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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Rue, Britannia...

Britannia rue the day/
Britons became PC slaves...

Oh, it has come to this:

Two hundred years ago a daredevil naval hero by the name of Horatio Nelson led the British to a glorious victory over France and Spain. But that might not be clear from watching Tuesday's re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Wary of offending European neighbors who enjoy a close but sometimes testy friendship with Britain, organizers decided to dispense with details such as who won and who lost. Instead of depicting the battle as a contest between countries, they assigned the fleets colors - red and blue - and left it up to the spectators to figure out which was which.


One of Nelson's descendents summed it up quite nicely:

Nelson's great, great, great granddaughter called it a ``pretty stupid'' idea.
``I am sure the French and Spanish are adult enough to appreciate we did win that battle,'' said Anna Tribe, 75. ``I am anti-political correctness. Very much against it. It makes fools of us.''


Truly. It's not like the Brits were reenacting Mers el-Kebir, after all.

Monday, June 27, 2005

A Hard Faith.

The New Yorker's take (written by Peter Boyle) on the impact of the papacy of JPII on the Church in the United States.

It's excellent, frankly.

The hard faith preached by John Paul II, posed as a call to moral heroism, struck a startlingly responsive note with young people. By the millions, they made pilgrimages to his World Youth Day events chanting, “J.P. II, we love you!” and, in the end, they jammed St. Peter’s Square to bid him farewell. Skeptics suggest that the big crowds reflected the youthful urge to participate in a huge group experience, and that the kids who showed up at a papal rally didn’t necessarily show up in church. Most didn’t, perhaps, but John Paul’s pontificate undeniably shaped a generation of young Catholics that are more orthodox, and have a clearer understanding of the faith, than the generation they succeed. In the seminary, in religious orders, and on Catholic college campuses, they are referred to as Generation J.P. II.

[Hat tip to Rich Leonardi for this find. As he notes, there are lapses in spelling and editing, but they aren't fatal. And, yes, I know the link is from a Washington CTA affiliate--so, no, it's not an endorsement.]
St. Paul the subversive.

Our no-longer-fledgling parish bible study (just passing two years old) is beginning a study of the Epistle to the Galatians. As part of my background prep, I stumbled across this truly fascinating article by N.T. Wright (surprise, surprise) about coded anti-imperial messages found in the epistles of Paul.

If Jesus is Messiah, he is of course also Lord, Kyrios. The proper contexts for this term, too, are its Jewish roots on the one hand and its pagan challenge on the other. Taking them the other way round for the moment: the main challenge of the term, I suggest, was not to the world of private cults or mystery-religions, where one might be initiated into membership of a group giving allegiance to some religious "lord." The main challenge was to the lordship of Caesar, which, though certainly "political" was also profoundly "religious." Caesar demanded worship as well as "secular" obedience; not just taxes, but sacrifices. He was well on the way to becoming the supreme divinity in the Greco-Roman world, maintaining his vast empire not simply by force, though there was of course plenty of that, but by the development of a flourishing religion that seemed to be trumping most others either by absorption or by greater attraction. Caesar, by being a servant of the state, had provided justice and peace to the whole world. He was therefore to be hailed as Lord, and trusted as Savior. This is the world in which Paul announced that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, was Savior and Lord.

Lots of good stuff, including background material showing that the emperor cult was omnipresent by Paul's time. RTWT. And ponder what it means for the duties of modern Christian citizens, as well. Really meaty stuff, when you get down to it.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

George A. Romero's Land of the Dead opened Friday.

Until late last night, I could have been a very convincing zombie character in it.

Sometime late Monday to Tuesday morning, I picked up a case of strep. I began to feel feverish pretty quickly, and of course had the aching throat.

Then by late afternoon, the fever spiked and I was off to "Braaaaaaaaainnnnnnnsss. Braaaaaaaaiiiiiiinnnnnnsssssss!" Country. I took sick leave and knocked the fever back temporarily with combinations of Motrin and Tylenol (no, not at the same time...) Then the chills hit.

That's fun.

Wednesday, I trudged off to work. For a while. I think my co-workers were planning precisely how to shoot my shambling self in the head, so I left.

Once again, the left-right of ibuprofen and acetaminophen kept the vision-producing fever levels mostly in check. You know: the kind where suddenly the crying Indian chief from the old anti-litter public service announcement materializes in your living room and states "I am the Lizard King. Say, got any ham?" Thereafter, he marches to the fridge, makes a sandwich and disappears in a puff of glitter to the tune of Lara's Theme.

But, I digress. There was a grim side effect to the effective breakings of the fever--I ended up sweating a lake, every time. Nothing like sleeping--rather trying to sleep--with towels underneath you.

By Thursday evening, after a false feeling that I'd turned the corner, I flat-out refused to take another dose of Motrin, and went to the doctor's. That's when the nagging sore throat was diagnosed as the culprit. Anti-biotics the size of torpedoes were prescribed, and another dose of Motrin forced on me.

One of the benefits of my condition is that it left me largely numb to the Pistons' loss in Game 7. Ah, they are going to lose, I thought in my haze. The Indian chief was far more upset--"Shoot, Chauncey! Why won't Billups shoot the ball?!"

Duuuuude, I responded sagely. Yes, Victor--I know. I'll get back to you shortly.
Short verdict: the Pistons lost to a better--however slightly--team. They shouldn't have, but that's what champions do--win in the crunch. And the Spurs did. Hats off.

As of Sunday morning--now--I have reached the condition clinically described as "death warmed over." Actually, I feel pretty good for the most part, but I'm still trying to get my legs back under me, physically and blogging-wise. However, I do have the makings of a post on a recent topic in the works, so keep checking this space.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Heather's had a more stressful day than you.

After all, she witnessed an assault this morning. A guy pulls abreast of another car on our street, exits the car, shouts at the second driver and starts throwing punches and kicking the crap out of the second car in the process.

The first driver returns to his car, and fortunately leaves. The second driver was banged up slightly, but otherwise OK. Neither one is a neighbor, thankfully. From what Heather heard, it sounded like the first driver's girlfriend left him for the second driver.

Understandably.

And while I like our city's cops, it took well over an hour for them to respond. Yikes. The officer was a solid guy, and was careful in his handling of the investigation.

Hopefully it pleads out. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Trautmania!

I see that the Bishop has given his reasons for removal of the Memorial Acclamation discussed below.

Unlike the other acclamations (i.e. “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life….) “’Christ has died…’ is more an assertion of the Paschal Mystery, rather than a unique expression of the gathered assembly of its incorporation into the Paschal Mystery.”

Ah, the usual liturgy-as-group-therapy-encounter communitarian bafflegab. As they say, "right result for the wrong reason."

Now, to move the argument up from the comment box:

No, there is nothing theologically suspect with the formulation as a general rule--not at all. It's a valued reminder of first and last things. But, in addition to the other problems noted: location, location, location. After the Creed--fine. After the Consecration--uh, no. Moreover, the alternate version ("Dying you destroyed our death") preserves the truths while at the same time acknowledging the Reality on the altar. Even though that Reality is not the cause of his objection, Bp. Trautman is still performing a helpful service here, whether he knows it or not.
To clarify:

No, I am not opposed to singing at Mass. What I am opposed to is the intrusion of busywork into the time-honored custom of space reserved for private prayer.

In fact, I'd like to sing more, and even with the candied ditties I'll take a run, even if I have to edit out some of the words, e.g., refusing to sing the Divine Name. IMHO, the Jewish practice in that respect is absolutely unassailable.

Rare is the time when I stand mute, but I'm forced to do so when it comes to Hosea and Sing a New Church, and the "I myself am" version of Bread of Life. On those occasions, I'd sooner pull my tongue out with a pair of needle-nose pliers.
This is not complicated: always guard Robert Horry.

Amazing.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Miscellany.

1. Dom's brother John had a heart attack. He's stable and conscious, but prayers are still more than welcome.


2. As much as I hate to disagree with Tom Fitzpatrick about this one: Bp. Trautman is right.

Make a note of the small print--that may be the only time I say that. When the memorial acclamation begins, the consecration has just been completed. Hence, Christ is present on the altar, and the acclamation is more than a little dissonant with that sublime fact.

On the other hand, I can wholly endorse his post on the Battle of Breed's Hill, which occurred 230 years ago today.


3. Patrick O'Hannigan found this gem of a post by Amanda Witt entitled Raising Men. Amen and bravo! Make sure to read her links, too.


4. Start reading the Donegal Express, if you haven't already.


5. Zach and Greg have answered the book quizzes.


6. By the way, don't let Zach's friendly web persona fool you. As I learned recently (on the birthday, no less), he is profoundly, deeply evil.

That's because he pointed out....

[Well, for the benefit of Stirling-philes on this blog who are subject to Almost Certain Temptation, I must advise them to stop reading this post now.

READ NO FURTHER! I IMPLORE YOU! RESIST!

FOR YOUR OWN SAKE, TURN BACK NOW!

THIS MEANS YOU, CHRISTINA!

WET PAINT!

Warning ends.]

that the final sample chapter of The Protector's War was made available online. That's it--nothing until September 1, 2005. With the ending of Chapter 10, you'll understand the metaphysical depths of Mr. Frey's perfidy.


7. Happy belated birthday shout-outs to a couple of my mid-Michigan homies and occasional reader/commenters here: Bryan and Chris, both of whom are exactly my age.

Feeling old yet? I sure am.
What the--?

I'm almost convinced the teams haven't switched uniforms.

The problem is, after discounting that I have no explanation for why we've had four straight blowouts in a series that is dead even at 2-2.

Now, giddy fellow citizens of Piston Nation, it's time to take a deep breath and realize this:

It's a three game series, with two of them in San Antonio.

Translation: Game 5 is a must-win for the 'Stons. The exact same effort and efficiency better be displayed, or the championship run is over. No way are they going to win two in SA.

And another thing--it's much more pleasant when your team decides to play basketball and stop the ridiculous whining about bad officiating that made games 1 and 2 such embarrassments. That's because (1) all NBA officiating is bad, and (2) the refs award the aggressive team, not the whiny one.

Finally--was I imagining it, or did Bill Walton actually use the Seinfeldian term "shrinkage" to describe the Spurs? Yeeeouch.
Yes, I have been busy.

Why do you ask?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Matthew Fox Effect.

The Ord Boat/
Soon will be making another run/
The Ord Boat/
Promises Orders for everyone.

9 more Catholic ladies are trying to get ordained on a boat, this time on the St. Lawrence River. Actually, I'm not going to talk about WO today. Rather, I'm going to follow up on a comment made by someone at Amy Welborn's thread on the article:

"What I don't get is why they don't just go and join the Episcopalians."

One poster had a good insight--the recognition, however subliminal, that the Church is still true, still the only game in town.

With all due respect to faithful Anglicans still strugging within the ECUSA, another reason is this:

Because if they did become Piskies, virtually nobody--and I mean no-buh-dee in the media--would give a crap about what they said or did thereafter.

Think about it. Before the Gene Robinson Ordination Circus in 2003, when was the last time there was national discussion of anything done by the ECUSA? And since? It will be thus until they ordain, say, a transsexual. Again, with all due respect to the 20-odd orthodox diocese left in the EC, it's a media novelty act, nothing more. Look what happened to former Dominican Matthew Fox--once a famed Victim of the NeoInquisition, he decided to become an Episcopalian.

Result? The religious equivalent of Mira Furlan's character in Lost: Vanished without a trace, years ago.

But if you're a Catholic dissenter, that's a different story. Then it's cue the cameras and the lengthy, reverent quotations in the NY Times.

Call it the Matthew Fox Effect: making the leap makes you irrelevant.
Another Horror From The Preconciliar Vaults!

Rich Leonardi unearths this gem from the Saint of The Day at American Catholic:

Many Catholics still find singing in church a problem, probably because of the rather individualistic piety that they inherited. Yet singing has been a tradition of both the Old and the New Testament. It is an excellent way of expressing and creating a community spirit of unity as well as joy. Ephrem's hymns, an ancient historian testifies, "lent luster to the Christian assemblies." We need some modern Ephrems—and cooperating singers—to do the same for our Christian assemblies today.

Ah, yes--one of the great evils of our time--individualistic piety! I suppose I should be thankful that the commenter didn't mention fish on Fridays, too. The Borg Collective approach to liturgical reform is bent on stamping that out. You see it in the diktats from the liturgy offices demanding that the faithful Keep Standing and Singing, Dammit! after receiving the Eucharist. Resistance is futile--you will experience renewal. Thou shalt not engage in private prayer in the liturgy.

Nope--no can do. I need time alone with God, and I'll take that time, thank you. After that, you can hit the spinner and try to tell me where my hands and feet go next (red dot, blue dot) in the remarkably creative interpretation of the rubrics, thanks.

Actually, RTWT--Other than than that gagging piece of liturgristle, it's a pretty worthwhile entry. Even the comment itself.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

They came for the trade unionists, but because I was not a trade unionist, I said nothing...

This is deeply troubling, assuming the facts are as presented.

No, actually it's not--it's appalling.

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

Bradford refused to remove the provision after the 9-year-old boy's outraged parents, Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife, Tammie U. Bristol, protested last fall.

That the order appears to be a cinch for reversal is heartening, but it should never have been issued in the first place.

I'm even uncomfortable with the idea of "harm" as a potential bar to a parent passing on religious faith. Not physical harm, mind you--that's a no brainer. No whack job has the right to hurt his or her children in the name of religious observance.

But what about "psychological harm"? Imagine what some hard-core hater could do with an argument based on that.

"Catholicism, after all, is very damaging for the mental and emotional development of the child, as it inculcates the notion of inherited guilt and an inherent proclivity on the part of all people to do wrong, or "sin." Moreover, such behavior can only be remedied by the exclusivist belief in the savior of Catholicism, and healing only comes through its rituals. This pre-modern worldview will invariably warp the development of the child. Consequently, she should not be exposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church..."

Over the top? For the moment, sure. But give it about fifty years, after a few decades of derision for the Church's stand against whatever society wants to endorse.

Which is why rulings like that of the Indianapolis court have to be aggressively challenged now.

[Link via Get Religion.]
Pistons. Spurs.

Sweeeet.

Looks to be a very, very good one.

The key? Who wants it more. The teams just about cancel each other out, with the obvious exception of Tim Duncan. But he appears in this year's finals without fellow big man David Robinson, and that could be crucial in a seven game series.

Yes, Spurs fans--you are quite welcome here. I've long admired Duncan as one of the greats of the game. Unlike Alonzo Mourning--have fun practicing the golf swing, buddy.

Hey, I even like Shaq--certainly far more than his former teammate, Fahrenheit 9 for 37.

However: the first person who talks about the Heat's injuries is going to draw my unrefined ire.

Other than that, have at it.
Book Tag.

Someguy hits me in St. Blog's fastest growing game.

OK--here are my responses:

1. Total number of books I've owned.

Using the community property rule, I'd say in the neighborhood of 3,500, very few of which I/we have ever gotten rid of. Of those, I'd say about 2,500-2,750 were acquired by me.

2. Last book I bought.

The Teaching of the Catholic Church, one volume edition. Edited by Canon George Smith, it's a series of essays written in the 1940s about the creedal and sacramental features of Catholicism by some of the great minds of the era: C.C. Martindale, Abbot Vonier, Archbishop Goodier, Fr. Hugh Pope, etc. If you can get it (and it's not that hard to find, at least in the 2 volume version), buy it. I found mine for five bucks. I'm surprised it's never been reprinted.

3. Last book I read.

If that means "cover to cover," then it would be Dies The Fire.
If not, then it would be The Theology of St. Paul by Fernand Prat, Paul the Apostle by Giuseppe Ricciotti, The Paul Quest by Ben Witherington, III and Conquistador, by S.M. Stirling.

Why yes, our parish bible study is about to embark on the study of Romans.

The last one I've been snippet reading for the snappy patter and descriptions of the alternate world.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me.

The Bible and the Catechism are given answers, so I'm going to tinker with the question slightly and say the "five books in addition to..."

1. On Being Catholic, by Thomas Howard. Meditative, and as with all things Howard, mandatory reading. I stumbled across it early during my conversion process, and was moved by the insight and irenicism of the work. It is destined to endure, and deserves a very wide audience.

2. The Lord of the Rings. I discovered it around eighth grade, and have been hooked ever since. Any further commentary would be superfluous.

3. A Canticle for Leibowitz. It is a work that gets more relevant every year. It continues to haunt the imagination long after it has returned, however briefly, to the shelf.

4. The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus, by Jean-Denis Bredin. If you are unfamiliar with the case of Captain Alfred Dreyfus and his prosecution for treason in fin de siecle France, buy this book and start reading. One of the great legal injustices of all time, Dreyfus was convicted and sentenced to Devil's Island despite the fact the French Army soon learned who the real traitor and spy was. But unlike Dreyfus, since the real traitor wasn't a Jew, they protected the spy instead.

Astonishing in its import, it also provides a fascinating snapshot of a France literally convulsed and torn in two as families picked sides, either Dreyfusard or anti-Dreyfusard. Filled with heroes and villains aplenty, the figure that stands out for me (after the unimpeachably loyal and decent Dreyfus himself) is Col. Georges Picquart, a French intelligence officer who, despite his general dislike of Jews, fought ferociously on behalf of Dreyfus and eventually--I mean years later--helped win the latter's complete exoneration. An astonishing story, rendered with fine journalistic clarity by Bredin. Bredin also appears to have been blessed with a fine translator, as the book reads quite well. It will stick with you forever.

5. Rudyard Kipling: Complete Verse. Anyone who could write Tommy deserves to be on your bookshelf in complete form. Even the less-well-known material rewards.

5. People who I'll infect with this meme.

I'm not sure who has been tagged, but I'll throw it to Zach, Greg and Chris, for starters.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Friday, June 03, 2005

Blown Gasket Productions Proudly Presents: The Passion of the Reese.

Sr. Joan waxes apocalyptic about the Dark Age Now Descending, and advises that Fr. Tom Reese was fired for our sins.

Station 8: Thomas meets the women of Kansas City.

There's a line in scripture that has plagued me for years. Now I have experienced it.

Nobody talks about the passage much. I, on the other hand, have never been able to forget it. On the way to his death on Calvary, Jesus says to the weeping women of Jerusalem who have come to grieve his impending execution, "Women, weep not for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children." Strange, I thought to myself years ago. Strange. Why a line like that at a time like that?

That's Luke 23:28. Here it is in context. The universal understanding of the passage is that Jesus is warning of the destruction of Jerusalem, and is asking the women to do what he himself did as he entered the City of David for his Passion. Not particularly strange at all, really.

Now I realize that it's not a strange kind of statement at all for a time like that, a time when the innocent are called guilty and the committed are called heretical and the society itself is, as a result, on the brink of losing credibility with the faithful as a result. When the announcement of Tom Reese's withdrawal as editor of America magazine became public, that line from scripture was, in fact, the only thing that went through my mind.

Jumping Judas on a pogo stick. There are times when my rare efforts to understand prominent progressives in the Church bear fruit, and I get where they are coming from. Too often I experience this--total, complete incomprehension. As in "futile to even try." We're not talking mere futility here--we're talking metaphysical futility. This is the "one-legged-cat-trying-to-bury-turds-on-a-frozen-pond" kind of futility that makes you want to go to your happy place for a while.

Let's parse this for a moment: the passage refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, which included the destruction of the Temple. It was, in a very real way, the end of the world as far as first century Judaism was concerned, as, in addition to the horrific death and destruction, it marked the end of a God-ordained form of worship that stretched back to the time of Solomon. The common estimate of the death toll is on the order of 1,000,000.

So, Sr. Joan is comparing the sacking (or whatever) of the editor of a magazine and his replacement by his handpicked successor with the crushing of a nation, the end of an integral and ancient part of its religious identity and the deaths of a million people. Because, you know, it's so embarrassing when we have to talk to our non-Catholic friends about it ("losing credibility," and all that).

"Hysterical," and not in the funny/ha-ha sense, does not begin to describe this complete loss of perspective.

The official announcement, of course, is that Reese "resigned. " "Resigned," in this case, apparently means "decided to go quietly" or was "talked into going" or was "threatened with more serious things than not going," like having a commission of bishops selected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to censor the publication if he remained in his position as editor.

Gosh, you'd think the Jesuits were like some official Church organization with accountability to others or something.

Whatever happens to Tom Reese,

A tenured professorship, most likely. Take it to the bank. Probably even an endowed chair.

Such is the grim fate of American Catholic freethinkers in the age of Exsurge Domine II: This Time, It's Personal. I mean, look at what happened to poor Charles Curran, reduced to rooting through McDonald's dumpsters at closing time and forced to shout "Unclean! Unclean!" every time he passes a Catholic on the street. Unlike Fr. Reese, Fr. Curran was actually subjected to ecclesial sanction and censure. The horror...

The only real question left is whether it will be Boston College or Georgetown.

however much we care about the effect of such a move on an individual -- and there is no doubt that it is some kind of intellectual abuse at the peak of a distinguished career

Oh, dear Lord. Someone get Sister a snifter of Haldol. The only "intellectual abuse" being suffered here is by the benighted readers of FWIS.

-- the truth is that it is we ourselves, the church itself, that will be most damaged by a power play of this kind.

This manipulation of the Catholic press, this assault on the quality and standards of Catholic journalism, will mark the church for years to come. In fact, it runs the risk of making the whole idea of Catholic "thought" an oxymoron.

No--the greatest risk to Catholic thought is to downplay, secularize or attempt to harmonize it with the zeitgeist. Which is precisely what happens when you suggest--as a Catholic editor of an officially Catholic publication--that the Catholic position is not authoritative for Catholics.

Reese's mistake -- his error, his sin, whatever -- sources close to him and the magazine say, lies in the fact that he had the gall to publish two sides of every major issue even though, at the same time, he explained the church's position carefully. He published articles in America that looked at both sides of the communion-for-politicians issue, at both sides of the gay marriage issue, at both sides of the role of Congregation of the Faith, at both sides of the church as institution and religion.

And one can "explain the Church's position carefully" in one place and immediately undermine it in another by suggesting that the former is one among many equally valid positions.

Let's take a gander at one of those above "both sides" issues. No, not the gay marriage question--there's no way one can make a sane Catholic argument in favor of the idea, especially when purely secular ones demolish it. Then again, constantly being in the company of people with advanced degrees without the opportunity to venture into the real world on at least a day pass can't be good for the brain, so perhaps some charity for the "pro-" essayist is in order.

No, I'm going to look at the more difficult question of denying communion to pro-choice politicians, a subject where bishops are allowed considerable leeway.

Yes, in June 2004, America published the essay of now-Archbishop Raymond Burke explaining the steps he took and why he was compelled by canon law to impose the sanction while he was the bishop of Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Note that Abp. Burke didn't do so on a hair trigger--it was a lengthy process that started with reaching out to discuss the matter with the affected politicians.

Then, shortly after that, America solicited (or accepted) the rebuttal of one of the politicos, Rep. David Obey. The magazine published his essay two months later (full version here). In it, Obey lauds his own statesmanship and tells Burke to whiz up a rope. Let's put aside the servile nature of Obey's position: hypothetically, it requires that he never vote his conscience if someone else disagrees, and that obligation only becomes stronger as the number of opponents increase. The notion that the politician must be the fawning servant of the general will should be disturbing to anyone who gives it a moment's thought.

Instead, imagine for a moment that you are Abp. Burke. You have, after considerable thought and prayer, decided that you needed to act on this issue. You tried private counseling, and that having failed, you imposed the sanction. Rep. Obey used his public office to castigate you. Fine--you couldn't have expected less.

But then the American publication of the Jesuit order gives him a pulpit...

Simply must be balanced, Archbishop, old chap, don't you know, what what. Nothing quite like cutting a shepherd off at the knees.

Hmm. I wonder if America plans to solicit a rebuttal from the still-unrepentant B.J. Gaillot regarding the decision of Archbishop Rummel to excommunicate her?

Probably not, and rightfully so.

Reese, professionals across the spectrum say, is a moderate and mild man. No raging anarchist, no raving heretic. He is a thoughtful man, a fair man and a competent one. He is a scholar and writer, a person who examines a subject from multiple perspectives so that others can do the same. He provides the background ideas people need to come to clear, firm conclusions of their own. He is, in other words, a good journalist.

By every account, Fr. Reese is a decent, thoughtful man. Sister's description of him is accurate.

And?

It hardly immunizes him from errors in judgment, even serious ones. And note the one essential adjective missing: Catholic.

Now please note that I'm not saying Fr. Reese is not Catholic. However, if all your putatively Catholic journal does is reflexively present multiple sides of an issue, and in the process puts the official position on the same qualitative level, then there is nothing distinctively Catholic about your publication. Or, even worse, it telegraphs to the world that there is no Catholic position, or that the Church is hopelessly schizoid on crucial issues.

While we're at it, let's also stop pretending that America is some model of balance, shall we? It consistently tilts leftward, turning its bad ear to more conservative voices, the cameos by traditionally-minded Catholics notwithstanding.

As a result of such an ungraceful and professionally groundless ousting, therefore, the rest of us are forced to examine the role of Catholic journalism itself.

Yes, let's. Starting with the concept that Catholic journals have responsibilites and duties far beyond those of secular publications. They are supposed to be more than papist versions of Vanity Fair or Salon. Do that imitation on your own dime.

When someone such as this finds himself under pressure, forced to "resign" from Catholic journalism for being balanced, for being willing to publish other views, the rest of us stand to lose something, too, whether we realize it or not.
What exactly is such a move saying to Catholics, to the world, to those who look to us for honest thought about emerging issues?

For starters? How about "we're not Sybil" or "we're not an endless debating society that fiddles while the world burns"? Because that's precisely what America was saying through its rootless and futile quest for balance.

Catholics: They're like Hamlet, only without the decisiveness and willingness to get past the navel-gazing.

Is Catholic journalism only the catechism and Vatican documents writ large? And if so, how can we call others to dialogue about difficult questions if we are not modeling it in our own publications, among ourselves, in non-contentious ways?

Fingernails across the chalkboard. She'd have something of a point if her own publication didn't consistently respond to those documents with snorts of derision.

Actually, yes, Catholic journalism must start with bedrock Catholic principles, acknowledging their authority and always staying rooted in them.

The Tom Reese resignation may well lead people to assume that Catholicism has simply returned to being -- in fact, has always been -- what they saw the church in the 1950s to be: closed to any other position but its own, no matter how much it says it seeks dialogue.

Then those people would be wrong, now, wouldn't they? Unless this is one of those "I have this friend" ruminations.

It may well signal to the world that we have already decided -- Galileo, and Modernism, the Inquisition and the Index notwithstanding -- that there is no other position but our position on anything, that we know the answers before we even completely understand the question, that we never have to update old answers to meet new insights or information.

Nice to see Sister parroting all of those cliches about mindless triumphalist Catholics I'm used to seeing from consumers of Chick tracts.

It could be seen to say that Catholicism is static, that we have already determined that we never have to rethink the Catholic position on anything from interfaith marriages to fish on Fridays.
It may send the message that no thinking is acceptable whatsoever inside the boundaries of Catholicism, that Catholics are given every answer, they never have to suffer the embarrassing reality of having to come to one together.

"You see, I have...this friend...who's afraid that the Pope is going to fly to KC, order her to wear a habit and pull a Buford Pusser on the offices of the Reporter..."

I'm beginning to think she wrote this without actually breathing. What is it with her generation and the "fish on Fridays" thing? They react to that and the Baltimore Catechism like they'd spent a few weeks on one of Torquemada's racks. It'd be more funny if it weren't so neurotic.

No, Sister, that's not what's going to happen. Even if it did, it would be a damn sight better than the scab-picking mentality of the Reporter, where nothing's ever settled, and ecumenical councils can be trashed on a whim. And again, I'll take her "let's all join hands" mantra seriously when the Rep stops slathering itself with zinc oxide everytime it comes within fifty yards of Catholic orthodoxy.

Without the clear boundaries and limits she so clearly hates, Catholicism will become the religious equivalent of Seinfeld: entertaining once a week, but ultimately a show about nothing.

It may indicate that we are not a self-critiquing institution now, any more than we were when the Reformers tried to question the selling of relics and the practice of indulgences and the chaining of the scriptures.

What's next: the death cookie? The selling of relics--if it was widespread--was hardly an officially-endorsed activity. "Here at Crazy Boniface's--everything must go--starting with this 40% discount on the jawbone of St. Obscurius!"

Last time I checked, we still have indulgences, albeit reformed, and the chaining of scriptures was to prevent the theft of what was in the medieval and renaissance era a priceless item. Hard as that may be to imagine in this era of mass literacy and K-mart Bibles.

It may even suggest that growth in the Holy Spirit is not really our intention, however much we pretend to espouse it.
Indeed we must "weep for ourselves and for our children" if this is a sign of things to come. We have a great deal more to lose than Tom Reese does.

Starting with a coherent train of thought, apparently.

From where I stand, it looks like it's a sad day for Catholicism when America magazine becomes the kind of publication we choose to repress. The purpose of this magazine, for instance, is not to promote pornography or anarchy or hate mongering. the purpose of America is to promote thinking about the issues Catholics confront in society today.

Nice to see that Sister has theological limits that she will not compromise.

But she really isn't suggesting that it is proper to ban discussion of the pornography issue, is she? Perhaps the problem is that not enough poor teenage boys have access to the online version of Juggs? Has she considered that? No--she'd rather stifle the conversation instead.

What kind of close-minded triumphalists would we be if we did that?

But thinking, apparently, is not allowed.

Of course not. Next up is Benedict XVI's first encyclical, no doubt condemning literacy as the tool of the devil.

It seems that they did save America magazine. I'm just not sure why.

Bye, bye Ms. American pie/

Walked my Birkies to the font-y/

But the font-y was dry/

And good ol' girls were drinking chablis and Sprite

Singing this'll be the day that I cry/

This'll be the day that I cry...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Update.

I've been very busy of late, both personally and at work. The upshot is, I haven't had much time to blog, and more importantly, less inclination. Recent jousting in the comments boxes of another blog with a preening individual who consistently expresses delight with the starvation death of Terri Schiavo has left me with the distinct realization that blogging at that point would have been unwise.

Instead, I decided to enjoy the weekend, which was centered on an excursion to 26 Pines. Both the trip up and back were remarkably free of toddler-or-infant-inspired "emergency" stops. Heather and I were stunned, frankly. What usually takes 5 1/2 to 6 hours only took 4, to our delight.

There was also an unresolved issue of the strange pods we found behind the cottage... Nothing, I'm sure.

Mom and Dad's retirement home is now largely complete, ever since the Amish garage builders (seriously) finished up earlier in May. But that's nothing compared to The Deck. Sitting on a deck the size of New Hampshire overlooking the lake is something I greatly appreciate. It bored the snot out of the older two kids, though, who decided they'd prefer to repeatedly test the elasticity of the command "Stay out of the water!"

Yes, it still counts if only your shoes and socks get wet. Argh.

Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy Rachel's comparative immobility?

Maddie and Dale were spoiled rotten by Neema and Papa, with the high point of the trip being the drive around the lake on "Papa's Boat," Dad's missile-cruiser-sized pontoon. Both had the opportunity to drive. Maddie was her composed, happy self, content merely to steer and look for ducks. No, not to flatten them.

For his part, Dale managed to find and activate the accelerator--with gusto. The look of delight on his face as the engine roared was something else.

We are in big trouble. Can you say "restrictor plate"?

Rachel was also spoiled, but she handles it better. At least I think she does. She seemed happy with the adoration most of the time, with more sporadic demands for Attention Now! while we were there. Not-so-BTW, she does the most convincing imitation of an infant Mussolini you can imagine.

The weather was nice, if a bit chilly early on, with the cold more noticeable at night. The cottage's furnace ran every evening. We also got out to the Amish stands, buying preserves and bread, also satisfying Maddie's demand to see the horses in the process. We went to the local flea market on Monday, where I picked up one of these (the top one) for $10. There was a moment of consternation where we thought it might have been $410 and I'd received an inadvertent $400 discount, but a return trip to the vendor (a white-haired ringer for Harry Knowles) reassured us that the four was a very sloppy dollar sign. He'll be there all summer, so there's a decent chance I'll have a couple more Roman coins by Labor Day.

I also was deluged with gifts for my birthday, which was nice. He said in the understatement of the season. I'm looking very forward to trying out the new grilling gear, which included a monster cookbook and this item right here. The latter fits beautifully, and the looks I'll get alone will be worth it.

More later, including a fisk rounding slowly into shape.