Category Archives: Articles

More of the Francis Effect: Bad Satire

Readers may recall my article dissecting a fake news piece that got linked to the Drudge Report and other sites as “actual news”. There is, sadly, a good deal more of that going on. There is an ever increasing proliferation of fake news, attempting to copy the Onion, some of it decent, some of it in bad taste. And of course, there is a lot of proliferation of Pope Francis fake news.

Admittedly, Francis is an easy target, and I am not uncritical of the Pope. Unguarded and careless statements, made off the cuff or otherwise, have become almost legendary. We have had, to name a few, “Who are you to judge”; “We don’t have to be like rabbits”; “The Reform of the Reform is a mistake”; “We need a one world political authority”; “We need a miracle for the Family to accept scandalous things” etc., all verified and true statements that have caused great concern and consternation among Catholics. Then we can add his actions, appointing an open manifest heretic, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., to a pontifical council, giving a platform to pro-abortion UN divines for his encyclical, inviting lesbians to the Vatican or apologizing for sharing the faith in Latin America, have likewise caused such scandal that, one can almost believe Francis would say anything. Increasingly, I find this sentiment amongst friends who go to the Novus Ordo. It’s not a Trad thing anymore.

Still, the latest is completely absurd: “Pope Francis says unwed mother’s must be forcibly sterilized to stop climate change.” The website is obviously fake, and it cites the source as Francis’ encyclical, where the Pope actually said the opposite (no. 50). This did make the rounds and in spite of it’s absurdity, some news sites and people, particularly on facebook, did accept it as fact, even though a quick google search would have pulled up an easy snopes article showing it is false (which is less work than verifying through the Vatican website, as I suggested the last time I wrote on this topic).

Now, the fake news article in itself is not particularly of interest to me. Rather, I have several observations.

1) That people could or would accept this is evidence of how poorly team Bergoglio has managed the Pope’s message. The frequent gaffes and off the cuff statements referenced above, combined with instant clarification from Fr. Lombardi, and the use of the Pope’s words by the media, whether in context or not, are evidence of the complete failure of the Vatican Press Office and others to use media to present what the Pope wants to teach, and as a result, people are prepared to believe anything. One can only blame the media so much, as it is obvious the secular media has an axe to grind against the Church, and poorly made and ill-prepared statements only give them the perfect opportunity. It doesn’t exculpate the media, but at the same time, the Vatican clearly needs to control how it presents info. All we need to do is turn back to John Paul II’s pontificate to witness an efficient and well run press office. Those who know me, or followed the old incarnation of this website, know I was no fan of that pontificate, nevertheless, John Paul II’s messages were carefully prepared and crafted, he never made off the cuff remarks that could be easily misinterpreted and taken miles in another direction by the media, let alone things disparaging to Traditional Catholics, though he no doubt strongly disagreed with them (e.g. Francis’ many pejorative terms for those cultivating traditional spirituality).

2) There is a wider critique here than Francis, which is the credulity our culture places in news, and it’s lack of discernment in regard to sources. Too often we read headlines, and take that to be true without any further question. The Drudge Report is an obvious example. Only crazy news junkies click on every single link and discerningly read every story. In reality most people skim and click on the more interesting stories. On top of that, Drudge then has a lot of power to manipulate headlines to his particular point of view. For example, one time he linked an article and wrote the headline: “Organic food contains ecoli”, but when you went to the article it was organic food sent to a packing plant that was contaminated with ecoli originating with conventional food. Such is the power of headlines. Not to say Drudge is evil, but it would be foolish to think he didn’t have his own agenda, and he would certainly admit to it, unlike the MSM.

3) This website is but one of many proliferating fake news under the guise of satire. The success of websites like The Onion has spawned a legion of fake news sites, well produced, tolerably written that are supposed to be “satire”. There are two problems with this.

a) A lot of these news outlets hire out writers and accept nearly anything, which is just stuff re-written from other news articles, and can include many false or incorrect things. I know this because I’ve earned money doing this on various contracting websites for writing, though I never wrote anything I knew to be false. Others did and it was clear. The goal is to get content with buzzwords that brings more clicks and increase advertising revenue. This doesn’t help inform the public, or provide any beneficial service. Internet has provided us with an easy way around the Main Scream Media, to reach out and provide news, find news, and in another word, form alternative media without them. The problem comes in with the fact that anyone can do this, and create nonsense. Alternative media needs to be self policing and adhere to strict standards itself, to prevent the proliferation of fake news.

b) Just as importantly, the proliferation of fake news occurs under the guise of  “satire”. It would be helpful if we reviewed what satire really is. According to the Oxford English dictionary Satire is: “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” It uses irony, juxtaposition, oxymoron, humor and other things to mock something else.

 There are several modes of satire, and it has been realized differently by different peoples. For the classical culture, i.e. Greek and Roman culture, satire could be a poem or prose that makes a mockery of social movements or peoples. It is often only understood by context (which is why St. Jerome famously burned his copy of Juvenal, saying “If you weren’t written to be understood, to the fire with you.”), and makes play of contemporary things. One of my favorite verses of Satire is from

Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Horace:
Parturient montes, et nascetur ridiculus mus. (Ars Poetica,  139)
The Mountanins will labor, and a ridiculous mouse will be born.

The point of this is to poke fun at great labors which produce meagre results. In Fr. Vincent McNabb’s biography of St. John Fisher, he applies this verse to Cromwell’s great labor to open the safe in the Rectory of the Bishop of Rochester, thinking there was some great treasure inside. Cromwell employed several blacksmiths to get it open, and when it was done they found—a hair shirt!

Or Again:

Non satis est puris versum perscribere verbis.
It is not enough to lay out refined words in verse. (Satira, bk 1 Satire IV, line 54)

Here he means that some poets think they’re clever by literary devices, but there is no content being applied to them, similar to a history book name dropping all sorts of books but failing to provide a unified narrative to make the history intelligible. And so on and so forth. I could talk much more about classical literature, but this will do for now.

More recent satires can be seen in the 19th century with the British magazine Punch. While putting down a revolt in India, General Sir Charles Napier took the province of Sind, and he sent a dispatch back: “I have Sind.” Punch displayed the headline in Laitn: Peccavi. Today that would fall on deaf ears, but in an age where all the readers of Punch could be counted on to have classical educations, they would know that meant “I have sinned”, and thus the pun.

Or in another mode, Chesterton declared: “Politicians and diapers should be changed often, and for the same reason.”

Or more recently, after the Pope used a “burger king” as his sacristy in Bolivia, the Onion ran a satirical photoshop of Pope Francis flipping burgers on the balcony of St. Peter’s. This is amusing and useful satire, it draws attention to Francis condemning international capitalism, while using a creation of that for his mega liturgy in Bolivia. Now, in fairness to Francis, that might have been the only facility suitable for this purpose, who knows. The point remains.

All these are examples of satire to bring attention to cultural or political events. They make good satire, within the contexts they were written in. Part of today’s problem is that the culture is just so weird, it is almost impossible to satire. I wonder if Wodehouse or Waugh would be able to satire today’s culture? Perhaps not. The overarching point is that the proliferation of this fake news is not truly satirical, and frankly dangerous, because we are approaching a point where we can’t really know anything. When you read about a place called Russia, to which you have never been, you are taking it on natural faith that it is there, because people tell you or show you satellite photos or pictures purportedly from there. What if someone was to tell you that there is no such place, that it is a hoax produced in a studio with photo and video and the whole history is manufactured? If you have never been there, normally such while possible would not be plausible, for so many books could not be written, or a whole language created, so many people certain about a country that does not exist. Potentially, the endless proliferation of fake news makes such scenario somewhat plausible.

Review: The Rending of Christendom from Cruachan Hill Press

Presbyterians reject the book of Common Prayer in the Kirk, 1636

Presbyterians reject the book of Common Prayer in the Kirk, 1636

What is History? This is actually a more difficult and debated question than it would first seem. To the average mind, particularly having gone through public education, history is what the textbook said and what the teacher tested me on. Boring dates and battles memorized by rote or movies we watched while the teacher was busy. The more banal rendering would be these guys did this to those guys.

In reality history is much more than this. History relies on collecting written documents, archeology, use and nuance of language, art and poetry and weaving it into a narrative of a given people or culture. But how do we know that? For example, have you ever stopped and asked: “How do we know what we’re told about ‘x’ is true?” This is a far more complicated question. When you look at an artist’s conception of what Ancient Rome looked like, how do you know it really looked this way? While it might not be hard to figure out what the Flavian Ampitheatre (Coliseum) looked like, what about a street model or plan of Ancient Rome? In reality these are guesses based on archeology or what few monuments survive form the period. In the end we don’t really know that. So what can we know about history?

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St. John Fisher: Resistance to Tyranny

St.JohnFisher2Today is the feast of the twin martyrs, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. There are books yet to be written on both, for all that have been written, but since so many more have been written on the latter I wish to write more on the former.

Now, in the first place, Fisher was a far greater theologian than St. Thomas More, who was a rhetorician and a lawyer, though no less devout a layman than Fisher was a bishop. Fisher established the seminary system in all but name, and made sure good preaching was the norm. This is rather an interesting thing.  In the late Renaissance, patronage, which was designed to move ahead those who were worthy had become instead a way of rewarding friends and picking favorites. Men became pastors and bishops solely due to royal favor, and the Popes tended not to care because they received the first year’s income of that diocese, a sort of Church tax called the Annates. Suffice it to say the whole thing had gone very wrong in the fifteenth century, and now preaching was a rarity. Some Bishops did not preach a sermon in their lives. Many bishops lived elsewhere, and would attempt to have other dioceses consecrated under them, or when those had been exhausted abbeys, so they could live it up in Paris or Rome or some other large city, and appoint a vicar for low pay to administer his diocese. These often did not do so well, particularly since they were not paid for the job. At the time St. Charles Borromeo entered Milan as its Archbishop, there had not been a Bishop who actually resided in Milan for 125 years! Yet that holy reforming bishop had a portrait of two saints in his room, one of St. Ambrose, and the other of St. John Fisher.

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Sandro Magister in the Pontificate of Mercy

sandro_magisterMany readers following papal affairs may be familiar with Sandro Magister’s blog. He is a veteran journalist writing for the Italian paper L’Espresso. He is also noted for having the cajones to criticize Francis and not fall in line like so many yes men, even though he is by no stretch a Traditionalist. His blog chiesa (linked above) also has good English translations, making commentary closer to the Vatican accessible for those who do not speak Italian. Continue reading

More reasons to ignore Pope Francis quotes

Mideast PopeThere are lots of quotes running around from Pope Francis, which cause fulminations on Facebook, or other places. Now what Francis actually says is troubling enough, but too often, and perhaps because of his unprepared speeches where he confuses people, it is more believable when hoaxes appear as though they were what he had said. Continue reading

Temporary break

I apologize for the break in posting. I was hoping to keep things more regular. I have, however, been very busy. Later today, I hope to announce the publication of the first-ever English translation of St. Robert Bellarmine’s De Romano Pontifice, books 1-2. Books 3-5 are planned for next month, depending on the editors.

It is interesting. After I produce a rough draft, which isn’t usually as hard on grammar as on punctuation, I then go and edit and reformulate a bit. Then the editor gets it and I get it back with a ton of red. Most of it is punctuation. The problem is when you are looking at a book from the 1580s, you tend to use the punctuation you are looking at unless you can consciously stop and think about what you’re doing, which is hard when your managing making the English work. Usually, it is that commas and semicolons are in the exact opposite places they ought and things of that sort.Then there is the Oxford comma. I love the Oxford comma, no one else does. Then there are the differences between US and UK spelling, and I get mixed up as I admire UK English and so wish we used it over here. (btw, now would be a good time to apologize to any UK readers of my work for not using what I consider your superior style in spelling and punctuation).

Then I run spell check, which is tedious because of the large number names that you have to either add or skip, then I format it for a proof copy, then I read it over again. Then I control F and look for the common spelling errors as a result of my typing speed, such as hte for the, and the like, and surprisingly I always get at least one, even after all the aforesaid labor! Then I normally give things like this to my wife, because, though she is not theologically trained, she is sharp and has a good sense for what people will understand, and make further recommendations which are usually very good, unless it’s on an area of technical terminology or something. That saved my tail with the last Bellarmine translation, because I do my own translations from the fathers, and a few of them made sense to me because I looked at the Latin and the Greek and it made sense, but in plain English it was too harsh, so I had to discipline myself to take a careful look. The frustrating thing is I do the work of about five people who are normally involved in the production of the book, including the cover design.

At any rate, I hope to make this announcement later in the day, once the proof is approved and the Amazon page loads. You can also buy it direct from me, and I will have that page linked up as well.

Thanks to all for the prayers and support for the Robert Bellarmine project. I know most people will buy the book for Book II, Chapter 30 (loss of papal office), but that is a minor point. On that note, a sedevacantist e-mailed me demanding to know if I translated that particular section correctly. The cheek! One can rest assured that while I may make an error, I will never mis-represent something in translation. You will find that section better than it is currently found online.

But don’t get mired in a 7 page explication out of a 330 page book! There are so many amazing things in here. In fact, in the wikipedia page on Papal primacy, they list a number of arguments against Papal primacy as though they were unanswerable, yet they are all refuted by Bellarmine in this book. Things like did the African Bishops reject papal authority in the Sixth Council of Carthage? Did Peter go to Rome? The chronology and history of Peter. That only the Bishop of Rome has been held to be the head of the whole Church. Every argument is grounded in Scripture and the Fathers. Bellarmine also injects a good bit of humor into the book. For instance: “Illyricus (a Lutheran) has published a book on this subject, which is filled with lies, abuse, and besides two arguments.”

I might even have a special deal for all readers of this website.