When was Jesus born?

At this time of year it is customary for certain scholars to debate just when Jesus was born, and whether it is right for us to celebrate His birth during this time of year at all. The long and the short of it is that no one knows for sure.

For example, detractors of a late-December date for the birth of Our Lord point out that shepherds would likely not be abiding in the fields during what is normally the rainy season of the year in Palestine. This is an excellent point, but even during the rainy season it is possible to have a day here and there where it didn’t rain, and shepherds in those days would have been tending to their flock on any night when it wasn’t raining.

Some critics say that the early Church did not celebrate the Nativity, because they did not know the date of Christ’s birth, but St. Justin Martyr was pretty adamant that in his day, Christians in most of the known world were celebrating the birth of Our Lord with annual rigor, though there was (and remains) a dispute within the Christian world as to whether the correct day to celebrate the Nativity is December 25 or January 6.

As many have pointed out, December 25 was also the solar feast Natalis Invicti, and not a few scholars believe that the date for the celebration of Christmas was borrowed from this very old pagan feast. It wouldn’t be the first time, nor the last time, that the Church “baptized” a holiday, and the theory is not far-fetched.

St. Ambrose and St. Jerome both say that in some form or other the census records of the Holy Family that would have been taken at Bethlehem still existed and could be found at Rome in their day. In our day, many records from the time of Augustus have been preserved, but others have been lost, and it is possible that these records were also lost. If true, however, access to these public records may explain why in the earliest martyrologies of the Church of Rome that list December 25 as the feast of the birth of Our Lord. The earliest known such martyrology, or list of martyrs and other historical events of the Church on a given day, dates all the way back to 205 AD. In it can be found:

"For the first coming of Our Lord in the flesh (in which He has been begotten), in Bethlehem, took place (25 December, the fourth day) in the reign of Augustus (the forty-second year, and) in the year 5500 (from Adam). And He suffered in His thirty-third year (25 March, the parasceve, in the eighteenth year of Tiberius Cæsar, during the consulate of Rufus and Rubellio).”

I happen to believe that the Lord was either born on what we now call Christmas Day or sometime very close to that date…but whatever day it was, it was the most important birthday in world history.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Three questions I am often asked

During this most Holy Season of the year when the thoughts of serious Christians everywhere begin to turn to the Birth of Our Savior and Lord, I thought it most prudent to address a few serious questions I sometimes get about this web log, usually in private messages, from sincere and serious people. The majority of these questions usually involve my faith.

The most common question I get is: “Do you believe that only Catholics are going to Heaven?”

Regular readers know what a devout Catholic that I am. I do not claim to be perfect, nor to I think myself “holier-than-thou.” I suspect I get this sort of question because when I speak of the Church, I speak of the Catholic Church alone, unless I specify that I am speaking of something or someone Protestant.

First of all, it isn’t my place to determine who goes to Heaven and who does not. I believe that power resides in God alone (although I believe that the Church acts as God‘s agent in the world). Secondly, it is rather silly for me to say that only Catholics will go to Heaven…That would be putting limits on God, and saying that God would penalize people because of things they may not have been taught or are not aware of.

A second question I have gotten in various forms but all meaning the same thing is: “Do you believe the Catholic Church is the ’one True Church’ or the only true Church?”

The answer to this question is a controversial but unapologetic “absolutely.” Just as I believe Jesus Christ is exactly who He claimed to be, I believe that the Catholic Church is what it claims to be: The Church He founded. I believe that the Church possesses without reserve the binding and loosing power described in Matthew 16:18-19, and that its bishops and priests, having been handed down the deposit of faith through the ages, are indeed the Successors of the Apostles. As we have seen in recent times, it certainly doesn’t make them perfect. Just as Jesus had Judas, we too sometimes have to deal with bad leadership in the Church. For every bad leader, though, there are ten good leaders. We aren’t called to selective obedience…even in blasting the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus still admonishes the people to obey the religious authorities God has placed over them (Matthew 23-2:3). Christ did not establish a Northern Church or a Southern Church, a First Church or a Second Church, or 30,000 different churches, or community churches. He founded One Church, it is holy, Catholic, and apostolic.

Does that mean I think Protestants are bad? Of course not. I work with them, I associate with them, I believe many and most of them are good, solid, prayerful Christians. I happen to think the basis for Protestant thought is a flawed one…but after 500 years of very sad division it is hard to say “Protestants (as a generalization) are wrong.” Unlike their 16th Century forebears, they did not willingly break with the Church or lapse into schism, and they never knew what it was like to all be a part of one Church.

I also think that, from a political point of view, whatever our religious persuasion might be, it is important for Christians to unite as one against certain evils that plague our society. We must speak with one voice against aborticide, against same-sex “marriage,” against anti-Christian discrimination by the State, and against oppression of Christians by regimes around the world. In short, we must stand united in order to defeat the Left in the Culture War. It thrills me to death to have encountered over the years so many conservatives who trumpet from the rooftops their faith in Jesus Christ, from my good friends Aaron Harris and Adam Graham, to our GOP Chair Brian Hornback. I am thankful there are people involved in public life who are not afraid of the Holy Name.

The most common query I get from angry Catholics is: “How on earth can you be Catholic and a Republican?”

Well, this is 2005/06, and there are LOTS of Catholic Republicans out there, from our former National Chairman (and Ambassador to the Holy See) Jim Nicholson to Kansas Senator Sam Brownback to radio talk hosts G. Gordon Liddy and Sean Hannity, so that’s really a moot point. Why are these Catholics Republicans?

Normally this question comes from a concern that I am somehow ignoring the Church’s social justice teachings per Rarem Novarum. Let me assure concerned Catholic readers that I most certainly am not. The difference between myself and the Catholics who ask the above question is a difference in philosophy about how best to execute and apply those teachings.

Alas, Advent drawing near a close has caused me to wax philosophical. I do hope that it hasn’t driven too many readers away…keep the reading up, and I’ll keep up the posting.

Thanks to all of our loyal readers for staying with us through a roller-coaster of a year. Here’s praying for a great 2006.

Exit strategy?

Good morning...I am up with my Beloved preparing for Christmas in the wee hours...

Per a post on the 14th of this month here on this blog, the Defense Department is announcing that there will be some troop withdrawals, while many other forces set for deployment will not be deployed. The beginning of an exit in Iraq?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A note on the PATRIOT Act

Just a note on the agreement in the House and Senate tonight to extend the PATRIOT Act for one month: Considering the present political circumstances, this was a very wise move. Better to extend the Act for a month (it expires February 3rd) and look for ways to protect our liberties than to extend the Act permanently without any serious contemplation about the permanent consequences of this law.

I would be willing to accept a law in which the liberties of the American people are fully protected, and if this arrangement leads to that, this could turn out to be a positive compromise.

If the Act should expire in the end, at least liberty would survive.

Have you driven a Ford lately?

The more we learn about the antics of the Ford family, including the reality that Harold Ford, Sr. has admitted to witness tampering in the voter’s fraud case of Ophelia Ford’s so-called “victory” in the special State Senate election, the more the whole lot of them look like a den of thieves.

In this election, voter turnout was indeed miraculous, as the dead were said to have arisen from the grave in order to vote for Ophelia.

Thaddeus Matthews asks the legitimate question: Just what is Harold Ford, Jr.? Anyone who has ever heard Junior speak should take careful note that he sounds an awful lot like a Republican. I have a dear friend that I went to college with who is one of these sorts who fancies himself a Democrat, but you hear him talk and he sounds entirely too conservative and Republican for the Dems’ collective tastes. He thinks Harry Ford is the Second Coming.

The present difficulty with Harold Ford, Jr. is that he has a family filled with crooks, thieves, and frauds, which means that even if he is totally innocent, he has had some very bad influences. His voting record and his temperament on the House floor would indicate that he either doesn’t know what to believe, or he does not know what he himself believes. Considering that Junior wants to be my next United States Senator, I have a right to know what his philosophy is, and so does every other Tennessean.

It bears noting, in the wake of recent events in Memphis, that Stacey Campfield reported back on the 13th that he saw a Ford campaign sign in a graveyard.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

St. Stan's in schism

All the way back in February, the World had a few things to say about a Catholic parish in St. Louis whose civil board of directors had been placed under interdict by St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke. St. Stanislas Kostka Church is the only Catholic parish in the world of which I am aware that runs a civil corporation apart from the authority of its pastor or its bishop. Both Archbishop Burke and the Holy See repeatedly asked this "board" to submit to rightful spiritual authority in the wake of repeated abuses. Their failure to do so caused Archbishop Burke to place them under interdict and to take their pastor from them, since they refused to obey that pastor, also.

Now this civil “board of directors” has hired a priest who is in schism to celebrate the sacraments for them, which renders some of those sacraments invalid, and is a defiance of the spiritual authority of their Archbishop. Apparently, the threat of eternal damnation is not enough to sway these stiffnecks. Archbishop Burke is very sad about the whole affair.

Read his letter about it.

Thanks to Jimmy Aiken

Irish Americans and politics

Brian Hornback’s entry several days back about Plunkitt of Tammany Hall got me to thinking about the larger picture of the impact of Irish-Americans on politics and society in this country. I have long thought that people of Irish/Gaelic extraction have some sort of “political gene” that causes us to take an unusually high interest in politics, and that while our women carry this gene, it causes a permanent infection in Irish men when inherited. (My wife is if Irish and Cherokee lineage, for example, and while she does have some interest in things political, more than enough to carry on a good conversation, it is nothing compared to mine.)

Some of my old friends and political associates (on both sides) have borne surnames that gave away that they were also had the gene and were infected with the disease: Harris, Bashore, Kress, Fitzgerald, Flannigan, O’Brien…just to name a few. I think I got the “gene” from my mother’s side (Neelys) because as a family, they were heavily involved in politics in years gone by. My Grandfather certainly took a keen interest in politics, and he fostered my own.

I am not sure just where it comes from. Part of it may be those years of fighting each other back in the Old Country. We were a stubborn lot back in the 16th and 17th Century, and we continue to be today. The North of Ireland is still very much a war-torn place, largely because of British interference. Originally, the Brits oppressed Catholic and Protestant alike in Ireland: The Catholics were seditious, they said, and the Presbyterians they tried to bring over from Scotland (also a Celtic people) to breed out the Irish Catholics turned out to be dissenters from the Establishment. When the Brits finally decided to give one group privilege over the other, that became the root of the present conflict (Note to Irish scholars: Yes, I know there is much more to it than that, but for the sake of brevity, this is but a tiny overview).

We did not bring our religious and political differences with us to the New World, we couldn’t afford to. When our ancestors came to this country, some were discriminated against for their religion (the Know-Nothings didn’t particularly like Catholics, and Irish Catholics were an easy target-while many Presbyterians from Northern Ireland changed the spelling of their names to prevent people knowing they came from Ireland…or might be Presbyterian), the majority were discriminated against because they were from Ireland and came here with nothing.

It has been said that studies have shown that the Irish and Scots-Irish of East Tennessee are among the most stubborn people on earth. I can buy that, but I’ll go further: The Irish are the most stubborn people God ever created, wherever they may live. In the New World, rather than having their arguments lead to shooting wars (with the exception, perhaps, of the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790’s and the Late Unpleasantness of 1861-1865), the Irish learned to use their known ability to argue in a constructive way, through politics. This is one theory…

Another theory is that politics became a way out of poverty for so many Irish people in America that it became a way of life and it has never been undone. To their credit, the old Democrats saw the benefit of involving the newcomers right off the bat. In the age before FDR destroyed it forever, the Dems used political patronage as a way to win Irish loyalty. The process started under Andrew Jackson and continued unabated until the New Deal. The New Deal destroyed the old patronage system, because in the old days, the Ward Boss or the Precinct Captain might be able to get a jobless Irishman a job at the library, the school, or the courthouse, the auditor’s office, etc. Once a man had a job, he was on his own, and when he worked his way up the system, he was expected to help others in turn the way he was helped. In this way, the Irish built up their political influence and power by putting other Irish-Americans in government jobs when they had the authority to do so, then working their way up, and repeating the process. This led Irish people to see politics as a way to success, and generations of Irish-Americans became involved in public life at some level or other.

The New Deal effectively put an end to this system, because the federal government used New Deal programs to take patronage out of the hands of local officials in the name of “reform,” and instead they put it in the hands of the federal government. It made the Feds big and bad, but it weakened the power of local authorities. Local politics, of course, is where Irish-Americans have traditionally thrived, so the Democrats didn’t know it at the time, but the de-localization of politics brought about as a result of the New Deal was at the root of the ultimate end of the Democrats’ lock on the Irish vote.

A good book (a novel) that talks about the last of the old Irish patronage politicians is The Last Hurrah by Edwin O’Brien, about an old Boston mayor, Skeffington, in his last political campaign.

Whatever it is that causes Irish men to take such a keen interest in politics, we nonetheless do. If the great Irish contributions to America are politicians and whiskey, we’ve still given America some of the greatest contributions to its culture and public life. We’re too stubborn to do anything less.

Senator Larry Graig defended his vote against the PATRIOT Act

this is an audio post - click to play

The need for an Executive Order

For all of the fuss over Executive Orders issued by the White House which have recently come to light, I've found a case where immediate action by the President is needed: If The Washington Times is to be believed, some military chaplains are being told they are not allowed to pray in the name of Jesus.

The American Center for Law and Justice is gathering signatures on a petition to try and convince President Bush to issue an Executive Order making it clear that all military chaplains can pray according to the dictates of their faith.

The President should not need a petition for this one. Considering that there were protesting chaplains across from the White House yesterday, I am sure that someone on the Executive Staff is aware of the issue. It can and should be remedied...not later...RIGHT NOW!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bredesen: Liar, dunce, or just unprepared?

Brian Hornback, our esteemed Knox County Republican Chairman, has an entry at his blog about Governor Bredesen admitting to lack of managerial control in the executive branch of the State Government, and his calling of a special "ethics session" of the Tennessee General Assembly.

NOOOOO!!!! Why our public officials would never stoop so low!! (Yeah, right.)

I am having a terrible time deciding whether Phil Bredesen is

A.) A chronic liar

B.) A well-intentioned dunce (a la Jimmy Carter)


C.) Someone who was qualified but totally unprepared for the culture of corruption and waste that is endemic in Tennessee State politics.

Whether the right answer is A, B, or C, Bredesen is daily showing himself as unfit for the office of Governor of Tennessee.

The President's real problem

The President made two addresses to the nation, one being under the guise of a news conference, the other being a traditional Oval Office address. The address from the Oval came Sunday evening, and the President implored the people to be patient in regards to the war in Iraq. He recounted the successes brought about by American and Allied forces, including oversight of successful elections to form a new government last week.

Indeed, President Bush has good reason to be optimistic. The situation in Iraq, though a long way from in the clear, has significantly improved in a very short period of time. The success of recent elections and the slow cobbling together of something resembling a free government is a sign that the war may end in a victory and not merely a draw.

The President’s real problem is not with the situation in Iraq at all, but with developments at home. Revelations this week that he authorized surveillance on American citizens without resorting to the appropriate legal (Special Intelligence Court) or constitutional (warrants, issued by said court) channels has the administration on the defensive. This reality made the President’s press conference look like a damage control operation. The President’s assertion (and the Vice President’s, as he appeared on Nightline last night) that he has both legal and constitutional authority to tap people’s phones and search their e-mail without a warrant because he is the President and he is protecting America is a laughable thing. The President and the Attorney-General are playing the same kind of games with the Constitution of the United States that the Left does: When the Constitution is not supportive of what they want to do, they invent things in the Constitution that are not there.

The President’s problem is not that Democrats oppose these unconstitutional acts. The Party Opposite merely sees a political opportunity here on which they wish to capitalize. Were the situation reversed, I have no doubt that the Democrats would be the ones pressing for greater federal and executive powers that have no place in America.

However, I am a Republican. I have never voted for a Democrat in my life. I have manned phone banks for Republican candidates. I have passed out literature for Republicans, I have manned polling places for them. I would sooner cast a vote for Beelzebub than for a Democrat. I have known nothing but a straight Republican ticket. I believe that the modern-day (since the 1960’s) Democratic Party is a force for great evil in the world, and that they literally do the work of Lucifer, and are agents of the Prince of the Power of the Air. For the sake of the preservation of Christendom in America, the Democratic Party needs to be defeated, and if possible, utterly destroyed at the ballot box.

I believe this with my whole heart…Since that is the case, I should really be a front-man for the President.

The President’s real problem is that I don’t believe any of this bunk about his having that kind of authority…I don’t buy it for a New York minute, and I think it is a disgrace for him, or any leader of our country, to make such an outlandish claim. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
The next time he requests network time for an address to the nation, it should be to apologize profusely for having such an awful brain fart.

That’s the President’s real problem. I don’t buy it, and I am not the only conservative Republican that doesn’t buy it, either.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The O Antiphons

Through the ages, the followers of Christ have found various ways to praise His name. During this Holy Season of Advent, the Church calls on the faithful to praise His name in preparation for His coming by praising Christ in the form of the Old Testament names used to describe the coming Messiah. These antiphons are known as the "O Antiphons" because they address the Lord beginning with that very short incantation.

From December 17-December 23, the Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Liturgy of the Hours includes special antiphons prior to the Magnificat which praise the names of Jesus:

O Sapientia (O Wisdom): “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” The prophet Isaiah spoke of Christ saying:

“The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” ( Isaiah 28:29).

O Adonai (O Lord):“O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Again, Isaiah speaks of the nature of the coming God incarnate as Man:

“But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips” (Isaiah 11:4-5). The Messiah, being the Anointed One, is the ultimate representative of God. As God made Man, he is truly Lord, and the justice He brings to the world is perfect.

O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse):“O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Isaiah 11:1)

The Messiah is the Root of Jesse of the House of David. He is King of Israel. As Christ the King, he will reign over the world with a perfect justice and a rod of iron.

O Clavis David(Key of David):“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

Says Isaiah: I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6)

The Messiah will reign with the authority of David his forebear, and from David, Jesus’ claim to Regency is confirmed.

O Oriens (O Dawn):“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Christ will bring light to those in darkness. This means he will bring salvation to those who have previously not known the Truth.

O Rex Gentium(King of Nations):“O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

In perhaps the most famous passage of Isaiah, he tells us of Christ: “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”(9:5).

Of his Kingdom there will be no end, we are told.

O Emmanuel(God with Us):“O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”

Truly, in Christ, God has become one of us. Because of Christ, we can no longer say God doesn’t understand us. He knows what it is like to be tempted, to be hungry, thirsty, tired, to sleep, and to work.

As we celebrate this Holy Season, let us remember just what we are celebrating. Praying the “O Antiphons” in some fashion in the days leading up to Christmas is a way to reflect and to praise God for the miracle that happened at Bethlehem.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Holding the President to account

Criticizing the President is not something I do lightly, especially since I share much in common with him in terms of political philosophy…at least the political philosophy he promoted when he first ran in 2000. I also voted for the President twice, and in 2000 I did my part for his campaign to win the White House. I believed in George W. Bush, and I still have a great belief in his personal goodness as a human being, and in his faith in God.

I also have a few principles, however, that go well beyond the Republican Party line. My principles are not what they are because I am a Republican-I am a Republican because it is the party that is most in line with my personal beliefs. When a member of either party takes actions that endanger the most basic liberties of the American people, that person needs to be held to account, even if he is the President of the United States.

The admission by the President yesterday in his weekly radio address that he signed an order that allowed for the interception of e-mails, wiretaps, and the collection of other information without warrant of American citizens who the National Security Agency deemed to be terrorist threats is an inexcusable act of tyranny in a free society, whether the President intended it as such or not. Citizens’ constitutional rights cannot simply be waived because the President or the NSA sees some threat. There is a constitutional procedure in place, and as David Gergen was quick to point out, it wouldn’t have taken much at all to get warrants from a federal judge if the people in question were truly a threat. The White House just didn’t want to let the Constitution get in the way of the “War” on Terror, did they?

Add to this the lamentable provisions of the PATRIOT Act, which would allow incidents like the President’s order to become common occurrences of made permanent.

Senator John Sununu was right in his speech on the Senate floor to quote Benjamin Franklin: “He who would give up his liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.”

The Democrats’ opposition to this atrocious legislation is fleeting. After all, the Feds asked for these kinds of powers when Clinton was in office and Congress balked. What’s more, I fail to believe for one second that if Gore had been elected in 2000, and not Bush, that Gore would not have asked for similar measures in the wake of September 11th. Had a Democrat asked for such sweeping power to be granted to the federal government, Republicans rightly would have screamed bloody murder and all but had Algore tarred and feathered along Constitution Avenue. Instead, we are called as good patriotic Americans and good Republicans to support this oppressive tripe because the President thinks it’s a good idea. Well, September 11th did not cause me to lose my good sense, and I would hope I am not the only Republican who has kept their wits about them since that time.

Some of my very good Republican friends may wonder why I am so passionately opposed to the administration on these sorts of questions, and I would respond that the reason I feel so strongly is because of the precedent that it sets. If a Republican administration can circumvent the Constitution to apprehend terrorists, than any future administration can do the same to any person or people it deems a threat to itself.

If you don’t think it could happen, you trust the government far more than the founders of our country believed you should.

Locations of visitors to this page
Profile Visitor Map - Click to view visits
Create your own visitor map