Monday, November 29, 2004

Tony Blair: intent on becoming Catholic?

Alessandro Zangrando reports in his "Roman Landscape" column in the latest issue of Latin Mass magazine:
"Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain seems intent on embracing the Catholic Faith. An episode recently came to light which happened during his recent summer vacation. Blair, a guest last August in the villa of Prince Guicciardini Strozzi, in fact asked and obtained permission to assist at a private Catholic Mass the day of Ferragosto (the feast of the Assumption) and the following Sunday, August 22nd. There was no attempt to be discreet because he attended in the parish church of Cusona. The Masses were celebrated by Father Ian Wilson, an Augustinian sent by the superior of the convent of Saint Giminiano, Father Brian Lovery. Bishop Mauro Fusi was also present. The prelate was assisted by a very restricted group of faithful and religious. The Masses were celebrated in the English language and Tony Blair read the first Scripture reading and the prayer of the faithful. Moreover, he got in line and received Holy Communion."
What lies behind these appearances is anyone's guess. Though his reception of communion while not yet having been received into the Church does raise questions, the Prime Minister's having sought and obtained permission to assist at mass, as well as his willingness to serve as lector and read the prayer of the faithful, suggests more than the kind of egrigious faux pas of which Bill Clinton was capable. For more details, see p. 5 of the Fall 2004 (Vol. 13, No. 4) issue of Latin Mass magazine (unavailable online, though you can subscribe and receive a free copy of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" for a three-year subscription).

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


In the Fall 2004 issues of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame, Dr. Ralph McInerny has an article in the Ex Cathedra column on the last page. He entitles it, ironically, "A Flock of Shepherds," and it's about the strongest language I've seen from the pen (or keyboard) of McInerny outside of his detective novels. Here goes:
Should members of the bishops conference be allowed to receive communion? Giving aid and comfort to their fellow Democrats is so ingrained a habit that it has fuzzed episcopal minds as to whether a soi-distant Catholic politician who champions abortion is rejecting Church doctrine and thereby qualifies as a public sinner who should be denied the Eucharist. Of course it could be argued that being a politician is already to be a public sinner, but that would be as facetious as my opening sentence, even if one can invoke the authority of Mark Twain for the identification.

Thomas Aquinas, in a quodlibetal question, asked if being a bishop outranks being a theologian. The question may seem quaint in a time when bishops have established a long track record of silence on dissenting theologians. It has become hard to tell the one from the other. Perhaps the episcopal conference fears being charged with inconsistency. After all, to act manfully in the case of dissenting politicians would be in stark contrast to their hands-off policy on theologians who deny the creed.

Father McBrien has advised Catholics to attend to the silence of the bishops on the matter of giving communion to Catholic politicians who are in the vanguard of the Culture of Death. But we have been hearing the silence of the bishops on important matters for decades now, so much so that when a few of them actually act like successors of the Apostles they cause one to check his hearing aid. One had come to think that they were all Trappists of the old observance.

The shambles of the post-conciliar Church is all around us. Most Catholics are unaware of what the Church--by which I mean the Holy Father, Vatican II, the Catholic Catechism-teaches or, if aware, have been led to think that their acceptance of it is optional. Now they have episcopal sanction for this heterodoxy. Who was the saint who wondered if bishops can go to heaven? Another quaint question when the fearful either/or of heaven or hell is also enveloped in episcopal silence.
Hell, now there's one ballsy prof. How utterly refreshing!

Why I love H. W. Crocker III

Who else comes up with lines like those below! In the latest (Dec. 2004) issue of CRISIS magazine, one finds an article by Crocker entitled "Making Babies: A Very Different Look at Natural Family Planning." Suggesting that NFP isn't selling too well, Crocker suggests as a marketing strategy the use of a new slogan: "Use NFP: It Doesn't Work!" In support of his slogan, Crocker argues:
First, it is true. NFP proponents tout its 99 percent effectiveness rate, but they neglect to mention that this is true only if the husband is in the Navy and asigned to extended, uninterrupted sea duty of three-year tours or longer....
Crocker concedes that his slogan will likely elicit the inevitable protests and testimonials by those who swear by NFP, adding:
And who am I to say that my own experience is not colored by the fact that I am excessively verile? Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that this is the case.
But another reason for NFP's allegedly high scucces rate, he notes, is that couples who use it are prepared to welcome children and so don't blame NFP for unexpected pregnancies.
Four of my own five children came the NFP way--that is, totally unexpectedly--and that's a good thing, because without them bouncing in as surprises, excuses to delay (the sort of excuses one might hear from a recruit in parachute training) might have gone on for a very long time.
But what does Crocker say about the other benefits of NFP, such as how it helps couples "communicate" as they chart their temperatures and discharges and conujugal acts?
Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, the charts can be thrown away (what's so "natural" about them?). And to hell with improving "communication" as a dogmatic defense of NFP. For men, the whole point of marriage is to avoid communicating, all that dating conversation stuff can finally be foregone. Married communication, as successful husbands know, is best limited to grunts and hand signals--one upraised finger meaning, "I need a beer," two upraised fingers meaning, "You need to change the brat's diapers," three upraised fingers meaning, "Honey, why don't you mow the lawn while I watch football?" and so on. No words are more doom-laden than a wife's sitting down and saying, "Let's talk." Communication is, of course, the first step towards divorce.
In lieu of focusing on NFP, Crocker suggests that premarital preparation go something like this:
Father O'Counselor: "Now I want you two to understand that the primary and fundamental purpose of marriage is not companionship, not romantic love, not moonlit strolls on the beach, or any other balderdash but the begetting and raising of children--lots of 'em, and starting soon. The optimum number is enough so that you can lose a few at the grocery store and not notice. That's giving without counting the cost, and at that point, you won't care anyway. As a priest, my sacrifice for the good of the Church is celibacy. As a married couple, yours is to propagate children--who will incidentally annually propagate fierce storms of influenza in your home. If you haven't already studied up on communicable diseases and basic first aid for children jumping off sofas, I'd do it now. But you will find children and their challenges to be the great tutor of not only the medical but the moral virtues."

Potential Husband: "You mean, I'm screwed?"

Father O'Counselor: "In a manner of speaking, yes."

Potential Husband: "Is it too late to enroll in the seminary?"
Thus, Crocker concludes, we can improve Catholic marriages and alleviate the priest shortage at the same time. In fact, we forget how inspiring parents' confessions are to priests:
Penitent: "Forgive me, Father, but I lost patience when my children used my wedding china as Frisbees, took my necklace and used it as a line and fishhook in the toilet, and took my toothpaste to give the cat a bath."

Priest (sotto voce): "Thank God I'm celibate."

Penitent: "What did you say, Father?"

Priest: "I mean to say, why not just laugh about it? These years will pass all too quickly. And when they're over, you'll know why you have gray hair and high blood pressure. Now, a Hail Mary and an Act of Contritution, if you please."
Yessir! "Use NFP," says Crocker: "It Doesn't Work!" Then he adds: "But babies sure as heck do."

Check into books by H. W. Crocker via the links provided below:

1. Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church [Amazon link];

2. The Old Limey, a prize-winning comic novel [Amazon link]; and

3. Robert E. Lee on Leadership : Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision [Amazon link].

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ratzinger on liturgy

The November 2004 issue of The Adoremus Bulletin features a review by Cardinal Ratzinger of Alcuin Reid's new book, The Organic Development of the Liturgy: The Principles of Liturgical Reform and Their Relation to the 20th Century Liturgical Movement Prior to the Second Vatican Council [Amazon link] (Farnborough, England: St. Michael's Abbey Press, May, 2004). Coming hard on the heels of Reid's volume Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy With Cardinal Ratzinger: Proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Liturgical Conference [Amazon link], published in January, 2004 (St. Augustine's Press) and reviewed in the last issue of Latin Mass magazine by Michael Davies just before his untimely death, Reid's latest work should help foster the discussion that needs to take place before the Roman curia, bishops' conferences, and priests will be prodded into realizing that there might be a problem with the liturgical status quo. Another recent book from Ignatius Press that will help this discussion along is Thomas Kocik's Reform of the Reform?: A Liturgical Debate: Reform or Return [Amazon link], a fictitious debate between two fictitious representatives of mutually antagonist positions, both of which find the direction taken by the post Vatican II reforms problematic--(1) a "traditionalist" advocating a return to the pre-Vatican II liturgy, and (2) a "reformist" (no liberal himself) advocating a new liturgical reform more in keeping with what the Council Fathers had in mind.

But to return to the book reviewed by Ratzinger, Alcuin Reid concludes his volume with an enumeration of proper principles for reform. In discussing these, he agrees with the Catechism of the Catholic Church in emphasizing that "even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the Liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the Liturgy." (CCC No. 1125, p. 256). Commenting on this, Ratzinger writes:
It seems to me most important that the Catechism, in mentioning the limitation of the powers of the supreme authority in the Church with regard to reform, recalls to mind what is the essence of the primacy as outliend by the First and Second Vatican Councils: The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law, but is the guardian of the authentic Tradition, and thereby the premier guarantor of obedience.... That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile....
The eminent Cardinal makes no overt references to the genesis of the Novus Ordo Missae under the perview of Pope Paul VI (pictured left) and the self-serving machinations of Cardinal Annibale Bugnini (pictured right), the radical head of the Concilium, but leaves it to his reader to draw the inferences. Commenting on the effects of the rupture with traditional liturgy, Ratzinger remarks:
Many priests today, unfortunately, ... want to overcome the limits of the rite, as being something fixed and immovable, and construct the products of their fantasy, which are supposedly "pastoral" .... Anyone like myself, who was moved by this perception in the time of the Liturgical Movement on the even of the Second Vatican Council, can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for....

But what is "pastoral"? The judgments made about these questions by intellectual professors were often influenced by rationalist presuppositions, and not infrequently missed the point of what really supports the life of the faithful. Thus it is that nowadays, after the Litrugy was extensively rationalized during the early phase of reform, people are eagerly seeking after forms of solemnity, looking for "mystical" atmosphere, and for something of the sacred.

Yet because--necessarily, and more and more clearly--people's judgments as to what is pastorally effective are widely divergent, the "pastoral" aspect has become the point at which "creativity" breaks in, destroying the unity of the Liturgy and very often confronting us with something deplorably banal....

If the Liturgy appears foirst of all as the workshop of our activity, then what is essential is being forgotten: God
Ratzinger is duly politic in what he leaves unsaid, and at times he even underscores the significance of such silence, as when he offers the following praise for Reid's deciion to leave certain things unsaid:
The author has made a wise decision, in stopping on the threshold of the Second Vatican Council. He thus avoids entering into the controversy associated with the interpretation and teh reception of the Council, and can nonetheless show its place in history, and show us the interplay of various tendencies, on which questions as to the standards for reform must be based.
On the one hand, I would like to stand up and shout: "Cop out! This is precisely what needs addressing! This is precisely where Reid should not have remained silent!" For, meanwhile, the institutionalized abuses of the Novus Ordo Missae proceed apace in the ever accelarating disintegration of contemporary Catholic liturgy, and the faithful who still retain some awareness that there is a problem feel like sheep without a shepherd, like nobody is in charge, adrift on a sea of liturgical experimentation and confusion with little hope of things changing in their lifetimes. On the other hand, however, I realize--as the very publication of these books and this review suggest--that things are happening, the Holy Spirit is guiding, and God will not leave His children forsaken. The wheels of change--especially of remedial change--turn slowly in the Church. We should be thankful for the legacy of those like the late Michael Davies, Louis Bouyer, Klaus Gamber, Dietrich von Hildebrand, as well as the work of Alcuin Reid and the substantial (if discreet) contributions of our good Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger over the last several decades.

For the whole review of Alcuin Reid's book by Cardinal Ratzinger, go to the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club website where it is posted here, courtesy of Christopher Blosser.

"Either way, Conner's dead"

This opinion from a recent issue of the Charlotte Observer:
Scott Peterson (pictured right) was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his unborn son, but if Laci had aborted him, it would have been called "choice." Go figure. Either way, Connor's dead.

Friday, November 19, 2004

On how "wonderful" the Church is ...

Greg Krehbiel writes in his Crowhill Weblog:
I would really like to sit back and say, "Look how wonderful the church is. The bishops are so wise and godly. See how they address social problems? See how they stand up to evil? See how they teach and preach? The gospel message is so clear that everyone knows where the Catholic Church stands."
He goes on to relate his disappointment at the inertia of the bishops on the "same sex marriage" issue in the face of
"an aggressive, well-financed, intelligent, zealous bunch of revolutionaries who think Sodom would have been a good place if it had just invented some sort of anti-Brimstone missile defense system."
I can't say that I disagree. In fact, while I think few of us Catholics would classify ourselves as pessimists, I think that a significant number of us find the state of the 'Church Militant' today anything but encouraging. There are so many facets to the issue. It's not just the public policy questions of same-sex marriage, abortion, stem cell research, and the Iraq War that preoccupied many voters in the last election. It's also the intermural problems within the Church, including the hijacked implementation of Vatican II 'reforms', including the 'reforms' that have all-but banned the oldest liturgical rite in the world and replaced it with a liturgical experiment that has institutionalized abuses that bishops seem helpless to correct and a whole generation of Catholics has come to accept as normal, as well as two generations of uncatechized Catholic illiterates who couldn't tell you if an abuse or a heresy slapped them in the face, a majority of traditionally Catholic flagship universities who now view Church doctrine as anathema and openly promote a Kerry-Clinton-Chirac-EU agenda of one-world liberalism and culture of death, and a generation of bishops who view themselves as helpless to do anything about it.

I have never regretted my conversion to the Catholic Faith over a decade ago. But neither can I say that I'm "proud of my church." I have pondered writing an article entitled "The Anguish of Being Catholic," but held off as yet because of not wanting merely to whine. But Catholics are besieged and confused today. They need clarity. They need the splendor of truth. They need the beauty of their ancient liturgy. They need bishops who are willing to teach and discipline, not merely politicians eager to please. They need a Church that is clearly a Church Militant, not a Church Indulgent promoting slogans about our new post-Vatican II "springtime." The world has a right to expect of the Catholic Church that she will eschew fuzzy ambiguities and speak so clearly that not even the simplest individuals will have any doubt about what she means. The world has a right to expect of the Church that she will not only teach clearly what she believes, but show that she believes what she teaches, stand before the bloody face of history and, come what may, stand by what she has said.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Little Melissa's Valentine Wish

This little valentine joke from the The Little Green Man joke site:
Little Melissa comes home from first grade and tells her father that they learned about the history of Valentine's Day.

"Since Valentine's Day is for a Christian saint and we're Jewish," she asks, "will God get mad at me for giving someone a valentine?"

Melissa's father thinks a bit, and then says, "No, I don't think God would get mad. Who do you want to give a valentine to?"

"Osama Bin Laden," she says.

"Why Osama Bin Laden?" her father asks in shock.

"Well," she says, "I thought that if a little American Jewish girl could have enough love to give Osama a Valentine, he might start to think that maybe we're not all bad, and maybe start loving people a little bit. And if other kids saw what I did and sent Valentines to Osama, he'd love everyone a lot. And then he'd start going all over the place to tell everyone how much he loved them and how he didn't hate anyone anymore."

Her father's heart swells and he looks at his daughter with newfound pride.

"Melissa, that's the most wonderful thing I've ever heard."

"I know," Melissa says, "and once that gets him out in the open, the Marines could blow the crap out of him."
(Thanks to Donegan Smith.)

Friday, November 12, 2004

Momento Mori

There is a church in Rome called Sta Maria della Concezione (located at Via Vittorio Veneto 27) which has a crypt with five vaulted rooms containing the bones and graves of over 4000 Capuchin Franciscans, assembled in a unique ornamental fashion in 1764. All decorations in the white-painted rooms are made of human bones. From the light fixtures to the crucifixes to the angels--all ornamentation reminds the viewer that human life is ephemeral.

I visited the church once in 1999, then returned again in the company of my wife in 2003. She loved it. But then, she has a streak of the macabre. One thing she noticed is that death and life co-exist in a rough and ready way in Italy. There is no attempt to keep death out of sight. And so, wherever you look--whether inside the churches or in the village squares--you will find symbols and tokens of death along side those of life. Something about this strikes me as healthy and good; just as something about the American treatment of death as a kind of obscenity strikes me as perverted and dysfunctional. An old Catholic motto is: momento mori ("remember death")! Even the noble pagan, Socrates, considered the task of philosophy a preparation for death. What could be more important, he asked, than the care of the soul?

The final room of the quiet journey through the Capuchin Crypt at Sta Maria della Concezione contains these words from beyond:
"What you are now we used to be; what we are now you soon will be."
It is a dislocating yet moving sentiment to the tourist, who may have just toddled across the street from Rome's Hard Rock Cafe unknowingly entering this world of memento mori.

The crypt is open every day but Thursday, from 9 to noon and 3 to 6. There is no admission fee, but you are asked to donate what you can. No photography is allowed. A small gift store at the front sells post cards of each of the rooms. (For reproduction of two post cards with photos by Cristafaro Guiseppe, visit IgoUgo website here.)

Sta Maria della Concezione also houses the famous painting by Guido Reni of St. Michael the Archangel trampeling Satan (above right).

Film will spread disinformation about Kinsey

Kinsey, a film lionizing the sexual pervert and phony sexologist Alfred C. Kinsey (pictured left) opens today across the nation. Directed by Bill Cordon and starring Liam Neeson (as Kinsey) and Laura Linney (as Kinsey's wife), the film is being promoted by Hollywood and the entertainment media across the land as an Oscar worthy vindication of a scientific genius in the cause of sexual liberty against Victorian repression. What they won't be telling you is the truth about Alfred C. Kinsey, his sexual perversion, his sexual abuse of hundreds of children to obtain "data," and how he skewed the "scientific data" to fit the desired results of his fatally phony research. Kinsey is a film that not only takes liberties: it distorts, misrepresents, and omits, covering up the truth with outright lies. What is most offensive about the film is hardly its graphic sexual images that (amazingly) have earned it a mere "R" rating, but rather its fundamental deceitfulness with which it employs outstanding actors and film technique in the service of pandering perversion and further moral desensitizing of the public.

Resources:Order the following books by Dr. Judith A. Reisman (pictured right), Institute for Media Education, from below:

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Back from Florida

Well, I'm back from Florida. It was my first time ever, except for a layover once in Miami International Airport on the way to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with my friend Bob Winter. I was impressed with the beauty and balmy breezes of the November atmosphere in Miami Beach, where the convention hotel was located. I was also impressed with Key West (above right) and the Everglades (below left). But as nice as everything was, my last thought was that I would not want to live there. Though the weather is exceedingly pleasant in the winter months, the summer must be hell. Further, it's just a long way from everything else I would want to be close to, including mountains, family, and major universities and other cultural centers. Nonetheless, Florida is magnificently beautiful, and I hope to go back again someday to visit. Certainly Key West, again. I would also like to see the Gulf coast of Florida sometime, to compare it with the Pacific coast. For now, though, it's good to be back home again.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Gone for a while

I'll be gone for a while to a conference of the American Catholic Philosophical Association in Miami, Florida. I'll be back, Deo volente, Monday evening. Pray for safety in travel.

Of faith and miracles

Of course, I'm prejudiced, but I haven't seen a more insightful analysis of the issue of faith and miracles than Benjamin Blosser's piece on his blog, Ad Limina Apostolorum, since reading C.S. Lewis' book, Miracles, some time ago. Responding to a recent one of my posts in which I offered some remarks by my friend, Kirk Kanzelberger, Benjamin writes:

Dr. Blosser's note on 'faith and miracles' brings to mind one of the most vexing - and for me, frustrating - aspects of modern theological discussion. I refer to the indisputable fact that modern theologians have swallowed the Enlightenment bias against miracles hook, line and sinker. I recently re-read Cardinal Kasper's famed christological tome, 'Jesus the Christ,' which, regrettably, ends up recycling most of these objections. He reduces them to three:

(1) Since God is the author of the 'laws of nature,' and if miracles are defined as 'violations' of the laws of nature, it follows that God would be violating his own laws, which is unseemly.

(2) Testimonies of miracles are inherently incredible; if they happen at all, they are so inexplicable that they can never be accepted on the testimony of another (David Hume's famous objection).

(3) If an empirically verifiable miracle were to occur, it would 'compel' belief in its onlookers. Yet the nature of belief is that it must be free, and cannot be compelled; hence, it would be inappropriate for God to work miracles.
Benjamin considers each of these objections, in turn, subjecting it to an insightful analysis and cogent critique. Well worth reading. Read the rest of his article here.

Kerry defeated by concern for moral values: an analysis

I'm prejudiced, of course, but I have yet to see an analysis (following the recent presidential election) of the moral values concern that animated the major Republican voter turnout, which is more insightful than that of Christopher Blosser in his recent post on his Against the Grain blog (which you may read here). Some commentators have expressed the need for Democrats to "shed their inhibitions about talking about faith" and "reconnect with the American heartland." Yet this is only (a superficial) part of the question. Christopher writes:
Problem is, Kerry actually did spend a lot of time talking about his faith. How many times did he remind us that he was an altar boy, or that he carried a rosary in Vietnam? How many times did we hear him quote that verse from James (as if he knew nothing else from the bible)?

But if this election established anything, it's the fact that many Americans had simply heard enough about faith from John Kerry, and no amount of pandering to the pews could conceal the moral incoherence of a "pro-choice" politician with a 100% pro-abortion legislative record proclaiming himself a "good Catholic" in open defiance of the nation's bishops and the moral teachings of his Church. Spin all you want, but that is an ugly fact that played a greater role in this election, and in the minds of Catholic voters, then Democrats would care to admit.
For the rest of Christopher's insightful analysis, click here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

It smells like victory

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning ... The smell -- you know, that gasoline smell -- the whole hill -- it smelled like ... victory."

Monday, November 01, 2004

On faith and miracles

My good friend, Kirk Kanzelberger, is father of five lively children, Senior Software Engineer at NETRICS, Inc., and is writing a PhD dissertation in philosophy on the side for Fordham University just to keep himself from getting bored. Kirk just sent me a really insightful reflection on Luke 16:27-31 that I'd like to share with you.

Luke 16:27-31, of course, is the passage about Dives, the rich man in hell who asks Abraham to send Lazarus from heaven to warn his five brothers (still living) so they don't end up, like Dives, in hell. The text reads as follows:
"And [Dives] said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send [Lazarus] to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"
Kirk writes about this passage:
This saying of our Lord has a particular lesson for modern people, I'm convinced. Rationalists are fond of saying that faith is an irresponsible leap in the dark, but miracles would convince them, if only there were any. (Apparently they haven't heard of things like the Medical Bureau at Lourdes.) Sometimes even those of us who aren't rationalists are inclined to think this way (at least I am).

Our Lord would seem to be saying that if a person will not accept divine testimony by faith (granting that faith itself is a gift of God), then miracles wouldn't convince him either. In other words, we only think there could be something superior in this life to faith. There isn't-- faith is strictly necessary. And it's a gift that God will give, if we are disposed to receive it. If you have that disposition, then you don't need miracles. At best, miracles are only "motives of credibility," as the Church calls them. Faith still rests upon a free choice, assisted by grace.

I'm reminded of Alexis Carrel (pictured right), the Nobel Prize winner in medicine who witnessed two miracles at Lourdes (a tumor vanishing, and a blind person instantaneously recovering sight). He converted.... decades later on his deathbed, finally winning the struggle against incredulity. Seeing a miracle didn't remove the need for faith.
So ... Whaddaya think o' them apples? The stuff of a good sermon, wouldn't ya think?