The real Catholic religion that has barely subsisted while being systematically suppressed throughout the world for the last 50 years, would not have survived another long “conservative” pontificate. As painful as it is, Francis is really just what we need.
People who know me well know that this whole rabid Traditionalist Catholic polemicist thing is mostly kept confined to my professional life. In real day-to-day life, I’m really an amateur naturalist. No kidding. Check it out on my blog where I write long posts about octopi and whelks.
One of my favourite things is going stomping about the Umbrian countryside in my wellies with a collecting basket to see what sort of things I can bring home to cook or make into booze. This year my elderflower champagne was so good, I’m already collecting more bottles and a bigger bucket for ten gallons next spring. And when the rose hips are ripened, I’m going to see how they do as liqueur.
One of the things I love is wild mushrooms, but, Russian Roulette being forbidden by the Church, I strictly confine my collecting to varieties I can be absolutely sure of. Mushrooms and fungi are among the most interesting objects of the natural world, and fungi are as important as bees to the natural world’s ability to make things grow and feed the rest of us.
Oh, look! You can take a whole course on Laudato si! And it’s being provided by none other than celebrity population controller Jeffrey Sachs, the Pope’s biggest fan. It’s from Sachs’ NGO, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network:
In this vital year for sustainable development, Pope Francis – spiritual leader to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics – issued an encyclical called Laudato Si’: On Care of our Common Home. Although rooted in the long and deep tradition of Catholic social teaching, this encyclical is addressed not only to Catholics, but to all people of the world. In blunt terms, it draws attention to the nature of the grave ecological crisis that humanity has created, and it issues a moral clarion call for urgent action to protect the earth and its inhabitants from ruin.
The papal nagging, the scolding and often incomprehensible admonishing would not be nearly so offensive if it had any serious, weighty moral or doctrinal content. What is going on here?
Is the world finally tiring of the Francis Show? It seems the shine is coming off the Franciscan penny, at least in the US, where “approval ratings” are a thing. The aftermath of his encyclical, Laudato si, has seen quite a bit of shouting and confusion in the US where the “settled science” on climate change is considerably less settled than it tends to be in Europe. Last month, even the mainstream American press noted a significant drop in Pope Francis’ popularity and there are rumblings even from behind the bastions – increasingly resembling barricades – of the pope’s biggest fan base in the American Catholic blogging world.
That’s right! What about the rights of our leafy friends?
The other day I wrote on the website 1Peter5 a short piece about why the notion of “animal rights” is meaningless. Animals do not have rights because they have no duties. They have no need of duties because they do not have free will or rational souls; neither intellect with which to understand duties nor the will to fulfill them. While the American dentist may have had a duty not to do what he did, Cecil the Lion did not have the right to be protected from arbitrary killing, certainly not in the way that an unborn human child has that right.
This morning, I saw a piece in the Guardian about the next trendy absurdity of the “rights” movement: plant rights.
Plants are intelligent. Plants deserve rights. Plants are like the Internet – or more accurately the Internet is like plants. To most of us these statements may sound, at best, insupportable or, at worst, crazy. But a new book, Brilliant Green: the Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, by plant neurobiologist (yes, plant neurobiologist), Stefano Mancuso and journalist, Alessandra Viola, makes a compelling and fascinating case not only for plant sentience and smarts, but also plant rights.
[Facepalm] OK no. Just no.
I know we’ve been banging on about this at the Remnant and other places and we might be getting a little sick of it, but bear with me as I take one more tilt at the modern fake “rights” industry windmill.
Just for a moment, I’m going to put aside my usual ironic approach and just tell it plainly: neither animals nor plants have “rights,” properly understood. Rights come from one source: duties. Duties come first and we have only the “right” to those conditions and objects that we need to fulfill our duties. As rational beings, we are obliged to use the faculties of our free will and intellect to understand and fulfill those duties. The things we need to get that accomplished are the only things we have “rights” to.
The ultimate duty we humans have is the obligation to worship God in the manner He has decreed. There is a reason the first three out of Ten Commandments are about the primacy of the worship of God. This is why it is proper to speak of a right to a place and environment where we can worship God in the Church according to the ancient rites we were given from the time of the Apostles. We have the duty to worship God according to His will, not according to the will of the latest trendy liturgical fad.
It’s only when we get to the fourth Commandment that we start hearing about our duties to each other. Believe it or not, our duty to the environment, including to the proper care of the plants and animals, is based not on any duty to them as plants and animals, but on our duty to each other. We all need a clean and well-functioning environment in order to fulfill all our other duties. Moreover, our duty to look after the natural world was given to us directly from the mouth of God to our first parents. We are responsible for creation, at least the planetary part of creation, because it is literally our God-given job. This task predates even the Fall. According to Scripture, it even predates the creation of Eve: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”
Because rights are based exclusively on duties, the existence of rights must presuppose the existence of a free will ordered by a rational intellect. Neither plants nor animals have these, which means they cannot freely fulfill any duties. The upside for the plants and animals is that by the simple fact of their existence, they give glory to God. They fulfill their ontological purpose just by, so to speak, running their inborn programmes. They get to fulfill their particular purpose of existence, their “vocation” so to speak, simply by being what they are and doing what they were designed to do. This is just part of the gorgeous and amazing orderliness of the universe that we can discover by studying math or physics or biology or music or art.
You know, there are times when I wish the real world were less like satire. I wrote the following fictional news piece as a joke with a friend, a fellow journalist, on Facebook as we were anticipating (still waiting, by the way) the official response from the USCCB on the ongoing revelations of the Planned Parenthood videos.
The appalling ghastliness of the videos revealing the world’s largest abortionist organisation’s baby-parts business, I felt, made the usual bland, boilerplate, bishopspeak rhetoric seem even more absurd and outrageous than usual. We were having a good (though somewhat grim) laugh, lowering, en-blanding and enfeebling the tone with each revision. Sorry if it seems an odd way of relaxing. Gallows humour is a well-documented phenomenon among journalists:
One little item among zillions caught my attention today as I was having my morning coffee and Facebook scroll (I remember when I used to read the paper…). The music director for the Philadelphia archdiocese has suddenly quit. This made the local news because it is just hours before the Red Hour when Pope Francis is expected to show up for the World Meeting of Families, an event which will doubtless be a glorious extravapolooza of mercy, joy, welcoming and accompaniment.
Even in the very depths of the worst possible of worst-case scenarios of crisis in the Catholic Church, denial is not helpful. The crocodile does not care how tightly we close our eyes as it eats us.
For some time now, with an exponentially growing audience of new and deeply alarmed Catholics, Mike Matt and I have discussed the need to restate the basic points of the Traditionalist position, to locate it in the context of the history of the Church over the last century and our current crisis. To do this, I have been revisiting some old books. Even for someone who read my way out of Novusordoist conservatism and into the Traditionalist position, it can be extremely valuable to review what brought us to this dire condition.
"Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox must pray together and work hand-in-hand helping the poor, Pope Francis told thousands of Catholic charismatics and members of other Christian communities.
If the devil “unites us in death, who are we to divide ourselves in life?” he said, adding that all Christians can and must pray together, as they have all received the same baptism and are striving to follow Christ." The pope said Christian unity was the work of the Holy Spirit, which meant Christians need to pray together in a “spiritual ecumenism, an ecumenism of prayer.”