Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Too little time today. Maybe--perhaps--this evening. Just links until then.

1. Young Catholics. Again.

Bill Cork offers this great (PDF) find on the identity and interests of younger Catholics by William Portier. Entitled Here Come The Evangelical Catholics, it is very rich, thoughtful and full of cautions and insights, especially on the dangers posed by the current cultural dynamic. It also has gems such as this:

In a church whose most frequently quoted theologian has been Notre Dame’s Richard McBrien, how did thirty percent of under-forty Catholics come to think that the Catholic Church is the one true Church? Who are these people? Where did they come from? Are they leftovers or prophets?

You are also welcome to wade through the combination of (some) insight and (much) fatuity that is the response of Richard Gaillardetz, a favorite (1) in these parts, excerpted in Bill's post. I confess to not much liking Gaillardetz, despite his reader-friendly style and seemingly even-handed tone. I think I've figured out why: he adopts a moderate tone, but is a consistent apologist (!) for the progressives, who never get the critical examination he applies to conservatives/traditionalists. A faux moderate, he feints to the center, but runs to the left.

A former student of Prof. Gaillardetz, Bill does a nice job of pointing up the fatal flaws.

2. Overdue thanks!

To Jeff Miller and Mark Sullivan, for shortlisting me as a favored read in the Ignatius Insight article entitled What Do Catholic Bloggers Read? If you've come here from that link, welcome!

Also a way overdue hat tip to Michelle Arnold over at JimmyAkin.org for her link to the fisk of Charles Curran. Much obliged, and it nearly overloaded the counter.

Thanks also to Greg Krehbiel for his kind words on the Mary post.

BTW: Don't take a lack of thanks for a link as anything other than a lack of time to respond. I do appreciate greatly the ones I am aware of, but I am unable to patrol Technorati like a rat in a Pavlov experiment to give all possible credit where it is due.

3. More Blogs Worth A Look.

Gathering Goat Eggs

The Julian Calendar

Anne Elliot

Matthew Meloche (with whom I unknowingly shared a church on Sunday, St. Josaphat. Matt may have seen me: I was the guy trying to reason with the toddler in front of the statue of St. Anthony after Mass. Dale wanted to light several candles.)

4. Support Juventum, if you can.

A fine choir would like to go to WYD 2005, and they will--if they get the support.

5. Two from the Vaults.

Since I don't have time to blog anything substantive, here are two blasts from the past (pretend I just wrote them):

a. Fathers, Sons and the Faith of Our Fathers. A personal attempt to understand Mel Gibson's stalwart defense of his father, a trimmed down version later appeared in the National Catholic Register. My dad is still showing copies to total strangers.

b. Smile Time!
A parody of the see-no-evil diocesan mindset, it was very popular for some reason.

(1) With respect to the criticisms of Bill in that link and the follow up posts, please note the dates they were written. To use the Ron Ziegler term, those statements are "no longer operative." A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and I'd like to think that Bill and I get along better than we used to.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Just a quick follow-up for Fay Vincent.

The last real Commissioner of baseball resigned from several Catholic college-related posts, and turned down an honorary degree, in protest of the whatever of Fr. Thomas Reese from his editorship of America magazine.

His reasoning:

He said he's concerned the removal of Reese from America — which some church figures consider too liberal — might signal the Vatican is adopting a hard-line stance.

"I worry that the next step will be to bounce the president of a Jesuit college or university because somebody in Rome would take issue with what these Jesuits are doing," Vincent said. "Are we only going to permit on the campus people who speak pure, orthodox church positions, or are we going to permit some debate and some discussion?"

Just one question for Mr. Vincent:

"Would you have permitted 'some debate and some discussion' of the merits of MLB players gambling on baseball while you were Commissioner?"

Oh, right--that's different. We're talking the national pastime here, not that Jesus stuff. Never mind.
The "Rose Church."

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

One of the great fears observant Catholics with children have is whether they will be able to hand on the faith to those children. I doubt that there is any cradle Catholic today who can say that all of his brothers and sisters are still observant. The phrase "lapsed Catholic" is a staple of the American lexicon for a reason. Ditto the claim to have been "raised Catholic," which is usually followed up with by a reference one's current status as a Buddhist, atheist, hardcore fundamentalist--almost anything but "still Catholic."

Goodbye to all that.

Thus, I am not necessarily brimming with confidence about my own ability to transmit a vibrant faith to my children. On the one hand, I cannot comprehend the "Let them decide for themselves" approach. An odd tack, to put it mildly, and one which manages to trivialize both the faith of the indulgent parent and religion in general. After all, this rule is never applied to the family dinner table. All you manage to convey with this is that relativism is the order of the day. All religions are pretty much the same. Find what works for you and go with it.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet John Walker Lindh.

I'm also not a proponent of the opposite approach: cramming-it-down-their-throats. From what I can tell, that seems to be the perfect recipe for creating the bitterest atheists I've ever seen.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet John Shelby Spong.(1)

The golden mean, perhaps.

For starters, I stay involved. I pray with my kids (the Apostle's Creed being the latest addition to the repertoire), at meals, bedtimes and other times. I read them Bible stories, saints' stories (these are just beginning to hold their interest), and--most importantly--take them to church.

Which is why my older children's response to a particular church has been fascinating to me.

Let me preface this by saying I do not gripe about the state of Catholic life around my kids. I do not read my fisks to them before bedtime.

"Can you say Curran's an 'idiot', Dale?"


"Good job!"

I also spare them liturgical rants, homily critiques and the like. Even when I am sentenced to Saginaw. Instead, I rant at my tolerant wife.

But on a consistent basis for the past several months, Maddie has been demanding we go to "the rose church." In the last eight weeks or so, her brother has taken up the same call.

"Wah go ohs urts."

That would be St. Josaphat's to you--Detroit's home of the Tridentine Latin Mass. "The Rose Church" refers to the huge rose windows at either end of the transept. The one to the west depicts Mary, and is ringed with little roses, and to the east, of course, is the Son. To call the children fascinated is an understatement. Maddie likes to go up to the altar rails, over to the statuary, the crucifix, the candles. Sometimes, she just likes to look at the ceiling, which depicts the Four Evangelists and their traditional symbols. Dale III likes to lunge for the pulpit, with its steep marble stairs. All the better to harangue the faithful from.

In Feburary, following increasingly insistent calls, Maddie and I went alone to St J's.

Croup is an ugly little ailment, and at that time we two were the least sick of the household. We'd told her I would be taking her that day, and to change it because of a mere contagious lung ailment would have led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth. So we went.

I was glad we did.

We arrived and went to a spot about a third of the way toward the altar (you can count on 1-3 legitimate bathroom breaks on her part on any given Sunday, so it's best to set up base camp accordingly). While she was a little fidgety, she spent a lot of time gazing at the art, uninterrupted by the competing antics of her foil and co-conspirator, The Boy™. And, mirabile dictu, about halfway through Mass I got a gentle nudge to the ribs. In a whisper, I heard:

"Look, Daddy--I'm praying!"

So she was.

Would that she did that everywhere, but she does not. The beauty of an older church has captivated her in a way that the modern ones have not. And why shouldn't it? Kids are big on the senses, not abstractions. They glom on to images, odors, to the tactile. Even the dimmer lighting leaves an indelible impression. St. Josaphat has each in abundance. When Mass ended, she gravitated toward the high altar, then the statue of St. Francis, then the candles. The Boy likes candles, too. Lit ones. Which is why I have less of a problem with him charging toward the pulpit.

For the most part, our home parish is lacking in the above. The construction is meant to evoke the Mosaic tabernacle, and I can see how it does that. Abstractly. The altar is table-like, and allegedly movable, though I think I am safe in saying that has not been uprooted once during the forty four years the parish has been in existence.

The church itself is not completely devoid of what can be seen at St. Josaphat's--the dogged Polish/Italian immigrant core has commissioned and placed two statues of the Virgin Mother and St. Joseph in places of honor, flanking the still-centrally located tabernacle, and a painting of the martyr-saint for which the parish is named. But that's pretty much it. No stone, kneelers, altar rails, candles, incense (apart from Christmas and Easter), and only abstracted and faded stained glass. About the only time the kids look up is to gaze at the whirring fans.

Speaking of iconoclasm.

Mark Sullivan brings to our attention the stripping of the altars at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Rochester, New York. Masterminded by (who else?) the tradition-hating minimalist and liturgical heartthrob, Richard Vosko.

While some of the original cathedral remains (though you have to look way up to see it), the overall result resembles nothing so much as a modern airport terminal, right down to the lighting and lack of ornamentation. Compare and contrast.

"St. Joseph, you are wanted in baggage claim. St. Joseph, you..."

Horizontalia. Of course. The Church of Us, it encourages navel-gazing, and with the usual game of "Spot The Tabernacle" in full swing, definitely discourages the fullest Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. The latter happens, frankly, because that's the idea--far better to focus on us and a quasi-Lutheran emphasis on the consecration alone. Wouldn't want to embarrass ourselves in front of our secular friends by leaving the impression we worship the Host, now would we?

Look: banners!

This is the desacralized taste of a generation bent on soothing their preconciliar traumas--any citation to authority is invariably prooftexting or an interpretation based on a penumbra. You will scan in vain for an authorization to sledgehammer generations-old art and architecture. This is an attempt at psychological exorcism, nothing more. And, in keeping with this mentality, no regard is paid to the impact on those who will follow. It's all about therapy. Those of us who do not want to see older relatives burn all of grandpa's stuff because they felt he was mean to them simply do not matter. You can almost hear the murmur: "Closure."

The good news is that the disincarnate, docetic Catholicism preached by the airline terminal architects contains the seeds of its own destruction. It didn't emerge from the faithful--it was rammed down their throats in an exercise of power, with the soothing admonition it was good for them. And, on occasion, you can even can keep your clutter--so long as no one can see it and get the wrong idea. Ipecac spirituality--by the gallon. Unfortunately for its advocates, the only lessons learned were (1) it was a matter of taste, and (2) it was a matter of power. With a personnel change, you can get (2), which will help you install your version of (1). Makes for a tenuous legacy, doesn't it?

And, in the final analysis, the beige Bolshevism has limited appeal, especially to the smallest among us. They much prefer statuary and high altars to stackable chairs and bare walls, thanks. They want more--need more, actually--and so do most of us. It's instinctive. Denying the basic human craving for the transcendent has been the death of sterner ideologies than Voskoism. Once the latter loses its patrons, it will hit the scrapheap, too.

Even my children could predict that.


(1) As has been correctly noted by others, he's a functional atheist. His "god" is an ineffectual, insensate irrelevance who nonetheless affirms us in our wayward okayness. And man, is Spong bitter.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

If I had met more pleasant traditionalists earlier on, I'd probably be one by now.

Instead the first traditionalists I met were of the too-common internet variety I've come to call the "tradhole." First class sneering, merciless, triumphalist jackasses who gleefully informed me that I was a heretic a week after my confirmation in 1999. They were Feeneyites, you see. Ah, yes.

Not the best way to make a first impression.

In retrospect, they were typical Feeneyites--loud, insecure, and not nearly as bright (not even close) as they thought they were. But they made up for these deficiencies by going "hahahaha!" a lot and calling themselves "the Hammer" and "Heretic Crusher"--things like that.

It got to the point where I began to suspect they did actually wear homemade capes while web surfing for error to vanquish. Or at least adult-sized pajamas with the feet still in them.

It took me a long time to get past these first impressions. For about the first year after my conversion, I literally steered clear of any book with a pre-1965 publication date. Seriously. I sure didn't want to be anything like they were, and behaved accordingly. I remember passing on a cheap set of Fernand Prat's two-volume life of Christ--in the original slipcase no less--because the publication date was 1950.

[Sound of man kicking himself repeatedly.]

I've gotten past it, obviously. I even found another set of the Prat books. Without the slipcover, unfortunately. In retrospect, it was the discovery of decent traditionalists and traditionally minded Catholics that helped: people like Mark Sullivan, Shawn McIlhenney, Jeff Culbreath, Pete Vere, Hilary and Steve Skojec.

That, and discovering the profound beauty of Catholic Tradition and its impact on me, my wife and my children (more on that to come shortly).

But I'm still not there yet, and frankly don't know if I will be. The persistent problems are a few, but real. (1) Jew-baiting as a traditionalist pastime. Sorry. Not interested. Obviously, it doesn't apply to all, but there is a streak of Jew-bashing in traditional circles that is desperately in need of exorcism. (2) To say that the witness of too many traditional Catholics is dour and apocalyptic understates the case by several orders of magnitude. Not that I'm Mr. HappyPeppy Turn-That-Frown-Upside-Down myself, but Lord.(1)

Exhibit A: The Society of St. Pius I.

I'm sorry, but this is one of the more hilarious send-ups I've read. Moreover, it was written by two young traditionalists, to boot (scroll to the last link). It apes the hysteria of the fringe beautifully. Amy Welborn posted it. Quickly, the tut-tutting schoolmarms arrived, in full yardstick-wielding whiny splendor. "You wouldn't do this to Protestants."

Actually, I probably would. Gleefully. But that's not the point. The point is: It's a parody, for pete's sake! Get over yourself for thirty seconds and see that it's meant in fun--and not even directed at the average decent traditional Catholic. Not to mention far more gentle than the bile geysers you see from the far end.

Maybe more people would want to be traditionalists if they saw something of the joy of their faith shining forth. Including a willingness to chuckle at foibles.


(1) There are other substantive reasons I find myself in the no-man's land between "conservative" and "traditional" Catholicism, but I'll get into those another time. Maybe in the comments box, if you really want to know.
Postcards from Hell.

Care to see fascinating snapshots taken on a recent tour of North Korea (yes, they have such things) by a young British doctor?

Of course you do. Take a look. [Warning--takes a long time to load].

Via the perennially-underrated Eve Tushnet.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Need recommendations.

Ye Olde Familie Computer is not long for this world. It is old, slow and showing its age more and more often of late.

I recognize there's a rule coined by sci-fi writer David Gerrold applicable to this discussion. It goes something like this:

"Fast. Cheap. Good. Pick two."

Please violate it. If any of you could point me to a reliable source for fast, good and (especially) cheap computers (new or used) I'd be grateful. Remember--I'm just looking for a computer that has to run a scanner/printer/copier, word processing software, and assorted games, with the possibility of upgrading down the line. I don't need speakers, a monitor or printer, either.

Much appreciated!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Rashomon at the Zoo.

Zach gives his version of the Great Zoo Odyssey at his blog.

He's too kind.

And yes, the last word is, sadly, accurate.

[Evil, chortling laughter. The Stirling Virus spreads!]
The woman who is not there.

Appropriately enough for the month of May, the subject of the greatest discord between Catholics and Protestants has leapt to the fore.

The estimable Dawn Eden stepped on the third rail of Protestant-Catholic discourse in a fine post on the value of chastity, both within marriage and without. Nevertheless, it was her reference to the Blessed Virgin at the end that got the avalanche rolling.

Note that Dawn, as an evangelical with a significant Catholic readership, carefully framed the reference so as to allow for an endorsement by both Catholics and Protestants: the discussion of Mary's chastity is during the timeframe of the earthly ministry of Jesus. I think her point is well-argued, and very artfully posed.

Bzzzt! Not good enough, as the trench warfare demonstrates.

As a convert, it is extremely difficult to explain to cradle Catholics the visceral reaction the subject provokes. At the parish bible study, I've tried over and over to explain this to sensible cradle Catholics of differing ages and backgrounds. Despite my efforts, they are still puzzled.

I'm still sympathetic to the Protestant reaction. The place of Mary within Catholicism was the greatest hurdle to my conversion, and threatened to derail it at one point. [As an aside--there is one contemporary book by a Catholic writer on the subject that should never, ever under any circumstances be handed to an inquirer troubled by the subject, unless you really don't want to ever share a pew with him or her in even the most mystical of senses. I'll name it in the comments box below.]

The honor given to Mary is utterly alien to the Protestant mindset, even the most superficially catechized. "What--?" is the unvarying first reaction. And the consistent reaction for the next hundred times the subject comes up. Mary plays no role in Protestant religious life, the odd ultra-high church Anglo-Catholics aside. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Any but the most perfunctory of references to her detracts from the person of Jesus Christ, and so must be avoided. She is the woman who is not there.

As I said, I am still somewhat sympathetic to this--there are Catholics whose devotion to her sure looks like it passes beyond the far fringes of hyperdulia and reaches the level of latria. Furthermore, they seem unconcerned when excess is pointed out. And the treacly sentimentality is sometimes enough to lead to diabetic shock, even if that sentimentality manifests a significant truth about the relationship between a mother and her children.

Obviously, I got past it. And, ironically, it was "zip/zero/zilch" void that helped me hurdle it. The problem is that the most common Protestant response to the excesses of Catholicism is to offer the most grudging and minimal "respect" possible, heavily larded with qualifiers. After a while, it all sounds like the same set of talking points, reiterated though clenched teeth.

"Of course we honor her. She is our sister in the Lord, and gave birth to Jesus. Yes, that was important. She was the vessel.

But she was a sinner just like the rest of us and doubted him during his ministry and was rebuked by him on numerous occasions and in retrospect she was nothing really special after all because she had other kids so we keep it all in perspective."

You see a lot of this in Dawn's comment thread. In other words, the USRDA of Mary is no more than .5g in a 10,000 calorie theological diet. Even then, you'd better exercise a lot. In reality, she's given considerably less respect than a beloved pastor, exegete or theologian. It was a confrontation with this mindset that finally made it all click.

At the old Catholic Convert Message Board (RIP 2000--the one with the tan background), the free-for-all was briefly graced by a rather vociferous hyper-Calvinist (or perhaps just "hyper" without the hyphen) who went by the nom de guerre of "Riolion." Riolion's claims to fame were (1) being a stern foe of all distinctives associated with Popery, and (2) having been, at one point, a top 500 reviewer for Amazon.com. This latter item was a particular--and peculiar--source of pride to him. If nothing else, I suppose I have to concede that he was especially blessed with free time.

Needless to say, the invariable daily Marian thread at the CCMB was of great interest to him. He was, as many are, a devotee of the "All generations will call me 'vessel'" interpretation of Luke 1:48. Facing down some honest hyperdulia, he jumped in with both wooden-shoe clad Reformed feet, along the lines of:

"Mary was a vessel, nothing more. God, in His sovereign will, could have chosen anyone to achieve the divine purpose of the incarnation of His Son. That He chose her does not make her important. She was a sinner like the rest of us. Jesus did not pay her any particular honor, so no Christian should. The sentimental piety of Catholics regarding her is ludicrous, where not idolatrous."


Remember, this is a Catholic board. Talk about waving the proverbial red cape in front of a veritable herd of snorting bulls.

"Who knew badgers hated being poked with sharp sticks?" muses man following hand-reattachment surgery.

Leave aside that he wasn't being faithful to his own Reformed (and biblical) precommitments on this one. Lest we forget, we were all selected for our roles by Almighty God from before the founding of the world. In that light, suggesting that Mary was not special despite being chosen as the mother of the Redeemer is as ludicrous as suggesting that God went "eeny, meeny, miney, moe" over a list of the eligible women of Nazareth.

"If she doesn't work out, there's always Tova..."

More stunning to me was that his need to take the wind out of Mariolatry led him to use terms that, if applied to his own mother, would have led to a meeting with pistols at dawn, in a more civilized age. I framed my response thusly:

Scene: Mother's Day at the Riolion residence.

Riolion: "Greetings, Mother. As you know, today is Mother's Day. On this ersatz 'holiday,' I could have stood with the other pagans, baptized or otherwise, and gotten you a card, chocolates, some flowers or other sentimental frippery. But, as you know, I have no truck with that. Instead, I have chosen to recognize the day--and you--for what is truly important.

Mother, I hereby honor you for your essential, Godly function--namely, the bearing of one of God's elect: myself. After all, you, like me, are a sinner. More importantly, God, in his sovereign and omnipotent will, could have chosen anyone--indeed any thing--for this task: another woman, a card table, a wombat or even a cheese log rolled in walnuts. Nevertheless, He did choose you, so I will honor you with a non-idolatrous 'good show!' Enjoy the day, Mother!"

As I said, the blinders of theology were so thick on this one that he spoke of the Lord's mother in a way that he would never tolerate hearing of his own. That's because the woman who is not there has been forcefully ejected from what should be a place of some true honor, even if just to be consistent with other aspects of a genuinely-biblical theology. It was this kind of anti-witness that pushed me to accept the Catholic position. St. Augustine gets far more respect, and he merely bore witness to Jesus in explications of word and sacrament. As Thomas Howard notes, Mary did far more than that--she actually bore and nursed the Word Himself.

The woman who is not there played a role none of the rest of us will ever be privileged to play. I can understand balking at some of the Marian dogmas. What I can never understand is balking at true respect, gratitude, and yes, even love. She deserves far better than that. No mother deserves any less. At least if "honor thy mother" is more than boilerplate.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Progressive Anglicans: "Is it cold in here?"

B-16 has a stiff arm technique worthy of Gale Sayers:

Thus, it was significant that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams attended the inaugural mass for Benedict XVI, becoming only the second occupant of the throne in Canterbury to witness such a rite since the Reformation. Afterwards, the former Oxford don greeted the pope in German and presented him with a pectoral cross.

Ah, yes, but journalists and photographers paid close attention to the precise details of this rite of reception.

"Symbolism is everything," opined David Virtue, a conservative Anglican whose Internet reports circle the globe. "When the new pope met with the patriarchs from the Orthodox churches there were public embraces and kisses, but when Benedict XVI met Williams there was only a handshake. ... Williams edged forward perhaps hoping for a papal embrace but it was not forthcoming."

Keep this in mind whenever you hear of the Pope's willingness to engage in ecumenical dialogue. It will not be of the variety that only doffs the "Kick Me!" placard when he gets in the dunk tank.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Michigan: Where You Can Suffer From Wind Chill and Sunburn On the Same Day.

After months and months of scheduling misfires, the Price and Frey families finally were able to go the Detroit Zoo yesterday. We've been meaning to for some time, but with seven kids and divergent careers and schedules between us, the logistics of the thing have been daunting. Until yesterday, that is.

It was brutally cold in the morning (we met around 11am), but judicious use of the indoor exhibits (the penguinarium and the butterfly house) bought us the time needed for things to warm up outside. The penguins were comparatively listless--apparently they were following the "no swimming an hour after you eat" rule. The butterflies and birds in the tropical set up were better, with the repeated refrain of "they're coming right at us!" punctuated by the delighted cries of my son, who was the focus of brief, but intense interest by one of the butterflies.

The delightful Freys' children were perfectly well behaved, with their Rachel (thanks for letting the naming right go back into the public domain, btw) quickly befriending Madeleine. Ours were fine, too, until right near the end, when the two oldest experienced a chain reaction of fatigue-induced meltdowns. Barking Dad started to make an appearance, but it's difficult to be angry with tired toddlers. Difficult, but not impossible.

What did I learn at the Zoo?

(1) It's big. I re-learn this every visit. With toddlers, it turns into an exercise in cat-herding.

(2) Madeleine likes giraffes most of all. Giraffes are waaaaaaaaay toward the back of the zoo. See Toddlers, Tired, supra.

(3) Dale likes peacocks. He'd very much like to catch one. Peacocks do not enjoy being chased by toddlers.

(4) Rachel has formed no firm opinion as to a favorite animal as of yet.

(5) If jacuzzi jets existed in the wild, seals would never move. True story--we saw a seal in the Arctic Ring of Life exhibit (it's very cool--you walk under water and can see the critters through plexiglass) swimming with its head two feet in front of the water circulator. Watching its face blubber flap in the current was one of the highlights of the day.

(6) Gorillas are cooler than chimps. The latter had stagefright and/or narcolepsy. The silverbacks were ready for primetime. One of them strode up to the viewing window, extended its massive arms to either side of the glass frame, and looked straight in at us. It then purposefully gamboled off, as if to say, "That'll give 'em a thrill."

(7) I'm getting older. I was in bed by 9:30.

Still, a good time had by all.
D**n it, Todd, go to the doctor.

Via Aristotle, we learn that Todd's blogging absence has ended, but with a disquieting health update:

Fingers don't turn green on their own. [Scroll down to Tis the Season to Disinvite.]

He could use your prayers. Even--maybe especially--exasperated ones.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Benedictine Neo-Inquisition Claims Yet Another Victim.


Who will be next?!

[Copyright notice: I hereby lay claim to the coining of the term "Neo-Inquisition." Henceforth, all uses of the term must acknowledge the source.

After all, everybody digs the "neo-" prefix. Traditionalists, progressives and pretty well everyone in between. Consequently, the term "Neo-Inquisition" will be a big hit. Just you watch.

That is all.]
Upon further review.

The situations of Frs. Fessio and Reese (Car-di-nal Fang!) truly aren't comparable.

In order for them to be truly equivalent, the CDF would have to, in addition to Fr. Reese, fire two prominent staffers at America, appoint Michael Matt as the new executive editor and fold the magazine in with The Remnant, albeit leaving the original name intact. Then Fr. Reese would have to be barred from any association with a successor magazine set up by disaffected America staffers and subscribers--hard as it is to imagine such displeasure on the part of the latter two parties. All of this being done before Fr. Reese was sent off to a hospital chaplaincy in Appalachia, of course.

That's the real analogy here, and one that makes the collective pants-wetting seen in the Boston Globe article even more hilarious.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

I don't get it.

I understand that the media has decided to run with the story of the sacking of a prominent American Jesuit from a position of influence by higher-ups within the order itself. I certainly agree that it is fascinating and newsworthy--the story of tyrannical clericalist Jesuits silencing those beneath them who disagree with their rigorous dogmatism is something that deserves scrutiny.

So, while I'm gratified that it has finally become news, I'm baffled because the timing is odd.

After all, the silencing and exile of Fr. Joseph Fessio and his supporters happened over three years ago. Fr. Fessio has moved on to other things since, and his supporters have taken jobs with other institutions.

Still, the overdue interest of mainstream media in this dispute is welcome, indeed. At last--the tyrants who engaged in this shameful deed will finally be exposed.
Then there were three.

I have been reminded that Mr. Rubb was subjected to multiple insults himself, which is more than a technical violation of the rule. I apologize for that. Let me clarify what is, and is not, an insult in these parts:

Insult: "You are stupid."

Not an insult: "That idea/comment/argument/claim/etc. is deeply, devoutly, irredeemably stupid."

If it's not clear, think about it. Let's try to slice and dice the ideas, not the person. But again, this is much more a factory floor than a salon, so expect the occasional bruised ego. They heal.

Moreover, I now have a functioning email address and some information confirming that we are dealing with a full-orbed human being, and no spammer. Religion: "raised Catholic," but long since gone, has problem with authoritarian institutions. Other personal info far beyond what was asked for was also provided, but I'll leave that up to him to reveal.

In other words, the ban is lifted.

However, the topics will remain what I want to talk about, thank you. The communion story I deleted was interesting, but not germane, even tangentially. I think Amy Welborn's "agenda rule" remains a good one: If you really feel that passionately about an unrelated issue, blog it yourself.
Happy Mother's Day!

To my wonderful Mom and my wonderful wife, Heather.

I don't know how they did/do it, but thanks, and love.

When I'm left alone with my children I count it an achievement that the house doesn't catch fire (I was going to say flood, but, well...)

Somehow, they did/have done it for years.

I stand in amazed and humbled gratitude.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Make that four.

I don't like playing the bouncer, but I will (sorry, Peter). Here's from my last comment (be advised he/she was still in violation of several of the rules at the time of banning):

This comment confirms that you are a spammer:

[The pseudonymous Mr. Rubb, in response to my query about his religious affiliation]: "One's (my) religious affiliation, age, color, gender, sexual orientation is not pertinent to a good lively discussion."

Oh. So you conduct all of your discussions off the net wearing a mask, gloves, voice distorter and body tunic?

In a word: Nonsense. One of the prerequisites of a "good lively discussion" is the recognition that you are dealing with a flesh and blood human being with a set of perspectives. Even in my college bull sessions I knew quite a bit about those I was "debating" with, and vice versa. We didn't exchange emails from isolation booths. Most human beings recognize the silliness of such an endeavor. I simply asked you your religious beliefs (and only that--nice descent into huffy victim status by offering a litany of categories) in order to frame the discussion. Should it be a theological perspective, or one tilted toward the secular?

Your canned static leaves me attempting to dialogue with a pseudonym. You know a ton about me. I know bupkis about you. I am happy to try to dialogue with an actual human being. Even one with a diametrically opposed perspective. I cannot have a discussion with a pseudonym.

So I will not. Thank you for visiting. Email me when you are really interested in a discussion of the topics, or have opened your own blog.

I'm not holding my breath. Here's a sampler of the "good lively discussion" you missed out on. Judge for yourself whether he/she was sincerely interested in discussing anything.

In the meantime, I have revised Rule 5. I do not want to discourage honest questioning by struggling Catholics (who got jobbed by glitterchesis) and curious non-Catholics on the hot-button issues. In fact, the box below is open to such questions--just abide by the rest of the rules in so doing.

And everyone else--be nice in responding, too.

Friday, May 06, 2005

It's a bad sign when you have to codify common courtesy.

But so be it.

Please be advised that I've banned all of three people in the 2.5 years this blog has been in operation. I'm pretty easy going, and you have to do a lot to try my patience, but be advised I will do it.

Here are the rules for commenting here. A neat round dozen. What can I say? The curse of a legal education.

1. Identify yourself with a legit email address or website. I don't care if you call yourself the Tsar-Lord of the Alien Space Bats, I just don't want to deal with comment spraying from people who don't have the guts to leave themselves open to a response. Email me with it if you don't want to ID yourself (but be advised that Haloscan currently hides email addresses from everyone but me, if that helps).

2. No agenda pushing. If you come here posting up a storm on a topic not even tangentially related to the post, I'm going to react. Badly. Remember--Blogger's free for every stump ranter with a dialup modem.

3. Be at least minimally courteous to the other commenters. That doesn't mean you have to radiate sanctity, nor does it bar all forms of sarcasm and chippiness. But flat out rudeness and name-calling are not welcome.

4. Use profanity at your own risk. I'm one to talk, so I tend to cut a little slack here. Just about enough for you to hang yourself with.

5. I'm Catholic. I offend accordingly. Whore of Babylon and similar references are rewarded with immediate banning. I also don't usually debate settled issues with those of a more liberal/progressive bent, dogmatic or not. A quick read of the blog should leave you with the (accurate) impression that I consider a lot more issues to be settled than my brethren on the left.

However, the second half of this rule is a lot softer than the first--I'm less likely to pull the trigger, at least at first. Moreover, it doesn't apply at all to sincerely struggling Catholics and questioning non-Catholics. The door's wide open on hot button issues for the latter. Consider the Tier post below as an example.

6. It should be obvious, but don't be rude to me personally, either. "Me" includes my family and friends. For whatever reason, the internet has left people with the impression that it is acceptable to do anonymously and via electrons what they would never dare to do in person.

7. I cut more slack to people I know--long-time posters are allowed to bend the rules a little more. Maybe even past what you might perceive to be the breaking point. Bear with me.

8. There are exceptions to every rule. These exceptions are at my discretion. I don't usually signal ahead of time when the exceptions will apply.

9. The Banned are not consigned forever to a virtual Hell. Apologies and a cooling off period will lead to reinstatement.

10. As befits a believer in unwritten Tradition, I also believe in unwritten rules. Play nice.

11. Bending/violating one rule tends to make me harsher in the enforcement of the remainder. Translation: you may find yourself banned for a relatively minor violation of one rule if you've tested me on another.

12. I am the infallible interpreter of these rules.

YES, this is in response to recent comments by a certain commenter. Hint, hint, hint.

That's a nice way of saying you have been warned, Mr. JR.
And now...Sex!

Warning--this post contains observations of a personal, if not Oprah-esque confessional, nature.

Via Bill Cork, I stumbed across this Busted Halo rumination on premarital sex by Fordham University senior Julia Tier. Since it's (usually) not sporting to fisk college students (think: bragging about grenade fishing skills), I'm not going to do that.

Besides, it's really not worthy of a caning. Flawed--very--but honest. That, and it's hard for me to truly get upset with someone who takes the time to cite the Catechism.

In fact, she makes a decent point or two. The problem is that she appears to be completely unaware of the tragic flaws in her own moral argument. Since it reflects a common mindset, I thought I'd take a crack at answering it. And I might as well get an early start on preparing to explain it to my own children, to boot. That day will be coming sooner rather than later.

The heart of her essay is this:

There is a trend among people my age to separate their faith from Church teachings on issues of sexuality. I believe one of the main reasons for this disconnect is that the Church does not provide any guidance regarding sexuality for unmarried young adults other than "Don't do it!" Although remaining chaste until marriage is no doubt a beautiful and romantic experience for those who choose it, not everyone follows this path. In my experience, pre-marital sex on college campuses is not the exception, but the rule. So how does a predominantly Catholic student body at a Jesuit school justify disobeying this tenet of the Church? The answer seems to be that they don’t. I don’t believe young people are simply ignoring this teaching so they can do what they want and go to confession later. Instead, I think they feel that the Church's teaching on sexual issues is bordering on irrelevance, not only because of the institution's hypocritical handling of the recent scandals but also because young people see the Church as treating all acts as equally damning. For those Catholics who are having pre-marital sex, there is no distinction between making love in a committed relationship and having sex with the entire rugby team; they are both mortal sins. This ignores the heart of the Church's teaching on sex, which, among other things, calls on us to integrate our "thoughts, feelings and actions in a way that values, esteems and respects the dignity of oneself and others."

The fatal flaw in her reasoning is this: there is no such animal as a "committed relationship" outside of marriage. Not that I'm naive enough to think that getting married of itself offers some kind of magical assistance and protection, but it seems pretty clear to me that the idea that couples being "committed" to each other makes everything OK has gone a long way toward eroding the strength of the marital bond itself. With the "committed relationship" mindset, marriage becomes just another form of "committed relationship" with tax benefits.

First, just what is a "committed relationship" anyway? From what I can tell, it means "we only have sex with each other." By that standard, I've been in three "committed relationships." That is not said with pride. Sure, there's more than just that: hopefully a heightened amount of respect, trust, communication, spending of time with each other and so forth. But anyone who has been in one would be lying if he or she said the exclusive sex angle was not central.

But the full checklist is a long ways from being any kind of articulated, formed understanding of what the commitment really means, how deep it is, where it is going, etc. In my own experience, I know it meant different things between the "committed" parties at different times. With marriage, the man and woman declare "until death do us part." With "commitments," no such declaration is made. It's nebulous at best. What--till graduation do us part? Till I meet someone more compatible? Till you've nagged me for the last time/embarrassed me by getting drunk for the last time? It's a pledge written in quicksand, and it shows.

I think this is why I knew a lot of people in college who ended up "enjoying" serial "commitments."

As a result, most "committed relationships" are doomed by the very fragility of the commitment itself. Trust me when I say this: I am not a polygamist. Nor even a bigamist. That means that at least two of my "committed relationships" ended badly, now, doesn't it? And trust me, they did. One was particularly wrenching, but let's not get into that.

Which brings us to the real harm that comes from the detonation of these commitments. That a small minority end happily in stable, healthy, truly committed marriages doesn't warrant the celebration of the concept. The fact is, the great flaw of "commitments" is that they are a cardboard imitation of, and reflect a yearning for, the real thing. And both parties know it. That's why, unless we are talking about a pair of sociopaths, both parties hurt like hell when it ends. Maybe one partner more than the other, but the less-hurt also, even if only because they have been made colder and more distant.

Just in time for the next "commitment"!

Then what happens if--hopefully when--you do find "the one"? Odds are, you'll come fully prepared and equipped. As in "equipped" with enough emotional baggage to sink a freighter, and the bad habits ingrained by a string of failed "commitments." All of which you get to work through with the one you would have been better off waiting for. Sure, it can and often is done successfully. But it takes a lot of time, and let's not pretend there's no psychic cost.

Especially with that one little thing. That piddling issue. That stuff you left behind. You've grown up since. You know: your past.

If the both of you think you can pretend that your past sexual history will not be an issue, that it will be tabula rasa, fresh start, all of that?

You. Are. Delusional.

It's a gut issue. Instinctive. It will come up--even off-hand-- and you will have to deal with the inevitable hurt. I am only able to speak for myself, but I think it's safe to say that men do not care to even think about their intended's sexual past. It's not because we're "unenlightened" or vindictive--it's simply that the thought hits us in a tough spot and takes us where we do not wish to go, and do not care to dwell. That's a shadow that can turn into a pall. I imagine something similar is at play for women, but possibly in a different way. I'll leave that to the female readers who come here to address.

Or not...

Finally, Tier completely misses the relationship between "commitments" and the development of the hookup culture. The willingness to embrace and excuse less committed relationships only greases the skids for the one-night stands and "doing the Rugby team" mindset her "Values" class rightly deplores. The tragedy is her inability to recognize that there is no meaningful difference between "committed" premarital sex and the hookup kind. Hopefully it won't take the disintegration of a few more "committed" relationships to before she understands. The difference between the two is mostly one of degree, not kind.

I'm reminded of Naomi Wolf's remarkable essay of a couple of years ago (warning: some offensive verbal imagery), deploring the "p**nization" of sex, and the wholesale decay of relationships between men and women at colleges and universities. The last exchange amply describes what happens after a long period of winking at ersatz commitment:

Compare that steaminess with a conversation I had at Northwestern, after I had talked about the effect of porn on relationships. “Why have sex right away?” a boy with tousled hair and Bambi eyes was explaining. “Things are always a little tense and uncomfortable when you just start seeing someone,” he said. “I prefer to have sex right away just to get it over with. You know it’s going to happen anyway, and it gets rid of the tension.”

“Isn’t the tension kind of fun?” I asked. “Doesn’t that also get rid of the mystery?”

“Mystery?” He looked at me blankly. And then, without hesitating, he replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Sex has no mystery.”

I think it's also safe to say that sexuality drained of mystery is also sexuality devoid of the sacred. With all that entails for relationships between men and women, and the impact on their children and the greater world. Viewed in this light, the "rules" Ms. Tier complains about make a lot more sense. Moreover, it refutes her argument that they lack essential nuance. She is unqualifiedly right about one thing, though--they could use a lot better explanation.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

After further investigation, it turned out that the parishioners were simply unnerved by the presence of men between the ages of 18 and 35.

"We've never seen that before."

California parish finds out "suspicious" strangers were just Marines, not skinheads.

They actually sicced the cops on them. Niiiiice.

Probably one of those parishes that prides itself on its hospitality and inclusiveness.

"See--we put it in the mission statement!"

[Thanks to Dom for the link.]

[Update: Commenter Therese correctly notes that there are various versions of this story floating about, so it may be hard to draw a conclusion. Here's the Marine Corps Times version.]

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The revised edition.

I remember enough of it to proceed.

I have no idea who reads this blog. It says about 400+ page views per day, but apart from a core of 20 or so more-to-less regular commenters, I haven't a clue. From what I can tell, most are Christian, and run the gamut from traditionalist Catholics to Presbyterians to Pentecostals. Some are family (hi, Mom! Hi, Maria! Hi, Doug (check your e-mail)).

But that doesn't explain 400+ per day, unless the core is tapping the refresh bar with glazed-eyed Pavlovian relish.

So, since I don't know who I am speaking to, I get the distinct feeling that sometimes I have to loosen the deathgrip on the bar stool, put it down and find other ways to get my point across.

From what people tell me, being a parent is both much easier and much, much more difficult than it used to be. In the easier ledger is the available physical plant. Such things as disposable diapers, super strollers and baby monitors and even flame-retardant clothing.

But the "harder" column can't be ignored, and that stems directly from our wounded culture. Lest we forget, fellow Catholics and people of good will, we have it on good authority that we are living in a "culture of death." One of the most corrosive aspects of that culture is the Cult of Stuff.

I. Must. Have. More.

It's a supercharged, post-modern version of what is condemned by the 9th and 10th Commandments. The problem is that it has managed to go beyond the endless quest for material comfort and has resulted in the commodification of human beings, especially children.

Our so-advanced world teaches people to be profoundly ambivalent about children. This takes two forms: First, the limited blessing. They are good in small, carefully-calibrated doses. Kinda like chemo. You can see this in the offhanded, almost instinctive responses strangers make with respect to children. Heather and I ran into this repeatedly after Dale was born: "Oh, lucky you--you've had one of each. Now you can quit." After a couple of moments of consternation, Heather came up with a canned response--"Oh, but we need a tie-breaker."

My personal favorite was the smiling woman who told me point-blank, without a touch of malice in her voice: "Sounds like you need to get fixed."

I kid you not. Obviously, it's not broken, honey. No, I didn't say that. There was a demurring polite non-response in its place. I can't afford to verbally decapitate a judge's case manager. That, and it was still better than the raised and quickly-dropped rumination about the possibility of abortion I once heard from another very nice person, just after the announcement of our third pregnancy. I revealed my pro-life credentials by saying I'd "sooner cut my d**k off first."

Some people pray at abortion clinics.

I channel Tommy Chong.

The second source of ambivalence is the demand that those carefully-rationed little doses get everything they need to get ahead. Otherwise, you are manifestly A Bad Parent. Ever walk into a Babies R Us and start feeling a little defensive? Hence, the need to have two incomes so you can afford the good house in the good school district and meet their every need, with those needs defined by people who pay big bucks for the writing of lots and lots of ad copy. And it's not just ads. It's the magazines, and the news stories, and the mixed and often contradictory messages from physicians, psychologists, educators, and, yes, clergy.

Welcome to Ritalin Nation.

As a result, I think a lot of parents simply overload and decide they are going to try to stagger through to the finish line as best they can. Have fun at college!

In the modern world, common sense ain't. We have now going on two generations of people who are simply trying to keep their heads above water. Ever watch an episode of Super Nanny? There are a lot of very bright, very well off people who have no clue. In short, most people who purchase The Dolls haven't done so as the result of a carefully considered process, weighing positives and negatives. Instead it's something more like:

"Ah. 21st Century Barbie. Popular on TV. Want kids to fit in. Into cart, toy product. Have to get home to make supper, wash clothes, and clean 2000 sq. ft of living space before turning in at midnight."

Are they free moral agents? Yes. Are they still responsible for their actions? Yes, again. Have they been given the greatest responsibility under heaven, namely, the raising of human life? Yep-per. Must they be held accountable for it? Yes, and amen.

But I respectfully submit that some basic human sympathy is the first order of business. Uncorking the equivalent of "You suck!" at bewildered and exhausted parents guarantees only one thing--the flipping of the switch to "Off."

Yes, yes--"Jesus and St. Paul were pretty brutal in their rhetoric."

They sure were. Make sure to call me when (1) an ecumenical council is convoked to define the theological parameters of your person, and/or (2) when your writings are declared to be inspired and inerrant.

Which is not to say that there is never a time or place for it. Of course there is. I'd even say it's earlier than most, and warranted far more often than you see it. But that time isn't right after you ring the doorbell.
It's my party and I'll blog what I want to.

Or: There's an Unretraction coming.

I once told someone that I didn't believe in pretending I didn't write something.


About that retracted post...

There were parts of it I genuinely liked, and parts of it that were filler (must. blog. something. today!). That led me to be pretty ambivalent about it, and I yielded to the temptation to violate what is a fairly sensible rule.

The proper approach would have been to sleep on it, because that would have led me to the position where I am today--revise it.

But the general tenor of it will be the same--parenting in this day and age is tough enough without someone doing a cut-rate, un-Inspired, blurry xerox imitation of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction:

And you will know my name is THE LORD, when I lay my vengeance upon thee!

[As opposed to "Jimmie, this is some serious gourmet..."]

Anyway, that's where it stands. Call it wishy-washy, dissembling, whatever. At this point, I could not care less. Since I don't have immediate access to the post, I don't anticipate having it up before the evening.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Seen on a bumper sticker.

I child-proofed my home.

Pressure works!

Yurodivi has a fine new post, a letter that is part of a continuing dialogue with a more worldly minded friend.

Read the whole thing.

In response to a pretty insightful comment, I've decided to delete this one. It was an attempted followup to the Bratz post, to which I am not changing a word. I'm not exactly sure what I was trying to say, but it did come across as waffling, and even worse, incoherent. There's a reason I periodically go a few days without substantive posting, and posts like this one are the reason. They usually don't leave "draft" status. This one did, unfortunately.

If you really want to see the original, I have it saved and can send it to you.

Clumping litter is more effective, though.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Thought for the day.

Infants appear to disprove the doctrine of original sin.

Toddlers confirm it.

A rough stretch.

  Forgive the vagueness and ambiguity, but I am going through a tough patch at the moment. July was full-stop awful, and August, while bette...