Sunday, February 18, 2007

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bishop Gumby

I clicked the link, a bit fearful that I might actually be moved by the "prophetic courage" of a liberal bishop putting the spotlight on the real flaws in our Church that demand our attention, since I, like most Catholics orthodox or dissenting, have been infuriated by the clergy's response to the priest sex abuse scandal. My fears were unwarranted. The video of Gumbleton giving his last message at St. Leo's bore dubious, at best, resemblance to the biblical and apostolic prophetic tradition, pace Clergy Abuse Attorney, though there wasn't any question of its family resemblance to the O'Donnell-O'Reilly school of prophecy. So full of himself. You'd think it would be obvious that a so-called prophet that talks that much about himself as the poor victim of the Vatican Man is just full of it. But the congregation gave their predictably indignant, pouty applause on cue. His "apology" was dripping with cynicism and self-pity, it was disgusting. Only the most superficial understanding of Jesus, Jeremiah or Isaiah would confuse Gumbleton's maudlin gesticulations for prophecy. Anyone who tries to reduce the priest abuse scandal to a laity-versus-hierarchy problem is sadly trapped in the moral universe of the typical disaffected teenager. Nowadays all you need to do to be counted a "prophet" is publicly piss on anything hierarchical or Western- or male-dominated. Jeremiah should have been so lucky to have it so easy.

Bishop Gumbleton was wearing one very liturgically respectable chasuble though. I give credit where it's due.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Catholic Blog Awards 2007

I have at least two reasons to love the CBA: 1) to see Amy Welborn receive the honor that is her due (they should just give her a Perpetual Achievement Award every year) and 2) to learn what blogs I've been missing out on. The ballots this year are way too long, but the long lists of nominees do fulfill Reason #2.

This year, I've discovered, up for Best New Catholic Blog, Et Tu, Jen which had this softly-barbed thought for the literate, cultured atheists out there:
I often wonder if Pinker, Dawkins and others like them have really internalized what they're saying. Because, at least in my experience, when you fully realize what it means to be an atheist -- that you and everyone you love are just chemical reactions, that all the poetry and wars and art and music and love of all humanity amount to not even a blip on the radar screen of the universe, that we are all simply a more complicated version of what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar together -- you don't feel like writing pithy essays about it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Real Catholic Restoration

Daniel Mitsui has been posting some reassuring reflections here and here probing the deeper underpinnings of the current state of Catholic aesthetics. What he concludes about church archietecture, music, and iconography is exactly what I feel about church morality, politics, and ecclesiology.

My research is finding a whole bunch of books on the reform of the hierarchical and pastoral structure of the Church…all written by liberal, modernist technocrats – a sordid alliance of dissenting theologians and “successful” lay Catholic Democrats of the business, political, and legal elite who simply don't get the form of the Church, or the Catholica , to use von Balthasar's term. These reformist ideas are brimming with the conceit of “managerial expertise” with absolutely ZERO sense of the Fathers or the martyrs. After all their long-winded paeans to the glories of the laity (contra the incompetencies of the hierarchy), and when they actually get around to referencing Catholic tradition, it’s only with a most selective and superficial gesture.

A must read. Especially the last paragraph.
I wrote in my essay on Bonfire Motets and Missionary Icons that Roman Catholics have shown a remarkable genius for understanding controversialists independent of controversy; and for incorporating seemingly incompatible elements of Catholicism into an ancient and joyful piety. This is entirely different from a cynicism that continually gropes farther back in history for a purer faith; it is rather an innocence that considers the religion in itself and not as a reaction against something; that considers it with the mind of the Apostles and advances it under their principles.

This is also different from what is proposed by many contemporary apologists. To read the discourse in Catholic websites and periodicals, the hermeneutic of continuity means pretending that ruptures did not occur, even though they are plainly observable. This is not defending the faith; all it does is make the Church look ridiculous, like something that requires a willful obliviousness and doublethink to believe. The solution advanced by these apologists is essentially that all Catholics think like dialectical philosophers. But a continuity attained by employing an intellectual approach contrary to apostolic principles is no continuity at all; it is just another rupture.

A true recovery of the greatness of Roman Catholicism cannot rely on apologies that hide the ruptures under triumphalist bluster, or under a new ultramontanism that reduces the Catholic religion to a mere expression of magisterial power. For the recovery to succeed, Catholics must be allowed to believe in its necessity.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Neocon Liberation Theology

Great article by Daniel Larison from Nov. 06 and the paleocon journal, The American Conservative.
If we believe President Bush, God also has a sort of program of earthly liberation. It is an attempt to immanentize the spiritual liberty of Christians as political liberty, while at the same time stripping this liberty of any association with revelation. It is what political philosopher and philosopher of history Eric Voegelin would have called a modern gnostic error. This idea is injurious to the deliberative nature of republican government and has inspired the justification of revolutionary violence in a questionable cause in Iraq.
Never really thought of how Bush’s political-economic worldview is in a way cut from the same theological cloth as Marxist liberation theology. Both reduce the work of the Creator to the expansion of political and economic liberties. Both usurp the name of God for their essentially materialist liberationist agenda. Yet another reason to reject liberation theology. The Right and the Left keep forgetting that they're long-lost twins. I still hear people on the Left wax fecklessly about the Magisterium's rejection of liberation theology as close-minded and backward.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Damn straight

You are a 100% traditional Catholic!

Congratulations! You are more knowlegeable than most modern theologians! You have achieved mastery over the most important doctrines of the Catholic Faith! You should share your incredible understanding with others!

Do You Know Your Baltimore Catechism?
Make Your Own Quiz

Friday, February 09, 2007

Anti-Catholicism on thin ice

Catholics are up in arms about Sen. Edwards. And rightly so. The line about the Father filling up Mary with the "hot white sticky Holy Spirit" was enough to make me want to suit up in my Crusader cape and tights. Couldn't find my damn morningstar though and that just took all the steam out of me.

Many Catholics right and left have made the point that the Edwards response would have been totally different if the blogonistas directed similar comments at Jews or Blacks.

But I think the problem we Catholics have is that we've never really, really been victims of serious anti-anything. In other words, anti-Catholicism, for all its stupidity, ignorance, and hatefulness, has always been relatively bloodless. Real anti-Semitism has historically included pogroms and the Holocaust. Real anti-black racism has included lynchings, whippings, raping, riots, pretty much everything that involves blood-spilling. And real anti-native racism of course has included de facto genocide. Anti-Catholicism at its worst has included a few sporadic riots and a few church burnings. Not pretty stuff, but nothing worse than what WASP Americans have done to each other, which I think is the real test for whether a minority gets preferential sympathy status.

Each minority group has to ask itself: Has America treated you worse than WASPs have treated each other? The KKK here does not define the center. The KKK and Jack Chick versions of anti-Catholicism have always been towards the extreme end. The relative violence score for anti-Catholicism among other anti-minorityisms is low. And that's why Bill Donahue of the Catholic League always looks a little silly when he does his bloody murder schtick, even when he's completely correct.

This Edwards debacle is all about political anti-Catholicism, which is very different from theological anti-Catholicism. The former is a useful playing field for genuiune anti-Catholics but it's thin ice for Catholics. We just won't get very far crying anti-Catholicism so long as our historical consciousness cannot come up with a single atrocity ever perpetrated against Catholics by non-Catholic Americans. Blaine Amendments got nuthin on Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson.

I may be particulary attuned to this because I'm Asian-American. We, like Catholics, have been victim of real anti-minority sentiment, laws, and violence. But never atrocities. The Korematsu case and the Japanese internment come close, but no dice. Those were violations of our dignity, primarily. Rounding it all out, Vincent Chin, Wen Ho Lee, Yellow Peril, anti-miscegenation laws, and Hollywood's traditional mockery of Asians, and that's pretty much it. There were the many personal incidents of being called "chink" or "chingchongching," which while offensive, also made the offender look like a idiot.

This is also why the homophobia as a hate crime issue will never amount to much. Matthew Shepard is to gays what Vincent Chin is to Chinese Americans. You can't build much of a case for systematic oppression from sporadic incidents of bovine white men who let their frustrations and inebriations get the better of them.

Therefore, Catholics cannot and should not expect Americans to "share our pain" over incidents like the Edwards campaign blog. As idiotic as Edwards' defenses were (voting for Kerry and going to a Catholic college means you're not anti-Catholic), public opinion will let him get away with it, since the political sympathy for Catholics is so low compared to other minorities. In other words, there is no moral equivalence between anti-Catholicism and say, anti-Semitism. We can't control how violent America is to us, but we can remain disciplined and clear-sighted in our skirmishes against those who would defame Mother Church and her teachings. Ah, found my bommyknocker.