Sometimes Doing No Murder Can Get You in Trouble

The Old Grey Lady weighs in on Pope Francis’ death penalty ukase by invoking the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill”:

Pope Francis’s condemnation of capital punishment is simple and unambiguous: It is inadmissible. No exceptions for especially heinous crimes; no loopholes allowing execution when other lives might be in jeopardy, as in past Catholic teachings. No, declared the pope; state-sanctioned killing is always an unjustifiable attack on the dignity of human life, it’s always wrong.

My senior year in prep school, one of my teachers was both a recent graduate of the school (which was not even ten years old at the time) and a newly minted “Sixties radical” to boot.  He brought this up, using the same commandment as the New York Times to oppose capital punishment.  My parish priest (I was a newly minted Roman Catholic) had, in accordance with the teaching of the Church, told us back at the parish that the commandment meant “Thou shalt do no murder.”  (Given the place of capital punishment in the old law, that makes sense.)  I repeated this to the teacher and he did what his kind are best at: he exploded in my face with rage.

Some things never change…as Andreas Killen pointed out, the issues that were at the forefront in 1973 are still with us, and this is one of them.  But now we have a pope, who prefers damage control to solution in the sex abuse crises, going against the teaching of his own church.  Personally I think he’s using the capital punishment issue to deflect attention from the abuse crisis, which only gets worse.

But that illustrates the duplicity of those struggling to hold the “moral high ground.”  Most of those who oppose the death penalty also support abortion and euthanasia, and now explode in our faces on social media with the hope that many of their opponents can be liquidated.  The question is not really keeping people alive but shifting who’s chosen to die from one group to another.

P.S. One of the most impassioned pleas for the restriction of capital punishment except in the most heinous cases comes from Blaise Pascal’s Provincial Letters, but Jesuits like the Pope and James Martin would sooner have us forget this masterpiece, as it shows what happens when you let the Jesuits run wild on issues of faith and morals.

My Last Facebook Post

I know this sounds a little dramatic, so an explanation is in order.

I started on social media nine years ago, all the while continuing this and (later) the other blogs and websites.  I’ve used several techniques to automatically disseminate these blog posts.  I’ve always had a problem with doing every post manually.  Keeping the online presence i have is enough work without adding to it.  It’s a question I frequently ask: is the technology working for us or are we working for the technology?

Well, Facebook, beset by woes of its own making, is going to make that harder: starting 1 August 2018, they will not permit third-party (in this case WordPress) apps to automatically post stuff like this to Facebook profiles (they will do it for Facebook pages, though.)  To continue posting like i have, I would have to do it manually for each post.

At this point, except for special cases or when I’m responding to someone else’s post, I don’t plan to do that.  The main reason is simple: based on the response I’ve been getting, I’m not convinced that Facebook is disseminating my automatically posted stuff very widely, either from this or my other blogs.  The ideological bias of Facebook is no secret, but I’m not really convinced that my Facebook audience has, on the whole, a great deal of interest in the topics I discuss.  The vast majority of the visits come from places other than social media.

I’ve always been leery of putting all my eggs in the “social media basket.”  While it’s important, the problem with any social media platform is that what you put there is basically theirs, and if they don’t like it (or you) they can kick you off at will.  (There are also copyright issues as well.)  That’s always bothered me, and it’s doubtless cost me traffic to not migrate posting to social media.  And that works both ways: any external link out of Facebook deprives them of potential revenue, and I’m inclined to think that they, struggling to maintain earnings, are doing this as a revenue preservation move.

I’ll still be sharing these posts via Twitter, which has its own problems but seems to be working at the moment.  For those on Facebook who wish to continue following this blog, Twitter is an option, and there are email notifications and WordPress following as well.  (I’m also on Google Plus, but that hasn’t amounted to much.)  But, as former Nigerian Anglican Primate Peter Akinola used to say, all things must end someday, and this part of this blog’s story is now done.

The “Debt Direction” of the British Empire Needs to be Reversed

While musing over what’s the “morally appropriate language” one should write in, Arundhati Roy was confronted with the following:

Only a few weeks after the mother tongue/masterpiece incident, I was on a live radio show in London. The other guest was an English historian who, in reply to a question from the interviewer, composed a paean to British imperialism. “Even you,” he said, turning to me imperiously, “the very fact that you write in English is a tribute to the British Empire.” Not being used to radio shows at the time, I stayed quiet for a while, as a well-behaved, recently civilized savage should. But then I sort of lost it, and said some extremely hurtful things. The historian was upset, and after the show told me that he had meant what he said as a compliment, because he loved my book. I asked him if he also felt that jazz, the blues, and all African-American writing and poetry were actually a tribute to slavery. And if all of Latin American literature was a tribute to Spanish and Portuguese colonialism.

One thing I’ve discovered about just about anyone who grew up in a former British colony is that they really don’t like either the concept or the reality of British colonial rule.  Americans, who themselves were the first to head to the exits, don’t really grasp this.  Roy offers some interesting observations on the effect of English in India (it’s been an advantage to Indian expats who head to some of those other former colonies) but I think that the following, which I observed in an appendix to my Positive Infinity New Testament, bears repeating:

The use of Bahamian paper explains how many of the pounds, shillings and pence got on this page; it came out of having to learn how to count it and spend it while in the Bahamas. The good news was that this education could be had in a place with a warm climate and people. This also illustrates one of the characteristics of the old British Empire: many of the colonies were improvements over the mother country. Why else would two small islands be able to populate two entire continents with the people who either wanted or had to leave, to say nothing of the “expatriates” in places such as South Africa and India?

If we compare the British Empire (especially in its early stages) with the, say, French or Spanish, the whole settlement pattern was different.  France and Spain wanted New France and New Spain to be echoes of the official idea of the mother country: no religious or political dissidents, etc.  With the Brits things were different: they were happy to export their malcontents (religious and political dissidents, economically distressed like the Scots-Irish, etc.) to their American colonies, and later to their others.  People wonder why there was a French Revolution and no English Revolution.  Actually there was an English revolution; it just took place over here and not in England.  Although the colonial system required the export (temporary or permanent) of officialdom, many of these (along with others) left because they could find a better life elsewhere than “Old Blighty.”

And the colonies returned the favour: they saved the “Old Country’s” bacon in two world wars (and that included just about all of them, including Canada, Australia, NZ, the US and yes India) and made English the global language that it is.  So perhaps next a Brit “imperiously” (how else would he or she do it?) waxes about the greatness of the British Empire, it’s worth reminding them that not only did the UK export the people, it exported the greatness too.  The debt of Empire is reversed.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want When You’re the State Church

That was certainly the case with Peter Ball, whom John Major appointed to the see of Gloucester, much to then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey’s horror:

LORD CAREY has expressed his horror that the former Prime Minister John Major was persuaded by a senior aide to choose Peter Ball over another candidate for the see of Gloucester against the wishes of the Crown Appointments Commission (CAC — now the Crown Nominations Commission).

That’s basically the deal with a state church: the church gets the privileges of official status but must submit to the state’s will.  I’ve noted this problem before (and so did Bossuet, who preached at the court of Louis XIV,) but it hasn’t stopped many in North American Anglicanism from pining for communion with Canterbury, even as the drift in the culture was reflected in the attitude of the state.

I think now that the consequences of this signal weakness are apparent to just about everyone, as was evidence as the recent GAFCON meeting.  Better late than never.

As far Ball’s appointment being recommended by Sir Robin Catford, recalling this is impossible to resist:

That could be applied to a large number of Anglican and Episcopal prelates and clergy as well…

Chesterton to be Canonised? Bossuet Hasn’t Been Either

His canonisation is being considered:

Is he or is he not on the road to being canonized?

In the coming weeks, the fate of Gilbert Keith Chesterton will be known.

Soon, all eyes will turn upon Canon John Udris as he presents his written report to the bishop of Northampton, England, with, thereafter, a decision being made.

I’m not optimistic about seeing “St. Gilbert” anytime soon, although the Roman Catholic Church is full of surprises.  Some of that is due to his anti-Semitic remarks, which should endear him to the current Labour Party.  But frankly I’m surprised that the RCC in England, as liberal as its hierarchy is, is even allowing consideration of Chesterton for anything.

On a broader view, the Roman Catholic Church has always had an aversion for canonising or even celebrating its best post-Reformation thinkers and preachers.  Whether you’re an Old Folk Mass or #straightouttairondale type, Catholics in parishes are presented with some of the most banal examples of Catholic thought and life out there.  For the better ones, one in particular whose cause is a main item on this blog is Jaques-Bénigne Bossuet.  AFAIK, he’s never been considered for canonisation, although he is the Church’s best and most eloquent defender since Trent.  Perhaps it is best that Chesterton be left to his fans to insure his legacy.

In the UK, he is known mostly for the Father Brown series; his magnificent apologetic works are mostly admired outside of Old Blighty.  With Bossuet it’s different; the French still consider him a major literary figure of the XVIIth Century, in some ways the country’s Golden Age.  But then again the French are better at appreciating their literary heritage en bloc, as they did recently when they re-entombed Simone Veil (a Holocaust survivor) in the Pantheon.

Another good reason for Brexit?

My Review of Duane Alexander Miller’s Two Stories of Everything for Global Missology

Recently Duane Alexander Miller, a long-time friend of this blog, wrote Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and ChristianityMy review of this excellent book is here at Global MIssology.

The Simple Solution for the Episcopalians’ BDS Problem

They’re certainly obsessed with it:

I intrude mention of the Episcopal Church here because of my presence at the late convention — where what could have been taken for the third, perhaps second, cousin of old-fashioned anti-Semitism prowled like a ramping and roaring lion, snarling at Israel, clapping its paws for the Palestinians.

Resolution after resolution targeted Israel for its apparently endless failures to bestow full rights on Palestinians in the so-called “occupied” territories. Resolution authors wanted the church, through its investments, to pressure Israeli acquiescence in a pro-Palestinian policy.

I’ve always marvelled at the fundamental contradiction of the Episcopal Church: ever since the 1960’s, it’s been a church obsessed with social justice issues, but at the same time it has an elevated demographic and, on top of that, is well endowed (literally) with trust funds (which it occasionally loots) too keep it going when that demographic disappears (which is it is doing.)  That’s one way they financed the USD40+ million litigation war to preserve their…property.

I don’t have any use for the BDS movement.  But it they want to move on from arguing about investments and be consistent about their “social justice” mission, they need to do what Jesus told them to do: sell all, give to the poor and follow him.

To put it another way, they need to sell all or shut up.

The Valuable Lesson Silicon Valley Needs to Learn from the Thai Rescue

Sometimes patience is required to solve a problem:

Instead of venting, Mr. Musk — indeed, Silicon Valley as a whole — can perhaps see the Thai operation as a lesson. This was a most improbable rescue against the longest odds. Safely navigating 12 kids and one adult, many of whom were not swimmers, through a dangerous cave relied on a model of innovation that Silicon Valley can and should learn from.

The Silicon Valley model for doing things is a mix of can-do optimism, a faith that expertise in one domain can be transferred seamlessly to another and a preference for rapid, flashy, high-profile action. But what got the kids and their coach out of the cave was a different model: a slower, more methodical, more narrowly specialized approach to problems, one that has turned many risky enterprises into safe endeavors — commercial airline travel, for example, or rock climbing, both of which have extensive protocols and safety procedures that have taken years to develop.

Self-proclaimed know-it-alls–even those with some record of success–are a nuisance and a menace, but these days the “Silicon Valley model” seems to be in the ascendant in American society and thinking, such as it is.  Having been in a field and a business where a model closer to the Thais’ is the rule, it’s easy to see the Silicon Valley model, while it’s done remarkable things, leaves many “loose ends” and unintended consequences (consider Facebook’s woes as a good example) in its wake.  Who knows, we just might make progress on our political mess if we took a more thoughtful and deliberate approach…

An Update on the St. Andrew’s School Sex Scandal

I’ve covered this matter here and here; it’s generated a fair amount of interest.  Today the school released the following, which I will reproduce in its entirety (with one minor correction):

In late March we shared with you information regarding Bruce Presley, a former board member (1994 – 2000) and part-time instructor at Saint Andrew’s. As we mentioned in that communication, Mr. Presley allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior while he was at the Lawrenceville School (New Jersey) in the 1970s, prior to his time at our school and unbeknownst to us until earlier this year.

Although we had no record or reports that led us to believe that Mr. Presley engaged in inappropriate behavior while he was on our campus, we proactively shared information related to these past allegations out of caution and concern. We also encouraged members of our community to come forward with any knowledge or information related to his behavior or that of others while at our school. To date, we have no reports or evidence to suggest any inappropriate behavior or misconduct involving Mr. Presley while he was at Saint Andrew’s.

As part of this process, however, we received an allegation of past sexual misconduct involving a former member of our faculty, Evans “Dutch” Meinecke. Mr. Meinecke taught at Saint Andrew’s from 1971 – 1983. He passed away in 2006.

Upon learning of this information, we reported the past incident in question to the proper authorities and initiated an internal review in accordance with our policies and procedures. We also enlisted the support of William Shepherd, a partner at the law firm of Holland & Knight, to further investigate these allegations and any other claims that might surface during the course of his investigation. The investigation found that Mr. Meinecke sexually abused a student while he was employed by our school. We have shared this same information with the schools at which Mr. Meinecke previously taught.

We are grateful that this former student had the courage to come forward. We, the entire Board of Trustees and the school community, are deeply sorry for the harm Mr. Meinecke has caused. We know that nothing can erase the actions of Mr. Meinecke, but we are committed to doing all that we can to support survivors impacted by sexual abuse while at our school.

This is difficult news for our community to hear, but it is impossible for our school and our community to move forward without addressing the past. It is important that we address this openly and honestly. Part of this includes identifying historical incidents, as well as the circumstances that may have led to those incidents, so that we can do everything possible to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

As we have shared with you previously, we consistently review and update our handbooks, policies, and procedures to ensure they are in keeping with current independent and private school best practices. We are also dedicated to providing opportunities for our students, faculty, and staff to participate in educational programming and training sessions that promote health and well-being. Each of these steps continues to make Saint Andrew’s a stronger, safer, and more open community.

Most importantly, we want all of you to know that we are here to help. Please do not hesitate to communicate with us directly if you have any questions or concerns. We also encourage you to be in touch with Susan Schorr, an investigator with the law firm of McLane Middleton, if you have any information, past or present, that you think may be of interest. She can be reached via email at susan.schorr@mclane.com or by phone at 781.904.2715.

All of us here at Saint Andrew’s thank you for your continued support. Our greatest responsibility is and always will be the safety, security, and well-being of our entire school community.

Best regards,

Ethan Shapiro
Interim Head of School
Saint Andrew’s School

Steve Shapiro
Board Chair on Behalf Of
Saint Andrew’s School Board of Trustees

More on the Reformation and Anglicanism

My response to the Rev. Thomas Reeves’ ideas on this subject has in turn received a response from him.  That response is too extensive for a “comment box” type of response so I am devoting a post to the topic.  I’ll quote parts of his response, but for brevity’s sake they’ll be short, but you can read everything he has to say on the subject.

One thing that probably separates our perspective is that Reeves has never had the thrill of being Roman Catholic.  That will change your perspective on a wide variety of subjects; it certainly has in my case.  Any discussion of Patristic Christianity and its place in the faith will sooner or later involve the Roman Catholic Church; it’s too important of a topic to ignore.

So we proceed:

I would submit that those at the Council of Nicea 325 (and the later confirming Council of Constantinople of 387) actually had agreement on multiple CORE AREAS that had little to nothing to do with the later scholastic theologies or developments argued or thrown to the side by most following the Reformers.

I agree that the fourth century fathers and councils are a nice place to start.  That doesn’t address the “stopping point” issue.  We’re not talking about “scholastic theologies” but things such as the Nestorian and Monophysite controversies and councils such as Chalcedon.  The natures of Jesus Christ and his relationship with the creation he came to redeem may seem an arcane business, but the resurgence of Islam has brought the subject back into prominence.  It can be argued that Islam is Nestorianism brought to its logical conclusion.  Stopping at Constantinople I cuts these issues out of the loop.  And that, of course, doesn’t address the issue of the icons in Nicaea II…

Nor would they have understood the word “catholic” as “everyone across space and time” and/or “everyone across the world” who has asked Jesus into their heart and/or who has made up their own definition of what church and salvation is.

Anglicans have traditionally interpreted the Creed’s “holy Catholic church” as including themselves.  The RCC would disagree with that, many of the Orthodox would too.  Be careful how you draw boundaries; you might find yourself on the wrong side.

They also believed that salvation/conversion through Christ was Covenental, Sacramental, AND personal. These realities can NEVER be cleanly separated in Holy Scripture or in any of the early church fathers. Whatever mysteries and complexities there are in understanding these theologies, they most certainly inform the statement of the bishops for: “a baptism for the forgiveness of sins”.

That’s the tricky part: as currently structured, Christianity has made “sacramental and personal” “sacramental or personal.”  Most of the Apostolic churches have a built-in allergy for enthusiasm and a high-level of commitment among their parishioners.  The Roman Catholic Church is a prime example of this.  The RCC relies too heavily on its role as the dispenser of grace via the sacraments to bind the faithful to it, rather than developing its member’s spiritual lives individually or as a community.  You can see this in some of its Eucharistic theology (which is still the best out there) and especially in its view of baptism.  The result is that the RCC has bled members and opened the door for things such as covenant communities to fill the void.  This is sad for a church with a rich a spiritual heritage and some of the most Christlike people who have ever walked on the face of the earth, but for many parishes and parishioners that’s reality.

Pietism (and, thus, the Wesley brothers) walks away from these central Christian doctrines, negates the realities of us all having informing traditions, and turns salvation into a personal decision removed from a grounding and communal salvation…and thus, a coherence with the Historic Church of Christ.

Probably the best way to respond to this is to recount the story of one of my church members, the Rt. Rev. Brian Barnett.  His brother fought in the Battle of Britain (an awesome thing in itself) and he decided to follow his footsteps in the RAF.  Before he was shipped out, his future wife invited him to a meeting where he got saved. So when he arrived at his first duty post he went to the chaplain and, offering his services to help, said he had gotten saved recently.  The Anglican chaplain responded glumly, “You’ll get over it.”

Now I’m sure you would apply your extended speech on Wesleyanism to this situation.  But the truth is that the chaplain’s response was pastoral laziness.  It’s much easier to have people content to go through the motions every Sunday rather than to deal with the problems caused by enthusiasm.  Barnett for his part ended up first a pastor and official in the Elim Church in the UK, then an Administrative Bishop in the Church of God on this side of the Atlantic.  When we look at the bishops who are allowing the Church of England to fade away (lead by Justin Welby) it begs the question: what would be the case if the CoE encouraged more serious people?

Wesley never intended to leave the Church of England; that didn’t take place until after his death, and only after a lifetime of stonewalling.  Neither did Barnett (he actually started out in a very secular home, CoE could have picked him up) nor I intend to leave the Episcopal Church.  When I compared the lives of those around me with the challenge that came out of the Gospel read every Sunday, the question kept coming up: what difference is the Gospel making?  When they decided that same Gospel and Scriptures weren’t enough, I realised I had had all the fun I could stand.

A few years back I ran a series on the Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem.  I would encourage you to add him to your reading list.  If the Apostolic churches, who have institutional descent from the church of St. Cyril, were up to his level, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.  The real goal is to not to denigrate people but to rise to the occasion and for at least one of these churches to have this on a consistent basis and not just as a “special parish” or two.

When that takes place, we can have sacramental and personal at the same time, which is God’s intent.