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Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Today ...

- I watched a trailer of The Life of Pi and it reminded me of books I've read of India - Siddhartha, The Jungle Book, Shadow io the Moon, Autobiography of a Yogi. India must be an amazing place ...

- Meerkats in The Life of Pi

- And I heard this song on the musak at Whole Foods today. :) Here's a version from A&E Live by Request ....

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Simon's Cat


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gang rape victim dies

I've been following the story of the young woman raped in Delhi who has now died of injuries so severe they required most of her intestines be removed. You can read why this has provoked protests in India in this Human Rights Watch story and can read more about Rape in India at Wikipedia. All this makes me think of the obsession conservative Republicans showed for the subject of rape during the recent election cycle .... legimate rape .... God and rape ... "some girls rape easy" ... etc..

Gender and the Incarnation

Tobias Haller BSG has an interesting post on the Incarnation, gender, and the Pope's recent Christmas message. Here's the beginning of the post (the asterisked part is from the pope's message) ....

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to make use of his Christmas message to do a bit of theology concerning human nature. In doing so he reveals a fundamental failure to grasp the meaning of the Incarnation.

*** ...People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being.... They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.... The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned... ***

This rather misses the mark, as the whole point of the Incarnation taking place in the manner it did — via the work of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, without any participation of a human male — was to reveal the secondary quality of maleness and femaleness: Jesus derived his entire human nature from the Virgin Mary (or so says the Definition of Chalcedon). Although Jesus is male, his humanity derives entirely from a female. So the "human nature" is in itself genderless, although each particular human being has, by virtue of genetics and epigenetic factors, a sexual or gender reality expressed anatomically, psychologically, emotionally, and socially. But as with all qualities of a person, sex is not essential to the nature: it is a characteristic particular to the individual, like height, or eye or hair color, or any of the other variable factors that individual human beings have. We even have a very clear sense of the genetic factors that produce this particular characteristic quality of the person. The quality does not make them human; their humanity gives expression to the quality.

The Pope takes what can only be described as a hard-line determinist position, pure sexism in its most precise form: anatomy fixes identity .......

Friday, December 28, 2012

Prayer and desire

[...] I think that what seems to be our sheer incompetence in prayer is actually the place where something is happening: it is God invading our willed vulnerability. I think a lot of people try to pray and then give up. They feel it isn’t right for them, that they aren’t good at it. But prayer is not like riding a bicycle or getting a good grade on a term paper. It’s something sui generis precisely because relating to God isn’t like relating to anything or anyone else. That’s the first and most important point: we should always pray as we can, not as we can’t.


But how do we even begin to order those desires? This cup of tea we’re having now seems pretty harmless, especially since I’ve got a sore throat, yet like that cup of tea, sleeping with someone else’s husband might also seem highly attractive at times, but it would work out to be truly destructive. How do these desires relate to the tug inside our naked hearts, to our longing in the darkness, to that source of our being that is the only final goal in which real satisfactions lie? Desire isn’t simply about sex; the tether of desire is the lot of humanity, and it requires spiritual and moral discernment. And theologically, I think our goal is to spread out these desires before God, to have them find their proper place ....

From Prayer as Divine Propulsion: An Interview with Sarah Coakley, Part I (h/t Lee).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Videos of 2012

I guess I post a lot of videos. Here are some (sans movie trailers) that I especially liked from my 2012 posts ....

- Baby sloths! :) ...

- Here's the first episode of the BBC series The Big Silence, showing people going on an Ignatian retreat ...

- Why study Hans Urs von Balthasar? ...

- Remember the Olympics? ...

- Why study Karl Rahner? ...

- Melinda Gates on contraception ...

- Johm O'Malley SJ, "What Happened at Vatican II" ...

- Some music for St. Patrick's Day ...

- How did Keith Ward go from being an atheist to being a Christian? ...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Beautiful :)

The Torne river in northern Sweden and Finland .....

The story of Torne River from Henning Sandström on Vimeo.

In the UK

Archbishop Vincent Nichols has again criticized David Cameron for going ahead with legalizing same-sex marriage, calling the plan Orwellian and undemocratic. I'm struck by the irony of a church whose leadership is completely unaccountable calling an elected government with checks and balances Orwellian (see The Guardian's related poll).

In Ireland, the same cardinal who covered up clergy sex abuse is re-framing the government's effort to save the lives of women like Savita Halappanavar as a push for legalized abortion.

And then there's the fox hunting. Though it's been banned in England and Wales since 2004/5, today, Boxing Day, often finds people doing so anyway. Yuck! :(

But on a happier note: London at Christmas ....

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

William Blake - Auguries of Innocence

Looking for a Christmas sermon, I ended up listening to one by Gary Hall at the Washington National Cathedral. It was about Peanuts and poetry and it mentioned this poem ...

Auguries of Innocence
- William Blake

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house fill'd with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro' all its regions.
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.

A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm'd for fight
Does the rising sun affright.

Every wolf's and lion's howl
Raises from hell a human soul.

The wild deer, wand'ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus'd breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher's knife.

The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever's fright.

He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov'd by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov'd
Shall never be by woman lov'd.

The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider's enmity.
He who torments the chafer's sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.

The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgement draweth nigh.

He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.

The gnat that sings his summer's song
Poison gets from slander's tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy's foot.

The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist's jealousy.

The prince's robes and beggar's rags
Are toadstools on the miser's bags.
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;

This is caught by females bright,
And return'd to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven's shore.

The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar's rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.

The soldier, arm'd with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer's sun.
The poor man's farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric's shore.

One mite wrung from the lab'rer's hands
Shall buy and sell the miser's lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.

He who mocks the infant's faith
Shall be mock'd in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.

He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.

The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.

The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour's iron brace.

When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket's cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.

The emmet's inch and eagle's mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.

If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.

The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation's fate.
The harlot's cry from street to street
Shall weave old England's winding-sheet.

The winner's shout, the loser's curse,
Dance before dead England's hearse.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro' the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

Monday, December 24, 2012

'Twas the night before Christmas ...

when all through the house not a creature was stirring except the squirrels in the attic and the ants which had totally taken over the kitchen sink. The foodstuffs were hidden from those creatures with care, in hopes they'd not notice Margherita pizza was there ...

mmmmm :)

Merry Christmas!

- In The Hands Of The Father , Roger Loveless

Is God Perfect? ....

watch Keith Ward's answer below, and here's some other stuff I saw today as well ....

- Showtime Orders 'The Vatican' Pilot, To Be Directed By Ridley Scott

- Gaza: Palestinian Rockets Unlawfully Targeted Israeli Civilians: Human Rights Watch

- Swiss abbot makes fiery appeal for church reform

- And ...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Visitation

- detail from the Matris Domini Monastery of Bergamo

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What I saw today

- The pope’s hateful Christmas message

- Who knew Mormon women aren't suppose to wear pants to church? ... Mormon Women Set Out to Take a Stand, in Pants

- More on Zero Dark Thirty and torture ... Three Senators and “Zero Dark Thirty”

- Beautiful panoramic views of Mt. Everest here

- Have you ever seen a baby echidna? ... Top 25 ZooBorns of All Time

Friday, December 21, 2012

Second cousins Jesus and John

Today's reading - Luke 1:39-45 - is about Mary visiting Elizabeth, her cousin, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. You rarely see the relationship between Jesus and John shown in the movies - they often seem like strangers to each other - but in the movie Jesus, the relationship is shown. In the clip below we see Jesus visiting John around his campfire at night after having left home to start a new career. John and he reminisce about their childhood experiences .....

Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma

The Wexford Carol ...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Take a virtual tour ...

of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem :) ...

Church of Nativity, detail of interior - Bethlehem in Israel

The Annunciation

The reading today is about the annunciation, where the angel Gabriel tells Mary she's going to have a baby. A lot is made of the fact that Mary freely says 'yes' to this plan, but in the reading, she wasn't actually *asked* if she'd do it ... hmmm. I've tried to feel some connection to Mary but it's hard. I can't believe in the official Catholic Mary, the one of the immaculate conception and perpetual virginity ... she's more an icon of the church's distrust of human nature than a real person. A Mary I do like, though, is the one portrayed in the movie Jesus by Jacqueline Bisset.

If you watch the video below, starting at 7 minutes into the clip, you'll see Jesus in the family carpentry workshop. Joseph has just died and Jesus is upset, and his mother comes in to talk to him. She cheers him up and they laugh together about how she had had to break the news to Joseph 31 years earlier of her angel-announced pregnancy (the annunciation) ....

Editorial in the Los Angeles Times

Family planning and the Philippines

For too long in the Philippine Congress, the priorities of the Roman Catholic Church took precedence over what most Filipinos wanted — and needed. Finally, after 14 years of debate and delay, lawmakers passed a bill that will provide free or subsidized birth control to poor people as well as require sex education in schools and mandate training in family planning for community health workers.

Even though 80% of the nation's population is Catholic, birth control has long been available to those who want it — as long as they could pay. Contraception has been out of reach for most of the poor, though. In a series of articles this year on population growth, Times staff writer Kenneth R. Weiss reported that half of the pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended and that impoverished parents struggle to stave off hunger in their large families. Abortion is illegal, though close to half a million abortions are believed to take place in the country each year.

The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing populations in Asia, and is also one of the most densely populated countries. It cannot produce enoughfoodto feed its 96 million people.

But the church hierarchy in the Philippines has up to now been successful at both the national and local levels, persuading many city officials not to allow contraceptives at community health clinics for the poor. One church leader has suggested that President Benigno Aquino III, who has pledged to sign the bill, could be excommunicated for his support. And shortly before the vote in Congress, a church official said that Aquino's signature would be the moral equivalent of the recent killing of 20 elementary schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., but multiplied many times because of all the children who would not be born if contraception were widely affordable to the poor.

Church leaders are, of course, entitled to their viewpoint, but it is the job of lawmakers to respond to the population's needs rather than to church doctrine. And birth control is one issue on which most of the nation differs with Roman Catholic teaching. More than 70% of Filipinos support the Reproductive Health Bill.

Church officials haven't given up; they are vowing to fight the bill in the Philippines Supreme Court and sermonize against it to their flocks. But the bill should go forward. The church has every right to try to persuade women to follow its dictates, but women must ultimately have the right to choose.

I'm glad the bill has passed. I've been following this story for a while, having read a number of stories like this one - In Philippines, a 14-year fight for birth control .....

Growing up, Cecilia Lopez hoped to escape poverty by finishing school and becoming a teacher. But now 52 years old and having never finished school, she wishes she had learned a few things .... In Lopez's small home in Tondo, a poor neighborhood in Manila, she and her family sleep, cook and eat inside one room. Seventeen people share a cramped 12-square meter room, one person next to another. Although limited in space, the room has a sense of order. An array of slippers in different sizes sits next to the front door. The family has one mattress and the rest sleep on the floor, covered with cardboard, mats and blankets. Two pieces of plywood serve as a bed and a desk for one of her children .....

Lopez first became pregnant at 17. Since then, she can't recall when she did not struggle to provide basic needs for their children. Her husband, a carpenter does not have steady work.

"If we earn money, they eat," she said, referring to her children. "If we don't, they have nothing to eat all day. Most days they just bear with it. Even when they go to school without food."

"I find it so hard when they go to school without food, without money. When they're hungry. I just want to cry most times."

With no one else to care for her growing family, Lopez stayed home to watch her children. Her adult children struggle to find work, because they didn't graduate from high school.

"The older ones had to stop going to school so the younger ones could start", Lopez said.

But her children appear to be entangled in a familiar cycle. Just like Lopez, her daughter became pregnant at 17. Her son became a father when he was 18, and her 17-year-old son is expecting a child soon. Lopez has three grandchildren.

The health bill, Lopez said, would give her youngest the means to "understand what happens with their bodies."

Young people in the Philippines lack health services and education, said Daniels from the U.N. Population Fund. This has caused a problem of skyrocketing teen pregnancy rates in the Philippines, which are the second highest in Southeast Asia.

"We are also failing the young people in the Philippines," she said. "Ideally it's a time when young people are focused on education and skills- the things they need to live productive lives. Instead, we have a situation where children are having children."

A pack of condoms cost about 50 pesos and upwards, and birth control pills start at 100 pesos. When Lopez's husband can find work, he earns about 350 pesos a day. Condoms are sold in convenience stores and groceries, and pills are available, but they're harder to find in remote areas. The health bill would make various forms of birth control free and available to the country's poor.

It would help quell the dramatic rise in maternal mortality rates, which has increased from 11 women dying per day to 15, from 2006 to 2010, said Daniels. It would also help address the fact that the Philippines is one of seven countries in the world where HIV rates are increasing, according to a U.N. report.

Proponents of the Reproductive Health bill say it is about human rights, health and sustainable human development, not religion and sex ....

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bell, Book and Candle

This week's movie rental was Bell, Book and Candle, a 1958 film starring James Stewart and Kim Novak ....

During the Christmas holiday season, Greenwich Village witch Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak), a free spirit with a penchant for going barefoot, has been unlucky in love and restless in life. She admires from afar her neighbor, publisher Shep Henderson (James Stewart), who one day walks into her gallery of primitive art to use the telephone. When she learns he is about to marry an old college enemy of hers, Merle Kittridge (Janice Rule), she takes revenge by casting a love spell on him while falling for him herself. She must eventually make a stark choice, as witches who fall in love lose their supernatural powers. Gillian's cat and familiar, Pyewacket, becomes agitated and leaves her when she decides in Shep's favor.

I mostly liked the movie, though it was a bit silly, and then there was the disconcerting 25 year age discrepancy between Stewart and Noavk. The magic stuff was interesting and the cat Pyewacket looked like my cat Grendel :) ...

You can read a New York Times review of the movie here.

And here's a clip in which Stewart's character tells Novak's character about his impending marriage to someone else as she puts a spell on him with Pyewacket's help ...

God, Good and Evil

I came upon this 10/2012 ABC National Radio discussion on "God, Good and Evil" that included Kevin Hart, John Milbank, Marilyn McCord Adams, Susan Neiman, and Stanley Hauerwas. You can listen to it or read the transcript here, and there are some interesting links too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Does God Intervene in the World? (Keith Ward)

Thinking about the shooting tragedy makes me wonder, as usual, about if and how God acts in the world. I came across a series of interview bits with Keith Ward, and was listening to the bit entitled "Does God Intervene in the World?" It's here, for those interested.

He actually doesn't talk about whether miracles are possible in this interview, but in an over-view of the topic .... Does God 'Act'? by Professor Gwen Griffith-Dickson .... Ward's ideas about that are mentioned ...

Keith Ward speaks of ‘the death of the closed universe’; and in the light of modern physics, he rejects the view of the world as a self-contained system closed to the presence and action of God. The ‘closed universe view’ is not even tenable nowadays on purely scientific grounds, he argues. The understanding we now have of how we use scientific models holds that no single model fits the world exactly; nor is a complete explanation ever possible. It is false to suppose there is a complete model with a few gaps in it in which God might work. Rather, ‘there is no consistent and complete model at all; so gaps do not become apparent in the model.’ They lie outside it. God’s action may be invisible in way that laws of physics are, Ward suggests. God’s action is not, however, completely invisible and impossible to detect or assert; aside from the visible fact that the universe exists at all, God is also continually bringing new states of the universe into being, leaving many alternatives open to our free choice. Ward suggests that there are at least five kinds of divine action:

1. The act of bringing universe into being
2. Particular acts of imaginative development which shape the universe in contingent ways
3. Acts in response to ‘chance’ permutation of natural forces and creatures’ free choices.
4. Acts by which God relates in a distinctively personal way to created persons, in revelation, etc.
5. Acts of redemptive shaping of good out of evil to achieve a final consummation.

The acts of God in nature will be those hidden but all-pervasive causal influences which shape the emergent processes of physical reality towards goals which take specific form only in the process itself, but the general character of which are laid down as archetypes in the being of God.

In the case of actual events, I don't find this very helpful (or understandable) - maybe I need Theology for Dummies ;)


When I was in college, my mom, who was also going to college as a psych major, brought home a little rat who had been attacked by his mates at the school lab. We named him Ratso and he became a wonderful pet - he'd lick peanut butter off our fingers, go on trips around town riding on our shoulders, tease us by dragging our homewaork into his cage :) I thought of him today when I saw this video from RedRover (United Animal Nations), a group that rescues animals during disasters .....

Victory at all costs?

Bryan Cones at US Catholic has a post about Zero Dark Thirty and torture. Here's a bit of it ...

[...] Regardless of the alleged "success" of the U.S. torture regime, can the ends justify the means? Setting aside how many people were tortured "unjustly"--because, for example, they were detained for no reason or were simply innocent of involvement in terrorism--I can see no way a Catholic--or a Christian for that matter--can tolerate the deliberate infliction of pain on another human being for the sole purpose of extracting information--not even to save other people, much less kill someone else. On one level, this is a simple matter of church teaching--the U.S. bishops have a study guide on the topic simply titled, "Torture is an instrinsic evil." Even more, given the fact that Jesus himself was a victim of state torture ...

I agree with Bryan that torture isn't acceptable, even to save lives ... it seems to me that once you start using the tactics of those you oppose *because* of their tactics, in principle you've lost the war. You don't have to be a Catholic or even a Christian to believe this, though - I felt the same way about torture when I was an atheist.

Monday, December 17, 2012


An amazing teaser for a film I mentioned in a past post, Chasing Ice ....

The Vatican has had an official Christmas tree since 1982. The latest version was just lit ...

Oh my, this is the strangest re-telling of the Oedipus story I've ever seen! ;) ....


For those like me who don't watch tv, here's the President's Vigil Speech for the children killed ...

[...] You know, all the world’s religions, so many of them represented here today, start with a simple question.

Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?

We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other ....

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Looking for books

- John the Baptist (Michael York)

I'm paying attention to Advent, but at the same time looking for something to read, and there's not a lot of fiction about Advent that I'm aware of (have already read Two From Galilee: The Story Of Mary And Joseph) so instead I'm perusing lists ... Best Books Of 2012: The Complete List (NPR) and Best books (The Guardian).

I also came across this 2011 list in The Telegraph, Not the 50 books you must read before you die, which tells you instead what books to skip. Unfortunately, I'd already read a few of them...

2 - Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell - The finest dystopic novel of the 20th century, coining such terms as “doublethink” and “thought crime”, but indirectly responsible for the rise of reality television and the career of Davina McCall.

6 - The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - Not nearly as bawdy or easy to understand as your English teacher promised (“Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth…”). Plus no cover puff from Stephen Fry, so probably not worth reading.

10 - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - Better than the musical, which lasted two months in the West End. But not as good as the film, which honed the line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

14 - The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka - See above, replacing “Leibnizian optimism” with “Kafkaesque” and “the Louvre” with “the Brandenburg Gate”.

And I'd tried a few more before giving up on them ;) ....

45 - The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - Useful only as a shorthand to know whom to avoid on the Tube.

46 - Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - See above, especially if they’re grown-ups, who really should not be fixating on vampires.

47 - Harry Potter… by JK Rowling - See above, especially if they’re grown-ups reading a version with an adult cover.

Hope I can find something good to read.

The American President

Remember the famous speech that ends with the president saying ... You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I'm gonna convince Americans that I'm right, and I'm gonna get the guns. ....

I really liked that movie ... written by Aaron Sorkin, it inflienced his tv series The West Wing.


Can't sleep so I might as well post this. Today I heard a song that took me straight back to this time in 2005 when my cat Data was very ill. He was fifteen years old, had bladder cancer and a number of other ailments, and he died in the beginning of January. He lived with me from the day he was born. I still love him and miss him.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


An article in The Economist - The gun control that works: no guns (h/t Lee). It cites differences between the UK and US on gun laws, numbers of gun-related deaths, and attitudes towards bearing firearms.

Sadly, in the US, with the common beliefs in a Revolutionary war won by guerrillas (not), in an old west made safe with unrestricted gun toting (not), in guns as the great equalizers (God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal), it's hard to get most people to even *want* to discuss gun control.

Pelagius, Augustin, and King Arthur

Jesuit Philip Endean has a post at Pray Tell, The TLS and the New Missal, that mentions in passing Pelagius. Here's a bit about Pelagius from Wikipedia ...

Pelagius (fl. c. 390-418)[1] was an ascetic who opposed the idea of predestination and asserted a strong version of the doctrine of free will. He was accused by Augustine of Hippo and others of denying the need for divine aid in performing good works. For him (according to them), the only grace necessary was the declaration of the law; humans were not wounded by Adam's sin and were perfectly able to fulfill the law apart from any divine aid. He denied the more specific doctrine of original sin as developed by Augustine. Pelagius was declared a heretic by the Council of Carthage. His interpretation of a doctrine of free will became known as Pelagianism.

My first introduction to Pelagius was through the 2004 movie, King Arthur, in which it was asserted that Arthur was his student :)

- Clive Owen as King Arthur

Wikipedia states this of the movie and Pelagius ...

Pelagius features in the movie King Arthur (2004). Although not a major character, he is portrayed as the mentor of young Lucius Artorius Castus, or Arthur. Throughout the film, Artorius/Arthur champions Pelagius' ideas, such as believing that every person is not inherently sinful, and that we are capable of attaining grace through good works. This leads him to oppose the practices of more "mainline" Roman Christian authorities, who believe that the inherent sinfulness of everyone is justification for torturing native Celts into conversion (a practice which Augistine did approve of, to some extent, and which others used his teachings to justify. Upon hearing of Pelagius's excommunication and murder in Rome, Arthur's affection for the monk leads him to realize that the ideal of "Rome" he believed in doesn't exist anymore, break off loyalty with the Roman Empire, and help the Britons fight the Saxon invaders.

I think I'd pick Pelagius and his idea of free will over Augustin and his idea or original sin. For those interested in reading more ...

- Pelagius: To Demetrias ... Originally published at the now-defunct website. Far from a defense of what has become known as “Pelagianism,” this article seeks to define what Pelagius actually said for himself and to read him in his own context. - Deacon Geoffrey Ready

- Listen to a BBC Radio 4 broadcast on Pelagius - The Pelagian Controversy

Friday, December 14, 2012

Books of 2012

Here are a few of the books I posted about this year ... hmmm, mostly science fiction/fantasy - must become more eclectic :)

The two I'd especially recommend would be Ready Player One, a 2011 science fiction novel by Ernest Cline (you can listen to the beginning chapter of the book here), and In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, a 2011 non-fiction book by Erik Larson (you can read a review of it in the L.A. Times here).

The others ...

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

The Enchantress by Michael Scott

Passage by Connie Willis

Blackout by Connie Willis

Kraken by China Mieville

Midnight Riot (Rivers of London in the UK) by Ben Aaronovitch

And also a number of the Dresden Files novels

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Umberto Eco and others on women's ordination

A post at Pray Tell notes that Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, has recently seemed to say that the question of women's ordination should be an open one. One wonders how long it will be before the obligatory retraction appears.

Some related links ...

- The exclusion of women from the priesthood according to Thomas Aquinas - Umberto Eco

- Women Bishops: A Response to Cardinal Kasper - NT Wright

- Rowan Williams at the Gregorian University

- Did Jesus Exclude Women from Priesthood? - Sandra Schneiders

- Why Not? Scripture, History & Women's Ordination and Continuing the Conversation: Women & the Priesthood - Robert J. Egan SJ

- What Karl Rahner said

- And William Barry SJ

- Spirituality/Justice Reprint Responses to the CDF document by Joan Chittister, Augustine De Noia, Avery Dulles, Hans Kung, Nicholas Lash, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Robert McClory, Rosemary Ruether, Francis A. Sullivan. January/February 1996

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I'm on a blog list at Slacktivist. OK, a very very very long list (I'm # 671), but still :) It's am alphabetized list of the 1,001 Christian women bloggers you should know

In the UK ...

the Church of England (as well as the Catholic Church) has been stridently opposed to the government approving marriage equality, and has stated, despite a number of government guarantees and safety measures, that the Church will be forced to perform same-sex marriages. Well, the Church has just received the logical conclusion of its complaints - Parliament is going to actually make it illegal for the Church of England to perform same-sex marriages (other churches, like the Catholic Church, have the choice to opt in or out of SSM).

Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church are still not satisfied, though - they want to ban marriage equality completely, civil as well as religious. They don't have the power to do that in a pluralistic society.

UK plan for marriage equality bans England/Wales Anglican Churches

Equal Marriage and the Church of England

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Some flowers ...

from the yard. Sorry I haven't posted much of substance lately - I hurt my arm last week and it still hurts to type/mouse, but it should improve soon.

"Shakespeare knew everything."

Watching Beauty and the Beast - mushy, I know, but the first season DVD set was just sitting there at the library, begging someone to take it home, so ;) In this episode, Vincent gives Catherine Shakespeare's sonnets, with this one bookmarked ......


When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Why don't people go to church?"

I recently spent a week using social media to "listen" to people who do not go to church — listening to their explanations for why they stay away. I didn't argue with them. I didn't defend the church. I just listened. And what I heard broke my heart.

The No. 1 thing that keeps people away from the church is the people who are in the church.

It's not that people outside the church have low expectations of Christians. It's the opposite. They expect us to actually live out the things we proclaim on Sunday. They expect us to love our neighbor, care for the least of these and love our enemies.

They have high expectations for us, and we have disappointed them. Instead they have been insulted, hurt and broken by us ...

In many ways this post at the Episcopal Cafe reflects how I felt upon becoming a Catholic. I went to church for almost four years and in that period I made no new friends aside from my RCIA group and the priest - i don't remember anyone else ever really speaking to me. But I did hear them speaking ... before services, I could hear them criticizing what others were wearing, where others were sitting, how often others came to church, etc. And then there was the political infighting between various groups within the parish. It was chilling.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Creator of The Stars of Night

Creator of The Stars of Night

Creator of the stars of night
Thy people’s everlasting light
O Christ, Redeemer of us all
We pray you hear us when we call

Come, oh come
Come, oh come
Come, oh come
To us

When this old world drew on toward night
You came, but not in splendor bright
Not as a monarch, but the child
Of Mary blameless mother mild

Come, oh come
Come, oh come
Come, oh come
To us

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Men in Black 3

Latest movie rental - Men in Black 3, a science fiction comedy starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Emma Thompson. It was fairly fun, in the same spirit as the previous MIB movies. An incarcerated alien escapes confinement in a prison on the Moon and arranges to go back to the past (1969) and kills Agent K (Jones) before Agent K can arrest him, thus creating a new timeline. Agent J (Smith) thwarts this by himself going back even earlier into the past, meeting K's younger self (Brolin) and warning him. Roger Ebert gave the movie 3 stars.

I thought Brolin was really good as the younfer K. As Ebert writes ...

Young Agent K is played, not by Tommy Lee Jones in prosthetic makeup, but by Josh Brolin. The casting is spot-on. He looks like a young Tommy Lee Jones, and he sounds so uncannily like him that director Barry Sonnenfeld, hearing him, allegedly shed tears of relief. While watching the movie, I was convinced Jones dubbed his own voice. But remember Brolin was also a good sound-alike for George W. Bush in “W.”

One of my favorite parts of the MIB movies is when Will Smith neurolizes innocent observers of alien sightings and other unexplainable events that the government wants kept secret - he always invents funny alternative explanations to fill in the blanks left by the memory wipe, like here where an alien craft has crashed in downtown New York :) ....

Friday, December 07, 2012

Some disparate Christmas music :)

Sussex Carol from King's College, Cambridge ...

Let It Snow from Die Hard ...

More baby sloths

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Einsiedeln Abbey

Reading about Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland because of a news item in The Tablet - Call for debate to re-energise Church ...

A senior and influential figure in the Swiss Church has issued a potentially incendiary appeal for church reform with a string of proposals to empower the laity. The ideas, put forward in a pamphlet by Abbot Martin Werlen of Einsiedeln, include appointing women and young people as cardinals and arranging regular meetings for them with the Pope. He also proposes giving laypeople greater say in the choice of bishops, discussion of priestly celibacy and Communion for remarried divorcees .....

Abbot Werlen deplores the lack of courage, vision and creativity in the Church. In particular, he says too many problems are swept under the table and discussion of too many issues is forbidden. “Not taking a situation or a person seriously is an act of disobedience. When those in authority in the Church do not fulfil their duty and are therefore disobedient, initiatives are started as emergency measures and cries for help which can lead to schisms or people leaving the Church,” he writes, adding that his community wants to take a different approach. He points out that his Abbey of Einsiedeln is in dialogue with both the Lefebvrist Society of St Pius X and the radical Catholic theologian Hans Küng ...

Here are some photos of the Abbey, from Wikipedia Commons ...

The interior ...

The abbey has been breeding horses for centuries ...

It's also connected to the beautiful Einsiedlerhaus Rapperswil (Hermit House) ...

It looks like a nice place to visit. I've just been once to Switzerland and only to Lucerne.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

2012 movies

Here are some of the films, in no particular order, old and new, that I watched this last year. Some, like A Dangerous Method, left a bad taste in my head, and others were so awful, like The Mill and the Cross, that I had to stop watching them before the end. But some were pretty fun :) Follow the links if you want to read my reviews of them ...

The Debt ...

- A Dangerous Method ...

- Anonymous ...

- The Mill and the Cross ...

- In Time ...

- The Gospel of John ...

- Haywire ...

- Mission Impossible III ...

- Return to Me ...

- Prometheus ...

- Notorious ...

- The Assault ...

- Red Lights ...

- Battleship ...

- Sunshine ...

- The Avengers ...

- George Harrison: Living in the Material World ...

Jesuits and the 'situation of women'

I see NCR has an editorial supporting women's ordination. This comes in the wake of Fr. Bourgeois' excommunication and laicizing (Dismissed U.S. priest vows to keep fighting for women's ordination).

While the Church of England works out the details on women bishops, our church encourages a climate of fear around even the *discussion* of the subject of women's ordination. Despite this, a few others besides Fr. Bourgeois have spoken up for women - Robert Egan SJ and William Barry SJ, to name a couple - and perhaps it's not surprising that they're Jesuits, given the 34th General Congregation's statement on the "Situation of Women in Church and Civil Society" ...

]...] 6. Church teaching certainly promotes the role of women within the family, but it also stresses the need for their contribution in the Church and in public life. It draws upon the text of Genesis, which speaks of men and women created in the image of God (Gn 1,27) and the prophetic praxis of Jesus in his relationship with women. These sources call us to change our attitudes and work for a change of structures. The original plan of God was for a loving relationship of respect, mutuality and equality between men and women, and we are called to fulfill this plan. The tone of this ecclesial reflection on Scripture makes it clear that there is an urgency in the challenge to translate theory into practice not only outside, but also within, the Church itself.
- find the whole document on this page.

For further reading, there are a number of articles on women and the church at this page.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


- Walken

Up late watching a movie, Brainstorm. I posted about it here the first time I saw it, so take a look there for a more in-depth review. Here I'll simply say it is a ....

1983 science fiction film directed by Douglas Trumbull and starring Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher and Cliff Robertson .... [filmed in] various locations in North Carolina, including Chapel Hill, Durham, Kitty Hawk, Raleigh, and Southern Pines.

It tells of scientists who invent a contraption that allows one person to record his experiences and feelings, and which allows another person to play back and experience the events/feelings of that recording as if they were their own. Experiences like flying over the Golden Gate bridge ...

Or catching a wave ....

Two of the scientists working on the project are married but separated. Christopher Walken's character makes a tape of his feelings about his wife (Natalie Wood) and gives it to her so she can feel what he feels ....

Things get complicated when the company for which the scientists work hands over the research to the military for creepy applications, and one of the scientists (Fletcher) dies from a stress-induced heart attack. When she realizes she's dying, she records her experience. Walken's character manages to get access to that recording and almost dies himself, upon experiencing - what? - the beatific vision? ;) ...

The movie is pretty good, especially considering that Natalie Wood died during the making of it, necessitating radical editing. Here's a trailer ....

Monday, December 03, 2012

Some stuff ...

- Ross Douthat ... why does anyone read this guy? Ross Douthat Wants You To Have More Babies, So Get to Work ...

[...] Douthat may imagine that those who have few or no children are just too busy screwing around to make babies, but the reality is that most people have their eye on the long term—on the future—when it comes to deciding to have a smaller family. Right-wingers may be busy tallying the number of babies born, but the rest of us are actually worried about taking care of them when they get here. Unless you're Mitt Romney, having lots of kids usually means each child has fewer parental resources to draw on. In addition, many of us worry about handing over this planet to younger generations, especially in light of how much exponential population growth over the past century contributed to the global warming crisis.

- Bishop Alan Wilson on the Church of England women bishops thing ....

[...] In the light of several conversations this week all round, the realisation is creeping over me, like cold water in a hot bath, that when everything contingent has been talked out, this does all boil down to sex discrimination, no more, no less. Discriminatory is as discriminatory does. We're not fooling anyone, not even ourselves any more by pretending otherwise. The failure of any male headship argument to register in the House of Commons debate implies that, politically speaking, those who hold new model Complementarian views would be better off explaining the moral value of that particular kind of discrimination than pretending it is not what it manifestly is.

Look, nobody actually believes “men are the same as women.” The question is why should we impose an artificial difference on men and women that renders women permanently subordinate? It hasn’t always been so, even in our tradition. In the Bronze Age, Deborah Judged Israel, and that was OK. Unlike possessing a womb, subordination of women is not inevitable or, these days, generally desirable. New model Complementarianism as expressed last week is an elaborate three card trick. You begin by saying (1) everyone is equal, then (2) that they're different, then (How do they do that? watch out for the Queen of Hearts) (3) it's OK if woman are subordinated because that's a difference. Innit. Ah but you see, it's precisely the subordination that isn't equal, or acceptable to our MP's. They think it's inequality. Because it is.

- See that curled up dead leaf? It's a moth :) ....

St. John the Divine

- here

One Advent calendar I forgot to mention is the one by The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Here's a bit about the church from Wikipedia ....

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, officially the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in the City and Diocese of New York, is the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York .... the cathedral disputes with Liverpool Anglican Cathedral the title of the largest cathedral and Anglican church and fourth largest Christian church in the world .... The cathedral, designed in 1888 and begun in 1892, has, in its history, undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. Originally designed as Byzantine-Romanesque, the plan was changed after 1909 to a Gothic design.

Exterior (Wikipedia) ...

The altar area (Wikipedia) ...

And from the church's website ...

Sunday, December 02, 2012


Still at the beginning of Cold Days, and Harry, at the Winter Court, is being sung happy birthday by the Sidhe .....

"People always equate beauty with good, but it just ain’t so. Amongst the Winter Court were beings of haunting beauty, mesmerizing beauty, disarming beauty, flawless beauty, maddening beauty, bloodthirsty beauty. Even in the mortal world, a lot of predators are beautiful, and if you’re quick and motivated enough, you can admire that beauty while they kill you and eat you. Like all the other things there, the Sidhe sang to me, and I could feel the weight of their attention on me like the pressure wave from an onrushing shark.

You don’t listen to music like that. You survive it."


Some podcasts

Keith Ward gives a talk, Why the Scientific World View Confirms Liberal Christian Faith

Duke NT professor Mark Goodacre's podcast, NT Pod 62: What is the Gospel of Thomas?

So what's up with the Jewish community in the UK? From The Guardian, Sounds Jewish podcast: the Israel-Gaza conflict

Online Advent calendars

Trinity Wall Street's Advent calendar -

Advent calendar from Loyola Press -

BBC's A Bach Christmas Calendar -

National Museums Liverpool Advent calendar -