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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stephen Colbert on the new missal and physics

- Neil deGrasse Tyson on Stargete Atlantis

There's mention of Stephen Colbert on the missal translation at Pray Tell.

Instead I've posted below a Colbert interview with physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. I really only know about him (and Brian Greene) because of Stargate Atlantis episodes :) Neil deGrasse Tyson appeared (with Bill Nye) in the episode Brainstorm. Here Tyson and Nye give fellow physicist Rodney McKay a hard time ......

And here's the Colbert interview with Tyson .....

The neverending story

As new allegations of widespread sex abuse and cover-up emerge in Ireland, the pope tells US bishops visiting the Vatican that the church should be held up as an example of how to deal with sex abuse. Unbelievable.

From an editorial on this in The Philly Post ....

[...] The pope is right that all of society’s institutions—not just the Catholic Church—must be held to “exacting” standards in their response to sex abuse of children. He correctly called pedophilia a “scourge.” But then the pope had the gall to hold up the church as an example for how to confront the problem.

“It is my hope that the Church’s conscientious efforts to confront this reality will help the broader community to recognize the causes, true extent and devastating consequences of sexual abuse, and to respond effectively to this scourge which affects every level of society,” he said.

If other institutions follow the church’s lead regarding the handling of sex abuse by priests, well, then heaven help us all. David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said: “No public figure talks more about child safety but does little to actually make children safer than Pope Benedict.”

Of course, one can’t help but feel the pope’s recent comments were timed to coincide with the sex-abuse scandal at Penn State. In a sense he was saying: “See, the church isn’t the only institution with a pedophile problem.” At Penn State, former defensive football coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a number of years. Some have said the two scandals are similar because of the cover-up that reached the top echelon of two esteemed institutions.

But that is also where the similarities end. Unlike the Catholic Church, Penn State has taken swift and decisive action, with more likely to come. Days after Sandusky’s indictment, university president Graham Spanier was forced out and legendary coach Joe Paterno was fired. Granted the university, like the church, initially did its best to cover up the abuse. But unlike the church, once the allegations came to light there were no excuses or denials or efforts to blame the media by the university trustees. Instead there has been real accountability ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mark Twain and Data

- Mark Twain in the lab of Nikola Tesla, spring of 1894

Happy birthday to Mark Twain. When I think of Twain, I always see the Star Trek version of him in the episode Time's Arrow :) ...

I especially liked this episode - Data had so many moments that made me laugh, like when he was in San Francisco at the time of Mark Twain and kept explaining his oddness to the locals as a consequence of his Frenchness :) Some of the moments were touching too, like when he realized that he was going to cease to exist sometime in the future - he was actually relieved. He and Geordi talked about it in Ten Forward ....

LAFORGE: So, do you want to talk about it?

DATA: Are you referring to the foreknowledge of my death?


DATA: I have no particular desire to discuss the matter. Do you need to talk about it?


DATA: Why?

LAFORGE: Data, this has got to bother you a little.

DATA: On the contrary. I find it rather comforting.

LAFORGE: Comforting?

DATA: I have often wondered about my own mortality as I have seen others around me age. Until now it has been theoretically possible that I would live an unlimited period of time. And although some might find this attractive, to me it only reinforces the fact that I am artificial.

LAFORGE: I never knew how tough this must be for you.

DATA: Tough? As in difficult?

LAFORGE: Knowing that you would outlive all your friends.

DATA: I expected to make new friends.


DATA: And then to outlive them as well.

LAFORGE: Now that you know that you might not?

DATA: It provides a sense of completion to my future. In a way, I am not that different from anyone else. I can now look forward to death.

- Data, Geordi, Counselor Troi, Mark Twain

Advent: the waiting is the hardest part

A few days ago it was my mother's birthday and my sister and I were talking about her, about how it seemed like we were always anxiously awaiting her. When we were small she used to leave us places alone and go off for long periods of time. My sister said, "Remember how we watched for every car, hoping the next one would be hers, how we worried she wasn't coming back?" I was reminded of that when I saw this photo today that expressed Advent waiting (h/t Bilgrimage).

I don't think I've ever understood Advent - everyone seems to revel in the waiting. Maybe it's the difference between waiting for someone you believe might never come, and anticipating someone you know is coming? Or maybe I still don't understand. I'm listening to an audio Advent retreat by Larry Gillick SJ - hope it will help me figure it out. The retreat starts out with a prayer and a poem by David Whyte ...

- David Whyte

if you move carefully
through the forest
like the ones
in the old stories
who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,
you come
to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.
requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,
that can make
or unmake
a life,
that have patiently
waited for you,
questions that have no right
to go away.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Keith Ward and Brian Greene

Still reading Timeline and thinking about alternate time-lines, parallel universes. One of the few to discuss God and parallel universes or the multiverse is Keith Ward, as in his Tablet article, The Quantum Leap, and his Gresham College lecture, Cosmology and Creation, and he also discusses the subject in his book The Big Questions in Science and Religion.

And here's an interview with Brian Greene about parallel universes ...

Sunday, November 27, 2011


- Chapel of St. Benedict, Sarlat-la-Canéda

I'm rereading an old favorite book - Timeline by Michael Crichton. It's about time-travel back to the middle ages, and one of the towns mentioned is Sarlat-la-Canéda, which also showed up in the movie made of the novel.

- interior, Sarlat Cathedral

Here's a bit about the town from Wikipedia ...

Sarlat-la-Canéda (Occitan: Sarlat e La Canedat), or simply Sarlat, is a commune in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine ... Sarlat is a medieval town that developed around a large Benedictine abbey of Carolingian origin. The medieval Sarlat Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Sacerdos ... Sarlat has remained preserved and one of the towns most representative of 14th century France.

- in the town

On my one trip to Europe, we only got to visit Paris while we were in France - wish we could have seen more.

- the river running through Dordogne

Psalm 36

I thought I'd try a photo for the psalm challenge for psalm 36 mentioned at Jerusalem Hills daily photo. Here's the psalm with the line I'm addressing with my photo in bold .....

Psalm 36 (New International Version)

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD.

1 I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
2 In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.
3 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good.
4 Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong.
5 Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.

7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
10 Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—thrown down, not able to rise!

The photos is of my four cats, now deceased. It's overexposed because the sun was so bright that day, but it almost seems in a way like they're looking toward the beatific vision.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I spent Thanksgiving at my sister's -- we had the traditional (vegetarian) meal ... pizza :) They just bought this home and it's the first home my sister and her husband have ever bought - I've never bought one - so it feels strange, but in a good way. I gave them this little bunny sundial as a moving-in gift ...

Rainy here, but we went outside after pizza. The neighbor's cat gave us the eye :) ...

Here's a corner of their backyard with an old apricot tree ...

And we walked to a nearby park to look at the leaves ....

Happy Thanksgiving everybody :)

Waltzing Matilda

One reason I haven't posted much about movies lately is that I've been using my netflix disks to watch episodes of JAG. Tonight was one I especially liked - in it the character of Australian Lieutenant Commander Michael "Mic" Brumby leaves the show,. In the story, he's sent to East Timor and his fellow workers sing him off - it's made kind of sad because in real life, the actor died not long after.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Jesus in The Speed of Dark

Still listening to The Speed of Dark. In the part I listened to tonight, Lou has gone to church, where the gospel reading is about the blind man at the pool who was asked by Jesus if he wanted to be healed. Lou has been trying to decide if he should undergo a treatment that will make him "normal" instead of autistic, and when he hears this reading he's struck by what Jesus' question seems to imply ....

I believe in God the Father, maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things seen and unseen ... And I believe in his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, who actually in the flesh asked that question of the man by the pool. The man that perhaps -- the story does not say -- had gone there because people were tired of him being sick and disabled, who perhaps had been content to lie down all day, but he got in the way. What would Jesus have done if the man had said, "No. I don't want to be healed. I am quite content as I am." If he had said, "There is nothing wrong with me, but my relatives and neighbors insisted I come." .... Jesus might still think the man needed to be able to get up and walk. Maybe God thinks I would be better if I weren't autistic. Maybe God wants me to take the treatment. I am cold suddenly. Here I have felt accepted, accepted by God, accepted by the priest and the people, or mot of them. God does not spurn the blind, the deaf, the paralyzed, the crazy. That is what I have been taught and what I believe, but what if I am wrong? What if God wants me to be something other than I am?

- The Pool of Bethesda, Robert Bateman

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More of The Speed of Dark

The main character in The Speed of Dark, an autistic, practices fencing to this music ...

It [fencing] is like some kinds of dance, a pattern of movement, except for not having music. I sort through the music I remember, trying to find the right music for this dance .... Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy ... perfect for the feline prowl that is Simon circling me, looking for an opening, and for my intense concentration. I never thought I could dance before -- it was a social thing, and I always got stiff and clumsy. Now -- with a blade in hand -- it feels right to move to the internal music.

Two homilies and the Cerulean Warbler

- a Cerulean Warbler

Here are two homilies I really liked for last Sunday: one by Fr. Philip Endean SJ - Christ the King 2011: an Englishman preaches in Bunker Hill at Pray Tell; and another by Deacon Denny - Don't You Miss Him - at Brief Notes Dot Com.

And though it may seem unrelated, my sister sent me this page from National Geographic which stated something sad about the bird pictured above ...Neotropical migratory birds from warblers to sparrows are declining at alarming rates—rates that are not sustainable. Unless our culture sees these creatures as necessary, they will vanish into history, remembered only by photographs and paintings.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Italian Secretary

- Holyrood Palace

My latest book from the library is The Italian Secretary: A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes by Caleb Carr (The Alienist). I really like the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, and of the books written by other authors about Holmes, this one is the best I've read - Carr really seems to do a good job of capturing Holmes' personality.

The plot involves a message to Holmes from his brother Mycroft, asking him to investigate some mysterious killings in Scotland near Holyrood Palace where, three hundred years earlier, David Rizzio, the Italian secretary of Mary Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered.

- The Murder of Rizzio by John Opie

I'm finding the book enjoyable, especially as I recently checked out from the library Mary, Queen of Scots, a 1971 film starring Vanessa Redgrave (Queen Mary), Glenda Jackson (Queen Elizabeth I), Timothy Dalton (Mary's husband, Lord Darnley), and Ian Holm (Mary's Italian secretary). The plot, from Wikipedia ...

Following the death of her husband Francis II of France, Mary, Queen of Scots (Vanessa Redgrave) returns to her native land. As in neighbouring England, the Protestant faith has been embraced by many nobles of Scotland; in addition, the Catholic Mary has to deal with her half-brother James Stewart, Lord Moray's (Patrick McGoohan) ambitions for rule .....

Fearing that Mary has ambitions for England's throne, Elizabeth I of England (Glenda Jackson) ... sends the younger, dashing but weak Lord Darnley (Timothy Dalton), from a powerful Catholic family. As she expected, Mary becomes enamoured of Darnley and chooses him for marriage. Lord Moray, a Protestant, opposes the marriage, but Mary proceeds ....... The situation deteriorates as Mary frequently consults with the Italian courtier David Riccio (Ian Holm) .... A group of Scottish lords persuade Darnley to help get rid of Riccio, whom they murder in Mary's presence ...

- Redgrave and Dalton

As we all know, things end badly for Mary - she's eventually executed by Queen Elizabeth. The movie was interesting, if sad - Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars in his review.

So, the book by Carr is a fun read - I recommend it for Sherlock Holmes fans.

St. Mary's, Glasgow

Visited What's in Kelvin's Head today - an interesting post on the Scottish Episcopal Church and same-sex marriage. What a difference between Kelvin's church and mine, where the US Bishops are gearing up to crush same-sex marriage in the name of religious liberty,. Here's a bit of the post from St. Mary's Cathedral blog ....

Diocesan Discussions

[...] Anyway, we were there this afternoon to talk about the possibility of allowing Civil Partnerships in religious premises and the possibility of allowing same-sex couples to enter into marriage in some form or another. It was an excellent discussion – really helpful all round .... Of those who spoke, a couple of people were against opening up marriage to same-sex couples. Most who spoke seemed to be broadly in favour. Some were passionately so. Some remained in thoughtful silence listening to what was going on and clearly still in a place where their minds were not made up .......

I found myself feeling quite moved by the discussion. Firstly that it was happening at all and that it happened so well. We had a great meeting listening to one another, respectful of one another and caring about one another. Secondly that I was hearing members of the church, not activists or policy-wonks or politicians or attention seekers like me, but ordinary church members, arguing passionately for same-sex marriage.

When you grow up never hearing any positive word ever spoken in church (or anywhere, come to think about it) about being gay and have a suspicion that it might affect you, it does something to you that is hard to describe to other people. It can lead to barrenness of expectation. It leads many people never to grow in grace or faith or hope or love. Similarly I struggle to explain what it feels like now on odd occasions when people whose voices have not previously been heard begin to speak with authority and passion about their own sons, daughters, brothers and sisters and their relationships. I find it hard to put into language. Indeed, it moves me beyond words to realise that it isn’t me who is out on a limb arguing for something that people don’t understand and don’t believe I’ll never see. It is real and round the corner and supported by people whom I should never underestimate.

I can’t really describe what that feels like to sit amongst all that but along with others I can taste something in the air. It is the sweet taste of longed-for change that is coming more quickly than most people ever thought possible.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

25 books every Christian should read

Lee has a recent post mentioning a list of "25 books every Christian should read", bolding the ones he himself has read and asterisking the ones he's read part of. I thought I'd give this a try myself, also putting in bold the ones I've read and giving an asterisk to those I've read bits of. Sadly, I haven't read all that many on the list and some I'd not even heard of .....

1. On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius
2. Confessions, St. Augustine
3. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Various (*)
4. The Rule of St. Benedict, St. Benedict
5. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
6. The Cloud of Unknowing, Anonymous (*)
7. Revelations of Divine Love (Showings), Julian of Norwich (*)
8. The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis
9. The Philokalia, Various
10. Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin
11. The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila
12. Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross
13. Pensees, Blaise Pascal
14. The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
15. The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence
16. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law
17. The Way of a Pilgrim, Unknown Author
18. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky (*)
19. Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton
20. The Poetry of Gerald Manley Hopkins (*)
21. The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (*)
22. A Testament of Devotion, Thomas R. Kelly
23. The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton
24. Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
25. The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri J.M. Nouwen

I'd also add to the list ....

The autobiography of Ignatius of Loyola ... it's pretty short and can be found online and downloaded at places like this - link. I'm not sure, but I think sometimes some non-Catholics may be wary of reading anything by Ignatius as he's so often portrayed as an anti-reformation saint, but what I've read by him has been about spirituality, about experiencing God, not about religious politics. I'd also add Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises (which can be found online too), but it isn't exactly a reading book but more a retreat manual .... I made the mistake of just starting to read it and the meditation on hell scared my socks off :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nick Cave and Bach

I'm still listening to The Speed of Dark, and in the bit tonight, the main character, an autistic, is listening to Bach's Sheep may safely graze ...

Who knew Nick Cave had written lyrics for this? :)

Sheep May Safely Graze

Sheep may safely graze
All the wolves have been rounded up and put to bed
Sheep may safely graze
There are only days of happiness up ahead
Sheep may safely graze, my boy
All the crocodiles have been hunted from your dreams

Sheep may savely graze
Wooly lambs are gamboling by the streams
Sheep may safely graze
All the lost children will be found in time
Sheep may safely graze, my boy
Close your eyes, your daddy is by your side

And if by chance you wake at night
The hollow sorrow that lingers
And you grab at the tails of your dreams
But they scuttle through your fingers

All you can hear outside
Is the roar of a city being raised
It’s just the powers that be
Making it safe to graze

Sheep may safely graze
The bluebirds have chased the vultures from the sky
Sheep may safely graze
The day is merely gone now and closed its eyes
Sheep may safely graze, my boy
All the fishes are leaping into the nets

Sheep may safely graze
This, my darling, is as good as it gets
Sheep may safely graze
All the lost children will be found in time
Sheep may safely graze, my boy
Close your eyes, your daddy is by your side

If you shouldn’t wake tomorrow
The fences are all torn down
The woods are full of howling beasts
And there ain’t nobody around

And everything seems foreign
To your little ways
That’s just the gods above
Making it save to graze

The fox has its hole
The bird has its nest
But the son of man has no place
To lay his head and rest

The common good in a pluralistic society

There's a post at dotCommonweal about religious liberty and some interesting comments to the post were made by Lisa Fullam, a professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley (and she's also a veterinarian :). The subject she commented on was whether it curtails religious liberty to require Catholic hospitals/clinics to provide contraceptives ....

[...] The USCCB itself estimates that something like 94% of sexually active Catholics of reproductive age use some form of birth control forbidden in Catholic teaching. That question is settled, at least in the minds of the Catholic faithful. For the bishops to make a big fuss over having to provide what they know their people use anyway, which is regarded as morally unproblematic–or even a matter of right–to many other people of good will is, well, quaint. The teaching on this matter has not been received by Catholics or others. To require separate insurance policies for Catholic institutions is a misguided attempt to have people think that, in fact, the RC teaching against birth control has moral sway over the consciences of the faithful. They’d do better just to stay quiet on that one ........

[S]hould publicly funded health plans not cover blood transfusion because the JW’s find it immoral? Should no hospital care at all be publicly funded because Christian Scientists believe that what is experienced as illness is in fact a deficit of prayer and study of their holy books? How about Scientology and anti-depressants–do they get to veto any coverage in public plans because of their different understanding of psychiatric illness? In sum–if religions get to veto aspects of publicly funded health care, whose religious sensibilities count? In a pluralistic society, public arguments must be framed in ways that appeal beyond one’s own religious circle, and refusing to pay for contraception simply doesn’t meet that standard, IMO. In fact, the arguments don’t even work inside the Catholic circle, on this one .......

My point is that the bishops not only have not made an argument about the evil of contraception that resonates with the consciences of most Americans, but in fact they have not made an argument that convinces even most Catholics. (And as I mentioned, this is not a do-or-die issue–for most people, funding their own contraceptives is not impossible.) Why not say “OK, we’ll fund it, but Catholics won’t use it”? Why make this divisive stance a hallmark of protection of conscience? Since the bishops don’t seem to have made any convincing arguments even to believers, contraception comes to be seen, rightly or wrongly, as merely a matter of religious discipline, not natural law. And we argue for the rights of religious groups to make their own religious discipline into law at substantial peril. Again–if we go down that road, whose religious convictions count, and why? ....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Speed of Dark, continued

I'm still listening to The Speed of Dark, the story about an autistic. It's touching me. Here's where I amo now ...

What I wish is that I could go out and look up at the stars. My parents took me camping in the south-west. I remember lying there and seeing all the beautiful patterns, patterns that went on and on forever. I would like to see the stars again. They made me feel calm when I was a child. They showed me an ordered universe, a patterned universe, in which I could be a small part of a large pattern. When my parents told me how long the light had traveled to reach my eyes - hundreds, thousands of years - I felt comforted, though I could not say why. I cannot see the stars from here ...

USCCB meeting

In the news - Bishops Open ‘Religious Liberty’ Drive ...

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops opened a new front in their fight against abortion and same-sex marriage on Monday, recasting their opposition as a struggle for “religious liberty” against a government and a culture that are infringing on the church’s rights.

As I've opined in past posts, the bishops' creative re-definition of the expression 'religious liberty' seems disingenuous - it bears no resemblance to the definition spoken of at Vatican II by those like John Courtney Murray SJ.

While I and many others believe the church's stance on women and gays/lesbians is wrong, in truth there has been no hampering of the church's religious liberty concerning these issues: the church is free to believe and to teach that women shouldn't use contraceptives or have abortions. The church is free to believe and to teach that gays/lesbians are objectively disordered and can't be trusted to marry or adopt. The church is free to run women's health clinics and human trafficking charities that do not even mention, much less give out or perform, contraceptives or abortions. The church is free to refuse to marry gays/lesbians in the church, free to refuse to allow gays/lesbians to adopt children from Catholic agencies. There is just one thing that the church cannot do in reference to these issues -- it cannot take and use US tax dollars to discriminate.

There's a post on the USCCB meeting at dotCommonweal - some of the comments to the post are pretty interesting.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Photos from the yard today

- the strawberry plant's leaves are turning ...

- pyracantha berries ...

- the loquat tree is flowering: see the bee? ...

- the magnolia tree ....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Speed of Dark

A book I'm just beginning is the science fiction novel The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, which won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2003. I've been wanting to read it since I saw a post about it at Catholic Sensibility - On My Bookshelf: The Speed of Dark - but the library has just one audio copy and that through link+ so I finally gave up and bought it. Here's the blurb from Publishers Weekly about the book ....

"If I had not been what I am, what would I have been?" wonders Lou Arrendale, the autistic hero of Moon's compelling exploration of the concept of "normalcy" and what might happen when medical science attains the knowledge to "cure" adult autism. Arrendale narrates most of this book in a poignant earnestness that verges on the philosophical and showcases Moon's gift for characterization. The occasional third-person interjections from supporting characters are almost intrusive, although they supply needed data regarding subplots. At 35, Arrendale is a bioinformatics specialist who has a gift for pattern analysis and an ability to function well in both "normal" and "autistic" worlds. When the pharmaceutical company he works for recommends that all the autistic employees on staff undergo an experimental procedure that will basically alter their brains, his neatly ordered world shatters. All his life he has been taught "act normal, and you will be normal enough" - something that has enabled him to survive, but as he struggles to decide what to do, the violent behavior of a "normal friend" puts him in danger and rocks his faith in the normal world. He struggles to decide whether the treatment will help or destroy his sense of self. Is autism a disease or just another way of being? He is haunted by the "speed of dark" as he proceeds with his mesmerizing quest for self - "Not knowing arrives before knowing; the future arrives before the present. From this moment, past and future are the same in different directions, but I am going that way and not this way.... When I get there, the speed of light and the speed of dark will be the same." His decision will touch even the most jaded "normal."

You can listen to an audio sample of The Speed of Dark here

I'm just at the beginning of the book but already it's raising questions ...what's normal .... how important is it to be among the normal ... if you want to be normal does that mean you're self-loathing .... if you don't care about being normal does that mean you're in denial or instead that you accept yourself ... can you remain yourself or will you lose yourself if you change to normal ... what if you can't change?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Some news on married priests

Melkite Catholic Church to Ordain Married Men to the Priesthood in the US

[...] On first glance, some might view the Melkite Church as merely following in the same vein as that of the Anglican Ordinariate. However, the key difference with the Anglican Ordinariate in the Catholic Church, which allows for some former married Anglican priests to join the Catholic Church and be ordained to the Order of Deacon and then to the priesthood, is that it is viewed as an exception.

The Melkite Greek catholic Church is simply reaffirming the ancient practice in Eastern Christianity, Catholic and Orthodox, of choosing married AND celibate men for both the order of deacons and the Priesthood. Those chosen for the Episcopacy remain celibate. The practice had been curtailed in the United States.Bishop Nicholas is announcing his intention, after study and preparation, to make the practice normative in the United States.This is not an act of "dissent" of any sort. Rather, a resumption of an ancient practice.

Controversy is likely to arise over this announcement on a few counts. First, the Vatican's Congregation for Eastern Churches has not changed its approach to limiting the priesthood to celibate men as the norm, even in the Eastern Church, in the United States. There were a few past exceptions to the norm, but these have not been an indication of a new process for allowing married men to enter seminary formation on a normative basis. Whether or not this announcement will bring a reaction from the Congregation is unclear ..... As to a reaction from the Vatican regarding this announcement from the American Melkite Catholic Church, none has been heard yet.

I think this is a good thing - wish I could say I thought it would make the Vatican re-think its policy on married priests but that seems unlikely. Anyway,this story made me think of Vatican II, celibacy, and Maximos IV Sayegh, past Patriarch of the The Melkite Church at the Council. Celibacy was never really discussed at Vatican II ....

On October 13 [1965], François Marty, archbishop of Rheims, presented the text On the Ministry and Life of Presbyters .... Two days earlier, however, celibacy, the most explosive issue related to the subject, was authoritatively removed from the agenda by Paul VI.

The matter had come up in an oblique way in 1962 under Pope John XXIII. On June 16 the Central Preparatory Commission discussed a short schema On Lapsed Priests ... not about celibacy as such but about measures to be taken to address a situation every bishop had to face: priests walking out the door .... Should a post-factum dispensation from celibacy be granted to such men? If so, how and on what grounds was that to be done?

The overwhelming consensus in the commission was that the council should not address the issue .... The matter should be left to the discretion of the Holy See .... But three years later, in 1965, the situation had changed somewhat. Bishops, still a small minority, were talking about the advisability of a modification of the discipline, at least for some regions. When in October the discussion On the Ministry and Life of Priests drew near, some Brazilian bishops hoped to introduce the matter on the floor .... This is the situation that prompted Paul VI to intervene to withhold celibacy from the agenda .....

The clergy of the Eastern churches in communion with the Holy See lived under a different discipline, and their bishops tended to take a dim view of the Latin practice. Well before October 11 it became known that Maximos IV intended to deliver a speech on the matter, and he would surely do so in his usual forthright and forceful style. Because of the pope's order, Maximos did not deliver his speech, but along with a covering letter he sent a copy of it to Paul on October 13 .....
What Happened at Vatican II, John O'Malley SJ, pp. 270-272

You can read what Maximos had written about celibacy to the pope here in chapter 8 of The Melkite Church at the Council, Discourses and Memoranda of Patriarch Maximos IV and of the Hierarchs of His Church at the Second Vatican Council: Introduction by Archimandrite Robert F. Taft ( link). Here's how it begins ...

Neither Scripture nor Tradition, especially the Tradition of the first centuries, considers celibacy as an indispensable condition for the priesthood, a condition sine qua non. The early text of the schema affirmed that “even among the first Apostles, a few were married.” The new text preferred to omit this mention, as if by omitting it we could change the truth of history. It is unnecessary to recall that Saint Peter and most of the Apostles and the first disciples were married. Those who today in the Eastern Church are likewise married deserve all our support ...

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Welcome to Sarajevo

This week's movie was from the library - Welcome to Sarajevo. The 1997 British film starred Stephen Dillane, Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, and Goran Višnjić, and was based on the book Natasha's Story by Michael Nicholson. It's about a couple of reporters covering the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of whom takes a Bosnian child home with him.

I was interested in the subject given my past post about the Sarajevo Haggadah, and about the pope talking up the questionable saint Aloysius Stepinac on his trip to Croatia.

A trailer ...

And here's the beginning of a review of the movie from The New York Times ....

Dangers And Jitters Of Life in Sarajevo

Unlike more exotic and elliptical films that have tried to depict the chaos of war in the former Yugoslavia, such as ''Before the Rain'' and ''Underground,'' Michael Winterbottom's ''Welcome to Sarajevo'' tackles its subject head on. Set in 1992 and based on a memoir by an English journalist, Michael Nicholson, ''Welcome to Sarajevo'' plunges directly into pandemonium.

Peril and jitters are everywhere as Mr. Winterbottom presents a gonzo guided tour of life under fire. Yet this film, for all its apparent immediacy, winds up less affecting than a more poetic or roundabout approach might be.

In part, that happens because the film walks a thin line between flippancy and passion. War correspondents surely do the same as a way of hanging on to their sanity, but the film's apparent detachment is strong and cavalier enough to create a chill. So does its way of intermingling real images of wartime with patently manufactured ones, as when Marisa Tomei, very much the actress, turns up as a relief worker helping orphaned children. The near-documentary feeling of much of the film is undercut by such intrusively dramatic touches ....

The Dead Sea and the Sundarbans

- the Dead Sea

Dina has a post about the Dead Sea and the Swiss-based New7Wonders of Nature poll. There are 28 finalists from which to choose and the voting ends on the 11th of this month. I visited the site and voted for the Dead Sea and six other places (you get seven votes), one of which I hadn't previously known about: the Sundarbans .....

the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world ... The forest lies in the vast delta on the Bay of Bengal formed by the super confluence of the Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers across Saiyan southern Bangladesh. The seasonally-flooded Sundarbans freshwater swamp forests lie inland from the mangrove forests on the coastal fringe ... The Sundarbans provides a unique ecosystem and a rich wildlife habitat .... Fishing Cats, Macaques, wild boars, Common Grey Mongooses, Foxes, Jungle Cats, Flying Foxes, Pangolins, and spotted deer are also found in abundance in the Sundarbans ... The forest is also rich in bird life, with 170 species ... The endangered species that live within the Sundarbans are Royal Bengal Tigers, Estuarine Crocodile, River Terrapins (Batagur baska), Olive Ridley Turtles, Gangetic dolphin, Ground Turtles, Hawks Bill Turtles and King Crabs (Horse shoe) .....

Here are some of the creatures that live in the Sundarbans ....

- Mudskipper

- Oriental small-clawed otter

- Royal Bengal tiger

And this improbable little bird, the Blue-eared Kingfisher - they have read feet :) ....

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Some stuff

Read JD Crossan's latest post on The Search for the Historical Paul.

Listen to a talk by Keith Ward at the Virginia Theological Seminary

Neuroscientist David Eagleman talks about how we perceive time ....

Monday, November 07, 2011

JC Murray SJ and the victims of human trafficking

Something strange is happening to the expression "religious freedom/liberty". It used to mean, believe it or not, that civil governments did not have an obligation to officially recognize the church and support it. Yep, there was a time when Pius IX actually said "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." It was against this mindset that John Courtney Murray SJ worked, and for a long time he was very unpopular in the church because of that. Here's a bit from a 2008 article at US Catholic, Catholic dissent -- When wrong turns out to be right .....

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." ......

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 stuck to his guns and eventually he became a major drafter of the the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Human Freedom.

But how things have changed. I see everywhere the church complaining about a loss of religious freedom and liberty, but by this they don't mean what JC Murray and the Council meant, they mean instead the opposite - a loss of Catholic influence on civil society, the inability to force everyone else to follow Catholic teaching, and the latest instance is their losing of a government contract to serve victims of human trafficking. The church says they lost the contract because of anti-Catholicism, that their religious liberty is being stepped on, but I think that assertion is not only untrue but disingenuous.

Here's a bit from a post by Susan Brooks Thistletwaite, a minister and professor at the Chicago Theological Seminary. It's a very informative post, but long, so though it's worth reading in full, here's just part of the beginning of it ....


What about the women? Sex trafficking victims need comprehensive health services

The main issue in dealing with those who have been subject to human trafficking, “a form of modern-day slavery” that often includes sexual exploitation, is what is in the best interest of the victims. All victims of trafficking clearly need health care services to recover. Women and girls who have been victimized by sex trafficking must be given comprehensive health services, and that includes reproductive services. But this is more than health care; it is the restoration of a woman or girl’s human dignity, the right to determine what will happen to her body and how in terms of reproduction.

Yet, in the recent controversy over the Department of Health and Human Service’s decision in late September to end funding to the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, a program to help these victims of trafficking, the issue is framed as “Obama versus the Catholic Church,” and cast as an issue of religious liberty.


Women and girls victimized in this sex trafficking system need health care; that is beyond dispute. But what they also need is a restoration of respect for them as people capable of ethical decision-making where their bodies, minds, and spirits are concerned. Reproductive services, including contraception and legal abortion, are part of that restoration for them, to choose or not to choose as part of their journey toward wholeness.

There was “no reason given” by the Department of Health and Human Services for non-renewal of the grant to the Catholic agency, yet it has been interpreted through the written instructions by HSS to groups requesting grants through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act that “strong preference” will be given to organizations that offer referrals for the “full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care” to mean the Catholic group “could have been denied funding under those instructions because of the Church’s opposition to abortion and contraception.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit in 2009 against the contract, saying it was unconstitutional because the bishops would not refer pregnant sex-trafficking victims for abortions, applauded the Obama administration decision to deny the grant. Brigitte Amiri, an ACLU lawyer, told Bloomberg: “We applaud the federal government for recognizing that trafficking victims need reproductive-health series and making awards based on those needs. This has little to do with religion and everything to do with what the trafficking victims need.”

In September 2009, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the ACLU lawsuit is “without merit and an affront to religious liberty.”

Those seem to me to be the parameters of the debate. Is this an issue of “religious liberty,” or “what the trafficking victims need”?

Religious liberty is not the freedom to impose one’s religious views on others. We must ask, “when does religious liberty shift from the freedom to practice one’s faith to the imposition of that faith on a diverse public?” .........


Starship Troopers

Another book I've been reading from the library is Starship Troopers, a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, which won the Hugo Award in 1960. I read it once before when I was a teen and I remember feeling guilty because it was a pro-military and socially/politically conservative story and then, as now, I was a liberal peacenik :) but when I saw an audio version at the library, I thought I'd re-read it. Here's a bit about it from Wikipedia ...

The first-person narrative is about a young soldier from the Philippines named Juan "Johnnie" Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military unit equipped with powered armor. Rico's military career progresses from recruit to non-commissioned officer and finally to officer against the backdrop of an interstellar war between mankind and an arachnoid species known as "the Bugs". Through Rico's eyes, Heinlein examines moral and philosophical aspects of suffrage, civic virtue, the necessities of war and capital punishment, and the nature of juvenile delinquency .... The novel has attracted controversy and criticism for its social and political themes, which some critics claim promote fascism and militarism. Starship Troopers has been adapted into several films and games, with the most widely known being the 1997 film of the same name by Paul Verhoeven.

The book kind of reminds me of another science fiction novel, The Forever War, but it's very different too. The Forever War was written in 1974 by someone who'd served in the army during the Vietnam war and it's fairly anti-military, but Starship Troopers was written in 1959 by someone who's served in the navy during peacetime and it's fairly pro-military. As Wikipedia states, The Forever War has ... been considered to be a critical response to Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers. There was lot of controversy inside and outside of the science fiction community about the militarism and possible fascism in the book - if interested, you can read more about that at the Wikipedia page.

Do I recommend the book? Well, it may be dated and agenda-driven, but if you like old science fiction or Heillein you might like this :)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Thucydides and 58 priests

the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must

So Thucydides had the Athenians (the strong) say to the Melians (the weak) in his History of the Peloponnesian War.

I was reminded of this today when I saw a post at Bilgrimage mentioning Cardinal Bernard Law's 80th birthday party (in the news - Clerics live it up in Vatican for Law’s 80th).

A little about Law from Wikipedia ...

Cardinal Law became the first individual shown to have actively participated in the cover-up of child molestation. Despite substantial amounts of documentation that demonstrated his deep involvement with covering up the molestation of thousands of children, Law refused to step down as Archbishop of Boston. After he left Boston, there remained a significant number of undisclosed priests in the Boston area who confessed to molesting boys, and who continue to work as priests. Some have criticized Law for perpetuating this situation by declining to disclose the names of priests accused of sexual abuse during his tenure as Archbishop. The Archdiocese closed sixty-five parishes before Cardinal Law stepped down from service .... In May 2004, John Paul II appointed Law to a post in Rome, putting him in charge of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, with the title of Archpriest.

In reference to Law stepping down, I recently saw mention of a document signed by 58 priests that helped bring this to pass ....

58 Priests Ask Boston Cardinal to Step Down in Abuse Scandal

In a display of defiance, 58 priests from the Boston Archdiocese have sent a letter to Cardinal Bernard Law, demanding that he resign.

"While this is obviously a difficult request, we believe in our hearts that this is a necessary step that must be taken if healing is to come to the archdiocese," the letter stated. "The priests and people of Boston have lost confidence in you as their spiritual leader."

The three-paragraph letter was hand-delivered late Monday to Law's mansion in Brighton, where the nation's fourth-largest archdiocese has its headquarters. Law is in Rome, holding meetings at the Vatican about the clerical sexual abuse crisis roiling the church in Boston and around the country.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey said Tuesday that she could not say whether Law had read the letter, but added that "a letter between brother priests and their bishop would be reviewed carefully."

Stephen Pope, chair of the theology department at Boston College, called the priests' letter "as close to rebellion as you can get."

"This is something they never do," he added. "Even for one priest to speak up against a bishop is unheard of, but to have so many."


The intensity of the nearly yearlong clerical abuse crisis escalated in Boston in the last week as a flood of once-confidential church documents described abuses by priests ranging from rape to drug use to fathering children with married women.

Files released late Monday contained a notation that one priest, Father William Scanlan, "fools around with kids." Scanlan was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in his parish in 1997, but no criminal charges were filed. He was most recently assigned to work in San Jose, but his current whereabouts are unknown.

Public outrage also mounted as financial advisors authorized the archdiocese to file for bankruptcy rather than settle close to 500 lawsuits brought by sexual abuse victims.

That development, combined with the other problems, prompted almost 10% of Boston's active-duty priests to take the bold step of calling for their cardinal to step down .....

So much angst and effort expended to get Law to step down and he goes on to a promotion in Rome. I don't understand how the Vatican and the pope don't get what this kind of thing says about the church. Maybe they do get it but they just don't care ... the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Trinity College Choir, Wake, O Wake!

- The Wise and Foolish Virgins by Burne-Jones

I find the gospel reading for tomorrow, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, kind of scary, but it has inspired a lot of art, and music too. Here below is the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, singing Wake, O Wake! (Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme) ...

Latest book from the library

West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief by Steven Kotler .......


In The White Album, Joan Didion wrote, "We tell ourselves stories in order to live," and then proceeded to tell a story about a time in her life when the stories she told herself began to fail. Which may be how things go for many of us, and it certainly was for me. In the fall of 2003, at a time when I was making my living as a journalist, at a time when the president of the United States comfortably dismissed the idea of Darwinian evolution in favor of a more economic, six-day approach; at a time when certain members of Congress were trying to remake democracy in their own image; at a time when I was recovering from a long and nagging illness; when many of the people around me began getting married, having children, moving away, or on, or staying exactly where they were, without me; at a time a pair of hurricanes were heavy on the neck of Central America, I went to Mexico to surf. I went because of these things. I went because the stories I told myself had begun to fail ....


I saw this recommended in a post at the NYT's philosophy blog and thought I'd give it a try. Just at the beginning so far.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Happy All Saints' Day

- All Saints' Day

For all the Saints, sung by the RSCM Millennium Youth Choir, conducted by David Ogden. Recorded in Chester Cathedral for BBC Songs of Praise.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

They've sung just parts of the song, For All the Saints, by Anglican Bishop William Walsham How. Here's the whole thing ...

1. For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

2. Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

3. For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

4. For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

5. For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

6. O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

7. O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

8. And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

9. The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

10. But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

11. From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Silver Dagger

For some reason have this song in my head. Here's Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes singing the folk song, Silver Dagger ...