IX – In Which I Muse Aloud About the Status of Pope Francis

What are we supposed to think about Pope Francis?

  • Barnhardt has some compelling points about it, she has done some thorough research, i encourage everyone to go and review it and evaluate for yourself. Here is a link to a video presentation she prepared. (Important note: She is NOT sedevacantist, because she thinks Pope Benedict is still Pope)
  • There is even some interesting speculation that the whole Novus Ordo from Vatican II is invalid.
  • Zippy makes an interesting counterclaim that that is essentially to the effect that, we, as laity, do not have the authority to decide. We bow to the Pope if we see him, because we believe that the Holy Spirit selected him to the papacy and if something comes up that changes his status, then we as the laity can deal with that.

These are all interesting things to think about. Here is how I approach it:

1- Joy, peace, and Life. If your relationship with God is not bringing you these things, you need to find out what is standing in your way and work to remove it.

2- Second to Loving God is Loving thy neighbor. If you are having trouble looking at your neighbors, (be they friend or foe), with Love and Charity, you need to find out what is standing in your way and work to remove it.

3- The Novus Ordo Mass is valid. It is hard to find anything else in some places. If you can find a Traditional Latin Mass, then do so. If you cannot, you can still commune with God. God is present even if a priest is wrong, even if your neighbor is wrong. There are things that have to be present for it to be valid, but it is extremely hard to find a Catholic Mass where God is not present at all. Go to Mass. Even I need this reminder.

4- If the status of Pope Francis is keeping you from Loving God, your Neighbor, or attending Mass, you must prayerfully contemplate what the real problem is and be open to the possibility that you are focusing on the wrong things.

5- Do not bear the weight of your neighbors sins. Their souls are their own, and no one but they can look after them. You can nudge them, you can encourage them. But always love them.

So what is my conclusion?

Decide for yourself.

Preserve your soul.

Love your neighbors.

I raise up, as often as possible (and not often enough), a decade of the Rosary with the intention of a quick end to the Papal Confusion and an increase in the Church. Please think about joining me in this little devotion.


VIII – Thoughts on a Homily: The Shepherd

Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending a Diocesan Mass to mark a special occasion.

Here is the Gospel:

Matthew 18:12-14

Jesus said to his disciples:
“What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”
The homily from Mass always has a way of speaking to me. Almost as if the Lord is present and speaking to us during Mass, who would have thought!
This one is particularly interesting because a week or so ago I had the opportunity to pray with some friends in the Chapel after a gathering of sorts. We had been discussing having a dialogue with God, asking Him, ‘What do you want me to do?’ and being prayerfully open to whatever answer he gives you.
I have a fairly busy mind, so I always struggle to quiet it down during periods of quiet contemplation. I like to compare my mind to a neutrino detector: There’s a lot of noise and ideas bouncing around but if I can latch on to one thing and follow it for a while it might be good. So during this period of prayerful contemplation, this idea came to mind that we are all Shepherds. That was it at the time, and I contextualized it as the need to lead by example.  We all need help bring as many souls with us to Heaven; go out and find some sheep that might be lost.
But that was an idea without context. At Mass yesterday, it was given just that.
The overt message is of course a good one: God rejoices when lost sheep are found. I believe that we can also take this as an encouragement for Shepherds to go looking for sheep. In a sense, this is a call to evangelism: No one would hear the good news if no one preached it.[1]
So as I listened to the Homily, and then later as we celebrated the particular occasion of the day, I began to think about what I’m doing to go looking for sheep. I’m not really. I’m writing here, sure. I’ve invested a lot in self improvement. But who else am I reaching out to? Who am I supporting and encouraging? I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve been selfish, but I could certainly afford to be more selfless. Gathering sheep can also mean just supporting the ones we already have, keeping them with the flock.
We are called to preserve and grow the flock, to help take care of them. There is so much to do.
Just a few thoughts on a Homily.

[1] – Yes, preach the Gospel and sometimes use words. But also, do preach the Gospel!


VII – “At What Point Then is the Approach of Danger to be Expected?”

How does one live in a society wherein the Government grants privileges and God handed down Natural Law. The world I have described is one in which we, as individuals, do not have a lot of control. How does that work?

The Divine Right of Presidents

In order to understand our role within society, we must understand the Governments role within society, and more so, how to see past the facade of what it looks like and see what it is.

The way to begin to approach this is to consider what government really is. We as individuals are caretakers of souls which God made just for us. Within our families, we are collectively called to help preserve our families souls. Within our communities, we are called to shepherd as many souls as possible towards God. So follow that chain all the way up: Government is responsible for the souls of every citizen with allegiance to that government.

Lets restate this following Zippy’s methodology: Power is the capacity to make certain things happen. Authority is the moral capacity (I might paraphrase that to moral power) to oblige a subject to do certain things. So Governments have Power, and the Authority (as a moral responsibility) comes from the fact that they are, by definition, caretakers of souls.

Continuing: Enforcement is power associated with Authority to punish those who disobey authority. Tyranny is the false pretense of Authority. I will also go so far as to say Tyranny is the misuse of authority or an abdication of moral responsibility.

The main innovation here is viewing Government as a moral authority: not to define what is right, but instead to preserve and promote what is right. As a Christian and a Catholic, I believe what is right is an objective standard, I believe in Natural Law. So a government which does not abide or promote Virtue, Natural Law, etc, is, in fact, Tyranny.

The Tyranny of the Mob

Part of the problem is that we contextualize ‘Government’ as a monolithic thing which moves and acts as a singular unit. Government is composed of groups of people. In fact, it nests fractally all the way down so as to make it impossible to hold one person responsible for any act of Government. This is true in American government and in any Liberal Democracy the world over. Liberal democracy exists to eschew individual responsibility and promote monolithic collective responsibility.

As an Individual, our actions have immediate and realizable consequences. If those consequences are hidden from us or disguised, then we lose the Moral Hazard of decision making. When we can hide in a group to promote immorality, this is the classic Tyranny of the Mob. Every individual abdicates their moral responsibility because there are no consequences for moral or immoral behavior.

This works upstream from the masses, too. If the populace in a Democratic society don’t feel responsible for the leaders they elect, they don’t feel consequences when those leaders behave immorally. Democracy similarly functions as a shield.

There Has to be a Better Way!

Again, I’ve spent a lot of time extolling the vices of the improper exercise of Authority. So how do we, as Individuals, fit into this system? We need to understand our individual responsibilities as units within families, and as family units within society. The most succinct way I can think of describing our individual responsibilities is through the Cardinal Virtues:

  • Justice
  • Temperance
  • Fortitude
  • Prudence

These are the foundation of society, and defined within Natural Law. All men have a sense of the Cardinal Virtues inherent to us; we must refine and sharpen our virtues in order to form Virtuous societies. Similarly those individuals within Government, hiding from consequences, would behave differently if they cultivated these Cardinal Virtues as well.

The next level of Virtue are the Theological Virtues:

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Charity

These are virtues that come only from the grace of God. An individual, formed in a Christian way, sharpens their Cardinal virtues and pursues their Theological virtues. Again: If individuals were sufficiently formed in Christian teaching, then their direct relationship with God would supersede whatever their relationship is with Government. There would be no pretending that you can hide from consequences.

We, as individuals, do not get to choose how our Government operates. We do, at some level, get to choose the people that work within Government. Our responsibility is to select people formed in virtue so they can make virtuous decisions when in office, and select virtuous people to surround them, so that our Government can begin to uphold it’s responsibility to preserve and promote virtuous society, for the betterment of the souls of the people in the governments care.


VI – Human Rights, and other Bedtime Stories

You Really Don’t Have the Right

Since we’ve established that Rights are a way of disguising Liberalism as Natural Law, we need to figure out what we actually mean when we talk about Rights; and also how to talk about them accurately.

The first thing to do is to expunge from your mind the idea that you have any rights, in fact, at all. Let’s look at this with a classic example of rights:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court. With these rights in mind, are you still willing to talk with me about the charges against you?

Rights are things the Government is willing to let you do. Replace “You have the Right” to “The Government will allow you” and you get the real meaning of Rights. In fact, lets re-examine the Miranda Rights with this modification.

The government will allow you to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law. The government will allow you to have an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court. With this in mind, are you still willing to talk with me about the charges against you?

The government can just as easily not allow you any of these rights. But the government has voluntarily limited itself with these rules.

So in essence, we are talking about two things when we are talking about Rights.

  1. Natural Law, those things granted to us by God and not authorized or permitted by anyone except God, the infringement of which is an offense not just against Man, but against God.
  2. Those things that the Government voluntarily allows it’s citizens as a method of limiting itself and granting deference to the populace.

And these ideas should not be commingled. So I am going to refer to Natural Law as Natural Law since there is already a word for that and it makes sense. I’m going to refer to the second definition as “privileges”, because that more accurately captures the idea that this is something the Government doesn’t have to allow, but does.

Exploding a perfectly good idea

Now let’s take this idea of privileges and put it in the context of so-called human rights. When people talk about human rights, they are trying to talk about privileges tolerated by government and disguise them as Natural Law. The Natural Law is indeed endowed by God and granted to all people regardless of belief, nationality, etc. All humans, after all, have a certain dignity. But the privileges can only be granted by government. Human Rights are often discussed in international contexts as a way of condemning a certain authority. Like Saudi Arabia, or Israel. the UN in particular likes to complain that those two countries are violators of Human Rights for various reasons. They are saying one of two things:

  1. You do not grant your citizens the same privileges that we grant our citizens, and therefore you should be condemned.
  2. You do not grant your citizens those privileges we as a governing body insist you grant your citizens, and therefore you should be condemned.

You see the problem, now. If they are speaking from the first perspective, they do not have the authority to compel nations to comply with their conception of citizen privileges. Nor does this international body act as an overriding authority for a particular sovereign nation.

Rights then, are the insidious way of attempting to compel other nations (in this context)  to limit itself. One nation cannot compel another to limit itself but through conflict, which is all forms of conflict up to and including war.

Rights are a good bedtime story, a feel good thing that makes citizens feel warm and fuzzy and powerful. Citizens would not be so at ease if they spoke about them accurately.


V – The Dissonant Mutilations of a Society in Decline

“All those who are Equal are not Free; Those who are Free are not Equal” – I have seen this attributed to Milton Friedman but I strangely haven’t been able to confirm. I had been under the impression this was a Thomas Jefferson quote–it is definitely a common axiom thrown around frequently in political discourse.

It is a false dichotomy. These are the two pillars of Liberalism, and two things that people within Liberalism strive for. Milton Friedman himself applies further detail to the discussion of Equality, breaking it down into three attributes: Equality before God, Equality of Opportunity, and Equality of Outcome.

I assert that what that whole dynamic is missing is the concept of Justice.

Equality entered the public discourse along with other Liberal ideals thanks in part due to the Declaration of Independence. “All men are created Equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

This has been bastardized and abused by civil society through the entire duration of America’s life as a nation-state. The ideas themselves are not bad; where we have dragged them is.

Equality, is originally conceived as the idea that All Men are created Equal. All men are created Equal. All men are not equal. We were formed out of the same clay. That is as far as we can go. Milton Friedman accurately diagnoses the modern problem: Equality can be construed as intended, as equality of opportunity, and equality of outcome. Equality of Opportunity and Equality of Outcome cannot be guaranteed and so cannot be derived from God. To clarify: Equality of Opportunity means that if two people apply for a job, they want an equal chance to get the job. If two people bid on a house, the probability that one gets it over the other is 50/50. Equality of outcome is the idea that everyone should be able to own a McMansion if they want. I won’t go into the reasons that is invalid.

All God guarantees is that we are indeed Human, and that to be Human is a gift in and of itself, and comes with a sanctity and dignity all its own. From that point on, we are flying under our own power. [ccc reference]

The next concept is a twofer. We have inalienable rights. To Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Now, the idea of rights has come to mean ‘I want to do this and you aren’t allowed to stop me’. And this is an important piece i’ll come back to [[liberal society is free to self destruct without government intervention to preserve them]]. But let’s look first at Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. This is seen as unique and innovative because I believe this was the first legal document which was founded on Enlightenment ideals. The first trial run at a political system informed and founded on philosophical enlightenment.

Combining the idea of Rights with these ideals means:

  • God gave me my life and Government can’t take it away
  • God gave me liberty and Government can’t take it away
  • God lets me pursue happiness and Government can’t stop me.

One of these is a statement of natural law (God gave us Life), and the other two are ways of framing Liberalism as Natural Law, and they are rationally incoherent. Government by definition limits Liberty, or Freedom. The pursuit of Happiness is something inherent in the nature of free will, but Government by definition must inhibit the pursuit of happiness where that pursuit is harmful to society.

In short: Equality, Rights, and Liberalism promise three things, and I am intentionally simplifying ad absurdem:

  • That everyone is treated the same
  • That you can do whatever you want
  • That the Government can’t stop you

These cannot all three be true. Either it’s not a government, or we aren’t the same, or we can’t do what we want. We can’t have all three.

As I posited earlier, the missing piece is the idea of Justice. Justice is a Cardinal Virtue, and thus part of Natural Law handed down from God. By which I mean, all men have a sense of Justice, and it cannot be taught but it can be built upon. A Government cannot treat everyone the same, but it can treat you justly, by treating reasonably and in accordance with the circumstances appropriate to a given situation. A government cannot allow all actions, but it can justly decide that certain actions are preferable to others. A government cannot enforce it’s authority arbitrarily, but it can mete out justice in accordance with it’s laws.

And for Justice to be a concept necessary and proper for Government, all men must surely not be equal in fact. For if all men were equal, there would be no need for Justice.

If we enshrined Justice over Equality, it would also diminish this concept of Rights. Rights, as I mentioned before, is (originally conceived as) the idea that God gave us certain things and Government is out of place to infringe upon them. That concept has been warped to a beefed up ‘consent of the governed’ mentality, wherein Rights are limits on Government that prevent any action in a certain field. If we, as a society, favored the Virtue of Justice, then what would matter most is that a Governments decisions are Just.

“I have rights, you can’t do this” does not carry as much weight as “You can’t do this because it is unjust”. The former is confounded by the additional fact that no one can agree what exactly our rights are; whereas the latter can be much more objective by working within the framework of existing law. Liberalism, however, intentionally hamstrings Government and prevents it from acting in the interests of society, because Liberalism is structured as if all government was tyranny. Because Government cannot act to preserve society, society is Free then to pursue the happiness that comes with sin and vice, because they are easy. Government cannot reward virtue, because all men now must be treated equally. Liberal governments are designed to die by suicide because a Liberal government cannot act for it’s own self preservation.

Liberalism, then, is a rationally incoherent rejection of a consequence of Natural Law: That Man naturally orders himself into hierarchies. By rejecting the hierarchies of Man, Liberalism dooms itself to mutilation as it’s lawmakers seek to legislate the cognitive dissonance that is a ‘Liberal Democracy’.


IV – Presented Without Comment

The Conquerors

by Harry Kemp
I SAW the Conquerors riding by
— With trampling feet of horse and men:
Empire on empire like the tide
— Flooded the world and ebbed again;A thousand banners caught the sun,
— And cities smoked along the plain,
And laden down with silk and gold
— And heaped-up pillage groaned the wain.I saw the Conquerors riding by,
— Splashing through loathsome floods of war —
The Crescent leaning o’er its hosts,
— And the barbaric scimitar, —

And continents of moving spears,
— And storms of arrows in the sky,
And all the instruments sought out
— By cunning men that men may die!

I saw the Conquerors riding by
— With cruel lips and faces wan:
Musing on kingdoms sacked and burned
— There rode the Mongol Ghengis Khan;

And Alexander, like a god,
— Who sought to weld the world in one;
And Caesar with his laurel wreath;
— And like a thing from Hell the Hun;

And, leading like a star the van,
— Heedless of upstretched arm and groan,
Inscrutable Napoleon went
— Dreaming of empire, and alone. . . .

Then all they perished from the earth
— As fleeting shadows from a glass,
And, conquering down the centuries,
— Came Christ, the Swordless, on an ass!

III – Idealism vs Pragmatism

Idealism vs. Pragmatism

I’m an idealist. That’s why i’m writing here: I believe that at some point, someone will read this and get something out of it. No one is reading it right now. But in the future, someone might. I consider my idealism to be borne out of the same part of me that held on to Faith through the years and the wax and wane of my fickle predilections. So, very naturally, I connect Faith and Idealism together.

However! There is another part of me that is very practical. When I finish asking “How should things be?” I tend to ask how to bring it into reality. My conversion to Catholicism was a very idealistic event, up until the big day. Then it became practical, and the character changed entirely. I had to shift gears from ‘learning’ about Faith to living faith. I had to really grok what it means to be Catholic. That took another period of some months and I suspect may never actually end.

This has all been very well and good, and has been very edifying. But where Pragmatism and Idealism collide in a–to me, so far–irreconcilable way, is politics.

Politics of Faith

Zippy has explained better than I ever could how Liberalism is a scourge[1]. So how can it be corrected? An idealist would say we need a different system. A pragmatist would say we need to use the current system to adopt pieces of the ideal system. The former is not actionable and the latter is not consistent with ideals.

I still haven’t quite reconciled the two. I think the best answer comes from Scripture[2]:

Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?
Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

That is to say, when I begin to start thinking too big, I should ask these questions: Am I loving God with my whole being? Am I loving my neighbor as myself? Too often politics becomes divisive and tribal, and enacting these big changes doesn’t allow for one’s neighbors to correct themselves.

Advocate for the Truth, always. But don’t sacrifice loving thy neighbor for ideological consistency. By which I mean: Doing nothing because it doesn’t comply with how things should be is a political ‘Benedict option’ in which I would have to withdraw myself from political society because it is Liberal. That’s keeping your Gold piece hidden until the master returns, and not making an effort to multiply it. But we also cannot accept certain aspects of our society, which is abortive, homoerotic and usurious. Knights run into the breach, not away from it. So when I say don’t sacrifice loving thy neighbor for ideological consistency, please don’t mistake me for asking you to soften your stance for social convenience. I am saying your neighbors need you to lead by example.


[1] Note: Liberalism, here, is not to be confused with American Leftism, but rather the overarching philosophical umbrella in which all American politics operate. American rightists and American Leftists are both different flavors of Liberal. ‘Classical Liberal’ I think would also be appropriate.

[2] Matthew 22:36-40

II – The Straw Man that Lives in your Head

Originally a comment by someone over at Orthosphere:

Man is made in God’s image, and as such is not suited for servility, even towards his creator.

The image of God as a king (enthroned in our hearts or not) is a lie of certain humans who presume to rule over other humans. The real god is an anarchist who wants creation to be as self-governing as he is.

There followed in that combox a discussion about the nature of God when I realized that this wasn’t a good faith discussion. The commenter clearly has an idea of God that is different from the Catholic perspective, and so myself and others could probably go back and forth all day about what he believes and why he believes it. But it does no good.

Robert Heinlein coined the word ‘grok’ in his book “Stranger in a Strange Land”Grok means to know something so thoroughly that it becomes a part of us, and changes us. It’s the difference between knowing someone’s name and remembering their name. When it comes to faith, which is the most important thing in the universe, we have a responsibility to seek to Grok the teachings of Christ. If we truly, TRULY understand them, we will take them as our own, and follow Christ more closely. The alternative is to be stubbornly ignorant.

This commenter has an idea of God that comes from no where but his mind, and disagrees with me on the basis, essentially, that his misunderstanding of what I am saying doesn’t make sense.

This serves as a great example, which is why I’m harping on it. Our first obstacle to holiness is ourselves. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to lift the veil of ignorance and inform ourselves. That way, if we disagree, at least we do so in an informed way. If we don’t fight the straw man that lives in our heads, then the straw man rules us. Contains us.

This applies in more than just faith, but nowhere but faith is it so important. Self examination is the beginning of understanding. Seek out and do combat with the straw men that live in your head.


I – Letter from the Editor

Hello, World!

Welcome to the Times Dispatch of Vichy Earth. Here I will write thoughts on philosophy, faith, history, with an eye towards musing aloud into the void rather than presenting news and analysis.

1- The Times Dispatch?

The Richmond Times Dispatch was the one of the premier newspapers during the Civil War. Being a fan of history and politics, I’m reading “Lee’s Lieutenants”  and the Author frequently cites that paper to quote reaction from the general public during key moments of the war. Oftentimes they were misguided, as their blind patriotism and/or hatred of the Union caused them to misinterpret the strategic significance of particular battles. Other times they showed rare insight. I will likely share in the hubris of this blogs namesake. But one thing I have in common is that we are writing in war-time. The greatest War, the war for our souls (individually and collectively). The war for virtue. The war against Evil. I hope to offer my amateur prognostications after major battles are fought. I can’t claim to be picking up the intellectual mantle of my newly-found-all-too-late heroes. But I can try to use their ideas to inform my own understanding.

2- Vichy Earth?

The name Vichy Earth is inspired by a comment by someone over at Orthosphere. They referred to a ‘Vichy Church’, which I thought was powerful imagery. Vichy France was the puppet government of the portion of France that was not directly administered by Nazi Germany. As a puppet government it was run by a sympathizer with the Nazis. Vichy Church was a phrase that sought to capture that imagery and meaning: There are some who believe the Church may be under a similar such arrangement. That’s a matter of some contemporaneous controversy, and this is not where I plan to discuss it. Instead, why did I choose ‘Vichy Earth’? Because Earth is known to be enemy territory, and we are it’s rulers and residents. We are behind enemy lines, fighting evil and trying to bolster our ranks with fellow Christian Soldiers. Vichy Earth is where we await liberation by our heavenly Allies. So Vichy Earth is the subject of my musings.

Join me in this adventure and lets see where it takes us.