Thursday, April 29, 2004

"Catholic Confusion at the Very Top"

. . . is the title of a provocative feature article by David Palm in the latest issue of the New Oxford Review (March 2004), pp. 18-30. The most recent online issue posted at the NOR website is July/August 2003, so you won't find it there, but the entire article has been published online (with NOR permission) by the Seattle Catholic (April 6, 2004).

Palm is a thoughtful convert to the Catholic Faith from an Evangelical background, who is widely published in such Catholic apologetics venues as This Rock, The Catholic World Report, and Coming Home Network Journal. In this article Palm gently but firmly overcomes his own resistance to face the fact of confusion emanating from the hierarchy of the Church itself. Examining positions that the Vatican has taken on such matters as the death penalty, the question of universalism (whether all are saved), honoring heretics, praying with pagans, and rewarding liturgical abuse, Palm draws some painful conclusions:
Truly, these are confusing times in the Catholic Church. I have tried to clarify that the source of at least some of this confusion is found in a place that many orthodox Catholics have been unwilling to examine. Until relatively recently, I shared this resistance. I expect there will be those who proclaim that this is all just "Pope bashing." It is not. Any annoyance with what I've written should at least be tempered by a realistic evaluation of the concrete examples that have been presented (and, unfortunately, a great many more could be).
I would very much like to see our good friends at The Lidless Eye Inquisition and other related weblogs devoted to responding to "traditionalist" concerns take up the issues raised by Palm in a spirit of fraternal concern. While I personally have little doubt that nearly every dubium raised by Palm could be met with some plausible justification or rationale-- from the Pope's willingness to pray with pagans at Assisi to the introduction of female altar servers-- I nevertheless share Palm's profound concern that (1) clarity is being lost, (2) without clarity there can be no conviction, (3) without conviction there can be no vision, and (4) without a vision, people perish.

Senators for Moloch worship, human sacrifice

(Thanks to Times Against Humanity.)

On May 1, 2004, good friend Sinka adds:
Also tsk, tsk. You are missing at least two hapless persons under the Moloch Worship List: Senator James Jeffords (VT) and U.S. Rep. Bernard Sanders (VT)--The first miss I can understand, he is the wormy type who shuns the light seeking instead his dark closets, bloody turncoat that he is. The second though, accchhh. Now here's a chap who will always misinterpret the light as public confidence in and support of his right to preach the ways of the darkside in the hopes of converting the youth of all ages.
Ja wohl, Sinka!

Hollywood actors for a culture of death

More than 100 Hollywood celebrities signed their names in support of the recent pro-abortion rally in Washington, DC, and some were there in person. The entertainers who supported the abortion march include:
Christina Aguilera, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon, Alec Baldwin, Ted Turner, Cindy Crawford, Jane Fonda, Bea Arthur, Ed Asner, Amy Brenneman, Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Sheryl Crow, Tyne Daly, Laura Dern, Ellen DeGeneres, Fran Drescher, Kirsten Dunst, Melissa Etheridge, Morgan Fairchild, Calista Flockhart, Janeane Garofalo, Whoopi Goldberg, Ed Harris, Salma Hayek, Marg Helgenberger, Helen Hunt, Natalie Maines, Ewan McGregor, Sarah McLachlan, Demi Moore, Julianne Moore, Alanis Morissette, Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, Cybill Shepherd, Julia Stiles, Sharon Stone, Amber Tamblyn, Charlize Theron, Uma Thurman, Kathleen Turner, Bradley Whitford, and many more. (Source.)

Alasdair MacIntyre on the New York Times

". . . that parish magazine of affluent and self-congratulatory liberal enlightenment . . ." (Whose Justice? Which Rationality? p. 5)

Satan's march: we've come a long way, baby!

The world is changed. I feel it in the earth. I feel it in the water. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, is lost. For none now lives who remembers it.
Senator John Kerry, like most Americans, used to oppose abortion. In 1972, he called it "tragic" that abortion should ever be regarded as "alternative birth control" or an "alternative to having a child." But we has a nation, with Senator Kerry, have come a long way. We have elected presidents, like Bill Clinton, worthy of our self-serving and relativist values. We get the presidents, I suppose, whom we deserve. The last election was a measure of just how divided our country now is, and the fact that George W. Bush's opponent in this fall's presidential election is a Democrat of Senator John Kerry's "stalwart integrity," and the fact that a large percentage of our citizenry is actually willing to support this man, is a measure, again, of just how far we've come.

The recent March for Women's Lies in Washington, DC, is a clear wake-up call to anyone still complacently asnooze. Did you look at those thousands streaming up Pennsylvania Avenue, waving coat hangers, faces contorted, mouthing angry epithets at those survivors of abortion who stood as silent witnesses to their regret and remorse at having killed their unborn children?
Do you hear that pounding at the gates? Battering rams sound the end of a dying age. The Philistines are upon us. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hystirical, naked . . . What sphinx of concrete and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Moloch!
Did you see the full-page frontal rally photographs in the papers, the straight shots down Pennsylvania Avenue, of the kind you have never seen since 1973 in the annual March for Life every January 22nd in Washington, DC? Who sponsored this Kill-'Em-Young Rally?


Garrison Keillor on Kerry

  • John Kerry has two problems. People outside the northeast don't know who he is, and people inside the northeast do.

  • John Kerry walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?"

  • What is John Kerry's favorite breakfast place?
    The Waffle House.
    What does he order?
    Flip-flop flapjacks.
(Courtesy of Prairie Home Companion, April 17, 2004)

Why can't Episcopalians play chess?

They can't tell the difference between a bishop and a queen.
(Courtesy of Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion, April 17, 2004)

More on satan's march

from Straight Guy with the Catholic Eye, Matt C. Abbott.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Priests as superheroes?

Ever wonder how celibate Roman Catholic priests resemble Spiderman? (Chris Suellentrop has the answer in the MSN Slate Culturebox: Sex and the Single Hero: Spider-Man's vow of celibacy.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The demonic element in pro-choice antipathies

Commenting on the unwelcome presence of abortion survivors and opponents at the recent pro-abortion rally in DC, Christopher writes: "Apparently nothing upsets 'pro-choicers' more than the implication by those who made the choice that it was wrong and they regret it" (Against the Grain). From the account of the march he cites from one of the witnesses, their reception was nothing short of malicious:
The March, in three words: "viciously, mercilessly abusive." The amount of verbal aggression and abuse hurled at me personally, by women and men, of all ages, for carrying the I REGRET MY ABORTION sign, well, I thought that I was ready for it. . . .

. . . But nothing prepared me for literally mobs of livid people screaming the most hateful vicious snide things at me personally. We were spit on, and had an egg hurled at us from the marchers. There were two groups of Satanists. And the signs. Like the guy who held a handmade sign, "BABY KILLER" with an arrow pointed downward at himself. If not for the riot police, we would have been mobbed. There was that much viciousness. People broke through the riot police's invisible line just to come up in my face and hurl insulting words. There were not enough police to form a complete line, so they would run up to me, shout out their abuse, and run back before the policeman or woman got to stop him/her. And I said nothing to anyone, just held my sign. (source.)
How's that for a glimpse into the usually unseen world, usually hidden from our view but often swirling about us waiting for an opportunity to break through! Demonic.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Kerry follows Democratic tradition of flip-flopping on abortion

Here's where John Kerry stood on abortion in 1972, when he gave the following statement to the Lowell (Massachusetts) Sun when first running for congress:
It's a tragic day in the lives of everybody when abortion is looked on as an alternative to birth control or as an alternative to having a child. I think that's wrong. It should be the very last thing if it has to be anything, and I say that not just because I'm opposed to abortion but because I think that's common sense. (Source.)
This is hardly the position of Senator Kerry today, who openly flaunts his disdain for the pro-life position of his own Catholic Church and served as a key-note speaker at last weekend's March for Women's Lies (a.k.a. the pro-abortion Kill-'Em-Young Rally) in Washington, DC. Furthermore, this constitutes simply the latest installment in the not so proud Democratic tradition of Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy, Dick Gephart, and many others who have flip-flopped their abortion positions in order to support baby-killer rights when it seemed pragmatic while running for national office. (Thanks for the tip from Jeff on Catholic(?) Kerry Watch.)

Whether the Reformation was a blunder?

The Anglican author of the blog, Pontifications, agonizes over the prospect of conversion to Rome (and the recent wrenching conversion of friends to Rome), in the wake of a post that provoked wide commentary over "Whether the Reformation was a blunder?"

The origins of totalitarian democracy

The blog, A Saintly Salmagundi's recent juxtaposition of a CNS news services photograph of last weekend's pro-abortion ralley in Washington, DC, with a photograph of a Nazi rally in WWII Germany (click beneath the picture of the DC rally, where it says: Have you seen something like this before?) in a recent post, provoked me to write a piece which I mailed to "Catholics for Free Choice." Thanks for the inspiration Salmagundi!

J.L. Talmon, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, once wrote a book entitled THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIAN DEMOCRACY. It was a study of J.J. Rousseau's SOCIAL CONTRACT, among other things. But a salient point made by Talmon is that much that passes for freedom of thought, democracy, and toleration today is deeply imbued with presuppositions of totalitarianism. In fact, nothing is so utterly repressive and destructive of freedom and toleration than the extension of toleration to the very framework of values that furnishes the foundation for freedom and toleration itself. In fact, Michael Polanyi (in his book, Meaning) makes a similar point when he addresses the point where "the inconsistency of liberalism based on philosophic doubt" becomes apparent:
Freedom of thought is destroyed by the extension of doubt to the field of traditional ideas, which includes the basis for freedom of thought.
This is what happens when Catholics extend their personal preferences for free choice to include matters over which the Catholic Church has clearly declared that it has no authority to change its position-- such as abortion. The Catholic Church claims less authority than any other Christian church in the world; that is why it is so conservative. Mainline Protestant churches often feel free to change "the deposit of faith" by going along with whatever happens to be the majority opinion of the times. This is why G.K. Chesterton could declare: "the Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his own age." J.J. Rousseau, of course, that champion of French egalitarianism and freedom who became, in effect, the antecedent spokesman for the yet future French Revolution, was so tolerant as to declare of those who could not give their assent to the majority opinion in a democracy: "They must be COMPELLED to be free." Which gives new and poignant meaning to the term "freedom." When does "free choice" become a choice for a "freedom" that undermines the freedom of many others and becomes a repressive regime of tyranny?

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Original sin in Central Park, NY

Two gay lovers, naked as jaybirds and apparently as crazy as looneybirds, climbed a tree in Central Park yesterday - and put on a bizarre four-hour show that drew cops and hundreds of gawkers. (From The Front Page Daily News, and courtesy of the Saintly Salmagundi)

Church impotent, Church effeminate

Ever since Leon J. Podles wrote The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, I've wondered about this question. We used to hear about the earthly Church Militant and the heavenly Church Triumphant. Now what we've got, if Podles is to be believed, is something closer to the Church Effeminate. Even the American sociologist, Robert Bellah, in Habits of the Heart, sounded an alarm about the "therapeutic" atmosphere of much of American Christianity.

The most recent contribution to the discussion is Doug Giles' essay, "Where Are God's Warriors and Wild Men?" Excerpts:
Have you ever asked yourself, "Why do churches today look more like the lingerie department at Wal-Mart, than a battalion of men poised to plunder the powers of darkness?"

So why do most men avoid church? Here's the veneer stripped-away answer: going to church for the majority of men is an exercise in unwanted effeminacy.
What can be done?
Put an end to preaching by cheesy, whiny, quiche eating, preening Nancy Boys ... right now! It freaks us meat eaters out. Get it? Hire a pastor who throws off a good John Wayne vibe instead of that Boy George feeling.

[Get rid of] the saccharine-laced slush we have had to sing ad nauseam et infinitum for the last, oh, 100 years.
(Thanks to Sean Fagan for the Giles tip)

No-carb eating couple booted from buffet

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- A couple on a low-carb diet were kicked out of a buffet restaurant after the manager said they'd eaten too much roast beef. (

Now the truth comes out. True nutritious food is low-carb food. The stuff on a buffet line that has any nutritive substance is nearly always low in carbs and/or high in protein. The rest is, well, "empty filler," some of which, like refined carbs and sugars, approaches the nutritional value and metabolic effect of crack cocaine. And the kicker: buffet restauranteurs know that the carbs are where they make their money, by getting customers to fill up on cheap breads, rice, pasta, muffins, biscuits, puddings, cherry cobblers, and chocolate mousse, so they don't eat as much of the roast beef, top sirloin, blue cheese, aged cheddar, crab legs, oysters, and shrimp.

Vatican Cardinal Arinze says pro-abortion politicians must be denied Holy Communion

VATICAN, April 23, 2004 ( - Today at a press conference in the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, presented a new Vatican document aimed at stemming abuses connected to the reception of Holy Communion entitled "Redemptionis Sacramentum."

Meanwhile, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, who permitted John Kerry to receive communion in his diocese over Easter, chickens out by saying this is something that needs to be "handled privately" and "not something where you would make any kind of public action or public statement to withhold communion" (as reported in the Washington Post).

. . . and European bishops regarding the "Kerry communion" drama . . . well . . . simply don't care . . . (thanks to Benjamin).

Liturgical abuse and the future of Catholic liturgy

Vatican, Apr. 23 ( - The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship has released the long-awaited new document, an instruction on the liturgy entitled Redemptionis Sacramentum ("On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist"), calling for careful compliance with the Church's norms for the celebration of the Eucharist.

This is the latest in a series of welcome instructions and directives coming out of the Vatican aimed at stemming the tide of abuses emanating from liturgical innovators since Vatican II in the mid-1960s. Which calls to mind one of Peter Kreeft's jokes
Question: What's the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? Answer: You can negotiate with a terrorist.
But jokes like these would not be possible, and torrents of instructions and directives from the Vatican such as we have would not be necessary were it not for the Novus Ordo Missae (the new Mass) cobbled together by self-appointed liturgical innovators under an ad hoc advisory panel comprised of various Catholic and Protestant liturgical "experts" under the most irregular circumstances following Vatican II. When the new Mass was first demonstrated in the Sistine Chapel to a panel of Vatican officials, they were scandalized. Many Reformation-era English recusants, Catholics who refused to attend state imposed Anglican services under the administrations of William and Robert Cecil in the aftermath of Henry VIII's divorce from Rome, endured fines, loss of property and home, and even brutal execution rather than accept innovations far less radical in many ways than those stemming from the 1960s.

Thus, controversy continues to center on the new Mass and steps by which Pope Paul VI promulgated it. Many priests continued to celebrate the traditional Tridentine Mass of St. Pope Pius V in private, if not in public. Renegade groups, such as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), under the influence of Swiss Archbishop Lefebvre, refused to accept the new Mass altogether. Pope John Paul II, perhaps because of a personal protest lodged by the venerable Dietrich von Hildebrand, issued an "Indult" (1984) granting official permission for continued use of the traditional Tridentine Mass with permission of the local bishop, and in his Apostolic Letter, Ecclesia Dei (1988), called for a "wide and generous application" of the previous directives on use of the earlier Roman Missal. Yet questions and confusion continue to attend the implimentation of these directives, and approved celebrations of the Tridentine Mass continue to be relatively few in number, despite the fact that seminaries devoted to the traditional Mass are experiencing an unprecidented boom in vocations.

Unapproved Tridentine Masses abound in chapels of the schismatic Society of the SSPX. Many traditionalist Catholics have verged toward these kinds of positions under influential criticisms of the post-Vatican II liturgy, such as The Great Facade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty in the Roman Catholic Church, by Christopher A. Ferra and Thomas E. Woods, Jr. (For insightful criticism of the schismatic traditionalist fringe, see I. Shawn McElhinney's discussions.) But criticisms of the new Mass emanate not only from schismatic or near-schismatic quarters. Conservative Catholics in good standing with Rome have launched traditionalist critiques of the new Mass and liturgical innovations since Vatican II, such as the trenchant criticisms by Michael Davies and other members of traditionalist societies, such as Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei, and journals such as Latin Mass. And David Palm has written a very long and deeply sobering article, "Catholic Confusion at the Very Top," in the latest issue of The New Oxford Review (March 2004), pp. 18-30, drawing on, among other things, Romano Amero's massive study, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century.

There is no question that the new Mass, as celebrated in most parishes throughout the Western world continues to be seriously marred by grave theological and liturgical defects that have confused and otherwise negatively affected the Catholic understanding and the religious life of the faithful. Not least is the erosion of the sacrificial character of the Mass, the real physical Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the concomitant signs and gestures of reverance attendant to liturgical celebration, and sense of holiness attached to the sanctuary, altar, priest, and liturgical music. As a response to this, approved priestly societies, such as Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, or FSSP (Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri) and their seminaries, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, continue to prosper and flourish. Even Cardinal Ratzinger has called for radical revisioning of the liturgy in light of the deformations that have resulted over the last several decades, particularly in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, even suggesting a restoration of the traditional orientation of altar and priest, with the priest with his back to the people facing the altar and East (ad orientem) rather than facing the people (versus populum), provoking considerable controversy.

Among the most vigorous champions of the hope that the new Mass can be salvaged, reformed, and brought to a worthy state of perfection is Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., president of Ignatius Press, chancellor of Ave Maria University, and founder of the Adoremus Society for Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy. Fr. Fessio denies that the new Mass as currently celebrated has much of anything to do with what the fathers of Vatican II envisioned in their Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium). Instead, he views this mass as occupying one extremity of a spectrum. At "one extreme," he writes, "is the kind of informal Mass, all in English, facing the people, with contemporary music, which does not at all correspond with what the Council had in mind." Yet he is quick to add that "it is legitimate, it is permitted; it is not wrong." At the other extreme he places "those who have returned, with permission, to the [Tridentine Mass]," which he admits "is thriving and growing" and is the "Mass of the ages." But neither is this "what the Council itself specifically had in mind," he writes. Then there "the moderates" . . . and it is with these moderates that Fr. Fessio invests his hopes for a reform of the liturgy of the kind envisioned, he says, by the fathers of Vatican II. His vision, it must be admitted, is in many ways radical and impressive, calling for a renewal of a generous use of Latin, Gregorian Chant, and accent on reverance for the Eucharistic Presence in the liturgy. A summary of Fr. Fessio's views can be found summarized in a lecture he gave in 1999 entitled: "The Mass of Vatican II." Among other things, his lecture contains a fascinating account of the Jewish origins of Gregorian Chant.

Whether Fr. Fessio is right, and the new Mass can be salvaged in the wake of the liturgical experiments of the past decades, or whether the traditionalists are right in their claim that the liturgical life of the Catholic faithful can be restored only by a wholesale return to the traditional Latin "Mass of the ages" remains to be seen.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Kerry's slap in the face for DC Cardinal McCarrick

This morning, just a few short days after meeting with DC Cardinal McCarrick and trumpeting his status as THE Catholic presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry addressed NARAL Pro-Choice America at their rally leading up to Sunday's pro-abortion "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, DC. The March for Women's Lives is a pro-abortion rally scheduled to take place this Sunday in Washington. The first march of its kind since 1992, the event is being sponsored by groups like Planned Parenthood, NOW, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the ACLU. Kerry is scheduled to speak again at the rally on Sunday. If Bill Clinton, while president, wouldn't even attend these events, what does it say that Kerry will . . . and as a major speaker? This takes flippancy to new heights. (Thanks to Deal Hudson's e-letter of April 23, 2004 for details.)

Morning after pill could increase sexual irresponsibility

FDA approval of the morning after pill is now said to be pending debate over concerns that its use may lead to more irresponsible behavior, particularly among young people, spread STDs, and cause abortions rather than prevent them. Duhhh!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Against the Catholic culture of bad taste in music

Finally someone has responded with imagination and aplomb to the challenge posed by Thomas Day in his magisterial book: Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste (1992). Michael Gilleland has founded a society to help matters along in the right direction. It's called:
Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas
All I can say is: it's high time! Please click on the link above and sign up! Thank you Mr. Gilleland!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The curse of the black widow

Jimmy Akin offers his usual apologetical insights, now on the subject of homosexual behavior in animals.

New Newman journal

The National Institute for Newman Studies, based in Pittsburgh, PA, has just launched the premier volume of the Newman Studies Journal, whose table of contents can be seen here.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Meditations on Eternity

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendors." (C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory")

Meditations on Desire

"Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no leaning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us. Now there are two wrong ways of dealing with this fact, and one right one.

"(1) The Fool's Way.--He puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after. Most of the bored, discontented, rich people in the world are of this type. They spend their whole lives trotting from woman to woman (through the divorce courts), from continent to continent, from hobby to hobby, always thinking that the latest is 'the Real thing' at last, and always disappointed.

"(2) The Way of the Disillusioned 'Sensible Man.'--He soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine. 'Of course,' he says, 'one feels like that when one's young. But by the time you get to my age you've given up chasing the rainbow's end.' And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, 'to cry for the moon.' This is, of course, a much better way than the first, and makes a man much happier, and less of a nuisance to society. It tends to make him a prig (he is apt to be rather superior towards what he calls 'adolescents'), but, on the whole, he rubs along fairly comfortably. It would be the best line we could take if man did not live for ever. But supposing infinite happiness really is there, waiting for us? Supposing one really can reach the rainbow's end. In that case it would be a pity to find out too late (a moment after death) that by our supposed 'common sense' we had stifled in ourselves the faculty of enjoying it.

"(3) The Christian way.--The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there's such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.'"
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Finally: clarity about Kerry from an Archbishop

Archbishop Chaput, in the Denver Register, says: "If it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's probably a duck. A fox can claim to be a duck all day long. But he's still a fox." The whole article is just too good not to read, for anyone who has been waiting for a bishop with the spine to act like a real bishop.

al-Qaida caught with WMDs

NewsMax reports:

(1) Foiled al-Qaida Attackers Caught Red-Handed With WMDs

(2) King Abdullah: Al-Qaida WMDs Came From Syria

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Catholic(?) Kerry Watch!

A timely new blog for someone who needs watching. (Does anything about this guy besides the hair, slack jaw, two-faced hypocrisy and bimbo eruptions remind you of Clinton, or is it just me?)

Kerry, who has endeavored to defend his Catholicism against widespread criticism, can't even seem to get the Pope's name right.

Meanwhile, Kerry seems intent on taking communion wherever he can get it, even if its in a Protestant church.

And Catholic critics, at the risk of seeming Oh-so-politically-incorrect-and-uncharitably-doctrinaire, continue to speak out.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Thoughts on seeing The Passion of the Christ

It may go without saying that no artistic representation of Christ's Passion could do justice to the reality or to everyone's imaginal understanding of it. Yet I must say that I am very impressed with this film. The allusive symbolism throughout is both lavish and subtle, and much of it will be lost on philistines unversed in Scripture and Catholic tradition--from the wordless depiction of the scene described in John 8:8-11 to the clutched veil of Veronica bearing the impression of the Savior's blood-stained face. This may be regarded as a shortcoming of the film. Yet not only is this inevitable and unavoidable, but it points up a distinctive fact about such an undertaking as this: it cannot possibly be viewed and understood by all audiences as intended by its director and producer. The interior spiritual meaning intended in such a film--what Gerard Manley Hopkins might have called, had he lived to be a modern film critic, its "inscape"--is something that will remain inaccessible to any viewer unqualified in specific ways to see it as canonically intended. As Nicholas Wolderstorff says in his study of Art in Action, in order for a work of art to be presented "canonically," that is, in the way intended by its author, it must be presented "under conditions appropriate to the work" and to an audience that is "qualified in ways appropriate to that work." In the present case, this means that this film cannot be canonically presented under conditions where viewers are blind to the internal significance of the depicted Passion for them. It is not that the message is not objectively presented in the artistic depiction itself, but that viewers not qualified in appropriate ways will be unable to discern it.

Pascal was sensitive to the epistemological importance of certain dispositional prerequisites for certain kinds of knowledge. Thomas V. Morris writes, in Making Sense of It All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life (p. 101), says that Pascal believed "that there are moral, dispositional, and attitudinal requirements" for acquiring religious knowledge. As Pascal himself noted: "Truth is so obscured nowadays and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." (Pensees #739) Max Scheler, in another vein, says that hate shuts down our ability to perceive positive qualities and values in other persons, just as love opens our eyes to see them in ways that others are incapable. Far from being the case that love is "blind," as it is commonly supposed, it is love that opens the eyes to see the qualities and values to which others are blind. What are the moral and dispositional prerequisits for spiritual insight? Things like loving the truth, and seeking it with all one's heart, caring about honesty and morality, and purity of heart and mind.

In similar ways, many viewers of this film will be unable to see the interior meaning that is intended in any canonical presentation of this film because they lack the spiritual and intellectual prerequisites to understand it. The point is not that those who come away from the film expressing incomprehension of it or hating and despising it necessarily do not care about truth and morality and purity, although I suspect this sometimes may be the case. (Psalm 1) The point, rather, is that regardless of how much one may have read about the meaning of Christianity for Christians, one cannot possibly know what it means to be a Christian unless one is a Christian--unless one understands himself as guilty of having betrayed God by sinning against Him and having been forgiven by Him through the atonment of Christ's Passion. Without this knowledge, one simply cannot begin to appreciate the significance of this artistic depiction of Christ's Passion as it was intended. I am not referring here to cavils that anyone may raise about the relative artistic and technical merits or defects of this film. I am referring to the fundamentally polarized division of viewers into two camps: those who understand and assent to the interior message of the film and those who do not. The split is as simple and fundamental as that elicited by Ludwig Wittgenstein's famous drawing of a "duck-rabbit," which may be interpreted either as a duck with an open beak or as a rabbit with its ears erect behind its head, depending on how you decide to look at it. Two people will look at the identical data: and one will see a duck, and the other will see a rabbit. The difference in what they're able to see will be determined by what they're prepared to see. One person will call it prejudice and bias; another may well call it discerning what's really there and what was intended all along by the author for us to see. Does your answer make a difference? If you believe in a divine Author, then reality itself has an intended canonical presentation; for, as St. Thomas Aquinas says (Summa Theolgiae, I, Q. 1, art. 10), it is in God's power "to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do [and here we might add, cinema]), but also by things themselves."

Beyond these remarks, for the moment, however, I can do no better than refer interested readers to the thoughful reflections of Christopher Blosser. For I am called from the sublime to the . . . necessity of attending a faculty meeting.

P.S. An illuminating group discussion by members of the St. Aloysius Catholic Church parish in Hickory, NC, which addresses much of the symbolism of the film, can be found on a link from the parish homepage.

Does Islam tolerate terrorism?

Opinion mounts, and, meanwhile, where are the contrary voices? (acknowledgement: Crowhill)

Vatican: worldwide boom in seminary vocations!

The drop in priestly vocations in the West, according to the Vatican, often has the unfortunate effect of overshadowing the worldwide "boom" in vocations the Church is experiencing in other parts of the world:

In fact, during John Paul II's pontificate the number of major seminarians has virtually doubled, the secretary of the Congregation for Clergy, Archbishop Csaba Ternyak, said when presenting to the press the Pope's Holy Thursday Letter to Priests:
In 1978, when John Paul II was elected, there were 63,882 major seminarians in the world. In 2001 there were 112,982.

"Never in the history of the Church have we had so many seminarians studying philosophy and theology," Archbishop Ternyak said.
[Thanks to Gerard for story from Zenit, April 6, 2004]

New book offers critique of The Da Vinci Code

Amy Welborn has just completed a new book: De-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fictions of The Da Vinci Code (April, 2004). Join the battle against dis-information and anti-Catholic defamation: spread the news.

Unborn babies *gasp* feel PAIN during abortions???

Recent legal testimony a medical doctor verified the worst nightmares of Planned Parenthood lobbies who wish the pro-life folks would just shut up and go away. Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, a pediatrician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, testified that a type of abortion banned under a new federal law would cause "severe and excrusiating" pain to 20-week-old fetuses. (Thanks to Benjamin for the CNN story.)

Meat on Lenten Fridays, a mortal sin?

"A common question at this time of year," says Jimmy Akin, "is whether or not deliberately violating the law of abstinence is a mortal sin. It is. The relevant law is found in Paul VI's 1966 apostolic constitution Paenitemini."

In answer to a subsequent question whether the 1983 Code of Canon Law doesn't repeal and replace the previous norms, Akin says that the answer, again, is: no. And offers an extensive follow-up discussion on April 6, 2004. The seriousness of the Church's position on the GRAVITY of Penance, evidently, is something about which everyone, including local priests and bishops, are now largely oblivious!

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

"Men despise religion . . ."

"Men despise religion," wrote Pascal. "They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is. Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature. Attractive because it promises true good." (Pensees 12)

Monday, April 05, 2004

Survival of the soul . . .

The following quotation, via Benjamin of Ad Limina Apostolorum:
Neither theological knowledge nor social action alone is enough to keep us in love with Christ unless both are proceeded by a personal encounter with Him. Theological insights are gained not only from between two covers of a book, but from two bent knees before an altar. The Holy Hour becomes like an oxygen tank to revive the breath of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the foul and fetid atmosphere of the world."

-- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Kerry gets the endorsement that counts . . .

"John Kerry will be a President pro-choice Americans can rely on. He understands that our private lives are private, and will make sure that Roe vs. Wade remains the law of the land" -- NARAL (thanks to Benjamin at Ad Limina Apostolorum).

Senator Kerry - the latest SCANDAL for American Catholics

Such political and religious integrity! (Thanks to Christopher)

Deal Hudson, editor of CRISIS, writes:
My view that this is a huge decisive moment for Catholics in the United States. I hope they will rise to the challenge and refuse to endorse another Catholic politician who is pretending to be a Catholic while rejecting the Church's central moral and social teachings.

I think that the challenge is bigger for the laity than it has been for the bishops. It's an election. The issue is who's going to vote for the guy. . . . if [Catholic laity] show massive support for Kerry, that's going to set back the church in this country for at least a generation, just at a time when a significant number of bishops and laity are beginning to get active on this issue. I am keeping my eyes more focused on the laity and hoping they will reject such Catholic politicians.
And here, ladies and gentlemen, is John Kerry himself, responding to allegations that Rome is becoming more and more concerned that there's a potential scandal over the discrepancies between his apparent profession of his Catholic faith and some of his stances on moral issues, such as the abortion issue:
I don't think it complicates things at all . . . We have separation of church and state in this country. As John Kennedy said very clearly "I will be a president who happens to be Catholic, not a Catholic president."
Folks, we are being dumbed down into sheer stupidity. But then, we did elect Billy Bubba Clinton, didn't we. Should anything surprise us anymore?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

On an exclusively male and unmarried priesthood

Swiss bishops recently (, March 31, 2004) rejected a call for women's ordination and abolition of obligatory priestly celibacy. For an analysis of the underlying theological and prudential basis of Church teaching, click here.