George Weigel: Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

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In the final chapter of his forthcoming autobiography, Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II, George Weigel writes of the guiding icon of his biographies of John Paul II:

“The cross beneath which I wrote Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning is a framed reproduction of Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion.”

He further writes:

“The White Crucifixion has long struck me as the most evocative religious painting of the twentieth century. Painted shortly after the Nazi Kristallnacht in 1938, it unmistakably Jewish, clothed on the cross in a tallith, a traditional prayer shawl, with Pilate’s inscription in Hebrew over his bowed head. Instead of mourning angels common to renderings of the Crucifixion, he is surrounded by three Jewish patriarchs and a matriarch; beneath him is a ceremonial seven-branched candelabrum, and around him swirl the lethal ideological madnesses of the mid-twentieth century, symbolized by Jews fleeing burning synagogues and revolutionaries following the red flag.”

Weigel makes no bones about his hatred of Communism and Nazism, but he sees the two ideologies in conflict not with Christendom but with the Anglo-American (and now Israeli) economic and political order. This painting is thus a curious key to understanding Weigel’s views.

Furthermore, Marc Chagall has stated that White Crucifixion should not be interpreted as a Christian painting, and that for him “…Christ always symbolized the true type of the Jewish martyr.” Thus the near official papal biographer, George Weigel, composed the allegedly definitive biography of John Paul II under the illumination of a painting of Christ, dethroned of his divinity, and presented as an icon of the suffering Jewish people in a manner that is clearly meant to slight Christianity.

Examining this passage along with Weigel’s humanism and liberalism and unqualified support for the state of Israel (and unmitigated contempt for the Palestinian people), one wonders what are the real religious beliefs of the papal biographer?

Petrarch on Fortune and Old Age

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Domenico Ghirlandaio An Old Man and His Grandson (1490)

In his “On His Own Ignorance,” Petrarch writes of wearing effects of old age: “Alas, my friend, is there an evil that does not happen to a man who lives too long? Who has ever enjoyed a prosperity so permanent that it did not at some time suffer a change and become old, so to speak, by sheer living? Men grow old, so does fortune, so does man’s fame: every human thing grows old, and there was a time when I did not believe it–finally even souls grow old, though they are immortal, and the Cordovan’s words become true: ‘Too long a life undoes vast souls.'”

Life is an endurance race; only great souls can endure it. Let us pray for God’s grace to make it to the end.

Petrarch’s Ascent to Mont Ventoux

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In perhaps his most famous letter,  Petrarch writes of his experience climbing Mont Ventoux in Provence on April 26, 1336. For the great Italian poet, the ascent becomes an allegory of the glorious agony of life itself, which, for all truly great thinkers, is a tremendous struggle; this struggle, however, will provide tremendous reward in Eternal Glory if accomplished. Reflecting on this matter, Petrarch says to himself:

“What you have so often experienced today while climbing this mountain happens to you, you must know, and to many others who are making their way toward the blessed life. This is not easily understood by us men, because the motions of the body lie open while those of the mind are invisible and hidden. The life we call blessed is located on a high peak. “A narrow way,” [Matthew 7:14 (Sermon on the Mount)] they say, leads up to it. Many hilltops intervene, and we must proceed “from virtue to virtue” with exalted steps.

On the highest summit is set the end of all, the goal toward which our pilgrimage is directed. Every man wants to arrive there. However, as Naso says: “Wanting is not enough [Ovid, Ex Ponto iii. 1.35.]; long and you attain it.” You certainly do not merely want; you have a longing, unless you are deceiving yourself in this respect as in so many others. What is it, then, that keeps you back? Evidently nothing but the smoother way that leads through the meanest earthly pleasures and looks easier at first sight. However, having strayed far in error, you must either ascend to the summit of the blessed life under the heavy burden of hard striving, ill deferred, or lie prostrate in your slothfulness in the valleys of your sins. If “darkness and the shadow of death” [Psalter 106 (107): 10; Job 34:22] find you there -I shudder while I pronounce these ominous words – you must pass the eternal night in incessant torments.”

More than getting rich or ripped in the gym (which are both goods), this is the true epic quest.

 

 

 

 

Edgy Philosophy and Petrarch

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Writing of the great Renaissance poet Petrarch, Hans Nachod states, “As a faithful son of the Church, he was fully satisfied with her teaching and did not need another guide to the labyrinth of his life, in this respect particularly under the spell of his great model Augustine. He used to laugh at vain efforts to penetrate the secrets of nature, and he ridiculed those who pretended to know the answers to problems he thought not worth investigating. Philosophy meant to him an exclusively practical discipline teaching the art of living well and happily, the ars bene beateque vivendi,as his beloved Cicero had put it.”

What a refreshing and humble approach to philosophy–especially in light of the tedious arrogance of Anglo American analytic philosophy and scientism that dominates so much of the academy today.

All true philosophy deals in some way with the art of living.

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The Francis Files

As everyone knows, the greatest science fiction show ever was The X Files. Sci-fi geeks the world over were treated with as good as it gets television drama every Sunday evening for much of the 1990s. Agents Scully (a practicing Catholic in the show) and Mulder chased paranormal activity and alien abductions throughout the prosperous and immoral Clinton America in which many of us grew up. Perhaps the best thing about the X-Files was that it was only partially true: many of the episodes were based upon folk legends and only somewhat true real life conspiracies. Watching “Paper Clip” one of the highlights of the series, we knew that, yes, the United States government had smuggled in German scientists after World War II, but, no, they did not come to American to engineer alien-human hybrids. It was this ability to distance oneself from the spookiness that made that X-Files more of a Sunday cathartic relief than an actual lesson in government espionage. However, times have changed. With the advent of the internet and alternative gonzo journalism, we have learned that a lot of stuff in the X-Files actually was true. There are secret government camps. Members of the American political elite do worship giant thirty foot owls in the California woods. The Catholic Church has been infiltrated by some sort of homosexual modernist cult, and, yes, they finally have elected a pope—maybe.

 

Like Fox Mulder, many Catholics “want to believe” that Pope Francis does not really do the things he does. The reception of a crucifix sculpted from a hammer and sickle by a pope sounds like something from either a sedevacantist radio show or a militant Protestant website (probably the same website that suggests that George Washington was a Jesuit agent). Like watching the classic X-files “Fluke Man” episode one, should say to him or herself, “no, that’s not really true; the pope did not really receive a communist crucifix from Evo Morales just like there is not a giant fluke man living in the New York sewer system.” But, unfortunately, Pope Francis is very, very sympathetic to Marxism, and there are lots of weird things in the New York sewer system. Hopefully, the debacle of the synod as well as various cartoonish collaborative efforts with eugenicist neo-pagans was just Pope Francis trying to be extra merciful and nice, and the Holy Father is not a front man for a cabal of goat’s head worshipping globalist lunatics who like to watch animal light shows projected on St. Peter’s Basilica when they are not worshipping owls or decapitated livestock. The problem is that with Pope Francis’ continued stream of outrageous, scandalous pronouncements and acts, one does not have to be on the Dimond Brothers email list to suspect that Pope Francis maybe working with nefarious forces to bring down what is left of Christendom. Like the internet photos of the surface of Mars that seem to depict humanoid forms ambling about NASA surveillance equipment, most people want to believe that the picture of Pope Francis embracing a gay couple in Washington DC is really a forgery or some sort of light trick. 

As recent comments from everyone’s favorite dissident German theologians (why is it that every evil idea in the past four hundred years has come from Germany?), indicate, Laudato Si, Amoris Laetatia and every scandalous and extra goofy interview that His Holiness has given are just the appetizers for the main course that is coming round the mountain. Like internet illiterate 90s kids waiting through the haunting opening credits of The X-Files, we can only guess what new horror Pope Francis has planned for us. However, while we have every reason to believe the contrary, let us hope for the best: Pope Francis is just a very confused poorly catechized modern man, and deep down inside our Holy Father knows that the truth is out there.

 

 

A Visit to TFP’s National Conference

Dear Reader,

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The word “cult” fundamentally means a following marked by organization, devotion, and ritual. So, for example, there is Minnesota Viking cult because Viking fans are bound together in a unity, invest a lot of emotional energy in their team, and participate in various rituals involving face paint, cheese, BBQing and watching television. Watching endless hours of television in preparation for a Viking game, adorning one’s body with purple and yellow paint and standing outside in the winter to “show support” for the team are considered completely normal activities. Why? Because they are “present at hand” and part of the everydayness of contemporary American life. Also, even better, the Minnesota Vikings do not require any substantial correction of one’s moral behavior, that is, the Vikings, one assumes, do not care a great deal if their fans watch endless hours of impure internet activity in addition to watching endless hours of ESPN.

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Cults like the Viking, World of Warcraft and even Buddhism and Hinduism are not too scary because one can belong to them and “get away” with a lot. Also, they are “cool” and something that the superstructure or “beast system” presents to us as acceptable. However, the least cool or most irritating cult in the contemporary world is Christianity or at least an orthodox triumphalist Christianity—most people do not mind “Hippy Jesus” or a Christ who claims that he is just one of the many Christs who have appeared throughout history–and if the teaching on sex, self-denial, and damnation are excised from the Gospels.

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This weekend, I was blessed to attend the only conference in my life that was worth all of the airport misery and tedium of travel to a large American city. It was Tradition Family Property’s (TFP) 2015 national conference. There is only one cult celebrated by the TFP: the cult of Jesus Christ and his Holy Catholic Church, and I was strengthened in my devotion to this cult and now find the other cults that much more repulsive—in the Philadelphia airport where I now sit, it’s the cults of diversity, the Eagles, self, and expensive but poor quality perfume.

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The visit began—thanks to lots of Dramamine—with a map-cap drive from Philadelphia international airport to the Germanic small towns of central Pennsylvania. I was lodged in one of the many formerly servants’ quarters of a 70 acre Edwardian, neo-gothic estate that had been owned by Glatfelter family—famous for pulp and paper.

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After having imbibed—I mean drank—about 10 cups of coffee, Saturday was spent attending various dangerously reactionary speeches condemning the evils erupting from the septic tank of postmodernity and as well as a number promoting traditional Christian virtues and an organic way of life. Saturday’s lunch was punctuated by the St. Crispin’s day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V to commemorate the Battle of Agincourt on that day—yes, it was given by a man dressed in full armor.

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On Saturday night there was a candle light procession in reparation for the sins of schism, heresy, egalitarianism, and liberalism (no, seriously); I especially was blessed to help seven other men carry a large statue of la Virgen de Macarena around the TFP estate. This was followed by cider (spiked and non) and roaring fires in the TFP manor and gloriously reactionary conversations with smartly dressed Catholic gentleman and ladies (I use those terms very carefully, BTW). The manor and the mannerism of the participants was like stepping into Captain Haddock’s Marlinspike manor—without the slapstick alcoholism.  It was wonderful to be able to speak with people who instead of calling me crazy, responded with statements like “no, you are right.”

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Sunday was filled with a number of talks as well as a Solemn High Mass in the basilica in Hanover, PA. Sunday’s talks culminated with a medieval banquet and an encouraging talk by Prince Bertrand of the Imperial House of Brazil, a descendent of King St. Louis IX of France. Prince Bertrand had been in the background most of the conference and seemed shy to speak in English, which is his fifth language, I believe. As Americans, we all have the Mark Twain Syndrome of revulsion toward aristocrats who seem to float around in modernity, living off of tax income and the glory of their ancestors. However, Prince Bertrand exemplified a modesty and gentleness that I have rarely encountered among farmers, workers, and especially the bourgeois. This gentleness was encased in an air of maiestas that echoed the majesty of the Christ whom he served more than the title he inherited from his ancestors. I know that people develop real and sincere loyalty toward their bosses, but after the prince’s speech, I was confident that despite the Sisyphean task of trying to restore a normal human way of life admits the Arkham Asylum of the modern word.

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CODA: What is the TFP?

Tradition Family Property was founded by a Brazilian professor of law named Plinio Correa de Oliveira who saw the auto-demolition of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century and the suffocation of traditional Christian culture by the twin pinchers of liberalism and Marxism. As a response, professor Plinio sought to restore Christian culture through a return to Christian chivalry. He died in the 1990s but his spirit lives on through the many members who follow his ideal. The TFP members represent the quintessence of authentic Christianity as well as the masculine ideal presented by the muscular ethical traditions of both West and East. Initially formidable to young Americans who expect adult males to act like Donald Duck or Sponge Bob Square pants, the TFP members are exceptionally kind and gentle upon approaching. What was perhaps most shocking to me as a college professor was that I was treated with respect and admiration as opposed to derision and fear.

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I am

Yours Truly,

RC

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