Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My little girls.

1. Yesterday, Madeleine announced that she wanted to play "Daddy's game with the lion, Carter and the girl."

Oh. That game.

Actually, it's not that bad a game for older kids--a pure swashbuckler, like the books. But I've convinced her to take the natural intermediate step first.

2. Rachel has taken to the dog food dish with the usual vigor of mobile infants. How can you tell when Rachel has at least two nuggets of Alpo in her mouth? When she doesn't freak out when you remove the first one.

Saturday, I see her sitting sitting serenely Buddhaesque in the kitchen. It would be serenely Buddhaesque if the Buddha had had a thing for Copenhagen, I suppose.

"Rachel--do you have dog food in your mouth?" For an instant she stays there, adjusts the nuggets in her mouth and half smirks back at me. Then she immediately heads down the hall toward her bedroom as fast has her chubby little limbs will take her. The theme to The Great Escape leapt into my head as she chugged down the hall.

"You'll never catch m--argh!

Stupid baby gate...."

I can't imagine my life without either one of them.

As much as I beat up on Notre Dame...

...there are things like about the institution. Starting with the fight song, which happened to be my high school's. Even hearing the tune transports me back to Friday night football in the blustery October cold, with the constant buzzing of the lights and repeated glances at the ancient scoreboard perched along the fence line to the north of the stadium, often as not the remnants of a corn harvest visible from the sidelines.

And my senior season, I even got to play.

But beyond that, I am left with the distinct impression that an authentically Catholic identity still means something at ND, and a critical mass of students and faculty are bent on keeping it that way. If I have to grit my teeth and shell out cash to send my kids to a major Catholic university, I think it is very likely that ND is their best bet (sorry, Steubby fans).

Fr. John Jenkins, the newly arrived president of ND, reinforces that impression in a gutsy broadside delivered shortly after his inauguration:

"In all of American higher education, Notre Dame has a distinct position. It aspires to be, and is, among the leading universities ... It is at the same time the only one with religious character, with all respects to our friends at Boston College and Georgetown," he said, referring to the more liberal Jesuit schools. "The inertia is always to be like everyone else. To be different, you have to chart a course and have a clear idea about where you want to go."

Word is, the Jesuit leadership at those schools--especially BC--are a bit cheezed.

Good. Sorry, BC- and GT-ers, but I get the opposite impression from your schools. Not that there aren't solid Catholic faculty and Catholic ministries there, but there's entirely too much reflexive droning about "academic freedom," "diversity," "inclusivity" and other buzzwords which usually signal a red-shifting away from a meaningful Catholic identity.

Which is why I expressed dissent in this pro-BC discussion:

[BC defender]: I'm no fan on the Fighting Hunchbacks, but in fairness to Fr Jenkins, I think you've misread the quote. What he is saying is that of the leading universities--including BC and Georgedown--ND is the only one with a religious character.

If you define 'religious character' as Touchdown Jesus, the Golden Nipple, crosses in every classroom, single sex dorms, a student body that's almost entirely Catholic, and not trying to do anything about being ranked the most homophobic campus in America, then he is right.BC just happens to value religious diversity and "faith that does justice" over 24-hour rosaries and "faith-based" neoconservatism. We also have better taste when it comes to religious art on campus.

My gentle remonstration:

While I don't have much of a dog in this fight (I didn't attend either school and root for Michigan), ND has it all over BC.

True, in one sense, Fr. Jenkins was wrong. But if he'd substituted "Catholic" for "religious," he would have nailed it. BC is plenty religious, to be sure.

It's just the kind of religion that takes care never to offend NPR devotees and other secular pharisees who think slapping a "Hate is Not a Family Value" bumper sticker on the back of the Lexus is a brave prophetic statement.

While externals do not define the faith, the determination to deride them is telling.

And anyone who thinks ND has abandoned Catholic social justice principles is ignorant. The three word rebuttal: Fr. Michael Baxter.

Hmm...Two pro-ND posts in three days. Time for deprogramming.

[Thanks to BC loyal son Mark for the links. And sorry for the caning of your alma mater.]

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My Dinner with Roger.

Haight, that is.

Not really, but it is a mini-debate with one of the censured Jesuit theologian's student/disciples, over at Dom's blog. Haight's theology is the salmon mousse at the table, and it is my first real experience in interfaith dialogue--yes, I use that term deliberately.

For those of you who don't know, pluralism is a theological doctrine that holds, in essence, that Jesus is not the savior of the world, just for Christians. Indeed, other religious traditions are salvific in and of themselves. While Catholics can and should admire what is good and decent in other religious traditions--think "seeds of the Word"--saying Jesus is not the universal savior as the Son of God...isn't remotely Christian.

But Haight doesn't stop there--he goes one better and denies that Jesus' body actually left the empty tomb.

That certainly is news. Not particularly good news, but news indeed. It makes Christ a rather gruesome mascot--think a Jesus-as-El-Cid approach--celebrated by confirmed hysterics and hallucinators. Pass the peyote, Pete.

For his trouble, the Vatican took aim at Prof. Haight, and after four apparently fun-filled years of investigation and attempts to get clarification, slapped his views down hard. RTWT, and you'll see where I was getting at with the use of "interfaith." He no longer teaches at Weston Jesuit in Massachusetts. He now draws a paycheck from Union Theological Seminary, a most ecumenical place, apparently. But his views live on, and will no doubt be propounded at an enlightened pulpit near you for years to come, even though it's pretty clear that the theology is a dead end in every possible sense of the term.

But it certainly is a disturbingly popular, if ludicrous, view.

I post the discussion because I think it is most instructive, and demonstrates how few non-negotiables are left among certain self-identified American Catholics. Let me know what you think. Yes, I was employing the needle a lot, and got a little sharp in spots.

Me in black, Weston Jesuit student in red.

[After the WJ student tried to portray a maverick Boston priest as an Aquinas, condemned by contemporaries as a heretic and vindicated by history:]

Here’s the problem with claiming the Aquinas mantle--it rarely fits the claimant, who usually espouses something entirely at odds with a core truth of Catholicism. Aquinas was attempting to integrate a new philosophy within the theological structure of Catholicism. Nowhere did he, say, deny the inerrancy of scripture or attempt to undermine the understanding of one of the sacraments.
Here’s a less trivial criticism of WJ:

Until recently, Weston Jesuit proudly featured Roger Haight, S.J., amongst its ranks of professors. The same Roger Haight who said the Resurrection did not require an empty tomb, for starters. Then there’s the matter of Jesus not being essential to the salvation of non-Christians, and other liberating insights.
Yes, quite a gospel cutting-edge Jesuits and their wide-eyed studentry have to offer these days. If that’s where “orthodoxy” is headed, I’ll sleep in on Sundays, thanks.
Posted by:
Dale Price on Sep 26, 05 8:30 am

"If that’s where “orthodoxy” is headed, I’ll sleep in on Sundays, thanks.”
Fair enough. We’ll miss you and pray for you.
BTW, have you read any of Haight’s works? If you had, you’d understand how taking a few sentences out of context can completely mutilate the man’s real message. Haight does not deny the historicity of the resurrection; indeed, he refers to it as a transhistorical event, meaning it permeates all of history back through the past to the beginning of creation and into the future until the eschaton. We call it redemption, not just of any one of us or even of all humankind, but of all creation and history. He says that our faith ought not rest on whether there was actually an empty tomb or not. Our faith is an encounter with Christ, not with an empty tomb.
I still hold that Haight’s thinking is ahead of its time, which is why it is being misunderstood. Human knowledge is growing exponentially in nearly every field of study; why are we Catholics so complacent about wishing that our theology grow at a similar rate?
And sarcasm does nothing to further your cause.
Posted by: Alan on Sep 26, 05 1:26 pm

Fair enough about the sarcasm. A fault of mine. However, pot, kettle, black: alas for your own sarcastic jibing, as I’m not going anywhere. Unlike Fr. Haight, who is now taking a paycheck from Union [Theological Seminary].

More to the point, your finger-waggling also bids adieu to Fr. Gerald O’Collins, S.J. in the process:

Jesuit Fr. Gerald O’Collins, who teaches at Rome’s Gregorian University and is widely considered a leading Christologist, said the basic problem with Haight’s approach is that “there’s no difference in kind, only in degree, between Jesus and other religious people.”

“Mother Teresa was also a symbol of God,” he said. “I wouldn’t give my life for Roger Haight’s Jesus. It’s a triumph of relevance over orthodoxy.”

O’Collins is not a knee-jerk defender of Vatican crackdowns; he was the advocate for Dupuis in his lengthy back-and-forth with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and was critical of both the process and outcome. Yet O’Collins said he sees major differences between Dupuis and Haight.

“Dupuis took Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, and for him that was not debatable,” O’Collins said. “That Christ rose from the dead was nonnegotiable. This isn’t the case with Haight.”

There’s no need to follow you down the rabbit hole of what Haight means because you already tell me where it leads--"He says our faith ought not rest on whether there was actually an empty tomb or not.” Oy.

“Who do you say that I am?” The empty tomb is not negotiable, because it is part and parcel of the encounter with Christ, as all of the Gospels indicate. The empty tomb is the vindication by God of his Christ, and in addition to speaking profoundly about Christ, speaks to our destiny as well. This is not the place for self-regarding academic ambiguity: there is an unbridgeable chasm between belief in an empty tomb and belief in a mouldering corpse.

In other words, whether there is an empty tomb or not determines the nature of the “faith” being professed. Hence, Roger Haight’s faith is not that of church catholic. That this is not obvious only speaks to the decay of Catholic theology in the U.S. Moreover, it makes a laughingstock of faith, turning the nature of faith in Christ into a theological Schrodinger’s Cat, with the question of Christ being “risen” depending whether you are looking at the open box with the eyes of “faith” or those of objective history.

I thank you, though, for your remarkably forthright answer to “Quo vadis, Weston Jesuit?” Right out the door to a wordy pluralistic Unitarian irrelevance, it seems.

Far from St. Thomas, Fr. Haight is a remarkably wooden late 20th Century answer to Loisy or Tyrell, only filtered through Derrida.

I’ll end with this: the “out of context” defense is the last refuge of the accurately-quoted. Especially when the investigation in question took nearly five years and afforded him ample opportunity to explain the context. Yes, I’ve only read a minimal amount of him, which is just as well. There’s only so much multisyllabic theological bafflegab I can stand. Frankly, I trust Fr. Gerald O’Collins’ verdict and avoid further endeavors regarding JSOG [Jesus: Symbol of God]. I don’t need to go spelunking in an outhouse to understand the nature of the contents.
Posted by:
Dale Price on Sep 26, 05 2:13 pm

Oh, and another thing:
John Cavadini [Dean of the Theology Department of Notre Dame] on Haight.

If Jesus is merely a symbol, I have no burning reason to invest the time and energy it takes to pass this faith on to children, or to spread the Word to others when other symbols (even the Roman emperor?) serve just as well. I see no particularly urgent reason to take up my cross and follow a symbol (or even to teach for one). Pace Roger Haight, and to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor, “If Jesus is merely a symbol, I say, the hell with it."
Posted by:
Dale Price on Sep 26, 05 2:18 pm

[Editorial Note: The WJ student never even acknowledges Fr. O'Collins' trenchant criticism. Make of that what you will.]

"John Cavadini on Haight.
If Jesus is merely a symbol, … “
I don’t know Cavadini, but it’s apparent from this quote that he misunderstands the Christian notion of “symbol.” The theological notion of symbol is not the same as the common usage. “Symbol” in theological usage is a vastly richer concept than is the common definition. It’s analogous to saying that my body is a symbol of me, if I understand Haight correctly. My body alone is not me, but is a physical symbol of all that comprises me, even those things that are unseen and inarticulable. Similarly, the fullness of an infinite God is unseen (and unseeable) and inarticulable, especially to finite minds such as ours. In this way, to say that Mother Teresa was a symbol of God and that Jesus is a symbol of God is to use the word symbol in profoundly different way.
Furthermore, I don’t know this for certain, but I would bet good money that one would not find the adverbs “simply” or “only” or “merely” modifying symbol anywhere in Haight. That would undermine his whole thesis. Perhaps his biggest mistake is not calling his book, “Jesus, THE Symbol of God.”
I also recall that Haight is not the first Catholic theologian to refer to Jesus as the symbol of God.
Finally, even the Haight’s use of symbol is a metaphor, which in theology tries to shed some light on a belief that is rationally opaque. We say God is Father, but that doesn’t exhaust what God is, any more than saying that Jesus is the symbol of God exhausts what Jesus is. If Jesus were only a symbol and nothing, I would agree with Cavadini. I would say the same thing about a God who was only Father and nothing else. (And I loved my father.) “I see no particularly urgent reason to take up my cross and follow a symbol [or father](or even to teach for one).” This sort of misrepresentation is what results from doing sound-bite theology.
But we have digressed quite significantly from the original point, which was Walter Cuenin. And since he’s now been disciplined and is no longer a pastor, which is what so many of you here wanted, I don’t see what more need there is of continuing to bad-mouth him.
Posted by: Alan on Sep 26, 05 7:32 pm

Sorry. I meant to say above, “If Jesus were only a symbol and nothing MORE ...”
Posted by: Alan on Sep 26, 05 7:36 pm

Alan, it’s probably just as well to drop it at this point. Neither one of us wants to admit it, but in reality this is an exercise in interfaith dialogue, and without an acknowledgement of this it is futile.

However, I am genuinely heartened by it, though not for reasons which will please you or your mentors. It convinces me that El Cid Christologies and the pluralist gospel as defined by Haight are dead ends. Even in the loosey-goosey theological world of the American church, the refusal of Haight or his disciples to admit any error pretty much guarantees the steady death of what he expounds. To refuse to answer the criticisms of an O’Collins or to snidely dismiss a Cavadini as a sound-biter goes a long way toward explaining why the hammer fell as hard on Haight as it did (very much unlike Dupuis).

As little as they liked it at times, Aquinas, de Lubac, Congar and Curran [Editorial note: Brainlock of gothic proportions on the last name--I meant John Courtney Murray. Like Haight, Curran is also afflicted by an incurable case of sola ego.] acknowledged the authority and discipline of the Church and honed their propositions accordingly. Haight stubbornly radiates infallibility and flees to a Protestant theology school at crunch time. This is a telling and decisive distinction denying him the mantle his disciples want to clothe himself with.

Or: in the extreme unlikelihood Haight is remotely orthodox, he is the worst communicator American Catholic theology has ever produced, a poor standard bearer for his position and his own worst enemy. Either way, I join Fr. O’Collins in prayers for him and add further prayers for those who find him a prophetic voice.
Posted by:
Dale Price on Sep 26, 05 9:24 pm

I thought you agreed to end this. I can’t possibly let this slide.
“To refuse to answer the criticisms of an O’Collins or to snidely dismiss a Cavadini as a sound-biter goes a long way toward explaining why the hammer fell as hard on Haight as it did...”
I was not quoting Haight when I referred to sound-bite theology, so please don’t blame that on him. That was purely my choice of words, and based on this conversation here, I think it still stands. It’s very easy to make snap judgments of a man based on a few sentences out of context. My impression is that you’re doing it with Haight, and I suspect I’m probably doing it with Cavadini. I told you right off that I don’t know Cavadini.
“I join Fr. O’Collins in prayers for him and add further prayers for those who find him a prophetic voice.”
I’m sure we appreciate any prayers that come our way, since God’s will prevails in the end anyway. I’ll do the same for you. I suspect that when we meet in heaven, both of us will be somewhat embarrassed by this little interchange and how little we really understood of God’s ultimate glory. I only wish I knew now what I’ll know then.
Posted by: Alan on Sep 26, 05 9:58 pm

Indeed, I was too ascerbic in parts and apologize for that.
However, I cannot, and do not, apologize for the content. The core of Christianity is at stake, and the yawning chasm between Haightian pluralism and what Christians across the centuries (including creedal Protestantism and Orthodoxy) have always held cannot be shrugged off as de gustibus.
May God be with you and yours.

And that's where it ends. What struck me first is the certitude that Haight is entirely right and his opponents simply are distorting his message and cannot understand him. No doubt you know people like that, gentle reader.

They have a remarkable aptitude for being wrong. Consistently.

The second thing that struck me is the airy refusal to acknowledge that what the pluralists are propounding is a complete break with Christianity--indeed, it is a different religion entirely, lifting the Christian theological structure and emptying it of the inconvenient content. Apparently, it is simply the wave of the future and will inevitably triumph.

Heartening, at least as a demonstration that triumphalism is hardly the exclusive province of orthodox Christians. I'll finish with the words of occasional commenter and thoughtful and unfailingly polite critic Liam:

I have spent many years in the groves of progressive Catholic communities. What has been rightly denounced in what Haight proposes is mortal poison to all of Christianity, of whatever flavor. Pure poison. Poison, again. It is philosophical materialism of the most insidious sort, and philosophical materialism is ultimately only a friend to the Ubermensch.

Monday, September 26, 2005

You may have noticed, but I'm not a Notre Dame fan.

That said, Charlie Weis is one of the classiest men in sports, and truly a man of his word, as this story demonstrates.

About that homosexuality/seminary document.

My take? I don't have much of one yet.

That's because, like everyone else in the world, I haven't seen it yet. It hasn't been published, so I don't know what it actually does or does not say.

So, it's one of those things that ought to daunt prospective opiners, so to speak.

But since everyone has an opinion anyway, I'll chip in my two denarii worth.

General gut reactions are two. First, if it is as advertised (a big if), it strikes me as an overreach, banning anyone who has experienced same-sex attraction, as opposed to someone who continues to act out on that attraction. A faithful celibate priest is a faithful celibate priest.

Second, it is utterly irrelevant, inasmuch as it is committed to the discretion of the locals for enforcement. The same folks who were so determined to ordain the likes of Rudolph Kos, despite that monster's file having more warning flags than a Christo exhibit. Since it is beyond dispute that misbehavior between consenting adults is not remotely as horrid as the rape of boys, they'll ordain who they want, and if necessary, pay the harassment settlement later. No big whoop.

Your local chancery bureaucracy is the place where Vatican directives go to die. No matter how it is worded, this will join the rest in the circular file.
Don't screw with the money.

Every now and then--about once a week or so--I get a little cynical about the Church as an institution. It's stuff like this and this that do it.

As I spoke with My Much, Much Better Half about the resignation of the Rev. Walter Cuenin yesterday morning, she remarked: "Funny how that works: you can say whatever you want from the pulpit or in public, but once there's money involved--watch out."

It's pretty hard to avoid that impression.

Likewise with the USCCB's condemnation of Remarkably Buoyant Ted: a stalwart supporter of abortion on demand for decades, he finally gets a personal and public rebuke--for fighting aid to Catholic schools devastated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Yes, indeed--painfully difficult to avoid that impression.

But that's what happens when you spend a couple of generations impersonating Conan Doyle's dog that did not bark. When the dog does start barking, we get curious about what's setting it off. Here, the armed burglar can break into the house with nary a snarl.

Just as long as he doesn't kick over the bowl of dog food in the process.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Quiz for the SF Geek in all of us.

I am:
E.E. "Doc" Smith
The inventor of space opera. His purple space war tales remain well-read generations later.

Which science fiction writer are you?

WARNING: Some gratuitously rough language in the quiz.

Prayer request.

Not for me, but for a close friend of ours and her children. The friend, whom I shall call Teresa because it sounds nothing like her real name, is an immigrant, and her closest family members live about 1300 miles away. She has spent the past week making a break from an abusive marriage, and Heather has been helping out every day. There are two little children involved (not abused themselves), and it has been heart-rendingly painful and difficult for them, too.

Prayers for Heather, too--it's been stressful for her as well, though not nearly at the same level.

Calfskin Clericalism.

I think the thing that really torques me off about Fr. McBrien's sneering dismissal of Santorum's faith is the fact it is predicated on an academic clericalism that has run riot in the Church in America since the Council.

Stripped of the boilerplate, McBrien is arguing that if you really want to understand the Catholic faith, you have to have an advanced degree. Not even attending a seminary will do, as his trashing of the authors of Catholicism for Dummies shows. Nope--you have to attend "graduate-level course[s] in church history" before you are permitted to speak.

OK, fine. If he really believes what he is shovelling, I'll see his raise and go all-in. If that's what it takes, Mr. Voice Of The Faithful, then every officially Catholic college and university in this country is morally obligated to offer a tuition-free religious education up through the graduate level to every confirmed Catholic who wants to enroll, with all the varigated needs of working Catholics and their families provided for.

Right? Because if he says no, all he's really done is substitute one form of clerical tyranny for another. The only thing that's changed is the set of letters at the end of the name. But he and his confreres have done the old pre-VII clerical princes one better: even the worst of those men didn't claim that the laity couldn't get a proper grasp of the faith on their own. Fr. McBrien is arguing precisely that.

There is a religion that teaches that the fullest truths are available only to a select, initiated elite. But it's called gnosticism, not Catholicism.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The muppets stole our dates!

2005's Toy from Hell has arrived in stores: "Shout Elmo." Here are the specs:

• Plush Elmo sings & dances to another classic song: Shout!
• Your child is sure to want to join Sesame Street’s red furry friend as he grooves to this easy dance tune
• Suggested minimum age: 18 months
• Suggested parental medication: 800mg of ibuprofen, chased with generous shots of Stolichnaya
• Requires 3 AA batteries, included; 15Hx6Wx12L"

OK, so one of those specifications is my creation--but it's still strongly recommended. The good news is that it appears to shoot the gap between Dale and Rachel, being too much a baby toy for the former, and too involved for the latter.


McBrien. Again.

If you get a chance, sit down and enjoy one of the old Bob Hope films from when the comedian was in his prime--they've actually aged pretty well, especially the zingers and quips. One of my favorites is his rejoinder to a Bing Crosby shot across the bow:

"Hey--be careful with that joke. It's an antique."

I'm reminded of that line when considering the fraying schtick of MSM's favorite speed-dial Catholic commentator, Fr. Richard McBrien. In a recent essay, he gets all brotherly on a prominent Catholic senator. No, not Remarkably Buoyant Ted. Nope--try the Vatican sock puppet, Rick Santorum. Santorum is not exactly flawless, but I get the sense that Santorum at least tries to let the Faith inform all aspects of his public life. The padre's mail-it-in hatchet job deserves an inquest.

A few months ago, The New York Times Magazine published a cover-story on Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

God forbid the professor should actually try to talk to Santorum himself--ick, poo. Might come down with a bad case of orthodoxy.

The article focused on various aspects of his life and political career, including his religious affiliation and convictions. Senator Santorum is a Catholic,

Well, that's pretty nice of Fr.--perhaps we're just one big happy--

albeit of a particular kind.

Oh. "Particular kind." Has the smell of "ilk" or "type." So much for amity. As we shall see, Padre's allergy to orthodoxy is nowhere near remission.

He attends Sunday Mass along with Justice Antonin Scalia

Apparently a sympathetic reader's cue to boo, hiss or, more likely, puzzle over the reference in the midst of asking for the AARP discount at Bob Evans.

and other prominent Catholics of similar orientation

If it's an "orientation," then why do you judge us, you hater!?!?


at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls, Virginia, where the liturgy is in Latin and the priest prays with his back to the congregation, just like it was in the days before the Second Vatican Council.

Four sentences in, and the Professor has activated the autopilot. As in: "Feel free to move about the cabin, taking the column with you to the crapper." Apparently, the Chaired One is operating under some private legislation: The No Canard Left Behind Act.

Let's rewrite this a bit: "and the priest prays facing the same direction as the congregation, with the symbolism of facing east, the direction of the rising sun and associating the Mass with the Resurrection, just like it was in the 547,500 days before the Second Vatican Council."

It's telling that those locked in a perpetual spiritual teenagerhood prefer their inflated sense of self-regard ("Turn your back on me?") over the truth.

However, at 47 years of age today, Senator Santorum was only 4 years old
when the Second Vatican Council opened in October, 1962, and only 7 when it
adjourned in December, 1965.

Apparently, the reader needs to be reminded that Certified Modern Catholic Theologians™ can read calendars and are capable of basic math. Unlike their preconciliar forebears, who were so unevolved they didn't even have digits.

We need an editor--stat!

He never attended a Catholic college or university,

That would explain why his faith is intact.

having received a B.A. in Political Science from Penn State in 1980,

Paterno's got the Nittany Lions of to a solid start this year, but the real tests are yet to come.

an M.B.A. at the University of Pittsburgh,


and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Sounds pricey, I will admit.

One of his fellow Catholic senators, Susan Collins of Maine, has referred to him as a Catholic missionary in the Senate.

For being a youngin during V2, the Senator sure seems up to speed on its call to the laity:

There are innumerable opportunities open to the laity for the exercise of their apostolate of evangelization and sanctification. The very testimony of their Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have the power to draw men to belief and to God; for the Lord says, "Even so let your light shine before men in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

However, an apostolate of this kind does not consist only in the witness of one's way of life; a true apostle looks for opportunities to announce Christ by words addressed either to non-believers with a view to leading them to faith, or to the faithful with a view to instructing, strengthening, and encouraging them to a more fervent life. "For the charity of Christ impels us" (2 Cor. 5:14). The words of the Apostle should echo in all hearts, "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16).

She occasionally attends the study group he organized to promote more knowledge of the Catholic faith. Only Republicans are invited.

Perhaps because he's a big-time target of the Dems in 2006? A Democratic mole would find plenty to twist into horror-story material for the push polls. At any rate, ideology certainly isn't a factor if the reliably-centrist and pro-choice Collins is an invitee.

One is tempted to ask if this is one of those cases of the blind leading the blind (with apologies to anyone offended by the politically incorrect usage).

One is tempted to note that he would know.

Indeed, there is a book, Catholicism for Dummies, co-authored by two priests who also lack theological credentials.

Ah--so they're Notre Dame grads.


But they are "safe" enough to have a regular program on Mother Angelica's Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

Ilk! Kind! Type! EWTN!

You know--them.

And even though there's not a chance in Hell Fr. would want to be associated with EWTN, I get the definite sense that McBrien is feeling a little green about those capable of authoring a God's honest bestseller, as opposed to a rightfully-maligned doorstop which sells only to a dwindling number of incurable nostalgics.

Especially when his column keeps getting dropped, to boot.

In the Times Magazine article, Senator Santorum is portrayed as exuberant over the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as the new pope. “What you saw,” he claimed, “is an affirmation by the cardinals that the church is not going to change, even though maybe Europe and North America want it to. It is going to stay the way it hasbeen for 2,000 years.”

Yep. Many of us saw it as a rebuke of those seeking the establishment of the Church of What's Happening Now! and its sister organization, the Chapel of the Affirmed Groin. If nothing else, the election was universally acknowledged to be the demise of a certain media personality's predictive abilities.

A remarkable statement indeed from someone who has never had a graduate-level course in church history.

No wonder--have you seen the cost of a graduate credit hour at ND?

Blessed John XXIII reminded us in his opening address to the Second Vatican Council that history is “the teacher of life.”


Without a sense of history, one is always vulnerable to the temptation of accepting and repeating generalities that are without factual basis or, more specifically, are contradicted by the facts of history.

Odd criticism, coming from a fellow conspicuously noted for his denigration of the past:

Catholicism's clear affirmation of the superiority of modern theology and modern anthropology—based upon the advances made by modern science and philosophy—provides a crucial background for its presentations of various positions. The problem is that this embrace of modernity is so enthusiastic as to imply a certain naive denigration of premodern thought (and thus of all forms of thought that do not embrace modernity). The text is at times quite harsh in its criticism of patristic and medieval thought (pp. 163-65).10 From the perspective of Catholicism, modern thought has definitively superseded ancient and medieval thought.

Many Catholics believe, for example, that only the pope can appoint bishops.

Actually, they should, though "believe" is remarkably klutzy formulation. It's more than a little like saying "Many Americans believe that only a natural-born American citizen can become President." It's a demonstrable, empirical fact, not a matter of belief.

But the pope has only exercised that prerogative for the universal Church since the 19th century.

I guess the consistently-modern theologian's preference for the post-Enlightenment era has its limits.

Before that, bishops were selected by various processes, the most common of which during the First Christian Millennium was election by the clergy and laity of the diocese in which they would serve.

True, but so what? Lest we forget, the First Millennium also saw the occasional deposition of errant bishops by howling mobs of outraged orthodox Catholics....


Oh, sorry--lost in a daydream there for a moment. Anyway, the greater point is that some of those elections were corrupt, and remain eminently corruptible. Just ask St. John McCain. And, at the risk of sounding like a snob, the idea that my vote would be swamped by the hordes of theological illiterates clamoring for the ChOTAG doesn't bear thinking about.

Catholics today take for granted that bishops can be transferred from smaller dioceses to larger dioceses when they are deemed suitable for greater pastoral responsibilities. But in the early Church that was not only uncommon; it was absolutely prohibited -- and by no less than the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the same council that defined the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

Er, I think the dogmatic definition of the person of Christ is a rather more important subject than a superceded disciplinary canon on bishop-shuffling, no matter how grievous one may find the latter practice. But that's just me.

Then again, I've never had any graduate level courses in church history. Not even from quirky universities in Indiana.

Indeed, the body of a deceased pope, Formosus (891-896), was dug up and placed on trial because he had accepted election as Bishop of Rome when he was already the bishop of another diocese in Italy (Porto).

Memo to Self: "The will needs a codicil mandating cremation in the unlikely event McBrien or one of his acolytes becomes the Ordinary of Detroit, or any other diocese I happen to be residing in when I pass."

A few months ago many people both inside and outside the Catholic Church speculated about whether the new pope would come from Latin America or perhaps from Africa. Through-out the First Millennium, this would have been unthinkable. Bishops were elected from the local diocesan clergy, and once in office they remained in the same diocese until death.

The point of these this distorted trip down Millennium Lane is what, precisely--that he'd like to return to it?

If so, I have eight words for you, Fr.: Fabian Bruskewitz as South Bend's Bishop for Life.

But these are only a few examples of changes that have occurred in the Catholic Church.

Each of which is disciplinary and as changeable as meatless Fridays. But here come the well-worn and ill-considered talking points:

There are countless others in the realm of doctrine (the Church once approved of slavery


Not unless the Catholics listed in the article were hammered for heresy on that point. No, really--this one is more tired than his fan club. Lay the cards on the table, Prof.: give me the dogmatic, binding Church document(s) which mandate slavery and support it as a positive good.

while condemning the taking of interest on loans),

Sigh--the usury argument. No Canard, indeed. Again, disciplinary in nature. That can change, like the economic system on which the prohibition was based did.

This is very much unlike, say, a change from a spiritual director advising "Adultery is mortally sinful" to "Like a screen door in a thunderstorm, slugger! After all, she's a hottie and your conscience is your guide!"

Memo to Self No. 2: "Never borrow money from Fr. McBrien, a/k/a 'Dickie the Wire.'"

liturgy (the Mass was originally in Greek, then Latin, and then in many other languages), and even the making of saints (it was not until the year 993 that a saint was canonized by a pope; before then it was a matter of acclamation by the people).

Disciplinary/procedural and hardly articles of faith. Next?

That, and he doesn't really mean it--it's not like he's advocating for the restoration of some of those relatively unknown early Saints to the liturgical calendar. And I rather doubt he'll be signing a St. Philomena petition anytime soon, despite the fact she is a modern example of a saint by acclamation.

Senator Santorum is surely not the only Catholic who is unaware of the lessons of church history.

Assuming he is unaware, of course not: after all, consider the large number of people who have attended the Professor's classes.

Nor is he alone in mistakenly believing that “the church is not going to change,” that it is “going to stay the way it has been for 2,000 years.”But if history is “the teacher of life,” we need to learn from it.

Actually, we need to be damn careful who we learn history from. Starting with the realization that some things are really not going to change, and teaching otherwise is an exercise in fantasy. No matter how fervently our Degreed Betters wish it were otherwise.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My life is far more interesting than you ever imagined.

Here's the proof.

Yes, I am a hardbitten, fedora-and-bourbon kind of guy, when it comes down to it.

And don't get me started on the frequent flier miles for trips into Sea-Tac.

Many thanks to Chris for this great piece of religious noir.
Michigan, My Michigan.

Sure, the winters are cold, but the ground doesn't shake and we don't get Category anythings.

I'm staying here, thanks.

Pray for Texas, standing right in the path of yet another of nature's monsters.

Here's hoping we've learned something from Katrina.
We have a winner!

For the 2005 Most Scorching Commentary Award (One-Sentence Category).

The winner is Mark Sullivan, offering up this brief, yet thorough evisceration of the controversial Flight 93 Memorial:

"Was the Box-Cutter of Friendship idea already taken?"

Now for my $0.02:

I saw the Discovery Channel documentary/docudrama about Flight 93 on Sunday. Verdict? Brilliant: heart-rending and inspiring at once. They were just random Americans--ordinary folks--thrown together and tossed unwillingly into the midst of a shattering, epochal event. They were given a choice: to do the passive, classically safe thing in hostage situations and wait it out, or to risk all in an effort to wrest control of what had become a deadly guided missile from murderous thugs.

They chose the latter, in a classically American fashion, in a show of hands. Thanks to their efforts, no one on the ground died.

As an architectural work, the winning entry is actually beautiful.


Let's leave aside the crescent/Islam point, because I think it's pretty clear that it is unintentional (the architect has a thing for crescents and circles--check the link) and the firm has already agreed to make changes. The design falters because it ultimately fails to capture the essence of what happened: The skies over Shanksville, Pennsylvania were a battlefield four years ago. There's not a hint of that in the public memorial.

Please note the second to last word in the previous sentence: public. This is not a private decision, solely the province of the familes, analogous to selecting a headstone. This is a public commemoration of an act of war. Windchimes and maple trees fail to capture what happened on that day, much less do they convey it to generations to come. It's a fine commemoration for the therapeutic society, but not for the passengers, nor for the country. A serious redesign is in order.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Heads up!

The commenting software is going to be changing soon. I'm going to be switching from Haloscan to the internal Blogger comment software--unless your experience indicates that this would be a Very, Very Bad Idea.

Input welcome.

Monday, September 12, 2005

John 6:53-6:65 for Educated Catholics.

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? That's OK. It doesn't work so well for many of us today. As you indicate in your question, we don't think like Aristotle, nor do we live in a world that lives comfortably with Aristotelian terms. What is most important for you believe, however, is that I am present to you in the church, and in the eucharist, in a way that gives you the spiritual food you need on your life's pilgrimage. "

[Second link via Bill Cork.]
Yeah, but do they eat any pudding?

"Ang Lee's tale of love between two cowboys set in the western United States in the 1960s has taken the Venice Film Festival's top award."

[Link via Mark Shea.]

Friday, September 09, 2005

Return Engagements.

Good news--Hilary (note the new address), Steve, Lane and Mark have returned--in that chronological order.

In related news, the GDP slowed a slight drop this week...
Headline: Man Who Wrote "Wang Dang Sweet P------g" Proves To Be Surprisingly Inept Commentator On Things Religious.

Ted Nugent goes ballistic on Popery, army of decerebrated fans bays its approval.

While there's the makings of a good point or two in the Nuge Loogie, the blinkered pig-ignorance those points are encased in ensures that they die a'borning.

Ah, well--Fred Bear still rules.

[Via Mike Inman, whose sentiments I heartily join with a "Pucker up, buttercup."]

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Now hear this!

A diversion from the hurricane-blogging:

The Protector's War is out today. For those of you unfortunate souls who have no idea why this is significant, it is the sequel to Dies The Fire (reviewed here). A review that got a response from the author himself [cue sound of man patting self on back].

Moreover, we have it on good authority that the sample chapters for the final book of the trilogy, A Meeting At Corvallis, will be up on the official website soon.

Take--read. A review of TPW will probably appear by the weekend. Of course, earlier, non-spoiler-laden reviews are welcome here.
Many thanks!

To the gracious Fr. Stanley, a long-suffering fellow Lions fan (yes, that is redundant, but there you have it) for his warm welcome. We got a tour of the beautifully-renovated parish (Todd would approve--the acoustics were a conscious concern and addressed), and even better, both Maddie and Dale passed their first catechism lesson, each being able to point out Jesus on the carving of the Last Supper on the altar.

The only glitch was Dale's attempt to blow out one of the votive candles in front of Our Lady of Guadaloupe. Given that the Spanish language Mass was ten minutes from starting, and the youth musical group was rehearsing forty feet away, his timing could not have been worse. Fortunately, he failed and Heather shooed him away.

If you get over by that area, make sure to stop. You will be glad you did. The people of St. Charles Borromeo are blessed to have such a decent, solid man as pastor--they seem to recognize it, too. They sure answered the call this weekend--the donations in both the gym and the Church were evidence of their great generosity to people in need.
How to respond.

After the week-long, numbing horror of watching a mega-storm devastate nearly 90,000 square miles of the nation, I have a partial answer: stop staring into the abyss.

Go out and do something. And make that more than an electronic donation--actually physically participate in some way. Our family did this on Sunday, responding to a call from Fr. Brian Stanley's magnificent parish in Coldwater, Michigan for bedsheets, blankets, towels and related items for the people being transported to Fort Custer in Battle Creek. We collected items on that list and went off-list, too. If the last week has taught us anything, it's that there is bound to be a snafu somewhere along the way. What you donate will get used.

Also consider this: however the government did or did not perform can be remedied by our efforts now. What you do to help can take some of the poison out of the bloodstream, so to speak.

Go forth and do. It will make a difference.
Blogging shall recommence.

Tanned, rested and ready!

OK, I'm one of the three, so expect fits and starts.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina and the Problem of Evil.

There is no satisfying answer. If there were, the theodicists would be out of business.

For my money, David Hart's commentary in the January WSJ about the tsunami is still wise.

When confronted by the sheer savage immensity of worldly suffering--when we see the entire littoral rim of the Indian Ocean strewn with tens of thousands of corpses, a third of them children's--no Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God's inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God's good ends. We are permitted only to hate death and waste and the imbecile forces of chance that shatter living souls, to believe that creation is in agony in its bonds, to see this world as divided between two kingdoms--knowing all the while that it is only charity that can sustain us against "fate," and that must do so until the end of days.


A few times.
Blogging for Relief Day.

OK, something a little more constructive than raging at the collapse of civilized norms of behavior. N.Z. Bear has a superb page set up for bloggers and their recommended relief agencies. It looks like a very complete list of donation choices.

In addition to the Red Cross, I also recommend the Mercy Corps.

Go forth and act.
Return fire.

There is no excuse for this--none. Nor is there any for this. No "necessity" defense applies here. If people behave like jackals, then they should be treated like them.

The Romans had a saying: "What do civilized men owe barbarians? Nothing."

Make no mistake: people who need to be--and could be--rescued are going to die because personnel have to be diverted from search and rescue missions to put down scumbags trying to feast on the corpse of a city. If that's the way they want it--fine. Let them have it--at a muzzle velocity of 3000 feet per second.

Let me paraphrase the Romans: "What do civilized men owe people getting their rocks off by potshotting rescue helicopters and terrorizing a children's hospital?"

You fill in the blank.

The GOP Garbage Squad.

Nine awful human beings whose views are unworthy of the slightest respect. Especially after caterwauling about spending money on Ukraine, no...