Friday, November 14, 2014

Loftus on Cardinal Burke and Victor Hugo

Jesus welcomes sinners into the Temple
In his most recent two columns, Mgr Basil Loftus - no eschewing of princely titles for him - attacks Cardinal Burke. I admit that 'Loftus attacks Burke' could replace 'Dog bites Man' as the paradigmatic unsurprising newspaper headline; what gives it a little interest is the fact (although perhaps this is unsurprising as well) that Loftus feels he needs to lie about what Cardinal Burke said, and its context, in order to make his attack effective, and the touching hero-worship Loftus coincidentally accords the superstitious anti-clerical French writer Victor Hugo.

Loftus attacks Cardinal Burke in both Catholic Times columns, 7th and 14th Nov, but while the main attack is in the second, it is the first which is illustrated by a photograph of the Cardinal wearing a Cappa Magna. I wonder whether the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco, whose name is faintly legible at the bottom of the picture and presumably supplied it, realised that it was going to illustrate an attack on the man for whom they are urging a petition of thanks (go and sign it) and who appears so frequently on their website. Possibly not. They really should have done a little due diligence before agreeing - if they did agree - to their photo being reproduced in this rag.

For it is the Cappa Magna which serves as the constant theme of liberals wanting to attack the more conservative cardinals - Burke, Pell, Ranjith and so on - as if the very state of their souls could be read off the length of their cappas. I don't think this is a reason not to use the Cappa; Fr Ray Blake has written a very interesting post about its significance here. The liberals don't hate the Cappa because of some weirdly specific sartorial phobia, but because it asserts what absolutely has to be asserted today: the dignity of the Church's hierarchy, and the fact that this hierarchy is subordinated to tradition, the handing on of the truth from the Apostles to us. The fact that Cardinals - and for that matter, bishops and priests - can't just appear in jeans and a t-shirt is not because they can do just what they like, like rock stars, but because they can't do just what they like. They are bound to something bigger than themselves. They have something other than themselves to serve. The attack on the Cappa is an attack on the whole notion of the Church as subordinated to Christ, not our egos.

Loftus, however, homes in also on Cardinal Burke's critique of the lay couple, Mr and Mrs Pirola from Australia, who talked about welcoming a gay son into a family gathering. I've blogged about Cardinal Burke's words on this already here: Cardinal Burke's point is about exposing young children to an experience of an immoral relationship. Here is the key quote:

We wouldn’t, if it were another kind of relationship — something that was profoundly disordered and harmful — we wouldn't expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it. And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.
And so, families have to find a way to stay close to a child in this situation — to a son or grandson, or whatever it may be — in order to try to draw the person away from a relationship which is disordered.
Loftus of course ignores the second paragraph. It is always impressive to see Loftus using a quotation which appears to lend support to some point he is making when he knows, and anyone checking the context knows, that the very next sentence or two would change the sense in an important way; I've caught Loftus out doing this on many occasions. It is in fact far from clear that Cardinal Burke thinks the son himself should be excluded from Christmas dinner: the focus is on the relationship, and the context is about inviting the son and his partner to the gathering. Doing so establishes their relationship as something normal, acceptable, worthy of social recognition, just as invitations which once included 'spouses' now say 'partners'.

For Loftus' supposedly killer rejoinder is this:

Would any mother or father wish to exclude a gay son or daughter from family gatherings?

That wasn't the question. The question the Pirolas set for debate was, in their own words, this:

Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the Church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three words, ‘He is our son’.

'He is our son - and (it would seem) his partner should be treated as a potential son-in-law.' Would any Catholic mother or father want to express that to their young grandchildren?

(Isn't is a pity the Parolas can't count to four? Sheesh, academic standards in Australian schools must be low indeed.)

Victor Hugo puts in his appearance in the article from this weekend, 14th. Loftus believes that Hugo, who attended seances and refused Christian burial, is model for Pope Francis. But in a good way - apparently. Hugo's anti-clerical rants suit Loftus, though I can't help thinking he would be less comfortable if he'd been around to be the subject of them himself. For myself, I think better of Pope Francis than to imagine that he will actually refuse the Rites of the Church when he comes to die.

As a service to the public, I have put together quotations on a range of themes from Loftus' published writings, mostly his Catholic Times columns, in a dossier here, and made one of his most theologically egregious articles, on the Resurrection of Our Lord, available here.

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  1. Loftus is clearly lost. And the comic that he writes for should have the word "Catholic" removed from its title.

    Although I may not always agree with you, there is no doubt that, when you write a carefully considered piece, your ability to tear something apart is second to none.

    BUT. This is one clown in a newspaper that hardly anyone reads. There are far bigger dangers. You know that. You occasionally write about them.

    He is not saying anything that a majority (probably a large one) of teachers in Catholic schools believe and will, in various ways, ensure that as many as possible of their charges believe too.

    If you would turn your attentions away from this one lost man, and towards "Catholic"Education on a more regular basis, and somewhere else as well as your blog, you could really help people to see what is going on in the Church's name.

    Please consider.

    1. If you could send me something to 'tear apart' I'll give it a go. Something, ideally, from a source purportedly Catholic, at least semi-official, in the public domain (preferably online), with some influence.

  2. Will do. I need to find something specific for you but will keep this on mind whenever I can.
    My main concern is education and undoubtedly my sons' Head Teachers comment at New Parents Evening two years ago "This is a Catholic School" repeated about twenty times.
    This is NOT a Catholic School.
    However I accept that it's not much to go on, and will find something more concrete.