Sunday, August 31, 2008

Joe Eszterhas Re-Discovers the Church


If you don't know who Eszterhas is, he wrote Basic Instinct, Sliver, and Showgirls. In other words, filth. However, a bout with cancer, a mystical experience a la St. Paul, and the power of the Eucharist have led him back to the Church. Even with numerous reservations rooted in the abuse scandal and the abominable actions of the bishops' cover-ups, he cannot turn his back on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:

"The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It's almost a feeling of a kind of high."

Thanks be to God for Joe's return.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Did Sr. Helen Prejean really denounce the Crucifixion?

If somebody can find a transcript of this, please let me know. From the Rocky Mountain News:


She received nothing but a stony silence, however, when she questioned the basis of the biblical crucifixion story as a "projection of our violent society."

"Is this a God?" Prejeans asked about the belief that God allowed his son, Jesus, to be sacrificed for the sins of humanity. "Or is this an ogre?"

The audience -- to that point in strong agreement with the author of "Dead Man Walking" -- said and did nothing.

Has she lost her ever-loving mind? I know that Prejean isn't a model of orthodoxy, but this is just awful.

St. Monica and St. Augustine

I'm sure a few of you figured I'd just missed their feast days this past week. Not exactly. I've just had my hair on fire from work and home stuff and didn't get the chance to comment.

St. Monica, of course, was Augustine's mother. She seems to have cried a great deal throughout her life. First, she wept and prayed for the conversion of her pagan husband, Patricius. He was an ill-tempered guy and may have had a few other very bad personality traits as well. Keep in mind that pretty much everything we know about Monica and Patricius is from Augustine's Confessions, so it's tough to tell on the details sometimes. Anyways, God rewarded her efforts. Patricius was baptized about a year before he died.

This left her seventeen years or so to cry and pray over Augustine, who due to his father, had never been baptized and was now not only living as a Manichean heretic, but also shacking up with a girl and fathering an illegitimate child. Augustine was something of a smart aleck in all these travails and essentially walking proof that pride is the root of all sin. Being a know-it-all was his trademark.

Monica chased Augustine from North Africa to Rome to Milan, where she met the great St. Ambrose who had begun to have a profound effect on her wayward son. Ambrose's tutelage eventually helped open Augustine's soul to God's grace. Having a quasi-mystical experience in reading Holy Scripture didn't hurt either. It was Romans 13:13-14 that did the trick:

Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ: and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.
Monica would go on to her eternal reward shortly thereafter.

Augustine, of course, would become one of the greatest (possibly the greatest) of the Church Fathers. He would almost single-handedly break the backs of three particularly venomous heresies: his own former pals, the Manichees; the Donatists; and the one that has been resurrected with particular gusto in our own day, Pelagianism (basically the idea that we can make it to heaven on our own, sans grace).

His conversion, as told in his Confessions is probably the most moving spiritual account you will ever read. His mother's torment over Augustine's potential damnation remains a lesson to all modern folk who are complacent and perfectly Ok with their friends and loved ones currently trodding the wrong path. Asking them for help is a worthwhile venture should you find yourself in this situation. Regardless of the circumstances, getting to the Wedding Feast a bit late is irrelevant, as long as you do get there.


Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved Thee! And behold, Thou wert within and I was without. I was looking for Thee out there, and I threw myself, deformed as I was, upon those well-formed things which Thou hast made. Thou wert with me, yet I was not with Thee. These things held me far from Thee, things which would not have existed had they not been in Thee. Thou didst call and cry out and burst in upon my deafness; Thou didst shine forth Thy fragrance, and I drew in my breath and now I pant for Thee; I have tasted, and now I hunger and thirst; Thou didst touch me, and I was inflamed with desire for Thy peace.


St. Monica and St. Augustine, pray for us.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin and Religion

If I may digress from the current landslide of accolades and criticisms of Sen. McCain's VP choice, I would like to address an issue that hasn't really been mentioned. It seems that Gov. Palin is Pentecostal. Assemblies of God to be more specific.

This is incredibly interesting to me. We'll probably hear a lot about her appealing to fundamentalists, evangelicals, and all the other worthless labels currently applied by ignorant media types when discussing any Christians. Of course, what these folks don't realize is that fundamentalists and Pentecostals historically loathe one another. Sure, there's a lot of reconciliation these days due to the mutual threat of secularism, but both groups still harbor a great deal of uneasiness. In some circles, this may cause more issues than Romney's Mormonism. Folks with reservations probably could have looked at Mitt's resume and looked past the whole Mormon thing. I'm not so sure about Palin having that same advantage.

Let's consider the Assemblies for a moment. It's lacking in the wiki article, but it's pretty well-accepted that the Assemblies were founded by honky Pentecostals who didn't want to deal with black pastors. I wonder if this rather dubious lineage will become an issue.

Moreover, the Assemblies, like any other Pentecostal group, have a heavy emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, often moreso than Scripture, despite "Fundamental Truth #1."

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.

This is because of Truths #7 and #8:

All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church. With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry.

The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.

This "power" spoken of above will sometimes take the form of prophetic utterances or statements given as doctrine delivered "by the Spirit." Granted, like with most Protestant groups, there is a pretty wide variance amongst Assembly-goers as to what the Truths mean and what to believe outside of these statements.

Anyways, the biggest thing about all this pertains to Truth #8. If video surfaces of Palin speaking in tongues, it will annihilate the ticket. She will be considered a complete whack-job by secularists and perhaps only somewhat less reviled by more conservative Protestants. The Jeremiah Wright stuff will look tame by comparison. While I understand that the practice of glossolalia has gained a bit more acceptance these days due to the spread of "charismatic" movements within other communities (and even, regrettably, Catholicism), I don't think this sort of thing is ready for prime time, especially given the backlash against religion following the Kerry loss in 2004 (Jesusland maps, anyone?).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pelosi to bishops: I'm right. The Church is wrong.

From The Hill:

But Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said Tuesday that not all Catholics believe that life begins at conception, which is what Catholics are taught.

“The Speaker agrees with the Church that we should reduce the number of abortions,” Daly said. “She believes that can be done by making family planning more available, as well as by increasing the number of comprehensive age-appropriate sex education and caring adoption programs.”


At least she dropped the contraception part.

Again with the Augustine bit, though:

“After she was elected to Congress, and the choice issue became more public as she would have to vote on it, she studied the matter more closely,” Daly said. “Her views on when life begins were informed by the views of St. Augustine, who said, 'The law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation.'

Ok. Let's face facts here. She openly professed heresy. A number of bishops rose up to correct her. She has now confirmed her obstinacy on this matter. The hierarchy will lose all credibility if no ecclesiastical penalty is forthcoming.

It's as simple as that.

By the way, thanks to Amy Welborn for initially pointing this out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Modest Proposal

Ms. Pelosi, allow me to introduce you to Archbishop Becket:

Is Nancy Pelosi a liar or just extraordinarily stupid?

It's a fair question and one that makes for yet another great follow-up to the recent comments from Archbishop Burke.

For those who have somehow missed this, Pelosi went on Meet the Press this Sunday and did a remarkable job of making a fool of herself. Here's the first relevant bit:

MR. BROKAW: Senator Obama saying the question of when life begins is above his pay grade, whether you're looking at it scientifically or theologically. If he were to come to you and say, "Help me out here, Madame Speaker. When does life begin?" what would you tell him?

REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

It truly confounds the mind. Reflect for a moment that this woman is technically the third most powerful person in the country. If Bush and Cheney got whacked, this would be our president. This is a frightening thing. Let's break down, Nancy's response, shall we?

She's an "ardent, practicing Catholic." Arians would have said the same thing, Nancy. What exactly makes one Catholic? Dare I say, believing what the Catholic Church teaches? And you know what She teaches, right?

Of course you do. You've "studied" this issue for a long time. This comment is very important. Pelosi has just claimed to have actively pursued knowledge on this subject over an extended period of time. This means that her next comment is either a lie or a comment so stupid that it defies the boundaries of language.

The "Doctors of the Church" have been unable to define when life begins. Let's play a game, Nancy. Name some of these "Doctors" for us. It should be pretty easy for a scholar like yourself. Oooh. Augustine. You got one. You are hanging this point on a guy whose medical knowledge was from 17 centuries ago. Did you also know that every Doctor of the Church who discussed this issue thought that abortion was either homicide or indicative of a homicidal will in the event that no "ensoulment" had taken place? Do you really think that Aquinas and Augustine would have even considered the issue if they had anything like today's modern medicine?

How about this one, Nancy? Who said this?

To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin" (Jn 8:34).

Or this?

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

I'll give you a hint. He's a guy who actually has the authority to define such things (and this is ex cathedra, IMO). The Doctors, however brilliant they may have been, are not the Magisterium. Oh, and in case you want to get cute with that whole "when life begins" deal:

But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.

Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae.

But let's keep going. Nancy is about to outdo herself. She takes this whole question of when life begins, and then proudly announces that it doesn't matter. That's right. Whether life begins at conception or at birth has no bearing on a woman's right to an abortion. She has now crossed the line from stupid to monstrous.

Perhaps realizing that she has exposed herself as sanctioning murder by anyone's definition (except maybe Peter Singer), she moves back to her position that the Church "for centuries has been discussing this." This is actually correct. The Church has been discussing it. And saying that it's a horrible crime. To try to hide behind the fact that some might not have considered it direct homicide is like saying that theft should be legal because it's not as bad as murder.

But it doesn't end there. Brokaw actually tries to grow a pair and press her on this.

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it...

REP. PELOSI: I understand that. (She's studied it, Tom. Didn't you hear her? How dare you question her credentials?)

MR. BROKAW: ...begins at the point of conception.


REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions. That's why we have this fight in Congress over contraception. My Republican colleagues do not support contraception. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must--it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think.

Sigh. Fifty years, Nancy? It's been a controversy for 2000 years because the Church has been trying to get people to stop doing it. But hey, let's just look at fifty years then. What exactly makes the Supreme Court's thinking on this from 35 years ago right and the Church's thinking wrong? Shouldn't an ardent person like yourself try to contemplate that the Supreme Court's "clear distinctions" might be wrong, especially since they admitted they were wrong in Planned Parenthood v. Casey? Let me guess. You've "studied" that too.

Your free will doesn't give you any more rights to have an abortion than mine gives me the right to burn down my neighbor's house.

Note to Nancy. "Ardent, practicing" Catholics aren't real big on contraception either.

To conclude, here's Archbishop Chaput's response.

Conversion, Dhimmitude, or Death

CNA is reporting that a Filipino bishop has been threatened with death if he doesn't convert or pay the jizya tax required of your typical dhimmis.

A Catholic bishop in the southern Philippines’ Basilan province has received a letter from self-described “Muslim warriors” possibly linked to Abu Sayyaf who are threatening him with harm if he does not convert to Islam or pay “Islamic taxes.” Further, authorities are seeking the return of three adults and two children, all Catholics, who were kidnapped in the same area this week.

Just another reminder that, even in areas where we are the majority, the Church isn't above persecution. Many prayers for this bishop that he will be an outstanding witness for the Faith in life and in death, if necessary.

Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you; it is rather a temptation to us. The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.

The Apology of Tertullian

May God grant that his Church not fear the sufferings granted to Her.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Archbishop Chaput With a Great Follow-up to Archbishop Burke

And he even quotes a Protestant in doing so.

His Excellency is quite blunt in laying out the options Catholics have when voting. He's had articles in First Things about this stuff before, but this one is particularly good.

Second, there’s no way for Catholics to finesse their way around the abortion issue, and if we’re serious about being “Catholic,” we need to stop trying. No such thing as a “right” to kill an unborn child exists. And wriggling past that simple truth by redefining the unborn child as an unperson, a pre-human lump of cells, is the worst sort of Orwellian hypocrisy—especially for Christians. Abortion always involves the deliberate killing of an innocent human life, and it is always, inexcusably, grievously wrong. This fact in no way releases us from the duty to provide ample and compassionate support for unwed or abandoned mothers, women facing unwanted pregnancies, and women struggling with the aftermath of an abortion. But the inadequacy of that support demands that we work to improve it. It does not justify killing the child.

Of course, we've got folks who will try to play moral calculus in light of this issue by appealing to some sorts of utilitarian ideas about needing to go with the greatest good across the greatest number of issues for the most people. Chaput heads them off at the pass.

Obviously, we have other important issues facing us this fall: the economy, the war in Iraq, immigration justice. But we can’t build a healthy society while ignoring the routine and very profitable legalized homicide that goes on every day against America’s unborn children. The right to life is foundational. Every other right depends on it. Efforts to reduce abortions, or to create alternatives to abortion, or to foster an environment where more women will choose to keep their unborn child, can have great merit—but not if they serve to cover over or distract from the brutality and fundamental injustice of abortion itself. We should remember that one of the crucial things that set early Christians apart from the pagan culture around them was their rejection of abortion and infanticide. Yet for thirty-five years I’ve watched prominent “pro-choice” Catholics justify themselves with the kind of moral and verbal gymnastics that should qualify as an Olympic event. All they’ve really done is capitulate to Roe v. Wade.

Let's not think that we've got this bevy of candidates supporting the Catholic worldview. Far from it. I think it was Fr. Neuhaus who said that we Catholics are used to heretics in public office. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't be pushing to make things better. Per Archbishop Chaput:

It’s our job as Catholic citizens to press our parties and our political leaders to respect the sanctity of human life—all of it, from conception to grave—whether our leaders and party elites like us or not.

Archbishop Burke: Pro-Abortion Politicians Should Not Receive Communion

And neither should anyone else in mortal sin. From CNA:

To illustrate his point, he referred to “public officials who, with knowledge and consent, uphold actions that are against the Divine and Eternal moral law. For example, if they support abortion, which entails the taking of innocent and defenseless human lives. A person who commits sin in this way should be publicly admonished in such a way as to not receive Communion until he or she has reformed his life,” the archbishop said.

What is the most significant part of what His Excellency said? Read on.

“If a person who has been admonished persists in public mortal sin and attempts to receive Communion, the minister of the Eucharist has the obligation to deny it to him. Why? Above all, for the salvation of that person, preventing him from committing a sacrilege,” he added.

The obligation. I'm pretty sure that this is the most forceful language we've seen on this topic. The priest pretty much has to tell the parishioner to repent before daring to approach the Lord of the Universe in Holy Communion. What a novel idea.

This isn't just for the sake of that person's soul either. The scandal caused by such disregard for the Eucharist can lead other souls into sin as well.

“If we have a public figure who is openly and deliberately upholding abortion rights and receiving the Eucharist, what will the average person think? He or she could come to believe that it up to a certain point it is okay to do away with an innocent life in the mother’s womb,” he warned.

Get this man a red hat.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Humanae Vitae For Protestants

Looks like Natural Family Planning is gaining support among Protestants, according to Catholic News Agency.

This, of course, is good news. First, the Church's teaching on contraception is a major hurdle for Protestants seeking to convert. If they can get past this, everything else becomes much easier. An interesting bit from the article:

Historically, some Protestant perspectives grew from an antipathy towards Catholic and fundamentalist families, she claimed. The Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the U.S., in 1930 changed its teachings which formerly forbade contraception, while Methodist literature after World War II advocated limiting the number of children to an ideally two-child, sex-balanced family.

You learn something new every day. More interesting was that word is getting out regarding the abortifacient properties of the pill.

Phaedra Taylor, 28, told the Austin American-Statesman that she ruled out taking birth control pills after reading claims that the pill can cause abortions by rendering the womb hostile to a newly conceived human life.

"I just wasn't willing to risk it," she said, explaining she wanted her faith to guide her sexual and reproductive decisions after her marriage, before which she had been abstinent.

The same thing happened to my wife. She was convinced that contraception was wrong way before she became Catholic.

Protestants supporting NFP isn't all that new. Sam and Beth Torode wrote a good Protestant book about it called Open Embrace. They abandoned the practice because, "there is a dark side we weren't aware of."

Oooooooooo. A dark side, huh? Sounds so . .. .sinister.

Anyways, they wound up converting to Orthodoxy so that their genitals could have a freer reign. Sad situation, but it is very good that other folks are seeing things from the Church's perspective and giving NFP its due. Let's just hope they don't fall prey to the Dark Side! (cue creepy music or the Imperial March, whichever you prefer).

On that note, let's close out with one of my favorite lines from one of St. John Chrysostom's homilies on Romans. For what it's worth, he's one of the most revered saints in all of Orthodoxy as well.

Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility (translation- the pill), where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well…Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his laws?…Yet such turpitude…the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks.

Friday, August 22, 2008

All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed

ChristianityToday isn't a Catholic site, but this story should appeal to all Catholics. Basically, this lady, an ex-Catholic, bought a house and was left with a statue of Mary by the previous owners. Myself, I know plenty of Protestants here that would have had a jolly good time destroying such a thing. At least, that's what they would tell you. I've often wondered how deep the commitment to iconoclasm runs. Could you smash or tear up a representation of God's Mother without at least some hesitation?

I know folks who probably could. We know the Deformers took delight in destroying works of holy art. So it happens. I like to think that most folks would be like Mrs. Button in the article, though. Anyways, this is a great story.

Her presence makes some of my neighbors nervous and they’ve expressed their concern that I might be tempted to pray to her (gasp!). Others eye me warily, wondering if I’ve fallen off the Protestant bandwagon. I smile. I explain. I know they don’t understand, but her presence is not for their benefit—it’s for mine.

To Restore All Things In Christ

This was the motto of Giuseppe Sarto, Pope St. Pius X. Yesterday was his feast day. Perhaps the fact most immediately impressive about him is that he is the only pope of the last five hundred years or so to be canonized. This is pretty significant as we've had some outstanding popes during that run. He took over from Leo XIII in 1903, so it's not even that long ago that he was with us.

He had a lot of interests during his reign. For example, in the liturgy, he reformed the breviary and set down new rules for sacred music. In an act for which I am forever grateful, he lowered the age of First Communion from 14 to 7. While I'm one of the few that thinks we should go back to the really old way of doing it and give the Eucharist to infants (a la our Eastern brethren), I can handle seven and am very happy, for myself and my kids, that we don't have to go all the way to the teen years anymore.

Let's get down to the brass tacks, though. The real example of Pius X's awesomeness is his battle with Modernism, which he called "the synthesis of all heresies." What is Modernism? As Pius X acknowledged, defining it is part of the problem. The best way to put it is that it basically denies divine revelation by claiming that the unchangeable truth of dogma is capable itself of evolution. In other words, stuff is always changing, usually based on subjective experience. For example, when you hear someone talk about how the Resurrection was "real" for the Apostles as an "experience," even though it didn't really happen, you can be sure you are listening to a Modernist. Needless to say, the Church these days is chock full of them.

That wasn't always the case. Pius X pretty much wiped out the major strains of Modernism during his reign and the remnants were driven underground. This peace of doctrine would basically hold until the 60s and reached its apex in the now. The hammer and anvil that St. Pius used to break the Modernists were a wonderful encyclical entitled Pascendi Domenici Gregis and the imposition of the Anti-Modernist Oath. They are both rather lengthy, so I won't reproduce their contents here. What I will show is a few parts of a decree called Lamentabili Sane, which St. Pius issued via the Holy Office and which lists the main condemned propositions of the Modernists. See how many you can spot from your typical homily or religious instruction class. Remember, these statements are condemned as false.

From the ecclesiastical judgments and censures passed against free and more scientific exegesis, one can conclude that the Faith the Church proposes contradicts history and that Catholic teaching cannot really be reconciled with the true origins of the Christian religion.

Even by dogmatic definitions the Church's magisterium cannot determine the genuine sense of the Sacred Scriptures.

Since the deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the human sciences.

The "Church learning" and the "Church teaching" collaborate in such a way in defining truths that it only remains for the "Church teaching" to sanction the opinions of the "Church learning."

Keep that in mind all you "sensus fidelium" folks.

Until the time the canon was defined and constituted, the Gospels were increased by additions and corrections. Therefore there remained in them only a faint and uncertain trace of the doctrine of Christ.

The narrations of John are not properly history, but a mystical contemplation of the Gospel. The discourses contained in his Gospel are theological meditations, lacking historical truth concerning the mystery of salvation.

The fourth Gospel exaggerated miracles not only in order that the extraordinary might stand out but also in order that it might become more suitable for showing forth the work and glory of the Word lncarnate.

Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.

The Sacraments are intended merely to recall to man's mind the ever-beneficent presence of the Creator.

It was far from the mind of Christ to found a Church as a society which would continue on earth for a long course of centuries. On the contrary, in the mind of Christ the kingdom of heaven together with the end of the world was about to come immediately.

The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual evolution.

The Roman Church became the head of all the churches, not through the ordinance of Divine Providence, but merely through political conditions.

Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement adapted or to be adapted to different times and places.

The chief articles of the Apostles' Creed did not have the same sense for the Christians of the first ages as they have for the Christians of our time.

Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism.

This is just a small part of it. Make sure you read the whole thing.

St. Pius X, pray for us.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Catholic Church- Providing Martyrs Since 30 AD

We seem to have a new one in India, per AsiaNews:

38 year old Fr. Thomas Pandippallyil, was assassinated on the night of August 16th on his way to a village to celebrate Sunday mass. His body showed signs of torture, with wounds to his face, his hands and legs broken and his eyes pulled from their sockets. The bishop of Hyderabad denounces the growing climate of “violence against Catholics” in the country.

We should always recall that persecution of the Church is ongoing. The Olympics has been a nice mask for China to wear, but they aren't fooling anyone (except those who want to be fooled). Places like India may not get the same publicity, but stuff can get just as bad there without any sort of intervention or protection offered to our brethren.

“P. Thomas is a martyr – said Msgr. Marampudi, archbishop of Hyderabad, on hearing of the brutal murder. The Indian Church is shocked and deeply saddened by this barbarous killing, the result of a growing climate of intolerance and violence against Christians in this country”. The prelate immediately made his way to the area where the massacre took place and speaks of a “traumatized” Christian community. He forcefully denies accusations of “proselytism and forced conversions”. Given that there are “five families of Catholic faith” in the parish where Fr. Thomas was murdered.

St. Thomas, please pray for these poor people.

Thanks to Dave Hartline at the Catholic Report for pointing this one out.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Mellifluous Doctor

Did I spell that right?


Today is the Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the Mellifluous Doctor. He was THE saint of the 12th century and almost single-handedly revitalized Western monasticism. He led a very eventful life. He preached the Second Crusade, healed schisms with antipopes, clashed with Peter Abelard, and was a major influence at the Second Lateran Council that condemned the errors of Arnold of Brescia.

I'm going to mention something else, though, namely, the aforementioned zeal St. Bernard had for the monastic life. This is important and something that we very much need today. People talk a lot about the shortage of priests, but when was the last time you heard somebody mention the dwindling numbers of our monastics? Yeah, that's what I thought. St. Bernard left a legacy of 68 monastaries at his death. He was only 63 years old. All those things that he accomplished in his life were because he either felt or actually was compelled to do them. What he really wanted was the life of the monk. Why is this so difficult today? Because the call of the world has never been stronger. Let's pray that St. Bernard will intercede for those with a religious vocation, that they may discern it and answer the call.

I confess with some embarassment that I am almost completely unfamiliar with St. Bernard's writings. While I am working to remedy that, I do know one tidbit that is quite relevant:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

It's Been Almost 4 Months Since We Started

What is everyone thinking right now? What would you like to see more/less of? Anything I haven't covered that I should? Random thoughts about how awesome/crappy the blog is/was/could be?

This is an open solicitation for comments, so let 'em rip.

Speakers for upcoming Northern California Lay Convocation not exactly models of orthodoxy

At least the Cal Catholic Daily admits it. Of course, one who is not orthodox must be defined as a heretic. Too bad they didn't go ahead and call the spade a spade.

Let's check the speaker list:

The convocation will feature two speakers: Mark F. Fischer, a faculty member at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo and an expert on pastoral councils, and Sister Eloise Rosenblatt, a member of the progressive-leaning Sisters of Mercy, Burlingame, and a “feminist theologian.”

"Feminist theologian," huh. No need to guess what that means. They explain it quite well.

Sister Eloise also addressed last year’s convocation. In her talk she noted that “some of the hotly debated issues” she had heard “involve substantive unresolved questions of Church life – women’s incorporation in ministry and decision making, the survival of the priesthood and the rule of celibacy, the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, laity having a voice in the selection of local bishops... protecting freedom of speech... promotion of a collegial and collaborative leadership style between hierarchy and laity with genuine consultation with laity” on a variety of issues.

Blech. I wonder what the justification is for saying these issues are "unresolved." In case anybody has forgotten the bit from Humani Generis:

Now the human intellect, in gaining the knowledge of such truths is hampered both by the activity of the senses and the imagination, and by evil passions arising from original sin. Hence men easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful.

Ooo, ooo. Ms. Eloise's resume gets even better. Look, look!

Speaking to “Church reform” groups is nothing new for Sister Eloise. She offered workshops at the 1998 and 2005 Call to Action West Coast Conferences on the topics, “Keeping your church job,” Church law, and clergy sexual exploitation of adult women. Call to Action is a group that promotes public dissent against Church teaching on women’s ordination, homosexuality, birth control, and other matters.

For those who don't remember, Call to Action was the group of heretics that gave us the original Unholy Crap post. It stands to reason that Ms. Eloise would be a favorite of theirs.

The whole article is capped off nicely by a bad punchline from Rob Grant, who is the mouthpiece for this gathering of rebels.

Grant said, “Our perspective is to work within the body. We would rather unearth and harness the potential within canon law than to say let’s throw that out. Other organizations may choose other paths, but our intent as illustrated in our mission statement is to celebrate and inculcate the possibilities of a post-Vatican II Church.”

Two things, Rob. First, we've all seen the post-VII Church. That's why we're having to purify it. Second, you don't know what the hell you are talking about when you bring up VII this way, and I challenge you or any of your buddies there to tie VII's contents in with this crap you are spreading.

Folks, this is exactly what went down in the Garden. The whole of the original temptation that struck our first parents was the allure of being able to call their own shots and set their own rules. These people have bought into the Adversary's promise wholesale. Whether they admit it or not, they want to be God, not serve Him. They think their wisdom surpasses that of the Mystical Body of Christ, the pillar and foundation of Truth. And they are taken seriously because the root of all sin is pride and the desire to exalt oneself ahead of God. An estimated 400 attendees to this thing will be trodding down the same path.

Shame.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Humanae Vitae Wackiness

This time, it comes from some guy named David Gibson who, for some inexplicable reason, has been allowed to write for the Catholic section of Beliefnet. I'll put it this way. He quotes the ridiculous McBrien article that was discussed here earlier, calling it "excellent." If by "excellent," he means "steaming turd," then I completely agree.

Conveniently blowing off the thorough job done by Mary Eberstadt in First Things, he launches into an almost triumphant-toned discourse on the widespread rejection of the Church's moral teaching in this matter. Because if that many folks are disobedient at once, it must be a good thing, I suppose. He's really got two arguments for why the Pope got this one wrong:

1. Contraception is easier than having babies.
2. The people don't agree with it.

The first bit really isn't an argument so much as the excuse people give for dissent. Raising kids is hard! Give me a big house and a nice car instead!

I have to give him credit on the second bit. He at least tries to dress it up in Latin by referring to the sensus fidelium. Of course, Gibson doesn't really try to explain what that is, probably because he doesn't have a clue and is just playing the dummy to McBrien's ventriloquist. Here we have Mr. Gibson's thought-provoking and ocean-deep analysis of the issue.

For one thing, at the end of the day, for a teaching to be considered authentic or even close to infallible, it must be "received" by the faithful--in effect a kind of populist imprimatur. It is clearly not. The Mirror of Justice blog as discussions on the topic, and the problem of the teaching not being received by the sensus fidelium.

Wow. I daresay we have another Aquinas on our hands. Let's ignore the fact that he gives no sources for this "populist imprimatur" crap. Let's just look past the modern problems of the hordes of Catholics who don't believe in any infallibility other than there own. Mr. Gibson, McBrien, the Mirror of Justice, etc. still run into the same problem. They treat Humanae Vitae as some sort of isolated data point, rather than an affirmation of centuries of Magisterial teaching. What was the "sensus fidelium" back in 1929, when contraception was universally reprobated by every Christian denomination in the world? What about when Pius XI wrote Casti Connubii, less than 40 years before HV came out? I ask again, was the Holy Spirit lying then or is He lying now?

Just face the music on this one. If you want to be a heretic, go ahead. Don't try to de-legitimize the teaching on contraception based on this idea of the Church as some sort of attenuated democracy, though. It's a pathetic argument that smacks of desperation and an embarassing need for some sort of rationale for one's rebellion.

Just say "Non serviam" and move on.

This Halibut is Good Enough for Jehovah!

But not for Y-----. It seems that the tetragrammaton is now officially off-limits.

What? No more "Y-----, I Know You Are Near"? Marty Haugen and David Haas are weeping.

Yep. Looks like the Congregation for Divine Worship has said that the Name of God isn't to be bandied about lightly. Much obliged to The New Liturgical Movement for this info.

You can read the whole document here. Basically, we should stick with Adonai or Kyrios and leave God's Name alone out of reverence for Its sacred character. Being that He's God and all, that's probably a good idea.

Uh-Oh

Westminster Exorcist Says Promiscuity can Lead to Demonic Possession

So here's what we know.

Sexual license can be a gateway for the demonic.

It's probably safe to say that such license is pretty high these days. I don't think this needs much proof, but I'll offer this article by Melinda Reist to show that it's even striking at our children these days.

The Vatican is training greater and greater numbers of exorcists. See here, for example.

Coincidence? I think not.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus

These guys had their feast day on the 13th. Pontian was pope in the early third century. We really don't know anything else about him, other than that he was exiled to Sardinia by the Roman emperor and died there due to the poor conditions. Hippolytus is quite famous. Not only is he a saint, but he was also the first antipope.

Hippolytus basically had a theological throwdown with Popes Zephrynius and Callistus, so he figured he would set himself up as the "real" Bishop of Rome. He accused them of being Monarchians, while they said he was a ditheist. Hippolytus would outlive both of them and continue in his schism until he was exiled to Sardinia as well, where he reconciled with Pontian before dying himself.

There are bunches of Hippolytus's writings still with us today. You can read about his beefs with the popes in his Refutation of All Heresies. If you are looking for a good picture of 3rd century liturgical practice, his Apostolic Tradition is great. If you are an End Times nut, his work on the AntiChrist is very interesting and is good for refuting preterists.

Seeing how an antipope can come to his senses and renounce his schism, it gives us hope that the schismatics currently scattered throughout the world might also acquiesce to the call of grace and return to the bosom of the Church.

Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus, pray for us.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Humani Generis

If you don't know what that is, start reading here. It's a great encyclical from Pius XII that celebrated its 58th anniversary this past Tuesday. The subtitle is "Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine." The reason you probably didn't see anybody else blogging about it or discussing it is because these errors have become mainstream Catholic thinking in many ways. A lot of folks need to sit down with HG, give it a good read, then take a long look in the mirror.

The Pope starts out by praising human reason but reminding us that we are fallen creatures who have limits.

For though, absolutely speaking, human reason by its own natural force and light can arrive at a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, Who by His providence watches over and governs the world, and also the natural law, which the Creator has written in our hearts, still there are not a few obstacles to prevent reason from making efficient and fruitful use of its natural ability. The truths that have to do with God and the relations between God and men, completely surpass the sensible order and demand self-surrender and self-abnegation in order to be put into practice and to influence practical life. Now the human intellect, in gaining the knowledge of such truths is hampered both by the activity of the senses and the imagination, and by evil passions arising from original sin. Hence men easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful.

That last line pretty much sums up the dissent from Humanae Vitae.

From the perspective of the times, though, let's take a look at some of the bigger theological errors that Pius XII was pointing out.

In theology some want to reduce to a minimum the meaning of dogmas; and to free dogma itself from terminology long established in the Church and from philosophical concepts held by Catholic teachers, to bring about a return in the explanation of Catholic doctrine to the way of speaking used in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church. They cherish the hope that when dogma is stripped of the elements which they hold to be extrinsic to divine revelation, it will compare advantageously with the dogmatic opinions of those who are separated from the unity of the Church and that in this way they will gradually arrive at a mutual assimilation of Catholic dogma with the tenets of the dissidents.

Translation- If we can twist Scripture and patristics enough, we can be Protestant/Orthodox. This is analogous to Hans Kung reading Karl Barth and deciding that the Fathers of Trent were all really Lutherans.

One of my faves here:

Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me"; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

Note to dissenting theologians with an axe to grind against the Pope. You know that thing His Holiness said that you didn't like? It doesn't matter if it was ex cathedra or not! Shut up and move on to something else instead of jeopardizing your soul and the souls of others!

Moving along- The Bible:

For some go so far as to pervert the sense of the Vatican Council's definition that God is the author of Holy Scripture, and they put forward again the opinion, already often condemned, which asserts that immunity from error extends only to those parts of the Bible that treat of God or of moral and religious matters.

That's right, folks. It's all inerrant.

Others destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision.

This is a very minor point for some people, yet it is probably one of the most rampant errors out there today. The consequences of this statement are that people are naturally inclined to heaven, rather than achieving salvation through the effects of a grace that is given to them above and beyond their own merits and nature. This thinking is basically why we have folks convinced that everyone is going to heaven. Which brings us to:

Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation.

Errors that seem small or just a matter of nuance/semantics like the bit above on the supernatural order can lead to some pretty monumental screw-ups downstream. This is one of them.

The whole encyclical is quite prophetic and makes for very good reading, especially if you are trying to understand exactly how some of our modern heresies took root.

On a side note, it contains what is probably the only real Magisterial teaching on Catholicism and evolution:

For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faithful. Some however rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.

When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.

Basically, there was an Adam. There was an Eve. There was a Fall. That's about it.

Damien Thompson on the Latin Mass in England

He reports in the Times that instructors are teaching the TLM to priests across the pond and it looks like folks are interested. Sounds promising.

So these are tense times. But the 60 priests who have gathered at Merton college – to brush up their skills or to learn the Tridentine mass from scratch – are careful to avoid talk of civil war in the church. All are aware that this autumn, Pope Benedict is expected to announce a successor to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, who presides over a liberal “magic circle” of bishops unsympathetic to the Pope’s reforms. Will Benedict break the circle that has run the English church for 40 years?

People have been talking about this for a while, namely, the death knell of the "progressives" who have been such a scandal to the Church these last decades. The future seems to be slipping out of their hands.

Interestingly, the most traditionalist priests here are also the youngest – and I spot four in the choir stalls who are popular bloggers on the internet. Walking down the high street later, I encounter two clergy wearing the old-fashioned soup-plate hats beloved of Italian village padres. One of them has long knotted tassels dangling from the brim, “so I can tie them round my neck when I ride my horse through the parish”.

A priest who looks barely out of his teens explains what he does when unsolicited copies of The Tablet – a liberal Catholic magazine that opposes the Latin revival – arrive at his church: “I painstakingly remove the staples and feed it into the shredder. It’s time-consuming, but God’s work.”

Awesome.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why Batman is Catholic, Pt. 2

So we know why Batman isn't an atheist. Let's look at the other non-Catholic item in the Adherents.com article that is considered Bruce's most probably religious affiliation, namely, High Church Anglican/Episcopalian. Let me add another qualifier at the outset here. The idea of Bruce as a lapsed anything is really just the back-door way of pushing the atheist argument. As one respondent in the article says, when has Batman done anything half-assed. Once he's made a commitment, I think it's safe to say he's all-in. Being a rational guy, he would most likely take the path that since there can be no commitment more significant than that of man to his Creator, Savior and Judge, I don't see him "lapsing" or whatever.

Anyways, we move onward. We know Batman is some form of Christian. The fact that he studied in the Orient a long time ago really doesn't dislodge the multiple scenes displayed in the article of Batman/Bruce in prayer. True, many might argue that these scenes are ambiguous, but that seems a bit dishonest. For decades, we've seen Batman at his parents' graveside, past depictions of kneeling/hands folded, crosses for his dead loved ones, and so forth. Add it all together, and you have a tough time arguing for a non-Christian Bruce Wayne.

Finally, you've got a canonical Batman story, The Chalice, by Chuck Dixon, that has Batman as the guardian of the Holy Grail and explicitly Christian. The only real counter people have to this story is that they didn't like it. Nobody can really explain how the Christian aspects of the story somehow contradict Batman's character. Again, we are speaking of the traditional Batman, not the "Batgod." Given that there is more than enough evidence for Christian Batman, let's look at the Anglican angle and see what the arguments are there.

1. His family is rich, and everybody knows that WASPS are Anglican/Episcopalian.
2. A cross bottony in a cemetery scene.
3. Elliot Maggin said so.
4. He had an ancestor in the Revolutionary War who was buried in an Episcopalian cemetery.

Let's ditch Number 4 right away. My entire family is Baptist going back at least 3 generations. Who knows what we'd be two centuries back? From the article, we don't even know how this guy is related to Bruce. Nothing doing here.

Elliott Maggin said so. And Joe Kelly said Batman was an atheist. The problem with Maggin's characterization is that he doesn't really say why he believes this. My guess is the first two reasons above. It's difficult to refute this one much further, since no real reasons are given. I will say, as the article does, that Maggin is much more of a Superman guy (and made his Batman/Episcopalian comments in the context of a Superman story), so I don't know that his Batman opinion should weigh more than say, Frank Miller or Chuck Dixon, both of whom have written Batman and Batman Family stories.

The cross bottony scene on the future grave of Bruce Wayne from Teen Titans #18 makes for an interesting point. Here's my problem with this. The cross bottony is described as an Anglican symbol, but I see it in Catholic settings all the time. That it's on the Maryland flag is unconvincing as the cross is a pretty universal symbol for Christians in general, and I'm not sure how distinctive the cross bottony really is for one group or another. The article doesn't really give references here either.

I think the article is entirely in error when it tries to claim that Bruce chose an "Episcopalian-style Christian cross" for Jason Todd's grave marker. The cross in question is a Celtic/Irish cross which is quite common in Catholic circles, though I admit that it gets some play in Anglican circles as well. This site, seiyaku.com, has info (though I can't vouch for its accuracy) on both of these crosses here and here. I think the best we can say for this is that it provides no real evidence one way or the other, with the exception that they are more nails in the coffin of the atheist theory.

Finally, the best argument for Bruce being Anglican comes from the fact that he is from a billionaire family that seems to fit the WASP profile perfectly. This is actually somewhat convincing. Let's face it. When you think of really rich, old money, aristocratic-type families, you're going to be thinking of Episcopalian folks. It's tough to come up with a direct counter-argument here, except to say that, while Bruce's background fits this description, there is nothing in his personal character that would indicate an Anglican of any sort. The forces that drive Batman really don't seem to have much of a grounding in Anglican beliefs/theology. Any believers from the Anglican Communion tradition are welcome to offer examples to the contrary. I'm just saying that I don't see it. Moreover, as the article mentions, Gotham is usually regarded as a fictional Chicago, the same way Metropolis is New York and Central City is St. Louis. With that in mind, rich Catholic family might be a bit more likely. But hey, I'm not going to just ignore the fact that this weighs more heavily for the Anglican argument. Anyways, we'll say this particular bit still stands as evidence of a non-Catholic Batman.

We'll deal with the remaining anti-Anglican arguments next time. We'll also open up the pro-Catholic side of the equation and see how that flies with the readers here.

USCCB Removes Bizarre Statement From the US Catechism

What's wrong with this statement?

"Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them."

At best, it's vague and ambiguous. At worst, it's heretical. It's also in the current Catechism published by the USCCB. That looks like it's changing, though. The article is pretty good on the rationale. How exactly is the Mosaic Covenant still valid for Jewish people? It's valid if they want to go ahead and enter the Church and take advantage of the fulfillment of that covenant. Any other interpretation is going to be heretical. Guys like King David couldn't even be saved by the Old Law (see Question 28 here). How is it supposed to help anyone these days?

I am a bit confused on what this Fr. Massa is saying, though. He seems to be taking JPII's quote about Jews being in a "real relationship with God" as equivalent to salvation. I'm trying to think of a single Father or Doctor of the Church that would make that same leap. JPII himself referred to just one covenant as eternal and irrevocable, that being the one forged on the Cross. You can check Dominicae Cenae, Redemptoris Custos, or Evangelium Vitae to see what I mean here.

Then Fr. Massa drops this line about "it is also the church's understanding that the full incorporation of Israel into the saving covenant of Christ may be the fruit of the end times, may not happen until the end of history." I really don't think that guesswork on possibilities for the End of the World should lead us into theological speculation that could potentially endanger souls. Folks read vagaries like this stuff about the validity of the Old Covenant and start to think that Jews don't need evangelization and conversion. What a horrible lack of charity, to be content with fellow man being ignorant or, even worse, outright rejecting Christ.

Anyways, this whole editing decision is a step in the right direction.

Friday, August 15, 2008

"The Queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold."

That's what the Psalmist says. For those who don't know, today is the Feast of the Assumption, the day when the Church celebrates the fact that the Blessed Mother was taken body and soul into heaven. I'll say now that, yes, I do think she experienced death (the Dormition or Falling Asleep as it's known in the East), so this post will reflect that.

I probably get more questions from Protestants about this feast than any other, even the Immaculate Conception. After all, at least that one seems to have a point. The Assumption just seems so . . . superfluous. What's the big deal anyway? Why would God care about this and why should we?

Well, I guess the easy answer to the latter question is that if God cares about it, then so should we. But why would God worry about bringing Mary to Heaven in such a way? Her soul was certainly glory-bound. Why was her body preserved?

It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.

That was John Damascene's explanation. St. Robert Bellarmine was much more blunt:

And who, I ask, could believe that the ark of holiness, the dwelling place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, could be reduced to ruin? My soul is filled with horror at the thought that this virginal flesh which had begotten God, had brought him into the world, had nourished and carried him, could have been turned into ashes or given over to be food for worms.

So there are reasons. For me, I really can't explain why I love this day so much. Maybe it's just something about the idea of that whole resurrection of the body thing. Lots of people overlook that these days. Heaven is a place for souls, not for bodies. It's not going to be that way in the End. We will be whole, just as the Blessed Virgin is. Not a whole lot of folks can make that kind of claim: Enoch, Elijah, maybe Moses. And of course, Christ Himself.

Or maybe the whole mystery of it all. Death is the final frontier, really. We don't get a lot of peaks behind that curtain. The whole point of the Assumption (other than preserving the body of the Mother of God from corruption, naturally) is that it serves as a marvelous sign to the rest of us about what we have waiting for us should we persevere. We aren't left guessing at what it will be like. Sure, we know about Jesus's Ascension, but He was God. There could always be people who might attempt to degrade or diminish the fate of the saint based on Christ's Divinity. Mary isn't God. No Divinity there. She's human, but her Assumption shows us that we are heirs to our own destiny of glory. It staggers the mind just to think about it.

This wonderful teaching was declared binding as dogma on all Catholics by Pope Pius XII in his Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus:

For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.

Yep. Ex cathedra, folks.

So have a happy and blessed Feast of the Assumption. And if you are Catholic, it is a Holy Day of Obligation, so make sure you get to Mass.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Why Batman is Catholic, Pt. 1


For starters, let me be clear that this discussion is not the most thorough treatment of this topic. For that, check out this site. I will candidly admit that most of the information that I'm using is pulled from its contents anyway.

Now that that is out of the way, let me set some parameters here. I am going to be distinguishing two different Batmans. I will be focusing on what I consider as the "traditional" Batman for the most part. This is what I consider to be the picture of Batman that one gets from viewing the history of the character as a whole. Yes, I know that Batman has a pretty diverse past, ranging from camp to psycho, but I think that what I'm doing here should be fairly non-controversial. The second Batman is the one who is sometimes jokingly referred to as "The Batgod." This is the Batman to whom I was referring in my previous post as the botched attempt to follow-up on Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns. In that work, Miller gave us a possible (some would even say probable) future in which Bruce is an angry, bitter man who has become irreparably cynical due to the all-consuming corruption around him. Modern Batman writers have decided to impose these feelings on the current Batman, usually to an even greater extent than what we see in Miller. The result is a Batman caricature. He is a paranoid, narcissistic whacko in many respects. This is the guy who basically has no friends, no weaknesses, and no real semblance of humanity at all. Where Superman and Batman were once the stars of their own team-up book, they are now usually depicted as uneasy and uncomfortable with one another. A consequence of all this is that you really don't see any Bruce Wayne at all. This has led to the oft-expressed view that there really is no Bruce Wayne. There is only Batman, who uses the mask of Bruce Wayne to give himself some security with the rest of the world. Again, this is all a very recent development and is even inconsistent over the last decade or so. Hence this portrayal can only be cast as, at best, the minority view, or at worst, the work of hack writers who are just offering pathetic attempts to make Batman "grim and gritty" at the expense of his established history and characterization.

The foremost crime of these innovators has been to claim that Batman is an atheist. This view, as you can see from the article linked above, seems to be most closely linked to the writing of Joe Kelly during his run on JLA, specifically during The Obsidian Age storyline. Judd Winnick would later pick this up when Jason Todd returned in the Under the Hood arc. Let me get it out of the way and say that I think Kelly's writing is atrocious and Winnick's isn't much better. That being said, let's take a look at the evidence and arguments presented that might justify such a characterization of Batman. I think these are an accurate summary:
  1. Batman is a scientist.
  2. Batman has experienced a lot of bad things. (aka, the problem of evil)
  3. Considering what Batman does (meting out vengeance/justice on his own), he at least couldn't believe in a Christian god.

Of course, none of these are very good reasons. Number 1 is a rehash of growing stereotypes regarding atheists and theists. Atheists must be highly intelligent, while theists are living a delusion. There is a negative corollary to this that scientific atheist types must be cold, unemotional a-holes. Naturally, this view meshes quite well with people whose Batman experience is limited to the "Batgod" version. The problem is that these are nothing more than stereotypes unworthy of any really complex character, which I think everyone believes Batman to be. It is an interesting societal comment on the effects of fundamentalist and atheistic propaganda that some would automatically assume that a character with a scientific background would necessarily not believe in God. Let's also not forget another important detail. Batman has always been a good scientist. He knows all sorts of CSI-ish tricks for solving crimes. It's part of his being a detective. The "Batgod," though, is really just a heroic Lex Luthor. Batman used to need help from guys like Lucius Fox or the savant from The Penguin Affair for really complex items. Not anymore. "Batgod" is capable of single-handedly whipping up devices that can not only annihilate the entire JLA but also space weapons powerful enough to threaten the existence of the whole world. Yeah, I know. Sounds stupid, doesn't it? My point is that we shouldn't get too carried away with this "Batman is a scientist" BS since it is clearly not keeping with the established identity of the character.

Number 2 is just as empty a proposition. It basically says that, since Batman has had a lot of bad stuff happen to him and people he cares about, he no longer believes in God. Somebody get Job on the phone. Or any martyr for that matter. Considering all the historical witnesses contradicting this view, it is rather easily shelved. For that matter, it can be a pretty convincing argument for Batman as a theist. It seems much more logical that someone who has experienced Bruce's level of badness, yet continues to endure continued badness for the sakes of others, must be driven by a belief in something beyond the world he slogs through on a daily basis. I am reminded of a comment from Wormwood to Screwtape:

Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round on a universe from which every trace of Him has vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

Number 3 is not a common argument, yet I included it because it comes up several times in the above article. For one thing, anybody who claims that Batman is about vengeance is so full of crap that they immediately lose all credibility anyway. Batman is about justice. He's not The Punisher or Ghost Rider or whoever. How somebody pays for their crimes isn't something he deals in. Making sure they pay is his business. If one is willing to keep this third argument in terms of justice, it still makes no sense. The proponents of this view claim that a vigilante's pursuit of justice is somehow contrary to what a Christian God would demand. This might be convincing if Batman was engaged in some sort of utilitarian ends/means analysis (eg, "If I have to waste a few informants to find The Scarecrow, it's Ok because it will save more in the long run"). St. Paul is quite clear that we can't do evil in order to further good. We don't see that, though. Batman apprehends criminals, then turns them over to the lawful authorities for disposition. I guess one could make some argument that Batman does "evil" to further good by, say, breaking into the homes of criminals and gathering incriminating evidence against them or by intimidating them into confession, but there is an equally valid argument that those things gained by illicit means are not rightfully possessed by the criminal owner anyway, hence it is not an injustice to deprive them of it. I don't want to push this too far, so I'll just close it out by saying that, for the reasons I mentioned under Number 2, there is an equally strong claim that Batman does what he does precisely because he believes in God.

So what are we left with to show Batman as an atheist? A line from Joe Kelly and a scene from Judd Winnick. If you are willing to accept that, there's no hope for you anyway. Note that I haven't even gotten to the specific examples that Batman is a theist, specifically a Catholic one. That will be coming up shortly.

One last thing, though. If you had been to Heaven, had colleagues go to Heaven, fought demons, been allied with angels, etc., just as Batman has, could you still be an atheist? Could even the "Batgod," when faced with all this confirmation, have the wherewithal to reject faith in God, knowing the potential peril to his soul? My response: Only if he is utterly insane.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Veritas


Truth. It's the motto of the Order of Preachers, more commonly known as the Dominicans. Today is the feast day of their founder, St. Dominic, of whom I am an enormous fan. I will admit to some bias here. I lean Dominican in my outlook on most things, so I am naturally going to favor them in posting. I must also say that in looking at the post-conciliar wreckage, it has always seemed to me that the Dominicans have weathered the storm much better than others. Sure, there's a few Schillebeeecxes in the bunch, but they've had the guts to expel guys like Matthew Fox from the order altogether.

Anyways, St. Dominic. Most folks know that he's the guy who got the Rosary from the Blessed Mother with the instructions to spread that devotion throughout the world. That is only part of the story. The actual reason for Dominic's preaching was to exterminate the Albigensian heresy. Albigensians were dualists, who believed in what amounted to two gods, good and bad, spiritual and material. Everything material was bad, including the body. Suicide was a therefore a good idea. Material possessions were bad, too, so not having anything and/or killing those who did was a good idea. This latter element got so bad that armed conflict was necessary to stop them. They were also Arianish and had a bunch of other problems too numerous to list here. Why were they so successful?
Albigensians made it big because folks admired their ascesticism and contempt for the world. When contrasted with the sometimes plush lives of corrupt clergy, it made a big impression. Plus, the clergy at the time weren't really doing their jobs when it came to proclaiming the Truth to the laity. Dominic saw this and set about remedying by establishing an order sworn to poverty, but also based upon the charism of preaching. Needless to say, the rest is history. By the time of his death, the heresy had been severely weakened. The Dominicans finished wiping it out in the early 1500s.

Anyways, we owe a lot to this guy for the spiritual gifts he's left to the world. His dedication to Truth is something sorely lacking these days. Most folks are willing to just live and let live, with absolutely no care at all that such an attitude is completely contrary to the mission of the Redeemer.

St. Dominic, pray for us that we may never take the Truth for granted or let it go undefended.

Anglicans for the 21st Century

It looks like Hugo Chavez just might be trying to pull a Henry VIII.

The New York Times has an article about a group of schismatics, who are ironically tied to a "splinter group" (whatever that means) of Anglicans in Texas, that have broken away from the Church and started their own "Reformed Catholic Church" in Venezuela. Can somebody please take one of these whackjobs aside and let them know that this has been tried already? Then give them one of Damien Thompson's articles so they can skip to the end and see how it all turns out.

The leaders of the Reformed Catholic Church, however, say their new church represents a fusion of the best of Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions (BWAH-HA-HA-HA!!). And though they adamantly deny receiving financing from Mr. Chávez’s government and insist that their church has no political affiliation, they do profess solidarity with Mr. Chávez, who has repeatedly clashed with the Roman Catholic hierarchy since rising to power a decade ago.

“I share the revolutionary project of President Chávez, since it is a socialist and humanist project for the masses,” said Enrique Albornoz, a former Lutheran minister (clearly, any heresy is welcome) who is principal bishop, the top leader, of the Reformed Catholic Church. The church says it has about 2,000 members in Cabimas and in other oil towns in Zulia, Venezuela’s most populous state.

Of course, none of these folks have any real concept of what Chavez is doing or why the Church is supposedly so bad.

“Chávez is carrying out the work of God, and I hope our priests here do the same,” said Janeth Vicuña, 54, a housewife who attends the services of the Reformed Catholic Church. “The old Catholic Church claims to work on behalf of the needy, but what have they done for us in all these centuries?”

Yeah, all those schools, hospitals, money, food, etc. haven't done anything for anyone.

While the leaders of the Reformed Catholic Church praise Mr. Chávez’s antipoverty programs, they are hesitant to discuss why poverty remains so common in Venezuela at a time of record oil prices. And they merely smile when asked about Mr. Chávez’s religious thinking, like his assertion that Jesus was the first socialist.

Because they are clearly working so well. Many prayers for these misguided people.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Damien Thompson on the Catholic/Anglican Options for Unity

I, too, am shocked that there hasn't been more mainstream media coverage of this stuff. We could be talking about the disintegration of a five hundred year old landmark of Western Civilization and the healing of one of the greatest schisms in Christian history. And nobody seems to give a crap.

Thompson provides three possible Catholic outcomes for all this:


1. The Tabletista option: carry on as if nothing has happened.
The best part of this section reads:

Naturally, the pro-priestess Catholics want ecumenical dialogue to continue undisturbed. And so do some of the other bishops, who - although they don't support women clergy themselves - would much rather talk to a nice, Tablet-reading Anglican liberal bishop than a traditionalist in a fiddleback. ("Bishop Tom, I hear you're ordaining kitchen chairs these days. Now, that's not part of our heritage, but let's have a mutually enriching dialogue about it anyway. Can I top that up for you?")

Awesome.

2. The Kasper option. Thompson makes the point that Kaspar initially was all about the Anglicans sticking together and really didn't seem all that interested in their conversion. Typical freaking Kaspar. However, he continues:

My guess (and it's no more than that) is that Kasper's "new Oxford movement" is supposed to gather together mildly liberal Anglican Catholics who - having thought again about women priests - are prepared to get back on the slow, jargon-strewn road to ever-closer union.

3. The Roman option: This is the way of the future - the corporate reception of Anglo-Catholics, employing one of many possible juridical structures to enable them to preserve aspects of Anglican spirituality.

Of course, Number Three is the only option that bears any sort of charity for our Anglican brethren. Let us pray that the Holy Father can pull it off and rescue these floundering souls from the Catamaran of Cranmer.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Please Exit in an Orderly Fashion

That's what some Anglican "bishops" are asking for. From the Times:

They said that the Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, would fail to avert a schism because liberals were determined to press ahead with their pro-gay agenda.

Instead, they called on Dr Williams to acknowledge that there were now two distinct Churches and negotiate an “orderly separation” to preserve a traditional identity for Anglicanism.

We can't have that, now, can we?

Liberals warned that such an action could lead to civil war in the Church.

Just what do they think they have on their hands now? Between Orombi's comments, the conservative movement labelled as "demonic," and this gem:

However, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, said that the Archbishop’s plan to maintain unity lacked a sense of urgency and was unlikely to work.

“The Lambeth Conference is required to do something rather than live down to the worst expectations of the bishops who stayed away,” he said.

“We need to negotiate a separation in the Communion sooner rather than later, to leave the strongest possibility of remaining in some kind of fellowship.”

It's not like it's all roses and rainbows right now. All this will probably do is generate some more hand-wringing angst from Rowan, which will drag this whole thing out longer, which will make the formal declaration of the already de facto schism all the more bitter when it finally does happen.

Anglican Primate Breaks Out the Verbal Blowtorch

Henry Orombi, "Archbishop" of Uganda, absolutely tears Rowan a new one in the Times. After blasting Rowan up and down for his utter lack of spine amongst all the recent shenanigans, accusing him of multiple betrayals in blessing the sins of the American hierarchy. He says this:

The peculiar thing is that this one man, who is at the centre of the communion's structures, is not even elected by his peers. Even the Pope is elected by his peers, but what Anglicans have is a man appointed by a secular government. Over the past five years, we have come to see this as a remnant of British colonialism, and it is not serving us well. The spiritual leadership of a global communion of independent and autonomous provinces should not be reduced to one man appointed by a secular government.

It is important that our decision not to attend this Lambeth Conference is not misunderstood as withdrawing from the Anglican Communion. On the contrary, our decision reflects the depth of our concern and the sober realisation that the present structures are not capable of addressing the crisis.

In other words, this whole ship is sinking, one guy is to blame, and we got stuck with him through no fault of our own. Damien Thompson, whose reporting in all this has been outstanding, breaks it down as follows:

In effect, Orombi is saying: we are still part of the Anglican Communion, but Canterbury lacks the personal authority to hold together its "instruments of communion". Or, to put it another way, you are a weak man, Dr Williams.

Its timing is precisely calculated: its appearance right at the end of the Lambeth Conference will reinforce the impression that the entire exercise has been a smug, expensive, unrepresentative publicity stunt. And a failure.

And the world gapes in awe as the Barque of Henry VIII staggers blindly from wreck to wreck.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight was a very fine effort. Everything you've heard about it is probably true. The cast is great. Heath Ledger's Joker is one of the best performances I've ever seen. The movie is probably a bit long, though. Nolan and Goyer deserve a lot of credit on this one because it's the story that really makes the whole thing go.


There have been some efforts, mostly recent, to paint Batman as little more than a high-tech paranoid whackjob whose ethics are derived from a sort of cobbled-together personal code that he imposes upon himself, rather than a guy driven by a morality outside himself that he is subject to by nature. This former characterization is largely due to a botched attempt by modern writers to follow-up on Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.

Why does Batman refuse to kill? Because killing is wrong. Why is killing wrong? Is it because Bruce has simply concocted a moral code stating that he shouldn't do it? No. It's because he acknowledges rules higher than himself. No matter how much he might want to kill a given criminal, he will not do so, nor come up with a rationalization that would give him permission to do so, nor attempt to hold himself out as some sort of "higher law." He is not the Nietzschean overman, as so many attempt to claim.

The Dark Knight does a good job of bringing this forward. The crux of the story in TDK is that Bruce does submit to authoritative values that are above him. He expects others to follow those values as well and must adapt when confronted by a villain who doesn't just have a different set of values (like Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins) but who has no values at all. The plot then takes the natural turn into a game of chicken between the three (yes, three) main characters who each take turns escalating the conflict to see who is going to flinch first. The Joker, of course, is not bound by any limits whatsoever and therefore will never flinch. Dent tries it Bruce's way, then flinches and takes the path that there is only value in the "fairness" of chance. He even admits this isn't really some sort of higher law, but rather all that he's left with. Only Bruce acknowledges a true higher moral order and consistently adheres to it.

The other significant element that TDK brings up but that has gone by the wayside in many modern Batman portrayals is the central role that sacrifice plays in what Bruce does. He lost his girlfriend in Batman Begins, sure, but he's faced with the reality in TDK that folks can still come after him personally even if they don't know who he really is. How do they do that? By picking apart his soul which is so devoted to the higher cause he has pledged himself to. Batman's sacrifice is therefore not strictly limited to the "I'll never live a normal life" sort of whining that is so often bandied about as the real burden he must bear. The real sacrifice is carrying the cross of his virtue. His choices get people killed all the time, and he has to live with it. Alfred's takes on this throughout the movie are excellent. It would be easy for Bruce to become The Punisher, but then he wouldn't be Batman. It would be even easier for him simply to seek self-justification and acknowledgment of his goodness. Instead, we have his sacrifice at the close of the film. Simply marvelous stuff and highly recommended for all over the age of, say, 15.

Coming soon: Why Batman is Catholic and an exploration of the religious faith of other super-heroes.