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Friday, June 29, 2012

Prometheus



I finally saw Prometheus, Ridley Scott's prequel to the Alien franchise. I'm sorry to say that I found it really disappointing.

I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone, so I'll just be general. The film did have some very nice special effects and some cool/grand visual imagery, like the alien's celestial hologram pictured at the top of this post, or the use of the primordial-looking Icelandic Dettifoss waterfall .....



But having said that, I found most of the characters' motivations/actions pretty unconvincing, the science fiction outweighed by the horror, and the Chariots of the Gods storyline just dopey.

I think the review in The Village Voice is the one that most fits my own feelings about the movie.

Sad. I had high hopes for the film. Is it still worth seeing? I think it's worth a watch but I wish I'd waited and rented instead.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just a quiet night ...

playing Mahjong while listening to some music :) ...






In Oxford

I'm re-reading The Defector by Daniel Silva while I wait for some books I have on hold to come from the library. The beginning of the story is set in the UK and Gabriel Allon, Israeli art restorer and agent, goes with a friend to a couple of places in Oxford. The first is the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, which has been featured in or has inspired many works of literature, including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ...

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is an historic botanic garden in Oxford, England. It is the oldest botanic garden in Great Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. The garden was founded in 1621 as a physic garden growing plants for medicinal research. Today it contains over 8,000 different plant species on 1.8 hectares (4½ acres). It is one of the most diverse yet compact collections of plants in the world and includes representatives from over 90% of the higher plant families.



The other place is the Queen's Lane Coffee House ... an historic coffee house dating from 1654, the second oldest still in existence in Oxford, England. It is situated on the north side of the High Street on the corner with Queen's Lane, hence the name.

You can visit the coffee house's website and see the menu plus photos of various dishes - they even have a vegetarian breakfast :) ... Scrambled Eggs on Toast, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Baked Beans, for £5.95 Here below is a photo from their site of I don't know what - it looks both strange and yummy ...



I do like the Gabriel Allon novels - he's always visiting interesting places around the world.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

21 Pictures ...

That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

The first photo at 21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity is of Chicago Christians who showed up at a gay pride parade to apologize for homophobia in the Church. The rest of the photos are worth a look too - really heartwarming. Courtesy of Not Exactly Rocket Science.


Jurassic Park and complementarianism


- Nemo the successive hermaphrodite :)

Still reading Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and I've come to a place that reminded me of complementarianism, that belief the Catholic Church holds that says men and women are not just biologically different, but also "ontologically" different, a belief used to justify disallowing women priests and also disallowing same-sex marriage (needless to say, I think compeimentarianism is a flawed concept).

In Jurassic Park, the subject of successive hermaphroditism comes up and maybe it's just nutty me but I thought it mght be an interesting sort of challenge to the idea of complementarianism. In the story, the scientists at the facility have genetically engineered all the dinosaurs to be female so that there won't be any chance of them breeding. This plan fails, the dinosaurs do breed, and paleontologist Alan Grant tries to explain to the scientists why introducing amphibian DNA into the gaps in the dinosaurs' DNA is the cause ...

"[T]he phenomenon happens to be particularly well documented in frogs. Especially West African frogs, if I remember."

"What phenomenon is that?"

"Gender transition," Grant said. "Actually, it's just plain changing sex." Grant explained that a number of plants and animals were known to have the ability to change their sex during life -- orchids, some fish and shrimp, and now frogs. Frogs that had been observed to lay eggs, were able to change, over a period of months, into complete males. They first adopted the fighting stance of males, they developed the mating whistle of males, they stimulated the hormones and grew the gonads of males, and eventually they successfully mated with females."
- (p. 375)

Another book that uses successive hermaphroditism is Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hummingbird

There's a hummingbird that lives in the yard - my sister tells me he's usually sitting on a branch at the very top of the walnut tree, surveying his domain :) but I haven't bee able to see him because of my vision problem. Today I looked out the front window and there he was. I ran for the camera and tried to get a photo of him. None of them turned out well, probably because he was so tiny and always moving, but still, here's one of them below. Maybe he is actually a she, a black-chinned hummingbird?




Kevin Hart

There's an article at ABC Religion & Ethics by Kevin Hart, theologian but also poet. I have some past posts on him - Kevin Hart / The Kingdom of God and The deep truth is imageless and Kevin Hart on poem as prayer.

This article at ABC is Religious pluralism and the Lord's Prayer. Here's just the beginning of it ...

When Christians say "Our Father," as we do when reciting the Lord's Prayer, what do we mean by "Our"?

Is it understood that we are speaking for our congregation, our denomination, or for all Christians? Or for all Christians and Jews, since, after all, when Jesus taught the prayer he was a Jew speaking to Jews? Or for all believers in the Abrahamic faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - for whom God is the one Father? Or for all people, regardless of whether or not they believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the One who is also the God of Jesus of Nazareth?

Clearly, the words "Our" and "Father" involve one another, but exactly in what ways is not immediately clear in that long tangled thing we call the Christian tradition. When we pray the Lord's Prayer does the "Our" claim the "Father" (making him ours only) or does the sheer verticality of the word "Father" modify the presumption of the "Our" (extending the horizontal range of the possessive adjective beyond the followers of Jesus)?

Christians believe that the Father is the God of everyone on Earth (and elsewhere, if there life other than on Earth), but should we also believe that when we pray non-Christians are included in the "Our"? And if so exactly what are we praying for them? ........



Separation

I see the Queen is visiting Northern Ireland and I was struck byy something: though I've often seen mention in the British press of the separation wall in Jerusalem, I don't think before today I've seen mention of the UK version of same - the separation barriers in Northern Ireland.


- An 18-foot-high (5.5 m) barrier along Springmartin Road in Belfast, with a fortified police station at one end - Wikipedia

Here's a bit from the article I saw today, Belfast's 'peace walls' treble after ceasefires

The number of so-called "peace walls" separating Catholic and Protestant communities in Greater Belfast has trebled since the IRA and loyalist ceasefires, research has found.

There are now 80 permanent barriers dividing loyalist and nationalist areas of the city, according to a report by the Community Relations Council (CRC) in Northern Ireland. In 1994, when the Troubles were declared over, there were 26.

Interviewed in tomorrow's SocietyGuardian, Duncan Morrow, CRC's chief executive officer, is critical of the "terror tours" of the city that include the structures as must-see destinations .... "The walls went up because people didn't feel safe, and the tragedy is that once they are up people hardly imagine feeling safe without them. So we do have a big issue about not just taking walls down but how to make people feel safe after all that we went through," he said ...



Monday, June 25, 2012

Change

"[W]e have soothed ourselves into imagining sudden change as something that happens outside the normal order of things. An accident, like a car crash. Or beyond our control, like a fatal illness. We do not conceive of sudden, radical, irrational change as built into the very fabric of existence. Yet it is. And chaos theory reaches us ... that straight linearity, which we have come to take for granted in everything from physics to fiction, simply does not exist. Linearity is an artificial way of viewing the world. Real life isn't a series of interconnected events occurring one after another like beads strung on a necklace. Life is actually a series of encounters in which one event may change those that follow in a wholly unpredictable, even devastating way ... That's a deep truth about the structure of our universe. But for some reason, we insist on behaving as if it were not true."

- Jurassic Park (p. 171)


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Yes, he had brothers!



The kind of prayer I practice is imaginative conversation and lately my conversations have been with the Jesus who's in The Gospel of John movie, probably because he seems so familiar - he was also Desmond in LOST :) Here's what Sacred Space, the Irish Jesuit prayer site, says of this kind of prayer ....

Conversing with Jesus

"Imagine you see Jesus sitting close to you. In doing this you are putting your imagination at the service of your faith. Jesus isn't here in the way you are imagining him, but he certainly is here, and your imagination helps to make you aware of this. Now, speak to Jesus .... if no one is around, speak out in a soft voice .... Listen to what Jesus says to you in reply, or what you imagine him to say .... That is the difference between thinking and praying. When we think, we generally talk to ourselves. When we pray, we talk to God."
- Anthony de Mello SJ, Sadhana pages 78-79

Saint Ignatius calls this conversation a 'colloquy', and says:

A colloquy is made, properly speaking, in the way one friend speaks to another, or a servant to one in authority - now begging a favour, now accusing oneself of some misdeed, now telling one's concerns and asking counsel about them. .... In the colloquies we ought to converse and beg according to the subject matter; that is, in accordance with whether I find myself tempted or consoled, desire to possess one virtue or another, or to dispose myself in one way or another, or to experience sorrow or joy over the matter I am contemplating. And finally I ought to ask for what I more earnestly desire in regard to some particular matters.
- The Spiritual Exercises nos 54, 199


Here's another clip from the movie. This part starts with Jesus miraculously feeding thousands, then walking on water, then he gives a crowd the 'bread of life' talk, and then he speaks in the synagogue, later many of his disciples leave hiim, and finally he goes back home and does a little carpentry while his brothers (gasp - yes, he had brothers! :) try to taunt him into going to Jerusalem ....




Hee :)

Courtesy of the NT Blog ...




Clergy speak up in UK

With the continuing furor over civil same-sex marriage in the UK, I saw today a post at Thinking Anglicans - "God’s grace seen in gay marriage, say bishops." ...

Today’s Times carries a letter from a group of Church of England bishops, senior clergy and lay members of the General Synod. It argues for “a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships” and “that the Church of England has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples”.

The letter is behind the Times paywall, but we have been given permission to republish it here ...



Saturday, June 23, 2012

Part 2



This week's movie rental was the second half of Martin Scorsese's George Harrison: Living in the Material World ... bits from albums and concerts, a lot of stuff about George's spiritual interests, interviews with family, friends, co-workers. Kind of sad - I guess that's the thing about biographies: people always die in the end. But anyway, here's a clip from the movie in which first Ringo and then Eric Clapton talk about George's making of the song Here Comes the Sun ...




Flower pics

- a black-eyed susan uncurls. If you click to enlarge, you can see a strange little bug on one of the petals ...


- more of the trumpet vine ...



Friday, June 22, 2012

Feeling sad

There's a post at dotCommonweal about the guilty verdict for Monsignor Lynn. In it, the author writes "Many will be elated that Monsignor William Lynn has been found guilty of one count of child endangerment. I’m not. It’s a sad day for Lynn, and for the church."

I don't feel sad about Lynn or the church, I feel sad about the victims, and something I read today about a different sex abuse trial shows how sad the lives of some of those victims can be. Here's a bit from Amy Davidson's post at the New Yorker about Matt Sandusky, the adopted son of Jerry Sandusky ....

[...] The story of how Matt ended up in the Sandusky house—laid out in detail by Sara Ganim, of the Patriot-News—sounds more like a tragedy than a soap opera, or, given how many warning signs seem to have been missed, a cautionary tale. The boy started a fire that burned down a barn; Sandusky, who knew him and had spent time with him through Second Mile, asked the juvenile court that Matt be sent to live with him. Did Sandusky consider that a boy who had done that might not be believed if he turned to other adults for help? His mother, who was on her own with three children, objected, and said that she didn’t think her son would be safe; sometimes he would hide when Sandusky came to see him. The placement was made anyway. A few months after he moved in, Matt and a girl who was also a foster child in the Sandusky home tried to kill themselves. “The night of the suicide attempt,” Ganim reports, Matt wrote a letter to the child-welfare officer saying that he wanted to stay with the Sanduskys: “I feel that they have supported me even when I have messed up.” One hears, in that, a child who has been told that he was bad, and ought to be grateful.

Whatever happened to Matt wasn’t mentioned in the indictment, and so he would likely only have appeared as a rebuttal witness, if Jerry Sandusky had testified on his own behalf. (He didn’t.) Matt’s life has had hard spots, marked by fitful contact with Sandusky. He had said earlier that he wasn’t abused; he had been talked about as a possible defense witness. He also once, as an adult, called the police when Sandusky wouldn’t leave his house. He brought his children to visit Sandusky, in what was looked on as a gesture of support; afterward, his ex-wife went to court to make sure that wouldn’t happen again. She also spoke to investigators. According to Ganim,

When Jerry Sandusky would call Matt, [Matt’s ex-wife] told police, Matt would keep the conversations private. But every time he hung up the phone he would go to the bathroom and throw up.

Dottie Sandusky, Jerry’s wife, testified that she never saw anything amiss. One of the alleged victims had testified that she had come into a hotel room where Sandusky had him in the bathroom, and come close to seeing abuse. She said that, the way she remembered it, Jerry was, indeed, arguing with the boy in the bathroom, but it was because the boy had done something wrong: they had spent fifty dollars for a ticket to a luncheon for him, and he didn’t want to go. From Maureen Dowd’s account of her testimony:

“He was yelling,” she said of her husband, adding: “I know Jerry was mad the way he looked. He said, ‘We did this for you. You’ve got to do this.’” She added with irritation that “we had to pay for his airline ticket; we had to pay for his food,” even though they had expenses for their “own” children and grandchildren.

That lack of gratitude was, apparently, what she considered a natural explanation for her husband berating a boy who had a hard time at home and was in a strange hotel in another state. What other stories was she willing to accept? Dottie seems, at the very least, not to have been helpful. One of her “own” children was Matt Sandusky.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thousand Island or Caesar?

Sometimes the news is so depressing, all I can bear to read is the health news. Saw this today - Make Your Vegetables Even Healthier With... Fatty Salad Dressing? Yep, certain nutrients in salad veggies cannot be well absorbed without the presence of fat. Yay! :) The article is much more detailed, but here's a short video on the story ...



Now the hard part .... Thousand Island or anchovy-free Caesar salad dressing?


John Courtney Murray and the Fortnight for Freedom



Today the US Bishops' “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign begins, and I can't help thinking that Jesuit John Courtney Murray, known more than anything for his fight for religious liberty, would be spinning in his grave if he knew what the bishops were doing. Murray ...

was an American Jesuit priest and theologian, who was especially known for his efforts to reconcile Catholicism and religious pluralism, particularly focusing on the relationship between religious freedom and the institutions of a democratically structured modern state. During the Second Vatican Council, he played a key role in persuading the assembly of the Catholic bishops to adopt the Council's ground-breaking Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae.

When Murray started writing about religious liberty, the Vatican and the church in the US hated the very idea .....

Catholic dissent -- When wrong turns out to be right

[...] For the greater part of Christian history, it was accepted as absolute doctrine that civil governments had an obligation to officially recognize the church and support it.

Pope Pius IX made the point in no uncertain terms in 1846 in his encyclical Quanta cura and the accompanying Syllabus of Errors: "The state must recognize [the Catholic Church] as supreme and submit to its influence. . . . The power of the state must be at its disposal and all who do not conform to its requirements must be compelled or punished. . . . Freedom of conscience and cult is madness." Catholics were told that they need not openly oppose a government that did not so recognize the church (as in the United States); rather, they should tolerate the existing situation until such time as Catholics formed a majority of the voting population.

Beginning in 1950 Father John Courtney Murray, a Jesuit theologian, argued that the old tradition must yield. In a series of articles in Theological Studies magazine and in public appearances, he contended that the state should not be the tool of the church and has no business carrying out the church's will. Rather, he said, the civil government's single yet profound obligation is to insure the freedom of all its citizens, especially their religious freedom.

"Every man has a right to religious freedom," he wrote, a right that is based on the dignity of the human person and is therefore to be formally recognized . . . and protected by constitutional law. . . . So great is this dignity that not even God can take it away." Murray claimed the old doctrine as enunciated by Pius IX was not an absolute, static thing but a teaching that had been developing over the past 100 years-a development which Murray saw in the writings of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XII.

The reaction was vehement and instantaneous. The two most influential U.S. Catholic theologians of the day, Fathers Joseph Fenton and Francis Connell, called Murray's argument "destructive, scandalous, and heretical" and engaged in lengthy, published refutations, especially in the American Ecclesiastical Review. Wrote Fenton, "The state is obligated to worship God according to the one religion [God] has established. This is so obviously a part of Catholic doctrine that no theologian has any excuse to call it into question."

Murray did not back down ......


You can read more on this subject in a post at America magazine's blog - Religous Liberty: Big Issue, Narrow Campaign. Here's a bit of it ...

[...] Our Constitution is built upon the Enlightenment, Hobbes and Locke. Its conception of rights is decidedly individualistic. These traditions see religion as inherently private. John Courtney Murray had to do quite a bit of work to argue for the compatibility of American conceptions of freedom and Catholicism. Such work has and continues to be done, but it cannot be taken for granted as an established consensus. The bishops quote Cardinal James Gibbon’s letter to Rome, but fail to note that Pope Leo XIII’s response included Testem benevolentiae, which was decidedly suspicious of the individualistic nature of American freedom. It also rejected a few other First Amendment freedoms—of speech, and of the press.

The US Bishops and their “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign have flipped the idea of religious freedom around and are arguing for the opposite of what Murray worked for and what was decided in Vatican II's Dignitatis Humanae.

And meanwhile, a line from an old movie, follow the money, comes to mind ......

Who’s funding the Catholic bishops’ religious freedom campaign?

[...] “The activities around the Fortnight for Freedom cost money,” said Steve Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington. “What groups are paying for this, and what’s the accountability for that money?”

Those kinds of questions were asked of key Catholic leaders like Baltimore Archbishop William Lori last week as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Atlanta.

Lori, who heads the bishops’ committee on religious liberty, told reporters that gifts “from Catholic groups and foundations” would help sustain the campaign. “The generosity we’ve experienced has been heartening,” he said.

The campaign, Lori said, “is not in any way partisan, either in its spirit or in its funding.”

But he has not been specific about all the outside groups providing financial resources, or how much they’ve contributed .....

Critics like Schneck say many of the questions regarding the funding of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign center on private Catholic groups.

“The Knights of Columbus are clearly one of the major sources of funding (against the mandate), as well as other fraternal organizations,” Schneck said ....

Lori — who is the man most directly in charge of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign — has been the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus since 2005. The Knights did not respond to requests for an interview about the organization’s involvement with the bishops’ campaign .......



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Strange ...

colored leaves - purple and reddish - leaves on a plum tree growing within the pines (click to enlarge) ....






Tuesday, June 19, 2012

George Harrison: Living in the Material World



This week's DVD rental was George Harrison: Living in the Material World (part 1) ...

a 2011 documentary film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on the life of Beatles member George Harrison. The film follows music legend George Harrison's story from his early life in Liverpool, the success of Beatlemania, his travels to India, the influence of Indian culture in his music, and his relevance and importance as a member of The Beatles. It consists of previously unseen footage and interviews with Olivia and Dhani Harrison, friends, and many others.

I found it interesting, especially something George said about religious experience (please excuse any mistakes in my transcription) ...

Ravi [Shankar] and his brother gave me a lot of books by some wise men. One of the books was by Swami Vivekananda who said if there is a God, you must see him. And if there is a soul, you must perceive it. Otherwise it's better not to believe. It's better to be an outspoken atheist than a hypocrite ... I had been brought up, well, they tried to bring me up, as a Catholic. They had told you just to believe what they're telling you, and, you know, not to have the direct experience. And this, for me, going to India and having somebody saying no, you can't believe anything until you have direct perception of it ... I thought, wow, fantastic, at last.

It wasn't until I learned about Ignatius of Loyola and the Spiritual Exercises (and Teresa of Ávila, John of the Cross, and Julian of Norwich too) that I realized Catholicism could nurture direct experience of God - ok, I know some of you are thinking 'no experience of God can be direct, only mediated', but I'm sticking with direct :). It does seem like so much of religion is hearing about and reading about and talking about God, and not so much personally experiencing God.

Anyway, I guess I'll sign up for part 2 ... part one ended at the time of the making of the song While My Guitar Gently Weeps in 1968. Here's a trailer ...




New Generation of Catholic Theologians

I had an earlier post asking about Catholic theology and today I saw a post by Tobias Winright, a Professor of Theological Ethics at St. Louis University (who blogs at Catholic Moral Theology) that deals with this topic. Here's a bit of the post ...

Don't Know Much About a New Generation of Catholic Theologians...

[...] Thus, the "new generation of Catholic theologians" may be more complex than Weigel assumes. Indeed, there are many of us who agree that theology is an ecclesial enterprise (by Church, though, we mean more than the Magisterium even as we recognize its place in the Church). Also, we agree that theology is neither religious studies nor Catechesis, and we likewise agree that it includes critical exploration. While we respectfully engage Scripture and Tradition, we may not all accept either of these at face value (after all, the Bible and the Tradition were invoked in the past to defend such evils as slavery). Moreover, we do not limit our three audiences (Church, society, academy) only to the academy; yet, many of us (not all!) are worried and upset about the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's "Notification" about Margaret Farley's book. Actually, now that I think of it, much of what I've just written about the "new generation of Catholic theologians" probably applies to many of our mentors and teachers from other generations ...


Some photos

- a hollyhock ...


- the trumpet vine has some more flowers ...


- the oleanders are still blooming ...


- standing under the mighty pecan tree :) ....



Monday, June 18, 2012

Breaking into the Vatican


- just another priest in the catacombs ;)

Tonight's movie was an old loaner from my sister that I hadn't seen before - Mission: Impossible III. What made it kind of interesting is that at one point the team must break into the Vatican ... the bad guy they want to kidnap is attending a party there. The movie really did film in Vatican City, but the interior shots were filmed at the Palace of Caserta. Some photos from Wikipedia's page on the palace - the Staircase of Honor ....



And the Palatine Chapel ....



And the Throne Room ....



But back to the movie - as the IM team knows, the Vatican won't be easy to break into as it's an 109 acres Sovereign State in the middle of Rome, surrounded by a sixty foot wall, which is monitored 24/7, with over 200 CCTV cameras. Here's Ethan getting over the Vatican's wall and then entering the buildings disguised as a priest with a bible :) ....



Overall, the film was pretty entertaining - I think I liked it best of the four IM movies I've seen, but Roger Ebert gave it only two and a half stars in his review.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ready Player One

"This adrenaline shot of uncut geekdom, a quest through a virtual world, is loaded with enough 1980s nostalgia to please even the most devoted John Hughes fans… sweet, self-deprecating Wade, whose universe is an odd mix of the real past and the virtual present, is the perfect lovable/unlikely hero.”—Publishers Weekly, Pick of the Week

My latest book from the library is Ready Player One, a 2011 science fiction novel by Ernest Cline. Here's a description of the story on the Amazon page ...

Ready Player One takes place in the not-so-distant future--the world has turned into a very bleak place, but luckily there is OASIS, a virtual reality world that is a vast online utopia. People can plug into OASIS to play, go to school, earn money, and even meet other people (or at least they can meet their avatars), and for protagonist Wade Watts it certainly beats passing the time in his grim, poverty-stricken real life. Along with millions of other world-wide citizens, Wade dreams of finding three keys left behind by James Halliday, the now-deceased creator of OASIS and the richest man to have ever lived. The keys are rumored to be hidden inside OASIS, and whoever finds them will inherit Halliday’s fortune. But Halliday has not made it easy. And there are real dangers in this virtual world. Stuffed to the gills with action, puzzles, nerdy romance, and 80s nostalgia, this high energy cyber-quest will make geeks everywhere feel like they were separated at birth from author Ernest Cline.

I'm only a bit into it so far, the audio version which has Wil Wheaton reading, but I like it! Found this video which plays the audio version of the first chapter of the book, so if you listen to it, you'll hear what I've just listened to on disk - enjoy :) .....







Church expenditures

In case you've been wondering on what the church spends some of it's money, here are a couple of examples ....

Meghan Murphy-Gill at US Catholic has more info on the Vatican's plan to launch it's own version of the Good Housekeeping seal of approval .... [dot] Catholic. Here's just the beginning of her post ...

Are you [dot]Catholic or not Catholic?

In an very expensive, and from my perspective, mistaken, move, the Vatican secured a top-level domain and will now have the ability and authority to dole out [dot]catholic sites to those they deem worthy and can pay for that privilege. The application alone was $185,000 and the yearly maintance is $25,000. Because they had to buy rights to control the domain name in the Chinese, Arabic, and Cyrillic alphabets, the initial cost was actually $740,000.

Spending nearly $1 million on a domain name aside, the purchase brings up a number of issues and questions for me:

1. The first, of course, being, who’s running this circus? ......


And meanwhile, the US Bishops are fighting sex abuse statures of limitation ....

Church Battles Efforts to Ease Sex Abuse Suits ....

[...] Already reeling from about $2.5 billion spent on legal fees, settlements and prevention programs relating to child sexual abuse, the church has fought especially hard against the window laws, which it sees as an open-ended and unfair exposure for accusations from the distant past. In at least two states, Colorado and New York, the church even hired high-priced lobbying and public relations firms to supplement its own efforts. Colorado parishes handed out postcards for churchgoers to send to their representatives, while in Ohio, bishops themselves pressed legislators to water down a bill ....


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Venice plague churches


St. Maria Salute in Venice

Dina's post on votive offerings inspired me to mention the plague churches of Venice, built as votive offerings ....


- Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute ....

In 1630 Venice experienced an unusually devastating outbreak of the plague. As a votive offering for the city's deliverance from the pestilence, the Republic of Venice vowed to build and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Health (or of Deliverance, Italian: Salute). The church was designed in the then fashionable baroque style by Baldassare Longhena, who studied under the architect Vincenzo Scamozzi. Construction began in 1631. Most of the objects of art housed in the church bear references to the Black Death.


- Il Redentore ...

It was designed by the architect Andrea Palladio and built as a votive church to thank God for the deliverance of the city from a major outbreak of the plague. Located on the waterfront of the Canale della Giudecca, it dominates the skyline of the island of Giudecca. It is a member of the Chorus Association of Venetian churches and contains a number of paintings by artists including Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Francesco Bassano.


- San Rocco ...

dedicated to Saint Roch in Venice, northern Italy. It was built between 1489 and 1508 by Bartolomeo Bon the Younger, but was substantially altered in 1725. The façade dates from 1765 to 1771, and was designed by Bernardino Maccarucci. The church is one of the Plague-churches built in Venice.


- San Giobbe ...

dedicated to Saint Job. It is located in the Cannaregio, overlooking the campo of the same name, known as Sant'Agiopo in Venetian, on the left bank of the Cannaregio canal at Ponte dei Tre Archi. It is one of the five votive churches built in Venice after an onset of plague.


- San Sebastiano ...

notable particularly for its cycle of paintings by the artist Paolo Veronese. It is a member of the Chorus Association of Venetian churches and besides the numerous works by Veronese, also houses paintings by Tintoretto and Titian. It stands on the Campo di San Sebastiano by the Rio di San Basilio close to the Giudecca Canal. It is one of the five votive churches in Venice, each one built after the passing of a plague through the city.


At dusk ...

the colors of the Chinese trumpet vine always look a little odd -




In the news ...

at The Tablet - SSPX offered personal prelature ...

The Vatican yesterday offered the ultra-traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX) the opportunity to come into communion with the Holy See as a personal prelature, potentially resolving three years of difficult talks. US Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of the congregation, and Mgr Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" yesterday afternoon spent two and a half hours with the superior general of the SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay and an assistant ...

The pope is reconciling with the backward-looking (Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the Tridentine Mass privately, says head of SSPX ), Vatican II hating (SSPX head says group does not have to accept all Vatican II teachings), anti-Semitic (Lefebvre movement: long, troubled history with Judaism) SSPX. Why? In a post from 2009 at On Faith, Thomas Reese SJ wrote ...

Why is the Vatican putting so much effort into reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X? The real reason is because these men are bishops. If they were simple priests, the Vatican would not give them the time of day. The Vatican is caught by it own theology that sees these men as validly if not licitly ordained. As a result, these bishops can ordain more bishops and the schism can go on forever.

If the bishops ordain more bishops, they will again suffer excommunication. If the bishops refrain from ordaining new bishops, the schism ends when these four bishops die even if they are not reconciled with the pope. If lifting the excommunication is the price for keeping the bishops from ordaining more bishops, then in the view of the Vatican it is a cheap price to pay.


So it's not really about ideology, it's all about power? I think it's both. With the absorption of the SSPX, Benedict actually gets a twofer: the ideology and the power co-opting that he desires. The more I learn about the Vatican, the more repelled I become.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In the UK



The Church of England has published its response to the Home Office Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage. It was disheartening to see that the C of E is making some of the same dubious claims in the debate that the US Bishops are making here in the US. Where this divides from what's happening in the US is how things are skewed by the unique relationship between the C of E and the UK government. Here's a bit on this from an article in The Guardian ...

Anglicans threaten rift with government over gay marriage

[...] The church's submission warns that despite ministerial assurances that churches would not have to conduct gay marriages, it would be "very doubtful" whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would withstand a challenge at the European court of human rights.

This could make it impossible for the CofE to continue its role conducting marriages on behalf of the state, it warned.

Under the current law, anyone who is resident in England has a legal right to marry in his or her CofE parish church irrespective of religious affiliation. Around a quarter of weddings in England take place in CofE churches.

The church position as set out in the submission, which notes the CofE's "unique position" in relation to the performing of marriage ceremonies, potentially raises the prospect of the biggest rupture between the state and the Church of England since it became the established church 500 years ago.

It claims the proposals would redefine institution of marriage in English law, warning: "At the very least that raises new and as yet unexplored questions about the implications for the current duties which English law imposes on clergy of the Established Church." .....


I see that Anglican priest Giles Fraser has a post on this too - The Church of England says it is against gay marriage. Not in my name. Here's just the beginning of it ...

The Church of England has spoken. And apparently, we are against gay marriage. We are not "anti-gay", we hope you understand. After all, as the statement says: "We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater rights for same sex couples." Oh, no. We are not homophobic. It's just that we (the straight religious people) think that if gay people are allowed to get hitched in church then that will ruin things for the rest of us. The presence of homosexuals at the altar, vowing lifelong love and fidelity, will devalue the institution of marriage. It would be like letting women join the Garrick.

Apologies for the sarcasm. But I am spitting blood about the latest ridiculous statement from the Church of England. First, it is worth exposing the straightforward lie that is expressed here – that the C of E hierarchy has been supportive of civil partnerships. It has not ...


For those interested, Thinking Anglicans has a post with lots of links on the subject - Church of England responds to government on Equal Civil Marriage.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Playing at a theater near you



I see that Ridley Scott's science fiction prequel to the film Alien, Prometheus, is now playing - I'll probably catch it soon. I've seen almost all of the series: Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, and yes, I'll admit it, even Alien vs. Predator ;) My favorite of the bunch was Aliens - it seemed more science fiction than horror and had Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton in it

According to the Wikipedia page on Prometheus, it began as a straightforward prequel but then was modified to be more a stand alone film informed by a Chariots of the Gods theory of the origins of human life on this planet. I have to kind of laugh when I think of that idea ... that we were either planted here by aliens and/or that aliens gave early humans technical help. I know these themes are explored in Star Trek and Stargate but I always think of that conversation had in National Treasure when they find the incredible labyrinthian Revolutionary War era complex built under Trinity Wall Street church ...

Powell: How do a bunch of guys with hand tools build all this?
Ben: Same way they built the pyramids - and the Great Wall of China.
Riley: Yeah... the aliens helped them.


Still, the movie should be interesting - parts of it were filmed at the foot of the active Hekla volcano and at the Dettifoss waterfall, and it stars Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. Roger Ebert wrote that the film was magnificent in his review, but the review in the NYT isn't as kind. Anyway, I'll report back after seeing the movie.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

Corpus Christi



Sometimes someone I know will express disbelief about the existence of the historical Jesus, wondering if the church has invented him through the gospels. One thing they don't usually realize is how little evidence there is for the existence of anyone in the ancient world, especially those people not in some political power or not the creators of still existing works.

Today I saw a post at Professor Mark Goodacre's NT Blog - How would Jesus have proved his own existence? - in which he mentions Bart Ehrman's book, Did Jesus Exist?. Mark also links to a past podcast he did on this which I found really interesting - NT Pod 47: Did Jesus Exist?

For those interested, there's even a Wikipedia page on the subject.


Friday, June 08, 2012

Falling Skies


- Noah Wyle

This week's DVD rental is Falling Skies ....

Falling Skies is an American science fiction dramatic television series created by Robert Rodat and produced by Steven Spielberg. Set six months into a world devastated by an alien invasion, the series stars Noah Wyle as Tom Mason, a former Boston University history professor who becomes the second-in-command of the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment, a group of civilians and fighters fleeing post-apocalyptic Boston.

I've only watched a bit so far. The beginning scenes are reminiscent of the footage in The Terminator of Kyle's post-apocalyptic life under the machines (perhaps an homage?). Noah Wyle is doing a good job as the history teacher who applies his knowledge of past wars to the present situation, and it's interesting to see parts of Boston, but I'm not sure I'm going to keep watching - I think I liked V a bit better.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

The last of LOST

Last night I finally came to the end of the tv series LOST. The last episode raised a lot of controversy when it originally aired, I guess - I don't think I can competently articulate exactly what happened in it myself ;) But anyway, I liked the series very much and I'm sad it's over. Here's some of what I'll miss:

- Vincent the dog. Here he is below with Jack at the very end of the show, I guess reprising the moment at the very beginning of the show when he and Jack met ....



- Sayid. He was pretty much my favorite character - breathtaking competence wedded to an almost lost soul. Here he is in a scene with Dogen, the keeper of the temple, who believes Sayid has gone over to the dark side and thus wishes him dead ....



- the Dharma Initiative's retro music collection ;) Here's Desmond choosing a Cass Elliot song in the episode Man of Science, Man of Faith ...



- and I'll really miss the beautiful ocean and jungle and mountains and cliffs where the show was set (filmed on Oahu island, Hawaii) ....




The Franciscans :)

At American Catholic - Franciscan Leadership Declares Solidarity With Catholic Sisters ...

[...] Several weeks ago, the Vatican Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (CDF) released its assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the support system and public voice of some 1500 leaders of women’s congregations, representing over 80% of the women religious in the United States. This assessment was highly critical of the LCWR and demanded changes in its organization and activities. Like many American Catholics, the friars of Holy Name Province and other communities of Franciscan men across the country have been deeply concerned by this document, especially its impact on their sisters in religious life, many of whom belong to Franciscan congregations

The provincial ministers of the seven provinces of the Order of Friars Minor in the United States released the following statement to express their appreciation of the invaluable ministry of American religious women and to extend their support to the members of the LCWR, as they attempt to respond to the concerns expressed in the Vatican directives.


Read the open letter at the link above.

This reminded me of when Francis went to Rome to talk to the pope ....






Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Some photos


- the bluejay gets a peanut. Click to enlarge and see his amazing toe nails :)


- the boysenberries are in their green proto state


- the oleander bush is blooming


- so are the hollyhocks


Breakfast



I've never been a breakfast person but lately I'm trying to eat yogurt each morning. I put dried papaya, mango, and pineapple on top - yum! The kind of yogurt I get has a sticker from the American Humane® Certified program, a program which provides third-party, independent verification that certified producers’ care and handling of farm animals meet the science-based animal welfare standards of American Humane Association.


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Kraken



My latest book (on the kindle) is Kraken by China Mieville. I had read one other book by him - The City & the City - which I liked very much, so I thought I'd give another of his books a try. Here's a bit about it from a Guardian book review ...

Kraken by China Miéville

[...] Following the quest of museum curator Billy Harrow to recover his mysteriously vanished prize exhibit, the giant squid Architeuthis, Kraken plunges Billy and the reader into an alternative London of cults and magic. And if the fact that his plot is powered by a case of squid-napping does not give away Miéville's less than serious intent, the abundance of other puns, injokes and pop-cultural references surely do. Any novel that pays homage to The Sweeney with such splendid lines as "We're the bloody cult squad, Harrow," clearly has a playful intent.

The jokey tone marks a departure for Miéville. The City & The City, which won him an unprecedented third Arthur C Clarke award this year, was perhaps his darkest and most politically charged work to date – and this from an author who has established a reputation for taking the fantastic very seriously indeed. In this context Kraken seems as though Miéville is taking a step back from the artistic agenda that has previously informed his writing, perhaps to flex creative muscles grown stiff in the constraining seriousness of the New Weird. And Miéville sets about his dark comedy with almost unseemly relish. Squid, however gigantic, are merely an appetiser for the feast of weirdness he lays out .....


I'm just at the beginning but I'm not yet enjoying it as much as I did The City & the City - I guess I'm not so much a fan of books that are funny, although I do like the funny bits in The Dresden Files novels: Bob the skull always cracks me up :) Maybe part of the problem too is that I'm actually "reading" it ... though the kindle does make the font size very big, listening to books is still much easier for me.


Bishops' arguments analyzed

Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, analyzes the US Bishops' arguments against the HHS mandate at the NYT's philosophy blog - Do the Bishops Have a Case Against Obama?

Here's just the last paragraph ....

We cannot, of course, be certain about the bishops’ motives in overdramatizing what should be a routine disagreement. But their often demagogic reaction suggests political rather than religious concerns. There is, first, the internal politics of the Church, where the bishops find themselves, especially on matters of sexuality, increasingly isolated from most Church members; they seem desperate to rally at least a fervid core of supporters around their fading authority. But the timing of their outbursts also suggests a grasp for secular political power. It’s hard to think that the bishops — especially given their concerns for social welfare — would more than mildly prefer a Romney administration to an Obama administration. But, hoping to emulate the success of Protestant evangelicals, they may well want to establish their own credentials as significant players in American politics. We can only pray that American Catholics will see through any such effort.


Monday, June 04, 2012

Monarchy



I'm not a monarchist, but reading about the British Queen at Thinking Faith (The Diamond Jubilee by Anthony Symondson SJ) reminded me of how much I once liked historical novels about Britain and her monarchs. Some I remember reading ....

* Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott ....

Ivanhoe is the story of one of the remaining Saxon noble families at a time when the English nobility was overwhelmingly Norman. It follows the Saxon protagonist, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, who is out of favour with his father for his allegiance to the Norman king, Richard I of England. The story is set in 1194, after the failure of the Third Crusade, when many of the Crusaders were still returning to Europe. King Richard, who had been captured by the Duke of Austria on his way back, was believed to still be in the arms of his captors. The legendary Robin Hood, initially under the name of Locksley, is also a character in the story, as are his "merry men." The character that Scott gave to Robin Hood in Ivanhoe helped shape the modern notion of this figure as a cheery noble outlaw.

* Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett ....

The Lymond Chronicles is a series of six novels, set in mid-sixteenth century Europe and the Mediterranean, which follows the life and career of a Scottish nobleman, Francis Crawford of Lymond, from 1547 through 1558. The series is a suspenseful tale of adventure and romance, filled with action, intense drama, poetry, culture and high comedy. Meticulously researched, the series takes place in a wide variety of locations, including France, the Ottoman Empire, Malta, England, Scotland and Russia. In addition to a compelling cast of original characters, the novels feature many historical figures, often in important roles.

* Katherine by Anya Seton ...

Anya Seton's Katherine is a historical novel based largely on fact. It tells the story of the historically important, 14th-century love affair in England between the eponymous Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the third surviving son of King Edward III. In 2003, Katherine was ranked 95 in the BBC's Big Read survey of Britain's best-loved novels.[1] It is commonly regarded as a prime example of historical fiction.

* The Brother Cadfael mysteries by Edith Pargeter ...

Cadfael is an unusual monk, only entering the cloister in his forties after being both a soldier and a sailor .... The stories are set between about 1135 and about 1150, during The Anarchy, the destructive contest for the crown of England between King Stephen and Empress Maud.

* Twenty Years After by Dumas .....

The novel follows events in France during La Fronde, during the childhood reign of Louis XIV, and in England near the end of the English Civil War, leading up to the victory of Oliver Cromwell and the execution of King Charles I.


What's the point of Catholic theology?

There's a post at dotCommonweal about the latest CDF condemnation of a Catholic theologian's book. Here's a bit of the post ...

CDF Notification: Sr. Margaret Farley, R.S.M.

[...] The Notification casts judgment on Sr. Farley’s book [Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics ] in five specific areas: masturbation; homosexual acts; homosexual unions; indissolubility of marriage; and divorce and remarriage. It also accuses the book of these “general problems”: “Sr. Farley either ignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionally mentioned, treats it as one opinion among others. … Sr. Farley also manifests a defective understanding of the objective nature of the natural moral law, choosing instead to argue on the basis of conclusions selected from certain philosophical currents or from her own understanding of ‘contemporary experience.’” In the end, the Notification concludes that the book “is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Consequently it cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.”

This makes me wonder about the purpose of Catholic theology - is it about the search for truth no matter where that search may take you, or is it about explaining and justifying an already nailed-down truth? The CDF wants to say it's the latter ... if you want to know the truth about any given subject, just look in the catechism. This attitude doesn't make sense to me - the views expressed in the catechism are in part the result of past theologians thinking outside the box. The truth may be unchanging, but I think our understanding of it is always growing and changing.

NCR has a page with some blurbs from other academics defending the book here. One of them, Lisa Cahill, J. Donald Monan Professor, Department of Theology, Boston College, writes ...

It is important to understand the nature and role of academic theology or theological scholarship as "faith seeking understanding." Theology is rooted in faith and practical concerns. But the main purpose of theology--unlike pastoral teaching or guidance--is the understanding of God and of humans in relation to God. Understanding involves intellectual justification and cogency. Finally, theology is a process of seeking. Theology is a process of inquiry and exploration in a dynamic and critical relation to other theological positions. Theologians do not see or present their work as "official church teaching" and few of the faithful are confused about this fact. Readers of Just Love hardly need to be warned that this is not official church teaching; they will feel free to question, disagree and improve the points of the author, as is no doubt her intention.

For more reading, here's a related post at Catholic Moral Theology - L’Affaire Farley and the Ongoing Chill Factor in Contemporary Moral Theology


Saturday, June 02, 2012

Trinity: Jensen, Rahner, and a song



I read a 2007 interview with Robert Jesnen mentioning Karl Rahner's "rule" about the trinity ......

**********

In the 20th century, theologians showed a renewed interest in the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet these theologians continue to struggle with categories derived from Greek metaphysics -- an unchanging God, etc. What do you see as the main issues in articulating the Trinity for our time? How would you seek to revivify the place of the Trinity not only in theology but in Christian life?

Jensen: In the wake of the earlier volumes of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics and a 1967 article by Karl Rahner, serious Western theology has rediscovered -- at least momentarily -- the centrality of the doctrine of Trinity. The doctrine is found to be nothing less than the comprehensive statement of the gospel’s most radical claims, and -- as I have often put it -- is therefore not a theological puzzle but the framework within which to deal with theological puzzles. There continues to be a flood of publication about the doctrine -- some of it good and some, to be sure, not so good. And an interior debate has developed, which sometimes gets rather heated.

The disagreement goes deep. We may describe it by reference to "Rahner’s rule," which -- except for Orthodox participants in the discussion -- nearly everyone claims to honor. Rahner asserted that the "immanent" Trinity is the "economic" Trinity and vice versa, that is, that God’s eternal triune life and his triune history with us in time are somehow one event, that God is not otherwise Father, Son and Spirit in himself than he is among us, and vice versa.

Standard Western theology, according to Rahner and others, has been led by alien philosophical maxims to posit an ontological chasm between God’s triune history in time and his eternal triune being -- so that, for instance, it has been thought that the Father or the Spirit could have become incarnate instead of the Son. Such teaching made the distinctions and relations between the eternal divine persons and the actual history of salvation mutually undetermined, and so of course made the eternal Trinity irrelevant in the life of faith.

The debate is about the somehow just above, about construal of the is in Rahner’s rule. Those on the one side of the argument accuse those on the other of so identifying God with his history among us as to make him dependent on us. Those of the latter party accuse those of the former of continuing so to construe eternity by categories alien to the biblical account of God -- for example, by "timelessness" -- as effectively to retrn us to the dead end from which Barth and Rahner called us.

I am among those accused of confusing God and creation. Two metaphysical sensibilities seem to be in play here, which perhaps cannot be resolved short of the beatific vision. For under various rubrics the same clash has recurred throughout theological history, between Alexandria -- my side -- and Antioch, East and West, Lutheran and Reformed.

As to how I would revivify trinitarian piety in the congregations, were I in position to do so I would issue two decrees. I would make the clergy take time out from administration and "prophetic" politics to read a difficult book or two. And I would for the immediate future ban all "relevant" liturgy, most of which all too blatantly verifies Raimer’s observation that trinitarian faith has little role in Western pop Christianity -- though he was of course too polite to use that last adjective.

********

The rest of the Jensen interview is interesting, and I don't doubt Rahner's work, The Trinity, is too, but I can't honestly say I understand all this stuff. Maybe I'll just listen to a song instead :) ...




Friday, June 01, 2012

Religious MP3s

I came upon a page of talks and debates (MP3 files) by various religious figures. Most aren't what I'd want to listen to, but there were a few that might be of interest .... a debate between JD Crossan and NT Wright on the resurrection ... a talk by Keith Ward on evolution, God, and Dawkins ... a talk by George Coyne SJ on intelligent design. Go to the page for the links.


Grandpa

From my grandmother's photo album - me, grandpa, and my little sister :) ...