Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The King is dead...

Any student of politics has at one point encountered some who scoffed at the medieval concept of the divine right of kings. Actually, you're more than likely to encounter it every other week, particularly if you are interested in political philosophy and theory. I suppose the reasoning is this: The divine right was a system level, institutional, concept that legitimized the rule of the strong over the weak. So it then follows that when the upstart American colonists, and later the upstart French anti-clerical terrorists, did the world a great favour by smashing the hegemony of monarchical rule.

Now all of this is fair - I wouldn't trade my liberal democracy for a medieval monarchy. But then again, there's more to the divine right of kings than just having the final authority over a realm and its subjects. Kings were also expected to live by a certain code of Christian ethics. If a ruler fell afoul of the Catholic Church, ie. Christ-on-Earth, his opponents and his subjects were able to legitimize rebellion against him. So, for example, if a ruler is heavily taxing subjects, or even terrorizing them, it would be possible for this ruler to be justly deposed.

This legitimization of dissent came to a close during the late Renaissance. Niccolo Machiavelli pointed out that a ruler is responsible to himself, and must work to maximize his gains. There was to be no obstacle to his rule. Suddenly, religion became the instrument of the state. This new reality was compounded during the Reformation, when opposition to a prince instantly associated any dissenting voice with the enemies of the state religion. This fomented a new type of dehumanization - of the ruler, and of the subject.

Once the ability of a dissenter to reference a higher moral authority, the Catholic Church, it was open season. For the new Protestant kings and princes, there was no fear of rebuke from Rome. Likewise, for the Catholic rulers, there was considerable leeway. Civil war atrocities could be rationalized, and ecclesial opposition was muted, if not already in outright support. For the first time since the Roman Empire, religion sought legitimacy from the state, rather than vice versa.
So now in our time, we are faced with a state that now believes itself to the sole purveyor of legitimacy. For the state, nothing is sacred but the state. It almost makes you wish for a king again.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Dark Knight (and the best trailer of the year)

Like so many other moviefiles, I flocked to a theatre near me for the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight. I won't go into a detailed review, since Nick Milne of The Daily Kraken already has in greater detail and eloquence than I ever could. Nonetheless, I will give you this: It is the first time a movie has lived up to it's hype. First time.

What fewer people are talking about is the trailer for the upcoming movie based on Alan Moore's timeless graphic novel, The Watchmen. The Watchmen is one of the few comics/graphic novels that captures the immensity of great literature. It is primarily a meditation on the corruption of power and the irrationality of cold, solitary rationalism. But then, it's much, much more, and I invite anyone who has yet to experience it to do so.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Fear & Loathing of PZ Myers

PZ Myers, the self-styled scrouge of Catholicism ... a lot of cyber ink has already been wasted upon discussing his latest exploits. So briefly: Myers has called for people to send him stolen, consecrated Eucharists (crackers in his lexicon) so that he can publicly defile them. This is in response to the strange case of one Webster Cook, whom himself stole a Eucharist and then claimed to receive death threats from angered Catholics.

There is something very revealing about the lengths Myers will go to prove his atheist credentials. Disrupting the Mass, promoting theft of ecclesial property and defiling the Eucharist aren't simply rude and unlawful, they're jarringly desperate. Content men don't attack others, but men fast running out of time and ideas do. Pascal pointed this out over two hundred years ago: Men despise religion; they hate it, and they fear it is true. Myers cannot believe that something might exist beyond his reckoning and so he must attempt to destroy it, lest his own limitations be laid bare for all to see.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


BOSTON -- When he was playing professional soccer in Chile, Chase Hilgenbrinck would seek comfort in the churches to satisfy his spiritual needs and remind him of childhood Sundays spent at Holy Trinity in his hometown of Bloomington, Ill.

Even after moving back to the United States last Christmas to play Major League Soccer -- a dream of his, but just one of them -- Hilgenbrinck felt the pull of his religion.

"I felt called to something greater," Hilgenbrinck said. "At one time I thought that call might be professional soccer. In the past few years, I found my soul is hungry for something else.

"I discerned, through prayer, that it was calling me to the Catholic Church. I do not want this call to pass me by."

Hilgenbrinck accepted the calling on Monday when he left the New England Revolution and retired from professional soccer to enter a seminary, where he will spend the next six years studying theology and philosophy so he can be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.

"It's not that I'm ready to leave soccer. I still have a great passion for the game," he said in a telephone interview. "I wouldn't leave the game for just any other job. I'm moving on for the Lord. I want to do the will of the Lord, I want to do what he wants for me, not what I want to do for myself."

A 26-year-old defender who was the captain of the Revolution's reserve team, Hilgenbrinck will attend Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. After finishing his studies, he will report to his home parish in Peoria, Ill., for assignment.

"He said it was time for him, that he had been thinking long and hard," New England vice president of player personnel Michael Burns said. "Purely from a Revs standpoint, it's too bad. But a lot of players leave the game not on their own terms. He's clearly left on his own terms, which is great for him."

Raised in a Catholic family of regular churchgoers, Hilgenbrinck played soccer at Clemson and hooked on with the Chilean first division after he went unpicked in the 2004 MLS draft.

Far from home, he began to seek out familiar surroundings.

"I fell back on what I knew, and that was the Catholic Church," he said. "I grew up as a Catholic. I was always involved in the church, went to Catholic schools. It was when I got out on my own that my faith really became mine. I really embraced it. I didn't have to go to church any more, I was free to really believe what I wanted to believe.

"I looked to strengthen my personal relationship with Christ. And when my personal life started to flourish, I couldn't turn my back on that relationship."

Hilgenbrinck was signed and cut by the Colorado Rapids before he landed with the Revolution. He played in four MLS games for New England and started in both of the Revolution's U.S. Open Cup matches this month.

Although he has felt the calling for some time, Hilgenbrinck also knew it would be easier to continue playing soccer. He tried to convince himself that he was not ready, not deserving, or not in a hurry.

"I was putting up a bunch of barriers, saying I'm not worthy to be called to something like that," he said. "But, one by one, the barriers started to come down."

With a short window in which he will be able to play professional sports, he considered postponing the priesthood until after his career was over. But he decided with the same certainty that he could not allow himself to wait.

"Trust me, I thought of that," said Hilgenbrinck, who in his studies came across the saying, "Delayed obedience is disobedience."

"We are all called to do something. I feel like my specific call is to the priesthood. So, no, it was not possible to continue with soccer. It's absolutely inevitable."

Hilgenbrinck had his initial interview for the seminary last July, followed by a rigorous application process. There were written tests, personality screenings, background checks, fingerprinting and meetings with three different psychiatrists to make sure he had the right temperament to be a priest.

At first, he told no one, lest they influence him one way or the other: "I really wanted it to be a decision between me and God," he said.

There were more tests in January, and in March Hilgenbrinck learned he had been accepted to the seminary. A few weeks ago, he met with Burns and Revolution coach Steve Nicol.

"We weren't exactly sure what he was going to say, because it's not what you usually hear," Burns said. "When he said it, I was glad. I was glad for him. This is something that he clearly wants to do, and we wish him all the best."


Happy Summer! For the first time in weeks, it actually feels like the summer ought to feel. You know, warm weather, no rain and such. But alas, I am inside, weathering my latest illness (the flu). So in between other time-wasting-yet-restful-activities I have returned to my neglected blog to offer up a paltry posting.

- World Youth Day 2008: Akin to previous events, the Australian progressives - atheists, leftists - have launched attack after attack on the Catholic youth visiting Sydney and on the Church in general. Judging from the content of these attacks, I suppose these progressives are in fact so advanced that they have already completed the evolutionary cycle and are now at the level of bed-wetting neanderthals. Really now - telling Catholics that their sexual ethics are 'wrong', all the while sitting on top of a society rife with abortion, abusive birth control, involuntary sterilizations, and levels of sexually transmitted diseases that have reached epidemic levels, is just plain stupid. I have to wonder, is it so much to entertain that the Church, in its 2,000 year existence, might have learned a thing or two about sex?

- Henry Morgentaler: However outraged I was that Dr. Morgentaler received the Order of Canada, I was not surprised. The ruling elites of this country are so far removed from reality I'm sure they would have honoured Margaret Sanger with a snowflake if they had the chance. But the biggest concern on every Catholic's mind should be the soul of Dr. Morgentaler and the souls of those people his actions have put in danger. Forgiveness is a heavy cross.

- CHRC: Yes, Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant won their respective battles, but what of the other, smaller scale lawsuits that still endanger democratic rights in Canada? It would be a mistake to call the war over, for it I fear is just beginning. These folks in the HRC's will not go down without a fight, and lacking any iniative from the federal Conservatives, this will have to be a grass-roots, gritty conflict that will span many years. Read Five Feet of Fury for more details.