Breaking Mad

Many Americans are just getting out of rehab for their addiction to AMC’s taut modern-western crime-drama, Breaking Bad. The expression “breaking bad” is street slang meaning to break loose from the established traces and give in to wildness and wickedness. The series told the tragic, traumatic tale of Walter White, an unassuming high-school chemistry teacher who secretly cooks crystal meth to pay for his cancer treatments. Hoping to find success as a quiet, civilized criminal, Mr. White finds that the world he has sold himself to is one where logic and longevity do not exist. There is but one way to go and that way is down, the slope slick with blood. Walter White falls, ultimately embracing his doom as a devilish drug-lord. Though the program is an interesting study in corruption, it also plays out the consequences of a life of contradiction: the calamity and confusion that springs out of double-dealing and ends-justifying-means philosophies. There is a current crisis of contradiction that is a cut deeper, however, than just breaking bad—and that is breaking mad. The West is wild once again; and quite mad, too, for it has made the wide world its prison.

Uncle Sam’s Madhouse
Pornography is free speech. A baby is a choice. Marriage is between two men or two women. A man is a woman, if he wants. A woman is a man, or equivalent to one by all means. From murder to sex to narcotics, the category of permissiveness is ever growing and giving contradiction more and more legroom to run by removing the boundaries of objectivity. When objectivity is rejected, insanity sets in, for nothing can be true if everything is true. “Subjectivity is the only universal here,” leers the American Mad Hatter as he pours his brew, and the confusion is as overbearing and overwhelming for the American Alice.

Lunacy is the new great American revolution; and like all revolutions, it is contradictory. The devastating function of this revolution is that it perpetuates and feeds off the thing that caused it to begin with. Contradiction makes men mad; and madmen live by contradiction. This is both the bane and the banner of the American mentality. Reason and truth are growing out of vogue for they are inimical to the absurdities of individualistic sophistry, political posturing, and the moral miasma that bestows mass control through mass confusion. Other pillars upholding this American lunacy are, of course, cynicism and boredom, but over and above these poisonous attitudes is a culture of contradiction that cannot but drive people out of their minds.

What else but insanity can preside when the open-minded diversity agenda consistently strives for the homogeneous contrary through closed-minded equality? What else but insanity would not recognize multiculturalism as anticulturalism (for culture actually does melt in the melting pot)? What else but insanity would render houses and streets across the nation indistinguishable from one another? Or perhaps the real question is, what else can result from all these things but insanity? America has lost its mind. Local peculiarities are fast fading, as is the charm connected with peculiarity. The blinding, unchanging highway has buried the open road and its landmarks. The roles of man and woman are lost in a fog of sexist equation and confusion in the frantic effort to defend gender.

Rather than holiness being the source of health, health has become holiness itself in organic, non-GMO, fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free products. Death observances are a flagrant denial of the final fact, as the bizarre American funeral industry does everything in its power to negate the reality of death with painted corpses and upholstered coffins that play music underground through a Spotify streaming account. Where is the diversity in fast-food restaurants or shopping malls? Cookie-cuttered. Mass-produced. Made in China from sea to shining sea. America is immured in contradiction. Uniformity, not diversity, is the real aim and the real result; and this contradiction is the cause of a very real madness that modernity embraces as the new normal.

The Culture of Contradiction
The modern American madness is chiefly propagated by the contradiction involved in quarantining traditional ethical principles from one another, isolating the virtues (or “values,” to use the modern, muddy term) from the context of an integrated moral universe, leaving Americans in a state of profound moral imbalance and ambivalence. Fortitude cannot survive if it need not be seasoned by humility. Charity will wither when forgiveness is optional. Justice without mercy is a monster. This segregation, this violent separation of grounded and grounding realities, is done in the land of “inclusiveness” and “tolerance.” If liberalism gradually dilutes all things human unto destruction, it is not liberating. It is enslaving. It is mental paralysis. It is a world of Orwellian doublethink and doublespeak. As G. K. Chesterton famously wrote in Orthodoxy, “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason,” living separated from the real world and everything in it, with nothing but his mind forever turning in upon itself. “Have we eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner?” asks Banquo of Macbeth, for insanity truly does take reason prisoner, locking it in a padded cell with nothing but itself.

Madness prevails.

“In truth the prison unto which we doom ourselves,” Wordsworth writes, “no prison is.” The most startling contradiction of the insanity of contradiction is that America can hardly be American anymore, that is, a nation with identifiable bones, blood, and beauty. The land of the free has become a prison. Until identity is loved over ideology, the craziness will continue. Patriotism is impossible when regional character is destroyed; and a people who have no true, meaningful love for their country are a people who have lost touch with a basic tenet of human piety and human sanity. Unfortunately, the American lunatics can be lulled in their straightjackets by sex, drugs, video games, virtual-reality technology, mindless movies, mindless music, and mindless media. All of these are, after all, far preferable to facing the fearful truth of political corruption, economic failure, the $17,600,000,000,000 national debt (and counting), fierce global unrest, and the loss of an objective moral universe.

Again, from Orthodoxy:

Their attitude is really this: that the man must stop thinking, if he is to go on living. Their counsel is one on intellectual amputation. If thy head offend thee, cut it off; for it is better, not merely to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a child, but to enter it as an imbecile, rather than with your whole intellect to be cast into hell.

In Detention and Denial
Breaking Bad followed the trajectory of the immoral life to its natural conclusion, and it is a trajectory and a conclusion that bears a strong parallel to the intellectual life gone wrong. If people give in to the promise of peace and power through secular and self-centered devices, they step on a slippery slope above a gulf of devastating consequences. Man must never expect to be his own savior—it is a contradictory premise. Like Walter White, those who give in to the insanity born of contradiction only serve to perpetuate the illusion and the contagion in themselves and in others. Though no one can ignore the unhappiness shackling society, most ignore the cause. They deny it. If a cure is inconvenient to the markets, the malady is contradicted—even though it is everywhere and obvious. What else can explain Islamophilia in the face of Boko Haram? Or the sanction of a football player kissing a man on public television? On an even darker note, one of the surest signs of a mad culture is the rise of true madmen, true psychopaths—lost souls like Adam Lanza and, most recently, Elliot Rodger who sought satisfaction in slaughter, driven mad by a world of contradiction that left them suffocating in mental conflict, without recourse, without succor.

To claim that Americans at large are a sane people is similar to the assertion of an inmate who says he is Napoleon. He may be in deadly earnest, but it is earnestness wrought of obsession on a microcosm rather than a macrocosm. It is earth without heaven. It is madness—the operation of reason without rationality, without first principle or final purpose.

Euripedes said: Those whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.

In God, therefore, we trust.

Sean Fitzpatrick


Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four.

  • ForChristAlone

    #1 This would make a geat homily although few would get it

    #2 What the author describes is hell. So let’s not describe hell as “someplace”; it is here and now.

    #3 The author states: “Uniformity, not diversity, is the real aim and the real result; and this contradiction is the cause of a very real madness that modernity embraces as the new normal.”
    The one image that’s not been included to exemplify this is that of walking down “Any Street in America” where no one talks to anyone else and is “plugged in.”

    I was taking a walk on the beach yesterday morning. My observation was that few seemed to be taking in the waves, the ocean, the jelly fish washed ashore, the seagulls fishing for their breakfast, the pelicans dive bombing into the sea for theirs, dolphins breaking through the surface, the warm morning breeze heralding a hotter day ahead, Yet there were scores of runners plugged into their favorite whatever perfecting their bodies so that they could convince themselves that they would live forever.

    • The Truth

      Sadly most people have not a clue as to what’s happening around them. We’re just along for the ride to hell.

      • DE-173

        Sadly most people have not a clue as to what they are doing to contribute to what’s happening around them

    • “So let’s not describe hell as “someplace”; it is here and now.”

      Going to nitpick a little here. I do understand what you’re saying, but that’s not theologically accurate. Hell (and Heaven) are not just “states of mind,” in the Catholic faith. They are specific places (or at least states of being rather than states of mind) into which souls enter after death. Hell is the total separation from God. We are fortunate to have God with us here on Earth in the Eucharist.

      • ForChristAlone

        True but it wasn’t theology I was trying to express but something experiential. Yet, I do have to say that the Prince of this world is Satan and Satan is from the netherworld so he does bring hell with him. I am currently reading Malachi Martin’s book on satanic possession so I was thoroughly taken with how pervasive is Satan’s influence in this world of ours.

      • GaudeteMan

        A workable definition of hell is separation from God. So hell exists in manner of speaking on earth as well.

  • Dave S

    Modernity and the Holocaust written by Zygmunt Bauman is a scholarly discussion of similar themes. I “discovered” Bauman when he was cited in something from then Pope JP II. Since that discovery, I’ve read several of his books and they are thought provoking like nothing I’ve ever read. The madness this article refers to is lurking just under the veneer of civilized sophistication and for a Catholic is explained by Original Sin. It’s fascinating to me that so many would discard this doctrine today in favor of a more “enlightened” and spiritually evolutive perspective. We had a pastor who was as likely to cite Gnostic sources as Church documents…in a Diocese where the Bishop solemnly suggests that the sensus fidelium has spoken in response to his survey on Catholic views on marriage and moral teachings of the Church. He observes that “the train has left the station” in regard to the laity’s acceptance of Church teaching on cohabitation and contraception without ever admitting that perhaps 20+ years of silence from the pulpit might have created a sensus with little or minimal faithfulness.
    There are signs that the madness within the Church at least is being diluted more and more by an increase of faithful shepherds and attrition…praise God for mandatory Episcopal retirement at 75. Robert Barron asked a question in one of his homilies that has stuck with me; “What would God’s love look like to a world which had gone mad?” I would paraphrase that as well; “What would sanity look like in a world that has gone mad?” Today’s Gospel reading, Mt 10: 16-23 paints a picture…let us pray we all have the courage to continue to assert spiritual sanity.

    • ForChristAlone

      Oh, how I’d love to know what diocese you’re in. Prudence, however, ought to prevail as it is better for my soul that i did not know.

      • fredx2


        • ForChristAlone

          I could have guessed.


    He secretly cooks crystal meth to pay for his cancer treatment.

    As ye sew so shall ye reap.


    “The biggest sin of our times is the loss of the sense of sin” – from a homily I heard a few years ago. True then, and possibly even more so today.

  • An article of tremendous depth, and erudition (which, of course. makes for some challenging reading! :)…which brings to mind an important question: “WHAT can we each do – today, this week, this month, etc. – concretely, besides pray?”
    *Can we begin sharing IDEAS for ACTION in the Comments section after excellent pieces such as this? Thoughts, anyone?

    • Lynn Loring

      “besides pray?’ I also need concrete ways to address all that is mentioned, but praying is the most needed, most powerful needed engagement with God! We are beyond “spreading ideas”. We are instructed to give the reason for our hope in season and out of season. Our hope is not into ideas, as beautiful and lofty they may be. Our hope is in God, who we, collectively, through out the world have, not only abandoned, but scorn and hate. The Body of Lord, as we sit here and read, is being persecuted even to the point of precious blood being spilled. Our hope is in the uniting of these brave soul’s sufferings to the Sufferings of our Lord. Our hope is in praying for these holy souls, upholding them. Our hope is in begging God for mercy and spreading the Divine Mercy! This article is awesome, but only has one purpose, which is to validate and urge to prayer those of us who already “know”. No article, no event, no law is going to change a thing. All hope is gone, EXCEPT in God. For those of us who see and are acutely aware of the insanity and madness it is imperative we don’t get caught up in trying to find answers in how to spread ideas. It is not to say that in prayer you are not led to do so…but note, that is in prayer, lots of prayer and prayer united to Christ’s Passion. St. Paul said he preached NOTHING but Christ CRUFIFIED! He lived, walked, preached among Godless cultures. He understood the sowing of Blood so as to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven in men’s heart. We too, walk and live among such cultures. We are past ideals and lofty thoughts, no matter how beautiful and Heaven like. It is time to go to the marginalized that society has thrown away and bring the Kingdom of God. St. John the Baptist got his answer. Jesus told his disciples to go tell him that the dead was raised, the lame walked, etc. I relish, ponder, and contemplate all of the lofty Catholic, life filled ideas…but more and more we are being drawn into being in solidarity with the suffering, picking up our crosses in union with Christ’s suffering…first kneel before the only answer…Truth and love Himself…He is once again alone in the darkness of Gethsemane, He once again is alone in the pubic light being castigated, He once again is suffering silently through His Body, here. We need to understand and be in awe of the fact that we only know Him as the Son of God…because of the suffering of present souls, alive today, busy obtaining the unmerited grace for us to NOT be caught up in the present madness. Now, with our understanding being bought with such a weighty price, bought with much suffering even to the point of shed blood…we need to fall before God, all the day long; then and only then will ideas even matter, once again

      • ForChristAlone

        a prayer in itself….nicely done

      • newguy40

        I think the moral crisis has led and will further lead to cultural and societal decay and re-trenchment and possible collapse. You can prepare for that as best you can with friends, family, and like minded community members and neighbors. This can be simple such as 3 mos food and water to more complex.

        But, living an authentic sacramental life is the best we can do in difficult and impossible circumstances.

        Prayer, penance and mortification are called for and have great merit and cannot help but lead to further Graces.

        “A Saint keeps watch over his country and obtains it’s salvation. His prayers and virtues are more powerful than all the armies of the world.” –St Peter
        Julian Eymard.

    • JGradGus

      Evangelize, teach by example, and, as Lynn says, pray. There are no quick fixes. It took us a long time to here and it will take us a long time to return to a state of sanity.

    • publiusnj

      The article, though true, was not written to persuade the non-believer. We need to take the correct conclusions of the article and carry them along with a sense of prudence into the public debate and NOT compromise the good news we have gotten but spread it. More easily said than done, I realize.

      One of the messages we need to get out is about the subliminal American antipathy to Catholicism. Although not the only example, the attitude towards Catholic schools is illustrative. The public school is the American institution that absorbs perhaps the greatest amount of money from the public purse and it was created specifically to deprive Catholics of the support for their schools that Protestant denominational schools had received–whether “established” or not–until the Catholics came along in the 1830s. The Know Nothing Party and the post-Civil War Blaine Amendments were the next efforts to keep the Catholics in check. Much of the First Amendment jurisprudence since has been artificially constructed specifically to keep the Catholic schools in check, beginning with the 1947 Everson Case, crafted by the notoriously anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klanner Hugo Black. And cascading from that case has been the growing antipathy to anything remotely moral since then. The idea that the Government needs to foster amorality is a direct result of the anti-Catholic antipathy and it has led to a general destruction of the culture received.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Jules Ferry was simply more candid than most politicians when he said the purpose of public education was to cast the nation’s youth in the same mould and to stamp them, like the coinage, with the effigy of the Republic, one and indivisible.

    • guest

      I’l tell you what we can do. Support the author’s school. Sean Fitzpatrick is the headmaster of a wonderful and unique school that introduces young men to authentic Catholic culture. The type of education offered at Gregory the Great Academy is one of the few effective ways we can neutralize the caustic culture of death. So send students or money his way.

    • michael susce

      Some actions I take are to convince others of the logical consequences of various beliefs today. One of the most powerful is: if you can kill a child in the womb, you
      can certainly have sex with it. Most people are repulsed by this but the simple logic is beyond dispute. Is there no act more heinous than the murder
      of an innocent child. Most abhor the stories of Nazi’s having infants impaled with their bayonets but somehow abortion is different. If one is
      justified in killing an innocent child in the womb, then all actions are justified that assists one in surviving or reaching one’s full potential.

      Also I justify all actions and insanity articulated in this article by appealing to Evolution. Under such a world view there are no such things as psychopaths; only
      those attempting to survive at all costs and become the fittest. Walter White is perfectly justified in that he is doing all he can to survive regardless of the cost to others. In fact, under the evolutionary milieu, one is compelled to do just such acts. In other words, it is reasonable (or justified) to be unreasonable. I like to quote Aldous Huxley:

      The power to respond to reason and truth exists in all of us. But so, unfortunately, does the tendency to respond to unreason and falsehood-particularly in those cases where the falsehood evokes some enjoyable emotion, or where the appeal to unreason strikes some answering chord in the primitive, subhuman depths of our being [original sin]

      I state on occasion, sarcastically, that I believe in Evolution which allows me to obtain completeness in this life and allows me to crush anyone who gets in my way to obtain my goals. Why? Because I have no free will. Very few are willing to condemn the absurdities of some conclusions in science today especially that man has no free will. I have heard on many occasions uttered by atheists that there is no good or evil; things just are…under the framework of evolution. Evolution justifies all acts and I have learned to articulate specifically that any act that one perceives as evil is in actuality acceptable under this new world secular/atheist religion that this author describes.

      Recently, I came across an editorial article by a skeptic in Scientific American magazine stating that neuroscience has “slain” the belief in a soul. And at the end of the article he says, as a result, that we should do good to others. Which reminds me of the statement made by Berdyaev (I think) who said sarcastically that we evolved from the apes, therefore, let us love one another. But
      under the Evolutionary framework, Walter White is justified in his actions in
      destroying the lives of others to save his because it is in response to
      surviving at all costs in order to become the fittest. Do good if you want to; do evil if you want to. You decide what is in your best interests to survive as to what is good or evil.

      Alexander Soltzenitsyn in the Gulag Archipelago writes profoundly, as he was facing the real torture of the gulag, that he was not going to survive at all costs because of what it would do to his soul. Of course, if he had no soul…..

      Another statement; If there is no God in heaven, I can do whatever the hell I want on earth, without any reservations.

      Bottom line:
      Prayer AND fasting are necessary but without speaking the truth, we avoid the persecution that will come our way and avoid the cross which we must carry.

      God bless

  • Guest

    A great piece. Thank you. As another poster said I am afraid few would really understand it though. It is all true.

  • Mary Kirst

    This essay is exactly how I feel being alive today. The world is like a consistent running of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Thank God for the Mass.

    • bonaventure

      Your are blessed to have access to a Mass where you are.
      Not everyone is so blessed.
      Some have only clown masses…

  • Darren Szwajkowski

    Also from Orthodoxy (one of my top 5 favorite quotes), “good was not merely a tool to be used, but a relic to be guarded” – G.K. Chesterton

  • ForChristAlone

    Want some further proof of just how far down we’ve slumped? Ask any 5 people at random today if they’ve ever heard of Adam Lanza.

    • fredx2

      To tell you the truth, when I first read that I thought it was the gay guy who almost won American Idol. But then I realized who it was. But in truth, it is better that we never mention these people’s names again, so that they are not memorialized.

      • ForChristAlone

        I guess my point was that our society isn’t really in touch with the truth – the truth of the reality of evil. This denial is at our own peril.

  • Thank you for the excellent article. Having lived inside the asylum for decades then leaving over ten years ago, there is something in the water, in the air that makes logical people crazy, there must be. From outside it all looks very odd.

  • Robert

    Sexual “liberation” is the new “opiate of the masses.” As Plato observed (Bk VIII of the Republic) extreme license cannot but lead to extreme slavery.

  • John – not the 23rd

    I agree with most of what is said here, but I would add that not all have or will succumb to the actual madness that is indeed endemic in much of America. However, unfortunately, I would surmise that the blindness is so widespread and deep that increased persecution in extreme ways is likely inevitable, as is the ensuing collapse and chaos. One indeed feels aboard his own, Titantic but gifted with a prescient knowledge of an unhappy future, except that on this Titanic it is not mere lack of knowledge or accident that dooms us, it is truly insanity at the highest levels. True madness does indeed pilot the nation. How can we expect less than calamity? And yet, after the storm, after the strong man, after the promises of many tyrants, the victory will be ours, or rather His. I see beyond the madness and that is where my comfort lies, however distant.

  • Fred

    What can I possibly add to this terrific article, and so much great commentary in post. As I read I couldn’t help but reflect on two great readings from the Gospel of Matthew this week about the abundance of opportunity to spread the joy of knowing Christ throughout the world and today a reminder of how hard that task is, and how we will be vilified for it. That’s been true throughout time, but we have our own particular challenges today don’t we, and in abundance. It is hard indeed when we live in fear of retribution in our jobs, livelihood and sometimes even physical attack for sharing God’s word. Ten years ago I would have said that I was ambivalent about how I felt about the concept of satan, but now I see his tentacles are everywhere and riddled throughout our own government starting at the top who persecute the innocent and good. I don’t know exactly what to do, or where it is all going to end (in my earthly life time anyway), but I do know that feelings inside me are stirred like never before about not wanting to sit by and watch the destruction as a bystander. A good start is always to live as St Francis reminds us that the best way to evangelize is by not saying a word. I think a great many people are where they are in life because they’ve never had someone to lovingly help them establish a relationship with Christ. Some will get there on their own when they eventually realize the illogic of relativism, but many more are crying out for help – even if they don’t know it. I’ve read critics discuss the positive morality of breaking bad showing what happens when one enters a pact with satan, but I prefer to watch and draw inspiration from stories sharing the grace and message of God.

  • Catholic & loving it

    When the “Catholic” youth of America know & care more about Justin Bieber, “Lady” Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Snooki, & whatever than about the Gospels, the Catechism, Chesterton (& Tolkien & Lewis) American History, great works of literature or World History, you know we’re in trouble. As much as I want a big Church as envisioned by Pope Francis, I think the “leaner, but stronger” Church model of Pope Benedict seems to be more able to address & stand up as a shining city upon a hill to this clearly crazy, indifferent & insane world.

    • Catholic & loving it

      By the way the article’s quote on a culture that actually seeks uniformity not diversity gives me so much to think about. Great analysis.

    • Guest

      It is not only youth that live unexamined lives.

  • Fred

    I was reading during lunch trying to understand about Joel Hunter and how he allowed himself to be taken in by the annointed one’s brilliance, and stumbled across this that I thought worth sharing … food for thought.

  • Babai the Great

    Why, in this lament against the moral madness of US society, is there not a single word uttered about the pervasive criminality and corruption on Wall Street, which continues to impoverish tens of millions in the US alone?
    Why is there not a single word about the murderous lies told for 8 years by Bush, and continued by his successor, Obama, regarding Iraq, Syria, Libya and many other foreign theaters of US-sponsored war and terror?
    Why is there no lament about the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing being conducted in the Eastern Ukraine by West Ukrainian Neo-Nazis, acting under the auspices of the US and EU?
    Truly, with the exception of abortion, all the issues lamented by the author are trivialities compared to these ongoing evils. The misplaced focus on the real evils of our time that is incessant on Crisis and similar outlets is breathtaking.

    • ForChristAlone

      Why? Because few of us are insane. Stick around because the ones who are usually pop up now and then.

      • Babai the Great

        Oh, so it is insane to denounce war crimes, rampant financial crimes, layer upon layer of lies by both the government (both parties) and the mainstream press about these issues?
        Here is a news flash: Conservative Catholicism is utterly lacking in credibility when it comes to its moralizing about the issues raised by Sean Fitzpatrick precisely because they utterly ignore the moral issues I have raised. People outside conservative Catholic circles notice these things, and the “pick-and-choose” moralizing of the sort that Sean Fitzpatrick has given us is accordingly completely marginalized, and utterly impotent to effect change in the culture at large.

        • ForChristAlone

          You’ve proven my point….thanks

        • STF

          There is no denying the issues you mention are egregious and of terrible public concern. Though this piece did not address them directly, that is only because it is not what one would call a direct piece. The approach taken is a broad-brush approach to a very broad problem. That these particular issues were not brought up specifically is not an indication of their being swept under the carpet, much less dismissed as inconsequential to the topic. Neither, as far as I know, is it due to a tendency for conservative Catholics to choose to ignore them. God forbid.

          The truth is that there is only so much that can be covered in a short article, and the light approach to heavy matters adopted here is more poetic than practical. Solutions are required – absolutely – but, still, communication that can, perhaps, reawaken dulled consciousness and consciences and serve, hopefully, as a call to renew a basic awareness of cultural contradiction and corruption should not be dismissed, in my opinion. It is a first step towards more pragmatic mentalities and measures.

          Though it is somewhat anecdotal, and devoid of hyperlinks to social study reports or polling results that support these various observations and intuitions, there is no intention to morally pick-and-choose or marginalize. The piece is taking in a horizon, a battlefield, that must be charged again and again, and outlining specific tactics for those charges is not the intended purpose. It is, rather, a strategic overview, a perspective which can be easily lost and is ever worth refreshing in the light of faith and trust in Divine Providence.

          Thank you for your comments.

          • Babai the Great

            Thank you for your cordial reply to my objections. With all due respect, however, I think that two conclusions can be drawn from the tone and content of other comments on this blog thread, particularly those responding to my original post:

            1) With regard to the issues you raise, you are clearly preaching to the choir. Thus, there is a basic redundancy to your choice to focus on the issues on which you focus, instead of those to which I call attention. So why not publish another article on Crisis focusing on issues related to corporate greed and criminality, ongoing US and EU war crimes, and the culture of lying and deceit that is utterly pervasive in today’s mainstream political discourse?

            I must ask you to petition the editors of Crisis to write and publish such an article calling attention to the moral issues I raise, since hell would freeze over before they would assent for me to do so.

            2) Please see my comment above regarding Christ’s moral teaching in the Gospels. A careful and thorough reading of them, with particular emphasis on Luke’s Gospel, makes clear that sins related to greed and religious hypocrisy (probably the most insidious form of pride) are more fundamental and weighty than sins related to lust. This leads me to conclude that you are emphasizing the wrong issues entirely even insofar as your piece intends to provide an accurate view of the true moral horizon from which the condition of today’s world is to be appraised by Christians.

            • Guest

              You should study the Church’s moral theology tradition before asserting such things.

              • Babai the Great

                I know the Gospels well, and have drawn from Our Lord’s words themselves the conclusion that greed and hypocrisy/spiritual pride were of greater concern to him than lust.

                • Guest

                  That is your private teaching from the Church of Babai not the Catholic Church teaching.

                  • Objectivetruth

                    “Pope Babai the Great.”

            • Caritas06

              I am not sure it is correct to determine what sins are morally worse by counting the number of times they are mentioned in the NT. That may reflect the people and times Christ was addressing then but surely if Christ or the apostles condemn an action even once as sin, that is sufficient. A person whose soul is directed in love towards its Lord would no more emphasize that some sins (lust) are less important and therefore not really sins, than a loving son would call his mother names as long as they were not the “worst” names. One would avoid all sin, starting at the fundamental, personal level, and then moving on to the body politic.

        • HigherCalling

          Moral teachings are both hierarchical and holistic. You cannot twist them out of their proper order or isolate them from the whole and expect positive results. The moral issues you raise are unable to be fixed when the imperative foundational moral teachings have been ignored, dismissed or rejected. Nor can they be fixed apart from the whole of Catholic moral truth. You want to fix moral evils from the top down, when the only answer is to live by moral truth from the bottom up.

          • Babai the Great

            Read the Gospels carefully – especially Luke’s. Overall, you will find that Our Lord devotes many more of His recorded words to the denunciation of Greed, as well as to the denunciation of religious hypocrisy, than to the denunciation of sins related to lust.

            I conclude from this fact that it is you, and not I, who have an inverted understanding of the heirarchical importance of Christian morality.

            • Guest

              Read the entire New Testament. Your ideology blinds you. Christ founded a Church not a book to be parsed in a facile way by propagandists. Your arguments are like the “gays” where you attempt to hijack Scripture to support your ideology.

            • Faustina11

              It seems to me that morality consists in loving God and your neighbor. If God is a fairy tale and your neighbor is a blob of protoplasm, then it is impossible to be moral. You can be kind or nice, but only as long as it is to your benefit.

        • Objectivetruth

          You’ve reared your ugly head…..

          You’re only here to bash Catholicism.

          Go away, troll.

        • Guest

          Untrue. The authentically orthodox Catholics accept all Church teaching. It is the Left that picks and chooses based on their selfish relativism.

          • Babai the Great

            Oh, is that so? Do Michael Novak, George Weigel, the editorial board of Crisis, etc., accept the teaching of current and recent popes on war, economic and social justice, etc.? See my reply above to Dave S.

            • Guest

              I cannot speak for them but I am sure they do. Are you claiming the Pope has changed Catholic teaching recently or can change it?

        • Dave S


          In truth, we are all guilty of picking and choosing those issues which are most important to us and pour acceptance of Church teaching in other areas is spotty depending on our political affiliations. I fear that all too often the lenses through which we “evaluate” the Church’s teachings are our partisan politics.

          I often wonder how the world would react if we as Catholics ever embraced and professed the entire teaching of the Church without thinking we had the magisterial authority to reject whatever we disagreed with in the primacy of our questionably formed consciences…and we’re all susceptible to that.

          One of the most eloquent assessments of this dichotomy came in 1968 from then Cardinal Ratzinger. In response to a question form the author of The Ratzinger Report, he said;

          “From that perspective (religion), all those schematic formulations conservative/progressive, right/left which stem from an altogether
          different sphere, namely, that of political ideologies, lose their meaning. Hence they are not transferable to the religious perspective ” Messori p 12

          He goes on…

          “Many forget that for the Council the counter-concept to ‘conservative’ is not ‘progressive’ but ‘missionary’.”
          Ratzinger p 13

          Let us all pray that we become a little less sure of the primacy of our consciences and a little more submissive to the entire content of Catholic teaching.

          • Babai the Great

            Thank you also for your cordial reply. Your remark that Catholics should all be a little more submissive to the entire content of Catholic teaching calls attention to a very bitter irony, namely, that many “Conservative” Catholics who are quick to denounce “Liberal” Catholics for “Cafeteria Catholicism” for the latter’s rejection of the usual litany of teachings related to sexuality are themselves equally guilty of “Cafeteria Catholicism” when it comes to a whole host of moral teachings related to war, social justice, and the like – sins ultimately rooted in pride and greed.

            How dare someone like George Weigel, Michael Novak, or Newt Gingrich denounce “Liberals” for Cafeteria Catholicism when they themselves blatantly flout papal teaching on war, on greed, on capitalism, etc. – going so far as to deliberately distort and grossly misrepresent the writings of these popes in their commentaries on them. Such individuals should take heed of Our Lord’s abundant denunciations of the Pharisees of His own day – “hypocrites – who strain at the gnat (denouncing those e.g. who do not accept Catholic teaching on birth control) but swallow the camel (deliberately and hypocritically distorting papal social teaching and papal denunciations of US/EU wars).”

            • Dave S


              While I empathize with a number of your observations…I attribute it more to the political influences. In that context, Cardinal George gave a speech a number of years ago in which he observed that US citizens had become cultural Calvinists, even those who professed the Catholic faith. He contrasted this view with the Catholic teaching on community and our responsibility to that community. I fear he was correct.

              Wouldn’t it be wonderful though if each of us didn’t parse the Church’s teachings into those we consider to be really important and binding…from those we can de-emphasize and/or blet our consciences decide for us. Or…demean to some extent as I suspect you were attempting above by referring to them as “the gnat” or “the usual litany” of….I suspect we’ll all be much better witnesses to the entire teaching of the Church when we don’t denigrate those parts that challenge us the most. Maybe it could start with those on this forum. In truth all of our individual sins are rooted in the pride and selfishness you note. When they afflict a society, their magnitude increases but they have the same origins and our personal sins.

              Sometimes it almost seems like the main question in many Catholic’s minds is; What’s the least I have to accept and still be able to consider myself as a Catholic”? It’s been my experience that those teachings I struggle with the most are the ones I need to take the most seriously and not try to justify my rebelliousness by pointing to that of others.

          • Guest

            Just to be clear Cardinal Ratzinger said, specifically, that Catholics are not bound to reject the death penalty or the war in the same way as they must in regards to abortion and other life issues.

            • Babai the Great

              If he said it as Cardinal and not as pope, then it is in no way binding – even on Catholics.

              More importantly, he is wrong. A moral issue is a moral issue, and the teaching of the Church on any issue must simply be accepted, and then weighed in the balance by Catholics in accordance with the relative intrinsic importance of each issue. This Sean Fitzpatrick has failed to do.

    • HigherCalling

      Perhaps those things are the symptoms of a disease Mr. Fitzpatrick is describing in this piece. And perhaps the disease described in this piece is itself a symptom of rejecting the truths and teachings protected by the Catholic Church.

      • Babai the Great

        Or perhaps the things Mr. Fitzpatrick describes are symptoms of the disease I am describing. The root of the problem is lying and deceit – whether the lying and deceit concerns sexuality, or whether it concerns war crimes, corporate criminality, clerical criminality, or what have you. It is in this respect that Mr. Fitzpatrick is far too narrow in his attempt to diagnose the root moral malady of our time.

    • Guest

      Most accept the teachings on greed and murder of those already born. It is the rest of the moral law they reject.

  • Objectivetruth

    To bring peace and perspective, here’s part of a beautiful letter in this months First Things from Archbishop Charles Chaput:

    “…I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on Hebrews 13:14: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.” We may fully understand what we’ve lost as a nation only after the consequences come to harvest. But there are worse things, among them confusing our home here with our real home and our real citizenship.”

    Lets us live lives as the pilgrims we are…..journeying back to our real home…..

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Over fifty years ago now, Miss Anscombe summed up out modern difficulty: “In present-day philosophy an explanation is required how an unjust man is a bad man, or an unjust action a bad one; to give such an explanation belongs to ethics; but it cannot even be begun until we are equipped with a sound philosophy of psychology. For the proof that an unjust man is a bad man would require a positive account of justice as a “virtue.” This part of the subject-matter of ethics, is however, completely closed to us until we have an account of what type of characteristic a virtue is – a problem, not of ethics, but of conceptual analysis – and how it relates to the actions in which it is instanced: a matter which I think Aristotle did not succeed in really making clear.” (Modern Moral Philosophy 1958)

    We are not much further forward.

  • Going insane is the best thing that ever happened to me. Recognizing that I had gone insane, was my salvation.

  • pmains

    The author seems to be suffering from his own form of madness: apophenia. He starts one paragraph talking about anti-GMO silliness, and ends with condemning the use of Spotify at funerals (which strikes me as both unlikely and irrelevant). In his mind, these seem to be related topics, but who knows what the connection is supposed to be.
    Apparently, Americans are being driven crazy not just by moral pluralism (or permissiveness, in the author’s parlance), which leads to contradiction. Nope. We’re also being driven mad by homogeneity in the form of insufficiently regional architecture and cuisine. His point seems to be that the multitude of choices leads to a bland, monoculture. Maybe, but there’s something unseemly about bashing the homes and food of normal people while declaring that they should eat cake instead.

    • STF

      Thank you for your comment. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some insane instances here. It can be challenging to spin sense out of madness.

      The connection between health obsessions and sound-system coffins is the modern misrepresentation of the role and reality of life and death. Life is held up as the ultimate sacred thing, and the afterlife is more or less denied—hence the common over-emphasis on health and the de-emphasis on death. People want to live forever, it would seem, and the desire is even creeping into some people’s caskets. The musical coffin is no joke.

    • Guest


    • GaudeteMan

      Your critique is wanting. I perceive that you deny there is any such thing as sanity or insanity for that matter.

  • There are many threads that need to be teased apart and treated individually in this article. But I agree with the basic idea: it’s a mad world. And moreover I question whether being “well adjusted” to it (per the psychobabble) is really a good thing…

    ~DS Thorne,

  • isabel Kilian

    In the late 1970’s my parents came to visit us. They were watching either the Today Show or Good Morning America and I was serving them breakfast. There was a young French priest on as a guest and When the hostess asked him what advice he would like to leave America, he looked straight into the camara and said, “America! Don’t lose your mind!” To me and to to the other members of the show it was the strangest thing anyone could have ever said. Now of course, I know exactly what he meant. He saw all of this lunacy coming.