Dealing with Corruption

From Fr Dwight Longenecker’s article “Help, I’m Sinking in the Quicksand of Scandal‘:

When you stop again and think again, why did you expect anything else, and furthermore, wouldn’t you be suspicious of a church which wasn’t riddled with sin and populated by sinners? Have you ever been involved with one of those creepy religious communities (and I’ve know both Protestant and Catholic versions) where everyone is smiling all the time and pious 24/7 and always sweet and holy? Don’t such communities actually give you the creeps? They do me.

I love the church. I love the faithful people. I love the triumphs. I love the tragedies because I see in all these things we are more than conquerors. I see in all these things God’s mysterious hand of providence at work. This is the lesson from the Old Testament–that God is working his way out in the world not only despite the human frailties and failures but through them. Yep. He doesn’t just steer around them, he uses them to accomplish his final purpose.

Remember that all is harvest. He will use even the sin to accomplish salvation. Isn’t that what a crucifix says? Here was history’s darkest deed. Here was mankind’s most terrible action–they killed their own savior, and through that action God saved the world.

If he can do that, then I believe his promise that he will never forsake his church and that even all the hordes of the underworld, howling from the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.


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On Disagreements

Our son recently messaged:

“I just don’t get how you can claim to be a Christian and support this administration.”

I replied:

Yes, I know that Daniel and I find it VERY interesting that you can not. While years ago I would have thought ‘well, he’s just not trying to understand’ I am more inclined to think that this is a good illustration of the view that, for example, political disagreements/discussions are rarely fruitful unless there is underlying agreement on worldview (and worldview disagreements are rarely fruitful unless there is underlying agreement on philosophy/theology).

     I don’t guess you’ve read Alasdair MacIntyre’s book After Virtue?
He explores this phenomenon in detail there (ie folks talking ‘past’ one another due to disagreements at a more fundamental level).
   I recently came across an interesting article on this:
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Some Books on Mathematical Analysis

  • Understanding Analysis, 2nd edition, by Stephen Abbott
  • Complex Variables, 2nd edition, by Robert Ash
  • Measure and Category, 2nd edition, by John Oxtoby

These have a similar style which I admire. By the way, I’m a Platonist insofar as I agree with his advice that studying mathematics is an essential preliminary to philosophy. There aren’t many Platonists in this sense.

On the other hand, I think technology is very important and clearly the most important technology is language. The language experts are not the philosophers but the poets.

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Commitment, Continuity, and Conversation

The particular spirituality of the Appalachian Riders For Our Lady is based on our three foundational principles of commitment, continuity and conversation in addition to the general Catholic evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability adapted to a lay context. The Riders strive to promote a conversational culture, proclaiming Christ crucified, authentically Christian and Catholic, in the midst of a world largely lacking culture of any sort.  Our vows of commitment, continuity, and conversation do not necessarily mean that we have any natural inclination or talent in these areas. My booklist, which is in a way deep in history (each Rider, during their novitiate, settles on at most 24 books of primary importance), is:

  • Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version
  • The Liturgy of the Hours, unabridged
  • The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
  • Summa Theologica; St Thomas Aquinas
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • Twenty One Plays;  William Shakespeare
  • Complete English Poems; John Donne
  • Collected Poems & Prose; Robert Frost
  • One Hundred Songs; by  Bob Dylan
  • Pride and Prejudice; by Jane Austen
  • Persuasion; a novel by Jane Austen
  • The Age of Innocence; Edith Wharton
  • A Burnt Out Case; by Graham Greene
  • Multivariable Calculus; Lax & Terrell
  • Advanced Programming; Richard Stevens
  • Geometry of Spacetime; James Callahan
  • The Parish Book of Chant, 2nd edition
  • Blood & Thunder; by Hampton Sides
  • Veritatis Splendor; Saint John Paul II
  • Compendium of the Catholic Catechism

The Appalachian Riders For Our Lady have a particular interest in the season of Ascensiontide, which we consider nearly as important as Advent and Lent.  My particular interest is: That ecclesial bodies with very different ecclesiologies seem to have very similar understandings of theology proper, e.g. the Trinity.  Emphasis on “seem”.


Thomas Gwyn and MaryAlice Dunbar

Christian Perspectives

The foundation of everything is Christ Jesus, and him crucified. However, beyond the personal aspects of that, what are the implications for our social relationships?

I want to commend the Catholic perspective to you. Of course, that raises several questions:

  • Is it reasonable to speak of THE Catholic perspective?
  • Is my characterization of this perspective warranted?
  • Can one also speak of THE Protestant perspective, especially given the range of protestant ecclesial bodies?

I propose that the protestant perspective is that the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the individual or, at most, the congregation. On the other hand, I commend the Catholic perspective: the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the universal Church, the Bride of Christ, extended in spacetime and militantly subsisting in the Catholic Church whose chief steward is the bishop of Rome. Besides addressing those preliminary questions, I intend to commend the Catholic perspective in three aspects:

  • better able to cope with adversity
  • more resources for spiritual formation
  • closer alignment with the scriptural canon

All these points are controversial; however, I intend not to argue for them but rather to chew on them.  The difference between a primarily individual perspective and a primarily ecclesial perspective also has a significant political component since the State desires no competitor to its hegemony (see, for example, Alan Jacobs biography of The Book of Common Prayer which documents how this worked out in England) and hence is inclined to favor an individual perspective which it can divide and conquer.

I’m also assuming that the more alive an entity, the more applicable the principle that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In addition, whenever possible I’d like to phrase matters sociologically rather than ecclesiologically. A major advantage of a perspective more social than individual is that one can “check one’s answers”– the boredom of, for example, discussion about end-time scenarios or sectarian doctrine being that one can not check one’s theory in one’s day to day life and interactions with others as one can, on the other hand, regarding ethics and how to live in community.

On a personal level, I think the core of the Protestant error centers on the attempt to place faith above love (see Luther’s commentary on Galatians) contra Saint Paul and the Catholic tradition.

The noted Evangelical scholar Mark Noll, in the book ‘Is the Reformation Over’, argues that Catholic and Protestant disagreements really come down to different understandings of the nature of the Church.  I don’t disagree; however, I very much disagree with the view that “well, maybe so but that’s not important to’s my personal relationship with God that is important.”  The nature of the Church is essentially intertwined with the work of the Holy Spirit, as is reflected in the Nicene creed.  God is able to sustain what was initially established (..I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it) and it is wrong-headed to try to start over on one’s own.


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The Season of Ascension

Ascension is a season and not merely a day, whenever celebrated. Just as the Church requires the seasons of Advent and Lent for her spiritual formation in anticipation of  Incarnation and Easter, the Church most urgently needs to pay attention to God’s insistence that disciples wait and pray, in the earthly city of God, as they await ‘power from on high’.

Amid various real needs, the suffering Church urgently needs to remember ‘the one thing necessary’: God, as we groan together in unity.

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Apologia Pro Vita Sua

The edition John Cardinal Newman’s Apologia that I use is Frank Turner’s “Apologia Pro Vita Sua and Six Sermons”. However, I recognize that Turner has an ax to grinds and so want to refer to Stanley Jaki’s review of an earlier book by Turner in the New Oxford Review.

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Twenty One Plays by Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Much Ado About Nothing
As You Like It
Twelfth Night
All’s Well That Ends Well
Measure for Measure
King Lear
Richard II
Henry IV, Part One
Henry IV, Part Two
Henry V
Henry VIII
Julius Caesar
Antony and Cleopatra
Troilus and Cressida

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