Thursday, July 31

A WSJ guest editorial takes on the nuke-protesting nuns

I have never gotten into the habit wars, having known a few nuns who managed to be wonderful witnesses to God's love without them, but I have to agree with my husband, who remarked that if these women wanted to demonstrate against the nuclear arsenal, it's hard to imagine a more powerful protest than three nuns in habits keeping prayerful vigil, praying the rosary at the gates. Real non-violence. Real witnessing, there.

For your consideration, and email I received today - a good discussion-starter, and perhaps an opportunity to help.

I was searching around town for the book the Art of Family Planning. Because I leave next week and my fiancee will be sticking around here, I thought it would be good to read that and get a working knowledge of NFP before our marriage. We are praying and reflecting upon our situation and believe because of our monetary situation and because we believe it would be prudent to build a solid foundation of love in the first year or two of our marriage that we should initially space children. Put a different way we believe that the Church's teaching on responsible parenthood is guiding us to space children at the beginning of our marriage. Of course we would welcome any child God gave to us. However, we are going to try to use NFP to know when my future bride is fertile and avoid marital relations in those times.

Well, I was at a local Catholic bookstore looking for the book and I explained to the woman working there that I wanted to learn NFP. I explained my situation (i.e. I am moving, engaged, getting married in November, want to learn some NFP stuff with my finance before I head out). She then said, "Oh, you aren't married yet?" "No," I said. She said, "Well, NFP is not birth control and it shouldn't be used for that. It's only supposed to be used for extreme, serious reasons. So it really isn't supposed to be used right when you get married. It would be a real shame if you guys started going down that road." I am not getting her words exactly right but I am closely approximating them. Basically, she seemed to be saying three things:

First, NFP is only supposed to be used in dire circumstances.

Two, dire circumstances are not present when you are newly married.

Three, you in particular don't have such circumstances.

I didn't know what to say. I basically shut down. In my mind she was starting from a fundamentally flawed view of the Church's teaching. And I don't think she is atypical. I have seen, read, and heard this type of approach before.

Let's be perfectly clear, I and my fiancee believe that artificial birth control is absolutely immoral. NFP offers a couple a morally licit way of spacing children. We believe that children should not be avoided because of selfish or unimportant reasons. We believe prayer and reflection need to guide the couple in discerning serious reasons for spacing children. But we also know that the Church calls us to responsible parenthood and that she does not delineate all the reasons you might licitly space children. She leaves this to the prayerful reflection of the married couple. In addition, it can be irresponsible to bring more children in the world or at least not to abstain from relations during the fertile times. The Church does not call us to have as many children as physically possible. However, listening to some it would seem that that is the case.

Also, I am not totally convinced by those who argue that NFP can be used with a contraceptive mentality. If by this they mean a mentality seeks to avoid children because the couple desires a nicer home or faster car, etc. then maybe I can buy it. But, I would have to believe that those using NFP are not people who really are using those sorts of reasons to space children. Maybe I am wrong. In addition, the self-control, communication, and tenderness that NFP seems to foster all would seem to mitigate the potential dangers.

As I've been thinking of the interaction which occurred earlier today, I have to think, it is no wonder that no one accepts the Church's teaching. We have people giving them a partial truth that is not compelling. I have a feeling that many of our NFP programs in pre-Cana classes are dominated by people like this woman and I think that is a very, very bad thing for the Church. Certainly, we need to always examine our motives for spacing children but where the heck was the idea of responsible parenthood.

A related link the correspondent sent along


Got this email:

I’m looking for help producing a radio piece for the Next Big Thing, which is a nationally syndicated public radio program. Please let me know if you can think of anyone who might be interested in telling their story.Here’s the idea: Phill Gramm did it. Condoleezza Rice did it. Winston Churchill did it -- twice. There are countless reasons why politicians switch parties – convenience, opportunities, ideology, geography… but what about ordinary people? In a country where party affiliations are often life long and handed down through the generations, the change can be huge and divisive. For a radio piece to be broadcast on the WNYC program, The Next Big Thing, I am looking for unusual stories of people who have switched their political party allegiance. Whether Democrat to Republican or Republican to Democrat, I’m looking for compelling stories of party hopping.

Contact Amanda Aronczyk at aaronczyk@wnyc.org



A blog from the Episcopal Convention . Well worth reading.

hat tip to Captain Yips

Here's a link to the main page linking to all the General Convention posts

I've not commented on the Iraq situation of late because it just takes too darn much time to gather information in order to get the whole picture. Most American news agencies are mostly interested in stories with an easily-identifiable human faces: mortal attacks on American soldiers, the hunt for Hussein, et. al. They have no patience with analysis or more in-depth stories or stories without heroes or villains. So...while on the other hand, the work continues apace and, apparently things are improving - we don't read stories about the rebuilding of the infrastructure, if it's happenind, or whatever else is happening. The attacks are not the whole story, but they are happening, and real soldiers are dying, and I've read here and there that there are many more attacks han are being reported, because, in general, CentCom only reports attacks with fatalities.

And no one here uses the word "quagmire" and no one here thinks the work is impossible, and definitely no one here thinks the US should withdraw - that would be irresponsible and immoral at this point. Serious questions remain, however, about the relationship between truth and falsehood in regard to the arguments for war, and anyone who is seriously interested in issues of truth and integrity who blows these issues off, saying that the ends justifies the means..well..what truth and integrity are you speaking for anyway?

All of this is by way of unnecessary prologue to this quite startling quote from an op-ed that appears in the Washington Times today:

The North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies were bright, skilled, resourceful, well-led, and very brave.

In Iraq, we're fighting Arabs.

Unbelievable.


I am going to move a comment from the fecund comment box below up here to start a new thread with a slightly different angle. An anonymous commentor (not my favorite kind, but this is an interesting point, so I'll give him/her a pass) argues with the sentiment that commenting on the actions of a priest named in a newspaper article is unfair and could be categorized as "dumping on" by suggesting that if a priest had made news because of something he did that might be called "liberal" or whatever, these same defenders would have no trouble "dumping on" him.

I have no doubt that if Amy blogged an article that named a priest who say...preached a strong anti-war homily which displeased the political sentiments of these readers, they would be after him, by name, like a pack of dogs after a squirrel. Even if he did lead a holy life. Even if he did celebrate Mass according to the rubrics. Say if his name were Daniel Berrigan. He would not be treated gently by this crowd. Just admit it, folks. In your views, some people of some views can do no wrong, and others can do no right.

Hmmm....


Hmm....how's that for an interesting juxtaposition of posts?

For Camille Paglia fans:

She'll be interviewed live for 3 hours (with viewer questions, as well) on Sunday on C-Span2's BookTV

The Vatican's document on legal recognition of same-sex unions.

Wednesday, July 30

Archbishop O'Malley's homily

Book Report:

I got about halfway through Billiards at Half-Past Nine, but it kind of swamped me in post-World War II German Catholic interior monologue and I needed a break. I'll get back to it, but other books are calling my name at this point.

I'd highly recommend Birdsong, a rich, devastating novel that's mostly about World War I, but also, in general, about where we find meaning in life when death surrounds us. The only negatives is the modern sublot, which seems a rather strained inorganic attempt to draw the past and present together. Could have been done with more subtlety.

Now (besides work-related books on various topics), I'm about 2/3 way through The Emperor of Ocean Park, by legal scholar and serious Christian Stephen Carter. It's okay. It's got a nice variety of characters - love those pro-life lesbians, but it's also got a chess thematic thread that is supposed to enlighten me, but really only confuses me, a still very-murky mystery, and long, long scenes and conversations that scream out for an editor. A little disappointing, so far.

I've added a new category of links to the left rail: issue-specific blogs. More coming.

Byron York looks at the Pryor flap

If you'd like to buy any of our books via Amazon, please consider doing it through this online bookstore which Michael is working on.

I put the Miracle of Sharing column up. It's bare-bones, and not very pretty, but there it is.

Candian Catholic bishops will go to court to argue against same-sex marriage

Archbishop scolds Chretien

On Pryor:

Is the opposition anti-Catholic or not?

Richard Cohen says no

So do liberal religious groups

Diocese of Orange in CA dithers, wondering if downloading child pornography falls under "zero tolerance."

Who in their right mind would need even one second to wonder about this? In what ecclesiological universe is a man who views child pornography a fit candidate for priesthood?

One of many stories on O'Malley's installation as Archbishop of Boston today.

Tuesday, July 29

Catholic college beat:

Florida grants Ave Maria license to grant degrees.

Southern Catholic College, due to open in Georgia in 2005, has raised $12 million

Can we say, "demographic shift?"

Group threatens to split with Church over parish disbanding and demolitions.

BTW, this happened all the time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with Eastern European Catholics who threatened - and sometimes did - align themelves with Orthodox churches when they couldn't get their own national parish.

Interesting. This week, I've already received two requests for copies of my "loaves and fishes" column of last year in which I demythologize the demythologizers who present the story as the "Miracle of Sharing." Why? Well, because of last Sunday's Gospel reading, that's why - and the homilies they heard in the aftermath.

A reader scolds, (and oh, how my readers love to scold me!)

I will tell you that I thought when you said yesterday that Father Perricone came from the ivory tower and the EWTN fortress, I was surprised at what seemed to be kind of a dig from you toward a holy and good priest. It seemed out of character for you, and a bit snippy. That MIGHT have set the tone for the discussion that followed in the thread.

Well..sorry, but what I intended to convey was this:

It's just a fact, one that's learned by everyone who ever leaves the confines of a circumstance in which they can preach to the choir to one in which they have to preach to the unconverted. It happens to teachers fresh out of education school. It happens to almost all priests fresh out of seminary, no matter what their ideology. It can happen to new pastors going from one kind of parish to another - say, if you lived in some parts of Florida, from a parish that's young and family-oriented and ethnically diverse to one that's populated mostly by white retirees. It's called the rude awakening, and it's the beginning of the process of learning how to apply what you've learned or experienced or believein a way that can actually be accepted by your listeners.

It is one thing to teach, write and speak about the glories of the Latin Mass to those who agree with you.
It's another thing to put such beliefs into practice into a parish in which the range of parishioners' views goes from indifferent to unaware with a few adamently opposed or adamently supportive on either end.

Further, I think what this joggles in my head is the reality that when we are engaged in activities with the like-minded, we forget that not everyone agrees with us. Sometimes I get the sense from intra-conservative (or WHATEVER)Catholic conversations that they believe that the whole entire Catholic universe is yearning for a return to the Latin Mass. News flash: it may not be. Even further, even most of whom who would like to see more prayerfulness in liturgy are, after 40 years, quite comfortable with the vernacular and would be puzzled, if not alienated by the suggestion that the only way to reverence is through Latin. It's the same with those on the "other" side - those who gather in parish or diocesan meeting rooms, believing that all Catholic women are yearning for liberation from patriarchal oppression. Well, as they find out when they try to run programs on the subject, er..no. Especially when they compare their turnout to the crowd that's gathered down the street to hear the latest on the latest Marian apparition.

We live, we learn, and it always helps to balance our learning and our convictions with constant involvement in the real world - and not just of the like-minded, either.


Has anyone ever read an old novel about John Henry Newman entitled Shadow and Image?

If so, let me know what you thought of it. If you can remember.

Thanks to Eve Tushnet for letting me know that Maggie Gallagher has a blog dedicated to debate about gay marriage. It's excellent, intelligent and fair.

Here's the link.

Well, now

It is interesting that a slight dispute in a New Jersey parish should generate such heat, but if it does, it must mean something.

First, let me restate my sense of this - from the beginning of this (what? yesterday morning?), it seemed clear to me that various people in this parish prepared themselves to be hostile to Perricone. I've seen it many times: a reflexive reaction against anyone associated with EWTN, Steubenville, apologetics, or Perricone's interest and apostolate. "Oh, those Steubenville people like that sort of thing" is something I often heard in parish and diocesan ministry, and it wasn't a compliment.

So, I have no doubt that this protest did not emerge organically from the parish - I've never in my life heard of a parish, unhappy with a new priest, erupting in protest a month after he arrived. It says to me that either: 1)this had been cooking since his appointment was announced or 2)his actions were experienced as particularly abrupt and insensitive. Could it be a little of both?

And despite confident claims to the NYTimes' obvious deception in this case, please note that in the article, Fr. Perricone doesn't deny some of the problematic changes, nor does his evident confidante, commentor #80, I believe, in the thread below. The problem with the article then, appears to be that it takes the protesters' word for granted without questioning them or seeking out any other voices in the parish, who might support (or be indifferent to) Fr. Perricone's changes.

But why the heat here? What is this bringing out in us? Is it bringing out anything good?

Conflict over a Mother Teresa film festival scheduled for November in India

"You were right, honey. We should have eloped."

Monday, July 28

As Eve says,

"Harsh, but so funny."

While the Anglicans might split over gays...

the gay churches are splitting, too!

The congregation of the Dallas-based Cathedral of Hope voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to part company with the United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC). The decision severs a 33-year-relationship between the nation's largest gay church and the country's only GLBT denomination. The loss of the 3,000-strong Dallas flock brings MCC's membership down to 43,000. A preliminary 977-140 vote on Sunday will be confirmed in a final tally later this week, the Dallas Morning News reported. Sunday's vote capped a months-long dispute between Michael Piazza, the charismatic leader of the Cathedral of Hope, and a group called Cathedral of Hope Reform, which questioned his financial decisions. Led by former board member, Terri Frey, the reform faction accused Piazza of a number of fiscal irregularities, ranging from the charge of arranging health insurance for ineligible HIV-positive volunteers, to the more serious allegations that Piazza used capital campaign contributions for ongoing operations and spent thousands on "fund-raising parties" out of town, where little or no money was collected.

No, it's the other Mike Piazza

.....

A NYTimes article about a priest-parish conflict in the Newark diocese

The article is confusing - it sketches out what Perricone is doing, but then says that at the one Mass the reporter attended, he didn't....But, forging on:

The Rev. John A. Perricone, an erudite Roman Catholic priest who uses Latin phrases and refers to T. S. Eliot in conversation, is known nationally as leading proponent of the centuries-old Latin Mass, which was banished in favor of a more accessible service by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's.This month, Father Perricone was called from his academic post as a professor of philosophy at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and assigned here as administrator of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a working-class parish not far from Newark.

So far, the match has not gone well.

A group of parishioners is enraged that in their view, the priest is imposing on them aspects of the traditional Latin Mass, called the Tridentine Mass after the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Today, nearly three-dozen parishioners — some carrying signs denouncing the priest ("Get Rid of John Perricone Now," read one) — picketed Our Lady of Mount Carmel before and after the 10:30 a.m. service, which drew nearly 200 people. The Archdiocese of Newark, seeking to quiet the gathering storm, sent its spokesman, James Goodness, to speak to reporters, who had been alerted to the protest by Father Perricone's opponents.

.....In an interview after the service, Father Perricone, who founded Christifideles, a group dedicated to promoting sanctity among Catholics through the Latin Mass, and who in 1996 arranged the first post-Vatican II Tridentine Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, acknowledged that in a perfect world he would like to say the Latin Mass regularly at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. "But that's not the plan," he said.

He added that he was well within modern boundaries in using the Latin phrase "corpus Christi" instead of "body of Christ" when delivering the eucharist, despite parishioners' complaints.

"I guess if the people want to be captious, they will alight on anything," he said, adding that the complaints would have no effect on him. "I'm perfectly in conformity with the teachings of the church and the archbishop," he said, adding that the traditional Latin Mass is particularly popular among younger people engaged in a "cultural repudiation" of the excesses of the 1960's. "There's a sense of a right order in it," he said.

Father Perricone, 53, also denounced the criticism of his celebration of the Mass as either "lies" or the carping of some parishioners who simply do not like the fact that they have a new priest. "I can't imagine an instance where I showed insensitivity to anyone," he said.

He also said that it pained him to have to defend himself in a way that seemed self-serving and that he was much happier talking about the beauty of the Latin Mass, the "sense of awe" it produces and its liturgical and symbolic richness. "Granted, most of the people don't understand Latin," he said, "yet they understand its evocation of the transcendent."

The protesters, though, faulted the priest for using too many elements from the old-style Mass. They said that he faced the altar instead of the congregation when he prepared communion, did not allow communicants to drink from the chalice; did not speak out loud for the consecration of the host; and did not allow lay ministers to deliver communion. Little of that was in evidence today, but parishioners said that was because reporters were present.

Emerging from the ivory tower and the fortress of the EWTN studios can be mighty tough, can't it?

On the gay marriage front:

Stanley Kurtz maps out the slippery slope beyond it.

American Episcopalians start meeting in Minneapolis on Wednesday, with the issue already a center of debate

Later this week, the Vatican will publish instructions to bishops and Catholic politicians on how to deal with the issue.

Radley Balko agrees with me about Six Feet Under's presentation of the abortion issue.

New Mexico's Jewish pioneers

The carved inscription over the main doors of the Roman Catholic St. Francis Cathedral contains the four consonants of the ancient name for God -- in Hebrew.It's a reminder in stone of a little-known element of New Mexico's diversity -- the role of its early Jewish settlers. Jews were an integral part of life in 19th-century New Mexico, as merchants, bankers, miners, ranchers, soldiers, politicians and the governor of Acoma Pueblo.

In Santa Fe, Willi Spiegelberg was a leading merchant, and his wife, Flora, an accomplished social and community leader who could converse with Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy in his native French.Jewish merchants contributed to Lamy's effort to build a cathedral; Abraham Staab's donation was sizable. Staab's descendants say he tore up the note for a loan he had provided, and the grateful archbishop ordered the Hebrew inscription on the cathedral's front.Whether or not that's the origin of the inscription, there is every indication that Lamy and the German Jews of Santa Fe -- with their shared European background -- were quite close, said Tobias, the author of "A History of the Jews in New Mexico," published in 1990 by University of New Mexico Press.



Chicago Archdiocese investigates files of 900 order priests for sexual abuse, finds them all in the clear.

Orange County Catholics are glad an abusive choir director is gone, feel sorry for priest being investigated for child pornographer.

Sunday, July 27

Archbishop Pell, nerving people up.

Catholic bishops will confront the Sydney Archbishop, George Pell, tomorrow over the appointment of two new bishops which some fear is part of a Vatican campaign to purge the Sydney archdiocese of its liberal streak.Father Anthony Fisher and Father Julian Porteous will be consecrated at St Mary's Cathedral on September 3, a move that has exposed Dr Pell to accusations that he has stacked the College of Bishops with like-minded right-wing supporters.Dr Pell is also planning a "Life Office", which will look at topics such as birth control, abortion, euthanasia and stem-cell research. It is being likened to a "Ministry of Vice and Virtue" by nervous insiders.
Senior clergy say they will confront Dr Pell over the manner of the appointments - announced by John Paul II - at a meeting of bishops in Sydney tomorrow.

A "Life Office" as part of the ministry of the Catholic Church. Oh, stop the madness.



If you're looking to buy a Catechism any time in the near future, I'd recommend this edition, which Michael brought home the other day. It's hardback, but small - about the size of a mass-market paperback, maybe a touch larger. But it's very handy, and really just the right size.

Saturday, July 26

Following Nancy's lead, we went to the Allen County Fair last night, which has got to be just about the sorriest excuse for a fair I've ever seen. I mean, I've been to county fairs, and Citrus Festivals, and Strawberry Festivals and even the Acton County Fair in Acton, Maine, and this was by far the paltriest. Barely a midway, some pathetic commercial exhibits, in the midst of which were some quite active Lutheran evangelizers, a little stage on which a woman was singing along to a Wynona Judd CD - and no, it wasn't even a karoake kind of background track. She was singing along to a recording of "Why Not Me?" - and a patch of dirt with some stands that hosted whatever the evening's entertainment would be.

But the essence of the fair was there - the livestock, which makes it all worth it for Joseph, and, I must admit, me. We saw lots o' bunnies, including the biggest rabbit I have ever seen - a Flemish Giant - which had a head as big as some of the other bunnies, and some fuzzy angoras. We saw a goat being milked, some really, really Big Cows, tons of pigs and a few sheep. Joseph took a real pony ride, which he thought was fantastic until it started moving.

And yeah, we watched some of the demolition derby. Really. We only watched a couple of heats, but perhaps (fat chance) there is some devotee of the sport who can answer the question for us: How in the world do the cars that survived the heats, smashed in, smoking, barely limping out of the arena - come back for a final race? One of the cars was driven by a fellow with quite an entourage. They all had matching green t-shirts with the name - Jaggerts, I think - and a car smoking on the front. On the back of each t-shirt was the identity of the wearer. Some were "Fans," there were a few "Son" and "Daughter" running around, mostly barefoot, and faithful to the end, "Woman" trained her camcorder on her man through every smash and dent of the event.

Went to the zoo this morning, where Joseph reversed the events of last evening and fed a goat a milk bottle. I think we're going to the local racetrack (no, not demolition derby. The one where they drive in circles. Sprint cars. The kinds with like canopies on top that always look like they're going to fly away and/or crash) tonight. And tomorrow we'll go to Mass (for the first time in our own parish for probably two months), and tomorrow I'll blog (finally) on our visit to the Orthodox monastery located in between horse and watermelon country in central-west Florida.

Sounds like an interesting new novel

William Bennett talks about his gambling:

Family values advocate William Bennett rejects reports that he lost $8 million at casinos over 10 years but acknowledged it was "a lot of money." "Maybe not too much, given what I made, but too much given who I am and what I do," the former education secretary said. "I think it was just best to call it quits." In an interview to be aired Saturday on CNBC's "Tim Russert" show, Bennett said he was never a gambling addict, and that his history of betting shouldn't diminish his credibility. "I'm not a hypocrite," he said. "I never got on the soapbox about gambling.".....

Bennett said the amount of his losses is nobody's business. "It was a high level, was a lot of money," he said, and "counting up, has made a difference in our lives."






Are you ever surprised when a famous person dies, because, as you say to your friend sitting on the couch next to you, "I thought he was dead already." That happened to me when country singer Johnny Paycheck passed away earlier this year. I seriously thought he'd died years ago. Maybe I was mixing him up with Waylon Jennings.

Well, there was a related reaction around blogland this week when it was reported that Judge Robert Bork had been received into the Catholic Church. "I thought he was already Catholic.." we said.

Here's Tim Drake's interview with Judge Bork

and Here's a site to help you keep track of the quick and the dead.

Friday, July 25

New bishop in Scranton:

Bishop Joseph Francis Martino, auxiliary of Philadelphia, U.S.A., as bishop of Scranton (area 22,905, population 1,066,308, Catholics 365,079, priests 410, permanent deacons 6, religious 523), U.S.A. He also accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese presented by Bishop James Clifford Timlin upon having reached the age limit.


Apparently, 20th Century Fox will be distributing Passion

Thursday, July 24

From earlier this month, Andrew Greeley defends the state of the Church in Ireland

It's difficult to discover what the various authors mean by their announcements that Ireland is no longer Catholic. Perhaps they mean the church no longer dominates Irish life the way it did in the middle decades of the last century. They may mean the church no longer gives orders that the government feels (or pretends to feel) it must obey. They may mean the hierarchy realizes that it can no longer control the sexual life of the laity. They may mean the Irish constitution no longer assigns a special place to the Catholic faith (this was changed to facilitate peace in the North). But one of the authors, a priest, says Ireland now is even more secular than the Czech Republic.

The implication of all this babble is that a more realistic separation of church and state means that Ireland is no longer Catholic, without any need to take into account the faith and religious practice of the Catholic laity. That may be an appropriate methodological stance, but it seems to leave behind a massive reality: the veneration of the Little Flower, the religious faith of the youngest cohorts who may not go to mass much but are firmly Catholic, have more respect for their parish priest than their parents, and are more likely to consider the mother of Jesus integral to their identity than their parents.

The response of these folks seems to be that the clerical scandals will certainly drive the laity away from the church. The faith of the Irish people is based on the virtue, intelligence and competence of their religious leaders? So little do those who suggest it understand either religion or Ireland!

The sex abuse scandals are worse here than in the United States. The media are vehemently anti-clerical (perhaps not without reason). Some of the scandals have occurred in government-owned orphanages staffed by religious orders. And the Irish hierarchy is even more clueless than the American. Moreover, they could have learned from the American scandals what not to do, but they resolutely refused to do so.

The truth, I think, is that like Catholics in the United States, Catholics in this country are still Catholic, but now on their own terms. Bishops tell me that the laity can't do that, which proves how clueless they are. They can no longer control the laity with the threat of mortal sin and eternal damnation. Such tools may have been appropriate in the Dark Ages and after the French Revolution, but they don't work anymore.

The Chicago Tribune looks at the changes in the liturgy

Last week priests received a letter advising the 378 parishes in the archdiocese to begin to prepare for the revisions to the Order of Mass, which has been in place since 1975.Homilies over the next five weeks could be devoted, the letter said, to raising "consciousness of the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church and individual believers."The revisions planned for November stem from "questions about the interpretation or clarification of the norms," and from "changes that the Holy See deemed necessary," the letter states.

"This is not a new way of saying mass," said Rev. Anthony Brankin, pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 2825 W. 81st St."It's a fine-tuning for things that might have become inexact. I think their worry is that parishes are going too far afield."Brankin expects very little change at his church, which adheres to tradition, he said. Each Sunday, St. Thomas More's 10 a.m. mass in Latin draws hundreds attracted by the "very ceremonial, formal and elegant" old rite used in Catholic churches before 1962, he said.

But Rev. William Kenneally, pastor of St. Gertrude Catholic Church, 1401 W. Granville Ave., said the revisions "are only going to add to the very grave tension between conservatives and liberals" in the church."Maybe in another parish they would want these changes, and God bless them," said Kenneally, who adds that the new bowing "is clumsy" and an "external show.""They start out with a premise that if everybody is doing the same thing externally, we will be united internally. That premise is hogwash."People love the Eucharist," he said. "They have a great deal of respect for it. There are cultural differences among Catholics, and silence is not always a sign of respect. Sometimes gathering is a sign of respect."

Rev. Richard T. Simon of St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church, 4827 N. Kenmore Ave., said the revisions come in response to the "roll-your-own, smoke-your-own mass" that has become "a vehicle for self-expression" in some churches."If you're doing it by the book, there's not much change," Simon said as he greeted parishioners after an 11:15 a.m. service in Spanish, with guitar music. The church in Uptown also offers Sunday masses in Laotian, English, Vietnamese and Eritrean."The mass is nobody's private property," Simon said. "It's the property of the church universal."The changes will promote uniformity, he said, "so that I can go to mass in Beijing or Soweto and I will recognize it and be a part of it."



I am sensing that I have new readers, who might benefit from a crash course on This Blog:

1. Irony, sarcasm and attempts at mordant wit are favorite means of expression, so be warned.

2. I don't agree with everything I post. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, and sometimes I don't let you know whether I agree or not. Sometimes I am just trying in getting a discussion going. I am always intrigued by what other people have to say (well...most people anyway), and sometimes I post items (like the 2 items directly below)because I want to hear your opinions.

3. Don't try to put me in box of any kind, shape or texture. I have superpowers, and I will bust right out of it.

4. My blog is moody. Sometimes it's newsy, sometimes it's spiritual, sometimes I'm using it to work out ideas, sometimes it's quiet. You can bet that when it's busiest (from my end), I have deadlines looming and don't care to face them quite yet. I used to provide what I hoped was fairly comprehensive blogging on Catholic-related news, but I just don't have time for that these days.

The WSJ makes an interesting point: Why was it forbidden to criticize Scorcese's Jesus movie, but it's open season on Gibson's ?

It occurred to me last night that it might be interesting to pass a couple of interesting statements by you, statements that were made to me during interviews over the past few years.

Here's the first one:

A person who'd written a book on apparitions, visions and other miraculous things said that there was no way, no how that a "miracle" of any sort, healing included, that occurred in any context outside the Roman Catholic Church could be authentic. Here was his logic: Miracles occur, in part, to point people to the truth - to reveal the truth to them. Hence, any miracle that occurred in any tradition other than Roman Catholicism (although I assume he might include Orthodoxy within that, but he didn't say, so perhaps I shouldn't assume) must be inauthentic, for if it was authentic, it would mean that God was revealing truth through the means of that other tradition, and since those other traditions aren't the True Church, then God would be pointing people to untruths, or something less than the Full Truth so....such events must either be coincidental, natural or demonic - but no way from God.

Second one: A chastity advocate once said to me in an interview that the reason there were so many troubled marriages is that so many couples were using artificial contraception and because of that, those marriages couldn't receive God's grace. Hence, they were doomed to struggle along without God's grace.

I'm going to build traffic in a new way. I'm not going to post anything original, or even any links. I'm just going to post names, alternating day by day, and let the comments fly.

Day 1: Legion of Christ

Day 2: Opus Dei

Day 3:EWTN

and so on....

Personal news from blog and comment land

After some very scary days, blogger Sean Gallagher and his wife Cindy have brought home their little son Michael from almost two weeks of hospitalization for pneumonia. We will keep praying for Michael's continued recovery. (scroll down a bit for the account of the homecoming)

And..congratulations to commentor Aquinas Admirer who reports the birth of his daughter on July 20.

Blessings on all the babies...

From the current issue of Christian History (one of Christianity Today's magazines), articles on Tolkien, found here, if you scroll down a bit.

The comments are ornery this morning , so some helpful folks have written with comments regarding Stranger in a Strange Land...you might be interested in this one:

Oh, mercy, this takes me back. I haven't thought about this book in years.

Did SISL inspire any cults: probably not. It was certainly adopted as a variety of scripture by some of the free lovin' communal experiments of the late 1960s-early 1970s. Why? Heinlein had gotten (no, I don't know why. There are still people who think that Starship Troopers is a significant political document) the reputation of a heavy thinking, rather right wing science-fiction writer through the 50s, and his sudden change when SISL was published in 1961 had a lot of power. Also, the time was ripe; SISL appeared to say that you could have all the sex you wanted, and God, and personal power; always a potent fantasy, but especially attractive at the time. I can remember talking to a seminarian (an Episcopal seminarian, that is) when Dune was published; he was completely, genuinely blown away by the idea of the Orange Catholic Bible and "ecumenical" scripture. Dune is a little later than SISL, but they grew in the same soil. Heinlein worked on SISL throughout the 1950s; I have long thought that the cultural boil over of the late-60s-early 70s was the culmination of a long, slow seethe under the surface of the 1950s. If SISL had an influence out of proportion to its merits, it's because SISL shared the same background.

What this reader says about the general cultural upheaval of the 60's and 70's I've always also thought applied to Church upheaval, too. We've talked about it before, but it bears rehashing. If all Catholics - lay, religious and ordained - were so impeccably educated in the preVII period, if all was peaceful and happy and contentment....how could things go so crazy, really in a matter of less than a decade? Perhaps all was not as we've been led to believe it was.



Wednesday, July 23

And yes, we did other things in Florida and on the way down. We visited my dad, Hilary and my son Christopher in Knoxville. We visited Mike's parents and sisters outside of Gainesville - his sister Kathy keeps some livestock - two goats, a donkey and a miniature horse - which Joseph took great, bustling pride in feeding. We saw friends in Gainesville, Lakeland, and the Tampa area. We all are the same, and we all change. Friends once immersed in church life now barely go, for various reasons, ranging from ideological to familial. Heavier, thinner, grayer. Once single, now married with children. The greatest physical change - from apparently glowing good health to frailty and impairment wrought by battles with three kinds of cancers - embodying the most consistent spirit - a woman who still represents to me undaunted love of life, faith in God and a generous heart.

And what are they saying about me, I wonder...

Speaking of change, we went by my old house in Lakeland, my sweet little 1920's bungalow in between the lakes that I sold to a couple the male half of which was a free-lance set builder for the likes of Universal and Busch Gardens. So, as they told me, they had big plans for the place. I was happy.

Well, I hope they've been spending the past three years working out those big plans on the interior, because the exterior was a wreck - I'm hoping that they're simply in the process of repainting, for that's the only reasonable explanation for the way it looked. The fruit trees in the back were gone, victims, I suspect, of a canker that I heard went through central Florida soon after I left. I was surprised. Katie wept, for some strange reason....

The tonic of the trip was our time at Treasure Island, which is the beach just north of St. Pete Beach. It was just what I needed, especially after days of puzzling at the pointless weirdness human beings create, both at the CBA and at Universal.

God does a much better job, I think.

Finally took a walk today around the park/golf course for the first time since the flooding. It looks like the course will be closed for the season - the greens are at least half dead, just big flattened, stinking plains of brown.

Another object lesson - too much of a good, or even necessary thing - can hurt you bad.

Blegging here, not for me, but for my son

...who just read Stranger in a Strange Land, and called with questions, hoping I'd read it. Had to admit it wasn't in my repertoire, although I remember it being all the rage at some point in my life.

It's not that he didn't understand it, it's that the friend who gave it to him to read told him that when published, it was seen as a very controversial commentary on religion, and, in fact, inspired a few cults of its own. Is this true, my son wanted to know. Why, he also wanted to know. I didn't know, but thought that some of you might.

So if you grok this, help us out here..

Culture and religion...impossible to tease apart, as they should be. We express our faith through the cultural means available to us, whether that be a medieval lute, paint on plaster, Aristotelean logic, monarchical concepts of society, chords on a bass, or symbols on a toe ring. It's what we do.

But what is problematic about the CBA market (and probably about some aspects of the more liturgical church markets as well, but not so much) is the cravenness and obviousness of so much of it. Sure, if people are into music of a certain style, it makes perfect sense for Christians to set their own words to that style of music. What else are we supposed to do? But there is something else at work in all of this and it is the profit motive, pure and simple. Publishers are businesses, so they want to profit, they want to make what is going to sell...so they will follow the secular trends, baptize them, repackage them and put them in stores to be played on your stereo or worn on your toe. So? Well, so nothing, because sure, if you want to wear a toe ring with a icthus on it, fabulous. I might even do it. But there is something about the relationship between supposed evangelism, a reflexive adaptation of secular pop culture and social trends, and commerce that adds up to something less than organic, something less than an innocent and solidly-grounded fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Mel Gibson's visit to the Legionaries of Christ confab

What I can't find on the Legion website is any mention of the sweepstakes they're running, an ad for which I received yesterday in the mail. Rather unseemly, I thought it was, big promises of big payoffs if you buy tickets, the amounts printed over photos of scores of cossacked seminarians...

An interesting conversation taking place:

Nancy Nall writes:

Anyway, I was fascinated by your report of the booksellers' convention, and not just for the Tammy Faye dish. I was struck by the look-alike, sound-alike titles, and it made me wonder: What good is an alternative pop culture if it doesn't have any ideas of its own?

The growth of this parallel culture has been widely reported and commented on, but I don't think I've ever heard a Christian bookseller, music marketer or anyone else address the question of originality. Don't like profane hip-hop? Try Christian hip-hop. Nihilist heavy metal leave you cold? We've got uplifting heavy metal, right here. The ya-ya sisterhood begets the yada-yada prayer group. Serial crime thrillers beget "Left Behind." And so on.

Considering that the source material for Christianity is the foundation for much of western civilization, you'd think it would be more compelling as the inspiration for art, even pop/commercial product-art, but all the parallel culture offers is watered-down, G-rated versions of the spicy stuff.

TS O'Rama answers

I think that Christians are on the defensive now and our faith is weak. The great works of Christendom came when everyone was Christian - not enough good writers and artists are Christian now to get the "synergy" going to create good art.Kids grow up in nominally Christian homes, so they learn to like hip-hop & nihilistic music before their conversions. And they still like the music, post-conversion, if not the lyrics. Asking kids (or anyone) not to be conformists is asking a lot. If serious Christianity became mainstream, we'd have more risk-takers, with better art as a byproduct.

Jeremy Lott's Reason piece on the 2002 CBA

Mark Galli's dispatch on this year's CBA for Christianity Today, with lots more detail on fun items (and more links to past dispatches at the bottom of the article)- I never had time to really peruse the arcana, being in the presence of a two-year old in a stroller who just wants to "go!"


Oh, there’s good stuff out there in CBA land, and much of this servicable stuff - devotionals, fiction and youth material in particular - Catholics are buying from evangelical publishers because Catholic publishers too often don’t have a clue, either in content or marketing. Michael tells me that 40% of shoppers in Christian bookstores are Catholics, which should surprise no one.

Heck, I've used some it myself - Katie likes all those girls' devotional books, VeggieTales is great, and when I was a DRE, I used materials from David C. Cook, now Cook Communications Ministries for our preK and K programs - it was just vastly superior to anything Catholic publishers put out - age-appropriate with just enough Scriptural content, the latter of which the Catholic programs studiously avoided, at that time.

And every one of my kids except Joseph has, at one time or another, gone to an evangelical preschool or daycare, simply because Catholics didn't do day care, and the Presbyterians were all about servicing the children of ladies who only needed help in the mornings so they could play tennis. So I'm no stranger to this world, to a world in which everything must be baptized, even "Oh Susanna" which comes out on the other end, "Oh Hosanna! Oh don't you cry for me! I'll go around this great big world with a Bible on my knee!"

Yeah, I've been there.


But I have to say that the total effect of the show on me was to affirm my sense both of the way in which the evangelical enterprise is fundamentally flawed and of the authenticity – the truthful approach to spirituality - of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, as unecumenical as that may be. Sorry.


Evangelical Protestantism is built on the premise that nothing “human” should come between the believer and God. The CBA is one big, unintentional witness to why that stance is, quite frankly, fraudulent and impossible. For what you see at this show is hundreds and hundreds of products, created and designed and written by human beings, which have no other intention but to explain God to other human beings.


Every year, new programs and ministry plans are developed and sold which are supposed to make the Gospel more understandable. A big part of evangelical culture is dependent on aping secular trends – from music to self-help books, and even fiction – that will, it is said, help mediate that Good News in ways that modern people will understand.

And then, there is, of course, the celebrity culture of evangelicalism, which starts with your local preacher who’s built a teeming megachurch and ends at the CBA, where televangelists march around the floor followed by a protective entourage, where participants rush from booth to booth to get autographs from their favorites.


Face it. We’re human. God meets us here, sometimes directly, but most of the time mediated through other human beings. We encounter God personally in our prayer, for example, but who taught us how to pray? Where did we find the words? You get my drift.

What you see at the CBA is almost frantic search for authority, unfortunately answered by those who are perfectly happy to gain profit and power from that search.


Catholics, Orthodox and some other mainline Christian traditions (as well as, I hasten to say, various serious evangelicals who struggle mightily with this issue) understand this spiritual dynamic. Popular evangelicalism and the culture it spawns won’t admit it, but their experience and their merchandising reveals the truth: we’re human and our experience of God is mediated through human channels. Which leaves them with Hal Lindsey and Kathy Lee’s latest CD, and us with St. Augustine and Gregorian chant. Which is perfectly okay with me.

Acts 8:31

(Note: not that the Catholic/Orthodox nexis is flawless or hasn't led some astray in the excesses of its own popular manifestations. Which is why reformations occur and why the constant balancing is necessary. But at the core, it seems, there is more honesty about the reality of human experience of faith.)

later:

Some evangelical converts to Catholicism and Orthodoxy site the issue of authority (in its broadest sense - historical, rather than narrowly institutional) as well as a general fatigue with the constant push in evangelical churches to re-invent, to be relevant, to come up with new ways of getting people in and keeping them happy. Many Catholic converts to evangelical churches say that in those churches they've found an understanding of the reality of a personal relationship with Christ. Popular evangelicalism reflects, when you look at it deeply, a desire for authority. Popular Catholic devotions, when you look at them deeply, reflect a desire for personal relationship. Ever the twain shall meet?


I noticed that Augsburg Fortress has a new children's book on St. Nicholas forthcoming. As I leafed through it, I got quite irritated because the references were to Nicholas who was "pastor" of Myra. Now, granted that it is not totally illigitimate to transliterate the early Church's sense of bishop into a more modern sense of pastor, but really, by the fourth century, bishops were bishops and Nicholas was one of them (although the story they related - the story of Nicholas throwing dowry money down the chimney - is sometimes - but not always - placed at a time before he was bishop, so again...I guess you could tell it that way). But still..the whole thing struck me as vaguely deceptive, and somewhat puzzling since Lutherans have bishops, so what's the big deal?

On the bright side of children's books, Eerdmans (one of the best publishers of any religious material out there) has a nice line for the fall, which you can peruse here.

Correction: It's not Augsburg, it's Concordia. Still Lutheran.

Okay, more CBA notes:

I stopped by the booth of Relevant, an interesting new company that publishes books and a magazine. God. Life. Progressive Culture is what they're about. Here's their own wrap-up of the show. I asked the guy at the booth why they didn't have their most famous product, The Gospel According to the Sopranos on display. He grinned. "Because we sold 35,000 copies in secular bookstores and 3,000 in Christian bookstores, so we figured, why get people riled up with something they probably aren't going to carry anyway?

A bit more on Hal Lindsey. In case you don't remember, Lindsey came to great fame back in the 1970's with a book called The Late Great Planet Earth, one of the first apocalyptic warning bells of the late 20th century. It was very, very popular. Lindsey hasn't stopped. Here's his website, which is subtitled: Politically incorrect - prophetically correct.

Well, when he appeared on the floor of the show, he was in a wheelchair. Later that night, we saw him, walking around quite normally and with great ease at the Bahama Breeze restaurant, in a natty tropical shirt, carrying a yummy (undoubtedly non-alcoholic) tropical drink. Okay, so maybe walking the breadth of the Orange County Convention Center was too much for his portly frame. Maybe he's got leg problems. It was, however, quite a contrast. The Lindsey sighting, along with the John Hagee sighting, along with the massive display for Tyndale, publisher of the Left Behind series, left me with the conclusion that the End Times are good for business - and for your waistline.

You want links? Sorry, not up for that today.

But....Lots and lots o' good religion news links at Christianity Today's Weblog today.

Tuesday, July 22

As you probably know, we were in Florida last week, with the stated objective of attending the Christian Booksellers' Association convention. Well, I was tagging along, and Michael was in attendance for work.

It's quite the show - sort of like your local Christian bookstore, a hundred times magnified, with the additional feature of much free stuff being tossed at you. There were just a few Catholic exhibitors present: OSV, Abbey Press, a CD distributor, the John Michael Talbot group, and Lord have mercy, a group called the Shepherds of Christ, which has various aspects to its apostolate, including the promotion of a particular visionary, as well as the purported apparition of Mary that appeared in the glass of a Clearwater bank building a few years back.

I ask you, in this sea of very serious evangelicals, what you think of the witness to Catholicism offered by this last group. They have their big posters of the Mary image. They have stacks and stacks and stacks of cards with the apparition. And they are literally accosting people as they walk by, planting themselves in front of folks, forcing these cards on them, inviting the Baptists to learn more about the Marian apparition on the bank building in Clearwater.

It was unnerving, exasperating, and, I have to tell you, exceedingly strange.

But in the context, what is strange? This show always brings forth great reflections on the ties between evangelism, marketing and commerce. The rationale behind it all - behind the Scripture Candy (in a booth manned by staff in matching shirts with America flag prints emblazoned on them), behind the huge, expensive Zondervan and Tyndale booths that could have been a nice-looking floor at Bloomingdale's - is passing on the Good News. But in a commercial culture, how is that done without commerce? Ah, that is the question.

Michael will probably blog more about this particular aspect later, so I won't steal his thunder, but when you go to a show like this, you are struck by the symbiosis between evangelical culture and secular pop culture. Quite simply - if it's in pop culture, within time, you'll find it baptized in a Christian bookstore. Here are two examples that struck me as particularly amusing.

First, there's this novel, due out in the fall:

And what might this be aping?

Secondly is a book called Body by God: The Owner's Manual for Maximized Living, a book also coming out this fall, for which I unfortunately can't find a cover image online yet, but - trust me. If you've ever seen the cover for Body for Life, you've got it - almost exactly, just with a different guy in a muscle-T on the cover.

The relationship between religion and culture is always a complex and interesting one, but this is ever more fascinating because it is so purposeful, so blatant - so...opportunistic, because, you know, they're not giving this stuff away for free. There is such a strong impulse within American evangelicalism to produce an alternative, "safe" culture, there seems no end to the products that can be churned out, marketed and sold to fill that need.

Unfortunately, the Tammy Faye pic turned out to be unusable - way too blurry - Michael was holding Joseph as he was taking it, so you understand. Let's just say that it always such a useful tonic to see celebrities without make-up...well, I mean with only half the make-up she'd usually wear. I mean, friends, she looked. like. hell. It was scary. Maybe she scared Joseph, maybe he was trembling in fear and made Michael's hand shake. Her hair was bright, bright red, she had tremendously heavy eye makeup and lipstick on, but, it seems nothing else, and the skin on her face just sagged in this bizarre collapse of wrinkles pouring down each cheek. But her voice was the same - that grating bark. I exchanged nothing but hellos from her, but the person in front of me had this long conversation in which they spoke of dead people - I guess Tammy Faye's brother had just died, and she wouldn't shed a tear. "I never do," she rasped. "It's not sad at all - he's gone to be with Jesus. I can hardly wait to go myself, because this is not my home. This. Is. Not. My. Home!"

Mel Gibson is on the road showing The Passion or trailers from it to various sympathetic audiences. On his paces around the Christian Booksellers' Association convention last week, Michael heard that Gibson was around, talking up the film, and several elated folks spoke of playing poker with him late into the night at his suite at the Peabody Hotel. I got an email yesterday telling me that he was at the big Legion of Christ-sponsored conference that was in Chicago last weekend, showed a trailer, and took questions.

Then there's this account from Lloyd Grove in today's WaPo

Yesterday's secret screening at the Motion Picture Association of America included columnists Peggy Noonan, Cal Thomas and Kate O'Beirne; conservative essayist Michael Novak; President Bush's abortive nominee for labor secretary, Linda Chavez; staff director Mark Rodgers of the Senate Republican conference chaired by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.); former Republican House member Mark Siljander of Michigan; and White House staffer David Kuo, deputy director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Matt Drudge's conversation with Pat Buchanan about the film

Well Mel Gibson is here, he's in town. He's two blocks away. He sends his regards. He'll be making the rounds on this one. This may be the last movie Mel Gibson makes, Pat Buchanan. This is the ultimate film. It's magical. Best picture I have seen in quite some time, and even people like Jack Valenti were in the audience in tears at this screening. There was about 30 of us. It depicts a clash between Jesus and those who crucified him, and speaking as a Jew, I thought it was a magical film that showed the perils of life on earth

The New Republic's report from Paula Frederiksen, who served on the committee that reviewed the script back in the spring

Gibson has continued to speak earnestly of his film as "conforming" to the New Testament. Unless he ditched the script with which he was working as late as March, wrote an almost entirely new one, re-assembled his cast, re-shot his movie, and then edited it in time to be screened in June, this statement, too, must be false. Six pages of our report lay out for him exactly those places where he not only misreads but actually contravenes material given in the Gospels. And his historical mistakes, no less profound, are spelled out for him there, too.

Part of the group's critique, posted at the Boston College website.

This is fascinating. It seems clear that Gibson is up to creating buzz by letting constituencies sympathetic to the film see it or trailers and have personal contact with him. It's working, but with unfortunate consequences, I think. He's letting the sympathetic see it, and holding it back from more critical viewers, thereby creating even more hostility in the latter group than there probably would be otherwise. I would think he needs to get this movie out pretty soon (is there a distributor yet?), I would think...

Oh, and, as a reader asks, where's the screening for the Catholic Bloggers going to be?

Another reader writes: The hypersensitivity, hyperbole, and accusations over a film that virtually no one has seen means . . . something. But what?





We're back, with lots of work to do- both around here and in the writing/editing business. I've not read any blogs for about two weeks, so I've no idea what the current conversations are about, so if you want to fill me in, feel free. I will update later, but right now, I've got to unpack, do laundry and make some phone calls and get my head back in a serious work space!

Saturday, July 19

Historian Rodney Stark on the Catholic Church's opposition to slavery

As early as the seventh century, Saint Bathilde (wife of King Clovis II) became famous for her campaign to stop slave-trading and free all slaves; in 851 Saint Anskar began his efforts to halt the Viking slave trade. That the Church willingly baptized slaves was claimed as proof that they had souls, and soon both kings and bishops—including William the Conqueror (1027-1087) and Saints Wulfstan (1009-1095) and Anselm (1033-1109)—forbade the enslavement of Christians.

Since, except for small settlements of Jews, and the Vikings in the north, everyone was at least nominally a Christian, that effectively abolished slavery in medieval Europe, except at the southern and eastern interfaces with Islam where both sides enslaved one another's prisoners. But even this was sometimes condemned: in the tenth century, bishops in Venice did public penance for past involvement in the Moorish slave trade and sought to prevent all Venetians from involvement in slavery. Then, in the thirteenth century, Saint Thomas Aquinas deduced that slavery was a sin, and a series of popes upheld his position, beginning in 1435 and culminating in three major pronouncements against slavery by Pope Paul III in 1537.

It is significant that in Aquinas's day, slavery was a thing of the past or of distant lands. Consequently, he gave very little attention to the subject per se, paying more attention to serfdom, which he held to be repugnant.

However, in his overall analysis of morality in human relationships, Aquinas placed slavery in opposition to natural law, deducing that all "rational creatures" are entitled to justice. Hence he found no natural basis for the enslavement of one person rather than another, "thus removing any possible justification for slavery based on race or religion." Right reason, not coercion, is the moral basis of authority, for "one man is not by nature ordained to another as an end."

Here Aquinas distinguished two forms of "subjection" or authority, just and unjust. The former exists when leaders work for the advantage and benefit of their subjects. The unjust form of subjection "is that of slavery, in which the ruler manages the subject for his own [the ruler's] advantage." Based on the immense authority vested in Aquinas by the Church, the official view came to be that slavery is sinful.

It is true that some popes did not observe the moral obligation to oppose slavery—indeed, in 1488 Pope Innocent VIII accepted a gift of a hundred Moorish slaves from King Ferdinand of Aragon, giving some of them to his favorite cardinals. Of course, Innocent was anything but that when it came to a whole list of immoral actions. However, laxity must not be confused with doctrine. Thus while Innocent fathered many children, he did not retract the official doctrine that the clergy should be celibate. In similar fashion, his acceptance of a gift of slaves should not be confused with official Church teachings. These were enunciated often and explicitly as they became pertinent.



Wednesday, July 16

For brief updates on our travels, check out Michael's blog.

Tomorrow it's away from this place and off to the west coast of Florida. I haven't seen an ocean in two years, I think. It's time.

Tuesday, July 15

Hi again.

It's taken me two days to figure out how to connect to the internet from our Orlando hotel, and even now, I'm really afraid it's long distance, so I'll make it short until I'm sure.

Just know that a day in which you have your picture taken with Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Bakker) and are able to watch a tropically-shirted Hal Lindsey hold court for two hours from two tables away in a restaurant called Bahama Breeze - is a day well worth talking about.

But you'll have to wait to hear about it - and to see the evidence.

Sunday, July 13

And since I'm not doing any news blogging this week, here's an open thread for Monday for you to post any interesting religion-related news you'd like the rest of us to know about. Other bloggers with interesting links and interesting comments welcome.

Well, hello.

We're on the road. It's 11:37 Eastern time, and I'm sitting here in a hotel in Gainesville, theoretically working on something that's theoretically due tomorrow. I usually am pretty good about meeting deadlines that fall during trips before the trip, but I forgot about this one, so....Michael and Joseph are asleep, Katie's reading Maniac Magee, and I'm here, again, theoretically working.

We left at 6 am Thursday morning and got to Knoxville around 3:30. What followed was a very nice day and a half with my dad, his wife Hilary, and my oldest son Christopher, in between his Burger King shifts. (incidentally, he says that the one odd special request he gets more often than any other is two bottom buns. Hmmm.) We relaxed, went to the pool, ate good meals, and had birthday cake. (for me, a week early.)

Michael, Joseph and I stayed at the Knoxville Marriott, and whenever I go there, I always think of the heady first days when the building first opened - not as a Marriott, but as the Hyatt-Regency, this big old triangle-shaped building looming over Knoxville, very avant-garde for those days - the mid 70's. What's so terribly, terribly pathetic, as I think about it now, is that the opening of this particular hotel was such a big deal that my high school class took a field trip there to wander around in our Catholic school uniforms, gawking at the sky-high atrium and the clear-glass elevators. This was big stuff. But wait - there was more to come - we'd get that World's Fair, by God.

We drove off Saturday at 7am to proceed even further south. We stopped in Atlanta to visit the MLK sites - us Franco-Polish-WASP types along with about 2,000 various participants in various African-American family reunions. We've been there before, but this time, for the first time, we were able to go into the Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was a lot smaller than it's seemed in photos. It's humbling to ponder the mysterious roots of greatness.

We tried to do the CNN tour, but no, they don't allow anyone under 6 years of age to view their inner sanctums. After considering, and rejecting the idea of an anti-discrimination suit, we ate lunch and then walked around Centennial Park. Atlanta sure got prettied up for those Olympics, I tell you what. Oh, and if you go to CNN headquarters, you don't want to miss the Fox News billboards nearby. But then again - you won't miss them because they're two of them - right in front and about a million square feet in area. Too, too funny.

Got to Florida around 5 - Katie's first time since we moved, and my first in two years. We got to Michael's parents, then it was off to the races, which Michael blogged about, which is his right, since he built the racetrack with his own bare hands, sort of. The evening was a landmark, because it was the first time we went out and did something without Joseph, leaving him in the capable hands of his grandmother and aunt. He survived, and only asked for us once.

Today we visited Michael's sister's livestock, (two goats, one donkey and one miniature horse) then separated as Michael went to visit one friend, and Katie, Joseph and I to another, my friend and Katie's godmother Dorothy, who had yet another birthday cake for me. (and it's not even my birthday yet...) Then to Mass, and now I'm .....working.

We are off to Orlando tomorrow, to the Christian Bookseller's Association tradeshow, which I will (I hope) get to see - if a badge was obtained for me - and will blog about. It is apparently quite the show. We have more friends to catch up with in Lakeland and the Tampa area, a beach to reacquaint ourselves with and I have....work to do.

Later. Maybe even pictures later.

Oh, and thank you for all the wonderful comments on the "What's Great About Being Catholic" thread. Here's another one.

Someone asks you....what's the big deal about Jesus? Why should I care? What's in it for me?

Thursday, July 10

A brief book report:

The Clearing by Tim Gautreaux was a bit of a disappointment, and confirms my opinion that I like his short stories more than I like his novels. (And I do recommend his short stories - they're wonderful). This might be a novel that I need to reread, so I'm taking it for what it is, rather than what I hope it will be. It was fairly interesting and absorbing, but there was something, and I don't know what, that kept me at a slight distance from the characters - brothers and others who are working a lumber tract down in Louisiana in the 1920's. There was a lot of death and destruction - the destruction of the trees echoing the destruction of human lives - but in the end, I wasn't sure what it amounted to. What I do know, however, from reading this and Gautreaux's other novel, is that he really, really likes to give us close descriptions of machinery and mechanical processes. I guess that's good. I guess that's admirable. But I usually succumb to the temptation to skip over it.

Landings is a nice little short book about a woman's journey from Quakerism to Catholicism. It's heavy on the Quakerism, which was interesting to me, and, although it's a work of spiritual autobiography, it was refreshingly taciturn on gory personal details. What makes this a particularly generous book is the author's motivation for writing it. She came to know Christ in a personal way through the Friends, and although she left (for a couple of reasons - the politicized nature of modern Quakerism, as well as her acceptance of the necessity and goodness of "outward" forms of worship and religious expression), she still appreciates the faith she came to there, and presents her story as a way for Catholics who might feel that their own tradition isn't giving them the personal relationship with Christ that they desire, the insights into that very relationship that Quakerism can reveal.

Finally, I read Seeking Faith: A Skeptic's Journey by Fenton Johnson which was, I hate to say it, a rather tedious book. I hate to say it because I really hate to come down hard on anyone's account of their own spiritual life, because their life is what it is, and it's hard to critique a book on that subject without sounding judgmental of the subject himself. Johnson grew up Catholic, rather intriguingly, in the shadow of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, and many of the monks spent time with his family. He lost his faith in his teen years, then grew up, centering his life on...well, living, writing and his identity as a gay man. By midlife, he was in crisis, and also happened to be invited to cover a big Buddhist-Catholic monastic confab at Gethsemani. He observed the monks, wondered if, in fact, this whole religion thing was really and truly bunk, and set off to find out.

The book is his story of the time he spent at Gethsemani and a couple of Zen facilities out in California. There's a lot of unpacking of both monastic traditions, which is okay, unless you're already familiar with it. There's some tendentious misreadings of Christian history, including the conclusion we've all come to expect - that institutional Christianity is a perversion of what Jesus really was about, and so on. I found the book dry, surprisingly misinformed on some historical and theological issues, and just really painfully self-absorbed. Okay, it's an autobiographical work, of sorts, but the best of the genre manage to get the point of the journey across somehow without making you feel as if you want the subject to just talk about something else besides himself, please,please, please. His sense of faith is, I think, quite absract and largely unrelated from any relationship with a Person, and totally unrelated to truth. Here's his final definition of faith:

...this act of confidence in our human right and responsibility to shape the terms of our encounter with the divine, as well as confidence in the greater order in which our search takes place

And, incidentally, it's as negative an advertisement for Gethsemani as The Seven Story Mountain was positive, unfortunately.

So, I'm taking Billiards at Half-Past Nine with me in the car tomorrow, but I don't know if it will grab me or no. Maybe something more interesting will turn up along the way.

Wednesday, July 9

Question:

An inquirer comes to you. Asks you what's so great about being Catholic. What do you say?

We've had a little rain lately:


Click on the pic for the full effect.

That's a shot of the golf course across the street. Probably the 16th hole, I guess. I dunno. All I know is that I walked over there, saw the bird, and thought I was in Florida. Getting around this town in these kind of conditions is even worse than dealing with snow. Katie had an orthodontist appointment, but that road the office fronted on was flooded and the waters were threatening the office, so they moved today's appointments to an office in another area of town, but getting there, I had to go practically around town because almost every bridge on this end is out, it seems...but I'm not complaining, because we're on relatively high land, far enough from the river, and we're not pumping water out of our living room. It's bad up here, folks. Crops, whole towns under water.

Catholic Relief Services and the US bishops urge deployment of US and international forces to Liberia

Archbishop Michael Francis of Monrovia has stated his belief that if Taylor leaves the country before security forces arrive, government and rebel forces "would destroy the capital." Archbishop Francis also has called for U.S. intervention. Meanwhile, in Pretoria, South Africa, President Bush pledged today that the United States will "be involved" in war-torn Liberia but said he would not overextend U.S. armed forces if he sends troops there to join a peacekeeping force, the Associated Press said. Catholic Relief Services, in its statement, said: "While the United States' support to Liberia should be discrete, with a clearly defined exit strategy, it should be of a level and length of commitment that encourages Liberia's return to economic and political viability; helps to usher in a fruitful Liberian peace process; and fosters regional stability."


Sean Gallagher chimes in:

Other such conflicts and labeling has happened in every age and place in which the Church has found itself. It is emblematic of the struggle for us to reconcile the divine perfection to which we are called with the human brokenness in which we live here on earth. In such a reconciliation there will indeed be no labels at all, be they Jew and Gentile, liberal and conservative.

150 priest-pilots gather in Iowa

Vatican reports deficit

There were plans today, in Iran, for massive student demonstrations. Under a threat from the government, the demonstrations have been cancelled.

Many blogs were going to focus today on the struggle for freedom in Iran, and that focus continues, despite the cancellation.

Oxblog has coverage, as does On the Third Hand

An NRO article about the regime's threats to the protests, both in Iran and elsewhere.

Her nuns seek to copyright Mother Teresa's name.

The passing of the conjoined Iranian twins really saddened me. They were so brave, so optimistic, so hopeful...

But leave it to the press to be just...odd about the whole thing. This morning, on my walk, I was listening to NPR, and the reporter on this story said, "Well, as someone here [in Singapore] just said to me...at least they finally got what they wanted - to be separated." And if you thought that couldn't be topped, you thought wrong, for the host responded, "I guess this was a situation in which the surgery was successful but the patients died."

Which was, later in the day, matched for stupidity by CBS' John Roberts, who closed that network's report on the sad news with a wry half-smile and something like, "The unquenchable desire for independence."

Sometimes people just need to be - quiet.

Tuesday, July 8

A few weeks ago, after I bitch-slapped The Da Vinci Code in the pages of OSV, I got a couple of letters scolding me and reminding me that it's "only a novel" and not get so nerved up about it. Which I wouldn't, being a let-art-be-art kind of chick, except for the fact that many, many of the Amazon reader reviews indicated to me that there's a sizeable number of folks who are taking Brown's tendentious reworking of esoteric theories as Real History.

Well, I got my answer to those critics today, in the form of a little piece of Publishers' Weekly Religion emailing:

In the last issue of BookLine, we wrote about how books on gnosticism were seeing increased interest, in part because the subject is dealt with in Dan Brown's red-hot novel "The DaVinci Code" (Doubleday). Now the book seems also to have ignited sales for new and old titles on Mary Magdalene. That includes nonfiction books actually mentioned in "DaVinci Code," among them "The Woman with the Alabaster Jar" (1993) and "The Goddess in the Gospels" (1998), both by Margaret Starbird and published by Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.

Rob Meadows, v-p of sales and marketing at Inner Traditions, couldn't be more delighted. "I don't really know how many page-turner thrillers--fiction--generate that much interest in the story behind it all," he said. He noted that "Alabaster Jar" typically sold up to 3,000 copies a year but has sold 9,100 copies since Brown’s book came out. "Goddess in the Gospels" has gone from 70 copies a month to almost 1,700 a month, and Starbird's nonfiction "Magdalene's Lost Legacy," which Inner Traditions/Bear released May 5, sold out its 5,000-copy first printing and has gone back to press for a second. The house's "The Gospel of Mary Magdalene" (2002), edited by Jean-Yves Leloup and translated by Joseph Rowe, went from sales of 300 a month to about 1,700 a month.


Meadows said he thinks the real story will be people taking seriously the possibility that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a relationship and a family: "It's a shattering idea that Jesus was no celibate, that Mary Magdalene was no whore." Likewise, he thinks it could prove revolutionary for Christianity to consider that there is a "sacred feminine" aspect that has been suppressed and labeled a heresy. "It's not just that, hey, we have a cool idea that's going to upset some people," Meadows said. "The idea is arriving."

Other publishers also are getting a lift from "DaVinci Code." John Fagan, marketing director for Penguin Books, said he's heard reports of increasing interest in the fictional "Mary, Called Magdalene"(Viking cloth, 2002; Penguin paper, May 2003) by Margaret George. At Harper San Francisco, sales director Jeff Hobbs reported that sales of the 1991 paperback "The Moon Under Her Feet" by Clysta Kinstler increased more than 300% since March. Hobbs said HSF is seeing "significant interest and renewed sales levels" for "Nag Hammadi Library" (paperback, 1990), edited by James M. Robinson. Hobbs said HSF will explore ways to connect "Nag Hammadi," which contains "The Gospel of Mary Magdalene," with "DaVinci Code" readers.

In promoting "The DaVinci Code," Barnes & Noble assembled a table of books on related subjects in April and will do so again in August, said spokeswoman Carolyn Brown. "People love this book, and they're so excited by the different topics discussed in it that they're just hungry for more information."



You may have noticed that I rarely post entries that are complete, airtight arguments from beginning to end. That's mostly because I don't have time to think blogthings through from beginning to end, especially when other writings call (hey - I wrote an 1100 word book review and a 700-word column today! Give me a break!), but also because I know I can always depend on you folks to help me follow trains of thought, discard others, consider implications and really figure out what I'm really trying to say.

In musing here about Catholics Without Qualifiers, I think I'm looking at three points.

The first is personal. As for me and my house, I'm saying, we're out of the label business. I won't be pinned down for the reasons I articulated below. I'm a Catholic, I'm deeply comfortable with saying that, and I feel no need to distinguish myself from other Catholics.

Secondly, I'm trying to understand why this labeling happened. And oh, by the way, I mispoke a couple of days ago when I said that used to be the only "kinds" of Catholics were lapsed and ethnic. Actually, that's not correct. There were "bad" Catholics, many cheerily self-acknowledged. How could I forget Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World...

Third, I'm trying to find a way beyond it. Not, please note, for the sake of pretending that all is well or false unity, but simply because it's vital that we do. It's not that the other tasks - the clarification and presentation of truth and the mutual, fraternal correction don't need to happen. Jesus told us that they must. The content of faith is irreplacable. I just spent some time today dissecting a book that suggests the opposite, and it was a fairly simple and obvious procedure.

But along with voices that are clearly teaching, firmly correcting and engagingly preaching we need voices that call us to simply heed the Good News and act on it as Jesus tells us to, voices that can cut through our politicized discourse, despite our own pride and our own resistance. Voices that are dedicated to just that task. And that's what I don't see in Western Catholicism at this moment. All the periodicals fall along ideological fault lines, and all the books that get any kind of wider PR press and are the subject of broad discussion among Catholics do the same. Spiritual movements by nature appeal to particular types, gathering the like-minded, but is there any spiritual movement today in the American Church that is not viewed, at some level, in political terms? Apologetics movements, perpetual adoration, peace and justice, respect life, Opus Dei...I ask you - is there any lay movement in the US church that isn't the object of suspicion by at least half of the engaged Catholic population? Is there even one Catholic college or university that's respected academcially and spiritually by all "sides" in this country? (Maybe CUA? I don't know) And what about people? Is there an American Catholic leader, thinker or activist who is respected and inspires by most of us? Or do they all, once again, fall along these divides, either by intention or, quite frequently (as is the case with the Pope, I'd argue) because of the stubbornness of listeners who won't hear what he has to say on its own terms, but only through ideologically-framed earpieces.

Do you see what I'm saying? Does it make sense? Do you see the need?

Fr. Jim of Dappled Things has great thoughts

If a person professes the Faith with us in the official Creeds of the Church, receives the Sacraments in communion with the Church, and takes part in the Liturgy of the Church, we are supposed to assume his orthodoxy and accept him as a Catholic without qualifiers. He may not be a perfect saint, and maybe he can't explain the difference between the Virginal Conception and the Immaculate Conception, but we ought to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The problem, of course, is that many people have been severely burnt many times by things that went masquerading as Catholic, when they were in fact nothing of the sort. And such people (and this goes for "liberals" as much as for "conservatives") will band together, circle the wagons, and try to keep from being hurt again. To do this, they will sometimes make pre-emptive strikes on people and groups they perceive as threats. And labels are the best way for them to distinguish who's who on the battlefield. It may not be excusable, but is at least understandable.

How to overcome this?

More....

Of course there are boundaries, and it is the responsibility of the teaching Church to articulate and clarify them. It is the responsibility of the teaching Church to insure that those who teach in its name are teaching the truth - from bishops to priests to catechists in parishes.

But that's really not the concern that I'm cogitating on here. Let's see if I can clarify.

Like many of you, this has been a concern to me for a long time. Of late, it's interested me more for a couple of reasons. First, because of the more or less constant pressure on me, as a sort-of public Catholic to identify myself as a certain "type" of Catholic, and I just have no interest - none at all - in doing that. Why? Because in doing so, I am implicitly separating myself from other Catholics who may not share my label of choice. Others get into that, and even relish it. They like being a remnant, they like feeling as if they are on leading edge, that they are more enlightened than other Catholics, that they are somehow more faithful than others, but I don't, because it's just not true. People who insist on labeling themselves "orthodox" or "conservative" may take comfort in the fact that they are distinguishing themselves from Bishop Gumbleton. People who claim the mantle of "progressive" may be delighted that in doing so no one will confuse them with Cardinal Ratzinger. I don't want to let that divisive edge into my sense of spiritual identity. I don't want to paper over real problems in regard to Catholic identity, and, as I said, clarification and forceful expression of that identity is an important part of the Church's mission, but at the same time, I decline to put a label on myself because those labels are, in the real world, expressive of certain earthly loyalties, and those are not where my ultimate loyalties lie.

Secondly, this has really bugged me in the weeks since I've read Paul Elie's book, The Life You Save May Be Your Own, an examination of the lives and works of Dorothy Day, Walker Percy, Thomas Merton, and Flannery O'Connor, and, by extension, the intellectual and spiritual lives of Catholics in the 20th century. I was struck, in the end, how non-political the religious discourse engaged in by these figures was. These were all wildly different people, with different spiritualities and emphases in their religious lives, but there was absolutely no sense that any of them were anything but simply "Catholic." Sure, we all know that Day was controversial, and bore many labels during her time, as did the Worker movement, but when you study the correspondence and article writing that went on, as these figures and others pondered the questions of the day, the fundamental sense of unity is striking. The issues they discussed were not issues of church polity, but of what it means to bring Christ into the world via the Church and via their own gifts. It was almost shocking to compare it to what passes for discourse in Catholic periodicals and literature today. Sure, there are writers who address spiritual questions - many, in fact, but when you think about the primary direction of intellectual energy among Catholic writers and, for lack of a better word, activists today, it is all about clarifying who's really Catholic from who's not. It is absolutely and totally depressing.

So why did this happen? We've been picking this apart, but I am really coming to think that the introduction of seemingly endless options into liturgical life plays a part, in that complex dynamic of lex orandi, lex credendi (or whatever..I'm in a rush, can't look up the right spelling, so correct me.) I also think that in the burst of scholarship and study and more general access to that scholarship in the past forty years, we have been confronted with the reality of doctrinal and pastoral development in the history of the Church, and I think that those who decry "dissent from the Magisterium" really need to take this seriously. You have to understand that while many of those who hold more "progressive" views may do so out of arrogance or a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of Christian faith, some others are actually holding to their views in the context of their understanding of how Church teaching has developed over the centuries. Slavery, once tolerated among Christians (read Philemon), was centuries later condemned as a sin. The Church's understanding and communication of the proper ends of marriage has developed. The Church's sense of the most beneficial ordering of civic life and government has developed. The Church's sense of exactly what it means to say that "outside the Church there is no salvation" has definitely developed over time.

Educated people know these things, even if their education is sometimes incomplete. Even barely catechized folks who lived through the changes of Vatican II saw..well...change. Tremendous change, as things that were of prime importance in 1958 suddenly were ignored in 1968. (For a good look at this from a fictional viewpoint, see David Lodge's Souls and Bodies which was originally titled, in its British release, How Far Can You Go?, a title that refers, not only to the sexual obsessions of its main characters, but to the slow dismantling of Church teaching...how far can you go before the whole thing collapses?)

So given this reality, many people see the Church, no longer as an eternally stable depository of truth that is the same from century to century, but as a human institution that tries to embody and express the will of God in each age, for each age, and what that means changes. I'm not saying they're right. I'm saying that's the way a lot of people think, and their "hopes" for changes in Church structure or teaching are grounded in their understanding of past development and shifts.

But anyway....My point is always, first to understand. That's my interest and fascination..in understanding why things happen, why people think as they do. Some don't like that because it's not as judgmental as they like, but too bad. I can be as judgmental as the next Church Lady, but I'm just as interested in understanding.

Secondly, I don't want the Church to shy away from articulating what it means to follow Christ, what it means to be Catholic. It's there in the Catechism for all to see, and like the rest of you, I want that more, not less, strongly disseminated.

But I also want to work towards focusing more on the Gospel and on what Jesus is calling us to. Oh, it's complicated, and not totally separate from the other issues (how do we know what Jesus wants?) but for me, I have just about had it with the name-calling and the judgment in Catholic public discourse and intellectual life. I want people to start talking about Jesus again. I want us to go to Mass, not to judge the celebrants or the ministers, but to focus on Christ. I want us to start celebrating Mass and leading the music in Mass, not to make ideological points, but to do nothing but point people to Jesus. I want us to sit in the pews - all of us - and see each other with the eyes of Christ.

That doesn't mean we don't hold each other accountable. At all. It doesn't mean anything goes. It means that the spirit of humility and love is at the center of everything we do and everything we say, not fear, not judgment, not labels.

So the question is...you go to Mass, and your favorite bete-noir is sitting next to you. It's Anna Quindlen. It's Madonna. It's Mother Angelica. It's Andrew Sullivan. It's Jennifer Granholm. (gulp) It's Pat Buchanan. Cardinal Ratzinger is celebrating Mass, assisted by Cardinal Mahony.

Do you share the Sign of Peace?

Do you mean it?

And...what does it mean?

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