Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Massachussetts: to ban AND not to ban . . .

The state of Massachussetts won the brilliance in logic award recently as it moved boldly toward banning "same sex marriages" on March 29th . . . as it simultaneously planned to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in seven weeks.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Mexico's forbidden "saint"

Santa Muerte, imaged as a scythe-weilding skeleton with a blood-curdling grin, looks like a vision of hell, but attracts thousands of Mexico's destitude.

5,000 mph jet ready for test flight

I doubt the Wright brothers ever imagined this.

The Passion: offensive . . . as it should be . . .

A penetrating review from Against the Grain.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Yawning at the homosexual revolution?

As one listening in on this discussion, I occasionally have a passing thought on the matter. The Ramsey Colloquium, which dealt with the issue of homosexuality from an inter-faith vantage point of view (Catholics, Protestants, Jews) made one extremely salient observation in it's report: it is impossible to deal with the "homosexual revolution" apart from the "sexual revolution" that is the legacy of the seventies. The "sexual floodgates" were thrown open long before the homosexual issue ever surfaced on the national radar. Dale Vree, the editor of the New Oxford Review, when recently asked what he thought about the "same-sex marriage" question, responded with a yawn: when we're already slaughtering close to 4000 unborn humans/day, fruit of the commerce of wanton heterosexual sin, it's hard to get excessively excited about recent homosexual issues-- not in the least to belittle them. Perhaps this is one respect in which Bill Mahr's remark makes at least some sense: "They're here, they're queer, get bored with it." Your thoughts?

Best regards,

Jim Caviezel's acting role

Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, has quite an interesting record in the film industry. He is also already pressing ahead in new films. For the the whole scoop, click here.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Bob Marley as collegiate world literature

I may get in trouble for this, but when I heard that a colleague of mine is offering a summer course on "Bob Marley and World Poetry," I thought I could do no less that create an online page promiting his class. (Um . . . it may take a sense of humor to appreciate my perspective here . . .)

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Grandstanding for the anti-Gibson groupthink

Tom Ehrich, an Episcopal priest in Durham, NC, who now works as a computer consultant and writes a column for the Religious News Service, has finally done it. He has bitten the bullet and written a brave piece in the Charlotte Observer telling the world: "Why I won't go to 'The Passion.'" His piece is subtitled: "Faith is a matter of yearning, not an appeal to base emotions or groupthink." He insists that he "didn't question the sincerity of those who do see it and find it meaningful," but his subtitle clearly suggests that he thinks them pathetic victims "base emotions" and mindless groupthink. Not only does this smell like an ingenuous and self-congratulatory stab at being fashionably "different" from those masses of Fundamentalists and Catholics confounded by Gibson's "groupthink." It looks suspiciously ignorant of the meaning of Christ's passion to say that "faith is a matter of yearning," as opposed to "100 minutes of cinematic torture." What is the centerpiece of the Christian Faith if not human sacrifice? Yes, folks, human blood sacrifice. Nothing more primitive and barbaric than that, is there! But that's what we celebrate upon every Catholic altar throughout the world every time the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated.
Ehrich doesn't care "whether Mel Gibson strikes it rich with his cleverly marketed film," though he "found it sad that Gibson couldn't allow his film to make its own way, but had to dangle the bait of anti-Semitism, as if he had a loser on his hands and had to play the Hollywood game of rescuing a dog by promising something dirty." (And this, after assuring us that he "didn't question the sincerity of those who do see [the film] and find it meaningful"?!) Ehrich sees "two worrisome undercurrents, which will outlive Gibson's dash to the bank"-- namely, that "Christians are spoiling for a fight," and that the "Passion" is reduced to a momentary and narrow "religious adventure."

So what's the full Gospel that folks should be hearing, in that case? Ehrich: "Faith is a matter of yearning" and "we who claim faith have a responsibility to treat that yearning with respect." Say what? So what's this piece about, Mr. Ehrich? Is this how you demonstrate your respect for the yearnings of the millions of your fellow American Christians who flocked to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" to weep for love of the Savior who loved them and gave Himself for them? Huh?

Caviezel "shamelessly Catholic"

Benjamin posts excerpts from a new Jim Caviezel interview on his blog at Ad Limena Apostolorum, suggesting that Caviezel embodies what it means to be, in his words, "shamelessly Catholic." Refreshing!

Liturgical reform?

Catholic World News recently reported that the long-awaited Vatican document on the Eucharist will be published on Holy Thursday, April 8. Commenting on this announcement in his blog, Ad Limina Apostolorum, Benjamin observes:
Whether or not these norms will make any difference in the actual liturgical life of the Church at large, of course, is another question. But liturgical reform, like all reform, is an incremental process. Even a small step in the right direction is key in the long run. But this may be a large step, even if it takes a long time to take effect.
I hope this is true. At times, however, I am not inclined to be so sanquine (which is not always a good thing, if it inclines me toward despair). This has been one of the most prolific pontificates in history, and in terms of what has been written, often of exceptional quality. Yet it has also been one of the most ignored pontificates. Papal encyclicals, apostolic letters, decrees of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, have been routinely ignored in many quarters.

Recently we hosted an ecumenical conference at Lenoir-Rhyne College called "Listening to the East," devoted to Eastern Orthodoxy, with speakers from that tradition, as well as from the Eastern-right Catholic tradition, and from the Lutheran tradition-- particularly those enamored of Eastern Orthodoxy. The single Catholic speaker, a Ukranian Rite Catholic, satisfied his Sunday obligation by attending at a local Catholic parish. He observed nothing heretical or illicit about the Mass, yet noted that they did about as well as he has seen done anywhere the kind of Novus Ordo Liturgy done in the style that he personally finds appallingly pedestrian and banal. The number of times the priest paused during his Eucharistic prayer to make eye contact with individuals in the congregation and nod, he said, furnished ample argument against saying Mass facing the people. The "hymns" (I use the term lightly) were equally appalling, etc., etc.

This Catholic had personally turned East in order to find reverence and dignity in worship by joining an Ukrainian Rite Catholic church. He noted how lucky he was to live in an area with several Easter rite Catholic churches. How lucky others are to be living in an area with the indult Tridentine Mass. How lucky even those are who live in an area where the Novus Ordo Mass is celebrated with great reverence and dignity befitting a house of God, such as those in South Kensington, London, who have the Brompton Oratory in their neighborhood.

In the course of the conference, this Ukranian Rite Catholic suggested that the next pontificate, which could possibly bring another "conservative" pontiff to Rome, could very well lead to dissenting Catholic parishes in Australia, Canada, and parts of the United States into open schism. As tragic as this may be, my inclination is to say, at this point: none too early; it's time to clean out the dead wood.

Don't be a slave: be a Catholic!

"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

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Unanimous Decision by California Supreme Court to Stop Homosexual "Marriages" in San Francisco

In a historic decision today, the California Supreme Court unanimously ordered the rogue mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, to immediately stop selling fraudulent marriage licenses. (see the full story in March 12, 2004, issue of The Washington Times) In addition, The Christian Family Coalition adds the following observations:
  • City officials in Phoenix, Arizona put a stop to a mail-in by homosexual extremists trying to obtain marriage licenses
  • A lesbian town clerk in Iowa City, Iowa refuses to sell fraudulent marriage licenses to homosexual couples citing her obligation to uphold the law
  • City officials in Chicago decide against selling fraudulent marriage licenses to homosexual couples
  • The Attorney General in New Mexico orders a clerk to immediately stop selling fraudulent marriage licenses to homosexual couples and orders the sheriff's office to stop the madness
  • A state judge in New York orders Mayor Jason Paltz to stop selling fraudulent marriage licenses
Personally, I find it hard to be optimistic about the short run (i.e., the next 100 years), but with the Church Militant, I watch and pray.

Who betrays the Church? Who is faithful?

The grand inquisitors of the Lidless Eye Inquisition blog, who are devoted to exposing "the crackpots of the lunatic self-styled 'traditionalists' fringe who disingenuously pose as faithful Catholics" sport the following quotation from Pope St. Pius X on their sidebar:
"Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the cunning statements of those who persistently claim to wish to be with the Church, to love the Church, to fight so that people do not leave Her...But judge them by their works. If they despise the shepherds of the Church and even the Pope, if they attempt all means of evading their authority in order to elude their directives and judgments..., then about which Church do these men mean to speak? Certainly not about that established on the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20)." [Pope St. Pius X (c. May 10, 1909)]
These brilliant and illuminating words of St. Pius X serve as a warning, of course, not only against those on the lunatic self-styled "traditionalist" fringe who protest their fidelity to the Catholic Church even while they undermine the confidence of the faithful in the authority of Rome, but also--and often more pointedly these days--against those on the lunatic self-styled "progressivist" fringe, who, I fear, are ever becoming more mainstream, protesting their fidelity to the Catholic Church even while they undermine the confidence of the faithful in the authenticity of traditional Church teaching, the reliability and credibility of the Bible, and the importance of the Sacraments of the Church. See, for example, my review of a magazine that has been sometimes aptly (mis-) titled "U.S. Protestant," "U.S. Heretic," or "U.S. Dissident"--namely, U.S. Catholic ("What I Learned from U.S. Catholic," originally published in This Rock magazine).

For more on modernist and traditionalist dissent and confusion, click here.

Chick Tracts and Jack Chick

If you've ever picked up a Chick Tract and read one, you know how rabidly anti-Catholic they are. Jimmy Akin recently posted to his blog, Defensor Fidei, what he calls "the original courtesy of the Jack T. Chick Museum of Fine Art," a site devoted to Jack Chick's tracts, featuring upon entry the famous tract entitled "The Death Cookie," referencing the wafer or host used in the Catholic Mass, complete with background music reminiscent of the theme from The Exorcist.

The good news is that the six-part Catholic Answers Special Report that Jimmy Akin wrote on "Chic Tracts: Their Origin and Refutation" can be found online. In addition, Akin also says that he will soon have online an article he wrote about his personal meeting with Jack T. Chick, which promises to be very interesting.

(For more on anti-Catholicism, click here.)

In passing, we also note that Akin was recently interviewed by BBC concerning Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ--an interview that is apparently to be aired in a 5-7 minute segment on the BBC's Heaven and Earth Show.

Vandalism against Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim houses of worship on the rise?

They say that anti-semitic vandalism is on the rise in Europe and various parts of the world-- both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim. As I have encountered reports of such vandalism-- desecration of Jewish cemetaries, and vandalization of Mosques-- from several reputable sources, I have little reason to doubt their truth. Catholic churches have not been spared either. This from Greg Krehbiel's Crowhill Blog just this morning: "If this happened to a mosque or a synagogue . . . there would be an uproar."

"Fasting" from blogging for Lent?

Gerard Serafin, whose blog is entitled "A Catholic Blog for Lovers," offers a new angle on the Lenten "fast" especially appropriate for Catholics who are lovers of blogging: fasting from blogging on Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent. Of course, one can't help admire his charm in calling attention to his discipline in the very act of admitting his inadvertent violation of it: "Oooooops!"

Friday, March 12, 2004

Worst movie ever made???

My wife and I like to dance--especially the tango. So we naturally have an interest in films featuring tango dancing whenever one comes out. Carlos Saura's Argentine-Spanish film with English subtitles, Tango, is an excellent film, featuring some of the most magnificent tango dancing you will ever see, along with Lalo Shifrin's lush musical score. Although the plot is little more than a pretext for featuring tango dancing, it works well enough. (Review) Neither of us have yet seen Sally Potter's film, The Tango Lesson, about which we've heard very little, though some positive remarks. But the other day, we saw Rovert Duvall's Assassination Tango, which, despite Duvall's reputation, was appalling. While the dancing was beautiful, there was very little of it, and the plot's pretense of being more than a pretext for the dancing was laughable. Despite the respect we have had for Duvall in the past, this film is an embarrassment, not only to his screenwriting abilities, which suffer terribly in this film, but also to his ability as a director and--in this very sad instance--even as an actor. The film is a disaster. For a modestly charitable review, see: Planet Sick Boy.

How much money have these movies made?

"Gen X Revert" noted recently how Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and the last episode of Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King are doing at the box office. To date, it appears that things now stand thus:
  • Titanic: $600,788,188 (1997)
  • Star Wars: $460,998,007 (1977)
  • The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: $368,875,000 (2003)
  • The Passion of the Christ $228,133,890 (2004, as of 3/10/04, after 2 weeks)
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day $204,843,345 (1991)
  • Gladiator: $187,683,805 (2000)
  • Dances with Wolves $184,208,848 (1990)
  • A Beautiful Mind: $170,742,341 (2001)
I should also note, in passing, that "Gen X Revert" is the author of a poem "Catholic Howl (with apologies to Allen Ginsbertand Lisa Simpson)" [Feb. 2, 2003], which I have taken the liberty of posting to my website. Excellent!

Move over "same-sex marriage": hello pet animals!!

Benjamin recently posted this fascinating bit of information on his blog under the banner headline: "Brooklyn bishop calls for marriages between people and pets"!
"Why can't we have marriages between people and pets?" DiMarzio said on Albany radio station WROW. "I mean, pets really love their masters."
"Of course," added Benjamin, "His excellency is being sarcastic, pointing out the 'slippery slope' which comes from the breakdown of traditional marriage." He also added, in a slightly more alarming note, "But, on the other hand, I always did think my cat was kinda cute . . . ."

For the full story, have a look at Benjamin's blog at Ad Limina Apostolorum

In other related news, guess what: ANIMALS ARE PARISHIONERS, TOO!!!

This just came our way from David Mills: Addison Hart sent round this article with the comment "Example 5,674 of something no one could ever parody . . .": Purr Box Goes to Communion At St. Francis Episcopal; A Group 'Bark Mitzvah'. It begins:
For the first time in 10 years, Mary Wilkinson went to church one Sunday in January. She sat in a back pew at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford, Conn., flipping through a prayer book and listening intently to the priest's sermon.

What drew Ms. Wilkinson back into the fold was a new monthly program the church introduced -- Holy Communion for pets. As part of the service, the 59-year-old retired portfolio manager carried her 17-year-old tiger cat to the altar, waited in line behind three panting dogs to receive the host and had a special benediction performed for her cat, Purr Box Jr. "I like that the other parishioners are animal people," Ms. Wilkinson says.

With pews hard to fill, a small number of otherwise-traditional clergy are welcoming animals into the flock. Some are creating pet-friendly worship services, while others have started making house calls for sick animals. Some are starting to accompany pet owners to the vet when they euthanize a beloved pet. Occasionally, clergy are even officiating at pet funerals and group "bark mitzvahs." Congregants at temple Beth Shir Sholom, in Santa Monica, Calif., have an animal prayer sung to the tune of "Sabbath Prayer," a song from "Fiddler on the Roof": "May our God protect and defend you. May God always shield you from fleas." His brother Robert (both brothers are contributing editors, by the way) responded by quoting Charles Bridges, a minister of the Church of England in the 19th century:

"The moment we permit ourselves to think lightly of the Christian ministry, our right arm is withered; nothing but imbecility and relaxation remains."

Now, I like the blessing of the animals on St. Francis' feast day and I think the old engravings of farmers in country churches in England sitting in the pews with their old dog curled at their feet charming, but this kind of thing leaves me snickering rudely. I suppose what I find objectionable is the cutesiness of it, the treating of Christian worship -- which should be a solemn (a word that in this case includes real joy) encounter with the One who created the cosmos and redeemed your soul -- as a kind of theme party.

None of these people would expect to take their pets to a nice dinner party or a good restaurant or a job interview, something they took seriously, something for which they wanted real solmenity. It's only church, which they must not take seriously, to which they want to take their pets.

We are not animalphobes, by the way. Our home now contains one dog, half beagle and half (we think) golden retriever, whom we got as a puppy from the Humane Society (named Ben for reasons I can't remember), two rabbits, one guinea pig (being reddish, named Ron for the red-headed boy in the Harry Potter books), and two blue rats (named Numero, with the accent on the second syllable, and Fred, the latter being our fifteen-year-old's choice, fifteen being a smart-alecky age). We would have a cat but two of the children are terribly allergic.
Amazing . . .

Monday, March 08, 2004

Is Christ's Passion a pious pornography?

Leon Wieseltier is a man who just doesn't get it. In an editorial in The New Republic entitled "The Worship of Blood," Leon Wieseltier, who is obsessed with the blood spilled and splattered in The Passion of the Christ, accuses Gibson of having produced a cinematic masterpiece of "pious pornography." He writes: "The notion that there is something spiritually exalting about the viewing of it is quite horrifying. . . . It is a repulsive masochistic fantasy, a sacred snuff film, and it leaves you with the feeling that the man who made it hates life."
Finally, he notes:
It will be objected that I see only pious pornography in The Passion of the Christ because I am not a believer in the Christ. This is certainly so. I do not agree that Jesus is my savior or anybody else's. I confess that I smiled when the credits to The Passion of the Christ listed "stunts." So I am not at all the person for whom Gibson made this movie. But I do not see how a belief in Jesus strengthens the case for such a film. Quite the contrary. Belief, a theory of meaning, a philosophical convenience, is rarely far away from cruelty. Torture has always been attended by explanations that vindicate it, and justify it, and even hallow it. These explanations, which are really extenuations, have been articulated in religious and in secular terms. Their purpose is to redescribe an act of inhumanity so that it no longer offends, so that it comes to seem necessary, so that it edifies.
This from the literary editor of The New Republic, that parish magazine of affluent and self-congratulatory liberal enlightenment, which devotes itself, among other things, to endless redescriptions of the gruesome slaughter of some 4000 unborn human beings each day in the United States with "explanations that vindicate it, and justify it, and even hallow it," so that "it no longer offends, to that it comes to seem necessary, so that it edifies" . . . .

When C.S. Lewis converted from atheism to the Christian Faith at Oxford University in the middle of the last century, he had been examining the world's religions and narrowed his choice to Hinduism or Christianity as the only two religions that were both "thick" and "thin." He compared religions to soups: some are thin and clear, like Unitarianism, Confucianism, and modern Judaism. Others are thick and dark, like ancient paganism, and mystery religions. Only Hinduism and Christianity are both thin (philosophical) and thick (sacramental and mysterious). But Hinduism, as Peter Kreeft once pointed out, is really two religions: thick for the masses, thin for the sages. Only Christianity is both together for everyone. But this means that Christianity is not just intellectually polite and satisfying. It is also bloody, involving the sacrifice on an altar as a propitiation for the sins of the world. This "deep magic" of redemption is something about which Wieseltier hasn't a clue.

For a truly discerning review of Gibson's film, see Mark Shea's brilliant discussion here.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Teddy Roosevelt weighs in

"A just war is in the long run far better for a nation's soul than the most prosperous peace obtained by acquiescence in wrong or injustice."

--Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

No, Virginia, Jimmy Akin is not a country singer!

My son, Jamie, recently called my attention to Jimmy Akin's blog, DEFENSOR FIDEI, with the following email:
Perhaps the funniest (intentionally or not) blog I've seen in a while. Just the pic of him, and the music (if you can' t hear it right away, go to the archive, that seems to start it for me), which is sort of a country-pop-cum-polka, is hilarious. Chubby Jimmy Akin in disco blue and a cowboy hat with 'DEFENSOR FIDEI' in the heading is unbeatable. -j
Jimmy Akin, of course, is one of America's leading Catholic apologists, with an academic background in philosophy and theology, whose website, Nazareth Resource Library, is well worth a leisurely stroll.