First, some good news.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke seems to be doing a bit better.
The American cardinal, 73, who is a native of Wisconsin, is reportedly breathing more easily than in recent days and is about to be transferred out of the intensive care unit at the hospital where he has been staying, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. (link)
Here is a report today from Michael Matt, the courageous Catholic editor of The Remnant:
“This just in from an old and highly trusted priest friend who is close to Cardinal Burke:
Dear Friends in Christ,
After a period under a medically induced coma, Card. Burke is steadily improving, no fever, respiration much better, doctors optimistic…His Eminence is expected to leave ICU in the next day or two. Deo Gratias! [“To God be thanks”]
God be praised. Please keep praying as His Eminence is not out of the woods yet.
God bless and Mary keep our good Cardinal Burke. —Michael Matt
So Cardinal Burke seems in a bit better health, and for that, we can be thankful.
Now, some less good news.
The situation in Kabul and throughout Pakistan is becoming worse and worse for Christians, and for those in the country who collaborated during the past 20 years with the American military, which began its attack and takeover of the country on October 7, 2001, four weeks after 9/11. (See here for a chronology, though not a complete history, of the entire Afghanistan campaign, 1999-2021, from the Council on Foreign Relations, link).
False reports are circulating that hundreds of Christian missionaries in the country now face beheading (link).
But it is quite true that Christians, who make up .03 percent of Afghanistan’s population, are now in great fear for their lives and livelihoods. “One church leader in Afghanistan said Christians are living in great fear,” reported dialogos.co.za. “Some who worked for the government now face reprisals, and any identified as Christians could be killed. Christians risk betrayal, even from their own family members.”
And reports indicate that between 10,000 and 40,000 Americans have been left stranded in Afghanistan, and may not be able to leave the country.
On Tuesday this week, “Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that between 5,000 and 10,000 are in Kabul, but earlier admitted he had no idea how many there were or where they were. George W. Bush‘s former Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Charles, says there are between 15,000 and 40,000 ‘scattered’ across all of Afghanistan. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that there were at least 11,000, including American journalists, translators, contractors, aid workers, NGO and government workers.” (link)
In addition, a colossal amount of military hardware has been left behind:
“Of the approximately $145 billion the U.S. government spent trying to rebuild Afghanistan, about $83 billion went to developing and sustaining its army and police forces, according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a congressionally created watchdog that has tracked the war since 2008. The $145 billion is in addition to $837 billion the United States spent fighting the war, which began with an invasion in October 2001.” (link)
Adding together those two figures, $145 billion and $837 billion, the US spent $1 trillion in Afghanistan over 20 years — and that is only the amount that it “on the books.” We know that huge sums also moved about the country in cash payments.
And then, suddenly, all of the equipment and aircraft and tanks and vehicles were… left behind.(!)
“Instead of defeating the Taliban, we armed them,” writes Victoria Taft in the conservative web outlet PJ Media on August 18. “How much is an F-15 worth, anyway? As much as $87 million USD. How about a Black Hawk helicopter? About $6 million USD. Those Super Tucano crafts used in Afghanistan cost $174.5 million USD, according to Flight Global.… How about the Stryker vehicles left behind in haste? Baseline models cost $4.9 million USD each. Javelin missiles. Each one costs $80,000 and will be pointed at us or our proxies. I hope they didn’t get any of the $125,000 launchers to go with the missiles. How about an F-15 simulator? I can’t imagine what terrorists would do with a flight simulator. Let me see… thinking… thinking … General Mike Flynn, who warned about the inevitable collapse of the Afghan army years ago, says in order for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the new “Silk Road” of 5-G spyware, to thrive, it must go through – aw, you guessed – Afghanistan. China is laughing and ascendant… A generation of military combat vets is embarrassed by their commander-in-chief selling out their sacrifice… Everywhere you turn it looks to be an unmitigated disaster.”
All this suggests that the rapid, confusing, chaotic departure of the Americans from Afghanistan — which has in its endless, almost inaccessible mountains an estimated $1 trillion of critical supplies of rare earths, essential for the modern global economy — was either completely miscalculated (an act of poor planning), or calculated for some reason which has not been revealed (an act of good planning but inexplicable for most ordinary onlookers).
Here is a timeline of these recent events, leading to the fall of Kabul (and, I have argued, to the end of the “American age” of modern history (May 8, 1945-August 15, 2021):
FALL OF KABUL: A TIMELINE OF THE TALIBAN’S FAST ADVANCE AFTER 40 YEARS OF CONFLICT
Feb. 29, 2020 Trump negotiates deal with the Taliban setting U.S. withdrawal date for May 1, 2021
Nov. 17, 2020 Pentagon announces it will reduce troop levels to 2500 in Afghanistan
Jan. 15, 2020 Inspector general reveals ‘hubris and mendacity’ of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan
Feb 3. 2021 Afghan Study Group report warns against withdrawing ‘irresponsibly’
March Military command makes last-ditch effort to talk Biden out of withdrawal
April 14 Biden announces withdrawal will be completed by Sept. 11
May 4 – Taliban fighters launch a major offensive on Afghan forces in southern Helmand province. They also attack in at least six other provinces
May 11 – The Taliban capture Nerkh district just outside the capital Kabul as violence intensifies across the country
June 7 – Senior government officials say more than 150 Afghan soldiers are killed in 24 hours as fighting worsens. They add that fighting is raging in 26 of the country’s 34 provinces
June 22 – Taliban fighters launch a series of attacks in the north of the country, far from their traditional strongholds in the south. The UN envoy for Afghanistan says they have taken more than 50 of 370 districts
July 2 – The U.S. evacuates Bagram Airfield in the middle of the night
July 5 – The Taliban say they could present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government as soon as August
July 21 – Taliban insurgents control about a half of the country’s districts, according to the senior U.S. general, underlining the scale and speed of their advance
July 25 – The United States vows to continue to support Afghan troops “in the coming weeks” with intensified airstrikes to help them counter Taliban attacks
July 26 – The United Nations says nearly 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in May and June in escalating violence, the highest number for those months since records started in 2009
Aug. 6 – Zaranj in the south of the country becomes the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in years. Many more are to follow in the ensuing days, including the prized city of Kunduz in the north
Aug. 13 – Pentagon insists Kabul is not under imminent threat [Note: This is a day and a half before the city fell.]
Aug. 14 – The Taliban take the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and, with little resistance, Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar province just 70 km (40 miles) south of Kabul. The United States sends more troops to help evacuate its civilians from Kabul as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he is consulting with local and international partners on next steps
Aug. 15 – The Taliban take the key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, effectively surrounding Kabul. Taliban insurgents enter Kabul, an interior ministry official says, as the United States evacuates diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.
What could be the reasons for this policy, which in the end leaves Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban, billions of dollars of US military equipment, including many aircraft, in the country, and thousands of Afghans and Americans in danger of execution at the hands of the new regime?
1) Some say the troops seem to be needed urgently back in the United States for some unknown reason; this seems odd, but it is being mentioned on the internet (here is an interesting chart of US military deployments around the world)
2) Others say the reason is to establish the case for a re-invasion of the country(!), after atrocities occur (link)
3) Others say there is an intentional desire to diminish American prestige throughout the world, and weaken the country, to the benefit of… (and here the theories become multiple and speculative)… the Chinese, the Russians, the Islamic world, the “globalists” who are seeking a new world order less subject to America’s unilateral power… anyone who might benefit from a diminished American presence of the global scene. But if the actions were intentional, then it would mean that somewhere in the American decision-making process there are agents opposed to American power; normally such agents would be called traitors, betrayers of the nation. (See this link to an interview with the next-to-last president of Afghanistan, who says the US departure leaves a legacy that is “a total disgrace and disaster.” link)
And now, also because of the illness of Cardinal Burke, a reflection on the vaccine question.
A first premise: that lethality of the COVID disease has tended to be believed to be greater than the actual case numbers show.
I am not arguing that there is no threat.
I am arguing that, according to government statistics, the death rate is about .3 percent. (See link: “As of May 1, 23,430 people are estimated to have died out of a total population of 8,398,748 in New York City. This corresponds to a 0.28% crude mortality rate to date, or 279 deaths per 100,000 population, or 1 death every 358 people”; and see this link, which gives a mortality rate between 1 and 2 percent, but based on cases, not the entire population; and see this link, which gives a number of 623,000 deaths since the beginning of the disease in the United States, out of a population of 350,000,000, which calculates to less than one-fifth of one percent, or .178%).
That is, more than 99 percent of all people in a society do not die from the disease.
Moreover, of those who do die, the less than 1% up until now, as many as 80% or even 90% have had co-morbidities — serious other conditions of illness — which contributed considerably to their succumbing to the virus.
I think these points are supported by the evidence. I would be quite willing to receive information that corrects the argument of this premise.
A second premise: With other diseases, such as smallpox, or the plague (the Black Death), the mortality rate is much, much higher. In such diseases, the mortality rate reaches 30%, 40%, even 50%.
These other diseases are devastating, horrific diseases.
Here is some information about smallpox:
“Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor… The risk of death after contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies.
“Often those who survived had extensive scarring of their skin, and some were left blind.
“The initial symptoms of the disease included fever and vomiting. This was followed by formation of ulcers in the mouth and a skin rash. Over a number of days the skin rash turned into characteristic fluid-filled blisters with a dent in the center. The bumps then scabbed over and fell off, leaving scars… Prevention was achieved mainly through the smallpox vaccine. Once the disease had developed, certain antiviral medication may have helped.
“In 18th-century Europe, it is estimated that 400,000 people died from the disease per year, and that one-third of all cases of blindness were due to smallpox. Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence… As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year.
“Inoculation for smallpox appears to have started in China around the 1500s. Europe adopted this practice from Asia in the first half of the 18th century. In 1796 Edward Jenner introduced the modern smallpox vaccine. In 1967, the WHO intensified efforts to eliminate the disease. Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest.”
A third premise (which draws a conclusion from the first two premises): the measures taken in confronting a disease like smallpox and in confronting a disease like COVID-19 would inevitably be very different in scale and severity, because of the different levels of the danger from the two diseases.
That is, in confronting a disease that kills 30% of those infected, and leads to huge numbers of blind people, very great efforts to stem the disease can be quickly understandable by all (including separating people, quarantining people, closing businesses, imposing mandatory health measures on people).
But, in confronting a disease which appears in many people to be entirely asymptomatic — that is, many people do not even realize they have been exposed to the virus, and have no symptoms whatsoever… and in confronting a disease which does affect some people with great severity, and does kill them, but which only has a mortality rate of less than 1%, allowing 99% to live, seemingly without lingering effects, very great efforts to stem the disease, asking great sacrifices of the population, especially of the children, who are the future, may not be quickly understandable by all.
Given these premises, this reflection:
In recent days, the Pope and many cardinals and archbishops have joined in making a video urging everyone to take one of the various vaccines now being offered (indeed, now increasingly being imposed), as an act of Christian love for one’s neighbor.
If you watch the video, which is in Spanish and Portuguese, you can follow it because there are English subtitles.
I note one peculiarity: when the Pope speaks about the duty to take the vaccine, he specifically refers to vaccines proposed for use “by competent authorities.”
The viewer can hear Francis say this at exactly minute 2:02 of the video.
However, the English translation does not say “competent authorities” but “respective authorities.”
You can check this by stopping the video at 2:02.
I realize that that is a possible translation. However, the word “competent” is critically important, and the Pope used it.
He said: “Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love.”
But what if the authorities are not competent — sometimes through no fault of their own, for example, when trials of the vaccines have not yet been completed, so that no one can really know all of the potential side-effects?
What if the “respective authorities” have made an honest mistake in judging the effectiveness and harmlessness of the vaccine(s), because they were told the treatments were safe, even though the trials were not completed?
Or, worse, what if they have authorized the vaccines, against all usual procedures (which in the past have always required many years of testing) out of a desire to accomplish a political, economic (that is, financial), or social result which is not disclosed as the reason for the authorization?
In such a case, following the Pope’s words regarding “competent authorities,” it would seem that a person would not be required to accept the decision of authorities who had shown themselves to be “incompetent.”
In traditional Catholic teaching, the disciples of Christ, and their successors down to the present time, including bishops and Popes, are qualified to testify about Christ, his coming into the world, his actions (healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons and restoring people to their right minds, forgiving even terrible sins, entering Jerusalem as the King of Israel, the legitimate heir of King David, and then accepting his arrest, trial, condemnation, and execution by crucifixion, then rising from the dead and promising that He would send the Holy Spirit to remain with his disciples to the end of time, then ascending into heaven, and leaving the world, though promising that he would remain present “in the breaking of the bread”) but they are not particularly qualified to speak on any other matter.
There has occurred a certain “mission creep” in recent centuries, in which the Church’s leaders have felt increasingly called upon to speak out about scientific and social and political matters on which, in the nature of things, they may have a wise opinion, but still cannot issue any binding teaching — because these matters are of their very nature not doctrinal.
One may be separated from the communion of the faithful if one rejects a point of essential doctrine, an essential teaching about Christ and His Gospel.
But one may not be excluded for a difference of opinion on any other matter.
There is an old saying, often mis-attributed to St. Augustine, but now believed to date only from 500 years ago:
“In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas (commonly translated as “unity in necessary things; freedom in doubtful things; love in all things” or more literally as “in necessary things unity; in uncertain things liberty; in all things charity”).
This is an important, key saying, a true saying, an essential saying.
Church leaders must allow freedom to the faithful in doubtful matters. This is our belief, our tradition, our doctrine.
And the issue of medical treatment falls under the category of a “doubtful matter,” at least until all trials are fully complete, and full clarity is given regarding all aspects of the matter — and even when there is seemingly full clarity on the effectiveness and harmlessness of a medical procedure, there would still not be any sufficient reason to make such a matter a matter of Church doctrine.
That would be to extend Church doctrine into a realm beyond the deposit of the faith (“depositum fidei“) which was given once and for all at the time of Christ, and consists, in the final analysis, of the truth about Christ, and only of the truth about Christ.
I am aware even as I write this that some will oppose my argument, my assertion, my belief, strongly. I am willing to receive instruction and criticism on this matter. I am also hoping that some of my readers may agree with me that this is our belief, and teaching, and may send me some sign that they agree with me.
(3) Standing for the poor.
One further reflection:
Yesterday, August 19, was my mother Ruth’s birthday. She would have been 88. She died on October 1, 2018, at the age of 85, almost three years ago now.
What she told me during her life about the meaning of life was this: that we must strive to stand with those who are oppressed, with those who are downtrodden, with the little ones, the meek of the earth, and not with the “big shots,” the “power players,” the mighty of the earth.
That was her central message to me.
She told me that she believed that was the center of the Christian message. She said her children would never fully understand the depth of her faith, the shattering, transformative encounter she had had with the Risen Christ as a teenager, and how it had shaped her life.
It did not made her a “plaster-cast saint.” It made her a woman who worked, loved, taught, healed, cooked, cried, hoped, laughed, and believed.
She told me that she hoped I would stand fast for the poor of this world, the poor materially, and the poor spiritually.
That, if anything, is the reason for these letters. That, if anything, is the reason for going to Rome, and meeting John Paul and Joseph Ratzinger, and offering my services as a writer to them and to the Church.
Of course, it sometimes becomes hard to discern how what one writes may truly be of service to the poor, and the downtrodden, to the servants, and the slaves, and the prisoners, and the oppressed, in this world.
But that is what is in my intention — flawed as my execution of that intention may be.
A final reflection:
That is why I wish to speak out for the unborn, for each one of us was once unborn, and each one of us has relied, as I relied, on a mother’s love, and sacrifice, to bring us into this world.
That is why I think it is an act of Christian love to propose to society generally and to individuals, men and women alike, to choose life, despite all of the looming challenges and problems that choice may bring.
And being pro-life also means no compromise on the use of human unborn fetal tissue, for whatever good purpose, because the use of that tissue is by its very nature an offense to the dignity of the unborn child.
And for this reason, I regard the creation and distribution of at least one, or perhaps several, of the presently offered vaccines, to be morally wrong.
Note: I do note that, below, we have links to purchase a copy of my book on Archbishop Viganò, and to support our “Friends of Lebanon” project. I also note that any support for this email letter would be gratefully received, and would be very helpful. Thank you. —Robert