Monday, January 31, 2011

"Leftist deeply and rigidly moralistic"

Mark Shea, citing Pope Benedict XVI, offers an interesting diagnosis of some of the ills of our age.  Excerpts follow:
Leftist deeply and rigidly moralistic.  As Benedict XVI points out:
In the modern era, the idea of the Last Judgement has faded into the background: Christian faith has been individualized and primarily oriented towards the salvation of the believer’s own soul, while reflection on world history is largely dominated by the idea of progress. The fundamental content of awaiting a final Judgement, however, has not disappeared: it has simply taken on a totally different form. The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is—in its origins and aims—a type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God. It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested. Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. If in the face of this world’s suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope...
So the problem is not a lack of morality per se, but a lack of transcendent hope.  For the Leftist secularist, we are alone and lost in the cosmos, making it up as we go along, till we die and rot.  That *can* result in nihlism, but it can also result in an iron stoicism and a totalitarian certitude that murders millions in the name of a Hitchenesque moralism and its attendant pride.  When not armed with the power to slaughter its enemies, it can create highly readable (and shaming) diatribes about the superior morality of the atheists vs. the disgusting crimes of pervert Christians etc.  Nothing satisfies human pride like being able to point to the failures and hypocrisies of the believer.  But give a Hitchensesque atheist the power to impose his moral vision on men and, as the 20th century shows, millions will be killed.

On the Restoration of Catholic Culture

which takes priority over apologetics, because is the ground and wellspring for the sorts of thinkers and thoughts which can then defend the faith.  In other words, culture incarnates the faith in such a form as to make it worth living.  Someone with a good mother is more apt to be able to defend motherhood.  David Mills explains.  Excerpts follow:
...In the culture of the past few decades, because the catechesis has been so bad, “Catholics have been forced to turn to apologetic resources, staffed disproportionately by converts.” These do very good work, but usually “fail to pass on the cultural foundations on which the intellect builds.” They never mention holy cards, for one thing.

The problems comes for Catholics “when the apologetics subculture becomes a substitute for an authentic Catholic culture.”
Knowing one's faith and explaining it is very important, but just as important is the preservation and passing along of our Catholic culture, and in that department we are in dire straits, up to and including very educated and apologetically-minded Catholics. There are legitimate reasons why this happens, not all of them bad, and the intentions are benign. However, it is a problem, and it unquestionably erodes our identity as Catholics.
This analysis applies, I should say, to almost any Christian body or tradition. Just look at how many young Evangelicals leave Evangelicalism or Christianity entirely....

Culture precedes apologetics—or maybe it would be more accurate to say apologetics only matters for the believer when it leads him to a greater comfort with or confidence in the culture that has formed and continues to form him, freeing him from doubts so that the culture can mold him more deeply. (Critical reflection on that culture and argument is the job of theology, and theology may, of course, suggest doubts. It’s complicated, as they say in movies.)

Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees might apply to many of us, cut rate Gnostics that we are, who assume—partly, perhaps, because we like to argue and think we’re good at it—that knowledge and particularly success in argument is the essence of the Faith. We could easily be found praying “Lord, I thank you that I am not like that poor guy over there with his holy cards, who wouldn’t know what to say to Richard Dawkins,” when he is having a lively and intimate conversation with Our Lord, His Mother, and several saints with whom we are not yet on speaking terms.

Pride goes before a fall, as Proverbs notes. Accepting an argument is not conviction, even when you think the argument final and conclusive. You may change your life or your life may be changed and suddenly the argument doesn’t seem so final and conclusive any more...
But a culture, a culture has more power to hold you, to restrain you, to make you see and feel the real costs of moral decisions, since they may tear you away from the world you know and love. It presents you with something you want, which is something you can lose. (This argues for much better church discipline than any church now offers.) In that, culture works apologetically. It makes an argument for the Faith, if the argument is only, “This is a life worth living, and you know that because you have lived it.”

There is much more to be said for the necessity of a specifically Catholic (or Baptist, or Presbyterian, or Methodist) culture. But to put it simply, the Church, and therefore the world, would be better off if more Catholics had holy cards and knew what to do with them, even if that meant they didn't know the arguments quite as well.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Life Imitates Art

From the Telegraph, we read this piece. Excerpts:
One bishop has claimed that the Vatican's invitation has "embarrassed" Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, while a leading cleric compared it to a "corporate takeover bid".

Another bishop admitted that relations between the two Churches had been damaged by the move.

It is the first time that prominent Anglicans have criticised the Pope's offer since it was made in 2009 and reveals the anger that has been simmering ever since.

Their comments follow the ordination of three former Anglican bishops as Roman Catholic priests last Saturday and risk exacerbating tensions between the two Churches...
All of which would appear to be nothing more nor less than proof--aye, strong, positive proof!--that the good Lord has bestowed upon the classic comics Fry and Laurie the power of true prophesy! Proof, I tell you! Proof, I say! For, behold!
"Merger with RomeCorp? I hadn't heard anything about that..."

Moms and Moms

According to Danielle Bean. Excerpts:
...The media's notion of the "Mommy Wars," where briefcase-wielding career women face off against stroller-pushing homemakers, is largely a fabricated stereotype. Some mothers work because they want to. Some mothers work because they have to. Especially in tough economic times, though, intact families will find all kinds of creative and cooperative ways to get the bills paid without sacrificing their children's needs for hands-on parenting.

Are we working moms? Are we at-home moms? Or are we an unlabeled something in between?

I suppose that I am a working mom. Those words look odd to me on the page and feel foreign on my tongue, but they are true. I never in my lifetime planned to be a "working mom," and yet here I am . . . with a husband, eight kids, and a job that provides income my family depends upon.

I happen to be one of the lucky ones. I have a supportive husband, I enjoy what I do, and I am able to work almost exclusively from home. But still my work costs me something. It costs my family something, too...

Witches' Perspectives on "The Rite", Exorcism

Interesting--a witch's interview with an exorcist, the same priest whose experience is recounted in The Rite. I'm not sure what to excerpt--you kind of have to read the whole thing. It's definitely something of a collision of cultures, at the very least.

And here's another pagan's perspective on the interview.  Excerpts:
...The whole interview is a treasure trove. A rare chance for a Pagan to directly question a Catholic exorcist. As readers of my blog may know, I’ve been keeping track of the recent revival of interest in the rite of exorcism within the Catholic Church, and its undertones of spiritual warfare against non-Christian (specifically Pagan) faiths. Specifically chilling is that Father Thomas, and by extension I would hazard to guess other Catholic exorcists, still believes in Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA)...

This interview is essential reading, and I urge everyone to head over there. Kudos to Peg Aloi for not only landing this interview, but for asking the tough questions I’m sure many Pagans have wanted to ask this new generation of exorcists. For more on Father Thomas, do check out this profile in The Catholic Spirit where he outright says that dabbling in witchcraft “immediately disqualifies” you to run for public office. This movie, and its resulting publicity, may be a hidden gift to our community, as it is illuminating a very secretive subculture about their motives and world view...
(h/t The Anchoress)

A side note--the blogger at The Witching Hour dismisses the concept of Satanic ritual abuse out of hand.  I have a friend whose family had occasion to learn otherwise, and a family member whose mental health work brought them to a conference put on by local law enforcement on some of the things they were finding in the woods, on the real problem this posed, and the people harmed by this.

In short--though the average pagan may find such things as distasteful as Catholics find the sexual abuse some priests have been guilty of and the avoidance of responsibility on the part of some bishops, I hope they will not flatly deny the existence of such groups, or deny that certain foul behaviors are the logical consequence of worshiping the adversary.

To find out more on the Church's position on the New Age, see Jesus Christ: The Bearer of the Water of Life--A Christian Reflection on the "New Age".  To find out more of the Church's teaching on the demonic, see Christian Faith and Demonology.

Early Christianity

Mark Shea offers a review of Jimmy Akin's latest.  Excerpt follows:
Long one of the coolest features of This Rock, Jimmy Akin puts together a very handy book which introduces a modern reader to the greatly neglected world of the patristic writers and helps us to get a real feel for what early Christianity looked like (hint: Catholics and Orthodox will not be surprised at what they find there) and how the Church that emerged from the apostolic period thought about life, the universe, and everything.

If you want to have a much better grasp of Scripture by reading it in the context of the language, culture, and worldview of the people who were vastly closer in outlook to the apostles than any modern can hope to be, check out The Fathers Know Best.
For multimedia supplements to the book, check out the dedicated blog for the book.

The Meaning of Life, The Universe, and Everything

by Pope John Paul II:
...And everything else will then turn out to be unimportant and inessential except this: father, child, and love.  And then, looking at the simplest things, we will all say, Could we have not learned this long ago? Has this not always been embedded in everything that is?

On The Muslim Brotherhood

One recurring player in the drama in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood. CNN has an overview. Excerpts follow:
The Muslim Brotherhood is a religious and political group founded on the belief that Islam is not simply a religion, but a way of life. It advocates a move away from secularism, and a return to the rules of the Quran as a basis for healthy families, communities, and states.
In short--they advocate Sharia law as the governing code of a state. They are, therefore, not pro-freedom of religion. A state under their control is a theocracy.
The movement officially rejects the use of violent means to secure its goals. However, offshoots of the group have been linked to attacks in the past, and critics blame the Brotherhood for sparking troubles elsewhere in the Middle East. Many consider it the forerunner of modern militant Islamism...
Offshoots of the Brotherhood include Al Qaeda, as Lawrence Wright recounts in The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been part of the political scene in Egypt for more than 80 years. It was formed there by Hassan al-Banna in 1928.

Teacher Al-Banna and his followers were initially united by a desire to oust the British from control in Egypt, and to rid their country of what they saw as "corrupting" Western influences...
They don't merely originate in Egypt.  They have affiliates and connected groups all over the globe, as discussed in The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West.
...Sayyid Qutb, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s, developed the doctrine of jihad, and the radical group Hamas is believed to be an offshoot of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood.
The historical illiteracy of the statement "Qutb...developed the doctrine of jihad" is staggering. Astounding. As just a few counter examples, I point you to the jihad waged against the 1700s, as well as The Legacy of Jihad.  And no, jihad did not begin as a response to Christian crusaders.  Further, the Muslim Brotherhood is no friend of America.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Power and Problem of Occultism

Laid out by John Zmirak in this typically insightful piece. Excerpts follow.
...Too often, films like The Rite...feed into a nasty voyeurism of the sort that attracts us to evil. We see that the Enemy really does give tangible, spiritual power to some of his servants. As the author of nature's order, God is loath to disrupt it, so He grants miracles rarely and dispenses them typically after we're racked ourselves with prayer. Satan, who's merely a vandal, will gladly perform hat-tricks and grant instant gratification. Exorcists, in their memoirs, inform us that you really can learn things from Ouija boards, summon spirits who might do your bidding, or cast spells upon your enemies. If you're willing to play with plutonium, you can make little bombs to throw at people to vent your petty spite. But remember that you're an idiot mucking around inside the core of a nuclear reactor, with no idea how the thing works and not the slightest protection against its effects.

The best depiction I've seen of how occultism kills the soul, Robert Hugh Benson's novel The Necromancers, details what happens next: a slow, sick burn seeps into your brain. The colors of nature (which you've raped) all fade to a sickly, jaundiced yellow. Having glimpsed the dark underbelly of things, you become utterly cynical. Ordinary knowledge, earned through hard labor, loses all attraction compared to secrets, conspiracies, and gossip. You begin to see other people with that hideous spiritual hunger that demons feel all the time, as if they were healthy animals and you were a parasite, looking for somewhere to batten on them and drain their strength. Soon the glamour of evil fades, and once it's too late (by any human power) for you to escape, you feel deep in your bones the crassness, the foulness, the cheapness of what you have become.

I wish more films that treat the occult would emphasize this point. Evil is a privation, and it lives only by borrowing strength -- like a tapeworm, or a tick. We should certainly fear the devil, but he deserves no awe and should exert no fascination. We should not even pity him. What we need to feel is contempt...

Vatican Banker on Financial Crisis

Tedeschi comments on the steps taken by the world's financial system.  Excerpts:
...Ettore Gotti Tedeschi has been head of the Vatican's bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, since 2009. He has a long career in finance, having served as the head of Banco Santander, the largest private bank in Europe, as well as on the boards of some of the continent’s leading financial institutions.

He is known as a staunch capitalist with a deep concern for the Church’s social teaching. He is also a former professor of financial ethics at the Catholic University of Milan.

Writing in the Jan. 14 edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Tedeschi warned of the growing influence of “Keynesian” economic theory on both sides of the Atlantic.

John Maynard Keynes was a prominent 20th-century economist whose theories were widely embraced by world powers to jump-start their economies after World War II.
Tedeschi cited a 2009 book, "Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why World Governments keep creating Inflation, Bubbles and Busts," by the American economist and philosopher Hunter Lewis.

He said Lewis had spelled out the "doctrinal errors and practical disasters" of Keynes' theories.

In simple terms, Keynes taught that in times of economic crisis, consumer demand must be stimulated by government investment and an "attitude of saving" must be discouraged, Tedeschi wrote...

Tedeschi warned that these policies are leading to a "nationalization" of private debt in the U.S. He also criticized the government bailouts of private banks that offered too much credit without adequate guarantees. This too is leading to increased government control of the economy in the U.S. — a “nationalization” that is being paid for with newly printed currency.

In Europe, he said, the issue is the opposite. Because of the lack of widespread private debt, a "privatization" effort is being enacted to absorb the large public debt of banks and businesses.

This also is Keynesian policy, which "perseveres against the scorned savings," Tedeschi said...

Although the alternative to zero interest in such a situation is economic collapse and eventual default, the zero-rates "are not sustainable and are dangerous," Tedeschi warned.

"They destroy savings, which is an essential resource to create the base for bank credit; they promote speculation on real estate and securities, create illusory artificial values rather than scaling them down; they push consumption to more risky debt; they alter the market with artificial values and thus lead to belief that the very markets do not know how to correct themselves..."

"Someone," he said, "is hoping for new taxes to sustain a new statism that reinforces a rather weak political class in the whole western world."

To Understand Pope Benedict

You have to understand Communion and Liberation (the organization behind the Rimini meeting), as Rocco Palmo lays out in this snippet below:
Veteran readers are well aware of Benedict XVI's longtime affinity for the Communion and Liberation movement.

Cardinal Ratzinger once said that the project of the late Msgr Luigi Giussani "changed [his] life." As the former's gem of a homily before tens of thousands at Don Gius' 2005 funeral in Milan propelled the then-Grand Inquisitor into a new light, kicking off a cascade of events which led to his election as Pope two months later -- not to mention the gentle hand of the founder's writings and approaches in the formulation of this pontificate's playbook -- Giussani was named these pages' 2005 International Churchman of the Year.

While B16 is said to have praised the CL for being the only one of the "new movements" to remain faithful to the ideals of building up the wider ecclesial community as opposed to becoming an entity unto itself (an element of great importance to Giussani), he's not the type who would seek to promote or elevate it to a wider context by force of personality or the prerogatives of office.

At the same time, however, to properly understand Ratzinger, his spirituality and concept of the church, Don Gius' exposition of Christianity as "event," the centrality of the "living encounter with Christ" and its resulting engagement with the culture is central. If there's one thread running through every text, action and utterance of this Pope, both before and since his election, that's it.

Since his ascent to Peter's chair, the honorary cieline has expressed his affection for the movement in his typically quiet, but still palpable, style...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Early Reviews of "The Rite"

And it sounds like it's well worth a look.  Steven Greydanus reviewed it in Christianity Today.  Excerpts follow:
...This is not a world in which demons manifest openly or in which sacred objects like crosses or holy water are omnipotent over the forces of darkness. Exorcism in The Rite is a long, drawn-out process that can last for weeks, months or even longer. In that way, among others, The Rite is probably the most sober, realistic treatment of exorcism in Hollywood history. It's also a pretty thoughtful depiction of doubt and faith—one of a tiny number of exorcism films, along with the original Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, that offers a spiritual, even theological take on what most films in the genre treat as mere horror-movie trappings...

Although The Rite stumbles when it lapses into standard horror tropes, Hopkins' easy authority and sense of calm urgency go a long way toward making the realistic exorcism scenes credible, and he negotiates both the better lines and the sillier ones with aplomb. (He's much better here than he was sleepwalking through last year's late-winter horror turkey, The Wolfman.) O'Donoghue, an active Catholic and a TV and stage veteran making his big-screen debut, ably conveys Michael's intelligence and uneasy sense of suspension between belief and unbelief, and Alice Braga is effective as a sympathetic journalist who generates some tension with the seminarian without either of them crossing any lines they shouldn't...

Catholic imagery abounds: crucifixes, images of St. Therese of Lisieux and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and so on. All in all, it's the most positive depiction of the Church and of Christian faith I can think of in any recent Hollywood film. Hostile critics may even dismiss it as religious propaganda, but it deserves more credit than that...

The film is loosely inspired by journalist Matt Baglio's nonfiction book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, which documents the training of a real-life exorcist, Fr. Gary Thomas of San Jose, California, who went to Rome in 2005 to apprentice with an experienced exorcist. If there's one aspect of Fr. Gary's experiences, or the experiences of any good exorcist, that I wish had gotten justice in the film, it's the reality that psychological problems rather than demonic influences are at the root of most troubled people's problems...
And, of course, the trailer:

Vatican II Aims

This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church...--Sacrosanctum Concilium 1

"How Can You Live Without The Eucharist?"

Father Mitch Pacwa and commentators discuss the Mass, its Biblical roots, and its place in Christian life:
For more on this subject, see The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Dr. Scott Hahn, Worthy is the Lamb: The Biblical Roots of the Mass by Thomas Nash, The Mass of the Early Christians by Mike Aquilina, and Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper by Brant Pitre.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oh No They DIDN'T!

But, it would seem, they did. Gah. From Reuters:
Sherlock Holmes is to be brought back to life in the first new novel about the great Baker Street detective to be officially approved.

Anthony Horowitz, author of stories about teenage spy Alex Rider, has been chosen by Arthur Conan Doyle's estate to write the full-length novel, which will be published by Orion in September.

"I fell in love with the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was 16 and I've read them many times since," said Horowitz.

"I simply couldn't resist this opportunity to write a brand new adventure for this iconic figure and my aim is to produce a first rate mystery for a modern audience while remaining absolutely true to the spirit of the original."

No details of the new tale or even its title have been revealed...
I must say, there's been almost no evidence of fan-fic that lives up to the original. At least, none that I've ever seen. Harumph. And heck. And What Are They THINKING?!?!

To salve the souls of wounded fans, I proffer--Jeremy Brett as the Master Detective:

"...why, when I converted, I converted to Catholicism..."

From some people, a digression is worth just as much as the original conversation.  John C. Wright is one such person, as demonstrated in what follows:
...A digression:

Here is a why, when I converted, I converted to Catholicism. I found, first, that before Henry VIII, all Christians held that divorce was forbidden except in case of unchastity, so the practice from time immemorial of ditching and dispossessing a old wife for a younger, for a time, in Christendom, was abated, if not abolished. That practice has since re-emerged.

Second I found that, as recently as the 1930′s it was not just those zany Catholics, but all mainstream denominations, who forbade the use of contraception as a grave moral evil. Obviously, there had been no new revelation from God nor change in the theological implications of contraception; no wording in the Bible had evolved nor altered, particularly not in the Bibles of those who believe Sola Scriptura.

Third, I realized how simply wise and sublimely wholesome the Catholic teaching about chastity and the integrity of marriage is.

It was when I was in China, and talking to my tour guide, a fine young man named Simon (his English name) that I had driven home between my eyes the true cost and the true horror of the One Child Policy.

I had heard it discussed theoretically before: but this was real, not theoretical.

A prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license was to vow loyalty to the One Child Policy. Abrogation of this vow meant loss of work license and health care, so violators can neither work nor visit doctors, hospitals, pharmacies.

The year came finally when Simon and his wife wanted to have a child, and he duly filled out the paperwork for permission. Without any forewarning, Simon was forbidden by an anonymous old she-bureaucrat from having sexual relations with his wife. He was told that, since the population levels in his province were above quota for that fiscal year, he had to send his wife back home to live with her mother, lest he be tempted to enjoy nuptial pleasures.

The next year he was allowed to resubmit his paperwork.

Simon told the story with the same air of worldly resignation that an American might use to tell about a long wait or some irksome delay at the Motor Vehicles Department. To him, it was just the normal thing.

I asked him if he had any brothers. He said no. I asked him if he had any cousins. He said no. I asked him if he has any uncles or aunts. He said no. The One Child Policy had been in effect long enough that the extended family, once the backbone of the oldest civilized culture in human history, that same extended family whose filial duties form the core of Confucianism, had been abolished by the secular power...
Go to the original post for the rest. And buy his books (note--most written before his conversion, so don't be surprised by the evangelical atheism. They're just darn good high sci-fi/fantasy)!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh. Dear. Heavens.

The Beeb reveals a staggering lack of...well, see for yourself:

Head of Catholic Church in Italy criticises Berlusconi

The head of the Catholic Church in Italy has strongly criticised Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is embroiled in a sex scandal...
And who, the interested reader may be wondering, is the head of the Catholic Church in Italy?
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco said that political leaders who behave immorally pollute the country's future.
You may pause to wipe the spray off your screen.

Now why, increasingly curious readers may wish to know, is Cardinal Bagnasco (probably a very fine man) identified as the head of the Church in Italy?
Cardinal Bagnasco is head of the Italian bishops' conference which in theory operates independently from the Vatican, whose focus is more upon the Church's international role and responsibilities.
Um. Sorta. Not...not really.

The Anglican Communion operates independently from the Vatican, but not a Catholic bishops' conference.  Cause, well, you know...
...This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, (12*) which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd,(74) and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority,(75) which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth".(76) This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him,(13*) although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity...

...within the Church particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity (11*) and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it...

And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion.(1*) And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful. Continuing in that same undertaking, this Council is resolved to declare and proclaim before all men the doctrine concerning bishops, the successors of the apostles, who together with the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ,(2*) the visible Head of the whole Church, govern the house of the living God.

And the apostles, by preaching the Gospel everywhere,(145) and it being accepted by their hearers under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gather together the universal Church, which the Lord established on the apostles and built upon blessed Peter, their chief, Christ Jesus Himself being the supreme cornerstone.(146)(3*)...
I could continue.

Why Make Intellectual Defenses of the Faith?

Carl Olson has answers. Excerpts follow:
...The heart, let me emphasize, that speaks to other hearts. The man who loves something wants to know about it. He wants, as far as the subject allows, to think about it, to analyze it, to understand it deeply. He will use that knowledge to come to its defense when it is misunderstood or misinterpreted or publicly derided or denied. This is even truer when he loves someone. If he doesn’t want to know, he doesn’t truly love.

That is where the new anti-apologists go wrong. They are right that argument mostly begets argument, and that arguments by themselves rarely change anyone’s mind. But they are wrong to dismiss apologetics for that reason. They’re not thinking clearly about what people who believe do, and how people come to believe. People want answers, and for some, as far as we mortals can tell, the answers make or break the sale.
Read the entire column, "The Reason the Heart Wants".

Having been involved in apologetics for many years now, I've come to the startling (ahem!) conclusion that some people—including a few well-meaning apologists-in-the-rough—are fairly clueless about what apologetics are; some people dislike apologetics for what they (mistakenly) think apologetics are; and a few people do indeed dislike apologetics because they involve a combination of argument, logic, debate, and so forth. I've discovered that there is a huge swath of Catholics who feel that offering up any arguments or defense in favor of Catholicism smacks of triumphalism and arrogance; such folks, when pressed, usually hold to a vaguely indifferent form of "faith" that is heavily reliant on secularized understandings of "tolerance" and "equality". Many will argue that arguing is bad, and will do so without any recognition of the contradiction between their actions and their worlds. Granted, some apologists can be combative and even obnoxious, but that hardly does away with the need for apologetics...

Science and Faith

presented by Father Spitzer.

Or, if you want footnotes, check out New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. For more along those lines, there's also Stephen Barr's Modern Physics and Ancient Faith.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

They Got It "Rite"?: Of Exorcism and Hollywood Execs

Apparently, according to the priest whose experiences served to inspire Matt Baglio to write The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist. CNA has the story.  Excerpts follow:
...In an interview with CNA on Jan. 19, Fr. Thomas – who currently serves as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga, California –  explained that he served as a consultant for the film,  particularly the scenes featuring exorcisms.

For a week in June last year, he said he was on the movie set working with cast members and producers. The priest added that “to their credit,” the directors and producers wanted the exorcism scenes to be as accurate at possible.

“The environment of that movie set was very reverential towards the Church,” Fr. Thomas said. “The producer and the director and the cast whom I worked with at the time were very open.”

Fr. Thomas said he recently saw a screening of the film alongside Anthony Hopkins at a New Line Cinema studio in Los Angeles. In his words, the movie has a “loose” basis in Baglio's book.

One discrepancy Fr. Thomas pointed out was that he went to Rome as a 50-year-old seasoned priest with a desire to learn more about the rite of exorcism  – hardly a cynical seminarian in the midst of a faith crisis.

Despite the differences, however, he called the film “very good.”

“The human side of the priesthood is very well developed,” he said, adding that the portrayal of “the institutional Church comes out very positively...”

Fr. Thomas also said that the intensely eery trailers for the film are “deceptive” in the sense that they make it look like a “horror movie,” which he says is inaccurate...
The movie comes out January 28.  Here's the trailer:

DADT, Military Chaplains, and Conscience and Caring

GetReligion asks the important questions about military chaplaincy today.  Excerpts follow:
...As I stated not that long ago, it’s crucial to realize that the debates about the rights and responsibilities of military chaplains are decades old and certainly did not start with DADT. For years, most of the controversy came from secularists who — with good cause — feared the creation of a state-mandated, even if lowest-common-denominator religion funded with tax dollars.

For example: How many Wiccans are in the military? Quite a few. Where do they serve? Now, how many Wiccan chaplains are there? Maybe one? Where do they serve? One location, if any. How has that worked out? Not very well.

How many Wiccans feel comfortable with a Pentecostal pastor, a Muslim imam, a Catholic priest, an Orthodox rabbi, an evangelical Lutheran or anyone from another faith leading their rites (if they are allowed to do so under their own vows)? Now, many forms of pagan faith do not have formal ordination procedures (while some do). Who approves the appointment of a layperson as a chaplain? How do a small circle of pagan chaplains serve believers on bases spread out around the world?

This is an extreme example, in terms of the numbers, but the principles are what matter. Some chaplains simply cannot serve as substitutes for others. Some can. Some cannot. A liberal Episcopalian might make a grand substitute for a liberal United Methodist. She would make a poor substitute for a Roman Catholic priest, an Orthodox rabbi, an Eastern Orthodox priest or an imam, a Southern Baptist pastor, etc., etc.

Yet that is the policy and church-state experts on the left and the right are going to have their own reasons for feeling tense. Here are the facts, as stated in that excellent report that I recently praised:
“Some feared repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell might limit their individual freedom of expression and free exercise of religion, or require them to change their personal beliefs about the morality of homosexuality,” the report says. “The views expressed to us in these terms cannot be downplayed or dismissed.” But, it said, “Service members will not be required to change their personal views and religious beliefs; they must, however, continue to respect and serve with others who hold different views and beliefs.”

The same holds true for the military’s chaplain service, the report says. “Chaplains, in the context of their religious ministry, are not required to take actions inconsistent with their religious beliefs, but must still care for all Service members,” it says.
As I said before, the key is how military leaders and lawyers for activist groups choose to define the word “care.”

Care could mean someone saying, “Under my ordination vows, I honestly have a conflict of interest in offering the help that you are requesting or affirming key details of your beliefs. However, I will do everything I can to get you in contact with a clergy person representing your faith or a chaplain who is acceptable to you.” That is painful and awkward, obviously, but people of good will could make it work. Then again, improper “care” could mean an openly gay Catholic turning in his or her priest who advocates the teachings of the church in a sermon, a chat over coffee or even, heaven forbid, during confession.

Let me stress that the codes guiding the chaplains have long stated that they are allowed freedom of conscience AND they are expected to care for all. The tensions have been there for some time, on the doctrinal left and the right. It is hard to have the state govern the acts and consciences of women and men — on the left and on the right — who have taken vows to a higher power. The conflicts have been real — before DADT....

Opportunities For Laity

to study in Rome here:
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If you are a lay person considering studies in Rome at one of the Pontifical Universities, Institutes or Athenae, why not consider joining our resident international student community?

A Residential Formation Program

As the constant teaching of the Church has recognized, the ecclesial mission of the laity flows from the Sacrament of Baptism. For the lay faithful to discern their unique vocations in the communion and mission of the Church, they must learn to listen carefully to the Spirit who leads them through Christ to the Father. The Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas is committed to helping lay women and men live this discernment by providing an environment which fosters an attitude of active listening. Founded in 1986 as a place for lay students from around the world to live and study in Rome, The Lay Centre's mission is to provide a program of lay formation based on the four pillars of Christian formation identified by the Church: spiritual, intellectual, human and pastoral...
They also offer shorter programs for church groups:
The Lay Centre offers the laity a unique opportunity to explore the history and theology of Rome. A variety of formats include weeklong and weekend study programs designed for parishes, universities, and other organizations.   Programs are shaped by the Catholic traditions of liturgical prayer, erudite study, lively dialogue, and pilgrimage to various Christian sites in the Eternal City.

The Lay Centre’s programs are designed to open the city to you as a pilgrim. Rather than rushing from site to site with brief explanations of historical information on sites or individual works of art, we offer the chance to take time to meditate on the mystery of Christ and his Church as reflected in the city of Rome.

Uncover a layer of the city’s history as it has been inhabited and transformed by Christianity.  See the sites where popes have shaped history, where saints have fed the poor, and where mystics have contemplated the deepest mysteries of life. Our unique courses will take you on a pilgrim’s journey, allowing you the time for reflection, spiritual enrichment and prayer...

Monday, January 24, 2011

D.C. Mass for Life

On the Mass for Life, the Washington Post Belief Blog.  Excerpts:
Hundreds of priests filed into Verizon Center in downtown Washington on Monday morning as contemporary praise music boomed from the speakers.

The arena was packed with thousands of swaying, praying teenagers, many wearing sweat shirts from the Catholic schools they attend or knit hats that said "We believe" or "March for Life."

On the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion (Roe v. Wade), the clerics and young people were celebrating Mass before participating in the annual anti-abortion march known as the March for Life...

The homily was given by the Rev. Mark Ivany, a priest at Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda. He compared the crowd to civil rights advocates of the past, such as those opposing slavery and advocating for women's right to vote.

"The greatest difference between other civil rights movements and this one is that most of the people affected by Roe v. Wade can't march on Washington," Ivany said. "They can't give great speeches."

...A few signs hung from the stair railings. "I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born," read one. Said another, "A mother's womb should be the safest place on Earth..."

The college students are responding, Minter said, to church efforts to use technology and social media to inform the faithful about important social justice issues - from abortion to poverty to health care.

"It's reverence for life," Minter said. "It's interesting to me to see young kids want to respect life at every single level - birth to death..."

March for Life Coverage--MIA

So, correct me if I'm wrong...but I've seen nothing on the major networks' websites about the March.


This from the West Coast's Walk for Life (includes photos):
...The numbers are a bit more than what I quoted, maybe something a little over 50 Pro-Abortion protesters?

The Pro-Life attendants numbered somewhere around 50,0000.
And I can't find anyone making calculations of numbers from the D.C. March for Life.  Bleah.  What's with the news blackout?

March for Life

according to your abilities, situation, and opportunities.  Mother Jones tells one man's story, though sometimes the pro-choice milieu of the magazine shines through.  Excerpts follow:
...IN HINDSIGHT, it's not hard to see how Cassidy's adoration of motherhood would take him from adoption and surrogacy to abortion, but for years he didn't view it that way. "This may sound very thoughtless," Cassidy told me when I first met him four years ago, "but there was a point in time when I didn't think at all about abortion or what abortion did to women." He paused, and then confessed. "And so I was all for it."

That began to change in 1990, when a couple came to him after their child was born with Down syndrome. The doctor had not done an amniocentesis, which might have diagnosed the condition, and they wanted to sue for "wrongful birth"—claiming they would have aborted had they known. Cassidy declined the case. "In this particular instance I was thinking, 'What would it be like for me and for this little girl if I stood in the well of a courtroom and argued to a jury that they had to give lots of money to her mom and dad because they didn't get a chance to kill her?'" he says. "That case forced me to ask the question, how did the law get this cruel?...It all led back to Roe v. Wade."

He also started paying attention to the legal discrepancies between adoption and abortion. What impressed him, he told me, was that a woman thinking about giving away her baby can only terminate the mother-child relationship after the state helps ensure she's making the right decision: In many states, she must wait until after birth to relinquish the child and must be offered counseling. "Those [maternal] rights are treated with the most profound respect," Cassidy says, but "in the context of abortion, there is no respect.... My first question that I had for everybody—I'm talking about the courts, about people going into the courts claiming they represent the rights of women, about the pro-life community, the churches who like to talk about this issue—where is their discussion and defense of the mother, the real rights of the mother?"

He began reaching out, speaking with women about their abortion experiences and visiting crisis pregnancy centers (PDF), which were opening around the country to advise women to carry their pregnancies to term. "It was just me, wanting to be educated," Cassidy says...

He teamed up with a fellow lawyer named Allan Parker—president of the conservative Texas-based Justice Foundation—to create Operation Outcry, a project that has solicited some 2,000 court-admissible declarations to date from women describing how abortion has destroyed their lives. The effort also received help from Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano, lead plaintiffs in the two Supreme Court cases—Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton—that led to legalized abortion. The women filed briefs in Santa Marie arguing that legalizing abortion has harmed women, and urging that their own cases be overturned...

Unlike most pro-lifers, who tended to focus on preserving unborn life, Cassidy was arguing for the preservation of women's sanity. He had arranged for dramatic testimony from some of the women whose stories he'd been collecting. There was the rape victim who said she'd had an abortion at the urging of family and friends, and who now felt that the procedure was like a second rape, far worse than the first. Another woman spoke of attempting suicide because she felt guilty about her abortion. (Cassidy recalls her leaning over the table to show legislators the scars where she'd sliced her arms—one lawmaker had to leave the room to compose himself.) He also brought in fetal development experts and pro-life mental-health researchers to attest to abortion's psychological hazards and the status of the fertilized egg as a complete human being. When Cassidy took the floor, he spoke of the women who had sought his assistance with adoption cases, and about returning the babies to their biological mothers. He spoke of the other women, too, explaining that "I can't get the babies back for them because the people who violated their rights killed the babies..." legislators were impressed by the gut-wrenching testimony Cassidy had arranged. In 2005, they created a task force to study abortion's harmful effects. Cassidy was again called in to help, and the task force published a lengthy report citing the stories of his witnesses and recommending that abortion be banned. It was a huge moment for Cassidy and his allies: For the first time, sketchy findings about abortion's emotional harm to women had a state's official imprimatur. The same year, the legislators passed South Dakota's informed-consent law, which requires doctors to tell their patients "that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being"—language nearly identical to that which Cassidy used in Santa Marie. In 2011, the law faces a challenge in a case called Planned Parenthood v. Rounds. Arguing in its defense before the Eighth US Circuit Court of Appeals will be South Dakota's attorney general—and Cassidy himself...


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