Monday, February 28, 2005
What is there left to say about a society if it puts a greater premium on the way animals are treated than it does human beings?
There seems to be a consensus among those who analyze this sort of thing that the Oscars just ain't what they used to be, although there's no agreement on the reasons why. Some cite the lack of stars; others that the movies aren't as big (or as good) as they used to be; still others that the content (of both the movies and the Oscarcast) is more offensive, less glamorous, and just too long.
I used to love the Oscars when I was growing up, and it stuck with me until a few years ago. I'm not sure why - I usually hadn't seen most of the movies, didn't know who all of the stars were, and often had to to go bed before the big awards were handed out. And yet I was always there in front of the tube, watching the magic moments, comparing the winners to my predictions - just as I thought of it this year, briefly, in passing - and wondered why it wasn't interesting anymore.
It's true that the whole thing has changed. How many of you remember that once upon a time the broadcast didn't start until 10:30 Eastern time? There was, of course, something particularly glamorous about the red carpet treatment back then, with the white flash of the camera bulbs against the darkness of the late March sky, and the spotlights swinging back and forth outside the Pantages or the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, two of the places where the show used to be held.
It was a shorter program back then, as well. A couple of times back in the '50s, the Academy actually sponsored the show itself, which meant - no commercials! Imagine that today. Therefore, even with the late start, the show didn't end that much later than it does in the bloated four-hour telecast that's become routine.
As for the reasons why the Oscars don't create the buzz they used to - well, I'm just not sure. It's true that a lot of movies are offensive today, but then Midnight Cowboy won a best-picture award back in 1969 while it still carried an X-rating, and movies like Bonnie and Clyde weren't exactly free of violence. True, Chris Rock isn't everyone's idea of an Oscar host, but neither was Richard Pryor the year he was one of the co-hosts (both Rock and Pryor suffered from the same problem, not being able to do the kind of comedy for which they'd become best-known).
Liberal Hollywood? Sure - but any more liberal than when they nominated pictures like Julia and Reds and Coming Home? I was able to sit through it back then, just as I did when Vanessa Redgrave attacked the Zionists and Marlon Brando's Indian proxy decried the treatment of Native Americans. People complain that the biggest movies are often overlooked (The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11 were this year's examples), but retrospect has always been 20/20. (Think Oliver! and Ordinary People). It's true that I haven't yet seen any of this year's nominees (no way to Baby, maybe to The Aviator since I've always been interested in Howard Hughes), but are they any worse than Out of Africa and The Last Emperor?
Some of my favorite movies were Oscar winners - Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Chinatown, and Patton. I used to go to the old magazine stacks at the library and pour over the TV Guides with the Oscar lineups in them, looking for nominated movies that interested me based on the pictures of the actors and actresses in them, or the descriptions of the films. I ran into some real hidden gems that way - movies such as Tom Jones, This Sporting Life, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Darling, and The Mark, which in turn led me to other movies: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and a host of other British kitchen-sink dramas. Recall that the 1981 assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan occurred the same day the Oscars were scheduled (they were postponed a day) - I almost missed the TV coverage, because I'd been thinking of heading to the library to research old nominees. For several years the Oscars were shown at the same time as the NCAA basketball championship game; I usually chose the movies.
But somewhere along the line things changed, and I stopped caring. As I've been writing this, I've tried to put my finger on it, since so many of the things I've cited didn't seem to stop me. I think there are a couple of points to consider. First, the glamor. No question that movie stars aren't as glamorous as they used to be; many of the actors out there aren't glamorous at all, and aren't really movie stars, either. I don't even recognize some of the presenters. And while Billy Crystal and Steve Martin were throwbacks to an earlier era of hosts, what about Chris Rock and Whoopie Goldberg and some of the others they've come up with - no way you can compare them to the elegance of Johnny Carson, let alone Bob Hope.
And maybe that brings me close to what the real problem is. The Academy Awards have become a TV show, pure and simple. Most of the action is staged for TV (except for the dreadful production numbers), and it seems that even the stars have been shrunk in size to fit the smaller screen. The show is more political, and the jokes are cruder and less funny.
But perhaps the biggest change for me came when the broadcast was moved to Sunday a few years ago. It was done, they said, to increase the TV ratings, although it doesn't seem to have done much good (ratings were down again this year, in preliminary reports). It allowed them to move the starting time up even more, so now it's broad daylight when the celebrities arrive. And it's made everything that much less special. The show used to be something you could look forward to during the work day (if you were inclined to do so), a treat to enliven a dull Monday. In other words, it stood out.
Maybe the stars are too familiar nowadays - you've got entire networks devoted to covering them, reams of magazines sharing every intimate detail. Maybe award shows themselves are too familiar - you've got the Golden Globes, the People's Choice, the Screen Actor's Guild, the BAFTAs, and that's just off the top of my head - so that by the time the Oscars roll around they're old news. Maybe we're just so fragmented as a society that there's nothing that can bring disparate interests together to share a few hours watching the same show.
Whatever the reason, it's true that the Oscars just ain't like they used to be. And I'm sorry that's the case.
For the author Thomas Hibbs' take on the winning movie, read this excellent column from today's NRO.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Read the rest of Fr. Johansen's blog as well, and find out more about how you can help!
Saturday, February 26, 2005
"To put it bluntly," Fr. Johansen told me, "Bishop Lynch has been invisible on this matter for the last couple years. He made a few statements in October 2003. But even those were, in my opinion, pretty weak. They basically expressed his sympathy and his feeling that this was a tragic situation."
Another reason why we all need to speak out and pass the word to others. This is a situation where everyone, laity as well as ministers, has to take the lead.
Again quoting Brian's e-letter, here are Fr. Johansen's suggestions:
- "Pray, not just for Terri but for Michael Schiavo and his lawyer, George Felos. After all, people's hearts can be turned."
- Since the ruling comes down today -- a Friday in Lent -- Catholics have a special opportunity to offer up a sacrifice. Don't underestimate the power of this season.
- "Get informed about the real issues. Spread the word. The mainstream media continues to report that Terri is brain dead or comatose. No one has ever claimed that. Furthermore, contrary to media reports, this is NOT a right to die case. People need to spread the word on this. Call their talk radio stations, send e-mails to friends, and to Florida state representatives." One way to get informed is to read the article Fr. Rob wrote for us on the situation in our January 2004 issue. It's the single best overview of the debate that I've seen and is available for free on the Crisis website: (You have full permission to reprint, forward, link to, or quote the article any way you like. We need to get this information to as many people as possible.)
- Finally, if you have the chance and the means, you could also donate money to www.Terrisfight.org. Due to high web traffic, the site is down right now (I just tried it), but should be up again soon.
Let's keep it up, and don't be discouraged - we may not win (in the short run), but for sure we won't win if we don't fight!
Be highly suspicious of any political or social group which never under any circumstances thinks there is something funny about itself and its program.
Reminds me of something Dan Rather said once (probably one of those written by Peggy Noonan) where he said to beware any group that either used the word "American" in their name (as I recall, the example he used was People for the American Way), or whose acronym spelled out a clever word. I always figured a group that spends that much time gerrymandering their name in order for the initials to spell something is way too expert in spin-doctoring words to be trusted.
The second comes under the title "Legalizing Manijuana," but I think it tells just as much about how Corporate American can co-opt even the most radical, anti-establishment concept and turn it into a marketing campaign:
Now we know our country, and we love it, but we are well aware of what it does with anything that is legal and profitable. It merchandises it. And I think eventhe most intellectual defender of marijuana as less harmful and more dignified than booze would be wella dvised to stop and think about hte United States five years after marijuana becomes legal. Can't you imagine Acapulco God, The Upbeat Stick That Has No Letdown, presenting The Ed Sullivan Show?
Of course, most TV shows in the early years were sponsored by companies that included their names in the title of the show - we see it today in programs like the Hallmark Hall of Fame - so it's nothing new. (For those of you out there who don't remember Ed Sullivan, he hosted something called a "variety show". Substitute something like Seinfeld to get the point.)
But you get my meaning. There's something about all this that makes you just a little uneasy. I thought about this when I heard some economic analysts discussing the President's trip to Europe and whether a new Cold War with Russia would be bad for the stock market. That's Corporate America in a nutshell - they don't care what the moral implications are of an event, they don't care whether it's good or bad for America, all they do is look at it to find out if they can make a buck.
(BTW, find someone in the MSM today who would have the courage to speak a sentence that says "we love our country"!)
Friday, February 25, 2005
Off to the Stations. A good place to be to ponder these mysteries.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him.
Last week we examined how our sins contributed to Jesus' pain during His scourging. This week we think of how our sins mock Jesus.
At first glance we may think ourselves innocent of this charge. Do we run around actually making fun of Our Lord? Nonsense! Why, I go to church every Sunday. I say my prayers at night. I give to the poor. Isn't that what it's all about?
Well, perhaps we don't mock Him in the same way as do others in this culture. I think, for example of the wizards behind the NBC sitcom Committed (more on this in a future post). But let's think about things a little more closely, we who call ourselves Christians. Remember the last time you shared gossip with others? Ridiculed someone - either to their face or in front of your friends? Looked down on someone, treated them with scorn, sinned against charity - perhaps even while you were on the way to church? Maybe we even thank God that we're not like that poor sinner over there.
Don't we realize that every time we do this we mock Christ? We, who profess to be belivers, apostles, followers - and then turn around and do exactly the opposite of what He teaches. Think of the cheating spouse who sings in the choir on Sunday, the church-going businessman who juggles the books to avoid paying taxes, the zealots in Northern Ireland who kill and terrorize in the name of religion. Is that what Jesus taught us to do?
I don't know about you, but to me these sins - pride, arrogance, uncharity, religious hatred - seem to be special kinds of sins. At the very least they are sins of presumption, of taking God's forgivenes for granted. They scandalize those who look to us as exemplars of Christian behavior. They are, in short, a satire, a mockery, of what it is Christ preached, what He died for, what He taught us to believe. When we are guilty of this type of behavior, we are also guilty of laughing at Our Lord, every bit as much as the soldiers did.
Of course, these are also signs of fallen humanity, and thus they're traps that most of us fall into one way or another. Let us pray to Christ and to His Blessed Mother for purity, humility, and the grace of a faithful spirit, that we may truly become followers in His footsteps, and in His Mother's footsteps, and not the footsteps of the Romans who knelt before Him and cried, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
Also keep spreading the word, as GetReligion reminds us, that Terri is not in a "permanent vegetative state." The liberals long ago realized the power that words have to control the perceptions of people. If we can make sure the MSM are being honest in their descriptions, we can show more and more people the real issues that are at stake.
With this continuing to play itself out in the courts, it might not be a bad idea to offer (or continue to offer) prayers to St. Thomas More that Judge Greer will hear the words of God and reflect God's justice and mercy in his decision. Today we pray for Terri, but this reaches far beyond the life of one woman. Pray also for our country, for which Jefferson trembled when he reflected that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever.
Let us pray that it will be so during this Lent as well.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
But doesn't Mr. Blue sound interesting? Especially the story-within-a-story. And prescient, as well. I remarked to Bill that it reminded me, in its structure, of some of the novels of Paul Auster (understanding that the subtext of Auster's books is not religious). But now that I think of it, it also reminds me of the early novels of D. Keith Mano (which all have religious undercurrents and themes of redemption), especially The Bridge. It's out of print now, but here's a blurb from the jacket cover, describing this story of "the last man on earth:"
The year is 2035. For over forty years the Ecologists have had their wayand the killing by man of any living things has been outlawed. Insects, fish, plants, and animals abound, in fact run rampant, revered by all but a few such as Dominick Priest. Priest still believes in the primacy of man. In this adventure story of the future, D. Keith Mano demonstrates once again his concern as a novelist with the situation about to arise, the problem as yet unforeseen, the solution not yet quite arrived at. The Bridge tells the story of Dominick Priest's adventures, in a world that may come to be.
But even this description doesn't do the actual book justice.
What do you think - Amy, Bill?
You know, I can't help but think it's no coincidence that the Pope is undergoing this latest ordeal at the same time that Terri Schiavo is in the midst of hers. The Pope speaks often of offering up suffering; would it be too terribly surprising to think that some of the suffering which he is currently offering is going to help Terri and her family?
There have been many good suggestions for action - petitions to sign, presidents and governors to email, and others - but the best I can suggest is to pray, pray, PRAY for Terri. I personally have been offering the Divine Mercy Chaplet in hopes that God will have mercy on Terri and her family - and that He will also have mercy on this country, for if the courts allow her to be killed, we shall surely need it...
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
We have a great list of blogs and websites over on the right hand sidebar, including many that have been added in the last couple of weeks. If you see a site listed, it means we check it out at least every other day, and most of the time daily. There's some excellent information out there, and one of the ways bloggers get that information to you is by sharing it.
If you've been reading recent posts you'll notice that we've linked to excellent articles at The Dawn Patrol, Veritatis Splendor, Et Unum Sint, and Church of the Masses, and Amy Welborn is a must read. Anyone interested in our recent posts about Distributism or Chesterton will find the American Chesterton Society of great interest. Even if you're not interested in politics, you'll find many items of cultural import at National Review Online, available through The Corner. And if you're tired of the Marty Haugen/David Haas type of liturgical "music," check out SMMMHDH.
If you have a blog and you'd like us to add you to our list o' links, give us a shout. Of course, if you'd like to add us to your links, we'd be much obliged.
We may not agree with everything on every one of our links, but they're there for a reason. We read them, and we hope you will too.
St. Augustine is best known for two sayings addressed to the Lord. One is, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You."
The other: "Let me be chaste—but not yet."
Those two lines are intimately connected. Put them together, and you have the human condition. We long for fulfillment in our relationship with God, but we are tempted instead to seek it in relationships with others. In that "but not yet," I especially hear the desire to not only be unchaste, but to avoid taking the long view of any potential relationship. It's much easier in the short run to dive in without thought to the spiritual and emotional consequences.
I believe the answer is to seek in our relationships with others—especially with a spouse or hoped-for future spouse—the kind of relationship which we could bring before God and not be ashamed. The kind that would be to His glory.
That hits it right on the head - the problem with contemporary culture. Always acting in the short term, not willing to look at the consequences of our actions. It also brings home the point that our human interactions are designed not for physical fulfillment, but spiritual. And, as she notes at the end, even that fulfillment is inexact, since the ultimate fulfillment comes when we are reunited with Our Lord and Creator in Heaven.
I'm particularly fond of Augustine's writings on this since he understands our weaknesses, having indulged in them himself. As we struggle through the temptations that come our way in our sensual-sated culture - not just sexual temptations, but all temptations of the senses - be assured that St. Augustine is ready and willing to listen to us and to intercede on our behalf with his prayers. St. Augustine and St. Michael: powerful partners in our daily lives.
For one thing, what is it?
To answer that question, let's take a step back for a moment, to an article in the January issue of First Things. Written by William McGurn and entitled "Bob Casey's Revenge," it discusses how the Democratic Party got to its present pro-abortion state, and subliminally asks the question "what would happen if we had a pro-life Democratic Party?"
We need pro-life Democrats to be able to breathe again. This means that we need a Democratic leadership that doesn’t demand that Democrats vote against, among other things, judicial nominees whose only crime is their “deeply held” personal beliefs or a suspected skepticism toward the one dogma in the Democratic Party: that while all other Supreme Court decisions are malleable and must bend to the social and political agenda of the day, Roe v. Wade is holy writ.Aye, therein lies the rub. Many conservative Catholics have concerns about America's direction politically - the war in Iraq, various government policies regarding spending, taxes, civil rights, the growing influence of Corporate America. In other words, issues on which they might normally be expected to side with the Democrats (never mind for the moment that the Democrats are far from perfect on these issues themselves), but because of issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, euthenasia, and embryonic stem cell research - the social issues, in other words - they find themselves with the choice of either voting GOP while holding their noses, voting for a third party (and "throwing their vote away"), or not voting at all.
Conservatives find themselves frequently distraught over what they see as a "betrayal" by the Republican Party (or the "Stupid Party," as the late Sam Francis put it) on issues ranging from spending to a perceived softness on those social issues. Of course, as I learned long ago, one problem with mixing politics and religion is that religious leaders frequently find themselves working so hard for a seat at the bargaining table, they forget the one waiting for them at the Lord's table. Well, what can you expect? After all, the GOP is a political party, not a church. I'm not trying to excuse the squishiness so often found in Republicans; merely pointing out that a political party, like all other organizations created by fallible man, is nothing in which to put your trust.
Many conservatives are drawn to Libertarianism, but on social issues they can be morally bankrupt. Third-parties such as the Constitution Party stand for all the right things, but they're usually seen as trying to out-Republican the Republicans. They also run the risk of being preceived as even more "cruel and heartless" than the Republicans, although I don't much hold with that. Then there was the Reform Party (or the "All Others" Party, as I called it) - true, Pat Buchanan took it over a few years ago, but that was such a hash to begin with, there wasn't much hope.
Someone once suggested (all right, it was me who suggested it) that what this country really needs is a genuine Christian Democratic party, similar to the ones that you used to see in Europe. Not just a tweaking of one of the existing parties, but an entirely new and radically different concept. One might think of it as a party that was socially conservative and economically moderate.
Is such a thing possible, you ask? Practically speaking - probably not. Third parties don't have a great history in this country. Besides, a lot of important forces would join together to prevent the formation of a Christian Democratic party. But if we begin to inform ourselves of the moral and spiritual dimensions of such a movement, we might find ourselves changing in our political outlook, and thereby influencing our friends and colleagues in different ways.
Where do we begin in looking for the foundation of this philosophy? Well, we don't have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we need to look at Catholic social teaching and the writing of great Catholics such as Chesterton and Belloc. In short, we need to talk about Distributism.
Which we will - in the next post in this series...
The reporters who have been dealing with the hippies in San Francisco are almost unanimous: They regard the movement as phony, distasteful and meaningless. You cannot reform the world, they contend, by loading flowers onto old ladies who may have other, more substantial lacks: you cannot improve a society by turning away from it except for material support.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
The only possible explanation? "They really believed it all. They loved Big Sister. I had fallen among pod people." Derb's conclusion: "Diversity is, in short, a cult."
The older guys with jackets and ties looked cowed and didn't say much. The younger ones, the ones with earth shoes and collarless natural-fiber shirts, seemed almost as keen on diversity as the women. What brings a man, particularly a "European-American male," to an affair like this? I wondered. In the case of the older, PC-whipped-looking guys, the answer was probably just the determination to find out where all the "diversity" landmines are planted, so they could make it to retirement and pension in one piece. Good luck to them. But what about these younger ones? They really seemed to believe this stuff. What was driving them?
There was, it seemed to me, something horribly ignoble about these young men. To yield not just meekly but enthusiastically to the stripping away of their privileges, real and imagined; to acquiesce so whole-heartedly in their dispossession, seemed so...unmanly. Not that they looked particularly unmanly in themselves. One of them was large and muscular — though it was the cosmetic muscularity of the gym, not anything intended for actual — ugh! — physical work. (I hasten to add that there were no obvious indications that he might belong to a behavioral minority group.) So why was he jeering along with the others at the mention of "objectivity"? Why did he hoot along with the rest at "gender-blind and color-blind"?
Yet another example of how the PC-ers and the Thought Police have taken a perfectly good word and turned it on its ear. As I said in an earlier post, Christianity is the most diverse religion ever. After all, Christ died for everyone, even those who wouldn't accept Him.
It's a fact. Just don't say it too loud when you're around the Diversitoids.
This week's entry is from the November 11-17, 1967 issue (the one with Yvette Mimieux on the cover, for you collectors). Near the end of the issue is a brief compliation of quotes from the newsman Harry Reasoner. For those of you too young to remember (and I suspect that's most of you), Harry Reasoner was for many years one of the staples of CBS News. He was the original co-host, along with Mike Wallace, of 60 Minutes. Tired of waiting for Walter Cronkite to retire, he jumped to ABC in 1970, where he co-anchored the evening news with Howard K. Smith. In 1976 he had the misfortune to be teamed with Barbara Walters on the ABC Evening News, where he gained something of a reputation as a misogynist (although it was more likely exasperation at Walters' lack of hard-news ability. He returned to CBS in 1978, and died in 1991.
All that said, it's much more interesting to listen to what Reasoner had to say. Some of his quotes - the ones you can find in the quotations section online - are merely humorous ("Statistics are to baseball what a flaky crust is to Mom's apple pie.") but the ones I'm interested in are those where he shows an intriguing insight into the future.
Of the excerpts in the article, this is the one I think is most interesting, considering our mania today for avoiding risk - antibacterial soap, kids wearing helmets to take walks, all kinds of rules, regulations, and lawsuits - and our obsession with youth and fad diets. It comes under the category "Life and Death":
The idea of trying to outguess life, to avoid everything that might conceivably injure your life, is a peculiarly dangerous one. Pretty soon you are existing in a morass of fear. A man makes a sort of deal with life, he gives up things because they are undignified or immoral; if life asks him to cringe in front of all reasonable indulgence, he may at the end say life is not worth it. Because for the cringing he may get one day extra or none; he never gets eternity.I particularly like the last line; it makes a point that often goes unsaid. Death is an intregal part of life; while you don't particularly go looking for it, neither should you shy away from it. For Christians, death is not something to be feared; St. Paul was often torn between his calling as an evangelist and his desire for eternity with Our Lord.
I think our obsession with immortality today has a lot to do with our culture's loss of faith. Death implies an end, a finishing point. Perhaps, if those crazy Christians are right, a judgment. Since we don't believe in being judgmental nowadays, it's no wonder that we should also disapprove of being judged. Of course, that disapproval is more likely a fear of what the judgment might be.
But without death there are no consequences to life - you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as you want. Oh, you might get caught doing something you shouldn't do, but in the absence of defying death, that's about all the thrill there is to life. Anyway, if you're clever, you'll probably get away with it. Americans are a forgiving lot anyway - just look at our role models.
One of the strongest reasons in support of the death penalty is the idea that a man, confronted with his potential date of death (something few of us get), is forced to confront the meaning of his life, and it is this desire to "get right" with life that often produces the most genuine conversions. Death penalty opponents often remark that execution cuts off a potentially useful life; I find the idea that it concentrates the conversion process to be more compelling.
I appear to have gotten kind of far afield, haven't I? Anyway, I'll post some more of Harry Reasoner's comments throughout this week. They're refreshing, prescient, and they make you think.
Monday, February 21, 2005
I'm amazed that anyone can still think you can keep your religious beliefs separate from the way you live your life. But John Kerry and his supporters believed it (or at least tried to convince themselves that they believed it), and based on the number of elites who become twitching, drooling idiots as soon as they sense even the possibility that someone's about to mention the word God - well, I guess it speaks for itself. We're ridiculed, scorned, ostracized. We're uncool, not hip, not with it. I don't know what today's generation uses to describe a "square," but whatever it is, we're that, too.
But it's worth it.
But Dawn makes a very convincing case that people who saw the movie when it came out probably picked up on it. And there's no doubt how what conclusions they were supposed to draw from it, either.
People always debate the content of Hollywood films. Certainly there are enough examples out there of the left-coast's leftist bias. But often it's so much more subtle than we're aware of. Which is, of course, often the mark of a gifted filmmaker.
And a gifted propagandist.
For me, the sad state of Catholic fiction can be summed up in a line from Thomas Jodziewicz, quoted in the Olson post: "He offered the Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor as an instance of a recent author with this gift of making the obvious new." Flannery O'Connor was a gifted author, one of the greatest Catholic writers. But she died in 1964. If she's a recent example, we really are in trouble.
Not to say that there aren't good Catholic novelists out there - Michael O'Brien, for example, who's Father Elijah had a profound influence on my life (remind me to write about that sometime). Or Richard Dooling, who's Bet Your Life deals with explicitly Catholic philosophies (warning to potential readers: that's not all he deals with explicitly). And of course Tom Wolfe (again cited in Olson's story), even though he's not Catholic, addresses the questions of right and wrong as well as anyone around.
So all is not completely lost. But for a faith that in the past produced novelists such as Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and Walker Percy, it does show that we have a ways to go.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Friday, February 18, 2005
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. - Isaiah 53:3-9
It doesn't say much in the Gospels about scourging, yet medical analysts tell us it must have been horrific. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, in the Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, describes a beating beyond imagination. It was her writings, of course, that were the basis of much in The Passion of the Christ.
Recall that scene? If you saw the movie, you probably can't forget it. Critics of the movie complained about how it went on and on, beyond any artistic good it could have done. Of course, scourging isn't much of an art form, when you get down to it.
Did it make you uncomfortable? Good. That was its purpose. For while many complained about the supposed "anti-semitism" of the movie, when I saw this scene I thought not of the brutality of the Jews or the Romans, but of my own complicity in Christ's suffering.
Protestants sometimes accuse Catholics of believing that Christ dies over and over again (every time we recreate His suffering and death in the Mass), but in fact we believe that He died once, for the benefit of all (although not all would accept it). Likewise, the suffering He underwent was comprised of the sins of all - past, present, and future. Not just what you and I have done, or our decendants, but those who will come after us, until the end of time - the pain caused by those sins are contained in the blows that wrack His body.
Sometimes when I'm particularly ashamed of something I've done in the past, I think of what I truly deserve, and I imagine my body absorbing some type of beating (think of the pirate movies where some miscreant is sentenced to 50 lashes). And then, when I'm thinking clearly, I realize that Christ has already taken that pain for me. That's not to say I won't ever suffer pain as a consequence of an action, but the mystical beating that I imagine - He's already paid that bill.
I'm grateful for it - the fact that I'm not explaining this very well shows how difficult it is for me to put into words - but at the same time it reminds me of my complicity in His suffering. So as we meditate on the Second Sorrowful Mystery, let us reaffirm our sorrow at the pain we have caused this innocent man, and how in love He has chosen to willingly accept it. Let us ask Our Lord and His Blessed Mother for forgiveness and understanding, and recall the words of St. Alphonsus Liguori:
I love Thee, Jesus my love, more than myself. I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
"The notion that an employee cannot mention the natural family in the workplace is absurd," he told WorldNetDaily. "Cities should not be run by neo-fascist homosexual advocates. This ruling allows just that."
Couldn't have put it better myself.
Since I've still got Chesterton on the brain, it would be a good time to point out that he felt Big Government and Big Business were both natural enemies of the family, each for their own reasons. Flip sides of the same coin, as Dale Ahlquist said in my interview with him yesterday. That's a point I want to develop in greater length in the near future.
Well, it's my blog, and I can post whatever I want to!
Of course, anything Peggy Noonan writes is worth linking to!
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
First, to Russ Rooney, for his thoughtfulness in inviting me to host his program. As I mentioned in my earlier post, you really should watch his show if you're in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and have cable. Russ introduces us to interesting people that we ought to know and listen to.
Second, to my guest on the two programs, Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society. There's a link to the Society's website on the side bar, but for those of you who want to make it even easier, here it is. Dale is a fascinating font of information on GKC (and other topics as well), and he was a delightful, humorous, and stimulating guest. As I've said before, the guest makes the TV show - if it's a good show, it's because of the guest; if it's bad, it's because of the host. I'm perfectly willing to offer this show as a perfect example!
I'll let you know more about the broadcast times as I find out.
They are willing to give him a vote, because they have long discovered that it need not give him any power. They are not willing to give him a house, or a wife, or a child, or a dog, or a cow, or a piece of land, because these things really do give him power.
Add to that litany a voice. They don't want us to have a voice, but it's too late - the gate's open, the horses have escaped, there's nothing they can do about it. If you believe in free speech, stand up for Michael Bates, because in doing so you'll be standing up for yourself. Remember, free speech as the founders saw it is the enemy of ignorance, and the darkness always thrives in ignorance. We must continue to be the light that defeats the darkness, as Our Lord always reminds us.
Thanks to The Dawn Patrol for the heads-up.
Starling wins his Nobel Prize by demonstrating something called "cultural para-stimuli." He conducts experiments where he performs brain surgery on a group of 30 cats. One of the effects of the surgery is that it removes certain situational inhibitions from the cats, causing them to become obsessed with sex. The turning point in the experiment comes when Starling discovers that the control group of cats, those who have had no surgical procedure, has become just as sexually frenzied as the other cats - simply from observing and living in the sex-saturated environment those cats created.
The little moral of this story, at least as far as I'm concerned, is that it demonstrates dramatically the effects of culture and environment on behavior. This should come as so surprise to liberals, who for years have been using "environment" as an excuse for types of criminal behavior. Yet what's ironic about this is that the same liberals are the first ones to deny the effects of cultural stimuli when it comes to things such as television, radio, and movies. When one objects to the crude contents of programs such as Howard Stern's, or the nudity and adult content increasingly found on even your average TV show, the answer invariably comes back: "if you don't like it, turn it off."
Fine. You're absolutely right - I don't have to watch it if it offends me. But, as I've pointed out for years, I still have to live in a culture that has been shaped (contaminated, if you like) by the effects of that programming. Feed a bunch of teen-age boys a constant diet of sexual filth on TV, and then ask your teen-age daughter to walk on some dark Saturday night through a neighborhood made up of those boys. Feel comfortable about that? I didn't think so - at least not if you were interested in protecting your daughter's purity.
The reason I'm bringing this up now is because of the ruling in New York a couple of weeks striking down that state's prohibition on gay marriage. This doesn't make New York unique - it joins Massachusetts and other states in becoming a battleground over gay marriage. But ask yourselves this - just when did this battle become so heated? Even a few years ago something like this was unthinkable - just as unthinkable as the idea of polygamy or incestuous marriage is today (at least according to many proponents of gay marriage, who assure us that there's no slippery slope at work here). And yet to many people, even those opposed to gay marriage, there seems to be some type of civil right at work here. Could it be that this has come from the conditioning experienced in the environment created by Corporate America?
Nowadays you don't seem to be able to find a major American company that doesn't provide homosexual benefits as a basic part of their comp package. Some say it's a basic attempt to be competitive - you have to keep up with the Joneses (or in this case, the Jones Company) if you want to hire the best and the brightest. Maybe this is true. But what effect has it had on the culture? As one conservative activist put it, "You have to realize that the corporations do not want -- and the homosexual community does not want -- to discuss behavior. When you try to legally define sexual orientation, you get into behavior. If you do that, you'll turn off that homosexual market."
Does Corporate America really have this kind of power and influence? Some would say no, but listen to the words of Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America:
Knight said he is also angered by the social message corporate America is sending.Lest one think that this is a recent development, Chesterton wrote about it in The Superstition of Divorce. In writing about capitalism he says:
"The biggest cost is to young people who are being told by corporate America that marriage no longer matters, or giving it a special status and protecting it," Knight said. "Marriage is cheapened [by domestic partnership benefits] ... and we cheapen it at our own peril."
Corporate America is acting recklessly in trying to appease a pampered vocal pressure group," he asserted. "A tiny number of people take advantage of this policy. It is a corporation's way of being politically correct and appearing to be progressive."
"The masters of modern plutocracy know what they are about...A very profound and precise instinct has led them to single out the human household as the chief obstacle to their inhuman progress. Without the family we are helpless before the State, which in our modern case is the Servile State."
Gay marriage and abortion are closely linked in that they are both attacks on the family, and on the teachings of the Church. One need only consult Pope Leo XIII, in his epic encyclical Rerum Novarum:
No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God's authority from the beginning: "Increase and multiply." Hence we have the family, the "society" of a man's house -- a society very small, one must admit, but none the less a true society, and one older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.
There are bright spots. Most good conservative Catholic publications include advertisements for a phone company that details how so many companies - telecom companies in this case, but it's not limited to that - use their profits to support pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, and pornographic organizations. Their tag line - the one I want you to keep with you going forward is this: "Why Are Catholics Losing the Culture War? Because Good People Support the Wrong Companies."
So what can be done? Judie Brown offers this terrific idea - write to companies and protest. The excellent St. Antoninus Institute for Catholic Education in Business offers a pro-life shopping guide that gives you valuable information (updated only to 2002, alas) on how different companies stand on abortion. And there are many groups that track companies which provide homosexual benefits to their employees. Use resources like the liberal Human Rights Commission, which publicize these companies, to educate yourself.
Look to your own behavior, too - not just the products you buy, but the company you work for, the stocks you own. Find out if you're supporting the wrong side in the culture war. Ask yourself what you can do - what you can afford to do - and don't be afraid to do it.
Finally, pray. The great prayer to St. Michael the Archangel to protect us in battle will be a source of comfort and strength during the trials that will come our way. It used to be said many years ago after every Sunday Mass, as part of the Church's prayer for the conversion of Russia. Is not the conversion of Corporate America just as important?
And remember this - no matter what anyone says, or does, to you, don't be afraid. For as was said long ago, if God is with us, who can be against us?
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
So, what is wrong with praying for his death? For relief from his manifest sufferings? And for the opportunity to pay honor to his legacy by turning to the responsibility of electing a successor, to get on with John Paul's work. Muriel Spark commented in Memento Mori, "When a noble life has prepared old age, it is not decline that it reveals, but the first days of immortality." That cannot be effected by the hospital in which the pope struggles.
Now, I'm not sure I'm up to arguing with the great Buckley. I've looked up to him for many years. And I can understand what he's saying. But doesn't this cross the line into the type of sentimentality that conservatives are always criticizing? The type that denies the reason and logic that Catholics always stress?
Rather than start name-calling, I'll defer to this elegant column by the elegant Peggy Noonan, to suggest the answer. Whether or not she's right is a mystery, but then so much of our lives, and what we believe, is. Excerpt:
But why, I said, does God allow this man he must so love to be dragged through the world in pain? He could have taken him years ago. Maybe, said [Michael] Novak, God wants to show us how much he loves us, and he is doing it right now by letting the pope show us how much he loves us. Christ couldn't take it anymore during his passion, and yet he kept going.
Which reminded me of something the pope said to a friend when the subject of retirement came up a few years ago: "Christ didn't come down from the cross." Christ left when his work was done.
Now, I don't want to come off here as a prude. But do we have to be assaulted with these soft-core images at every turn? I can understand that SI wants to publicize their swimsuit issue. They've had smaller pictures of these "models" on their website for months, and that was bad enough. But now we've got a picture that runs the width of the page - there's no way to miss it. Pleasing as it might be, it's not what I'm looking for when I go to si.com.
And I don't think it's what we want our kids to see when they look at si.com, either. Kid goes to check on the scores, sees this instead. Suddenly he's thinking about a different kind of scoring. Do we need to put a filter on our Internet sites just to find out who won last night's game?
Now, there's nothing wrong with the human body. There's also nothing wrong with beauty. But I can't help thinking that the main point of pictures like this are to provoke lust, and there you're getting into very dicey territory, as the CCC points out:
2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.
2530 The struggle against carnal lust involves purifying the heart and practicing temperance.
And I could go on and on. Point is, as 2530 states, it is a struggle to fight carnally lustful thoughts. It's one thing to avoid the adult bookstores. But you shouldn't have to stay away from si.com. This isn't a surprise to anyone who's followed Sports Illustrated the last few decades - which doesn't mean it still isn't a disappointment.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Dale Ahlquist, G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense
"What has done more to destroy the family in the modern world, even before the state got in on the act, is a rampant and unbridled capitalism. It is capitalism that has taken women out of the home and put them into commercial competition with men. It is capitalism that has destroyed the influence of the parent in favor of the employer. And it is capitalism that has driven people off the land and into the cities, making them more attached to their factories or their firms than to their families."
OK, time's up.
The answer - G.K. Chesterton said it in The Well and the Shallows, written in 1935. That's right - 1935. That's, oh, seventy years ago.
Now, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, ask yourself if you're better off now, if our society is better off now, than it was then. We know Corporate America is...
The always-great Amy Welborn covers the essential story - follow her links to be brought up-to-date on what it's all about. Jeremy Lott at GetReligion adds his two-cents' worth, as does Alarming News (among others; can't list them all). Be sure to read the comments (folks, the comments are often what makes our blogs so entertaining, so don't be afraid to add your own) to get the true picture. This could be anti-Catholic, anti-life, or anti-Conservative, take your pick. What seems clear is that Corporate America is becoming more and more afraid of people being able to speak their own minds.
Bloogers Bill Cork and Shawn Landres have two takes on what this all means. Read them both, including the comments, and decide for yourself. They both make good points, and the discussion is stimulating.
I think I missed the curve on this earlier; it appears to have been an issue before this blog started. But I wanted to post it anyway it case some of you out there (like me) weren't aware of it. My curiosity was triggered by this Q&A from ETWN stating that there was a relationship between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood, and that it was time for parents and churches to end their relationship with the Girl Scouts. I followed the link to this story which provided more details. A Google search also pulled up this from our friends at the excellent blog After Abortion. Bottom line: doesn't sound good. (As a postscript, someone asked if the same applied to the Boy Scouts, and the answer is apparently no.)
I was asked once if I didn't get tired of being so critical, of pointing out "faults" like this. Well, yes, I do. I'd much rather be linking more often to fun things like pages about the old American Football League. But when you make a commitment to starting a blog like this, and your hope is that somehow you're serving Our Lord and His Church, you often wind up bringing up issues such as this that might make people uncomfortable. And it makes me uncomfortable at times to do it. But the truth is like that, and spreading the truth is one of those things we're called to do. Besides, it's not as if we're supposed to be tremendously comfortable in this world. That comes in the next world.
But isn't there something good to be said about St. Valentine's Day? I think I found it, and I'm grateful to Fr. Villano at St. Helena's Church in Minneapolis, who included a portion of the passage in his bulletin yesterday. It seems to strike just the right note in giving you a pleasant thought for a pleasant day:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
- I Corinthians, Chapter 13
Friday, February 11, 2005
And going out, he went, according to his custom, to the Mount of Olives. And his disciples also followed him. And when he was come to the place, he said to them: Pray, lest ye enter into temptation. And he was withdrawn away from them a stone's cast. And kneeling down, he prayed. Saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground. And when he rose up from prayer and was come to the disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow. And he said to them: Why sleep you? Arise: pray: lest you enter into temptation.
- Luke 22:39-46
As we meditate on the First Sorrowful Mystery, imagine myself yourself alone, at night, in a strange place. It has been a warm day, but now there's a chill in the air, and a breeze comes up that makes you want to wrap your arms around you to keep from shivering. Perhaps the breeze rattles around the leaves; you hear them rustle in the trees, or feel them swirl around your feet. It's subtle, but it practically echoes in the silence of the heavy air that otherwise surrounds you.
You look around, but see nothing: the darkness is so deep that you can't even make out any of the distinguishing landmarks. You hear sound in the distance, the sound of thunder, the flash of lightning, and it makes you want to run, somewhere, anywhere, for shelter; but there's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
It's a feeling of being exposed, isolated, totally alone.
It's the feeling that Jesus faced in the Garden: his disciples sleeping, about to desert him; a night and day of horror awaiting him, denial and mockery, pain both physical and mental, real and mystical; the knowledge that many will be saved, but many will reject that salvation.
It's the feeling that we get when we sin, the isolation that sin produces when it drives us away from the loving embrace of Our Lord.
Jesus called on His Father, who sent an angel to give Him strength; and while the horrors still remained, a certain sense of peace seems to follow.
We, too, have a source of peace waiting for us: the the consolation that comes from the forgiveness of God that we find in the Sacrament of Confession. Sitting in the box in the dark we may feel isolated, but we are not alone. God is there, on the other side of the grille, in the person of His priest, and in that act of confession and repentance lies forgiveness, and with that forgiveness comes peace. Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis.
It is this Sacrament that we should make use of during Lent; it is that peace on which we can meditate as we pray the First Sorrowful Mystery.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
However, I did want to add something to this terrific quote from Tom Wolfe's great college-bashing novel I Am Charlotte Simmons. I'll refer to other quotes from this book from time to time, but this one really nails it. Wolfe is talking about the elitists in college academia, but he might just as well be talking about the elites in Corporate America, the Mainstream Media, Mainline Protestant churches (with a few heterodox Catholic ones thrown in for good measure), or any of the other self-proclaimed "guardians of the truth:"
Both believed passionately in protecting minorities, particularly Arfican Americans, as well as Jews. Both regarded Israel as the most important nation on earth, although neither was tempted to live there. Both instinctively sided with the underdog; police violence really got them steamed. Both were firm believers in diversity and multiculturalism in colleges. Both believed in abortion, not so much because they thought anyone they knew might want an abortion as because legalizing it helped put an exhausted and dysfunctional Christendom and its weird, hidebound religious restraints in their place. For the same reason, both believed in gay rights, women's rights, transgender rights, fox, bear, wolf, swordfish, halibut, ozone, wetland, and hardwood rights, gun control, contemporary art, and the Democratic Party. Both were against hunting and, for that matter, woods, fields, mountain trails, rock climbing, sailing, fishing, and the outdoors in general, except for golf courses and the beach.As usual, nobody (or very, very few) say it as well as Tom Wolfe, who knows how to stick in the sword a little more and give it a twist. Like more? Try Radical Chic for starters.
Today of course the victory of Enlightenment philosophy is effectively official in the West, and tolerance and compassion are the supreme virtues; indeed, they are fast becoming the only approved virtues, and the remaining adherents of the other virtues now eroded are finding their own tolerance stretched to breaking. So the touted benefits of the Voltairean project are increasingly dubious, as multitudes liberated from superstition worship not the one true god of luminous philosophy but rather themselves or nothing at all; in the name of tolerance, reason itself totters, and as a result the very idea of rational morality is riven from top to bottom.I like that phrase, "the one true god." It reminds me of the scene in Ben-Hur when Pilate, congratulating Judah on his victory in the chariot race, says to him, "Today, you were the people's one true god." The truly tragic thing about people like Voltaire, and those who have (directly or indirectly) been so influenced by him, is that they point out the truth of Bishop Sheen's statement that man is born with the truth inside him, and spends his life searching for that truth. For Bishop Sheen, the truth was to be found in the love of Christ and His Mother. For these people, so hungry to believe in something but unable to bring themselves to Christ, they latch on to any Enlightenment or New Age idea and worship it, their "one true god."
Wednesday, February 9, 2005
Although it does bring to mind the foolish Zogby poll in December that revealed a plurality of voters regarded Santa Claus as a Democrat and Scrooge and the Grinch Republican. So what? It reminds me of P.J. O'Rourke's observation that Santa is, indeed, a Democrat, but God is a Republican. Punch line:
Santa Claus is another matter. He's cute. He's nonthreatening. He's always cheerful. And he loves animals. He may know who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without thought of a quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he's famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.
Now, I've often wondered if this word, as it's used by the liberals and the thought police, isn't more than just a new piece of liberal dogma. "Intolerance" has been elevated to a place of worship among these types, producing, as Amy says, "sentences that are thoroughly emptied of sense." And the way they repeat concepts such as "intolerance" and "inappropriate" and "hate crime," as if they were some type of mantra, makes me think that this is really another aspect of New Age spirituality, another way that Satan worms his way into they way we treat others and ourselves.
Not Amy's words, the last, just mine.
Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Guard your family, we beseech you, O Lord, with continual religious dutifulness, so that that (family) which is propping itself up upon the sole hope of heavenly grace may always be defended by your protection.The translation (which is a facinating read in and of itself) is provided by the redoubtable Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, occasional visiting priest at St. Agnes, moderator at the Catholic Online Forum, and author of a weekly column called "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" (WDTPRS for us fans.) Fr. Zuhlsdorf is a delight - a magnificent speaker, a strongly orthodox Catholic, a scholar of the language, and a man who knows what the prayer really says. His column, which can be found in The Wanderer as well as online, cuts through all the nonsense that came out of the ICEL translations of the 70s. I commend him to you all.
Why do I say this is good for Lent? It comes from the increasing feeling that I think many of us have that Christians are coming under attack more and more often in our culture. It is not paranoia to suggest that potential enemies are everywhere - Corporate America, the mass media, colleges and universities - so many in each of these influential areas are in thrall of empty values such as materialism, secular humanism, political correctness, and intolerance. Our values, our morals, the very way of life which this culture used to represent - all of these seem, to the pessimist (realist?), balancing on a thin edge.
As we review our own spiritual (and material) lives, and prepare for the battle ahead, we turn to God for guidance, strength and protection, and we ask that He watch over us and our families; indeed, the entire family of man. Let us add this simple prayer to that of St. Michael the Archangel, and always remember to invoke Our Lady, in the coming struggle of Light against the Darkness. May we always be instruments of the Light.
Now, however, it appears there may be more to the story. In this story from Catholic News Service (thanks, Cruxnews.com!) entitled "Vatican official says Sash wearers disqualified from Communion," Cardinal Arinze, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, says "Rainbow Sash wearers are showing their opposition to church teaching on a major issue of natural law and so disqualify themselves from being given holy Communion." CNS contines that "Cardinal Arinze did not elaborate, and he declined a request for an interview on the subject."
I don't think this story is done yet, especially here in Archbishop Flynn's diocese. Stay tuned, and we'll see what comes next.
UPDATE: There's also this commentary (thanks Cruxnews) from Diogenes at Catholic World News (his column always was one of my favorite parts of Catholic World Report). Read this piece, including the links to his previous month's column, and the comments. Some comments border on offending charity, but that doesn't mean they don't have a grain (or more) of truth to them.
once more I shall see if it's possible to live there
I could stay here in this remote province
under the full sweet leaves of the sycamore
and the gentle rule of sickly nepotists
Zbigniew Herbert, "The Return of the Proconsul"
You find these links in the most unexpected places, and so here is an excellent guide to these terms, along with many others. (I know the page is referring to healthcare, but I think the definitions are quite universal.) Read the entire page, and in particular, click on the definitions of double effect, toleration, and intrinsic evil.
As we pass through the self-examination period that many of us undergo in Lent, let's refer to these terms often and meditate on how our occupations, our hobbies, our habits, and our beliefs conform to them. Many of us have been and continue to be guilty of behavior that, through lack of education, makes us unwittingly a party to some bad things. Once educated, however, we assume a responsibility to bring our behavior into conformity with these moral teachings. Ignorance may be bliss, but it only gets you so far, and no farther.
Monday, February 7, 2005
To paraphrase some old line, come for the beauty, stay for the teaching - you'll leave enriched beyond your hopes. Pray that more churches like St. Agnes and St. John Cantius come along. Sites like the Latin Liturgical Association's are a great resource when traveling, or if you want to find a better parish in your area.
But while the LLA has a great list of Latin Masses, there are a lot of other good parishes out there - churches with reverant, orthodox English Masses, churches that use classical music, churches where the priests aren't afraid to preach about radical concepts like sin - a church like Holy Childhood in St. Paul, for example (no link, alas). And while you can always check out masstimes.org if you're travelling, that doesn't tell you whether the church you've picked is going to be more like St. Agnes, or the rampantly heterodox St. Joan of Arc. So if you have a church you'd like to tell us about, one that meets Brian Saint-Paul's guidelines, a rare gem that you think more peple should know about, please email us and we'll share it with everyone. It's a service that's long overdue.
This should be of interest not only to Catholics, but also for anyone who has questions about the Catholic faith. If you are Catholic, ask yourself how your parish stacks up to this list. If you're considering Catholicism, or want to know what the Catholic Mass is like, you can do a lot worse than to look this over. One of the great scandals of liturgical abuse is how it distorts the true meaning of the faith, and gives Catholics and non-Catholics alike the wrong message about Catholicism. And with that, the list:
- There is at least one daily Mass. Obviously, if a parish shares a pastor with other parishes, this may not always be possible. But barring that, a parish needs to offer daily Mass.
- Confession is offered for a set time... not just "by appointment only." The absolute importance of that sacrament must not be diminished.
- The tabernacle is inside the main church in a prominent place. It's always frustrating to have to play "Where's Jesus?" when you walk into a parish for the first time. I recall once when visiting a church I'd never been in before, I confusedly genuflected to everything from the cantor to a statue of St. Therese before I figured out where the tabernacle was.
- The church has kneelers. Period.
- The church doesn't have a sign in the front that describes itself as a "Catholic Community." I know, this one seems petty at first, but it tends to be true. If a parish has an objection to the word "church," that's a good indication that a larger problem exists. And if that parish magnifies the nonsense with a sign that says something like, "An Open, Inclusive Community of Catholic Christians Who Care and Share," stop, turn around, run.
- As you enter the church, you see people in the pews in prayer or, at least, reverent silence. If, on the other hand, it looks like social time down at the bingo parlor, that's a bad sign.
- The Mass is not intentionally altered through the use of inclusive language.
- The Mass is said according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the instructions of the local bishop. Improvisation is great in jazz. Mass isn't jazz.
- The gospel is not being read, nor the homily given, by someone other than a priest or deacon.
- Latin has pride of place in the Mass. It's right there in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. That should be reflected in the liturgy itself.
- The bread for the Eucharist isn't made with added ingredients not allowed by the Church. Honey, for example.
- The liturgical music focuses on God, not the community. We are there, after all, to worship Him, not ourselves. And there's never a good reason to sing songs about bridges over troubled waters. You can do that at home, Mr. Garfunkel.
- Extraordinary ministers do not outnumber the parishioners. There's a reason, after all, that we refer to them as EXTRAORDINARY ministers. We only use them when there are too many people for the priest and deacon to handle.
- If you're able to find the mission statement of the parish (it's often carried in the bulletin), make sure it says something about fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church.
- And while you're thumbing through the bulletin, see if there are other good groups there, like the Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary, St. Vincent de Paul, and Holy Name Society. A faithful Bible study group is also a great sign.
- The parish offers some form of Eucharistic adoration.
- The parish has an active Pro-Life ministry, as well as a ministry that cares for the poor.
- The priest wears his collar. Now, obviously, if you see your local pastor jogging one morning, he's not going to be wearing his clericals. But a priest should generally look the part. It's an important witness to the secular world and a sign that he recognizes the great value of his own vocation.
- The pastor isn't afraid to preach on the tough issues: abortion, divorce, contraception, cloning, etc. That's not to say that every homily should cover those topics. But a priest should truly believe the Church's teaching and defend them without pause.
- The parish's marriage preparation program includes instruction in Natural Family Planning (NFP). And if someone involved in the program describes NFP as "the rhythm method," go immediately limp and drop to the ground. With luck, he'll think you passed out and will take you to the emergency room, far, far away from that parish.
- The church has a vibrant religious education program for both children and adults based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You might also try to find out who's involved in the program and where they received their own formation.
- The church's Website doesn't link to dissident groups like Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, or Catholics for a Free Choice. And finally...
- If there's a literature rack in the church, look at the publications the parish is carrying. Dissident magazines or newspapers tend to go hand in hand with a dissident parish. On the other hand, should you see a copy of Crisis in the rack, join that parish. The pastor is clearly a man of great taste and refinement.
Saturday, February 5, 2005
Some of you may ask what makes this different from companies such as, say, Enron? In terms of breaking the law, nothing. But insofar as we're talking about actually encouraging people to break the law - illegal immigration - this is a case where this company is not only subverting the law, but also the culture - the values, the common heritage of this country - all to make a buck.
As I develop these posts over the coming weeks, we'll see how all of this ties together to portray the threat that Christians face in this country - the constant attack by consumerism, materialism, and secular humanism. Don't laugh - it's all connected...