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Monday, July 30, 2007

The unasked-for return of Liturgical Lorena and her Shears of Sensitivity.

Mass at our parish is cause for little concern. Our parish priest and the men who occasionally fill in for him stick to the rubrics. Their approach to Mass is respectful and in an inadequate word, "workmanlike." The music is not all I would like in terms of selection, but it is performed well by solid musicians.

Of late, the irritation I've had has come from the pewfolk and "worship aids", not from the priest/cantor end.

Yesterday was a perfect storm of crapitude in this department.

The problem started with the OCP Breaking Bread/Gather missalette. I've noted this before, and the problem continues: somebody at OCP has a thong in a twist about calling God the Father God the Father. That's been holding true as long as I've noticed it: the two line introductions to the readings steadfastly refuse to use "he/his/him" when describing God. ICEL got called out on the carpet when it tried this rubbish with its joke of a psalter, but apparently someone at OCP remains inspired by that example. They'll have their great big Hermaphrodite in the Sky, and you'll like it. If nothing else, it shows once again it takes a rare talent to not be awarded an imprimatur these days.

With the New Testament readings and references to Jesus, even Lorena runs into a thus-far insurmountable obstacle, but no doubt she's still trying.

The problems started with the reading in Colossians, which OCP Lorena, genuflecting before the "assured results of critical scholarship," referred to "the author of Colossians," not Paul. I'm of the opinion that discussion of authorship hypotheses has no business being in the liturgy. Ditto any kind of reference to hot-button issues of critical scholarship. Frankly, the people who do this (1) invariably have an agenda at odds with the faith, and (2) invariably suck at presenting the info, offering it as magisterial when it is provisional. At its root, it is pointless preening that adds nothing to the liturgy. Just stop it.

That was relatively minor next to the lead in to the Gospel, which dealt with the Our Father in Luke. Surely the intro was going to have to cave and refer to the Almighty as "Father," right?Well, Sophia bless her, Lorena was remarkably inventive this week. In this reading, "Jesus gave us the 'Abba' Prayer."

Snip-snip.

Right on cue after reading that, I started hearing in my head:

If you change your mind/
I'm the first in line/
Honey I'm still free/
Take a chance on me...

Yep-per. God have mercy.

Yes, I know: "abba" is the Aramaic for "father." But it's only used in Mark (which does not record the Our Father) and by the author of Romans and Galatians. Nope--no agenda there.

The piece-de-resistance: Lorena possessed some woman during the responses of the liturgy, calling out "it is right to give 'God' thanks and praise," in a modest bullhorn voice not at all calculated to strike a blow at the patriarchy, no ma'am.

Is it too much to ask that those who have neuroses about the fatherhood of God do so silently? Apparently so.

Memo to self: Versed-firing dart pistols--get to work ASAP.

The good news: the visiting priest had a good homily about the privilege of being able to call God "Father." Hopefully that drowned out the rest.
Sketches from a small house.

"Dale [III], buddy, are you done going to the bathroom yet?"

"I told you once, and I'm not going to tell you again. If you ask, I won't say anything."

Sheesh, touchy. It's not my fault the kid takes longer on the toilet than his old man.

Speaking of home life, go over and wish my fairest flower a happy birthday.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I was really hoping for Basil II or John I, but this will suffice.

There weren't any options for "[allegedly] blinding large numbers of Bulgarians" or "crushing Abbasid armies," so that should have been my first clue I wasn't getting either.




You’re Justinian!


In the sixth century, Justinian accomplished the brief recovery of the empire’s old territory in the east, in Africa, and in the west. His victories, however, were hard won over the course of decades, and they came at a great cost in human life, not to mention taxation. Paradoxically, Justinian’s military successes probably contributed to the empire’s subsequent decline. The conquered lands were hardly secure, and many were lost in the years after his death. During his reign there was a great flowering of Byzantine culture, whose monuments remain in Istanbul (e.g., Hagia Sophia) and Ravenna. His reconstitution of Roman law, the so-called Justinian Code, is still the basis of civil law in some modern states. Justinian is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Church.


Find out which Byzantine ruler you are at The Way of the Fathers!



BTW, I'm going to quibble with the point about Justinian's conquests exhausting the empire. Justinian's military campaigns more or less paid for themselves with the capture of the Vandal and Ostrogoth treasuries. What really led the Empire into decline was the black plague sweeping through the Mediterranean twice during his reign. Without one of his reconquests (Africa), Byzantium would have been dead and buried by 630 AD.

Thanks to Peter for e-mailing me this find.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Holy thunderbolts, Batman!

Grand Mufti of Egypt says that Islam does not mandate death penalty for Muslims who convert to another religion.

More good news from the same guy who is battling against female genital mutilation. Yes, he seems to dance around it a bit, but he never repudiates the basic point.

Egypt is something akin to a cultural capital of the Islamic world, so this could be the beginning of a trend.

[H/t Protein Wisdom.]

Monday, July 23, 2007

Blogs and thought.

They go together like peanut butter and waffles.

OK--a lot of the time, at least.

But I was recently tagged by Don (formerly of the Mixolydian Mode) as one of the blogs that makes him think, for which I offer my hearty thanks. Especially considering the august company amongst which he places me. If nothing else, I suppose this blog helps hone your ducking reflexes. Not sure how Eve feels about it, but there you go.

I figured I might just as well give it a go myself, so here goes: Blogs that start neurons flying:

1. Patrick O'Hannigan's Paragraph Farmer. A SoCal Catholic with truly catholic tastes in blogging, he's worth a daily visit.

2. CourageMan. The phrase "spiritual warfare" can be tossed about lightly. It isn't when describing this blog, where a brave man gives you a look at a soul in conflict.

3. Catholic Sensibility. Mostly Todd Flowerday's blog, but also with powerful contributions from Neil. Todd disagrees a lot--maybe even reflexively--with St. Blogdom's more "conservative" voices, but he always gives you a reasoned argument (and an occasional sharp elbow) when doing it. Neil's posts don't get many comments from me, but there are only so many variations of "wow, that's good" or "hadn't thought of it that way" I can stand to post.

4. William Luse. But you're already reading him, right? Right?

5. Michael Liccione. Theological help for us Joe Sixpacks.
Got to the air show.

[Warning: This post contains unexplained military history and technology references. Proceed at your own risk.]

Thank God for the invention of infant sunscreen (SPF 50), a/k/a "the liquid burka." Even so, the sun took it out of us, and there wasn't a Price fully conscious after 10:10pm yesterday.

Alas, we weren't able to go on Saturday, which means I missed my shot at the Sabre. Feeling my pain, one of the USAF security guys said it flew Saturday and the pilot/owner then left abruptly.

Serious bummer. On the bright side, we certainly weren't lacking for aircraft. The Boy™ was able to see the A-10 Thunderbolt II (b/k/a the "Warthog") ; and touch the 20mm gatling mounted in the nose. We also were able to get up close and personal with an inoperative AMRAAM, which The Boy™ and his father found "cool." The girls were less impressed.

Everybody liked walking through the C-5A Galaxy cargolifter, which became extremely cool for the kids when one of the airmen helpfully explained that it could carry "two tanks or six schoolbuses." Another cargo plane, a C-130 Hercules ("Her-ka-lees! Her-ka-lees!") became a favorite, especially when it was revealed that paratroopers could drop from it. The Michigan ANG guys helped the older two kids get into flight helmets and parachutes. I'll post the snaps when we get the film developed. Yes, we still use film--quaint, eh?

The Hercules was also the ideal spot for a picnic, as we took advantage of the shadow of its massive tail to shelter from the relentless sun.

Overhead, we saw a F-15 Strike Eagle put through the paces. There was also a moving tandem flight involving a retired American military pilot in a P-51 Mustang flying alongside the same Strike Eagle with an active-duty pilot. It struck me as a nod to a noble tradition and a passing of the torch, all in one.

We thumped along the tarmac to the WW2-era bombers. The B-24 was gone (another, if lesser "grrrr"), but there was the Yankee Lady B-17 and the Yankee Warrior B-25, both from the Yankee Air Museum. I made sure to get nose art shots for both for Mark Sullivan.

I then spent $4 for the tour of the Mitchell (the kids were free). My grandfather (Mom's dad) was a bomber mechanic during the Big One, and he told me that he mostly worked on Mitchells and Marauders. If it was good enough for Papa and Jimmy Doolittle, it was good enough for me.

All four kids climbed over the plane, and each of us had a blast. Mom stayed down to shoot pictures of us gazing out from the cockpit. After that, we went over to the glowering mass of the B-52H, a veritable Spruce Goose next to the World War II bombers. After that, it was pack up and go. The good news is that it's an annual event. Better news for parents with children who don't tolerate loud noise well: it's not that bad. We only put the ear plugs in once, and ended up removing them shortly after.

Best news: it's free--event and parking.

Friday, July 20, 2007

As you may have noticed...

Fisks tend to slow down the blogging and commenting. Along with those things called "family" and "work." Thanks for all the kind words and links. Feel free to throw money, too.

So, with minimal energy left, I offer you links:

Rod Dreher's essay on Turkey, betwixt and between Islam and a hard secularism. For all that I despise Islamism, Turkey's secularists are extremely difficult to admire--or even like. The critical question: is the AKP an Islamist party or not? As Rod's essay demonstrates, the answer to that question will have an impact far outside the Turkish Republic.

For a perspective from an AKP supporter, take a look at Mustafa Akyol's blog. Akyol is a young Turkish journalist who writes for First Things, and is an engaging writer.

The Catholic Restorationists project keeps plugging away. I've had ideas for a few essays, but time constraints intervene. In the meantime, ponder the goodness of a "dull" life. Speaking of Restorationists, Jeff Culbreath was described as a Catholic Wendell Berry in the most recent National Catholic Register blog column. Jeff will certainly dispute that point with a humble fervor, but I think it's apt. Rich Leonardi also received a well-deserved mention in the article.

If you noticed that your internet connection was a little slow earlier this week, that was because several thousand people logged into their fantasy football leagues to dump Michael Vick off their rosters.

That's it. I'm going with the family to an air show tomorrow, and I hope to get a glimpse of the greatest jet fighter in history, the F-86 Sabre. I've read the possibly apocryphal comment by a Russian plane designer who said that jet fighter design should have ended with the F-86 and the MiG-15. I know what he means.





I should come back recharged and ready.

[Pic via the Haviland Group website.]

Monday, July 16, 2007

Remember how Morgoth made the orcs?

That's what you have to do to Catholicism to get James Carroll's version of the Faith. Yeah, I know--Carroll again. There are times when I think I could name this blog "James Carroll Watch," and I'd have material to last his lifetime.

Our Man in Boston is hacking away again this week, shiny pate all aflush over the lifting of the limits on the Mass of Bl. John XXIII and the CDF document on the nature of the Church.

A question to frame the discussion: Do you think Carroll read either of the documents he's railing against this week? If so, provide examples from the text of the column to support your argument.

WHEN THE likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Christopher Hitchens, citing insights of science or the rise of sectarian violence, denounce the very idea of God, fundamentalists strike back by attacking pillars on which such modern criticism stands.

"Fundamentalist" is one of the great thought substitute terms of our time. It also lets the user preen like the Pharisee in Luke 18. Replace "tax collector" with "fundamentalist," and you'll see that a passel of Catholics have a lot of repenting to do. Not just fringe leftists like Carroll--orthodox Catholics who jab at Protestant Christians, too.

I freely admit I'm not a fundamentalist. I'll never have the biblical erudition of F.F. Bruce, the inspired pen of Dorothy Sayers, the prophetic call of Francis Schaeffer, nor the self-sacrificial courage of Jim Elliott.

More's the pity.

In this mode, Pope Benedict XVI last week issued two unexpected decrees, restoring the atavistic Mass of the Council of Trent and resuscitating an outmoded Catholic exclusivism -- the notion of a pope-centered Catholicism as the only authentic way to God.

Oh, boy. The Globe's entitled to a refund, if only for the fact that he considered the Motu Proprio to be "unexpected." Only someone who is completely detached from the life of the Church would be startled by Summorum Pontificum. Everybody else has heard rumblings of this thing for the better part of a year. Do keep up.

Then again, he spends so much time amongst the Piskies (being in far more demand there than by the Catholics he still calls his co-religionists), perhaps he can be forgiven his Gilligan's Islandish culture shock.

Pseud Television's Word of the Day is "atavistic." Which sense does he mean: the reappearance of something lost, or uncivilized and impulsive?

Who cares? Being Carroll's editor is the very definition of a "light duty" job.

In these reactionary initiatives, Pope Benedict inadvertently shows that he shares a basic conviction with Dawkins et al. -- that religion is a primitive impulse, unable to withstand the challenge of contemporary thought.

Carroll never argues--he simply asserts, and it is so. "Reactionary"? "Primitive"? You can also see the stretch marks in this one--after all, the connection between the New Atheism and matters of liturgy/ecclesiology is less than obvious. In fact, Ley lines are easier to find.

But if you're suffering from Benedict Derangement Syndrome, I imagine that it all becomes obvious. The same way the panhandler at the street corner can connect the Bilderbergers to his chronic incontinence.

Exactly the same way.

Note also the diagnosis by DSL: a popular Carroll pastime. The formulation is artful, too, putting Dawkins & Co. at one pole, and the Pope at another, allowing Carroll to be the silky-sweet exemplar of moderation in the middle. A lot like lukewarm water, if you think about it.

But, as we shall see, Carroll's repulsion from the Pope forces him to gravitate toward Atheism Without Volume Control, ending up in the unenviable role of cabana boy to the god-free, a lightweight lackey for the self-described Brights.

Carroll's attempted indictment of Benedict XVI for being closed to contemporary thought is remarkably laughable, coming from one of secularism's lickspittles. It's also contradicted by the Pope's corpus, which puts Carroll's to shame. Start with this one, which shows a man willing to engage a tough-minded thinker on the other side in a true dialogue. Unlike--for the most part--Dawkins, Harris and especially Carroll, who never progresses beyond scribbling "Benedict is a fundy poopy head" with his Crayolas.

Then again, the Globe's checks keep cashing, so whatever works.

Yet, instead of feeling intimidated by secular or "scientific" criticisms of religion, a believer can insist that faith in God is a fulfillment of all that fully modern people affirm when they assent to science -- or object to violence. At the same time, a believer can advance the Dawkins-Harris-Hitchens critique to say that most articulations of traditional religion of all stripes fall far short of doing "God" justice.

The laugh out loud part of the column. All the more so because Carroll thinks he's staked out some brilliant middle ground. What he's done is give away the store to the Axis of Dawkins. According to Carroll, in the face of criticism by the secular anti-religious, the "thinking" believer's duty is to wholeheartedly agree and even take their argument further.

Okey.

By the way, let's just make it clear who Carroll is agreeing with, using Sam Harris as an example. Harris is on record describing Islam--all of it--as "turning into a cult of death" and has forthrightly said that torture under certain circumstances should be official policy.

Remember Carroll getting his undies in a bunch about the Regensburg speech because it was mean to Muslims? That was awesome!

But Harris gets a free pass because...?

That's easy. Harris sometimes beats up the Church, so he's a useful tool, his other opinions notwithstanding. Any offense he gives to Muslims must be sacrificed to Carroll's grail: The Church is always and everywhere wrong. When it comes down to it, people matter to Carroll only to the extent they can advance his quest for the grail. See also, Jews, Post-1945.

The God whom atheists aggressively deny (the all-powerful, all-knowing, unmoved Mover; the God of damnation, supernatural intervention, salvation-through-appeasement, patriarchy, puritanism, war, etc.) is indeed the God enshrined in propositions of the Council of Trent, and in its liturgy.

What a happy coincidence: Carroll hates that God, too. Because that's the God the Catholic Church preaches, naturally. Except for that part about being the God of damnation, salvation through appeasement, patriarchy, puritanism and war. 3 out of 9 ain't bad in Boston.

If you're Manny Ramirez.

If you're writing about your own (however tenuous) Church, you deserve to be benched.

But this God is also one whom more and more believers, including Catholics, simply do not recognize as the God we worship.

This is about as clear as Carroll has ever stated it: I worship an unpowerful, unknowing, non-intervening PC weiner demi-deity who sounds a lot like an NPR ("patriarchy," "puritanism") guest commenter.

Well, sign me up.

No, on second thought, please don't. If I had to worship a non-omnipotent deity, I'd pick someone out of the Norse pantheon. Better parties, I could do some sailing, and we could use The Immigrant Song in the liturgy.

That, and I could run around in Viking horns with a double bladed axe, drinking Norwegian beer and taunting the Carrollites until they cry. "Thor pisses on your effeminate quasi-deity and him/her/its lily-livered adherents! Now hand over your merlot or we'll start mocking your only children!"

Plus, my beserker impersonation would be killer.

"My love for you a rolling truck/

Beserker...."

You know what they say: Girls think sexy.


Such people regard the fact that God is unknowable as the most important thing to know about God. Traditional propositions of the creed, therefore, must be affirmed neither rigidly nor as if they are meaningless, but with thoughtful modesty about all religious language, allowing for doubt, as well as respect for different creeds -- and for no creed.

You'd have to have a heart of solid granite not to laugh out loud at this nonsense.

Carrollism apparently involves a lot of halo-burnishing and blowing kisses at the mirror. Serious, honest to God engagement with something akin to thought--not so much. If you're disposing of an almighty God who speaks through prophets, to take but two propositions of the Nicene Creed, it seems to me that you are treating the whole thing as meaningless.

I'd love to get paid the big bucks by the Globe to free-associate about Catholicism.

What makes it even funnier is that Carroll acts like he and his fellow quasi-theists act like they are the first "believers" ever to engage questions of science, belief, and the objections of honest atheists.

Um--no. Try Gaudium et Spes ("Joy and Hope", for the Latin-impaired), paragraphs 19-21, which rightfully takes Christians to the woodshed for their poor witness, among other admissions. Try the same document, paragraphs 5, 15, 33, 36, 44, 56 (to name but six) for a wrestling with the impact of science on the Church and culture.

I guess Carroll's definitively shelved that Vatican II thing.

This is not an entirely new way of being religious. One sees hints of it in the wisdom of many thinkers, from Augustine in ancient times to Nicholas of Cusa in the Renaissance to Kierkegaard in the modern era.

The only way you're going to find "hints" of Carroll's thought in these three men is if you spend two hours huffing on the tailpipe of '65 Corvette before cracking the books and using a lot of ellipses.

But, in fact, the contemporary religious imagination has been transformed by understanding born of science. Once a believer has learned to think historically and critically, it is impossible any longer to think mythically.

The first sentence is "doy", more or less. Serious believers have to take science into account. See GeS above. But Carroll shows the downside of what happens when you open a shrine to it.

Pope Benedict, in last week's denigration of Christian traditions that lack the unbroken "apostolic succession" of Catholicism, for example, was seeking to protect the "deposit of faith," those core beliefs that were established by the Apostles themselves. But such literalist reading of apostolic succession goes out the window when one learns that none of the actual Apostles thought that they themselves were establishing a "church" in our sense, independent of Judaism.

Careful of the whiplash on this one. Carroll goes from genuflecting before the idols of science to biblical exegesis. Wha--?

Also, and far more important: Carroll has just slyly leaked the greatest secret in the history of mankind:

THE INVENTION OF THE TIME MACHINE.

How else could Carroll have learned that "none of the Apostles thought that they themselves were establishing a "church" in our sense, independent of Judaism" save by going back in time to interview them himself?

"Uh, Simon?"

"Yes, Mark?"

"The annoying guy's back again, with another question."

"You mean that weirdo from last week who left with some gnostic babble about 'unacceptably high Christology' and 'atonement nonsense'"?

"That's the one."

"I'd rather be crucified upside down than talk to him again."

"He says it's 'just one question.'"

"'Two questions' about the Master took five hours last time and he still left all ticked off! And I've never seen anyone so upset about the whole 'this rock' incident in my life. Send him to Matthais--this crap is something the rookie should handle."

"Matthais saw him and ran off saying 'Gotta go heal somebody.' Verbatim."

"Clever. [Mutters] I knew I should have voted for Barsabbas."

"Maybe I could just relay your answer and say you're 'not available' for further discussion."

"Hmm. Sounds good. Been meaning to get to Antioch anyway. I'll start packing now. Fine--anything to get rid of him quicker."

"'Did you really intend to form a community independent of Judaism?'"

"[Long, bleak-staring pause.] Do you think 'no' will get him out of our hair for good?"

Similarly, the New Testament is "inspired," but what does that mean for appeals to "apostolic" authority when one learns that its 27 books were not "canonized" until three centuries after Jesus?

For a self-professed devotee of reason, his logic could use some work. What does the final gathering of the books have to do with their value as inspired authorities?

Once we realize that doctrines of orthodoxy evolved over time, we stop treating them as timeless.

Only if you regard orthodoxy as culturally conditioned play-dough to be shaped as the whims of the time dictate. Other than that, spot on.

Indeed, once we understand ourselves as belonging to one religious tradition among many, we lose the innocent ability to regard it as absolute.

[Pause for medical attention necessitated by derisive snort.]

Ah, good--the septum's back in place.

What? What kind of 'reasoning' gets you to "if there's more than one, none of them can be right"?

Once our internal geography recognizes that, however much we are a center, we are not the only one, we have no choice but to affirm the positions of others not as "marginal to our centers," in a phrase of theologian David Tracy, "but as centers of their own."

I've warned you before about Carroll and his diuretic name-dropping. Perhaps Tracy is as fuzzy-headed as Carroll, but methinks there's an acre or two of context missing. Perhaps not, but be on notice. I have a sneaking suspicion that Carroll jots down names at seminars, keeps the programs and some notes and that's the extent of his familiarity with their thought.

To the extent there's a thought here, it appears to be that an incurious, shrugging relativism is the order of the day. Tolerance for all--save "Christian fundamentalists" very broadly defined. They're just totally backwards, where not utterly evil.

Faced with such difficult recognitions, religious people can retreat into fundamentalism or throw out religious faith altogether. Or we can quite deliberately embrace what the philosopher Paul Ricoeur

Like I said--diuretic. You're scraping names off your wingtips all day with this guy.

called a "second naivete."

Give him credit for a first: the "false trichotomy."

This implies a movement through criticism to a renewed appetite for the sacred tradition out of which we come, even while implying that we are alive to its meaning in a radically different way.

In other words, a big, big game of "Let's Pretend." Like when kids put on their parents clothes and say they're grownups.

Pope Benedict is attempting to restore, by fiat, the first naivete of "one true church." In an age of global pluralism, this is simply not tenable.

Mmm-kay, Mr. Mackie. Would be nice if you somehow got around to defining what the hell the "first naivete" is. I would accuse Carroll of hiding the fact the Church said the same thing about himself at what his generation regards as The Only Valid Ecumenical Council In History, but it's become pretty obvious in my read of him that he has no grasp whatsoever on what was discussed at Vatican II, so I'm inclined to give him a pass.

The Council of Trent, whose Mass and theology (including its anti-Judaism)

Besides the falsity, note that Carroll is once again only talking about pre-1945 Jews. When he develops a comparable concern for, say, the Netanya Passover Massacre, that he does for the liberalizing of the Mass of Bl. John XXIII, drop me a line.

Benedict wants to re establish,

Carroll spake, and it was so.

was summoned about the time Copernicus published his "On the Revolutions of Heavenly Bodies" -- the beginning of the scientific age. The Roman Catholic Church made a terrible mistake in rejecting Copernicus,

When did the Church reject Copernicus?

one from which it has only lately been recovering. Pope Benedict is repeating that mistake, as Dawkins and company think religious people are bound to do. But believers need not follow. Indeed, many of us, including Catholics, have moved on from such thinking, if you can call it thinking.

Carroll never lets you forget he's a card-carrying "thinking Catholic," ever grateful to his underpotent god for making him better than the other kinds of Catholics.

As a wise man once said: he has his reward.

The Woman and our very separated brethren.

I've commented about the negative reaction of many evangelicals and fundamentalists to Mary before, calling her "the woman who is not there."

Over at the Western Standard blog, you can meet a couple of Vesselists yourself, if you're so inclined. Scroll down to "13 Jul 07, 10:14:31 PM" for the beginning of a remarkable exchange, mine being with Mr. Tomax7.

You have to have a visceral disgust for the Mother of Our Lord to argue as he does. Indeed, disgust for the role of mothers in general, given his abrupt dismissal of the woman who bore him.

[UPDATE: I'm happy to report that he has acknowledged due love and honor to his own mother and some respect for Jesus'. We'll see how this progresses.]

[Update II: After wrangling, he's righted the ship. I no longer think "vesselist" is a term applicable to Tomax7 and I retract the description as applied to him.]

[H/t to Kathy Shaidle for the link.]

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mistra.

One of the great cities you've probably never heard of, Mistra was the capital of the Byzantine despotate of Morea in the Peloponnesus. Very near Classical Sparta, it was the most important possession of the decaying empire outside of Constantinople after the suicidal civil wars of the fourteenth century. The heir to the throne was usually made the Despot of Morea, a sort of Prince of Wales title for the Byzantines. In the empire's waning hours, it became a center for learning and the preservation of Greek literature and philosophy that would decisively influence the developing humanist movements in Renaissance Italy. Without Mistra, the West probably loses the better part of its classical Greek heritage.

A British tourist recently visited Mistra and took a magnificent series of pictures, along with some useful (if leavened with a stray if understandable obscenity) commentary about the area. Modern Sparta also appears, along with a nice shot of the Eurotas Valley. Enjoy.

[Via the Ellopos blog. Caution for fellow papists--Elpenor, the operator of the blog, is an Orthodox with a serious, Mount Tabor-sized bug about Catholicism. While a useful website otherwise, consider yourself warned. And I definitely haven't searched every nook and cranny, either.]
I dunno.

Claims of Byzantine caesaropapism are a bit overdone. As is usually the case, the history is pretty complex. For the Russians, at least from the time of Peter the Great, yes, the charge fits fairly well. Perhaps before, with the reforms that produced the "Old Believers."

But in Byzantium, no--if anything, the emperors ran into ferocious resistance from the Eastern Church, especially after 1204. Moreover, there were emperors like John II (1118-1143) espousing a "two-swords" approach to civil and ecclesiastical power.

More to the point, the papacy hasn't always escaped the meddling hand of Caesar, either.

One thing I will agree with is that Kemalist nationalism in Turkey has been an absolute disaster for the Orthodox Church. From the ethnic cleansing that pushed over 1 million Greeks out of Anatolia in 1922 (note especially the rape of Smyrna) to the little-known 1955 pogrom that effectively destroyed the remaining Greek population in Constantinople to the legal strictures like the most recent court ruling that have throttled the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Kemalist secularism has seen the steady dissolution of Orthodoxy in one of its former heartlands.

Like it or not, the Ottoman Sultanate was a far better deal for Christians in Turkey proper than the blood-and-iron nationalism of Kemal Ataturk.
Justice delayed.

Nearly three years ago, I was a total asshole to someone I didn't know.

That someone is the future Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ. I ran one of my line by line demolitions on a piece he had written, and, as was my wont at the time, got rather personal.

I sorta apologized here. Now, I still disagree with much of what he said, but the tone of my dispute was way out of line. I was a bastard.

So now let me take the "sorta" out of the equation. I apologize unreservedly for my behavior in that post and my ill-treatment of him as a person. Mark was then and has remained unfailingly gracious, both in that and other matters, offering support in a particularly rough patch in 2006.

The Society of Jesus is getting a good man and one that I hope to call a friend some day.

Apologies again, Mark.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Baby update.

Over here. As Heather notes, we can't get The Boy's hopes up yet. Confirmation will come in August.
Just a reminder.



Is now on the air.

Of course, none of this is to deny the man his very real virtues and admirable record both as Mayor of New York and as a federal prosecutor. But from a Catholic perspective, there's no other choice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I guess it's legit after all.

The motu proprio taking the shackles off the Mass of Bl. John XXIII, that is.

You may have noticed, but I never blogged about it once. Really--run a search on it.

I kept recycling stale jokes at other people's (i.e., Steve Skojec) blogs, but I refused to blog about it here. Bullwinkle's magic hat, Lucy and the football--choose your metaphor for dashed expectations.

Now that it's here: good. Glad it's for real. An undeniable positive.

But.

Let me apply this handy firehose full of cold water: Never, ever underestimate the creative power of unhappy bureaucrats. Especially those trained in the Catholic tradition.
Back from vacating.

We spent the last 10 days up at 26 Pines. Maddie has become a fearless leaper into deep waters. Deep to her, at any rate. She also impressed all and sundry with her advanced reading skills.

Dale developed into the Implacable Nemesis of All Panfish, netting a couple score of hapless sunfish and bluegills off my parents' dock. All were returned to the lake unscathed, to grow into eating size. He also attended his first car race, and was rather impressed.

Rachel kept trying to pet the fish in the bucket, and was wowed by the fireworks display. She also had a tea party with Neema (their nickname for my mom).

Together, the three delighted in a visit to the petting zoo/farm, and it took determined parrying by Heather and me to avoid bringing home one of the "free [sic] kittens." The jet ski was also popular, but more with Maddie than the others.

Heather had a good break, too, and I think she likes the farm more than the kids, if possible. She pounded through a couple of books and we were able to watch Galaxy Quest and Fellowship of the Ring, both on VHS. No DVD or cable for the cottage, thank you very much. No phone, either

We also were able to make a stop at Hulings, which is running everything at 25% off. The gaming section has shrunk to D&D only, with board wargaming a thing of the past. But we were able to leave with a few keepsakes, including a kite, a model ('78 Firebird), a some-assembly-required birdhouse, and a DMG (version 3.5). But perhaps the most telling object is the handwritten receipt, all figures tallied by calculator. Claude's son, who was manning the store at the time, said that his father just wasn't into the newer business tech.

If I learned anything, it was that I need to get away from the constant white noise hum of urban life more often. Hearing the wind sough through the second-growth forest 100 feet out the back door, catching the mournful call of one of the lake's nesting pair of loons, or just regaining the sense of a world that knows when to stop, that it has to stop--that's essential. Nature isn't just window dressing. It's woven into what we are. We lose that connection at our peril and I know I need to renew that connection more often. I needed this vacation more than I thought.

I'll get caught up on the mail and other projects ASAP.