No Hell Below Us, Above Us Only Sky

It’s almost a commonplace that hell is never mentioned in most Catholic homilies anymore, nor is it even alluded to.  But it’s even more of a problem that heaven, while never mentioned by name (out of

embarrassment, I think), is even more misunderstood than hell.

As to the banishment of hell, you need look no further than today’s Mass readings, which feature Our Lord’s parable of the invited guests, many of whom ignore the invitation to come in to the feast.  The parable ends with a stern warning about hell …

But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. 
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Mat. 22:11-14)

The text of this dramatic ending of the reading is bracketed by the bishops – which means it is optional for the priest or deacon to read it.

Our priest today opted not to read the conclusion of the parable, which served to achieve the obvious: the parable loses its sting, and in some ways is robbed of its main point.

His homily reminded me of what you’ll experience at most Catholic parishes at the Easter Sunday Mass.  “Hey, everybody!  Lent is over!  We can go back to eating chocolate!!!”  The Resurrection is shorn of its true joy and drained of any real depth, even psychological depth.

For our universe has been flattened.  Banish the terrors of hell and you end up with a hole where heaven ought to be.  “No hell below us, above us only sky,” as John Lennon wrote – though I’m not even sure the sky is up there anymore.

Heaven has become either an all-you-can-eat buffet – which is more of less what the wedding feast symbolized in Our Lord’s parable, according to our homilist – or a place where everybody is nice and smiles at one another – a kind of psych ward for lobotomy patients.

And while the Kingdom of God is among us, and we get glimpses of it in the unsung bravery and love of the many ordinary people in our lives, that fleeting sense of a “joy beyond the walls of this world, poignant as grief” is utterly absent from our typical notions of eternal life with the Holy Trinity and the saints.

I think this kind of culture – or, more accurately, this vapid lack of culture – which, aside from the sacraments, is the only thing put forward in the Catholic Church at the typical parish level these days bears fruit.  It produces the young men who do things like this.

The transcendent exists.  It is in a more fundamental way than we are – but if we can’t approach the transcendent (either heaven or hell) at church, then where can we approach it?

Faith & Physics: Fr. LeMaître and the Big Bang

Faith & Physics: Fr. LeMaître and the Big Bang

The new issue of the St. Austin Review is winging its way to the printers. This issue’s theme is “Faith & Physics: Fr. LeMaître and the Big Bang”. Highlights:

John Beaumont raises the curtain on the theme with an “Introduction to a Great Priest Cosmologist”.

Julio A. Gonzalo looks at “LeMaître, Einstein and the Birth of Modern Cosmology”.

Manuel Alfonseca compares “The Big Bang and Alternative Theories”, asking the question: “Did the Universe have a Beginning?”

John Farrell explains “How Georges LeMaître went Beyond the Event Horison”.

Lucia Guerra Menéndez focuses on “LeMaître on Cosmic Evolution”.

Stacy A. Trasancos asks: “Is the Big Bang Proof of God’s Existence?”

Rory O’Donnell discusses “Thomas Aquinas and the Dangers of Looking for God in the Big Bang”.

Donald DeMarco argues that behind the Big Bang is an intelligent being: In Principio erat Verbum.

Kevin O’Brien weighs the claims of science with the confusion of scientism: “The Big Bang or the Big Whimper?”

Fr. Dwight Longenecker examines “C. S. Lewis and the Fruits of Scientism”.

Mike Aquilina discovers “Excellence for God’s Glory” in the architecture of Henry Menzies.

Fr. Benedict Kiely asks a provocative question: “Is Nationalism a Sin?”

K. V. Turley relives Altamont ’69 with the Rolling Stones, finding “Too Much Sympathy for the Devil”.

Susan Treacy appreciates Michael Kurek’s new CD, admiring “A New Kind of Nashville Sound”.

James Bemis revisits the movie, Thérèse.

Matthew P. Akers reviews Conserving America? by Patrick J. Deneen.

Marie Dudzik reviews Monaghan: A Life by Joseph Pearce.

Stephen Brady reviews The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islamby Douglas Murray.

Carol Anne Jones reviews Issues of the English Reformation by Peter Milward, SJ.

Joseph Pearce remembers the late Peter Milward, SJ.

Plus new poetry by Mike Aquilina, Wendy Gist, James Skene and Nicholas Zinos.

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Naming the Heresy

From an email to a friend …

I keep searching for the name of the general attitude that unites liberal Catholics (including some bishops and cardinals) with the gender-bending secularists of our day.  I’m trying to find a better word than “Modernism”, which is too vague and has lost most of its punch.  The key mistaken belief of the liberalists / nihilists seems to be that we create meaning, we don’t discover it.  But what’s the word for that belief, and for a life lived in accord with that belief?
Here’s a phrase that works from an article on a website called Areo …

In Plato’s Theaetetus, Socrates inferred that the major weakness of philodoxy is the inevitable capitulation to crowd-speak. Specifically, Socrates made fun of Protagoras’s homo-mensura, which asserts, “Man is the measure of all things.” For clarity’s sake, the homo-mensura can be interpreted as this: “The human-animal’s perceptions and opinions determine the value of all things.” According to Socrates, Protagoras may as well have asserted, “Pig is the measure of all things,” or, “Baboon is the measure,” since those creatures also possess “the power of perception.” Protagoras, foiled by his own maxim, is “no better authority than a tadpole, let alone any other man.” If Protagoras’s homo-mensura is truly so weak, why does anyone bother to uphold it? One possible answer: it makes crowds happy. As the ancient progenitor of truthiness and alternative facts, the homo-mensura helps sophists win over audiences. “Everyone’s opinions are meaningful and valuable! You can decide on any scientific, political or artistic subject for yourself!” (Cue applause.) The worst effect of the homo-mensura is that it renders futile any attempt to examine or refute “each other’s ostentations and judgements,” for each individual demands respect and narcissistic recognition. “This is surely an extremely tiresome piece of nonsense,” Socrates decided.

For “Everyone’s opinions are meaningful and valuable! You can decide on any scientific, political or artistic subject for yourself!” (Cue applause) substitute, “Your individual situation determines the morality of your actions!  You can decide what is right and what is wrong!  For God Himself is asking you to put yourself in that position!  It’s what He wants!” (Cue applause.)
When Man becomes the Measure of all things, then God no longer sets the bar.  In fact, for all practical purposes, God no longer exists.  We can ignore His teaching on adultery or on anything at all.  He does not set the measure.  We do.
Because, we are homo-mensurists, and because, we are secretly certain, we are God.