The tributes were glowing, and plentiful. Bouquets of flowers; placard-sized pictures, propped up on easels outside Apple stores worldwide, complete with votive candles; and, of course, shiny red apples, with a carefully-taken bite out of each – and all the rest of the conventional absurdities of the day that pass for “tribute” to this world’s “icons.” We’re talking, of course, about Steve Jobs, the founder and CEO of Apple Computer. His death on October 5 was a major media event on every continent (with the possible exception of Antarctica), with tributes flowing in from just about every corner of the world, and every major news source imaginable. In many instances, regularly scheduled programming was interrupted to announce his death. Heads of state noted his passing. He even made the front page of L’Osservatore Romano. From all the media hoopla and the “reverential” tone of the tributes accorded him at his death, one would think that he was Padre Pio and Mother Theresa all rolled into one.
But one would not have to dig very far beneath the surface to find out the Jobs was anything but that. For instance, I wonder how many of the people who use those iPhones and iPads realize that they were made in most cases by slave labor in Chinese factories? It is reported that in one of the factories there, “nets” were installed outside the factory’s windows. The reason? Too many of the factory’s employees, despondent over working long hours for less than eight bucks a day, were committing suicide by jumping out of those windows – so, “nets” were installed to catch them. Couldn’t let ‘em jump -- bad for business! It kind of makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over that they installed those nets, doesn’t it? I wonder if Stevie boy, who was worth some 8+ billion dollars, considered those nets a “good business decision”? To say that he was unaware of those nets or of the factory conditions that precipitated their implementation is simply inconceivable.
Then there’s his liver transplant. Jobs proudly stated in one of his celebrated “product-launch events” that he had received a liver from a 22-year old donor who had “died in a car accident.” The only problem though, Steve, is that this “donor” didn’t die in that car accident, but afterwards, after his (her?) liver was harvested – because, for an organ to “work,” it must come from a living, breathing person – not a cadaver. That donor had to have been living when that liver was removed; then the donor left to die. And for what -- so Jobs could have a couple more years before he too (inevitably) succumbed?
Because some doctor “determined” that the donor was “brain dead,” said donor was judged to be “irretrievable” and then put to death so that Steve Jobs could have his few more years of borrowed time. I wonder how much more time in purgatory – or somewhere else – that this got him as well? I wonder if he – wherever he is now -- thinks it was worth it? The “bottom line” for Steve Jobs is death – dead at 56. In spite of receiving a liver transplant harvested from a 22-year old “donor,” in spite of his 8-plus billions, he’s in the grave, just as the poorest pauper will be – just as we all will be. And where will he be when eternity comes knocking at the door? I have a feeling that -- when the Court of Divine Justice convenes -- he will be “trading places” with many of those factory workers!
How did Jobs come to have such a callous disregard for human life? From his Buddhist philosophy? Although that may be part of it, that mindset actually springs from America’s Protestant roots: from the Protestant concept of fides sola, the Calvinist notion that one can do whatever one wants, so long as he “believes in Christ” – that good works are not necessary for salvation. That kind of thinking is what paved the way for the robber baron capitalism of Andrew Carnegie, the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, and the rest. As long as one went to church on Sunday, what he did in the “business world” didn’t matter; since good works aren’t “necessary,” it logically follows that “bad works” are no barrier to one’s salvation, so – what the heck – go ahead, exploit your neighbor! Take advantage of him, mistreat him, dispossess him -- no problem! God will smile on you, as long as you “have the faith.”
That is the practical result, the ultimate fruit borne of the fides sola principle that Calvin set into motion. And although it began as a purely Protestant thing, it has alas crept into everyone’s thinking these days. We would like to think that traditional Catholicism is immune from it – but it is not. On the contrary, it has adopted it and made it its own. So many of today’s traditional Catholics think that if one “says all the right prayers” and “does all the right devotions,” one will get to heaven. Although traditional Catholicism preaches “faith and good works,” in practice some of its adherents all too often mimic the fides sola mindset. That is why so many of them can follow priests who do the wrong things, so long as they say the “right” things.
And, sometimes, even when they say the wrong things, some people still follow them, as long as they look and sound “traditional” in other respects – especially in rubrics and other “appearances.” That is why some people follow a Cekada who gets it totally wrong about Schiavo (and who lies and slanders at will, whether it be about a venerable deceased abbot or anyone else), so long as he gives them their “pretty Latin Mass,” with its incense, polyphonic music, and all the rest of the “traditional trappings.” However, beautiful as these things may be, they are only the “cover” -- not the “book.” If the substance of Catholicism is not there, they make it only an exercise in nostalgia and a caricature of itself.
Another facet of this “appearances” mentality is the Pharisaic prudishness that has crept into the thinking of so many traditional Catholics. They can tolerate all manner of duplicity, subterfuge, lying, and injustice from someone, as long as he comports himself with “proper etiquette and decorum” in doing so, and “says things nicely.” But conversely, God help the poor soul who speaks out against some injustice, but -- in his righteous anger -- slips up and uses a four-letter word; he’ll invariably be condemned by them as “un-Catholic.” It seems that, for these hypocrites, it doesn’t matter if one engages in parlor-room tricks, as long as he uses parlor-room talk.
Besides the fides sola mentality, the other hallmark of Protestantism is its reliance on individual interpretation of Scripture, which has led inevitably to the disunity that plagues Protestantism to this day. But, as pointed out in an earlier article, traditional Catholicism is not immune from that either. In fact, it seems to have embraced it and made it its own; organizationally -- and even doctrinally -- “traddie-land” is “all over the map.” Instead of unity, we have reverted to a sort of “feudal system” of little fiefdoms where each little potentate holds court over his own particular entourage, being sure to invoke some doctrinal or canonical technicality to set his flock apart from the others – and convince his flock that his cause is the only “valid” one. By “guilt-tripping” them and/or by out-and-out threats of “excommunicating” them (which no traditional cleric has the power or jurisdictional authority to do), he then keeps them from defecting -- safely “inside the castle walls.”
The fruit that traditional Catholicism has borne has been not only disunity but in-fighting and “turf wars” as well among rival factions. The arch-examples of this sort of thing are, of course, Daniel Dolan and Anthony Cekada. They have given a new (and unintended) meaning to the term “Church Militant.” Not only have they used the “guilt-trip” tactic to keep parishioners within the SGG fold, but they have vehemently vilified the many who have defected from there -- being especially vindictive towards Fr. Markus Ramolla. Because he stood up to the myriad abuses perpetrated by them and their sadistic school principal (all of which are well-documented), he was expelled by them, after which they conducted a systematic smear campaign against him – including an abortive attempt to get him deported (see related article).
Although all of these measures having failed miserably, they have still kept at it. Their latest ploy, as this website’s last article pointed out, was to make a video (on You Tube, no less) depicting Fr. Ramolla as Adolf Hitler! It makes one wonder why, instead of going after a fellow Catholic on such a witch-hunt, they don’t direct their ire against the real enemies of Catholicism – especially Moslems. Why? -- because they’re interested only in protecting their own little pieces of turf. They’re only interested in giving people the trappings -- not the substance – of Catholicism. They’re interested only in filling up the church pews -- and the collection basket. They can’t be bothered with taking real Catholic stands on things such as Schiavo, brain death, and organ transplants, or in directing their efforts against our enemies without. They seem to be interested more in cannibalizing traditional Catholicism than they are in fighting the real enemies without who are knocking at our door.
At St. Albert’s and its new seminary, we will bother to take those stands, and to fight those real enemies. The Dolans and Cekadas of the world can squabble over their turf and can continue in their vain efforts to slander their fellow Catholics with puerile, tasteless videos; but their scheming will come to naught: persecution has always helped the Church, not hurt it. That is why, in spite of their best efforts, St. Albert the Great Church will continue to grow and flourish. It and its seminary will not only look Catholic but will be Catholic as well. They will take Catholic stands on the issues that require it, and will neither “waffle” on such issues nor be ambiguous about them in order to avoid “controversy.” At the same time, it will never be St. Albert’s policy to coerce or intimidate its parishioners into taking stands on issues that are not articles of faith, or to require such “stands” as being necessary for membership in the congregation – nor will parishioners be threatened with expulsion on such grounds.
Traditional Catholicism needs to cleanse itself of the Protestant mindset that has infected it, and get back to thinking that is clear and correct – that is truly Catholic. To repeat, there is more to Catholicism than “appearances”; there is more to it than “getting the rubrics right.” What good is a “letter-perfect” Mass if one does not stand up for the sanctity of Terri Schiavo’s life, or take a stand against the life-ending evils of our day? – not just against abortion, but the false concept of “brain death” as well, which has given rise to a multi-billion industry in the trafficking of human organs, where people are routinely put to death to have their organs harvested (it is suspected that many people in third-world countries who “disappear” are abducted for just that purpose). Again, what good are those letter-perfect rubrics if one does not take a real stand against such travesties as these?
It’s time for people to start thinking again, logically and dispassionately, and not to base their beliefs or allegiances on emotions and ”appearances” or on how much “charisma” this or that priest has, but on facts. We must look beneath the surface of things to find what the real story is, whether it be with a Steve Jobs or a Dolan or a Cekada. Regardless of how many iPhones, iPods, and iPads the one gave us, or the “pretty Latin Mass” that the other two did, we must look past “appearances” and look at their real track records – not at some cosmetic fantasy based on wishful thinking or feigned unawareness. If we do not, we will be turning our backs on what is right. We will be turning our backs on God. And if we turn our backs on Him, He will turn His back on us.