31 October 2009

Mini-Coffee Bowl Browsing (Scary Edition)

No, the Pope has NOT condemned Halloween

Is Britain sick of the "American cult of Halloween"?  No, but Damian Thompson is!

"Demonizing" Halloween only makes it more popular. . .Yup.

Truly frightening!  Tolerant, peace-loving, open-minded Piskies rage incoherently.

30 October 2009

Catholic $$$ for anti-Catholic groups?

Once again it's that time of year to shine a little light on the CCHD. A collection will be taken this Sunday to support the activities of the CCHD. Most of the grants given out by this group are perfectly fine, perfectly Catholic. However, the administrators of the CCHD are still using parishioner donations to fund dodgy left-wing community-organizing groups and anti-Catholic ballot initiatives.

Like all good Catholics should: educate yourself and act accordingly!

Link:  Reforming the Catholic Campaign for Human Development 

Consider donating to an alternative Catholic charity.  One of my brightest students from U.D. works for A Simple House.  Check 'em out!

Why the delay in publishing the Apostolic Constitution?

The National Catholic Register is reporting. . .


Thursday, October 29, 2009 7:39 AM

The delay in publishing the apostolic constitution, which will allow large numbers of Anglicans to be received into the Catholic Church, is due not so much to translation problems as the more weighty issue of priestly celibacy. [The Vatican has been having a lot of translation problems since Benedict took over. . .methinks there may be Latinist moles in the Curia who don't care for the Holy Father's "reform of the reform" revolution.]

According to two reliably informed Italian newspapers, Il Giornale and Il Foglio, canon lawyers are continuing to define what has been a particularly unclear aspect of the new provision: whether married Anglicans could train as seminarians. [Why is this unclear?  The answer is no.]

Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale reports that over the last few days, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts has been working to clarify this point. He writes that “everything suggests” seminarians in these future Anglo-Catholic communities “will have to be celibate like all their colleagues in the Latin Catholic Church.” [Yes, of course. . .I wonder why this is even a question.  To allow Anglo-Catholic seminarians to marry will completely undermine the discipline of celibacy in the Church.]

Both papers also report the Holy Father would have preferred the publication of the apostolic constitution to have taken place at the same time as last week’s press conference, mainly to avoid any repeat of the mishandling of his decision to lift the excommunications on four bishops from the Society of St. Pius X earlier this year. [Smart man, that Benedict!]

But as Cardinal William Levada had already informed the bishops of England and Wales and the Archbishop of Canterbury of the provision, and the date for their joint press conference in London had already been disclosed, it would have been impossible to keep the matter under wraps, Tornielli writes. The Vatican therefore decided to go ahead with the press conference, even though the precise canonical details of the constitution hadn’t yet been worked out. [The roll out of this historic announcement was done perfectly. . .now we learn it was all an accident.  Only in Italy!]

H/T:  Newadvent

29 October 2009

How many trees must die for Obamacare?

Just read on Drudge that the PelosiCare bill is 1,990 pages long!

Let's see. . .

435 members of the House
100 members of the Sentate
1 occupant of the White House (unless he's playing golf)

That's 536 copies (at minimum) x 1,990 pgs each = 1, 066,640 pages!!!

Or 2,133 packs of standard printer/copier paper.

How many trees is that?

National Youth Sunday will be Christian this year

Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald draws out attention to National Youth Sunday 2009:  Witness to Hope.

Noting the failure of last year's event--a patronizing  "Let's Go Green for Jesus" fest--, Arco contrasts the descriptions of two events:

The blurb on the site, introducing Christ the King (and National Youth Sunday), reads:

“The feast of Christ the King invites us to reflect on the nature of the Kingdom of God, and challenges us to live as citizens of a kingdom “not of this world” (John 18:36). What is distinctive about Christ’s kingship? Jesus says that “all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (John 18:37). What does it mean to listen to this voice today? How do we act on its promptings to bring about the Kingdom of God here and now? “

Compare and contrast with:

"This year’s [2008] National Youth Sunday takes the theme Reclaim the future! It continues the live simply message of recent years by inviting us to think about how we can live sustainably in our communities. Green issues and environmental concerns remain constantly in the news: we continue to hear about the effects of global warming; we’re encouraged to consider how we use the world’s resources; we are told to recycle more and more, and so on. Living simply and sustainably reminds us that these aren’t just trendy, eco-friendly actions but God-given responsibilities."

Arco asks if we can spot the difference between the two events.  Yes, this year's event is Christian.

28 October 2009

Urinating on Christ

A reader asks that I comment on a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm during which one of the characters urinates on a painting of Christ. . .

I worked in an adolescent psychiatric hospital for about four years.  As the unit team leader,  I dealt with emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually abused teens who acted out in violent ways to get adult attention.  The unit staff always responded to these outbursts by pointing out the difference between positive and negative attention.  Seeking after positive attention was praised as progress in treatment.  Seeking after negative attention was treated with clinical coolness and swift negative consequences. 

Peeing on a painting of Christ on TV is a cry for attention.  "Look at me!  Look at how avante garde I am!"

When I read about this urination incident, my first thought was:  "Someone needs a time out."  Now, I think this incident doesn't deserve any sort of attention at all.  Why?  First, it was designed to provoke exactly the kind of response it's getting--outrage and calls for condemnation.   Lots of attention that does nothing but boost the show's media profile.  Second, it's a cowardly act.  The show's writers would never have a character urinate on a copy of the Koran.  Since Christians don't declare fatwas, we're a safe and easy target.  Third, what harm was done?  Jesus suffered much worse in real life.  As Christians, we are certainly offended, but Christ promised us a tough road if we chose to follow him.  Fourth, within a few days the show's producers will apologize and come out looking like heroes who have decided to 'fess up and acknowledge the sputtering indignation of thin-skinned Christians. 

They win on every front.  Points to them from their equally adolescent fans for bravery in taking on a controversial issue.  Points to them for being mature enough to admit a mistake and apologize. 

The best response to adolescent attention-seeking behavior like this is to glance at it, sigh a little, shake your head, and keep on doing what you're doing.  Anything more than that reinforces the behavior as an effective means of tweaking the safely tweaked.

I don't think he likes Armstrong's new book. . .

A review of Karen Armstrong's new book, The Case for God.

It is a rare occasion that I find it difficult to point out any redeeming features in a book-when I struggle to find a single positive to write in a review. Unfortunately Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God is one of those books-one that is so monstrously bad, so hopelessly awful, so wretchedly miserable, that it took concerted effort just to finish it.
[. . .]

The Case for God, then, is in no way a case for the God of the Bible or, really, for the God of most other faiths. Rather, it is a defense of making the idea of God respectable again, even if it means radically changing what we mean by that name. It is an absolute mess and easily one of the most boring, most obnoxious books I’ve ever read.

Wow.  I've not read the book.  Comments from those who have?

The terms of religious life explained

Recent developments in Rome and Canterbury and the scandalous pro-abortion activities of a Dominican sister have raised a number of questions about the ordained ministry of the Church and religious life.   There's a lot of confusion out there!

Let's see if we can bring some clarity to the scene.  Before moving on, I have to point out that almost every distinction and claim made in what follows has its exceptions.  I am making no attempt here to be absolutely thorough.  These are general distinctions made in order to clarify terms for average Catholic folks. Objections can (and no doubt will) be made to just about everything I've written here.

1).  What is the difference between a sister and a nun?

All religious women are properly called "Sister."  Some religious women are nuns and others are sisters.  Nuns are solemnly professed religious women who live contemplative lives within the confines of a monastery.  Nuns are cloistered sisters.  Sisters (or "apostolic sisters") are solemnly professed religious women who live "in the world," working at various jobs either directly or indirectly associated with the Church.  Some sisters live in convents.  Others live alone or in small groups in apartments or houses.  Nuns typically wear some kind of habit.  Sisters rarely do. 

2).  Monastery vs. convent?

Monasteries are for men, convents for women, right?  Wrong.  These two terms denote whether or not the religious men or women are cloistered, that is, enclosed.  Religious who live enclosed lives live in monasteries.  Religious who live apostolic lives live in convents.  Monks and nuns live in monasteries.  Sisters and friars live in convents.

3).  Friar vs. monk?

Friars are a relatively new form of religious life (13th c. or so).  We are partly cloistered and partly apostolic.  Friars are free to leave the cloister when the occasion requires it.  Monks are cloistered all the time and leave only with permission.  For both friars and monks, modernization has loosen regs on leaving the cloister.  Another distinction that I'll throw in here is the difference between a "Father" and a "Brother."  Most male religious orders have members who are ordained priests and members who are laymen.  Dominicans have clerical friars and cooperator brothers (i.e. "lay brothers").  Historically, lay brothers in the Order were the laborers among the clerics.  They kept the practical side of priory life going while the priests contemplated the mysteries of philosophy and theology.  Brothers basically served the community in the kitchens, the garages, the yards, the laundries.  With the advent of Vatican Two, the decline in vocations generally, and the rise of egalitarianism in the Church, the brothers stepped up and took on ministries normally reserved to priests.  There was some significant pressure in the 1980's in response to the priest shortage for brothers to be ordained.  Many did so.  Nowadays, cooperator brothers earn PhD's in just about any field useful to the Order, serve in parishes, universities, chancery offices, etc.  Unfortunately, in many Dominican provinces, the lay brother vocation is on the decline, if not altogether extinct.  Currently, there is a move to reinvigorate the vocation.  Deo gratis!

4).  Secular priest vs. religious priest?

All Catholic priests are either secular or religious.  This is not a distinction between degrees of holiness or religious observance.  Secular priests work directly under a diocesan bishop.  They make promises of celibacy and obedience.  Typically, secular priests work in parishes or diocesan schools.  They can be assigned outside their diocese by their bishop.  Secular priests wear black clerical suits when "on duty." Religious priests are ordained men who belong to one of the Church's many orders, societies, or congregations, e.g. Benedictines, Jesuits, Dominicans.  Religious priests typically follow a rule of life designed by a saint or some other spiritual leader.  Religious priests take vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience.  Religious priests wear distinctive habits, or sometimes black clerical suits.  Secular priests tend to live alone, while religious priests tend to live in community.   This is not a hard rule, but it is almost always the case. 

5).  Vow of poverty?

Different orders have different philosophies of poverty.  For example, Franciscans typically see poverty as an end in itself.  To be poor is the goal, a sign of dedication and holiness.  Dominicans typically see poverty as a means to improving the preaching by eliminating distraction and material commitments.  Generally speaking, the vow of poverty commits the religious person to living within the means of his/her community for the benefit of the community.  Salaries, bonuses, donations all go into one communal pot and individual expenses are paid out of the community's resources.  For example, as a friar I do not own a car.  When I am assigned to a priory, the prior of the community assigns me a car to use while I am a member of that community.  Gas, insurance, maintenance are all paid out of the priory's communal pot.  For Dominicans, poverty does not mean impoverishment but rather something closer to simplicity in community life.  For Franciscans, it means something very close to impoverishment.  Theologians and philosophers are still trying to understand the notion of "Jesuit poverty."  ;-)

6).  Vow of celibacy/chastity?

Three terms need to be defined here.  Celibacy means not getting married.  Chastity means being faithful to your commitments.  Continence means no sex.  Reporters in the secular media often confuse these three terms. Vowed religious are bound to chaste celibate continence.  Celibacy and continence might be thought of as restricted behaviors:  no marriage, no sex.  Chastity is an attitude.   True chastity is extraordinarily difficult to achieve.  Married people are called to chastity.  So are single people.   Since Catholic moral theology teaches that sex activity is only morally permissible within a sacramental marriage, celibacy always means continence.  So, if a Catholic is single, he/she is also called to continence.

7).  Vow of obedience?

Again, lots of philosophical differences among the various orders of religious.  Historically, Jesuits have used a military model for obedience. Get your orders, follow them.  Period.  Dominicans used to be somewhat like this, but now we tend to see obedience as something more akin to paying careful attention to the needs of the Order and responding to those needs with generosity and good will when asked to do so.  It is rarely the case that a Dominican must be "ordered" to do something.  However, it can be done with a "formal precept."  Most assignments in the Order are made after careful consideration for the gifts and temperament of the friar.  No provincial wants to assign a friar to a ministry that he is loathe to take on.  This means unhappiness all around.  Abuses of authority in the past have led many religious orders to abandon the military model of obedience.  Now, we tend to focus on the root meaning of obedience and emphasize the necessity of "listening" to the needs of the community and responding in generosity.  This too causes problems, but so long as we are on this side of heaven we must deal with human fallenness.  Obedience is meant to mitigate our natural tendencies to seek out our own good regardless of costs.

8).  Habits:  yea or nay?

This is a minefield.  If you want to start a shouting match among religious, pronounce on the issue of habit wearing.  Regardless of how you come down on the issue, someone will object and they will usually object loudly.  Within communities, habit wearing (or not) has become a symbol for all the ideological fights that we are fighting in more detail in other arenas.  For example, habit wearers are traditionalists, conservative, authoritarian, medieval, and seeking after attention and privilege.  Non-habit wearers are reformers, liberals, loosy-goosy hippies, modernists, and trying too hard to be hip.  Wear a habit and you proclaim your ideological allegiance to institutional conformity and power.  Don't wear a habit and you proclaim your ideological allegiance to non-conformity and libertinism.  Of course, these are caricatures.  Most religious wear habits when appropriate.  The real fights begin when either side tries to impose its habit wearing views on the other.  Typically, there are times and places where habits are specifically called for, e.g. communal prayer, meals, ministry.  And there are times when the habit wearing is discouraged, e.g. casual shopping, outside work/recreation, etc.  And, as always, there are exceptions to these rules!  Local communities usually have their customs about what is and what is not an appropriate time and place to don the habit.  Younger religious these days tend to wear the habit more often then not.  Interestingly, habit wearing isn't a big issue among European Dominicans.  And they seem to think that American Dominicans are being silly to fight about it.  Welcome to religious life!

What have I left out?

27 October 2009

Catholics are too stupid to get it

Bishop Donald Trautman thinks Catholics are too stupid to understand most of the new English translation of the Roman Missal:

"The vast majority of God's people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal like 'ineffable,' 'consubstantial,' 'incarnate,' 'inviolate,' 'oblation,' 'ignominy,' 'precursor,' 'suffused' and 'unvanquished.' The vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic," Bishop Trautman said.

Here's a radical idea:  let's do what the Church has been doing for 2,000 years--let's teach the faith and not assume that our people are inherently unable to learn!  A bulletin insert should do the trick.   In arguing against what he thinks of as liturgical elitism, the good bishop exposes himself as a cultural elitist.  This is the sort of condescension we've come to expect from the progressive wing of the Church. 

"'The (Second Vatican Council's) Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stipulated vernacular language, not sacred language,' he added. 'Did Jesus ever speak to the people of his day in words beyond their comprehension? Did Jesus ever use terms or expressions beyond his hearer's understanding?'"

If I'm not mistaken the gospels are jam packed with examples of Jesus doing just that--teaching and preaching ideas that baffled people, especially those who followed him closely.  The disciples are constantly misunderstanding his teaching.  Large numbers walked away from his Bread of Life discourse in John because they didn't get what he was saying.  He himself admits that his parables are meant to be understood only by those who "see and hear."   "Vernacular" certainly means "everyday language," but are we to believe that the Council Fathers intend for us to constantly re-translate the Mass to keep up with the ever-shifting trends in the language?  English is an incredibly dynamic language!  Of course, what the bishop fears is that the sacred language of the new translation will become the vernacular of the Church's liturgy.  Can't have all that transcendent mumbo-jumbo pointing us toward God, ya know?

"'Since [the Nicene Creed] is a creedal prayer recited by the entire assembly in unison, the use of "we" emphasized the unity of the assembly in praying this together as one body. Changing the plural form of "we"to "I" in the Nicene Creed goes against all ecumenical agreements regarding common prayer texts,' he said."

So, if I'm understanding the argument here, we only get the communal sense of the Creed if we start the prayer with "we."  Does reciting the prayer together fail to demonstrate the communal nature of the prayer?  Does starting the Pledge of Allegiance with "I" undermine its communal nature?  I have no objection to "we," but the bishop's argument here seems specious.  And I'll start worrying about conforming Roman Catholic liturgical practice to ecumenical  agreements when our non-Catholic brothers and sisters start worrying about conforming their doctrine and practice to ours.  Women bishops, anyone?  Communion for pets?

"The new translation asks God to 'give kind admittance to your kingdom,' which Bishop Trautman called "a dull lackluster expression which reminds one of a ticket-taker at the door. ... The first text reflects a pleading, passionate heart and the latter text a formality -- cold and insipid."

And the concluding prayer from yesterday's Mass ended with "May this Eucharist have an effect in our lives."  An "effect"?  Like giving us the measles?  Or causing excessive gas?  Or increasing male pattern baldness?  All of these are effects of causes.  Talk about insipid.  I'll confess right now:  I didn't conclude yesterday's Mass with the appointed prayer.  I flipped the page and used the prayer from the 31st Sunday.  

What the good bishop fails to understand, or willfully refuses to acknowledge, is that the Mass is a time and place apart from the market, the family room, the corner pub.  Instead of urging Catholics to take the sacred out into the world, he's pushing the Church to bring the world into the Church.  This is reverse evangelization.  Of course, the new translation will be clunky at times and it will use words that normal people don't hear everyday.  A little education will go a long way toward fixing these problems.  

The other element here that everyday Catholics aren't aware of is the theological differences between the 1970 translation and the new one.*  The 1970 translation renders most of the Latin in such a way that emphasizes human effort in achieving salvation and holiness.  God's work in us is minimized, if not outright eliminated.  The 1970 English missal has been credibly accused of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism, ancient heresies that teach we achieve redemption/holiness by our efforts alone, or with little help from God.  The ideological effort, of course, is aimed at "building community down here" rather than leading us to become a Church that prays up there. 

The 1970 missal is deeply flawed.  The new translation will be deeply flawed.  Language is simply incapable of adequately expressing the fullness of God's glory.  That's a given.  But what do we need our prayers to do?  Remind us that we live in a fallen world?  Or lift us to the One who created us and redeemed us?

Thankfully, Bishop Trautman lost this fight. 

*I read a draft of the new translation while studying at Blackfriars, Oxford in 2003-4.  It is not as ridiculously ponderous as the good bishop would have us believe.

Choose to hope

30th Week OT (T): Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Sometimes planted seeds die in the ground. Sometimes yeast will not leaven wheat flour for bread. For those of us who are not farmers or bakers we could add: sometimes laptops do not boot up; sometimes buses do not run on time; sometimes you get a “C” in Latin. We experience the failure of potential to be fulfilled everyday. Essays go unwritten. Books and articles for class go unread. Chances to forgive and ask for forgiveness pass us by. So accustomed are we to mishaps, lapses, and near-misses that we have adapted ourselves to work around them, to count them as features of doing business in a world not yet perfected by God's grace. If there's any grand purpose in failure, it is this: who we are made to be in Christ is made all that much clearer, all that much more starkly evident. For those of us who are saved by hope, living in the middle of the contrast between what is and what could be hones the good habits of endurance so that our inevitable trials are not merely endured but enjoyed, celebrated as signs of what we have yet to achieve with Christ. The mustard seed will germinate and grow. The yeast will rise to leaven the bread.

Paul, writing to the Romans, asks: “. . .who hopes for what one sees?”  We do not hope that the bus arrives on time when we see it arriving on time. We do not hope that our laptop will boot up when we see it booting up. Hoping for success when we see success in action is irrational. So, Paul adds, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” Notice here that he qualifies how we wait, “with endurance.” We do not hope, waiting impatiently, or angrily, for what we do not see. While we hope for what we do not see, we wait with strength, resolution; with guts and grit, with moxie and mettle. We dare failure to do its worst, and still we hope. But we must remember, lest we sound arrogant, we must remember: we do not hope in the works of our hands, or the words of our mouths; we hope in the marvelous deeds of the Lord, in His Word alone. It is only in the Kingdom of God that the mustard seed always grows, that the yeast always leavens. And only in His Kingdom that our failure might be counted as success.

Paul writes, “. . .in hope we were saved.” Saved from what? From whom? We are saved from despairing over our inevitable mistakes; from collapsing under the weight of temptation and sin; from suffering for the sake of suffering; we are saved from the one who would rejoice if we were to abandon eternal life for endless death; from the one who wishes us nothing but disorder, disease, insanity, and pain. The most marvelous deed that our Lord has done for us is to free us from all that binds us to the one who would kill us out of envy and spite. We are saved from his eternal failure. We are planted, watered, and fed so that all we can do is grow and thrive; all we can do is season and leaven this world. Therefore, choose to hope, or hopelessness will be chosen for you.

26 October 2009

Sr. Quinn and canon law

Canon lawyer, Ed Peters outlines a few possible canonical responses to Dominican sister Donna Quinn's formal and material cooperation with abortion.

Unfortunately, he agrees with me that there is little to be done. 

Faith No More

Christopher Hitchens on "What I have learned from debating religious people around the world":

"[Pastor Doug] Wilson isn't one of those evasive Christians who mumble apologetically about how some of the Bible stories are really just "metaphors." He is willing to maintain very staunchly that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and that his sacrifice redeems our state of sin, which in turn is the outcome of our rebellion against God. He doesn't waffle when asked why God allows so much evil and suffering—of course he "allows" it since it is the inescapable state of rebellious sinners. I much prefer this sincerity to the vague and Python-esque witterings of the interfaith and ecumenical groups who barely respect their own traditions and who look upon faith as just another word for community organizing. (Incidentally, just when is President Barack Obama going to decide which church he attends?)"

Read the whole thing here.

25 October 2009

Insomnia, or On the use of Greek pastries in the Crimean War


I woke up this morning at 3.00am and couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up, got some coffee and fired up Ye Ole Laptop for some browsing.  (Note the time stamps on the posts below).  My hope was that I would get a little sleepy and manage to fall back into dreamland.

No luck. 

Anyway, after Laud/Mass, breakfast, and a turn around the cloister, I got to work.  Lunch, recreation with the brothers, and. . .finally!. . .a little nap.

However, I am still both wired and tired.  So, wired and tired that I completely misread this pic caption at one my new fav blogs, Big Government"Today is also the anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade, from the Battle of Balaclava in 1854."

My first thought was, "Uh?  The Brits attacked the Russians with sticky Greek pastries?"

My next thought was, "Oh, maybe the Russians were allergic to pistachios."

Now I'm looking for my travel size bottle of Benadryl. 

More Anglican questions. . .*

1).  Any guesses about the title of the apostolic constitution?

Sure.  How about Tiberis Nare? (Now we wait for all the picky Latinists to correct my grammar. . .it's inevitable.)

2).  Will Anglican parishes be able to bring property along with them?

I hope so!  They don't allow ugly vestments in the Anglican Church.  Of course, the Episcopal Church has lately taken to wearing some howlers.  Seriously, in the U.S. it would be decided parish by parish, diocese by diocese.  In the U.K., you have the whole state religion problem.  My fear is that traditionalist Anglicans will resist the urge to Come Home to Rome for no other reason than their churches are actually look like churches instead of urology clinics.

3).  What will we call Father's wife?

Ummmm. . ."ma'am"?  Most anything but "Mother."

4).  What are the main differences between the English translation of the Roman Rite and the rite the Anglican Use parish will use?

The Anglican Use Rite doesn't condescend to the people by assuming that they are too stupid to know what words like "ineffable" mean.  The language is actually real English and not committee-speak designed to desacralize the liturgy with fortune cookie inanities. 

5).  Has there been any response from the Episcopal Church leaders?

Yes, the Presiding Bishopress donned her oven-mitt miter and invoked her goddess, Hecate, to pox the Holy Father.  It didn't work; in fact, it backfired.  Now she's all itchier and whinier than ever.

* No, these are not real questions.  I'm making them up.  The answers are real though.