Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
by Sandro Magister
ROME, February 24, 2010 – The first person he told that he had finished writing his book about Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, on the day after his visit to the synagogue of Rome, last January 18.
The rabbi is the American Jacob Neusner, and the author of the book is Benedict XVI.
The first volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" by pope Joseph Ratzinger was released three years ago. And now the second and concluding volume of the work, dedicated to the passion and resurrection of Jesus and to the infancy narratives, is ready for translation and printing.
Meanwhile, however, with significant coordination of timing, another important book about Jesus has been reprinted in recent days in Italy, entitled "Il Nazareno," written more than seventy years ago by a great Italian rabbi.
Not only that. A very positive review of this new edition of the book was published on February 20 in "L'Osservatore Romano," written by a famous scholar, Anna Foa, a Jewish professor of history at the University of Rome "La Sapienza."
And this review also marks an important new development. The author of the book, Israel Zoller, was chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Rome. And in 1945, he converted to the Catholic faith.
The stunning news of his conversion rocked the Roman and Italian Jewish community. And it responded with a silence that lasted for decades.
Anna Foa's review in "the pope's newspaper" has definitively broken this silence. Moreover, she has acknowledged that in that book, although it was written many years before its author's conversion, there already "seemed to appear between the lines a recognition of the messianic character of Christ."
Israel Zoller was born in 1881 in Brodj, a village in Austro-Hungarian Galicia, now within the borders of Poland. At the age of six, he emigrated with his family to Stanislavia, now Ivano-Frankivsk, in Ukraine. He studied in L'viv and then in Florence. After settling in Italy, his surname was altered to Zolli. He was chief rabbi in Trieste and taught Jewish literature at the University of Padua. In Rome, he was elected as chief rabbi and as director of the rabbinical college. He resigned at the beginning of 1945, and in February asked to be baptized into the Catholic Church. He took the name of Eugenio, the same as that of the pope at the time, Pius XII. He died in 1956.
His autobiography, written in 1947 and reprinted in Italy six years ago, helps a great deal in understanding the journey and significance of his conversion to the Christian faith.
Ever since he was a child, for him, Jesus was present in all his mystery. In a world that recalls the paintings of Chagall, the Jewish painter who was born and lived in those same Eastern lands between Europe and Russia (see photo): the village, the synagogue, the corn fields covered with snow, the Jewish school with its severe teacher, the roosters on the rooftops... And all the airborne figures in the starry sky: the characters of the Bible.
But that's just it, Jesus is there too, right away. There's the crucifix in the home of his classmate:
"Why was He crucified? Why do we children become so different in His presence? No, no, He couldn't have been bad. Maybe He was and maybe He wasn't – who knows? – the Servant of God whose canticles we read in school. I don't know anything, but I'm sure of one thing: He was good, and so... and so, why did they crucify Him?"
Right away, there are the Gospels and the New Testament:
"All by myself, I read the Gospel, and experienced measureless delight. What a surprise I received in the middle of the green lawn: 'But I say to you: Love your enemies.' And from the height of the cross: 'Father, forgive them.' The New Testament really is a covenant... brand new! Everything in it seemed to me to have an extraordinary importance. Teachings like: 'Blessed are the pure of heart' and the prayer from the cross draw a line of demarcation between the world of ancient ideas and a new moral cosmos. Yes! Here there arises a new world. Here are delineated the sublime forms of the Kingdom of Heaven, of the persecuted who have not persecuted in return, but have loved."
Baptism would come many years later. And in the autobiography this appears as the natural messianic flowering of a Jewish branch that remains alive, laden with destiny from the beginning.
Israel Zoller later became Eugenio Zoller, prefiguring in his life the establishing of fraternal relations between Christianity and Judaism that today has risen to agenda of the Church's supreme leader.
A fraternal relationship that hinges entirely on the main difference between the two faiths: the recognition of Jesus as "my Lord and my God."
This is the same difference brought to light by Benedict XVI in the chapter on the Sermon on the Mount in the first volume of his "Jesus of Nazareth." In which his friend the rabbi Jacob Neusner is the emblem of the devout Jew who refuses to accept the divinity of Jesus, now as then.
But here it is, the review by the Jewish Foa of "Il Nazareno" by Rabbi Zolli, in the February 20, 2010 issue of "L'Osservatore Romano."
The rabbi who studied Jesus
by Anna Foa
The book "Il Nazareno" by Eugenio Zolli appeared in 1938, published by the Istituto delle Edizioni Accademiche in Udine. Israel Zolli, who would later become Eugenio, was at the time chief rabbi in Trieste, and had not yet become – as he would a year later – chief rabbi of Rome in the place of Rabbi David Prato, who was driven out in 1938 because he was a Zionist. A few months after the publication of this book, Mussolini's racist laws made Zolli – born in Brody, in Galicia, but raised in Italy – a stateless person, and hurled him into the harsh years of persecution. Seven years later, in February 1945, causing great scandal in the Italian Jewish world and a great stir in the non-Jewish community as well, Israel Zolli converted to Catholicism, taking Pope Pacelli's name with baptism, and thus becoming Eugenio Zolli.
A volume about Jesus Christ written by a prominent rabbi, then, destined a short time later, in spite of this book and the vague whiff of heresy that surrounded him for many years, to become the leading rabbi of the Roman Jewish community.
Is the book a prefiguring of the author's later journey, an anticipation of his subsequent baptism? Or does it reflect a journey of exegetical studies, with attention to the figure of Jesus Christ, undertaken by much European Jewish exegetical thought beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century?
The latter is the perspective in which it is placed, in his extensive and valuable postscript, by the book's editor, Alberto Latorre, in analyzing Jewish and Christian studies on Christ in those crucial decades of the early twentieth century, and situating Zolli's work in this context.
The rabbi from Trieste writes about Jesus and about relations between early Christianity and the rabbinical culture of the time with accents and ideas not dissimilar from those of his teachers at the rabbinical college of Florence, Chayes and Margulies, and raising far less serious controversies than Joseph Klausner's book on "Jesus the Nazarene," which at its publication in Hebrew in Jerusalem in 1921 was attacked by both Orthodox Jews and Christians, as recalled, in an interesting selection from one of his novels quoted by Latorre in the postscript, by the writer Amos Oz, Klausner's great-nephew,.
This area of study was very popular with Jewish scholars all over Europe, and in particular with those from Germany, heirs of the Science of Judaism and linked with the reformed currents, which strongly emphasized the Jewishness of Jesus and highlighted the correspondences between rabbinical Judaism and early Christianity. But it was also a favorite of Christian scholars, especially Protestant ones, in nineteenth-century Germany, in the setting of the school of Tubingen and of the later schools of liberal theology, and was assimilated, at the beginning of the new century, by modernist Catholic scholars.
This context, connected to the historical-critical method of biblical exegesis, is of great interest to both sides.
If this was the cultural atmosphere in which Zolli's massive study was born, it must also be said that this was an atmosphere in which there were extremely few contributions from the Italian Jewish world. Some exceptions are the rabbinical college of Livorno, where Elia Benamozegh taught in the second half of the nineteenth century, the rabbinical college of Florence, with its nucleus of teachers from Galicia, and Trieste, a city that was culturally and until 1918 even politically Hapsburg, open to all the cultural currents of Mitteleuropa, not least, with Weiss, that of psychoanalysis. Florence and Trieste had extremely close ties with Zolli, who had completed his studies in Florence and was a rabbi in Trieste for twenty years.
But Italian Jewish culture was far from these broader cultural currents connected to the experience of German studies, and to the secular imprint made on these by the reformed Jewish movement.
Italian Jewish culture did not share this attention to the historical figure of Christianity, to the Jewish categories of its preaching, and to its Jewish roots in general. Its contours were more traditional and provincial, and at that historical moment linked Italian Judaism with Catholic exegetical studies, which were also fairly distant, except for a few figures more closely connected to modernism, sharing the historical-critical exegetical approach widespread in the rest of Europe.
In his volume, which collected writings previously published in the journal of Raffaele Pettazzoni, "Studi e materiali di storia delle religioni," and of the modernist Ernesto Buonaiuti, "Ricerche religiose," Zolli proceeded by using, in addition to the historical-critical method, the comparative analysis of religions.
In his conclusions, he departed significantly from both established Jewish exegesis and the dogmas of the Catholic Church. He strongly emphasized the resemblance between Jesus' preaching and Judaism, postulated an original drafting of the Gospels in Hebrew and Aramaic, denied that the term "nazarene" was derived from Nazareth – an argument used by those who supported the non-historicity of Jesus – and claimed that the Eucharist had come from an evolution of the Jewish Passover "seder."
Moreover, in the text there seemed to appear between the lines a recognition of the messianic character of Christ. This certainly would have been enough to provoke opposite reactions from Jews and Catholics. Nonetheless, these reactions didn't come. According to the editor of the book, Latorre, the Catholic world had no intention of drawing attention to a volume "so difficult to decipher and contextualize," at a moment when the modernist crisis had just recently reappeared, and the antisemitic climate was making it dangerous to discuss such sensitive topics.
So the Church preferred to remain silent about the volume, or almost silent (with the exception of the substantially positive reviews on the part of the Jesuits of "La Civiltà Cattolica"), declining even to use in an apologetical vein a text in which a famous rabbi seemed to be making a veiled reference to the messianic nature of Christ.
As for the lack of objections from the Jewish side, the historical context in which the book appeared, that of the racial laws of 1938, was not conducive to raising such delicate questions, especially in the crucial months between 1938 and 1939, in which some in the Church, like Fr. Agostino Gemelli, seemed to be hoping for a blending of racist doctrines and the Catholic Church.
On the other hand, the volume was greatly appreciated by the academic world in Italy and beyond. In November of 1938, Ernesto Buonaiuti wrote an enthusiastic review in "Ricerche Religiose."
Beyond the strictly exegetical questions, the volume presents many strictly historical issues for the consideration of today's reader, and prompts many questions about the life of Israel/Eugenio Zolli and about the nature of his conversion.
His conversion was certainly the result of a meditated decision, the result of a long and difficult journey, but it was also a conversion that required him to adjust his accents and emphases, yet didn't seem to change substantially the nature of his fundamental approach: a rigorously critical analysis of the biblical texts, which lifted him above any orthodoxy, and led him to accentuate the historical connections between rabbinical Judaism and Christianity, and to grasp in the figure of the Jewish Jesus the key to this complex moment of passage and transformation.
"Il Nazareno" belongs to the Jewish phase of Zolli's scholarly work, but the changes introduced by conversion into his later critical work are fairly few, and perhaps motivated only by reasons of obedience and prudence.
So it was between Jewish Wissenschaft and Christian modernism that the inseparably religious and scientific journey of Zolli's work unfolded.
A liminal figure whom the Jews, understandably hurt by his defection, did not understand, and whom the Church in the postwar period, at a time still light years away from Jewish-Christian openness, preferred to leave to the side.
"Il Nazareno" is the highest fruit of this being on the boundary, between the different orthodoxies.
Eugenio Zolli, "Il Nazareno. Studi di esegesi neotestamentaria alla luce dell'aramaico e del pensiero rabbinico", edited by Alberto Latorre, San Paolo, Milan, 2009, pp. 618, euro 42.00.
The newspaper of the Holy See, in which Anna Foa's review of the book by Zolli was published on February 20:
> L'Osservatore Romano
Qamar David was in prison since 2006. In the weeks after his arrest police failed to find any concrete evidence against him. Muslim co-defendant acquitted, for lack of evidence. Christian activists: verdict result of "influences and prejudices” and motivated by “ external pressures ".
Karachi (AsiaNews) - Qamar David, a Christian in the dock on charges of blasphemy, was sentenced to life imprisonment. The basis of the ruling, issued on Feb. 25, the fact that the man "hurt the religious feelings" of Muslims; however, the co-defendant was acquitted for lack of evidence. The police had arrested the man in 2006, although there was no evidence against him.
Additional District and Sessions Judge found Qamar David guilty of using blasphemous remarks about the Islamic Prophet and Quran and pronounced the verdict after hearing final arguments from both sides, daily Dawn reported yesterday.
According to the verdict, a SIM phone card was found in possession of the convict and the data produced by the cellular company established that messages were sent from the seized phone card, which they claim belonged to the Christian.
A contact close to the accused is of the opinion that the facts, evidence and law were in his favour. The evidence against him is said to be based on hearsay, and an accused Muslim in a parallel case was fully acquitted on the same facts. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source described the final judgement as “biased and prejudiced,” and believes that external pressure on the court may have played a part in distorting the outcome, a news release issued by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) states.
CSW is deeply concerned over news that a Pakistani Christian from Lahore was sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, the communiqué. The Christian man was arrested in May 2006 for allegedly spreading blasphemous messages through his cellphone. During that time both Mr David and his lawyer, Parvez Choudhry, were regularly subjected to assassination attempts and threats of violence from abusive mobs.
CSW’s National Director Stuart Windsor said: “This alarming verdict is yet further illustration of the urgent need for the government of Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy laws. The legislation continues to be abused for the satisfaction of personal vendettas against Pakistanis of all faiths. It is a dangerous tool in the hands of those seeking to persecute or discriminate against religious minorities.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.
Friday, February 26, 2010
(The Wall Street Journal) On a recent evening, about 60 people—ex-Episcopalians, curious Catholics and a smattering of earnest Episcopal priests in clerical collars—gathered downtown for an unusual liturgy: It was Evensong and Benediction, sung according to the Book of Divine Worship, an Anglican Use liturgical book still being prepared in Rome.
Beautiful evensongs are a signature of Protestant Episcopal worship. Benediction, which consists of hymns, canticles or litanies before the consecrated host on the altar, is a Catholic devotion. We were getting a blend of both at St. Mary Mother of God Church, lent for the occasion.
One former Episcopalian present confessed to having to choke back tears as the first plainsong strains of "Humbly I Adore Thee," the Anglican version of a hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas, floated down from the organ in the balcony. A convert to Catholicism, she could not believe she was sitting in a Catholic Church, hearing the words of her Anglican girlhood—and as part of an authorized, Roman Catholic liturgy.
And that was not the only miracle. Although the texts had been carefully vetted in Rome for theological points, the words being sung were written by Thomas Cranmer, King Henry VIII's architect of the English Reformation. "He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel," the congregation chanted, "as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever."
The language of this translation of the Magnificat, one of Christianity's two great evening canticles, is unfamiliar to many Episcopalians today, as it comes from earlier versions of their Book of Common Prayer. Yet a number of former Anglicans are eager to carry some of this liturgy with them when they swim the Tiber, as Episcopalians becoming Catholic often call the conversion. "I wonder why the phrase 'and there is no health in us' was omitted from the penitential rite" by the Vatican vetters of the newly approved rite for converts, one nostalgic ex-Episcopalian mused aloud. "Must be too Calvinist," suggested another.
Liturgies of this kind could become more common because of Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Constitution, called Anglicanorum coetibus (the name means "concerning groups of Anglicans"), which was published last November. It provides for former Anglicans to come into the Catholic Church as a group and retain certain of their traditions. For nearly three decades, the Catholic Church has let Episcopal clergymen who convert, even married men, become ordained as Catholic priests. They are every bit as much priests as other Catholic priests. A former Episcopal priest is not allowed to remarry if his wife dies.
But Anglicanorum coetibus changes the landscape by providing for the establishment of ordinariates, each almost like a diocese administered by its own bishop. There will be one such ordinariate in the U.S., and Episcopalians and parishes that come into the Catholic Church under this provision can be part of it. The ordinariate will facilitate Anglican Use for its member parishes. A former Anglican priest will head the ordinariate; he will become a bishop only if he is celibate.
The recent liturgical evening in Washington was arranged by Eric Wilson, a 24-year-old layman and former Episcopalian. "I believe the Anglican Use is a model for meaningful ecumenism—insisting on the fundamentals of faith while providing charity in other areas," he said.
The service was conducted by Father Eric Bergman, a Yale Divinity School-educated former Episcopal clergyman who was ordained a Catholic priest in 2007. Father Bergman stresses that this is not an overture to effete Episcopalians who are angry about changes in their church and want to sneak into the Catholic Church bringing nothing more than their pretty music. Being "angry about Gene Robinson," he says of the openly homosexual bishop of New Hampshire, isn't enough reason to become a Catholic. There must be a real conversion to the tenets of Catholicism.
Father Bergman says he began his journey to the Catholic Church by thinking about something that has taken many liberal Catholics out of the church: contraception. He regards Anglicanism's 1930 embrace of contraception as a mistake: "Out of that came a confusion about the roles of men and women, a theology of androgyny," he says.
Father Bergman and his wife, Kristina, have six children. They and more than 60 members of his Episcopal parish came into the Catholic Church in 2005. He is now chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society in Scranton, Pa., which seeks to establish Anglican Use parishes.
Naturally, many liberal Catholics are less than thrilled at the prospect of stodgy former Episcopalians importing traditional opinions along with their non-Catholic thou's and thy's. In a Nov. 23, 2009, story "Where Hype Meets Reality," the liberal National Catholic Reporter pooh-poohed the idea of large numbers of Anglicans coming in under the pope's new rules.
But Father Bergman not only predicts a mass movement toward Rome. He believes Anglican Use may mark the beginning of the end of the Reformation. There will be "a flourishing of this throughout the world," he says. "Wherever there are Anglicans, there will be people who want to enter Holy Mother Church." As he told a rapt audience at St. Mary's, "If we look at histories, heresies run themselves out after about 500 years. I believe we are seeing the last gasp of the Reformation in the mainline Protestant groups."
And so, I ask Father Bergman, how does he feel about a liturgy using the words of Cranmer, one of the Reformation's pivotal figures, in the Catholic Church? "A despicable fellow," he replies. Even so, he notes, the liturgy Cranmer created was built upon Catholic sources, and where elements were retained they now fit into the Catholic Church. Father Bergman doesn't quite say that it's "meet and right" to use those and many others of Cranmer's now-famous words. But it is clear that this is what he means.
Ms. Hays is the editor of In Character, published by the John Templeton Foundation.
The Carthusian monk leaves the cell daily only for three prayer services in the monastery chapel, including the community Mass, and occasionally for conferences with his superior. Additionally, once a week, the community members take a long walk in the countryside during which they may speak; on Sundays and feast-days a community meal is taken in silence. The Carthusians do not engage in work of a pastoral or missionary nature. Unlike most monasteries, they do not have retreatants and those who visit for a prolonged period are people who are contemplating entering the monastery. As far as possible, the monks have no contact with the outside world. Their contribution to the world is their life of prayer, which they undertake on behalf of the whole Church and the human race.
CUPERTINO, Calif.--The presence of one of the world's pre-eminent environmentalists at Apple's shareholder meeting Thursday was the subject of much of the morning's pointed discussion.
As expected, Apple's attitude on environmental and sustainability issues was one of the main concerns of the stockholders present Thursday, followed closely by the company's immense pile of cash. But early harsh comments about former Vice President Al Gore's record set the tone.
Gore was seated in the first row, along with his six fellow board members, in Apple's Town Hall auditorium as several stockholders took turns either bashing or praising his high-profile views on climate change.
At the first opportunity for audience participation just several minutes into the proceeding, a longtime and well-known Apple shareholder--some would say gadfly--who introduced himself as Sheldon, stood at the microphone and urged against Gore's re-election to the board. Gore "has become a laughingstock. The glaciers have not melted," Sheldon said, referring to Gore's views on global warming. "If his advice he gives to Apple is as faulty as his views on the environment then he doesn't need to be re-elected..."
Thursday, February 25, 2010
And it's causing a small sensation in Ireland:
An Irish cleric's congregation has increased tenfold in a week -- thanks to a quickie Mass.You can find more about it at the link.
Despite the controversies which have rocked the church in recent years and the resulting fall-off in attendances at church services, Fr Michael Kenny has been packing them in at his Kilconly parish in Co Galway.
The popular priest started his 15-minute Mass as nothing more than an experiment at the start of Lent, just over a week ago. And he attributes the speed of the service to foregoing a sermon -- and having the help of a Eucharistic minister for communion.
The regular morning Mass at 9am had been drawing an attendance of just three or four up to the start of his no-frills experiment.
Fr Kenny decided to bring the time back to 7.30am and guarantee he would keep parishioners no longer than a quarter of a hour.
Attendances at the small north Galway parish church have now soared to between 30 and 40, with Mass-goers walking out the door by 7.45am.
"The general view among parishioners is that the 9am Mass was totally unsuitable for people going to work.
"Now, more and more people are coming along to the Mass at 7.30am as they know they can be on their way to work or school 15 or 20 minutes later and it is far more suitable," said Fr Kenny.
Jay Leno made news when he announced that Sarah Palin will be among his high-profile guests when he returns to The Tonight Show next week (aka "The Jaysurrection"). Now David Letterman's lineup for next week pits Mitt Romney against Sarah Palin on Tuesday night -- and the ratings may well provide clues on which probable GOP presidential contender may be most popular. The week's lineup for Letterman's Late Show are: MONDAY, Bill Murray; TUESDAY, Mitt Romney; WEDNESDAY, Jerry Seinfeld and Tom Brokaw; THURSDAY, Tom Hanks; and FRIDAY, Matt Damon. Leno's first week of guests are: MONDAY, Jamie Foxx, Olympic Gold Medal Skier Lindsey Vonn; TUESDAY, Sarah Palin, Olympic Gold Medal Snowboarder Shaun White; WEDNESDAY, "Jaywalk All-Stars” with the Cast of MTV's Jersey Shore, Chelsea Handler, and the most decorated American Winter Olympian of all time Speed Skater Apolo Anton Ohno; THURSDAY, Matthew McConaughey and Jason Reitman; FRIDAY, Morgan Freeman and Meredith Vieira.
White House plans to axe NASA's return-to-the-Moon Constellation programme and ground the Space Shuttle have sparked unified opposition from Congress, which looks determined to preserve a full spectrum of US manned spaceflight activities.
A draft Congressional bill leaked to Flight International sets out the politicians' alternate plan. It involves possibly extending Shuttle life to 2015, running competitive commercial crew and cargo programmes and continuing development of Constellation's vehicles including a heavylift rocket designed to get astronauts to the Moon in the 2020s and then Mars.
In a heated hearing on Capitol Hill, President Obama's NASA administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut and Shuttle commander, had to defend his deputy Lori Beth Garver and the president's plan to shift NASA's focus from missions to capabilities under the fiscal year 2011 budget request.
In the 24 February hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee's science and space subcommittee one senator criticised Garver as the alleged author of the plan and budget, which the subcommittee's members described as ending all US human spaceflight efforts with its retirement of the Shuttle fleet this year and cancellation of the Constellation.
Referring to the space programme as bipartisan, subcommittee chairman senator Bill Nelson of Florida says of the opposition to the Obama plan: "I have never seen [Congress] as unified as we are now."
Much of the Congressional opposition to Obama's plan stems from estimates pegging direct job losses from cutting Constellation, Shuttle and other programmes at 30,000, including 7,000 at the Kennedy Space Center.
Bolden told the hearing that the Obama exploration goal was Mars, but during the early February budget roll-out he said that the plan's destinations would be decided by a "national conversation".
Muammar Gaddafi has appealed for jihad against Switzerland, long regarded as one of the most peaceful nations in the world.
The Libyan leader’s call for a holy war was, he said, a response to a Swiss referendum in November to ban the construction of minarets on mosques.
It is the low point in a relationship that has been deteriorating since 2008 when Colonel Gaddafi’s son Hannibal was briefly detained in Geneva after allegedly beating his servants.
“Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, is against (the Prophet) Muhammad, God and the Koran,” Colonel Gaddafi said at a rally broadcast on television...
After St. Ann’s Catholic Church was closed in 2004, Stacie LaBoissiere and her husband began looking for another spiritual home. But they ruled out joining another Catholic parish.
“My sister is a lesbian, married to a woman,” LaBoissiere explained. “I knew that I did not want to remain Catholic as a result of their views on homosexuality. I could not become a member of a church that would condemn my sister. If a church would not accept my sister, then they would not accept me.”
The couple joined Marlborough’s St. Stephen Lutheran Church, after its pastor Scott Howard reassured them that the church welcomed everyone....
#2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
#2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
#2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
- Lutheran Church widens its tent
- Gay brother makes Anne Hathaway quit Catholic Church for Episcopalianism
- Full Text of Catholic Catechism Regarding Homosexuality
(Powerline) The House Republican Conference Press Office has collected some reviews of the health care summit, from sources that are hardly in the Republican camp. These reviews find that the Republicans did quite well.
CNN's David Gergen:
The folks in the White House just must be kicking themselves right now. They thought that coming out of Baltimore when the President went in and was mesmerizing and commanding in front of the House Republicans that he could do that again here today. That would revive health care and would change the public opinion about their health care bill and they can go on to victory. Just the opposite has happened
CNN's Gloria Borger:
The Republicans have been very effective today. They really did come to play. They were very smart.
They took on the substance of a very complex issue. ... But they really stuck to the substance of this issue and tried to get to the heart of it and I think did a very good job.
They came in with a plan. They mapped it out.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer:
It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.
The Hill's A.B. Stoddard:
I think we need to start out by acknowledging Republicans brought their 'A Team.' They had doctors knowledgeable about the system, they brought substance to the table, and they, I thought, expressed interest in the reform. I thought in the lecture from Senator John McCain and on the issue of transparency, I thought today the Democrats were pretty much on their knees.
One of the problems for President Obama may have been that he had to take on all comers without much real help from his fellow Democrats. Obama is quite good at this sort of exchange, and seems to have shown it again today. But the Republicans kept throwing fresh and usually reasonably bright and/or attractive faces at him. The Democrats had to let Reid and Pelosi [UPDATE: and Joe Biden) speak, and neither is fresh, attractive, or especially bright.It also didn't help Obama that the Republicans have a good case on the merits.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The United States has unveiled plans for its new $1 billion high-security embassy in London — the most expensive it has ever built.
The proposals were met with relief from both the present embassy’s Mayfair neighbours and the residents and developers of the Battersea wasteland where the vast crystalline cube, surrounded by a moat, will be built...
Last Valentine's day, Feb 14, Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral offered married couples a chance to celebrate their spousal fidelity by renewing their vows to each other during Mass. Yet in order to do so, couples had to pass through an angry crowd of "gay rights" protestors who marched by the steps of the cathedral, accusing Church hierarchy of hatred toward gays and telling parishioners to "stop funding the bigots!"
Police refused to interrupt the demonstration, despite laws that prohibit protesting near places of worship while services are ongoing.Chicago lawyer Nora Doherty, who was present during the demonstration, recounted via Renew America's Matt Abbot how "one of the particularly angry protesters yelled at my three-year-old daughter, 'Little girl, I hope you grow up to be gay so that your mother will disown you and you can know how I feel!’”
When asked why he portrayed Satan—an androgynous, almost beautiful being played by Rosalinda Celentano—the way he did, Gibson replied: "I believe the Devil is real, but I don't believe he shows up too often with horns and smoke and a forked tail. The devil is smarter than that. Evil is alluring, attractive. It looks almost normal, almost good—but not quite.
"That's what I tried to do with the Devil in the film. The actor's face is symmetric, beautiful in a certain sense, but not completely. For example, we shaved her eyebrows. Then we shot her almost in slow motion so you don't see her blink—that's not normal. We dubbed in a man's voice in Gethsemane even though the actor is a woman … That's what evil is about, taking something that's good and twisting it a little bit."
But what about the ugly baby?
"Again," said Gibson, "it's evil distorting what's good. What is more tender and beautiful than a mother and a child? So the Devil takes that and distorts it just a little bit. Instead of a normal mother and child you have an androgynous figure holding a 40-year-old 'baby' with hair on his back. It is weird, it is shocking, it's almost too much—just like turning Jesus over to continue scourging him on his chest is shocking and almost too much, which is the exact moment when this appearance of the Devil and the baby takes place."
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
(Unpublished article of 1984)
Liberals have always said amusing things, but never so sidesplitting as they have done since they lost their knowledge of history. Monks were constantly among their targets, but now they attribute to them statements that only priests of magic-ridden pagan religions could have uttered. They consistently attacked the Inquisition, but their transformation of the Roman Law methods by means of which this worked into trials by ordeals more proper to German barbarians is nothing short of ludicrous. They have metamorphosized Augustines into pro-Nazis and proclaimed Hindu mystics to be mankind’s most fervent defenders of individuality. I have even heard environmentalists, justly angered at the rape of nature, condemn Catholicism for being the chief proponent of that scientific utopianism which for centuries was the most cherished child of its enlightened liberal opponents. The only rule operative in this state of confusion seems to be that whatever is currently recognized as being good is, de facto, assigned to non-Catholic sources; that whatever is presently attacked as being bad is written down as a product of the Church.
The four hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth provided liberal Roman Catholics yet another opportunity to join in this clouded ridicule of their Church and to misunderstand her history. It offered them another chance to betray the human race. How shameful, they cried, encouraged by those who love nothing better than a fight within the Christian ranks, that the Church repelled this great Reformation leader. How mindless of Rome, so brutally and sweepingly to have sealed his ideas with the most solemn marks of her disapproval. How joyful, they exulted, that fresh ecumenical winds had finally knocked down the fortress built to keep Luther out.
1984, the year following this outburst of remorse, may be the time to reflect upon just how ill-founded all such breast-beating really was. The Roman Church definitively repelled Luther and his followers all too slowly. She was often much too gentle and limited in her attack, even in Counter-Reformation days, not grasping how inhuman and universally hideous the consequences of their ideas really were. For a fortress knocked down by Protestantism is not just open to spiritual devastation; it is also one that is vulnerable to rack and ruin in every regard. The defeated defenders of this castle can nurture a bitter satisfaction in the fact that the conquering force ultimately tramples even its own goals underfoot. Indeed, Protestantism’s seed yields a totally barren harvest.
The best outline for demonstrating this thesis is provided by the words of my previous sentence themselves: “Protestantism”, “seed”, and “barren harvest”. An examination of each of these in turn will reveal the true horror of last year’s ecumenical agape. Hopefully, this article will be helpful in teaching Catholics that truly progressive men interested in the real benefit of mankind must forever band together to reject Protestantism and the barren seed that it sows.
It is essential to begin by insisting that I am not anathematizing Protestants as individuals. Men are always difficult quantities with whom to deal. Even Luther, with his vulgarity, obscenity, and pompous boasting, cannot be judged by us, or personally be charged with the developments that I will be cataloguing below. Historians cannot, ultimately, uncover the fullness of human motivation. Men are wont to lie, and, also, to misconstrue their own desires. Human beings are frequently irrational, and, hence, do not apply to their own lives the principles and corollaries of their most beloved theses. The original Protestants operated in a world formed by centuries of Catholic experience, and the power of custom, habit, and pure inertia is very strong, indeed. Like Litvinov, the Jewish Soviet Foreign Minister of the 1930’s, who crossed himself while boarding airplanes “because he was a Russian”, Luther himself contradicted the consequences of his own notions because he was in many ways still a Catholic. Jeremy Bentham is said to have blunted suggestions that utilitarian, democratic rule might give birth to atrocities with the comment: “Englishmen do not act that way”. Luther would have attributed my little shop of Protestant horrors to a vivid papist imagination. “Christians”, he might have said, “simply do not act that way”. He did not see the historical outcome of his concepts’ application, and, hence, could not imagine them (until his last, disgruntled apocalyptic days, that is to say. But this is another story, to be tackled in a future article).
Finally, let us remember that practically no one in our unhappy age knows anything at all. Catholics have generally not got the faintest clue as to the meaning of Catholicism; Protestants are no different. Present-day Protestants are as much unwilling victims of Luther’s ideas as we Catholics are. They cannot be attacked for supporting what they do not even understand. If ecumenism has been devised to appeal to the good faith of believing Protestants, to guide them lovingly back to the True Church, without rancor and accusation, then ecumenism is a good thing. When Christians are confused, then Rome must be loving and kind.
It is equally essential to point out that one must anathematize Protestantism. Protestantism as an idea stands on its own, unable to be manipulated arbitrarily, incapable of divided feelings and sentimental behavior. Protestantism as an idea is either friendly to Catholicism or not. It is not. It was bad in 1517 and it is worse today. When one meditates upon the foundations of Catholicism, he irons out the kinks and the seemingly dangerous aspects of its machinery. When one meditates upon the foundations of Protestantism, its inner logic makes it destroy Christianity and desolate the world. Ecumenism for the purpose of reconciling Protestantism with the Church is ecumenism with the demon. When Christians are obstinate, then Rome must be firm and authoritative.
What, exactly, is the “seed” of Protestantism? It is not the specific practices and preoccupations of given sects, most of which are either by-products of the basic seed of unimportant eccentricities. Rather, the crucial seed of Protestantism is the doctrine of total depravity. Luther’s conviction that human beings are completely corrupted and incapable of pleasing God after Original Sin is the centerpiece of his entire theological edifice. It is only because of his insistence that men can never be purified, either in this world or the next, that the concept of justification by faith alone becomes necessary. If men cannot please God, through good works, the sacraments, and sanctifying grace, then their only hope lies in complete abandonment to His will. It is only due to the total depravity doctrine that Scripture becomes the sole possible teacher of Christians. After all, the Church could be shown to have definitively opposed this doctrine throughout her history, while the Bible, freed from Rome’s interpretation, might (with a bit of irrational force) be construed to support Lutheran concepts.
Anyone interested in the seed doctrine of Protestantism finds that Luther is ultimately not the man to explain it. Luther, in the final analysis, was a radical with many conservative kinks to him. He had, intellectually at leas, a split personality, and does not appear to have been terribly logical. One has the clear impression that he stumbled onto only a few of the consequences of his thought, and these gradually and almost against his will. He seems to have accepted rather than embraced them, if such a distinction can be made. Moreover, his early dependence upon political support for survival quickly limited the development and prestige of Lutheran, or, as it is officially called, Evangelical Christianity.
The real sculptor of the total depravity doctrine is Jean Calvin, founder of Reformed Christianity. Frenchman, lawyer, writer, and zealot, Calvin squeezed from the concept almost everything that a man could eek from it while still believing in Christ. Calvin also saw the dangers of the Lutheran political situation, and determined that Reformed Christianity would, if anything, subject the state to religious controls. His prestige thus rose among independent-minded men, and Reformed Christianity became the form of Protestantism that penetrated Europe. Litvinov, when told in Depression New York that snow plows had been abandoned in favor of shovels in order to provide more men with work, asked why spoons were not used to insure total employment. Protestants, in a sense, asked the same thing. Why ought they to take the Lutheran hors d’oeuvre when they could have the Calvinist entrée? He who would know the doctrine of total depravity must look to Calvin.
The most important thing to realize about the Protestant seed is that it yields a barren harvest. Protestants thought that the concept of the Creation as a mirror of God robbed the Divinity of His uniqueness and majesty. So did the idea that men were the wounded lords of Creation who, with God’s help, might someday be washed as white as snow. The doctrine of total depravity, which humbled the whole of Creation, and men along with it, did so for the purpose of emphasizing the glory of God. It succeeded in accomplishing the opposite. It began by insisting upon a view of the universe so dreary as to make men flee from the harsh God who allowed it as though He were the demon. Instead of magnifying the glory of God, it ended in His rejection. Secondly, the doctrine of total depravity causes those who are formed by it, yet flee from it, to leap back into a rule-less Creation. There exists no way to navigate a course through the Protestant Creation, no path avoiding the bad and leading to the good. All is wicked. True, there are those who take the opportunity to flee from the Protestant God to embrace a universe which they wish to be as perfect as they once thought it to be depraved. Nevertheless, the tendency of secularized Protestantism is to leave men rule-less and ultimately in despair. Ignaz von Döllinger, the nineteenth century German Church historian who later broke with Rome, irritated many followers of the Reform by demonstrating how the doctrines of contemporary Protestant preachers ran totally contrary to the immediate desires of Luther and Calvin. One could go further. The Reformation is in and of itself a principle of contradiction. It destroys man and it destroys God.
This theme may be developed with reference to a body-spirit analogy. Creation, for the sake of my argument, may, somewhat inaccurately be referred to as the “body” of existence, and God as its “spirit”. The doctrine of total depravity has sought to humiliate the body, or Creation, for the glorification of the spirit, or God. It has done this in a four-fold fashion. The results of its efforts has been the abandonment of the spirit, the body’s declaration of independence from God, and Creation’s collapse into rulelessness. It is essential to examine each aspect of this four-fold humiliation in turn.
One might note, to begin with, that the doctrine of total depravity killed the “rhythm” of the body. Christ asked men to use their eyes and their ears to see and to hear. Catholicism did this, and realized that the human body followed certain rhythms. One of these rhythms was that of fasting and feasting. Most civilizations have recognized that men need to fast and to feast in order to answer a two-sided aspect of their character. Needless to say, man’s animal nature does tend to pull him towards a desire to sit down to an eternal banquet, but, when he does so, he pays a psychic price that even natural human wisdom has abundantly catalogued. Pagans understood the value of self-sacrifice. Christ demonstrated that renunciation, built upon His abandonment to the Cross, was the pathway to heaven. Catholicism has, therefore, noted in the fast not merely a kind of biological necessity, but an instrument predisposing man to be receptive to, accept, and merit sanctifying grace. Lent, and other periods of fast and abstinence, are naturally good for man, and supernaturally still more beneficial.
At the same time, however, life with God is not a fast. It is a heavenly banquet. Christians ought to recognize the joy and glory of living in the presence of the Divine Majesty. The feast day, marked at its mid-point by food and drink, song, dance, and general merriment, is necessary as a most-fit means of emphasizing man’s future reward. A feast answers man’s longing for joyous abandonment, and prefigures the abundant love of God for His children. Carnival may be a somewhat raucous beginning to the Lenten season. The Easter merriment, however, is a perfectly suitable conclusion.
Protestantism’s seed doctrine of total depravity attacked this rhythm. It could not see that anything in the human character might give direction to the Christian seeking God. Calvinist Protestantism emphasized the need for a king of permanent fast, not as a means of preparation for sanctifying grace, but because feasting made men believe that the world could provide some pathway to or foretaste of joy. A life of permanent fasting is not, however, a human life. Its dreariness caused men to flee from the Protestant God in horror. When they did, they discovered themselves in a universe which was thought by their ancestors to be depraved, and, thus, had been left ruleless. Imitating Luther himself, who tended towards gluttony, they were logically led to the table d’hôte. They behaved in its presence like performers in La grande bouffe. They had no measure for their indulgence. They engaged in a permanent feast. But the permanent feast obscures man’s understanding even of his natural need to fast. It does so at least until such time as the misery of endless consumption ruins all his happiness. One can ignore the legitimate promptings of the body only at the risk of enormous discontent.
A second way in which the total depravity doctrine works to kill the body, or Creation, is by striking at what may loosely be called its “fuel”. This “fuel” comes in two forms, that of thought and that of love.
Catholicism understood that human reason, like every other aspect of man’s character, was good, though flawed and limited. It could not help but encourage the work of philosophers and theologians, even while recognizing that they would often err. One could compensate for such error, it argued, by submission to the guidance of the Church on matters of faith and morals.
Protestantism, in the total depravity doctrine, disdained reason along with the rest of Creation. It was frightened by the endless wrangling over philosophical issues that seemed to accompany admission of the value of the human mind, and felt it to be dangerous to a secure faith. It gradually recognized that a preoccupation with dogmatic theology was also harmful, in that it underlined the innumerable disagreements over specifics entertained by the legion of Protestant denominations. Protestantism, therefore, degenerated into a mindless form of Christianity. At best, it exhausted itself in pious practices, moralizing, and social work, as though one could long remain in agreement even about their proper character without the active involvement and adhesion of the human mind. At worst, it became an insane religion, whose liturgy encompassed bodily writhings and senseless howling. In either case, the men of thought were shown that they had nothing, really, to tell it.
Those who did think were left with several choices before them. They could pursue their work calmly without reference to religion, being Christians with their left hand and intellectuals with their right. They could themselves reduce thinking to purely utilitarian limits, as though philosophy or theology were primarily practical, in a materialistic sense. Or they could, like those horrified by the permanent fast, flee in horror from the Protestant God. Those that did lose their faith found that they were left with no means whatsoever of rising above the “practical” realm. Faith gone, their reason could not help them. The world of thought for which they abandoned their God was God-forsaken. Again, it was so depraved that it had had no rules given to it. Rules would have meant that reason was itself salvageable. Left on their own, secularized Protestants were like children with too many toys on Christmas morning. They were allowed to play carelessly with their minds. Nothing—not balance, not harmony, nor Aristotelian logic—could really bind them. The intelligent man’s adhesion to Protestantism tended to cause him either to assume that his thought should return some kind of cash benefit, or to visit the way station of pride on the road to complete irrationality and true despair.
The doctrine of total depravity also destroyed the fuel of love. It taught, first of all, that man was forever unlovable. Hence, man’s love could never touch God, who arbitrarily chose who would live with Him forever. God’s Law, according to this doctrine, must be obeyed simply because it was God’s Law. It was not carried out because obeying it could ever please God in and of itself, and thus lead man to salvation, even with Christ’s sacrifice as its backdrop. Moreover, human love was ultimately reducible by it to a purely material phenomenon, which could never take the form of a sacrament. Even the least radical form of true Protestantism understood that marriage could not be anything other than a contract.
Catholic-dominated nations tend to presume that law and love must correspond. Even though such societies may, at times, appear to be burdened down by a superabundance of laws, these proscriptions are disobeyed en masse when the law-love equation is not present. Protestant-influenced nations, in contrast, develop an odd form of legalism that often will not bend to the needs of human beings and to human love. Even though such societies may, at times, appear to be less regulated by law, their reaction to regulations can be rigid and exceptionless.
Two stories may be useful in illustrating my point here. Alice von Hildebrand once told me of traveling on a bus in Italy with her husband. There was a sign in the front of the bus prohibiting smoking. An Italian gentleman sat next to her enjoying a cigar. When Dietrich von Hildebrand pointed to the sign, the man simply shrugged and announced that he paid his taxes. When told, however, that Mrs. Von Hildebrand was physically troubled by smoke, he quickly extinguished his cigar, announcing that that, after all, was a different story.
The second vignette comes from German literature, from a tale entitled Hans und Heinz Kirch. This is set in a northern German town of the nineteenth century. Heinz and his father Hans quarrel on the eve of the young man’s departure on an extended merchant sea voyage. Hans refuses to pay the postage due on his son’s first, long-delayed letter home. The disbelieving postman is accosted by Heinz’s sweetheart, whom everyone knows. She begs to pay for the letter, read it, and return it. The postman sighs, and says that even the postmaster (even the postmaster!!) cannot allow this. The girl, sadly but submissively, files away without further scene. Like the Prussians whom I met who were resigned to leaving train windows shut in 95 degree heat because the regulations insisted upon it, the bending of the law to love is understood by her not to be a truly viable possibility.
The loving man soon joined the thinking man and the man who appreciated the rhythm of his body in fleeing in horror from the God responsible for this sort of outlook. When he did so, however, he found himself in the ruleless universe left by the total depravity doctrine. Love lay outside the divine scope of things, and love had no rules when God was abandoned. Hence, men could logically behave in the manner justified by a Protestant friend of mine after he discovered women. This man had been literally disgusted by the most innocent displays of adolescent flirtation in his early youth. When women became a reality to him, however, things changed drastically. I asked him if he intended to marry. He looked at me as though I were a lunatic, and explained that the only thing that interested him was sex. This, of course, was nothing unusual. His views became interesting when I began to question him about his outlook towards sexual morality as a whole. He said that there was none. “Sex”, he claimed, “ought to be left in the gutter where it belongs”. Those who insist that there is no means of purification in life always tend either toward revulsion to love or ruleless indulgence in lovemaking. Once more, there is no real method of forging a pathway away from the bad and towards the good. Life must be all one or the other.
A third consequence of the doctrine of total depravity involves the stripping away of the body’s adornment. Human beings are constructed in such a way as to pull them down into the mud or raise them up to the heavens if they “dress down” or “dress up”. When beauty surrounds them, they assert the glory of God and the magnificence of their own destiny. When cheapness, tawdriness, and vulgarity surround them, they adjust their understanding of the meaning of existence accordingly.
Catholicism recognizes that the outward forms of Creation are meant to shout sursum corda and raise man’s heart to God. It understands that it can somehow find the best in food, drink, dress, music, art, and architecture to lift man out of the drabness of a day-to-day reality that might otherwise exaggeratedly depress him. This it does in manifold forms. It finds whatever is good in the simple as well as in the grand, the small as well as in the massive, the subdued as well as the explosive, and raises the heart to God in different ways. Counter Reformation, Baroque civilization, guided by the Jesuits and directed by their devotion to the greater glory of God, lay particular stress on the grandeur to be found in the Creation. It did this to answer the Protestant disdain for the universe. Hence, it filled everything from dress to architecture with vibrancy, color, gold, and majestic beauty. Who could not think of the glory of God and of the possibility of Heaven when in a Baroque Church in the Baroque sections of Rome?
Total depravity denied the possibility of this sursum corda. Again, nothing on the wicked earth was seen to be capable of leading men to God. Many Protestants, acting on this principle, tried to steal from men all the finery in food, drink, dress, art, and other realms that sought to embellish Creation. They stripped the environment of everything that could raise the mind to God. The result was not to glorify God by depriving the world of all that could compete with Him, but to cause His abandonment by depriving the world of all that reflected His beauty.
Some men influenced by the doctrine of total depravity understood that they were being swindled. Nevertheless, when they set about trying to redress their grievances, they did so in an unfortunate manner. A friend tells the story of a boy whose teacher takes him for an outing into town. When the boy questions the teacher about an innocent, attractive young girl that he sees, he is told that she, and everything that she represents, is “the devil”. The boys at school ask him of his trip to town when he returns. He explains that the nicest thing that he saw therein was “the devil”. Thus, if he is attracted to her, he must abandon God for the demon.
A similar fate awaited the unhappy victim of the total depravity doctrine. He saw a Creation left to be enjoyed by the servants of the demon. He understood the world of beauty to be their domain. Therefore, when attracted to the cultivation of beauty, he noted no choice but that of joining their ranks. Once he began to adorn the body of existence, he felt that he was inevitably working against God. He had become God-forsaken, and was no longer bound by any rules. All sense of proportion, propriety, objective value, and reason in general were tossed out of the window. The doctrine of total depravity either leaves the body in a vulgar state due to barrenness, or in a vulgar state due to lack of all classicity and because of atomistic insanity. Man loses in either way. He is dragged down to wallow in the mud.
The fourth and final fashion in which the doctrine of total depravity played havoc with the body was by attacking its structure as such. Catholicism taught men that they were part of a community, the Mystical Body of Christ, guided by the Savior through the Church authorities, and made capable of aiding one another in their path to God. Community and authority were shown to be absolutely essential to man’s happiness and end. This Mystical Body was seen to be alive, death in Christ only strengthening a member’s ability to act efficaciously within it. Its Cult of the Saints encouraged daily contact with the Immortals, and ensured a constant recognition of the existence of the supernatural. The world beyond was made a palpable reality in the world here and now. All legitimate communities and authorities were told that they, too, in their own fashion, could aid in the perfection of their individual members. They gave flesh to their goals and the virtues required to achieve them in the same palpable way that the Church gave flesh to the Christian message and the Christian way of life.
The immediate effect of the Protestant teaching was to reveal to men their existence as individual atoms, as slaves of an arbitrary God, as creatures incapable of helping one another to reach Heaven. Christianity thus became a purely personal phenomenon. Communities and authorities like the Church and its Bishops were, after all, no less depraved than man was himself. They could not temper an evil which they helped to encourage. “Atomistic” Christianity became a bookish religion, a phenomenon that lost its vibrancy on the date that the last scriptural passage was written. Protestant Christianity, reduced to this lifeless state, ceased to be a sociological force of great importance. Human beings need to see things in flesh and blood, and if they cannot observe a visible Church, with visible prefigurations of an invisible world, then Christianity is not taken seriously by them. Protestantism could not be seen, and it duly sunk to secondary importance in the western religious scheme of things.
Alas! Secularized Protestants, wounded by the doctrine of total depravity, found themselves applying the same atomistic principles that had been used to destroy the Church to all authorities and communities around them. If the Church were pretentious in its claims to aid and perfect the individual, so were the guilds, the universities, cities, states, nations, and families. All such bodies had to be subjected to individual whim, or even destroyed, in order that the person might face existence alone, as he was meant to do. Since men cannot face existence alone, however, and since they positively require communities and authorities to embody morality and human ends, the results of this general dismantling of the western communal structure has been utterly horrendous. Principles of economic justice, cooperation, learning, neighborliness, patriotism, and parental respect have disappeared along with the institutions that gave them flesh. Men without bodies are not men. Human society without communal bodies is not human society. Atomized, secularized Protestant society is, indeed, the abomination of desolation.
Unfortunately, one need not look too far to discover some of the possible consequences of the doctrine of total depravity. The United States is a major example of a country subject to its influence. Our nation is the only crucial western nation that has not gone through an orthodox Christian stage in its development. Protestantism was its religious guide, and Calvinistic Puritanism particularly powerful in its formation. Hence, many aspects of American life reflect the four-fold killing of the body, flight from a harsh God, and plunging into a ruleless Creation that I have noted above.
Demonstrations of this truth can be found all around us. The United States has witnessed the impressive effort to enforce a permanent form of public fasting in the shape of Blue Laws, Prohibition, and similar phenomena. Revulsion by such actions helped to cause a mass exodus from God among Puritan-influenced men and in the Puritan-influenced system of higher education in our country. Rejection of permanent fasting has left us not with a balanced, Catholic view, but with a glorification of permanent consumption, of permanent feasting. A visit to a shopping mall or to urban areas of popular entertainment lead one to the conclusion that we are living a Mardi Gras with no Lent to follow. When this happens, there can be no real enjoyment, because the body’s true rhythm is still ignored. The false gaiety of much contemporary American life is symbolized by the drink once served to a friend of mine. It was not a wine, whose taste might please both God and man. Rather, it was a country stump juice, tasteless, colorless, and odorless, one sip of which sent him flying to the moon. From total abstinence, we have proceeded to total indulgence, without knowing even a minor interval of innocent pleasure.
Similarly, Protestant disdain for true thought has been instrumental in making our country one of the most “practical-minded” on the globe. Serious speculation is often dismissed here as entertaining at best, and insane at worst. Serious issues are frequently addressed by formulae as shallow and simple as advertising slogans. In contrast, practical matters, like dealing in real estate, are transformed into sciences rewarded by degrees. This has had three consequences for thinking men. Some have become Catholics and rediscovered the spiritual life. Many have fled the country to seek comfort elsewhere. Most have adopted the ruleless atomistic thought of secularized Protestantism, felt guilty as a result, and justified their philosophizing with reference to deep and exotic psychic needs.
Love has also suffered its tortures in our land. It is not at all difficult to understand why pornography and perversity are now respectable features of American life. How could a secularized Puritan culture rediscover the sacramental quality of something which it had so long shunned as depraved? Once God’s Law disappeared as a restraint, this civilization had nothing left to hold it back. Ironically, one can now buy any debased form of literature in New York City twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year, while a bottle of wine cannot be sold in stores on Sundays. The pleasure which is always bad is always permitted. The pleasure which can always be used in a proper fashion is not.
And what of the adornment of the body? The United States has constantly had a tradition of denigrating the elaborate as effeminate, and has divinized a drab conformism in dress, music, architecture, art, food and drink. Interestingly enough, as a French visitor once pointed out to me, the only time that many Americans do dress up is when they go to work, as though this were the only sacred liturgy of a practical, consuming population. Again, when the harshness of life developed from such a view became intolerable to those who detested the commonplace, the reaction was as bad as the disease. Functionalism was replaced by the ruleless behavior of psychotic atoms. The adoration of formica and plastic gave way to the adulation of formless sculptures, traditionless trends and atonal music.
Finally, where has there not been a clamor in the United States against substantive authority and community? Where have we not seen demands for a democratization of all institutions, and an abolition of their powers of coercion, both physical and moral? The glory of the atomistic individual is sung by our most important poets, justified by our most famous philosophers, and made inevitable by our obsession with economic growth. We have been punished by an inhuman way of life in our arid suburban shopping malls, on our freeways to nowhere, and in the trendy, childless, apartment houses of our cities.
Catholicism can be said to view the universe as an Unfinished Symphony. It calls an orchestra together under the vaulted hall of the heavens, and explains to the musicians that a composer has given them parts of a magnificent piece that he has prepared, in order to test their ability to play it. It notes that the entire symphony will be given to them only after successful performance of the first movement. The musicians work hard, though some do fall by the wayside. They begin to polish their instruments, put on their finest clothing, and walk with confidence and quiet pride as they realize the quality of the music with which they are dealing. They await the day that they will be given the rest of the piece with humility and with joy. They know that they can finish the Unfinished Symphony.
Protestantism never permits this completion of the symphony. It never permits its completion because it never permits its beginning. The musicians who arrive to audition for it are told that there has been a dreadful misunderstanding. They are assured that the music of the spheres can never be played by men. A disappointment overtakes them, they file out of the hall, and the heavens fall silent forever.
Giles Whittell, Washington
That iconic symbol of all things American, the hot dog, needs a safety makeover, doctors said yesterday. The fast-food favourite was singled out in an academic journal for causing nearly one in five food-related choking deaths among young children...
How it might be made safer was left unclear by the journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics, but its call in a policy statement posted on its website was unequivocal: “Food manufacturers should design new foods, and redesign existing foods, including meat products, to avoid shapes, sizes, texture and other characteristics that increase choking risk to children...”
Monday, February 22, 2010
An Appeal for Objectivity
A response by Prof. Manfred Hauke to Thomas Müller's critique of his interview on Medjugorje
"For years there has been a contentious debate about the so-called "Marian apparitions" of the seers who originated from Medjugorje. The current official position of the Church is still the 1991 declaration of the Yugoslav Bishops Conference, which emphasizes: "non constat de supernaturalitate", i.e. it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelation. The local Bishop Ratko Perić goes beyond this affirmation and has emphasized his conviction, according to which it has been established that the pertinent phenomena are not of supernatural origin. Among Catholic Christians, it should be possible to discuss the questions connected with this matter objectively. My interview in the Tagespost, which has been propagated in various languages since then, was a contribution to this very necessary discussion. If it should happen that I have, in the process, repeated any false information, I am ready and willing to correct these errors. Thus far I do not see any reason for corrections.In any case, I am shocked over the unobjective reactions of certain followers of the Medjugorje movement, who ascribe bad intentions and "lies" to me. To "lie" means to consciously state a falsehood. In my scholarly career of nearly thirty years now I have fought out many battles and have had to bear many criticisms, for example the polemics of a "woman priest" ordained somewhere on the Danube between Linz and Passau, in the magazine Publik-Forum. But even in these circles no one has ascribed a "lie" to me so far, or a presumption "that the end justifies the means". Such reactions are character assassination. Among these, sadly, is the contribution of Deacon Thomas Müller, which appeared in kath.net (18 Feb.).."
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
A Marshall County Attorney in the midst of prosecuting an attempted murder case was asked by the court Wednesday to remove a smudge of ash from his forehead, a Catholic custom done in conjunction with the beginning of Lent.
Conservative writer Ken Black of the Marshalltown Times-Republican reports that Paul Crawford, an assistant county attorney, returned to the courtroom following a lunch break with the ash on his forehead. Catholics place the mark, which is often done in the shape of a cross, on their foreheads as a sign of repentance. The ash itself is often a by-product of the burning of palm crosses from the previous year, mixed lightly with holy water and sacred oils. Many recipients of the mark will wear it until it naturally wears off.
Prior to the jury returning, an attorney for the defense objected to the marking, and indicated that it could influence the jury in the case.
Judge Michael Moon agreed and requested the Crawford remove the smudge before the case proceeded. The attorney did so and the case moved forward without further discussion or incident.