I haven’t written about the obsessive early polling of presidential candidates for one simple reason: I think it’s ridiculous.
Asking voters a year or more out from an election who they will vote for is like asking a 12-year-old girl to describe her future husband. What you will get in either case is a dream scenario that does not resemble what will actually happen when things get real.
I also think that debates this far out are, in a word, stupid. It’s showmanship, aimed at getting ratings. By the time the first vote is cast next spring, the voting public is already going to be sick of the spectacle.
Donald Trump is now neck and neck with Dr Ben Carson in polling data. Despite this, Mr Trump’s numbers have not fallen all that much.
How has this happened?
It’s simple, really. It’s also what usually happens in political races with lots of candidates. First, candidates drop out. That has been occurring in the Republican presidential marathon. As candidates drop out, voters who were backing them shift to other candidates. Over time, support begins to consolidate behind one candidate.
Donald Trump came out of the gate ahead of the pack. He led the field by a wide margin. But I noticed something interesting about his lead. The numbers held steady. What that meant is that he had a certain group of Republican voters behind him and they were solid in their support. But it looked as if that group was all he might get.
In short, he had a great starter set, but his ability to get over 50% seemed weak. I kind of expected that as candidates dropped out and the field began to consolidate, someone besides Mr Trump would pick up the gains. That is what has happened.
At the same time, Dr Carson’s success has fueled a drop in Mr Trump’s support. Dr Carson is not only managing to consolidate support that was previously going to candidate who have dropped out of the race, he is beginning to leach support away from Mr Trump.
Does that mean that Dr Carson is the likely nominee?
- See more at: http://www.catholicvote.org/so-how-exactly-does-the-polling-work/#sthash.3uJyB9KW.dpuf
Ross Douthat write op-ed posts for the New York Times. He recently wrote a post that contained opinions that inflamed certain members of the administration and faculties of more than one prominent Catholic university.
Instead of making their own case for what they believed, these folks sent a letter to the New York Times that certainly sounds as if they want the newspaper to fire Mr Douthat for his wrong thinking.
I wrote a post about this nonsense for the National Catholic Register.
Here’s part of what I said:
I didn’t know who Ross Douthat was until a few days ago. I realize that reveals me for the rube I am to all the whole wide world, but so be it.
My life the past couple of weeks has been an exercise in maintaining an even strain. I don’t feel like describing the details. It makes me tired to think about it, much less write it down. I’ll just toss you a couple of hints. My days have been taken up with ugly encounters with the family drug addict, troubles with my 90-year-old Mama with dementia, and a brush with the existential realities concerning my own health.
I’m still standing, but I feel used up with the effort.
Given all that, Ross Douthat, whose name set off a ping of vague recognition when I heard it, but whose identity was otherwise unknown to me, barely tapped my consciousness when he wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times last week. I’ve since learned that Douthat writes opinion pieces about the Catholic Church for the New York Times on a regular basis.
I saw a link to this particular opinion piece on a discussion board I frequent. It kind of entered my awareness that there was a bit of flapping and squawking about whatever he’d said. But I was slogging through a tough patch of real life. I didn’t care about what Douthat had said, and I also didn’t care about the squawking and flapping his opinions elicited.
That’s pretty much what the internet is about: squawking and flapping, huffing and puffing, hissing and spitting. I assumed that Douthat’s opinion piece shared his opinion about something or other, and the subsequent carrying on was just a matter of other people giving counter opinions. That’s not exactly dialogue. But it is fair play.
Then, today, while I was reeling from more bizarre stuff in my personal life, I saw an article about a group of Big Names in the Catholic academic u-verse who had signed a letter which appears to be an attempt to get the New York Times to either instruct Douthat about his opinions or fire him. They tried to dress it up with fancy talk, but their reason was that they didn’t agree with what he had written.
This is unfathomable on the basis of discrimination or any of the other claims that have been made concerning this parade. It is, to use a word I frequently apply to today’s cultural deconstruction, nihilism.
From Crisis Magazine:
Twenty-five years ago, a small group of activists charged the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade with being a public gesture of pure homophobia. They built their case around the allegedly bigoted “Catholic character.” The trial was held before the judges of the left-leaning secular media.
A jury composed of the general public yawned, wondering why a 250-year-old civic and religious institution needed to become a battlefield in the culture wars. The activists found this lack of popular support impossible to fathom. Enraged, they determined to do more than just march up Fifth Avenue. They sought to humiliate their enemies, including the parade’s organizers, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Catholic Church herself.
Then the unexpected: the committee responsible for sponsoring and staging the parade stopped defending itself against the worst of the charges. The case has now moved to the penalty phase.
This week, the victors revealed their demands: a Saint Patrick’s Day parade that is both non-Catholic and—incredibly—non-Irish. As outlandish as that sounds, all indications are that the activists will get what they want, because they’ve somehow managed to capture the imagination of the parade’s new boss—Quinnipiac University president John L. Lahey.
The Synod on the Family has finally adjourned, leaving behind a document for us to read and ponder. In many ways, this Synod, like the one last year, ended up resembling the United States Congress. Here are a few of those ways.
1. Most of what they talked about doing was so disturbing that the people in the pews breathed a sigh of relief that, in the end, they did nothing. People were praying, saying their rosaries, signing petitions and writing blogs, all to the purpose of imploring the Synod Fathers not to overturn 2,000 years of Christian teaching. We feared with a real fear that our Church was going to go against the direct words of Jesus Christ and essentially deep-six the sacramental basis for the entire Catholic Church.
It was a scandalous debate, this consideration of taking the official position that bishops would officially ignore Church teaching in practice while not changing it in writing. It was scandalous, and it scandalized.
To that extent, the Synod did harm rather than good. The Synod Fathers managed to convince huge numbers of faithful Catholics that such a thing was possible. This damaged the essential trust between shepherds and flock, even though it didn’t, ultimately happen.
In short, the Synod was like the United States Congress. The changes it was willing to seriously consider were so disastrous and appalling to the people in the hustings that everyone breathed a sigh of relief and considered it a victory when they ended up doing nothing at all. We felt safer when they finally went home.
2. The Synod did not address the cataclysmic discrimination and violence facing Christians all over the world in a meaningful way.
Christians are being wiped from the earth in a genocide in the Middle East. Christians are subject to horrific persecution in North Korea and other places. Christians live under active discrimination that flares into violence, rape and murder in many other places such as India. Christians are subject to government oppression, unjust imprisonment and active government discrimination that can include arrest, torture and long prison sentences in such places as China.
Christians in the West are subjected to constant hazing and bashing. Christianity is slandered and attacked in the media, on-line hate blogs and other Christian-bashing outlets. Christian children are subjected to constant anti-Christian propaganda and pressure in the public schools.
Christians, including Christian elected officials, are subject to legal harassment, arrest and loss of their livelihoods in the so-called Christian West. This has gone so far that the Church itself is subject to lawsuits aimed at trying to force the bishops to stop teaching Catholic faith and practice in Catholic institutions. The Church is also currently fighting a draconian mandate handed down by a stacked anti-Catholic committee and signed by the President of the United States.
3. The Synod did not effectively address the destructive effects that many aspects of our modern world has on families. Drug addiction, discriminatory images of Christians and morality in the media, joblessness, low wages, sex education in public schools, job discrimination against pregnant women, violence against women and pornography mow down families and grind them into the dust. These problems cross cultures.
For instance, here in America, both parents in working class families often have to work more than one job each to make ends meet. This means that young children are often shifted from one baby sitter to the next, and then, when they are barely school-age, left alone for long hours. They end up being raised by other children, the public schools and themselves.
This destroys parental involvement in their children’s lives and leaves the children at the mercy of the larger culture. These same families are forced to send their children to sub-standard schools where they are indoctrinated in the anti-Christian zeitgeist.
In other areas of the world, poverty is so extreme that it leaves children without the basics of human life such as adequate food, clean water and shelter.
Catholic schools cost far too much for most working class parents to afford. They have often deteriorated into prep schools for wealthy kids, many of whom are not Catholic. Meanwhile, Catholic children are forced into substandard public schools. Catholic higher education, at least here in the United States, is an on-going scandal precisely because of the anti-Catholic atmosphere and teaching found in many Catholic universities. Also, Catholic higher education costs far too much to be accessible to most Catholic young people.
Catholic education has become so trendy, “inclusive” and expensive that it excludes most Catholic children.
The Synod was like the United States Congress in that it failed to address the very real needs and challenges of the people in the pews and went off after its own arcane interests that were in fact an affront to Catholic teaching. As I said earlier, we ended up being grateful that, while they did no good, at least they didn’t do the harmful things they had considered.
4. Finally, the Synod on the Family is like the United States Congress because it was lobbied by big money special interests who were bent on persuading the Synod to abandon Catholic teachings in favor of following the “teachings” of the world. These people did not persuade the Synod to subvert Catholic teaching and abandon the clear words of Jesus Christ, but they did control the agenda of the Synod.
The entire Synod revolved around a debate as to whether or not the Church should adopt the agenda of the special interests who were lobbying it. This agenda was presented to the Synod by the German bishops, but it was clear to someone like me who has lived through a lot of this stuff that the puppet masters were the special interests. That is precisely the way these things work in politics, including, it seems, Church politics. Outside special interests get their followers inside the legislative body to present their ideas and hammer them home.
To put it bluntly, the agenda of a few special interests dominated the Synod. The issues at hand were all about how or if to weaken the Church’s teaching on marriage, which is consistent with that agenda. Not much else was really considered.
It took the efforts of the people in the pews — who counter-lobbied through petition and prayer — in concert with a group of determined bishops, to stem this move toward clerical nihilism. At the end of the day, we are all saying Hallelujah! because at least the Synod did no harm to the doctrines of the Church.
Was the Synod a complete failure? I don’t know. That depends on what happens next. In short, it depends on Pope Francis and how he responds to the Synod’s recommendations.
I do know that this fight about weakening the Church from within is only just beginning. Those lobbies are not going to stop. They will be back, and next time, they will be smarter.
The pressure on individual bishops to walk away from Church teaching in practice while giving lip service to it is only going to increase. Then, each bishop who falls — and it appears that an entire segment of them in Germany, plus quite a few elsewhere, have already fallen — will be held up as an example as to why Church teaching is unworkable and must be ignored.
Before too long, we will be hearing about how Church teaching is utterly impracticable and the evidence will be the practice of these fallen bishops and their failed leadership. That will create pressure to spread this travesty of leadership further.
The lobbying, the money, the lavish media productions, the steady drip-drip-drip of hate directed at the Church is not going to stop. It is going to become more widespread and aggressive.
To withstand this pressure, a bishop is going to have to endure all sorts of personal indignity, ranging from shunning to open vilification. Bishops begin as priests, part of a brotherhood. They move up the clerical ladder by appointment from those higher up. Then, they find themselves in a position where they have to stand alone or fall, and if they fall, they will take a lot of good people with them.
Years ago, I interviewed an Anglican bishop from northern Nigeria. This man had seen parishioners beheaded right in front of him. Churches in his diocese had been burned to the ground. His own daughter was taken for a while. His wife said something to me that is perhaps the truest thing I ever heard about being a bishop.
The bishop must stand. If the bishop fails, all the people will run away.
That is the simple of fact of what it means to be a bishop, what it is to be a shepherd. Fancy dinners with the rich and powerful, getting all decked out in extravagant vestments and having people kiss your ring have nothing to do with it. In a time of trouble — and this is a time of trouble raised by powers of ten — it comes down to faith and courage.
Those of us in the pews do not need to be whipped about by bizarre theological experimentation acting on the behalf of special interest groups who are trying to destroy the Church from within. We need trustworthy leadership that we can be proud of and follow.
I know this is not going to happen, but what we need is for the bishops to start speaking with one voice for Christ and Him crucified. We need bishops who stand on the Gospels and don’t flinch when they are criticized for doing so. We need Church leadership that stops being obsessed with itself and begins to look at us, the people who make up the vast Body of Christ in this world and who are being mowed down by the wolves.
We need shepherds.
My colleague Kate O’Hare interviewed Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mar Bahai Soro about the holocaust of Christians that is taking place in the Middle East.
To be honest, reading this interview put the hijinks of the Synod on the Family in perspective. It made the whole thing seem a little bit like an exercise in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It would have been better to hold a Synod on Christian persecution in much of the world, coupled as it is by increasing harassment, bashing and legal attacks on the rights of Christians in the so-called Christian West.
Christianity is under attack as it has not been since the Muslim wars of conquest in the Middle Ages. Today’s line of attack is even more aggressive because it has not one, not even two, but several fronts. Christians are being subjected to genocide in their ancient homelands. Christians endure violent persecution in places like North Korea and certain parts of India. Christians are subjected to government control and abuse in places such as China, and Christians are under social and legal attack in an attempt to drive them from public forums and banish their ministries in much of the West, including the United States.
That is the most serious issue facing Christianity today.
Many, if not most, of the Christians will be forced to leave Iraq forever, but some are determined to stay and see that Christianity maintains a living presence in some of the places that first heard the message of the Apostles.
In America, there are those determined to help. They can’t work a miracle, but you have to start somewhere.
Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mar Bawai Soro resides at the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle in El Cajon, in San Diego County. It serves approximately 60,000 Catholics in several western states who are part of the Chaldean or Assyrian Rite. Many are immigrants from the Middle East, especially Iraq and Iran.
Bishop Soro was formerly a bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East. A longtime advocate of the primacy of the Apostolic See of Rome — he proudly displays thick albums of photos of the times he has met Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis — Bishop Soro was received into the Catholic Church in January 2008.
He recently joined forces with Kingdom Special Operations, a Las Vegas-based private security company. Staffed by former intelligence officers and military Special Forces members, it goes on assignments worldwide for the U.S. government and other entities.
But the CEO of Kingdom, Orange County native Roger Flores, is a Catholic and a Knight of Columbus, and he has always maintained that part of Kingdom’s mission is to help his fellow Christians.
Father Dwight Longenecker went on a rant, and it was too true. The only thing I would add is that there are a bushel and a peck of conservative hypocrites to sit on the shelf alongside the liberals. But that is another post, one which I need to write.
Here’s part of what Father Dwight said:
The attack on hypocrites in religion typically focusses on the uptight, self righteous conservative Catholic who judges others while they themselves are guilty of the same sin.
You know the schtick: “Mildred is always saying what terrible sinners young people are for sleeping around, but it turns out she’s been having sex with her neighbor’s husband!”
or “Those Catholics are such hypocrites. They’re always talking about helping the poor, but they’re sitting pretty in their big houses and driving their posh cars.”
The first thing to observe is that every Christian is a hypocrite to a certain extent simply because we uphold a moral standard that is impossible to achieve until we have become saints. In other words, we fail. We stumble and fall. Furthermore, we cover up our failures and we hide our shame.
So we’re all hypocrites. My hand is up. I’m a hypocrite. You’re a hypocrite. If we are not yet saints, then we are still a work in progress and we must admit that we stand for a heroic standard of behavior that we are still trying to attain.
What nobody ever talks about, however, are the particularly Catholic form of hypocrites which are paraded in front of us all the time with absolutely no shame. In fact these hypocrites wear their lying, two faced hypocrisy on their sleeve and seem to be proud of it.
I’m talking about liberal Catholics who think it’s smart to be “cafeteria Catholics”.
Want an insider’s view of the Synod? Check out Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s blog. He gives a daily update on the doings from his catbird seat on the inside. It’s engaging, informative and fun.
Here’s a sample:
When we made it back into the Hall yesterday, the Secretary General said the Pope wanted to say a word. My ears pricked up. This Pope doesn’t take the microphone just for the sake of it. What’s going on here, I thought. Well, again he caught us on the hop. For some time there have been rumblings that we may have a couple of new Congregations in the Roman Curia, and the Pope took this opportunity to announce one of them – a Congregation for the Laity, Family and Life.
Not sure why he chose this moment to make the announcement. It may have been a way of saying that things are moving in Rome in order to counteract a sense that has emerged at times in the Synod that nothing either is moving or should move. A gesture against immobilism? Who knows?
Pope Francis has enacted an internal reform of the Vatican by combining Family, Laity and Life into one dicastery.
I don’t understand the inner workings of the Vatican. But looking at this from the outside, it makes sense. If I am correct, a dicastery is a department within the Curia. The ministries relating to family, laity and life are certainly bound together by common interests.
From Catholic News Agency:
.- Pope Francis announced Thursday to the Synod on the Family that he has chosen to establish a new office in the Roman Curia that will deal with issues of laity, family, and life, as part of his reform of the curia.
“I have decided to establish a new Dicastery with competency for Laity, Family and Life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family,” Pope Francis said Oct. 22, according to a communique from the Holy See press office.
“To this end, I have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new Dicastery. The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Cardinals at their next meeting in December.”
The Pope added that in addition to the pontifical councils for the laity and the family, the Pontifical Academy for Life will also joined to the new office.
This move is significant because it streamlines three separate offices into one; it is also meant to give greater attention to issues relating to the laity in the Church.
Mary Rezac, at Catholic News Agency, wrote a pithy summary of the German bishops’ efforts to change pastoral practice within the Catholic Church as it applies to marriage.
Here’s part of what she said:
Ok everyone, last German bishops blog for the duration of #Synod15! (At least, I think. I hope?)
As they near the end of an eventful three weeks, the 13 small groups of the Synod on the Family, divided by language, have released their last reports before the conclusion of the meeting on Sunday.
For those of you just joining us, the German-speaking group of bishops has been in the spotlight during the Synod as some of the main proponents of what has become known as the “Kasper proposal”, by which Cardinal Walter Kasper has promoted allowing some divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to receive sacramental Communion after a ‘penitential path’, among other controversial proposals.
This proposal has been shut down multiple times by the Church over the years, and yet, it continues to crop up, particularly amongst German bishops. Hence this blog. And this one. And this one. Oh and also this one.
In their small group report on the third part of the synod’s working document, the German bishops suggest that divorced-and-civilly-remarried couples discern in the “internal forum” their ability to receive the sacraments, following their conscience and aided by their confessor. Read the rest here.