A fine essay stating the issues in the Church’s conflicts

An alert reader sent me this, from The Harvard Salient, a fortnightly student publication. 

My emphases and comments.

Rediscovering Tradition in the Modern Age

February 16, 2009 by Brian

Pope Benedict wisely reconciles four Lefebvrist bishops

By Kevin M. Neylan

On January 26, Pope Benedict XVI found himself at the center of another major controversy after revoking the excommunications of four schismatic, [opps.. oh well...] traditionalist bishops, in an effort to reconcile them to the Roman Catholic Church. The press has focused most of its attention on one of the four, Bishop Richard Williamson, who has declared publicly that the Nazis never killed more than 300,000 Jews and never used gas chambers.

Surely Williamson’s outrageous views are nothing short of ludicrous. No term of reproach is too harsh. Indeed, the Vatican Secretariat of State demanded that Williamson “must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly” recant his position on the Holocaust if he wishes to serve as a bishop in the Church. [Point: he isn't serving as one at this time] It declared further that Bishop Williamson’s statements are “absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father,” although they were “unknown to the Holy Father at the time he revoked the excommunication.” During his visit to France this September, the pope spoke vehemently about the Church’s opposition to “every form of anti-Semitism, which can never be theologically justified.”

Despite the undeniable tension occasioned by Bishop Williamson’s divisive remarks, Oded Wiener, director general of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, praised the pope’s condemnation as “a giant step forward” and “an extremely important statement, not only for the Jewish people, but also for all the world.” “This was the sign the Jewish world has been waiting for,” agreed Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.  [*sigh*]

However, the pope’s repeated denunciations of anti-Semitism have done little to temper the firestorm of outrage erupting from the Catholic left. [NB: "the Catholic left"]  But the unremitting furor — and panic [got that right] — evinced by the likes of leftist priest Hans Küng belies the fact that their uproar has less to do with the Jews, and much more to do with the pope’s signaled intent to reexamine the legacy of the Second Vatican Council with an eye more sympathetic to tradition that has the staunch proponents of modernist dogma now in a frenzy.   [Well said.  This is what I have been proposing as well.]

Bishop Williamson’s absurd remarks have been an unfortunate sideshow, [right] distracting from the true source of the controversies that have welled up over the past few years: after decades of adapting and modernizing, will the Catholic Church continue to affirm the sacred union between faith and reason, [Oooo... good one!] and the reality and comprehensibility of an eternal moral order, without either of which meaningful religious and political dialogue becomes impossible? [One of the Pope's points at Regensburg.] Or will the Church embrace pluralism ad absurdum, and crack its head against the hard wall of moral relativism?

The four newly reconciled bishops were declared to have incurred automatic excommunication under Pope John Paul II in 1988 after Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, consecrated them without Vatican approval. Archbishop Lefebvre rebelled against the sweeping reforms the Church underwent after Vatican II (1962-1965), which sought to bring the Church into step with the modern world; according to Pope John XXIII, the Council meant to “distinguish between what is sacred principle and eternal gospel and what belongs rather to the changing times.”

There is nothing objectionable about John’s stated goal. However, many of the liturgical and theological changes that ensued served not merely to distinguish the eternal from the temporal. On the contrary, some of the reforms—including many that were enacted after the Council and never approved by a synod of bishops—along with the increasingly modern and even postmodern moral paradigms that both contributed to them and are perpetuated by them, serve instead to undermine the very idea of sanctity, to cast grave doubt upon the possibility of eternal truth. As Professor John Casey at Cambridge University explains, rather than allowing the “liturgy… [to] ‘illumine our changing times with its unchanging beauty and greatness,’ those who altered the Mass after Vatican II thought it possible to create a form of worship that was illumined, indeed determined by the changing times.”  [spot on]

If it is not already apparent, more is at stake here than liturgical reform. Pope Benedict’s reconciliation of the four Lefebvrist bishops, and his implicit approval of the traditionalist philosophical framework they endorse, [hmmm... this might over state the issue a little.] should be seen as part of a long and much needed effort aimed at driving back the tide of moral relativism that pervades our age. After all, the first necessary element of the traditional framework is belief in moral objectivity, which of course entails the existence of certain intrinsically good and evil acts. Further, it must be held that all humans, as rational moral agents, are inherently capable of coming to know the natural law although it exists outside the realm of individual preference.

Now, this is assuredly not to say that the Lefebvrists’ conclusions on theological or social matters are all correct, or that the pope either should or does endorse them. Rather, [pay attention] the crucial point is that once we abandon a traditional moral framework we are powerless to draw any conclusions about what is right and wrong. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “From within the Tao itself comes the only authority to modify the Tao… Outside the Tao there is no ground for criticizing either the Tao or anything else.” In other words, the moment we step outside an objective order we forfeit any sturdy moral ground from which to condemn certain courses of action or modes of behavior—like, for instance, anti-Semitism[A nice turning of the tables.]

Indeed, insofar as the legitimacy of modern society depends upon the authority of the state to enforce justice, to secure “fundamental rights” and liberties, etc., the crippling effects of pluralism gone mad—an inability to say definitively that certain things are right and others are wrong—erodes the foundations of the social order and guarantees to spoil the countless material fruits modernity has borne.

[This is good...] But many of the Catholics who oppose the pope’s recent actions have different priorities. They appear less concerned with discovering truth—some, including one or two of those who currently populate the theology department of my beloved Jesuit high school, will not even stipulate to the existence of truth. [!] Instead, they prefer the misguided pursuit of watered-down religious dialogue for its own sake, as an end in itself. This agenda was made clear by a controversy that sweltered over the summer.

Last July the pope drew the ire of many of the same leftists now in a tizzy after he issued the Apostolic Letter “Summorum Pontificum,” which freed [emancipated] Catholic priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass whenever they desired. The Tridentine Mass is the traditional Roman Rite of the liturgy, celebrated by the Church for many centuries before falling out of practice after Vatican II. It is high irony indeed that the Tridentine Mass, which is breathtaking in the beauty of its Latinate ritual and mystery and has inspired brilliant artists, poets, and composers for centuries, should be dogmatically suppressed by those same “progressives” who purport to champion religious freedom. As Prof. Casey recounts, “The parish priest of a famous Jesuit church, politely asked whether he would make some traditional Masses available, responded with unconcealed rage. (This church advertises a children’s liturgy, Japanese Masses, services for Brazilians and Filipinos, but apparently drew the line at the ancient Roman liturgy).” The Latin was thought too un-modern, the solemnity too inaccessible to other religions, the force too damaging to religious dialogue.

Without doubt religious dialogue can be a source of enormous good and ought to be encouraged always. However, the extreme pluralism advocated by certain modernists now up in arms, both within and outside the Church, flows from a conviction that all religion is, to a large extent, inscrutable, so deeply embedded in individual or cultural conviction as to operate beyond the faculties of reason. Few beliefs could be more damaging to the prospect of religious dialogue or moral rectitude.

As Pope Benedict stated in his brilliant, but widely misunderstood and controversial, Regensburg Address in 2006:

“Theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline… but precisely… as inquiry into the rationality of faith. Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid… A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.”

Therefore, religious dialogue must not be pursued with some naïve belief that all religions are more or less equal in their reasonableness or their potential to stultify. [Excellent.] Nothing could be more misguided, not to mention subversive of the fruits of real dialogue. However, our self-imposed divorce between faith and reason, and the blind embrace of pluralism, are two sides of the same coin. Both have the effect of sapping society of the very framework that allows virtue to flourish, that allows modernity’s material goods to be put to their best uses.

Insofar as the Second Vatican Council encourages the Church to engage other faiths in meaningful dialogue and to adapt to a world dominated by modern political institutions, it was right and proper to do so. However, Pope Benedict is equally correct to rein in the post-Conciliar excesses by trying to shore up a traditional moral and philosophical framework: in short, to preserve the marriage between Judaic religion, Greek thought, and European heritage, which allowed the Church and civilization to flourish for nearly two millennia. Few tasks can be considered more important, either for the future of the Roman Catholic Church or the future prosperity of modern civilization.

 

Save The Liturgy.  Save The World.

Kudos to the author.

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38 Responses to A fine essay stating the issues in the Church’s conflicts

  1. mrsmontoya says:

    Thank you for posting.

  2. Rose says:

    Neylan’s article has restored my faith in higher education a la Harvard U.

  3. RobertM says:

    “This was the sign the Jewish world has been waiting for,” agreed Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.

    Unfortunately, one gets the strong impression that people like Mr. Lauder will not be satisfied until we officially renounce Our Blessed Lord’s sacred Divinity and proclaim Him to just be a ‘really inspirational teacher.’ Excellent article.

  4. canon1753 says:

    Wow. That was a very well written article.

  5. PMcGrath says:

    I see from the Salient’s About Us page that Mr. Neylan is “’12″ … that is, Class of 2012 … in other words, a freshman, maybe not even 19 years old yet.

    I’m old enough to be the young fresher’s father, and I don’t think there are many 19 year olds around today who can write-and-think this well.

    I think this young man bears watching for a promising future.

  6. In Stunned Silence says:

    This??!? . . . from a student at HARVARD University??!?!?

    Methinks a crack hath appeared in the temple wall of the high priests of Academia. Their decades-long attempts at sociopolitical indoctrination are starting to fail.

  7. On a lark, I looked up which “beloved Jesuit high school” was Mr. Neylan’s. After doing a bit of digging, I found that my hunch was spot-on. So I wouldn’t pin the brilliance of this essay on his Harvard education as much as the intellectual and spiritual capital he accumulated through (and in certain cases, despite) his Jesuit-high-school education.

  8. Michael O'Connor says:

    Aristotle, Yes, indeed. The Jesuit education is two-edged sword at times. Every time I get furious with something they do, I recall that they were also the impetus behind the development of the sacred oratorio in the 17th century through their persistent belief in drama as a tool for education.

  9. Daniel says:

    “…those who altered the Mass after Vatican II thought it possible to create a form of worship that was illumined, indeed determined by the changing times.”

    The Popes, particularly Pope Paul VI, are “those who altered the Mass after Vatican II.”

    For better or worse, the radical post-Vatican II liturgical “reform” was authorized and approved by the Popes.

    The Roman Pontiffs alone have given their official authorizations to everything from novel Eucharistic Prayers to Communion in the hand…from altar girls to “EMs.”

    Additional Novus Ordo tinkering is planned by Rome.

    Even the Good Friday traditional liturgy was not spared last year from Papal tinkering.

    The post-Vatican II liturgical crisis is Peter’s crisis. He has to determine whether, speaking liturgically, he’s a traditional Pontiff.

    Peter must decide between the radical post-Vatican II “reform” that he has approved or the Roman Liturgical tradition.

  10. Daniel says:

    “Last July the pope drew the ire of many of the same leftists now in a tizzy after he issued the Apostolic Letter “Summorum Pontificum”…The Tridentine Mass…celebrated by the Church for many centuries before falling out of practice after Vatican II. It is high irony indeed that the Tridentine Mass…should be dogmatically suppressed by those same “progressives” who purport to champion religious freedom.”

    Let us cease with this “leftist”, “progressives” nonsense. For decades, many conservative Catholics raged against the “Tridentine Mass.”

    Check the back issues of many leading conservative Catholic magazines. For years, more than a few attached the “schismatic” label to Traditional Catholics who insisted that the Traditional Mass was never abrogated.

    For years, many leading conservative Catholics attacked Traditional Catholics who dared to disagree with Pope John Paul II’s numerous declarations that the Novus Ordo liturgical reform had ushered into the Church a new “springtime.”

    Please, let’s stop the liturgical revisionism…that “leftists” and “progressives” alone attacked and suppressed the “Tridentine Mass.”

    More than a few leading conservative Catholics attacked and approved the de facto suppression of the “Tridentine Mass.”

    It is simply dishonest to pretend that “liberals” and “progressives” alone attacked the “Tridentine Mass.”

  11. DoB says:

    Bright young man. Very good article.
    Daniel, the Irish Catholic is supposed to be a traditional Catholic newspaper. In fact it is not at all. It is pro abortion, pro-perversion pro heresy. How do you go about determining what is conservative and what is not? It would be wrong to say that the Irish Catholic represents Catholic positions, however reading the title you would think that this paper represents Catholic views. I’m not shooting down your claim that it was not only liberals who attacked and suppressed the Tridentine Mass. I just am unsure of how you can look at “conservative” magazines and be certain that they actually represent the conservative position.

  12. veritas says:

    Sociologists have long been aware of the dangers of relativism, indeed Peter Berger in his book “A Rumour of Angels – Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural”(Penguin, 1969) seems to have been aware of the problem when the present Pope was quite young. Berger has a chapter on Relativising the Relativisers and asks the question as to how one deals with the statement all things are relative if that statement is itself relative.

    The solid ground on which to stand is provided by faith.

  13. Mattk says:

    Bravo!

  14. Joseph says:

    The Jesuits are indeed a two-edged sword, but even the worst of them typically stress the importance of truth and virtue in life. I am grateful for my Jesuit education, and I trust that it well-prepared Mr. Neylan to deal with the intellectual mess in the Ivy League. Solid kids do well at Harvard; it’s good for them to be tempered in the fire.

  15. Neil says:

    It is heartening to see “student journalism” producing something far more worthy and worthwhile than the thoughtless and identikit mush turned out by the mainstream press.

    There are glimmers of light out there.

    This guy may struggle to make a living as a writer. He both thinks and writes well.

  16. Paul Haley says:

    Let’s hope that this Sunday, February 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, he throws the gauntlet down to his enemies, grants faculties to the bishops and priests of the FSSPX and takes one giant step towards the restoration but don’t bet on it, instead, pray on it. His Holiness has a perfect opportunity this Sunday to quiet his critics but will he? Only God knows for sure. One thing I do know and that is he needs the FSSPX badly and they need him if we are to see the restoration in our lifetime.

  17. Bob K. says:

    Great Article!.:)

  18. Glen says:

    This article is an example of why the “mainstream media” is dying. It would have been nice if it came out of Notre Dame or Boston College, but they seem to be more worried about class room crucifixes offending someone. My faith is in the Church; my hope is in the younger generation to reinstall common sense into our society. This article strengthens that hope.

  19. Patronus says:

    Glen,

    It’s not really a logical argument to say because this exceptional writer did not enroll at a place like Notre Dame that that institution is lacking in all such critical thought, or that Harvard is suddenly now a bastion of truth.

    In the world out there, and perhaps particularly in academia, it’s never so black and white.

  20. Steve K. says:

    Daniel -

    “Let us cease with this “leftist”, “progressives” nonsense. For decades, many conservative Catholics raged against the “Tridentine Mass.”

    If you think there is some kind of equivalence in importance between some Catholic conservatives who are anti-traditional liturgy, and the progressive movement in (and outside of) the Church that is opposed to Catholic tradition, you are very badly mistaken. The former is much smaller not in only numbers, but in influence, organization, activity and coherence. So much so, that this is a sideshow in comparison to the struggle against the progressives. This is so true, that it is a truism, which is why most people don’t much concern themselves with your hobbyhorse here, and focus on the actual serious threat to tradition.

  21. TJM says:

    Ex ore infantium! It’s too bad many of the elders are lost in a 1960s timewarp. Tom

  22. Ron says:

    Daniel, Thanks for the refreshing honesty, but as you might notice, comments like yours are generally either ignored or misunderstood. It took me a long time to realize that for many, if not most, “conservative” Catholics, tradition does not mean Irenaeus and Bernard and Aquinas. It means what the current pope taught this morning. Until Benedict XVI gave them permission to revere the traditional Mass again, it was anathema. If the next pope repeals the motu proprio, it will be anathema again. And that is what they call “tradition.”

  23. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Outstanding!

  24. Oso says:

    I am really shock about what a hear and reed this days. Is the holocaust a dogma of faith? We people who lives in this so called democratic contries of Europa in which teorethicaly we are free to express, to talk or think what ever we want, at least that is what our constitutions said, can do so with averything except the holocaust. Whith that I am not saying that holocaust did not exist, we know more o less what happend of course, but at the same time I wonder by which reason it can not have a historical investigation or discussion like every historic fact of history.I live in two countries one is Spain an the other one is Italy.In Spain half of my family was kill during
    civil war by the comunist, (1936)because they were catholics. Now in Spain they tell you,that comunist never existed and that they did not assasinated anyone, only defended themselves,and that the Popular Front were angelical democrats.In Italy for nearly 40 years (during the kingdom of the leftist only one way of thinking going on in Europe) nobody coul speak about the victims of the Foibe thousands of italians all civil people ,assasinated in Jugoslavia,we know now all the horrors that happend, when all the family of the victims who had claim for justice during years have died off. and like this we have thousands of examples, UU.SS.RR., Eastern countries,China, Cuba,etc.etc.etc. I have not seen anyone condem to prisson for denaying all the horros comunist have done, and not tribunal have been put up to condam all that crimes agaist humanity that comunism has done in 70 years,or the religious persecutions we had in those years an are sufering in our times, as it happens in some countries of Europe if you only touch the word holocaust in any other way “they” have decided it should be touched. Where were they, all these democrats of our democrats countries?Have you ever heard of anyone asking for excuses to the Pope when jurnalist, intelectuals and even politicians of this our wontherfull Europe insult him or attack him? or our Religion? Have our “Old Brothers”
    ask forgivness to us for comdamning Jesus, or for the insuls to Vegin Mary, Jesus, and us christians in the Talmud? and the pray against us also in The Talmud?Do the Catholic Bishops atack Rabbis when they say or do somthing we may dislike? and ask them to retract?.I do not think so,we do not certenly interfere in what they do inside their religion, if they whant to declare holy one of their rabbis or not, as they do with us.So, has the criterium left our democratic minds? in our “free world”? It really looks like.We are back again it seems to the DICTATORIAL, ONLY ONE WAY OF THINKING that we have to followed wether we agree,like, or not, other wise we may not be safe, if you just dear to have an independent mind,like in the animal farm of george Orwell.

  25. Jordanes says:

    Ron said: for many, if not most, “conservative” Catholics, tradition does not mean Irenaeus and Bernard and Aquinas. It means what the current pope taught this morning. Until Benedict XVI gave them permission to revere the traditional Mass again, it was anathema. If the next pope repeals the motu proprio, it will be anathema again. And that is what they call “tradition.”

    That’s a silly caricature, and a sloppy broadbrushing, not at all a fair and accurate appraisal of their beliefs. Furthermore, orthodox Catholics cannot be faulted for holding to the very traditional belief in and attitude of respect for the authority and office of St. Peter’s Successor, nor for holding opinions and having preferences that are within the bounds of orthodoxy.

  26. Ron says:

    “Furthermore, orthodox Catholics cannot be faulted for holding to the very traditional belief in and attitude of respect for the authority and office of St. Peter’s Successor, nor for holding opinions and having preferences that are within the bounds of orthodoxy.” I would never fault orthodox Catholics for being orthodox. That would be silly. However, I do know a circular argument when I read one, Jordanes. Do you?

  27. Jordanes says:

    Daniel claimed: For decades, many conservative Catholics raged against the “Tridentine Mass.”

    Really? “Raged”? Against the “Tridentine Mass”? And they “attacked and suppressed” the Mass too?

    But then you proceed to mention only things such as the opposition of many leading conservative Catholic magazines to traditional Catholics, labeling them schismatic. That, of course, would refer to the SSPX and other groups of traditionalists not fully united to and/or recognised by the Church. You are conflating opposition to or disagreement with such groups with opposition and hostility to the traditional Mass.

  28. Jordanes says:

    Ron said: I would never fault orthodox Catholics for being orthodox.

    Well, at least not knowingly, one would hope.

    However, I do know a circular argument when I read one, Jordanes. Do you?

    Yes. I also know a Straw Man when I see it. But I doubt you know a circular argument, if you think my comment is a circular argument.

  29. Tom Giuliano says:

    Having attended the same ‘beloved Jesuit HS’ as Mr Neylan, it does my heart
    and soul good to see that she to this day continues to instill in her students
    the ability to think, reason and most importantly to cogently record these thoughts
    for the betterment of us all.

  30. Michael J says:

    Jordanes,

    If I may ask a question, what was your opinion of the legal status of the “Tridentine” Mass prior to SP?

  31. Ed Francis says:

    Daniel – “For better or worse, the radical post-Vatican II liturgical “reform” was authorized and approved by the Popes.”

    “I would not speak at such length about all of this if I believed that such ideas were attributable only to a few individual theorists. Although it is beyond all dispute that they are not supported by the texts of Vatican II, many a liturgical office and its organs firmly believes that the “spirit” of the council points in this direction. In the sense of what has been described above, an all too widespread opinion today holds that the real categories of the conciliar understanding of liturgy are a so-called creativity, the activity of all those present, and the reference to a group whose
    members know and are drawn to each other. Not only assistant pastors, but sometimes even bishops have the feeling that they are not loyal to the council if they celebrate Holy Mass exactly
    as it is printed in the Missale: at least one “creative” formula must be slipped in, no matter how banal it might be. Of course, the bourgeois greeting of the audience and if possible also the
    friendly greetings at leave taking have already become an obligatory element of the sacred action which scarcely anyone dare omit.”

    from “Liturgy and Church Music”

    “Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger delivered this lecture in
    Italian at the VIII International Church Music Congress
    in Rome, November 17, 1985. It was printed Sacred
    Music 112 (1986, pp. 13-22), and also in A New Song
    for the Lord (NY: Crossroad, 1995)”

    http://www.musicasacra.com/publications/sacredmusic/pdf/liturgy&music.pdf

    This paper was written by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now-Pope Benedict XVI. As you’ll see above, the lecture was given 1985, and is a lucid exposition of forces and ideologies at work in the Post-Vatican II Catholic world. The full text is available at the above link.

    Do some homework about what actually happened, Daniel.

  32. RBrown says:

    Let’s hope that this Sunday, February 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, he throws the gauntlet down to his enemies, grants faculties to the bishops and priests of the FSSPX and takes one giant step towards the restoration

    Let’s not. It will happen when there is a certain convergence of Rome and the SSPX.

    but don’t bet on it, instead, pray on it. His Holiness has a perfect opportunity this Sunday to quiet his critics but will he? Only God knows for sure. One thing I do know and that is he needs the FSSPX badly and they need him if we are to see the restoration in our lifetime.
    Comment by Paul Haley

    I agree that both need each other, but the last thing the Church needs now is the PR splash of the pope pulling a rabbit (albeit a Latin one) out of his mitre as mass.

  33. JPG says:

    Please remember the old is bad, new is good rubbish was jammed down our throats for 40+ years. Those of a conservative bend perhaps accepting a reverent celebration of the NO were appalled at the illicit ordinations when thy occured. I can tell you that there is a sense of “conservative Catholics in the pew that the Mass as celebrated in most Parishes is wonting with poor music , disjointed flow, a supreme war on beauty, texts in early telephone book English,
    and ad libbing beyond belief. Cap this off with smarmy sugary I’m OK
    your OK 1980′s discovering one’s inner child spirituality and one has a recipe for apathy or worse yet apostasy. It is easy to forget that 2000 years of Tradition will trump 40 years of innovation particularly poorly executed and conceived innovation. Five years ago I would never have thought that any of this would come about. Priests in training for the EF! Masses offered in places where one does not need an armed guard to watch the car. At Notre Dame of all things.
    All unimaginable five years ago. I would say the progressivists are on the run but I would label practically every bishop ordained in the last 20 years as such.
    JPG

  34. LCB says:

    Now we shall see if the University of Notre Dame’s student-run and university funded newspaper, The Observer, manages to publish this piece.

  35. Shzilio says:

    This guy should write a book. I’m thinking this would be a great introduction to a book entitled “God and Man at Harvard”

  36. TJM says:

    LCB, I don’t know if Notre Dame’s student newspaper will run it, but the students there asked for, and obtained, a weekly TLM. Not a bad start. Tom

  37. Joseph Gaspard says:

    Kevin Neylan is pretty much the man.

  38. Liz Rush says:

    Kevin Neylan is….God. Read about it.