Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Catholics for getting off of Kerry

Yes, there are plenty of valid arguments for why Catholics should reject Kerry. But I'm rather apathetic to the whole thing. There's no confusion in my mind that Kerry is a poorly catechized Catholic. But he's not maliciously so; more ignorantly so. That seems equally clear. And whatever stubbornness may dwell in his liberal brain comes from a lot of brainwashing by the culture most American Catholics share. In addition, he's had his head so far up beltway Democratic culture that he simply seems incapable of grasping orthodox Catholicism. Luckily, I don't look to him for any guidance whatsoever on how to be a good Catholic. Now any Catholic who does is even more poorly catechized than Kerry. Any Catholic who fears that millions of Catholics will be misled by Kerry the Pied Piper into heresy is drifting towards paranoia.

It's all very distracting, for I'd like to hear more arguments on why orthodox Catholics should actually choose Bush. That's one conversation conspicuously missing. So far the only answer from the Catholic Repubicans seems to be that Bush is not pro-choice like Kerry. If I believed that POTUS's first and foremost responsibility was the elimination of abortion, then that answer would carry a lot of weight with me. If I believed that POTUS has the power to compel or coerce women into more abortions, then that answer would carry a lot of weight for me. Neither is the case, so in the meantime, I say we get off of Kerry and eliminate abortion from our own ranks first. And let's just see how Catholic Bush is.

A contrast of cardinals

Cardinal Arinze's remarks about denying communion to any pro-choice Catholic just about knocked him out of my next pope wish list--not for his stance, mind you, but for the flatfootedness with which he delivered his judgment. Same with Cardinal McCarrick but from the other end of the issue. Read here to behold how they both are the lesser to Cardinal George.

That's my Cardinal

Francis Cardinal George once again demonstrates that there's at least one real Catholic archbishop in America. You have to read the whole thing to appreciate his method of approach. He doesn't moralize; he's totally uninterested in scoring political points or covering his political arse; he avoids the demonizing so typical of neo-con Catholics. Above all, he instructs and guides through theological and pastoral reflection, tying his directives on this political issue first with a reflection on the liturgical season of Eastertide. It's textbook. It's the way magisterial authority should be expressed. It's so JPII. Here are some gems:

Faith is a free assent of mind and will and heart to a God who loves us and who transforms every dimension of our lives (Romans 10:9). There is no area of a believer's life separate from his or her faith. A compartmentalized faith is not faith, certainly not Catholic faith, which begins with the proclamation that Jesus is risen from the dead and then works out the implications of that assertion in every area of life.

There is separation of Church and State at the heart of our faith--the king is not a priest--but there can be no separation of faith and life for either king or priest or anyone else who believes that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

Faith shapes a believer's political conscience, whether as voter or officeholder. This seems generally understood in the case of black churches, where politicians speak and invite believers to vote for them because the politicians will meet their concerns. It seems well enough understood in the case of synagogues, where no one is surprised that proponents of the PLO would not be given a platform. But drawing conclusions about the public order from one's faith is viewed with suspicion in the case of evangelicals and with alarm in the case of Catholics. This is largely because the secular litmus test for judging if faith is interfering inappropriately in the public order for the past 30 years has been the issue of the legal protection of unborn human beings. This truly is a key issue, not only because abortion is intrinsically immoral in every instance, but also because the legal killing of the unborn undermines the respect for human life that has characterized the advance of civilization and separates us from barbarians.

Pope John Paul II has explained that officeholders in democracies can be expected to uphold the law, even if the law wrongly protects immorality. But he has also explained that Catholic officeholders must work to diminish the harm that unjust laws do and make every effort to change them.

In a pluralistic society, perhaps no faith group can expect to be totally satisfied with the legal system; every faith group, however, can expect politicians who belong to it to work out their political positions in the light of their professed faith and to act accordingly. Not bishops, but the politicians' personal integrity makes this demand.

Because the U.S. courts have made abortion a "right," placing limits on its exercise creates difficulties not found in other countries. In this situation, it is unacceptable for a Catholic believer who is a politician to embrace unreservedly the status quo on abortion. Such an embrace cannot be justified because of a few theologians' opinions or even should a majority of U.S. Catholics think differently; nor can it be justified in the name of personal conscience, which is to be shaped by the faith. It certainly cannot be justified by an appeal to the Second Vatican Council, which named abortion "a heinous crime."

on the part of society, sanctions by bishops against politicians may be pastorally unwise and publicly harmful. In this culture, victims always have the moral upper hand. Blacks can be victims, Jews can be victims, American Indians can be victims, gays can be victims, women can be victims, even Muslims living here in the United States can be victims. By definition, however, Catholics cannot be victims, except for those Catholics who like to portray themselves as "oppressed" by the Church's teachings. They make the best victims of all.

Issues of basic importance to our faith make for difficult decisions in life. Fortunately for us and for the world, Christ has risen from the dead.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Silently speaking truth to power at "The March"

Amy Welborn and After Abortion have terrific coverage of the event from the pro-life side. Protests, marches, and rallies don't grab me much anymore, only because they seem to bring out the worst in people, even and especially when it's a "love-fest" or a Pete Seeger singspiel. People have forgotten that true protest, the prophetic variety at least, must be collectively, almost militaristically disciplined and quasi-liturgical, that is if degenerating into mere mob-brained catharsis session is to be avoided. I've always believed reverent silence works wonders as protest repertoire. Which is why I was heartened to read this about some pro-lifers at this past weekend's pro-abortion march in DC:
We stood, all 500 of us in the Silent No More Awareness groups, in total silence as planned, for over five hours, not replying or saying one word to anything that was said or done to us, and I do mean anything. But nothing prepared me for literally mobs of livid people screaming the most hateful vicious snide things at me personally. We were spit on, and had an egg hurled at us from the marchers. There were two groups of Satanists. And the signs. Like the guy who held a handmade sign, "BABY KILLER" with an arrow pointed downward at himself. If not for the riot police, we would have been mobbed. There was that much viciousness. People broke through the riot police's invisible line just to come up in my face and hurl insulting words. There were not enough police to form a complete line, so they would run up to me, shout out their abuse, and run back before the policeman or woman got to stop him/her. And I said nothing to anyone, just held my sign.

Hollywood respects celibacy???

Apparently, if you give the superhero genre a second thought. A great reflection at Slate that should give pause to all those celibacy-haters, Christian or secularist.

Martin Sheen striking a Catholic pose

Way to go, President Bartlett.
Actor Martin Sheen has backed out of being listed as an endorser for the pro-abortion march sponsored by leading abortion advocacy groups. Whether the listing of him as a sponsor was accidental or if Sheen didn't know the march's purpose is to support abortion is still a question.
Back in my protest politics days, I remember taking delight in an anecdote of Martin Sheen getting arrested at a civil disobedience against the "School of the Americas." A reporter asked him as he was being cuffed, "Mr. Sheen, are you here because you're Communist?!" He replied resoundingly, "No, much worse -- 'cuz I'm Catholic!" He's a loosey-goosey on several issues, but you gotta love his Catholic bravado.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Grandma & Alzheimer's

I just got back from a wedding in Atlanta with lots of family. My mom informed me sadly that my grandmother's Alzheimer's is worsening. Then I return to find this article on the dreaded disease in the latest online edition of First Things by a Case Western Reserve bioethicist.
Observers estimate, and my personal experience confirms, that 90 percent of Americans who are diagnosed with dementia pray. They are, it seems, thrown back onto whatever faith they have in the loving and beneficent purposes underlying the universe. They are shaken existentially, and many begin this final phase of their lives with a profound recovery of spirituality.
Meanwhile, Brave New World desperately wants to sacrifice more fetuses in our War on Disability, for what could be more dehumanizing than Alzheimer's? And if genetic therapies don't work, there's always euthanasia. Brave New World merely interprets religiosity in demented patients as a byproduct of neurological degeneration. I'm actually torn. I just wouldn't wish Alzheimer's on anyone, except maybe the Brave New World prophets.

Tarentino & TPOTC

Found this at Unmitigated Blatherskite. Apparently from LA Weekly
INTERVIEWER: Is there any movie around you wish you'd made?

QUENTIN TARANTINO: ...I don't think I would have the mania to make The Passion of the Christ, but I'd be proud of the results. Those are the only things playing around right now that are terrific.

INTERVIEWER: So you saw The Passion of the Christ?

QUENTIN TARANTINO: I loved it. I'll tell you why. I think it actually is one of the most brilliant visual storytelling movies I've seen since the talkies -- as far as telling a story via pictures. So much so that when I was watching this movie, I turned to a friend and said, "This is such a Herculean leap of Mel Gibson's talent. I think divine intervention might be part of it." I cannot believe that Mel Gibson directed it. Not personally Mel Gibson -- I mean, Braveheart was great. I mean, I can't believe any actor made that movie. This is like the most visual movie by an actor since Charles Laughton made The Night of the Hunter. No, this is 15 times more visual than that. It has the power of a silent movie. And I was amazed by the fact that it was able to mix all these different tones. At first, this is going to be the most realistic version of the Jesus story -- you have to decipher the Latin and Aramaic. then it throws that away at a certain point and gives you this grandiose religious image. Goddamn, that's good directing!
I knew he'd like it. See below.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

"Full disclosure" & Truth

Bob Serrat, host of "Chicago Tonight," last night commented on how the public broadcasting of the 9-11 commission might actually impede the pursuit of truth. He's absolutely right, putting his finger on yet another contradiction in our political culture. We equate the good and the true with "disclosure" which has no room for truth in secrecy. Catholics should not fall for it. Some truths must be held "im pectore;" truth sometimes is best served framed in the shadows of the confession booth, of the "Messianic secret" that Christ maintained throughout his earthly ministry. "Openness" is too often an invitation for political grandstanding, melodrama, and other forms of histrionic decadence--all enemies of truth. Groups like Voices of the Faithful scream for ever more disclosure, showing no regard for the veiled, eschatalogical nature of truth and justice. They assume we can all equally serve as judges of truth and of all authority figures. But truth is not democratic--we don't broadcast all trials and have people vote in their verdict; we entrust justice to a limited, semi-private group of 12 who are privy to the nuanced, tenebrous contours of the truth.

This isn't to say nothing good can come of these proceedings. It's at least interesting theatre. Families of 9-11 victims will get to feel justified in their respective adoration or hatred of Bush. The parties will use it to push their campaigns this way or that. Islamic extremists will continue to plot the demise of the West. Still, these modern inquisitions occlude the truth from view as much as they reveal.

Killing Bill & Jesus

Uma Thurman's character quips in Kill Bill, which I caught on DVD last night, "When fortune smiles on something as violent and ugly as revenge, it seems proof like no other: not only does God exist, you're doing His will."

I'm not much of a Tarentino fan, but my memory of Pulp Fiction draws attention to this repeated theme of vengeance as divine act. While most Christians today run for the hills at any hint of the "medieval" god of retribution, Tarentino revels in this god. Obviously, this isn't a theological conviction on his part; rather it's aesthetic. Only the most puritanical would moralize over Tarentino's homage to this god. Yet the squeamishness of liberal Christians over orthodoxy's anti-Marcion fidelity to a God of wrathful justice looks too much like Nietzschean ressentiment; it moves me to see a resonance between Tarentino and Catholic orthodoxy I'd never considered before.

Interpreting the violence in Kill Bill would help more theological idiots out there to interpret the violence in TPOTC. The amounts of blood spewn and splattered in Kill Bill is clearly genre-based. While the physiological realism of TPOTC has been questioned, eg., the amount of blood a truly human Jesus could shed, with Kill Bill there is no such debate over the physics of dismemberment or bloodshed. In Kill Bill, it is assumed that the violence is stylized in the tradition of anime and Japanese and HK martial arts films. The violence is depicted using aesthetic, not scientific standards. Is there some realism in Kill Bill? Of course. But most rational humans understand that it's not trying to achieve strict medical realism. Same with TPOTC. Mel's film descends from several aged traditions and genres, primarily Catholic, that treats the Gospels as theological-aesthetic portraits (not photgraphs) of Christ. It's a messianic realism. Historical or physiological accuracy is used only in service to Christological truth, not the other way around.

Tarantino should've enjoyed Mel's movie.
BTW, Uma is simply stunning. As wounded, battered, and pregnant bride, reborn after four comatose years as ass-kickin' biyatch, her character could even serve as an allegory for the Church Militant in the Book of Revelation. But perhaps her beauty just bedazzled me beyond reason.

Highstream vs. SBC Yahoo

I think I've finally regained control of my PC now. I've kicked SBC Yahoo Dial-up service off and reinstalled Highstream Dial-up. SBC Yahoo has too many software gadgetry and gimmicks attached to its service, damn wankers.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Speaking of conversions...

I'm seriously thinking about heading over to the Church of Apple Computers. Windows has been messin with me so much I haven't been able to connect to the Web. Hence no blogging of late.

Also, after attending St. John Cantius for Palm Sunday, I'm feeling re-converted to the Novus Ordo. When it's done right, that is, with a little reverence, incense, Latin, and Renaissance motets sung in their intended context, it's a stunningly beautiful liturgy.

That was me!

It's been SEVEN years since I did what 150,000 fellow Americans will be doing come this Sunday. The abundant tears and chrism that will flow in parishes across the country shall water a great harvest.