It was the kind of Vatican meeting that normally shuffles along for two weeks without making headlines, but in October 2014 a tumultuous synod of bishops captured both the excitement and the alarm that Pope Francis is generating in the Catholic Church. Roughly 260 bishops, clergy and laity from around the world gathered in Rome to debate issues that have embodied the Church’s identity for generations: family life, marriage and sexual morality. There have been 26 such synods since the first in 1967, and they’ve generally been tame affairs. This time, however, the gathering was filled with intrigue and controversy.
Two sides squared off: traditionalists, unnerved by the new pope, and progressives, hoping to spur Francis on to even greater change. On the right, prelates complained of a plot to suppress their voices and led an internal revolt — one disgruntled cardinal even told the media that the pope was sowing the seeds of confusion and owed the world an apology. Inside the synod hall, another rose to accuse a cardinal advocating a permissive line on divorce of spreading “sickness and disease.” On the left, reformers groused about a lack of nerve, and many saw the final document of the synod as a disappointing concession on issues such as a new welcome for homosexuals, recognizing positive values in non-traditional relationships and the possibility of allowing Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church to receive communion. Yet both sides could agree on at least one thing: Francis had let loose a battle for the soul of Roman Catholicism.
Given the upheaval and acrimony that surfaced over the two weeks, it was tempting to frame the 2014 synod of bishops as a defeat for the pope, proof that he can’t control the forces he’s generated — in effect, that his leadership has put the Church in danger of spinning out of control. There were even hints that Francis might rethink his plans to call a second, larger synod in October 2015, on the grounds he was lucky this one didn’t fall apart completely and he might not want to tempt fate again.
Then, at the close of the meeting, Francis broke his silence, giving a 15-minute talk that seemed to capture the spirit of the Church he wants to lead. He noted that at the beginning of the event he had called on bishops to speak boldly and hold nothing back and said he would have been disappointed if there hadn’t been “animated discussion.”
In the most critical portion of his speech, Francis ticked off several temptations that the Church must avoid if it’s to resolve its challenges successfully. It must not succumb to a “hostile rigidity,” a fussy legalism devoid of compassion and subtlety. At the same time, it must also reject what he called a “destructive do-goodism” and a “false mercy,” a touchy-feely morality incapable of calling sin by its name. The Church must not impose “impossible burdens” on people, he said, but it also must not “come down off the cross” by abandoning its core principles in order to win approval. Francis recognized that both sides that emerged at the synod — reformers pushing the Church toward its future and conservatives determined not to jettison its past — had a point, and that each perspective wouldn’t be fully Catholic without the other. He drew a five-minute standing ovation, including prelates who not long before had been virtually at one another’s throats.
I realize that I run the risk of being called a Tod Worner stalker but I'm banking on the fact that it's a risk worth taking once you read his latest post:
Forgive me. I am in a dark mood.
There is darkness these days. And sometimes, is seems, it approaches blackness. These days ISIS pours across the Middle East brazenly leaving the crucified, decapitated & raped in their wake. An unabashed Iranian regime with an undisputed record of deceit, oppression and genocidal aspirations moves ever closer to an internationally approved nuclear capability. A Russian despot without cover of ideology or provocation shamelessly violates every norm of international law in invading neighboring Ukraine. And meanwhile, we are asked to satisfy our appetites with a supremely dysfunctional Kardashian family in our homes and a sadomasochistic relationship at the movies.
These days language seems harsher. Appetites seem bigger. Knowledge is vast, but Wisdom is lost. Pleasure is plentiful, but Purpose is missing. Noise and Distraction reign, Silence and Reflection abscond.
There is darkness these days.
French Catholic writer Charles Peguy was shot and killed only months into the First World War. He was forty-one. And yet, even though he didn’t live to see the decadence of the ensuing decade, the despair of the Great Depression or the horrors of Bolshevism or Fascism, he made this observation,
“We are the last. Almost the ones after the last. Immediately after us begins the world we call, which we have called, which we shall not cease calling, the modern world. The world that tries to be clever. The world of the intelligent, of the advanced, of those who know, who don’t have to be shown a thing twice, who have nothing more to learn. The world of those who are not had on by fools. Like us. That is to say: the world of those who believe in nothing, not even in atheism, who devote themselves, who sacrifice themselves to nothing.”
But how did we get here? How did we allow things to get so dark? How did we become so clever? How did we stop believing in Something and start believing in Nothing?
Let us imagine a Country with an inordinate hatred. A hatred of a People. Whenever words are used to describe the vilified People, they are filled with abject vitriol and fiery contempt. The “enemy” is described as Degenerate, Vermin & Criminal and are threatened with Destruction, Erasure & Annihilation. This creed of vengeance is not a peripheral matter for the country, but is a belief system deeply, deeply set in its marrow. It informs, invigorates, inspires the Country’s actions and, in some forms, serves as its raison d’être. The Country has been in trouble before, has become a pariah state (except for the growing number attracted to its hubris and defiance), has flouted international law and has made promises only to brazenly break them. Again. And again. And again. It is a country preparing for war, but assuring its suspicious partners that it simply wants peace. Just imagine.
And now imagine that when that Country made assurances at pivotal moments (deeply consequential moments) when history could have been irreversibly altered, those with the power to hold that Country to account bent to inertia. They trusted. They soothed themselves. And they hoped. They hoped dearly.
And as aggressions ensued, a bit on their heels, but clinging to inertia, the countries with power bent further. And further. Hoping. Hoping. Always hoping.
But see, we don’t have to imagine. Because this happened.
Having once run for public office – the New York State Assembly – my positions were more or less honed during an electoral battle against a far left entrenched incumbent. Although, truth be told, depending on the issue, I was variously described by my two opponents together as either a “dangerous right-winger” or an “out-of-touch liberal” during that race. I’ll just have to assume that most people would probably label me as either slightly right-of-center or as a squishy moderate.
At least politically.
But I was long ago persuaded that of all the economic systems that have ever been imposed, capitalism has been – by far – the most successful in lifting more people out of poverty and into economic freedom than any other.
One need only look at, in real time, the East Germany – West Germany, North Korea – South Korea, and pre-Castro – Castro “experiments” with an objective eye to be so convinced.
Coupled with a democratic political system, free markets – along with a system for the protection of private property rights and the judicial enforcement of contracts – tend to create an unbeatable environment of personal and economic liberty.
And, while others will no doubt vigorously object (and can certainly point to historical events to the contrary to advance their arguments), I believe that this political-economic combination also imposes substantial constraints which tend to, more often than not, curb destructive international ambitions.
In short, I find that democratic capitalism is the most moral, least oppressive, most innovative system ever devised by man. (Some of my thoughts in this regard were framed early on by Michael Novak’s book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.)
That said, being a free market, economic conservative does not mean acquiescing to corporate control of the economy, or unregulated corporate and union monopolies, or an unfettered government-corporate nexus – often called crony capitalism.
On the contrary, those very things result in markets which are neither free nor conservative – economically or politically. They stifle free and open competition, and they can become forces of overwhelming greed, avarice, and destruction.
There's more at the link and it's well worth your time. A compelling case is made not that the Pope is a socialist but that he is in fact a Catholic. Go figure.
Netanyahu, as someone said on Twitter, was better in his second language than Obama is in his first. And he presented himself as a leader who cares about his country, rather than one, like Obama, who makes excuses for its enemies.
Anyone over twenty five years old probably remembers the left’s rebuttal during President George W. Bush’s initiative to drill in ANWAR, “We Can’t Just Drill Our Way To Lower Gas Prices”. In fact as recently as 2012 President Obama was still parroting, after ten years, what had become Gospel on the left. “We Can’t Just Drill Our Way to Lower Gas Prices” or a variation “We Can’t Drill Our Way to Prosperity”. It was also said, by the “Smart People”, in 2002 that it would take ten years to bring ANWAR oil online, somehow that was also justification to NOT start as soon as possible? For 14 years, the left has fought drilling, not just in ANWAR but on all public lands, everywhere. So entrepreneurs have done, what entrepreneurs do, they found a way to fill a market demand despite an obstructionist government. Drilling on private lands, developing new technology (fracking and horizontal drilling) entrepreneurs have created over 2.5 MILLION BARRELS PER DAY of new oil supply since 2002.
In economic terms demand for oil is considered inelastic. If prices go up, consumers cannot change their demand behaviors quickly and thus must shift demand from other goods to make up for the increased cost. It is also (largely) supply inelastic, it is rare when large new supplies come online. The end of 2014 saw a perfect storm more supply came online in the middle east, exerting downward prices on oil, U.S drilling rose to a crescendo bringing on additional supply, while economies contracted in Japan and Europe concurrent with a decreased rate of growth in China all of which decreased demand. This while central bankers across the globe took actions that strengthened the dollar. All of this reduced the cost of oil to Americans and for the first time in decades America produced more oil than it consumed. Gas prices plummeted from $90 per barrel to $50 per barrel. It turns out that you can, drill your way to lower gas prices.
During the six years of the Obama Administration, 5.98 Million jobs have been created. During that period approx 200,000 direct and 1.2 Million indirect or induced jobs have been created in Oil and Gas. About 20% of all net new jobs created during the Obama Administration have been created in an industry they fought tooth and nail to prevent. It turns out you can drill your way to prosperity. But… how much prosperity?
It is possible that in the entire history of being wrong, never before, have so many, been so wrong, so publicly, to the detriment, of so many. What should we expect? America’s oil is more difficult to reach than the oil in Argentina, Saudi Arabia, or Russia. Our cost of extraction varies but is about $60 per barrel. As I write this oil is trading at about $49 per barrel and drilling rigs across American are being idled. American’s should expect that oil won’t stay at $49 per barrel for long. However, as soon as oil goes above $60 per barrel those same rigs that are idled now will be re-employed. We should expect oil to hover around $60 per barrel for the next decade or more. How much impact will that have?
The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, enacted February 13, 2008) was an Act of Congress providing for several kinds of economic stimuli intended to boost the United States economy in 2008 and to avert a recession, or ameliorate economic conditions. The stimulus package was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 29, 2008, and in a slightly different version by the U.S. Senate on February 7, 2008. The Senate version was then approved in the House the same day. It was signed into law on February 13, 2008 by President Bush with the support of both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. The law provides for tax rebates to low- and middle-income U.S. taxpayers, tax incentives to stimulate business investment, and an increase in the limits imposed on mortgages eligible for purchase by government-sponsored enterprises (e.g., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). The total cost of this bill was projected at $152 billion for 2008.(Emphasis added)
Thus Congress and the President felt that they could avert or ameliorate the effects of an economic downturn by adding $152 Billion in economic stimulus to the economy. So how does oil dropping from $90 per barrel to $50 per barrel compare?
In 2013, the United States consumed a total of 6.89 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of 18.89 million barrels per day. This total includes about 0.32 billion barrels of biofuels. At $90 per barrel this is about $620 Billion at $50 per barrel this is about $345 Billion, a difference of $275 Billion. This is like having 1.8 Economic Stimulus Acts of 2008 enacted every year that oil remains around $50 per barrel.
If we can assume that oil will stay in the $50 range for five years (I believe it could be in the $50-$60 range for a decade or more), this injects $1.375 Trillion of stimulus into the economy. Moreover, it is $1.375 Trillion less going to support economies that hate us. If you assume the population of the US is 350M that is almost $4000 for every man women and child in increased disposable income to spend on things other than oil. That $1.375 trillion will be spent on travel, hotels, cloths, education. In an economy with a $17.5 Trillion GDP that is an almost 2% direct bump. If you assume a 5:1 velocity of money, that is the money gets spent and then re-spent five times in a year. This is a really big number $6.875 Trillion over five years. This is more money than all of the quantitative easings that the Fed engaged in over the last five years, combined!
It turns out that not only can you drill your way to lower gas prices. Not only can you drill your way to prosperity. You may in fact be able to drill your way to uncontrollable hyper-inflation. You see the Fed has over $4 Trillion on its balance sheet, other party debt that they purchased to inject liquidity in the market. But they aren’t talking about divesting this debt. Instead they are talking about raising the Federal Funds rate, the rate banks charge each other for short term loans. It currently sits at zero and they are hotly debating whether to raise it to 0.25% by late this year and Wall Street is on pins an needles. What NO ONE is talking about is that the cost of gas started decreasing in October of last year and really plummeted starting in December. We are about ¼ of a year into what I am calling QE-petrol. This means effectively $458 Billion has already been directly injected into the economy, which at a 5:1 velocity of money means that over $2 Trillion of spending has been injected into the economy.
If you listen to CNBC you can’t listen for long without hearing that retailers are having the best most profitable time that anyone can remember. “Strange” they comment, “Where is all this money coming from”? By the time the Fed acts, it will be too little, too late. They need to be divesting the debt on their balance sheet to sop up the excess liquidity being caused by the reduced cost of petroleum not arguing over a 0.25 increase in the funds rate. AND keep in mind this is only the first ¼ of the first year of what I project will be a five to ten year trend. It will start with extreme prosperity, but because the Fed reacts too slowly it will end with hyper inflation and a crash. Invest heavily now while the market increases but be prepared to pull your money prior to a crash in 3-5 years.
Hypocrisy is the great charge levelled by those who are not religious against religious people. It is perhaps a bit over-done sometimes; after all, hardly anyone completely lives up to the tenets and high moral standards of what they believe, and it is not ‘hypocrisy’ to simply be a struggling sinner. Hypocrisy enters in when one puts on an outward show of virtue or claims holiness for oneself while living something very different. Nevertheless, it is an accusation not without some truth.
We have to be vigilant. I say I believe ‘x’. Why am I doing ‘y’, which is inconsistent with that? The Pope is referring to, I gather, very real corruption and dissolute lifestyles that can and possibly do exist in high places in the Church; I will not comment on that, neither knowing about it nor considering that this is any of my or your business.
But on a lower level, this is a problem which can and at least incipiently does afflict all of us. Toleration of habitual sin in ourselves, for example, is the beginnings of this existential schizophrenia. A ‘double life’ for me may not mean that I’m secretly keeping a wife and three children in a suburb of Toronto (I’m not), but it may mean that there are small corners of my life that I have simply reserved as the personal property of Fr. Denis Lemieux, and in which poverty, chastity, and obedience are not welcome. It can be small things, insidious things, perhaps not even things that rise to the level of sin per se, but nonetheless have that quality of doubleness, of duplicity.
We say we believe in Jesus Christ. This statement of faith calls us to a radical belonging to Christ, a radical submission to His Word. To say I believe in Christ but then turn and say ‘But I won’t forgive the person who hurt me!’ or ‘But I won’t take the lowest place’ or ‘But I won’t acknowledge Him before men’ (or any other direct flouting of the precepts of the Gospel) is to live in a perilous state of “mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness,” as the Holy Father so pithily puts it.
Well, it’s Lent, isn’t it? Good time to review all these matters and make some changes.
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”