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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter


Hans Urs von Balthasar and Holy Saturday

So, What Did Jesus Do On Holy Saturday? ....

[...] That question has spurred centuries of debate, perplexed theologians as learned as St. Augustine and prodded some Protestants to advocate editing the Apostles' Creed, one of Christianity's oldest confessions of faith. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and most mainline Protestant churches teach that Jesus descended to the realm of the dead on Holy Saturday to save righteous souls, such as the Hebrew patriarchs, who died before his crucifixion .....

But some Protestants say there is scant scriptural evidence for the hellish detour, and that Jesus' own words contradict it. On Good Friday, Jesus told the Good Thief crucified alongside him that "today you will be with me in paradise," according to Luke's Gospel. "That's the only clue we have as to what Jesus was doing between death and resurrection," John Piper, a prominent evangelical author and pastor from Minnesota, has said. "I don't think the thief went to hell and that hell is called paradise." ...

I agree with Piper that Jesus went to paradise, not hell, but still, Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote some compelling stuff about Jesus' descent and there was a past discussion at First Things about his Holy Saturday theology (Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy: An Exchange ... More on Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy ... Responses to Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy). I do remember that discussion, and there was another article on the subject they failed to mention, perhaps because it's by a different person - Was Balthasar a Heretic?.

The discussion was about whether Jesus descended into hell suffering and abandoned by God (Balthasar), or instead triumphant, harrowing hell .... the "heretical" stuff comes in maybe because Luther and Calvin took a similar pov as Balthasar. I want to mention another article, one I posted bits of before - The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail by Baylor University Professor of Theology and Literature, Ralph Wood .....


No serious consideration of hell should omit one of the church's most ancient claims in the Apostles Creed—that Christ was not only "crucified, dead, and buried," but also that he "descended into hell" ... The single slender thread of "evidence" is found in 1 Peter 3:19-20 and 4:6, where we learn that the crucified Christ "went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the day of Noah," so that "the gospel was preached even to the dead" .....

Hell is not a temporal but an eternal realm, the horrible spiritual state of God's utter absence. Since Christ plunges into hell and preaches to the spirits of the dead, winnowing some of them from hell, it follows that others who have never been given the Good News can still be released from the post-earthly prison of death and damnation. For Christ's victory is not confined to this present life alone. He is also the Judge and Lord over hell. Thus does the doctrine of the Harrowing of Hell enable us to affirm, with Paul in Romans 8:38-39, that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus—neither death nor demonic powers nor even the abyss of hell.

No one has stated this Pauline hope more clearly than the great Roman Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar. Exactly in his descent into hell, writes von Balthasar, Christ "disturbs the absolute loneliness striven for by the sinner: the sinner, who wants to be 'damned' apart from God, finds God again in his loneliness, but God in the absolute weakness of love … enters into solidarity with those damning themselves."

A radically different interpretation of Christ's descent into hell has been offered recently by the Presbyterian theologian Alan E. Lewis in a remarkable book, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday. He maintains that, if we take seriously the doctrine that Christ assumed our full humanity, then we must retrieve Luther and Calvin's insistence that Christ endured the unfathomable suffering that comes from total abandonment by God in death. Lewis rightly fears that we cheapen Easter if we do not attend to the hellish Sabbath in which God himself lay in the godforsakenness of the grave .....

Whether we read Christ's descent into hell as a triumph or a defeat, it remains a crucial concern for all Christians. With his usual crispness and clarity, G. K. Chesterton sums up the enormous significance of the doctrine: "Christ descended into hell; Satan fell into it. One wanted to go up and went down; the other wanted to go down and went up. A god can be humble, a devil can only be humbled."


A related topic is the opinion Hans Urs von Balthasar had that there may actually be no one in hell (Dare We Hope "That All Men Be Saved"?: With a Short Discourse on Hell). There were a number of articles on him and this idea .....

I think the first one was at First Things by Avery Dulles - The Population of Hell which defended Balthasar.

There was Fr. Regis Scanlon's article, originally in the New Oxford Review, blasting Balthasar's view on hell - The Inflated Reputation of Hans Urs von Balthasar

Richard John Neuhaus' article in First Things, defending Balthasar against Scanlon - Will All Be Saved?

Dale Vree's article in the New Oxford Review, answering Neuhaus - If Everyone is Saved ...

There's more of the guys above :-) but perhaps the next one to read would be found in the New Oxford Review by Janet Holl Madigan - In Defense of Richard John Neuhaus

And let's not forget David Watt's article, originally in the New Oxford Review, against Balthasar's view - Is Hell Closed Up & Boarded Over?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Disagreeing on Good Fridaay

A video with the AB of C, Justin Welby - Good Friday: Getting The Answer You Didn’t Want ...

And a post by Ron Rolheiser - The Resurrection as Revealing God as Redeemer, not as Rescuer ...

[F]aith in Jesus and the resurrection won't save us from humiliation, pain, and death in this life. Faith isn't meant to do that. Jesus doesn't grant special exemptions to his friends, no more than God granted special exemptions to Jesus. We see this everywhere in the Gospels, though most clearly in Jesus' resurrection ...

I guess most people look at suffering and death in this way ... inevitable, perhaps even ennobling, and redeemed by life after death. And I guess most see God as unable or unwilling to "rescue" us.

I hate this attitude and I dislike where I think it comes from: it's not from the Bible, which has a very active God who does "rescue" people in both the OT and the NT. Life here is important, and the quality of life here matters too - Jesus wanted to make this life here better for us. When people asked for his help, he didn't tell them to suck it up and hope for a better life in heaven: he healed the sick and injured, he brought the dead back to life, back to life *here*. Jesus told us to ask God's help in prayer, help for practical things like food - was he being rhetorical? Should we really not pray for people to get well, for help with our problems, or should we really put such riders on our prayers that our desires are essentially unowned? I know that when I prayed for my loved ones who have suffered and died, I wasn't saying, "I'd really like them to not suffer so much, but if that's your will, then whatever,"

Of course Jesus did suffer and die - God didn't save him - and many people do suffer and ask God for help that never comes. I don't know why this is so, and this inconsistency is the biggest test of my belief. But what I'm unwilling to do is create a scenario that resolves this conflict. Ambiguity is hard to live with, but I'm more willing to live with it than to imagine a God who makes suffering and death acceptable to us.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday

You can see John's version of Jesus at the last supper in The Gospel of John below (it should start at the right place, but if not, click at about 1 hour, 46 minutes into it). It's strange to have a movie that narrates the gospel as you watch, but I really do like the way Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond of LOST) portrays Jesus, plus Mary M is shown at the dinner with the other disciples :) ......

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


This week's movie rental was Argo ....

a 2012 historical drama thriller film directed by Ben Affleck. This dramatization is adapted from the book The Master of Disguise by CIA operative Tony Mendez, and Joshuah Berman's 2007 Wired article "The Great Escape" about the "Canadian Caper", in which Mendez led the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The film stars Affleck as Mendez with Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman ... Argo received widespread acclaim and also received seven nominations for the 85th Academy Awards and won three, for Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. The film also earned five Golden Globe nominations, winning Best Picture – Drama and Best Director.

I liked the movie very much! The acting was good, the dialogue too, and the the locations were interesting (we even get to visit Hagia Sophia) ...

And there's a score with music of that era, like this ...

But most of all, the story, based on actual events, was riveting. Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars. Here's a bit of his review ...

[...] Ben Affleck not only stars in but also directs, and "Argo," the real movie about the fake movie, is both spellbinding and surprisingly funny. Many of the laughs come from the Hollywood guys played by Goodman and Arkin, although to be sure, as they set up a fake production office and hold meetings poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel, they aren't in danger like their "crew members" in Iran.

Key supporting roles are filled by Bryan Cranston, as the CIA chief who green-lights the scheme, and Victor Garber, as the Canadian ambassador who at great risk opens his embassy's doors to the secret guests. Affleck is brilliant at choreographing the step-by-step risks that the team takes in exiting Tehran, and "Argo" has cliff-hanging moments when the whole delicate plan seems likely to split at the seams.

The craft in this film is rare. It is so easy to manufacture a thriller from chases and gunfire, and so very hard to fine-tune it out of exquisite timing and a plot that's so clear to us we wonder why it isn't obvious to the Iranians. After all, who in their right mind would believe a space opera was being filmed in Iran during the hostage crisis? Just about everyone, it turns out. Hooray for Hollywood.

And here's a trailer ...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Living in community

Pope Francis has decided not to live in the Apostolic Palace but instead at the Vatican Guest House, the Casa Santa Marta. As an article at America Magazine notes, this is pretty significant, and, I think, a really good idea ...

Of all the symbolic, lifestyle changes, the new pope has made, this may be the most significant, especially for reform of the Roman Curia. For, in the Santa Marta dining hall, in my experience, while visitors mix it up on one-side of the dining hall, on the other Vatican staffers keep to themselves. In fact, many eat silently alone—as if on perpetual retreat. When I visited Santa Marta, I used to wonder to myself, “Are these isolated, private souls, the people we trust to run the church?”

Pope Francis’s presence will, at a minimum, encourage his co-workers in the curia to get to know one another and exchange the ideas they are accustomed to keep to themselves, as they attempt to guard the secrets and privileges of their own offices. It will also allow the pope to meet people on business at the Vatican freely and stimulate a more open exchange of views than would have been possible in the guarded sanctity of the Apostolic Palace. A room at Casa Santa Marta has certainly become the hottest ticket in town.

There are some interesting comments on this in a post on the subject at Pray Tell, especially this one ...

* * * * * *

#15 by Jack Rakosky on March 26, 2013 - 6:17 pm

“Community rather than “simplicity and “poverty” is the most important reason for this move upon the part of the Pope.

Let me suggest that he is greatly altering the social networks of the Vatican, and thereby already initiating the reform of the Curia from below!!! Indeed he seems to be in the process of turning everything upside down!!!

First Francis made it clear that being Bishop of Rome was the foundation of being Pope; he signaled that in his appearance on the balcony of St. Peters. Then he is began to show that being a part of the parochial life of Rome is the foundation of being bishop of Rome both by saying Mass at the Vatican parish and in his plans for Holy Thursday. Now he has begun to make saying Mass for people in the Vatican and for visitors is an important part of being bishop of Rome.

However the Domus and the dining hall may be the biggest change of all. For it contains rooms not only for visitors but for priests and monsignors that work in the Vatican

Of all the symbolic, lifestyle changes, the new pope has made, this may be the most significant, especially for reform of the Roman Curia. For, in the Santa Marta dining hall, in my experience, while visitors mix it up on one-side of the dining hall, on the other Vatican staffers keep to themselves. In fact, many eat silently alone—as if on perpetual retreat. When I visited Santa Marta, I used to wonder to myself, “Are these isolated, private souls, the people we trust to run the church?”

There are reports that the priests objected since this would put them in close proximity to the Pope who replied that he is used to being with priests. So now the Pope is going to begin to interact with the bottom of the Vatican staff who are not used to interacting with higher ups or even with each other. That is a good place to begin the reform of the Curia.

So what are the Vatican staff going to do? Are they going to ignore the Pope and let him eat and interact with the visitors? Maybe these very visitors are going to be showing up in their offices in the next few days saying “when the Pope and I were talking..”. Are they going to interact with the Pope and not with each other?

The Pope is going to go to the Papal Palace for meetings with dignitaries. However none were scheduled these first three days of Holy Week. I suspect the Pope is meeting informally and talking over the phone with all sorts of people both inside and outside of the Curia.

The Pope no longer has a Household in the Papal Palace but does have a rather large community of both Vatican and non-Vatican people in the Domus. The Pope no longer has a small Vatican network controlling his networking within and outside the Vatican.

Arch. Ganswein is Head of a non-existent Papal Household. He will likely continue his job of escorting dignitaries to the Apostolic Palace to meet the Pope but I suspect his ability to control the Pope or even know what he is doing will be rather limited.

Cardinal Bertone remains for the time Secretary of State but his ability to control access to the Pope by members of the Curia or visitors is also going to be very limited.

The Pope is essentially abolishing the hierarchical structure of the Vatican and initiating a modern organizational structure which emphasizes multiple networking among and across levels.

* * * * * *

You can see some photos of his new digs here -

CS Lewis and Holy Wednesday

Tomorrow's readings are about Judas betraying Jesus (Matthew 26:14-25. Matt Maher mentions a character from CS Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund, and how many of us are more like Edmund and Judas than we would like to think ....

Learn a new thing a day with Fringe


In this episode, the FBI agent, Olivia, in injured as she's returned from the parallel universe I mentioned earlier. She woke up saying something mysterious. Here Peter reminds her of this ...

Να είναι καλύτερος άνθρωπος από τον πατέρα σου .... Be a better man than your father

From looking around online it seems some think this is derived from what Hector prayed ...

With this, glorious Hector held out his arms to take his son, but the child, alarmed at sight of his father, shrank back with a cry on his fair nurse’s breast, fearing the helmet’s bronze and the horsehair crest nodding darkly at him. His father and mother smiled, and glorious Hector doffed the shining helmet at once and laid it on the ground. Then he kissed his beloved son, dandled him in his arms, and prayed aloud: ‘Zeus, and all you gods, grant that this boy like me may be foremost among the Trojans, as mighty in strength, and a powerful leader of Ilium. And some day may they say of him, as he returns from war, “He’s a better man than his father”, and may he bear home the blood-stained armour of those he has slain, so his mother’s heart may rejoice.’
- Homer: The Iliad, Book VI

Hmmm - maybe it's finally time to rent that old movie Troy. Or not - the story of the Iliad is incredibly sad (I posted about another movie, Helen of Troy here)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Some links

- If you're interested in the Stations of the Cross, the British Jesuit site, Pray-as-you-go, has an audio version with art by Caravaggio here

- What kind of spirituality does Pope Francis practice? He used to be a Jesuit but it's been noted also that he's a fan of CL. Does he still practices Ignatian prayer or something CL related? I don't know the answer, but I think it would be interesting. Meanwhile, Henry was kind enough to give me this link to the website of Communion and Liberation/USA, and John Allen wrote about CL for NCR back in 2005: What Comunione e Liberazione is.

- Remember The Shack? I wrote about the book in 2009 - Me and The Shack. Lee has a link to an interview at Christianity Today with the author of the book on his theology ... The Love Shack (uh oh, now I have that song in my head ;)

- Coming to a theater near you - A Fierce Green Fire - a documentary based on the book, A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement by Philip Shabecoff, and directed by Mark Kitchell (Berkeley in the Sixties). You can read more about it in The Los Angeles Times - Sundance 2012: 'A Fierce Green Fire' tells environmentalist tale. Here's the trailer ...

The un-atonement

[...] Why Jesus? The answer most frequently handed on in everyday religion emphasizes redemption. This view returns to the creation story and sees in Adam and Eve's sin a fundamental alienation from God, a separation so profound that God must intervene to overcome it .... At times God has even been described as demanding Jesus' suffering and death as a means of atonement—to satisfy and appease an angry God. In many forms of theology, popular piety and religious practice, the purpose of Jesus' life is directly linked to original sin and all human sinfulness. Without sin, there would have been no need for the Incarnation .....

An interpretation that highlights the Incarnation stands beside this dominant view with its emphasis on sin. The alternate view is also expressed in Scripture and tradition .... It holds that the whole purpose of creation is for the Incarnation, God's sharing of life and love in a unique and definitive way. God becoming human is not an afterthought, an event to make up for original sin and human sinfulness. Incarnation is God's first thought, the original design for all creation. The purpose of Jesus' life is the fulfillment of God's eternal longing to become human ...

- The Incarnation: Why God Wanted to Become Human, Kenneth R. Overberg, S.J.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fringe and Holy Week

I've just reached the end of the first season of Fringe, a science fiction tv series from a few years back that's a lot like The X-Files but with something thrown in as well: the multiverse (see what Edward Feser and Keith Ward and Brian Greene have to say on parallel universes). At the end of the final episode, There's More Than One of Everything, FBI agent Olivia Dunham is transported to see someone she's been trying to meet for a long time, William Bell (played by Leonard Nimoy), transported to a parallel universe where the twin towers of the World Trade Center are still standing ....

What does this have to do with Holy Week? I don't like Holy Week very much. Jesus comes to town, spends a few days seeing the sights with his friends, and then is captured, arrested, tortured, and killed. Whimsical and heterodox of me, I know, but I wonder about a Jesus who might have lived a long life of teaching and healing before being resurrected. If the multiverse theory is true, then maybe ...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Third Week

Still watching the series by Howard Gray SJ on Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises and I'm now up to the 8th video, "Passion and Death of Jesus" ....

In a month-long Spiritual Exercises retreat, the third week is devoted to this topic. In the online retreat given by Creighton University, which allows the retreat to stretch over many months, this subject is covered in week 28 and week 29.

I have a lot of trouble with the topic of Jesus' suffering and death. I don't like the idea of atonement - the belief that the purpose of the incarnation was Jesus' death. I don't like the mental gymnastics that turn torture and murder into a good thing - that felix culpa idea. And I'm not sure where I stand on what was going through Jesus' head about hid divinity and his choice of continued engagement in dangerous activities.

I didn't agree with everything Fr. Gray said, but the video helped me think about all this (not yet letting myself "feel" about it). One of the questions asked of Fr. Gray as he gave his talk was about Jesus' suffering, what he thought of the idea that the intensity of Jesus' love for us was shown by the intensity of the suffering he was willing to endure. Fr. Gray said that Jesus' suffering wasn't about some imitatable high benchmark of asceticism. He said ... "There's been so much asceticism that's been presented as 'the harder thing is pleasing to God because it's harder'. Think of what you say when you say that - that God gets God's jollies by watching us be unhappy. I don't believe that." Fr. Gray brought up the movie Mel Gibson had made, The Passion of the Christ, and said that he would not recommend it because its focus was on the physical suffering of Jesus, - he believed that it was not Jesus' suffering that was so important but rather the fact that Jesus' suffering didn't change him, didn't cause him to lose himself.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Weeding the bookmarks today ...

- Damian Thompson: Pope Francis inaugural Mass: can this extraordinary man save the Catholic Church?

- Sea slug gallery :)

- Leonardo Boff has this post at his blog: Was the Collapse of this Theology the Main Reason for the Resignation of Benedict XVI?

- Speaking of Boff, here's an old post of mine on an article about him by James Alison: James Alison on Leo Boff

- The Dalai Lama tweets :)

- Read about the (scary, I think) religious movement, Communion and Liberation (CL). Apparently, the late Cardinal Martini disliked it too.

- I saw this about the pope and the Falkland Islands dispute ... Pope Francis is wrong on Falklands, says David Cameron (the US is officially on Argentina's side)

Raining here

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


There's an interesting post at Thinking Faith by Rob Marsh SJ - Faithful imagination. Imagination has a big role in Ignatian spirituality and the article notes its importance in other endeavours as well. Here's the intro at the beginning of the article ...

‘A scientist leaning over her computer pondering experimental results; an artist poised, brush in hand, at his canvas; a woman sitting in prayer making the Spiritual Exercises: what do these three have in common?’ Rob Marsh SJ contributes to our celebration of the Year of Faith by exploring what it means to ‘imagine faithfully’, as the scientist, the artist and the woman in prayer are all doing. If imagination is the mediator between idea and reality, how does it relate to faith?

Francis and the Pope and Pope Francis

Reading the pope's homily today reminded me of this clip from Brother Sun Sister Moon (thanks, Dina :) in which Francis meets and inspires the Pope...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jon Sobrino SJ and the Pact of the Catacombs

Jesuit Jon Sobrino has made comment on the new pope - it's in Spanish here but I've seen the English translation posted here and here. Jon Sobrino SJ was part of the community of the Jesuits killed in El Salvador and is a noted writer on liberation theology (and censored by the CDF). I have a number of past posts about him, including ... Alejandro Garcia-Rivera and others on Jon Sobrino's Christology ... Jon Sobrino and Karl Rahner ... Jon Sobrino SJ interview.

But anyway, the interview is very interesting, both on the new pope and his actions during the Dirty War, as well as in what Sobrino hopes for from Francis ...

The first [task for the pope] -- I believe the greatest dream -- is to make John XIII's dream a reality: The Church is in a special way the Church of the Poor. This didn't succeed in the hall of Vatican II, and so about forty bishops met outside the hall and in the Catacombs of Saint Domitila signed the manifesto which has been called the Pact of the Catacombs.

And he also hopes for ...

urgent reform of the Roman Curia. It's also necessary that the members of the Curia should preferably be lay people. Likewise it's important that Rome let the local churches choose their pastors. That all the symbols of power and worldly honor should disappear from the papal environment, and certainly that the successor of Peter stop being a head of state, since this would have made Jesus ashamed. It's necessary that the whole Church see the present separation of the Christian faiths as an offense against God. We must ask the Pope that Rome resolve the problem of Catholics whose first marriage failed and who have found stability in a second union. And, of course, priestly celibacy should be reconsidered ..... once and for all we fix the untenable situation of women in the Church. Also that we stop undervaluing, and at times despising, the indigenous world -- the Mapuche of South America and all those the pope will get to know in his travels through Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And, of course, that we learn to love Mother Earth.

I had not heard of the Pact of the Catacombs before. You can read more about it in this post at Iglesia Descalza

Tiny flower

Sunday, March 17, 2013


This week's old movie from the library was Contact ...

a 1997 American science fiction drama film adapted from the Carl Sagan novel of the same name and directed by Robert Zemeckis. Both Sagan and wife Ann Druyan wrote the story outline for the film adaptation of Contact. Jodie Foster portrays the film's protagonist, Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway, a SETI scientist who finds strong evidence of extraterrestrial life and is chosen to make first contact. The film also stars Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, William Fichtner, John Hurt, Angela Bassett, and David Morse.

I did read the novel from which the movie was adapted and it was pretty different. Still, I do like the movie very much - I identified with Foster's character when she saidd "For as long as I can remember, I've been searching for something, some reason why we're here." And when someone cheated her out of her chance to use the alien travel device and told her "I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line ... Unfortunately, we don't live in that world.", I agreed with her answer: "I've always believed that the world is what we make of it."

The way she described her alien contact experience reminded me of my retreat conversion experience ...

"I had an experience. I can't prove it, I can't even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am, tells me that it was real. I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever. A vision of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny and insignificant and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that we are not, that none of us, are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe and humility, and hope ..."

If you haven't yet seen it, you might like it :)

What was it like ...

to be a Jesuit priest in Argentina during the mid-seventies? Franz Jalics commented on this in a past book he wrote on contemplative prayer. An article at The Daily Beast has some excerpts ....

[...] Jalics’s humble little book is not an exposé like Verbitsky’s, it is not a smear, and it does not read like a lie. I bought it on Thursday morning in the “spirituality” section of a store run by nuns a couple of blocks from St. Peter’s Square. Its title is Contemplative Retreat: An Introduction to the Contemplative Way of Life and to the Jesus Prayer.

Only six of the book’s 332 pages deal with Jalics’s experiences in 1976 and what happened to him afterward, and he tells the story as an example of the power of contemplation, the importance of forgiveness. The entire grim experience, he claims, was a source of “purification.”

He and Yorio were living at the edge of the slums of Bajo Fores in Buenos Aires. They were theology professors at different universities. Many of their students were joining the guerrillas, but the priests wanted to demonstrate that it was possible to take up the cause of the poor without resorting to violence. In those days, such distinctions usually were lost on generals and their sympathizers, so the priests needed staunch defenders in the church hierarchy. They didn’t find them ....

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Thinking Faith on Francis

There's a post at the British Jesuit site, Thinking Faith, on the new pope - Habemus Papam Franciscum by Nicholas King SJ - that gives an indication of how some Jesuits feel about things - a good read.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Two things coinciding today:

An article I read, obituary actually, of Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez ....

who led Roman Catholicism in Chile for more than two decades, championing human rights and sharply criticizing Gen. Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship, died on Friday in a home for retired priests in Santiago, Chile .... Under Cardinal Silva Henriquez, the Chilean church made demands during the Pinochet years for the return of democracy. When the Cardinal preached about the sacredness of human rights, worshipers frequently cried out: ''Raul! Our friend, the people are with you!'' Despite death threats and other would-be intimidations, the Cardinal also helped gather documentation about human rights abuses, including torture, during the Pinochet era. And he sponsored efforts to help people who had lost their jobs because of political persecution to get new ones. He also sponsored legal assistance for political prisoners ...

And a trailer I just saw of a movie, No ...

a 2012 Chilean drama film directed by Pablo Larraín. The film is based on the unpublished play El Plebiscito, written by Antonio Skármeta. Mexican actor Gael García Bernal plays René, an in-demand advertising man working in Chile in the late 1980s. The historical moment the film captures is when advertising tactics came to be widely used in political campaigns. The campaign in question was the historic 1988 plebiscite of the Chilean citizenry over whether general Pinochet should have another 8-year term as President.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Sessions

- Macy and Hawks

This week's movie rental was The Sessions ...

a 2012 American independent drama film written and directed by Ben Lewin. It is based on an essay by Mark O'Brien, a poet paralyzed from the neck down due to polio, who hired a sex surrogate to lose his virginity. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt star as O'Brien and sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene, respectively.

One of the reasons I wanted to watch the film was to see William H. Macy, who portrayed a priest who began as Mark's confessor but eventually became his friend. I found the movie kind of sad - I had earlier read about the real life Mark O'Brien and so I knew beforehand that the happy bits of the film were mostly fiction. Roger Ebert liked it more than I did - he gave it 3.5 stars out of 4. There's also a review of the movie at the Jesuit site, Thinking Faith, here. And here's the trailer ...

Pope Francis on the Anglican Ordinariate

Saw something interesting today ....

"The Church universal needs Anglicans" - Pope Francis

[...] Bp Venables added that in a conversation with Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, the latter made it clear that he values the place of Anglicans in the Church universal.

He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate [created by the Catholic Church to accommodate alienated Anglicans] was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans ...

I always thought the Anglican Ordinariate plan was very un-ecumenical, so I'm with Francis on this.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Creighton Jesuits on new pope

Something from the Jesuits at Creighton University (online Ignatian retreat and Daily Reflections) ....

Creighton experts weigh in on pope's Jesuit background

Though no one knows for sure, Jorge Bergoglio's Jesuit background could be a telling detail about how he will serve as pope, according to interviews with several experts from Creighton University.

For one thing, Jesuits are not to seek out church office, as instructed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus in the 16th century. Jesuit priests, instead, serve as the workmen of the church.

“Never in a million years would he have imagined he would be a bishop, a monsignor, or a cardinal, much less a pope,” said the Rev. Richard Hauser, a theology professor and a member of Creighton's Jesuit community. “If you have those types of ambitions, you don't join the Jesuits. He must have been so attractive in his own Ignatian spirituality to the people in Rome who are in charge of appointing bishops.” ....

The pope and the Jesuits of El Salvador

I was happy to see that Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been chosen as pope. This outcome is better than any I had hoped for, though of course he's still a conservative. I'd like to bask in relief and hope, but I'm concerned about one thing, the role Bergoglio may have played during Argentina's dirty war in which the church participated in both sides of the conflict. The truth about all this may never be known, but to overlook it seems to dishonor Jesuit priests who spoke out against right-wing dictatorships, sometimes getting killed for doing so, as did the Jesuits in El Salvador years later. Here's a bit about the issue ...

Will Francis's role during Argentina's 'Dirty War' come back to haunt him?

[...] From 1973 to 1979, a period that overlapped with military dictatorship lasting from 1976 to 1983, Francis served as the top Argentine Jesuit official. During that time, the Catholic Church remained silent in the face of widespread human rights violations during the country's so-called "Dirty War," an effort by the military government to root out dissent by torture, murder, and disappearances. In several cases, Catholic priests collaborated with the government and were even in the room as prisoners were tortured. In February, an Argentine court ruled that the Catholic church hierarchy, of which Francis was arguably a member, had "closed its eyes" to the killing of progressive priests. In 2005, human rights lawyers filed a case against then-Cardinal Bergoglio alleging that he had been complicit in the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests ...

Further reading -

Siete Things to Know About Pope Francis & Argentina’s Dirty War

New Pope Tied up in Argentina's 'Dirty War' Debate

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Some papal predicting ...

from the UK Catholic Herald ...

[...] Do not believe anything along the lines of a conservative/progressive clash. From the point of view of the secular world, all the cardinals are conservative: there is just not going to be a pope who changes Catholic doctrine .... the change in question will not be doctrinal but one of personnel and management style. It seems that as of now Cardinal Scola, the archbishop of Milan, is the favoured candidate of the reformers, and Cardinal Scherer, the Brazilian, that of the “business as usual” crowd. The latter are so discredited that they know that one of their own cannot win, and hence they are trying to talk up Scherer as a liberal, so as to gain credibility for him with the media and with the small remnant of moderately liberal cardinals. In reality they favour him because they think they can control him ....

My feeling is that Cardinal Scherer has no real chance because too many cardinals are totally browned off with decades of mismanagement and see through the manoeuvre. If the election happens quickly (on the second day) it will probably be Scola, but if it drags on beyond Wednesday this is likely to mean that the alliance of the curialists and the progressive rump has succeeded in blocking him. This may mean that they resign themselves to a non-Italian representative of the same camp – Scola, as an Italian, knows where the bodies are buried – and in this case I foresee the election of Canadian Ouellet, the Hungarian Erdo or, as an outsider, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley (Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and the Sri Lankan Cardinal Ranjith are too confrontational, I think, to have a serious chance). It they succeed in blocking these (they are all “Ratzingerian” in terms of theology”) then all bets are off. The longer the conclave lasts, the bigger the surprise is likely to be.

$10 million

As we wonder for which papal candidate Cardinal Mahony will vote ....

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay nearly $10 million to four men who allege they were molested by a pedophile priest in what Cardinal Roger Mahony has called the most troubling case of his tenure, a lawyer for the men said Tuesday. The agreement settled four lawsuits against the church concerning Michael Baker, who authorities believe molested 23 boys during three decades as a parish priest and hospital chaplain. The settlement is the first since the church released 12,000 pages of internal personnel files about its handling of abuse allegations, including scores of documents detailing how Mahony and a top aide dealt with Baker ...
- L.A. archdiocese to pay $10 million to settle abuse claims

But let me put this $10 million into perspective ... more than $150 million was spent by Mahony on the cathedral he had built, Our Lady of the Angels. As Wikipedia states ...

The prices for some cathedral furnishings have also caused consternation. $5 million was budgeted for the altar, the main bronze doors cost $3 million, $2 million was budgeted for the wooden ambo (lectern) and $1 million for the tabernacle. $1 million was budgeted for the cathedra (bishop's chair), $250,000 for the presider's chair, $250,000 for each deacon's chair, and $150,000 for each visiting bishops' chair, while pews cost an average of $50,000 each. The cantor's stand cost $100,000 while each bronze chandelier/speaker cost $150,000. The great costs incurred in its construction and Mahony's long efforts to get it built led critics to dub it the "Taj Mahony" and the "Rog Mahal".

Yep, your pew dollars at work :(

Monday, March 11, 2013

Praying for a miracle

Vatican live cam and blogging at The Telegraph

As the cardinals vote, I'm pretty depressed about the possibilities - every time I think someone is do-able, I read something bad about them (even Cardinal O'Malley). As this article states ...

Since every cardinal is a product of the status quo, it is difficult to imagine 115 men chosen by the present system electing a new pope committed to fundamental change. Monarchs don’t start revolutions. But we people of faith are praying for a miracle. Angelo Roncalli was supposed to be an elderly caretaker. Instead, as Pope John XXIII he dragged the church into the 20th century—well, at least into the 19th.

Some further reading ...

Picking the pope: Holy Spirit or ‘groupthink’? - David Gibson

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Little Buddha

This week's movie from the library was the 1993 film by Bernardo Bertolucci, Little Buddha, starring Chris Isaak, Bridget Fonda, and Keanu Reeves ...

Tibetan Buddhist monks from a monastery in Bhutan, led by Lama Norbu (Ruocheng Ying), are searching for a child who is the rebirth of a great Buddhist teacher, Lama Dorje (Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen). Lama Norbu and his fellow monks believe they have found a candidate for the child in whom Lama Dorje is reborn: an American boy named Jesse Conrad (Alex Wiesendanger), the young son of an architect and a teacher who live in Seattle. The monks come to Seattle in order to meet the boy ...

The monks give the little boy a book about the life of Buddha (Siddhartha) and when he reads it, the movie shows what's happening, with Keanu Reeves as Prince Siddhartha. Eventually the monks convince the boy and his father to return with them to Bhutan to be tested, along with a couple of other candidates from Nepal.

Roger Ebert really didn't like it and gave the film 2 stars out of 4 ...

Let's begin with a not exactly hypothetical question: If you were approached by a Tibetan monk, in robe and sandals, who explained that your 10-year-old child is a reincarnated Buddhist teacher, and if the monk invited your child to Tibet, how would you react? No plausible answer to that question is contained in this movie. Instead, Bertolucci creates a Seattle family which, in its own way, is more unreal than any of the more spiritual families in his story.

This is why I like to get movies from the library - I don't feel any pressure that they be especially good in the conventional sense because they're free ;) But anyway, you might need to be interested in Buddhism or Tibet to find the movie worth a watch, but I thought the locations/sets (like Swayambhunath) were interesting and having read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, I was wondering how Keanu Reeves would be as the prince. And did I mention there were monkeys? :) ....

Here's a trailer ...

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Cardinals and conclave

- The one cardinal who might not make a completely awful pope is Christoph Schönborn. Read about him at Pray Tell ... Liturgical Views of the Papabili: Christoph Schönborn

- Why I think it would be a bad idea to choose a cardinal from Africa as pope ... Voices from Catholic Africa: Church modernization is a mistake

- Elena Curti at The Tablet on Cardinal O'Brien .... O'Brien's departure: yet another cover-up

- Jesuit Thomas Reese gives a conclave into to PBS Religion & Ethics ...

Watch Selecting a New Pope: Conclave Preview on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

The return of the prodigal son

- by Axel Kulle

Tomorrow's readings reminded me of this song ...

Penniless and tired with your hair grown long
I was looking at you there and your face looked wrong
Memory is a fickle siren song
I didn't understand

In the gentle light as the morning nears
You don't say a single word of the last two years
Where you were or when you reached the frontier
I didn't understand, no

See your rugged hands and a silver knife
Twenty dollars in your hand that you hold so tight
All the evidence of your vacant life
My brother, you were gone

And you will try to do what you did before
Pull the wool over your eyes for a week or more
Let your family take you back to your
Original mind

There's nothing I can do
There's nothing I can do

There's nothing I can say
There's nothing I can say
I can say

Friday, March 08, 2013

Daniel Craig and Women's Day

In 2011 the star of James Bond movies made this video for International Women's Day - thanks, Daniel ...


Is this a squirrel nest (a drey)? It's high up in an oak tree but it seems too big to be a bird nest ...

More fruit tree blossoms ...

A periwinkle ...

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for pope!

US abuse victims suggest Irish pope

On a day when the cardinals again failed to name a date for the forthcoming conclave to elect a new pope, a US abuse victims’ lobby named Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin as one of three “most promising candidates” to succeed Benedict XVI. In a provocative gesture given that Dr Martin is not a cardinal, clerical sex abuse victims’ lobby Snap said the archbishop, along with the archbishops of Manila and Vienna, cardinals Luis Antonio Tagle and Christoph Schönborn, represented the “least worst” choices.

OK, it would be a long shot, but it would be so wonderful to have a pope I could respect. Here's a video of Archbishop Martin on 60 Minutes last year ...

Thursday, March 07, 2013

David Bentley Hart writes on natural law

Is, Ought, and Nature’s Laws ...

There is a long, rich, varied, and subtle tradition of natural law theory, almost none of which I find especially convincing, but most of which I acknowledge to be—according to the presuppositions of the intellectual world in which it was gestated—perfectly coherent. My skepticism, moreover, has nothing to do with any metaphysical disagreement. I certainly believe in a harmony between cosmic and moral order, sustained by the divine goodness in which both participate. I simply do not believe that the terms of that harmony are as precisely discernible as natural law thinkers imagine.

That is an argument for another time, however. My chief topic here is the attempt in recent years by certain self-described Thomists, particularly in America, to import this tradition into public policy debates, but in a way amenable to modern political culture. What I have in mind is a style of thought whose proponents (names are not important) believe that compelling moral truths can be deduced from a scrupulous contemplation of the principles of cosmic and human nature, quite apart from special revelation, and within the context of the modern conceptual world. This, it seems to me, is a hopeless cause ...

Then Aquinas devotee Edward Feser says he's wrong - A Christian Hart, a Humean Head

And Samuel Goldman writes about the merits of the arguments - Why Natural Law Is ‘Hopeless’ - coming down on the side of Hart.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A Meditation on Hell

Still reading The Gift of Spiritual Intimacy: Following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

When someone first told me about the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, I bought the book. What I didn't realize was that the book isn't really meant to be read in the normal way - it's more a handbook for retreat givers - and I was shocked. The first thing I read was A Meditation on Hell: a meditation on the angels rebelling, on Adam and Eve making a mistake, on my own whole lifetime of sin, and on how really really bad hell was going to be - I almost gave up on the Exercises and God right then and there. I did eventually get a better understanding of what Ignatius might be getting at - that God loves us no matter what, but I still have a lot of problems with the ideas of sin and the existence of hell, and I have questions about God's responsibility vs ours in the whole "evil" thing.

But anyway, here's the bit I've just been reading in the book ...

What usually happens at the beginning of our spiritual journey is denial of the dreadful and profound facts of evil and sin and of the ways each of us is contaminated and implicated. We are not unaware of evil, destruction, or loss. This awareness is, usually, what starts our journey. But we are unaware of just how contaminated we are by what we seek to remove ourselves from. This can be as simple as a refusal to believe what Ignatius proposes we examine prayerfully -- the reality of cosmic disorder -- is true. Or, our awareness can be a little more nuanced and we can consider this reality from a detached point of view. We can say to ourselves, Yes, I suppose it is true -- if you believe in that sort of thing -- but it really has nothing to do with me. We can even go further and think about the mystery of evil as an intellectual problem, considering why the angels did what they did, why God permits evil, and how evil and God can co-exist. Then we substitute theological inquiry for prayer. We may also enter into these meditations emotionally and feel overwhelmed by what is presented ...

The author asks at the end of this part of the book ... What questions about the nature of God as good or compassionate does the reality of evil raise in your life? How do you reconcile a good God with the suffering of the powerless and the innocent?

I'm still working on answers to those questions - probably always will be.

What I saw today

- Hugo Boss: What I learned about Hugo Chávez's mental health when I visited Venezuela with Sean Penn - Christopher Hitchens

- SNAP’s “Dirty Dozen” list – the “papabile” who would be the worst choice for children

- Requiem for a Dream

- Where happens to priests who the church deems sexual offenders? They're often sent to a place like the Saint Luke Institute. In 2003 the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles on clergy sex abuse and this was one of them ... Priest treatment unfolds in costly, secretive world

- Mary Stewart once wrote that It is easier to call the storm from the empty sky than to manipulate the heart of a man, but it looks like it's even harder to change his mind ... False beliefs persist, even after instant online corrections

- Strange stuff going on with the Bolshoi Ballet Theater. When I was in college I took a few ballet classes - so much fun. Professional ballet is one of the most demanding physical disciplines, I'd guess, and it must take a toll on the psyche as well. Her's a bit of the Bolshoi ...

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Fringe music

Still watching Fringe. There's a lot of vintage music on the show. Here's one of the songs heard ...

Sistine Chapel photos

Vatican Insider has some photos of the Sistine Chapel being prepared for the Conclave.

The Sistine Chapel is the only Catholic church that I actually did visit on my one trip to Europe. I remember thinking that it seemed small but maybe the frescoed ceiling/walls just make it appear that way. As Wikipedia states, it's ...

the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in the Vatican City. It is famous for its architecture and its decoration that was frescoed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio and others.

You can take a fun interactive virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel here

New York Times/CBS News Poll

Poll Shows Disconnect Between U.S. Catholics and Church. Here's a bit of it ...

[...] Seven out of 10 say Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican have done a poor job of handling sexual abuse, a significant rise from three years ago. A majority said that the issue had led them to question the Vatican’s authority. The sexual abuse of children by priests is the largest problem facing the church, Catholics in the poll said ...

Nearly 8 in 10 Catholics polled said they would be more likely to follow their conscience on “difficult moral questions” than to follow the teachings of the pope .... Seven out of every 10 Catholics surveyed said the next pope should let priests marry, let women become priests and allow the use of artificial methods of birth control. Nine out of 10 said they wanted the next pope to allow the use of condoms to prevent the spread of H.I.V. and other diseases .... Sixty-two percent of Catholics said they were in favor of legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. Catholics approved of same-sex marriage at a higher rate than Americans as a whole, among whom 53 percent approved ....

See, it's not just me ;)

Richard the Lionheart

Richard the Lionheart's mummified heart has been analyzed. I found this pretty interesting because in college I was enthralled by medieval British history. The novels and movies that feature him are all over the map as far as accuracy goes .... for instance, the Robin Hood movies/books always made him sound like a great king but he was actually a rather bad king: he probably spent a year out of the ten of his rule in England, he lost Jerusalem in the third crusade, he married his wife for her lands and didn't get an heir, he made life difficult for the Jews in England, and he practically impoverished his citizens by getting captured and held for a huge ransom.

He died from a crossbow bolt wound that went bad and his body was somewhat parted out, his heart being buried in Normandy. A 13th-century Bishop of Rochester wrote that Richard spent 33 years in purgatory as expiation for his sins, eventually ascending to Heaven in March 1232. - Wikipedia ;)

Some novels I read in which he made an appearance ... Ivanhoe ... The kings of vain intent ... The Lute Player. He's been portrayed in a lot of movies too, the most recent one (I think) being Robin Hood, but the movie that made the biggest impression on me was The Lion in Winter.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

O'Brien and the Vatican

UPDATE - this today: Vatican accused of cover up over Cardinal Keith O'Brien's 'sexual conduct'

* * *

Cardinal O'Brien admits wrongdoing, but the Vatican's response, or lack thereof, especially depresses me ...

[...] The four [who made the accusations against O'Brien] made statements to the nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, a few days before Benedict announced that he was stepping down. The four men were told that Cardinal O’Brien would still go to Rome.

Then, on Feb. 22, the cardinal made headlines by saying that the church rules on celibacy should be reviewed. Ms. Deveney said the men learned informally that the church objected to the comments, and that “the cardinal would not go to Rome.”

“So did the church act because it was shocked by the claims against the cardinal, or were they angry he had broken ranks on celibacy?” she asked, noting that her article breaking the news — for which she had the men’s statements in hand — came two days later.

The former seminarian, now married with children, said he had acted because he was “disappointed” by what he described as a “lack of integrity” by the church in reacting to the men’s original complaint to the Vatican, Ms. Deveney wrote. He said the only response he had received from church authorities had been in the form of a “cursory e-mail” giving the numbers of counselors he could talk to who were based “hundreds of miles” from where he lived.

Since the allegations became public, he said, the indifference of the church had not changed. “There have been two sensations for me this week,” he said. “One is feeling the hot breath of the media on the back of my neck, and the other is sensing the cold disapproval of the church hierarchy for daring to break ranks. I feel like if they could crush me, they would.”

Learn about the priests and former priest who made the accusations and the evolution of the situation in The Guardian - Cardinal Keith O'Brien: how Britain's Catholic leader fell from grace. And Giles Fraser spoke on this topic too on BBC Radio - Thought For The Day by Giles Fraser

Stargate, the movie

- Dr. Daniel Jackson (Spader)

This week's old movie from the library was Stargate, the 1994 science fiction film starring Kurt Russell and James Spader. Doubtless everyone knows the plot, if not because of the film then because of the tv series that followed, but basically the story was about an archaeological find in Egypt that created a wormhole allowing travel to other worlds. The US government picked a team to go through the "stargate" which consisted in part of Colonel Jack O'Neil (Russell), so depressed over his son's death that he was willing to go on a suicide mission, and Dr. Daniel Jackson (Spader), an archaeologist and linguist who'd committed professional suicide by asserting that aliens had built the pyramids.

Roger Ebert really disliked the film and only gave it one star in his review. Here's the beginning of it ...

"Stargate" is the kind of movie where a soldier can be transported to "the other side of the known universe" in a whirlpool of bizarre special effects, step into a temple on an alien planet, and say, "What a rush!" It is also the kind of movie where the sun god Ra, who has harnessed the ability to traverse the universe at the speed of light, still needs slaves to build his pyramids. And where the local equivalent of a Nubian princess is sent into the chamber of the Earth visitors, to pleasure them. Don't tell me there aren't any coincidences. The movie "Ed Wood," about the worst director of all time, was made to prepare us for "Stargate." The movie opens with the title "Egypt, 1928." (Other titles say "Present Day" and "Military Installation, Creek Mountain, Colorado" - the latter, of course, with rum-dummy-dum military music.) Scientists uncover a mysterious archeological find. Flash forward to the Present Day, where Egyptologist Daniel Jackson (James Spader), looking uncannily like John Lennon, explains his theories to experts who walk out after about two sentences. Jackson, who is considered a crackpot, is obviously the man the U.S. government would choose to translate the hieroglyphics on the secret find of that 1928 expedition - a giant circle of carved stone which is a stargate, left behind by the builders of the pyramids. And, of course, Jackson and Col. Jack O'Neil (Kurt Russell) are the guys to walk through the gate, leading a squad of soldiers with automatic weapons ....

Oh well, I thought it was pretty fun, but then I'm a fan of the series too. Here are a few pics ...

They travel through the stargate to a desert planet ....

And encounter the evil alien, Ra ...

Ra's minions have interesting armor ...

Daniel meets Sha'uri, a women among the slaves of Ra, and when she's wounded he places her in a sarcophagus-like healing device ...

Oh, forgot to mention, Ra had a cat :) ...

Happy ending ....

Here's a trailer ...

Jesus and the woman at the well

The gospel reading for today, John 4:5-42, is one of my favorites. It was neat to see it portrayed in a movie, The Gospel of John, since most Jesus movies leave it out. Here below is clip from the film of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well ......

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Fallen Angel: A Novel

I've almost finished The Fallen Angel: A Novel. Israeli art restorer/agent Gabriel Allon, while restoring a painting at the Vatican, is asked by the pope's private secretary to investigate a murder in the Sistine Chapel. There are some interesting bits in the story, including a mention of the Jesuits' situation in El Salvador, and Gabriel's investigation, which begins in Rome, also takes him to Paris, Berlin, and St. Moritz ....

Eventually he goes along with the pope on a visit to Jerusalem at Easter, where the pope walks the stations of the cross on the Via Dolorosa. While in Jerusalem, Gabriel and his archaeologist friend Eli avert a bombing disaster by using the Western Wall Tunnel to access the area under the Temple Mount. Here's a video about the tunnels ...

You can listen to a short NPR review of the book (and another spy novel) here

Friday, March 01, 2013


My latest DVD rental isn't a movie but the tv series Fringe ...

The series follows Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), and Walter Bishop (John Noble), members of a Federal Bureau of Investigation "Fringe Division" team based in Boston, Massachusetts under the supervision of Homeland Security. The team uses "fringe" science and FBI investigative techniques to investigate a series of unexplained, often ghastly occurrences, which are related to mysteries surrounding a parallel universe.

I've just seen the first couple of episodes but I like it - it's kind of like The X-Files, but sadly without David Duchovny. It's set in Boston and one of the characters has a science lab in the basement of Harvard U. In episode 2, they visited Boston College, and I kept wondering if any Jesuits would appear :) The parallel universe angle hasn't come up yet but I'm looking forward to it ... remember what Keith Ward had to say about the mulitverse? Another thing I'm looking forward to: haven't seen him yet, but Leonard Nimoy portrays one of the main characters in the series. My only worry is that animal experimentation may be part of the show - ick.

Some yard photos

- Scruffy looks mysterious ...

- plum blossoms ...

- the acacia ...


Andrew Brown has a short video interview with Oxford history of the church prof Diarmaid MacCulloch here about necessary change in the Catholic Church. It's interesting - he says at one point that "women are a problem" for traditional religion, and it reminded me of a news bit at The Tablet today - Bishops seek greater role for women. It sounds positive, but it's actually about the same "community deaconess" position mentioned earlier at Pray Tell, one in which women will not be ordained as deacons but will apparently just be doing what they already do now as volunteers. Brown discusses the issues brought up in the video in more detail in this post - The new pope's three key challenges