Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Habemus ad Nauseum

I keep seeing new articles and posts arguing for the "hermeneutics of continuity" in Catholic liturgy. I've stopped reading them, mainly because it's a settled matter for me. But what gets me is that these orthodox liturgical thinkers seem to write as if the other side is listening. They're not. I mean, is there any real theological substance to the argument against preserving what has been and should be a constant in Catholic liturgies (Christocentric, eucharistic, ecclesial reverence)? No. The progs in the Church may think V2 started one, but they don't care much for squaring their theology with the fullness or the (Balthasarian) "form" of the Tradition, or with anything that pre-dates V2 for that matter. You think Mahony or any Barney-dressing priests give a hoot what Arinze or Benedict says or what the NLM is blogging about? No. Have any progs been convinced and swam the nave? No. When was the last time you heard of a proggie liturgist converting to the traditional liturgy? Progs love their proggie liturgies and nothing else unproggie matters. They even get this eerie giddy look on the faces that screams from underneath, "I hate kneeling and chanting!"

So I think it needs to be said that there is NO debate going on, both descriptively speaking and substantively. It's not theology and doctrinal thought that matters anyway, it's about happy times and embracing our...whatever. If the progs were to actually address orthodox liturgists, they'd lose, pure and simple. It really is that simple.

Bishops haven't even called us to debate these "liturgy matters" in a time when "dialogue" and evermore dialogue is their default policy for all controversies (my, how the Unitarians have taught them well).

In essence, I can't help but feel blueballed for my liturgy friends who are so desperately seeking that next declaration from Rome that put all our liturgical nonsense to bed. Unless someone makes our heretical clerics listen and step up to face the fearsome testimony of the martyrs and saints of the Church, all these books, articles, and blogposts just leave me feeling numb.

Monday, December 11, 2006

NYer on Apocalypto

Anthony Lane over at NYer takes an interesting spin on the op-ed sections' favorite dead-horse of the month: Mel's use of violence.
Contrary to what his detractors say, I don’t believe Gibson is roused by violence in itself. What lures him, in his dark remoldings of Catholic iconography, is breakage and restoration—the deeper and more foul the wounds, the more pressing the need to see them healed.
Lane gets credit for digging in search of a deeper theological current that Mel may be tapping into. (I believe Lane is Catholic himself?) I noticed something similar after watching TPOTC. Yes, the violence of film could only be justified in my mind as a magnifying glass on the sinfulness of mankind. But to what degree does that manufacture a certain perverse incentive, or "lust," for depravity, not in and of itself, but in quest of an ever-greater glory. The "wicked" paths of Graham Greene, Hemingway, and Oscar Wilde come to mind. Not that Gibson shares much in common with these literary greats, other than a deep-seated Catholic aesthetic, but I've always wondered how the particular tilt of the Catholic metanarrative can spin outward in uniquely pathological directions.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Beard Theory

...for the "gaying and graying" of the Roman Catholic priesthood. I'm surprised there hasn't been more debate over this, cuz I've come around to the idea that it's one of most overlooked and underrated differences between Eastern and Western Churches, especially after watching all the Eastern and Western bishops intermingling on camera in the Phanar. This is totally coming off the top of my and is based on zero research into why the Eastern Churches have required beards.

My sense is that beards are like the iconostases in Eastern churches -- they veil that which is luminous and mysterious; but in so veiling, they highlight a dignity and maturity that is far more difficult to discern socially among the shorn and shaven. I don't see a particularly compelling theological reason why the West has opted against beards among its clergy, other than as a sign of the vow of poverty or chastity, but even facial tonsuring should permit regrowth into full beards, for there is a greater vanity in regular grooming. The Roman clergy furthermore don't even have to deal with wives who might find beards this side of sexy. Much more could be said on this but, but I'm started to sound weird even to myself, so I'll leave this brainfart while I'm ahead. But if I were in the Congregation of the Clergy or of Institutes of Consecrated Life I'd propose restoring mandatory beards, at least for all monks and bishops. Where would His Flocculence Cardinal O'Malley be without his beard?

Pandering to the Prison Vote

The horror, ooh, how Washington politicos infuriate me with their gimmicks! Actually, it's on the heels of an Iowa federal court's order requiring a prison ministry to pay back the fed for indoctrinating prisoners, a decision I don't understand, or at least I can only understand as far as the exclusively Evangelical-Protestant character of the program is concerned. But on the general principle, if Doe v. Bolton's "health exception" can be stretched to include anything and everything, why can't inmate rehabilitation include religion? The establishment argument is hollow -- we're talking about convicted criminals who are pretty much the waste products of our secular anomie, not religious monuments on the steps of a federal courthouse or public schools. Only religion can restore a sense that they are more than society's garbage, and the state can recognize that as a sociological reality. Of course, I too would question whether evangelical Protestantism is best religion to create long-lasting and holistic cura personalis.

Anyway, back to Brownback - he cuts a nice contrast to Giuliani, Pataki, McCain, Romney, et al who are supposedly tough, strong GOP leaders on everything except life issues. His advisors are onto something in underscoring the common weak spot of all the current GOP racehorses. I could vote for him, depending on how he handles manages the turbulence of campaigning and challenges to his lack of executive experience.

Market disequilibrium in military rosaries

Sniper-resistant rosaries -- gotta love 'em.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Icon of the Christ of Ayn Rand

...and of Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, Penn Jillette, Margaret Sanger, Peter Singer, Richard Dawkins, Hitler, and the Orthodox Church of the Libertarian Objectivist Ubermensch.

(If it weren't for the superimposed caption, it would be an icon of the evangelical Protestant Jesus...maybe it is. No idea where it's from.)

Now this is a church

Slick Macromedia slideshow of St. Joseph's Cathedral in Wheeling, WV. The artwork sums up all that B16's visit to the Phanar represents.

HT: The Cafeteria is Closed.

A sign of contradiction

John Allen of NCR, once again, proves his minerals by piercing through media misunderstanding of Catholicism. The secularist mind sees a contradiction between B16's warmth toward Islam in this visit and his insistence on Europe's need to give historic Christianity its due. MSM has also been meming (with some underlying giddiness) about his supposed volte-face on Turkey's EU bid, which Allen addresses here. As Catholicism teaches and Allen demonstrates, disordered Reason will see contradictions where none exist and ignore glaring contradictions where they do.

I think Allen's a little too soft on the press for their characterization of B16's statements, which were made privately to PM Erdogan and never officially released to the public, as a "flip-flop," but that may be because Charles Donahue of the Catholic League has already staked out a huge chunk of the field on this issue in his usual hyperbolic way.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Patriarchal Divine Liturgy

Truly remarkable video coverage of the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. George attended by the Pope. I've never seen so complete an online video of the Divine Liturgy. Such an intimate glimpse into the holy mysteries of the Greek Church truly is a gift by itself.

Lots of random thoughts and observations:

1) The commentary covering the Papal visit in general has been most interesting. On EWTN, Raymond Arroyo and his special guest, Msgr. Stern, have been way too sanguine about the balance of unity and conflict between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, especially Arroyo who has slipped into callous error when he makes statements that the two churches have the same sacraments, priesthood, etc. There is far more separating the two churches than the role of the papacy. The Orthodox see the different understandings of the See of Peter as symptomatic of a greater loss or disordering of apostolic fidelity in the Catholic Church, not just as a single-issue policy problem that can be corrected by juridical fiat. The key to getting the Orthodox is this: everything is about the liturgy, really everything.

2) The very learned Orthodox commentator during the Divine Liturgy was impressive in his ability to make plenty of subtle jabs at Catholic strawmen while being very instructive of the Orthodox Liturgy. Nothing really new if you've studied the traditions of Orthodox polemics, but I almost felt he was deliberately counteracting the Western reflex of grasping for easy and cheap bonhomie. Understandable in that context, but by itself, a bit overwrought. He spoke of Orthodoxy's understanding of the epiclesis as the Spirit's transformation of the entire community (not just the elements) into the Eucharistic Body of Christ (read: unlike those Catholics who think Jesus is "magically" in the eucharistic elements only). Sure, I get his point, but the Orthodox have got to stop characterizing the Catholic Church by its worst theology at the fringes. There are real differences in official eucharistic theologies, but "magical Jesus bread" ain't one of them.

2a) After the Liturgy, Arroyo makes an awkward disclaimer that the commentary was not from EWTN but from Vatican TV. He tried to be oblique about it, but it was obvious he and EWTN didn't like the Orthodox commentary. Gotta protect the dumb Catholic flock from Orthodox propaganda. Sheesh, lighten up. Yeah, it was a bit tendentious, but it was a lot more theologically meaty in contrast to the sugary EWTN analysis. Plus, do you really want to be pitting EWTN against Vatican TV?

3) The Divine Liturgy really is LONG, which isn't news to me, but it made me think of that as the reason they don't like pews. Keeping them on their feet reduces the snoozing that would be pandemic if they had pews.

4) The Christological and apostolic superiority of the Divine Liturgy should be stunningly obvious when compared to Protestant liturgies or most modern incarnations of the Novus Ordo Mass. I just don't get why any Catholic would want to move further away from the Orthodox sense of liturgy.

5) The superiority of the Divine Liturgy to the "RadTrad" Mass (which I do not equate with the Tridentine Mass) is also stunningly obvious. Why the SSPX-type schismatics find so much value in mostly inaudibly muttered prayers by the priest and only the most miserly acknowledgement of the congregation's presence still has me baffled. Secondly, RadTrad Masses have become so hyper-choreographed as to be oozing with self-consciousness; it's really starting to overshadow the liturgical good they stand for. When I've attended these Masses, the heebie-jeebies I sometimes feel comes from the subtext of all the precisioned genuflections and secret prayers: "WE are so cool and traditional. WE are the REAL Catholics." That all may be true, but true liturgy, as the Orthodox show us, should be a total abandonment into Christ (and not a total abandonment into OUR total abandonment) which washes out whatever self-posturing and self-consciousness we have in attending to the sacred mysteries. There were plenty of signings of the Cross and sacramental gestures in the Patriarchal liturgy, but they just did them without much concern for how it looked to others. The choir chanted in a simple circle without much need of exacting intonation or posture. A whole multitude of actors running around chanting, blessing, censing, processing not just the presider and his two sidekicks. It's almost chaotic, and we Catholics need not imitate it, but it has an ecclesiological authenticity that's not in the RadTrad Mass.

6) The Divine Liturgy shows the superiority of vigorous chant over blaring organs. I'm getting so tired of not knowing whether any sound is coming out of my mouth because the organ is drowning out or blurring all other voices. The constant chanting of the Orthodox is truly more mindful of the cloud of witnesses than what an organ produce.

7) The effusive presence of Our Lady in the Divine Liturgy also puts our Masses to shame. I don't think I've ever heard a good reason why Catholic Masses don't really include her, except in passing in a couple of prayers. I thought Catholics are supposed to be excessive about Mary.

8) The papal ermine-trim mozzetta's growing on me. I used to think it made him look that much more like Santa Claus.

9) Never noticed before how the gesture of bowing with clasped hands, common in the Mass, does not seem to be reflected in Orthodoxy. On that count, Catholicism is closer to Buddhism and Hinduism.

10) "Two lungs" metaphor - don't wear it out.

11) Orthodox chants in Korean - now I've never heard that before.

12) Did I mention the Divine Liturgy's long? Aside from that glaringly egregrious injustice, Orthodox liturgy is simply unimpeachable, even from the Catholic perspective.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pope in Turkey

This Turkey trip so far is only magnifying my love and respect for Benedict and the Holy See.

These lines from John Allen's National Catholic Reporter daily Vatican column made me choke up, especially in light of the historical animosity of the Orthodox towards the Catholic Church:
“Sometimes when you’re living in the shadows of religious asphyxiation, a brother coming from the West can bring light to the East,” said Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, an official of the Ecumenical Patriarch based in New York.

“Peter has come to give strength to his older brother,” Karloutsos told NCR on the margins of the liturgy celebrated by Benedict and Bartholomew this evening, describing its impact as “almost incomprehensible.”
On the Islam end, it really is remarkable how the Holy See right now is the only serious Western dialogue partner with Islam as a religion on a large scale. Is there any Western state, church, or NGO right now that could duplicate the Pope's potential impact on Islam's spiritual orientation to the West and Islam's own self-reflection? Screw your exclusively private and individualized spirituality -- let Christ be a light unto the nations!

Monday, November 27, 2006

To the nunnery

Time has a nice piece on the growing interest in religious life among young women today, in contrast to the so-called "Spirit of Vatican II" nuns who have always seemed to me more interested in proving to the secular world their full embrace of its definitions of womanhood, femininity, and liberation rather than Christ's. Young people today seem to be intuiting that if it's not for Christ and His Church, then why bother with polyester nun-suits and bad perms? The one good thing that postmodern feminism gave us is the sense that almost any expression of femininity is worth something; so with no principle to exclude celibate religious life, we'll have to see if the marketplace gives this boost in women's religious life any lasting buoyancy.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mary for Evangelicals?

Ben Myers has a review of the Tim Perry's new book Mary for Evangelicals: Toward an Understanding of the Mother of the Lord published by InterVarsity Press. Myers credits the book for doing "a careful exegetical analysis of the diverse portrayals of Mary in the New Testament." Of course, all I hear parenthetically is "evangelical exegesis." Exhibit A:
Perry therefore concludes that there are two main ways of depicting Mary in the New Testament: there is “Mary the person” and “Mary the symbol.” And in his finely drawn survey of the historical development of Mariology in the West (pp. 119-263), Perry highlights the ways in which the symbolic Mary “has come almost completely to suffocate” the individuality of Mary the person. If we are to develop a biblically responsible Mariology, then, we must give far greater emphasis to “Mary the person,” to the one “who hovers on the margins of her society and on the fringes of the biblical text” (p. 263).
If evangelical exegesis were more theologically rigorous, Perry might want to hesitate on drawing too strong a distinction between the personhood and symbolism of Mary, for it puts him on a path that leads right back into the camp of the now-discredited "Jesus Seminar," which was all about playing the "Jesus of history" against the "Christ of faith," a dialectic totally foreign to and absent from the New Testament, the early Church, and the apostolic churches before the Reformation. Perry and Myers may object on the grounds that they explicit reject that a "historical Mary" can be constructed out of Scriptural texts. But to my eyes the dialectic is the same -- artificially inferring split identities from the diverse portrayals of particular figures in Scripture as a means of resolving philosophical anxieties that have little to do with Scripture itself. Even his use of the term "biblically-responsible Mariology" presumes the central Protestant tenet that the Catholic Church is not biblically responsible. Quaint but intellectually dishonest.

In other words, if Perry insists on suggesting that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have "suffocated" Mary the person in favor of Mary the symbol, then what principle prevents me from claiming that the evangelicals have "suffocated" Jesus the person in favor of Jesus the symbol? Isolating passages that on their face pit the "two Jesuses" against each other is easy enough (my years as an evangelical proof-texter have to be good for something). So once again, we see how sola Scriptura forces the evangelical mind into these strange corners.

Perry is correct that the Lucan narratives on Mary are "theological history," but most of the New Testament is theological history, especially the Gospel narratives. Catholic and Orthodox exegetes nonetheless see a unity in Christ's (and thus Mary's) identity because of their grasp of the fundamental harmony between theology and history and the assistance of apostolic Liturgy and Tradition to unify the ostensibly dissonant portrayals of Christ (and Mary) in Scripture. But because evangelicals tend to accept the modernist doctrine that history has a scientific ground strictly independent of ideological or religious perspectives, they will often sit ill at ease with the idea of "theological history." The problem there is evangelicalism's uncritical acceptance of certain modernist epistemological theories, not the Catholic Church's sense of unity between Mary the person and Mary the symbol, falsely interpreted as suppressing one aspect of Mary against another.

Perry should take more seriously his own observation (which the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have made consistently for 2000 years and he's only getting around to now) that Mariology is directly tied into Christology. He should then ask himself what his theology of the "two Marys" implies about his Christology and ecclesiology.

Perry also seems to adopt the tiresome "complementarity" model of ecumenism in which evangelicals imagine themselves to be fillers of certain critical gaps in the Gospel that the Apostolic Churches have missed or failed to uphold. This supposedly gives them ecclesiological parity or equivalence with Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Hence when he speaks of Catholicism suffocating Mary the person, he's implying that evangelicalism can 1) contribute substantively to the Mariological tradition and still 2) retain its adversarial stance over and against Catholicism. That's all very cute to me (the way an adolescent would try to advise, without any sense of irony, a parent about a matter she's only giving serious thought to for the first time) but also demonstrative of the theological immaturity of mainstream evangelicalism.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Queens English in Queens, NY where I grew up.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Rhetoric of Prophecy

Prof. Kaveny has been clarifying her disagreements with the politically pro-life wing of American Catholicism over at the Mirror of Justice blog. She characterizes the "culture of life" vs. the "culture of death" rhetoric of Evangelium Vitae as "moral chemotherapy," the equivalent of trying to kill a fly with an RPG. And she makes a good point. American Manichaeanism does tend to ravage and neutralize the brain whenever it faces any dualism. But isn't it silly to place blame on the rhetoric itself? And just as chemotherapy is sometimes necessary, isn't there a logical flaw in judging a procedure solely in terms of its destructive but unintended effects? In fact, that to me, seems to be a classic liberal error.

Liberal thinking has always appeared to be marked by a largely self-induced fragility of ego, hence the chronic inability to distinguish sin from the sinner, both in oneself and in others. So when the life vs death rhetoric gets thrown at liberals, their unarmored egos get easily bruised and scatched. But as a political pro-lifer (political in the sense that I believe that pro-life ethics requires political and legal solutions as much as cultural and socioeconomic solutions), I have never thought of "Kerry Catholics" or the more moderate "Roche Catholics" as permanent members of the "Culture of Death;" if anything, their membership depends on their shifting beliefs and practices. I think Kaveny would have a hard time trying to find explicit language that is any more judgmental of their persons than that.

"Liberal" casuistry may in fact feed what we call the Culture of Death (and it is in the end figurative) and on that count, be foolish, non-sensical, and worthy of a swift smack upside the head. The brutality of pro-life criticism is, more often than not, a proportionate reaction to the way a certain erroneous worldview can wreak such grave havoc upon the rational faculties of otherwise highly intelligent and well-intentioned Catholics.

For Prof. Kaveny to neatly stuff all this into a "prophetic rhetoric is bad" sack is in itself harmful because it threatens to stuff the entire prophetic tradition of the Old Testament along with. The targets of the Nebi'im were always deeply offended by the proclamation of truth. Isn't it in MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail where King addresses the offense taken by so many respected clergymen regarding the prophetic rhetoric of the civil rights movement? The key distinction between the prophetic tradition and a puritanical moralistic tradition is that the prophets held themselves to be under the same hand of judgment as their target audience. The political pro-lifer sees herself as subject to the judgment of God in an issue that is quite literally about life and death (cf. Moses' speech on that). As the Prophets did not have the time or luxury to mince words or employ "practical reason" on a trans-pratical matter, I would want to avoid taking too much offense at anything at the very least for fear of finding myself on their bad side.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Searching for Bobby Kennedy

There are two types of Democrats, those who worship Jack and those who worship Bobby (Teddy's definitely a Jack-wannabe). Unfortunately, most of those who worship Bobby think he's just Jack minus the Camelot cologne.

What they never bother to contemplate is how a Kennedy who fathered 11 kids, who was far more devoted to his mentally disabled sister Rosemary than his brothers, who took his Catholic faith far more seriously than his brothers, and who increasingly identified with the scrappy working class over the blueblood Brahmin class could possibly become an advocate for the bourgeois addiction to the unrestricted right to destroy human life in its most vulnerable stages.

Had the devil failed in conspiring against Bobby's life, the McGoverniks would never have risen to such unopposed dominance in the party. As it was then, only Bobby can save the Democratic Party from its nihilism now.

Obama comes close in spirit, but he's still politically and intellectually captive to the pro-abortion uni-brain. Casey, well, he's not his father, the last true RFK ghola. Let's see if the purportedly more moderate freshmen Democrats can channel a little of RFK's spirit.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Intelligelicals

No, it's not the name of a new Broadway musical, but a rather cute neologism concocted by the Japery to describe this growing breed of evangelical intellectual wannabes.
The best one can do is say it [evangelical access to and presence in academia] will steer the culture, shaping the law, government, and public policy on issues that....presently divide the hell out of Christians, especially ill-defined, fad-chasing, deracinated Protestant Evangelicals and other "post-confessionalists." Lacking ecclesial and political solidarity -- the latter ideally following from the former (though this is precisely what many people fear) -- one cannot expect to be able to do anything with "access" once one has it.
I knew there was a reason why I smell a fish every time I hear smart evangelicals talk. Except for Mark Noll.

The Beheading of the Blessed Prodromos

From St. Bede in the Office of Readings:
Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptised in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptise the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.

Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Cosby vindicated

Finally, to hear a Black American defend Bill Cosby from the left. Maybe there's hope for Black Democrats after all.
Cosby asked the chilling question: "What good is Brown " and all the victories of the civil rights era if nobody wants them? A generation after those major civil rights victories, black America is experiencing alarming dropout rates, shocking numbers of children born to single mothers and a frightening acceptance of criminal behavior that has too many black people filling up the jails. Where is the focus on taking advantage of new opportunities to advance and to close the racial gap in educational and economic achievement?
I'm a socially-conservative Asian-American Catholic who adores Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. Both men in their later years embodied the kind of humility, honor, and dignity that represents the true face of Black Pride. Unfortunately today, most black politicians on the left have no sense of cultivating masculine virtues in young black men, only the trite therapeutic ideologies of the Democratic Party. Kudos Juan Williams for trying to pull the ship back on course.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Madonna really needs to read this

On the contrary, without special studies and a firm formation in the Catholic faith, we would urge all Catholics to avoid the Kabbalah - it is a mixed bag of the occult and other elements contrary to the faith. Athol's reflections sort through the distortions introduced by the Lurianic Kabbalists to show the truths of the Catholic faith hidden in the Jewish mystical traditions.
The Association for Hebrew Catholics needs a much, much bigger megaphone. Read some mind-blowing typological exegesis on Eucharistic Adoration through the eyes of Kabbalah here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Great, so now I belong down under

Which country should you REALLY be living in?


G'day Mate! You're a yokker. A true Aussie. You love the beach and barbies, as well as sport and sex. Life couldn't get any simpler, and thats the way it should be. C'mon Aussie, C'mon!

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

On centers and medians

Mark Sargent of Mirror of Justice blog asks where the political extremes fall in the Catholic Church, and in turn, where the center falls. To him, determining the center seems to be an exercise in perspectivalism:
Rick raises a good question about my post over at dotCommonweal re the dominance of the "extreme right" in Catholic discourse and in the general media, wondering whether I consider Father Neuhaus, George Weigel and others (Robbie George, for example) extreme. Whether one considers another "extreme," depends upon where one stands. More important, it depends upon where the "center" or the "core" is. Those of us who self-dentify as Commonweal Catholics tend to see ourselves as occupying a center position between more radical groups on the "left" (again, the term does not track entirely the political meaning of "left) such as Call to Action and writers such as Wills and Carroll, and the aforementioned writers on the right (same reservation re the political meaning of "right"), with whom we differ to varying degrees on a whole host of issues. Of course, as the recent exchange between Robbie and Mike P and Eduardo suggests, those writers regard themselves as speaking for the core of Catholicism, an assumption with which many of us would argue. Nevertheless, the secular press increasingly looks to that group as the voice of American Catholicism, which at least I regard as a problem.
Problem: Sargent seems to be relying on the ol' straight line metaphor of political affiliation where there are two opposing end points and not so much a center but, to be more geometrically precise, a median. The American way is to identify everything and everybody along a linear axis - a very dualistic way of looking at the world, which of couse, stems from a typically Protestant worldview. "Center" is indeed an apt metaphor for the Catholicism's "belief map," but within a sphere or circle metaphor. What Sargent calls "extremes" are more accurately "peripheries," for in Catholicism, there is a true center: the apostolic teaching of the ages, including past ecumenical councils and ongoing Magisterial guidance. Just so there's no confusion, the center I am referring to here is not an ontological or liturgical center, which could only be occupied by Christ, but rather an ideological or doctrinal center which must be occupied by apostolic teaching and authority.

So in my view, Commonweal is consistently "medianist" (rather than "centrist"), which allows them to be too easily pushed and pulled by the ideological winds of the day. All one has to do to move the median is move the end point. The GOP of the post-Gingrich era has used this strategy to great effect. And that's just too shaky a foundation for one's politics or doctrine. With no objective anchoring point of reference, Commonweal's "centrism" is another's liberalism and yet another's conservatism, which is why "moderate" and "centrism" are highly misleading terms for Catholics. Pope Benedict and JPII have demonstrated themselves to be the true "centrists" of our Church. Medianism may at times be in line with true centrism, but more often than not, it is simply screaming at the umpire from the upper bleachers.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Pope no longer Patriarch of the West

I really don't know what to make of the Pope's decision to drop "Patriarch of the West" from his resume. If, as the Holy Whappers believe, this move signifies a first step in distinguishing his jurisdictional role over the Western Church from the Petrine role over all of Christendom, then it seems perfectly legitimate and reasonable given the our mission to restore unity with the Eastern Church. Pragmatically, however, if this is just the first step in dismantling Papal jurisdiction over the entire Latin Rite the world over, I fear we're in for chaos.

Many have noted that the ideal scenario is that we'd have multiple patriarchs around the world, eg. one for Latin America, one for Africa, one for Asia, or what have you, just like they do in the East. The problem I have is that this sentiment seems to ignore history. The churches currently under the jurisdictional authority of Rome are not like the Eastern autocephs which are to their credit, for the most part, guided by Christ from within, ie. from a profound reverence for the "unchanging" nature of the Divine Liturgy. Inculturation for the East is judicious and organic, not ideological or manufactured. They haven't really needed an extrinsic authority figure to tell them what to do with the Liturgy. Sure, there have been a few messy bumps and flareups with the Old Calendrists, etc. But they have what the West lacks: a Patristic and Apostolic passion for Christ in the Liturgy.

The Latin Rite churches all over the world, by contrast, have grown so used to receiving guidance and discipline from Rome, I think the Liturgy will run amok for decades if Rome abandons jurisdictional control of the Mass, creating more schisms, before any apostolic normalcy is restored. Just look at how the Western churches have mutilated the Mass post-V2, even with all the formal directives from the Vatican.

The best counterargument is exactly what I've mentioned - that top-down management of the Liturgy obviously invites an extrinsicist view of what constitutes the local church, and hence dissent and resistance against the dictates of Rome. The East has done remarkably well for 2000 years without a unitary centralizing power. But that begs the chicken and the egg question: Can the dispersal of jurisdictional power actually cause greater respect for and adherence to the Apostolic Tradition? Or is it only an effect of some other preexisting cause?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Elken Liturgy

Philip Yancey writes about his attempts to meet God in prayer while on a rustic prayer retreat and my goodness, how these people so need good liturgy!
To my great fortune, a herd of 147 elk (I had plenty of time to count them) wandered into the very field where I was sitting. To see one elk is exciting; to watch 147 elk in their natural habitat is enthralling. But I soon learned that to watch 147 elk for two hours is, to put it mildly, boring. They lowered their heads and chewed grass. They raised their heads in unison and looked at a raspy crow. They lowered their heads again and chewed grass. For two hours, nothing else happened. No mountain lions attacked; no bulls charged each other. All the elk bent over and chewed grass.

After a while, the very placidity of the scene began to affect me. The elk had not noticed my presence, and I simply melded into their environment, taking on their rhythms. I no longer thought about the work I had left at home, the deadlines facing me, the reading that Brennan had assigned. My body relaxed. In the leaden silence, my mind fell quiet.
All the reactions Yancey describes in his Natural Geographic moment with the elk are represented in the Sacred Liturgy. It's just sad he had to learn it from hoofed beasts rather than from Mother Church.

Uppity evie chaplains

This is what you get for rejecting the sacraments and for basing the bulk of your religion on trying to convince those "liturgical Christians" that they aren't really Christians. They've been sitting around in their tents on days like today twiddling their thumbs while all those liturgical people were going to Mass and getting ashes on their foreheads.

How unfair! they thought. We feel so left out! No, wait, they're filling themselves with all these external, pious, self-righteous religious acts, the kind Paul condemned loud and clear in Scripture - they really need Jesus! Telling them how wrong they are is an essential part of our constitutional right to free exercise, darnit!

Navy fires them for forgetting that the Navy is not a church or a religious marketplace (duh). Evie chaplains sue for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to keep the Navy from giving them the boot. DC Circuit tells these plaintiffs: sit down! Subtext of Navy's actions - sacramental religions work much better with military culture, because they know who their flock is and keep it simple. They also have an intrinsic appreciation for authority and order (where's the authority and order when your entire religion is founded on a preference for personal revelations over the authority of the Body of Christ across time and space?). Subtext of DC Circuit action - the military has enough to worry about and evies need a reality check. Subtext of my post - alright, alright! so I still got an axe to grind, but these guys are giving the U.S. Armed Forces every reason to simply close down the entire Chaplain Corps.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How to write about Africa

...or, how to spot degenerate Western liberals when they bloviate over the Church's murder of Africans by teaching abstinence.
Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can't live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.
Liberals aren't too different when it comes to Asia, or for that matter, anyone different from them. Be sure to read the whole article. Delicious satire.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Redeemer's redemption

I gotta hand it to Tim Keller. He's doing a helluva job...for a Protestant. Harharhar. Seriously, Keller has proven himself to be no charlatan preacher so he's got my hat tip. NY Times has a relatively sophisticated portrayal of "Manhattan's leading evangelist."

But I too question with the Times whether a church can or should be built on a singular personality, other than Christ himself alive and ever-present (which is and can only be the Eucharist):
A looming question for Redeemer, though, is how much of what Dr. Keller and his team have built can be maintained when he ultimately exits the stage. When he was out for several months in the summer of 2002 while undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, attendance dipped noticeably.
The conventional Protestant reply is that it doesn't really matter. Churches come and go. So long as Christ uses Keller to transform lives and save the lost, then he's doing more than good, even if it all dies away in the long run. All our works are rags to God anyway. The problem with this answer is that besides being trite, it reinforces the "next big thing" mentality where Christians are trained to always look either to be or to consume the next hot Christian fad. Then believers are no longer seeking Christ, but chasing after their own desires and aspirations. This is the essence of a hyper-capitalist, not Christian, culture. Redeemer-type churches do nothing to liberate believers from the iron cage of American solipsism.

In essence, Keller is a good pastor in need of a even better Church.

Renaissance & Haugenmusik

NY Times article on the L'Homme Arme family of Renaissance masses. It frolicks through the winding turns of Renaissance musical arcana before finally arriving at its ideological destination:
Faced with such examples, Mr. Blachly says, "The best I can offer is that sacred and secular were not such separate categories as they have come to be for us."
That may be true, but as much as the sacred and secular have been polarized, so has our typically dualistic culture been guilty of the other extreme, of anointing everything secular as sacred. The defenders of Marty Haugen, et al, tend to argue that throughout church history, liturgical music has always drawn from popular genres, therefore Marty's music is sacred. But the issue for traditionalist contrarians has never been over identifying a purely sacred genre. Pop music is not per se an evil...but most of it IS and Haugenmusik IS. The test is in the Tradition which does impose theological standards, which Von Balthasar's theological aesthetics has helped us to discern. A single melody without any lyrics has a "form" that must be tested for its seaworthiness and longevity on the waters of divine worship. A Josquin Mass though five hundred years old remains remarkably fresh, capacious, and ergonomically well-designed in terms of its musical structure to contain the unfathomable doctrines and prayers of the Credo or Agnus Dei. As today's Mass reading instructs:
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; if he does, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine, fresh skins!’ Mark 2:18 - 22
Pop music tends to keep us caged within the prevailing secular Zeitgeist. Haugenmusik is all about naked "spirituality," an individualistic emotionalism incapable of representing any Christological substance. And that's why it and most pop is evil, not because it's pop. May Haugenmusik be an Augenblick on the stage of liturgical history.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wieseltier on Scientism

Huhoo. This is just too delicious. Opening salvo:
THE question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question. Scientism, the view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a superstition, one of the dominant superstitions of our day; and it is not an insult to science to say so. For a sorry instance of present-day scientism, it would be hard to improve on Daniel C. Dennett's book. "Breaking the Spell" is a work of considerable historical interest, because it is a merry anthology of contemporary superstitions.
...feast on the rest here. And I thought only Christians found Dennett to be full of crap.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Thoughtful, heart-warming words from the Ignatius Press Blog's fan mail bag:
I have to say that the Catholic Church and the DaVinci Code Hoax book are full of s***!! The Catholic Church is one the the biggest liars and responsible for the biggest cover-ups in the History of the planet. Christianity has killed more people than any other group in History. This is History!!!! Throughout History, the Catholic Church has alienated, imprisoned, and killed individuals who who were/are free thinkers (scientists, philosophers, scholars, etc...) and came up with ideas and knowledge that went against what the church stated and/or preached, and than later the church accepted these ideas and knowledge as "truth". What about these innocent people who were alienated, imprisoned, and killed for no reason?!!! The church has killed far more people deamed "witches" and/or heretics than you claim in you bulls*** books!!! Why are you so scared?!!! Why are you so stupid and ignorant?!!!!

The Catholic Church is the richest entity on the planet. If the Catholic Church is supposedly into helping people, how can you live with yourselves making and having so much money when people are struggling to live day to day. You make me sick!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hoasca tea & Judicial Activism

Very nicely put by the amici to the hoasca tea-religion case that SCOTUS just ruled on yesterday:
The Government's suggestion that carving out a RFRA exemption from the drug laws would represent judicial activism is entirely backward. This case does not involve courts ordering an exception to an Act of Congress based on general language in the Constitution. It involves an exception to the Controlled Substances Act based on another Act of Congress that expressly calls for exceptions to federal statutes. The case involves two federal statutes, and each must be taken seriously. It is not judicial activism to read the two together and rely on one to create an exception to theother. Judicial activism would be refusing to enforce RFRA.
Chief Justice Roberts and all 8 of his merry justices bought it. And of course, Mirror of Justice has it covered.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

You can't handle Religious Freedom

Steve Shiffrin has these conventional thoughts at Mirror of Justice on the Vagina Monologues at Catholic U's.
Freedom is freedom for truth. Error has no rights. This was the perspective of the Church for many centuries. It was used to support censorship and persecution in many countries. The same perspective was employed by Protestant countries for the same purposes and by non-religious dictatorships. The freedom was the same; the truth was different.

At least with respect to the actions of government, Vatican II changed the perspective of the Church. Vatican II respects the dignity of the individual and his or her freedom to make religious choices. It respects the right of individuals to choose error, but hopes to lead them toward truth. As I understand it, liberal Catholics believe that individuals should enjoy the same freedom with respect to Church teaching. They should, for example, have been free publicly to maintain that religious freedom was demanded by appropriate conceptions of human dignity when Church teaching was to the contrary.
First of all, Church teaching cannot be contrary to human dignity, and if you think it does, then you don't get Catholic teaching. The doctrine that "error has no rights" has not been overturned and is still correct, even after Dignitatis Humanae. Persons, however, do have inalienable rights. But I would hold on to the principle that there is no unconditional "right" to spread error, especially harmful error. This does not grant a right to religious institutions to actively suppress error outside its borders. The Vagina Monologues is not a person; it's a play. A university can ban a play from campus. A university can limit what a speaker may or may not speak on if she's invited on the university's dime. To assume that the principle inexorably leads to bloody persecution and repression borders on paranoia. So let's get off the pre-Vatican II Church's back -- it's getting old.

What is almost always overlooked is that the erroneous viewpoints being pushed onto Catholic campuses are not just at variance or at odds with Catholic teaching; they're utter nonsense that do not deserve the respect of university-level discourse. Just because a lot of university-educated people love it doesn't magically transubstantiate bad milk into good meat. VM is not about expanding the debate; it's about pure mockery of any other viewpoint but its own. If it affirms anyone, it does so by way of incitement to hate everything that differs from it. That kind of material belongs on Jerry Springer, not a university campus.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Martyrs of the other drug war

Rob Vischer, law prof at the Univ. of St. Thomas, at AEI Online, makes a fine point in the war over pharmacists' conscience rights:
Hopefully, our elected officials will step back from the rhetoric that has dominated both sides of the debate. They can do so by keeping in mind three fundamental—but frequently overlooked—truths about our society. First, if pressed by pro-life advocacy groups for a conscience clause, legislators should remember that supporting freedom of conscience does not mean that individuals must be legally empowered to act on the dictates of conscience without any possible negative consequence. An individual’s conscience should not be snuffed out by state edict, but neither should it be elevated as an absolute trump over the similarly conscience-driven convictions of employers and customers.
True Christian martyrs have never demanded that the law of the State give them free pass when they stood up for their faith. Christian discipleship entailed saying to oneself, "This is what I believe, and let the chips fall where they may, even to the death if necessary." None of this whining about violation of our conscience rights. When Christians lobby the state to respect human rights, it's on behalf of others who are oppressed and of the State which also needs redemption. But when conservatives expect the state to protect their faith and morality from all the slings and arrows of the world, they fall into the same victimization mentality canonized by the Left and begotten by all our rights-obsessed identity politics. The Cross was never meant be greased and made comfy by the law.

What about the Rights of the Born?

I keep confusing Anne Lamott and Annie Dillard. Both are of this breed of literary "soul sisters" and count Kathleen Norris among their numbers. The former is Protestant and the latter Catholic. Lamott, not surprisingly, had this to say recently in a LA Times op-ed with the silly title, "The Rights of the Born."

I am so confused about why we are still having to argue with patriarchal sentimentality about teeny weenie so-called babies — some microscopic, some no bigger than the sea monkeys we used to send away for — when real, live, already born women, many of them desperately poor, get such short shrift from the current administration.

Most women like me would much rather use our time and energy fighting to make the world safe and just and fair for the children we do have, and do love — and for the children of New Orleans and the children of Darfur. I am old and tired and menopausal and would mostly like to be left alone: I have had my abortions, and I have had a child.

But as a Christian and a feminist, the most important message I can carry and fight for is the sacredness of each human life, and reproductive rights for all women is a crucial part of that: It is a moral necessity that we not be forced to bring children into the world for whom we cannot be responsible and adoring and present. We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society.
The self-contradictions are dizzying.

What a blowhard

Once upon a time, I admired Christopher Hitchens. It's been so long since then that I can't even remember why. But I think it had something to do with his precise, hard-hitting prose and his love of Orwell. Then his shark-jumping moment came with his "expose" on Mother Teresa's grand scam to keep the Third World mired in destitution with all her nonsense about embracing poverty. How do you top smearing an old lady? Well, you don't. Since then, Hitchen's navel has sucked Hitchen's head so far into itself, I think his brain is losing circulation. Just look at two recent articles he wrote for

1) On Garrisson Keillor's NY Times review of Bernard Henri-Levy's new book on America:
"As always with French writers," says Keillor, "Lévy is short on the facts, long on conclusions." I would give about, oh, five cents to know which ones Keillor has in mind. Perhaps he has been boning up on his Foucault or Balibar or Derrida, in which case he modestly makes no show of his own learning. He cannot mean Albert Camus or Olivier Todd or Michel Houllebecq. Nor can he have read BHL's last book, which was a very detailed investigation of the murder of an American reporter named Daniel Pearl. I think BHL did a service to America there, as he did when he warned years ago of the dangers of the Taliban and Slobodan Milosevic, at a time when America was sleeping. But of course, guarded as it is by stout commonsensical fellows like Keillor, who think we should tend to bidness right here and stay out of them furrin places, our culture has little to fear except fear itself.
Hitchens' reading abilities are at the level of a high school thrasher if he couldn't catch Keillor's irony in the quote he posted. I read the Keillor review and the guy was being coy when he said "As always with French writers" -- a dash of wit that completely flew over Hitchens' head, which isn't hard if it's stuck in your navel or your arse. Keillor had just quipped that Lévy is quite comfortable with phrases like "as always in America." So he threw a right-backatcha with his "As always with French writers." Hitchens read it simply on its face as a serious declaratory statement, silly wabbit. The guy really does need to calm down. Every time I see him on TV, he's looking more and more disheveled and jittery -- a product of his ever-growing churlishness towards all things not Hitchens. All anyone has to do is peep "Religion!" and he'll bark like a feral alley mutt. At least Levy is having fun mocking America and its religiosity.

2) On the cartoons of Mohammed:
It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species.
As Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross would have responded to Hitchens, "Oh, what a big man you are! Hey, let me buy you a pack of gum. I'll show you how to chew it. Whoof. You're pal closes, and all that comes out of your mouth is bile. Ooh, how f----d-up you are!"

Monday, February 13, 2006

DePaul in Denial

University President Dennis H. Holtschneider is a Vincentian priest and said that he will not interfere with curriculum decisions.
That's like the Pope saying he will not interfere in doctrinal decisions. St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

CUA says no to the Talking Vaginas

When performance of the "The Vagina Monologues" at a university becomes a touchstone for determining what is or is not academic freedom, you just have to throw the millennarian doomsayers an extra quarter. Fr. James O'Connell won't have any of it while he's at the helm of America's only pontifical university. The drama queens aren't happy about it.

The same article linked above notes that at the Georgetown Hoya a columnnist was removed from the staff for writing a review that sharply criticized a performance of VM there and his review was never published. But noooo, that's not suppression of free thought. Only those damn papists are capable of infringing on intellectual freedom.

Crescat Sententia wonders whether this issue indicates an intrinsic limitation to greatness for any Catholic university. (HT: Mirror of Justice) I have a soft spot for my fellow Maroons, particularly those who are much smarter than I, but on this is one philosophical point I part ways with the UChicago model of a liberal education. Chicago just never went far enough during its honeymoon dalliance with Thomism back in the day. At any rate, what it would perhaps admit if it did, is that a modern liberal paideia at schools like Chicago cannot tolerate morality or revelation as having any standards accessible to reason. This is its primary intellectual blindspot. Liberal ed holds its students and professors to lofty standards of academic form and content in all its departments, except when it comes to morality, ethics, or religion. There the only standard is tolerance subjectivized and privatized, which is of course a dishonest double standard. Catholic universities, by their very existence and relationship to a Magisterial Church, have always challenged this glaring lacuna at the heart of post-Enlightenment learning in the West.

Fr. O'Connell has simply made it plain and firm that at the Catholic University of America, right reason advises against sponsorship of a play that is of such low quality in terms of its contribution to moral or political discourse as to disqualify it from admission to the school's resources. As a function of intellectual freedom, do grad students have a "right" to put on a performance of The Wiggles? I'd argue no, even though the Wiggles are well known to stand for "family values" (to a fault IMO). They may be great for the family living room but at a university, it's just not up to snuff. Rather than moralizing over the VM problem, I'd argue that this is a "clinical" matter of intellectual and moral standard-setting. Granted, there are no hard and fast rules in excluding the performance of a particular play at a university, but universities can and do make these discretionary calls all the time. To accuse a Catholic university for violating intellectual freedom on these grounds is thus a red herring.

If by "greatness" Crecat Sententia meant the apotheosis of Enlightenment ideals, then I say, let the secularist schools have it. Catholic schools should not be intimidated by these alluring suggestions that they need to sponsor a play of dubious quality to be great. So long as we as a society remain mired in a culture that measures artistic greatness in terms of the amount mud one can splatter on traditions and conventions alone, it will be the Catholic universities that history will hold to be great. Unfortunately, most Catholic universities haven't yet found the cahones to buck the pressure to conform their minds to the world's worst stupidity.

Friday, February 10, 2006

I'm reconsidering it...

I'm about as pigheaded as they come, so in my book Peggy Noonan gets big props for making me reconsider my previous scorn for the behavior of the soapbox egomaniacs at the Coretta Scott King funeral. No one makes me feel better for dropping my own opinions than Ms. Noonan.
A moment for a distinction that must be made. Some have compared Mrs. King's funeral to the Paul Wellstone memorial. It was not like the Wellstone memorial, and you'd have to be as dim and false as Al Franken to say it was. The Wellstone memorial was marked not by joy but anger. It was at moments sour, even dark. There was famous booing.

The King funeral was nothing like this. It was gracious, full of applause and cheers and amens. It was loving even when it was political. It had spirit, not rage. That's part of why it was beautiful.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fetal Perichoresis

Fascinating medical discovery: fetal cells remain in the mother's body for years, sometimes decades! Though not scientifically verified, an even more fascinating medical thesis: it's possible those fetal cells may serve to protect the mother from disease and who knows what else.

You can add that to the list of reasons why contraception is way overrated.

And you can add that to the list of biological metaphors for the theological relationship between Christ and his Mother and the Church.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Catholic Free-Speech-niks

I really don't understand how politically "conservative" American Catholics will defend the Vatican when it preaches the general Catholic principle that freedom apart from virtue is no freedom at all, but then openly criticize the Vatican when it criticizes American or Western pets like "freedom of speech."
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, a retired diplomat of the Holy See, said: "Freedom is a great virtue but it must be shared and it must not be unilateral. Freedom of satire that offends the feelings of others becomes an abuse, and here we are talking about nothing less than the feelings of entire peoples who have seen their supreme symbols affected." Source
But Prof. Bainbridge is "disappointed" by the Vatican's rebuke to the Western press for printing the Danish cartoon as evidencing a "deplorable moral relativism." And surprisingly, so have several conservative Catholic commentators noted that Catholics should stand for freedom of expression above the principle of respect for sacred things of other people. They're obviously in the moral universe of Rudy Giuliani where the example of Islamic extremism serves as nice wash bowl in which we Western Christians never have to take moral responsibility for our own conduct towards non-Westerners.

But the Holy See was on the mark. Maybe American neocons will one day realize that the Holy See actually has some moral and diplomatic wisdom when it comes to dealing with non-Americans. What it said simply was that the incitement to violence was wrong but so was printing the offensive cartoons. No moral equivalence was made and it's not relativistic to condemn two different things in the same sentence.

American Catholics would do well to remember that if any mofo desecrated the Eucharist in public, there should be hell to pay in this life and the next. I mentioned this last night to a Protestant former div school friend of mine who leans left and he retorted that such a response would violate what the Eucharist stands for, invoking the good ol' turn the other cheek principle as a justification for pansy-ass roll-over doormat-ism. But this is classic Protestant denial of the human, try as they may to reduce the Beatitudes to a "Make Love Not War" bumper sticker.

Reverence for sacred things is a basic human instinct. I guess modernity has obliterated that sense in us Westerners so thoroughly that when Muslims react so strongly for their holy things, we're not so much offended by their contempt for our "values" as we are subconsciously shamed by the implicit fact that we as a society have no regard for the sacred anymore.

As Catholics, we should be far more sympathetic to the desecration of anyone's sacred objects, especially if they're cherished by tens of millions of people as sacred. Over the millennia, Catholics have been through waves of persecution by iconoclasts who have mocked us for idolatry, spit on our holy relics, violently torn down our altars and statues, and disfigured our icons. If this is starting to sound like a pro-Osama statement, then you're not getting it. Sacred things are to be respected, even if they're of the "enemy." Terrorists who seek to spill innocent blood, on the other hand, are not. But if you callously or maliciously desecrate sacred objects, well, you're not so innocent anymore. I don't think death is a proportionate punishment, but still, you're not innocent anymore. You're a certifiable asshole deserving zero support from Catholics. Instead, the Danish cartoonist, his editors and publishers are now considered martyrs for the cause of free speech.

Dinesh D'Souza has an intriguing take that I find to be far more reasonable than what I'm hearing from Western Christians.

Fr. Jim Tucker too.

Fr. Robert Araujo on the Mirror of Justice blog provides a helpful perspective on geopolitical role of the Holy See in these matters.

Lone hero file: Nat Hentoff

He's still living in "the abortion capital of the world;" he's still a liberal, civil libertarian, nonreligious veteran journalist and jazz critic....And he's still pro-life. God bless him.

Monday, February 06, 2006 guilt

I've been selling a lot of my old div school books on One guy just bought a classic of liberal Protestantism -- Paul Tillich's Systematic Theology. And I feel like a scumbag for giving that dreck posing as theology additional life. I fear I'm corrupting the youth. Is the sale of used heretical theology books a mortal or venial sin?

Can religion have sacred cows?

Short answer: No, according to the O Most Profane Primates of the West. Indeed, nothing is sacred to the West anymore, except my freedom to have sex, to kill myself, and for that matter, anyone else we agree shouldn't live.

I love how the Western Liberal Cultural Imperialists are patting themselves on the back for their magnanimous response to the Danish Mohammed cartoon mess. All this chatter about freedom of speech and press in the global marketplace is a lot of bunk and totally fails to grasp the Muslim world, at least the part that's pissed off about the cartoons. As if mention of legitimate suppression of Neo-Nazis and child porn advocates weren't enough to reveal the double-standards, it must be noted that Western elites have totally forgotten how religion actually can be a matter of life and death to many people and that it's not "primitive" or "fundamentalist" to take religion that seriously. Sorry, Mr. West, but just because you've privatized religion into a narrow pidgeon-hole of subjective, individual taste, where religion is accorded the same reverence as my favorite flavor of ice cream, doesn't mean everyone else has to buy it. Isn't that simply what diversity, pluralism, and multiculturalism are all about? But no, we're relativists only when it's over our ability to scratch our latest sexual itches; absolutists when it comes to our contempt for serious religion that isn't at our beck and call.

Islam has never had a chance to really respond freely to modernity, much less postmodernity. And so long as the West continues to patronizingly instruct religions older than itself to "get with the program" and require that they turn their age-old beliefs into porridge, it will only further inflame the rage of "true believers." Islam is indeed responsible for its extremists, but the West has got to stop serving as the ignorant accomplice to the radicalization of Islamic orthodoxy, first by being honest about its own relationship to Christianity.

That means recognizing that religion is legitimately about the highest values and therefore it's naturally about life and death if it's worthy to be called a religion at all. By "highest," I don't mean what most moderns mean by it, ie. the ethereal, intangible, subjective, transcendentalist definition. I mean that which is most deserving of our utmost respect, deference, and reverence both publicly and privately, whether you're religious or spiritual or nothing. The West still loves talking about "spirituality" as the negation of institutional and historic religion, or the evolution beyond Christianity, or as some advancement in human progress. But that's just one "myth" about religion, about as scientifically rigorous as my love of fried potato products, about as advanced as the ancient paganisms.

So when the modernists cry foul when Muslims express public and murderous outrage over the mocking of one of their sacred prophets, the modernist has two realistic options: either treat Islam with respect and not impose its baggage over Christianity onto it, or just shut up. Maybe if we respected Islam enough as a true Other (which is not the same thing as tolerating violent extremists), Muslims would find enough space to grapple with modernity and make some workable peace with it to lay down the weapons. Satirizing religion comes after the horse.

Traditional Christianity has always distinguished between religion worth dying for and evil acts worth killing for. The repeated shaming of Islam by the West has pressured it to conflate the two. That does not justify the terrorists one iota. If you're insistent in seeking the deaths of innocent people, there's nothing in Christian faith that keeps us from seeking your destruction if that's what it takes to stop you. But Islam itself - the Quran, her most blessed prophets, her temples and sanctuaries, ie. her intrinsic sacred cows - they must be respected by the West. Forget the theories; it's simple politeness. And in my family, rudeness was a punishable offense; but you can't even suggest that to the fascist freedom-of-speech-niks.

Personally, I think the appropriate punishment for the cartoonist and his editor should be a public spanking. No blood, just a little public humiliation which always does the soul good.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Senate honors Catholic schools

What a church! Take note of the $19 billion savings figure - now there's earning your tax-exempt status fer ya.


Mr. VITTER (for himself and Ms. LANDRIEU) submitted the following resolution; which was considered and agreed to:

S. RES. 364 - February 1, 2006

Whereas Catholic schools in the United States have received international acclaim for academic excellence while providing students with lessons that extend far beyond the classroom;

Whereas Catholic schools present a broad curriculum that emphasizes the lifelong development of moral, intellectual, physical, and social values in the young people of the United States;

Whereas Catholic schools in the United States today educate 2,420,590 students and maintain a student-to-teacher ratio of 15 to 1;

Whereas the faculty members of Catholic schools teach a highly diverse body of students;

Whereas more than 27.1 percent of school children enrolled in Catholic schools are minorities, and more than 13.6 percent are non-Catholics;

Whereas Catholic schools saved the United States $19,000,000,000 in educational funding during fiscal year 2005;

Whereas Catholic schools produce students strongly dedicated to their faith, values, families, and communities by providing an intellectually stimulating environment rich in spiritual, character, and moral development; and

Whereas in the 1972 pastoral message concerning Catholic education, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops stated, “Education is one of the most important ways by which the Church fulfills its commitment to the dignity of the person and building of community. Community is central to education ministry, both as a necessary condition and an ardently desired goal. The educational efforts of the Church, therefore, must be directed to forming persons-in-community; for the education of the individual Christian is important not only to his solitary destiny, but also the destinies of the many communities in which he lives.”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) recognizes the goals of Catholic Schools Week, an event cosponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that recognizes the vital contributions of thousands of Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the United States; and

(2) congratulates Catholic schools, students, parents, and teachers across the United States for their ongoing contributions to education, and for the vital role they play in promoting and ensuring a brighter, stronger future for this Nation.
Thanks to Religion Clause Blog for the flag.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Are ultrasounds pornographic?

Only in a Culture of Death can images of fetuses be regarded as "too graphic" for public viewing, while quasi-nude women are just about everywhere and regarded as "freedom of speech."

Brownback on the death penalty

Sen. Brownback (R-Kansas) is the shining example of non-ideological, trans-partisan Catholic conscience at work in Congress today. I might disagree with him on particular policy positions, but unlike the overwhelming majority of Catholic politicians on both sides of the aisle, he clearly and earnestly thinks with the mind of a Catholic, beholden to "the King" but to God first. See here how on the death penalty issue, he is apeing neither the arbitrary preferences of his constituency nor those of the puppetmasters of his party, but grappling with the reality of the issue itself.

Against "liberal" Catholics, a distinctive and authentic Catholic position will not extrapolate from abortion to death penalty without distinguishing privately-authorized killing of innocents from state-authorized killing of persons guilty of committing heinous, dastardly crimes against the innocent. In other words, it will not rule out capital punishment categorically under some loosely-knit banner of "Pro-Life." It will not ignore the demands of retributive justice, which, though out of fashion, remains a standard element in the Catholic definition of justice.

At the same time, it will uphold the dignity of all persons, including criminals, and seek their redemption (which does not exclude capital punishment either). It will also regard the state's ability to inerrantly discern guilt beyond reasonable doubt in capital cases with some skepticism. Finally, JPII's advocacy against exercise of the death penalty must also be taken seriously and cannot be dismissed with that favorite overused tool of ideologically conservative Catholics - "prudential judgment." Catholics can test how ideologically-driven they are to the extent they brush off or ignore any of these Catholic concerns.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happy Dog Year!

The Useless Tree, which explores "ancient Chinese thought in American Life," offers an interesting reflection on the Chinese character "fu," or happiness/fortune. When a Chinese Eastern-rite Catholic reader took off on that theme and drew a connection between Confucian "fu" and the Chinese translation of the Ave Maria prayer, which begins with "Wan-FU Ma-li-ya," Useless Tree asked, "how would Christian grace relate to Confucian duty?" I couldn't help but respond and grab the opportunity to explore how Catholicism integrates my ethnicity without rejecting or destroying it:
Not to speak for Mr. Yong, but I believe he's referring to that aspect of "grace" which connotes blessedness, beatitude, and plenitude. To draw perhaps a poor Confucian analogy from Yong's reference to the Ave Maria prayer, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the biblical scene from which the Ave Maria derives, is honored for being the most dutiful and filial among the daughters of her Heavenly Father. Through her free, affirmative submission to the Father's will, she becomes the tabernacle for the Incarnate Son, who all Christians profess to be their Lord and Savior. Therein lies her "grace" and the fulfillment of her "duty" as "the handmaid of the Lord." She thus becomes a model and Mother to all Christians.

There are many quasi-Confucian relations at work, especially in the Catholic interpretation of the Gospels' Nativity story: father-son (both heavenly and earthly), mother-son, father-daughter, husband-wife, cousins/siblings (not strongly distinguished in biblical times), even ancestor veneration if we analogize to the genealogies of Christ in Matthew and Luke. Of course, familial duties are not emphasized as they are in Confucianism, but they're implicit, with a Christocentric, rather than a horizontal humanistic focus. Just my two cents. Gong xi fa cai!

Alito's in

I'm happy about the Alito confirmation, not because I love Bush, or the Republicans, or even Alito himself, but because the Democrats soooo deserve it.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Breaking News: God Is Love!

...not very catchy, is it? Well, heck, not to let the truth get in the way of a good headline, let's say "Benedict's First Encyclical Shuns Strictures of Orthodoxy"!!! I mean, that's why we pay those NY Times headline editors the big bucks, right?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Catholic Convergence

With newly minted President of Notre Dame Fr. John Jenkins at the helm, Our Lady's University may very well be in the process of reclaiming her place as America's Truly Catholic University. One can discern in Jenkins' speeches on the Catholic understanding of academic freedom an emboldening progression of thought towards a firm, independent, and assertive outward gaze in Catholic thought. Here's an excerpt from his address to the university faculty delivered yesterday:
As I begin my presidency, I am aware that, as I make particular decisions and undertake initiatives, I am establishing patterns and expectations for how I will lead in this position. Consequently, it is important not only what decisions I make, but how I make them. On matters of significance, I will always strive to make decisions, consonant with my authority, according to my most informed and considered judgment about what is best for this university and its mission. I will not lead by consensus, nor by majority vote, nor in response to the pressures that individuals or groups inside or outside the university may bring to bear. However, prior to making a decision on an important matter, I will, as appropriate and practicable, strive to solicit and listen to the views of relevant individuals and groups. Central to the obligations of my office are the twin responsibilities of listening to the views of members of this community prior to a decision, and then making that decision. (emphasis added)
Jenkins sounds awful lot like Alito and Roberts, and come to think of it, like B16. Convergence is such a beautiful thing.

Read the rest to get the substantive philosophical arguments. It'll warm the Catholic mind and soul.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Where are the Commonweal Catholics going?

Luke Timothy Johnson, in the latest 1/27/06 issue of Commonweal, on the "intellectual chill" spreading across Catholic academia:
I am not sanguine. For one thing, the chill has become systemic. The episcopacy shaped by John Paul II will continue to perpetuate its fearful distrust of theologians. Defenders of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) argue that its investigations and sanctions of theologians are about “truth in advertising”-Catholic theologians in Catholic colleges should teach the way the Vatican says they should teach. Such a claim does little more than reduce theological truth to catechesis.
I'm no big fan of JPII's pics for the episcopacy, but LTJ is not helping. It's a little sad to see a fine Catholic NT scholar like Johnson, who I once admired greatly, slowly but willingly fall prey to the same infectious delusions of the modernist liberal intelligentsia. "Fearful distrust of theologians"? I guess anything less than rubber stamping is unequivocally distrustful then. "Truth in advertising" = reducing theological truth to catechesis? I suppose with the way American Catholics do catechesis, it deserves the insult. But if LTJ and his like-minded theologians can't distinguish between catechesis and CCD, and then incorrectly isolate catechesis from theological inquiry, well then no wonder modern theology is a mess.

I think we all need to wake up to the "you put down your gun and I'll put down mine" principle. Maybe if theologians didn't spend so much time bashing the hierarchy with their historicist narratives of power and their hermeneutics of suspicion, there would be a good reason for the hierarchy to trust you all. Meanwhile, the bishops have a huge unwieldy Church to hold together while the theologians, for the most part, have the luxury of playing pinata with effigies of the bishops.

LTJ's Emory colleague, Michael Perry, on Mirror of Justice blog is starting to annoy as well, with his Johnny-One-Note postings demonstrating little intellectual, but plenty of ideological, fussing. (HT: to MP for notice of the LTJ article, but not for his comments.)

My part in "The March"

Hosted friends from out of town, in town for the March for Life. Participated in a planning meeting for Americans On Call, a new movement started by my classmates. Went to a powerful Byzantine Compline at the Shrine last night and did a Holy Hour before the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Sat by the AOC phone today in case any media got curious. Talked to several marchers. Between classes, a very full day.

Came across this nice article by Frederica Mathewes-Green (thankfully avoiding her frequent anti-Catholic jabs) in which she says:
There is tremendous sadness, loneliness in the cry, ‘A woman’s right to choose.’ No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Aslan is a not a Christ-figure

I finally caught the Narnia flic, and after scratching my head as to whether I saw the same movie as all the kind reviewers, I found a kindred moviegoer in Anthony Lane's review in the NYer:
Lewis lovers must squabble among themselves. I cannot join the party, having missed out on Narnia as a child. I was busy elsewhere, up to my armpits in hobbits, and starting to ask hard questions about the sexual longevity of elves. When, as a grownup, I finally opened “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” it struck me as woefully thin soil, with none of the gnarled roots of lore and language on which Tolkien thrived. If the movie has to forgo Lewis’s narrative tone, with its grimly Oxonian blend of the bluff and the twee (“And now we come to one of the nastiest things in this story”), that is fine by me. And, if there is Deep Magic, as Lewis called it, in his tale, it resides not in the springlike coming of Aslan but in the dreamlike, compacted poetry of Lewis’s initial inspiration—the sight of a faun, in the snow, bearing parcels and an umbrella.
If the movie's Aslan came anywhere close to representing C.S. Lewis', then I think I've finally found my good doctrinal reason for not liking Lewis: bad Christology.

Aslan is not even compelling as a movie hero, much less as as Christ-figure. For example, to allegorize Christ's scourging, Aslan got a bad hair cut by lawn gnomes brought to life. Puhlease. Mel's Braveheart cut a more Passionful Christ-figure than the movie's Aslan. In the end, he's just an all-powerful, sacrificial hero-type with a mean, toothy roar. That's not even the half of the true Christ, with a far more intriguing Trinitarian persona at work in the Gospels. Then again, Western Christianity has always been far less interested in the Sub-apostolic and Patristic understanding of Christ's Trinitarian identity.

Christ, without any conscious reference to a Person from Whom he was begotten, is a Christ for the heretics. It is not the Christ of the Gospels, nor a Christ of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. But I'm probably making too much of Lewis' Aslan. Of course Aslan was not presented intentionally as an anti-Trinitarian Christ, by either Lewis or the filmmakers. For the kids, that's fine. For adults, especially adult Christians who take Christological doctrine seriously, Aslan is a big disappointment. Yeah, yeah, I need to read the book before I judge too harshly. But that won't happen till I have me some kids of my own to read to sleep.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Go Providence!

It's one thing for the president of a Catholic college to ban the staging of the Vagina Monologues, it's an awesome thing to also capitalize on the opportunity to teach the school and community that yes, Virginia, an alternative, specifically Catholic understanding of "academic freedom" exists.
This policy will inevitably raise questions regarding academic freedom. The true meaning of academic freedom is often misunderstood; it is not the license to hold any view that one chooses. Academic freedom is instead always governed by truth. It is the freedom to pursue the truth in a discipline in accord with the accepted canons of inquiry without any impediment by extraneous considerations. Prohibiting a theatrical production of The Vagina Monologues does not prohibit free inquiry about the play. All members of the campus are free to read, study, and discuss the play in various settings, especially the classroom. It is perfectly appropriate that we study texts that have diverse views in order both to broaden our understanding of others and to bring our own views into sharper focus. I fully expect that one result of this communication will be some controversy. As a long-time student of St. Thomas Aquinas, I think disputes are an important part of education, so long as they are conducted with charity. While arguments about intellectual positions help us to learn from each other, attacks on persons do not.
God bless the sons and daughters of St. Dominic! (HT: The Curt Jester)

Traditionalist Sartorialism

As a Catholic with strong traditionalist sympathies, I must confess that I do not share in the adoration of humongous, gaudy episcopal/papal headgear. The bigger, more swollen and bulbous it gets, the more uncomfortably Freudian I become. What is the point, really, with the whole size thing? Once a mitre dwarfs the head it sits on by a factor of two or more, I think it safe to say we're in the Land of Ostentasia or Repressed Homoeroticism. This is another area where I'm with the Eastern churches - very dignified, theologically-distinctive, and naturally-proportioned mitres.

B16 actually seems to have a better sense of proportion and theological aesthetics in his headgear, so far as I can tell. I'm not into the red shoes though, unless they're an explicit reference to Elvis Costello's song about the angels who want to wear them.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Radical Orthodoxy Redux

Against the Grain has an excellent review of recent St. Blog's reflections on the Radical Orthodoxy movement, which had me wrapped around its ink-stained finger back in my div school days. I remember how it made me feel so smart, so enlightened in that Gnostic sorta way. But now I'm with Blosser - RO asks the right questions, comes up with philosophically innovative and satisfying answers, and leaves the soul empty, isolated, and worst of all, smug. Philosophy does not save. What RO is missing is the Catholic Church. They do have the Anglican Church, but that's partly why I haven't seen much of anything come out of it, except maybe the Emergent Church, which is the church you'd get if Oprah were to suddenly fall in love with Catholicism minus the Catholic Church.

William Cavanaugh's Torture and Eucharist is still among my most cherished theology books, but last I checked he's still Catholic and more of a Hauerwasian than a Radical Orthodoxist, or whatever you call them.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Advice to the Left: Never play the baby card

It's almost as if ideological politics were invented to save us from being bored to death by the law. My high-maintenance dog gets really huffy-puffy when it wants be stroked and patted on the head, and the Left's performance during these Alito hearings remind me of how closely related we are to our canine friends. Alito is in favor of strip-searching 10 yr-old girls! Oh, the horror! But if they voluntarily go on TV to do a strip dance, no problem, that's women's lib, girl-power. No one ever bothers to talk about what a strip-search IS. Yes, it's a potentially dangerous tool of law enforcement, highly susceptible to depraved abuses. But the Left seems to be saying that strip-searching children is a categorical moral evil -- under no circumstances can there be any just cause for searching a child underneath the clothes. Once again, who can really believe the sincerity of pro-choicers when they then turn around to adamantly declare that there ARE circumstances where we can justifiably kill a baby while it's in the process of being born? I'm not saying I approve of Alito's decision in Doe v. Groody, only that the Left is squatting on a very ironic stoop when it attacks Alito on Groody and then champions Stenberg in the same breath.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

They left out Protestantism - 0%

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

EN: I've been faulted for the 67% Pelagianism. I never batted an eyelid about it because Catholic orthodoxy takes free will and moral agency seriously. Pelagianism became a "hot" heresy only because of the Calvinist appropriation of the late Augustine whose sense of human depravity by that point was getting the better of his moral theology. Beyond that, Pelagius' moral theology wasn't so bad, just his Christology.