Thursday, August 31, 2006

Drama to show Bush murdered

A British docudrama, set in the future, will depict the assassination of President Bush. According to this story, it's aiming to be high-tone about this, and going to premiere in Toronto.

What do you think about this?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Name that tune...

My music director and I are going to undertake a new project: we are considering what should be the 10-12 songs that we think would be most beneficial to have the members of both parishes learn, and make their own, over the next year. The idea is that Mass is, like it or not, the best venue for doing some teaching and formation, and if there are pieces of music that should be part of our parishioners' repetoire, that will happen not by using a particular hymn one time, now and then.

So, what would you suggest? Of course, you don't know what my two parishes' members already know.

I'll start with "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence."

What would you add?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Let's Make a Deal (Sunday homily)

Today, I’m going to talk about
the last part of Mass—
from the Eucharistic Prayer, to the end.

To review: we believe Mass is a sacrifice.

Three things make a sacrifice:

First, something is offered.
In the Old Testament,

they brought the best lamb
and slaughtered it on the altar.

That’s a sacrifice.

Second, the sacrifice makes a covenant.
If you and I have a covenant,

I owe you, you owe me;
not a set amount,

but everything—it’s total.
You are faithful to me, and I to you;
not just for a day,

or a time, but forever!

That’s a covenant.

And third, those who make

the covenant-sacrifice
do something to share it—

to be part of it,
and to obligate themselves

to the covenant:

So, after they burnt

part of the lamb on the altar;
the rest they shared as a sacrificial meal.
Doing that pledged them,

solemnly, to the covenant.

And that is called communion.

The second reading from Paul
connects this to marriage.
Do you realize, what we believe
about Jesus’ sacrifice and the Eucharist,
is what we believe about marriage:
Total, forever, nothing held back—and note:
it is consummated how? By communion!

So why are we surprised
that our Catholic Faith
has always taught that contraception—
barriers and pills—are gravely sinful,
because they ruin the communion
of a married couple?

How can there be communion with a barrier?
How can it truly be communion,
if an essential part is deliberately excluded?
That’s not total—that’s not communion!

When we hear the second reading
from Paul, we get distracted
by a “power” thing—men v. women.

If it’s about power,
that totally misses the point.
Marriage only works with surrender—
and it has to be both—
both husband and wife.

This is what Christ does for us:
God humbled himself to become man,
And further, he suffered and died—
everything for us.

In this covenant-sacrifice, Christ makes
the “new and everlasting covenant”
with his Father, for our sake:
we share in it by becoming one with Christ.

So spectators to this—don’t get a share;
There’s no “part time” sharing in this.
It’s all—or nothing at all.

You will see me lift Christ
to heaven and sing,
“Through him, with him, in him,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours,
Almighty Father, forever and ever!”

That is an ecstatic moment:
Christ giving himself totally.
This is the climax—
and I chose that word deliberately.

A heard a story last week,
about a man who came to Mass
just after he got married.
He received communion,
and coming back to his place, he was crying.
He said: “I finally understand what it means!”

From there, the rest of the Mass flows logically.
In Christ, we pray “Our Father”—
In Christ, we have peace with each other.

Then comes the breaking
of the Lamb of God:
As we sing, “Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,”
Watch, as I will hold
the Lamb before you—
As his priest, and yours,
I will break his body—for you!

Then, we share the covenant-sacrifice.

And here’s where we answer
the big question: Why don’t we
invite everyone to communion?

Think about all we’ve just considered.
How can we?

This is a covenant-sacrifice—
Can we share it, without at least recognizing
that it is a covenant-sacrifice?

Sadly, for all we have in common,
most of our fellow Christians
do not recognize the Mass
as a true, covenant-sacrifice.

Until we can restore unity
on this central teaching of Christ—
we aren’t ready to share it.

Also, we saw that communion
is about full commitment.
Some folks, for whatever reason,
are not ready to make a full commitment
to the Catholic Church.

When they’re ready for that step,
we welcome them!
Then communion will make sense.

This challenges us who are Catholics.
Are we fully committed?

Do we hold back
from accepting all the Church teaches?
Do we hold back from living it?

Yes, it is costly.

How many ways does Jesus have to tell us:
You want to follow me, take up your cross?
That means: the price is everything.

In today’s Gospel,
some of his own followers left him,
because they couldn’t accept his teaching.
He didn’t gloss it over to draw them back.

The question is not,
what’s it cost, but what’s it worth?
Do we need Jesus? That’s the question.
Some don’t think so.

But if we do need Jesus,
here’s the deal.
It costs you everything:
give me your life; die to self!
But you will gain everything:
The Holy Spirit; forgiveness of sins;
conversion of heart; integrity of life;
hope and meaning, especially in suffering;
something truly worth dying for;
and a future to live for:
We are truly united with God—
and live forever
to the praise of his Glory!

Easy or hard, with Peter, we say:
“Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.”

And to that leap of faith, He responds:
“Whoever eats my flesh,
and drinks my blood
remains in me, and I in him—
and has eternal life.”

Will such 'traditionalists' burn in hell?

I posted below a picture of the holy father, and his brother, in non-clerical attire, presumably from before his election as Peter's successor, and in a private moment in any case.

Via Jimmy Akin's site, I tracked back to where he got the photo, on what I have to call a "hyper-traditional" website -- where, in addition to this photo and some tut-tutting, appeared photo selections revealing these "traditionalists'" mean streak:

* A photo of Pope Benedict wearing stylish sunglasses (oh, the horror!)
* A photo of the late holy father meeting women -- on the other side of the world -- in native garb and hence with bare breasts
* A photo of the late holy father being entertained -- not in church -- by Bob Dylan and circus performers (how dare he?!)
* Several photos of the late holy father, as a cardinal, on a hiking/camping outing with a group of men and women -- scandalously, the cardinal is wearing hiking shorts and a tshirt!

Now, for these self-styled "traditionalists" (I use quotes because I do not concede their claim to the term, but acknowledge it is what they call themselves), this is vital evidence against the previous and current successor of Peter . . . that they are part of something evil. They are -- in a word -- at best weak tools of evil, if not active conspirators against the Church.

Enough space given to the accusation. Surf the 'net all night if you crave that sort of thing. Suffice to say: that is an extremely grave accusation.

Now, Catholic teaching is clear: sins against the truth can be, and are, mortally sinful in proportion to the wrong done. Consider the sections of the Catechism cited below:

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one's neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.

2482 "A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving." The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: "You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth. By injuring man's relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.

2484 The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.

2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. the deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. The culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray.

2486 Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.

2487 Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another's reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience.

Were I this sort of "traditionalist" -- taking such a severe line, I would be very afraid -- what did our Lord say? "By the measure with which you measure, you shall be measured."

I quote again from Paragraph 2485, above: "The culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray." Well, might I not reasonably suppose that if I used a website to offer snarky comments, let alone direct attacks on the dignity, authority and credibility of the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, how could that not have "deadly consequences for those who are led astray"?

In short: what if I'm wrong in attacking the pope? If one person were deterred from becoming Catholic -- and went to hell because of my vitriole against the pope -- what can the consequences be . . . for me?

Of course, if you tend toward the idea that God's grace assures very few end up in hell, then I suppose you have nothing to worry about. But that is hardly the view of this variety of "traditionalist": they are always on about the extreme peril of hell for anyone not actually a Catholic. And I am not quarreling with that at present. I'm simply recalling the Lord's words: "by the measure with which you measure..."

If I were this sort of "traditionalist," I should be very worried about being wrong about my attacks on the pope. I should fear burning in hell for so grave an offense.

By the way, for anyone who cares--I do consider myself traditional, no quotes. I say that with no chest-beating, because I am sure I can be outdone in piety or discipline, but I believe in, and try to practice, a fidelity to the full Tradition of the Church, which is and should be timeless, and therefore translates well into any language or context. I see nothing wrong with cassocks and chant, and think we need more of such things, to regain some balance. I am skeptical of claims of a "golden age," but also of the smug assurance that all is well. But authentic Tradition is not intrinsically neophobic, pessimistic; and for the life of me, I know nothing of anti-papal "tradition." Sounds more like you know who dressed as "an angel of light."

Oh, and don't even try to bring any of that snarkiness or conspiracy-mongering into this thread. If you want to justify this sort of behavior, do it from moral or theological principles, which are timeless and very easy to verify -- and which involve no derogation of anyone's reputation. Don't even try to justify this behavior by trying prove the "factual" case, i.e., the pope really is a pawn of Jewish-Freemason Conspiracy. Take that to the cornfield, where it'll do some good.

Update: In the thread at Jimmy Akin's site is a discussion relevant to whether then-Cardinal Ratzinger was even wearing a shirt-and-tie, as the photo seems to depict. A commenter say's he's actually wearing a northern-European style of clerical shirt that has pointy collars that in a shaded image as this, can give the appearance of a dress-shirt-and-tie. Don't know, not important to debate; but I want to be fair in how I describe the picture...


Friday, August 25, 2006

Pope in a business suit

OK, I know, he wasn't pope then, but you get the idea.

I don't want to scandalize anyone with this picture; and anyone who is going to attack the holy father over this, please do so elsewhere. No, I don't know why he was wearing a coat-and-tie, but I take the man for who and what he stands for today; and I see no reason to spin dark speculation about the successor of Peter.

That said--let's talk about the coat-and-tie-on-a-priest thing.

When -- if ever -- would you say its okay? How bad is it? What do you think? (Food for thought: it used to be the case that in some places, a priest couldn't appear in public in clerical attire. Mexico at one time, and Turkey, if memory serves.)

Biretta-tip: Signore Rocco Palmo, who whispers in the loggia.

Get up, dry bones! (First School Mass)

That first reading demands
we use our imagination.

“The Lord led me out…
set me in the center of a plain
which was now filled with bones.
Bones in every direction
How dry they were!”

These bones are all those
who have lost their faith—
lost their hope.

In this City of Piqua, in Miami County,
There are many such dry bones!
Many who do not know God—
or who have little relationship with him.

So many dry bones! So many dried-out lives!

Who will prophesy over these bones?

You and I will!

Ezekiel was commanded to speak God’s word,
And they came partly to life.

But they needed Spirit—
they needed the Holy Spirit—
and that comes from God himself.

But when you and I share our faith,
We are sharing the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is God who will rouse people to faith—
But it is you and I
whom he calls to say something:
To speak to the dry bones!

You might think I decided
these would be the readings.
You might suppose Mr. Frierott,
or Sister Mary Alice,
or the teachers, decided it.

They did not!

These are the readings of the day.
“It just happened”—meaning, God decided it!

And that means God is speaking to us.
He’s showing us
what our mission is to be
this school year.

This year, this will be our motto:
“Speak Life to the dry bones!”

If I ask you: “What do we do with dry bones?”
You answer: “Speak Life!”

This year—
speak to the dry bones all around us.
If you meet someone
who doesn’t know who Jesus is—
Tell them! Tell them Jesus gives Life!

If you have a friendship
that's gotten dry,
Bring it to life!

There are new faces here.
If someone doesn’t have a friend:
Be a friend—give life!

When you’re at home,
will you be dry bones,
layabout, do nothing?
Or will you spring to life,
do your part?

There may be conflict
at home, it happens.
You may wonder how you can bring life.

What do we do with the dry bones?
(“Speak Life!”)

That may be hard—
don’t be afraid to get help.
If there’s something you’re facing
that’s too big for you, ask a teacher,
ask one of the priests, for help.

But when there’s darkness
and anger around us,
The one thing we must not do,
Is become part of that.

That’s hard. But you and I
have to be the ones
who let God speak life through us!

You do that with a word of peace;
when you offer to pray;
when you keep your joy,
No matter how dark
and how angry others are.
when the darkness and anger take over,
That’s when your light
will shine the brightest,
And make the most difference.
They’ll see it.

And you will be Life to them!

So: what do we do with dry bones?
(“Speak life to them!”)

If you wonder if that’ll happen,
just wait.
God will put you with people
who need to hear Life.
Ask him to give you
the right words—He will!

Just tell them what you heard today:
“Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people,
I will open your graves
I will put my spirit in you
that you may live,
I have promised, and I will do it,
says the LORD.”

Because someone asked...

Rich Leonardi did this to me.

1. Which famous person would you most like to learn that you are descended from?

Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene (ha ha, just kidding!)
Hmm, how about Abraham? It would mean someone in my background was Jewish, which would be interesting. And it's probably true, isn't it?

2. Which famous person would you hate to learn that you are descended from?

Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

3. If you could be ancestor to any living famous person, who would it be and why?

I find it offensive to suggest I'm old enough to be "ancestor" to someone now alive, and famous...harumph! (Am I not famous? Harumph, harumph!)

OK, how about President Bush? Then I could call him up and tell him frequently what he's doing wrong.

4. If you could go back in time and meet any known ancestor(s) of yours, who would it be?

I'd like to meet the first one called "Fuchs" (fox), because I'd like to know why.

5. Tag five others:

The first five people to read this.

. . . Meanwhile, I was tempted to pretend I didn't see this, but I was immediately conscience-stricken. Jay Anderson wants to know how I'll answer this:

"If you could meet and have a deep conversation with any five people on earth, living or dead, from any time period, who would they be?" (Explaining why is optional.) Name five: saints, those in the process of being canonized, heroes from your native country, authors/writers, celebrities.

Saints: St. Paul the Apostle; St. Augustine; St. John Chrysostom; St. Basil (or any of the Cappadocians); St. Joan d'Arc; St. Catherine of Siena; St. Louis the King; St. John Vianney. ("Hey, that's more than five!" Yeah, whaddya gonna do?)

Being canonized: Cardinal Newman; Father Michael McGivney (founder of the Knights of Columbus); Dorothy Day (she has a cause, doesn't she?); Mother Theresa; Pope John Paul II.

Heroes: the first European settlers at Virginia and Massachusetts; the first Catholic missionaries and martyrs; Thomas Jefferson & George Washington (point-counterpoint?); Abraham Lincoln (inclusion does not imply endorsement); Geronimo; Andrew Carnegie, Commodore Vanderbilt, and all the "Gilded Age" "villains"; Barry Goldwater; Martin Luther King.

Writers/authors: the (human) authors of the Pentateuch, Psalms, the Song of Solomon and Revelation (no "s"!); Confucius; Hannurabi (sp?); Joseph Smith; Victor Hugo.

Celebrities: Samuel Clemens; Humphrey Bogart; William Holden; Ingrid Bergman; Frank Sinatra.

Tag five people: the first five to read this.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bush betrays prolifers

The headline above will take you to an article in the Washington Post about this story, which has been bubbling up for some time.

Will this finally awaken those who were fooled by George Bush?

* George Bush wasn't 100% prolife when he ran in 2000.

* He has done the bare minimum, legislatively and executively.

* "But what about his Supreme Court nominations?" What about them? We don't know how they'll rule, now do we? Even if they rule right, don't forget Harriet Miers. Anyway, Roberts was a stealthy candidate; Miers was chosen, because Roberts wasn't stealthy enough; and he chose Alito after Miers blew up in his face -- he is, we hope, the anti-Kennedy (remember 1987?).

* "But what about baby-killing stem-cell research?" Yeah -- he was the first to allow it to be funded with our tax dollars--didn't you know that? Yes, he did hold the line. Good for him. But now, he's putting baby-killing pills on the street, without even a prescription.

Sorry, but certain folks have this coming: I told you so.*

* Update: that may seem ungracious. The "certain folks" I mean are those who, during the past few years either (a) knew Bush wasn't solid on prolife and minimized it, and (b) those who didn't simply disagree on this subject, but did so aggressively and even abusively. I can't count the number of times I was accused of wrecking all that's good and decent, because I refused to vote for Bush.

To those folks I say: Don't blame me for abortion pills being as free as aspirin--your guy did it. I voted for Paroutka!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

'Blessed Mother Wednesday'

Walking home from the 4th Degree K of C meeting tonight, I had an idea(this is why I refused two offers of rides) . . .

We no longer have a Saturday morning Mass here. But I'd still like to have votive Masses for the Blessed Mother.

In fact, the options are wide open for Ordinary Time: any day where there's no feast or memorial, a priest can have a votive Mass of his choice, although he's supposed to be considerate of the devotion of the people. But then, he could justify a votive Mass for this or that saint as a way to teach a devotion, too.

In any case, devotion to Our Lady is the pre-eminent devotion in our faith.

So I thought--what about having a votive Mass of the Blessed Mother on Wednesday? The only association Wednesday has is with St. Joseph, and he's gallant, he'd be honored!

When else would we have votive Masses for Mary?

What do you think?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Come to Lady Wisdom's House (Sunday homily)

In the first reading, did you notice
who Lady Wisdom invites to her banquet?
Not those who are wise,
but those who are "simple"—
who admit they need wisdom!

St. Paul makes a similar point:
how many are foolish in these evil days!
Drunk with wine,
rather than filled with the Holy Spirit.

We joke about it,
but alcohol abuse is a huge problem.
Talk to our school principals, they’ll tell you
how often they see this with our kids.

That includes our Lehman Catholic

High School, and the lower grades too!
Thank God, in our Catholic schools,
teachers can talk about Christ,
they can pray with the students; they can say,
"Father’s down the hall
if you want to go to confession"!

I grew up with an alcoholic in my family.
It made things very difficult,
and it shapes my life now.

Part of what makes this so hard for a kid
is when she or he sees something is wrong,
but no one else will admit there’s a problem.

One time a man came to me, and said,
"Father, I’m here because my wife sent me.
She claims I have a problem with drinking."

"What do you say?"

"I don’t have a problem!"

"Then why are you here?"

"Because of my wife."

"She has a problem."

"That’s it."

"With whom?"

"…well, with me!"

"OK—and what’s it about?"

"Well . . . my drinking…"

Strange, but true:
people often will not see—or will not face—
that they are actually undecided
between their relationships with real people…
and with a bottle!

And you could say the same
about the Internet, sports, work, volunteering,
even at church!—and so it goes.

Until we admit our need,
we never enter Wisdom’s house!
Every week, the Daily Call lists
AA or Al-Anon meetings.
They’re for anyone, even kids!
Call me or Fr. Tom or Fr. Ang if you need help.

In the first reading, God sent his servant,

Wisdom, to invite everyone to eat and drink life;
in the Gospel, God himself comes
with the same invitation.

And gets the same response!

"How can he give his flesh

for the life of the world?"
On Good Friday,

Jesus offers his body and blood;
the night before, at supper,

he gave the Apostles a preview:
the first Eucharist, the first Mass!

Imagine being there, when God himself
spread a table before them.
"If you want to live—come, eat and drink!"

That’s what the Mass is!
But it’s not a "re-enactment,"
like those who will camp out
at the Heritage Festival.

This is the importance

of the Eucharistic Prayer.
Listen as I pray it.
Notice I will speak to the Father.
You hear my voice,
but its the Son of God praying for us!

Listen for Christ call on the Holy Spirit:
to come down on the bread and wine, and later,
to come down on us—for the same reason:
to become his Body and Blood!
Listen for that!

The Eucharistic Prayer may seem to be us,
reminding God;
in reality, its Christ, with us,
having an intimate conversation
with his Father,
about all they will do for our salvation.
They recall the details,
because you and I are listening in!

As we’re "listening in,"
you and I are drawn up to heaven itself—
Wisdom’s true House!
How cool is that?

In the Gospel,
instead of accepting Jesus’ invitation,
they argue with him.
Sometimes, we do that.

Many can’t or won’t accept on face value
what Jesus said about the Eucharist.
"If its his body and blood,
it doesn’t look like it!"
Sometimes folks will say,
"then it’s just a symbol."
As the author, Flannery O’Connor said,
"It its just a symbol, then to hell with it!"

Next week, I’ll say more about how the Mass
is our participation

in a sacrifice and a covenant.
But let me just say here—
eating bread and wine won’t save anyone!
You just heard Jesus say,
"eat my flesh and drink my blood."
Sounds like he meant it.

So, why does it keep
the appearance of bread and wine?
So that we can consume it.
That also gives us room for faith.

Lady Wisdom’s invitation stands for us:
We might wonder where her house is
and how we enter.

Here: the Catholic Church Christ founded;
and the Sacrifice of the Mass is her table.
Many pass by; but all who admit their need,

enter in, and receive Life.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Zwingli, sweet chariot

Duchessof, who visits here frequently, kindly sent along a check at my request for funds for painting our gym ($3,500 raised, another $12,500 to go), on the stipulation that I would say something nice about, um, er...

Oh, what's his name now? One of those Protestant rebels, um . . .

No, not the monk . . .

No, not the guy in Geneva . . .

Dang! It's hell getting old . . . can't remember worth a . . .

Oh yeah -- HUS! That was it . . . No--wait . . .

"Sing-free" . . . Ink-tree . . . Twink-blee . . .

"Father, do you mean 'Zwingli'?

Huh? No, that's not it . . . lemme think . . .

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Another bishop speaks courageously: 'Reaping the whirlwind of abortion'

Bishop Doran
Diocese of Rockford, Illinois

I want to touch on this matter before we get too close to the November madness. As human beings, as citizens of a “first world country,” as Americans, and as Catholics, most importantly, we have to take count of the circumstances in which we live. We know that the only creatures of God that outlast time are those created having intellect and will. All other things, with the passage of time, break up or break down.

Many of the issues that confront us are serious, and we know by now that the political parties in our country are at loggerheads as to how to solve them. We know, for instance, that adherents of one political party would place us squarely on the road to suicide as a people.

The seven “sacraments” of their secular culture are abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type, and genetic experimentation and mutilation. These things they unabashedly espouse, profess and promote. Their continuance in public office is a clear and present danger to our survival as a nation.

Read it all here.

(Biretta tip: The Cafeteria is Closed.)

Chaput on Islam & Christianity

In Christian-Muslim relations,
peace not served by ignoring history

Healing of conflict requires honesty,
repentance from both parties

Most Rev. Charles Chaput
Archbishop of Denver

Over the past few decades, studies have shown again and again that Americans tend to have a poor grasp of history. In fact, the scholar Christopher Lasch once wrote that Americans love nostalgia, because we see it as a form of entertainment. But we dislike real history, because real historical facts are inconvenient. Yesterday helps shape today. Real history places annoying obligations of truth on our present and future, and gets in the way of re-inventing ourselves.

As a result, quipped a teacher friend, “history is whatever we say it is, as long as we can get away with it.”I remembered her words recently as I read a news story. The story reported an Islamic leader as suggesting that it was European Christians, never Muslims, who tried to root out those who didn’t agree with them. Perhaps the reporter misunderstood the speaker. Perhaps the speaker made an honest mistake. Both Muslims and Christians have committed many sins against each other over the centuries. In the United States, we have an opportunity to overcome that difficult history and learn to live with each other in mutual acceptance. But respect can’t emerge from falsehood.

Catholics who do know history may remember the following:Islam has embraced armed military expansion for religious purposes since its earliest decades. In contrast, Christianity struggled in its divided attitudes toward military force and state power for its first 300 years. No “theology of Crusade” existed in Western Christian thought until the 11th century. In fact, the Christian Byzantine Empire had already been resisting Muslim expansion in the East for 400 years before Pope Urban II called the First Crusade — as a defensive response to generations of armed jihad.
Much of the modern Middle East was once heavily Christian. Muslim armies changed that by imposing Islamic rule. Surviving Christian communities have endured centuries of marginalization, discrimination, violence, slavery and outright persecution — not always and not everywhere; but as a constant, recurring and central theme of Muslim domination.

That same Christian suffering continues down to the present. In the early years of the 20th century, the Muslim Ottoman Empire murdered more than 1 million Armenian Christians for ethnic, economic, but also religious reasons. Many Turks and other Muslims continue to deny that massive crime even today. Coptic Christians in Egypt — who, even after 13 centuries of Muslim prejudice and harassment, cling to the faith — continue to experience systematic discrimination and violence at the hands of Islamic militants.

Harassment and violence against Christians continue in many places throughout the Islamic world, from Bangladesh, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan and Iraq, to Nigeria, Indonesia and even Muslim-dominated areas of the heavily Catholic Philippines. In Saudi Arabia, all public expressions of Christian faith are forbidden. The on-going Christian flight from Lebanon has helped to transform it, in just half a century, from a majority Christian Arab nation to a majority Muslim population.

These are facts. The Muslim-Christian conflict is a very long one, rooted in deep religious differences, and Muslims have their own long list of real and perceived grievances. But especially in an era of religiously inspired terrorism and war in the Middle East, peace is not served by ignoring, subverting or rewriting history, but rather by facing it humbly as it really happened and healing its wounds.

That requires honesty and repentance from both Christians and Muslims. Comments like those reported in the recent news story I read — claiming that historically, it was European Christians, never Muslims, who tried to root out those who disagreed with them — are both false and do nothing to help.

Biretta tip: Open Book

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Teens cope with unwanted births better than abortion: new study

National Study Finds Teens Who Abort
Are More Likely to Experience
Subsequent Mental Health Problems
Compared to Those Who Give Birth
to Unplanned Children
Springfield, IL (Aug. 10, 2006) -- Adolescent girls who abort unintended pregnancies are five times more likely to seek subsequent help for psychological and emotional problems compared to their peers who carry "unwanted pregnancies" to term, according to a new nationally representative study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Dr. Priscilla Coleman, a research psychologist at Bowling Green State University, also found that adolescents who had abortions were also over three times more likely to report subsequent trouble sleeping, and nine times more likely to report subsequent marijuana use. The results were compiled after examining 17 other control variables, like prior mental health history and family factors, that might also influence subsequent mental health.

Read the rest here

My comment: We all know how "studies" can, even with the best of intentions, be fatally flawed because people don't interpret the data validly. If anyone finds a real flaw in this, let me know in the comments. Even so, this seems common-sensical.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How does sloppiness help?

This post will be deliberately oblique -- I'm adding some thoughts to a discussion, now grown rather old, at another web site. Those who were part of it will know the particulars; those who weren't, need not.

An organization issues a news release that includes some sensational charges of wrongdoing against several members of the clergy, including the bishop. This against a background of wrongdoing, generally acknowledged. The organization issuing the news release has been pressing the case about such wrongdoing for some time.

I read the release, as quoted in a column. It included a horrendous accusation, and it pointed to a report, online, as including this accusation. I wanted to see the cited source for myself.

Sad to say, I feared it would be confirmed. To my surprise, the source cited did not substantiate the charge. Something was wrong.

So, I went back to the website where I read this, and said as much. After all, if the accusation is partly wrong, everyone is entitled to know that.

Well, that wasn't well received. Along the way, one of the posters came to the defense of the originator of the press release: well, the wording was ambiguous, not deliberate misinformation. OK, fair enough.

But here's the thing. If I make charges, then I accept the burden of proving it. You are absolutely right to examine my accusations with a critical glance -- indeed, you are duty-bound to do so.

Most of us don't have time to fact-check everything that comes up in these situations. We learn, over time, who we think is credible, and who we don't. And one of the ways we learn that is when, upon doing some checking, we either find the information is sound . . . or not!

I checked; and in one case, I found a serious flaw, at best explained by sloppy writing. This is serious business, reputations are at stake.

What amazes me -- and why I post this -- is that somehow, my insisting on accuracy somehow represents a harm to this man's cause. I don't get that. I'm told that the fellow means well, and cares deeply. Assume that's true. It's also beside the point. Good intentions plus sloppy work don't equal credibility. Finally, I've been accused of being in cahoots with those covering up the crimes:

Do yourself a favor. Don’t be too quick to answer for the bishops out of some misplaced notion of loyalty to secrecy or something like that. You don’t know the half of it.

I'm still trying to figure out the larger dynamic here. I am not naming the individual who authored the release, or his group, because I'm not interested in causing him any difficulties, nor in picking a fight with him. The issue is the sloppiness -- which I think hurts his cause -- and what appears to be a lack of concern about that. If you're going to go after anyone, accusing them of terrible crimes, this is serious business, and you have to get it right.

In any case, someone explain to me how sloppy press materials about very damaging accusations helps the cause?

I don't know if anyone will even post, but if you do, please leave out names, in light of what I said above.

Jesus wouldn't dis' his Mother (Assumption homily)

In the Gospel we just heard,
Jesus says, in effect,
‘It’s better to be a hearer of God’s Word,

and to do it, than merely to be
the physical mother of the Word of God.’

That’s true, of course—but to some,
it sounds like Jesus is putting Mary down—
some of our fellow Christians cite this passage
as “proof” that we Catholics are wrong
to give Mary all the honor we give her.

But I don’t believe for a moment
that the Lord would ever
put his mother in a negative light.
Any of us would be embarrassed
to do that, wouldn’t we?

Let me suggest a better answer.

Jesus said what he said because he knew—
and he knew everyone listening, knew—
that both statements were true of Mary!

It is not that Mary receives no blessing
for being his mother—rather, even greater
is her blessing for being his devoted follower.

St. Augustine said that Mary

first conceived Jesus in her heart—
by the obedience of faith—
and then conceived him in her womb.

This is why we give Mary so much honor—
because she was her Son’s

first and best disciple.
She was first to hear

and respond to the Gospel.
She was the first to go and bring

the Good News to someone else—
she went to Elizabeth and her household.

The feast we celebrate today
has to do with how Mary’s life on earth ended.

We believe that at the end of her natural life,
God took Mary to heaven, body and soul.

We believe God was not willing

to allow her body to experience
the decay we all face when we die.

While God might have done it another way,
it is certainly fitting that God would treat
his mother this way!

It means Mary received early
what all of us are promised

to have at the end of time:
enjoying God’s presence, not only in our souls,
but in our bodies, too—
in bodies that will never die again.

I think this doctrine
ultimately reflects on Jesus, Mary’s Son.
It shows us a son very devoted to his mother,
very grateful for all she did,
very mindful of the unique price she paid
for participating in his plan of salvation.
When we feel grateful, what do we do?
We say thank you; if we’re really grateful—
We give a gift, perhaps extravagant.

That’s what we do.

Would the Son of God do less?

In the Old Testament,
they had an “ark”—
a gold box that held the stone tablets
on which God himself
wrote the words of the Covenant.
God’s People were commanded

to honor to that ark—and when people
treated that ark with disrespect,
God is always very unhappy about that.

Well, what about the New Covenant?
In Jesus, the Word of the New Covenant
Became flesh in Jesus Christ;
And the Ark of the New Covenant

was Mary herself!

We believe, as St. John Damascene said,
“It was necessary that she
who had preserved her virginity

inviolate in childbirth
should also have her body kept free
from all corruption after death;

“It was necessary that she

who had carried the Creator
as a child on her breast
should dwell in the tabernacles of God.

“It was necessary that the bride
espoused by the Father
should make her home
in the bridal chambers of heaven.

“It was necessary that she who had gazed
on her crucified Son
and been pierced in the heart
by the sword of sorrow which she had escaped
in giving him birth,
should contemplate him

seated with the Father.

“It was necessary that the Mother of God
should share the possessions of her Son,
and be venerated by every creature
as the Mother and handmaid of God.”

Monday, August 14, 2006

Happy Feast Day, Max!

Today is my godson's feast day!

Happy feast day!

'Offenses Against Truth'

2475 Christ's disciples have "put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."273 By "putting away falsehood," they are to "put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander."274
2476 False witness and perjury. When it is made publicly, a statement contrary to the truth takes on a particular gravity. In court it becomes false witness.275 When it is under oath, it is perjury. Acts such as these contribute to condemnation of the innocent, exoneration of the guilty, or the increased punishment of the accused.276 They gravely compromise the exercise of justice and the fairness of judicial decisions.
2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.277 He becomes guilty:
- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;278
- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:
Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. and if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.279
2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one's neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.
2480 Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct. Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another's vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.
2481 Boasting or bragging is an offense against truth. So is irony aimed at disparaging someone by maliciously caricaturing some aspect of his behavior.
2482 "A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving."280 The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: "You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."281
2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth. By injuring man's relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.
2484 The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.
2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. the deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. the culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray.
2486 Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.
2487 Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another's reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience.
273 Eph 4:24.274 Eph 4:25; 1 Pet 2:1.275 Cf. Prov 19:9.276 Cf. Prov 18:5.277 Cf. CIC, can. 220.278 Cf. Sir 21:28.279 St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 22.280 St. Augustine, De mendacio 4, 5: PL 40: 491.281 Jn 8:44.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

'Orthodox Catholics' who hate the hierarchy

In recent decades, we've seen a phenomenon that seems very strange to me: Catholics who deem themselves very traditional, very orthodox -- and to show it, they dispense the most cynical, vile invective against the hierarchy, from top to bottom.

I am not talking about mere criticism. One can easily think of criticism one can make of any bishop, even the pope, and of them all acting together. One can think of criticisms, even rather severe, that would be fitting in areas of liturgy, financial management, clarity and boldness of teaching, and certainly in handling the clerical crimes.

Catholics, it seems to me, are supposed to love their pope, their bishops, and their priests -- after all, we're supposed to love our enemies aren't we? Can't the pope and bishops get a piece of that?

I realize many feel deep hurt and anger over the way bishops and priests have conducted themselves. They are impatient for the pope to remedy things. They fear for the future of the Church.

As to hurt, anger and impatience, even righteous indignation -- they are not justifications. Any of us can feel hurt and anger over any number of things; turning around and inflicting more hurt is hardly the answer.

As to the future of the Church. Well, I care too. But one has to beware of the temptation to take on more than God has asked us to. Do you think you can care more for the Church than He does? We certainly may be impatient for God to act, and we wonder why he does not. But really, any fury you can hurl at the bishops etc., can be hurled as justly at God. It's his Church, and he's God. Why isn't it His fault?

It makes my blood run cold to see the scurrilous, hateful things that fall from the lips and typing fingers of self-described faithful Catholics: accusations of every sort of crime, of the deepest depravity and cowardice, willing participation in conspiracies, etc.

Now, of course, it happens to be true that from time to time, we are all horrified to learn the depths of evil anyone can commit, and sometimes that includes clerics. We are aware of clerics who have committed every imaginable crime.

But in all this, we are obligated to maintain our Christian virtue: we are bound to be skeptical about such charges, simply because we are bound to give the benefit of the doubt. It is wrong to want to believe such things, and to be easily persuaded. The matter must prove itself true -- and the harsher, more appalling the accusation, then the more demanding we must be about it being proved.

This is not an impossible standard.

For that matter, there is a kind of conceit at work here. If a cleric is truly guilty of terrible crimes, then the matter must be determined. But by whom? In every instance, there are those who must act, who must reach a decision. And, certainly, if we have first hand knowledge, then we must bring it to the appropriate forum -- and perhaps, regrettably, to the larger public.

But most of us do not have first-hand information. We read, see or hear something, and we have a choice whether to repeat it. I fail to see what great urgency attaches to most of us repeating that which is defamatory but not certain.

By what right do I spread about a salacious, scandalous story about a bishop or a pope? Because I think it explains some problem in the Church, some inadequacy I see in that individual?

Really, let us reason here: if I find a bishop lacking, I might have recourse to any number of explanations, all reasonable. I think charity demands having recourse to the reasonable explanation that is least ugly, least defamatory.

When people depict the late pope, Pius XII, as a Nazi sympathizer, this is outrageous, particularly when one does a close examination of the whole story. The vastly more probable situation is that he showed great virtue, if not heroism, in opposing the Nazis and helping their victims, principally the Jews. One can find any number of resources that will demonstrate this -- the trend in real scholarship lately has been to vindicate the pope.

As I say, this outrages many faithful Catholics -- who (me included), feel very angry about the attacks on Pius XII.

And yet, some of the very same folks who are justly appalled at the unfairness of such charges against Pius XII, are quite ready to hurl equally foul accusations against other popes -- Paul VI in particular. (I choose not to repeat them, because while the charges against Pius XII are, sadly, all too well known, those against Paul are, thankfully, less well known, and I shall not help spread them. And I will swiftly delete any of that offal that may be posted here.)

I guess it depends on whose ox is gored?

"Faithful" Catholics would seem to be mindful of the sin of detraction -- which denotes repeating truthful but hurtful information unnecessarily; as well as the better known sin of calumny, and plain old lying. Also, the demand of charity, including -- as St. Ignatius of Loyola taught -- giving one's opponent the benefit of the best reasonable explanation of his conduct or words.

I would hope that these, particular "traditional" Catholics would want to be attentive to this less celebrated part of the Tradition?

And those who rightly feel outrage about the sins of clerics that do terrible harm should be mindful that God is outraged, too, at the harm done by careless words and uncertain accusations. To destroy someones reputation may not be the worst sin, but it is a terrible one.

Feel free to comment if you agree with me, or think I'm way off base. But I repeat -- no "news bulletins" about misdeeds will be tolerated. If you have some terrible fact to report, this is not where it needs to be reported.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

What did you hear?

Amy Welborn is going to kill me, but I will repent in dust and ashes if she objects to this . . .

With the "Bread of Life" discourse at Mass this Sunday, what did you hear?tm

At St. Mary, in Piqua, we had "I am the Bread of Life" for the opening; "The Lord hears the cry of the poor" (Haugen or Haas setting) for the psalm; "Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silent" (an outstanding hymn, imho) for the preparation; "Taste and See" for Communion, and "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus" for the closing. Mass of Creation settings throughout, but at least, "When we eat" as the memorial acclamation (since Christ has died, risen and will come again too many times at Mass lately).

What do you see? (Sunday homily)

The great question of the Gospel of John is,
“What do you see?”
The conflict was between the earthly,
that everyone saw, and the heavenly reality,
which took faith.

In today’s Gospel,

Jesus tells them he’s from heaven;
but his critics “murmured” saying,
we know where you came from: here!

For Jesus, it’s not “either or”;
that’s a problem for his hearers—

and often, for us.

We see this with the Church.
The human side of the Church

is all too visible,
and we have a hard time seeing the Church
is divine as well.

Let me illustrate by looking at the Creed,
which we will recite together in a moment.

The Creed begins with the Father;
then the Son; then the Holy Spirit.
Then we come to the Church—
after which, we profess “one baptism,”
our hope of resurrection, and the life to come.

So, the Creed seems to be four sections:
Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Church.

Now, if I had a chalk board,
I’d draw a diagram

with three points—a triangle:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Where do we put the fourth point

—the Church—us?
The Catholic answer is,

right in the middle!

See where that puts us?

Right in the heart of God!
That’s where baptism puts us in the first place;
and when we commit mortal sin,
confession puts us back.

See how important that is?
When we understand the Church,

in relation to God—
right in the very life of the Holy Trinity—
then we see that the Church

is both human and divine:
Just like Jesus Christ!

That being both heaven and earth together
is a two-way street.
This church isn’t just an ordinary building;
it’s an embassy of heaven!
God himself is here in the tabernacle:
we’re in his throne room!

This is what our whole lives

as Catholics are about.

If we think of God as far away,

we might wonder,
“why should he care about this or that sin?”

But when we see ourselves

in intimate union with God,
then we see how our sins
“grieve the Holy Spirit,”
who seals us to God!

We’ve been talking about the Mass

the last two weeks,
so let’s apply this to the Mass.
In recent decades we’ve had a huge swing,
from when Mass was very formal,
to where it was extremely loose and casual.

In recent years, the pope and the bishops
have called us back to more formality,
and more uniformity with the whole Church.

Some don’t like that;

some don’t see why that matters.

Well, if Mass is merely a human reality,
we can create and shape it as we like.

But this is a divine reality,
belonging to the whole Church,
across the world, across time,

uniting heaven and earth!
It’s not really “our” Mass, or “my” Mass—

it’s His Mass.
The ritual and formality help us
experience the divine reality,
in and beyond the human.

How we dress or act,

at Mass, isn’t all-important;
but it has some importance.

It surely would be easier if,

instead of our ushers,
we had the cherubim at the doors!
If, instead of our ceiling,
we saw Seraphim hovering overhead;
if, instead of images of the saints,
we saw them alive,

casting down their golden crowns
as Jesus offers his sacrifice to the Father.

That all happens at every Mass!
But we don’t see it—it takes faith, and effort.
So, servers: do I stress being very diligent?
For all of us: does it matter

how intently we participate?

I said a moment ago

that Christ places his Church
at the center of the Trinity;
that makes the Mass

the center of the Center.

Living our lives at the center of God’s life,

here on earth, leads us
to being there, forever, in eternity.
The one flows into the other.

So we’re never “part-time Catholics.”
Shopping, doing business,

what we do with our money—
either it’s with God, or apart from him.
When we remember

we’re always at the Center of God,
how would that affect

our choices on the playing field,
on a date, in our marriage?

Does it seem like it’s just about “rules”?
Again, that’s seeing the earthly

but not the heavenly.

So what do we do?

Look at our first reading.
The great prophet, Elijah,

is at a low point—
he’s ready to die!

The king is faithless and weak;
The people seem to be deserting God.
The priests and prophets are all false.
He feels very alone.

Wow—sounds like today!

You and I, the Church,

face the same journey—
not just here on earth,

but from here to heaven.

Our “food for the journey” is the Eucharist.

I said the Church is at the Center of the Life of God;
The Mass is at the center of the Church;
And the Eucharist is what binds it all together:
Truly Jesus, both God and man.

As the great theologian Henri de Lubac said,
The Eucharist makes the Church;
and the Church gives us the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is heaven and earth united!

But you and I have to decide what we see:
Is Jesus only a man—or is he God too?
Is the Church only a collection of sinners—
or is Christ’s Body, under his leadership,
filled with his Spirit?

Is the Eucharist only wine and bread—
Or truly Jesus the God-Man,
heaven come to earth, to lift us to heaven?

What do you see?

What 'friendly skies'?

In the wake of the most recent terror threat, our governments have imposed yet more restrictions on travelers. When anyone demurs or complains, the bloody shirt of terrorism is waved: "oh? would you rather die???

It is a poverty of thought and action to be forced into such a situation. Especially since it isn't clear exactly when and where we draw the line.

Sooner or later -- if we continue along this line -- "security" will mandate even more invasive searches. I am sorry to be gross, but we're talking X-rays, strip searches and cavity searches. People who are ready to die exploding an airplane will certainly be willing to hide the explosives within their own bodies.

Someone made the point (I'm sorry I can't recall where) that apparently, the government would rather allow an unarmed terrorist on a plane, than give offense by singling anyone out -- despite what common sense tells us. That is a startling statement, yet rings true: consider our security measures! The focus is not on finding the villains, but on their tools, which are increasingly innocuous. Peroxide?

I am very sorry that this falls heavily on Muslims, on people of particular nationalities and with certain types of names. Would that we had a moral X-ray machine! But if there were a horrific crime in Piqua today, and a key identifier was that the suspects drove a white Hyundai, I would be among those pulled over for questioning, simply because of the car I drive. It would beyond stupid to say, "oh, that would be so unfair--we must instead pull people over randomly."

Of course it's not only a matter of focusing on the obvious: of course the terrorists might use a grandmother or a child, and when they act squirrelly, there you go. But to bypass the obvious, so as not to give offense...well, that is where we are at present.

Meanwhile, we have the wretched air-travel industry which seems nearly beyond redemption.

On one level, I feel sorry for this industry. Every time the air-travel industry seems about to get up from the canvas, another roundhouse punch sends it reeling. Can't get a break.

But, no industry seems more deserving--it is so incompentent, even anti-competent, if I may coin that word. I say that because of how seemingly immune, if not hostile, the air-travel industry is to its customers.

Of all the various experiences we have in ordinary life, what is more seamlessly stressful than air travel? I understand that this results from many necessities; but the air-travel industry shows little sign of wanting to help the customer in any of this.

For example: would it be so hard for airports to have comfortable places to gather and sit and wait? A few do; but mostly, seating areas are poorly designed.

How would I do it? Well, must they be so cramped? I realize we're stuck with what was designed years ago, but in planning new construction, really spread these areas out, so folks who have to wait for hours can have some chance for comfort. Sitting on top of one another is stressful. They were designed for brief use; but alas, those days are gone. Even if we can't expand these areas, could we not upgrade the seating so it's comfortable for lengthy stretches?

And would it be so awful if the airports thought about the incessant noise that is blared at people constantly? I understand announcements and such; but CNN screaming at you? Please!

Also, I would provide better food and drink services in airports. You can't get anything to eat on airplanes anymore, and now you can't bring a drink onboard. Yet frequently, the place where you can buy drinks is on the wrong side of security.

Here's an idea--why not have have someone bringing food and drinks around the airport, the way they do at ballparks? Doesn't have to be fancy.

At this point, more must be demanded from the airlines: if we now can't carry on a cup of coffee or bottle of water, then you're going to have to provide this sooner. One of the reasons people carry on bottles of wine and expensive cologne is because they don't want them smashed or to disappear. Airlines say they'll do a good job; fine--back that up with a clearcut guarantee. (Everyone knows what a hassle it is to deal with airlines whenever stuff disappears or gets damaged.)

Here's the thing: we all do business all the time with lots of companies, and we trust businesses we deal with to keep their promises, based on track record. I do business with lots of folks, all the time, and it's mostly pleasant. If it's different with airlines, the airline industry can only blame itself.

We need a fundamental rethinking of how we do this, instead of incremental adjustments and impromptu patches that rely on the docile public to go along. Those traveling for just one night now face the prospect of checking baggage, since they won't be able to carry on their shaving kits. Or are we headed to the day when one simply won't be able to bring such things at all (i.e., because the terrorists might find a way to detonate something even in the baggage compartment)?

It would help if decision-makers at airlines and airports simply had a change of attitude: Stop condescending to us, stop lying to us, stop treating us as an interruption to your work--we are your work! It is frustrating when, a plane is delayed, you won't simply say, "I don't know" or even, "I'm not allowed to say" but instead, you tell us the plane is delayed for manifestly false reasons; or you tell us, "only a little while longer" for five hours. I realize many customers can be obnoxious and feel free to drag them out by their heels--but I think the power-equation, at the airport, is leaning heavily your way, now. It will not kill you to smile, to say "I'm sorry" frequently.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

...Just a reminder--as if we needed one today--that we are at war, and we need to defeat this enemy.

May God bless those who foiled the plot to kill thousands; may God be with those who continue to fight the war, on all fronts. May God convert the hearts and save the souls of those who seek evil.

May Christ be our light, and in us, the Light to the world.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

On Referrals-from-Amy Withdrawal

I don't know how I did it, but for the last few days, Amy Welborn, the queen of the Catholic blogosphere, decided I was the cat's meow. She kept linking items here!

The result was a huge spike in otherwise modest, but much appreciated, traffic.

Alas, now I'm yesterday's news, and the traffic has slowed. Well--you know the old, Latin saying: sic semper gloria blogospheri.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Caption this Picture!

"My staff keeps giving me different-sized chairs and different-length cassocks, to make me think I'm getting taller or shorter. They think I don't know. Um, you're not going to quote that, are you?"

Confession: I attended a woman's ordination!*

* A Protestant woman's ordination, that is...

And that's allowed.

The pastor of one of the local Protestant congregations invited me (I'm sure he invited all the local clergy) to attend, and I was happy to do so.

He did invite all the elders and ministers "and priests" present to lay hands on the candidate. I remained in my pew.

Later, when he asked everyone to pray for the well being of the family from any evil, well of course I was happy to join that prayer.

When I was in the seminary, I was part of summer education experience, involving theology students from various backgrounds. The other male in the group asked me, one evening, what I thought about women's ordination. I responded, "do you mean for you all (i.e., Protestants)? Makes no difference to me!" He laughed.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Transfiguration shows us Who Jesus Is

We might wonder why the “Transfiguration”
is important, whether
to these Apostles, or to us.

Answer: it tells us exactly who Jesus is.

If you watch late-night cable,
or browse the bookstore,
you can find lots of people who
get pretty excited over “secrets” and “codes”—
meanwhile, we have the Scriptures
right before us!

This event comes right in the middle
of the Gospel of Mark.
The question that’s been building is,
Who is Jesus?

So just before today’s passage,
Jesus himself asks the question:
“who do people say that I am?”

The Apostles say, “John the Baptist, Elijah…
one of the prophets.”
He asks again, “Who do you say that I am?”
And Peter blurts out, “You are the Messiah.”

Jesus responds to Peter’s insight
by offering even more:
He begins to reveal his plan of salvation:
He will suffer, die,
and rise again on the third day.

That was hard for Peter to accept;
But the Lord insists:
That’s who I am; if you want to follow me,
you must “take up your cross!”

The difficulty remains: what kind of Messiah?
A Messiah who conquers,
or who suffers and dies on the Cross?

It’s both.
This is who Jesus is.

The Cross is his glory!
That’s where he reigns!
That’s how he conquers the world:
Not the Rambo-Messiah, guns-ablazing—
That’s our way.

Jesus conquers by giving his life away,
to wipe away sin, to reconcile us
to God and one another.

We like the Rambo-Messiah
when he conquers…someone else!
But for that part of us
that needs forgiveness,
aren’t you glad to have
the Cross-Messiah instead?

Aren’t you glad to hear Jesus say,
I will conquer, not by killing you,
but by dying for you!

So, now we come to today’s Gospel.
Jesus knows how difficult
the Cross will be for them;
So to strengthen them for it,
he reveals his full glory.

If we look even closer,
we’ll find even more.

Notice something Father Tim Schehr,
from our seminary, picked up:
Peter says, let’s have three shrines—
implying all three are equals.
But then the Father answers from heaven:
“This is my beloved Son—listen to him!”
That’s when they only see Jesus.

We might wonder, why Moses and Elijah?
Why not Abraham or David or someone else?

Well—again, to quote Fr. Schehr—
“Moses represents the Law;
Elijah, the Prophets.”
And both left this world…
outside the Promised Land.”
Now, we see they’ve arrived!
Jesus isn’t a prophet like them:
he’s their salvation!

One more thing.
In the Old Testament,
God spoke to a lot of folks,
but only two went up a mountain
to see the Lord’s glory.
These two!
But before, when they went up the mountain,
they couldn’t bear to see it!
Moses hid in a rock;
Elijah covered his head.

But they don’t have to hide, here!
So we ask, Who is Jesus?
Mark shows us:
He is the One who Moses and Elijah
wanted to see!
the Lord God himself! God Almighty!

If you wonder, what’s this do for us?
Same as the Apostles.
They needed this to strengthen them
for their crisis of faith.
So do we.

In years ahead, what crisis
may come for our nation?
What might we face in our families,
or our own lives?

Can anyone deny
we have our own crisis of faith?
For so many, their faith is not a priority.
Smaller families, fewer baptisms,
Nationwide, Catholic schools are struggling—
and the same is true here.

That’s when we need
to remember who Jesus is!
Our only answer is to say:
Jesus truly is Lord!

When others around us get dazzled by
secret codes and hidden Gospels,
remember St. Peter’s words
in the second reading:
This is not a “cleverly devised myth”—
We saw him with our own eyes!

Are you in a dark place?
Keep your eyes fixed on his light,
And wait for the morning star!

Last Sunday, you may recall hearing
Father Tom, Father Ang, or me, say
our homilies for a few weeks
would be on the Mass.

So what’s the connection today?
Our “transfiguration” experience is the Mass.
This is where we come to do
as the Father said:
Listen to My Son!
Especially in the Scriptures.

Some can’t hear, I know;
some don’t get much from them.
May I ask, do you read them ahead of time?

If they’re hard to understand,
How about a weekly Bible Study?
I lead one every Wednesday,
7pm, at St. Boniface.
We’re in Genesis, but we can look
at anything you like.

And if something else would help,
let me know!

In our homilies,
the priests try to offer some insights;
no question we could do better.

But again—I ask you to do your part:
Let us know!

Tell us what made sense—
and, I really mean this—
Tell when it didn’t!
All us priests need to hear that.

Let me end with this.
The glory the Apostles saw in Jesus—
where did it come from?

The answer, of course,
is that it was there all the time—
they simply needed his help to see it.

I want to do my part
to help you see that Glory;
But ultimately, Jesus himself does that.
If we ask—I mean, really ask—He will.

Poor Mel Gibson: too bad he wasn't an editorial cartoonist...

Mel Gibson said "the Jews are to blame." He was drunk when he said it. He has since apologized.

Pat Oliphant says, "the Catholic Church is to blame." He was presumably sober (but perhaps not). Will he apologize? (Don't hold your breath.)

Update (2:15 pm, 8-5-06): This isn't Mr. Oliphant's first libel against the Catholic Church. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights keeps track of these things. The report for 2002 can be found here; in fairness to Mr. Oliphant, the league's collection of his hate-cartoons is thinner in later years. This isn't even the first time Mr. Oliphant has drawn this image -- this appears to be a recycle of a 2004 cartoon, which drew a mea culpa from the Boston Globe for pubishing it.

Update: (9:43 pm 8-5-06) Amy Welborn posted a link at her Open Book to this site, and drawn a number of comments there. Here's one especially insightful one:

This is actually a very hard cartoon to interpret.
One version: the nun is drilling into "Mel" that, if caught in a DUI, he shouldn't make slurs against Jews. In this version the Church, while abusive, is right, but Mel failed to learn the lesson.
Next version: the nun is drilling to Mel that he should defame Jews if he is caugth driving drunk. This makes sense if O. (and his readers) assume that the Church (nuns) are nothing but vicious antisemites and want to preach that vicious gospel.
The third version, perhaps most hateful, is that the nun (i.e. the Church) and young "Mel" both know that Jews are scum, but that he should learn to control his tongue, so that, if he should be stopped for drunk driving, he would avoid any untoward comments.
Two out of three of these are vicious anti-Catholic bigotry, while the third is anti-Catholic stereotyping. This should be pointed out to the publishers of this cartoon and those with subscriptions should cancel them.

Posted by: Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P.

Pat Oliphant: Liar, Hypocrite & Bigot

In light of Mr. Oliphant's latest libel against Catholics, you may want to see what he published a few days ago--when he mocked those who claim to speak for God (by lying about them)--then proceeded to speak for God himself...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Missale Romanum--where can I get it?

Can anyone suggest where I can get a current Missale Romanum? I know the Vatican sells it -- for about $600, on sale at $264! (I saw it when there last, 2 years ago; however, it was a huge volume; beautiful, but it seemed impractical).

I'm also interested in having a Missal that has chant settings. Does anyone know if this is currently available? Of course, we're all waiting for the bishops...

Failing that, can anyone suggest an alternate resource--i.e., something with chant settings for the current edition, in Latin?

Sadly, if you go to Catholic Book Publishing (the outfit that prints all our sacramentaries, lectionaries, breviaries and other ritual books), the web site never heard of a "Missale Romanum." Irritating...

Update: I wasn't, perhaps, clear enough what I'm looking for.

I want the current Roman Missal, in Latin -- I mean, the Rite of Paul VI, as revised after Vatican II; the same Mass being celebrated mostly in English in the U.S. I want to have this current Roman Missal in Latin, with chant settings.

I would be delighted to have the very latest, third edition, but failing that, I'd be happy with a second edition, if it doesn't cost too much (since it'll become obsolete rather quickly).

I am not seeking an older Missal, a pew Missal, or a Tridentine Missal--but the Paul VI current rite Missal. In Latin. For use on the altar. With chant.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Systematic Catholic Theology & Calvinism

A friend of mine, a Protestant minister I got to know when I did a summer program in Fort Wayne as a seminarian, emailed me a request: could I recommend a good author for Catholic systematic theology?

He said he'd heard of Ott, McBrien and Fiorenza.

I told him I didn't know Ott, he was a little old (well, in fact, I'm pretty sure he's dead; I mean, his work is old); and to flee McBrien and anyone named Fiorenza, taking nothing with you when you go!

But as to recommending Catholic systematic texts? I said that's hard, because I think he wants something compact -- not von Balthasar', how many volumes did he get to, anyway?

Plus, Catholic theology tends to specialize.

I recommended the Catechism--nothing shabby about that, and a great summary with depth and plenty of further resources suggested. I didn't recommend Aquinas, only because I didn't think that would be helpful for my Methodist friend.

What would you recommend?

He also asked me about any resources to counter Calvinism. Other than reviving the Inquisition, I was stumped for an answer. I referred him to some Catholic apologetical sites. Would you care to recommend anything?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Scandal in Vandalia

If you read about my dinner with Rich Leonardi and Victor Morton last night at Rich's Ten Reasons, I can confirm that it happened; but I must confess, that was a highly sanitized account. I surreptitiously taped the entire evening, and herewith follow the shocking details...




"Hey honey, gimme a beer, huh?"

"Dude, my sitemeter numbers are way higher than yours. Heh heh."

"Better gimme a full rack; wouldn't want to hurt the owner's feelings."

"Mild sauce? I don't want anything 'mild.'"

"Hey, honey, how about another beer?"

"So, uh, what do you think about the state of catechesis?"

Glug, glug.

(carnivorous chewing noises.)

"My kids are doing great. I--"

"Hey, doll, how about another beer?"

"Huh--I thought these ribs had bones in them..." (burp!).

"The Republicans are toast in Ohio--and it's all the liturgists' fault!"

"I dunno--how do you know they aren't the world's true parents? Huh? Huh?!?"

"That's the nice thing about wearing black--hides stains... hey--you gonna use those potato skins?"

"Hey, sweetcakes, how about another beer?"

"Why not make it two?"

(Manager): "Um, I wonder if you gentleman could hold it down..."

"What? Who are you calling gentleman? Do you know who we are? See this red-headed guy? He used to be the Tommy Hearnes of Little Italy in Rochester! Don't mess with us..."

"Um, that was awhile ago..."

"Hey, toots, how about another beer?"

"Sir, if you could just calm down a little bit..."

"You talk to me that way? You know who I am?

"Well, I'm starting to get an idea..."

"Yeah, keep talking, smart guy--wait till we blog about you!

"Um, Sir, this is a family establishment, and..."

"Um, we'll take the check...I've got a long drive to Cincinnati..."

"You're a progressive, aren't you? That's it--a progressive! You're all out to get us!"

"What's the hurry? Let's have another beer!"

"Take your hands off me! I own Piqua!"

--- tape ends here because recorder was smashed in ensuing melee---

Playing bingo at the office

People wonder how a priest spends his day. One of them is playing online (free) bingo . . .

Now, before you laugh or shake your head at that, I will explain.

We have a bingo; it generates needed income to the parish. Unless I replace that income, I must look for ways to make it more successful . . .

Which leads me to want to create some promotions; only I have no idea how one promotes bingos...which leads me to wonder how others do it . . .

Which leads me to look on the Internet for bingo operations, see what they do and--here is why I signed up for (free) bingo--get on their mailing list!

Yes, that's correct -- I actually want to get on their list--I want to see how they promote their bingos . . .

So I spent about 15 minutes googling bingo and signing up for a free account. And I came really close to winning, too . . .

Can the Church excommunicate pro-abort pols?

You don't have to look far to find many who insist the Church should excommunicate pro-abortion politicians. Nor will you have trouble finding people very critical of the bishops for not doing so.

So, I got thinking: if the bishops together -- or a particular bishop -- were to do this, how would it work? (Can anyone tell me if any bishop in the U.S. has actually done this? I mean, actually excommunicated anyone over a public policy position, such as abortion or related issues?)

Here's the problem I ran into right away: in such matters, the penalty is incurred for a concrete action, but its not merely the act per se, it also includes the intention. In the example of the woman participating in a simulated ordination, that ordination is the concrete act; for those receiving or imparting the invalid ordination, how can they have any intention that is defensible? On the other hand, one who was merely present might be able to say, "I wasn't there to support it, I was there as a journalist, reporting on it," or, "I work on the boat" -- such people, while present, did not have the culpable intention: i.e., their cooperation was not formal, but only material; and not immediate (i.e., the one actually imposing hands can hardly disclaim intention).

OK now, let us apply this to "supporting legal abortion." The Church, in giving warning about this, would have to specify certain acts that incurred the excommunication; or would there have to be a hearing, an examination, etc., after the fact? Canon lawyers, please advise...

But let me share with you where this line of thinking foundered for me--and feel free to contribute constructive solutions: in trying to name the concrete act that would incur the excommunication, I found myself well able to think of an intention that would be legitimate.

So let us take poor Senator Kerry as an example. What has he done?

* He votes for tax funding for abortions
* He votes against every abortion restriction put before him -- or, if not every one, most of them.
* He gives vocal support to the status quo on abortion, he accepts financial support and endorsements from pro-abortion organizations.

Can any of these actions have defensible intentions?

Well, what if he says--as he well may--that he believes the constitution requires abortions be provided at taxpayer expense. Likewise, he could well argue that all the laws put forward violate the Constitution. (In the latter case, it's clear the Supreme Court thinks so.) However faulty I think that reasoning is, does the Church really excommunicate someone for bad constitutional reasoning?

Is accepting political contributions and endorsements from the abortion industry an excommunicable act? I'm not asking if its bad, offensive, and all that--is it such that one can be excommunicated for it? Could he not say, "I don't agree with them about abortion--I agree with my Church that it's a terrible evil. But we do agree on the constitution and on other issues, and I'm not endorsing them, they're endorsing me."

Then, supposing we took that route, that would mean he merely needs to refuse the contributions -- that doesn't help much, does it?

As far as defending the status quo -- what if he were to say (and I think he does say some of this), "As awful as I think abortion is, I believe the Constitution protects it. And I regret this, but I think the constitution is so important to us that we have to honor the constitution, but oppose abortion in other ways." Is his excommunicable act his opposition to changing the constitution? I'm not sure, but this might be the best grounds. However, would it not have the effect of meaning a Catholic is bound to support a constitutional amendment against abortion, if not another equivalent remedy?

And--supposing we took this route, and he changes his behavior, then while that would mute his pro-abortion rhetoric, and commit him to supporting a change in Roe v. Wade or a constitutional amendment, he'd still be voting mostly the same way he has . . .

You might say, he voted against Alito and Roberts. Well, whatever one thinks of that, how can that incur an excommunication? Can't a Catholic oppose a Supreme Court nominee? In any case, surely Kerry could have cited a morally defensible reason: "I voted against them because I believed they would distort the meaning the framers intended for the constitution."

I'm not trying to be cagey; the classic rule in Canon Law is to interpret strict provisions strictly -- i.e., anything that brings such a severe penalty on someone must not be done in a loosey-goosey fashion. And if you want the bishops to do this, this is the sort of examination of the matter that would have to be done, only better, because I'm no canon lawyer.

After all, consider this. Let us imagine, happily, that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. Now someone introduces federal legislation outlawing abortion in all 50 states. But you have a fair number of conservaties in Congress, including probably some Catholics, who say, I want to outlaw all abortions, but I believe the states have that authority; not the federal government. I believe it distorts our federal system when Congress takes on more and more legislative power. So I will oppose this measure for that reason.

Should that person be excommunicated?

See the problem?

Has anyone else explored this in detail? What have they come up with?