Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Church of Ex-Catholics

I just read yet another ditty on "ex-Catholic Tom Tancredo" and find it so interesting how no one really seems to care what two-bit Protestant startup (they're all startups to us) he's joined, just that he's an ex-Catholic, which is always good for a little spice if you're criticizing the Pope. The Church of Ex-Catholics really is the second largest denomination in America...except for the fact that under canon law, 99% of them are still Catholic.

The Ecumenical Council of Sarbanes-Oxley

I've had to research some material from orgs like the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management and the Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities. They do a lot of good work, drawing on the expertise of lay Catholics in the fields of management, finance, law and accounting. But their language is saturated with little more than Catholicism-as-our-business banality. It's already the dominant mold of Catholic apostolates in health care, education, and social service. Dioceses and parishes have been more resisitant, but they need to get with the times, the failure to do so being the material cause of the priest scandal, so we are instructed. It's telling how often they're constantly reminding themselves that "the Church is not a business." If we have to remind ourselves with self-referential slogans, then you know something's not right. They love talking about what the Church is not and never get around to what the Church IS, has been, and will be. Accountability and other virtues of good corporate morality reminiscent of ol' time Puritan religion are writ large like their shiny banners. It's almost as if the priest scandal was a Felix Culpa moment. Now the laity can assume their proper place of empowerment as corporate busybodies of the Church. Then Amy puts finger on it in her reflections on the hand-wringing over the "impact" of the papal visit:
Thousands of people. Good-hearted, faithful people. Challenging each other, not to go out and evangelize, but to revision, refashion, and think yet one more time about structures. Very anxious about numbers, about energy, about the Spirit, but totally blind, either through ignorance or a kind of bigotry, to the new movements and initiatives right under their noses which are drawing people to Christ through the Church, seeing all of these things, somehow, as problems instead of as good news.

It is so ironic to me that so many who have so much disdain for the institutional Church in terms of structure and even teaching function are fixated on structure and can’t seem to think about much else.

Circumstances in which sincere and well-meaning initiatives and movements to help people connect more intimately with Christ happened in a context that ended up leaving us more at sea, in many ways. There’s no blame - it’s just what happened. Perhaps it was even necessary. But the point is, when you take a rather urgent sense that perhaps there were some areas of Church life that were functioning as obstacles to Christ, rather than doors, combine that with Scriptural and historical studies which had the ultimate effect of casting doubt on the trustworthiness of anything we think we know about what the Scriptures or the Church tells us about Christ, and then combine that with ideological battles and then mix all of that up in a culture in which authority is a bad word, relativism reigns and the Catholic Church is not, to its great surprise, the only game in town…you have massive confusion as to why we are doing what we are doing and what we are doing at all.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wright's Demands to the Man

From The Christian Century, one of the last of the great mainline Protestant institutions, a year ago:
I asked Wright what response white churches should make to his Africentric gospel. He referred to a crash course on inner-city ministry he used to teach to white seminarians. He would close the course by telling them that the final exam was this: when their friends or family or parishioners exhibited racism, the students should speak up. If they didn't, they failed the course. And only they and God would know.
First of all, when did they stop using "Afrocentric" and how is "AfrIcentric" an improvement? I can't keep up with the PC dictionary. Secondly, if that's all Wright wants from the white devils, then all his "prophetic preaching" really is just a joke and a stunt.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Going gently into that good night

Haven't seen much blogging about these developments at Seabury-Western seminary in Evanston and Episcopal Divinity School.
April 24, 2008

EVANSTON, IL – The Trustees of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary today declared that the Episcopal Seminary “is in (a state of) financial crisis that threatens survival of the institution” and has given notice to all faculty that employment will end on June 30, 2009. The school also eliminated nine staff positions. The final date of employment for most of these staff will be May 23 – a week after graduation and the school’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
What a way to celebrate 150 years. Very sad. I wonder, who's next?

Kill Bill?

Ann Althouse (no right-winger) has the definitive take-down of the Bill Moyers-Rev. Wright interview. Moyers eats more dirt than Wright, which I think isn't emphasized enough. It's not Wright per se that is the cause of fury. It's the smug hypocritical moralism of his defenders and the Left in general. Wright is just the convenient symbol of the Left's intellectual and moral bankruptcy. But Moyers and his smarty-pants ilk are the real target of righteous conservative ire.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cannibalism of the Left

Yeah, it's not just their unborn. This would be a beautiful thing to behold:
I'm beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in "The Godfather," where the watchword is, "It's business, not personal." Eleanor Clift
With all due respect to the Don, of course.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Face of Liturgy

"Thus to ask what is 'suitable' must always be the same as asking what is 'worthy': it must constantly challenge us to seek what is worthy of the Church's worship."
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "On the Theological Basis of Music," The Feast of Faith
True. And a good word to all liturgical directors. But Ratzinger still let's us off too easily here, for what does it say about the Church if her liturgy, after 2000 years, is still something we need to "liturgically direct" at all, "suitably" and "worthily" or not? That, I think, is an underlying pustule in Catholic liturgics, one which erupted this week into a heated dispute between loyal Catholics over the music selected for the Nationals Stadium Mass. Ratzinger implicitly concedes that liturgy is a product of human design, subject to tinkering semper reformanda ad nauseam, in pursuit of some ideal set of theological-aesthetic rules or standards. So we bicker and fight over those standards and meanwhile continue to tinker and advance our agendas, occasionally getting some liturgical fiat that resolves some issues, but invariably creating others. This seems to be the "other" liturgical cycle governing Catholic worship, especially since Vatican II.

So I wonder if the West needs to recover what is implicit in the East -- that sense of liturgy as acheiropoieta.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Methadone for Politics: Pope

Living in DC, you become something of a politics addict. No surprise there; it's a well-known fact of life in the Beltway. I'm no exception. But watching and listening to Benedict read his address in his slippery, sibilant English to 25,000 Catholic young people in Yonkers -- and I mean really listening -- I realized, as I flipped the channel for a sec only to find Tim Russert's face bulging with rapture over yet another Clinton-Obama fracas, this presidential race is soooooo boring.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rip Van "Healing"

The poor word has been forced to do so much work, I'm afraid there's nothing left in him. Can we give him a break? Just shelve him for a while, in that dictionary we no longer reach for. Let him sleep. Give him, say, 20 years.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Our Worst Critics Prefer To Stay"

is the winner of the contest for Best 6-Word Motto for the US over at the NY Times' Freakonomics blog. I heartily concur with the Freakonomicons.

It's also why I'm always amused by the cowardly litanies of the Catholic Church's sins by the Bill Maher-Penn & Teller-HuffPo-Kos idiocracy, which is supposed to present us Catholics with overpowering reasons against continued membership in her rolls. Next to the sins of Uncle Sam, Mother Church may still be a whore, but she's no butcher. So if we're not crazy for prizing our US passports, spare me the sanctimonious lecture for how I cling to my rosary.

The anti-Catholic blowhards aren't even critics. They're too childish and ignorant to deserve the title. The Catholic Church: Our best & worst critics prefer to stay.

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

Sometimes I forget how horrid the vocations crisis is. Only 22 seminarians enrolled in an archdiocese of 2.5 million Catholics. Zero in the first-year theology program. How's this for "hope":
The Rev. Luke Sweeney, director of vocations for the archdiocese — which covers the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and seven counties west and north of the city — says the church must make its case if it hopes to reinvigorate a priesthood that is increasingly elderly. “How do we get the ‘cool’ factor back into the priesthood?” Father Sweeney said. “If we don’t sell the priesthood, we can’t legitimately ask a young man to consider the priesthood as a vocation.”
With vocations directors who thinks the priesthood needs to be sold and made cool, who needs Satan the Great Destroyer of the Sacred Presbyterum? Even if I were considering the priesthood, a comment like that from the guy who has been entrusted with formation of the future priesthood for one of our preeminent dioceses only tells me to save my marbles for a calling with a little more self-respect. It's is a total admission of the emptiness and impotence of modern Western Catholicism and it's totally consistent with my sense of the Cardinal Egan's therapeutic-bureaucratic style. Talk about out of touch and clinginess.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Not even two days old and it's already a "Bitter-gate." The lovers and haters of Obama have predictably disgorged themselves of their defenses and attacks. Yawn.
One thing I like about Barack Obama is that when he hands himself lemons, he tries to make lemonade as you see in his response to those who criticized his characterization of the public mood in Pennsylvania. Recall that the whole meetings with the political leadership of rogue states started as a gaffe, but eventually became a synecdoche for willingness to move beyond the conventional wisdom of a broken establishment.

I have no idea whether this particular response to this particular controversy will "work" but it's still the correct approach and one that shows, I think, a more sophisticated grasp of media dynamics than we've seen from most Democrats over the past few years.*
OK. So he's no cheap panderer the way Hilary is. But I'd be a lot more sympathetic to this line of defense if Obama actually demonstrated any equanimity on the God & guns issues. There's nothing very controversial in Obama's restatement of the fact that the GOP has capitalized on middle America's lack of faith in government's ability to make a positive difference in their economic lives and has used the culture wars to corral them.

But Obama is totally out of touch with the Democratic Party's complicity in this admittedly pernicious electoral dynamic. He doesn't seem able or willing to acknowledge how the Democratic Party, by its dogmatic and activist moral anarchism, has been equally busy (however unwittingly) driving middle America into the tax-cutting, job-exporting, dollar-eviscerating arms of the GOP. And while economic issues may enjoy a certain natural priority in the public square, social issues and the positions that social conservatives hold were not invented by the GOP ex nihilo.

If Obama actually showed some moderation and flexibility on the policy questions surrounding embryos, guns, gays, etc., then his self-defense would have a leg to stand on. But he's stubbornly clingy to passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, for instance, stating his intent to make it the first bill he wants to sign into law, and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Last I checked, FOCA or DOMA won't do much to return jobs to PA. If economics is the ball we should be keeping our eyes on, and all those morality/values issues little more than red herrings to make us vote redstate, then why is Obama himself so "clingy" on these issues?

Either these social issues are epiphenomenal or they're more complicated than that. I think it's the latter. But if you're going to insist on the former, then everyone's got to be less clingy to them. If middle America has little reason to be so clingy to their pro-life positions, then Obama has little reason be so clingy to his pro-choice position. But you just can't decouple that and claim you're so in touch with reality.

UPDATE: Now he's firing back (or bailing water) with his old "politics of division and distraction" and "silly season" schtick. Who was it again that first raised the issue of God & guns in the middle of a discussion on economic policy? So I guess what he's saying is that the GOP & Hilary engage in the politics while Obama engages in the syntax of division and distraction.

Obama and his defenders still have not accounted for why he found it so necessary to broach the subject of God & guns when he was talking about the economic anxieties of middle America. It has been the Democratic party line to blame Rovianism for middle America's consistent pattern of voting against economic self-interest. Obama has yet to distance himself critically from this liberal Democratic script and its self-serving half-truths. He's still cutting along the same grain: You working class folk need to let go of your false Roveian consciousness and come out of the cave. If you needed proof that Obama's politics is at root Marxist, look no further.

It amazes me how smart the Dems continue to think they are, even as they bang their heads against the wall of white proles voting against their so-called economic interests. At best, then, I can grant to Obama that he wasn't intentionally driving the religion wedge into his talk; rather he was just clinging to the old liberal script, which is more interested in absolving liberals for their failure to appeal to the whole political person, not just homo economicus.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Earth to NY Times, again

The Pope is the head of state for the HOLY SEE, not Vatican City.
Secret Service agents, the pope’s own Swiss Guard security forces and several thousand officers from the New York Police Department will share the daily job of safeguarding the pope, leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the head of state of Vatican City.
Right, just like President Bush is the head of state for the District of Columbia.
The pope, traveling on his jet, Shepherd One, will arrive at Kennedy Airport next Friday morning, the day before the start of the Jewish celebration of Passover.
It's a chartered jet, Sherlock. The Pope/Vatican doesn't own planes.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Gray Agenda

Classic Newsweek religion piece:
Adam Hamilton does not call himself "pro-choice." He prefers "pro-life with a heavy heart." What that means, as he explains in his new book "Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White," is that he believes abortion should be available and legal, that there are instances in which it might be necessary and that those instances should be very rare. Further, he says, the abortion debate has been too hot for too long, and that, as a Christian minister, his job is to try "to support people no matter what decision they make." As an evangelical megachurch pastor in Kansas, a man educated at Oral Roberts University, Hamilton speaks carefully, aware that he's staking out a controversial position.
"Gray" here is code for open-minded niceness as opposed to B&W meaniness. Gray vs. B&W. Pretty black and white to me.