Sebelius resigns, Winters censors, non-judgmental commenters judge…

… and so much more in this April 10, 2014, edition of "Carl’s Cuts"


• Cutting edge news: Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, is resigning:

Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said.

The departure comes as the Obama administration tries to move beyond its early stumbles in carrying out the law, persuade a still-skeptical public of its lasting benefits, and help Democratic incumbents, who face blistering attack ads after supporting the legislation, survive the midterm elections this fall.

Officials said Ms. Sebelius, 65, made the decision to resign and was not forced out.

We can rest assured, I think, that she was not forced out due to support of Prop 8 and marriage. There are rumors, however, that her lack of basic HTML skills were causing problems.

• Michael Sean Winters of the National “Catholic” Reporter yesterday penned a devatstating analysis of my editorial, “Welcome to the Reign of ‘Gay'”, stating:

Hating One Another

We Christians are supposed to be known by our love. This editorial by Carl Olson at Catholic World Report pines for the good ole days when anti-gay bigotry was at its height. Just bizarre.

Needless to say, I was intially crushed. After having been called “crazy” by Winters a couple of years ago, I was hurt that I only warranted the implication of being a hater, piner, and bigot, with a side dish of “bizarre”. A couple of commenters pointed out that Winters apparently didn’t read my editorial, as if that was some sort of weakness within the sophisticated nuances of his elegant rejoinder. But, having contemplated the big picture, I realized that I should be flattered that someone had taken my editorial seriously enough to use a thesaurus so extensively in responding.

So, with gratitude in my heart and a skip in my step, I posted this comment yesterday afternoon:

Oh, Michael, you’re such a silly fella. I re-read my editorial, and then I asked myself, “Self, did you write your editorial because you pine for the ‘good ole days when anti-bigotry was at its height'”? And I found that, in fact, that’s not why I wrote it. But, then, you’d have to actually read my editorial to know that, wouldn’t you? Still, thanks for the mention and the laugh. Keep on keeping on with whatever it is that you do here.

I would link here to my comment, but it was taken down earlier today, along with another comment, which had praised my editorial and taken Winters to task for using such a cheap thesaurus, or something along those lines. I was puzzled. Why was my comment removed? Then I noticed the NCR Comment Code, which states, in part:

Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.

Oh! That explains it: while Winters had engaged my piece with respect and charity, I had responded with hateful spite, to the point of calling him a “silly fella.” I now realize how out of bounds that really was, and I apologize to everyone who is either “silly” or a “fella” who was offended by my deeply insensitive remarks.

• Ahem.

• There have been plenty of interesting comments made about the afore-mentioned editorial, but this one was priceless:

This is a hateful article. Christ has put all of his followers in a position of accepting their brothers and sisters as God created them; none of us on Earth is in a position to judge. Your brothers and sisters are demanding to be treated as equals, and you have the option of accepting them and Christ, or rejecting them and Christ. If they seem bold, proud or somehow justified, it is because on the day they decided to accept themselves as gay or lesbian, they learned that Christ was standing with them and smiling at them. In the first centuries of the Church, marriage equality was taken for granted. It was after the first 300 years that the Roman traditions, coming from the pantheon of Zeus, Apollo and company, that this hate of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters was introduced into what had been a church that followed Christ. Today, the place of the Roman Catholic Church should be in front, not lagging, in the acceptance of God’s creation. Maybe you don’t want to accept Christ or your brothers and sisters into your home; fine, but don’t try to present yourself as a Catholic or a Christian; you worship hate and claiming otherwise doesn’t make it so.

I responded:

You write: “This is a hateful article,” and then say that “none of us on Earth is in a position to judge.” You also add: “…but don’t try to present yourself as a Catholic or a Christian; you worship hate and claiming otherwise doesn’t make it so.”

Do you see the contradiction? Can you please straighten out your thinking before engaging in this sort of irrational emoting? Thanks. I appreciate it.

Alas, I fear that some people simply cannot fathom that saying, “You cannot judge,” and then erupting into a fit of whining judgment is deeply offensive to reason and logic. On the plus side, it can sometimes be entertaining, even educational.

• Unfortunately, a countless multitude of folks from the Bumper Sticker Generation have taken up Pope Francis remark and have turned into a convenient stick for beating down anyone who dares disagree. Of course, they wield it selectively; they would be horrified (and rightly so) if a rapist, murderer, or Putin said, in defense of their wrong actions: “Who are you to judge?” Nope, it only works in certain instances. It is, in short, a cheap and convenient tool that saves them from thought, argument, and reality itself. Too many Catholics, I think, have hammered on Francis about the remark, disregarding that he said in a specific context—a context that is fairly obvious from just one sentence: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”

Are those who are pushing “gay marriage” and denouncing anyone who disagrees with them really searching for the Lord and operating out of good will?

• A close friend—a lifelong Catholic who has worked as a catechist—made the following remark in an e-mail about the Reign of “Gay”:

Regarding the culture, [my wife] and I have been discussing that each person and family has a unique charism with which to respond to the madness.  Some will wade into the fray like the Jesuits of old–engaging the culture on its own turf.  Others will withdraw and be a city on the hill–like the Benedictines.  Some will be in the world but on their own terms–like the Franciscans.  This symphony of saints is the only solution.

The symphony of saints is the only solution. Beautiful.

• Jonathan V. Last, editor at The Weekly Standard, makes several worthwhile points about the Brendan Eich situation in his most recent e-letter (April 9th), titled “Thoughtcrime and the End of the Liberal Order”:

(1) The most relevant fact is, as I noted last week, a statement from Eich’s longtime business partner Mitchell Baker, who wound up at the tiller in the movement to push Eich out. Here’s what she had to say about Eich and his support for Proposition 8:

“That was shocking to me, because I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness,” she said, noting that there was a long and public community process about what to do about it in which Eich, then CTO, participated. “But I overestimated that experience.”

To be clear, Baker’s point is that Eich’s actual behavior and comportment was always charitable, inclusive, and professional. The problem wasn’t what he did; it’s what he thought. He held an opinion which is no longer acceptable, no matter how well concealed it was by gentility and tolerance.

That is quite, of course, and now that a high profile figure has been forced out the door, expect similar cases. Of course, many will not be reported or made known publicly. Last continues:

(2) That we’ve reached the recriminations phase of the gay-marriage movement should be surprising to no one. One year ago this week the Atlantic ran a piece asking what, exactly, was to be done with the handful of Americans left who still think that the creation of same-sex marriage may wind up leading to suboptimal societal outcomes. The problem with coming up with a rational system for recriminations is threefold.

First, the number of Americans who have yet to get on board the gay marriage project is somewhere around 150 million.

Second, the number of Americans who at some point in the last 12 years opposed the creation of same-sex marriage, is somewhere around 300 million.

Third, in the short-term future nearly every political leader likely to be elected will, at some point in the very recent past, have been an opponent of same-sex marriage.

Since the gay-marriage movement has long-since declared that bigotry is the only possible motive for opposing gay marriage, this means that converts can’t simply be welcomed into the fold and congratulated on having been persuaded. It means that they are merely recovering bigots who ought to be grateful for any leniency the culture awards them. (That is, pursuant to their public penance and abasement.)

(3) The Atlantic charitably concluded that we ought to forgive the sins of those who acquiesce to the new orthodoxy. But that’s not how retribution works. The Atlantic and other outposts of thoughtful progressivism do not get to determine how hard justice will be. All it takes is a couple thousand people chanting on Twitter with one or two larger co-sponsors (in Eich’s case it was the dating website OkCupid). Once the mob forms, no polite progressive dare stand in its way.

At this point, is anyone willing to say it ain’t gonna happen?

• Speaking of marriage, there is a minor furor over an ancient, ancient, super ancient mention of the “wife” of Jesus:

Over the past two years, roughly a dozen scholars from Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Australia’s Macquarie University have been focused on answering one question: Is the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife real? In 2012, historian Karen L. King announced her initial findings about a three-inch piece of papyrus, thought to be an eighth-century version of writings from the disciples of Jesus. The most stunning line from the text is this:

“…’ Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…”

This is how the fragment got its name: not because it’s canonical, but because it refers to Jesus having a wife.

This line doesn’t prove anything about Jesus’s marital status, though. “The question that the broader public immediately grabbed onto is, ‘Does Jesus have a wife?'” King told me.

This is old news, actually, since King has been trying to make hay out of this piece of parchment for a while now, as I noted back in September of 2012. Plenty more could be said, but it’s worth pointing out that plenty of things were said about Jesus and plenty of renditions of stories of Jesus had been written from the second century onward. Some people insisted that Jesus was not divine, or that he was not human, and so forth.

The big play by King and Co., according to The Atlantic, is that the fragment brings up this question: What does this text say about his early followers? Okay. Don’t you wish we had some full texts, written close to the time of Christ, that shed light on that question? Don’t you?

• Finally, if you’ve never read anything by Frank Sheed, I recommend Knowing God: God and the Human Condition, originally published in 1966, and recently republished, in 2012, by Ignatius Press. I’ve read quite a few books by Sheed (he wrote around 20 or so), but hadn’t read this one until recently. It’s a remarkable book, the sort of book that reminds me of Chesterton (although Sheed writes in a more systematic and less sprawling fashion), the sort of book that makes you say, with admiration, “This could have been written in 2014!”

Among many other things, Sheed explains the real nature and purpose of theology. And in doing so, he occasionally rises to the level of a poet:

We feel around for analogies, knowing them for no more than that, but finding a certain contentment in them. The divine Mind is an infinite ocean of light. Only flashes and sparkles of that light reach us, with darkness between. Or again infinite love has exploded into our universe; theology is an effort to diagram the explosion. The diagram is indispensable, but it is not the reality and it must not obsess us. What matters is love, and that cannot be diagrammed.

And, writing of the increasing move to turn Christianity into a “social service,” or form of advanced philanthropy, Sheed writes that an emphasis on loving neighbor without first emphasizing the love of God causes serious problems, for

it eliminates what through all the history of mankind has been essentially religious thing, the sense that in embracing a religion man is being initiated into divine mysteries; there are no divine mysteries in the religion of social service, but Christ Our Lord’s teaching is glowing with them–now brilliantly, now somberly–all the time. Nor is a religion mainly of social service, of philanthropy, or kindness of one another, soil in which adoration can flourish; and throughout the ages adoration has been the supreme religious act.


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About Carl E. Olson 1197 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.