What Pope Francis Knows

By Rod Dreher

Giulio Napolitano/Shutterstock

Giulio Napolitano/Shutterstock

Reader JB commented on the Pope Francis marriage-and-communion thread:

Gallup Poll on U.S. Catholics: 86 percent say contraception “morally acceptable”…sex outside marriage ok for 72 percent of Catholics and 70 percent gay and lesbian relationships are morally fine. Guessing among younger faithful, maybe higher numbers.
The Catholic Church is not forming it’s followers to live its challenging and radically countercultural teachings on sexuality and family life.
Once you get outside of the tiny bubble of those that either care about or have some vested interest in these things, you find that Church teaching is completely irrelevant to the lives of most of your family and friends.
I am a faithful practicing Catholic. Most of my Catholic friends and family know nothing about this controversy; they could not care less. A number of them are in their second marriages and would never think to bother with an annulment. If they do attend mass, they receive communion like most everyone else. No one goes to confession. These are good people, not willfully committing sin — but according to official Church teaching, they are committing a serious sin against the sacrament of Eucharist.
There is such a growing chasm between peoples everyday lives and Catholic teaching on these matters. Their children often drift away from regular church attendance…but so do those who are raised in solid Catholic families who are faithful to the Church’s teachings.
We also cannot underestimate something that I think operates at an even deeper level than we realize – the clergy scandals.
The cover-up by the Bishops struck at the heart of the moral and spiritual authority of the Church in the West. There is now this kind of uncomfortable silence…and anger: “Don’t you even try to challenge us on the moral issues that we are dealing with in our complicated private lives, with the way you dealt with your own dirty laundry.” This is something I see with friends and family. It’s there, just under the surface and if you were to gently challenge them on some of these moral issues, it goes there quickly. I have heard things like this:
“Who are they (priests/bishops) to tell me how many kids I should have, how to deal with my daughter’s unplanned pregnancy, or if an adult can have a loving relationship with another adult of the same sex? These men who protected and sheltered abusers? Just say mass, marry my kids and bury our dead. Stay out of our private lives.”
Isn’t this really the current state of things? Am I being too dark here? I am not trying to be negative or hopeless. But don’t you have to deal with reality if you are going to find the right response/solutions?
These internal conflicts within the Church are important obviously. But are they now (in the West anyway) completely irrelevant to the masses of practicing and nominal Catholics?

Well, one answer to this is that when St. Athanasius fought the Arian heresy, most of the world was Arian, but the fight was critically important to have. …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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‘When The Crash Finally Happens’

By Rod Dreher

Take a look at this eye-opening piece from The Atlantic. The writer Sam Kriss went to Europe’s largest tech conference recently, and wrote a bleak report in which he said the people he saw there were in a frenzy to move forward, with no idea where they were going or why they — or any of us — are going there. Excerpt:

There are, broadly speaking, two different ways of thinking about technology. The first is strictly functional: You look at what a tool does, how it interacts with other tools and helps its user achieve their aims. A hammer drives in a nail; a virtual bartender is interacted with over Facebook Messenger. Web Summit is a grand exposition of all these new tools; here you can find the things that might be making all our tasks easier for decades to come.

In the second, broader, more materialist account, technology is seen as regulating relations between people. A hammer doesn’t just drive a nail, but builds a wooden house in which the distinct family unit can wall themselves off from the world; a virtual bartender keeps you in that house log after dark in a silent city full of humming unearthly-white screens. As Marx writes in The Poverty of Philosophy, “the hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord: the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist”; as Lewis Mumford argued, the machine isn’t so much an ordinary if complex object as it is a mode of organization; the first such mega-machines, in ancient Egypt, used human bodies as their working parts, and their products are still here today. In our own society the products are ephemeral, and its structure is one of increasing chaos. You can watch that chaos roiling through an exhibition center in Lisbon. Web Summit is a hyper-concentrated image of our entire world, and the panic and confusion that is to come.


For all the usual guff about dynamism and entrepreneurship, it’s clear that Web Summit isn’t really about showcasing new ideas or changing the way anyone does anything. The point is to attract buyouts or investment; this is how so much of the tech industry functions. (Social networks, for instance, generally make their money through investment or market flotation; they build up a vast userbase first, and defer the question of how to actually squeeze a profit out of them later.) The game isn’t to build anything that might last, but to secure just enough money to land unharmed when the crash finally happens.

Read that again: The game isn’t to build anything that might last, but to secure just enough money to land unharmed when the crash finally happens.

That is not just the tech world; it’s the world most of us live in, isn’t it?

The Benedict Option, the idea that I’ve been thinking about and working on and will soon publish a book about (pre-order here, if you are so inclined) is really a more hopeful variation on that line of Sam Kriss’s. It’s about building a …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Flynn’s Dangerous Goal of Regime Change

By Daniel Larison

Christopher Fettweis reviews Flynn and Ledeen’s Field of Fight. Here he comments on their fixation on Iran:

Although regime change in Iran is the central goal of the global war on terror, Flynn and Ledeen do not advocate military action. Instead they believe that the task can be accomplished politically, by lending support to the internal Iranian opposition. The Soviet Union was brought down internally, after all, so why not Iran?

How exactly the United States could trigger the collapse of the Iranian regime without sparking a war is left to the imagination of the reader. Flynn and Ledeen are uninterested in details. Instead we are told that it would take only determination and courage to motivate the Iranian people to send the Mullahs into oblivion [bold mine-DL], without having to fire a shot. Failure to enable 2009’s “Green Revolution” is, by their estimation, one of President Obama’s many unforgivable decisions.

Even if it were desirable to destabilize yet another country in the region, this shows just how deluded Flynn and Ledeen are when it comes to achieving their goal of regime change. First, they assume that Iranians would cooperate in pursuing a goal that most of them don’t actually support. They mistakenly view the election protests of 2009-2010 as a movement aimed at overthrowing the regime, but it was something quite different and had the goal of reforming the existing system. Flynn and Ledeen fault the U.S. for not doing more to help that movement, but this wrongly assumes that the movement’s leaders wanted U.S. help (they didn’t) and that U.S. assistance would be useful to them (it wouldn’t have been). They assume they know what most Iranians want, but ignore their enduring resentment against foreign interference in their politics generally and hostility to American interference in particular. They also make a typical hawkish mistake in both grossly exaggerating the threat from a foreign regime and assuming that eliminating that threat will be easy and cheap. This is all consistent with the shoddy analysis we have seen from other parts of their book, and it confirms that Trump is going to be getting some very bad advice from his top security adviser.

In addition to all of their errors of analysis, Flynn and Ledeen have the wrong goal. If the U.S. tried to do what Flynn and Ledeen want, it would increase regional tensions and hurt the Iranian opposition. Neither the U.S. nor most Iranians would benefit from this, but it would strengthen the hand of regime hard-liners. It would give those hard-liners a ready-made excuse for increased repression, and would increase the likelihood of armed conflict over the longer term. When our government has made regime change in another country the official policy in the past, it has usually not been long before force is used to achieve it. A war with Iran might not come right away, but if Flynn convinces Trump that regime change should be the goal of our policy it becomes much more likely in the …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Who will blink first: Iran or Trump?

By Robert Spencer Assuming that Hillary Clinton will not find some last-ditch bit of Clintonesque chicanery that will put her in the White House after all, Donald Trump will likely be inaugurated President come January 20, and he will have an ultimatum waiting for him. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines


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The Man Who Saved Budapest’s Jews

By Lucy Steigerwald


The myth of World War II goes like this: the Allies were good, they won, and the Jews who survived were saved from Hitler by the Allies’ virtuous war efforts. The reality goes more like this: the Allies and most neutral countries waited, and they waited, and they waited as the Jews—to say nothing of the Slavs, Russians, disabled, dissidents, homosexuals, and Romani—were persecuted and then exterminated by the Nazis.

Some nations did better than others. Denmark sent nearly all of its Jews away in time, while France and Poland mostly let their populations die. In 1939, the U.S. House voted down a bill that would have brought 20,000 Jewish children into the country.

But the FDR administration’s War Refugee Board was a success. Mostly funded by Jewish groups, this was a Hail Mary pass that needed a man in the field to help Jews escape—a task that fell to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish businessman with no previous diplomatic experience. Without the bureaucratic brilliance of his team, which confidently handed out fake Swedish passports that protected Jews from deportation to Auschwitz, some 100,000 Budapest Jews would not have survived the war.

Swedish journalist Ingrid Carlberg has written the most comprehensive biography of her countryman Wallenberg that we are ever likely to get. This is also the story of the mass bystander effect that doomed 6 million Jews. Also told here is the end of World War II, the dawn of the Cold War, and the story of how a hero of one war got caught in the slow machinery of the next.

Carlberg divides her book into three sections. The first is a bio of Wallenberg up until he left for Budapest. His status as one of the great saviors of World War II is often seen as inexplicable, but Carlberg deftly proves that Wallenberg was preparing for his eventual diplomatic role long before a Hungarian business associate suggested his name for the job.

His father, Raoul Gustaf, died before he was born, but the name Wallenberg was well known in Sweden. Wallenberg’s grandfather had great plans for him. His father’s cousins excelled in banking and business—and, it turns out, had some dealings with the Nazis and the West. Raoul had studied architecture in America and bounced from South Africa to Palestine in different trades.

He was charismatic, funny, and amazingly driven when he wanted to be. This man who spent more than a decade searching for the right profession had all along been gathering cosmopolitan talents for his great humanitarian task. From his language skills to his contacts around the world, from his skillful bureaucratic wheedling to his knowing when to threaten and when to sweet-talk, and from his simply having traveled enough to appreciate the humanity inherent in a wide range of peoples, he was the right man.

The book’s second section, in which Carlberg recounts the six-month rescue effort, is its most thrilling but also the most familiar to students of Wallenberg. Carlberg isn’t as interested in the most cinematic of Wallenberg’s exploits as …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Trump and Normalization with Cuba

By Daniel Larison

Normalization with Cuba seems likely to be another Obama policy that will be undone by the incoming administration:

President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to “terminate” normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba if he can’t get “a better deal” from Havana may leave him at odds with many in the U.S. business community and in deeply Republican states.

The thing to remember with Trump’s “better deal” rhetoric is that he says this about every negotiation to create the impression that he is not absolutely opposed to reaching an agreement, but then he demands concessions that the other side is never going to give. There is usually no “better deal” to be had, but Trump can’t admit that because it would require giving Obama’s people credit for doing something right and because it eliminates the need for his supposedly superior deal-making skills. That ends up putting him in a position no different from that of hard-line rejectionists, but it creates the illusion at the beginning that he is more willing to compromise.

Reversing Obama’s policy so soon after it started would be a serious mistake. The opening to Cuba has only barely begun and needs to be given time to work. Now that Fidel Castro is gone, it should be even easier to continue a policy of engagement with Cuba. It also makes sense politically. Normalizing relations with Cuba is more broadly popular than other Obama policies that Trump has campaigned against, and there is more Republican support for Obama’s changes to Cuba policy than there is for many of his other initiatives. Trump doesn’t have to cater to hard-liners on this issue unless he wants to. If Trump doesn’t want the policy to continue, he can reverse everything Obama did. That would be unfortunate for the U.S., and it would be even worse for Cuba, and it would start Trump’s tenure off with a senseless blunder that will further sour relations with the rest of the hemisphere.

Joshua Keating notes that reversing Obama’s opening to Cuba would have consequences for the U.S. in the wider region:

Trump’s moves could also have wider diplomatic implications for the U.S., particularly in Latin America, where there’s significant public support for the Castros and the embargo (which is almost universally opposed internationally) has long been a source of tension. Ecuador’s left-wing President Rafael Correa suggested in October that if Trump were elected, like George W. Bush before him, that would lead to the election of more left-wing governments in the region. Trump is already mistrusted and disliked there because of his immigration rhetoric, notes Michael Shifter, president of Inter-American Dialogue, adding that “if Trump acts on his Cuba rhetoric, I think it’s going to create a lot of strong reactions and anti-Yanqui feeling. And not just on the left.”

Trump would be wise to continue the opening with Cuba in recognition that engagement is the best way to advance U.S. interests there. That engagement isn’t necessarily going to lead to swift political or even …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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