Monday, December 29, 2003

I'm willing to throw in Garry Wills, Dick Vosko, Jim Carroll, Richard McBrien and some lovely Nebraska beachfront property, too.

I'll be happy to take a six pack of PBR in return.

It can be warm. Even skunked.

The Great Catholic-Episcopalian Adherent Swap Meet is now officially on, at least it is according to the New York Times.

I don't want to say it's entirely in Catholicism's favor, but at the rate it's going, by next Tuesday the Piskies will be walking around "sky-clad"--as the neopagans say.

Compare and contrast:

The decision this year by the Episcopal Church USA to ordain an openly gay bishop has set off a wave of church switching, according to dozens of interviews with clergy members and parishioners across the country.

Some lifelong Episcopalians have left their churches, saying the vote to affirm a gay bishop was the last straw in what they saw as the church's long slide away from orthodoxy. Many of these people have started attending Roman Catholic churches.

"It breaks my heart," said Shari de Silva, a neurologist in Fort Wayne, Ind., who converted from Episcopalian to Catholic this year. "I think the Episcopal Church is headed down the path to secular humanism."

So far, so good: Catholicism is enriched by one biblically-literate neurologist and mother who, like all exiles, will shout "Not this time!" when confronted by similar stupidity in her new home.

Works for me. And going in the other direction....?

Some Episcopal parishes, meanwhile, are welcoming clusters of new members, many from Roman Catholic churches, who say they want to belong to a church that regards inclusivity as a Christian virtue.

Actually, inclusivity would be the sole Christian virtue in these locales. The remaining commandment of mainline Protestantism is Thou Shalt Not Be Intolerant of That Which Hoists Our Mainsail--If Thou Knowest What We Mean.

The newcomers include singles and families, gay people and straight people.

Strangely enough, though, we will only hear from Newcomer Groups 1, 3 and 4(ostensibly). Yes, I too had to pick myself up off the floor in shock.

Speaking of which, it's time to hear from our first ex-Catholic.

"I don't see how and why God would want his church, his worshipers, his sons and daughters to become carbon copies of each other," said Youssef El-Naggar, a former Catholic in Front Royal, Va., who recently joined an Episcopal church there.

Brothers and sisters, fear no brain drain. While it's impossible to tell from the article how often Mr. El-Naggar darkened the door of his former Catholic parish, it is abundantly clear that he did not accumulate a lot of gold stars during catechism. Nor is he particularly up on current events in his former church.

Only someone with a forehead indentation ring from sleeping in his tinfoil dunce cap could posit a Borg collective from the Catholic Church. Blessed Kateri, St. Juan Diego, St. Andrew Dae-gon Kim, and the Forty Martyrs of Uganda (to name but 43) all testify to a different church than the construct which exists in Mr. El-Naggar's mind--i.e., the only form of Christianity that is majority non-white. Unlike--for example--the smug honky outfit he just joined. Then there is the nearly bewildering diversity of worship, ranging from Brazilian and Italian Charismatics to French and Chinese proponents of the Tridentine Mass, to Syrian and English worshippers at the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The theology? Watch serious Jesuits and Dominicans duke it out over grace and free will sometime.

This is the Xerox set to 1.1 billion, eh?

And, sadly, the only diversity in the communion Mr. El-Naggar has joined can be found is in bedroom practices. If he actually tries presenting the traditional understandings of God, Jesus and morality still clinging to his grey matter in the presence of his new friends, he will notice the temperature dropping precipitously.

Speaking of which, Mr. El-Naggar, the first thing you're going to have to do is start dropping those masculine pronouns when referring to the Energy Field Parent Being of Episcopalianism. It really ticks off the wombynfolk.

On the bright side, adultery doesn't tick them off.

If you're gay.

[Section comparing Episcopal/Catholic positions and offering some hope for maintained Catholic witness snipped.]

While it is too soon to assess the fallout, some Episcopal clergy members told of an unusually high rate of arrivals and departures in recent months.

They said the newcomers were far different from casual "church shoppers" checking out a Sunday sermon. Many of the new arrivals say they intend to join, and some have already been confirmed or received into the church by their bishops.

"They're not coming in as they used to even three years ago announcing, `I'm just church shopping, I'm just looking around,' " said the Rev. Elizabeth M. Kaeton, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chatham, N.J. "The people I've seen recently have come to me and said, `Sign me up, I'm ready.' "

"Sign me up, I'm ready." I suppose there's nothing quite so exciting as apostasy. Sends a shudder up the ol' spine.

Until it gets boring and you decide you want to "sign up" for something else that starts you a quivering. Fortunately, the ECUSA lets you do that.

As long as you don't expect to keep the building if you want to "sign up" for approximations of traditional Christianity and respect for the written Word.

Ms. Kaeton, who is openly gay, supported the ordination of Bishop Robinson but said she had not dwelled on the issue in her church.

Why would she? The Soviets stopped harping on the Russian Civil War before the Tsarists did.

She said her parish of about 300 families had recently gained 15 new members, many of them from Catholic churches, and lost one to a Catholic church.

"Many"? The over/under is currently set at 3. She can give you the exact number of new proselytes, but not the Catholic component? Unlikely.

Even for some heterosexuals, the Episcopal Church's stance on homosexuality was the main reason for switching. Mr. El-Naggar, a retired C.I.A. officer and college instructor, said that when he read the news about the church's decision to back Bishop Robinson, he got out the Yellow Pages and phoned the closest Episcopal church.

Let's see if I have this straight--a fast-dwindling mainline church heaves a miter at a gay guy who dumped his wife and kids to knock boots with another man, a heterosexual single Catholic sees a shaft of light bursting through the clouds, decides to dump the faith and his brothers and sisters in it, hops on the raprod and says "Reservation for one, please!"

Something does not compute.

He said he was pleased to discover that the rector at Calvary Episcopal Church was a woman, because he had always questioned the Catholic Church's opposition to ordaining women.

A little more light shines on this scenario. Sounds like another case of The Stupid Church Won't Bow To My Wisdom/Acknowledge The Superiority of My Living Arrangements Over That Of Revelation. A lot of that going around. Lord knows I've suffered from recurring bouts of it. I'm still having a hard time seeing how he got from A to B on this one.

He now attends Calvary Episcopal and said he had been stunned at the open theological debate there over homosexuality and other issues.

"I am trying to be a good Christian, and I have never felt that spiritual freedom I feel now in the Episcopal Church," Mr. El-Naggar said.

Whatever else can be said for it, the Robinson ordination seems to be the main issue in his conversion. Make of that what you will.

He sees an "open" debate over homosexuality, eh? Well, that's true--and the debate is over whether to chase those loyal to biblical and traditional teachings out with (1) pitchforks or (2) torches. Last time I heard, the Firebrands were slowly gaining the upper hand, but the Pokies were still making points with the argument that their method was more environmentally-friendly.

The debate continues.

And if he finds that stunning, he ain't seen nothing yet. Again, watch that whole describing-God-with-masculine-pronouns thing--that invigorating openness has a tendency to slam shut with such faux pas.

There's definitely plenty of spiritual freedom in the ECUSA. The widest of gates, you could say.

Some new Episcopalians also mentioned that the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church had caused them to rethink their affiliation.

Fair enough, I suppose, and the one thing I can sympathize with as a general idea. Although personally I wouldn't go to the ECUSA's Spiritual Toga, Strip Bingo and All-Night Kegger Party in response.

First came revelations that some bishops had covered up abuse, then some Vatican and American officials suggested that gay priests were to blame for the problem.

Oh, that's right--this is the NY Times. The Gray Lady's turned into quite the swinger in her old age, and her new partner is The Love That Dare Not Have A Mute Button. Tomorrow it will be polyandry ("Kinky and transgressive!"), but today it's you know what.

And we all know now that TLTDNHAMB had exactly bupkis to do with the Scandals, as it has nothing to do with anything bad ever. Ignore the gender victim ratio, never google "Paul Shanley" and "hotel," and the coal pile will eventually start exiting the ballroom.

Via evaporation and/or continental drift.

"We felt increasingly alienated by the Catholic Church," said Robert J. Martin, 56, a lawyer in Philadelphia who lives with his partner, Mark S. Petteruti, 45, a horticulturist.

I can understand this. I even respect the honesty.

Both men were cradle Catholics. Until 1988, Mr. Martin was a Catholic priest in the Augustinian order.

"At least there is symmetry": Augustinian priest, Augustinian lifestyle.

This year a deacon at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Philadelphia invited them to join a small group of gay church members who meet once a month for dinner. The couple soon began attending Sunday services at St. Paul's, which is directly across the street from the Catholic church where, 30 years ago, Mr. Martin was ordained a priest.

"What was most impressive was the fact that the straight people were welcoming us as a couple, and as potential members of the congregation," Mr. Martin said. "We felt included and affiliated almost immediately."

Not that Misters Martin and Petteruti can point to anything their straight former brothers and sisters did that was hostile, of course. Nor that there was anything "anti-Christian" about it, either. No, because had there been any, the Times would have recounted it with glee and gusto, linking it to the impact of Thomistic "hate speech" in Vatican statements on the Papist Borgianity. No, the problem was the failure of Bead-Squeezing Breeders to celebrate them and their living arrangements. I have no doubt the water's much warmer at St. Vicki's.

In Fort Wayne, Dr. de Silva moved in the opposite direction. She was raised Episcopalian and was bringing up two adopted children in that church. But, she said, she could not accept the church's stance on homosexuality because it violates the first commandment, to be faithful to God. She said she objected when her children were taught about gay rights in church Sunday school.

She began attending St. Elizabeth Anne Seton Catholic Church. She has read the catechism cover to cover, she said, and has already been confirmed.

"The advantage of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches is that there is a central authority that tends to hold the church together, and unfortunately the Anglican experiment, which was a wonderful experiment for almost 500 years, lacked that," Dr. de Silva said.

Yes, I figure it's going to be impossible for Sister Medea and Fr. Birkenstock to put one over on Dr. de Silva.

For many the move between the Episcopal and Catholic Churches is a natural transition. The Episcopal Church, which is the American branch of Anglicanism, is considered the bridge between Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity.

For three decades, these two denominations have seen plenty of back and forth, said Robert Bruce Mullin, professor of history, world mission and modern Anglican studies at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York. As the Episcopal Church began ordaining women and dropped the ban on communion for divorced people, Professor Mullin said, conservative Episcopalians began to leave, while many socially liberal Catholics began to join.

It's not exactly been the equal exchange Prof. Mullin suggests in the article--entire Episcopal parishes have become Catholic while the ECUSA continues to lose members.

Think of it this way: Catholicism is the really hefty kid sitting at the low end of the teeter-totter, separated from the ground by the wood plank seat. The Piskies are playing the role of the thin moppet red-shifting into the troposphere.

"It's hard to remember that 30 years ago, the Episcopal Church was one of the more conservative churches on issues of social morality," he said.

Try "impossible."

[Two paragraphs of history and a profound misstatement of the Pastoral Provision snipped.]

But the pace of church swapping among parishioners appears to have picked up this year. In some cases, whole groups have jumped.

About 25 percent of the congregation at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Dallas recently left after the votes on homosexuality, said the rector, the Rev. David M. Allen. Those who left included some of the church's bedrock, like its secretary and the two men who used to volunteer to mow the lawn every Tuesday, Father Allen said. All but one left for Catholic churches, he said.

You'd think that a three hundred member Episcopal congregation that lost a quarter of its members would take precedence in the story over three different Episcopal congregations who picked up maybe--maybe--8 or 9 Catholics total.

You'd think that, but that explains why you don't write for/edit the Times.

The exodus, Father Allen said, was the result of years of dissatisfaction for many parishioners. St. Francis, which had about 300 members, is known as an Anglo-Catholic parish, meaning that in worship style it retained Catholic traditions like a devotion to Mary, the rosary and a solemn high Mass with Gregorian chant. For members long opposed to the ordination of women, a gay bishop was the end of the road.

Welcome aboard, Dallas Anglicans. May you find healing and peace here.

BTW, good luck trying to find devotions, a high Mass or Gregorian chant in Grahmann Country.

"I think many people in this parish came to the conclusion that there was the apparent absence of any kind of authority that operates to restrain the Episcopal Church in any way," Father Allen said. "They wanted to be part of a church which they saw as being bigger than American culture, which had an authority which went beyond our cultural conventions."

Commendably, the article ends with that quote from Fr. Allen. No rebuttals or anything like it. A sign of hope, perhaps.

Mirabile dictu.

[Thanks to Amy Welborn for the link.]

Married priests?

Very interesting discussions over the advisability of permitting married priests, here and here. Please sit before you read this: I find a lot to agree with in both posts.

To complete the wishy-washy foul shot, I disagree with arguments at both, too.

Unlike Chesterton, who said priestly celibacy was the main stumbling block for his conversion to Catholicism, I'll admit to not being particularly invested in the necessity of it, for the following reasons:

1. My Methodist background, which always involved married pastors, makes the concept of married men in ministry ("Don't practise your alliteration on me!") unremarkable. It doesn't cause me to reject arguments for celibacy, either--it just means that I come to the argument with a different mindset. It doesn't generate the same light or heat for me as it does for other people. Because of that, I think I find the concept a lot less jarring than do cradle Catholics. I suspect that even applies to cradle supporters of a married clergy. Your mileage may vary.

2. The witness of the Eastern Catholic Churches. A married priesthood has been part and parcel of the Eastern tradition, and still is today. After a considerable struggle, the Byzantine Church in the U.S. has, more or less, regained the right to ordain married men in America again (following a monumentally stupid decision to impose celibacy back in the 1920s, which created hundreds of thousands of new Orthodox). Other Eastern churches (esp. the Ukrainians, IIRC) have been getting around the ban by ordaining married men intended for ministry in the U.S. overseas before sending them to their parish assignments here.

In any event, the Byzantine situation bears watching to see if new vocations result.

3. The Pastoral Provision for the ordination of married Episcopal and Lutheran ministerial converts since 1980 at the very least tends to undercut the universal necessity.

In other words, it is a discipline from which a man can be dispensed for good reasons and still be permitted to function as an active diocesan priest. Another valid question it raises is why there should be a preferential option for Episcopalians and Lutherans.

As an interesting aside, the roots of the Pastoral Provision started with Pius XII in the 1950s, who permitted the ordination of two married Lutheran converts.

4. Assuming you get an influx of married candidates into the seminaries, that would reduce or at the very least dilute the unhealthy element/walking wounded in the current priesthood. Your average ordinary would have less cause to tolerate the antics/criminality of the bad shepherds.

5. If you are going to take the plunge, strictly adhere to the composite tradition of the Catholic Church in the matter. This means that, as to priests who were laicized, then got married--sorry, no can do. You would lose the services of some worthy orthodox men, but there's nothing to justify this radical break with Tradition. Perhaps they could function as deacons (after exacting scrutiny). In no event should men associated with the professionally aggrieved (e.g., CORPUS, Rent-A-Priest) be considered for any such office.

I.e., in an ideal world, the Wertins, Pflegers and [Insert Name of Renegade Here] would quickly find themselves rearranging the paperwork for annulment tribunals. There would certainly be far less excuse for not removing them ("But they're providing the Sacraments--sorta" would have to be retired).

On the other hand, the arguments in favor of celibacy can't be easily discounted.

1. It is of ancient provenance--the oft-heard argument that it's a 12th Century innovation will not hold water. It is decidedly more ancient than that, even if it became officially binding for the Latin Church in the 12th Century.

2. In the West, until the middle of the 20th Century, it worked: there was no vocations crisis. For the Church in the developing world, there is still no crisis (with the partial exception of Latin America). Even in the West, there are areas still producing boatloads of celibate vocations--consider diocese like Lincoln, Peoria, Denver, Atlanta, perhaps now even Chicago (15 ordained in 2003).

Then there are the religious orders which are packed to bursting, like the FSSP and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

Before making celibacy "optional", a thorough investigation of why some orders/diocese are--and others aren't--generating vocations should be undertaken. It would be interesting, to say the least--and probably would cause a good deal of squirming in certain American locales. That alone would make the process worthwhile to me.

3. The costs of a married priesthood in terms of its vocational and pastoral identity should not be discounted, either. Fr. Joseph Wilson objectively weighs the "cons" in this article. The priesthood would be a vastly different animal under these circumstances. Given the demands of the job, I think Fr. Wilson is right to warn about the inevitability of divorced priests. I know children of Protestant ministers. It's a demanding life, tough on even the best of marriages and strongest of families.

Under this same topic belongs the recognition that making celibacy "optional" will make it marginal. After all, celibacy is effectively "optional" in most Protestant churches (ECUSA excepted, where it has been essentially prohibited by the VGeR saturnalia), but you'll never run across a celibate pastor. Why? Frankly, because it's weird and a little suspect. Only among Catholics (and to a somewhat lesser extent the Orthodox) is the celibate witness preserved.

4. The monetary costs. Even assuming a preference for mature married men with fewer or no dependents, no married man can afford to live on the chicken feed currently paid to diocesan priests. Such men would likely come to the priesthood with pre-existing financial burdens that aren't going to be addressed by $20,000 a year. No matter how many coupons you clip or how much you buy in bulk, a family can't survive on that.

Unless you somehow find the prospect of a Catholic priest and his family living on government assistance to be an inspiring witness (assuming they could qualify).

On the other hand, I think the laity would be more likely to pony up for the expenses involving having such a priest--there would be a sense of "ownership" (for lack of a better word) in "their" guy that is generally lacking otherwise when the plate comes a-callin'. They'd certainly have to.

5. One can't assume that married priests would necessarily be "Profiles in Ecclesial Courage" where celibates are not. An unscrupulous (hypothetically, of course) bishop determined to suppress any kind of scandal would find more "pressure points" on a married father than with a celibate. If a large part of the problem is clerical culture, then dumping married men into that vortex changes nothing.

With all of that in mind, I still think celibacy is the way to go with the priesthood. The fact it's not "working" in large sections of the West doesn't mean it's a failure everywhere, nor does it mean that it can't "work" again. We aren't to the point of radical surgery yet, especially with a time-honored tradition and valuable biblical witness to the world.
Will wonders never cease?

I heard about this from a cowled guy riding a white horse.

Rather thin. Bony, even.

Had a scythe and a dazed, stunned look, too.

Lions fans, help me with this theological conundrum: Is being a follower of the Lions since 1958 a better analogy to Purgatory, or to Hell?

I've always inclined toward Purgatory, but the flashes of false hope seem more hellish to me.

Friday, December 26, 2003

The blur that was the Price Family Christmas, 2003.

Is recounted over here.

It also explains why postings have been a tad light of late.

Still, those of you looking for my customary fits of biliousness need only scroll down a little bit.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

--From the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

"My God, it's full of stars!"

--The last transmission from Haloscan, approximately 3:00 am.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Always Our Priests.

And a Merry Fiskmas to you, too.

Recently, 21 Chicago priests complained in an open letter about "violent" and "abusive" Catholic teaching. They also pledged their loyalty to the teaching authority of the Church, without actually citing any of it in the process. Especially that book the Reporter finds so musty and unaffirming.

There's a pattern developing here...


About which 21 Chicago priests formed in the Sixties know waaaay more than you.

As Catholic pastors,

The evidence for the claimed status being sadly lacking, to the extent it can be seen from this public tantrum.

we have become increasingly disturbed by the tone

It's the content.

and, in some cases, content

Thank you!

of documents and statements from the Vatican, bishops' conferences and individual bishops on issues categorized under the heading of 'homosexual' or 'gay/lesbian.' We respect the teaching authority of the Church.

In reading the last line, I'm reminded of the cough-filled response of the Deltas to the evidence offered during the Double Secret Probation hearing.

For some reason.

Because of this, we find particularly troubling the increase in the use of violent and abusive language directed at any human person. Such language is inappropriate. This is especially so when addressing members of the community of the faithful. These divisive and exclusionary statements from the Church are contrary to sound pastoral practice.

Josh the Palestinian Tolerance Mascot™ is in the hiz-ouse. Josh is Jesus reimagined for spiritual 21st Century Americans who don't want to give up anything enjoyable. Josh is not big on rules, or judging or really anything that's a downer. He's a very pastoral guy (or would be, if he weren't safely dead) who doesn't say much other than "Go for it!"

For example, he'd never say anything judgmental like "go and sin no more," or do anything exclusionary like kick an unrepentant sinner out of his "community". Nope, he's not that kind of guy.

While we're at it, let's tone down the rhetoric ourselves, gentlemen: what happened to Mary Stachowicz was "violent" and "abusive" (I trust you sent your heartfelt condolences to her family and friends). The Thomistic language employed in the latest stilted Vatican statements is hardly the stuff of mob violence.

Unless I missed that part of the trial for the evil thugs who killed Matthew Shepard where witnesses indicated the lynchers were screaming "objectively disordered!"

The life journey in faith is unique and sacred, including the personal integration of sexuality and spirituality.

As we all know, there's nothing more enjoyable than personally integrating sexuality and spirituality with as many folks as possible. Oh, my, yes....

Condemnations leveled at sincere Catholics attempting to make sense out of their journey are inappropriate and pastorally destructive.

Very pastoral, these gents. Although I have to be rude and point out that it's hard to "journey" without directions. Without them, you could end up stranded in a very unpleasant location.

OTOH, "the journey makes us one," as the liturgical ditty goes.

As priests and pastors we are speaking out to make clear that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are all members of God's family, brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus and deserving of the same dignity and respect owed any human being.

Fine--nothing to argue with here. Too often, orthodox Catholics tend to confuse the sin with the sinner, with all of the harm that causes.

Mea culpa. The point can't be overemphasized.

But, as always, it doesn't end here.

Recognition of the inalienable dignity of the human person is the only path toward justice and reconciliation.

Yay! A reference to the Sacrament of Penance!

OK, OK, too much to hope for.

Actually, recognition of our fallen sinfulness and the need for the Lord Jesus, brandished totem-style in the previous sentence, is the only path.

But since that way lies some painful questions about ourselves, the Pastoral Blackjackers aren't about to head in that direction. Very damaging to the self-esteem, don't you know?

We affirm the goodness of all homosexual persons.

Personal and original sin went out with Vatican II.

We root ourselves in the U.S. Bishops' statement 'Always Our Children.'

"Root ourselves," yes--a handy nonsense phrase if there ever was one. Actually read and apply it? Nooooo.
Come on: it says icky things like this:

First, it is God's plan that sexual intercourse occur only within marriage between a man and a woman. Second, every act of intercourse must be open to the possible creation of human life. Homosexual intercourse cannot fulfill these two conditions. Therefore, the Church teaches that homogenital behavior is objectively immoral, while making the important distinction between this behavior and a homosexual orientation, which is not immoral in itself. It is also important to recognize that neither a homosexual orientation, nor a heterosexual one, leads inevitably to sexual activity. One's total personhood is not reducible to sexual orientation or behavior.

Additionally, we re-affirm the understanding of the goodness of the human person as put forth throughout the papacy of Pope John Paul II.

Not that we've read any of his crap, though--especially "The Berry Tart is Splendid", or whatever the hell that long boring essay that contradicted fundamental option theory is called.

Oh, Lord no!

But he is a handy charm to wave against accusations of heresy and disloyalty, and helps keep the residually orthodox members of our flocks in their place and ponying up at the offertory.

Further, we want to state clearly that ministering to and with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is mutually beneficial, as is all ministerial activity.


"All ministerial activity" except with those who take Catholic moral teaching and scripture seriously. Then it's tedious and we just have to tell the offenders to shut the hell up.

Pre-judging where any believer's journey will take them is inappropriate.

Except for the orthodox. They're going straight to hell.

If there is one.

Walking with them, as we do with our heterosexual brothers and sisters, is the appropriate Christian response.

Except, of course, where that walk is going to take you over a cliff. Then it's the behavior of a Lemming Pastor, not a Christian priest.

In the recent past, individual bishops,

Like our current Cardinal Archbishop.

bishops' conferences

Like the guys who wrote "Always Our Children"?

and the Vatican

Especially the Vatican. Most definitely including that Pope we were just gesturing with like an amulet.

have assumed a tone of such violence and abusiveness toward these sons and daughters of the Church, we can no longer remain silent.

I'm sure one of us sent something to the Stachowicz family. Maybe a phone call or card or something.

Has any other group of people within the Body of Christ been so assaulted and violated by such mean-spirited language?

Good point. Aside from Catholics living under the Arians, Iconoclasts, Albigensians, Tudors, Jacobins, Revolutionary Mexico, the Spanish Republic, Naziism, Communism, Islamic tyranny and the orthodox remnant at your parishes, I can't think of a one.

Nothing any Catholic has ever undergone compares to the following litany of terror.

Examples from the most recent Vatican document show all too clearly the demonization of these children of God, referring to homosexuality as a 'troubling moral and social phenomenon,'

"Troubling"? Oh, why doesn't that Nazi Ratzinger just have done with it and start burnings at the stake again?

'a serious depravity,'

Find that Stachowicz card yet?

'the spread of the phenomenon,'

A "phenomenon"?! O, will dawn never break?!?

'approval or legalization of evil,' 'grave detriment to the common good,' 'harmful to the proper development of human society,' 'intrinsically disordered.'

And so it goes. Context is a damnable thing. It's also lacking in the 21's litany. Stunning, I know.

Does anyone consider this vile and toxic language invitational?

For a batch of chaps bent on elevating the discourse, they sure have a funny way of going about it.

"Invitational" to what? Repentance? The recognition of the need for redemption? An awareness Jesus did more than make people feel good about themselves?

Are are their flocks not in need of such things? I guess not.

That would explain why they feel comfortable lecturing the Church Universal.

For many gay and lesbian Catholics, this most recent series of attacks has forced them, out of self-respect and self-love,

Can't over-emphasize the importance of those two indispensible virtues in today's society. T'would be unpastoral not to.

to withdraw from active participation in the Church and question how they can remain members of a Church they experience as abusive. It is not possible to minister to and with the needs of our homosexual brothers and sisters with language of this tone as a foundation.

Apparently the Pastoral 21, despite their clearly superior wisdom in such things, are nevertheless completely flummoxed by the task of adapting the language. Tis beyond their sensitive genius, despite the repeated invocations and claimed enjoyment of Always Our Children.


I suppose, then, the only option left was to posture before sympathetic media outlets and await the inevitable applause.

Inspiring. [Sound of golf clapping.]

The Catholic Church is most catholic when it is inclusive and embracing,

Read: Bowing to us.

and least reflective of the gospel of Jesus when it is exclusive and rigid.

Read: Having the gall to disagree with our superior wisdom.

For this reason, we also want to affirm the many pastoral and positive statements by certain bishops and bishops' conferences (e.g. 'Always Our Children').

Not that we're actually going to quote anything, of course. Wouldn't be pastoral. Might even be self-refuting....

The Church's theology, including her moral teaching, is always in dialogue with the broader lived experience of her members,

And is valid, in our view, only when it completely capitulates to that "lived experience."

which shapes and rearticulates the ancient deposit of faith.

Which stretches almost as far back as Gaudium Et Spes.

We encourage a new atmosphere of openness to dialogue which includes the lived experience of many Catholic members.

Said "dialogue" will end the same way Case Yellow ended in 1940, with traditional morality completely surrendering to the zeitgeist in a nice railcar outside Paris. The end of the "dialogue" will be followed by the proscription of foundational orthodoxy. See United States of America, Episcopal Church in the.

We recognize the blessings of countless homosexuals in a variety of relationships.

Remember how faithful we are to the teaching authority, and all that rot.

Wocka, wocka, wocka...

We believe their experiences must be listened to respectfully.

"Sign here. Your forces will cease fighting worldwide as of midnight, and you will pay for the quartering of our troops...."

While we do not know the reasons for the increasingly violent and abusive

We finally figured it out: We prayed for the conversion of the Stachowicz family. Very pastoral of us.

language, we deplore it as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ

"The New and Improved Gospel™: Now 100% Repentance-Free! (Note: Gospel™ void in Wisconsin and for orthodox Catholics and others the sponsors have consigned to the outer darkness)."

and ask that it stop immediately.

And if it doesn't, we'll inflict bad moral formation, insipid cloying liturgies, and heretical/pointless homilies on our flocks.

Oh, wait....

Furthermore, we request that all those in official positions of teaching authority in the Church refrain from any more statements directed AT the gay and lesbian members of the Body of Christ,

Because it would make Josh™ really, really sad. If he were still alive today, that is.

and instead begin an earnest dialogue WITH those same members of the Body of Christ.

"Also as of midnight, the Milice and local gendarmes will assist in the suppression of partisans and deportation of other undesirable elements...."

For our part, we pledge to treat all who seek to continue their faith journey with us with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Unless they disagree with us. Then they can go "journey" elsewhere. Preferably straight to hell.

Assuming, hypothetically, that such a place exists.

We join the countless men and women, heterosexual and homosexual, who seek justice, mercy and compassion in and through the Catholic Church.

Subscribers to America and National Catholic Reporter, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your senior discount at Denny's!

We extend an invitation all who share our concern to duplicate this letter, sign it, and send it to their pastor, local bishop, National Bishop's Conference or the Vatican.

Don't just applaud--throw money!

FYI: It doesn't flush well. Especially avoid doing so if you have a septic tank.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Last-minute stocking stuffers.

No, not my book. At least not this year.

These are a few of my favorite things:

1. Musical.

a. John Berry. A country music singer who has enjoyed too-modest success in proportion to his talent, Berry has started to make a seasonal niche for himself with respect to Christmas recordings. Verdict? This man can flat-out sing. I have one essential criterion for being a good Christmas singer--the ability to belt out the penultimate "divine" in O Holy Night. Michael Bolton can't do it--Berry can.

b. Gary Hoey. Picture axe-master Joe Satriani hitting the Christmas circuit, doing covers of everything from You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch to Feliz Navidad, and you have Gary Hoey. Hoey's holiday series, appropriately entitled "Ho! Ho! Hoey," now stretches to three volumes. It's different, but I enjoy it immensely, and I say this with utter seriousness: Hoey has the least obnoxious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas you will ever hear.

2. Reading for the kids.

a. St. Francis and the Christmas Donkey by Robert Byrd. A winning introduction to the popular saint and the Christmas story from the perspective of the beast of burden, along with a sly lesson about pride and humility, it is an ideal tale for the season and beyond.

b. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. My two year old daughter has insisted that I read it every night for the past month. No breaks for the weekend. My mother's laughing, as apparently my brother and I were equally insistent that she read it.

Consequently, someone else should join me. Before they cart me away. In a box. With a fox. To a house. With a mouse....

Also available in Spanish (which we have, but Maddie prefers the Anglo version) and Latin (don't have it yet).

3. Reading for adults.

a. On Being Catholic, by Thomas Howard. In my opinion, the most consistently underrated work on the mindset of Catholicism, engagingly written by a former fundamentalist and Anglican. A personal note: it was absolutely instrumental in my conversion--so if you're looking for someone to blame, address the bulk of your correspondence to Prof. Howard.

b. Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow, both by Orson Scott Card. The first is deservedly acknowledged as a science fiction classic, and the second tells much of the same story from the perspective of a different character in the first novel, and will be regarded as a classic. Essentially, the stories focus on a school established for child prodigies as part of an effort by a desperate Earth to find the military genius it will need to lead the planet to victory against a deadly alien foe. Different, and very worthwhile.

c. A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller, Jr. The tragic Miller's only completed novel (avoid St. Leibowitz), it tells the tale of a Catholic order of friars dedicated to preserving what remains of the technological knowledge of man following the Flame Deluge (nuclear war) and the Great Simplification (the survivors' frenzied reaction against the science that they think brought destruction upon them). It spans a period of several centuries, focusing on various monks of the order, as humanity slowly rebuilds, and starts making the same (or worse) mistakes. At once funny, tragic, sardonic and hopeful, it is timelessly Catholic to its core--but I liked it as a non-Catholic, so don't let that deter you. The last section's argument against euthanasia is unnervingly relevant to our time. Read it. I do, once a year.
Do what I do, Michelle:

Just assume the lack of comments is a byproduct of the stunned awe at your maestro-like performance.

Some call it "delusional," but the sky is quite lovely in my world.
Revealed: the complete lyrics to the Whos' Christmas Song.

Mark Sullivan reveals them at his blog, along with more Seuss and other tidbits.
Need Christmas Recipes?

No sweat--Tom Fitzpatrick has you covered.

Set 1: Sweets. We're talking instant cavities/diabetic shock here. But you have to love a recipe that includes "1 hammer" as an ingredient.

Set 2: Adult Beverages (the wassail made with Guinness has me very intrigued).

If there weren't goofy nuns, we'd have to invent them.

Sr. Elizabeth Johnson has liberated herself from all that patriarchal rot, and is heralding the era of the celestial transgendered parent-figure.

Permit me to wield a koan: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Today, both women and men are questioning our reliance on male language for God.

We call them "jaded boomers." And/or "Jesuits." And/or "theologians."

And "very, very tiresome."

They are rediscovering female imagery for the divine long hidden in Scripture and tradition.

Surprisingly, it is so well hidden that you have to strain unbelievably hard to see it. For a long, long time.

Without blinking.

Or breathing.

Until the spots appear before your eyes.

In fact, from here it looks like a fluffy bunny with draining sinuses. Or a cloud.

Feminist artists, poets, composers, and theologians are fashioning new images for God out of women's experience.

They sure are! The more transgressive, the better!

Nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of remaking God when you've gotten bored with him/her/it/fluffy.

Language about God is expanding gender-wise, even to the point of referring to the divine mystery as "She." I believe that there is a strong theological argument in favor of such language.

Stop the presses! We need a new headline: Nun Who Took Vows In The Sixties Reimages God As Feminist Professor.

Who'd a thunk it?

"Say, Miriam, your daughter is turning out to be quite the carpenter!


Well--what's her problem?"

Numerous biblical texts offer potent female images of God. God as childbearer: giving birth, midwifing, nursing, and holding an infant. God as an angry mother bear robbed of her cubs. God as homemaker: knitting, baking, washing up, searching for her money. God as the female figure of Wisdom: creating, ordering, and saving the world.

The last remarkably like, say, I don't know--feminist theology professors?

In fact, the personification of God as Lady Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs and elsewhere provides one of the earliest interpretive frameworks for Christology. Jesus is even called the Wisdom of God in the New Testament. Furthermore, the spirit is often presented in female metaphors.

As is usually the case, a couple of essential granules of truth surrounded by a thick coating of meadow muffin.

Yes, Christ is called the wisdom of God, but here's the context, a contrast of worldly "wisdom" with the divine. He's also called "the power of God" in the same verse, but let's not talk about that.

Yes, wisdom is often referred to as "she," but the Almighty identifying himself as "Lady Wisdom" is, at best, a stretch. In any event, Jewish understanding didn't draw the feminist conclusions Sr. does (stunning), and also called wisdom God's (ahem!) "firstborn son."

[Ben Fong-Torres voice: "Crazy."]

For some literal-minded believers,

Read: "the undegreed monkey-trial jury pool with unenlightened tendencies to take sections of the texts at face value."

however, the we are not free to expand our God-language in this way. They argue that Jesus himself spoke to and about God as father (abba) and that He taught His disciples to do likewise.

Yeah, what are they thinking? When you pray...I and the Father are one knows the Father except the Son, etc.

"Obviously, intensive catechetical rehabilitation is needed immediately. I envision a church--er, community-- where every parish has set up its own re-education center, re-edits the hymnal, lectionary and missal...."

Such an argument sets its sights too narrowly. Jesus' language about God, far from being gender-exclusive, is diverse and colorful in its reference to the sexes, as can be seen in the imaginative parables He created: the woman searching for her lost coin (female), the shepherd looking for his lost sheep (male), the baker kneading her dough (female), the traveling businessman (male), the employer offending some his workers by his generosity to others (male). Jesus used these and many other human and cosmic metaphors (such as blowing wind),

One rebuttal example will suffice: look at the parable of the lost coin, nestled as it is among the other repentence parables in Luke. Then at the end of this set of parables (the dishonest steward immediately precedes), what does Jesus describe them as? Symbolic of...wait for it..."the kingdom of God."

If only Jesus had attended Prof. Johnson's class....

in addition to the good and loving things that fathers do.

Whatever those things are. If I think real hard, I'm sure I can come up with something....

A final argument for using female symbols for God arises from the practical effects of God-language on the church.

"Currently, the bastards won't ordain me!"

Imagery for God helps us understand the world. The way a faith community talks about God indicates what it considers the highest good, the profoundest truth. This language, in turn, molds the community's behavior, as well as its members' self-understanding.

Orwell would heartily agree.

"Further, that behavior and self-understanding must be as inoffensive (to me), unconfrontational (to me), and neuter as possible. If you don't like it, then you and your sloped forehead brethren can take it to the Southern Baptists or the PCA."

Resistance is futile. You will service us.

The fact that Christians ordinarily speak about God in the image of a male ruler is problematic.

Especially for radical feminist American nuns.

For feminist theology, the difficulty does not lie with the male metaphors.

Think "meadow muffin," without the redeeming granules.

Men as well as women are created in the image of God. The problem lies in the fact that the specific male images reflect a patriarchal arrangement of the world, casting God into the mold of an omnipotent, even if benevolent, monarch.

What a ludicrous image, indeed.

"We're Americans! Kings--puh-leeze!

We have no king but Caesar!"

God’s maternal relation to the world is eclipsed.
Incorporating female-centered divine images reverses this. She is the giver of life who pervades the cosmos like a mother bird hovering over the primordial chaos (Genesis 1:2). She shelters those in difficulty under Her wings (Psalm 17:8) and bears up the enslaved on Her great wings toward freedom (Exodus 19:4). Like a mother, She knits new life together in the womb (Psalm 139:13); like a midwife, She works deftly to bring about the new creation (Psalm. 22:9-10); like a washerwoman, She scrubs away bloody stains of sin (Psalm. 51:7). These and other such symbols invoke the exuberant, life-giving power of women.

"I mean, can you imagine a man--a phallocentrist--doing any of that? Ha!"

Who has the warped understanding of gender again?

Such symbols are but modest starting points for a more inclusive God-talk.

Yeesh--I'd hate to see the radical program.

Developing these symbols today is a theologically central task for the whole church. But the living God and the vitality of the faith community require that a more inclusive way of speaking about divine mystery be developed. God reimagined in female terms can breathe new life into religious language and symbols that bear the ancient responsibility of conveying what is most holy, loving, merciful, just, and wise.

"Because, Sophia knows, we're bored to death with the idea of a fatherly God, and the notion that masculine terms could ever convey 'what is most holy, loving, merciful, just, and wise' causes gales of uproarious laughter here in the enlightened sisterhood."

Another forty years in the wilderness, folks.
Quick hits on fatherhood.

The first is a short essay on earthly fathers and the heavenly Father by Scott Hahn.

The Catechism concludes that "God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs." We know God as Father because, over a lifetime of prayer, we experience His care for us. We come to see for ourselves that He is mighty and that He will deny us nothing that is good for us.

Earthly fatherhood at times reflects these characteristics, as do those offices that assume "fatherly" roles in society: the priesthood, for example, and the government. Yet earthly fathers can perfect their fatherhood only by purifying themselves of earthly motives—such as greed, envy, pride, and the desire to control. They can become true fathers only by conforming themselves to the image of their Heavenly Father, and that image is His first-born Son, Jesus Christ.

In governing, in parenting, or in priesthood, we come to exercise a more perfect fatherly role as we "grow up" in the Family of God: "We are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:16-17). This process is a divine corrective to the world's distorted notions of patriarchy and hierarchy.

The second is a review of a book examining several prominent atheists and their concepts of fatherhood.

Professor Vitz [] marshals a series of short biographies of famous atheists, with a focus on their relationships to their fathers. It is a pitiable litany of "defective" fathers ("weak, dead, or abusive") and of the men (most are men) who rebelled against God as a way of getting back at them. After the first few, one realizes that this is really just shooting fish in a barrel, or, better yet, like one of those films that animal rights activists make with guys clubbing baby seals to death. The victims lie there inert and helpless as a superior intellect lays into them. Even Professor Vitz recognizes that this parade of woes is almost unfair--the formula by which their youthful unhappiness with their fathers leads to their future unhappiness with God is so precise as to diminish terribly our respect for their work--but, as he notes, since psychology is a weapon that atheists have chosen to wield against God, it is only fair that they be hoist on it.

Third is an essay linked in the book review discussing two decent and humanitarian figures in existentialism and their father-son relationship, Jean Grenier and Albert Camus.

Camus was born in 1913 into a poor family in then-French Algeria. He never knew his father, who died the next year in the Battle of the Marne. So Camus was brought up in the poor Belcourt quarter of Algiers by his mother, grandmother, and other relatives. Despite a meteoric rise to the stratospheric summit of France’s elite culture, he never lost touch with these origins; indeed, he found in them a richness and reality that kept him from ideologies and political movements that professed love for ordinary people in theory but rode roughshod over them in practice.

One figure, 15 years his senior, who came early into his life and remained as a kind of intellectual father-figure until Camus died in a car accident shortly after winning the 1957 Nobel Prize for literature, was a significant French writer in his own right, the philosopher, essayist, and mystic Jean Grenier. Camus publicly acknowledged his debt to this master throughout his life, another way in which he differed from other great modern authors, who generally have tended to portray themselves as self-made geniuses, radically independent of any intellectual patrimony—indeed, engaged in a Hobbesian intellectual struggle to best all competitors.

Camus deftly exploded this pretension in the introduction he wrote to Grenier’s magical little book, Les Iles (Islands), which reflects a different reality that had transpired between the two men: “Among the half-truths that delight our intellectual society this stimulating thought can be found—that each consciousness seeks the death of the other. At once, we all become masters and slaves, dedicated to mutual annihilation. But the word master has another meaning, linked to the word disciple in respect and gratitude.... Mind thus engenders mind, from one generation to another, and human history, fortunately, is built as much on admiration as on hatred.”

Thursday, December 18, 2003

LOTR and faithfulness to subject matter.

Amy Welborn has an interesting discussion about Peter Jackson and company's explicit disavowal of any effort to explore Catholic subtexts in Tolkien's work.

As an aside, I'm not convinced by these disclaimers. There's just enough additions or extra-textual elaborations in all of the films--think Gandalf's posture as he falls into the abyss of Moria, for example--to make me think they protest too much.

I'd like to take it a step further and offer this proposal: it's probably a very, very good thing that it was not adapted by devout Catholics sensitive to those very subtexts. Such a director/writer might have been too sorely tempted to elaborate on the themes, with disastrously didactic results. Earnestness is often at war with good art, as readers of explicitly religious fiction or viewers of the Left Behind films can testify. Whereas an outsider can come to the material with a fresh eye and without the presuppositions or baggage.

The truly important thing is that Jackson, Boyens and Walsh were mostly faithful to the work, and always respectful of it even where they were not.
Blogger has been preventing posting today.

Stop celebrating.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Just. See. It.

Indulging my deficient Christianity, I saw ROTK today (the office closed early). Excellent film, almost exhausting in its scope. I'm going to have to see it again to take it in. And probably again after that.

Basic impressions? First, the good [a few spoiler-like items]:

1. The characterization is much improved here--the theatrical version of TTT was too frenetic and left the actors with little chance to shine. McKellen's Gandalf is back in Oscar-worthy fettle in this one, as is Sean Astin's Sam.

2. On a related note, it feels much less rushed than TTT, although the epic scale doesn't allow for the more leisurely pacing seen in FOTR. I think I could also sense where the extended version is going to fill in some blanks.

3. The charge of the Rohirrim at Pelennor Fields is unbelievable. According to the Newsweek article about the film, the first thing Peter Jackson asked about the other epics that came out this fall was "How are the battles?"

Well, Mr. Jackson sees your $25, and raises you...$1,000.

4. Shelob should not be seen by those suffering from arachnophobia.

5. The sets are marvelous. Minas Tirith is as advertised, and the Grey Havens were spectacular. Which brings me to:

6. The sense of tragedy in victory is maintained, very well so. The end at the Havens, with the sunset over a silent, empty city, is truly moving.

7. The religious overtones are still present, especially in the interactions between Gandalf and Pippin.

Now, the Not-So-Good.

1. The film Denethor is almost entirely without redeeming characteristics. Competently acted, but he bears no relationship to the character of the books, who was basically a decent, duty-bound man crippled by despair. This Denethor is a venal, deranged coward.

2. The love story angle limps to its conclusion. The least effective of the Jackson/Walsh/Boyens grafts, they seemed to recognize it this time and shuffled it off to the side. There was an interesting vision sequence where Aragorn laughingly picks up a very young Eldarion, but that was pretty much it.

3. Where's the confrontation between Gandalf and the Lord of the Nazgul? Come on! No fireworks in the book, but it would have been a fine opportunity for McKellen to bust out his "You! Shall Not! PASS!" chops.

4. Again, some scenes seemed to shout "the extended version will clarify."

5. Speaking of ROTK EE, the battle at the Black Gate was truncated. The Mouth of Sauron had better reappear, especially since Bruce Spence was cast in the role. Spence played the Gyro Captain in The Road Warrior, you may remember. I can easily picture him spitting "Surety you crave..."

6. Some of the characters--Legolas, Gimli--had less to do this time around.

7. I'm not sure about Jackson's deployment of the army of the Dead as a general rule. Then again, given his start in zombie films, I guess it was probably irresistable.

As you can see, the flaws, while noticeable, are relatively few. You'll not spend a better 3 hours and 15 minutes at the theatre this year.
Yes, but is he a scholar?

So much for "Mainstream" Mary and the Boys. The Pope has seen The Passion of Christ, and offers his impression:

"It is as it was."

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Popery Potpourri.

I've toyed with changing the name of the blog to the above title. Not seriously, and never after the meds kick in, but I do happen to like it.

That's a brief introduction to the following short takes:

1. Renato Cardinal Martino weighs in on the captive former tyrant of Iraq and removes all doubt.

My thoughts are posted at the link. Mark Sullivan also breaks out the cluster bombs. [Thanks, too, for the logo suggestion: I think I'm going to adopt it, once I get the hang of such things.]

There's just something about Europeans and mustachioed dictators, I guess.

2. Apologetic Smackdown.

I'm not big on the apologetic wars anymore, but this one was too entertaining to pass up. There is a weird subset of anti-Catholic apologetics which fixates on the subject of Jesus' mother having sex as though it were The Article Upon Which The Church Stands Or Falls. Eric Svendsen, the Michael Bolton of Reformed apologetics, is one of these adherents. In an inspiring monograph, John Pacheco shoots him off his horse.

"Michael Bolton"? Yes, Michael Bolton: Grating, persistent, unoriginal, and unburdened by talent.

Please keep the Office Space quoting down to a dull roar.

Share and enjoy.

3. Retraction Time.

It appears Bishop Donald Trautman is not as obtuse on the abuse issue as originally portrayed. Previous comments to that effect here are now non-operative.

Hopefully permanently.


4. Fun With "Inclusive" Language! Redux.

There are some interesting limits to the demand for "inclusive" language. It hit me: you never hear a clamor for "inclusive" alternatives to "priest" or "deacon," now do you?

I wonder why....not at all. Think about it: use of the feminine forms for the offices tends to undermine the entire agitprop "inclusive" enterprise. Not to mention the posturing over women's ordination. It just sounds horribly, jarringly wrong. Which is why the Inclusive/Ordainers studiously avoid use of them. [Warning: Link contains megadoses of Same Old/Same Old.]

Speaking of which, take a look see at this fine Touchstone article shredding the case for inclusive language in liturgy and bible translations. Yes, Virginia, there are many good Jesuits, too.

Thanks to Jim Cork for this remarkable find.

By the way, Jim--anybody who complains about Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle being a bad film is a little like the apocryphal restaurant critic who said: "The food here is horrible--and such small portions."

5. Liturgy Corner.

The latest installment of the Adoremus Bulletin is now online. If you'd like some bleak chuckles, check out News and Views, where Cardinal Mahony dislocates his shoulder patting himself on the back, and Peggy Steinfels continues to evidence her devotion to the Archbishop of the Millenium.
Thanks to Tom Fitzpatrick for the heads up. And for his multiple kind references to this here enterprise. All are greatly appreciated.

6. Yes, Raving Atheist, there is a St. Nicholas.

Michelle at And Then? explains this fact of life to RA in fine fashion, in multiple posts. I admire her patience. RA stopped by here once, and left a comment concerning abortion suggestive of someone who had been recently hit by a heavy blunt object, and hadn't gotten his bearings yet.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The Only of These is Luv.

Interesting debates flying about The Virtual Parish this week concerning love (including a disturbing subject) and hate.

I'll just chip in my two cents (adjust for inflation). I think that American Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, currently suffers from a debilitating emphasis on a greatly-deformed understanding of "love." In short, it's an understanding of "love" largely defined by our culture, with all that entails. It is a view of love unmoored from and unformed by any relationship to other virtues--namely, faith, hope, fortitude, temperance, prudence and justice.

It's a notion of "love" as a form of coddling by an endlessly-indulgent celestial grandpa who could care less about what you do. Well, he might give you a noogie, you rascal, but that's it. Keep flushing the babies down the commode, slugger.

This is the Great American Mushgod in action. Lost is the God whose love compels Him to set high standards for personal moral conduct, the God who demands faithful service even as he gives the grace to so serve, the God who embodies perfect Justice as well as perfect Mercy, without a hint of tension. The--eek!--"judgmental" God.

The same God who would live with and die for His creatures.

Instead, we get the hopelessly-sentimental "God" of Luv.

And the spillover impacts our view of "love" in personal relationships, too. It quickly degenerates into a love without rules, a love without regard to behavior, and a love without consequences. Look at the faintly desperate cover blurbs on women's fashion magazines, with their weekly/monthly headlines advising on the latest tactic to keep and/or win a man. Just as they advertise articles in the same issues bewailing the caddish behavior of the same pool of guys.

It quickly becomes a parody: the undemanding "love" of the abused, who waits in the almost-always futile hope for the abuser to change.

It would be impossible for this understanding of "love" not to enter the naves on Sundays, and it has. It's the "love" of a Jesus who really isn't into all those rules, man--he's all about "love," and he loves you! Don't go changing to try to please him.

He loves you just the way you are.... [Apologies to Billy Joel].

At the risk of saddling up on my favorite hobbyhorse, it is a decidedly feminine (and a malformed caricature of that, let me hasten to add) understanding of love. It even ticks off the ladies, too, after a while.

Why? Because it is malformed, unbalanced and ultimately false. It challenges no one, and is bereft, at its hollow core, of the essential Christian understanding of love: that love involves sacrifice. A sacrifice born of fortitude, faith, justice, hope, prudence, etc. This may be why a more balanced portrayal of love resonates so well with the gents.

I'm reminded of my father's decision, twenty-three years ago, to cross the picket line during a bitter strike, daily facing a barrage of savage personal abuse from associates and former friends to do so, without firing a word in response. Why? He had a family that came first, and he had to do what he had to do.

This is why Tolkien resonates today. There is plenty of love in his works--but it is love informed by fortitude, faith, justice, etc.--the kind of love we don't hear about much from either the culture or, more sadly, the pulpit.

The real kind.
"Heend al-Busharif, 14, of Detroit waved an Iraqi flag and recited the names of dead relatives: 'He killed my uncle, my grandpa, my grandma, my cousin. He had my mom in jail and a gun to my father’s head,' she said."

Metro Detroit's sizeable Iraqi community was, as might be expected, joyous yesterday. It was snowy and cold in these parts, too, which should give you an idea of the enthusiasm of the celebrants. I've heard it said that there isn't an Iraqi family in Detroit--Catholic or Shiite--that can't list relatives killed by the regime.

I believe it.

Military families were also cheered by the news. This article pretty well sums up the attitude of the Price family, too--which was much happier yesterday than it has been in a month and a half. Still wary and realistic, but happier.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

"Hello, my name is Dale Price, and I'm a Detroit Lions fan."

Legal mind-teaser of the day:

Can you sue a sports franchise for intentional infliction of emotional distress?
The Burbling Church, filleted and served with a bowl of split pea soup.

You owe it to yourself to read SAM's trowel work on an unusually-stupid idea from the once-Catholic province of Quebec, Trudeaupia.

Here's a sampler:

Consider a typical North American / European Catholic young man, moderately faithful, who feels some sort of gentle and hard-to-resist tug on his conscience to do and become more Catholic than he is. He looks around his community for men who have felt the same longing and tried to follow it. What does he see? Why, he sees Deacon Sauvageau praising La Soup au Riz à la Parisienne as better fare than the Blood of Christ, and Fr. Beaubien nodding appreciatively while Odette Mainville famously explains why the priestly life of the Mass represents the Church's failure to follow Jesus. In short, our young man sees the kind of idiot pusillanimity that he can easily accomplish on his own and without membership in the celibate Order of Melchizedek.

I suspect the difference might also depend on the elements that go to make up diamonds -- time and pressure. In Asia, Latin America, and Africa there are today martyrs, men and women who are murdered for following Jesus Christ. There is poverty, sickness, and war. There are demons who haunt the old religions (and some of the new ones) and use them to scourge humanity. There is no time for Christian weakness, ennui, and decadence because those things will get you (and others) killed to no purpose. In such circumstances the priest is an essential center, a living connection to the God-Man whose cataclysmic glory on the Cross is the only thing powerful enough to conquer the darkness. The priest must be strong and noble, not because strength and nobility are fine concepts that we praise because we don't know what else to do with them, but because they are essential survival tools which are more important than medicine, cookstoves, and a good knife. The priest in such circumstances doesn't have time to indulge the modern West's perpetual angst over human sexuality. He doesn't have time to natter and muse about alternative ecclesiastical modalities and biblical reinterpretations -- those things don't frighten Muslim armies, cow barbarian mobs, or help people whose children are dying of infections that get cured by over-the-counter medicine in the West. People are sick. People are starving. Life is lived on stark, hard terms that don't apply at the Universite de Laval, where the human mind has apparently become so emaciated that it can focus only on silly, insignificant things, such as whether Bisque de Crevettes is too rich for a self-worship services during Lent. In those troubled and frightful places, God is the only being who can possibly save men, in this life or in the next. It must concentrate the mind wonderfully on the need for priests who are strong and noble and self-giving because the people need strength, nobility and uncompromising love just in order to live (and die) as people.

Jesuits vs. Webster's: you decide!

The dispute? The definition of the term "chastity."

Here's the venerable repository of American English:

"Main Entry: chas·ti·ty
Pronunciation: 'chas-t&-tE
Function: noun
Date: 13th century
1 : the quality or state of being chaste : as a : abstention from unlawful sexual intercourse b : abstention from all sexual intercourse c : purity in conduct and intention d : restraint and simplicity in design or expression
2 : personal integrity"

Here's the 2001 definition from the New England province of the once-inspiring religious order:

"Chastity is the condition of being affectively present and available to all."

Um. Okaaaaaaay.....

Though that explains Fr. Mariano's unique approach to youth ministry, I suppose.

It also might explain the moral theology department of the Weston Jesuit school's interesting take on marriage.

Anyone wonder why I like the Dominicans a whole lot better these days?
Culture of Death to Terri Schiavo supporter: "Down in front, cripple."

Fr. Rob Johansen reports on the reaction of the local Ministry of Peace to someone with the temerity to plead Terri's case in public.

She got canned. Right before the holidays, too.

They may have made a fatal mistake, though--being a public employee, she can quite literally make a federal case out of it.

Which allows her to neatly sidestep the judicial system that created the Schiavo mess.
An early Christmas present for Iraq...

and our brothers and sisters in uniform, perhaps.

In the end, it seems, Saddam's bunker was rather smaller than the German Fuhrer's. More like a coffin, by all accounts.

On the way back from Mass this morning, local radio interviewed an Iraqi-American whose brother was killed by the regime. There weren't words to describe his elation and relief--the interviewer asked three questions over five minutes.

Here's hoping it carries over and takes the wind out of the Baathist holdouts.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Mister Hand...turning...into Mister...Fist. Must Fisk...Drooling...Idiocy...Stat!

How long, O Lord? How long?

How long will SixtiesChurch plague us? That tribune of cutting edge (ca. 1968) Catholic thought, the National Catholic (see Canon 216) Reporter, has finally decided to tote that heavy dust-covered book-thing sitting on its shelf out to the yard sale.

What's it called again? I got it during confirmation, and it's sat there ever since. Starts with a "b."

Definitely a "b" word. Man, this is frustrating.

Argh. Oh, well, it'll come to me.

Editor Tom Roberts and a lunch buddy were recently baptized by the Holy Spirit™, and feel the need to testify.

Pardon me a moment--I'm checking my loads.

Double-aught: Ehhhhhhxcellent.

Hold the condemnations

Heh. Suuuuuure.

Trust me: I'm a lawyer.

“I’m tired of having the Bible dragged into this discussion,” my friend and occasional lunch partner wrote in an e-mail.

Translation: I'm getting my a** kicked, scripturally speaking. Trying to be convincing using Episcopal exegesis against Catholics who actually read the frigging book makes me feel like a one-legged cat trying to bury turds on a frozen pond. It doesn't get me anywhere, and after an hour I just feel stupid.

On an unrelated issue: my, the Chilean sea bass was simply exquisite last week, wasn't it?

He was adding a postscript to a discussion we had over lunch recently about homosexuality and same-sex unions, having gathered up more thoughts on the ride home.

And the chocolate truffle--yummy, yummy!

One side quotes scripture,

Winning in the biggest rout since Patton's Third Army broke out of Normandy.

while the other side tries to render the quoted passages harmless.

Succeeding just as brilliantly as the Nazis did, who watched the Shermans roll east as they were marched off to captivity in Kansas.

Which is why we have to change the subject. Right. Now.

As if somehow it all hinged on scripture; as if scripture decided the question for us.”

Because if it did, we'd certainly wave it in your face and say "Discussion over."

But not here. Here, the Bible is quaint, outdated, culturally conditioned. Yes, quaint indeed! Why, those poor Hebrews and homophobes didn't even have Mercedes Benzes and Dan Brown books, and we're expected to listen to them today? I don't think so.

I think he makes an important point, especially since few other questions in the public square, except perhaps abortion

Another issue where we can't let the other side wave scripture or tradition around.

attract as much religious language and conviction. So I’ll let him speak for himself:

Please do.


“What’s really going on is that scripture is being used to justify preexisting prejudice.

All right: The "bigot" card!

Didn't see that one coming.

I love the smell of clay in the morning.

Look at it this way: No one cares what scripture has to say about slavery.

The bigot card on roids: Adherents to scriptural understanding of homosexuality = slaveowners. It's not subtle, original, smart or a tenable analogy, but by all means continue to emit your share of greenhouse gases.

Borrowing an insight from Mark Shea: The delightful irony in all this is that during biblical times, some philosophers (Aristotle comes to mind) essentially argued there was a slave orientation, meaning that some people were not fully human and deserved to be slaves. Interestingly, the Bible makes the counter-argument that all are created by the same God, but are flawed and sinful. However, there is redemption equally available to all. That includes slaveowners and slaves, as well as practitioners of heterosexual and homosexual conduct. Indeed, that essential Biblical equality of all men before God is what motivated certain backward scripture-mongers to battle against slavery.

O thou God of love, thou who art loving to every man, and whose mercy is over all thy works; thou who art the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and who art rich in mercy unto all; thou who hast mingled of one blood all the nations upon earth; have compassion upon these outcasts of men, who are trodden down as dung upon the earth! Arise, and help these that have no helper, whose blood is spilt upon the ground like water! Are not these also the work of thine own hands, the purchase of thy Son's blood? Stir them up to cry unto thee in the land of their captivity; and let their complaint come up before thee; let it enter into thy ears! Make even those that lead them away captive to pity them, and turn their captivity as the rivers in the south. O burst thou all their chains in sunder; more especially the chains of their sins! Thou Saviour of all, make them free, that they may be free indeed!

No, really.

Today, we have modern-day Aristotles arguing that there is an orientation which dispenses from the Biblical precepts of equality....

"No one cares what scripture has to say about slavery," eh?. Sure. No one 't'all.

No one cares what Jesus said, or didn’t say, about

Anything we disagree with?

slavery. Still more noteworthy is the fact that no one cares that when scripture touches upon slavery it’s either neutral toward slavery as a societal institution or actually approving of it.

Uh, huh.

Indeed, there was a time when slaveholders used scripture to prove their point. Not anymore. Not even the most diehard literalist pays attention to what the Bible says about slavery.

Maybe that's because (1) the biblical counter-arguments were more convincing, and (2) the 13th Amendment has since made slaveowning a dicey career move.

That, and I wouldn't be quite so dogmatic on the modern slaveowners using scripture point--you likely don't know the Quran any better than you know the book you're kicking to the curb right now.

Why? Largely because nonbelievers, allied with a handful of believers who ignored what the Bible had to say on the subject, decided that slavery was unacceptable.

Yes, many's the time I can remember stories quoting Wesley saying "Scripture?!? Pfffthpppppt!" Indeed, I've lost track.

Also, I hate to break it to you, but you'll search in vain for the annals of Atheist Anti-Slavery Society. The driving force for abolition, sadly, was organized God-botherers toting around The Greatly Inconvenient Book.™

That’s worth bearing in mind when both sides on the issue of sexual orientation rush to their Bibles. The Bible doesn’t change popular opinion. It follows it.”

There are some things that are so utterly, completely and absolutely moronic that they just fisk themselves.

Strange that it happens so often with NC Reporter articles.

In the case of homosexuality, I think scripture is too often called upon to reinforce arguments that are based not so much upon what we know as upon fear of what we don’t know.

Fear = Phobia = Homophobes!

Wow. Didn't see that one coming, either, slow-pitch.

While many certainties are thrown around about God’s wrath being visited upon those who act on their same-sex orientation, I think the only certainty is that we know very little about homosexuality, or heterosexuality for that matter, about what makes us who we are and how and why we are sexually oriented.

Behold the pseudopious, quasi-humble retreat into uncertainty. Drivel. Roberts' pal is full of certainties on this and other subjects. First and foremost is the awareness that his biblical arguments and slave analogies are as ship-shape as the Lusitania. Which is why he finishes with a reference to the alleged fire and brimstone of his opponents.

~ ~
[Roberts]: In recent years I have attended meetings of gay and lesbian Catholics, gay and lesbian journalists and met with members of the group Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. What became clear to me is that knowing someone and having as intimate a connection with another as can exist between parent and child can have a profound effect on one’s point of view. I’ve met parents who were as staunchly anti-gay as anyone until a child “came out.” Then things change. From the unknowns to the famous, parents know their children are not evil or disordered or perverse.

The ghost of the church of Fred Phelps. Catholicism--thankfully--does not use the terms "evil" or "perverse." "Disordered" is another matter, but it's much more nuanced than NCR would have you believe. [Faking surprise.]

They know them as gentle, loving, talented individuals whose attraction -- no matter how it is fought -- is to those of the same sex. That’s what they know.

Of which I have no doubt--on all points. Moreover, as others have noted with profound clarity, SSA is not sinful.

Moreover, you have to take into account each individual on his or her own terms. It's not that scripture is some iron law applied by God without some consideration of the unique circumstances of each human person. Such are to be loved as Wesley loved slaves and slave-owners.

Such emotions matter. It is also abundantly clear that such is no mandate for discarding a cornerstone of both our faith and classic Western morality in general (or what's left of it).

And many also know those relationships to be deep and committed, life-giving in a multitude of ways and holy.

After all, there is no other kind.

Is there?

What they know is that life just did not work out in all the neat categories that our social structures and our textbooks of old and our religious presumptions would require. They don’t know why God’s creation has made room for gays and lesbians, but they do know in the deepest, most human part of themselves that God hasn’t condemned their sons and daughters to a lifetime of loveless and sexless exclusion.

I don't think we have to ask Tom what he thinks of priests and religious, now do we?

The problem is, once you start playing Bible Editor, where do you stop? If you're accusing your opponents of only being motivated by the "ick" factor, then, over time, prevailing cultural gales can probably wear away the icky stuff near the top of the list, too. So long as it's in a committed relationship, that is.

Especially since contraception keeps us from getting those three-eyed inbreds nowadays.

Response, Tom?

Anyone? Anyone?


[Sound of crickets]

I think such realizations -- not some demon

Another scriptural belch we outgrew thirty-nine or so years ago.

-inspired “gay agenda” -- are behind the gradual erosion of resistance to same-sex unions. That is why the law is changing and society, at least in some places, is beginning to adjust.

Bring the jubilee. Of course, Tom can afford his pose as a sanguine dispenser of the wisdom according to the prevailing wind gust. Like most boomer pundits, he won't be around to pick up the pieces.

That's all right--the generations permitted to be born since 1965 have been coming to realize that they're going to be the janitors for the messes, and are getting prepared for it.

That reminds me--got to get another shovel....

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...