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Friday, May 31, 2013


Awaiting worthy movies to rent, I'm watching the science fiction tv series, Alcatraz ....

[P]roduced by J. J. Abrams .... The show's premise is that ... On March 21, 1963, 256 inmates and 46 guards disappeared from the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary without a trace. To cover up the disappearance, the government invented a cover story about the prison being closed due to unsafe conditions, and officially reported that the inmates had been transferred. However, federal agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), a young San Francisco police officer tasked with transferring inmates to the island in 1963, is one of the first to discover that the inmates are actually missing and not transferred. In present-day San Francisco, the "63s" (as the missing inmates and guards are called) begin returning, one by one. Strangely, they haven't aged at all, and they have no clues about their missing time or their whereabouts during their missing years; however, they appear to be returning with compulsions to find certain objects and to continue their criminal habits. Even more strangely, the government has been expecting their return, and Hauser now runs a secret government unit dedicated to finding the returning prisoners; this unit was set up long ago in anticipation of the prisoners' returns. To help track down the returning prisoners and capture them, Hauser enlists police detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), a published expert on the history of Alcatraz and its inmates.

I've only seen the pilot so far but I'm not sure if I'll keep watching it - it seems to be more about crime than sci fi. Here's the trailer ...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Some links

- Philip Endean SJ writes about Corpus Christi and the bombings at the Boston marathon at Thinking Faith

- The Bishop of Salisbury's letter to Lord Alli in favor of marriage equality in The Telegraph.

- A tribute to the late Father Andrew Greeley at US Catholic.


- Peter calling his daughter

Just watched the last episode of Fringe, An Enemy of Fate, and it was all about fathers.

There's Walter, who with difficulty learned to love Peter, an alternate version of his own dead son, then came to realize that the only way to save Peter and everyone else from the destruction of the Observers was to travel to the future and change the timeline, thus never seeing his son again ....

And there's Peter, whose daughter Etta had been lost as a child and who, though later found by Peter as an adult, had been taken away again by having been murdered by the Observers. This clip is from the very end of the episode - Walter has gone into the future and the timeline has changed: there has been no Observer invasion, Etta has not been lost, and Peter remembers nothing of what had happened, including where Walter has gone. He receives in the mail a letter from Walter with the drawing of a white tulip - a sign that Walter believe is from God signifying God's forgiveness ....

Corpus Christi

- Institution of the Eucharist, Joos van Wassenhove

In some parts of the world, the Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated today, but in others it's celebrated this coming Sunday and the Vatican has scheduled a synchronized worldwide hour of Eucharistic adoration for then. There's a post at Pray Tell about this event and some of the comments are interesting, from those noting that the timing would interfere with Sunday Mass in the US, to those questioning the "magical" character of synchronized praying. I'm not a fan of eucharistic adoration myself - it seems somehow reductionist - but I do think monstrances can be beautiful. Here's one shown in The Mission ...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dresden and Spider-Man

My latest book is Side Jobs by Jim Butcher. I thought I had read all the books in the Dresden Files series, but then realized there was this too - a compilation of short stories about events in Dresden's life that take place between the books of the series.

In a 2004 interview with Jim Butcher, he says that his inspiration for the character of Harry Dresden was Peter Parker ... Spider-man was one of my favorite comics as a kid and I really like the movies too, so this made me smile :) ....

Harry Dresden is such a fantastic anti-hero in the series. He is both humorous and has a certain charming nature that endears him to readers. What inspired you to make him this way?

Jim Butcher: A deep and abiding admiration for the character of Peter Parker, by and large. Petey has always been a complex and admirable hero-character -- and is somewhat unique among comic book characters in that he has a very real, complex, and believable personality which exists wholly within the character of Peter Parker and is not at all dependent upon his sideline as the Amazing Spider Man. The things that make Peter a hero are not his superpowers or his combat record with the Hulk -- what makes SpiderMan a hero is that Peter Parker is dedicated to what he believes and refuses to abandon his fellow human beings when they are in danger or need. Peter exemplifies the very best kind of hero -- the man of conscience who would rather be at home eating pizza, but who cannot make the moral sacrifice of ignoring the need of his fellow human beings.

Poor Peter, he gets beat to crap all the time, too -- not just physically, but in mental and emotional senses as well. If all the heroes in NYC get together and fight some bad guy, when the fight is over you're bound to see Peter Parker walking up to Reed Richards and saying, "Hey, um. My costume got torn to shreds, pretty much, and my wallet is gone. Can I borrow cab fare?" "No need!" booms some other enthusiastic hero. "I'll drop you at your place. Where to?" "Uh, yeah," Peter will be forced to say. "Thanks there, Iron Man, but see, I sort of have this thing about my secret identity, where IT'S A SECRET. So I really can't take you up on that offer." The poor guy is far more than human, is an admirable hero, but he still gets to suffer the little indignities and pains that life has to offer. He's as human as the rest of us, as vulnerable as the rest of us in many ways, and because he is he becomes a person who you can identify with and like.

It's hardly a new device, the working-man hero. Bruce Willis did it as John McClane in the movie Die Hard, for instance. While he was a heroic character setting out to accomplish heroic deeds, he still started off the night with bare feet. He still got covered in cuts and bruises. He was terrified when his life was in danger and was not afraid to acknowledge it -- and that vulnerability is what made the character appeal to so many viewers. A hero, sure. But he's also a human being.

I wanted to use that same basic theme for my wizard protagonist, and so I designed Harry to be someone who is basically your average urbanite male. He has to pay his bills, feed his cat, go to work, worry about taxes, take showers and cook meals without the benefit of electricity and so on. Sure, he has access to Phenomenal Cosmic Powers, but his powers don't define who and what he is. First and foremost, I wanted Harry to be a human being -- to make mistakes, to regret bad choices, to struggle to set things right where they need righting and to learn from his disasters and grow as a person. I wanted Harry to be the sort of person who, even if he didn't HAVE any powers, would still be right there in the midst of things regardless, because he's doing what he believes is right. I want the reader to get the sense that Harry is a guy who could live a couple of doors down in their neighborhood, and who would probably be a polite and amusing guest if you had him over to dinner.

Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Tarot

I'm reading an old article at Ignatius Press today .... Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Tarot: A Review of Meditations on the Tarot by Anonymous (Valentin Tomberg). It's an attempt to explain why a conservative Catholic theologian wrote an introduction to a book on the tarot, and it's pretty mysticism-heavy .....

Hans Urs von Balthasar has compared the author to Charles Williams, Hildegard of Bingen and even St Bonaventure ... the Hermetic wisdom boils down to the doctrine of analogy: "As above, so below." By exploring the implications of this symbolic correspondence between different levels of reality, the author opens a dimension of depth on the Scriptures and dogmas of the Church.

I like the symbolism of tarot card aerwork. Here's an example ...

The Fool is the spirit in search of experience. He represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us, the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world. The sun shining behind him represents the divine nature of the Fool's wisdom and exuberance, holy madness or 'crazy wisdom'. On his back are all the possessions he might need. In his hand there is a flower, showing his appreciation of beauty. He is frequently accompanied by a dog, sometimes seen as his animal desires, sometimes as the call of the "real world", nipping at his heels and distracting him. He is seemingly oblivious that he is walking toward a precipice, apparently about to step off. One of the keys to the card is the paradigm of the precipice, Zero and the sometimes represented oblivious Fool's near-step into the oblivion (The Void) of the jaws of a crocodile, for example, are all mutually informing polysemy within evocations of the iconography of The Fool. The staff is the offset and complement to the void and this in many traditions represents wisdom and renunciation, e.g. 'danda' (Sanskrit) of a Sanyassin, 'danda' (Sanskrit) is also a punctuation mark with the function analogous to a 'full-stop' which is appropriately termed a period in American English. The Fool is both the beginning and the end, neither and otherwise, betwixt and between, liminal. - Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Les Green on Same Sex Marriage

There's a Philosophy Bites podcast by Les Green, Professor of the Philosophy of Law and Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, on same-sex marriage. it's interesting for a few reasons - first, because it makes clear the philosophical and legal reasons why same-sex marriage is a good thing, but also it's interesting because the issue is hot in the UK right now and the Philosophy Bites interviewer was quite obviously against same-sex marriage.

Here is also a British Academy talk by Professor Green on the same subject ...

Hell and human freedom

Within a day of Pope Francis having said that atheists who do good works go to heaven, a Vatican spokesman has contradicted him. Why am I not surprised?

Reading an article by John R. Sachs SJ, on theology and hell. It gives a number of different points of view within contemporary Catholicism ... I found especially chilling what Edward Schillebeeckx believed (footnote 40) ....

Edward Schillebeeckx, Church: The Human Story of God (New York: Crossroad, 1990) ... he suggests that those who are evil "not so much through theoretical denial of God as through a life-style which radically contradicts solidarity with fellow human beings and precisely in that way rejects God" will simply cease to exist at death. That, and not everlasting torture, is hell. Such persons, together with all memory of them, will be totally obliterated, for there is absolutely nothing in them which can have a future in God. "God does not take vengeance; he leaves evil to its own, limited logic" (138). There can be no kingdom of hell; in the end, there is only the one kingdom of God. "The 'eschaton' or the ultimate is exclusively positive. There is no negative eschaton" (139).

Yikes! :(

Sachs goes on to mention the views of both Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar about hell and discusses von Balthasar's "The Mystery of Holy Saturday".

There's a final part of the article about human freedom and the idea that people freely choose to go to hell. I personally don't think human freedom is strong enough to support that idea (and it looks like Rahner and von Balthasar may agree with me). This part of the article is fairly long, but here's the beginning of it ...

[H]uman freedom is viewed as capable of rejecting God finally and irrevocably. Still, as far as I can determine, this view of freedom, while clearly presupposed by doctrinal pronouncements concerning universal salvation and the existence of hell, has itself not been the object of dogmatic definition. Most contemporary Catholic theologians have cautiously begun to raise questions about the nature of human freedom and about some of the traditional presuppositions regarding it. Both Balthasar and Rahner, for example, have insisted that the human "yes" and "no" to God are not on the same level. As a conclusion to this study, I would like to focus on human freedom and push these insights further by asking whether or not there are reasons for doubting that human freedom can truly reach final, that is eternal definitiveness in the state of rejecting God. I believe that there are. And if there are good reasons to question the presuppositions concerning human freedom which lie behind the Church's doctrinal pronouncements regarding the existence of hell, it may be possible to speak to the issue of apocatastasis in a new and positive way.87 ......

I still don't know what to think about hell but I know what I *want* to believe about it" that ... the preaching and actions of Jesus suggest that the fulfillment of the covenant with Israel involves all of humanity and the world as a whole.


Scruffy (or the parallel universe Scruffy) catches a few rays ...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Three things

- Something that touched me, from Andrew Sullivan's blog ...... A survivor of the Oklahoma tornado gets a surprise: ...

- Cardinal Pell, the enemy of conscience, the master of the reviled missal translation, and sadly one of Pope Francis' choices to help reform the church, has admitted in testimony that the church in Australia covered up sex abuse ...

[...] He admitted his church had covered up abuse for fear of scandal; that his predecessor Archbishop Little had destroyed records, moved paedophile priests from parish to parish and facilitated appalling crimes. He agreed Little’s behavior was reprehensible, not Christlike.

“Did you ever transfer a priest about whom you knew there were allegations of child abuse?” asked pugnacious former journalist and deputy chair of the committee, Frank McGuire.

“I don’t believe I did. I never meant to. I don’t believe I did. And therefore I’m quite happy to say I didn’t.”

“Did you in any way cover up offending?”


“Were you guilty of wilful blindness?’’

“I certainly wasn’t.”

But as archbishop of Melbourne he had, he conceded, continued to pay a stipend to Father Ronald Pickering who vanished to England in 1993 after child abuse allegations began to be made. Pickering refused to assist the police, refused to help the church insurers and refused to come back to Melbourne to face the music. But Pell kept paying his “frugal” allowance.

“As long as a priest is a priest,” he explained to the committee, “canon law requires a bishop to support them.” Pell’s successor, Archbishop Denis Hart stopped the payment and initiated an investigation in Pickering’s old parish to see if there were other victims. Pell regretted not having done so himself: “It was far from perfect.”

As the cardinal sees it, the problem is not a culture of abuse in the church but a culture of silence. “I’ve sometimes said, if we’d been gossips – which we weren’t – and we had talked to one another about the problems that were there we would have realised earlier just how widespread this awful business was.”

That was said mid-afternoon. But an hour or so later as the light was failing, Pell faced the last of his interrogators, an angry Catholic barrister, David O’Brien. In a few lethal moments, the National party parliamentarian had the cardinal admitting that the machinery he put in place to deal with abuse when he became archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, involved “no systemic investigation”. ....

Watch the really chilling video on Pell here at ABC News.

- Finally, some music from tonight's episode of Fringe ...

Old photos

Looking though old photos today. There were a few from my one trip to Europe just after college. When I posted on the blog about that trip (here and here), I only used Wikipedia Commons photos of the sites because the few that we had taken ourselves were of such really awful quality (like the one of me at the Vatican Museum). But seeing them today, I thought I'd post a few of them anyway, awful or not ;).

Here's my mom in front of the Eiffel Tower ....

My sister in front of a restaurant in the Dolomites - you can only faintly see the peaks in the background ....

And me at the same place ...

And my mom and sister in Rome with the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the background ...

Sadly, most of our photos were anonymous - of the sites and strangers, not of *us* at the sites - like this one of the Erechtheion ...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trinity Sunday

Listen to a sermon by Keith Ward on the Trinity (link) given at The American Church in Paris in 2011.

Some past photos ...

... I've taken and posted here ...

- one of my attic-dwelling squirrels

- See the ladybug?

- these are the doors to my church

- my cat Kermit

- trumpet vine

- a shy little rat living in my yard

- if you click to enlarge this sunflower, you can see the bee right in the center

- a robin eating privit berries

- hollyhock

- my cat Spot

- periwinkle

- rose

- my cat Grendel

- the gray squirrel

- bee on boysenberry flowers

- some bunnies who live on my street

- one of the blue jays

- my cat Data

- orange blossoms

- the elusive oak titmouse

- plum blossoms

Friday, May 24, 2013


1) A 2012 Reform interview with Keith Ward in which he talks about his own beliefs, including about his conversion, about being a priest, and about universalism ....

[...] There was some controversy when Rob Bell, a popular US pastor, came out in support of Christian universalism – it could be that everyone will be saved through Christ. Do you agree?

Yes, that is exactly what I think. Pope John Paul II said: “We cannot guarantee that everyone will be saved but we should certainly hope for it and pray for it.” It is the standard Catholic view these days.

I am a hopeful universalist, just like Karl Barth and Karl Rahner, two of the greatest theologians of the 20th Century, probably. They both agreed that you can be hopeful of universal salvation but not say definitely that it will happen ....

2) A 2010 Reform interview with Rob Bell. I especially liked what he said here, given my own feelings about the amount of money the Catholic Church spends on buildings like the Taj Mahony ....

[...] Why the very simple décor and plastic chairs [at Bell's then church]? Lakewood Church in Houston spent $95 million dollars refurbishing their sanctuary. This is very different.

Ours is probably as nice as their storage closet!

So you’re purposely steering away from associating church with the building?

If you’ve travelled just a bit, you’re less impressed with American altars to spiritual achievement. If someone wants to build a really nice building then that’s fine. The problem for us is that we have a lot of people in our congregation who are having trouble paying the rent and their food bill. We’ve been trying to help out with a microfinance bank in Burundi and we’ve engaged with people who are living on less than a couple of dollars a day.

It becomes hard to justify expenditures when the world is suffering like it is.

In fact, what we have here is extravagant on a global scale. I was in Costa Rica and saw a church where they don’t have any walls because they can’t afford them. It’s all a matter of perspective ....

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Monty Python & Fringe

In tonight's episode of Fringe, Black Blotter, Walter takes LSD to help spark his memory - his hallucination, a Monty Python-inspired cartoon, helps him recall a password that saves them all from getting shot (The Happy Wanderer song :) ...

Mystery butterfly

When I went out to change the bird bath water I saw a butterfly that seemed in distress. It was fluttering around on the ground but couldn't seem to fly. I was afraid the birds would eat him so I scooped him up in a dustpan. I wasn't sure what to do with him, but as I started walking off with him, he managed to fly away. I don't know what kind of butterfly he was and didn't notice until I looked at the photo I took of him that his wing was damaged (sorry the photo is fuzzy - shaking hands) ....

It's a sad thing about butterflies and moths - their wings can't regenerate. I wish I'd found this page earlier, although to be honest, I don't think I would have been up to the challenge.

Update: Oh, maybe it's a Pipevine Swallowtail ?


Here's another one of those "true facts" videos, this one about the Aye-Aye, a type of lemur from Madagascar .....

Help Oklahoma animals

- Credits: ABC News / Facebook / Oklahoma County Sheriff's office

How to Help Animals in Oklahoma

Help Oklahoma Tornado Animal Survivors With These Organizations

Central Oklahoma Humane Society Blog

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What the pope said

Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics ...

[...] “They [the disciples in Mark 9:38-40] complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”

Pope Francis went further in his sermon to say:

"The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can... "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!".. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” ...

I see two issues here ...

1) The pope seems to be saying that atheists and everyone else may be saved *if* they do good works. This brings up the whole grace vs good works thingy, on which I'm no expert but which I do find interesting.

2) Is the pope a universalist, as Rahner seemed to be with his idea of Anonymous Christians? And how does this fit in with Hans Urs von Balthasar's idea that no one may be in hell .... I bring this up because the two Jesuits did not agree on this issue - in Von Balthasar, Rahner, and The Commissar, Philip Endean SJ writes ....

Von Balthasar's attacks on Rahner are scattered over several works. Sometimes their expression is very technical, and complex personal factors also play a part. But von Balthasar expresses his concerns vividly and concisely in a bitterly satirical dialogue near the end of a polemical text which he published just after Vatican II: The Moment of Christian Witness. A 'well-disposed commissar', a figure symbolising the culture of modernity both in its easy secularism and its nightmare terrors, arraigns a Rahnerian Christian. In less than three full pages, Rahner's theology is made to look ridiculous. For Rahner, God always transcends objects in space and time: we know God only in and through them, as their permanently mysterious, elusive ground. But the commissar refuses to distinguish such talk from secularist atheism .....

In The Moment of Christian Witness, the issue appears as one about the kind of security we can expect religion to give us. The uncertainties and vagueness of what, in the 1960s, was called 'progressive' theology cannot sustain the faith of a martyr. The original German title refers to Cordula, an apocryphal young girl saint. When the martyring Hun attacked, she managed to hide. Then, however, she realised that it is only through death that we find life, and thus emerged from hiding, submitted herself to death, the Ernstfall. Thus she became a credible witness. Von Balthasar is inviting a Roman Catholicism infatuated with Vatican II to see itself as Cordula in hiding, and challenging it once again to embrace the call to martyrdom. Contemporary theology, he implies, is too impressed by the uncertainties which a historical critical method generates; respect for legitimate Christian diversity has keeled over into excessive tentativeness, even destructive scepticism, about Christian obligation. The so-called Conciliar renewal misses the whole point about laying down one's life. One might summarize his whole message as a plea to the Church to read John's Gospel straightforwardly, and take it seriously. We must ignore the evidence in the text of neuroses and persecution-complexes; we must stop feeling anxious about the gross disrespect for Judaism this strand of Christianity encourages. Just see it as witness to God's absolute, unconditional, and unquestionable presence among us, a God in creaturely form, a God you can die for .....

And here is a little from Karen Kilby's book, Karl Rahner: Theology and Philosophy (pp. 116-117), on the same subject .....

The most well known and also the most biting attack on what we might call the Christian adequacy of the theory of anonymous Christianity comes in Hans Urs von Balthasar's highly polemical The Moment of Christian Witness. The notion of anonymous Christianity, Balthasar suggests, leads to a loss of the distinctiveness of Christianity, and also a loss of commitment; "Karl Rahner frees us from a nightmare with his theory of the anonymous Christian, who is dispensed, at any rate, from the criterion of martyrdom." If one can be a Christian anonymously, why then bother with the costly business of actually professing Christianity? Rahner is making things too easy, dissolving Christianity, evacuating it of its content, so that what we will be left with, if we go down his route, is a church full of anonymous atheists.

Before taking up the question of how far this is a caricature, and how far it points to a real difference of view between the two theologians, it is worth saying something about the larger context within which Balthasar sets out the criticism. A consistent theme in his discussions of Rahner is the degree to which Rahner's thought is (as Balthasar sees it) formed and controlled by philosophical allegiances, and in particular by an appropriation of German idealism. Balthasar reviewed Spirit in the World in 1939, and he appears to be among those who think that this is of decisive importance for all that followed. Thus, for instance, Balthasar was able to describe Rahner as someone who had fundamentally taken the path of Kant, as opposed to his own following of Goethe. Or again, nearly 40 years after the publication of Spirit in the World, Balthasar's depiction of Rahner as "the best-known representative of the transcendental approach" still begins with the fact that he is a follower of Joseph Maréchal in his concern to reconcile Aquinas with German idealism -- i.e. it begins with a description of Rahner as essentially the Rahner of Spirit in the World. The criticisms of anonymous Christianity which we have just described in The Moment of Christian Witness are also implicitly linked to the notion that Rahner subscribes in some way to German idealism. The context of these criticisms, that is to say, is a larger discussion of Christian witness (martyrdom) on the one hand and "the System" (the system of German idealism) on the other ........

Anyway, I doubt the pope will want to nail down further what he meant by what he said in his homily, but it was an interesting thing for him to say :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Richard Leonard SJ gives a talk about the discernment of spirits and making good choices. He's funny - when talking about Ignatius and his wish that riches not be important to those making the Exercises, Leonard says this ...

It's a bit rich, pardon the pun, a Jesuit talking about riches. We're famous for many things, and real estate is one of them. ... We've got a good eye for real estate in Australia, I can tell you. I took my first vows at arguably the most beautiful school in Australia, a high school - St. Ignatius' College, Riverview ... we bought a penninsula in Sydney Harbor in 1871 - water on three sides of this extraordinary property - and we built beautiful sandstone buildings facing down onto the Sydney Harbor in 1878, and we built a beautiful chapel in 1893. Now I took my first vows on this magnificent estate ... poverty, chastity, and obedience for life, in the chapel there. My mother came ... Mum has a sharp wit, so as we came outside from having taken my life vows to the Jesuits, Mum looked at the sandstone buildings, she looked at Sydney CBD [central business district] on the horizon, the Sydney Harbor water, beautiful and glittering as it was on three sides, and she looked at the manicured lawns and then the sprinklers went sh-sh-sh, and my mother turned to me and she said, "If this is poverty, I want to see chastity."

The school ...

You can watch the video here.

Adventures in yard work

I love plants but I hate yard work, probably because of my allergies and my phobias about dirt and germs and bugs ;) But there's also the challenge of the decrepitude of my tools. The last time I mowed the lawn, my trusty yet ancient machine ...

... had a wheel fall off. By the time it had happened, there was no hope of finding the nut that held on the bolt that attached the wheel that held up the mower that cut the grass that hid the cats that chased the rats that lived in the house that Crystal built occupied. And of course there was no other nut that size in the garage ... argh! Good thing I've watched a lot of MacGyver - you can't help but be inspired by a guy who can jusmp-start a radio with a cactus :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Catholic friends of Jesus?

I saw a post today that generated a lot of comments about "Evangelical Catholicism" and George Weigel's idea of it as being in part about a "friendship with Jesus".

Some who commented thought the idea of friendship with Jesus was just incoherent since Jesus is impassibly God, oh, and dead ;), some cringed at the very word "Jesus" and would only use his job description, some thought the idea was too Protestant and that the sacraments were all that mattered, some were ok with interior prayer but preferred centering prayer rather than prayer styles that fostered a relationship with God, and some did like the "friendship with Jesus" idea that Ignatian spirituality seems to support.

I think it was the first time I'd seen Catholics discuss their individual/personal prayer lives. Uncharacteristically, my comments seemed almost Pollyannaishly optimistic compared to some that reflected worries about what Jesus/God was like. Sigh - it doesn't seem like all this stuff should be so hard.

The Oleanders ...

are blooming. Just another poisonous plant among the many that for some reason seem to dominate the yard ;) -

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

No, not the movie, but the book. I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to see the film so I'm reading the the book while I wait - Star Trek Into Darkness by Alan Dean Foster. It's like the earlier book about the earlier Star Trek movie - essentially an elaboration of the script - and that's ok with me :)

I'm only about half way through the book, but I like it so far. It's a re-imagining of an original Star Trek tv episode, Space Seed, and an original Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan. It was a great idea of J. J. Abrams' (I guess?) to give Star Trek a new timeline - it's something that's been used in some of the tv shows he's produced, like Lost and Fringe, and it gives writers a lot of freedom to recombine story elements in new ways. I was kind of surprised, though, to see that Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan in the movie .... I don't think even severe timeline permutations can rearrange someone originally of Indian descent as an Anglo-Saxon ;)

Here'sthe preview dor the Star Seed episode (heh) ...

Steve Chalke: update

In January, UK Evangelical preacher Steve Chalke had an article in Christianity (British version of Christianity Today) about his change of mind on same-sex relationships. Here's a video interview with him answering questions and comments that were made in response to his article. I didn't know who Steve Chalke was before the hubbub over his article, but since then I've listened to a few of his videos and have come to really like him.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Happy Pentecost

- Appearance Behind Locked Doors, Duccio di Buoninsegna

I like John's version of Pentecost better than Acts ... Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit." ... maybe because Jesus is still there among the disciples.

More music ...

... from Fringe (The Bullet That Saved the World) ...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Music saves

Into season 5 of Fringe now and we've skipped about 20 years into the future - the evil Observers have taken over and have made of the Earth a dystopia. The main characters are awakened from stasis in amber, unaged, and have joined the resistance to find a way to get rid of the bad guys. Walter is captured and interrogated in a scene reminiscent‎ of Agent Smith's questioning of Morpheus in The Matrix. The thing that helps Walter make it through the mind-reading interrogation without going crazy is his concentration on music, which is alien to the Observers ...

Observer: You're trying to think of music. You miss music.

Walter: There's not a lot of it here.

Observer: We tolerate it. But it's merely tones, rhythms and harmonic vibrations. I don't understand it.

Walter: Mostly it amazed me. Music helps you shift perspective, to see things differently if you need to.

Observer: See things like hope?

Walter: Yes, very much like that.

Observer: But there is no hope for you. Nothing grows from scorched earth.

Walter is eventually rescued, ravaged by his experience, but the episode ends like this ...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Calla lilies

My calla lilies are growing. I planted them last year but they didn't grow flowers and now I can't remember what color they're supposed to be ;) I hope they grow flowers this year. They're very popular with artists like Diego Rivera ...

- Vendedora de alcatraces

James Alison

Reading about James Alison's The Forgiving Victim Christian Adult Education program which has been produced by Suzanne Ross and the Raven Foundation. They have a YouTube page. Here's the beginning of a 2010 interview of Alison by Ross about his Forgiving Victim program (the whole interview is here) ....

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Eschatology stuff

Coming - a Pro Ecclesia conference on Heaven, Hell, . . . and Purgatory?. The contributors have a blog with posts on the subject. Some of the posts are on universalism - actually against it, which is disappointing since I'm for universalism, but still, the posts are interesting and mention Hans Urs von Balthasar and Barth. The first blog post - Welcome to the blog - is at the bottom of the blog's page. There's also a link to a series of lectures from Cambridge University, The Stanton Lectures 2012-13, on the "end time".

Heh :)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Two books ...

A bit from a post by Marci A. Hamilton, a church/state scholar and the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, about a novel and a non-fiction book ....

[...] The Nonfiction Book, Mortal Sins, by Pulitzer-Prize-Winning Investigative Journalist Michael D’Antonio on the Clergy Child Sex Abuse Scandal in the United States

A new non-fiction book is a tremendous addition to the fund of our understanding of this crisis. It is entitled Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal, and it is a searing and deeply engaging account of the contemporary battles that have been waged against the culture of secrecy and cover-up maintained by the Catholic hierarchy. The extraordinary quality of the writing makes this difficult story both readable and impossible to put down.

The crusaders for the victims, so hated by the hierarchy, feature prominently. They include survivors and national leaders Barbara Blaine and David Clohessy of SNAP; former monk and brilliant psychologist Richard Sipe; pioneering and visionary trial lawyer Jeff Anderson; and the heroic Fr. Tom Doyle, who is also a central character in the amazing historical novel In God’s House, which I review below.


A Great Southern Novel, In God’s House, on the Beginning of the Abuse Scandal in the United States, Written by One Who Was There

While fact-based books document the truth, it is rare that they fully capture it. Ray Mouton’s recently published In God’s House pierces to the beating heart of the scandal in a riveting novel. It is written in the best of the Southern novel tradition, and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the greatest.

The irony of this book is that Mr. Mouton was the devoutly Catholic young, Louisiana lawyer who was hired by the Diocese of Lafayette in 1984 to defend the serial pedophile Fr. Gilbert Gauthe, who had made a habit of having the altar boys sleep over the night before altar practice. In Mouton’s words in a 2002 CBS story, Gauthe did “[e]very sexual act you can imagine two males doing” with these boys, night after night.

In God’s House, though, does not focus on the acts of abuse, but rather illuminates the twisted darkness in the hearts of the bishops (and eventually the Pope) as they reacted to the emergence of a scandal for which they lacked the skills, morals, or souls to fix. This is the account of where the scandal began in the United States. Abuse has been going on for centuries, but the public scandal is mere decades ago.

It is to Mouton’s credit that he opted to write a great Southern novel, rather than an autobiography. No one would have blamed him if he had done the latter, given his heroic and early role in this story. But the Southern literature genre is a perfect fit for the clandestine, backward-looking hierarchy, and the deep but often muted suffering of the victims and their families. That means that the story is riveting and truly impossible to put down, despite its 500+ pages! At the same time, it is filled with accurate historical detail, because, of course, he was there.

I do not believe that any other account of the scandal does a better job than Mouton’s novel does of peering into the essential craziness of the men in power in the Church who used theology to justify the persistent endangerment of children by men whom they knew full well were abnormal. Mouton’s character development is masterful, as it brings to life the faces and mannerisms of the evil that is cloaked in clerical garb and installed in the mansions of the bishops. There are echoes here of the South African Dutch Reformists who crafted the foundation of apartheid straight out of their theology, and the American Protestant ministers who enlisted the Bible to justify slavery.

The story starts in Louisiana as it focuses on this one pedophile priest, and I dare not give away too much, but the protagonist is transformed by what he learns, which drives him to eventually find his way to a fictionalized Tom Doyle, a rising star priest who was in the Papal Nunciature in Washington, DC, and, who, to those who know him, leaps from the page as the man we deeply admire. It is worth your while to read both Mortal Sins and In God’s House even if you only do so to become acquainted with this giant in the movement for justice for our children .......

Monday, May 13, 2013

links and videos

- A page of photos of a week's worth of groceries for families in different countries. I looked for marmite in the UK photo but couldn't find it ;)

- Beautiful Iona ...

- With all the talk of Cardinal O'Malley boycotting Boston College's commencement,I came across mention of another link between the Jesuit college and Ireland and Enda Kenny - there's been research at the college, The Belfast Project, on the subject of violence in Northern Ireland and it's led to conflicts. You can read more here - Boston College Researchers Drink with the IRA, and Academics Everywhere Get the Hangover.

- Saw trailer for an interesting documentary, Elemental ...

Elemental Trailer from Go Project Films on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 12, 2013



What I saw today

- Bryan Cones at US Catholic has a post on his beekeeping - The secret death of bees. I've always been attracted to the idea of beekeeping but have never tried it.

- I came across a 2004 article by Elena Curti (of The Tablet) about her husband becoming obsessed by child pornography. It was disturbing and this bit especially bothered me ... Christianity offers an explanation ... all human beings are, to a greater or lesser extent, drawn towards evil, and once we succumb it is hard to break free. .... Is that what Christianity teaches, that we are all drawn to evil, that given an opportunity we will all do evil? I don't believe that.

- Cardinal Sean O'Malley is refusing to attend Boston College's commencement because Enda Kenny, the taoseaich of Ireland, is speaking. According to O'Malley, "Mr. Kenny is aggressively promoting abortion legislation" and is proposing legislation that "represents a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law". Both of these assertions are false. Rad more about all this - Irish abortion bill does not change law, says Enda Kenny.

- Getting more and more depressed lately, so I was interested to see this post with neat drawings (and 5000 comments!) about being depressed - Depression Part Two. Worth a read.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Updating my movie list - it helps me find old movies to order from the library when nothing new seems worth renting. These films aren't all critically commendable - they're just ones I liked enough to watch more than once :) Here we go, in (sort of) alphabetical order ......

The 10th Kingdom - fantasy, 2000

A Hard Day's Night - musical, 1964, The Beatles

Adaptation - drama, 2002, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper

Alien - science fiction, 1979, Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

Aliens - science fiction, 1986, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen

All the President's Men - historical, 1974, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman

Anaconda - horror, 1997, Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz, Ice Cube, Jon Voight

Angel Eyes - drama, 2001, Jennifer Lopez, James Caviezel, Jeremy Sisto

Argo - historical thriller, 2012, Ben Affleck

Attila - historical, 2001, Gerard Butler

Avatar - science fiction, 2009, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and Giovanni Ribisi

Beetlejuice - comedy, 1988, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis

The Bishop's Wife - romantic comedy, 1947, Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven

Black Hawk Down - historical, 2001, Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore

Blade Runner - science fiction, 1982, Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos

Blast form the Past - comedy, 1999, Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken

Brainstorm - science fiction, 1983, Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood

Breach - historical, 2007, Chris Cooper

Broken Arrow - thriller, 1996, John Travolta, Christian Slater

Brother Sun, Sister Moon - religious, 1972, Graham Faulkner, Alec Guinness

Contact - science fiction, 1997, Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt

Copenhagen - historical, 2002, Daniel Craig

The Day After Tomorrow - science fiction, 2004, Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal

The Dead Zone - horror, 1983, Christopher Walken, Tom Skerritt, Martin Sheen

Die Hard - thriller, 1988, Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alexander Gudunov

Enemy at the Gates - historical, 2001, Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain - drama, 1995, Hugh Grant

Ever After - fantasy, 1998, Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott

Extreme Measures - thriller, 1986, Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman

Fallen - religious horror, 1998, Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland

Forbidden Planet - science fiction, 1956

The Fountain - science fiction, 2006, Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz

Frequency - science fiction, 2000, Dennis Quaid, James Caviezel

Galaxy Quest - science fiction comedy, 1999, Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub

Gattaca - science fiction, 1997, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law

George Harrison: Living in the Material World - documentary by Martin Scorsese, 2011

The Gospel of John - religious, 2003, Henry Ian Cusick

Groundhog Day - fantasy comedy, 1983, Bill Murray

Hamlet - historical, 1990, Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Alan Bates, Paul Scofield, Ian Holm, Helena Bonham Carter

Haywire - action thriller, 2011, Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas

Heat - thriller, 1995, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer

Hidalgo - historical adventure, 2004, Viggo Mortensen

The Hidden - science fiction, 1987, Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Claudia Christian

Highlander - fantasy, 1986, Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery

In Time - science fiction, 2011, Justin Timberlake

Inception - science fiction, 2008. Russell Crow, Leonardo DiCaprio

Independence Day - science fiction, 1996, Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Brent Spiner

Inkheart - fantasy, 2008, Brendan Fraser

The Insider - drama, 1999, Russell Crowe, Al Pacino

Insomnia - thriller, 2002, Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank

Invasion of the Body Snatchers - science fiction, 1978, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy

The Island - science fiction, 2005, Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Sean Bean

Jack's Back - thriller, 1988, James Spader

The Jackal - thriller, 1997, Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier

Jaws - horror, 1975, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw

Jesus - religious, 1999, Jeremy Sisto, Debra Messing,, Jacqueline Bisset,, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Gary Oldman

Jurassic Park III - science fiction, , 2001, Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni

King Arthur - historical, 2004, Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Mads Mikkelsen, Stellan Skarsgård

Ladyhawke - fantasy, 1985, Rutger Hauer

Legend - fantasy, 1985, Tom Cruise

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear - 2004, Noah Wyle, Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin

Little Women - drama, 1994, Winona Ryder, Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, Susan Sarandon

The Lord of the Rings trilogy - fantasy, 2001, 2002, 2003, you know who :)

The Lost World - fantasy, 2001, Bob Hoskins, James Fox, Peter Falk

The Lovely Bones - thriller, 2009, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz

Luther - religious, 2003, Joseph Fiennes

Mad Max - science fiction, 1979, Mel Gibson

The Man in the Iron Mask - historical, 1998, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gabriel Byrne, Gérard Depardieu, Leonardo DiCaprio

The Matrix - science fiction, 1999, Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving

Men in Black - science fiction comedy, 1997, Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc - religious, 1999, Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich

The Mission - religious, 1986, Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson

The Mummy - fantasy, 1999, Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz

Munich - historical, 2005, Eric Bana, Daniel Craig

National Treasure - thriller, 2004, Nicolas Cage

Navy Seals - thriller, 1990, Charlie Sheen, Michael Biehn

The New World - historical, 2005, Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale

The Next Three Days - thriller, 2010, Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks

Night of the Demon - horror, 1957

Notorious - thriller, 1946, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman

Nuremberg - historical, 2000, Alec Baldwin, Brian Cox, Christopher Plummer, Jill Hennessy

Oceans - nature documentary, 2010

Open Range - western, 2003, Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening

The Order - religious horror, 2003, Heath Ledger

The Pentagon Papers - historical, 2003, James Spader

Playing God - thriller, 1997, David Duchovny, Angelina Jolie

Proof of Life - thriller, 2000, Russell Crowe, David Caruso

The Prophecy - religious horror, 1995, Christopher Walken, Eric Stoltz, Viggo Mortensen, Elias Koteas

Raiders of the Lost Ark - adventure, 1981, Harrison Ford

Rashomon - historical, 1950, Toshiro Mifune

Rear Window - thriller, 1954, James Stewart, Grace Kelly

Rebecca - thriller, 1940, Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine

Red Planet - science fiction, 2000, Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss

Return to Me - romantic comedy, 2000, David Duchovny, Minnie Driver

Revelations - religious horror, Bill Pullman, Natascha McElhone

Robin Hood - historical, 2010, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett

The Rock - thriller, 1996, Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn

Romeo and Juliet - historical, 1968, Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey, Michael York

Seabiscuit - historical, 2003, Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, William H. Macy

The Seige - thriller, 1998, Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Tony Shalhoub

Sense and Sensibility - historical, 1995, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman

Serpico - historical, 1973, Al Pacino

Shadowlands - biographical about CS Lewis, 1993, Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger

Silverado - western, 1985, Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Dennehy

The Sixth Sense - fantasy, 1999, Haley Joel Osment, Bruce Willis

Speed - thriller, 1994, Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper

Spiderman - science fiction, 2002, Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe

Star Trek - science fiction, 2009, Leonard Nimoy, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, and Zoe Saldaña

Stargate - science fiction, 1994, Kurt Russell, James Spader

The Terminator - science fiction, 1984, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn

Timeline - science fiction, 2003, Gerard Butler, Paul Walker

Vertigo - thriller, 1958, James Stewart, Kim Novak

While You Were Sleeping - romantic comedy, 1995, Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman

The Year of Living Dangerously - thriller, 1982, Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hunt

Zodiac - thriller, 2007, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr.