Wednesday, May 7

Okay, I think this is funny:

Lark News: or, the Evangelical Onion.

In particular, I found the best-sellers list (lower right) very funny and dead-on.

A Christianity Today article about the site.

And...

Not from Lark or the Onion...but it could be...a profile of Jack Chick who is, indeed, a real perso.

I like what Barbara Nicolosi has to say in regard to the new Jim Carrey film, Bruce Almighty,

Christians will have problems with the film because the main character seems to be living in a happy and functional way with his girlfriend, played well by Jennifer Aniston. I was at a junket last week with Shadyac [the director], and winced while a writer from another Christian ministry - we'll call them "Focus on the Fundamental Unit of Society" - chastened Shadyac placing his characters in an unwed mode.

Shadyac, who attends a Los Angeles Catholic Church - became passionately verbose in explaining that Bruce's character BEGINS the movie in a place of immaturity and selfishness. Shadyacs long unruly locks flailed all around as he gesticulated that Christians need to read our own books like The Confessions of St. Augustine, and stop being afraid to show human sin....


From America

An article by Willard Jabusch on The Vanishing Eucharist.

Now, the entire article is available only to subscribers, and I can't, ethically, just repost the entire article here. So I'll summarize and post an excerpt, and hopefully what I give you will be enough fodder for commentary:

Jabusch writes of the increasing number of Catholic parishes without resident priests, and therefore, possibly without weekly Eucharist. It is an even more common experience in Latin America, and has been for centuries, since quite often, missionaries would come in, bring a village into the Church, and then only be able to return once or twice a year to take care of the sacraments and celebrate Mass. Jabusch continues:

One day a Protestant missionary team from Texas arrived in the village. They rented a house and went from door to door making friends and handing out literature, especially nicely illustrated copies of the New Testament. Since most of the people had trouble reading, they also offered Christian songs, which they taught to the children and broadcast in the evening over their loudspeakers.

But these industrious and vigorous young Americans had no! intention of remaining in the village forever. They quickly made the acquaintance of Pablo, a young married man, the father of two sons, who clearly was intelligent and personable. His neighbors recognized his obvious leadership qualities. Pablo, with his wife and children, became the first persons in town to accept the new religion, reading the Bible every day, giving up the potent local “firewater” and leading the prayers and hymns at the Sunday service and Wednesday night Bible study. The Americans then arranged for Pablo to attend an Assembly of God Bible college in the capital for some intensive courses in Scripture and in preaching. A simple but attractive little chapel was built at the edge of town. When Pablo returned with his certificate in Bible studies, he was named the pastor.

Thus a new Assembly of God congregation, one of hundreds, came to be established. With a resident pastor who was rooted in the community, educated (but not overeducated),! zealous and involved in the life of the village, preaching sermons in the local dialect, it is not a surprise that this new Protestant congregation would quickly grow. When the Catholic priest next came to San Miguelito for his yearly visit, there was a clear lack of interest in what he had to say.

Even if a celibate priest could be found to go and live in a remote village like San Miguelito, he comes as an outsider, an “intellectual” with a university and seminary training. He has read Aquinas and Bonaventure, perhaps Rahner or Ratzinger. With whom can he talk? Where is the intellectual stimulus? With neither a wife nor children, how long before boredom and loneliness leads him to alcohol, eccentricities or sex? Pablo, on the other hand, “fits in.” His sermons may be rather thin theologically, fundamentalist and na├»ve, but he is accepted and content with his little flock.

In Peru and Bolivia, in Guatemala, Brazil and Mexico, wherev! er there are few priests or where the priests are arrogant or indolent, the story of San Miguelito has been repeated. The bishops of Latin America meet and discuss this, but they seem powerless to halt the march of converts into evangelical Protestantism or Mormonism. One Mormon “elder” (all of 20 years old) told me that in the United States their most successful area for conversions is the Southwest. They are finding so many converts among Hispanics that they hardly have resources or time to process them all.

In Latin America even very small villages will have an Assembly of God or other evangelical church. A town of any size will also boast a large white Mormon “church” with a gleaming spire pointed like a needle into the sky, a religious education building and a tidy sports field for soccer and American basketball. For several decades now, it may well be that the most effective preachers in Spanish or Portuguese are not Catholic. In many plac! es, the Catholic clergy are not only outnumbered, but they seem to lack the fervor and evangelical passion of the Protestants. All this has been the price, a very high price, for the Catholic unwillingness or inability to supply sufficient and effective pastors for the people.

I would like to hear your considered thoughts on this. Celibacy might come into it, but there are other, more important issues, if you think about it. What can, realistically speaking, the RC Church do to meet this challenge? Certainly, the Church is doing what it can by training lay ministers and ordaining deacons (although if you recall, last year in the Mexican state of Chiapas, I believe, the diocese was told to stop ordaining deacons...there were too many and the people might get...confused...it was said), but, as Jabusch points out, if the Eucharist is, indeed so vital to Catholic life, is that enough? What of the education issue? We might instinctively say...hey, he's got a point, but then remember that one of the major factors leading up to the Protestant Reformation was the prevalence of under-educated clergy..is there a middle ground? And if you want to bring celibacy into it, feel free, but do so realistically as well..for there are indeed married Roman Catholic priests, brought in to meet a pastoral need - the incoming, convert priest's need, that is..



I have to say...

..that I'm really moved by the comments on my tie-dyed priest column below. There is no lack of strong, serious spirituality among Catholic people. It is so clear that when people go to Mass what they really hope for is, quite simply and naturally, a moment in time and space to encounter the eternal God and be refreshed and renewed by His love, challenged by His Word and nourished by His very Presence.

And people are just so valiant and patient, in being willing to cut through the imperfections of those leading us in prayer, to seek that Presence...it is just too bad that it's so difficult sometimes, isn't it?

But I can't pull a "it's Vatican II's fault" here. Sure, the big, huge error that emerged from the post-Conciliar period (not countenanced by the documents themselves, though) is the idea that the greatest service those in charge of liturgy can provide is to be creative and inject themselves into the proceedings, instead of submitting themselves to God through the ritual, but you can be sure there were plenty of people who struggled to find meaning in and through the Tridentine Liturgy, not as we like to idealize it, but as it was actually lived. It's the same problem, in a different form, and .the purpose of my column was not excuse such distortions, but to simply share an experience in which I had to confront it and deal with it myself.

For more on the same line..here's a column I wrote several years ago describing the ideal liturgical reform.

And here's a good book that might help, too!

Two Catholic women write on Bennett

..with different conclusions.

Maggie Gallagher shrugs, appealing to our common, inevitable identity as sinners, and evoking the image of her father's poker game.

Linda Chavez isn't so sanguine, evoking another image:

A few years ago, I visited a casino at an Indian reservation where I was vacationing. I was shocked to see so many elderly men and women -- many of them obviously destitute -- using credit cards to play slot machines with zombie-like fixation.

..and expressing sadness that Bennett didn't (or hasn't yet) used this as a "teachable moment."

Of course, for over a year and a half, the tragically Big Issue has been the abuse scandal in the Church. As I tool around Catholic blogs I have always been startled at how little attention Catholic bloggers pay to this issue, and it's one of the gaps I really worked to fill. People criticized me for it, but I thought it was very important. I still do, and the issue is not, by any means dead. I will be blogging on it ocassionally, but until then, don't forget to keep informed on the issue by attending to the links way down on the left, as well as patronizing Mark Shea and Domenico Bettinelli, who do a good job of bringing these stories to our attention.

Didn't mean to leave you in suspense...

As you know, I've gone back and forth about this blog since February. In a fit of creative frustration, I said I was going to give it up completely, but then decided to blog once a week, and then the war came, and I thought I could offer a spot for people to discuss the war from a moral perspective, and then I thought I'd try to go back to once a week...

You see, the problem is not time. The problem is what all-day-long news-oriented blogging does to my head. It orients me towards the present, towards the minutiae of the day, and that's not what I need right now. I am trying to fashion a good bit of mental space to write both fiction and longer, more substantive non-fiction, and that kind of blogging just doesn't lend itself to that effort. In other words, I need to be more contemplative, and Google News is not friendly to that pursuit.

But at the same time, I realize that people like this blog, and well..I like it too. It affords me some contact with the world outside my house and, when I use it properly, it gives me a place to work out ideas - which is one of the reasons I started it in the first place, and which worked fine until the Sex Abuse Scandals hit about five months after I started.

So, my conclusion is this:

I am coming back to daily blogging, but with strict, self-imposed parameters. One or two posts a day of substance. (Today, however, I have three or four....so sue me.) The exceptions might be the weekends, when, from Friday to Sunday, papers and periodicals produce meatier articles, John Allen's Word from Rome comes out, the UK Tablet comes out with a new issue, and so on.

I really like providing lots' o news, but it really is just a big old Florida sinkhole once I start, sucking me into its evil vortex.

So...maybe that will satisfy us all, no?

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