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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Visitors interested in reading about aspects of the Russia Collusion Narrative are advised that such posts can be accessed through the archives for June, May, and February of 2018--see "Blog Archive" in the right hand column.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Is It Time To Rethink Some Things?

The Obamagate "community" is buzzing this morning over newly unredacted Strzok/Page texts that have been made public through the Senate. One of the texts features Strzok asking

"Did you get all our OCONUS lures approved?"

In the original public release "lures" was redacted. It has now been unredacted.

Translation: "OCONUS" = Outside the Continental US; "lures" = sting op, trap.

So, this means that Strzok was seeking authorization for informants of one sort or another--or possibly undercover (UC) agents--to approach a target OCONUS.

Now here's the kicker: this text was from 12/31/15! The FBI was already targeting someone close to Trump way back then! Since this is months before Papadopoulos and Page got near the Trump campaign, the betting is that it was Michael Flynn they were targeting. Which makes sense, because we know that the Obama Administration had it in for Flynn from his days with Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), when he wrote a paper blaming the US for the rise of ISIS.

Once again, the question arises: Was there a case opened on Flynn at that time, to provide an administrative basis for these types of investigative techniques? What kind of an investigation was this: Assessment, Preliminary Investigation, Full Investigation? Could there have been a FISA on Flynn at any time? Does this speculation have any bearing on what we know about Sally Yates and the framing of Flynn in January, 2017:

On January 27, 2017, at Mr. McGahn’s request, Ms. Yates and Mr. McGahn had another meeting. Importantly, DOJ leadership declined to confirm to the White House that Lt. Gen. Flynn was under any type of investigation. According to Mr. McGahn’s memo:
During the meeting, McGahn sought clarification regarding Yates’s prior statements regarding Flynn’s contact with Ambassador Kislyak. Among the issues discussed was whether dismissal of Flynn by the President would compromise any ongoing investigations. Yates was unwilling to confirm or deny that there was an ongoing investigation but did indicate that the DOJ would not object to the White House taking action against Flynn. (Emphasis added.) (NYT, 6/2/18)

This makes sense. DoJ and the FBI would be very reluctant, seven days after President Trump had been inaugurated, to let Trump know that they'd been investigating Flynn for up to two years (or longer!) without warning him that there was a problem. Just as James Comey and Loretta Lynch later decided not to alert to supposedly problematic Russian connections among his Foreign Policy advisers--but to continue investigating.

You have to assume that IG Horowitz knows the answers to some of my questions.

ADDENDUM: And now we learn that Another Trump Campaign Aide Was Invited to Cambridge Event Where 'Spygate' Started. That was Stephen Miller, who wasn't just "another campaign aide"--he was a key campaign aide. Was one of the "lures" directed at Miller?

MORE: Regarding the "OCONUS lures," in an appearance on Laura Ingraham's show yesterday former Ass't Director of Counterintelligence for the FBI, Kevin Brock stated:

"If the FBI opened a Source or tasked a Source to gather information particulary from a US person, before opening a formal investigation, then that would be a violation of the guidelines."

That's a true statement, but it seems highly unlikely that the plotters at the FBI were wildly disregarding all guidelines. I'm convinced that they would have gone to great lengths to maintain the appearance that they were following "the book" (per President Obama's admonition as memorialized in Susan Rice's email-to-self). The very high degree of likelihood that the FBI had AT LEAST one case open that related to the Trump campaign as early as this text (December, 2015) is apparent from the fact that Strzok's text speaks of seeking approval for the "lures" and Page's response text reads:

"No, it's just implicated a much bigger policy issue ..."

Seeking of approval from higher ups, raising of multiple policy issues--it all speaks to following the rules that apply only when a case has been opened. If no case had been opened, then there would be no point in seeking approval for anything.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Guide To Spygate, Informants, FISA

What follows is a reworked version of So, What's A "Threat To National Security"? which contains a difference in emphasis.


Kim Strassel raised an interesting question, Friday, in her regular weekly column--The Curious Case of Mr. Downer: His story about the Papadopoulos meeting calls the FBI’s into question. Alexander Downer was the Australian ambassador to the UK in 2016. As the title indicates, Strassel finds the FBI's claim that their probe of the Trump campaign was based on Downer's contact with George Papadopoulos to be ... less than credible. Strassel concludes by raising some very pointed questions:

For months we’ve been told the FBI acted because it was alarmed that Mr. Papadopoulos knew about those hacked Democratic emails in May, before they became public in June. But according to the tipster himself, Mr. Papadopoulos said nothing about emails. The FBI instead received a report that a far-removed campaign adviser, over drinks, said the Russians had something that might be “damaging” to Hillary. Did this vague statement justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?

Unlikely. Which leads us back to what did inspire the FBI to act, and when? The Papadopoulos pretext is getting thinner.

Indeed--since when does ​"something that might be 'damaging' to Hillary ... justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?"

The fact is, there is an answer to Strassel's question, and I think we'll find--in fact, recent talking points floated by James Clapper and others point in this direction--that the justification will rely on provisions of the Attorney General Guidelines. To understand ​and evaluate ​this​ defense​, however, and to avoid the pitfalls of speculating with a firm grasp of the controlling guidelines and statutes, we'll need to explore the nature of FBI investigations, because the type of investigation controls, to some extent, the type of investigative techniques that are authorized. All this is set out in detail in the Attorney General Guidelines For Domestic FBI Operations (AGG) and the FBI Domestic Investigations And Operations Guide (DIOG).

Basically, there are three types of FBI investigations that involve opening a​n investigative​ case file: 1) Assessments, 2) Preliminary Investigations, and 3) Full Investigations. The latter two are grouped as "Predicated Investigations" because, unlike in the case of an Assessent, an agent will need to present some degree of factual predication before he can open one of these types of investigation. The type of investigation that is opened will depend upon the factual situation, and if additional facts are developed in the course of the investigation the type of investigation may be upgraded.

As far as investigative techniques go, the Assessment ​serves as a baseline--any technique that can be used in an Assessment can ​also ​be used in a Preliminary or Full ​I​nvestigation. For our purposes, the important point is that the use of existing informants (Confidential Human Sources/CHS) or the recruitment of new informants is authorized for ALL three types of investigations. There has been some confusion recently regarding the use of informants before a "formal" case has been opened. The confusion arises because Assessments are sometimes confused with​ the​ informal initial checking of investigative leads conducted to determine whether or not to open an investigative case file. That type of informal checking can only be conducted using public information, not through the use of informants.

Friday, June 1, 2018

So, What's A "Threat To National Security"?

Kim Strassel raised an interesting question in her column today--The Curious Case of Mr. Downer: His story about the Papadopoulos meeting calls the FBI’s into question. As the title indicates, Strassel finds the FBI's claim that their probe of the Trump campaign was based on Downer's contact with George Papadopoulos to be ... less than credible. And she closes with these observations:

For months we’ve been told the FBI acted because it was alarmed that Mr. Papadopoulos knew about those hacked Democratic emails in May, before they became public in June. But according to the tipster himself, Mr. Papadopoulos said nothing about emails. The FBI instead received a report that a far-removed campaign adviser, over drinks, said the Russians had something that might be “damaging” to Hillary. Did this vague statement justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?
Unlikely. Which leads us back to what did inspire the FBI to act, and when? The Papadopoulos pretext is getting thinner.

Indeed--since when does ​"something that might be 'damaging' to Hillary ... justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?"

As I wrote in an email this morning, I think we'll find--in fact, recent talking points floated by James Clapper and others point in this direction--that the justification for launching a counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign on the basis of "something damaging to Hillary" will rely on provisions of the Attorney General Guidelines. Bear with me for a moment, because this will lead back to Strassel's question.

Those AG Guidelines, which govern FBI investigations, allow the FBI to open a "predicated investigation" in the following circumstance:

"A predicated investigation relating to a federal crime or threat to the national security may be conducted as a preliminary investigation or a full investigation."

The Guidelines then expand a bit on the distinction between Preliminary and Full Investigations, but for our purposes the important distinction is simply that FISA coverage is available for Full Investigations, but not for Preliminary Investigations.

If you accept the argument that a presidential campaign that seeks "dirt" on its opponent from a hostile foreign power (Russia) is engaged in conduct that arguably constitutes activity that is a "threat to the national security," and if you further accept that the FBI's claims regarding the credibility of its Papadopoulos narrative, then you'll likely agree with Trey Gowdy's notion that the FBI was acting quite properly. Or, to be very specific, you'll likely agree that a Preliminary Investigation was warranted, since the Guidelines allow for a Preliminary Investigation to be "initiated on the basis of information or an allegation" of a "threat to the national security." "Information or an allegation" is a fairly low bar.

Virtually all commentary that I've read focuses on the initiation of an FBI Full Investigation on July 31, 2016. Commentators who have constructed timelines of events--an excellent idea, in and of itself--then argue that the use of informants or "spies" against the Trump campaign prior to July 31, 2016--for which there is considerable evidence--violated the AG Guidelines.

While it's possible that the FBI willfully violated the Guidelines it seems unlikely--bureaucracies don't often operate in such a reckless fashion. Moreover, this view ignores an important possibility, namely, that before the Full Investigation was initiated (July 31, 2016) there may have been a Preliminary Investigation. This approach--use of a Preliminary Investigation as a prior stage before going for a Full Investigation--fits better with the usual careful bureaucratic approach. It also, intriguingly, dovetails with President Obama's reported admonition to "do it by the book" (see below).

Sunday, May 20, 2018

UPDATED: Crossfire Hurricane: The How and Why

We're getting to the point in Obamagate where it's possible to begin to gather some of the disparate threads together. Yes, there's still plenty to uncover, but a lot of the picture is slowly emerging--and the process is gathering momentum as the Deep State begins to switch over to damage control mode. That aspect has become apparent with the revelation of Stefan Halper as a key operative for the FBI, the revelation of the codename for the FBI Full Investigation as "Crossfire Hurricane," and the floating of the desperately absurd new narrative: We weren't spying on Trump--we wanted to protect him!

To understand what Crossfire Hurricane was all about, it helps to begin with the realization that it was not the FBI's first choice--in the big picture it amounts to a fall back option that was more or less forced on the FBI by circumstances beyond their control.

Make no mistake about it--the FBI was all in with the effort to enable a Democrat presidential handoff from Obama to Clinton. In modern political campaigns, intelligence and data in digital form is essential to success, and that's where the FBI came in. Running informants, such as Halper, against the GOP wasn't going to guarantee a Clinton victory--not in and of itself. However, access to bulk amounts of sensitive inside data could play a significant role. And the FBI had that access, in the form of access to raw NSA data, which means just about all digital communications in the world. Remember Nellie Ohr? The former CIA contractor and former employee of Fusion GPS? She became a ham radio operator during the 2016 campaign, so I guess she understood what it takes to fly under the Deep State radar.

Now, the FBI wasn't about to do something totally stupid, like mine the NSA for data and ship boatloads of it over to the DNC or some other intermediary to the Clinton campaign. Not as an institution. No, the smart way to do this would be to hire non-government contractors--we'll call them Fusion GPS and Crowdstrike--to provide the FBI with "analytical assistance." As if the FBI didn't have an army of analysts already. And then give these contractors total access to NSA data without telling NSA, who would have thought that only FBI employees were combing through their data. You can read the gory details in Jeff Carlson's excellent article: The FBI’s Outside Contractors, DNC Servers & Crowdstrike.

The beauty of this approach was that it totally bypassed legal controls. There was no need to falsify things in writing, no need to make stuff up to open a Full (Counterintelligence) Investigation (FI) on a US Person (USPER), and then lie to the FISC to get FISA coverage on the USPER. No need to have to regularly renew the FISA and lie all over again to the FISC each time. Of course, it wasn't as if the FISC was doing much besides rubber stamping FISA applications but, hey, who needs the bother? And besides, better safe than sorry. Because, in the unlikely event that the FBI would be questioned about this arrangement, they could just play dumb: Gosh, we didn't know the contractors were looking at all that stuff! How do you prove criminal intent?

So this cute arrangement was humming along, working like a charm. For how long? That's hard to say, but we know that it was in operation no later than December of 2015. And the way that came to light was that in the Spring of 2016 the unlikely event actually occurred: Admiral Mike Rogers, head of NSA, learned of irregularities in FBI accessing of NSA data and did an audit of the activity. That audit covered the period beginning from December 2015, and it discovered that fully 85% of the queries failed to comply with what are called "minimization procedures" (procedures designed to shield the identities of persons who fell within certain criteria--like, USPERs who had no connection to intelligence or terrorist activities). Then, as if Rogers learning about this weren't bad enough, Rogers went and blew a whistle--to the FISC itself--and put a stop to it all. That was in April, 2016, just as it was becoming obvious that Trump was going to be the GOP candidate for President.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Antonio Livi: There Is A Disturbing Continuity Between Ratzinger And Bergoglio

In January, 2018, I wrote a series of posts on the theme of the philosophical continuity between Ratzinger and Bergoglio, beginning with a translation of a review essay by Professor Antonio Livi. Livi is a former dean and professor of philosophy at the Lateran University in Rome, and was formerly incardinated in Opus Dei. The title of that essay, "Heresy is in Power," expresses a continuing theme in Livi's commentary on the current crisis in the Church. That essay lays much of the blame for the hegemony of Modernist thought in the Church at the feet of Ratzinger, and of Ratzinger's own philosophical errors.

Today Gloria TV published a transcript of a recent interview with Livi in which Livi stated that Bergoglio "was elected to carry out a reform [of the Church] in the Lutheran sense”.  He also flatly stated that:

Francis’ election was a big set-up which will eventually lead to the recognition of Luther and to the creation of a Mass without consecration. According to Livi this revolution was already planned in the early sixties. The last fifty years were marked by the activity of “evil and heretical” theologians in order to conquer power. “Now they have conquered it.”

I also wrote a pair of posts on this same theme--the continuity between Ratzinger and Bergoglio--in March, 2018, stemming from the controversy over Ratzinger's letter that offered a theological endorsement of Bergoglio:

Bergoglio's LetterGate--Continuity and Discontinuity
A Case Study On Continuity Between Ratzinger and Bergoglio: The Spirit And "Living Tradition"

What follows is a brief interview with Livi that appeared in Italian, and which I've translated. In the interview he touches on the same theme of continuity described above, in an enlightening way--including a brief reference to the resistance that otherwise intelligent and honorable people raise to what is "an undeniable theological fact". I will simply add, with regard to Livi's claim that "Today they [Modernists] are in charge of practically all the Vatican dicasteries ", that assuming that Livi is correct in his assessment of Ratzinger's thought--and he is--then this should come as no surprise. Most of the episcopal heroes of the Neo-Catholics of the V2 Church--men such Chaput, Burke, and Pell, have long proclaimed their adherence to Ratzinger's way of thinking. The simple fact is that Wojtyła and Ratzinger largely paved the way for Bergoglio and his German masters.




Monsignor Livi: "In the Church, heresy is in power and ignorance has been canonized"


For the fifth anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Francis, Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, responsible for Vatican communication and Vatican News, revealed a letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI addressed to Pope Francis. We interviewed Monsignor Antonio Livi on this matter.
Professor Livi, does this endorsement [of Francis] by the Pope Emeritus surprise you?
"No. In the end, his letter, even if it does not touch doctrinal issues, proves that I've been right in always maintaining that there is a disturbing continuity between Ratzinger and Bergoglio in the way of exercising the ecclesiastical magisterium. Many (and among them a very esteemed friend, Antonio Socci) do not want to admit it. But from a theological point of view it's an undeniable fact, even if this observation does not imply a critique of Benedict XVI from the point of view of personal sanctity ".
Because?
"Because even previous Popes, including those who are already canonized (like John XXIII and John Paul II) or will soon be (like Paul VI), have not prevented the growing [progressiva] hegemony of neo-modernist theology in the Church. I am presenting a very significant book throughout Italy: "A bishop writes to the Holy See on the pastoral dangers of dogmatic relativism" (Leonardo da Vinci, Rome 2017) [The letters are selected and annotated by Livi.]. These are the letters that Monsignor Mario Oliveri, when he was bishop of Albenga, wrote to Pope John Paul II and to Benedict XVI to implore them to curb the invasion of neomodernistic ideas and praxis in the Church: but bishop Oliveri received no positive response from these Popes. The result is (as I always repeat) that today we have "heresy in power" in the ecclesiastical structures for teaching theology and pastoral government. I'm not surprised by this statement by Ratzinger about the common doctrinal criterion that inspired his pontificate yesterday and today inspires the pontificate of Pope Francis: because Bergoglio and Ratzinger present two faces of the same coin. The German is the cultured and professorial Pastor, the Argentine the populist and demagogue, in search of consensus with the exponents of secular culture ".
Why do you say these things about Ratzinger?
"I know him well, I respect him and venerate him as a man of God. When I had him read (in 2012) the first edition of my treatise on "True and false theology ", he replied in writing praising my work. But he certainly did not share my severe judgment on the false pro-Lutheran Catholic theology, which is opposed to the immutability of dogma and its metaphysical conceptualization, and was accepted by the ecclesiastical magisterium on the basis of Thomist theology and the scholastic tradition. Ratzinger the theologian prefers personalist, existential and dialectical theology: after all, he belongs to the theological progressivism of his friend Karl Rahner. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger often let heresy slide, or at least tolerated it. Maybe it also depends on his delicacy of mind and his meekness. However, it isn't possible to be good theologians and above all good pastors if you don't protect dogma from heresy (and the worst heresy is to say that faith does not need dogmas). He, Ratzinger, is inclined to the relativistic, historicist (according to the hermeneutical school) interpretation of absolute fidelity to dogma ".
He probably wrote those things in defense of the unity of the Church, sensing the danger of a schism ...
"I don't believe it. A substantial schism is already underway. If he really believed in dogma and intended to free the Church from heresy, he did not have to resign or could subsequently disapprove the theses of Pope Francis. I have the feeling that it's skillful role playing. Francis is the demagogue, Ratzinger the cautious one ".
And the Church?
"It's in trouble. It's a result of the seizure of power by modernist theologians, first under the pontificate of John XXIII and later with Vatican II. Today they are in charge of practically all the Vatican dicasteries ".
On TV and in most of the media, to commemorate the five years of the pontificate of Francis, no critical voices were heard or at least they were not asked ...
"It shows that heresy is in power. And we have also canonized ignorance ".

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Be Careful What You Read at "The Catholic Thing"--It May Not Be Catholic

Today the editors at the well known site The Catholic Thing

Editor in Chief: Robert Royal
Senior Editor: Brad Miner 
Managing Editor: Hannah Russo
Associate Managing Editor: Emily Rowles 
Contributing Editors: Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., Mary Eberstadt, Hadley Arkes, George J. Marlin, Rev. Gerald E. Murray, Ralph McInerny (RIP), Michael Novak (RIP), Anthony Esolen, David Warren, Howard Kainz, Rev. C.J. McCloskey, Randall Smith, Rev. Bevil Bramwell, O.M.I.

saw fit to publish an article by Fr. Robert P. Imbelli, Eucharist and New Creation. Who is Imbelli?

Following his graduation from Yale, Imbelli continued his teaching at St. Joseph's Seminary as a professor of systematic theology.[1] Leaving St. Joseph's, Imbelli continued his teaching at the Maryknoll School of Theology. Finally in 1986, he was given a leadership position as Director of the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College. In 1993, he stepped down from this position and has remained an associate professor of theology.
In addition to teaching, Imbelli has been a prolific contributor to journals and magazines like Commonweal, America and L'Osservatore Romano. He also edited and contributed to a book, Handing on the Faith: the Church's Mission and Challenge, in 2006.[1] In addition to his frequent articles, he maintains an almost daily updated blog on Commonweal.
Imbelli is also the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination: Theological Meditations for the New Evangelization.

The reference to "the Christic Imagination" is a dead giveaway that we're dealing here with a Teilhardian. "The Christic" is the title of an article that Teilhard de Chardin wrote near the end of his life. If you take a glance at it you'll get a flavor for Teilhard's Gnostic, non-Christian, cosmogony. In it you'll find such gems as:

It is Christ, in very truth, who saves,
— but should we not immediately add that at the same time it is Christ who is saved by
Evolution?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Is Cardinal Dolan Signalling a Sea Change in the American Catholic Church?

Last Thursday Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York penned an essay in the WSJ. The title of the essay, and it's subtitle, tells you pretty much all you need to know if you don't subscribe: The Democrats Abandon Catholics: If you value religious education or life’s sanctity, you’re not welcome in the party.

This is a far more political statement, in an overtly partisan way, than we're used to seeing from the US Catholic bishops. It also has broader implications for the Church generally and for politics generally, so what's going on here?

For starters it's helpful to ask: Who would have been pleased by this essay, and who would have been, well, let's say, displeased?

Let's see--displeased? The Democrat Party--that's a no brainer. They just lost a presidential election because they lost the heavily Catholic Reagan Democrats in the Midwest. This won't help--not in 2018, not in 2020.

How about the Bergoglio Vatican? Displeased? You'd better believe it. It's a given that Bergoglio personally has no use for the USA, and all you have to do to remind yourself just how virulent that dislike is, is reprise the article by Antonio Spadaro, the Jesuit editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, a journal that is reported to be personally vetted by Bergoglio himself. The article is titled Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism, and you can find an analysis of it by Sam Gregg here. The long and the short of it is that Spadaro--and presumably Bergoglio--are disturbed by the ecumenical cooperation between Catholics and Evangelicals. Why? Because they fear the rise of a "theocracy." Here's how Gregg puts it:

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Case Study On Continuity Between Ratzinger and Bergoglio: The Spirit And "Living Tradition"

Back on March 17, 2018, Fr Hunwicke pointed out in his blog post Heureka! Heureka! that

"The first and fontal dogma there attributed [in Wikipedia] to 'Modern Church' [i.e., Modernism] is ... lo and behold ... the prime distinctive dogma of Bergoglianism:
"DIVINE REVELATION HAS NOT COME TO AN END"!!! 

What Fr Hunwicke is referring to is Bergoglio's constant contention that the Holy Spirit is speaking to him and that he is only doing what the Spirit bids him to do. The "God of surprises" communicates His surprises to Bergoglio through the Spirit. And we all know that whoever sins against the Spirit commits the unforegiveable sin. (Mark 3:28-29)

Fr Hunwicke appeared to believe that this notion, that revelation has not come to an end--which I refer to as "continuing revelation"--is a dogma that is distinctive of "Bergoglianism." In the comments I sought to rectify that misconception. It certainly is a distinctive mark of Bergoglianism, but it's just as certainly not unique to Bergoglianism. What, to me, makes this question a matter of some topical interest is that within a few days of Fr Hunwicke's post the whole question of an "inner continuity" between the pontificates of Ratzinger and Bergoglio took on added significance due to the famous letter of Ratzinger. In the letter Ratzinger responded to what amounted to a request that he endorse Bergoglio's ideas, as described in "eleven small volumes" by a variety of pro-Bergoglio theologians. I wrote about that controversy in Bergoglio's LetterGate--Continuity and Discontinuity, my central contention being that Ratzinger was quite correct in pointing out the "inner continuity" between his pontificate and that of Bergoglio. This fact of substantial theological agreement is, of course, exactly what Ratzinger cultists are in a complete state of denial about. To admit it would bring their entire worldview crashing down on their heads.

At any rate, wishing to bring some clarity to the matter, I commented on Fr Hunwicke's blog:

But, speaking of "continuing revelation," that, of course, is a position that Ratzinger was accused of holding as far back as his seminary days and right through his Dei Verbum days up to the present. A point of "inner continuity" with Bergoglio? [Dei Verbum, the Word of God, is the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation, at Vatican II.]

Sunday, March 18, 2018

UPDATED: Bergoglio's LetterGate--Continuity and Discontinuity


For the past week the world of the Vatican II Church, and especially that corner of it occupied by Ratzinger/Benedict cultists, has been consumed with the Ratzinger letter fiasco. Let's get the obvious out of the way right up front: the affair was a tawdry attempt by Bergoglio to trade on the continued popularity of Ratzinger among "conservative" Vatican II adherents, who place their hopes for the Church on Ratzinger's "hermeneutic of continuity." The clear intent was to influence those who invoke Ratzinger to justify their opposition to Bergoglio to drop their opposition. The Bergoglian scheme backfired in spectacular fashion amid an explosion of conspiratorial speculation, most of it suggesting that by use of secret decoder rings or other devices the letter can be seen to diss Francis' thought and his policy. (For thorough coverage of the controversy, a good source is Sandro Magister's blog.)

There is both more and less than meets the eye in most of this speculation. The implicit assumption behind most of it is that Ratzinger engaged in some sort of preturnaturally clever passive-aggressive ploy against Bergoglio and his communications team. The truth is that Ratzinger's letter is clearly carefully written, carefully worded, and therefore should be taken at face value. It is polite and fair as well as honest throughout. The reason this assessment is so widely resisted is obvious: those who blame all the Church's troubles on Bergoglio will resort to virtually any rationalization to avoid accepting that Ratzinger really is in fundamental "philosophical and theological" agreement with Bergoglio--that the two pontificates share an "inner continuity"--as the letter affirms. To admit this continuity would be to expose the whole Ratzinger-as-bulwark-of-orthodoxy construct as a baseless fantasy. And yet, when this continuity is accepted, the observer is free to consider the rest of the letter with an open mind, and the benefit of doing so is that the letter also gives a clear hint in the direction of the discontinuity that actually does exist between the two pontificates. This understanding will open broad vistas on the mortal danger facing the Church.

Monday, March 5, 2018

UPDATED: A Colloquy with Fr Hunwicke on Typology--And Much Else

Fr John Hunwicke, the erudite liturgical scholar, recently published a blog post in which he took up the cudgels in defense of the traditional typological form of exegesis: The Liturgy of the Hours, friday week 2; eviscerated! He even went so far as to maintain that typological exegesis is the only defense against problematic passages in the Psalms:

The reason why it is so questionabe to expurgate a psalm in the way that LH does is: expurgation still leaves words like "There is no crime or sin in me, O Lord", and leaves them decontextualised . If such things are said simplistically, they can only foster a very dangerous sense of of complacency and self-righteousness. ...
I am not one who believes that every psalm needs to be read in the Divine Office. History gives imperfect support for such an integralist approach to the Book of Psalms and their use in Christian worship. ...
Lastly, I draw your attention to the root of the problem: the loss in the Western Church of the Typological Method which was the heart of scriptural exegesis in both the Patristic and Medieval periods and in both East and West. When people discuss the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, dicussion often seems nowadays to be mired in reductionist considerations ... Of course vast swathes of Scripture provide enormous difficulties ... are in fact not so much unusable as potentially positively poisonous ... IF we do not trace out the richly complex patterns of intertextuality which formed the basis of their apprehension by Christians before the dark shadow of the 'Enlightenment' fell upon the study of Scripture. The Bible is, indeed, highly dangerous if we do not use it in the Tradition. Reducing Scriptural semiotics to the naked Historicism of the 'Enlightenment' is to hand the Bible over to the Devil.

I offered the following comment:

I"m unaware of Jesus ever tracing out "the richly complex patterns of intertextuality" when explaining Scripture or teaching. Some might say, how about when he "opened" the Scriptures to the disciples on the road to Emmaus? but unfortunately neither this nor any other example of Dominical "tracing out" was actually preserved by the disciples. What was preserved was examples of remarkably modern, if you will, exegesis. For example, when Jesus offered his teaching on divorce he stated that Moses--Moses, be it noted, not God in the revealed Word of God as we V2ers are wont to incessantly repeat--allowed divorce out of the hardness of their hearts. If we take that approach seriously, and of course we should, I suspect that Jesus didn't have much time for typology, any more than he had for the "traditions of men."
Typological exegesis is fundamentally subjective in nature, and basing it on the tradition of men doesn't alter that fact. I suggest that what the Church really needs is to free itself from the false either-or dichotomy of Typology v. Enlightenment style rationalism. To paraphrase Paul, if our faith is based on "richly complex patterns of intertextuality" then ...

Thursday, March 1, 2018

REUPDATED: Mueller's Emerging Strategy?

​It appears we're starting to see a pattern emerging from recent reports of Mueller's activity--a pattern that may amount to a strategy. Recall that on February 16, 2018, Mueller indicted 13 Russians for attempting to create confusion during the 2016 Presidential election. Of course, there are other credible theories, such as that the laughable activities of these Russians amounted to no more than attempts to make a bit of money off gullible intenet users. Certainly, as Andy McCarthy pointed out,
"Mueller’s team made it clear that the Russians neither colluded with any U.S. citizens nor had any material effect on the election’s outcome." 
Further, the 13 Russians are all in in Russia​ and will therefore never stand trial--which means Mueller will never have to prove the dodgy charges in the indictment.

Now, according to NBC News via Gateway Pundit, Mueller is said to be preparing indictments against more absentee Russians--more risk free indictments that he'll never be called upon to back up. This time the claim will be that these Russians were responsible for the famous DNC hack. That would be the famous DNC hack in which the DNC refused to allow the FBI to examine their server: DNC Refused FBI Access to Its Servers … Instead Gave Access to a DNC Consultant Tied to Organization Promoting Russia Conflict. Once again there are alternative explanations, such as that the "hack" was done by an insider--perhaps a Sanders sympathizer--simply by downloading the data onto a thumb drive.

Of course none of that has been proven, tantalizing as some theories may be. But has Mueller and his Gang had access to the DNC server, the better to bolster their indictment and rebut alternative explanations? As of December 17, 2017, Andy McCarthy believes the answer to that is: No. And as McCarthy asks: "... if not, what’s the point of his investigation?" Good question. Maybe the point is more political than anything else.