Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Luther was only joking, right???

Whoa! I came across this quotation from Martin Luther today, which, shall we say, gave me pause:
Christ committed adultery first of all with the woman at the well about whom St. John tells us. Was not everybody about Him saying: "Whatever has he been doing with her?" Secondly, with Mary Magdalene, and thirdly with the woman taken in adultery whom he dismissed so lightly. Thus even Christ, who was so righteous, must have been guilty of fornication before He died. (D. Martin Luthers Werke, kritische Gesamtausgabe [Hermann Bohlau Verlag, 1893], vol. 2, no. 1472, April 7 - May 1, 1532, p. 33)
The supposition seems to be that Luther must have intended his remark sarcastically. There's no telling. Much of what was taken down and later recorded in his Tischreden (Table Talk) was uttered when he had downed a few tankards of ale and was fully 'lit.' For the full knock-down blow-out discussion of the data, see the following post from a discussion board: "Did Martin Luther Believe That Jesus Had Carnal Relations With Mary Magdalene and Others?"

From the 20th to the 21st century, here we go ...

"The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age." - G.K. Chesterton (pictured right)
"Our 1970's-style sing-along Mass music is the only thing which saves us from degrading slavery to tradition." - David Haas & Marty Haugen (pictured below, left and right) [impersonated]

Perhaps you're thinking, "If I hear 'Gather Us In' or 'Come to the Feast' or 'Sing Out, Earth and Skies' one more time, I'm going to strangle somebody!" You may want to join the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas

Monday, December 27, 2004

Charlotte Diocese being watched

The December 2004 issue of The New Oxford Review carries a New Oxford Note by editor Dale Vree about an incident that allegedly occurred in the Diocese of Charlotte this past summer. Vree cites a letter to the Bishop of Charlotte from Joe Ecclesia (no doubt a pseudonym) printed in the July 2004 issue of Chronicles. Beginning with "Your Excellency," the letter says:
Recently, I read in our diocesan newspaper of the "gay and lesbian Mass" offered at St. Peter's Church in Charlotte. According to the article, this Mass was a means of comforting those who have been ostracized by the Church.... Msgr. Richard Allen, who received a standing ovation for his homily, called gays and lesbians "heroes." His remarks made me wonder if I had taken the right path by marrying and raising a family....
Vree comments:
You may have seen the bumper strip, "Gay Rights Aren't Special rights." Whether you agree or disagree, "gay rights" are definitely special rights (and rites) in the Catholic Church. In many dioceses there are "Gay and Lesbian Masses." My, how does one get to be so special!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Reflections

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pas, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (The Gospel According to Luke, Chapter Two, Verses 13-20)

Every Christmas, it seems, NEWSWEEK or TIME magazine will come out with an article featuring the "latest scholarship" concerning the "authenticity" of the Christmas story. The scholarly authorities cited are consistently and incorrigibly one-sided, usually including scholars like John Dominic Crossan who dissent from Church teaching, or more ostensibly mainline scholars like Raymond E. Brown (now deceased) who have been quite thoroughly corrupted by the Humean philosophical presuppositions of the historical-criticism of the biblical narrative. The upshot is always the conclusion, or at least the suggestion, that the Gospel writers are unreliable and not to be trusted, and certainly not to be taken at face value. Just how ludicrous this all is can be seen by almost anyone with a bit of intelligence and familiarity with literature, mythology, and history. One of the best examples of a powerful antedote to this kind of foolishness is a little essay by C.S. Lewis entitled "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," which is available in a collection of essays by Lewis entitled Christian Reflections [Amazon link] (1967; reprinted by Eerdmans, 1994). The following are some excerpts from Lewis' essay, which begins on p. 152 and contains four objections (or "bleats") about modern New Testament scholarship:
1. [If a scholar] tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour...

I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one [of the stories in the Gospel of John, for example] is like this... Either this is reportage - though it may no doubt contain errors - pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative...

2. All theology of the liberal type involves at some point - and often involves throughout - the claim that the real behaviour and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by his followers, and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars... The idea that any... writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.

3. Thirdly, I find in these theologians a constant use of the principle that the miraculous does not occur... This is a purely philosophical question. Scholars, as scholars, speak on it with no more authority than anyone else. The canon 'if miraculous, unhistorical' is one they bring to their study of the texts, not one they have learned from it. If one is speaking of authority, the united authority of all the Biblical critics in the world counts here for nothing.

4. My fourth bleat is my loudest and longest. Reviewers [of my own books, and of books by friends whose real history I knew] both friendly and hostile... will tell you what public events had directed the author's min to this or that, what other authors influenced him, what his over-all intention was, what sort of audience he principally addressed, why - and when - he did everything... My impression is that in the whole of my experience not one of these guesses has on any one point been right; the method shows a record of 100 per cent failure.

The 'assured results of modern scholarship', as to the way in which an old book was written, are 'assured', we may conclude, only because those who knew the facts are dead and can't blow the gaff... The Biblical critics, whatever reconstructions they devise, can never be crudely proved wrong. St. Mark is dead. When they meet St. Peter there will be more pressing matters to discuss.

However... we are not fundamentalists... Of course we agree that passages almost verbally identical cannot be independent. It is as we glide away from this into reconstructions of a subtler and more ambitious kind that our faith in the method wavers... The sort of statement that arouses our deepest scepticism is the statement that something in a Gospel cannot be historical because it shows a theology or an ecclesiology too developed for so early a date...

Such are the reactions of one bleating layman... Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the Vicar; he now tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more...
If you're interested in ordering the book, click on the link below:
C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, edited by Walter Hooper [Amazon link]
Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The problem with Hans Küng

The problem with Hans Kung is that, like the rest of that part of the post-Christian world that has been reluctant to let go of its sentimental attachment to Christianity, he wants to change the meaning of Christianity to conform to his post-Christian commitments rather than to admit that his beliefs are no longer, in any traditionally recognizable sense of the term, Christian. In short, Kung wants to belong to the historical Christian community without accepting key historical Christian beliefs.

Recently Hans Kung was interviewed by Stephen Crittenden for The Religion Report on Radio National (December 15, 2004). The interview, "A conversation with Number 399/57 i" is named after the file number that Kung keeps for life in the offices of the Inquisition, or Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the interview, Kung shares his views of Vatican II, Karl Barth, his personal acquaintance with Popes Pius II, John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II, whom he calls a man of "the mediaeval, anti-reformation, anti-modern paradigm of the church." Among other things, he plays to the audience's prejudices with allusions to secret Opus Dei machinations behind the next papal election, and much, much more.

For a more detailed analysis in my Scripture & Catholi Tradition blog, click here.

(Thanks to Al Kimel for his tip concerning the above-mentioned interview.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Dumbing down the Pope

Something that I think has become a huge problem is the effect that the media are having on the popular perceptions of the Christian message to the world--particularly when the Pope speaks. I call it "Dumbing down the Pope." It consists of reports of papal statements so trivial and so remotely related to the Gospel that they make his statemens seem utterly redundant (an echo of what everyone is already saying anyway) and irrelevant, if not simply silly. It is bad enough when you see this in the secular media, even if somewhat understandable (you can't expect the secular world to understand the spiritual nuances of the Gospel of Salvation, by gum!), but it is an even more serious problem when you see it in diocesan newspapers and other Catholic media outlets as well. Here are a few examples:
  • Pope urges protection of envirnoment (Nov. 10, 2002, Associated Press)
  • Pope's Christmas Message: End global violence (from 1998, CNN)
  • Pope urges more human rights for Cubans (Dec. 3, 1999, Miami Herald)
  • Pope praises continued efforts to eliminate land mines (Dec. 10, 2004, The Catholic News & Herald, Diocese of Charlotte, NC)
The problem, of course, is not that these things are unimportant, but that the Pope's purpose is distorted by constant exposure to such statements. The Pope is not a public relations arm of the United Nations. The Pope is Heaven's Ambassador, the Vicar of Christ on earth; as such, he His Holiness has an even more pressing message for us, but one that is almost routinely ignored. Even diocesan papers seem to regularly portray the Pope's message in the most banal terms. Here is an example from a column in my diocesan paper entitled "The Pope Speaks":
  • Pope: Christians must live in harmony with church social teachings (Dec. 10, 2004, The Catholic News & Herald, Diocese of Charlotte, NC)
Whoop-te-doo! Doesn't it just make you want to get up and run outside and go live in harmony with church social teachings!? Why this pathetic banality? How about something with a bit more zip in it so parishioners might have a clue what any of this means--something like:
  • Pope: Catholic fornicators playing Russian Roulette with Satan
  • Pope to youth: live chastely or risk going to hell
  • Pope's Christmas message: repentance key to God's mercy for even most wretched sinners
  • Pope: Georgetown University no longer Catholic
Whatever one may think of his Ultramontanism, who can help but admire the bracing sentiment of the 19th-century writer, W.G. Ward, who once stated--I think it was in the pages of the Doublin Review: "I should like a new Papal Bull every morning with my Times at breakfast"!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Man Bites Dog

This is simply amazing. I once saw the bizarre French film entitled Man Bites Dog, about a killer whom a photographer follows around filming while he makes his hits. But "Man Bites Dog" literally??? Get this: a central Florida man named Mount Lee Lacy, 21, has just been accused of biting a dog and charged with felony animal cruelty! It's just too bizarre. Among other things, the report stated:
Mount Lee Lacy, 21, told officers he bit his dog, Lady, because she had defecated in the house and that he routinely bit her as punishment.
Read the story here.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Letters to a lapsed Catholic

Letter No. 1
Thanks for being forthcoming about not having been to church since last Ash Wednesday. So where is your relationship with God if you've left His Church out of it? Sounds either very Protestant or very indifferent-- which would mean very apostate.

Pascal's Wager might be worth a few moments' reflection here. Regardless of whether we spend time thinking about it, we're gambling spiritually with our lives by the little decisions we make every day, aren't we! As Peter Kreeft once said, there are finally only two kinds of people in the world: saints who know they're sinners, and sinners who think they're saints; or, as C.S. Lewis preferred: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says: "Thy will be done."

If it's disillusionment with the local Catholic parish, I could write a book of my own about that. I find contemporary Catholic practice appalling. There's better music in Anglican and Lutheran churches, and better catechesis in Baptist and Presbyterian churches. The only problem is this little darn thing called truth: it's still the only real Church-- His Church. And I can't pretend to live obediently and garner His blessing apart from His Church. It's a blessing to me, actually, that Peter and Judas both betrayed Christ, not only because I realize that even those whome Jesus chose to be members of His varsity team were morally fallible (i.e., peccable), but because it shows me that those whom He placed in charge of His Church (Peter, at least) was morally fallible and yet to be obeyed (becaue under the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit). If you want a good illustration of that, read the first two chapters of Galatians, which relates the first meeting of Paul with Peter, as well as his later meeting with him. Imagine Paul, the most educated Jew in all Palestine-- the protoge of Rabbi Gamaliel, a Roman citizen, speaker of Latin and Greek as well as Hebrew and Aramaic, a Pharisee by training-- just imagine this Paul, converted independently on the road to Damascus, after three years going up to Jerusalem to submit himself to this head-strong and probably arrogant-seeming Joe Sixpack of a fisherman, PETER, accepting his authority as head of the Church!! A truckload to think about there.
[There are nine letters in all. Read all nine letters here.]

Former atheist, Antony Flew, now believes in God

The word is that Professor Antony Flew (pictured right), the former champion of Humean skepticism and philosophical atheism, now believes in God. Flew, whose teaching career has led him from philosophy professorships in Britain at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keel, Reading, and York, to posts in North America in Toronto, Calgary, San Diego, and Los Angeles, is author of numerous books offering philosophical arguments against theism as well as naturalistic alternatives to theistically-based theories of human nature, cognition, belief, and ethics. Representative are his books:
  • Hume's Philosophy of Belief (1961)
  • God and Philosophy (1966)
  • Evolutionary Ethics (1967)
  • The Presumption of Atheism, and other philosophical essays on God, Freedom and Immortality (1976)
  • A Raional Animal: Philosophical Essays on the Nature of Man (1978)
  • Darwinian Evolution (1984)
  • Atheistic Humanism (1993)
I can remember being assigned books by Flew when I was beginning my undergraduate classes in philosophy in the 1970s. His perspective was consistently imbued with an unequivocal opposition to what he regarded as nonsense quite typical of the tradition British empiricism, which had invested all its stock in the "sensible." His arguments and illustrations against theistic belief seemed, at least within the framework of that mindset, devastating. (This, of course, was before Alvin Plantinga [pictured left] injected new enthusiasm among theistic philosophers for a counter-offensive beginning in the late sixties and early seventies.)

Philosophical debates between philosophers about the existence of God, of course, have a venerable tradition. I remember reading as an undergraduate the famous BBC Copleston-Russell debate of 1944 beween Fr. F.C. Copleston, J.S. (pictured right), the great Catholic historian of philosophy, and Bertrand Russell (pictured left), the author of Why I Am Not a Christian (Amazon link)--a book, which, I've heard it said, has ironically nudged more than one disappointed atheistic reader in the direction of theistic belief! More recently the same tradition of debate has been continued by William Lane Craig, Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, and Walter Sinnot-Armstrong, Philosophy Professor at Dartmouth College, in their book God?: A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist (Point/Counterpoint Series, Oxford, England) (Amazon link). Antony Flew himself has been involved in such debates. One famous debate, published back in 1977, was that between Flew and Thomas B. Warren, under the title: The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God (Amazon link). Another, more recent debate was that between Flew and William Lane Craig (pictured left), under the 2003 title: Does God Exist: The Craig-Flew Debate (Amazon link) In the same year (2003), a debate between Flew and Gary Habermas, a prolific philosopher and historian from Liberty University, was published under the title of Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?: The Resurrection Debate (Amazon link)

The Winter 2004 issue of Philosophia Christi features an exclusive interview with the former atheist Antony Flew, conducted by Gary Habermas (pictured right). Flew, who is eighty-one years old, says that he doesn't yet believe in the God of a "revelatory system," although he's "open to that." It will be interesting to see where his newfound theism leads. Flew is hardly the first philosopher, of course, to find his way from atheism and agnosticism to theism. Many have pushed beyond that to explicit belief in the "revelatory God" of Judaism or Christianity. Examples that come to mind include Alasdair MacIntyre (pictured below right), who converted from sexular Marxism to Catholicism some years ago, as well as Mordimer J. Adler (pictured left), who converted from a secular Jewish background to theistic belief, then to Christianity, becoming a member, first, of the Episcopal Church in 1986, then the Catholic Church in 1999. MacIntyre, whose book After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (1984) brought him international attention, is now Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame. Adler, who chaired the Board of Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, founded the Great Books program and authored many books, including Aristotle for Everybody and How to Think About God, died on June 28, 2001. Edward T. Oakes has written an account of MacIntyre's career and conversion in "The Achievement of Alasdair MacIntyre" (First Things, August/September, 1996). An account of Adler's conversion is available in the Wikipedia article, "Mortimer Jerome Adler," as well as a humorous remembrance by his secretary, "Nancy Olson Remembers."

For a detailed academic curriculum vitae of Antony Flew, listing his educational background, teaching posts and publications, see a Brief Biography of Antony Flew.

Link to publications by Antony Flew:

Link to publications by Alasdair MacIntyre:

Link to publications by Mortimer J. Adler:

[Credits: Thanks to Christopher Blosser for the tip regarding the Habermas interview in Philosophia Christi.]

Friday, December 10, 2004

How can anyone living in INSANE LUXURY be a STAR today?

Actor and political commentator Ben Stein (pictured right) observes in his Dec. 10, 2003 column:
How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a star we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.

... A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he ws guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.
For many years, actor and political commentator Ben Stein wrote a biweekly column online for called "Monday Night At Morton's." Stein reportedly recently ended the column, named for an upscale restaurant, about which he says:
I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.... I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path.
Read more here.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Fr. Louis Bouyer, rest in peace

Fr. Louis Bouyer, a Lutheran convert to the Catholic Faith who subsequently became one of the leading Catholic theologians and liturgical scholars, died on October 22, 2004. A friend of Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and J.R.R. Tolkien, and a co-founder of the international review Communio, Bouyer converted to Catholicism in 1939. His book, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, is an apologia for his conversion that has influenced many a subsequent convert to Rome. Specifically, he argues that many of the positive elements in Protestantism, such as the call for a personal converstion to Christ, can only hope to survive and flourish in the long run if rooted in the living organism of the Catholic Church. Though he is best known for his excellent writings on the history of Christian spirituality, he also became a leading figure in the Catholic Biblical and Liturgical movements of the twentieth century and was involved in the proceedings of the Second Vatican Council (pictured right). In fact, he was a member of the Concilium commissioned by Pope Paul VI and organized under the leadership of Cardinal Annibale Bugnini to write the blueprint for the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Bouyer, who was initially enthused about the prospect of liturgical renewal, became rapidly jaded between 1964 and 1968 when it became clear that Bugnini was railroading through his own radical implementation of the Vatican II reforms that Msgr. Klaus Gamber and Cardinal Ratzinger would later describe as a "rupture" with tradition. Bouyer published his own account of the matter the following year in The Decomposition of Catholicism (1969). [For several excerpts from Bouyer on this issue, click here.]

I first heard about Bouyer back in the late 1980s when I was just beginning to consider the prospect of converting myself. I don't remember if was in a phone conversation with Scott Hahn or in an essay by someone like Tom Howard, but I got a copy of his The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism from the library and read it through. Despite the less-than-perfect English translation, I was impressed by the appreciation he had for his Protestant past, particularly in his detailed review of features in Luthernism, Calvinism, and Methodism that no Catholic could deny were positive. In fact, the whole first half of the book seemed to reaffirm the major positive insights and contributions of Protestantism. There was note of the hostility towards one's former position that one typically finds in converts. But then, in the second half of the book, Bouyer gently but firmly goes on to show where each of these Protestant traditions goes wrong in hiving off to try and start something new, when the Church cannot be erased and started over again, like the French Revolution tried to start history over again by declaring the calendar year one! Needless to say, Bouyer's book had a profound impact, and I would recommend it highly, perhaps especially for Lutherans, since Bouyer was a Lutheran.

Some years ago the Aquinas-Luther Conference at Lenoir-Rhyne College was devoted to the subject of liturgy, and I remember trying to see if we could get Fr. Bouyer to come and speak at the conference. He would have been ideal, given his Lutheran background and Catholic affiliation. I remember contacting a Catholic nun I had met at a conference on Cardinal Newman's work in Rensselaer, Indiana, who personally knew Bouyer, but she said that he was in his mid-eighties then and would likely not be permitted by his physician to make the trans-Atlantic flight even if he were personally willing to undertake the project.

In any case Bouyer's passing seems to have passed almost unnoticed so far. Perhaps he would have wanted it that way. Like Cardinal Newman, he was a quiet Oratorian, a member of the French Congregation of the Oratory founded by Cardinal Pierre de Berulle in the 17th century and patterned after the original 16th century Oratory of St. Philip Neri. After the Second Vatican Council, he seemed almost to fade away. One thinks of the words of General Douglas MacArthur: "old soldiers never die, they just fade away." But certainly he deserves a flood of tributes. Requiescat in Pace, Father Bouyer, and thank you for all your wonderful gifts!!!

The following are a few of Fr. Louis Bouyer's writings. These are highly recommended for those who wish to better their understanding of Catholic-Protestant relations, as well as the Church's liturgical and spiritual traditions:

Other writings by and about Louis Bouyer on the web: (courtesy of Christopher Blosser:

Friday, December 03, 2004

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Patrick Henry Reardon, a priest of the Antiochean Orthodox tradition and editor of Touchstone magazine, weighs in on the current separation of Church and State debate with a provocative essay entitled "Free Press & Pulpit: On the First Amendment." This article was used (with permission of the author) as a basis for the December Colloquium of the Center for Theology at Lenoir-Rhyne College, with Dr. J. Larry Yoder leading the discussion.

One of the issue to surface, left unaddressed by Reardon, was the issue of the tax-exempt status of Churches. While some present felt the question irrelevant, others pressed the issue, some arguing on the one hand that this should prevent churches getting mixed up in politics, others arguing that churches ought to abandon their tax exempt status in order to freely address the public square and endorse political candidates.

It seems to me that one of Reardon's most salient points was implicit in his title: "Free Press and Pulpit." The press has traditionally been seen as the public arena where "the facts" (policy issues, etc.) are freely addressed and debated. The Church has been viewed for some time as properly belonging to the sphere of private and personal "values" (religious and moral beliefs). This distinction conforms to the post-Kantian bifurcation of "facts" and "values." The problem, however, as we now see clearly, is that the press does not withhold its value-judgments in addressing various public policy issues. Likewise, Church teaching is replete with implications for the public sphere of politics. The "fact" vs. "value" dichotomy, as tidy as it looks, just doesn't work. The fact is, genuine values (the immorality of rape and murder, the goodness of courage and mercy) themselves are facts, as Peter Kreeft notes in his book, A Refutation of Moral Relativism. The upshot of Reardon's article, at least in my reading of it, is that the Church ought to be freely proclaiming her teachings, and she shouldn't be hesitant to do so just because these teachings have implications for public policy, as do Church teachings (at least of the Catholic and Orthodox churches) on such matters as abortion, stem-cell research, and same-sex "marriage."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Ratzinger Fan Club webmaster interviewed by Ignatius Insight

Since Cardinal Ratzinger was the Featured Author for the month of November on Ignatius Insight, the online magazine of Ignatius Press, the editors thought it made good sense to interview the folks behind the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club website. So they contacted Christopher Blosser, the webmaster and creator of and conducted a wide-ranging interview about Cardinal Ratzinger, his profile in the Church and world today, and how the website was begun. The interview is informative and brilliant.

Alright-alright-alright! Don't just sit there and smile indulgently at the bias of this proud father. Read for yourself and see if I'm not right! C'mon! Hey! You!! You talkin' to me?! You talkin' to ME?!! HEY!!! Read the two-part interview here ...

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: