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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ways to help

- draft horses

Yesterday I looked at some of the mail I get from organizations that try to reduce animal suffering. Most of the time I just save this mail in a pile because I know I can't afford to help them all and because I feel too guilty to just throw the stuff away. But yesterday I did look and it was harrowing - from abandoned dogs and cats, to retired draft horses that people want to eat, to the extermination of wolves. I chose some places to be the recipients of my paltry contributions but it seemed like too few.

One encouraging thing, though, is the help I can give that doesn't depend on cash flow ... email advocacy. I get email from the National Anti-Vivisection Society that alerts me to legislation that will help animals and makes it easy to notify my political representatives about how I feel on the subject. Here's one of the latest I received ...

Federal Legislation

A companion bill to the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, HR 3798, has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein. S. 3239 and HR 3798 would establish a process for phasing out battery cages for laying hens and providing truth in labeling while that process moves forward. These bills would require existing and new cages to be fitted with adequate environmental enrichment (adequate perch space, dust bathing or scratching areas, and nest space), would require larger cage sizes to be phased in over a 15-year period, and would end the forced molting of birds through deprivation of food or water. The requirement for accurately labeling the housing status of laying hens on cartons of eggs—including whether the eggs are from hens who are “caged”—would become effective immediately. While this measure would override any state provisions to improve the living conditions of laying hens, including those with laws with shorter effective dates and more progressive caging requirements, these protections would apply across the country instead of being limited to those few states that have already passed protective measures for laying hens.

Please contact your U.S. Representative and your U.S. Senators and ask them to SUPPORT this legislation!

If anyone is interested in this kind of thing, you can visit the NAVS website to learn more.

For Greater Glory ...

... is a film about the Cristero War. I won't be watching it, which is sad because I do like Andy Garcia, but I fear this film is a little too much like another, There Be Dragons, the movie about Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer and the Spanish Civil War. Both films were funded by religious organizations - There Be Dragons by Opus Deri and For Greater Glory by the conservative Knights of Columbus.

The thing that gets forgotten in these Catholic film representations of the Spanish Civil War and the Cristero War is that the "bad guys" - the secular anti-Catholic governments - were that way for a reason. At that time, the majority of people in Spain and in Mexico were suffering under totalitarian regimes of wealth and power and the Catholic Church was hand in glove with those regimes. Here's a bit from Wikipedia on Graham Greene's novel, The Power and the Glory, which is set around that time .....

The novel tells the story of a Roman Catholic priest in the state of Tabasco in Mexico during the 1930s, a time when the Mexican government, still effectively controlled by Plutarco Elías Calles, strove to suppress the Catholic Church. Revolutionary leaders during the early 20th century tried to destroy the feudalism that had governed social relations in Mexico for four centuries, with a resulting concentration of land and power among the elites and the church. Calles was just one in a line of anti-clerical leaders who sought to undo this feudal system.

This is not to say that the suppression of religion and the killing of religious was ok, obviously, but a more balanced rendering of the history of those times would be nice ... for instance, it's often overlooked that there were Catholic priests who fought on the side of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War - Spain: Bishops apologise for Church silence over Civil War killings

Here's the beginning of a review of the movie that goes into the complexities of the situation ......

'For Greater Glory' moving, but glosses over aspects of war

In 1917 the Mexican Constitutional Congress adopted a new constitution. It confirmed the separation of church and state first decreed in the 1857 constitution, returned subsoil rights to the government from ownership and control by foreign corporations, established the basis for secular education, and provided for land reforms. Five articles restricted the power and liberty of the Catholic church. These forbade public worship outside of churches, restricted the church’s right to own property, closed monasteries, deprived clergy of civil rights, forbade the wearing of clerical or religious garb, and banned clergy from criticizing the government or commenting on public affairs in the press.

The rigid enforcement of these laws by President Plutarco Elías Calles led to the civil war known as the Cristero War, 1926-29.

Although this tragic conflict may be unknown by this name to many in the United States, many Catholics do know the story of Jesuit Fr. Miguel Pro (1891-1927) who was shot in November 1927 on the order of Calles under the pretext that Pro was part of a plot to assassinate former President Alvaro Obregón. The church canonized Pro in 1988. Calles ordered that the photographs of his killing were to be spread far and wide to discourage the Cristeros; it had the opposite effect.

The history of Mexico is complex and the Catholic church’s place therein is complicated by its wealth and political influence, which stemmed from large land holdings and control over education .......

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Was Dick really a gnostic?

Part 3 of the posts on science fiction writer Philip K. Dick is up at the NYT's philosophy blog. Don't know if I agree with the post, but here's just a bit of it ....

Part 3: Adventures in the Dream Factory
By Simon Critchley

[...] Philip K. Dick’s admittedly peculiar but passionately held worldview and the gnosticism it embodies does more than explain what some call the dystopian turn in science fiction from the 1960s onward, it also gives us what has arguably become the dominant mode of understanding of fiction in our time, whether literary, artistic or cinematic. This is the idea that reality is a pernicious illusion, a repressive and authoritarian matrix generated in a dream factory we need to tear down in order to see things aright and have access to the truth. And let’s be honest: it is simply immensely pleasurable to give oneself over to the idea that one has torn aside the veil of illusion and seen the truth — “I am one of the elect, one of the few in the know, in the gnosis.”

Dick’s gnosticism also allows us to see in a new light what is the existentially toughest teaching of traditional Christianity: that sin lies within us in the form of original sin. Once we embrace gnosticism, then we can declare that wickedness does not have its source within the human heart but out there, with the corrupt archons of corporate capitalism or whomever. We are not wicked. It is the world that is wicked. This is an insight that first finds its modern voice in Rousseau before influencing a whole Heinz variety of Romanticisms, which turn on the idea of natural human goodness and childhood innocence. We adults idealize childhood because grown-up life seems such a disaster. We forget that being a child — being that powerless — is often its very own disaster ....

"Lie, lie until your pants are on fire."

- from an episode of Frasier

There's a post by Bryan Cones at US Catholic, Lying about the HHS mandate: Accidentally or on purpose?, that mentions a post at dotCommonweal - both are about how the bishops, including Timothy Dolan, seem to be lying about the HHS contraception mandate. The dotCommonweal post, Fact-checking Cardinal Wuerl & Archbishop Lori. is especially damning. What's depressing is not just that the bishops are lying, but that they believe we're either too dim to notice, or too apathetic to care.

Calla lilies

My calla lilies are sprouting :) I've never grown them before but I think the flowers are so beautiful, so I hope they make it. Here's is the first two-inch-tall spotty little leaf ....

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


- the temple

I'm finally up to the last season of Lost, and in this season the remaining characters have encountered a temple in the jungle. The temple architecture/art seems a combo of Aztec and Egyptian and it's where the scary smoke monster lives.

- temple depiction of the smoke monster being evoked (I think)

The man in charge of the temple is a Japanese named Dogen. I had to smile when i heard him introduced - the writers of the show seem to enjoy naming characters after famous people (Locke, Bentham, Hume, Hawking, Faraday, etc.) and Dogen is just the latest. When I was interested in zen Buddhism, I learned a little but about the other Dōgen.

- Hiroyuki Sanada plays Dogen

I'll be so sad when I'm done with the series - it's been a wild ride :)

Monday, May 28, 2012


This week's movie rental was Haywire...

a 2011 action-thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Gina Carano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, and Michael Fassbender.

One interesting thing about the film is that actress Gina Carano is a professional martial artist and her abilities get showcased quite a bit. Also nice is that we get to see what Dublin's like. Is the movie great? Nope. Is it entertaining? Pretty much.

Roger Ebert gave the movie three out of four stars in his review. Here's a bit of it ...

[...] Soderbergh is a master craftsman whose work moves almost eagerly between genres. This is his first martial arts film, and he correctly assumes that the audience isn't interested in hearing a lot of dialogue. Lesser directors would use that as an excuse to rely entirely on action and lowball the words. Not Soderbergh and his screenwriter, Lem Dobbs, who wrote "Dark City," is the son of the famous painter R.B. Kitaj and lifted his pen name from the Bogart character in "Treasure of the Sierra Madre."

What they do is craft very precise words for a large group of supporting characters and fill those roles with surprisingly big names. The result is that the film (although its plot is preposterous nonsense) has weight and heft and places Mallory at the center of a diabolical labyrinth. Consider that a relatively little-known actress co-stars with Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas, and you realize that (1) Carano can hold her own, and (2) like Woody Allen, Soderbergh is one of those directors who can get just about anybody he wants to act in his movies ...

Crime in Vatican City

Given the news of an arrest in the Vatican leaks situation .... Pope's butler vows to help Vatican scandal probe .... my mind just boggles at the implications. Not the implications of the leaks themselves, but the implications of the leadership of a Christian denomination acting as a state that apparently can arrest and jail suspects, interrogate them, judge them, and I assume, will then punish them. Questions ..... under what conditions are prisoners held, judged .... is the suspect an Italian citizen, and if so, why would he not be held and tried in an Italian court? This Wikipedia page, Crime in Vatican City, asserts that ...

Crime in Vatican City is handled in accordance with article 22 of the 1929 Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and Italy, by which the Italian government, when requested by the Holy See, seeks prosecution and detention of criminal suspects, at the expense of the Vatican. The Vatican has no prison system. People convicted of committing crimes in the Vatican serve terms in Italian prisons (Polizia Penitenziaria), with costs covered by the Vatican.

But anyway, here's a little bit from a story at the Vatican Insider on the arrest of the butler ....

Rumours of new suspects beyond the Tiber: now the hunt is on for the masterminds: A lay functionary under scrutiny: he could be arrested

[...] Yesterday the Pope mentioned the Gospel: “the wind shakes the House of God, but it does not fall”. No direct reference to the Vatileaks scandal, though the reference does mention clouds that are gathering of the skies of the present. The transition to the formal stage, said spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, has made it possible to officially release the name of the arrested individual; furthermore, it involves a real arrest to all effects, given that in the Vatican, the practice taking a suspect into "custody" does not exist. The investigation has been proceeding swiftly thanks to the fact that it's entirely within the Vatican's jurisdiction: Gabriele is a Vatican citizen, and lives next to the Gendarmerie, and it was in his home were the "confidential documents were discovered." Full-court investigations, which don't exclude "other acts"; for this reason, the length of the investigation could even lengthen. Again in the afternoon, Fr. Lombardi intervened to explain that "the judiciary has now charged Paolo Gabriele simply with the crime of aggravated theft: we are at a very early stage of criminal proceedings, therefore the high estimates regarding an eventual prison sentence printed by some newspapers have absolutely no justification”. A clarification with respect to some reports, according to which Gabriele would have been charged with crimes such as a violation of the correspondence of a head of state, and thus an attack on state security, with a penalty of up to 30 years in prison .....

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Then he breathed on them

I like the version of the pentecost that's in John's gospel, Jesus breathing on the disciples, more than the version in Acts. Below you can see it portrayed in the movie The Gospel of John - it's a strangely gentle moment and not at all like the mayhem of Luke's pentecost :) Click on the video at about 3:32 minutes in ... The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you." The he breathed on them. "Receive the Holy Spirit." .....

Bishop Alan Wilson on women bishops

There's a post at The Tablet's blog from an Anglican about the amendments made to the women bishops legislation in the Anglican Church which will, in effect, let conservatives (those who don't believe women can be priests/bishops) always and ever have only male priests/bishops to deal with.

He's a conservative not in favor of women bishops and he seems surprised at the reaction of liberals to these amendments. He writes .... The chief problem is that many of the most ardent supporters of women bishops, whilst liberal in their theology, are decidedly illiberal in their attitude towards those with whom they disagree.. This complaintt shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be liberal. A liberal attitude is not synonymous with "anything goes". Having a liberal attitude means that you thirst for social justice, so no, a liberal will not say that those who discriminate against others have the right to do so.

Thinking Anglicans has a lot of links about the amendments, including those to posts by Andrew Brown and Bishop Alan Wilson ... Women bishops: some media reports and blog reactions.

Here's just a bit from Bishop Alan's post ...

Cooking the Curate’s Egg

[...] Down the road leading here two mantras have pullulated behind the discussion:

(1) “This isn't, of course, about gender. Perish the Thought.”

This assertion is a lie. It is, and it always was. Discriminatory is as discriminatory does. It is not for the discriminator to judge the matter, based on their intentions, but those discriminated against, based on what actually happens. All else is illusion.

(2) “This is about theology not discrimination.”

This assertion is a lie. However you tart it up, Trevor Huddleston showed us years ago, discriminating is actually a theological assertion. Imagine, as I have attempted sincerely to do, that there is a theology that justifies treating women, against their will and calling, as inferior. I can't conceive of such a thing, but let's suspend disbelief for a moment. What is the difference between that noble theology and cultural prejudice dressed in voodoo? At no time in the past five years has anyone showed me. All that unites reactionaries in this matter seems to be a cultural prejudice against seeing women in positions of authority, reinforced by a reactionary subculture. It is every bit as much drawn from the contemporary world’s values as progressive aspiration. It’s just drawn from the reactionary quarter of them.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Alternative Katholikentag

- rainbow ends at the Jesuit Church, Mannheim

The 98th German Katholikentag (Catholic Day) , an annual meeting of lay Catholics and church officials (including the pope), is happening in Mannheim. You can read (or listen to a podcast) about the official Katholikentag at Vatican Radio - Katholikentag meets in Germany .

But there's also an "Alternative Katholikentag". The Tablet has both a news bit mentioning the Alternative Katholikentag as well as a blog post by Hans Küng which mentions same. Here's the beginning of his post ...

Pope is provoking disobedience

General discontent and frustration over the delay of church reforms dominated both the alternative and the official Katholikentag [Catholic Congress] at Mannheim this year. In sharp contrast, Pope Benedict XVI is obviously preparing for the definite reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX) and its bishops and priests .....

I tried looking it up the Alternative Katholikentag but everything was in German and my college German was just not up to the task ;) Still, I gleaned a little ... apparently every year, Catholics for reform meet in Mannheim too and this year one of the speakers was Jesuit theologian Friedhelm Hengsbach. Here's part of an article in English which mentioned him at the Alternative Katholikentag ...

Hefty criticism also came from Friedhelm Hengsbach, a theologian who specialises in social ethics. Hengsbach delivered the opening speech of an alternative conference to the mainstream Catholic one underway. The church's structures were crusty, old and full of "rust, moths and mildew," he said. In a fiery speech, Hengsbach said the church hierarchy tried to prevent reform and instead presented the structural crisis within the church as a crisis of faith.

The same article also seems to say that at the official Katholikentag, the one the pope is attending, Bishop of Trier Stephen Ackermann, the church's official responsible for dealing with the sex abuse scandal, said that some pedophile priests should not be fired or imprisoned, but instead kept on in employment in the church - yikes! :(

Anyway, I hope to see more about the Alternative Katholikentag in the English news.

Beautiful and terrible

I'm re-reading Inkdeath and I'm at the part where Mo, the book binder from our contemporary world who gets "read into" a fairy-tale type story, has left his daughter Meggie safely behind to travel with the princess Violante and her soldiers to the deserted 'Castle in the Lake' to escape her evil father, the Adderhead (p. 420-423) .....


The path had brought them to the crest of a mountain, and far below lay a lake with a castle reflected in its waters, drifting on the ripples like a stone fruit floating a long way from the bank. It's walls were as dark as the spruce trees that grew on the slopes of the surrounding mountains, and an almost endless bridge, narrow as a ribbon of stone and supported on countless piers, led over the water to land, where two ruined watchtowers stood among a few abandoned huts.

"The Impregnable Bridge!" whispered one of the soldiers, and all the stories he had heard about this place were echoed in that whisper.

It began to snow again, tiny, wet flakes that disappeared in the dark lake as if it were devouring them. Violante's young soldiers stared at their destination in dismal silence. It was not a very inviting sight. But their mistress's face lit up like a young girl's.

"What do you say, Bluejay?" she asked Mo, putting her gold-framed glasses on her nose. "Look at it. My mother described this castle to me so often that I feel as if I'd grown up here myself. I only wish these glasses were stronger," she added impatiently, "but even from here I can see that it's beautiful!"

Beautiful? Mo would have called the castle sinister. But perhaps, to the Adderhead's daughter, that was one and the same thing.

"Now you see why I've brought you here?" Violante asked. "No one can take this castle. Even the giants couldn't harm it when they still came to this valley. The lake is too deep, and the bridge is just wide enough for a single horseman ..... A nephew of my grandfather's was the last who tried to capture this castle. He never got across the lake. My grandfather bred predatory fish in it. They're said to be larger than horses, and they crave human flesh.The lake guards the castle better than any army could." ......

Mo looked out over the dark water uneasily. It was as if, though the drifting swaths of mist, he saw all the dead soldiers who had tried to cross the Impregnable Bridge. The lake was like a copy of the Inkworld itself, both beautiful and terrible ....

Mo was the last to ride onto the bridge. Suddenly, the whole world seemed to be made of water. Mist drifted into his face, and the castle swam on the lake before him like a dark dream: towers, battlements, bridges, oriels, windowless walls with the wind and the water eating at them. The bridge seemed to go on forever, and the gate to which it led looked out of reach, but at last it began to grow larger with every step his horse took. The towers and walls filled the sky like a menacing song, and Mo saw dark shadows glide though the water like watchdogs picking up the scent of their coming.

"What did the castle look like, Mo?" he heard Meggie asking. "Describe it!"

What would he say? He looked up at the towers, as many of them as if a new one grew every year, at the maze of oriels and bridges and the stone griffin above the gateway. "It didn't look like a happy ending, Meggie," he heard himself reply. "It looked like a place from which no on ever comes back."


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sitting around the fire with Jesus

The reading for tomorrow, Jn 21:15-19, has the post-resurrection Jesus feeding the disciples, asking Peter if he loves him, and telling them all to follow him (not to mention some cryptic aside about John). The film The Gospel of John shows ithis and I found it kind of moving - Jesus' repeated questions to Peter make him weep. Click on the video at 8:50 mins into it to be at the part where the disciples have come ashore to find Jesus sitting at a charcoal fire making them breakfast ...

Roses in the yard ...

Will the lawsuit fly?

For those interested, this ThinkProgress post gives some helpful legal and historical information .... What You Need To Know About The Law Behind The Catholic Church’s Anti-Birth Control Lawsuit

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why marriage equality is important ...

You can read more about the video below here from Andrew Sullivan ...

Philip Endean SJ: Ascension

Last Thursday I saw a post about the Ascension at Jerusalem Hills Daily Photo - Benedictus bread wheat - which noted that Ascension day came 40 days after Easter, and I realized, not growing up Christian, that I always think of Ascension as being on Sunday instead (in the US, only Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and the state of Nebraska celebrate on Thusrday).

Today I saw a post on the Ascension at Thinking Faith by Philip Endean SJ that discusses the 'when' of the Ascension. As I mentioned in my earlier post on the Ascension, I don't really like the idea of Jesus leaving, and Fr. Endean addresses that as well. Here's just a bit of the article ...

Ascension, New Creation and the First Day of the Week

[...] Many of us imagine the Ascension, despite the psalmist’s ‘merry noise’ (Psalms 47:5 [Coverdale Bible]), as a moment of parting. We are saying goodbye to someone who will be, despite all the talk of promise, absent from us; and the exuberant notes of celebration, as at a farewell do or a retirement bash, can mask anxiety about how we are going to cope without the one whom we have loved.


If there is any hint of letdown, of being left on our own, in our feelings about the Ascension (and I’ll put my hand up and confess to having often preached in such terms), then we have too narrow a sense of what happened at Easter. We are still captivated by a childish picture of Jesus coming back for a bit more of the same. The Ascension appears as a rerun of Good Friday—more triumphant in tone, certainly, and more appropriate to the Son of God, but still fundamentally a withdrawal, a moment of parting. But what happens at Easter is not a return to what we had before. Rather, heaven is thrown open. The Resurrection appearances are not a reversal of ‘the death he died … once for all’, but rather revelations of ‘the life he lives … to God’ (Romans 6:9). The temple veil is torn away; the boundaries between God’s life and ours are removed. What God began in the earthly life of Jesus—the establishment of the divine Kingdom—is continuing. Nothing will ever stop it. ‘See, the home of God is among mortals.’ (Revelation 21:3) .......

When I think of Ascension, I think of that movie Jesus .... at the end of the film, the post-resurrection Jesus tells the disciples "I am with you always, even to the end of the world" and then the scene shifts and we see Jesus dressed in contemporary garb encountering some children in the present. It's said that Jesus' ascension was necessary because otherwise the Holy Spirit wouldn't have been sent to us (but does that mean no one ever had the indwelling Spirit before Jesus ascended?) and that Jesus as ascended is the only way he could be with us all in a universal sense (but why couldn't he be both here and everywhere too - won't that be the situation in heaven?). OK, I'm obviously no theologian :) but I'm willing to second-guess the Ascension if it would mean I could have Jesus still around, as in this last scene from the movie (edited out of the US version) ........

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thomas Aquinas videos

From Simon Oliver at the University of Nottingham - Why Study Thomas Aquinas? ...

From Philosophy Bites, Anthony Kenny on the ethics of Aquinas ...

Cardinal Dolan ...

(UPDATE: You can read more about Dolan's misdirection at dotCommonweal - Fact-checking Cardinal Dolan.)

... was on tv to speak about the HHS contraception mandate and to give his "religious liberty" spiel. What he said about the provisions of the mandate was a misrepresentation of the truth. Even worse, he seemed to be almost blackmailing the government and the rest of us with the assertion that if the mandate goes through, the church will be forced against its will, to choose to stop doing charity work (and thus give up the yearly 2.9 billion dollars the government contributes to Catholic charities? I don't think so).

Here's something from Bryan Cones at US Catholic on this .... Is the government "strangling" the church's ministries with the HHS mandate? Cardinal Dolan thinks so

Watching Archbishop Dolan on the CBS This morning, I was a little surprised with how inflammatory his rhetoric was about the HHS mandate. In between his jocular exchanges with "Charlie and Paula" about the green room bagels were pretty strong accusations that the "straitjacketing, handcuffing" exemption for religious institutions is "strangling" (at least four times) and "choking" (at least twice) the church's ministry.

Dolan was eager to make clear that the bishops were worried about religious liberty around issues of immigration, human trafficking, and soup kitchens--suggesting that these good works are somehow endangered by this controversy, and forgetting that the current administration has actually awarded more funding to Catholic-affiliated organizations for these works than its predecessor. (Sounds rather more like the administration is trying to drown us--in money.)

Dolan goes on to misrepresent even the original exemption the administration carved out--that an exempt organization can employ and serve "only" Catholics, which it never said--and then goes on to suggest that it is "almost like we're being punished because we serve a lot of people"--as if Catholics are the only people doing just that. Poor us ....

Monday, May 21, 2012

The US Bishops as kingmakers?

- detail from Jeanne d'Arc showing the crowning of Charles 7

The church is suing the government. What's so awful that the bishops must litigate against the Obama administration over it ... war, torture, the death penalty, environmental destruction, tax inequalities, the erosion of civil rights? No, apparently those issues don't warrant a Fortnight for Freedom, much less a law suit.

The bishops say it's not really about contraception either. They say it's about the endangerment of religious liberty, but their idea of unlimited religious liberty has never existed in the US. I don't think this is about contraception or about religious liberty, but instead it's about power. This litigation is just the latest skirmish in a turf war, and the trophy the bishops hope to win is not the feeding of the hungry or the turning of weapons into plowshares. I think what the bishops want is to put Romney in the White House.

You can read more about this at dotCommonweal (with some informative comments to the post) - Notre Dame & others sue Obama administration over contraception mandate - and at America magazine's blog here - Bishop Blaire Seeks 'Wider Consultation' on Religious Liberty.

Philip K. Dick

There's a post at the NYT's philosophy blog about science fiction writer PK Dick - Philip K. Dick, Sci-Fi Philosopher, Part 1 by Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York.

I got interested in Dick as a teen and have read many of his books. Back then he was kind of a sci fi cult figure but now he's mainstream .... so many of his books have been made into popular movies: Blade Runner from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Total Recall from We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, Scanners from Second Variety, Minority Report from The Minority Report, Paycheck from Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly from A Scanner Darkly, Next from The Golden Man, The Adjustment Bureau from Adjustment Team ... and a remake of Total Recall is coming out with Colon Farrell. I even saw mention of Dick on Lost, where a season 4 episode has Ben reading VALIS :)

But anyway, here's a bit of the article ....

[...] Dick’s life has long passed into legend, peppered with florid tales of madness and intoxication. There are some who consider such legend something of a diversion from the character of Dick’s literary brilliance. Jonathan Lethem writes — rightly in my view — “Dick wasn’t a legend and he wasn’t mad. He lived among us and was a genius.” Yet Dick’s life continues to obtrude massively into any assessment of his work.

Everything turns here on an event that “Dickheads” refer to with the shorthand “the golden fish.” On Feb. 20, 1974, Dick was hit with the force of an extraordinary revelation after a visit to the dentist for an impacted wisdom tooth for which he had received a dose of sodium pentothal. A young woman delivered a bottle of Darvon tablets to his apartment in Fullerton, Calif. She was wearing a necklace with the pendant of a golden fish, an ancient Christian symbol that had been adopted by the Jesus counterculture movement of the late 1960s.

The fish pendant, on Dick’s account, began to emit a golden ray of light, and Dick suddenly experienced what he called, with a nod to Plato, anamnesis: the recollection or total recall of the entire sum of knowledge. Dick claimed to have access to what philosophers call the faculty of “intellectual intuition”: the direct perception by the mind of a metaphysical reality behind screens of appearance. Many philosophers since Kant have insisted that such intellectual intuition is available only to human beings in the guise of fraudulent obscurantism, usually as religious or mystical experience, like Emmanuel Swedenborg’s visions of the angelic multitude. This is what Kant called, in a lovely German word, “die Schwärmerei,” a kind of swarming enthusiasm, where the self is literally en-thused with the God, o theos. Brusquely sweeping aside the careful limitations and strictures that Kant placed on the different domains of pure and practical reason, the phenomenal and the noumenal, Dick claimed direct intuition of the ultimate nature of what he called “true reality.” Yet the golden fish episode was just the beginning ......

I wonder how all the Dick books I've read have molded me (aside from teaching me the word kipple). The book of his I remember best is the one made into Blade Runner - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - and I think that's because animals were featured strongly in the story. You can see only bits of the animal theme in the movie: the artificial owl, the empathy test used to detect replicants that asks why you aren't rescuing a tortoise, but in the book most animals are extinct and people aspire to own artificial animals but many can't afford them. The relationship between people and animals, the feeling of empathy that people can nourish from being around animals, is what distinguishes humans from replicants in the story.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The ascension, from last year

- window at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles

I don't especially like the ascension. For one thing, the idea of Jesus floating off on a cloud is hard to square with science -- as Keith Ward writes in The Big Questions in Science and Religion (p. 107), Jesus ... "ascends" into heaven. We now know that, if he began ascending two thousand years ago, he would not yet have left the Milky Way (unless he attained warp speed).

And even worse, there's the idea of being left behind by Jesus when he goes away for the second time. There may be a feeling of exaltation in his ascension, but as Graham Ward mentions in Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology (p. 176), there's also a feeling of distance, emptiness, and bereavement in his absence.

Having said that, though, I do like what James Alison writes in Knowing Jesus about the ascension (p. 24) ...

[...] the crucified and risen Jesus was not only crucified as a human but rose as a crucified human.

It is I think important to hold on to this, since there is a tendency, helped by the apparent vagueness of the gospel texts when they deal with the resurrection, to imagine that Jesus may well have been human up until his death, but from the resurrection onwards, he reverted to being God, and eventually, like a helium balloon, couldn't be held to the earth any longer, and floated back to heaven where he belonged.

Well, this is not the case. When Jesus died, it was a fully human being who died completely, and when Jesus was raised from the dead, it was a human being who was given back to us. Given back as a crucified and living human being. I stress this for two reasons: first, and incidentally, because if we don;t hold on to this, we make a nonsense of the belief in the ascension .....

That is to say, the ascension was not Jesus beaming back up to Starship Enterprise when the Mission was accomplished, leaving the earthlings to play happily; it was the introduction of a novelty into heaven: human nature. Being human was from then on permanently and indissolubly involved in the presence of God .....

What is important is that the risen and crucified Jesus was no less human after his resurrection than before it. This not only says something about the presence of human nature in heaven, but something about the presence of God on earth. The divine life is indissolubly and permanently present as human. All divine dealings with humanity are on a human level .....

Robert Blair Kaiser

There's an article at the National Catholic Reporter by Robert Blair Kaiser. Wikipedia states of him ...

As a correspondent for Time Magazine, he won the Overseas Press Club's Ed Cunningham Award in 1962 for the "best magazine reporting from abroad" for his reporting on the Second Vatican Council.

... and he mentions being at Vatican II in the NCR article ...

Open letter to the U.S. bishops: Let's not be a laughingstock, OK?

[...] The best thing about Vatican II: It reversed centuries of Catholicism's standoffishness toward "the world." I will never forget one day during the council's fourth session, when members of the press were given a draft of the council's crowning document on the church and the world. The world was a good place, it said, because it was redeemed by Christ, and where it wasn't so good, it was our job as followers of Christ to help make it better. I was covering the council for Time magazine, and at a session of the American Bishops' Press Panel later that day, I remember trying to understand the implications of this "new stance toward the world." I asked the panel of theologians, "Does this mean that Catholics can, for example, start working together with all kinds of organizations (not necessarily Catholic), like Planned Parenthood, for instance?" I will never forget my sense of euphoria when almost everyone in the room applauded the reply of Francis Connell, a moral theologian from the then quite rigid Redemptorist Order. He said he didn't see why not ...

Kaiser's history of the papal birth commission and its aftermath, The Politics of Sex and Religion, can be read or downloaded for free here.

History of celibacy

There's an article at the Association of Catholic Priests site on the history of church celibacy by Thomas O’Loughlin, a professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham. It's pretty interesting - here's just a bit of it ....

A history of Celibacy in the Catholic Church — Prof. Thomas O’Loughlin

[...] Luther marks the next stage in the story. He argued that something one does, for instance making a vow or being celibate, could not add to one’s holiness (1522). Later, he condemned celibacy as the creation of canon law, itself the work of the devil (1530) and held that for fallen men, burning with passion, marriage was a necessity if they were to avoid sin (his understanding of 1 Cor 7:9). Luther himself married in June 1525 and died the father of a large family. His position on celibacy was, in broad outline, that of the other reformers as well. For example, Calvin held that some are called by God to celibacy, but that it should not be prescribed by law nor be considered a more spiritual, higher, vocation than marriage. Significantly, his is the best historical scholarship of the period. Commenting on references to marriage in Scripture, he recognised that Jerome’s position could not be sustained with its extremely corrupt view of sexuality, and indeed was not one shared by the New Testament. He further recognised that it was Jerome’s hang-ups about sex and virginity, rather than Scripture, that influenced law and ordinary theology text-books. Jerome was to be used with caution, and this comes from Calvin who on other matters of interpretation and linguistics had Jerome as his hero.

The opposition of the Reformers sealed the fate of celibacy for the Roman Church. The Council of Trent declared that celibacy was possible, founded on Scripture, and that it was heresy to say that virginity / celibacy were not objectively superior to marriage (1563). If the Protestant ministers were married, the new men of the Counter-reformation would be celibates, trained and organised with a precision and uniformity unimaginable to medieval clerics. Moreover, the continuing Protestant / Catholic divide gave Trent an impetus to enforce its law unlike any previous council. Celibacy was to be a badge of the priesthood, and every priest trained in a special way and in a special place, the seminary. The distinction between the priest in the parish and the priest-member of a religious order further disappeared. A good priest was a member of a spiritual elite formed on a pattern designed for monks and friars ....

Friday, May 18, 2012

Horus the falcon

Another old movie from the library - The Mummy Returns. I like Brendan Fraser and have posts about some of his other movies, like Extraordinary Measures, Gods and Monsters, and Inkheart. But my favorite characters in this movie were Ardeth Bay (played by Israeli actor Oded Fehr) and his "best and most clever friend" Horus the falcon :) I liked the music too ....

The Tablet: justice and charity

I wrote once about the difference between justice and charity, and today I saw a post at The Tablet's blog that expresses this difference very well. Here's the beginning of that post ....

Without justice, charity is undermined - Abigail Frymann

There comes a time when you have to stop pulling bodies out of the water and go upriver and find out who or what is pushing them in.

Not the most pleasant image, perhaps, but one used by charities as a justification of spending supporters' money on advocacy work rather than just aid.

There is a movement in parts of the Catholic Church at the moment to focus more on its charity (Caritas) work and less on its justice and peace (advocacy) work. One example of this, as we report this week, is in the diocese of Shrewsbury, where the local bishop is making made the Justice and Peace co-ordinator redundant.

Critics of justice and peace work say that it is too political, too secular. After all, you don't need to be a professing Christian to wave a placard or go on about the rainforests. And many Christians (bar Revd Giles Fraser) stayed away from the Occupy movement.

But there is something inherently biblical about calling for justice and peace ....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Jurassic Park, the novel

Latest book, this one on the kindle, is Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I read when it first came out and later wanted to re-read it but by then it was too hard to read the print and the audio versions were all abridged. I have a mental photo of myself reading this book: my mom is sitting at the table reading and I'm on the floor in front of the wall heater with a pile of chocolate covered marshmallow cookies, mesmerized by the story of dinosaurs consuming everyone :)

The Jurassic Park movie is different from the book. The book is much more detailed, especially about the science involved, and also the book is more lethal ... the character played by Jeff Goldblum, Ian Malcolm, slowly perishes from his dinosaur-inflicted wounds as the novel progresses. Here's an excerpt from the book - Hammond, the owner of the park, has come to see the seriously injured Malcolm and they argue about the ethics of re-creating dinosaurs (pp. 305-7) ....


Hammond came into the room and said, "How is he?"

"He's holding," Harding said. "A bit delerious."

"I am nothing of the sort," Malcolm said. "I am utterly clear." They listened to the [two way] radio. "It sounds like a war out there."

"The raptors got out," Hammond said.

"Did they," Malcolm said, breathing shallowly. "How could that possibly happen?"

"It was a system screwup. Arnold didn't realize that the auxiliary power was on and the fences cut out.”

“Did they?”

"Go to hell, you supercilious bastard."

“If I remember,” Malcolm said, “I predicted fence integrity would fail.”

Hammond sighed, and sat down heavily. "Damn it all" he said shaking his head. "It must surely not have escaped your notice that at heart what we are attempting here is an extremely simple ideal. My colleagues and I determined, several years ago, that it was possible to clone the DNA of an extinct animal, and to grow it. That seemed to us a wonderful idea, it was a kind of time travel--the only time travel in the world. Bring them back alive, so to speak. And since it was so exciting, and since it was possible to do it, we decided to go forward. We got this island, and we proceeded. It was all very simple."

"Simple?" Malcolm said. Somehow he found the energy to sit up in the bed. "Simple? You're a bigger fool than I thought you were. And I thought you were a very substantial fool."

Ellie said, "Dr. Malcolm" and tried to ease him back down. But Malcolm would have none of it. He pointed to the radio, the shouts and the cries. "What is that, going on out there?" he said . "That's your simple idea. Simple. You create new life-forms, about which you know nothing at all. Your Dr. Wu does not even know the names of the things he is creating. He cannot be bothered with such details as what the thing is called, let alone what it is. You create many of them in a very short time, you never learn anything about them, yet you expect them to do your bidding, because you made them, and you therefore think you own them; you forget that they are alive, they have an intelligence of their own, and they may not do your bidding, and you forget how little you know about them, how incompetent you are to do the things that you so frivolously call simple....Dear God..."

He sank back, coughing.

"You know what's wrong with scientific power?" Malcolm said. "It’s a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are. It never fails."

Hammond said, "What is he talking about?”

Harding made a sign, indicating delirium. Malcolm cocked his eye.

"I will tell you what I am talking about," he said. "Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it’s your power. It can't be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.

"Now what is interesting about this process is that, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won't use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the you so that you won't abuse it.

"But scientific power is like inherited wealth: attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast. There is no discipline lasting many decades. There is no mastery: old scientists are ignored. There is no humility before nature. There is only a get-rich-quick, make-a-name-for-yourself-fast philosophy. Cheat, lie, falsify--it doesn't matter. Not to you, or to your colleagues. No one will criticize you. No one has any standards. They all trying to do the same thing: to do something big, and do it fast.

"And because you can stand on the shoulders of giants, you can accomplish something quickly. Yon don't eve know exactly what you have done, but already you have reported it; patented it, and sold it. And the buyer will have even less discipline than you. The buyer simply purchases the power, like any commodity. The buyer doesn’t even conceive that any discipline might be necessary."

Hammond said, "Do you know what he is talking about?"

Ellie nodded.

"I haven't a clue" Hammond said.

I’ll make it simple" Malcolm said. "A karate master does not kill people with his bare hands. He does not lose his temper and kill his wife. The person who kills is the person who has no discipline no restraint, and who has purchased his power in the form of a Saturday night special. And that is the kind of power that science fosters, and permits. And that is why you think that to build a place like this is simple."

"It was simple," Hammond insisted.

'Then why did it go wrong?"


Catholic marriage

The sacredness and indissolubility of Catholic marriage have been used against the ideas of same-sex marriage and of divorce/remarriage. I've seen two articles recently that challenge the traditional assumptions usually made about Catholic marriage: The Myth About Marriage by Garry Wills, and Remarriage in the Church: Pastoral Solutions by the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC). The ARCC article is much more detailed, but here's a bit from Garry Wills ....

Why do some people who would recognize gay civil unions oppose gay marriage? Certain religious groups want to deny gays the sacredeness of what they take to be a sacrament. But marriage is no sacrament. Some of my fellow Catholics even think that “true marriage” was instituted by Christ. It wasn’t ......

The early church had no specific rite for marriage. This was left up to the secular authorities of the Roman Empire, since marriage is a legal concern for the legitimacy of heirs. When the Empire became Christian under Constantine, Christian emperors continued the imperial control of marriage, as the Code of Justinian makes clear. When the Empire faltered in the West, church courts took up the role of legal adjudicator of valid marriages. But there was still no special religious meaning to the institution. As the best scholar of sacramental history, Joseph Martos, puts it: “Before the eleventh century there was no such thing as a Christian wedding ceremony in the Latin church, and throughout the Middle Ages there was no single church ritual for solemnizing marriage between Christians.”

Only in the twelfth century was a claim made for some supernatural favor (grace) bestowed on marriage as a sacrament. By the next century marriage had been added to the biblically sacred number of seven sacraments ......

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Gospel of John: part 2

I've finished watching the movie The Gospel of John (Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus. Part 1 of my revuew is here). It was great to be able to watch some events from the fourth gospel that usually don't make their way into movies: Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus' feet, the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus washing the disciples' feet, and hey, Mary M was at the last supper! :) Also neat was the portrayal of Jesus' post-resurrection appearance on the beach. And I did really like Cusick's Jesus - he had a kind of glorious enthusiasm and emotional warmth that you can't envision from just reading the text.

- Jesus tells the crowd, "I am the good shepherd!"

But having said that, there are things that make John's gospel problematic for me ..... the hostility shown toward both the Jewish authorities and those who didn't accept Jesus' teachings, the idea that Jesus was 100% and always aware of his divinity, the idea that Pontius Pilate was really a good guy who was forced against his will to have Jesus executed.

- Mary M appears throughout the movie and here the post-resurrection Jesus asks her not to hold on to him

You can read more about the movie in this Damian Thompson Telegraph artcle - At last, a Jesus for all faiths.

- the movie ends with the post-resurrection Jesus telling Peter to follow him

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Henry Ian Cusick is Jesus

(see part 2 of my review here)

Latest movie from the library is the 2003 film The Gospel of John. As I wrote earlier, I've been watching Lost, and I noticed that the actor who plays Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) was also in a Jesus movie, so I decided to give it a try. Here's a little about the film from Wikipedia ....

This three-hour epic feature film follows John's Gospel precisely, without additions to the story from other Gospels, nor omission of complex passages. This film was created by a constituency of artists from Canada and the United Kingdom, along with academic and theological consultants from around the world. The cast was selected primarily from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and Soulpepper Theatre Company, as well as Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre. The musical score, composed by Jeff Danna and created for the film, is partially based on the music of the Biblical period. The film was produced by Visual Bible International. The film is narrated by Christopher Plummer and stars Scottish-Peruvian actor Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus.

It could be said that the gospel of John is the most anti-Jewish of all the gospels ... one of the things I don't like about it ... and this is why the very beginning of the film shows this statement ....

The Gospel of John was written two generations after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is set in a time when the Roman empire controlled Jerusalem. Although crucifixion was the preferred Roman method of punishment, it was not one sanctioned by Jewish law. Jesus and all His early followers were Jewish. The Gospel reflects a period of unprecedented polemic and antagonism between the emerging church and the religious establishment of the Jewish people. This film is a faithful presentation of that Gospel.

The movie is long and I'm only about a third of the way through. It's odd, yes ... there's the almost constant over-voice of the actual text, but after a while I wasn't distracted by it much. I was worried that whenever I looked at this Jesus, I'd see Desmond Hume :) but that worry also receded as the film progressed - Cusick makes a really good Jesus! I was worried too that I wouldn't like the movie because I'm not a fan of some of the stuff the gospel of John *says* but I do like many of the encounters Jesus has in the gospel of John, especially those with women (Women in the Fourth Gospel/Felix Just SJ), and it was neat to see some of these portrayed, like Jesus and the woman at the well ...

For a more nuanced review, check out Ben Witherington's article in Christianity Today - The Gospel of John.

And you can apparently watch the whole movie on YouTube. Here below is part 2 of 12 which begins at the point when the people attending the wedding at Cana taste the wine Jesus has made out of water, and ends with him talking to the Samaritan woman at the well ......

Happy mother's day

For those interested in animals, you might like to visit this National Geographic photo gallery of mom and baby animals. My favorites: the pigs and the pandas :).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jesus meets David Copperfield

Came upon this here at Professor Mark Goodacre's NT Blog :) ....

Yellow :)

The miniature rose bush is blooming ...

Thomas Reese SJ on sex abuse

You can read what he had to say at America magazine's blog, but I was especially struck by the honesty of this part ....

A culture of fear and dependency also contributed to the crisis. I don’t know whether Monsignor Lynn broke the laws of Pennsylvania, but he was certainly no hero. Too few priests stood up to those in authority and said, “No, you can’t do that.” Speaking truth to power is not welcomed in the Catholic Church. Diocesan priests are totally dependent on the good will of their bishop for assignments and promotions. If a 60 year old bishop is appointed to your diocese, he is going to be your boss for the next 15 years. In practice, there is no appealing his decisions toward you nor can you escape by moving to another diocese. You are stuck.

In this corporate culture, few are going to tell the bishop “no.” The one pastor in Philadelphia, who refused to accept an abusive priest, got reprimanded and punished for challenging the archbishop. This is what happens when you speak truth to power in the Catholic Church.

The problem in the Catholic Church today is that the hierarchy has so focused on obedience and control that it has lost its ability to be a self-correcting institution. Creative theologians are attacked, sisters are investigated, Catholic publications are censored and loyalty is the most important virtue. These actions are defended by the hierarchy because of fears of “scandalizing the faithful,” when in fact it is the hierarchy who have scandalized the faithful ....

I like what this former editor of America magazine (removed from his post via the Vatican) had to say at the Clergy Abuse Conference in Santa Clara University - the whole thing is worth a read.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Obama supports same-sex marriage

Yeah, in the UK Cameron has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage, but here in the US where religion seems so integral a part of a presidential candidate's qualifications for election, it's big. And a really good thing, and a brave thing :)

Gay marriage support: Obama's most courageous move

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama's blockbuster announcement that he is in favor of full marriage equality is the most courageous thing he has done since he entered the White House three and a half years ago.

Coming after his successful strategy to get Congress to repeal don't ask, don't tell so that gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military and the decision of his Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in federal courts, he has now done nearly as much for gay people as Lyndon Johnson did for African-Americans with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

People like me, who were among his most passionate supporters in 2008, felt a sense of gigantic relief. The man who seemed like such a courageous candidate four years ago finally sounded like a genuinely courageous president .....

From Inkspell

- The Temptation of Christ, Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry

Couldn't post anything yesterday because I couldn't access my blog for some reason. Today things seem to be almost back to normal - I was able to get to the dashboard, but everything seems very very slow. Hope it keeps working!

Yesterday I'd planned to post this excerpt from a book I'm re-reading, Inkspell, in which Meggie leaves home and her father, a bookbinder named Mo, to be "read into" a fairy tale story. Here she's visiting the castle workshop of a manuscript illustrator within the fairy tale....


And there were the colors whose names Mo had repeated over and over to her. Tell me again! How often she had plagued Mo with that demand! She never tired of the sound of them: lapis lazuli, orpiment, violet, malachite green. What makes them still shine like that, Mo? she had asked. After all, they're so old! What are they made of? And Mo had told her -- told her how you made them, all those wonderful colors that shone even after hundreds of years as if they had been stolen from the rainbow, now protected from air and light between the pages of books. To make malachite green you pounded wild iris flowers and mixed them with yellow lead oxide; the red was made from murex shells and cochineal insects ... They had so often stood together looking at the pictures in one of the valuable manuscripts that Mo was to free from the grime of many years. Look at those delicate tendrils, he had said, can you imagine how fine the pens and brushes must be to paint something like that? He was always complaining that no one could make such implements anymore. And now she saw them with her own eyes, tiny pens as fine as hairs and brushes, whole sets of them standing in a glazed jug: brushes that could conjure up flowers and faces no bigger than a pinhead on parchment or paper. You moistened them with a little gum arabic to make the paint cling better. Her fingers itched to pick a brush out of the set and take it away with her for Mo ... He ought to have come just for this, she thought, to stand here in this room.


Monday, May 07, 2012

The Irish, the Austrians, and us

I saw in the news .....

Association of Catholic Priests discuss Church's future

An organisation which represents more than 850 priests in Ireland has been meeting on Monday to discuss the future direction of the Catholic Church. .... The ACP meeting, entitled "Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church", has been taking place at a hotel in Dublin. One of the event's organisers, Father Brendan Hoban, said: "We believe that in 20 years time there will be very few priests in Ireland. "We believe too, as everybody understands, that without priests you have no eucharist, and without eucharist you have no church. "We are saying, 'what's the plan B'." ......

However, in recent months, some of Ireland's most vocal, liberal priests have been disciplined by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). They include leading ACP member, Father Tony Flannery, and the broadcaster and newspaper columnist Fr Brian D'Arcy. Fr Flannery, who is based in County Galway, was ordered to stop writing articles for a Redemptorist Order magazine to which he had contributed for 14 years. Fr D'Arcy was told he must get prior approval to write or broadcast on topics dealing with church doctrine ......

The ACP recently commissioned a survey of Irish Catholics which found that 90% would support the introduction of married priests. The survey also found that 77% of Irish Catholics want women to be ordained, while more than 60% disagreed with Church teaching that gay relationships were immoral ...

I don't know what will come of this meeting, but it cheers me up that there are priests in Ireland who are committed enough and brave enough to work for change in the church - and of course there's also the Priests'/Pastprs' Initiative in Austria too. Interestingly, I saw a past post at the ACP's website that had this excerpt from a 1995 document written by some US Bishops ....

‘The need to find ways to have more open discussion in a climate of trust is best illustrated by considering current issues in the church that seem not to be addressed openly. These include the priest shortage, priest morale, ecumenical issues, school funding, women and equality in the church, the relationships of youth, Hispanics in the church, better preaching, better liturgy, better relationships with the poor, the relationship of the conference with Rome, the public face of the church on abortion, the annulment process, the loss of Eucharist, alliance of the right wing with some fundamentalist leaders, contraception, sexual ethics, the kind of candidates being attracted to priesthood, anticatholic feeling surfacing in the United States, the ordination of married men, rumours of a high percentage of homosexual men in the seminaries and in the priesthood. In particular, the issue of paedophilia among priests continues to create a very serious credibility problem for the U.S. bishops because of our perceived unwillingness to fully address and explore the reasons for this terrible tragedy.’

What became of these guys and their hopes for an open discussion of the issues?

Squirrel gets a drink ...

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A bit of a post ...

... from Bishop Alan's blog ...

[T]he highest duty of the Church is not to preserve institutions, but to be, simply and completely, good news. The gospel isn't “good news/bad news” or “good news as long as you buy it properly.” It isn’t even “what would Jesus do?” It’s “What is Jesus actually doing through the whole creation, and trying to do through us if only we got real?”

Jesus referred marriage back to the way God actually made us. Marriage is a gift of God in creation that strengthens community and expresses divine love — that’s what’s meant by calling it “sacramental.”

In fact a very small but significant proportion of every human population is gay. If some of these people want to build stable faithful relationships based on love, that has to be a good thing. Love is love wherever it is found. We know it by its fruits, not its origins. But the fruits reveal the origin. God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them. This is the good news ...

The pope, the SSPX, and hell

News at The Tablet - SSPX welcomes 'for many' instruction ...

The German branch of the Society of St Pius X has welcomed the Pope's decision to require the text of the Mass to say that Christ died "for many" instead of "for all". Germany's Lefebvrists say on their website that the Pope was "absolutely right to correct this hair-raisingly incorrect translation", adding that questions like "Doesn't everyone go to heaven?" would now resurface.

This reminded me of 2009n article at the Jesuit spirituality journal The Way by Wolfgang Beinert, who taught dogmatic theology and doctrinal history at the University of Regensburg, Germany - Road Narrows at the Vatican? Did Christ Die ‘For Many’ or ‘For All’? (you can download the for free article from the July 2009 issue, Found in Translation, at The Way). Here's part of the article ....

Road Narrows at the Vatican? Did Christ Die ‘For Many’ or ‘For All’?
- Wolfgang Beinert

[A] fundamental question concerning the basic teachings of the Christian religion: who can hope for final salvation? Did Christ die on the cross for all people, or only for some? Have we resurrected Augustine’s teachings according to which humanity is a massa damnata, condemned to Hell collectively, with only a few being picked out for mercy? Is the Roman Catholic Church once again to be presented as the ‘only source of holiness’, even though it has distanced itself from this understanding since 1854, and particularly clearly in the last Council? Or is there finally a ‘universal reconciliation’—in Greek apokatastasis—as Origen maintained in the early Church? (Long after his death, Origen was condemned by the Church for this opinion.) Will absolutely everybody get to heaven—even Hitler, Himmler, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein?

Such questions are far from abstract and academic. They always involve asking ‘What about me? What chance do I have?’ Countless people suffer indescribably under the threat that they might be destined for eternal damnation ..... Arinze writes ‘at [the Pope’s] direction’. Is this only a standard formula, or is it meant literally? According to his own statement, Joseph Ratzinger’s Eschatology, published shortly before he became Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977, and printed in a new edition in 2007, is one of his most important works. In it he discusses the teaching of Origen on universal salvation (a teaching which is also to be found in Buddhism). This, he concludes, does not follow ‘from the biblical witness …. The irrevocable takes place, and that includes ... eternal destruction.’ This conclusion is surprising, since Ratzinger’s close theological friend Hans Urs von Balthasar thought quite differently and was very sympathetic towards Origen .......

The real significance of the debate set in motion by the letter lies in its dogmatic background. It concerns God’s saving power and humanity’s hope for salvation ..... It may well be that God wills the salvation of all people in Christ—but does God put this will into effect? Many theologians, including one as eminent as Hans Urs von Balthasar, incline to an unqualified yes. Others, such as Joseph Ratzinger, cast doubt .....

The pope has stated that "Jesus came to tell us that he wants us all in heaven and that hell, of which so little is said in our time, exists and is eternal for those who close their hearts to his love". I find that view repellent on so many levels. The pope and the SSPX can keep their version of God, but I'll believe in the God who loves everyone into heaven.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Poem I saw today

When Death Comes
- Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Friday, May 04, 2012

My sister sent me this today ...

a video made by a boy who saved a baby hummingbird and raised it. This renewed my faith in human nature :) ....

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A BBC program and Thinking Faith

I saw mention in the news today of a BBC program, This World: The Shame of the Catholic Church, BBC Two ,... Calls Grow For Cardinal In Ireland To Resign ....

Pressure is building on the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, to resign in the wake of damaging accusations made against him in a BBC television documentary about his role in a secret inquiry into clerical sexual abuse ...

Someone has put the BBC program on YouTube for we in the US - you can watch it at the BBC site if you're in the UK. I think it's worth a watch - it's very well narrated, the scenes of Ireland are interesting, Fr. Thomas Doyle, the canon lawyer who's helped abuse victims, is interviewed, and the stuff about Cardinal Brady is damning. Damian Thompson has a review of it. Here's just a bit of what he wrote ....

[...] In the 21st century it takes an extremely well-made programme or one containing important new information to produce the degree of shock these crimes merit. The Shame of the Catholic Church ticked both boxes. In fact, what it told us about Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, leaves us in little doubt that his position is hopelessly compromised ....

The presenter, Darragh MacIntyre, is a stocky chap with a haystack of grey hair and the truculent good humour of a pub landlord. Indeed, he has run a pub in the past, and we saw him talking to a former employee who’d been assaulted by Greene. He certainly got around, did this dog-collared monster. MacIntyre spared us theatrical outrage and let the facts speak – facts he’d uncovered himself in a distinguished career as an investigative reporter.

The documentary didn’t break much new ground, but enough, I would have said, to force the Vatican to indulge in a spot of defenestration. What MacIntyre and his team have done is take a scandal that was already in the public domain and landed it right where it belongs: on the doorstep of Cardinal Brady .....

This all reminds me of a post at Thinking Faith today about retired Episcopalian Bishop Richard Holloway, ‘Faith, Doubt and Certainty in a Secular Age’. Here's a bit of the post ...

[...] he believes that the doctrine of Hell is incompatible with the image of God offered to us in the parable of the Prodigal Son. He sees no good reason why women should not be priests or bishops; and he is vehement about the ways in which people are ill-treated because of their sexual orientation, both inside and outside the Churches .... Holloway is himself articulate, relaxed, humorous and, above all, honest. ‘Hot’ theological issues were dealt with coolly and straightforwardly ... I suppose that once one is an ex-Bishop one does not to have to mind his p’s and q’s too carefully. That being said, it seems to me that the degree to which so many current Bishops feel unable to say what they really think about such matters is surely to be regretted ...

Why is it that bishops/cardinals so often won't be honest and speak out, won't tell the truth about sex abuse/cover-ups or challenge the church's stance on women and LGBT people? Is job security really the most important thing in the whole world?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Some videos

I came across a video of Alejandro Garcia-Rivera discussing the Rubens work, The Road to Calvary, at the Brekeley Art Museum - you can watch that here.

And here's a lecture by John Milbank about Eastern Orthodoxy at at St.Tikhon's Orthodox University in Moscow .....