Sunday, November 30, 2003

Nabisco CEO Urges Executives to Be Resolute in Face of Girl Scouts' Threat to Market Share.

Bishop gives pep talk to the hatchet men of endless renewal. Adoremus responds.

[Thanks to Jeff Miller for the link.]
Signs of Impending Judgment.

In each of the past three centuries, Almighty God has seen fit to reveal His displeasure with the direction of the human race in various and sundry ways. One of the more subtle, but unusually frightening, methods is to permit the world to endure half-baked European (or European-bred) philosophers who spew, emit and otherwise rave at tedious length about The Great Idea™ which explains all and assures salvation--from something. Usually the Idea™ saves its adherents from rationality, tradition, decency, etc., but that's not important now. Almost invariably, the undercooked secular prophet is an appalling human being whose love for his abstract crusade is only exceeded by his hatred for his fellow man and man's inexcusable failings. The greatest of these failings, of course, is the inability to embrace The Great Idea™.

In short, every century has produced these ravers as surely as surely as an outhouse reeks in August. In the 18th Century, we received Rousseau. In the 19th Century, Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer fell to earth. In the 20th--Lord, take your pick.

For my money, the worst is the fungal skin rash popularity of the Russian-born Ayn (rhymes with "mine") Rand. The West shipped Lenin to Russia, and the Rodina expelled Rand across the Atlantic. Talk about your Hobson's choice of repulsive secular messianic dwarfs. Rand is not caked with gore, but that's her sole recommendation.

In addition to her editor-destroying verbosity (throwing Atlas Shrugged is a felony in all fifty states, Guam and Puerto Rico), Rand is noteworthy for her Great Idea™: "Objectivism," which purports to exalt human reason. More accurately, it is the Worship of the Autonomous Self Through Ayn Rand as Mediator. For an "objective", but (too-mildly) critical evaluation of the failings of full-bore Randism by a former associate and paramour, go here.

In essence, she and her followers extoll a utilitarian capitalistic self-interest (called, yes, "selfishness") as the basis for society, and deride the notion of altruism (especially in its religious form) as an irrational impediment to the proper social order, inasmuch as it holds back the productive betters. In reality, it's as dogmatic a world view as that held by any Spanish Inquisitor. Perhaps the ultimate expression of her philosophy was seen at her funeral, where a flower arrangment in the form of a six foot tall dollar sign was the prominent symbol.

More than twenty years after her death, she continues to be the queen bee of an obtuse and adoring hive of rank utilitarians ("Randys") that consume her sofa-proppers to the tune of 250,000 books a year. By any standard of measure, that's a lot of college sophomores and others who suffer from arrested mental development. Not to mention much lost shade for no good purpose.

Consider, for example, the Randy position on abortion.

Freedom is slavery. War is peace. Objectivism is morally sane. You get the idea.

With that in mind, I present to you the Randy take on Thanksgiving (via Fr. Johansen).

Many Americans make Thanksgiving into a religious festival. They agree with Lincoln, who, upon declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, said that "we have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven." They ascribe our material abundance to God's efforts, not man's.

That view is a slap in the face of any person who has worked an honest day in his life. The appropriate values for this holiday are not faith and charity, but thought and production. The proper thanks for one's wealth goes not to some mystical deity but to oneself, if one has earned that wealth.

The liberal tells us that the food on our Thanksgiving plate is the result of mindless, meaningless labor. The conservative tells us that it is the result of supernatural grace. Neither believes that it represents an individual's achievement.

But wealth is not generated by sheer muscle; India, for example, has far more manual laborers than does the United States. Nor is it generated by praying for God's blessing; Iran, for example, is far more religious. If the liberal and conservative views of wealth are correct, why aren't those countries awash in riches?

See what I mean? Believe it or not, that's not the most ridiculous section of the article. The most ridiculous is found in the footer, where it identifies the author's employer and job title. It takes a lot of education to eradicate common sense, but it appears American universities are up to the task.

Duke University School of Business: Building the Enrons of Tomorrow, One Student at a Time.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Sock Puppet Theatre.

What do you do with a priest who revives a dying parish scheduled to be closed, finds a way to integrate different ethnic groups in worship, performs 15% of the baptisms for the entire diocese and attracts people from hundreds of miles away to come to this parish?

Why, if your his excellency the Rev. Charles Grahmann, Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Dallas, you can him, of course.

Well, surely there must be a reason, right? Well, yes, there is!

And it has to be worse than failing to do background checks, destroying evidence of sexual abuse of minors or playing massage parlour in the confessional, correct?

Oh, much, much worse. The crime? Speaking Latin with a license. Let the Rev. Bronson Havard, the Lambchop to Bishop Grahmann's Sherry Lewis, explain why this isn't the case:

This is nonsense, said Deacon Bronson Havard, spokesperson for Bishop Charles V. Grahmann. It's perfectly normal for a priest to be rotated to another parish after 10 years

Except, of course, that it's not, and Dallas priests are appointed to six year terms, meaning Fr. Weinberger should have another two years--minimum--at his parish. Then there's that canon law/procedural rights thing, but evidently Bishop Grahmann don't need no steenkin' canons.

and the next pastor will make the decision about Latin at Blessed Sacrament.

However, Havard stressed that the Dallas diocese does require priests to seek permission to use Latin rites _ ancient or modern. This is an issue of loyalty. Only a directive from Rome can override the local bishop's authority on matters such as this, he said.

Let's parse this one for bitter laughs. First, note the quick reversal of the "No, 'tain't the Latin thing" explanation he led with.

You would have to violate the laws of physics to pull off a similar trick with your car.

But, that's nothing compared to the marvel he manages in the first two sentences: the use of Latin--even in the 1970 Mass--is up to the bishop. But the new priest will decide if it stays at Blessed Sacrament from now on.

These leaps and maneuvers are almost inspiring, in a twisted sort of way.

By the way, I think I know what's going to happen to the Latin Mass when the new guy comes in--anyone care to bet against me?

As for Weinberger's conviction that a Latin Mass is a symbol of unity, Havard said: "Using the Latin may mean something to him, but it means nothing to the people in the pews _ especially not to the Mexican immigrants who come into this area. We've had many complaints about that."

Havard (which means "house guard" in old Norse) knows what his little brown brothers need--better than they do, apparently, despite that whole overflow masses, hundreds of baptisms per year and parish brought back from the dead phenomenon.

Part and parcel with his efforts to establish "Latinos Against Latin," Havard suffers from that common peculiar amnesia about Catholic history that pulls a Memento for events pre-'65. After all, in what language was the Mass celebrated in Mexico in 1965? Maybe more than a few Latinos are nostalgic for it. Maybe even more are considerably sick of Haugen in Espanol. And I strongly suspect that none of them like being condescended to or stereotyped by pasty apparatchiks holed up at Fortress Grahmann.

However, I have no doubt at all that there were "many complaints" about the Latin Mass. I just would have thought that those of the Diocesan Liturgy Office would have taken a back seat to the revival of an immigrant parish. Silly me.

This is news to Weinberger. Diocesan policy requires that pastors receive copies of all complaints, he noted, and none have reached his desk.

A little advice for Rev. Havard: it's a good idea to change the air filters in the bunker every month or so.

No parishioner complaints, eh? Quelle suprise. It appears that like those of far too many American diocese, Dallas' liturgy people have been suffering from Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy for going on forty years. And they'll keep doing the medicating, thank you very much, Fr. Weinberger. Off to your exile--and feel free to call us when you've been reeducated and have gotten your liturgy degree.

IOW: Le diocese, c'est moi! It's a tragically widespread phenomenon, aggravated by an addiction to collegiality. There is no known cure.

Let's let Rev. Havard have the next to last word.

Bishop Grahmann probably should be given singular credit for making the Catholic Church (and thus Dallas) a welcoming institution for hundreds of thousands of new immigrants. The multilingual Bishop Grahmann is highly esteemed in the immigrant community....

"Welcoming" except when that would offend more important constituencies downtown, of course. Methinks the immigrant community at Blessed Sacrament would have a few thoughts on the "highly esteemed" assessment.

[Mattingly link via Dom Bettinelli.]

[Update: Added another 'graf above that was germinating for a while, but took longer to take shape. Also, for the perspective of Daniel Muller, the organist at Blessed Sacrament, go to the always-superb Recovering Choir Director.]

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

When 38DD is the opposite of sexy.

I imagine I have your attention.


Over the last few days, a brewhaha has blown up over this story involving a woman trying to breastfeed her infant at a Burger King.

A furor erupted Nov. 8, when a customer at a suburban Salt Lake City franchise complained about a woman breast-feeding her baby. An employee then allegedly asked the nursing mother, Catherine Geary, to either go to the bathroom to breast-feed or leave.

Under the new policy, employees are told: "If a customer complains about a mother who is breast-feeding, kindly explain that breast-feeding is permitted in the restaurant and suggest to that customer that he or she relocate to another section of the restaurant."

Good for BK.

This has provoked a storm of postings around St. Blog's, most notably at the joint blog of the formidable duo known as Two Sleepy Mommies (blogroll pending). Their posts are here.

Heather's response was more pungent: "Take it to the bathroom? How would they react to me making their dinner in the john?"

The equally-formidable Michelle of And Then? (blogrolled way back) has come down on the opposite side with her thoughtful rebuttals.

As the husband/father of a breastfeeding wife with two kids with breastfeeding experience, I'm coming down firmly on the side of the Sleepy Mommies (including my sweetheart). None of this is to deny that there is a Lactation Nazi/Gospel According to Medela strain to breastfeeding advocacy, but most people I know have managed to avoid it.

It just seems that Michelle's argument (I'm interacting with the Objection! post) raises the specter of the Heckler's Veto, a/k/a Michael Newdow Syndrome--one person raises a stink, so everyone else has to evacuate the public square.

My reaction is ultimately more philosophical and visceral: in a culture that increasingly devalues motherhood and children (except in the accessory sense), denying the right to discreet (an important adaptation that *must* be made by the mother) public breastfeeding is an unnecessary and destructive concession to that culture.

Look at it this way--objections really do boil down to an "ick" factor, and a resentment of children (the latter most definitely not applying in Michelle's case, but you'd be astounded by how much there is). Her comparative cases aren't truly analogous, involving as they do harmful activities (smoking), unhealthy (waste-filled diapers) or immoral (semi-nude people). Breastfeeding is none of the above.

The same arguments can be applied to restrict or deny the access of disabled, retarded or other similarly situated people with discomfort-causing syndromes (e.g., Tourette's). Got a noisy or unpleasant-looking retarded child? Tough, there's always take out or mail-order. Keep them at home or otherwise out of sight, as they may make someone uncomfortable.

I'm sorry, but the well-known American "Fear of 'Tards" and the discomfort they cause or questions they might provoke is not a sufficient reason to deny them or their families public accommodations. A hungry infant, who effectively suffers from the same or worse disabilities, is truly no different.

Or consider another case--where a family prays before tucking into their Whoppers or Whalers. What do you do when that offends someone (see, e.g., Michael Newdow)? Should they take their Godbothering to the can or order in?

Monday, November 24, 2003

Oh, the humanity!

A Devil's Dictionary for Catholics, Installment II:
"Violence, n. 1. The failure to affirm the views of progressive Catholic clergy or religious in all particulars."

The head of a union for Catholic religious was recently slammed into an iron maiden, had his toenails torn out, and spent weeks on the rack. All the while, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger laughed diabolically and sneered: "Ve haff vays uff making you talk."

Well, it happened in the spiritual sense. I mean, he survived to whinge about it for eighteen paragraphs in The Tablet, after all. Fear not--the Spirit of Vatican II™ is with him.

TO SPEAK of violence in the Church might seem nonsensical.

As Fr. Macisse is about to demonstrate at wearying length.

Violence is the application of physical, moral or psychological force to impose or coerce, and this should be unthinkable in the community of believers founded by Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who came to free us from all slavery and oppression, built his Church on love of God and neighbour, and commanded us to love even our enemies.

True enough as far as it goes, one supposes. But, as always is the case with progressives, it doesn't go anywhere near far enough. Must be that "hierarchy of truths" at work again.

Instead, we have a predictable depiction of the Very, Very Nice Jesus of Very, Very Bad Devotional Art. Funny how this guy, the Jesus big on church discipline, never shows up in these discussions. You know, the judgmental fellow. Employing Fr. Macisse's novel definition, "violent," even.

Instead, we get force-fed Josh, the nebbish who was so darn nice hardly anyone noticed he was there.

The reason being, of course, is that you can't find Josh in the New Testament, no matter how much of the text you force-feed into the historical-critical blender.

[Large section of paragraph positively graphic in its recitation of the word "violence" snipped.]

These days, the Church no longer employs physical coercion.

With that essential concession, any sensible individual would sign off. But if that happened, we could hardly open the cause for the canonization of St. Camilo Macisse (proposed Patron for those suffering from martyr complexes), now could we?

But the other forms of violence – moral and psychological – continue, in an exercise of power which ignores both legitimate diversity in the Church and the Gospel insistence on dialogue. I have had intimate knowledge of this violence, above all as exercised by a number of Roman departments.

"Dialogue" and "diversity"--the canary just up and died, and that's your cue to run--not walk--to the nearest exit. Preferably screaming "The dead live! Kill it! Kill it!" "Dialogue" and "diversity" will make Episcopalians of us all.

It comes in many forms.

First and foremost is the refusal to cede power to me, to be wielded according to my whi--um, principles of Gospel communitarian siblinghood as epitomized by Jesus. Second is the failure to recognize my theological genius. Third is the unwillingness to return my calls. Fourth is the refusal to report to me the names of errant underlings who also fail to affirm my genius, so that I may engage them in "fraternal dialogue." I, Ven. Camilo, will illustrate these in turn.

One of those forms is centralism, which seeks to concentrate decision-making powers in a church bureaucracy distant from the life of believers in different circumstances. Incapable of accepting pluralism, it is a way of treating believers at all levels, from bishops’ conferences to groups of lay people, as children in need of protection who must be disciplined according to short-sighted criteria.

Oh, goody--our first reference to D­äs Curia. Indeed, it's evolved into a peculiar form of Tourette's among such superannuated eminenti as Kung, McBrien, Curran, etc. They will simply bark out "CURIA! IT'S THE CURIA!"or "Vatican. Definitely the Vatican. Gotta fly Al Italia..." for no apparent reason. They also tend to kick into Outraged Teenager Denied The Keys To The Family Minivan mode, screeching about dad being out of touch, infantilization, how the other churches let their kids drive, ad infinitum. The Ven. Camilo suffers from the same syndrome.

Since the Second Vatican Council the shift towards decentralisation by enhancing episcopal collegiality – the government of the Church by the college of bishops with and under the pope – has gradually been undermined.

Maybe because the behavior of the bishops since 1965 has pretty well dispensed with that whole "with and under the pope" surplusage? Can I get a shout out from the abused faithful of Rochester, Lafayette-in-Indiana, [Feel free to mention the name your Newkirkian diocese here]?

For a lot of us, "collegiality" means "Your very own Borgia pope--right down the street." Consider this example, wherein the various diocese for the state of Michigan announce their compliance schedules for the changes in the GIRM:

Nor is there a uniform rush among bishops to comply with the rules. In Michigan, dioceses based in Lansing and Grand Rapids complied earlier this year.

As in Detroit, the Diocese of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula will roll out changes this month. Kneelers are no problem there, because all parishes have them, a diocesan spokesperson said.

However, the Diocese of Kalamazoo will wait until the end of 2004 to comply. The Diocese of Gaylord will make changes gradually with no fixed deadline. And the Diocese of Saginaw may wait even longer until the final edition of a complete English-language guidebook to the mass is published, perhaps by 2005.

"No fixed deadline...wait even longer until...a complete English-language guidebook to the mass is published, perhaps by 2005." Yes, 2005--maybe--but remember there's the essential matter of making sure that guidebook is available in Esperanto, too, which could push it back even further, don't you know? Kneeling and reverence apparently are just too complicated for the benighted descendants of the diocese's formerly robust brand of German Catholicism, which has since been wadded into a beige Play-Doh at the behest of its enlightened ordinary.

Let's just say more than a few of us are happy that someone's (too) occasionally watching the watchmen, or at least making them circumspect.

Even the bishops’ synods called together every few years are heavily controlled by the Roman Curia, which determines both the process of discussion and the documents which result. In most of these synods there have been bishops who have deplored the violence of this control applied by neo-conservatives steeped in an abstract and anachronistic theology.

"I remember at one of the conferences how the bishops had painstakingly assembled a topical position paper on "Condiments as Sacramentals," only to have it ignored by those beastly curials! They muttered something about "life issues" and "the decay of catechesis and liturgy" taking precedence. Talk about nonessentials. Such violence..."

Oh, and note the first deployment of the nonsense term "neoconservatives." A popular meme and thought-substitute emanating from the Forces of Good, it means "the extra-Y chromosome types who will be first against the wall when we get Pope Joan."

Helpful Editorial Clarification No. 2: "abstract and anachronistic theology" means "something believed by Catholics before 1965."

When some dare to criticise these authorities out of love of the Church and always in communion with it

"What do you have against condiments?"

they are threatened and condemned, accused of practising a parallel teaching authority, a parallel pastoral action, or even of trying to create a parallel Church.

Curial official: "Uh, Excellency, those "cigarettes" of yours look a little stumpy, even for unfiltereds...."

Such centralism results in large part from distrust and fear. How else to account for the delay of three or more years in approving translations of liturgical texts carried out by experts and unanimously approved by local bishops’ conferences?

Maybe because the translations are utterly defective, banal, "inclusive" crap entirely beholden to the latest unCatholic flavor-of-the-month ideology of grievance appeasement that has managed to capture the Expertariat and browbeat the conferences into submission?

Just asking.

This same fear of losing control lay behind the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s proposal – first made at the Synod on Consecrated Life – that the Vatican should confirm the election of general superiors elected by their respective congregations.

Whatever for? I mean, it's not like you can't trust the religious to manage themselves these days, right?

Faced with an overwhelmingly negative response, the CDF wrote to theologians it trusted asking them to support this idea in their articles, so as to create a climate receptive to the idea.

Behold, the limits of dialogue: when progressives say "No!", the discussion is OVER. As in, "Shut the hell up. NOW."

What do you tell a "conservative" with two black eyes? Nothing--you already told him twice. Still, you should try to feel his pain.

Works for Frank Griswold & Co.

The Curia’s centralism also blocks groups entitled to direct communication with the Pope. The heads of the Union of (Male) Superiors General (USG) and the International Union of (Female) Religious Superiors (UISG) have been trying, without success, to have an audience with John Paul II since 1995. While other, lesser groups, including many individuals outside the faith and the Church have been granted this access, the representatives of more than 1 million consecrated religious, engaged in the most varied pastoral work on the frontiers of evangelism, have been consistently blocked.

"I hate him so much. And he won't return my calls, either!"

Some might take that stony silence as a giant-sized hint that there's a problem. But I'm suuuure that the problem is entirely that of the big bad Curia.

Another form of violence is patriarchal authoritarianism which excludes women from participation at all levels of the Church.

"I'll take 'Catholic Religious Subject to Papal Freeze-Outs' for a thousand, Alex."

"The answer is, 'He figuratively wiped his fanny with a copy of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.'"

It is astonishing, for example, that contemplative women religious were never consulted during the preparation of the document on enclosure, Verbi Sponsa. Not one of the 49 associations or federations of Discalced Carmelites – which bring together 755 convents and more than 11,000 nuns – was consulted, and other large contemplative orders were similarly excluded; only the opinion of a small number of traditionalist convents was sought.

Oh, it wasn't that the opinions of women weren't sought--the problem was that the wrong kind of women were spoken to--"traditionalists!" [Cue "The Imperial March" from The Empire Strikes Back]. Probably the ones with those things called "vocations" and a median age below 68. Got it.

[Repetitive commentary about infantilization snipped]

Other forms of authoritarian violence have become habitual. For example, those who send delations to Rome are guaranteed anonymity, because they are generally people of conservative temperament. When the accused is called to the tribunals of a number of Roman dicasteries, he is not allowed witnesses who can speak on his behalf. Letters are written by accusers who have never first sought dialogue with the accused. When the accused defends himself, and shows that the accusations are false, he never receives a letter absolving him of the calumnies directed against him.

Or maybe they're guaranteed anonymity because "whistleblower" protection is a little scanty for the People of God, and there's a history of retaliation in such situations. Same applies to that "seeking dialogue first" thing. Happens in the real world all the time. Yes, it might even be possible--at least theoretically, mind you--that even self-identified members of the Forces of Good could retaliate against a known complaining "conservative." Long odds, I know....

That lack of absolution problem is more along the lines of a good-faith complaint that was later determined to be inaccurate. So, instead of whingeing about your failure to get a gold star, you might want to consider that every accusation made against you is not done by bad-faith accusers and liars. Just a thought.

["Curia Responsible for Climate Change" thoughts snipped]

Another kind of church violence is a dogmatism which refuses to admit that in a pluralist world it is not possible to continue to assume just one religious, cultural and theological standpoint. Failing to distinguish between what is essential in Christian faith and its relative theological expressions, dogmatism insists on a single theological perspective, that of traditionalism, which starts from philosophical and cultural assumptions which belong to a previous age. The Church often seeks to impose these views without taking into account the pluralism of today’s societies.

Finally, the gist of the nub: failure to recognize my particular genius. Especially as an enlightened pluralistic modern who has outgrown those embarrassing Catholic distinctives, and can keep my eye on the ball--that Jesus was a Swell and Inspiring Guy. From "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" to "A Way, True for Me, and That's Life."

Since the Second Vatican Council, violent repression has been unleashed against modern exegesis of Scripture, against new European theological perspectives, against liberation theology, against Asian and African theology, and against indigenous theology.

Say what you will about Fr. Macisse, he has a flair for the dramatic. "Violent repression." Oh, my.

"Hans Kung hasn't bought a new Beemer since 1998--1998! They're laughing at him in Tubingen these days. Laughing at him!"

Translation: The Church has serious problems with "Jesus was Just This Guy," "Jesus Was Remarkably Like Edward Schillebeeckx/Hans Kung," "Jesus was a Commie," "Jesus was a Hindu," "Jesus was an Animist," and "Jesus was a Whatever" schools of theology. And this is bad because....?

The actions against theologians almost always proceed violently: the CDF first receives accusations from conservative or ultraconservative people or from personal enemies who know that they will enjoy the protection, confidentiality, and unconditional support of its staff. The CDF then hands the texts of the accused over to “experts” who also enjoy anonymity and will at no point need to face the accused, who must then respond to the accusations and attempt to prove their orthodoxy. The “experts” often base their accusations on phrases taken out of context – a few pages are enough to prove the suspicion of unorthodoxy.

"I mean, you put a chapter entitled 'Gaylord: The Homosexual Life of Jesus' into your book on Christology and all hell breaks loose. Honestly--don't these knuckle-draggers understand the careful nuance necessary for cutting-edge theology these days? And when I said 'Jesus could have been born of a cheese log rolled in walnuts for all the significance it had for his person and ministry', you'd have thought I'd called the experts' moms a bad name. As Frank Griswold says, we need a pluriformity of truths expressed in the bonds of Christian love and unity.

You rotten, cowardly, stone-throwing oppressors."

When the accused has responded by making clear his position, he almost never receives a letter acknowledging that the “expert” is wrong. Nor does the accuser receive a rebuke or canonical penalty for having lied. This violent dogmatism has the effect of stultifying legitimate research and study by exegetes and theologians, many of whom impose self-censorship out of fear.

There's not even a remote chance the progressive accused could be wrong, nor that his accusers are anything other than bald-faced liars. Nope. We're the good guys.

[Remainder heralding the inevitable arrival of the Jubilee once the Good Guys get their way and their hands on the levers of power snipped.]

Sunday, November 23, 2003

How we got The Da Vinci Code.

(Not to mention VGeR, A Course in Miracles, The Bible Code, Spong, etc., ad nauseum).

And why we're going to keep getting more of the same for the foreseeable future.

If you read only one book in the coming year--well, bluntly, you aren't reading enough.

Consequently, amongst the first two or three books you read next year must be this one: The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition by Hope College (Mich.) Professor James A. Herrick. A caveat: I haven't completed it yet, but unless Prof. Herrick completely goes off the rails (and Intervarsity Press isn't known for publishing buffoons) in the remainder, this book may have the diagnosis for what ails the spirituality of Western culture.

Herrick's thesis is fairly straightforward: ever since the early Renaissance, classical Christianity (what he terms the "Revealed Word Tradition") has been increasingly challenged by an amorphous and evolving blend of "magical" thinking, spiritualized science (loosely defined), and a pervasive form of revived gnosticism that combine to form what he calls the "New Religious Synthesis."

He defines the two worldviews according to their essential principles.
The Revealed Word Tradition holds to
1. The supernatural authority of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.
2. A personal, creating and wholly other God.
3. God's creation of the human race.
4. An intervening God.
5. Humankind's fall.
6. Jesus Christ as God Incarnate.
7. Human destiny and divine judgment.

The tenets of the New Religious Synthesis are:
1. History is not spiritually important.
2. The dominance of reason/reason as the principal means for discerning spiritual truth.
3. The spiritualization of science.
4. The animation of nature.
5. Hidden knowledge and spiritual progress (i.e., the former as key to the latter).
6. Spiritual evolution (human attainment of the divine through human action).
7. Religious pluralism as rooted in mystical experience (mysticism as only universal and valid religious experience).

See The Making of the New Spirituality, pp. 32-35.

What is especially intriguing about TMNS is that Herrick focuses on the popular works over the last three centuries leading to the New Religious Synthesis, where the ideas raised in the books persisted and were restated long after the particular writers faded into obscurity. Consequently, one can't (and Herrick doesn't) laugh off a John Spong as being merely "Amateur Night," despite the latter's free-range self-adulation and religious illiteracy. Spong is operating in a culture prepped for three centuries by the same ideas, and unfortunately that culture's collective theological IQ, especially among its misnamed "elites," rarely goes above freezing these days. See Vargas, Elizabeth.

If you think it isn't infecting the Catholic Church, welcome to our humble planet, and please enjoy your stay. I particularly recommend the Bar-Scheeze.

Here's a couple of examples to chew on. Herrick's work also leads me to wonder whether modern American Catholic spirituality and worship are particularly susceptible to being overrun by the new synthesis, especially given the focus on good ol' us and our feelings.

Actually, I'm beginning to wonder less and less as I go along.
Permit me to indulge in a little poetry.

Lifted and modified from a Wolverine fan's placard shown during the broadcast:

Roses are Red/
Buckeyes are Blue/
Meeeechigan's going to Pasadena/
And not OSU.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Oh, how I hate Ohio State.

I will be neither blogging nor otherwise available from 12 noon to 4pm on Saturday. Phone calls, with the exception of those from fellow Wolverine fans, will be as welcome as a leaky portajohn in Buckingham Palace. Likewise inane commentary here from little brown nut fans.

For those of you uninitiated to the rivalry of The Big Game (I was in 1976), here's a top 10 (I don't agree with the entire list). If you have ESPN Classic and lots of NoDoz, tonight's the night for you.

Go Blue!

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Thoughts on the American Church's "Man Problem," and Raising Catholic Men.

These are the easiest posts to "write"--just cut and paste from commenters. I posed the following thesis, and asked for responses. [If you need additional grist for the mill, here's my quiet reflection from earlier this year on the liturgical turnoffs confronting Joe Catholic on Sundays.]

"[I]t's going to take a rediscovered ideal of true Christian manhood to pull the American church out of its spiral.

Any ideas?"

First, some excellent advice from Fr. Ray Williams:

Ideas on how to counter the fleeing of the men from the Church... I suggest that you concentrate on the next generation, and hopefully other men will join in this great project of being a real father. Men, band together ever so often for Catholic fellowship.

Advice to fathers:

First, boys should SEE their fathers' devotion to God and the Church. Show him that prayer is manly (because it is -- the most important and difficult thing I do). Try to stay away from priests who are effete (these days that might be difficult) and the silly liturgical gimmicks they like to experiment with. Avoid small group sessions that involve excessive "sharing."

When he is old enough, show him the movies of The Lord of the Rings and/or read the books to him, and tell him that much like men have to take up the sword in this world to fight against evil and secure the good, so must we always fight the spiritual warfare. Heaven, in spite of the insipid sermons you hear, is not easily attained; St. Thomas spoke of its attainment as ARDUOUS (this narrow and difficult path that leads to the Kingdom), and men, boys like challenges, especially as their character is developed so that they realize they must accept the challenge for the sake of others as well, namely their womenfolk.

Tell your sons, especially while you're together hunting, fishing, hiking, bowling or whatever, about St. George, King St. Louis of France, St. John Bosco, Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, St. Dominic, King St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Cecilia (so that they realize that men have no monopoly on courage and sanctity!).

Teach them deep devotion to Our Lady, and so remind them that every man, priest or layman, must give himself to a woman, the husband to his wife, and all of us to the Blessed Virgin Mary (and the priest in a special way to Holy Mother Church).

Teach your sons to deny themselves. Practice with them some mild and doable asceticism. Remind them that it is not manly to crave things, especially comforts, and to whine when we do not get them.

Keep reminding them that there is nothing sissy about really loving God. Emphasize the FACT that Christ is Lord and King and tell your sons how the Scriptures describe His fearsome return to this earth.

Fathers, show great affection to your children, so that your sons may love you the more generously and so imitate your virtues the more earnestly.

Teach your sons Latin.

Make gentlemen out of them.

Commit them to God often in prayer.

Three additional suggestions from Joe D.--bible study, stronger emphasis on the Holy Spirit and prayer specifically for wisdom--also strike me as worthy of serious consideration.

Finally, Craig points out that part of the problem might be that the Church doesn't challenge or otherwise expect much from the guys:

Simple. Give them something to defend, an honorable aspiration to pursue. Seems that the military does a good job of this; the appeal of the military is in the shared mission and ideals (duty, honor, and country) put into practice, and the personal ties that come from building up such an organization. The military consciously attempts to show gratitude for sacrificial loyalty to and defense of its ideals.

So what is the mission of the Church that corresponds to all this? There are a few Special Forces units in the military that can be told to enter an area and do what needs doing within broad parameters, but most units need orders with some specificity to them. If the Church wants laymen to carry out its mission in the world, it needs to ask something specific of them to do.

Does the Church ask for men to leave their suburban parish and go plant a new one? Does the Church ask for men to contribute their labor? Or is there an attitude that the work of the church is for professionals and "church ladies" to do, and the men's job is to shut up and write checks?

The Church does ask for vocations to the priesthood, but that call does not apply to 95% of men given their current state of life; what contribution to the Church's spiritual life does it ask of the 95%?

Good stuff so far, but I'm always willing to listen to more.
Jonah Goldberg is not worthy.

From the Life Isn't Fair Dep't.: Mr. Goldberg will be interviewed for a documentary that will be on the Return of the King DVD. This despite his evident cluelessness about Tolkienology.

I'll bet he doesn't know the difference between Quenya and Sindarin, that he can't name the last king of Arthedain, the original name of the next-to-last king of Numenor, Elrond's brother, Aragorn's son or Arwen's maternal grandfather, and that he can't even spell, let alone identify, Nirnaeth Arnoediad.

I can do all these things (not to mention the serious caysh money spent on the extended-version DVDs), yet my phone does not ring for LOTR-related interviews.

I renounce you, Peter Jackson, and all your pomps and works! Fah. You're probably a frigging Buckeye fan, too.
Links, Format, and Errata.

Over to your left yonder, you'll notice a slight change to the links format. Tell me if you like it or not.

Also, I've added links.

I'd especially like to recommend MaryH's Ever New and Disturber of the Peace. Along with Shawn McElhinney, SAM, Lane Core, Mark Shea, and Greg Krehbiel, Mary and John are fellow alums of the old-format Catholic Convert Message Board (may it rest in peace).

You'll find Mary's place to be a refreshing, contemplative and charitable exploration of Catholic spirituality at its finest. When you're tired of the bar stool-swinging/blast furnace approach here, go there ASAP.

DPI is a more Menckenesque place--especially appropriate given that John is a Mencken afficianado. Interestingly, John was a Presbyterian when he first came to the old CCMB, and is actually a participant in a pivotal scene in Rome Sweet Home. As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up. Go there for a regular witty clubbing of idiot pinatas on a wide range of issues.

Finally, sometime Tuesday night I passed 20,000 visits since May 18, 2003. I'm speechless (please avoid placement of Hallelujah!-style comments in the box, thank you...).

Good news of the week.

SAM and his wife now have a daughter! Congratulations on the new miracle. Being familiar with the heartbreak he and his wife have undergone in their previous adoption efforts, this is my feel-good story of the week--easy.

I'd also like to take this moment to point out that I was right in my guess.

["Yeah, sure you knew it. For all you said, you could have been thinking he was in Macau to corner the market on finger traps, you twit."]

Which would be a good point. Except for the fact I was right....Just ask the Much Better Half. Congrats to Mr. and Mrs. SAM--the blessings never cease.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

"Listen/To What the Flower People say..."

The Art Garfunkel of Catholic theology reviews a book by another prominent member of SixtiesChurch and goes all dittohead on us.

Care to guess the focus of the review? Come on, think. You can do it!

Though Steinfels sifts issues on a wide range of topics -- the replacing of nuns in Catholic schools with lay teachers in parish catechetical sessions, the identity of Catholic higher education and social services, the need for a more inspired liturgy -- he boldly makes questions of sex and gender the center of his concern.

"Boldly"? Merciful God, "questions of sex and gender" are all we ever hear about from SixtiesChurch.

"Pedro Martinez boldly makes questions of pitching the center of his concern."
"August Busch IV boldly makes questions of brewing the center of his concern."
"William Clay Ford Jr. boldly makes questions of auto manufacture the center of his concern."

The solution to all the problems plaguing the American Church today? Viva la revolucion sexual!

Catholics have overwhelmingly reflected the shift going on all around them, and are ignoring the Vatican's increasingly shrill orders to pay it no mind. More than 90 percent ignore the papal ban on contraceptives. A priest who had counseled young adults for 23 years told Steinfels that not once, not ever, did those people raise the subject of contraception with him.

Jesuits are funny that way.

Really--that's the answer? Saying OK to wrapping Mr. Happy in an oven mitt? That's the silver bullet?


Now, time for your mandatory Joan Baez moment:

More than 60 percent of Catholics favor the ordination of women. More endorse the removal of mandatory celibacy in the male priesthood. As the number of priests falls dramatically, lay ministers have taken over many parish duties -- there are more lay ministers now than priests, and more than 80 percent are women. Women make up a substantial number of qualified theologians in the church. The Catholic Theological Society was founded in 1946 by priests, who alone could be members of it. By 1995 one out of every five members was female, and now the society's new president is a woman.

"More than 95% of poll-citers fail to give us any context for their citations...."

Never, ever, ever--in a million years--will a card-carrying member of SC look at the other side of the coin: where did the men go? What happened in the past 40 years to send Catholic men scurrying toward the exit, avoiding vocations and even lay participation, ensuring the alarm will be off on Sunday morning, even if the wife and kids go? Not that Wills and Steinfels give a rat, but it would be interesting to hear some kind of coherent response to this phenomenon.

Something other than "ordain women and lift the celibacy requirement."

Speaking of women's ordination:

Will women be ordained? Steinfels thinks so, because the alternatives are either a) an impossibility or b) a disgrace: "There are three possible outcomes: Women will be ordained, or the church will render its teaching convincing, or Catholic commitment to equality and justice for half the human race will be in doubt." A sensible leadership would be thinking of careful steps to make the transition -- trial ministries, changes in the seminaries, theological reflection on the meaning of the axial shift (instead of ineffectual bans on addressing it). But Vatican officials try to pretend the shift is not occurring, and to prevent discussion of what is settled (but only in their own minds). The Vatican dismisses the vast social change as a scatter of pesty little isolated fires, to be sluiced down with ancient formulas.

There are Catholic women I would pay to hear speak from any lectern in the land. Strong, capable and BS-free, they defend the Catholic faith with an intellect and vigor that I can only marvel at. While I accept the theological arguments against women's ordination, I can't deny that I would enjoy replacing more than a few wayward priests with orthodox women.

Answering Will-fels' pragmatism with pragmatism, perhaps the strongest argument against women's ordination is pragmatic: in every single case where it has been permitted, it has been invariably followed by a fundamental decay of the ordaining church. Consider the Efiskable Church, USA: there is a straight-line "progression" from the ordination of the Philadelphia 11 to the rise of Bp. Spong to the elevation of VGeR. Along the way, any recognizably Christian understanding of theology or the world has been explicitly or implicitly jettisoned. It's currently happening to my former UMC, which is currently in its Spong phase in the person of C. Joe Sprague of Chicago, but is quickly moving into VGeR territory--it is simply a matter of time, and it is inevitable. For whatever reason, churches that make that leap are in varying but recognizable stages of dissolution. Again, not that Will-fels give a rat--like Marxist believers who assert that true communism hasn't been properly tried yet, they are sure it will work for them. Never mind the fact all evidence is to the contrary, and no worries about how much gets destroyed in the process.

Well, as they say, you can't make a revolution without liquidating a few kulaks.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Just your garden-variety Disney villain.

The above descriptor would be for me, actually. I'm taking a break from posts about gay Episcopal bishops, bad liturgy, worse baseball, Mel Gibson's movie and assorted Catholic bashing to fill you in about my weekend.

As long-time readers of this blog are aware (the three of you not married to me know who you are), I go hunting--generally, very, very badly.

Therefore, it should be no shock to you Musketeers that I again participated in that great Michigan tradition, the opening of the firearm whitetail deer hunting season, which occurred at the very crack of dawn on Saturday, November 15, Anno Domini MMIII. Unfortunately, "crack of dawn" is a somewhat more subjective term than I would hope, given the occasional crack of rifle and shotgun fire I hear during the period of time I tend to call "dark." As in "Can't See Squat, Let Alone Nearly-Silent Mammals That Blend Very Well Into The Landscape" O'Clock.

Be that as it may, I, my father and my brother have been doing this every year since 1995 (with the occasional exception, due to recent marriage, scheduling conflicts and the usual friction of life). Since 1998, we've been hunting on about 10 hilly acres of my aunt Margy's property which abut several square miles of state land in north central lower Michigan. Two other guys, Terry and Ralph, hunt with us, making it a Gang of Five.

The property was clear cut in 1997, which means it is now sapling and scrub country--ideal for deer. One would think. And it has been, for my dad, Terry and Ralph. Dad & Co. average about a deer per season. Doug and I are visitors to the snake-eye pit. Zilch, zero, nada.

Still, that's not the primary reason we go, although getting a deer is an undeniable part of the experience. More on that later.

Or so Doug and I have been told. Instead, we end up going more for the cameraderie and to participate in a ritual with our dad and friends that is older than the state itself. Having grown up in rural Michigan (but not joining the sport until after we reached adulthood), it is something that is woven into the cultural fabric. There, the phrase "opening day" conjures excitement and empties middle and high school classrooms of a lot of boys. For us, it involves long drives from our places of work to camp out in my parents' north country cabin, getting too little sleep and woozily waking up at 4:30am (at the outside latest) to vats of coffee and the job of putting on the camo and bright orange hats. Contrary to ever-popular stereotypes about rural white guys and guns, we don't get liquored up the night before Opening Day and stagger into the woods to squeeze off random shots at Thumper, Flower and Co. Nor do any of the hunters I see out at the same time. It's an awful lot of work to rouse yourself to head into near-freezing temperatures with a buzz on or a hangover pounding. That such men exist is statistically certain. That such men are a vanishingly insignificant percentage of the three quarters of a million who go into the forests this time of year is equally certain.

The particular failing of our group is eating too much chili/snack food and staying up much too late playing cutthroat variations of five and seven card poker, as well as the financially more devastating possibilities of such variant card games as "Screw Your Neighbor" and, more menacingly, "In Between" (or, as I like to call it--"Wallet Killer").

BTW, I walked away about $15 up over the course of two nights.

Anyway, this year was different, though. Doug wasn't there. Last year, Doug provided the high point of what is usually a string of laugh out loud comedy by somehow missing a deer that walked within 15 feet of his blind, despite three shots each from his 12 gauge and his pistol. For about five minutes, he swore he hit the astonishingly agile creature, who apparently performed feats worthy of Neo in The Matrix, but the only evidence of the deer was some fresh spoor. That, and the clipped saplings.

"Well, at least you scared the crap out of it...." Needless to say, the tale is growing larger in the retelling, with Doug getting shrill as he pours an absolutely defoliating amount of gunfire at a deer growing slower and lamer before it manages to limp away from the terrified Doug, whose firepower has cleared a new runway but missed Gimpy.

But, no Doug to make fun of this year. The almost-unspoken gloom on the weekend. What can you do? Next year, God willing.

We got up at 4:30am Saturday and went to breakfast. Happy with the fact I fit into my favorite hunting gear again, I stuck to oatmeal and a couple of sausage patties, as well as an IV tube of coffee. We got out to my Aunt's house, and loaded up our rifles. This year, dad had a surprise for me, announced weeks before: a gift of a new (to me) weapon--a Winchester .30-.30 (Doug's getting a Remington, but don't ask me the caliber). One of my dad's friends claimed that the firearm was a nicely-restored older rifle, as his .30-.30 with the same model number looked much different. The only catch was that they hadn't had a chance to sight the mounted scope, which meant my shot might not be accurate.

Lord knows I need every assist to accuracy I can get, but I was willing to chance it because the shooting lanes from my blind are fairly short, no longer than 75 yards or so. I was more dubious about the ammunition I was given. I wasn't sure whether to load the bullets into the tube magazine or take the entire box to the next stop of The Antiques Roadshow. Apparently Ralph bought a new box of .30-.30 bullets, but no one had a clue where it was.

I chambered a round of the antiques, and loaded more into the tube. I got to my blind before 6am, and settled in. There was less of the pre-dawn "panic fire," and less of it nearby, too. Still, not much happened. After dawn, I could see a bevy of fat--I mean fat--squirrels swarming the bait pile. These specimens were gold medal contenders for the title of Fattest Squirrel in Creation. Even the usually undersized black squirrels were bloated, and so glossy from the feast that they were better described as "shiny." Even a skunk wandered up briefly to see what was going on.

Still, no deer.

Then, at 9:55am, I heard a nearby rifle crack--so close it had to be from one of the G5's blinds. I called out--quietly--on the walkie-talkie (yeah, sue us--it's not like we call in air support with the things). It turned out not to be one of us--but a deer was spotted heading my way. Wounded, from what Ralph and Terry could tell.

Four hours of sleep or no, I was awake. I waited, and looked out the left window of my blind.

Understand, I haven't seen a single deer in the past three seasons. Then it appeared, coming straight ahead. Not a great shot, especially for a not great shot. Nor did this one look wounded. It stopped, then turned to the left, heading toward my Dad's blind (much further away, but moving in that direction). It was vanishing into the saplings forty yards off. I touched the trigger.

The rifle cracked and kicked, a flash of flame briefly appearing.

I looked. Nothing there. If I missed, it's gone. For some reason not born of experience, I didn't think I'd missed. I radioed out to the other guys, and stepped out to go looking. I hoped it had been a solid hit, an instant kill (what other word is there?).

I walked out and started combing the area.

I hadn't missed. Nor was it a "wounding" shot--the doe dropped where she stood, quite dead when I got there. No other wounds, either. Either Ralph and Terry saw a different deer (unlikely), or misinterpreted this one's behavior.

I learned how to gut and hang a deer that day. No, it's not pleasant, really, and I didn't do the heavy, gory work, for the most part. But it's much more pleasant than that meat going to waste. Speaking of which, that deer is being processed down, and will save us considerably on this winter's meat shopping (money's been a little tighter than expected). George Lee, if you're reading this, your venison recipes will be put to good use. Also, you'll be happy to note I did almost no reading in the blind this year. Almost none.

I've also had a lot to think about since, namely the ordering of God's creation and our place in it, along with the nature of mortality.

I'm not pulling your chain--hunting is remarkably conducive to contemplation. Good, bad and indifferent.

Now, before you storm into my comment boxes, breathing fire, take stock. If the above recounting leaves you with a sense of revulsion for hunting and/or me; if it's changed your opinion of me or leaves you thinking I'm a murderous jerk who gets his jollies on killing defenseless animals in bloodlust; or if you find the entire enterprise a barbaric holdover that deserves to die in our "civilized" era, I have a few suggestions:

--Step away from the computer, put on your favorite Nikes and leather/sheepskin coat, and go for a walk.

--As above, but get in your car with the leather bucket seats and go to your favorite burger, chicken or pizza joint for a snack.

--As number one above, but grab a football or baseball and toss it around with a friend.

If you do one or more of the three above suggestions, but none of them work, mix yourself a Kathy Shaidle cocktail and enjoy. The ban button is always active.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Blogging notice.

Because of prior family commitments, blogging will be light to nonexistent through Sunday evening.

"Be seeing you," as the line from the TV show went.
Terri Schiavo media update.

Oprah's doing a story on her today.

Let me know how it turns out.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

"T" is for "Twerp."

Shortly after our engagement in 1998, my better half, who willingly identified herself as Catholic but was at something of a loss for why ('70s Catechesis), made a proposal to the adrift Methodist. We were discussing religion, namely What Religion We Would Be. Very American, when you think about it. While hoping I'd warm to Catholicism, she offered Plan B first:

"You're Methodist, and I'm Catholic. But how would you feel about a 'compromise'? I was thinking the Episcopal Church."

According to her recounting of the incident, I spat my veto of that proposal, virtually making a balloon animal out of the steering wheel, although I don't recall it being that vehement. After all, it's not in my nature.


In any event, she then suggested Plan A, looking into Catholicism, and I said sure, OK. Have to have a united front for the offspring, don't you know? It's been all downhill since.

One of the reasons I was turned off to the ECUSA was the small print at the bottom of a then-regular column in the Detroit Free Press. The small print innocuously identified the author of said column:

THE REV. HARRY T. COOK is an Episcopal priest and author. He is rector of St. Andrew's Church in Clawson.

Harry T. Cook: get the Gaviscon--you're in for a miserable eight column inches. It wasn't the fact he's a left-winger that's a problem--then, and more so now, I'll read columns by folks of that persuasion. The problem was that he tarted up his stylings in a vaguely-religious sanctimony leavened with a heaping shovelful of lecturing prissy schoolmarm. Moreover, when he invoked Jesus, I began to notice something: Cook's Christ was notable only for his occasional appearances to endorse a hobbyhorse of Cook's rigorous leftism. "Fundamentalism" and "intolerance" (i.e., people who had the gall to disagree with him) were particular bugbears for the Schoolmarm.

In other words, instead of the King of Kings, Cook's Jesus was the Grad of Grads, teaching a 500 level course on Contemporary American Social Issues. A Mascot, not Master.

Rather shorter and much tweedier than even a semi-lapsed Methodist pictured Him.

Reading Cook, I slowly began to realize two things: (1) I identified with the Forces of Evil he ranted against (where can I get my ID card?), and (2) I wanted nothing to do with the ECUSA. I suppose I should thank him for his anti-witness, given that I'm Catholic now. I can't imagine the heartbreak of faithful Anglicans right now, and I'm glad to be spared that.

After inflicting his worldview on Metropolitan Detroit for a few years, he provided one of the happiest moments of my Freep readership with his announcement he would no longer be writing for the newspaper. He also announced he was forming something called the "Center for Rational Christianity" (I hadn't heard of Spong at this time). Fortunately for all of us, the CRC appears to have retreated into a tree-massacring exercise in ensuring that the world will be aggravated by Harry's written word. Bad enough, but it could be much, much worse.

Terrifyingly, like Jason or Freddy Krueger, Cook made a reappearance last week in the Freep to comment on the Great Episcopal Crack-Up and the Secular Canonization of Canon Vicki Gene Robinson.

He has not gotten better with age.

As I read of the protests against the ordination of Bishop V[icki]. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire on Sunday, my private anger at Episcopalian fundamentalists turned into public embarrassment.

Uh oh, class. It's come to Harry's attention that someone has stolen the apple off his desk, and he's staring down his nose and tapping his foot impatiently.

He's opened with "fundamentalist"--a Spongian touch if ever there was one, and a fine substitute for thought. As an evangelical writer once retorted, Spong's definition of "fundamentalist" is "anyone with an inclination to take the contents of the Bible seriously." Likewise the Rev. Harry.

As we will see, Cook's a lot like Spong--only without the intellectual rigor.

Is it really possible that two obscure biblical passages -- one in Leviticus (circa 500 BC) and the other in the Epistle to the Romans (circa 50 AD) -- are taken so seriously by some Episcopalians in 2003 AD that they call Robinson a "sinner" because he makes love with the man who is his life partner in a faithful, monogamous relationship? So seriously that schism is the only alternative?

Do they actually read the Bible in mainline seminaries, or just read about it? Really? Two passages? Try at least three more that I can regurgitate here: 1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10, Jude 7. Take a long look at Genesis 1 as well.

Perhaps they should teach counting at Touchy-Feely U.

And note the Wondrous Superiority of His Kind to Those Smelly Jews and Other Pre-Merlot Mediterranean Barbarians. After all, you know, we sit at the Apex of Creation and invented things that they could not. You know, like X Box, Zyklon B, Jerry Springer, carpetbombing, Hustler, weaponized anthrax and the like.

Why listen to those guys, when you can Listen To The Spirit With The Grizz?

Actually, I'll stick with listening to the Jewish guys, and not the fellows going "Wheeee!" in the cultural vortex, thank you.

"The issue," one of the protesters said, "is not so much homosexuality as it is the place of scripture in our tradition."

Enjoy your one moment of good sense in a Harry Cook column. You almost always find these oases, small as they are, and they are always quotes from the Forces of Eeeeeeevil. Drink deep.

Back into the featureless desert of Harry's mind.

We are left thereby to suppose that one of the 613 so-called commandments, which prohibits sex between males, set down by members of a priestly cult in Fifth Century BC Judea, taken together with a homophobic blast of a mid-First Century AD Pharisaic Jew-turned-militant-Christian, dictate the very will and law of an unseen God.

Nope, apparently they just read about the Bible, and regurgitate half-remembered lectures about Julius Wellhausen and other good reasons to disregard it as a text and feel better about themselves.

Actually, Harry, most Christians do see in Scripture the very will and law of God (not exactly unseen, either--perhaps you've heard of that "Incarnation" thing?). They believe the Holy Spirit inspires Scripture.

The problem is that Robinsonians think the Holy Spirit can be found everywhere but the Bible. Peculiar, that.

"So-called"? Well, someone's not going to be seconded to the Michigan Episcopal-Jewish ecumenical dialogue next year.

As a Detroit geography lesson tangent, Clawson sits right next to Oak Park, a heavily Jewish suburb, and a heavily Orthodox one at that. I'd love to see Harry explain his exegesis to his unamused neighbors.

Do the churches of those Episcopalians who are anxious that the ordinances of scripture be obeyed to the letter have crucifixes or statuary? Most Episcopal churches do, putting them in violation of Leviticus 19:4, which follows by a scant few verses the proscription of homosexual love. Are any priests of the Episcopal Church blind or lame? According to Leviticus 21:21, they should never have been ordained and should presumably be defrocked.

Harry really, really needs to demand a refund of the money he spent on the Rationalist Apologetics seminar. I could parry this one two weeks into RCIA. First, try reading the whole Bible in context. It's amazing what one can find: Exodus 25:18-20, Numbers 21:8-9, 1 Chronicles 28:18-19.

Oh, wait--that's something "fundies" do.

Well, since you seem to be big on church convention decision-making: Ever hear of the Second Council of Nicaea? No? Nothing about sex at that one? Chucked it during Hal's marital troubles?

Too bad. But back to the musty book. Here's Leviticus 18-20 in context. Something tells me Harry wouldn't chuck the lot, even some of the sex parts. After all, sex with cousins and closer relatives is still at least a little icky. For the moment. Then there are those sections about being nice to strangers and the poor. You know the ECUSA's peace & justice brigade has copyrighted those.

So, essentially, Harry's not applying exegesis, but rather exegenesis--lacquering on the whiteout to affirm VGeR and his own enlightened self.

Some of the same Episcopalians opposed to Bishop Robinson's ordination want to exclude women from the priesthood, because Jesus is depicted as choosing only men to be his apostles. By the same logic, the fundamentalists should be of no opinion about homosexuality in light of Jesus' silence on the matter.

I read somewhere once that people use ten percent of their brain during their lifetimes.

Harry's really got to put the pedal to the metal if he hopes to catch up.

Take a look-see at Jesus on sexuality in Matthew 19--note that he assumes sexuality is a male-female phenomenon, occurs in marriage, and is unbreakable.

Note also his teaching on good ol' lust. Again, marriage is the assumed state.

Hmm. Isn't there an implied condemnation of lesbianism in that "everyone"?

I love "inclusive" language! Well, here.

Note also Harry's implied denial of the Triune nature of God--the same God is speaking in both Testaments, so basically Jesus said a whole lot about homosexuality.

Never mind that Fourth Century claptrap. We've got some affirming to do!

For Episcopalians and for most of the historic communions of Christianity, the teachings of the Bible have been interpreted in light of evolving traditions and mores as understood through human reason and experience.

Four percent. Tops.

Evolving mores, eh?

"We want to make Rev. Feely our bishop. OK, so he's got a thing going with his sister, but....

It was such an interpretation and understanding that gave permission to the Episcopal Church to take the step it took Sunday. It was affirming the choice New Hampshire Episcopalians made six months ago to elect Robinson their next bishop. At the same time, the church was reaffirming its corporate baptismal vow to "respect the dignity of every human being." That principle is distilled from the ethical teachings of Jesus, who, in agreement with his Jewish contemporary Hillel the Great, observed that the objectives of life are best realized when people treat others as they themselves would be treated.

Come get your Distilled Jesus™ here--Now, 100% Judgment-Free!

For a generation, the Episcopal Church has studied, debated, fought about and dithered over the question of whether gay and lesbian persons should be in leadership positions. Realizing that any congregation is likely to have gay and lesbian persons among its members, and acknowledging that some of its abler bishops and quite a number of its best priests have been parts of that demographic, the church decided to stop discussing, take a stand and make a statement. That's what happened last summer, and Robinson's ordination Sunday stands as an exclamation mark at the end of that statement.

Underneath the revisionism and affirmation-speak, notice how Harry goes all Soup Nazi on us. To the faithful objecting Anglicans, he wags his finger and intones: "No church for you!"

Let this be a lesson to Catholics, too. Every time Call to Faction, PastChurch, NARN, VOT"F", Priests Against Celibacy, etc., call for "dialogue" on an issue, remember what "dialogue" resulted in for faithful Anglicans in the U.S.: Leather goods. As in, a belt to the mouth and a boot in the a__.

What to me is so embarrassing about the New Hampshire flap is that in a world in which so many millions of people are beset by economic, social and political alienation, some leaders of the Episcopal Church have diverted enormous amounts of time and energy in a failed effort to derail Robinson's ordination. They supposedly worry that his private expressions of affection with the love of his life somehow offend their God who, as another oft-quoted passage of scripture says, "is love."

Lest we forget, Harry, VGeR's working on the second "love of his life." If I recall correctly, he promised to love the first until death. Then she became inconvenient to his process of self-discovery, so now he's on Love of His Life Number 2.

Just to clarify the record.

The Bible is the repository of great, time-tested wisdom. It also serves as a bin for discarded concepts and notions among which the above cited lines about homosexuality must certainly be numbered -- along with the idea that Earth was created in seven days, and those tempting invitations to smite our enemies for the simple reason that they're not, as Pogo would say, "us."

Three percent. Tops.

[Thanks to Chris Johnson for the link.]
Here's to a clear eye for the Lane guy.

Lane Core has had a rather scary experience with his vision lately.

Fortunately, it appears he will be fine. Obviously, the timing could have been better--imagine the fun he could have had on Halloween. "Red seaweed..." He'd have been a hit!

Glad to hear he's doing better--I'd have much less to read, for starters.... :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Very interesting article about p--n.

It comes from the pen of one-time Gore adviser (think "alpha male") and feminist writer Naomi Wolf. In addition to her gifts as a writer, Wolf has the considerable merit of being blessed with a strong streak of good sense, even if her ideological presuppositions are at war with that streak and prevent her from pressing her premises to even more sensible conclusions. Her famous 1990 New Republic article on abortion is a case in point, condemning license and rightly finding the horror and sense of tragic loss in our abortion culture even though she couldn't quite find her way to support legal restrictions.

Nevertheless, in reading her, I get the distinct impression of an honest and decent individual moving toward the truth, in fits and starts.

Likewise is this article about what I find about thirty ads for in my Hotmail box every freaking week.

Here are excerpts (warning--practices of the Flynt Industry described, but not gratuitously):

P__n is, as David Amsden says, the “wallpaper” of our lives now. So was she [Andrea Dworkin--remember the stopped clock rule] right or wrong?

She was right about the warning, wrong about the outcome. As she foretold, p__nography did breach the dike that separated a marginal, adult, private pursuit from the mainstream public arena. The whole world, post-Internet, did become p__nographized. Young men and women are indeed being taught what sex is, how it looks, what its etiquette and expectations are, by p__nographic training—and this is having a huge effect on how they interact.

But the effect is not making men into raving beasts. On the contrary: The onslaught of p__n is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as “p__n-worthy.” Far from having to fend off p__n-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.

Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond “More, more, you big stud!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification?

For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad p__n.

* * *

After all, p__nography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it.

Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time. In many more traditional cultures, it is not prudery that leads them to discourage men from looking at p__nography. It is, rather, because these cultures understand male sexuality and what it takes to keep men and women turned on to one another over time—to help men, in particular, to, as the Old Testament puts it, “rejoice with the wife of thy youth; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.” These cultures urge men not to look at porn because they know that a powerful erotic bond between parents is a key element of a strong family.

And feminists have misunderstood many of these prohibitions.

I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. I could not get over it. Ilana has waist-length, wild and curly golden-blonde hair. “Can’t I even see your hair?” I asked, trying to find my old friend in there. “No,” she demurred quietly. “Only my husband,” she said with a calm sexual confidence, “ever gets to see my hair.”

When she showed me her little house in a settlement on a hill, and I saw the bedroom, draped in Middle Eastern embroideries, that she shares only with her husband—the kids are not allowed—the sexual intensity in the air was archaic, overwhelming. It was private. It was a feeling of erotic intensity deeper than any I have ever picked up between secular couples in the liberated West. And I thought: Our husbands see naked women all day—in Times Square if not on the Net. Her husband never even sees another woman’s hair.

She must feel, I thought, so hot.

Walker Percy said the same thing about p__n in Signposts in a Strange Land--explicitly mentioning Pavlov, he said it simply turns you into a thing awaiting a conditioning stimulus--no more. The only distinction from Pavlov is that in p__n, the dog rings the bell, too.

It's a worthwhile essay. Make sure not to miss the last three paragraphs for your Downer of the Day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I'm back, probably will blog soon.

Yes, I was in the Seattle area (broadly defined to include Tacoma) last weekend. My dad and I were visiting my brother and his family before Doug gets called up to active duty this coming Saturday. Then he gets shipped off to Desert Warfare School for three months, followed by deployment to Iraq.

Parts of the trip were (above-linked episode included) a great time, with a strong current of sorrow and fear not far below the surface. Doug was Doug, my sister-in-law was at her typical tower-of-strength best, and my niece and nephew were determined to make me "Unca Dale, Tackle Dummy." The state of Washington is a wonderfully beautiful place, and I understand why people are pouring into the area. But for the constant overcast skies and brooding omnipresence of a lovely-but-overdue-to-erupt monster volcano, it would be perfect.

Departure at Sea-Tac Airport yesterday afternoon was rough, and I've never seen my father as silent as he was from 1pm yesterday to 9:30 this morning, when he and Mom headed back home. What the hell do you say? Platitudes and happy talk thankfully kept turning to ashes before I could vocalize them, so I went mute, too.

I'll leave it at that. I'm not much on the American talk-show confessional approach, and I hope I've kept this place from being like that, for the most part.

Blogging will resume.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Best take on former Red Sox Manager Grady Little's decision not to pull Pedro Martinez.

It comes from a friend of mine, as we were talking during the halftime of Michigan v. Michigan State.

"Of course Little didn't pull Martinez--he was afraid of him. He saw what Pedro did to Don Zimmer and didn't want to get hurt."
Detroit's Saint?

Consider the following a pallette-cleanser. What can I say? Fisking takes a lot out of me. Don't worry too much, though--there's a prime target visible on radar. "I have tone...."

A very worthwhile article from The Word Among Us about the Venerable Solanus Casey, the Capuchin monk who is a strong candidate to be the first American-born man to be canonized.

He was renowned for his intercession on behalf of the sick, where he just knew that the ill or injured person would recover:

For Eleanor and Mitchell Bartold of Saint Clair Shores, Michigan, Solanus Casey was like a family member. They met him in their early teens and look back fondly on their friendship with him. "We call ourselves Fr. Solanus groupies," said Eleanor with a chuckle. The couple volunteers every Wednesday at the Fr. Solanus Center and hope to attend their friend's beatification ceremony in Rome one day.

The Bartolds have no doubts about the power of their friend's intercession. In 1953, when the youngest of their three children, Susan, was just three years old, she contracted polio. As paralysis began to set in, her back arched backward like a bow.

They called Fr. Solanus, who was then in Indiana. "He told us not to worry, but to make a nine-day novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help," said Eleanor. "We did just what he told us, and on the ninth day she lay flat for the first time." Susan remained in the hospital for three months. Today she is the mother of five grown sons and has no signs of her childhood paralysis.

* * *

In 1956, at the age of 85, Solanus was sent back to Detroit to receive medical help for a skin disease. Visitors were limited, but it was during this time that Brother Richard Merling's family was allowed to meet with him, on the Sunday before Christmas 1956.

Fifteen at the time, Br. Richard recalled the visit, which included his mother, father, and sister. The family was worried about his older brother, who had suffered a compound fracture of the leg in a car accident and needed bone grafts. "After we told Fr. Solanus about my brother's accident, he said, 'Don't worry, things will be all right.' He said it as if he knew things would be fine. And as time went on, my brother healed perfectly well."

I know a woman at our parish who relates a similar story. When she was 9, she contracted typhus, and was hospitalized. While battling for her life, her mother went to see Fr. Solanus. Fr. Solanus, in the same manner described above, immediately and gently reassured her mother that not only would her daughter recover, she would be out of the hospital in a month. A month later, she was discharged in good health.

It seems everyone in these parts has a story about this good and gentle servant of Christ. Ven. Solanus, pray for us.

[Thanks to Michael Dubriel for the link.]

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Will to Live.

Thanks to commenter Steve Polson for this link--a downloadable document from the National Right to Life Committee to help you avoid situations like that of Terri Schindler-Schiavo.

BTW, Steve: Nice "A Canticle for Leibowitz" reference you've got going there.
Well. So that's what a St. Blog's link blast looks like.

Thanks to Dom Bettinelli, Tom Fitzpatrick, Lane Core, CWN (or Dom x2), Mark and Kathy Shaidle for their links. Apologies to anyone I have missed.

Traffic's gone off the scale the past two days, and that's pretty cool.

I just wish I had something to sell. But, while I have your attention, I have a request:

Our parish is attempting to build an evangelization/welcome back program for adults. I'd like to hear your experiences with any such programs (good/bad), and what issues you would like to have seen addressed had your parish offered such a program. If you were pushed away by the failure of your parish to address an issue, or know people who were, I'd like to hear these examples, too.

Thanks kindly.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Oh, look: Another lazy, sloppy, inaccurate and more than a little paranoid hit piece "exposing" the many-tentacled juggernaut that is "conservative" Catholicism.

Refreshing. Looking under your bed yet?

The Boston Globe Magazine does its best territorial alpha male baboon impression via this flung offering from Charles Pierce: The Crusaders.

Get it--eh, eh, eh? "The Crusaders"! As in The Crusades. You know--intolerance, greed, mass murder, rapine and intolerance! Start hissing now! Me in bold, flung sample in italics.

[Many McCloskey bits snipped. I have little use for Fr. McCloskey's my way or the highwayism. I found his glib dismissal of the impact of the Scandals to be as irritating as a fiberglass catheter. I'm also more than a little ambivalent about Opus Dei. Still, he is an actual evangelist who believes in the necessity of conversion (how un-V2 of him), and Lord knows Washington is a mission field. Moreover, he's a gifted and brilliant fellow who, unfortunately, is not quite as brilliant as he thinks he is.]

In 1990, for example, after a stormy five-year tenure at Princeton University, McCloskey was dismissed as an associate chaplain after students and faculty petitioned for his removal. They claimed that McCloskey violated academic freedom by counseling against taking courses taught by professors whom McCloskey deemed "anti-Christian," which McCloskey argued was part of his pastoral role. Advising Catholic parents shopping for a college for their children, he later wrote, "If you encounter words and phrases like 'values,' 'openness,' 'just society,' 'search,' 'diversity,' and 'professional preparation,' move on."

Considering the reception given to Francis Cardinal Arinze by the sophisticates at Georgetown, I think this speaks well of Fr. McCloskey. Plus, the phrase "academic freedom" has become a cover for all sorts of mental masturbation calculated to destroy honest faith, and does so quite effectively. See McBrien, Richard. Score one for the Fr.

Since returning to Washington to run the Catholic Information Center for Opus Dei, McCloskey has taken his mission onto Meet the Press and to CNN. He's preached it in USA Today and in The New York Times.

Kinda like McBrien, the Collar-Free Quote Machine for lazy reporters doing a "Catholic" story. Albeit McBrien has one of those different Gospels. Still, We All Know It's Sinister When Conservatives Do It.

More famously, he has brought into Catholicism several members of the conservative elite. McCloskey personally baptized Judge Robert Bork, political pundits Robert Novak and Lawrence Kudlow, publisher Alfred Regnery, financier Lewis Lehrman, and US Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, whose baptismal sponsor was another senator, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Scaife--we need Scaife! Find out about Scaife! Scaife must have converted! We get that, and it all fits together! Just like The DaVinci Code!

Huh? Bernard Nathanson, too? The NARAL guy? Sorry, doesn't fit the developing Axis of Gingrich meme.

In 2000, McCloskey baptized Mark Belnick, the embattled top lawyer at Tyco International, who responded by donating $2 million to a Catholic college and to an antiabortion group.

Enron! What about Ken Lay?!? Did Lay pope up? No? Fine. We stick with the toy train guy, if that's the best you got.

Maybe I should be thankful Pierce didn't work in a Robert Hanssen reference at this point.

McCloskey makes no apologies for his role as the apostle to the punditocracy. (One of the volunteers at the Catholic Information Center is Linda Poindexter, a former Episcopal priest and the wife of Iran-contra figure and Bush administration official John Poindexter.)

Don't you see how far it goes, man?! Iran-Contra! Dude, all the way to the top! These are the same oil guys holding back the car that runs on water, man--Open your eyes!

On so many of these issues, McCloskey seems already to have lost. In a March 2002 Gallup Poll, 75 percent of Catholics in the United States favored the possibility of married priests and of women priests. Since 1970, polls of US Catholic women have consistently shown that more than 60 percent reject the Vatican's teachings on artificial birth control. More recently, a Harris Poll found that only 24 percent of American Catholics were opposed to embryonic stem-cell research. Other recent polls indicate that support for legalized abortion among US Catholics tracks closely with that found in the general population. McCloskey has no use for the borrowed language of political polling: He thinks that 52 percent or that 80 percent or that 70 percent should just leave the church, because they've left already.

Behold, the god of political media--The Almighty Poll. Dick Morris' heart is all a-flutter. Polls are Very Important to media types. Until they reveal unenlightened trends. Then you never hear the results. McCloskey could have challenged the holy writ of the poll-results by asking a simple question--tribal or churchgoing? Turning a beloved zinger back on the reportorial community: Well, technically Hitler was Catholic too--what's your point? "Catholics" believe all sorts of....stuff.

In his unobtrusive little bookstore in the nation's capital, John McCloskey is the hot, unyielding eye of a gathering storm. He is not the mainstream

But I had to poison the well by devoting the first third of the article to developing that impression, and heaven knows eye-fatigue will cause you to blip right over this ass-covering disclaimer.

not even among the conservative Catholics who are waging their secular influence in a way they never have before, but he's the logical end to what they all believe.

Oh, all right--Screw the disclaimer. They're all alike. You know how They Are. They even look alike. You know, white and all. Look at the right margin, for pete's sake.

During the almost two years since the clergy sexual abuse scandal broke in Boston, most of the attention has been drawn to groups like Boston-based Voice of the Faithful that sprang up in response to the grim stories that seemed to be breaking almost daily. Outraged laity took to the streets and rose up in the pews, withholding contributions, demanding meetings with bishops whose authority seemed to be evaporating by the hour.

You know, VOTF. The Good Guys. Cue the applause and the William Tell Overture. Nice people who leave their beliefs at the parish doors on Sunday. Except for soup kitchens and stuff. That's OK.

For now. Until we want to start harvesting organs from the useless eaters. Then it will be a problem.

But still, the Good Guys. Not the Cthuloid Entity following The Protocols of the Elders of Rome. Speaking of which....

Obscured by all of this was the presence of an influential, deeply connected, and well-financed faction -- a counterreformation, to borrow a useful term from Roman Catholic history -- that was determined not only to prevent the scandal from being used as a Trojan horse for all manner of church reform but also to use its efforts within the church to affect the politics and culture outside of it.

Religiously-motivated people trying to affect politics and culture outside the church?!?! Oh, the humanity! Run to the hills, and start stockpiling porn and canned goods--the Papists are coming!

Wilberforce? Who he? King? He wasn't religious. And no, I don't want to talk about that Albanian nun, either.

The conservative opposition is tied in to the elites of Washington, D.C. --

Halliburton and water-powered cars, man--they've got microchip cameras in copies of Maxim. It's not Jessica Alba looking at you--it's the Pope....

McCloskey's high-profile catechumens are hardly the only example -- and its magazines and think tanks are funded by the same foundations that have been the fountainhead of movement conservatism over the past three decades. And just as the clergy sexual abuse scandal energized the reformers, it energized the traditionalists.

Where's the Scaife angle? It's around here somewhere!

Now, brace yourself--you knew this was going to happen. It's inevitable. It's a force of nature--think Yellowstone geyser--and it just has to happen in a "Catholic" story.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Let There Be Dick.

"That's where the leadership and the power of the church are right now, no question," says the Rev. Richard McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame. "These people have direct access to the papacy."

Richard McBrien has been spewing with especial incoherence since 2002. In 2003, Michigan 38, Notre Dame 0. Florida State 37, Notre Dame 0.

ND will finish out of the Top 25 again, and no bowl game. Connection?

Think about it, ND alums. Is it worth the cost?

Over his lengthy pontificate, John Paul II has allied himself with the traditionalist side of every ongoing dispute within the church.

Which explains the free hand given such Locuti of The Conservative Borg Collective like Mahony, Weakland, Untener, Clark, Adamec....

[Opus Dei Is Fluoridating Your Water!! section snipped.]

He's also lent his support to similar if less well-known organizations, including the liturgically traditionalist Neocatechumenate movement and the Comunione y Liberazione, an Italian traditionalist movement with close ties to that country's political right.

The Neocatechumenate is "liturgically traditionalist"? Ooooookay. Someone's been dropping 'shrooms into the bong, or is indefatigably lazy and/or stupid. I'll be nice and go with lazy for now.

Also note that the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy™ has gone International.

In the United States, Catholic laymen like Tom Monaghan, the millionaire founder of Domino's Pizza, have taken active roles in promoting conservative Catholicism both within and without the church. Monaghan has bankrolled institutions of traditionalist Catholicism for more than a decade.

Distressed by what he saw as doctrinal deviation at the larger Catholic colleges, Monaghan founded his own -- Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, which joined Magdalen College in New Hampshire and Christendom College in Virginia as new traditionalist Catholic colleges. Monaghan also founded Legatus, a national network of traditionalist Catholics that is open only to top business leaders.

Ah, yes--a favorite whipping boy--the Il Pizza Duce of American Catholicism, Tom Monaghan. Something tells me he wouldn't be the Utter Bastard progressives claim he is if he just ponied up for Georgetown, ND, etc. It's not like starting your own university is the wave of the future for business types, now, is it?

Envy, anyone?

Say--ever notice you don't see Monaghan and Scaife together? Hmmm.

Wait--what's that? Sounds like digging....

The activity on the American Catholic right has been so vigorous that it has come to the attention of the various foundations that fund conservative causes generally in this country and to politicians as well. For example, papal biographer George Weigel works as a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, a think tank where Elliot Abrams once worked between his involvement in the Iran-contra scandal and his current employment in the Bush administration.


According to the records compiled by, a website that tracks the activities of conservative foundations, the center has received almost $9.5 million since 1985 from sources such as the Olin, Scaife, and Bradley foundations. Among Weigel's projects was a series of seminars that he held in various eastern European countries.



Eastern European countries--this means something. Although it's hard to connect to the Conservative Catholic-Washington-Opus Dei-Scaife Axis That Explains Everything.

You know, Ion the Rumanian waiter looked at me disapprovingly when the Trojan fell out of my pocket last week....

So when Weigel tells a Legatus gathering near Boston that "liberal Catholicism is out of gas intellectually. They haven't had a new idea in 20 or 30 years," it is not an accident that he sounds much like Ronald Reagan talking about the death of the New Deal or Newt Gingrich discussing the exhaustion of the cultural revolution of the 1960s.

Weigel=Gingrich! Of course!

Except for those differences, like being Catholic, skeptical of capitalism, not divorcing his wife on her sickbed, and being a decent writer.

Other than that, though, they could have been separated at birth!

Within the hierarchical church, at least, the reformist view of Vatican II seemed to be effectively marginalized. The American laity, however, had long seen Vatican II as a refutation of the anti-democratic pronouncements of all the old popes. They were liberated. They dissented, never more loudly than in the past two years, when they demanded accountability from their bishops over the issues of the sexual abuse scandal.

Ah, yes, the "laity." Beloved in concept, but never in actuality--they are a perpetual disappointment to their betters, both episcopal and media. The fact is most laity were bewildered and are still bewildered by what the Council wrought. Over the past two years, they've dissented all right--but across the spectrum--and most definitely not the Enlightened Laity vs. Scaife Catholicism theory advanced here. Try reading National Review or Catholic blogdom, you dipwad, and you'll see that "conservatives" have been the most outraged by it. They continue to be the most outraged by it.

As you can see by now, Pierce develops pronounced jackass tendencies as the piece progresses. They will not improve.

These were not arcane doctrinal disputes. They were grotesque secular crimes. As the dust settled, some groups began talking about the "opportunity" that the scandal presented to reform within the church. But when the organizations began to move, they found a shrewd and highly organized conservative front waiting for them, one long established within the church and wired into the centers of power not only in Rome but in Washington, too.

Mr. Pierce has enjoyed his stay on our planet--especially the, how you say, "ganja"?--but now he has to return to the Mothership. But before he goes, he's going to favor us with some more wisdom.

Up the broad staircases, in a room with great wooden doors, the bishops have come to listen at a private meeting of conservative Catholics. Just as former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan is finishing a stemwinder on openness in the church, the skulking press is asked to leave the club.

How this meeting came about is significant. Back in July, Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, had attended a meeting in Washington with several influential lay people who voiced their concerns to him and a handful of other bishops regarding lingering issues of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Almost immediately, the conservative network reacted strongly to what it termed a "secret meeting" between the bishops and "dissenters" and organized its own meeting at the Cosmos Club in September, which Gregory and the other bishops could hardly refuse to attend. Ironically, the conservatives were being more forceful in their invitation than deference to episcopal authority might previously have allowed.

There are two possibilities here with respect to Pierce's characterization of the first meeting as a "just plain folks petitioning their bishops for redress": (1) he suffers from brain seizures requiring debilitating medication, or (2) he's a lying sack. Feel free to deploy your favorite bovine/equine scatological reference here.

Lest we forget, the USCCB didn't have Weigel, Monaghan, McCloskey, Hudson, et al., address it at its buttcovering-fest in July 2002. It gave Margaret Steinfels and Scott Appleby the honors. Maybe the numbers on the Conservative Speed Dial don't go as high up as Pierce suggests? Naaaah....

[Long American Protective Association-inspired narrative about Popery subverting the American Republic via Deal Hudson, Robert George and George W. Bush snipped.]

Consequently, when the sexual abuse scandal exploded, Catholic conservatives were not only organized within the church


Ouch, sorry. The brain suffered a BS overload and I fell out of my chair. Where was I again?

In a sense, every Catholic builds his own cafeteria now. Even John McCloskey has said that he would leave the church if, by some chance, a future pope were to change the church's stand on, say, birth control or abortion. The American church still consists of a vast middle caught between two bitterly opposed wings. The reformists are an amorphous gathering of professional types who see the crisis in the church as a failure of a management model; on the other side is a disciplined cadre that sees itself as responding to a spiritual crisis in the church that has its roots in a spiritual crisis in the culture. The battle now is clearly for the control of the aftermath.

I've noticed this developing argument of late: "We're all Cafeteria Catholics now. Sure, I'm in favor of partial birth abortions, but you're not in favor of Canadian-style health care. You're just as 'bad' as me! Pppppffthppppt!"

IOW, the "Everybody's Doing It" Defense. If everyone's guilty, no one's guilty. Sure, fine, whatever. I'll do this slowly:

Some. Issues. Are. More. Basic. Than. Others. If. Your. Skull. Is. Crushed. By. This. Guy. At. 32. Weeks. Gestation. You. Can't. Participate. In. The. Seamless. Garment. Network. Got. It?

"But what will they do," wonders Notre Dame's Richard McBrien, contemplating the post-John Paul II church

McBrien contemplates that subject a lot. I suspect that some days it's all he ever thinks about.

The influence of the Catholic conservatives within the church depends vitally on the patronage of the episcopate that has its source in Rome.

Sure it does. That explains the episcopate's responsiveness to the weekly outrages against the Faith.

The sky is very pretty on Pierce's World.

Deal Hudson does not like John McCloskey. Before saying anything about him, and nothing that's good, Hudson turns off a reporter's tape recorder.

Wait a minute! I thought the conservatives were a well-coordinated monolith. What's the phrase I'm looking for? Oh, yes, here it is:

"[T]hey found a shrewd and highly-organized conservative front..."

Someone's having trouble keeping his theme straight.

At this I'll stop. There's only so much I can take.

The Secret to Thriving during the Eastern Great Lent.

A couple secrets, actually. The first is Lebanese and Syrian cooking. At our new Melkite parish, the Divine Liturgy has been followed by Len...