Friday, August 29, 2003

GIRM-ane observations.

OK, just one more. Then I'm gone for sure until Monday.

Make sure you read Amy Welborn's blog about the latest battle in the Catholic Liturgy Wars. Good stuff. It pretty well captures one problem (forced community building), and illustrates another (loss of authentic Catholic community).

Let's face it: Catholic culture has pretty much been obliterated in the past 40 years in this country. In at least one sense, I'll have to acknowledge that the liturgical/education trendsetters have correctly identified that this is indeed the case--hence, the incessant efforts at community building.

The problem is that too many of our liturgical/educator types never much liked that culture in the first place. In fact, they were and remain profoundly embarrassed by it and are desperately trying to put it behind them: hence the readings of Vatican II documents that have gutted churches, liturgy, scriptural study, religious education, formation, theology, etc. all at once. Goodbye to all that. We are an Easter People, you know, and the preconciliar Church was a corpse, etc....

The "problem" with that has been that the tattered remnants of the sensus fidei keep rejecting the offered transplant as the faulty artificial heart it is. The reforms don't work because they have no real, living (as opposed to pretextual) connection to Catholic tradition. But the surgeons are bent on making the transplant work no matter how profound the signs of rejection are, no matter how badly the patient's life signs falter. If they just change "X", they know things will get better. This time for sure.

I was handed a flyer by one of our parish's more liberal members announcing a liturgical workshop sponsored by the Diocese of Saginaw. The header proudly announced that "The Renewal of the Liturgy Continues." I politely accepted and successfully stifled my snort.

The "renewal", of course, has resulted in mass attendance, vocations, and Catholic influence on the culture of that diocese that can be accurately described with the term "pffthppt." Or "squat," if you prefer.

But they just *know* that the Jarvik will work eventually. Personally, I'm waiting for the physician to call it first. For my part, I'm getting profoundly tired of it all. The call of the Melkites and Byzantines is becoming too strong, and I think I'll be going East before too long.
Gone Fishin'.

Or fiskin', depending on how the weekend goes. We're up north, and I'm blogging from the public library. If I manage to avoid the idiotic pseudo-Catholicism of Sr. Amchurch at St. Athanasius here in the Northlands (and I should be able to), it's looking like a fine weekend. Make sure to check out Lane's fine blog on a related subject here, and you'll know what I'm up against in these parts. He speaks for me (and no doubt millions of others) in that fine post. Amen and amen.

Responses to comments and further blogging will recommence on Monday.

May you and yours have a happy Labor Day. Grill a couple of bratwursts for me.

Mmmm, bratwurst....[sound of Homer drooling]

P.S.--Have you signed up yet? Sunday's the deadline.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

I'm a 21st Century digital boy...

I don't know how to read but I got a lotta toys.

Jim Cork, via his brother Bill, brings to our attention this mural, which adorns the "worship space" in the chapel of St. Mark's at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Jim compares it to the famous Japanese comic/anime' Akira, and I see his point, especially where the central Christ figure (?) is concerned. For me, the details brought to mind the cover art for the Del Rey Lovecraft reissues.

Perhaps you need to see it in person to get the right impression.

I'm not going to get into a taffy-pull about whether it's "art" or not. Nor am I touching the de Chardin quote. I think a case could be made that it's "religious" art of a sort, and makes a statement along those lines. I think a stronger case can be made that it's not "liturgical" art in any way, shape or form.

Be that as it may, the part that got my goat was the following statement by the artist:

The inspiration to use images of modern science to express ancient beliefs of Christian theology makes those beliefs more accessible to those of us -- university students and all 21st-century adults --who are immersed in the techno-scientific revolutions of our age.

News flash for us so-wonderful moderns: We're not the Pinnacle of Human Development. We do not walk among the stars like giants. We are not the sinless demigods who Stand Above All That and can safely tsk-tsk at the quaint museum piece called "History."

In short, we ain't that wonderful. We have longer lifespans and (maybe) better teeth than our ancestors. And Lord, the gadgets--the shiny trinkets of all those "techno-scientific revolutions of our age"--we have those by the bushel.

But morally, intellectually--we're still the same ol' homo sapiens that's been trudging across the muddy globe for the past 5000 years.

We're Scythians with blenders, Etruscans with DVD players, Vikings with satellite TV. In some ways, we're probably worse than those we deride as barbarians. After all, even a Viking probably would have puked at the idea of deliberately splicing together humans and rodents. Even the most tyrannical of Etruscans would have blanched at the goal of slaughtering millions to build a utopia.

Likewise for things spiritual. Our ancestors lived through times far more turbulent than our own--the collapse of the civilization that was Rome, plagues that killed off one in three on a couple of continents, innumerable lengthy wars and invasions, even, yes, "technological revolutions." Even our more immediate ancestors contended with the same issues. Ever read The Jungle, Mr. Dvortcsak?

Yet they still kept going to the same types of churches, participated in the same liturgies, contemplated the same art. So inspired, they endured and even flourished, despite tyranny, fire, sword, pestilence and new gadgets.

We go through one bleeding ecumenical council and it's Novus Ordo Freaking Seclorum. The past no longer speaks to us.

Just stop it.

What we are "enduring" is a little culture shock mixed into a big ol' glass of self-pitying ennui. We are confusing inconvenience with suffering, information with knowledge, and sensation with wisdom.

Instead of looking back at those who preceded us with embarrassment, as an example to avoid, we ought to be sitting down to listen to them. We could learn something. At the very least, we might avoid a few of their mistakes. Which, with our doodads, might be far more catastrophic in our "advanced" era than theirs.

If the past doesn't speak to you, you aren't listening.
Notes on the Serialization.

Further installments of the Price Family's Beowulf-like epic of endurance will appear at the Domestic Bliss Report.
Been busy. Very busy.

Family. Work. Life. Funny how they all "interfere" with blogging.

He says, tongue firmly in cheek. The last big muttering took a lot out of me, I guess. Speaking of which, thanks to everyone who referred to my outburst of temper concerning the Will & Grace-inspired comedy stylings of Tom Fox: Mark Sullivan, Jeff Miller, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Domenico Bettinelli over at Catholic World News, Alicia at Fructus Ventris ("fruit of the womb" for you Latin-impaired types).

Oh, yeah, and to this guy named Mark....

Thanks to everyone--I truly appreciate it. If I missed anyone, let me know and I'll be glad to add your link.

I've also been distracted by the shakes (I'm 26 pounds lighter than I used to be), Season 3 of Babylon 5, which I've been watching obsessively, and by reading, which I've been able to do a surprising amount of lately. More on those subjects as life permits.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The old gods of Canaan have returned.

I'll accept that the Religion of Peace™, properly understood, should not inspire the hideous suicide bombing that's become a matter of routine in Israel. It seems perfectly clear that the supporters and practitioners of the same would not feel out of place dashing infants to pieces in front of an idol of Moloch or Ba'al. Human sacrifice is the centerpiece of their understanding.

After all, consider this. Or the image of this.

The suicide bomber detonated the explosives in the center of a tandem bus, which has two passenger sections, shortly after 9 p.m. on a main thoroughfare in central Jerusalem.
The bus was headed from the Western Wall to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood on the city’s outskirts, and families with children were packed in the seats and aisles.
Rescue worker Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, one of the first people on the scene, said he found a baby just a few months old, crying and alive. The baby is hospitalized and rescue workers later found the parents alive in another hospital, officials said.
“I had just come home from praying at the Western Wall and was heading home,” said Zvi Weiss, an 18-year-old seminary student from New York who sat in the front of the bus and escaped unharmed.
“The bomb went off at the back of the bus. Everything went black. I climbed out of the broken window and started running. All around me there were people covered in blood, screaming, some with limbs missing.”
The bomb was packed with bits of metal for greater deadliness, police said.
The blast, just across from a synagogue, was so powerful it blew a hole in the bus roof and shattered the windows of a passing bus. Rescuers used blowtorches to remove some of the wounded.
Crying children with tattered clothes and bloodied faces were led away from the bus, with one paramedic cradling a little girl in his arms. Doctors also leaned over a bloodied infant in an ambulance. Paramedics treated the wounded on the sidewalk, and body parts were strewn amid broken glass.

Lileks nails the problem:

The bomber was a father of two. A man who has children who walks down the aisle of the bus, looking at the children whose small short cheerful lives he is about to destroy, contenting himself with the knowledge that they are mere Jews - such a man has abdicated his humanity.

Such a man, and the men who assist him, must be hunted to the ends of the earth and quickly dispatched. Were such evils to boil out of our neighbors, we would not be so forbearing. In fact, the authorities who responded with forbearance or tictac responses would find themselves impeached. Or worse.

Finally, can we please retire the hellishly stupid phrase "cycle of violence"? As well as the term "militant"? Neither applies when one side employs men who gleefully detonate themselves on buses filled with children and the other side attempts to kill only those who plan such attacks. Or am I missing something? Should I be poring over my copies of Fr. Fahey to get the proper perspective?

Monday, August 18, 2003

The Survivalists, Part II: Gougers, heat stroke, and where'd the light pollution go?

I stopped by one party store: no ice. I went to the second, a friendly place run by Lebanese Catholic immigrants. Alas, no ice again. And this time--gouging!

The twist is that they were gouging themselves, rounding down on all purchases to the nearest dollar. I got milk and two bottled waters (I had a third, but I gave it back to the lady who fished it out for me, and had a young child--we had some water stashed, but it was old). "$5," which was a bargain. There were limits though: the guy with a twelve pack of Miller jokingly tried to claim my cost as his own. The owner smilingly said "Sure. I know where you live."

All and all, people behaving unbadly. I got home at about 5:15, to Heather's shock. She was expecting me after six. If I had left fifteen minutes later, I'm convinced I'd have gotten home after 7, the traffic was that miserable.

What to do? First, keep the fridge and freezer shut. Second, call Dad, the Emergency Management Coordinator, and find out what he knows. The phones did not want to work by this point. I finally got through to the house, but it turned out they were at the cabin. It took another five tries to get through, and it turned out that they'd had the TV off--they knew less than I did. "What blackout?" So I had to fill him in, instead.

The cascade apparently ended near Lansing, and went up as far as the Thumb, but otherwise bypassing the other major cities of the I-75 Corridor, such as Flint, Saginaw, etc. In short, our utility's service area, with some minor, minor exceptions.

2.1 million Michiganders, all alone in the night.

Lansing's power came back on quickly, as did those of such far western fringe suburbs as Brighton ("including one waaay the hell out at Pearl!"). But that was it for immediate good news.

Less reassuring were the failures of the authorities to give reassurances as to when the power would be back on in our neck of the woods. It's 88 frigging humid degrees, guys--estimate! The one attempted reassurance--"this is not terrorism"--is not reassuring in a country at war. You know: when governments feel much, much better about lying?

I weighed going north with the family, where there was power, and water that didn't reluctantly ooze from the taps. Unfortunately, the traffic was still charitably described as insane, meaning it could take forever. Worse, we only had a quarter tank of gas in the minivan, so we couldn't imagine leaving before 8pm, when the kids would be good and cranky. Not a happy prospect, three hours with squalling children.

So, I did what any man would do and mowed my shaggy lawn instead. Great idea! It's not the heat, it's the stupidity. And what a great way to drain the two water bottles I'd bought. In my defense, we'd tested the old water we'd purchased, and found it didn't cause serious hallucinations. I decided to wait out the outage, pending more info from The Authorities. It grew dark, and listened to the radio while Ma Kettle got the kids down after their baths (the water pressure had increased some).

The Beloved Chairman of Our Utility then held a press conference, at which he lowered the boom: No power in Detroit tomorrow. Period. End of Story. Day off for me. Instead, they'd be working to restore the power by going outside in: from the sparsely populated rural regions in toward the city. A good chance that some wouldn't have their power restored until Monday. Living as we do in an inner ring suburb, this raised the specter of at least a couple of miserable nights. "We're going north, Ma!"

But not until tomorrow, and not before seeing the most beautiful night sky we'd ever see: clear, dark, with stars that weren't bleached out by incandescent lighting. Well, for the most part: to the far north, we saw the glow cast by the city of Flint, that night the beacon of civilization, where gas and ice could still be had. Who'd a thunk it?
The Survivalists, or "How the Price Family Heroically Overcame Serious Inconvenience."

In a story red in tooth and claw, the East-Side Prices managed to survive Blackout 2003.

I was at work when the power went off at about 4:15. It happened 20 minutes after I'd filed a brief with at the Federal courthouse in Detroit. The timing of it all still inspires nervous laughter, sometimes with a hysterical edge to it.

Lawyers understand.

Anyhow, the power flickered, came back, flickered, came back, then said "Screw it!" with some finality. I was walking over to make a copy of the cover letter for the brief, but no such luck. I ducked my head into a colleague's office, and we briefly discussed the incident, the word "terrorism" entering into, and ultimately killing the discussion. Then I called home to inform my wife of the outage, and she informed me that the house, too, was without power. And the water was coming out in a sickly trickle. I told her I would probably be leaving soon. It turned out to be the last call I was able to place without difficulty that day.

This was unnerving, and I went over immediately to tell my boss. Along the way, another attorney in my office said her sister at the GM Mound Road plant was also reporting a loss of power. She was hypothesizing a blown transformer. That didn't sound right to me, and the anxiety level was officially raised to Code Orange. I told my boss the info I had, and said I was out of the high rise for the day. He said no problem, and I walked down the stairs. Some of my bolder coworkers, trusting to the generators, took the elevators. No thanks. As it turned out, some poor woman in the Fisher Building ended up staying 18 hours in an elevator following the outage.

Just what I was afraid of.

As I exited the building, I noticed others starting to slowly empty out. I increased my pace, determined to beat the normally high traffic that was about to be transformed into the Rush Hour From Hell. I hopped in the car and turned on News Radio 950 to discover the problem was international. Time to raise that ol' threat elevation level? The station had generators and/or a muscular hamster, so it kept an invaluable low power broadcast going through the metro area for the next day and a half. The local Catholic stations, apparently generator-free, were beaming static into the heavens.

I got to the expressway without difficulty, and was advised to avoid the surface streets by the otherwise-invaluable radio. The theory was that surface streets would be a giant pain in the keister due to the failure of traffic signals. Not a bad theory, but one that ignored that the highways were becoming parking lots due to the exodus from Detroit. I took a chance on exiting on to a major surface street, and was rewarded with what turned out to be pretty much a straight shot back home.

Along the way, I was told that ice was vanishing like, well, ice on a hot August day. Then, I formulated a cunning plan: I would go shopping for necessities.
Technical difficulties.

Er, that whole blackout thing on Thursday put a crimp in the ol' blogging plans. More later, including the epic retelling of the "Lord of the Flies"-like survival of the Prices in the midst of a World Gone Barking Mad.

Or something like that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Something I would do well to remember more.

From what looks like an interesting new book, Walking Away From Faith, reviewed in Christianity Today:

Tucker touches upon the most probing and troubling aspect of losing faith: how failures of the church and of Christian witness can drive people away from belief. She cites Gandhi ("I like their Christ, but I don't like Christians") and even Nietzsche ("I will believe in the Redeemer when the Christian looks a little more redeemed") as barometers for the distaste that Christians can evoke among unbelievers.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Ever read O'Brien's Eclipse of the Sun?

Good stuff. A page-turner, it seems to be based on what Yanks would regard as a most unlikely premise--the development of an increasingly totalitarian Canada, with full-bore hatred of orthodox Christians. After what I read today in two major Canadian newspapers, it's making more sense now.

Mark Cameron (blogroll imminent) offers a couple samples of Grade A, Government-certified, 100% pure, blinkered pig-ignorance from the Great White North.

I'm not sure which is worse: Heather Mallick's demand for the "Jane, you ignorant slut" rejoinder or Hartley Stewart's Springer-ready revelation that "Daddy said sex with Mom sucked 'cause she was Catholic."

Decisions, decisions. I think I'll learn towards Mr. Stewart, who feels it necessary to spill embarrassing details about his parents' sex life, and sounds more authoritatively stupid throughout:

The Church has got nothing right in the area of sex since its beginnings. Its edicts on sexual issues have been hurtful and counterproductive. They have done nothing to make for a better world.

A trail of misery, guilt and destruction has followed closely behind the Church's intervention in the sexual lives of its adherents and its hierarchy. It has not fostered understanding and compassion among peoples of differing views. None of it has helped us resolve our difficult moral and social issues.

On the contrary. It has caused heartbreak and stress throughout society. Encyclicals in the field of marriage, sex and relationships have always been a century or two behind the moral standards adopted by society.

Short of medical advances that allow doctors to reverse a lobotomy, there's really no point in arguing with the mouth-breathing illogic and factual errors of Mr. Stewart.

At least Ms. Mallick (who strikes me as a Canadian Maureen Dowd without the intellectual rigor) confesses her pig-ignorance: "The fact is, I know nothing about religion." To which I reply: "Thanks for the heads up, toots." Though I pretty well had it figured out before, discerning it from the opening paragraph:

Canada is a secular nation. I love you for that, beautiful Canada. Secularism means great things. Churchy people of any brand have no say in government, and that's all she wrote.

Translation: if you have the bad taste to be religious, shut up about it, leave it in the pews on Sunday and never, ever bring it into your public life.

And you thought Soviet ideology was dead. Hardly. Now I know why Kathy Shaidle keeps talking about getting a green card to the States. Sheesh.
Housekeeping Update.

I'll be posting thanks for those who linked my most recent posts later today. Also, I'll be beefing up the blogroll, which is long overdue.

Finally, you folks would do me a world of good if you'd kindly stop moving around. You know who you are (Greg, Bill, Amy).

Monday, August 11, 2003

Herb Brooks, rest in peace.

The coach of the 1980 Olympic "Miracle On Ice" team died today in a single vehicle accident. Alcohol was not a factor, and it seems that he simply lost control of his minivan, which rolled over and threw him clear. He was 66.

For previous thoughts on the Miracle team, go here. Hey, I'm still so jacked about the upset of the Soviets I managed to work a reference to it into a rant about bad liturgy.

Brooks' first contribution to the gold medal run was the ferocious conditioning regimen he imposed on the team, which ensured it wouldn't run out of gas in the third period:

U.S. team physician V. George Nagobads, a native of Latvia, talked with Soviet players after the Olympics. Most of them didn't seem mortally wounded by they loss, although Vasili Vasilyev was perplexed that the U.S. had managed to defeat his strong team.

"What did you give your players to eat or drink so in the third period they can skate like that?" Vasilyev asked. "Last period is always ours. In second period, when we were ahead 3-2, we celebrate."

Perhaps more obvious were his motivational techniques. His goal? To demythologize the legendary Soviets:

[He] had told them so many times over the past few months that Soviet captain Boris Mikhailov looks like Stan Laurel that, well, it was impossible for them to treat Mikhailov, or any of his teammates, with reverence. "Every time we watched a film of the Russians," said [forward John] Harrington, "he'd keep saying, 'Stan Laurel, Stan Laurel, look at Stan Laurel.'"

Along the way, he hit the collegians with an arsenal of aphorisms that would have flattened Morrie Schwartz:

[John] Harrington, [Dave] Silk and captain Mike Eruzione have compiled a 16-page booklet entitled Brooksisms—and "Stan Laurel" is an entry. An old-fashioned motivator, Brooks repeats favored aphorisms with enough regularity that they make an impression. Among them:

—You're playing worse every day, and right now you're playing like the middle of the next month.

—Gentlemen, you don't have enough talent to win on talent alone.

—Boys, in front of the net it's bloody-nose alley.

—Don't dump the puck in. That went out with short pants.

—Throw the puck back and weave, weave, weave. But don't just weave for the sake of weaving.

—Let's be idealistic, but let's also be practical.

—You can't be common because the common man goes nowhere. You have to be uncommon.

But perhaps the master motivator's greatest manuever was right before the clash with the Russians:

Before the game against the Soviets, Brooks took out a note card and read a prepared text. "You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here." His players believed him.

His style didn't play as well with NHL professionals, and his career there was mixed at best. Still, he was the ideal pick for the 2002 U.S. team, and his by then-mellowed style meshed well with the NHL veterans that brought back a silver, the first U.S. hockey medal since 1980. Moreover, his penchant for firing zingers was fully intact:

German coach Hans Zach injected a bit of intrigue into his team's game with the Americans when he didn't pull his goaltender in the closing minutes of a 3-2 loss to Canada on Sunday night. Asked for his reasoning, Zach said he preferred to finish last in the pool and meet the United States in the quarterfinals.

''Maybe that's why they lost the Second World War, guys,'' [ ] Brooks said.

Brooks is survived by his wife, Patti, and two children.

He will be greatly, greatly missed.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

The National Catholic Reporter. Oy.

I've come to an understanding of this otherwise inexplicable defender of the PC zeitgeist. It helps if you understand it as an experiment in rehabilitation for nice, tolerant and non-judgmental Catholics who suffer from closed head injuries.

Whereas many Catholics mourned last week's Episcopal banzai charge against the Almighty, NCR strapped on the pom-pons for Team Gene. The captain of the squad is Tom Fox, Publisher of NCR.

Time for the Fisking Stick (no, that's not a good thing, Robinsonians):

The thrust of the new 12-page Roman document did not surprise anyone. Close church observers knew the dye was cast back in 1986 when the Vatican termed gays and lesbians to be "objectively disordered."

BZZZT! Wrong! Sorry! The correct quote from that Vatican document is that homosexual ACTS are "objectively disordered." See CCC 2357. I hate $8 (the cost of a paperback Catechism) mistakes, whether from rabid anti-Catholics or nice, tolerant and non-judgmental Catholics.

The Vatican seems to be its own worst enemy. Anyone who follows NCR Vatican Correspondent John Allen's writings knows it's a complex bureaucracy filled with varied views and intentions. But when it comes to issuing statements on human sexuality they go berserk, throwing miters and staffs at anyone in sight.

When you hear this rhetoric ("own worst enemy") coming from the Rehab Wing, beware. What the speaker really means is that the Vatican is his worst enemy. Especially when he has to face his more enlightened non-Catholic friends at social occasions. Dreadfully embarrassing, don't you know? The Rehabbers had hoped to put all of this behind them forty years ago, spraying the Spirit of Vatican II™ around like an obsessive-compulsive wields Lysol. But it never works: "Dammit, there it is again! It won't go away!" If anyone's "berserk" about pelvic issues, it's the patients in KC.

Instead of white heat, judgment and absolute demands, wouldn't the Roman prelates have more influence if they posed questions in a spirit of compassion? When will they learn that the medium is also the message?

We are told same sex unions are a grave threat to society. Along the lines of nuclear proliferation, AIDS, suicide bombers and chemical warfare?

Meanwhile the vastly eroded credibility of the Catholic hierarchy in the wake of months of revelations of sordid sexual abuses of children and episcopal complicity would make you think that this is the time to hold your tongue. But no, someone is insisting Catholic bishops need to be dragged deeper into the mud.

No debate about eroded credibility here (notable because it's the only thing we agree upon in this article). Maybe Tom can seek consolation from spiritual bafflegabber extraordinare Frank Griswold. They speak the same language, after all: wrapping cognitive dissonance up in a suffocating blanket of wonderfully affirming compassion-speak, ultimately saying nothing. [Subliminal mode on] Heaven forfend that one should wonder whether gay culture [90% of the victims of abuse were boys 12 and older] has been anything other than an unalloyed gift [Paul Shanley ran a gay resort with his "partner"]. [Subliminal mode off] Nope. Can't hear that when you're belting out Sing a New Church.

"Let us bring the gifts that differ/
And in splendid, varied ways..."

The Vatican attack -- yes, it is seen as an attack -- on gays has quickly produced counter-attacks in the media. Some editorial cartoonists have had a field day.

"Goddess, it's so embarrassing to be Catholic! Editorial cartoonists are making fun of us! That's never happened before!"

"In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty," the Vatican statement declared. Curiously, Catholics almost never hear similarly unambiguous admonitions on matters of morality outside of the pelvic area.

"See how obsessed those withered sexless prelates are, talking about sex again! They're always talking about my penis! It's mine! Mineminemineminemine! And I'll do whatever I want with him! Because I'm not obsessed! I have a healthy sexuality! And I don't like seeing it threatened by a document about gay marriage!"

Transference, anyone? And note that someone was apparently asleep during the run-up to the Iraq war, when America was called Pharaoh, among other things, by those same prelates at the Vatican.

A potentially fatal disconnect continues to grow between official church teachings on human sexuality on the one hand and Catholic practice on the other. It started at least as far back as 1968 when Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, condemning all forms of artificial birth control.

Repeated polls show that 90 to 95 percent of Catholics, regardless of nation or culture, simply disregard that teaching, saying they simply do not believe the use of a condom is necessarily "intrinsically evil."

Birth control is generally not an issue for most lay Catholics. To the degree it becomes a moral issue within a marriage, absolutist church utterances often obfuscate rather than lend light to a couple's discernment.

Um, for a rumination about the liciety of gay marriage and active homosexuality, Tom seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time on birth control, which is not exactly a front-burner issue in the gay community. Who's got the "pelvic issue" fixation again?

Stripped to the moral core, the Vatican condemns sexual intimacy between two men or two women because their actions are viewed as unnatural and have nothing to do with procreation, the fundamental purpose of sexual union. For centuries the church had a very restricted view of sex, seeing it as intended only for procreation. In the 20th century, the church slowly came to acknowledge that sex within marriage also had a secondary purpose, supporting the psychological intimacy of a couple.

Tom, "stripped to the moral core," THE CHURCH'S PROBLEM WITH "sexual intimacy between two men or two women" IS BASED ON THIS THING CALLED "SCRIPTURE." TRY READING IT. If you're going to start heaving out part of Leviticus because it's inconvenient to you, then Dave Duke's going to heave that verse that's inconvenient to him because he doesn't like the smell of ethnic cooking. Both your positions are equally valid.

And quit dragging references to your theoretically-procreative sex life into the discussion. Otherwise, I might think you were a mite obsessed about pelvic issues.

Modern society, meanwhile, has come to learn that gays and lesbians do not necessarily choose their lifestyles. Genetics play a significant role in determining male or female attraction. This widely accepted understanding has forced the world's religions to rethink their views on homosexuality. We have seen this play out this week as Episcopalians wrestled with the ordination of an openly gay bishop.

A reasonable question cannot be avoided. Does the Creator condemn all gays and lesbians to lives without sex and sexual intimacy? Going further, would the Creator banish forever those gays and lesbians who seek sexual intimacy? Why would God's creation plan be so devastatingly uncaring to significant portion of the human family? Are all gays and lesbians to lead celibate lives? We know how hard this is. Just consider the record of clergy who have freely chosen celibacy. The church teaches that celibacy is a gift from God given to a relative few. It requires certain commitment and strength.

Are we led to believe all gays and lesbians are so "gifted?" It stands to reason they are not.

And if not, how do they find intimacy, which is for most an essential for human and spiritual growth?

Modern society--ah, yes! The trump card: Because we know more, and are better than, a bunch of itinerant pinhead herdsmen obsessing about a Bronze Age moral code. Then there's the unsupported assertion that we "know" there's a "significant" genetic component. We actually "know" no such thing, making his "reasonable question" entirely avoidable. Although, he does have a point: the notion of gays and lesbians somehow having fulfilling lives without sexual intimacy is utterly ludicrous. What's next? Expecting teenagers to abstain?

BTW, when did Episcopalianism become a "world religion"?

Consider something else. Is it possible the Catholic Church still has it wrong on sexual morality and needs to reconsider church attitudes and teachings? This would require admitting the church is, like other institutions, capable of making mistakes, even big ones. It would require becoming a more humble church, perhaps one with less sweeping claims to infallibility.

The complex truth is that for the past half century or more church teachings on sexuality are intimately tied to church teachings on authority. There's the rub. Can the church have had it wrong on sexuality for these many years?

Tom's closed head injury must have been a real pounder by this point. The kind that makes the prospect of a sledgehammer to the temple sound like bliss.

The correct answers are "No" and "No," although I will accept "Hell, no!" and "What is he smoking?" for both. I mean, I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure even the "assured results of critical scholarship" generally conclude that both the Old and New Testaments were written before 1953. If the Church can't infallibly base its teachings on those ancient documents, then its claim to infallibility will be "less sweeping," indeed. Limited, perhaps, to the ability to give exact change to tourists in Vatican City.

Most of the time.

Many Catholics not only believe this is possible; they believe this to be the fact. These Catholics still love their church and want to open the issues of sexuality to the light of new understandings, discernment and experience. Many lay Catholics are saying to their clergy: "Listen to us. Listen to our experiences. We can get through this together."

Should the experiences of overwhelming numbers of active, loving, healthy lay Catholics, gay and heterosexual alike, matter? If they did at least the tone of church documents on sexuality would change. And that would be a major step in the right direction.

Griswoldism, pure and simple. I have no doubt "many Catholics" believe such things, and not just those at NCR. After all, they were altar servers and went through CCD where they learned (1) God is love and (2) glitter is sticky. "New experiences," eh? So Shanley was right?

I received an email the other day from a reader, Mike Kirk-Duggan, who counted certain words in the recently released Vatican pronouncement, "Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons." Here is what he found. Jesus, 0; love, 0; forgive, 0; compassion, 1; Christ, 2. Doctrin(e/al), 11, law, 24, legal, 31.

Well, two can play at numerology: number of references in Fox's column to Jesus, scripture or tradition--Zero.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Lane's Reading List for Discouraged Anglicans.

It's a good one, and I didn't mean to give it short shrift yesterday.

Actually, it's a good reading list for anyone interested in Catholicism--especially Catholics.

I would like to offer my own suggestions, too.

Romano Guardini's The Lord. A fine work of exegesis and devotion, it gives the lie to the canard that Catholics are focused on just about everything but Jesus. The out-of-print (but easily obtained) lives of Christ by Giuseppi Ricciotti and Ferdinand Prat are also highly recommended.

Thomas Howard's On Being Catholic. A too-little known classic by the former Anglican, it was extraordinarily helpful to me as I converted. My standard tagline for his works: "Anything by Howard is good."

The Russian Church and the Papacy, by Vladimir Soloviev. Soloviev was a 19th Century Russian philosopher who converted to Catholicism from Orthodoxy, and wrote this book to explain to his Orthodox brethren why Catholic authority was essential. The man was a mystic who deeply loved the Orthodox even as he excoriated their polemicists, and it shows. A better understanding of the Church as a divine-human institution you will not find.
Jim Cork knocks one out of the yard.

The subject? You-know-what. It's a tour de force, exposing in great detail the flaws in Prof. Fredriksen's understanding of Catholic theology surrounding the crucifixion.

Lileks: The Secular Apostle of Common Sense.

In addition to being one of the funniest writers in the English-speaking world, he's also one of the most insightful. He gets to the heart of the matter on why the newly-minted Episcopal bishop is an unworthy jackass:

If he’d cast off his family to cavort with a woman from the choir, I’m not sure he’d be elevated to the level of moral avatar – but by some peculiar twist the fact that he left mom for a man insulates him from criticism.

Precisely! About time someone gets it. If he'd taken up with the blonde church secretary with the nice cans, he wouldn't be a priest now, let alone a bishop. The Enlightened Wombyn of the ECUSA would have had his scalp. But since his newly-discovered love object had the same plumbing he does, it's "You go, Gene! Where do I sign up?"

Now we know, a decade-plus later, that James Bakker's real mistake was to be interested in a Jessica instead of a Jesse.

But he's hardly done with that blast. Here, James the angry father really cuts loose on the Rt. Rev.:

This story has irritated me from the start, and it has nothing to do with Rev. Robinson’s sexual orientation. The guy left his wife and kids to go do the hokey-pokey with someone else: that’s what it’s all about, at least for me. Marriages founder for a variety of reasons, and ofttimes they’re valid reasons, sad and inescapable. But “I want to have sex with other people” is not a valid reason for depriving two little girls of a daddy who lives with them, gets up at night when they're sick, kisses them in the morning when they wake. There's a word for people who leave their children because they don't want to have sex with Mommy anymore: selfish. I'm not a praying man, but I cannot possibly imagine asking God if that would be okay. Send them another Dad, okay? Until you do I'll keep my cellphone on 24/7, I promise.

Who are you to judge? is the standard response, and I quote Captain James T. Kirk when asked the same question by Kodos the Executioner: who do I have to be? I’ll tell you this: my nightmare is losing my daughter. The idea of leaving her on purpose is inconceivable, and I don’t care if Adriana Lima drove up the driveway in a '57 BelAir convertible, tossed me the keys and asked me to drive her to Rio, it ain’t gonna happen. I made a promise when I married my wife, and I made another when we had our daughter. It's made me rather cranky on the subject of men who don't stick around. They're letting down the side. They're reverting to type. They're talking from their trousers.

Amen! Preach it, Brother James.

[Link via Mark Shea.]

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Not gonna happen.

The great Anglican flood into Catholicism, that is. Why? Well, unless they happen to have cabins right next to Ted Kaczynski's place in Montana, most Anglicans have probably seen the headlines about the problems in our house for the past two years. Not exactly an inspiring witness, especially to people who are smarting over the flouting of biblical injunctions on sexual behavior.

But the greater problem will be AmChurch flacks horrified at the notion of ruggedly orthodox Anglicans pouring into the Church, especially if they try to do so as a parish. "My goodness! They're homophobes! They don't like women priests! They're scriptural fundamentalists! Their liturgies are exclusive and distant! Besides, the Spirit of Vatican II says it's unecumenical to convert...."

In other words: "Repel boarders!" It has happened around the country. The souls of Anglicans don't count--not when measured against the grand plans for NewChurch.

Thousands of energized Anglicans could ruin the plans of many a diocesan progressive on any number of issues. Couple that with the lack of energy and imagination seen so often in American Catholic ordinaries, and you have the recipe for greatly-strengthened continuing Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches. For example, here in Detroit we don't even have an indult Mass (so much for Ecclesia Dei's call for generosity), so don't get all fired up for an Anglican Use parish.

By all means, though, Anglican brothers and sisters--come aboard! Despite my near-metronomic griping, Catholicism is the Barque of Peter and is well-worth the trouble. The pearl of great price can be found here. Things are--albeit often imperceptibly and not without reverses--starting to improve. We are slowly beginning to outlive our "Spirit of V2" contingent.

Just don't be surprised by a frosty "welcome" from those you are trying to join.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Have I mentioned lately that I'm still on the shakes?
In honor of the newly-confirmed bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire....

...I offer the following from the deranged mind (consider yourself warned) of Joel Veitch, creator of Mark Llama, Gerbil Farmer.

I couldn't think of a reason to blog it before, but now it's oddly topical. There even appears to be a church in the background of the video (?).
"They'll Know We're Christians By Our Love" Dep't.

Central Michigan non-denom church has itself an old-fashioned book burnin'. For a refreshing change, the Jesus Non-denominational Church (Est. 5/03) burned Bibles, too.

Librarians and clergy at other churches expressed mixed emotions after learning that members of the Jesus Non-denominational Church burned "Harry Potter" books and copies of the Book of Mormon and non-King James Version Bibles.

Other books, magazines, posters, compact discs and movies that members believe do not promote God also went up in smoke Sunday, as more than 50 people gathered outside the church for the fiery display. Among the incinerated items were a Shania Twain album, "The Woman in Me," and a Dan Aykroyd movie, "Coneheads."

Actually, some of that I can endorse: Shania Twain induces indigestion, and Ackroyd owes me a refund for Coneheads (I know exactly the scene from the movie that drew their ire, too). Also, it's an extreme example of the almost-Islamic reverence KJV-only types have towards the Authorized Version. But at least it's nice to see Gail Riplinger found herself a new church.
Swing away, Merrill.

Michigan farmer discovers crop circles in his field. Noted "crop circle researcher" has an interesting non-tinfoil hat theory:

[Researcher Jeffrey] Wilson, 33, trekked to his first circle in Ohio. He borrowed a geiger counter from EMU, convinced a friend to go with him, and arrived at the scene only to find a sheriff had roped it off as though it were a crime scene. He talked his way past the yellow tape.

As he moved closer to the center, he noticed a pattern that he would find at every other circle: Radiation levels were higher in the middle.


"I don't know," he said.

But it got him theorizing. Soon, he was measuring the electric field and the electromagnetic field within the circles. He noticed the circles often appeared near transformers attached to power lines.

He also discovered a pattern among eyewitnesses of the crop circles who never report seeing any light or anything else unusual.

He tried to get academia to bite, but it hasn't -- yet.

He said science needs more approaches to study crop circles. It reminds him of airline pilots reporting strange patterns and colors of light shooting off the top of thunderheads in the 1980s.

Eventually, NASA sent planes up with high-speed cameras and discovered a new phenomenon -- sprites and jets, which are red and blue atmospheric flashes. There is no complete explanation, but it is no longer considered a farce.

Say what you will, but this line of inquiry beats the usual ovoid-headed, probe-wielding refugees from Communion by a mile.
"It's my blog! And if you don't like it..."

The above is your warning: "Geek topics ahoy!" Feel free to scroll past if you like. This one deals with the frightening world of fantasy football.

Last year was my first year, and frankly I got hooked. After the playoffs were done, I managed to place fourth in a nine team league.

My friend Jon, commissioner of our Yahoo! fantasy sports league, was forced to schedule our draft a tad early this year, and thanks to e-mail issues, I had all of about two days to put together draft preferences. The good news (sorta) is that this is a six team league, meaning you'd have to be a brain donor not to put together some kind of talented squad.

This is the team I was able to assemble on July 26:

QB Manning, Peyton (QB-Ind)
WR Moulds, Eric (WR-Buf)
WR Price, Peerless (WR-Atl)
WR Coles, Laveranues (WR-Was)
RB Portis, Clinton (RB-Den)
RB McAllister, Deuce (RB-NO)
TE Crumpler, Alge (TE-Atl)

Pennington, Chad (QB-NYJ) Bench
Barlow, Kevan (RB-SF) Bench
Taylor, Travis (WR-Bal) Bench
Streets, Tai (WR-SF) Bench
Miller, Billy (TE-Hou) Bench

K Feely, Jay (K-Atl)
K Vinatieri, Adam (K-NE) Bench

DEF Atlanta (DEF-Atl)

The only thing I'm really worried about is the defense (last year I had Tampa Bay--the only thing I worried about was the bye week), which I know next to nothing about, being a Lions fan. Dark horse defensive suggestions welcome.

Anybody else infected by FF, or just me?
Interesting new book about the origins of the Quran.

Written pseudonymously, of course. Does the name "Salman Rushdie" ring any bells? "Apostasy" (however broadly defined) is a very, very bad thing in Islam--even in the most "moderate" states. In America, apostasy from Christianity gets you a book deal. See Spong, Bishop John; Sprague, Bishop C. Joseph; Fox, Fr. Matthew.

This book could be regarded as inciting such--perhaps with reason. It makes fascinating arguments regarding the linguistic origins of the Quran, claiming (contrary to Islamic tradition) that it was translated from West Syriac/Aramaic into Arabic many years after being written. Luxenberg (the author) asserts that Syriac/Aramaic was the medium in which the text was composed:

In the Foreword, Luxenberg summarizes the cultural and linguistic importance of written Syriac for the Arabs and for the Qur’ân. At the time of Muhammad, Arabic was not a written language. Syro-Aramaic or Syriac was the language of written communication in the Near East from the second to the seventh centuries A.D. Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, was the language of Edessa, a city-state in upper Mesopotamia. While Edessa ceased to be a political entity, its language became the vehicle of Christianity and culture, spreading throughout Asia as far as Malabar and eastern China. Until the rise of the Qur’ân, Syriac was the medium of wider communication and cultural dissemination for Arameans, Arabs, and to a lesser extent Persians. It produced the richest literary expression in the Near East from the fourth century (Aphrahat and Ephraem) until it was replaced by Arabic in the seventh and eighth centuries. Of importance is that the Syriac – Aramaic literature and the cultural matrix in which that literature existed was almost exclusively Christian. Part of Luxenberg’s study shows that Syriac influence on those who created written Arabic was transmitted through a Christian medium, the influence of which was fundamental.

In fact, Arabic Christianity may have been the medium in which the Quran originated:

Luxenberg then gives an etymology of the word “Syriac,” and notes that the language is mentioned with importance in the earliest hadîth literature which reports that Muhammad instructed his followers to know Syriac (as well as Hebrew). This can only be the case because these were the literary forerunners of written Arabic. Luxenberg conceived his study to test the following hypothesis: since written Syriac was the written language of the Arabs, and since it informed the cultural matrix of the Near East, much the same way that Akkadian did before it and Arabic after it, then it is very likely that Syriac exerted some influence on those who developed written Arabic. Luxenberg further proposes, that these Arabs were Christianized, and were participants in the Syriac Christian liturgy.

The influence may have come down to the title of the book itself:

Luxenberg proceeds in section ten to the heart of the matter: an analysis of the word “Qur’ân.” He sets out the argument that qur’ân derives from the Syriac qeryânâ, a technical term from the Christian liturgy that means "lectionary," the fixed biblical readings used at the Divine Liturgy throughout the year.

Slow going in spots, but a fascinating review.

[Links via
Clayton Cramer.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Yet another unscholarly nimrod swept away by emotion weighs in on The Passion.

"It's a very graphic presentation of the passion of Christ in the Gospels," [he] said Saturday. "For people who think that the passion narratives are themselves anti-Semitic, well then, it's a presentation of those narratives.

For those of us who don't believe they're anti-Semitic, that Christ died for our sins, all of us, and so therefore we all caused his death, it's a way to portray, very graphically, the brutality of that execution in a Roman style."

* * *

"I've read the Passion narratives of the Lord and contemplated them and prayed over them many, many times, and I've never thought of the crucifixion with the images that I received while watching this," [he] said. "I'll never read the words the same way again."

* * *

[The reviewer] said he was impressed that the film gave a more complex and thus accurate depiction of Jesus, who is often thought of as "this nice-boy-next-door . . . who floats around and smiles and is untouched by the sufferings of the human race he came to save.

"That's as much a false representation of Jesus as anything else, and this is a kind of corrective to that," [he] said. "We hope it doesn't have other consequences, but that will have to be seen."

The reviewer? Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago.

Then again, what does he know? He's no Frank Rich.

In the midst of preparing for tonight's Bible study meeting, I found this quote, commenting on Matthew 8:28-34:

"All down the ages, the world has been refusing Jesus because it prefers its pigs."

It was by a gentleman named P.P. Levertoff. I don't have any more information about him. And I thought I was bad-tempered....
At least we have a good stadium.

Jim Caple of ESPN gives Comerica Park a big-thumb's up. There are a couple of ignorant comments--he's obviously never seen the interior of Ford Field, and the Willie Horton cheap shot was unnecessary--but overall it is a sharp review. He still prefers Tiger Stadium, but who doesn't?

That, and he needs to get a good coney dog next time--there's a reason they're an institution in these parts.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Well, at least they're equally intolerant of all the "intolerant."

Anglican Zach Frey offers up some additional examples of Episcopal "inclusiveness" toward their fellow brothers and sisters, especially when they are from the realm of darkness known as South Carolina:

I saw a woman I knew I had seen before in the seat in front of me, so I asked here if she was going to the Episcopal convention. Indeed she was, as were the two men in the seat with her. They turned around with smiles, and said, we’re from northern Michigan. Where are you from? I said (proudly), South Carolina! Silence. They all three turned around, and didn’t say another word the whole trip.

Remember: thou shalt not be intolerant.
"Progressive" religious tolerance in action.

Actually, this story made me feel better. There was a little papist-bashing at yesterday's session of the ECUSA Convention meeting. It was during the debate over the elevation of a non-celibate gay priest Eugene Robinson as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. In this case, the basher is a Minnesotan divine named Howard Anderson:

It is not the Episcopal Church that is abandoning the historic catholic and apostolic faith, argued the Rev. Howard Anderson of Minnesota. In keeping with its 20/20 mission, the Episcopal Church is at a place where it could spread its doors wide open to welcome all people into its ministry, he said, and the confirmation of Robinson would be one sign of that.

The Episcopal Church, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, is known for its unique charism of inclusivity, he said. “We ordain women. We know the primary sacrament is baptism, not ordination.” The committee needs to think hard about this charism, he said, “and decide whether we will be the last catholics — big ‘c’ or little ‘c’ — or whether we will be watered down Roman Catholics trying to defend some moral like the Pharisees, or dressed up Presbyterians.”

Catholics are Pharisees, eh? Making the Reverend Anderson and the rest of Team Gene the followers of Josh the Palestinian Tolerance Mascot. You know: the Jesus whose only Commandment is that Thou Shalt Not Be Intolerant. You know: the Jesus who can't be discerned from either scripture or two millenia of Christian tradition.

I wonder what Howie says about us when the mike isn't on.

As I said, it is perversely reassuring: For all of our current problems, Catholicism is still derided by the Inevitable March of Progress™ as something to be avoided. It made my day.

Friday, August 01, 2003

More Detroit architectural news.

This one, if true, is nothing short of miraculous: the long-abandoned Michigan Central Depot is the frontrunner to be the new Detroit Police HQ.

Here's more about the grand old station, along with multiple photos.

May it be so. The MCD is an amazing building, and truly terrifying at night. I got lost leaving Tiger Stadium with my wife and mother-in-law one evening, and passed by the massive, darkened structure. "Forbidding" doesn't begin to describe it, especially when your aging Oldsmobile's Quad 4 sounds like it's about to suffocate in its own phlegm.

We've heard an awful lot of pie in the sky redevelopment schemes involving Detroit landmarks ("Picture Tiger Stadium as an aquarium--with shops and condos...."). This one could be more like the Book Cadillac than the others, though. If Mayor Kilpatrick can pull this one off, he'll vault up several rungs in the ranking of Detroit mayors.

For more great Detroit architecture, check out the magnificent Ruins of Detroit (courtesy of Homey) and Forgotten Detroit (courtesy of Mark Sullivan) websites.

The Synodage of Satan.

The Catholic Church announces that it is discontinuing support of its previous OS.  I mean, TC and the Coddling of the Krauts makes that cl...