[Hat tip to JM]
Update: "Christian film stripped of ‘Best Song’ Oscar nomination" (Washington Times, January 29, 2014).
We are delighted to announce the production of a monthly half-hour television program entitled Extraordinary Faith, the first video series to showcase the resurging interest in classic Catholic art, architecture, sacred music, and the Tridentine Mass. Almost three years in the making, the program is an effort to promote the Extraordinary Form and the culture and arts that surround it to Catholics and non-Catholics with little or no experience of sacred tradition. We hope to reach the sort of folks who wander into our churches and wonder why no one has told them that this form of Holy Mass exists, people who may be vaguely dissatisfied with the liturgies in their parishes but don’t know where to turn. We intend to get the attention of this audience with a high-production-value, glossy, and relentlessly positive program focusing on the appeal of timeless Catholic culture and liturgy, unencumbered by heavy academics. Souls will be won over by simple beauty.
Program Format and Broadcast Distribution
Each episode includes tours of historic churches and interviews with accomplished figures on the Latin Mass scene. A travelogue/human interest format provides rich visuals to grab the attention of those with no knowledge of the Tridentine Mass.
EWTN, the largest Catholic television network in the world, has agreed to carry the program. Five episodes have been filmed thus far, with many more in the pipeline. The series is expected to debut on EWTN in March, April, or May, 2014; the broadcast schedule will be reported in this column once it has been set.
Co-Creators: Alex Begin and Mary O’Regan
The project was the idea of two individuals with experience organizing and promoting Tridentine Masses on both sides of the Atlantic: the author of this column, who serves as Executive Producer and Host, and London, England-based writer Mary O’Regan. A journalist for England’s Catholic Herald newspaper with extensive connections throughout the Church, Mary is known for interviews with members of the hierarchy including the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, and San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Mary has been instrumental in taking Extraordinary Faith from concept to execution. She pitched the show to several Catholic networks and secured the interest of EWTN. Despite the distance, Mary served as co-producer and co-host on the first two episodes to help the effort enjoy a solid start.
Production Consultant, Founding Director, & Producer: Melanie Chartoff
Bringing an idea like this to fruition requires the involvement of someone who has been in the television production trenches. Melanie Chartoff became a household name in the early 1980s as a cast member on ABC’s Fridays, a comedy sketch show patterned after Saturday Night Live. She has acted in numerous movies, plays, and television shows, including Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and Seinfeld, and she has written and is producing a new musical, Fine Lines. Melanie also coaches individuals on presentation and production techniques and helms niche video projects. She assembled and oversees a Los Angeles-based camera and video editing team for Extraordinary Faith with the ability to put together a production competitive with the best of commercial television.
Producer: James Brooke
Handling the myriad details of guest and site scheduling and crew and equipment procurement is television and film production veteran James Brooke.
Music: Edd Kalehoff
Capturing the attention of modern viewers requires engaging audio as well as video; theme music cannot be an afterthought. It’s indisputable that The Price is Right, ABC World News Tonight, and Monday Night Football are shows with some of the catchiest theme music around. They have one thing in common: composer Edd Kalehoff. Edd and his colleague Bill Prickett have created a set of theme music and transition screen cues for Extraordinary Faith that are sure to remain in viewers’ heads long after each episode has ended.
Donors and Prayers Needed
A charitable foundation named Extraordinary Faith is being formed to accept tax-deductible donations to pay for the show’s production. Start-up funding has already been secured. While many people, this writer included, are volunteering their time to this effort, there are still substantial costs involved in keeping the program going. Each half-hour episode costs over $20,000 to produce, and EWTN has a policy of not paying for independent productions. If you or anyone you know might be interested in contributing to the effort, kindly e-mail the address at the bottom of this page, or call (248) 952-8190. Donations can also be made on the program web site when it is ready. Even more important than donations, your prayers for this venture are especially appreciated.
Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
- Mon. 01/27 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (St. John Chrysostom, Bishop, Confessor, & Doctor)
- Tue. 01/28 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (St. Peter Nolasco, Confessor)
- Fri. 01/31 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Albert the Great, Dearborn Heights (St. John Bosco, Confessor)
- Monday-Saturday 7:30AM:: High or Low Mass (varies) at Assumption Grotto
- Monday-Wednesday-Friday 7:00PM: High or Low Mass (varies) Assumption Grotto
- Holy Days and Sundays 9:30AM: High Mass at Assumption Grotto
It all makes sense now. Gay marriage and marijuana are being legalized at the same time.Pretty stoned interpretation, if you ask me. Funny, though.
Leviticus 20:13 says if a man lays with another man, he should be stoned.
We were just misinterpreting it.
I hate to do the multi-parter thing again so soon, but this one is important, and requires it.
There are times, in Catholic life, when one stumbles across something so gobsmackey that you have to read it twice and walk away to enjoy a relaxing stroll through the autumn sunshine. Then, you return and read it again to make sure your eyes and brain had not, after all, decided to go on a general strike together. To your immense discomfort, you realize you read it correctly the first time.
This presentation by Oscar Andres Rodriguez Cardinal Maradiaga of Honduras is one of those times. Maradiaga is no ordinary prince of the Church--he has been appointed as coordinator of the Pope's "Gang of Eight" which is spearheading reform of the Vatican's bureaucracy.
Which means, naturally, that we should employ a lens of charitable presumption, assuming the best even in presentations which are clearly not ad hoc Night At The Improv oops-I-brainfarted-again gaffery.
I came up snake eyes. Unless the Cardinal is a prankster whose comic touch extends to preparing and lighting bags of modernist poo on the doorsteps of Catholic ministry folks and university students the week before Halloween...in which case--Zany!
Would that it were. No, no it's not.
No, this one is a humdinger, and needs to be explored closely.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga SDB
Archbishop of Tegucigalpa
University of Dallas Ministry Conference
Irving Convention Center
25 October 2013
The title is rather interesting, because as you will see it's not exactly clear, in light of the entire presentation, where evangelizing fits in. No, really, it's that bad. Despite citing them, the Cardinal untethers himself completely from the documents of Vatican II and seems to use the conciliar spirit as a sort of ecclesial feng shui, an astonishing effort to harmonize the Gospel with the world.
Which is a shame--and then a horror--because it gets off to something of a good start. With one caveat.1. Introduction: It is not possible to talk about the Church, or about the Church today, without referring to the crucial moment in contemporary history that Vatican II has been for her, both as an event of grace and a paradigmatic reference.
During a pre-conclave speech, the then-Cardinal Bergoglio issued a warning about what happens when the Church becomes "self-referential." While Cardinal Maradiaga would no doubt disagree, his speech is loaded with one of the more common self-referential sins of modern Catholic churchmen: the endless appeal to the 21st ecumenical council.
Some of you are probably crying foul, itching to throw a yellow flag, but think about it--how do you think constant, self-praising references to Vatican II sound to non-Catholic ears?
"We gathered together, thought and talked about the modern world for three years and bam--I tell you! Wow, it just hit us! Now we know how this utterly unique and unprecedented modern world thing works! We even prepared several mission statements! Minds. Blown! Let me tell you humbly--it's the most important event in our recent history, and we are just brimming with insights from our big meeting that we just gotta share! Let us hit you with some knowledge. Incessantly."
Note that he says it is simply "not possible to talk about the Church" without referring back to it. And, my, does he ever refer to it. Over and over and over again. Let me humbly submit that constantly talking about your fabulous insights seems to be the dictionary definition of self-referential.
The Church is rising. There is a significant increment of the faith in Africa, where the Church has grown tremendously during the 20th century. Such vitality can also be seen in some sectors of the Church in Asia –in India, Vietnam, the Philippines. But, at the same time, we are seeing in Europe institutions of considerable size but little energy, as well as a very hostile culture, fed by secularism and laicism. At the same time, we are watching a continent that “is committing demographic suicide at an alarming pace.” Similarly, here, in the United States of America, not everything is gloom, not everything is scandal and sin. No. Here, the Gospel of Christ is also alive and effective. For instance, George Weigel assures us in The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church (Basic Books, 2000) that, 200,000 people embraced the Catholic faith in the United States in Easter of 2002, a number that for us is cheerful, and optimistic, and “a vital sign.”
A fair assessment. Perhaps a little over-optimistic, but fine.
2. Vatican II
The Second Vatican Council was the main event in the Church in the 20th Century. In principle, it meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism, which was condemned in the First Vatican Council. On the contrary: neither the world is the realm of evil and sin –these are conclusions clearly achieved in Vatican II—nor is the Church the sole refuge of good and virtue. Modernism was, most of the time, a reaction against injustices and abuses that disparaged the dignity and the rights of the person.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley preached at an ecumenical service at Sudbury United Methodist Church on Sunday in commemoration of Cardinal Richard Cushing’s historic visit to the same congregation (below) a half-century earlier to discuss the Second Vatican Council’s efforts toward Christian unity.
To some degree, yes.[Hat tip to JM]
Catholics used to demonize Protestants. (Traditionalist, I daresay, still often do. They can't make a distinction between a Mormon, a Methodist, or a Massachusetts Episcopalian, and seem to think every Protestant sect has to have an intentional "founder." I laughed when, prior to my conversion, Catholics would think that if they could prove Luther a bad guy, they could persuade me. "How could Luther found a church if...." They did not get that I, like them, thought Jesus founded my church, not Luther, not Wesley, and NOT Henry VIII...).
Today, however, it is another story: Lisa Wangsness, "Cardinal O’Malley, Methodists building ecumenical bridges" (Boston Globe, January 13, 2014).
Is there, after all, or can there be, a balance? (As a Catholic you don't have to deride Protestant sacraments, since they don't even have sacraments in the sense we believe in them. They have rituals. They are wrong on this score, but their error is really one of missing out, not claiming powers they don't have.) When we were in the grip of a much more severe clericalism, Vatican II seemed like healthy loosening. Now that we are in the grip of a theological free-fall, it seems like a license for doctrinal licentiousness. Reading this Globe piece, I wonder. When Cushing visited a Methodist Church, I am certain he seemed like a distinct Other, in demeanor, in garb, in emphasis. O'Malley... really, he dresses JUST like the female Methodist, and seems to have a similar vibe. Catholics used to distrust or disdain Protestants. Yes, I know. I had a best friend next door who could not come to my Protestant church.
But now, looking at, listening to O'Malley, Cushing's modern day successor, can anyone deny that it appears that the new phenomenon is that Catholics want to BE Protestants?
Also, when someone says their heart sings when they hear a sermon about helping the poor, the least among us, as if it is something hardly ever voiced, I wonder, in what church have they been? Maybe that's just me, but its been a reliable refrain for some 40 years!
When Pope Francis named 19 new cardinals Jan. 12, many Catholics cheered what seemed to be an emphasis on diversity, with half of the red hats going to bishops from non-European countries, including parts of the developing world.Personally, I can't wait until these well-intentioned souls start calling for Buddhist and Sufi representation in the College of Cardinals. The ideal as the "I'm-OK-You're-Ok-Democratic-Church-of-Nice," wasn't it called?
But Dolores Foster Williams of Chicago was not exactly pleased.
"I didn't note any African-Americans on the list," said the 84-year-old Williams, who has made eradicating racism in the church her life's work.
A retired teacher and the author of Institutional Racism in the Catholic Church, Williams sees the lack of an African-American cardinal as the "undeniable tip of the church racism iceberg."
"The cardinals are the ones who elect the pope, so we have no representation there. Why aren't we at the table?" The answer, she says, is blatant racism and nepotism.
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"Caucasian priests who became cardinals were trained either in Diocesan seminaries or Order seminaries, and their upward progressions appear to have been fostered by influential individuals within those domains," Williams wrote on her blog in September.
And the elevation of African cardinals, while important, doesn't count, she says: "Africans and African-Americans are culturally different."
“I think we need to start a…letter writing campaign to the Vatican, to get one million loving, kind, respectful letters calling for change, for the complete rejection of the just war theory, for more work for justice and peace, and for the ordination of women and married priests.”WhOOOooo-yeah! 1969 F-O-R-E-V-E-R, baby. Oh, be-HAAAve!!!
In sum, in 1948 teenagers could both understand and use the vocabularies of their parents. In 2006 they could understand their parents but, to a surprising degree, could not initiate a conversation using adult language.In the past, he says, teenagers “wanted to become adults and enjoy the privileges of adults.” Now, however, adolescents have their own distinct subculture that “is so attractive that some young adults want to remain in it through their twenties and even their thirties.”
Interesting piece here by a priest writer I have found quite on target in the past: Fr. Brian van Hove, S.J., "Looking Back at 'Humani Generis'" (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, December 23, 2013)Guy Noir's comment on the linked piece by Fr. Brian van Hove, S.J. on Humani Generis
I tacked on a comment at the end. [See below]
But really, to you I'd coment, what are we really reading here? I find it an an exercise in wishful thinking or maybe an unintentional whitewash.
I wonder if you asked seminary students to read Humani Generis and summarize each section in easy to understand modern phraseology, and then asked them to parallel that with modern Catholic parish attitudes towards language, evolution and Scripture... Would any one of them would say the general advice of the Pope was still given credence today?
And does anyone retain a remote appreciation for the perceived attacks that prompted the encyclical? I ask this since it amuses me that it is perceived as an artifact when it is dealing with the exact same challenges being posed today. That's why Mohler asks of TV's hit "'Downton Abbey' and the Modern Age—What Are We Really Watching?" That show is a story of what unfolded in the same period that Wilfrid Ward knew men like Belloc and palled around with guys like Huxley and von Hugel.
A fascinating article, but for me it begs a question. Why is it that the revival brought about by the New Theology finds its exponents doing things like defending de Chardin? Why did these same defenders seem so unconcerned about the erosion of Biblical authority and so naively surprised by the liturgical hijinxs that followed? They met Modernism by changing rhetoric, but not by directly answering its challenges. That is what the Papal Office sought to do.There are also a couple of good comments by John Lamont.
Honestly, not many of the masses who were put off by Latin syllogisms were much more helped by DeLubac’s or HvB’s cerebral works in the vernacular. A guy like Frank Sheed welcomed the lifting of the manualist straightjacket, but he also found the cummulative result of the progressive reforms he helped initiate so disturbing he had to ask, “Is It the Same Church?” Meanwhile, we now have Popes quoting De Chardin! Yes, Garrigou Lagrange and Merry del Val advocated an exactitude that was self-defeating, but within that advocacy there was an appreciation for the necessity of precision, clarity and plain-speaking in doctrine that would go a long way towards eliminating the confusion that now is constant. Evolution is a prime example. Check out the CCCs comment that Genesis relates a historical reality against the mantra assumed to be doctrine that is quoted by priests at the parish level based on JPIIs comments. The later cannot be squared with HG, but it can be squared with the soft edges of Nouvelle theology.
Harshness in doctrine kills, absolutely, but so does a fuzziness that reduces everything to vagaries that are suffocated in an avalanche of footnotes. That is somehow where the New Theology helped to take us, albeit unintentionally. I think it was right to point out the deficiencies of Scholasticism, but we now also need to appreciate the problems in the Nouvelle school that are very real as well. I am glad to see the reputation of Garrigou Lagrange being gradually rehabilitated (It is fascinating that he and Maritain were good friends.)
One of the more peculiar 2013 year-in-review articles both celebrated sexual liberation and expressed shock and surprise that capitalism had killed it. I won’t quote the article itself. I will observe that the author rejects the “sexual economics theory” that reduces people to their body parts and then merely a paragraph later decides that because body parts are sometimes all that one wants, such desires should be our guide to sexual decision-making. The people who have been taught for years that sexuality must be atomized to individual choices and pleasures now unsurprisingly love a song celebrating a sexually aggressive man doing just that, while the people who are privileged enough to have enjoyed that atomization are now upset. For so long, though, we have opened the field for businessmen to exploit the bodies of people in order to take the money of others who either pay for the privilege of depersonalizing someone else or pay for the privilege of having their own bodily anxieties exploited. This media spectacle—as well as the reciprocal outrage by traditional moralists on social media and elsewhere that feeds the celebrity machine and the self-righteousness of the ranter—can only be described as onanistic.[Hat tip to JM]
This broader capitalist rape culture benefits greatly from both the fantasy that sexual urges are completely uncontrollable except in the cases where someone says “no” and the vestiges of pseudo-Christian morality that assigns as much blame as possible to the victims of sexual aggression. Ross Douthat has observed that a libertarian vision of a perfectly transparent free market is as unrealistic as an libertine vision of perfectly free decision-making. Sex and the representation of hypersexualized bodies becomes a chaotic mess of people using sex for whatever power it gives them over others. Wendell Berry takes this apart quite skillfully in his essay Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community:If you depreciate the sanctity and solemnity of marriage, not just as a bond between two people but as a bond between those two people and their forebears, their children, and their neighbors, then you have prepared the way for an epidemic of divorce, child neglect, community ruin, and loneliness. If you destroy the economies of household and community, then you destroy the bonds of mutual usefulness and practical dependence without which the other bonds will not hold.(buy here!)
In this sexually Darwinistic world, those not desirable or desperate enough to be exploited are, of course, free to couple with one another and quite a number do. Most armchair defenders of sexual libertinism don’t take advantage of the freedom to hook up as conservatives fear that they do (surprise: it’s a privilege of the wealthy!) and instead have the similar sort of longing that Ms. Horvath expresses above. For those who can’t find a monogamous or quasi-monogamous pairing, you can always pay to have your desires sated or lower your standards. Some steal—just like white-collar criminals, it’s the most privileged who are the most brazen with this and the least privileged who are most likely to be stolen from. With your sexual choices atomized, however, you are subject to the vagaries of beauty, class, privilege, and race. Welcome to an emotional and sexual Randian paradise. Read more >>
Reading the breast feeding thing, I simply think the Vatican right now is probably perfectly in sync with the Twitter generation. It all seems a comical episode of majoring on minors. "Let them drink milk!" We ... could ... not ... script a better SL skit if we tried! Really, I am simply now laughing. And for once, I think maybe we are actually AHEAD of the silly Protestants. I await the Episcopal Church's suggestion we hold a joint synod on thew Plight of Breastfeeding Mothers, and the resultant appeal for a government grant to launch a educational initiative to help![Hat tip to JM]
I will agree that an 'Apologetic of Beauty' is one approach, and one to which people who like good music, careful writing, and mind-boggling dense fantasy will warm. One point for Cardinals (and almost so) DeLubac, Ratzinger, and HvB.[Hat tip to JM]
But it is NOT by any convincing stretch a broad enough apologetic platform from which we can evangelize energetically. Nor one that can be easily circumscribed in a culture that is quickly coming to conflate Tarantino with Woody Allen, Kanye West with Leonard Cohen, Harry Potter with J.R.R. Tolkien, and Reality TV with Reality. Two points for Cardinals Siri, Ottiviani, and del Val.
And that is just a delicate way of saying if a Theology of Beauty is not the Emperors New Clothes, it certainly is the stuff of (a maybe very, very good) PhD dissertation. Which means most people won't read it, most people who read it won't understand it, and those who do understand it probably appreciated and agreed with the thesis from the start. And when it is turned into a book, no one but reviewers will read it!
The Lassus Scholars
Do you have a long commute to attend the Tridentine Mass? There are some who travel to Assumption Church from as far as Toronto (4 hours each way) and Paw Paw, Michigan (2.5 hours each way). Occasionally our choir takes a road trip, as when they sing for the annual Anniversary Mass of the Flint Tridentine Community. But that’s practically next door, only a 1.5 hour drive each way.
When it comes to commuting and singing for the Extraordinary Form, the award for most dedication must go to Ireland’s Lassus Scholars choir. If there’s a major occasion Tridentine Mass somewhere in Ireland, chances are the Lassus Scholars will be singing. For example, they sing for the annual Fota Liturgical Conference each summer; and they have sung for special Masses at the breathtaking St. Colman’s Cathedral in the southern coast town of Cobh, at St. Malachy Church in Belfast, and at the historic Knock Shrine parish church.
Primarily based at Dublin’s St. Kevin Church, during certain months of the year the Lassus Scholars sing on alternate Sundays for the Sunday Tridentine Masses at St. Kevin’s and at Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Cork. Cork and Dublin are separated by a distance of 160 miles, approximately a 2.5 hour commute each way. Every other week.
Just as Britain’s Tallis Scholars choir is so named because they specialize in singing the choral works of Thomas Tallis, so the Lassus Scholars derive their name from Renaissance composer Orlando di Lassus. Their repertoire far exceeds just di Lassus’ works; they are accomplished in chant as well as polyphony.
In addition to the adult choir, there is also a junior choir for children age 8-15 named Piccolo Lasso. Both Piccolo Lasso and the Lassus Scholars sing at concerts, operas, and on Ireland’s RTE Television network. A third group, the Orlando Chamber Orchestra, accompanies the choirs at certain performances. These ambitious enterprises are all under the direction of Mrs. Ite O’Donovan.
You don’t have to travel to Ireland to experience the Lassus Scholars. One of the most adept choral groups at self-promotion, the Lassus Scholars maintains an impressive promotional presence on the internet, with a Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/LassusScholars), a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TheLassusScholars), and a web site (www.dublinchoralfoundation.ie). On the web site you will find recordings, albums that can be purchased, and even music instruction books.
Latin Language Resources
Are you interested in expanding your knowledge of the Latin language? Incarnation Church in Tampa, Florida has debuted www.ecclesialatina.com, a web site filled with resources to help you learn. Books, Latin courses, and relevant videos are listed in abundance.
This is but one of several web outreach projects of Incarnation. Among their other impressive efforts are www.sacrificiumsanctum.org, the web site for the Extraordinary Form Mass community at the parish, and the “What it Means to Be an Altar Server” video, which can be found via Google.
The New Orthodoxy
A new book makes the case that the future of the Church is one of a return to orthodoxy. Anne Hendershott and Christopher White’s Renewal: How a New Generation of Faithful Priests and Bishops Is Revitalizing the Catholic Church asserts that younger clergy are embracing Catholic tradition. Employing statistics and not just anecdotal evidence, the book demonstrates that there has been a turnaround in vocations numbers in recent years as the atmosphere in seminaries and many dioceses is gradually swinging back towards orthodoxy and orthopraxis. The authors analyze why some dioceses actually have a surplus of priests. Conversely, they argue that in parishes where there is not a strong identity of the priesthood – not just as the head of the parish, but in setting a standard of holiness – there tends not to be as many vocations.
This sociological study tends to mirror our observation that vocations to the priesthood and religious life are disproportionately represented by people from Tridentine Mass communities, where a clear Catholic and priestly identity is often fostered.
Final First Saturday Mass at St. Hyacinth
St. Hyacinth held its fifth and final First Saturday Tridentine Mass yesterday. Special thanks to Mike Smigielski for organizing this long-sought opportunity to make the five First Saturdays according to the Extraordinary Form.
Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
- Monday-Saturday 7:30AM: High or Low Mass (varies) at Assumption Grotto
- Tue. 01/07 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (Feria After Epiphany)
- Monday-Wednesday-Friday 7:00PM: High or Low Mass (varies) Assumption Grotto
- Holy Days and Sundays 9:30AM: High Mass at Assumption Grotto
Allow me to recall something that happened. Joseph Ratzinger, an expert at the Council, was also the private secretary of Card. Frings, Archbishop of Cologne. Blind, the old Cardinal largely utilized his secretary to write his interventions. Now then, one of these interventions became memorable: it was a radical criticism of the methods of the Holy Office. Despite a reply by Card. Ottaviani, Frings sustained his critique.[Hat tip to Sir Anthony S.]
It is not an exaggeration to say that on that day the old Holy Office, as it presented itself then, was destroyed by Ratzinger in union with his Archbishop.
Card. Seper, a man full of goodness, initiated the renovation. Ratzinger, who did not change, continues it.
It would be good to keep this episode in mind.
Translaton by: A. S. Guimaraes
“I shall not try to change anything that I think or anything that you think (insofar as I can judge of it) in order to reach a reconciliation that would be agreeable to all. On the contrary, what I feel like telling you today is [if] the world needs real dialogue, the[n] falsehood is just as much the opposite of dialogue as is silence, and ... the only possible dialogue is the kind between people who remain what they are and speak their minds. This is tantamount to saying that the world of today needs Christians who remain Christians. The other day at the Sorbonne, speaking to a Marxist lecturer, a Catholic priest said in public that he too was anticlerical. Well, I don’t like priests who are anticlerical any more than philosophies that are ashamed of themselves.” (emphasis added)[Hat tip to JM]
Albert Camus, Resistance, Rebellion and Death (New York, 1961), page 70.
One of my Baylor philosophy PhD students brought to my attention today that Norman Geisler’s co-author of Is Rome the True Church? (Crossway Books, 2008), Joshua Betancourt, has converted to Catholicism! This has been confirmed by Doug Beaumont, a friend of Mr. Betancourt’s. Here’s what Doug writes on his blog:[Hat tip to JM]“One chapter in the book Is Rome the True Church? is dedicated to why this is happening. Interestingly, the book’s co-author, a friend of mine named Joshua Betancourt, converted to Roman Catholicism shortly after the book was published! Nor is he the only one. I know several people, whose minds I highly respect, who have made the same decision (Francis Beckwith, J. Budziszewski, to name some famous recent converts). Of course, the opposite is happening too – lots of RC’s are converting to some form of Protestant-Evangelicalism.”
A typical error of the post-Conciliar Church is that of not wanting to pay attention to the reality of things. The life of Grace diminishes…it does not matter. The sense of sin diminishes…it does not matter. The family breaks apart….it does not matter. Civil marriage increases and in some regions of Italy are more numerous than religious marriages…it does not matter. Young people have completely lost the obligation and the value of pre-matrimonial chastity…it does not matter. The laws of the State reflect more and more the dominant ethical relativism…it does not matter. All is well, and it is useless to be concerned.
This typical error manifests itself in two attitudes. The first attitude, that of a minority, is to remain silent in the face of this ruinous situation, and in a certain sense gives a positive value to these developments, and hopes that the trend will continue along these lines. Those who think in this way—and let us speak frankly—are those Catholics who do not have a clean conscience, who have a lot of disorder in their private lives. In this way they hope to silence their consciences, while convincing themselves that what all this shows is that Catholic moral teaching cannot be completely respected and that the moral teaching of the Church must be radically changed.
The majority attitude, on the other hand, that manifests this error is more complex. It is the attitude of those who are aware that things are not going well, but at the same time force themselves to show that what is not going well must have to do with a sort of physiological crisis of the Church. It is inevitable that this should happen: to free herself from “historical encrustations” of contamination by issues of power and certain conservative attitudes, the Church must live through a crisis, a crisis that will bring her to a greater “spiritualization” and to being more faithful to her commission. The arguments they invoke are complex, but one understands well that underlying these arguments there lies another question that is psychological.
If for the first attitude the question is “baser”, in a certain sense a “matter of the stomach”, for the second attitude it is more a question “of the head”. And for this attitude it is ideology that prevents understanding. Ideology, one knows, is a hypertrophic condition of the intellect, that because it is an enlarging of the intellect in size without an increase in perception and understanding, results in a blind spot in the intellectual mind itself. When something grows too much it ends up by destroying itself. Cancer is nothing but a crazed growth of cells. A man who grows too tall would not be able to live well, he could not easily walk through a door, he could not easily get into his car, he would have trouble finding clothes or shoes that fit. Ideology is the intellect that is disproportionate and hypertrophied, that wills to not pay attention to observation--- to see how things are as they are--- so that it can put its faith in its own theoretical and intellectual constructions.
We hear often the present Pontiff speak against “ideological” Christians, and many read this as referring to Christians of a traditional mind-set, who are accustomed only to denounce the state of the Faith and of the Church in terms that are never positive. Now this definition is not very useful, because there is so much “ideological Catholicism” in our day. But let us ask ourselves: in whom is this attitude found? To whom should this verbal tag be attached? To those who read things as they are or to those who indulge in the illusion that things are going well when they are not going well at all?
Many know the famous phrase of a well-known Soviet theoretician: “If the facts do not agree with us, all the worse for the facts”. This maxim fits the attitude of all too many Catholics today. Faced with the obvious crisis in the life of Grace, faced with the corresponding crisis in the Church, they insist that there is no need to change pastoral directives, the direction in which things have been moving, the specific initiatives of the last ten years. They would say: the problem is not there, the problem cannot be there. Still, through the wisdom of the Gospels, Christians should be absolutely convinced that a tree is known by its fruit.
Monsignor Giacomo Biffi, Bishop-emeritus of Bologna, using his inimitable style, in his Fifth Gospel wrote in relation to this widespread attitude: “The Reign of Heaven is similar to a pastor who has one hundred sheep and having lost ninety-nine of them, scolds that last sheep for his lack of initiative, sends him away, closes the sheep-fold, and goes to the local osteria to discuss pastoral ministry.” It gives one pause when one remembers that Biffi wrote these words as long ago as 1969: a true prophecy.
Last Advent the Cardinal of Vienna, Monsignor Schonborn, preached in the diocese of Milan, and, speaking of the Church of today, he said: “(…)let us get rid of nostalgia for the ‘50s, those of my childhood, in my village, when the church was filled with people three times every Sunday. Everyone went to church. Let us leave behind nostalgia for the vitality of our places of prayer in the ‘50s and ‘60s.” This is an example of the real “Christian ideology”. It is one thing to say that, recognizing the difference between the past and the present, the Catholic should not lose heart. It is another thing to say that the longing for another time should be abandoned. When one loses something beautiful, this longing is more than appropriate, and it is the only response that is human and reasonable. Of course, one should not get depressed. On the contrary, it is necessary to do what has to be done, to roll up one’s sleeves, and to act, convinced that the fortunes of history are not in our hands but in the hands of God and of his most holy Mother. But an undertaking, a commitment like this, can be motivated only by an intelligent assessment of the situation: things are not going well, so it is necessary to act to change them. To speak of “letting go of nostalgia” is the most an ideologue can say in this type of situation…at least if he does not want to “apostasize”, something we do not consider as possible, able to imagine or be thought of in a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.
There is a fear of seeing reality as it is, but that is not a truly Christian way of looking at things, because the Christian is first of all a person who looks, who sees, who observes, and he uses this as a basis, with the virtue of prudence, to make his own judgments and to determine how to live his own life.
Translated by Father Richard G. Cipolla
Second photo from Huffington Post
History will record that on the 12th day of his latest Hawaiian vacation, President Obama tweeted about Obamacare....And come on ... how many of you ever believed that idiocy about global warming for which Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Prize anyway? Today the Antarctic ice shelf melt is "lowest ever recorded"; Minnesota is enduring the "worst" deep freeze in 20 years; and your tax dollars have nonetheless paid for $7.45 billion to fight "global warming" in other countries.
Otherwise, the trip has been an unbroken stretch of luxurious living for the president with his family at a beach house in trendy Kailua, an oceanfront neighborhood in Oahu where the homes rent for $3,500 per day — more than many families earn in a month. The Obamas are paying for the $56,000 cost of the rental home, although taxpayers foot the bill for the first family’s travel on Air Force One — which, at more than $180,000 per hour, makes for a couple of million-dollar flights. A cool treat: White House officials allow the press to watch as President Obama takes family and friends out for shaved ice on New Year's Eve.
What’s more, hundreds of federal workers — from White House staffers to the Secret Service security detail needed to protect the Obamas — join in for what turns out to be an all-expenses-paid vacation. According to watchdog.org, the government rented at least seven homes in the area, costing taxpayers more than $183,750 of what the organization says will likely be a $4 million bill.
Few, for example, have noted the unusual vigor with which Pope Francis demands in Muslim countries as well that freedom of worship which the faithful of Islam enjoy in Western countries.Fr. Samir, says Magister, teaches in Beirut, Rome, and Paris, and is author of numerous books and essays on Islam and on its relationship with Christianity and with the West. On December 19th, he published an extensive commentary on the passages of "Evangelii Gaudium" dedicated to Islam for the agency "Asia News" of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. The first half is devoted to the "many positive things" said by the pope on the issue; the second half, to various "limitations" that require further clarification.
Those who have highlighted this "courage" of the pope - like the Egyptian Jesuit and Islamologist Samir Khalil Samir - have also emphasized, however, that he has limited himself to asking only for freedom of worship, remaining silent about the denial of freedom of conversion from one religion to another that is the real sore spot of the Muslim world.
Marshall McLuhan’s academic comet ride once lent his name celebrity cachet on college campuses, but he wrote with more prescience than he knew. Even as his fame evaporates, his uncannily spot-on predictions and maxims about technology’s warp-speed escalation more and more are taken for granted. Less known is the fact that McLuhan himself was ardent Catholic convert. Quirky Gen X author Douglas Coupland portrays the man as a latter-day prophet without honor in Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! Informing and entertaining, this little monograph is the best matching of biographer and beast I can recall, a virtual “Vulcan mind-meld” of two cultural mavericks.
In Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, Steven Johnson provides reflexive counterpoint to McLuhan. He probably wouldn’t convince the Canadian professor, but he might make some of those Santas who just bought Xbox 360s feel a bit better. From a more theological perspective, Arthur Hunt’s The Vanishing Word is an overlooked coda for Christian logophiles.
Rome’s introduction of a revised ritual roused my own liturgical interests, so N.T. Wright’s The Case for the Psalms made for timely reading. But, even as a fan of some of Wright’s earlier stuff, I wasn’t ready for the semi-poetic quality of his prose achievement here. Older (much) but also affecting are William S. Plumer’s Studies on the Book of Psalms (incidentally, also fun to mention simply as the physically largest commentary on a single book of the Bible I have ever seen—so oversized that even describing it as a “thick doorstop of a book” doesn’t quite fit), and C.C. Martindale’s Towards Loving the Psalms. A last-century British Jesuit and compatriot of Maisie Ward’s, Martindale also wrote four consecutive books on the Mass for laymen. Of these, The Words of the Missal is best, with the bonus of an appendix that’s a sort of miniature “Latin for Dummies.”
Frustration with my Anchor Bible Dictionary’s insistent obfuscation sent me back to some clear-headed evangelical sources on Scripture. In The Drama of Doctrine, Kevin Vanhoozer—taking cues from Hans von Balthasar, no less—shreds linguistic deconstructionism and proves Hans Frei and George Lindbeck to be sporting the Emperor’s New Clothes. Elsewhere, J.I. Packer’s “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God reminded me how essentially “fundamentalist” Catholic teaching on the Bible arguably is; and Thy Word is Still Truth, an anthology materializing out of Philadelphia’s quite reformed Westminster Theological Seminary, reminded me how very sane it is as well.
My graphic designer’s hat probably explains why I may be the only conservatively-inclined person I know with kind words for Martin Erspamer’s faux-iconic engravings in The Liturgical Press’ typographically savvy if contemporarily-bent Ritual Roman Missal. Another writer who weighs in with convincingly friendly comments on the larger topic of Modern Art: The Men, the Movements, the Meaning is Thomas Craven.
I remain a fanboy of Lemony Snicket, who made me happy by cranking out a second installment of All The Wrong Questions. Questions aplenty are also part of the mix in the volatile-if-mournful post-conciliar Molotav cocktail poured by Anne Roche Muggeridge in The Gates of Hell—though I’m not at all sure her answers make me too happy. Much the same can be said of Alice von Hildebrand’s necessary The Dark Night of the Body. There’s more wisdom on sex in what she doesn’t say than most of what is said—and incessantly so—nowadays. The presence of more inflammatorily counter-cultural wisdom—and this on the uncomfortable gay question—also distinguishes Rosaria Butterfield’s Secrets of an Unlikely Convert.
Congratulations, Mr. Noir!! Of course, there are other lists suggested by the likes of Dana Gioia, Anthony Esolen, Thomas Howard, Michael Coren, Joseph Pearce, James V. Schall, Brandon Vogt, and many more. Read more >>Last loose ends…David Main’s terrific novel on the WWF champ of the O.T., The Book of Samson, is compulsively readable. Victor Davis Hansen’s The End of Sparta is another worthwhile candidate for those non-existent Men’s Reading Groups. In Coincidentally, Father George Rutler’s amusing mind whirs along so fast you’ll likely find yourself reeling at the thought of keeping up—so you’re better off just enjoying it with the assist of some heavily-spiked New Year’s punch. Three very different books, each hinging on the question of race, provide positive perspectives on a hot button issue: Robert Norrell’s Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington; Caroline Hemesath’s story of Augustine Tolton, From Slave to Priest; and John Piper’s autobiographical Bloodlines. And lastly, race, faith, and masculinity comprise three panels that make for a not-to-be-missed Mandarin conversion triptych in John C. Wu’s Beyond East and West.
Last week students at a Seattle-area Catholic high school staged a sit-in to protest the removal of their school’s vice principal, who the school says violated his employment contract by marrying another man over the summer. Read more >>Guy Noir observes:
An honest dissent asks a very good question I bet you the Pope will never answer.A good question indeed.
"My question now is what if there's a teacher in our school or any Catholic school that's been divorced, should we fire them?" Colburn said. "Should we fire teachers that take the pill? We can go down the list of the rules of Catholic teaching."
"What is the first business of philosophy? To part with self-conceit. ...It is impossible for anyone to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows." -- Epictetus (c. 100 A.D.)