Tuesday, November 12

From the NYTimes (LRR): An exhibit in Paris examining the use of Christian images in photography.

Thus, over the centuries, crucial scenes from the New Testament — from Jesus in the manger and the cleansing of the Temple to the Last Supper, the Calvary and the Ascension — became familiar to Christians through paintings, mosaics, frescoes, sculptures and friezes. Indeed, as iconolatry grew, these images came to be thought of as more than mere representations of, say, Jesus and Mary: they assumed a sanctity of their own as if they were real.

Yet, perhaps strangely, when many of these same images found expression in the new art form of photography in the mid-19th century, they lost much of their power and mystery. In the eyes of many of the faithful, it seems, real people re-enacting episodes from the Bible looked less spiritual than painted or sculptured images. By the 20th century, photographers had concluded that traditional Christian symbols could remain relevant only if they were themselves transformed.....

....Interestingly, although it is presented as an art exhibition, "Corpus Christi" makes a strong case for religious photography. By working too literally, the early efforts to reproduce traditional Christian images contributed no additional meaning, but postwar photography used the memory of those images to evoke a more general Christian spirit. In fact, it could be argued that an art form invented to reproduce reality has proved to be an effective interpreter of the ethereal concept of faith.

San Francisco man wants to be excommunicated.

Bishop won't hear of it.

"The church gets its political clout from the number of its members," Vargas explained. "My name and my membership was being used to promote this agenda. I realized that stopping going to church just isn't enough. It's very important to me as a gay man not to be counted as a member of an organization that is actively pursuing my oppression."

So Vargas wrote to Levada June 26, 2002, asking politely for excommunication – that is, for the chief local officer of the church, the pope's representative here in town, to formally declare that Vargas is no longer a member of the Catholic faith.

"As a principled and rational person," his letter states, "it pains me that someone, somewhere might be counting me as an adherent of an irrational superstition which has done, and is doing, irreparable harm to humanity and with which I profoundly disagree."

The letter had at least some impact: the pastor of the church at which Vargas was baptized, Father Oscar A. Mendez of St. Antony of Padua on Cesar Chavez Street, sent him back a note saying that he had recorded in the baptismal records of the parish Vargas's desire to renounce his faith.

But that wasn't what Vargas had in mind. He wants it official. "The last time I checked, only a bishop has the authority to excommunicate someone," he said. ....

....But the archbishop doesn't find that quite sacrilegious enough. "It would not be appropriate to use the term 'excommunicate' in your case," states an Aug. 2 note to Vargas from Monsignor Thomas S. Merson, secretary to Levada.

All of which raises an interesting question: what, exactly, does a person have to do to get kicked out of the Catholic Church these days?


Here is a link to the Arlington Diocese's Fr. Haley's deposition

Instapundit agrees with Sullivan saying that it would be too bad to "make a big deal out of abortion in January"

I agree. Totally. Let's make a deal not to make a big deal. Bills will calmly be proposed protecting preborn human beings and pro-aborts won't make a big deal about it. Sounds fair.

Here is the link to the Survivors First database you've been hearing about.

I have to say it's very well and fairly organized with names divided into categories of "Convicted" "Civil Settlement or Judgment" "Pending Criminal Action" "Pending Civil Litigation" and "Public allegations" that have resulted in some other type of action. Names are withheld in the last category, and there is another category of "Private Allegations" which is not listed at all. Like I said, it seems fair. The information was all culled from newspaper reports, and the website creator requests anyone with corrections to contact him.

What happened today:

Call to Action made some points:

At the fringes of a national meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Noonan said in an interview that bishops have dodged responsibility for the scandal. "It's their responsibility to assess people who are entering the priesthood, it's their responsibility to assign them and it's their responsibility to remove them," Noonan said. "If you're going to retain all the power, you have to take blame when you misuse your power."

And Cardinal Law presided over the session about Iraq:

Rod Dreher on the Bishops' meeting.

That's the word that charitably popped into my head upon seeing the headline to that story on Drudge.

On Thursday, the White House held a conference call with social conservatives and pleaded with them to be patient. "They're saying the president's priorities are already known, but let's be prudent and not just aggravate the Democrats by putting it in their face," said Deal Hudson, the editor of Crisis Magazine and an ally of the White House. "It may not be the first thing that this administration pushes because it's not this administration's style to get the controversial thing out there at the beginning."

Yeah, yeah, political concerns, long-term thinking, yadda yadda.

Does anyone who's in politics who claims to be prolife have any sense that this is not about pushing your issue but saving lives? Eh..two months...a few dozen babies. Who cares.

Now. Please note that my scorn was not hurled at Mr. Hudson there, but at the conference-calling White House. Of course! The article does give more hope than my emotional reaction indicates -

The upshot: Religious conservatives will pressure the Republican House and Senate to pass antiabortion measures previously passed by the House but buried by the Democratic Senate. After the ban on the "partial-birth" procedure -- passed by the House in July -- the next priority is a ban on human and embryonic cloning -- which the House passed last year.

Next on the list of House-passed measures come the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (giving legal status to a fetus hurt or killed during the commission of a federal crime), the Child Custody Protection Act (making it a crime to take a minor for an out-of-state abortion in violation of a state's parental notification laws), and the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (forbidding state and local government actions against hospitals or health-care workers who refuse to participate in abortions).

Connor predicted Senate passage of all five and vowed that "you can count on fact that we will be pressing the Congress to act with dispatch." Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said he expects the Senate at least to take up all five "at some point" during the next Congress. As for Bush, Johnson said: "We're very happy with the support the White House has given on all of these bills. I would expect that to continue."

It sounds hopeful, but my reaction is tempered by what - twenty years of waiting on this? Twenty years of promises? Twenty years of dashed hopes and backpedaling? Twenty years of supposedly pro-life presidents looking out at the March for Life and...making a phone call of support, rather than actually appearing?

I'll trust that the people like Deal Hudson, Ken Connor and Doug Johnson know what they're talking about and have the ear of the White House. I'll trust. And I'll pray. And I'll write some letters. Et vous?

Has John Updike's imagination run dry?

Sounds like it.

From the NYTimes (LRR), a former top religious attraction in the Northeast is falling into serious disrepair and everyone's wondering what to do about it.

Under a lighted 56-foot cross, and past the beheaded camel, beer cans and weeds desecrate the forgotten Bethlehem Village.

Around a bend, the gray plaster Temple of Jerusalem, affectionately called "unhistorical and funky" by one local religious scholar, now more closely resembles a prop from a Japanese monster movie. At Calvary, vandals have snapped off the right arm of a die-cast Jesus dying on the cross.

Holy Land U.S.A., a 18-acre park of Catholic-oriented religious kitsch — much of it miniaturized and built with scrap machine parts — was once one of Connecticut's largest tourist attractions, a spiritual lodestone to more than 200,000 visitors a year from all over the East Coast. But after 44 years, Holy Land, closed since 1984 and now administered by nuns who live on the hilltop property, desperately needs a rescuer — preferably someone with a lot of money.

"It used to be beautiful," said Vinny Tata, a Waterbury engineer who drove up to the chained front gate on a recent Sunday with his wife and baby daughter, to show them the place he knew as a child. "Now it's kind of creepy." ....

The Rev. Jaime Lara, a Catholic priest and professor who is the chairman of the program in religion and the arts at Yale University Divinity School, said that despite an appearance that seems to have been inspired by "miniature golf settings and pious lawn sculpture," Holy Land follows in the line of the northern Italian sacri monti — sacred mountains — begun in the early 16th century as an alternative to the dangerous pilgrimages to the real Holy Land.

The Italian versions include miniature cities, chapels, indoor dioramas, and mannequins portraying the important episodes in the life of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and saints. Holy Land, built over years by Mr. Greco and a group of friends who called themselves Catholic Campaigners for Christ, is more of a Catholic Coney Island, Father Lara said.

.....Margaret Bodell, a New York City gallery owner who grew up in Stratford, Conn., said Holy Land should be appreciated as nonreligious artwork, too.

"It's basically a sculpture, and in our day and age these type of environments are fading," said Ms. Bodell, who self-published a 25-page book on the history and artistry of Holy Land. But even she admits that sometimes artistic license got the better of Holy Land's builders.

"When you have mannequins with ketchup on them to signify people being eaten by lions," she said, "it gets a little wacky."

What's your favorite kitschy religious landmark?

Has anyone found an account of yesterday's discussions at the bishops' meeting? We switched to DirectTV, which doesn't carry EWTN, and I don't have the patience to listen/watch online, so I've not been able to follow the discussions, and a quick search uncovers no detailed accounts. Any help?

The Washington Times turns its attention to the strange case of Father Haley of the Arlington Diocese who repeatedly took evidence of his brother priests' misbehavior to his bishop and has been suspended for his trouble.

A local Roman Catholic priest says he is being retaliated against by his bishop for providing evidence that three priests in separate incidents stole church collections, impregnated a married parishioner and collected homosexual pornography.The Rev. James R. Haley says he was suspended by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde after blowing the whistle on the three priests in the Diocese of Arlington, The Washington Times has learned. "I believe that he's trying to strangle me out of the church," Father Haley testified in a civil lawsuit. He is barred from revealing any evidence of priestly wrongdoing to law-enforcement authorities or the public under a canonical "penal precept" issued by the bishop in October 2001.....

A week later, Bishop Loverde summoned Father Haley to Arlington, gave him four hours to move out of the rectory and into a hotel in Fredericksburg, and ordered him not to return to the rectory without an escort. He stripped the priest of his faculties, which authorize him to wear a clerical collar, say Mass, take confessions, and perform baptisms and funerals.

In a series of "decrees" dated Oct. 23, 2001, the bishop also expelled Father Haley from any diocese post and gagged him with the canonical penal precept. Under the suspension, Father Haley has been denied church housing for the past year and restricted to monthly pay of about $2,000 for housing and all other expenses. He is living in a house trailer in Northern Virginia.

Bishop Loverde agreed only to answer written questions from The Times. Chancellor Rippy did not respond to questions nor requests for an interview.

"Bishop Loverde takes very seriously any credible allegation of misconduct on the part of a diocesan priest, employee or volunteer. [He] has not and will not punish anyone for bringing him a concern or complaint."

This continues to be a strange case. Experience tells us that there is usually more to a story than a newspaper article suggests, but even if Haley had some other problem, the "punishment" (which, no matter what the diocese says, is exactly what it sounds like) for bringing these matters to the bishops' attention seems harsh.


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