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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Robert J. Egan SJ

His article, which I mentioned in an earlier post, is quite long and detailed, but here are some bits of it.

Why Not? Scripture, History & Women's Ordination

Why are women excluded from being deacons, presbyters, and bishops in the Catholic Church? Are the reasons given reasonable and convincing? What can be learned from the testimony of Scripture and tradition? And what can be learned from the experience of Christians in contemporary societies? These questions provide us with an illuminating example of the crisis of contemporary Catholicism.

“The meaning of Vatican II,” Bernard Lonergan once remarked, “was the acknowledgment of history.” Sometimes I think it was just this acknowledgment of history that so soon afterward provoked a screeching of the brakes in the church and a determined effort to go backward. For acknowledging history can be painful and confusing. It teaches us about the fictions of memory, the prevalence of legend, and the truth about diversity, conflict, change, and discontinuity. We have to learn how to live with the whole truth about our history, to face it and accept responsibility for it. Even making changes is not enough if we’re still unable to acknowledge failings and experience repentance.


[T]he religious idea of tradition does not mean “whatever happened.” All kinds of things have happened in church history—some fortunate and some unfortunate, some glorious and some infamous—including a great many sins, and sins are never indicative of God’s will. They are not part of God’s plan. We all believe that God is at work in our history, but not in a way that diminishes our freedom or manipulates our choices. The Christian God is not a puppeteer. We believe the Holy Spirit makes its presence felt in our tradition, but the Holy Spirit is always free to do a new thing in our midst. Unbroken continuity might mean fidelity to God’s grace; or it might mean stubborn persistence in our refusal of grace. By itself it doesn’t prove anything. The moral toleration of slavery was an unbroken and universal tradition in the church from the beginning at least until the nineteenth century, and arguably until Vatican II, but today it is understood to be an intrinsic evil.

The mere fact that the church has always, or almost always, up to a certain point, said or done something a certain way does not in itself preclude critical reflection, spiritual discernment, even radical change—or even reversal. This is apparently difficult for some Catholics to acknowledge or accept. But it isn’t a theory. It is merely a fact of church history. There is nothing esoteric about it. A library card and an open mind are all that are needed to confirm it.


In what sense do presbyters and bishops need to “resemble” Jesus? Jesus was Jewish; he spoke Aramaic; we think he died in his early thirties. Yet no one is suggesting that church officers should be Jewish, should be fluent in Aramaic, or should leave office when they reach the age of thirty-five. Is the gender of Jesus the one decisive factor in “resembling” him? Would a loving and caring woman represent Jesus less effectively than a man who was grouchy, evasive, and preoccupied with self? Might not the ability to love in a mature, wholehearted way be the single most important factor?

And why is there this need for a resemblance to Jesus? Is it mainly an issue in regard to presiding at the Eucharistic liturgy? We have no reason to believe that presiding at the liturgy was originally thought to require an appointment or an office at all. And the liturgy is an event of communal worship, of praise and thanksgiving, not a theatrical event. Besides this, most of the time during the liturgy as a whole, and most of the time even during the Eucharistic prayer, the presider speaks in the first-person plural on behalf of the gathered assembly. It is only during the presider’s recitation of the institution narrative—and then only when the presider is quoting the words Jesus used at the Last Supper—that the impression might be given that the presider is acting “in the person of Christ.”

More fundamentally, since it is the common testimony of the New Testament, but especially of the Pauline and Johannine traditions, that we live in Christ and Christ lives in us, it is not clear in what sense it is necessary or meaningful for some members of the church to “represent” Christ to the others. This misappropriation of the Jesus role by clergy seems to require deemphasizing the real presence of Jesus in the members of the congregation, which might be said to be at the very heart of the Eucharistic celebration.


The church cannot remain exempt from the principles of its own social teaching. Catholics cannot bear witness to principles of justice, equality, subsidiarity, and participation, and claim exceptions for themselves. The question is this: Has the tradition of excluding women from the diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopacy really been faithful to the teaching and practice of Jesus? Or has it been part of a mostly unexamined and partially unconscious bias for subjecting women to men’s authority and power? Which is the more believable interpretation of our history as a people?

This is a very important question, one that urgently needs and deserves an open, prayerful, learned, patient, and discerning conversation among Catholics today.

And yet it does not happen. And so the crisis deepens.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Happy St. Ignatius Day

Well, in a couple of hours :) The song is ¡Viva Ignacio! ¡Viva!, composed by Gaspar Fernandes (I've had the music on my computer for a long time, from Moon Sun & All Things). The photo is 2004-2007 stamp/label from Belgium, created by Roland Francart SJ from an anonymous Flemish portrait of Ignatius in the possession of the south Belgian Province, probably painted between 1598 and 1600.

Some links and a poem

- Zealot a re-do of JD Crossan's Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography?: More About Reza Aslan’s Zealot Than I Wanted To Write (Or That You Want to Read, Probably)

- Jesuit Thomas Reese on NPR on what the pope said.

- Picnic’s Over - Erica Wagner

Here is the lesson these travellers took:
a river, a lover, a broken book.
Dressed for the weather, naked as rain,
roped one to the other we set off again.

That one has packed up his tricks for the night:
the jack-knife, the skein, the mariner’s light.
The wren is the gift at the heart of the wood;
her song is washed clean in the travellers’ blood.

This one lays bait for the stars to devour:
a feather, a saltbox, his enemy’s power.
He thought that the sandwiches tasted of shame,
his hunger a dog off the edge of the frame.

I will go with you, the fifth one remarked,
past the bridge over silence and into the dark;
the blade and the seed to temper disaster,
the clatter of horns to carry our laughter.

Here is the lesson these travellers took:
a ladder, a letter, a scarlet book.
Stripped by the rain, worn in the weather,
the lover, the enemy, vanish together.

A theology of women?

I'm liking the pope more and more, especially after watching this video ...

... but I have to admit I was disappointed in what he said about women: he stated that the discussion of women's ordination is closed, then tried to soften that with a strange assertion that women are actually somehow more important in the church than bishops, and then there was the mention of "a theology of women".

First Thoughts liked the theology of women idea and linked to past writings on women by JPII, Benedict, and Edith Stein. I won't bother to describe the anti-feminist nature of those works mentioned - instead I'll get right to the point: the whole idea of a theology of women is bizarre .... is there extant a "theology of men"? Oh wait, that's not necessary because men are, you know, people. Will someone please tell the church that women are people too?

Monday, July 29, 2013

At Pray-as-you-go ...

The Way of Ignatius ...

St Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1540, with nine companions, was also the founder of a tradition (or 'school', or approach to prayer) now known as Ignatian spirituality. Four years ago, running up to the Feast of St Ignatius (31 July), Pray-as-you-go took the form of a five-day "novena" (using the term a little loosely - a novena should be nine days!) This was a programme of meditations in the Ignatian tradition, with each day building on the previous one, giving the user the opportunity to go a little deeper than is usually possible with the short, daily prayer sessions. Last year, and again this year, we have chosen to make this programme available again ...

Follow the link above to play the MP3 files at the British Jesuit site.

What the pope said

Damian Thompson comments on what the pope said about gay priests ...

Yes, this seems a change in attitude from previous Vatican stances (see here and here). But does this signal a change in how the official church will treat LGBT people in general ... I don't know.

In the same interview, Pope Francis also commented on the role of women in the church ...

During the press conference, Pope Francis reaffirmed that the Church was unable to ordain women priests, but emphasised women’s importance to the Faith. “A Church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important that the Apostles, and the Church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother,” he said. “We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more.”

"Francis reaffirmed that the Church was unable to ordain women priests" ... oh, don't get me started on this #$%! topic :(

My fear is that while Francis may want to change the atmosphere around the issues of church treatment of gays and women, that he isn't going to change the actual situations or teaching. I think justice demands concrete change.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Do the Laws of Nature Exclude Miracles?

Keith Ward thrashes Hume ;) .....

Ask, search, knock

The gospel for today - Luke 11: 1-13 - seems to me to indicate that God does affirmatively answer petitionary/intercessory prayers (or that Jesus thought he did). I hate the idea so many religious spokespeople have about prayer ...

As Rowan Williams put it in his Times interview: "The point of praying is to open yourself up to God so God can do what he wants with you. You come with empty hands, as silent as you can be and say, 'Over to you'. So you could say the function was to make you the person God wants you to be – in the full awareness that that might not be quite the person you think you want to be."

... I can't help thinking of this as "zombie prayer" ;) I like what Herbert McCabe OP is said to have thought about petitionary prayer ...

McCabe’s defense of petitionary prayer, for instance, is a model of straightforward, no-nonsense pastoral care. People often think that when they pray, they either shouldn’t pray for things—that’s grubby and selfish; you should be “communing with God” or something like that—or the things they pray for should be noble and selfless: world peace, social justice, et cetera. McCabe deflates all of that high-mindedness by noting that when people say they’re distracted during prayer, what they’re really saying is that their real wants are breaking through their high-minded palaver. He observes wryly that people in foxholes or on sinking ships aren’t troubled by distractions to their prayers. McCabe’s advice is to just go ahead and ask for what you really want—a good grade, money for the mortgage, Grandmom getting better, not drowning. You’re not fooling God by praying for things you don’t really desire but rather think you should desire. Maybe you should pray for those things—the Holy Spirit will lead you there eventually—but if you can’t even pray for the things you do want, how are you ever going to pray for the things you should want? Moreover, McCabe contends that there is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. God gives us either what we ask for or more than what we asked for, which we often experience as his saying no. Our not receiving what we want is a way for God to get us to reflect on what we really desire; it’s a way of getting us to realize what we should be praying for, which, in the end, is communion with him. - Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: An Interview with Eugene McCarraher, Part Three of Three

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lectures: Ignatian spirituality

From a series of talks on Ignatian spirituality at St Giles’ Church, Oxford (see The Oxford Centre for Spiritual Growth) ...

- Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality: Praying with the Scriptures, Nicholas King SJ ...

- Reviewing the Day: Earthing our Spirituality, Gerard W Hughes SJ ....

- Do Teddy Bears make good Spiritual Directors?: Ignatius the
, Brendan Callaghan SJ ....

Friday, July 26, 2013


- Nothing to See Here: Demoting the Uncertainty Principle (above: Daniel Craig as Heisenberg)

- U.S.: We Promise Not to Torture, Kill Edward Snowden. This would be ironic if it wasn't so depressing.

- I want to go to Bunny Island :)

And the world is about to turn

As Pope Francis in Rio encourages young people to change the church - Rebel pope urges Catholics to shake up dioceses - the leaders of the church in the US continue to try to stifle Fr. Helmut Schüller's talks on church reform - Archbishop Allen Vigneron bans liberal priest speech from Westland church.

Schüller: Bishops have 'no influence' on young people's thinking

For the crowd of more than 500 at the talk in Chicago by the founder of the Austrian Priests' Initiative, Fr. Helmut Schüller probably didn't say anything they hadn't already heard. But the fact that a priest was not afraid to speak publicly and is networking with like-minded priests around the world gave many audience members hope that reform in the church is possible .....

[O]ne of the more striking moments in the evening was a question from a younger audience member who pointed out the dearth of younger Catholics and Latinos. When an organizer asked those under 50 to stand, fewer than a dozen did.

"My theory is that younger people have lost the patience that we have," Schüller said, pointing out that his generation is willing to ask politely for meetings with hierarchy then to wait, discuss, and try the whole process over again. For young people, [a bishop] has no influence on their thinking, no authority," he said. "They don't have patience. They say, 'We shouldn't wait; we should do it.' " ...... "A lot of these young people are now gathering with Pope Francis [at World Youth Day in Brazil]," he said. "They enjoy the big community there, but when they come home, they have discussions with their priest about their daily life. It's a very pragmatic approach." ....

I'm not sure about those at WTD - are they liberals who want change or are they conservatives who love pre-V2? If Benedict was still pope I'd think the latter, but with Francis I feel more hopeful that the people drawn to his version of WTD might be looking forward instead of back. Maybe the world *is* about to turn :)

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of you justice burn.
Wipe away all the tears, for the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn.

- Canticle of the Turning: Magnificat

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Songbook for Haunted Boys and Girls

One of the first people I got to know online, one of my friends at the Writer's BBS, has a book out - Songbook for Haunted Boys and Girls. Here's the Amazon description ...

This "testament made of trees" is a sort of memoir told in short prose pieces or prose poems: the joys and terrors of childhood, the quirkiness of our teenage years, growing old; old friendships, old love affairs, old grudges; food and drink, music, the sweetness of conversation. It's also a portrait of a neighborhood-one of shops and restaurants and pubs and patios. Songbook for Haunted Boys and Girls is a song you put on and listen to over wine, a book of encouragement. It's a sturdy and unpretentious affirmation of life, expressed simply and exquisitely.

Now I have to convince him to make a kindle version :)

The English Girl

My latest book from the library is The English Girl: A Novel by Daniel Silva. Here's the blurb at Amazon ...

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, July 2013: The setup: A beautiful woman is snatched from her vacation on Corsica. A ransom note reaches 10 Downing Street. An ambitious, unfaithful prime minister seriously needs a fixer. Which leads his fixers to art restorer and Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon, one of the more believable and likable heroes in recent spy fiction. To call The English Girl a page turner is an oversimplification. Smart, unpredictable, and packed with bits of history, art, heart, and imagination, this is a page turner to be savored. Let me just say that I like John LeCarre. Big fan. Still impressively relevant and prolific into his 80s. But the torch must pass to someone. And it’s been a while since I grabbed anyone by the lapels and said, “Read this now,” so let me strongly suggest that you take The English Girl to the beach, or wherever summer may take you. Daniel Silva isn’t quite LeCarre. He’s a more modern breed, with some major DNA overlap. (Other DNA-sharing: Graham Greene, Joseph Kanon, Alan Furst.) When it comes to the vast club of practitioners of international spycraft, Silva is a cut above them all, and The English Girl is a masterwork. --Neal Thompson

I've read all of the books in the series and this one is pretty good. As usual, it's set in interesting places like Corsica and Aix-en-Provence (Aix Cathedral), and you spend some time at 10 Downing Street. You can take a neat virtual tour of the rooms of 10 Downing Street, and here's a screen capture of the room in which Gabriel and the Prime Minister meet, the White Drawing Room ...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What I saw today

- - Evangelizing the institutional church: an interview with Helmut Schüller

- Aesthetics and music from the NYT's philosophy blog ... Mozart vs. the Beatles. In the post he quotes Alex Ross’s New Yorker essay, Listen to This ...

Music is too personal a medium to support an absolute hierarchy of values. The best music is music that persuades us that there is no other music in the world. This morning, for me, it was Sibelius’s Fifth; late last night, Dylan’s “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”; tomorrow, it may be something entirely new. I can’t rank my favorite music any more than I can rank my memories. Yet some discerning souls . . . say, in effect, “The music you love is trash. Listen instead to our great, arty music” . . . . They are making little headway with the unconverted because they have forgotten to define the music as something worth loving. If it is worth loving, it must be great; no more need be said.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fringe and the Golden Ratio

Tonight's episode of Fringe has Walter listening to Too Much Time On My Hands as Peter tries to figure out why time anomalies‎ are occurring and, more importantly, why Walter, his father, and Olivia, his mate, do not seem to know him anymore ... kind of a sad episode .... and Walter realizes the anomalies are occurring in the pattern of Fibonacci's golden spiral, like that in the Vatican Museum's staircase above.


The trumpet vine has made it to the roof ...

More black-eyed susans ...

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Room

- Kevin Hart

It is my house, and yet one room is locked.
The dark has taken root on all four walls.
It is a room where knots stare out from wood,
A room that turns its back on the whole house.

At night I hear the crickets list their griefs
And let an ancient peace come into me.
Sleep intercepts my prayer, and in the dark
The house turns slowly round its one closed room.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

When the Lord Returns in His Creaturely Perfection

- Lance Larsen

He will burrow and gallop, buffalo the prairie
again, penguin the unhatched egg,
then sleep off centuries of miracles
with the three-toed sloth. What a magician,
one minute pirouetting among banks
of cumulus, the next grazing
underground cafés with the star-nosed mole.

Out of caves, from under bridges, a million
translations of a single verb,
limp body lifted in the vulture’s beak.
Surely this time, Lord, we will know
the declensions of your ministry.
One day a rat, the next hundred
years a raccoon, both doing pastoral care

among the wino savants of south Chicago.
Now you twig back and forth,
a Madagascar walking stick,
now you manatee the mangroves.
Does your thirst fill one camel hump
or two? Carry our griefs two nautical
miles below the song of plunging narwhales.

Soon you will fill the globe and we will taste
your bounty, in every shadow,
every flicker of indigo sky, like a flock
of doves passing overhead,
wide as Nebraska, inexhaustible,
something perverse daring us to shoot
you out of that faithful air, and we probably will.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jesus, Martha, Mary

Tomorrow's reading has Jesus visiting Martha and Mary - Mary sits at Jesus' feet while Martha makes dinner, and everyone gets upset. I couldn't help thinking how different things would have been if Jesus and Mary had joined Martha in the kitchen and helped out :) The movie Jesus has a much happier encounter between Jesus, Martha, and Mary ...

Martha talks to Jesus while he does some carpentry repairs ...

Mary, Lazarus, Martha, and Joseph mingle before dinner ...

And then everyone happily eats together ....

Ignatius and women

- An interesting video from Fordham U about Ignatius and women, with mention of the letters he wrote to them (St. Ignatius Loyola: Letters to Women by Hugo Rahner SJ) as well as other topics ....

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer

- view from a magic beanstalk

This week's movie rental was Jack the Giant Slayer ....

a 2013 American fantasy adventure film based on the fairy tales "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" .... and stars Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor. The film tells the story of Jack, a young farmhand who must rescue a princess from a race of giants after inadvertently opening a gateway to their world.

Light entertainment but I loved it :) and it's not just me - Richard Roeper at the Chicago Sun-Times wrote ...... "Jack the Giant Slayer" is a rousing, original and thoroughly entertaining adventure. Director Bryan Singer, a first-rate cast and a stellar team of screenwriters, set designers and special-effects wizards have dusted off an old and (let's face it) never particularly compelling fairy tale and have given us a great-looking thrill ride in which we actually care about a number of characters ...

Some screen captures ...

Jack lives on a small farm with his cat ...

When the princess is taken to the land of the giants, Jack and the captain of the king’s guard (Ewan McGregor) set out to save her ...

They save the princess, but the giants follow and attack the castle ...

Somehow the good guys triumph and Jack and the princess fall in love ....

And weirdly, everything somehow ends up in modern day London :) ...

The trailer ...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fr. Helmut Schüller

Austrian priest Helmut Schüller (Pray Tell - Austrian priests call for disobedience – the bishop disagrees and Austrian Priests Support the “Appeal to Disobedience” by a Wide Margin UPDATE 11-9) is on a lecture tour in the US and though the Catholic Church has tried to shut him down (example: O'Malley) he's getting some secular press ... Priest says grouping parishes will weaken church and Hundreds Pack Unitarian Church To Hear Reformist Catholic Priest. Hope someone makes a video of one of his talks and posts it at YouTube - sadly all those there now are in German and my decayed command of that language isn't sufficient ;)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Vatican scientist

An interview with Jesuit astronomer, Brother Guy Consolmagno. You have to like Brother Guy, if only for the beard :) ....

And ...

And here you see Pope Francis visiting the Vatican Observatory, where he meets Brother Guy, among others ...

Some links

- Australian Jesuit Frank Brennan writes that it's time for the church to stop fighting civil marriage equality ... It's time to recognise secular same sex marriage

- Conservative UK Catholic columnist at The Telegraph, Damian Thompson, smacks conservative Catholic blogger, Fr. Z - Atrocious anti-gay bigotry from Father Z. Good on Damian!

- John Milbank has an article in The Guardian - The church offers a holistic solution to child poverty - with which I disagree, as usual, but I'll let some of those commenting at Thinking Anglicans do the honors this time.

- At US Catholic, Can we use real bread at Mass? ... I wonder if the unmentioned reason it's not used is a fear of crumbs ;)

- Veteran Jesuit explains choice to return to lay life. Creighton University has a post about him and a link to an audio file of his last homily given ... Bert Thelen, S.J., Celebrates Last Mass as St. Johns Pastor

Monday, July 15, 2013

Coffee with Jesus

Thinking Faith has an article by Richard Leonard SJ on his book Why Bother Praying. I had an earlier post about Fr. Leonard's other book, Where the Hell is God?, with a link to a video talk by him.

The post at Thinking Faith was interesting because I've been thinking a lot about my own weird prayer life. My latest kind of prayer is what Ignatius called a colloquy, an imagined conversation between you and Jesus, and I imagine him and me sitting across a table from each other in a coffee shop, sipping hot cups of joe that never need to be refilled. Who knew this was such a common theme that it's a joke? ;) .....

Coffee with Jesus from Church Fuel on Vimeo.

But anyway, the article at Thinking Faith is interesting. I've been considering buying his book but I've hesitated because at the end of the day, his definition of prayer is less than I had hoped for ...

In Where the Hell is God?, I came up with a short definition of intercessory prayer: ‘prayer asks an unchanging God to change us to change the world.’ Some correspondents told me, ‘this does not end up saying very much at all.’ This surprised me. In any and every important way, I do not change easily or quickly, so asking God to change me is not an insubstantial matter; it is grace building on nature. This is especially true if I want to stay changed.

If prayer only changes us and not God too, I don't think I'll find it enough.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Good Samaritan: The West Wing

Today's gospel reading reminded me of an episode of The West Wing in which Josh may lose his job because of psychological problems, but Leo, who's had addition problems himself, tells him a story. In Jesus' parable, he's asked who one's neighbor is, and in Leo's story the person who will actually help is defined as a friend ....

This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out.

A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, "Hey you. Can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, "Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

Then a friend walks by, "Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out."

Genug ist genug!

It's not often I get to use what's left of my college German, but when I saw a news bit at The Tablet, I couldn't resist :) ...

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, has said that he is about to declare the dialogue between the Vatican and the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) to be over .... Asked in an interview with the German magazine Focus for his reaction to the SSPX's declaration of 30 June, in which they sharply criticised the Second Vatican Council and the Ordinary Form of the Mass and swore to be true to their founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop Muller said: "Enough is enough." ....

Speaking of Lefebvre, he had an interesting past as Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, and Thomas Reese SJ wrote about him back in 1988 in an article that gives some background for the SSPX - Archbishop Lefebvre: moving toward schism? (when I first read the article in 2009, it was published online at Georgetown University's site) ...

[...] Marcel Lefebvre was raised in a conservative French family by an industrialist father who longed for the return of the monarchy. Both father and son believed all of France's problems (liberalism, modernism, socialism and Communism) originated in the French Revolution. In the Archbishop's mind, the council presided over the marriage of the church and the revolution. "The union of Church and Revolution is adulterous. And from such an adulterous union, nothing but bastards can come forth. And who or what are the bastards? Our rites. The rite of the Mass is a bastard rite!"

Archbishop Lefebvre is known most widely for his support of the Tridentine liturgy and his attacks on the liturgical changes initiated by Vatican II. But his complaints against Vatican II go far beyond liturgical reforms. He also rejects conciliar developments in collegiality, religious liberty and ecumenism. These are seen by him as corresponding to the Revolution's égalité, liberté and fraternité.

At the Vatican Council, he even refused to sign the final versions of "The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," "The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" and "The Declaration on Religious Liberty." In his view, "The council has allowed those professing errors and tendencies condemned by the believe in good faith that their teachings are now approved."

Archbishop Lefebvre was suspended from priestly functions in July of 1976 after ordaining priests against the direct order of Pope Paul VI. He has continued to ordain priests against papal orders. These priests, and others who have joined him, do not recognize the authority of the Pope or of local bishops. They have sown confusion among the faithful by constantly reviling the council and attacking local bishops as heretics. In a 1970 profession of faith, he rejected "the Rome of neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant leanings that clearly manifested itself in the Second Vatican Council and after the council in the reforms issuing from it.".......

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Thomas Aquinas on relics

Reading an old post by Liam about relics led me to a lecture about them - Christian Materiality: Miracles in the Later Middle Ages by Caroline Bynum. It's interesting that theologians in the middle ages felt conflicted about relics - they were caught between fears of idolatry and wanting to affirm the holy instantiated in matter. Professor Bynum spoke of how Aquinas felt ...

Thomas Aquinas explained that a relic is *not* the living body of a saint, quote unquote, on account of its difference of form, that is, the relic is no longer informed by the saint's soul, which is in heaven. Like an image, a relic should be venerated for that towards which it points, in this case not the saint at all but God who works wonders through it. Yet, a relic *is* the saint, said Aquinas, quote unquote, by identity of matter which is destined to be reunited with its form. In honoring bits of saints, we revere physical stuff that will be reassembled, resurrected, animated, and glorified at the end of time. In other words, the relic both is and is not the saint. Aquinas and those who followed him held that there could not be bodily or quasi-bodily relics of Christ, such as the holy foreskin or vials of his blood. Christ's whole body had ascended into heaven, hence no part could be left behind without threatening his perfection.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Why we do what we do

Saw a post about whether spiritual practice makes people compassionate. It was a Catholic post so the Aristotelian idea that 'habitually doing good works means that you are a good person' came up. I feel there's something fundamentally wrong with this idea - I think compassionate people are people who do good works not because that's what good people are 'supposed' to do, but because they can't help themselves, because it hurts too much not to help, because they feel empathy or love. I think most Catholics don't like basing good works on emotion because they have a pretty negative view of human nature ... emotion cannot be trusted ... but in a way that's what the Spiritual Exercises is about: know Jesus, love Jesus, follow Jesus.

I looked online for some backup ;) and I came across a really interesting TED talk - "Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do". At first I wasn't sure it was relevant because it wasn't obviously religious (though it did end up getting spiritual), but he got right to the heart of the matter: why do we do what we do, including good works? He says many people think we do such things out of principle, but he believes we instead do them out of emotion. That's what I think too. Anyway, here's the talk - it was really interesting! :) ...

Human Rights Organizations

Snowden case: comments from head of Amnesty's Moscow office after meeting whistleblower today ... “What he has disclosed is patently in the public interest and as a whistleblower his actions were justified. He has exposed unlawful sweeping surveillance programmes that unquestionably interfere with an individual’s right to privacy."

Snowden Makes A Smart Move ... Human Rights Watch, whose executive director is Kenneth Roth .... a graduate of Yale Law School and a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, and knows what he’s doing. Snowden doesn’t have a great case for asylum. But Human Rights Watch has tried to construct a defense that can turn international law’s vagueness to Snowden’s advantage. HRW claims countries should respect his asylum claim because international law sometimes justifies leaking secrets if they “expose and protect against serious human rights violations.”

Thursday, July 11, 2013


It's Rudbeckia hirta time here :) ...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Three links

- The Poetry and Prayers of Kevin Hart .... a podcast with the theologian and poet Kevin Hart. Here's one of his poems ...

The Last Day

When the last day comes
A ploughman in Europe will look over his shoulder
And see the hard furrows of earth
Finally behind him, he will watch his shadow
Run back into his spine.

It will be morning
For the first time, and the long night
Will be seen for what it is,
A black flag trembling in the sunlight.
On the last day

Our stories will be rewritten
Each from the end,
And each will hear the fields and rivers clap
And under the trees

Old bones
Will cover themselves with flesh;
Spears, bullets, will pluck themselves
From wounds already healed,
Women will clasp their sons as men

And men will look
Into their palms and find them empty;
There will be time
For us to say the right things at last,
To look into our enemy’s face

And see ourselves,
Forgiven now, before the books flower in flames,
The mirrors return our faces,
And everything is stripped from us,
Even our names.

- Popes Making Popes Saints, Garry Wills ....

On September 3, 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified Pope Pius IX. (Beatification is the third and penultimate rung on the ladder to sainthood—it certifies that a genuine miracle was worked through a dead person’s intercession, establishes a liturgical feast day for that person, and authorizes church prayer to him or her.) Pius IX was a polarizing figure. He wrested from the Vatican Council a declaration of his own infallibility; he condemned such modern heresies as democratic government; he took a Jewish child, Edgardo Mortara, from his family—on the grounds that Edgardo’s Christian nurse had baptized him as an infant, making him belong to the church, not to his infidel parents ....

- Looking for some books to read? ...
Science Fiction & Fantasy - NPR
... Five science fiction novels for people who hate SF and Science fiction roundup – reviews - The Guardian ... 102 Essential Science Fiction Books for Your Kindle - Wired

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Sanctuary of Loyola

I've been thinking about Ignatius of Loyola - his feast day is at the end of this month - and today I came upon this Jesuit site that allows for a kind of virtual tour of the Sanctuary of Loyola ... Santuario de Loyola Virtual Visit. Ignatius was born in Azpeitia, a town in the Basque Country of Spain, and as Wikipedia states, His birth home is now preserved as a part of large Jesuit compound, the Sanctuary of Loyola, a major attraction of tourist and pilgrims alike. Some Wiki-Commons photos from the Sanctuary ...

- entrance to the Basilica of the Shrine of Loyola

- the interior

- door to the house where Ignatius was born, with the family coat of arms above it

- bronze statue of Ignatius, showing his wounded legs

- the interior of the house, with the books shown that helped inspire Ignatius' conversion

Monday, July 08, 2013

Rev. Professor Keith Ward ...

and Dr Arif Ahmed discuss their worldview at The Veritas Forum at Cambridge University (January 2013) ...

Angels among us

My latest book is Angelopolis: A Novel by Danielle Trussoni. It;s the second book in a series, and I wrote about the first book here - Angelology: A Novel - and here - Angelology in New York. Here's the beginning of a book review in the NYT by Helene Wecker (The Golem and the Jinni) ...


Angels do in fact walk among us, and they are not at all to be trifled with. Or at least that’s the alarming state of affairs at the heart of Danielle Trussoni’s 2010 best-selling novel, “Angelology.” Called Nephilim, these angels — or, more properly, angel-human hybrids — are the descendants of traitorous, fallen rebel angels. No haloed guardians, these: they want nothing less than dominion over mankind. Set against them are the angelologists, a secret global group dedicated to thwarting the Nephilim’s unholy ambitions. Readers flocked to Trussoni’s first novel (she’s also the author of a 2006 memoir, “Falling Through the Earth”) for its mix of fantasy and religious conspiracy, as well as for the improbable romance between its characters: the art historian Verlaine and Evangeline, an innocent young nun.

“Angelopolis” is Trussoni’s tighter and more engaging sequel to “Angelology,” which ended with Evangeline transformed into one of the hated Nephilim. Ten years later, Verlaine has changed almost as much as the woman he loves. Gone is the scrappy young man in Snoopy socks; in his place is a full-fledged “angel hunter,” haunted by his encounter with Evangeline and tasked with killing her kind .....

I'm just at the beginning of the book and I'm having to try hard to remember all that had happened in book one ... maybe I should go back and reread that again first ;) ... but I think it will be fun.

Ignatian Spirituality

Pray with Your Imagination. It's an excerpt from Jesuit David Flemming's book, What Is Ignatian Spirituality?, which can also be read free online ....

Friday, July 05, 2013


Venezuela's in the news.

Looking the country up, I saw it's home to Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world. Here's a beautiful video of the falls ...

And also it's home to Colonia Tovar, the "Germany of the Caribbean" ....

And there are a lot of Catholic churches, as most of the population is Catholic, like the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquirá. The exterior ...

And interior ...

Must read more about Venezuela.

Latest book from the library

Shipwrecks, human sacrifice, hairbreadth escapes, unbridled sex, battles on land and at sea, ambushes, family scandals, and above all the unforgiving pursuit of absolute power ...

My latest book from the library is Augustus: : The Life of Rome's First Emperor by Anthony Everitt. Here's the Publishers Weekly blurb at Amazon ...

British author Everitt begins his biography of Augustus (63 B.C.– A.D. 14) with a novelistic reconstruction of the Roman emperor's last days, offering a new spin on his murder at the hands of his wife, Livia. Everitt presents the death as an assisted suicide intended to speed and secure the transition of imperial power to his stepson Tiberius. Later, Everitt presents a careful historical argument for this theory—and, save for a few other shadowy incidents such as the banishment of the poet Ovid, he keeps guesswork to a minimum, building his narrative carefully on solid evidence. Everitt (Cicero) makes Augustus's rapid rise through Roman society comprehensible to contemporary readers, deftly shifting through the major phases of his life, from childhood through his adoption by his great-uncle Julius Caesar to the power struggle with Mark Antony that ended with Augustus's recognition as both imperator and princeps, or "first citizen." Everitt also neatly presents his subject's complex personality, revealing how Augustus secured a political infrastructure that would last for centuries while reportedly keeping up a highly active sex life, all the while fighting off longstanding rumors of cowardice in battle. This familiar story is fresh again in this lively retelling.

I know a fair amount of Roman history but I don't think you have to do so to be interested in the book - my sister talked me into reading it because she likes it so much, and she didn't take Roman history at school. Augustus (Octavian) isn't the most interesting of the emperors - I'd rather read a good book about Marcus Aurelius (and I have read some interesting fiction about emperors, like I, Claudius, Memoirs of Hadrian, and Count Belisarius (Justinian)) - but still Augustus' life has some exciting events, like the sea battle with Cleopatra and Mark Antony :) ....

- The Battle of Actium, 2 September 31 BC by Lorenzo A. Castro

For those interested, you can watch online what was a pretty good 2002 movie about Julius Caesar (the uncke and adopted father of Augustus) which starred Jeremy Sisto, Richard Harris, and Christopher Walken.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The 4th

- Winged Victory of Samothrace

I don't really like the 4th of July - the stink and smoke and noise of fireworks is awful. Yeah, I'm glad to be an American ... have you seen what Europeans call toilet paper? ... but I'd rather celebrate in a non-environmentally toxic way (donuts! :) I've seen lots of Founding Father quotations posted online for today, but here's one a bit older that shows that we're not unique .....

It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while there exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty an obstacle, but a man may benefit his country whatever the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.

More Ignatius

- Reading about Santa Maria de Montserrat, where Ignatius discarded his military uniform and sword. You can take a virtual tour of the place here, traveling all around the exterior and interior by means of clicking on the little red/beige icon :)

- I wonder what Ignatius would think about clergy sex abuse and of the Church covering it up. I turn to a post by Mark Mossa SJ, Impractical Outrage and Trust In God. Mark has posted segments from Ignatius' autobiography and then jas commentedg on them. Here's a bit of the autobiography from the post mentioned which tells of Ignatius, a boy, and two women traveling together ...

So fresh a following wind blew that the trip from Barcelona to Gaeta was made in five days and nights; not, however, without great fear because of the rough weather. All through that land there was a dread of the pestilence, but the pilgrim [Ignatius], as soon as he disembarked, set out for Rome. Of those who sailed with him, a mother and her daughter, who was wearing boy’s clothing, joined him, together with another young man. They went along with him because they too were begging their way. When they arrived at an inn, they found a great fire and many soldiers about it, who gave them something to eat and plied them with much wine, as though they wanted to warm them up. Then the travelers separated, the mother and daughter going upstairs to a room and the pilgrim and the young boy to the stable. But about the middle of the night he heard loud cries coming from upstairs, and getting up to see what was going on, he found the mother and daughter below in the courtyard weeping and bewailing that an attempt had been made upon them. So angry did he become at this that he began to cry out, “Do we have to put up with this?” and similar expostulations, which he expressed with such effect that everybody in the house was amazed and no one offered to do him any harm. The boy had already fled, but the three of them resumed their journey even though it was still night.

And here's Mark's comment on this ...

Informed of the “attempt” on the mother and daughter, a practical Ignatius might have seen that there was nothing to do about it, no recourse, and suggested that they quietly slip away. However, Saint Ignatius, instead, does something impractical and potentially dangerous by expressing his outrage against the treatment of these women. In doing so, he offers us an important example. Our choice whether or not to express outrage when faced with injustice should not be based on whether or not it is likely to produce results. This is a utilitarian point of view, not a Christian one. As Christians and human beings we have an obligation to speak out against injustice, regardless of results, and sometimes to our own peril.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

What I saw today

- San Francisco fog ....

- Andrew Sullivan writes about The Last Lesson We Learn From Our Pets ...

[...] Dusty is now fifteen and a half and incontinent. She has to wear a diaper now, and has countless warts that disfigure her but cause no actual harm. I’m approaching the moment when these decisions will be forced upon me. The other day, I simply wondered whether I could “put down”, i.e. kill, my beloved beagle. But there will surely come a point when compassion demands it. The last time I held such power in my hands – collectively with family and friends – was helping enforce my friend Patrick’s desire not to be resuscitated if he succumbed to AIDS. Oddly, I got Dusty as a way to remember Pat; he had a beagle from the same breeder, and Dusty always somehow brought my dead friend back to me.

It will be tough. But in these things, I’m sure Dusty will also guide me and Aaron. Dogs know how to live better than we do.

Why would they not know better how to die?

- Not a single word about Dolan in the NY-based America magazine or its blog. But here's something from The New York Times’ Editorial Board - Cardinal Dolan and the Sex Abuse Scandal. ...

Tragic as the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has been, it is shocking to discover that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while archbishop of Milwaukee, moved $57 million off the archdiocesan books into a cemetery trust fund six years ago in order to protect the money from damage suits by victims of abuse by priests.

Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has denied shielding the funds as an “old and discredited” allegation and “malarkey.” But newly released court documents make it clear that he sought and received fast approval from the Vatican to transfer the money just as the Wisconsin Supreme Court was about to open the door to damage suits by victims raped and abused as children by Roman Catholic clergy ...

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


Dolan Sought to Protect Church Assets, Files Show .....

Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday reveal that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation ... files contain a 2007 letter to the Vatican in which he explains that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the request in five weeks, the files show.

Yes, we're talking about the leader of the US Catholic Bishops, a Cardinal. What he appears to have done is a crime - federal bankruptcy fraud. Though many seem to like Dolan because of his apparently jovial nature, I don't. The mean-spiritedness with which he's battled gay rights is well-known (Gay Marriage: New York, not North Korea), he's a signatory of the Manhattan Declaration, his dealings with the sex abuse problem have been checkered at best, and he's no friend to the future possibility of married priests or women's ordination (interview on 60 Minutes).

Some background on Dolan's shifting of the money .... Victims caught up in Milwaukee's 'shell game', NCR

Monday, July 01, 2013

Thinking and feeling

Oxford University's Practical Ethics blog, Why pet owners know as much as neuroscientists about animal minds ...

[...] Scepticism about the capacity of animals to experience conscious mental states like suffering—let alone more complex ones like grief—is most often associated with the influence of Descartes. Optimists may have reason to hope that scientific evidence about the mental lives of animals will soon extinguish such scepticism: last year a group of eminent neuroscientists published the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which proclaims that humans are not alone in possessing consciousness (for a discussion of the Declaration, see here). Science, it seems, may hold the key to improving the way animals are treated ....

I can't begin to number the times I've read assertions that only human being can ... (fill in the blank with words like 'anticipate the future' or 'dwell on the past', etc.). Any pet owner can testify that's untrue - one simple example: when you take your cat in the car to the vet, the demented shrieks that come from the cat carrier (along with the projectile vomiting) are a sign that 1) your cat remembers past vet experiences, and 2) your cat is anticipating more of the same.

Related - I haven't read this yet, but it looks interesting ... Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures by Virginia Morell

“This charming book about animal intelligence….has a nice arc to its structure—working from generally more basic (although still remarkable) cognitive abilities of creatures like adventurous ants to the complex thinking of chimps—and it is threaded through with philosophical questions that are as thought-provoking as the creatures and experiments she chronicles.” – Smithsonian magazine

“For most of the 20th Century, animals weren’t allowed to have emotions…But Virginia Morell’s new book, Animal Wise, tells a new story. After six years of reporting in 11 different countries, the longtime science journalist is pretty certain: Animals feel. And strongly, as it turns out.” —Wired

“Each chapter takes readers on an adventure alongside researchers as they probe the minds of such disparate creatures as ants, trout, dolphins, elephants and chimpanzees.” —Scientific American

See review of the book at Conservation Magazine - Gathering Emotional Intelligence.