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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Books I'm not reading

Ben Witherington is continuing to review Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, chapter by chapter. In his post about chapter five ... ‘FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS….’ CHAPTER FIVE: DYING TO LIVE .... Ben posts a neat quote from the book. Ben writes ....

I particularly like p. 134, which, among other things, stresses “When people say that Jesus came to die on the cross so that we can have a relationship with God, yes that is true. But that explanation puts us at the center. For the first Christians, the story was, first and foremost, bigger, grander. More massive. When Jesus is presented only as the answer that saves individuals from their sin and death, we run the risk of shrinking the Gospel down to something just for humans, when God has inaugurated a movement in Jesus’ resurrection to renew, restore, and reconcile everything ‘on earth or in heaven’ (Col. 1). Just as God originally intended it. The powers of death and destruction have been defeated on the most epic scale imaginable. Individuals are then invited to see their story in the context of a far larger story, one that includes all of creation.”

This is a good correction on an over-emphasis on the human benefits of the work of Christ, and particularly his death and resurrection ....


It's nice to be able to read such a thorough review of the book since I doubt I'll be reading the book itself.

Speaking of books I probably won't be reading, all around blogdom I've seen posts about Elizabeth Johnson's book, Quest for the Living God, due to its critique from the US Bishops (see Fr. Martin's post about this at America magazine's blog). Strange - I'm a feminist but I've not read a book on feminist theology.

I haven't looked for anything new that's theology-related lately. I still have a few books I bought some time ago that I feel I should try to finish first ..... Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality by Philip Endean SJ, Radical Orthodoxy: A Critical Introduction by Steven Shakespeare, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God by Marilyn McCord Adams, and The Big Questions in Science and Religion by Keith Ward. I find this stuff pretty hard to understand so I end up just reading what seems to address my concerns, and so I miss a lot of books.

Which reminds me :) there's a a funny article at the Telegraph about books not read ... Not the 50 books you must read before you die.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fr. Roy Bourgeois

A post at dotCommonweal - Roy Bourgeois to be Booted from Maryknoll ....

NCR reports the expulsion of Roy Bourgeois from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers unless he recants his position on the ordination of women. His deadline is Saturday, and he says he has no intention to recant .... This from the homily at his concelebration of the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska, the event that started all this:

"Conscience is something very sacred. It gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter to refuse to enlist in Hitler’s army. On this day, August 9, 1943, this humble farmer was executed for following his conscience. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say, “No, I cannot sit in the back of the bus anymore.” Conscience is what compels Janice Sevre-Duszynska and the other women to say, “No, we cannot deny our call from God to the priesthood.” And it is our conscience that compels us to be here today. How can we speak out against the injustice of our country’s foreign policy in Latin America and Iraq if we are silent about the injustice of our church here at home?" ..........


A priest in the Maryknoll order, Roy Bourgeois was excommunicated latae sententiae for attending and preaching a homily at the ordination of a woman in 2008. Here's what Wikipedia has on him - it's well worth a read ....

Bourgeois was born in Lutcher, Louisiana in 1938. He attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in geology.

After graduation, Bourgeois entered the United States Navy and served as an officer for four years. He spent two years at sea, one year at a station in Europe, and one year in Vietnam. He received the Purple Heart during a tour of duty in Vietnam.

After military service, he entered the seminary of the Catholic religious order or the Maryknoll Missionary Order. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1972 and sent to Bolivia.

1972-1975 Fr. Bourgeois spent five years in Bolivia aiding the poor before being arrested and deported for attempting to overthrow Bolivian dictator General Hugo Banzer.

1980 Fr. Bourgeois became an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America after four American churchwomen, Sister Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, Sister Ita Ford, and Sister Dorothy Kazel, were raped and killed by a death squad consisting of soldiers from the Salvadoran National Guard.

1990 Fr. Bourgeois founded the School of the Americas Watch or (SOA Watch), an organization that seeks to close the School of the Americas, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001, through nonviolent protest.

1998 Fr. Bourgeois testified before a Spanish judge seeking the extradition of Chile's ex-dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

2008 In August 2008, Fr. Bourgeois participated in and delivered the homily at the ordination ceremony of Janice Sevre-Duszynska ......

[Awards he's been given ... * Pax Christi USA Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award (1997), * Thomas Merton Award (2005)


If interested, you can read the text of a letter sent in 2008 by 100 nuns from 22 religious congregations to the Vatican about Fr. Bourgeois here.

Is Roy Bourgeois really the kind of person the church can do without? Does the primacy of conscience actually mean nothing? How the anti-Semitic Vatican II-denying SSPX bishops be un-excommunicated while Fr. Bourgeois won't be? How can pedophile-protecting Cardinal Law be promoted while Fr. Bourgeois is dumped?

:(


Illustration



Saw Robert Fludd ((1574-1637) mentioned by Liam and in looking around for him came upon a couple of interesting posts with illustrations at BibliOdyssey - The Temple of Music and Fludd Returns.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ABC

I've noticed there's a post at Women in Theology on the merits of the theology behind Natural Family Planning.

I think that the church's stance on artificial birth control is wrong-headed and it's interesting that most of those at the Second Vatican Council as well as those on the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control shared my viewpoint (The commission produced a report in 1966, proposing that artificial birth control was not intrinsically evil and that Catholic couples should be allowed to decide for themselves about the methods to be employed.)

However, Paul VI rejected the Pontifical Commission's recommendations and went instead with the minority report, as expressed in his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae.

Many did dissent from his view, as mentioned in a 1993 article, 'Humanae Vitae' 25 Years Later, in America magazine. Here's an excerpt ...

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[...] When Humanae Vitae first appeared it caused a furor. My yellow and crumbling copy of the National Catholic Reporter for August 7, 1968, carries the headline: "Pau1 Issues Contraceptive Ban: Debate Flares on His Authority." Tom Burns, then the editor of the London Tablet, has said the encyclical was "the greatest challenge that came my way." Burns opposed the encyclical. He surmised that "never in the 150 years of the paper’s existence has an editor of The Tablet been presented with a problem of conscience and policy so grave as that which confronted me with the publication of Humanae Vitae."

With that sentence Burns probably summarized the anguish of many bishops, priests, theologians and lay people around the world. Episcopal conferences began issuing pastoral letters on the encyclical. These ran the gamut from celebration to qualification. For instance, the Belgian bishops stated: "Someone, however, who is competent in the matter under consideration and capable of forming a personal and well-founded judgment--which necessarily presupposes a sufficient amount of knowledge--may, after a serious examination before God, come to other conclusions on certain points. In such a case he has the right to follow his conviction provided that he remains sincerely disposed to continue his inquiry." Of those who arrived at conclusions differ­ent from Humanae Vitae, the Scandinavian bishops stat­ed: "No one should, therefore, on account of such diverg­ing opinions alone, be regarded as an inferior Catholic." The Canadian bishops made a similar statement: ’These Catholics should not be considered, or consider them­selves, shut off from the body of the faithful."

Charles Curran composed a statement critical of the ecclesiology and methodology of Humanae Vitae. The statement concluded that "spouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contra­ception in some circumstances is permissible and indeed necessary to preserve and foster the value and sacredness of marriage." This statement was eventually signed by over 600 theologians and other academics, including well-known theologians such as Bernard Haring, David Tracy, Richard McBrien, Walter Burghardt, Raymond Collins, Roland Murphy and Bernard McGinn. A group of European theologians met in Amsterdam on Sept. 18-­19, 1968, and issued a dissenting statement. The signato­ries included some of the best known theologians in Europe: J. M. Aubert, A. Auer, T. Beemer, F. Bockle, W. Bulst, P. Fransen, J. Groot, P. Huizing, L. Janssens, R. van Kessel, W. Klijn, F. Klostermann, E. McDonagh, C. Robert, P. Schoonenberg, M. de Wachter.

These were heady days indeed. Overnight, dissent became a front-burner issue. Any number of episcopal conferences mentioned its possibili­ty and legitimacy. The American bishops in their pastoral letter, "Human Life in Our Day" (Nov. 15, 1968), even laid out the norms for licit dissent. Expression of dissent is in order "only if the reasons are serious and well founded, if the manner of the dissent does not question or impugn the teaching authority of the Church and is such as not to give scandal." Paul VI himself, in a letter to the Congress of German Catholics (Aug. 30, 1968), stated: "May the lively debate aroused by our encyclical lead to a better knowledge of God’s will." .......

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Today, it's estimated that 90% of Catholics support the use of artificial contraception, and that up to 90% of Catholic women use artificial contraception.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Another of the plants

... from my sister. I don't know what it is (a kind of Freesia?)




Sunday, March 27, 2011

What if ...

This week of Creighton U's online retreat has Jesus telling the disciples that he's going to be killed (Mark 10:32-52).

I couldn't help wondering how different things might have been if Jesus had not been executed. That was the question asked by the movie The Last Temptation of Christ, and also asked by Carlos M. N. Eire, the Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale, in "What If? 2: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been (Pontius Pilate Spares Jesus: Christianity without the Crucifixion).

All those that have asked the question, though, seem to come at it from an atonement point of view - they believe God sent Jesus to die for our sins - and so a Jesus who wasn't killed means, to them, no resurrection and no reconciliation for us with God. But if one asks the question from an incarnation point of view (Ken Overberg SJ - The Incarnation: Why God Wanted to Become Human), then I don't see why Jesus not being executed would have to mean no resurrection or any diminishment of the worth to us of his incarnation.

I know - strange thoughts - I keep wanting to save Jesus from crucifixion, which I suppose makes me a nut. I need to eat a toasted cheese sandwich, watch some Stargate, and then come back to the retreat with a fresh mind.

In the meantime ... the movie Jesus doesn't have a scene showing Jesus giving the disciple's the bad news of his future death while on the road to Jerusalem, but it does have a neat scene of him discombobulating the disciples by healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:22-28 ) :) Start watching the video clip at 1:33 ......




Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Fragility of Goodness

My sister told me about an interesting movie she watched last night - Examined Life ...

Examined Life is a 2008 documentary film directed by Astra Taylor. The film features eight influential contemporary philosophers walking around New York and other metropolises and discussing the practical application of their ideas in modern culture. The philosophers featured are Cornel West, Avital Ronell, Peter Singer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Hardt, Slavoj Žižek, and Judith Butler, who is accompanied by Taylor's sister Sunny, a disability activist ....

You can find video clips of the different interviews at YouTube. Here below is one with Judith Butler as she walks and talks in San Francisco to Sunaura Taylor, a painter and activist for disability and animal rights .....



Also of interest, at least to ancient Greek history and philosophy and mythology loving me :) .... I'd not known of Martha Nussbaum, so I was really intrigued to see wrote The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, in which she mentions one of the more interesting guys in Greek history - Alcibiades. Here's what Wikipedia says of the book ....

The Fragility of Goodness confronts the ethical dilemma that individuals strongly committed to justice are nevertheless vulnerable to external factors that may deeply compromise or even negate their human flourishing. Discussing literary as well as philosophical texts, Nussbaum seeks to determine the extent to which reason may enable self-sufficiency. She eventually rejects the Platonic notion that human goodness can fully protect against peril, siding with the tragic playwrights and Aristotle in treating the acknowledgment of vulnerability as a key to realizing the human good.

Her interpretation of Plato's Symposium in particular drew considerable attention. Under Nussbaum's consciousness of vulnerability, the re-entrance of Alcibiades at the end of the dialogue undermines Diotima's account of the ladder of love in its ascent to the non-physical realm of the forms. Alcibiades's presence deflects attention back to physical beauty, sexual passions, and bodily limitations, hence highlighting human fragility.

Fragility made Nussbaum famous throughout the humanities. It garnered wide praise in academic reviews, and even drew acclaim in the popular media.[26] Camille Paglia credited Fragility with matching "the highest academic standards" of the twentieth century, and The Times Higher Education called it "a supremely scholarly work." Nussbaum's fame extended her influence beyond print and into television programs like PBS's Bill Moyers.


And here's a video of her talking about the book with Bill Moyers ....




Friday, March 25, 2011

The Annunciation by Kilmer


Annunciation of Ustyug

Here's a poem I hadn't seen before by Alfred Joyce Kilmer ...

The Annunciation

"Hail Mary, full of grace," the Angel saith.
Our Lady bows her head, and is ashamed;
She has a Bridegroom Who may not be named,
Her mortal flesh bears Him Who conquers death.
Now in the dust her spirit grovelleth;
Too bright a Sun before her eyes has flamed,
Too fair a herald joy too high proclaimed,
And human lips have trembled in God's breath.

O Mother-Maid, thou art ashamed to cover
With thy white self, whereon no stain can be,
Thy God, Who came from Heaven to be thy Lover,
Thy God, Who came from Heaven to dwell in thee.
About thy head celestial legions hover,
Chanting the praise of thy humility.


Drugs

I noticed a couple of things today .... a new movie, Limitless .... and the latest Question at CIF Belief, Did the drugs work at all? .... both are about the brain on drugs; smart drugs and psychedelic drugs.

The Question asks (and there are a couple of answers at the link) ...

The death of Owsley Augustus Stanley III, high priest of psychedelia, prompts an interesting question: did anyone learn anything about reality from LSD? Unlike most other drugs, the psychedelics were meant to bring us closer to the real world, and not just to blot it out. But as we approach the half-centenary of the summer of love this claim looks rather threadbare. The acid casualty, mumbling and droning about spirituality, is a much more typical reminder of the period than anyone genuinely kinder and wiser as a result. And yet ... among the kind and decent people who took these drugs, it's hard to find anyone who did not feel that they learned something important as a result. So, was it all a delusion, or was it a glimpse – however inadequate – of something real and standing beyond our everyday lives?

Here's a bit about the movie Limitless from Wikipedia ....

Limitless is a 2011 American techno-thriller film directed by Neil Burger and starring Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, and Robert De Niro. It is based on the 2001 novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn with the screenplay by Leslie Dixon ..... Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a writer who lives in New York City and has recently been dumped by his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) in addition to failing to meet the deadline to turn in his new book, which he hasn't written yet. One day, Eddie comes across Vernon Gant (Johnny Whitworth), the brother of his ex-wife Melissa Gant (Anna Friel). Vernon is a drug dealer who offers Eddie a sample of a new drug, NZT-48. Eddie accepts and, much to his surprise, the drug increases his intelligence and improves his focus .....



I thought it would be interesting to see if Jonah Lehrer had written anything about psychedelic drugs or smart drugs in the past, and he had. He has a post on LSD, and below here's just the beginning of his post on smart drugs .....

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The Hidden Cost of Smart Drugs

Johann Hari decides to take Provigil (aka viagra for the brain) and reports back on the results:

*

I sat down and took one 200mg tablet with a glass of water. Then I pottered about the flat for an hour, listening to music and tidying up, before sitting down on the settee. I picked up a book about quantum physics and super-string theory I have been meaning to read for ages, for a column I'm thinking of writing. It had been hanging over me, daring me to read it. Five hours later, I realised I had hit the last page. I looked up. It was getting dark outside. I was hungry. I hadn't noticed anything, except the words I was reading, and they came in cool, clear passages; I didn't stop or stumble once.

Perplexed, I got up, made a sandwich - and I was overcome with the urge to write an article that had been kicking around my subconscious for months. It rushed out of me in a few hours, and it was better than usual. My mood wasn't any different; I wasn't high. My heart wasn't beating any faster. I was just able to glide into a state of concentration - deep, cool, effortless concentration. It was like I had opened a window in my brain and all the stuffy air had seeped out, to be replaced by a calm breeze.

Once that article was finished, I wanted to do more. I wrote another article, all of it springing out of my mind effortlessly. Then I go to dinner with a few friends, and I decide not to tell them, to see if they notice anything. At the end of the dinner, my mate Jess turns to me and says, "You seem very thoughtful tonight."

*

If only intelligence were so easy. Before you run out a get an illicit supply of Provigil, let me remind you that the brain is a precisely equilibrated machine. Even drugs that don't appear to have any negative side-effects - who wouldn't want a more focused brain? - can actually have deleterious consequences.

In this case, the tradeoff involves creativity. Some of my friends who relied on crushed Ritalin during college used to joke about how the drugs were great for late-night cramming sessions, but that they seemed to suppress any kind of originality. In other words, increased focus came at the expense of the imagination. It makes perfect sense that such a cognitive trade-off would exist. Paying attention to a particular task - like writing an article - requires the brain to ignore all sorts of seemingly unrelated thoughts and stimuli bubbling up from below. (The unconscious brain is full of potential distractions.) However, the same thoughts that can be such annoying interruptions are also the engine of creativity, since they allow us to come up with new connections between previously unrelated ideas. (This might be why schizotypal subjects score higher on tests of creativity. They are less able to ignore those distracting thoughts, which largely arise from the right hemisphere.) ...........

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Mandela, Berrigan, Escrivá: One of these things is not like the others

There's a post at America magazine's blog by Austen Ivereigh on the recent movie about Opus Dei founder Josemaría Escrivá, There Be Dragons.

I've mentioned often that I don't like Escrivá or the movie, given his support of fascist Franco in the Spanish Civil War. But I just couldn't not write something when I read Austen Ivereigh comparing Escrivá to both Daniel Berrigan SJ and Nelson Mandela .... holy mackerel!

I guess There Be Dragons (and its marketers - Austen writes that he's part of the team engaged in the grassroots marketing to congregations) is an example of how history can be sort of re-created through popular culture (think the Alamo).

Here (not in any special order) are a few of my past posts that touch in one way or another on the subject of Escrivá, or Opus Dei, or the Spanish Civil War ....

- Hans Urs von Balthasar and Opus Dei

- Basque priests / Spanish Civil War

- Andy Garcia is Lorca :)

- Spanish Ciliv War

- There be Dragons

- Opus Dei and Anglican Ordinariates

- Breach

- Jon Sobrino SJ


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Adopted plants

My sister has just moved from a house to an apartment so has asked me to take some of her potted plants. Here's one of them, a strawberry sharing a pot with a vine ...




Libya

Being for the most part a pacifist, I've been averting my eyes from intervention in Libya, but still I've noticed a couple of posts on the subject. One of the posts (with some interesting comments) is at dotCommonweal: War. Again., and the other is at US Catholic. Here's just the beginning of the post at US Catholic by Bryan Cones ....

UPDATE: Just war theory v. Libya? 2nd thoughts...

UPDATE: My natural suspicion about the use of military action in Libya has been deepened by the scale of the bombing (see proportionality below), which has included more than 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles and multiple attacks against Libyan infrastructure well away from the besieged civilians of Benghazi (see just cause). Add to it the discovery that most Libyan oil goes to Europe, led by France and Italy and Ireland (see right intention), and this action starts to struggle to meet just war criteria.

Less than a week into this operation, I worry that what we have is another intervention by Western colonial powers to secure the natural resources of a weaker nation. Muammar Gaddafi, like Saddam Hussen before him, may be a bad man who does cruel things and oppresses his people. But the world is filled with those kinds of people, and we aren't bombing them ......



Monday, March 21, 2011

Shakespeare's Orpheus

I'm rereading (listening to) one of my favorite books, Inkspell, read by Brendan Fraser (listen to an audio sample from the book ... Dustfinger Comes Home (mp3) :). In the part I just listened to, a poem by Shakespeare was read about the poet from Greek mythology, Orpheus ....

Orpheus with his lute made trees
And the mountain tops that freeze
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.

Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing, die.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Jesus as a sign

Saw two posts that are more or less about communion/the eucharist. One is at Pray Tell - Teaching Liturgy: Where Do I Begin? (part III), and the other is at Inhabitatio Dei. - The End of Ecumenism. The comments to both posts are really interesting.

The posts took me back to my RCIA days. I remember really nothing at all about what I was taught on the eucharist ... all I can recall is someone telling me not to chew the host :) It wasn't until I started blogging that I learned that there were differences of opinion not only between Protestants and Catholics on what communion was about, but also among Protestants and among Catholics as well.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Benedict XVI, JD Crossan, and Anne Catherine Emmerich


- begin watching at 2:30

There are some interesting posts at Women in Theology about the Benedict/Joseph Ratzinger's second volume on Jesus.

One thing I found interesting was Benedict's description of Pontius Pilate - he dismisses what little literary evidence there exists on Pilate and instead seems to use only the gospel of John as a historical reference. You can read an excerpt from Benedict's book here at Ignatius Press' blog, but below I'll quote just a relevant bit ....

[T]he judge: the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. While Flavius Josephus and especially Philo of Alexandria paint a rather negative picture of him, other sources portray him as decisive, pragmatic, and realistic. It is often said that the Gospels presented him in an increasingly positive light out of a politically motivated pro-Roman tendency and that they shifted the blame for Jesus’ death more and more onto the Jews. Yet there were no grounds for any such tendency in the historical circumstances of the evangelists: by the time the Gospels were written, Nero’s persecution had already revealed the cruel side of the Roman State and the great arbitrariness of imperial power. If we may date the Book of Revelation to approximately the same period as John’s Gospel, then it is clear that the Fourth Gospel did not come to be written in a context that could have given rise to a pro-Roman stance.

The image of Pilate in the Gospels presents the Roman Prefect quite realistically as a man who could be brutal when he judged this to be in the interests of public order. Yet he also knew that Rome owed its world dominance not least to its tolerance of foreign divinities and to the capacity of Roman law to build peace. This is how he comes across to us during Jesus’ trial ..... In the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate, the subject matter is Jesus’ kingship and, hence, the kingship, the “kingdom”, of God .... After the interrogation, Pilate knew for certain what in principle he had already known beforehand: this Jesus was no political rebel; his message and his activity posed no threat for the Roman rulers [but Benedict ignores Luke 23:1-2 which has the Sanhedrin tell Pilate that Jesus was incitinh tax evasion (a capitol offense)]. Whether Jesus had offended against the Torah was of no concern to him as a Roman ....

Pilate presents him [the flogged Jesus] to the crowd-to all mankind: “Ecce homo”, “Here is the man!” (Jn 19:5). The Roman judge is no doubt distressed at the sight of the wounded and derided figure of this mysterious defendant. He is counting on the compassion of those who see him .... Pilate — let us repeat — knew the truth of this case, and hence he knew what justice demanded of him.

Yet ultimately it was the pragmatic concept of law that won the day with him: more important than the truth of this case, he probably reasoned, is the peace-building role of law, and in this way he doubtless justified his action to himself. Releasing this innocent man could not only cause him personal damage — and such fear was certainly a decisive factor behind his action — it could also give rise to further disturbances and unrest, which had to be avoided at all costs, especially at the time of the Passover.


I think John Dominic Crossan would be opposed to Benedict's view of Pilate. In his book Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions About the Historical Jesus, Crossan answers a question on this subject (p. 103-109)....

In the New Testament accounts ... Pilate is portrayed as being completely just and fair, desiring to acquit Jesus but forced reluctantly and against his will to crucify him because of the insistence of Jewish authorities and the Jerusalem crowd. But what we have learned about Pontius Pilate from other records is totally at variance with that benign picture. We know quite a bit about the historical Pilate. We have archaeological as well as literary evidence for Pilate ...

[snip - here he mentions an inscription in limestone with Pilate's name which was found in 1961 and now lives here at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and he also mentions the bad stuff that ancient Jewish writers Philo and Josephus wrote of Pilate, plus he opines that the idea that Pilate asked the crowd to choose between Jesus and Barabbas was fiction]

[A]fter the disaster of the first Roman-Jewish War, Christians were becoming more and more marginalized as a force within Judaism and were becoming less and less likely to attain the leadership of their own people. The future would lie with Rabbinic Judaism and not Christian Judaism. As described by Mark in the 70s, Jesus' enemies at the crucifixion are "the crowd" from Jerusalem. By Matthew in the 80s, that crowd has grown to "all the people." And by John in the 90s, it has become, quite simply, "the Jews" ....

None of that process, even in its nastiest name-calling, made much difference in the second or the third centuries when Christianity, though by then a religion distinct from Judaism, had no power of reprisal. But in the fourth century, when the Roman empire became officially Christian, those very same crucifixion stories took on the meaning of Christians accusing Jews, and began the long and lethal process that prepared Europe for the Holocaust in the terrible fullness of time.


Worth a read is an article by Crossan, Who Killed Jesus?, which begins with this creepy quote on Pilate by Hitler ....

It is vital that the Passion Play be continued at Oberammergau; for never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed as in this presentation of what happened in the times of the Romans. There one sees in Pontius Pilate a Roman racially and intellectually so superior, that he stands out like a firm, clean rock in the middle of the whole muck and mire of Jewry."
Adolf Hitler (July 5, 1942)


All this reminded me of someone else who painted a positive image of Pilate in her The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ ... German nun Anne Catherine Emmerich. The work, a vision, includes the bit about Pilate and his wife which is said to have influenced Mel Gibson's movie portrayal of Pilate.

Strange that a man said to have put Jesus to death, whatever his motives, would rate such defenses.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

The word is passionate

This week of Creighton University's Spiritual Exercises online retreat is interesting - Jesus Confronts Religious Leaders. The readings we're given are of Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple (Matthew 21:12-17), and Jesus telling off the Pharisees and Scribes (Matthew 23:1-39). Larry Gillick SJ writes ...

Ignatius moves us to contemplate the freedom that Jesus possesses stemming from his having heard and having believed who he is in the eyes of his heavenly Father. He knows who he is and he knows too the holiness of the ancient traditions and practices that his teachings build on, yet challenge. We are watching and listening to a person of fidelity both to himself and to his conflicts.

He is free to hear the arguments against him and his ways. He desires the engagements with his opponents as he was eager to engage the sick and needy around him. Fidelity is not being stubborn. Jesus fearlessly stays open to the dialogue and even to the threats. Rather, the word is passionate. For Ignatius, the word passionate means a fiery openness to whatever is offered. We consider this man of passion, of intense, open-hearted, open-handed availability for him to be reverenced as well as offended.


When I first became a Christian, my idea of Jesus was scandalized by the examples of his volatility. I'd always thought of him as almost emotionless, impassible, above the fray. A Jesuit I used to know told me my Jesus was plastic because I never let him get angry; he said that anger meant emotional engagement. But I grew up in a family where anger didn't equal anything remotely positive, so I still feel conflicted about a passionate Jesus - I find him both attractive and disturbing.

If you begin watching this video clip from the movie Jesus at 4:05, you'll see Jesus (Jeremy Sisto) coming to the temple, seeing the moneychangers, and seriously losing his aplomb ......




Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I want everything saved

The discussion of Rob Bell and hell has made it to the Guardian's "The Question" page ... Who is in hell? .... and Andrew Brown has commented on it too in one of his recent posts - Hell and linoleum.

NT professor Ben Witherington has a post on the subject too - Hell? No??. The post is long, but here's just a bit of it .....

[...] Does the NT teach that 1) there is a Hell, and 2) some folks are going there (not necessarily in a handbasket), and 3) they will experience eternal torment once there? .......

[W]hat exactly does the Bible say about Hell? Let’s start with some basic facts. Fact One— the Old Testament says little or nothing about Hell. What it does talk about is Sheol, the land of the dead, which in Greco-Roman thinking has been called Hades ...... Let’s be clear that the answer to the first question— Is there a Hell to be found in the NT?, is certainly yes. And Jesus is perhaps the one most clear about this. He calls it Gehenna, and he says its rather like the stinky garbage dump in the Hinnom Valley south of the City of David, and like a garbage dump its where the worm does not die and the fire never goes out. And there are people expected by Jesus to go there, as the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus shows in Lk. 16 ...... What about texts which suggest that Hell is a place of eternal torment? Yes, there are such texts, and they can be interpreted that way. Perhaps the most famous of these texts is 2 Thess. 1.5-10 .....


I was in a pretty good mood when I started this post, but not now :(


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From John Gray to Michel de Montaigne



Today I came across the above video of British political philosopher John Gray discussing faith, progress, immortality and the human condition with Revd Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral. I haven't yet read enough about him to figure him out but I do get that he doesn't believe in the idea of progress, neither the humanist nor the religious Teilhard de Chardin-ish version, and though he seems agnostic, he's anti-science as well. Some of his books ... The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death ... Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (see a review of it by A, C. Grayling) ... Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (see a review of it at OnEarth magazine).

But on to someone I like more :) .... Montaigne. There's a podcast about him at Philosophy Bites - Sarah Bakewell on Michel de Montaigne - that reminded me of a past kind of fun video on him, Montaigne on Self-Esteem - Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness .....




Monday, March 14, 2011

Helping the animals in Japan



There are many resources for helping the Japanese people during this disaster, but I thought I'd mention here a couple of places to visit for information about helping the animals in Japan as well. One post with info is 5 Ways You Can Help Animals In Japan. And this post at The Conscious Cat has some links to organizations helping - Help the animals in Japan



You can learn more about helping the animals in Japan at the World Society for the Protection of Animals - Animals in Disasters blog


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan

Still reading about the awful disaster in Japan. My sister lived there for seven years and still has some friends there, but she hasn't heard back from them yet. I thought I'd re-post a link to the 2005 First Things post by David Bentley Hart on the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami .... Tsunami and Theodicy. Speaking for myself, I've still not seen any worthwhile explanation of why God lets bad things happen, and this is still the greatest barrier for me to believing in a good God.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

"I promise you, this will not be your life."

Yesterday I posted about The Adjustment Bureau, which deals with the theme of free will, but tonight I watched a movie, The Next Three Days, which deals much more profoundly with the subjects of desire, choice, and will.


- Russell Crowe as John Brennan

The 2010 movie is a remake the 2007 French film Pour Elle (Anything for Her) by Fred Cavayé. Directed by Paul Haggis (Crash), it stars Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, and Brian Dennehy, and it tells the story of a family: college teacher John Brennan (Crowe), his wife Lara, and their little son. Everything falls apart for them when Lara is suddenly arrested for the murder of her boss. She's found guilty and though an appeal is pursued, it soon becomes evident that she will be in prison for at least twenty years. After she unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide, and given the obvious emotional trauma to their son, John does something odd, and you can watch the genesis of his decision-making as he lectures his class on Don Quixote ......

We spend a lot of time trying to organize the world. We build clocks and calendars and try to predict the weather. But what part of our life is truly under our control? What if we choose to exist purely in a reality of our own making? Does that render us insane? And if it does isn't that better than a life of despair?


- visiting mom in prison

John doesn't make the best of things, he doesn't accept the inevitable, he doesn't move on: instead he tells Lara, "I promise you, this will not be your life", and then he does what's necessary to make that so. You might assume that what follows is an unrealistic "feel good" montage of preparation for a heist, or in this case a jailbeak, along the lines of Oceans Eleven, but nothing could be further from the truth - John's trodden path is harrowing in every way. Roger Ebert, who only gave the movie two and a half stars, thinks Crowe's character can't credibly make such a journey, but I disagree.

I don't want to give too much away for those who plan to see the movie, but I will say that Russell Crowe is really good, and that I found the film a suspenseful thriller. I also found the movie to be a philosophically demanding one .... it asks the question that I ask myself: what choices will I have the integrity to make in the name of love?




Friday, March 11, 2011

Free will vs God's will at the movies



Playing at a theater near you - The Adjustment Bureau. I haven't seen it yet myself. It's a film adapted from a short science fiction story by PK Dick about predestination/providence and free will.

The story tells of David Norris (Matt Damon) who's running for the senate and who meets a woman, Elise (Emily Blunt), with whom he falls in love. He comes into contact with a mysterious group of men (or angels?) with odd powers, the Adjustment Bureau, who claim all lives are planned out by the Chairman (God?) and made good by them, and that his "plan" does not call for David and Elise to be together. The conflict in the film comes from David's wish to exert his free will and plan his own life.

Iinteresting - What's not Dick-ish about 'The Adjustment Bureau'?

And here's a bit of a review from the Guardian's film blog .....

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The Adjustment Bureau's will won't be done

The question of whether or not human beings possess free will has kept philosophers out of mischief for millennia. The case for determinism may look neat, yet it's always been resisted. For if there's no free will, there's no moral responsibility and thus no basis for justice. Accomplishments merit no praise, and love is devalued. Above all, our species loses the dignity we're so eager to accord it .........

The film would have us believe that if David can just break free from a pre-scripted flowchart, he can shape his own destiny. Yet it can't help showing us that what he supposes to be his own urges already bear the imprint of biological, cultural and/or psychological determinism.

David seeks to evade his fate so he can carve out a future with Emily Blunt's Elise. Yet he didn't come by his desire for her through any choice of his own. Romantic love may be a product of pheromones, social conditioning or genetic predisposition, but by common consent it ruthlessly commandeers the hearts of those it ensnares. David could have resolved the problem with which he's presented if he'd been capable of willing himself to fall out of love with Elise, yet this is a freedom that remains denied to him.

David is invited to choose between love and career. However, he can make only one choice, because he's David. He hasn't made himself what he is; childhood experience together with parental example and perhaps hereditary traits are credited with much of this task. Meanwhile, Elise informs us that to be a great dancer you must be born with the right body. To bewitch a big-shot politician as dishy as David, you may well need much the same thing. In both of these characters' cases, willpower alone wouldn't have cut it; nurture and nature were calling the shots.

It's not just the feasibility of free will that's cast into doubt; even its desirability starts to look dodgy. David gets rewarded for choosing the dangers of self-realisation over the security of submission. Yet the terrors of the course he takes seem overwhelming; he has to be allowed to evade them through what seems a fraudulent device. If this is what it takes to create your own essence, some filmgoers may decide: "Rather him than me."

After all, though the movies may be sold on free will, the rest of us are perhaps less certain. We're well aware that to be the master of your fate can have its downside. We're happy enough to choose mocha over espresso, but prefer to leave our healthcare to the state. We expect applause for our achievements, but attribute our failures to the system. We like to think of our transgressions as caused less by our own knavery than by the wrong genes or maltreatment in childhood.

The Adjustment Bureau wants to tell us that our destiny is within our grasp. It hints, however, at a different message: free will doesn't exist, and if it did, we wouldn't want it.

********************

I guess most theologians don't believe God micro-manages every detail of our lives but instead has a general hope or desire for us. Still, when things go wrong in my own life, the first person I call in complaint is you-know-who :)


Philadelphia

There's a short post at dotCommonweal commenting on the clergy abuse situation in Philadelphia, noting that it explodes the Church's mantra that abuse is a thing of the past - History repeating itself (for a quick look at the background, there's actually a Wikipedia page with some good links on the Sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Philadelphia). The comments to the dotCommonweal post are also worth a read ...here's one of them ...

# Joe McFaul 03/10/2011 - 5:40 pm

“I ask because if there was evidence that the priests in question were guilty and not removed from ministry then it is a really appalling situation and I am not easily appalled.”

A review of diocesan files and the grand jury reports show that criminal prosecutions are rare for a number of reasons.

It does go beyond mere accusation. The files show that cumulate accusations and admissions of guilt were often identified with respect to many priests. Priests were sent to treatment centers becaue they had self admitted “problems with boys.” The use of euphemisms to disguise and minimize the violent sexual assaults was rampant.

The numerous self admissionof guilt and the referrals to treatmetn centers for sexual disorders seems to be pretty clear evidence of criminal behavior or tolerance of that behavior. Howver, once the priest was either returned from treatment or “promised to sin no more” the priest would then be transferred to a new parish where he could prey upon a new unsuspecting crop of children.

Here is a transcript of the deposition testimony of a now-sitting bishop. Notice the flat out and evil prevarication:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/ma-boston/archives/PatternAndPractice/0067-McCormackDepoExcerpts.pdf

He testified that he was aware in 1985 that a particular priest “Father X” had abused children.

He objected in his then official capacity in the Boston Chancery to the priest’s appointment as pastor of another parish.

The priest was appointed as pastor of the new parish anyway.

In 1987, two years, later, he received a letter from a parishioner of the new parish, a father of young boys, inquiring if the pastor was the same “Father X” who had abused children earlier. The name was common so the parent did not want to leap to unfounded conclusions.

The Bishop testified at his deposition that he knew why the parent asked the question:

Q: “So this man is raising a legitimate concern in your view about a man that even you had hesitations about being named pastor in 1985. He wants to know about whether it’s the same Father “X.”

The currently sitting bishop responded to the parent’s concerns by writing a letter telling him he had no “factual basis for his concerns.”

I know a lot of people have not followed this situation closely. If you haven’t, it’s beyond apalling–it is far worse than you could imagine. Think organized crime prostitution and sex slavery rings.

If you have the stomach, I’d recommend reading the deposition transcripts posted at Bishop Accountability and the actual grand jury reports. Don’t rely on those with axes to grind.

The actual documents are chilling.



Thursday, March 10, 2011

A different retreat



It had just rained when I went outside today to feed the birds but it was also warm and I could hear what seemed like millions of birds chirping in the trees - it took me suddenly back to a trip I made to Hawaii years ago, a retreat sort of, and I thought I'd write about it because I did so really badly at it.

The zendo we belonged to asked for volunteers to go to Hawaii for three weeks to help build a new zendo there, we applied and were accepted.

We were met at the airport and taken to the old zendo which was in a very nice suburb of Honolulu. The building was a two story structure slowly being eaten by termites - eek! - and surrounded by a beautiful garden with papaya trees in front. Only a few people were actually living at the zendo - my sister and I and another woman from somewhere in the US shared one room on the upper floor, a number of guys shared another. Our windows had no glass at all, only screens, and each morning we were woken up by the unbelievable cheeping of what sounded like millions of birds. We ate (vegetarian) together outside at a table under a huge macadamia nut tree - either cooked cereal or fruit with yogurt and peanuts. We then would meditate (zazen), sitting on the floor, facing the wall. After this we'd break up for our duties .... some would go to the site where the new zendo was being built, while others would stay home and do chores. In the evening we'd meditate again, eat dinner, listen to talks.


- one of the trees we saw in Hawaii was a cannonball tree which has unusual flowers

I got sick almost immediately, probably due to shyness/home-sickness, and so for the first week I stayed at the zendo, dusted cushions, swept leaves, did laundry, made meals. Later, though, I was able to go along to the building site - I wasn't much help, not being able to see very well, but it was interesting. Each day it rained, so the first rule of business was to bail out the construction pits that had filled with rainwater - muddy. But we stopped at a doughnut shop on the way, so it was worth it.


- boxfish

All our time wasn't spent meditating or working: my sister and I got a map and walked all over Honolulu, saw the boxfish at the Waikiki Aquarium, went swimming, visited the Hawaii State Art Museum, looked through the Ala Moana Center, and saw one of our cousins who was then living in Honolulu. I remember us all from the zendo going to a movie one night too, and out to dinner at least once, plus we went on a trip to Diamond Head and saw some pineapple plantations. Then there was the late night trip to a park .... I'd opened one of the kitchen cupboards to find a rat staring back at me, so we set a humane trap for him with some papaya and then took him to the park to set him free.


- gecko

But back to the utter failure of my retreat in the spiritual sense. I had the best intentions - I'd spent time meditating, practicing the style of Shikantaza ..... resting in a state of brightly alert attention that is free of thoughts, directed to no object, and attached to no particular content ...... but at the Honolulu zendo, with meditation multiple times a day, I just couldn't keep it up, I couldn't "not think" that much for that long. I started surreptitiously watching the little geckos on the walls, wriggled around scratching my bug bites, and finally I really gave up and spent my meditation time rehearsing in my mind all the plots of all the novels I could ever remember having read. At the end of the three weeks we each had a private meeting with the roshi for advice and during mine he suggested I look seriously into therapy - ouch :)

To this day, I'm just no good at meditation or centering prayer which places emphasis on interior quietness. All this brought back by the chirping of birds!


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Another way of looking at Lent

Today I saw a post about women and Lent by Amy Laura Hall, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke University Divinity School (h/t A Thinking Reed). Here's part of it ......

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On Eating Chocolate for Lent
by Amy Laura Hall

Are forms of “giving-up-XYZ-for-Lent” the most pastorally astute habits for women schooled in self-emptying? What are the most apt Lenten practices for women who have already been habituated to submit? And for that matter how might men think about and practice Lent differently given the realities of women’s lives? In short, given the realities of women’s lives today what ought Lenten practices look like? ...............

I was lecturing years ago on Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of virtue as the mean between two extremes, and on the various penitential practices for graced habituation. Some of the precious students looking back at me had told me during office hours that they were struggling with self-cutting and/or anorexia, and a few of them were also in abusive relationships with young men who were not only not worth these women’s beautiful time, but who also had no interest in truly loving these women in their gorgeous vulnerability.

I might have stuck my nose back into my notes, and plowed forward, but I just couldn’t. I stopped the planned lecture and improvised. I suggested, totally off the cuff, that women who struggle with anorexia should eat chocolate covered strawberries every day of Lent. People laughed a bit, but I warmed to the idea. As a Lenten practice, in order to habituate toward the mean of temperance, some women, and perhaps some men too, might need to eat exactly what they fear, but should love, in order to open themselves to God’s blessing in their student kitchenettes ..........

It was years later that one of these young women contacted me to tell me a story. Her senior pastor had opened his Lenten sermon series with a call to fast. He had recently read a book on discipline and holiness, or something along those lines, and had determined, evidently, that the entire congregation needed to take to heart the call to fast toward holiness ........

Not everyone is in the same place. People are sinful in original ways. This certainly is an aspect of what the doctrine of “original sin” means. And so, to meet Jesus in grace during Lent will mean different practices for different people. And, in a deeply patriarchal world, wherein women are taught from their first year to bite their tongue and offer their food, it will take some truly wise and discerning pastors to determine how best to guide their parishioners through Lent .........

I am going to try an annoying practice for Lent. Be prepared. I am going to say or post something feminist every day for Lent. I am going to risk appearing a bit more like stunning-007, even if it means I am mistaken for a worldly liberal or a white lady with a license to kill. I am going to note the grave discrepancies that the video names. I am going to remind colleagues that our refusal to name difference in social location has real consequences as our students leave here and pastor real people with real bodies.

And, may I suggest, dear brothers, that you consider, once a day during Lent, what it might look like to live into a savior who saves us inside of a female body? Might I suggest, dear brothers, that you risk walking, in drag, toward the Cross?

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Lent and the retreat


In the Wilderness by Ron DiCianni

The Archbishop of Westminster is asking UK Catholics not to eat meat on Fridays during Lent (listen to his pastoral letter here) .... he says that By taking on a regular act of self-denial during Lent we train ourselves to turn again to Christ.

I'm not giving up anything up for Lent - I guess I don't believe self-denial/asceticism necessarily contributes to the betterment of a person's character, don't think it brings them closer to God. This is not to say I don't give stuff up. I've given up eating meat (and fish) not just on Fridays during Lent but always and forever :) I've been trying to figure out what the difference is between symbolically/temporarily denying oneself something, and making a permanent change to one's lifestyle. Must think more on this.

Anyway, this week of the online Spiritual Exercises retreat from Creighton University is about Jesus' temptation in the desert, and we're asked to imaginatively contemplate the scene with ourselves being there along with Jesus. One of the oddest things for me was realizing that Jesus could be tempted, that he wasn't impassible ... as the retreat material states, What does it mean that, in his hunger, Jesus was tempted to turn stone into loaves of bread? This is not about a temptation to use magical powers frivolously. It must be that there is a battle between his inner desires.

Here's an interesting version of what the temptation in the desert was like, from the movie Jesus ......




“Are you traveling light on the earth?”

For International Women's Day, here's the Lenten message of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori .....




Monday, March 07, 2011

Photos


- tiny oak titmouse


- the acacia tree is blooming


Sunday, March 06, 2011

William T. Cavanaugh

I've been looking through a page of resources for theology professor at the University of St. Thomas, William T. Cavanaugh. I first read of him as a Radical Orthodoxy guy in Steven Shakespeare's Radical Orthodoxy: A Critical Introduction and I disagree with much of what he believes, but ....

A couple of interesting things from the page - a 2005 audio talk he gave on Leonardo Boff, JPII, and the sermon on the mount (law, eros, and kingdom) at Wheaton College - here

And a short video of him from US Catholic on his thoughts about the subject of torture after having lived in Chile (Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ) .....




Saturday, March 05, 2011

The City & the City



If Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler's love child were raised by Franz Kafka, the writing that emerged might resemble China Mieville's new novel, "The City & the City." - from the LA Times book review



My latest book from the library is the science fiction/fantasy/detective novel The City & the City by British writer China Miéville. I was lucky to be able to find an audio CD copy through library-sharing, since genre fiction isn't often bought in audio for my library.

As Wikipedia states, the novel tied with Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl for the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Novel and was awarded Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, Arthur C. Clarke Award, World Fantasy Award and BSFA Award as well, besides being nominated for Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Nove.

The story has a really interesting basic concept - that people see what they want to see ....

The City & The City takes place in the cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. These two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but via the volition of their citizens (and the threat of the secret power known as Breach), they are perceived as two different cities. A denizen of one city must dutifully 'unsee' (that is, consciously erase from their mind or fade into the background) the denizens, buildings, and events taking place in the other city — even if they are an inch away. This separation is emphasized by the style of clothing, architecture, gait, and the way denizens of each city generally carry themselves. Residents of the cities are taught from childhood to recognize things belonging to the other city without actually seeing them. Ignoring the separation, even by accident, is called "breaching" - a terrible crime by the citizens of the two cities, even worse than murder.

I'm just a little ways into the book so far, but I like it :)


Another photo ...

of a plum tree ...




Thursday, March 03, 2011

The pope, his book, and the Jewish people

There are a couple of posts at America magazine's blog about the pope repudiating the idea of collective Jewish guilt for Jesus’ death in the second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth books - Why Are the Pope's Words on the Jews Important? by Fr. James Martin SJ, and Pope book on Jews: how original is its insight? by Austen Ivereigh. There's a post on this at Reuters FaithWorld blog too.

To me, the attention this is getting seems weird for two reasons. First reason: the idea that the Catholic Church has decided not to hold all Jewish people responsible for Jesus' death was previously stated in the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate (see my post The Mid-East Synod, Maximos IV, and Nostra Aetate ). The second reason is this: the pope has actually been the architect of a deteriorating relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people .... here's a bit from another post at Reuters FaithWorld blog, Timeline – Ups and downs in recent Catholic-Jewish relations ....

2005 – Pope Benedict, who was enrolled by force into the Hitler Youth as a boy, visits a Cologne synagogue. Jewish leaders urge the Vatican to open all its wartime archives [which it still has not done].

2008 – Pope Benedict approves a prayer for traditionalist Good Friday services that Jews say calls for their conversion.

2009 – Benedict lifts the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops [SSPX], one of whom denies the Holocaust. This leads to an outcry and deep rift with Jews, with whom Benedict expresses his “full and unquestionable solidarity.”

...

2010 – Benedict visits the Rome Synagogue in January and hears renewed criticism of Pius XII. In November, Jewish leaders react negatively to comments in the pontiff’s new book that his wartime predecessor Pius was a “great, righteous”man who “saved more Jews than anyone else”.


Don't get me wrong - I am glad the pope is using his book to mention the obvious truth that the Jewish people are not responsible for Jesus' death, but to hail this as some great ecumenical feat seems like a PR ploy, given how negatively the pope is actually treating the Jewish people. I'll wait to give the pope credit until he removes Pius XII from the sainthood fast-track and opens up the Vatican's secret archives for the years when Pius XII was pope.