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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fill out the Vatican questionnaire ...

... oh wait - you can't :(

Catholics across the world are being asked for their views on contraception, same-sex unions and communion for divorced and remarried couples ... [and] ... The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has put the questionnaire online here (The Tablet). But we in the US will not be polled - only our bishops. Here's more from NCR ...

The Vatican has asked national bishops' conferences around the world to conduct a wide-ranging poll of Catholics asking for their opinions on church teachings on contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce. Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Vatican's Synod of Bishops, asked the conferences to distribute the poll "immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received." .....

[But ...]

While Baldisseri asks in his letter for wide consultation on the questions, an accompanying letter sent with the U.S. version of the Vatican document does not request the American bishops undertake wide consultation in their dioceses. That accompanying letter, dated Oct. 30, is sent from Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, the general secretary of the U.S. bishops' conference, and only asks the U.S. bishops to provide their own observations ....

Among topics bishops' conferences are asked in the Vatican document to question their Catholic populations about:

- How the church's teaching on "the value of the family" is understood today. "In those cases where the Church's teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice?" the document asks. "If so, what are they?"
- Whether cohabitation, the problem of divorce and remarriage, and same-sex marriages are a "pastoral reality" in their church. "Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases?" the document asks. "How is God's mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?"
- How persons in same-sex marriages are treated and how children they may adopt are cared for. "What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live these types of union?" it asks. "In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?"
- Whether married couples have "openness" to becoming parents and whether they accept Humanae Vitae, an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI that prohibited artificial contraception use by Catholics. "Is this moral teaching accepted?" it asks. "What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple's accepting this teaching?" ...

It doesn't make sense to only poll the US bishops and not lay Catholics - the US bishops hold seriously different views from most lay Catholics on these topics ... example: the US bishops are against contraception to the point of obstructing the Affordable Care Act while about 90& of Catholics use contraception, and the US bishops are against marriage equality to the point of spending millions to derail it and yet most Catholics support same-sex marriage. I guess the Vatican doesn't really want to know what Catholics in the US think.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

About prayer

There's a post at Pray Tell about prayer - Prayer Is Not a Technique. It's interesting to see how differently different people feel about what prayer is like. I once read something from Anglican priest Steven Shakespeare about prayer - Speak to us of prayers - that began like this ...

As you might expect, I spend a lot of time on my knees.

Let me tell you about a couple of those occasions.

I am on my knees. Ben is not impressed. Poo has leaked out of his nappy up his back. I have it on my hands. I know I need to get his vest over his head and without getting poo in his hair and on his face. I know that I need to clean his bum and put a new nappy on. I know I need to stop him wriggling off the mat or putting his hands in the mess. I know I need something to wipe him with and a bag for the nappy and I know I got those things out before I started and now they are underneath me or underneath Ben or perhaps they have disappeared in the time space continuum. I know all this but I do not know, and I am panicking. 'O my God!' I say to no one in particular.

I am on my knees. Ben has managed to get the soap off me and then rub his eyes. This new sensation is really not all that much fun for him. He tries to stand up in the bath, screaming with pain and indignation. I am trying anything, duck impressions, funny faces, singing, it is like a children's TV show from hell. How's it going? calls Sally. Jesus Christ! I sigh.

I am on my knees. Ben is looking round expectantly. I start to chase him. He squeals with delight as he shuffles away then lets me catch and tickle him. He does the sign for more and speeds away again. My right knee hurts for some reason as I lumber off again. I wonder again about the wisdom of starting a family at nearly 40 years old. God help me, I groan.

Why am I telling you this? Am I trying to impress you with my parental credentials trying to convince you that I'm a good dad and a new man who gets his hands dirty. Hardly. I am sure that I am pretty mediocre as a parent. I am also sure that though I love Ben more than anything, there are times, oh God yes there are times, when I would rather be doing anything else than changing another nappy.

Of course I've not really dwelt on the many times in a day when we laugh together and get lost playing with his trains, or share a story, or go and feed the birds and have a go on the swings. It just seems that I don't really invoke God so much at those times.

'Speak to us of prayers,' I've been asked - and I feel I have to make a confession. I have to confess my unknowing. Do I, do we, really know what we are doing when we pray? Do we know whom we are addressing, or what language to use? Should we know? Is prayer about knowing those things? Or is it something else? ......

But anyway, my own prayer life - I'm still working on the Ignatian colloquy style of prayer ...

A colloquy is an intimate conversation between you and God the Father, between you and Jesus .... we speak and listen as the Spirit moves us: expressing ourselves, for example, as a friend speaks to a friend, or as a person speaks to one whom he or she has offended, or as a child speaks to a parent or mentor, or as a lover speaks to his or her beloved. Whatever the context, be “real,” speaking from the heart. As in any meaningful conversation, make sure to leave times of silence for listening ...

What might seem the odd part is that my colloguy conversations take place in an imagined coffee shop booth and Jesus looks/sounds like Peter from Fringe ...

Monday, October 28, 2013


- It's ok to be shy :)

- At ABC Religion & Eyhics, a two part lecture given by Patrick Parkinson, law professor at the University of Sydney, on clergy sex abuse ... part 1 ... part 2

- A post at First Thoughts about being a vegetarian - unusual for them

- How to Build a Happier Brain

- Jesuits sell oldest retreat house in the US - Paradise Lost

- Pope Francis ... repeating memorized prayers isn't what praying is about :) ...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

May God stand ...

between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk

An interesting episode of Babylon 5 tonight: Ivanova and Marcus are sent to spy on the spider-like Shadows and Sheridan blesses them with the Egyptian saying above ....

A big battle ensues ...

After which, Delenn tells Sheridan, the two of them will spend the night together. She says, "When Minbari become close as we have become close, it is tradition that they spend three nights together. The man sleeps and the female watches ... During the day, we all put on the face we think will do us the most good. But at a certain point in your sleep, as you relax, your true face is revealed. If the female approves of his true face, she will stay two more nights and continue to observe." ...

And Doctor Franklin, almost killed during his walkabout, tells Sheridan of the insight he gained ...

Franklin: I realized that I always defined myself in terms of what I wasn't. I wasn't a good soldier, like my father. I wasn't ... the job. I wasn't a good prospect for marriage or kids. Always what I wasn't, never what I was. But when you do that, you miss the moments. And the moments are all we've got. When I thought I was going to die, even after everything, I realized I didn't want to let go. I was willing to do it all over again and this time I could appreciate the moments. I can't go back, but I can appreciate what I have right now, and I can define myself by what I am, instead of what I'm not."
Sheridan: "And what are you?"
Franklin: "Alive. Everything else is negotiable."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Meeting Obi-Wan

My latest kindle book is A New Hope: Star Wars: Episode IV , a novelization of what I think of as the first Star Wars movie, now retitled. The Amazon page says it's written by Lucas, but the next two books in the series were done by Alan Dean Foster - perhaps Foster did this one too?

It's been a long time since I saw the film so it's kind of fun to read the story, especially with the more detail a novel has. I'm just at the part where Luke meets Obi-Wan Kenobi - he tells Luke about his father and Darth Vader, his killer, and about "the force" :). Here's a clip from the movie of this part ...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Catholic ostentatiatories*

- the Würzburg Residence

The bishops of bling will fight for their things

[...] The Catholic church has a long history of extravagance, and sometimes the old ways are slow to die. Though Pope Francis started off by setting new simple sartorial standards, when it comes to throwing out real estate the Vatican elite may prove more resistant. There is a story doing the Vatican gossip rounds of a cardinal turning up in a church to celebrate mass and being offered a splendid red cappa magna to wear. A cappa magna is the liturgical equivalent of an opera cape – all billowing watered silk and a train that would rival Princess Diana's wedding dress. The cardinal refused, saying: "I sold mine after the second Vatican council, and gave the money to the poor." The master of ceremonies gave the curt reply: "It's a shame you didn't sell one of your two villas, and give the proceeds from that to the poor." It may be just a story, but it expresses the feeling of double standards within the Vatican community over self-conscious economy ....

Historically, British medieval cardinals got carried away with grand designs – Henry VIII's jealousy over Cardinal Wolsey's Hampton Court cost the cardinal both his palace and his position. A few hundred years later, the church in Germany became the most ambitious bling builders of them all. The episcopal residences of the prince-bishops of what became Germany and Austria are staggering, capricious and outrageous feasts of excess. The Würzburg Residence, a 400-room baroque masterpiece that is rivalled only by Versailles in lavish appointment, comes complete with frescos by Tiepolo. Napoleon dubbed it the "nicest parsonage in Europe". Now a Unesco world heritage site, the Augustusburg and Falkenlust palaces in Brühl were built by the archbishop-elector of Cologne, Clemens August of Bavaria. There was even a gallery from which locals could come and watch the royal archbishop dine below ....

So who is next on Pope Francis's list? Papal adviser Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich, lives in the baroque Holnstein Palace in Freising (previous residence of Pope Benedict when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) and is apparently building a very expensive residence in Rome ....

- Holnstein Palace

- Hampton Court Palace

- the Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces, Brühl

* the word 'ostentatiatory' was coined (I think?) by Jim Butcher :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reading ...

... a blog post by Paul Williams, who was filming a BBC wildlife series in Sri Lanka when he came upon an orphaned baby squirrel ...

[...] I've now been in Sri Lanka for 3 weeks filming leopards and ancient temples for a BBC2 wildlife series called Monsoon. Two weeks ago, at 3am, we came back from our night shift filming in Wilpatu national park, and there in the dark was Rob the baby palm squirrel laying on the floor of the hotel car park. At first I thought he was dead but then I noticed a little twitch. I scooped up his weak and cold body and warmed him in my hands. I presumed that he had either fallen out of the nest, or had been kicked out by a sibling. My first hope was to reunite him with his mother. I put him into a secure spot as high as I could in the tree that I presumed he had fallen from. I covered him in a layer of tissue to help him keep warm and I waited. I had hoped that mum would be looking for him and would hear his little squeaks but by morning he was still there.

The crew and I searched the area for any sign of a nest or other palm squirrels, but we didn't spot any. We then used our thermal camera which we are using to spot and film nocturnal animals in the park. It's great for showing warm patches where little animals are nesting. Unfortunately it showed us no thermal hotspots in any of the trees where Rob could have come from. I couldn't just leave him. He would have died if I hadn't have found him and so he became an honorary part of the crew ...

There's more, plus a lot of incredible photos :)

Praying mantis

Saw this mantis on the wall today, climbing up towards the roof. I tried to get him to crawl onto a leaf so I could put him in a more bug-friendly place, but he would have none of it ...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Müller on marriage and divorce

UPDATE: John Thavis has a post on Archbishop Müller's article on divorce ... Déjà vu on divorced and remarried Catholics?

Andrew Brown has a post, Remarried Catholics being allowed to take communion? It's like seeing the Greenland icecap melt, but even as he writes about the happy changes wrought‎ by Pope Francis, the Vatican nips that hope for change in the bud - Vatican official reaffirms teaching on divorced and remarried Catholics.

You can read the English translation of Archbishop Müller’s speech at the Vatican Radio Here's just a bit from the text ...

[T]he anthropological value of indissoluble marriage: it withdraws the partners from caprice and from the tyranny of feelings and moods. It helps them to survive personal difficulties and to overcome painful experiences. Above all it protects the children, who have most to suffer from marital breakdown .... Love is more than a feeling .....

Admittedly there are situations – as every pastor knows – in which marital cohabitation becomes for all intents and purposes impossible for compelling reasons, such as physical or psychological violence. In such hard cases, the Church has always permitted the spouses to separate and no longer live together. It must be remembered, though, that the marriage bond of a valid union remains intact in the sight of God, and the individual parties are not free to contract a new marriage, as long as the spouse is alive ....

If remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the competent marriage tribunals ....

An objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive. The mystery of God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice. If one were to suppress these characteristics of God and refuse to take sin seriously, ultimately it would not even be possible to bring God’s mercy to man ...

So, Müller states that love isn't a feeling, that it is better for the children of bad marriages if their parents don't divorce, that the victims of domestic violence shouldn't be allowed to divorce, that people can't trust their consciences, and that God can't show mercy but must punish instead. In my opinion, he and the church are wrong about all this. And what is especially repellent is the way he conflates church teaching with what God wants.

As Andrew Brown writes in his post mentioned above ...

Everyone knows the official position [on divorce] is a pernicious nonsense .... Ever since the ban on artificial contraception was restated in 1967, the official Catholic teaching on sexual morality has overlaid and crushed the lived experience of the laity the way that the Greenland icecap forces the island beneath it into the sea. The situation is only possible because of the use of special magical language, where no words mean what they seem to. Such things as the description of homosexuality as an "objective moral evil" are tolerable only so long as "objective", "moral" and even "evil" are understood as theological terms of art, and theology is understood to have nothing to do with our human needs and understandings.

Monday, October 21, 2013

David B. Hart's book

- Discovery, Peter Max

Reading about David Bentley Hart's book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss at Religion Dispatches: Do Intelligent People Need Religion?. I'm not sure if I'll buy it ... on the one hand, I find strange his obsession with defeating atheism, but on the other hand, from some of what I read about the book, he spends time on what matters to me about religion: experience. Here's a bit from the review ...

Religion reminds us that, “we labor to forget what is laid out before us in every moment,” and spend, “much of our lives wandering in dreams, in a deep but fitful sleep.” The Experience of God focuses on three mysteries that lie at the heart of every person’s experience of the world. These mysteries are summed up in the phrase, Satchitananda, or Being, Consciousness, Bliss—the Hindu name for the experience of God.

Earnest reflection upon reality, Hart says, will always leads us to an experience of wonder; we can’t help but be amazed, if we consider it carefully enough, that anything exists at all. This wonder doesn’t concern how one physical state arose out of another physical state through material causes, it’s the awareness that existence is a gift we receive in every instant.

Below is a video of Hart talking about his book. One word he mentions is 'Satchitananda' and when I heard that, my first thought was of the yogi, Satchidananda :) ...

Satchidananda Saraswati (December 22, 1914 – August 19, 2002), born as C. K. Ramaswamy Gounder, was an Indian religious teacher, spiritual master and yoga adept .... in 1966 he visited New York City at the request of the artist Peter Max. Soon after his initial visit, Satchidananda formally moved to the United States and eventually became a citizen. From his new home he spread his teachings of yoga, selfless service, ecumenism and enlightenment.

But I digress. Here's the video ...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

RIP: Michael O'Hare

- Boxleitner and O'Hare

Tonight's episode of Babylon 5, War Without End, was a two-parter and special in that it featured the return of Jeffrey Sinclair, who had been the commander of Babylon 5 in season one. Everyone thought that the character of Sinclair, played by Michael O'Hare, had always been scheduled to leave the show, replaced by Bruce Boxleitner, and to reappear in season 3 to close his character's story arc, but that was not the truth .....

During the filming of the first season of Babylon 5, O'Hare began having paranoid delusions. Halfway through filming, his hallucinations worsened and the stress of playing a character who was suffering from a similar mental illness was becoming overwhelming. It became increasingly difficult for O'Hare to continue work, his behavior was becoming increasingly erratic and he was often at odds with his colleagues. O'Hare sought treatment for his mental illness, but feared that, as the main character of Babylon 5, taking an extended medical leave of absence would destroy the show just as it was getting off the ground.

J. Michael Straczynski, the show's creator and main writer, offered to suspend the show for several months to accommodate O'Hare's treatment; however O'Hare refused to put so many other people's jobs at risk. Straczynski agreed to keep his condition secret to protect O'Hare's career. O'Hare agreed to complete the first season but would be subsequently written out of the second season so that he could seek treatment. He reappeared in a cameo appearance early in season two and returned in season three for the double episode "War Without End" which closed his character's story arc. He made no further appearances in Babylon 5.

Although his treatments were somewhat successful, he was never fully cured. On his return to Babylon 5, Straczynski promised again that he would keep his condition secret to his grave. O'Hare told him to "keep the secret to MY grave", pointing out that fans deserved to eventually learn the real reason for his departure, and that his experience could raise awareness and understanding for people suffering from mental illness. On May 25, 2013, eight months after O'Hare's death, Straczynski fulfilled his promise and finally revealed the reasons behind O'Hare's departure from Babylon 5 at the Phoenix Comicon.

I really liked the character of Sinclair ... he reminded me a lot of my grandfather. I was very happy to see him return for this later episode, and I had no idea until just now that he had been ill or that he had died last year. Here's a short clip someone posted in remembrance of him ...

And here's a short clip of an episode in which Sinclair has breakfast with his co-workers and tells Ivanova he was taught meditation by the Jesuits, all so he and Garibaldi can steal her breakfast :) ...


Andrew Sullivan has a series of posts - The Abatement Of Cruelty - dealing with how we treat animals.

Meanwhile, First Things justifies animal cruelty :(


- What would Ignatius make of a Jesuit pope? by Philip Endean SJ and others.

- The pope talks about women on the 25th anniversary of JPII's apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (alternatively titled 'your field guide to complementarianism'). I found what Francis had to say pretty depressing.

- An interview with Rowan Williams. The readers at Thinking Anglicans have some pointed comments on what he had to say on his time as honcho of the Anglican Communion.

- Work on Noah is almost done: Darren Aronofsky, Paramount Spar Over 'Noah' Final Cut (Exclusive). I wonder what kind of movie Aronofsky has made - I liked his movie, The Fountain.

- A post at dotCommonweal had an old pop music version of Our Father - I can't decide if I like it or hate it but now it's in my head ;) ...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book and tv

My latest book from the library is Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard. Here's the blurb from Amazon ... A charmingly gothic, fiendishly funny Faustian tale about a brilliant scientist who makes a deal with the Devil, twice. Johannes Cabal sold his soul years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. Now he wants it back. Amused and slightly bored, Satan proposes a little wager: Johannes has to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever. This time for real. Accepting the bargain, Jonathan is given one calendar year and a traveling carnival to complete his task. With little time to waste, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire to help him run his nefarious road show, resulting in mayhem at every turn.

Meanwhile, I'm still looking for a worthy tv series to rent. I've been watching a few episodes online of Sleepy Hollow ...

... a fantasy/horror show in which Ichabod Crane, history teacher at Oxford, is drafted into the revolutionary war, has a change of heart and becomes an agent for George Washington, and is killed on the battlefield, only to be resurrected in the present with a mission to stop a coming apocalypse ;) There are some fun bit players in the show ... Clancy Brown (the Kurgan) and John Cho (Mr. Sulu) ... and it's fun, but sadly not yet on DVD, so the search continues.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The SSPX :(

Nazi war criminal to get church funeral ... courtesy of the SSPX.

As B16 un-excommunicated the SSPX bishops and made repeated efforts to reconcile with them, I had a number of posts about their history of anti-Semitism. I guess today's headline says it all, but if anyone's interested in a round-up on them, see my past post: "They are evil .... "

More photos

Going out the door to look for something to photograph, I passed this print by David Roberts on the wall. I reminds me of the palace at Crete, though it doesn't really look like it ...

Mr. Scruffy, looking kind of grotty ....

If you look closely, you can sort of see Ms. Scruffy behind the fork of the dead tree. Mr. Scruffy and Ms. Scruffy are the two black cats who belong to my neighbor - one male, one female - who spend their days over here. Only one is really named Scruffy - the girl - but I don't know the boy's name so I think of them as 'the Scruffies' :) ...

More books

It turns out there was a US list of favorite novels done by TIME, but I thought I'd post the favorite books of France and Germany here, because, weirdly, I've actually read a few of them (the bolded ones) and because the French seem so well read! :) ...

Big Read (German)

1 The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
2 The Bible
3 The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
4 Perfume by Patrick Süskind
5 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
6 Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
7 The Physician by Noah Gordon
8 The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
9 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling
10 Pope Joan by Donna Cross
11 Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
12 Outlander a.k.a. Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
13 The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
14 The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
15 Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
16 The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
17 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
18 The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
19 Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
20 Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane
21 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
22 The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
23 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
24 Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
25 The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch
26 The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century

1 The Stranger - Albert Camus
2 In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past) - Marcel Proust
3 The Trial - Franz Kafka
4 The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
5 Man's Fate - André Malraux
6 Journey to the End of the Night - Louis-Ferdinand Céline
7 The Grapes of Wrath -John Steinbeck
8 For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
9 Le Grand Meaulnes - Alain-Fournier
10 Froth on the Daydream - Boris Vian
11 The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir
12 Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett
13 Being and Nothingness - Jean-Paul Sartre
14 The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
15 The Gulag Archipelago - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
16 Paroles - Jacques Prévert
17 Alcools - Guillaume Apollinaire
18 The Blue Lotus - Hergé
19 The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank
20 Tristes Tropiques - Claude Lévi-Strauss
21 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
22 Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
23 Asterix the Gaul - René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
24 The Bald Soprano - Eugène Ionesco
25 Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality -Sigmund Freud
26 The Abyss - Marguerite Yourcenar
27 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
28 Ulysses - James Joyce
29 The Tartar Steppe - Dino Buzzati
30 The Counterfeiters - André Gide
31 The Horseman on the Roof - Jean Giono
32 Belle du Seigneur - Albert Cohen
33 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
34 The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
35 Thérèse Desqueyroux - François Mauriac
36 Zazie in the Metro - Raymond Queneau
37 Confusion of Feelings - Stefan Zweig
38 Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
39 Lady Chatterley's Lover - D. H. Lawrence
40 The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann
41 Bonjour Tristesse - Françoise Sagan
42 Le Silence de la mer - Vercors
43 Life: A User's Manual - Georges Perec
44 The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
45 Under the Sun of Satan - Georges Bernanos
46 The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
47 The Joke - Milan Kundera
48 A Ghost at Noon - Alberto Moravia
49 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie
50 Nadja - André Breton
51 Aurelien - Louis Aragon
52 The Satin Slipper - Paul Claudel
53 Six Characters in Search of an Author - Luigi Pirandello
54 The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui - Bertolt Brecht
55 Friday - Michel Tournier
56 The War of the Worlds - H. G. Wells
57 Survival in Auschwitz - Primo Levi
58 The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
59 Les Vrilles de la vigne - Colette
60 Capital of Pain - Paul Éluard
61 Martin Eden - Jack London
62 Ballad of the Salt Sea - Hugo Pratt
63 Writing Degree Zero - Roland Barthes
64 The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum - Heinrich Böll
65 The Opposing Shore - Julien Gracq
66 The Order of Things - Michel Foucault
67 On the Road - Jack Kerouac
68 The Wonderful Adventures of Nils - Selma Lagerlöf
69 A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
70 The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
71 The Ravishing of Lol Stein - Marguerite Duras
72 The Interrogation - J. M. G. Le Clézio
73 Tropisms - Nathalie Sarraute
74 Journal, 1887–1910 - Jules Renard
75 Lord Jim - Joseph Conrad
76 Écrits - Jacques Lacan
77 The Theatre and its Double - Antonin Artaud
78 Manhattan Transfer - John Dos Passos
79 Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges
80 Moravagine - Blaise Cendrars
81 The General of the Dead Army - Ismail Kadare
82 Sophie's Choice - William Styron
83 Gypsy Ballads - Federico García Lorca
84 The Strange Case of Peter the Lett - Georges Simenon
85 Our Lady of the Flowers - Jean Genet
86 The Man Without Qualities - Robert Musil
88 The Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger
89 No Orchids For Miss Blandish - James Hadley Chase
90 Blake and Mortimer - Edgar P. Jacobs
91 The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge - Rainer Maria Rilke
92 Second Thoughts - Michel Butor
93 The Origins of Totalitarianism - Hannah Arendt
94 The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
95 The Rosy Crucifixion - Henry Miller
96 The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
97 Amers - Saint-John Perse
98 Gaston 0 André Franquin
99 Under the Volcano - Malcolm Lowry
100 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

Monday, October 14, 2013


Reading about The Big Read ...

a survey on books carried out by the BBC in the United Kingdom in 2003, where over three quarters of a million votes were received from the British public to find the nation's best-loved novel of all time.

There were also lists made in France and Germany and Australia too - interesting to see the similarities between countries.

Here's the BBC list. I wonder how a US list would be different - there are books on this list I've never even heard of ;) Anyway, I've bolded the ones I've read myself ...

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Robert Jenson and others on the devil

Still thinking about the existence of the devil. Saw this stuff ...

Did Rudolf Bultmann say something interesting about the devil not existing? Did Karl Barth agree with him? ... Angels and demons, Barth and Bultmann

You can read the first chapter of The Devil: A Very Short Introduction by Darren Oldridge online here.

And Robert Jenson writes this about the devil in an introduction to Sin, Death, and the Devil by Carl E. Braaten ...

[...] And finally there is that incarnation of vacuity, the devil. Karl Barth puzzled normal minds by saying that the devil was a myth. Folk were alarmed: Barth, they said, doesn't believe in the devil. But of course that was just the point: one believes in God, and in another sense in such things as salvation, and just possibly sometimes in other persons or even in certain facts about the world, but assuredly not in the devil. Barth's point was that not believing in the devil is the appropriate relation to the devil's mode of existence. That the devil is a myth doesn't mean, in Barth's thinking, that he doesn't exist; it means that he exists in a particular way, as the ordained object of denial.

Putting it my way, the only description possible of the devil is a description of what is the matter with him. The only predicates of the devil are his deficiencies, for the devil is the angel who refuses to be one ....

All I've read or seen on the devil, from the satirical CS Lewis version to the really scary Viggo portrayal, has just disturbed me. I can't imagine a good God who would allow a being like the devil to exist.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Friday, October 11, 2013

The devil

Justice Antonin Scaliab believes in the existence of the devil: Even so. Given the pope's recent mentions of the devil and the Screwtape book, I guess he's in popular company. Even David Bentley Hart seems to believe - A Person You Flee At Parties . Speaking for myself, the whole subject just creeps me out. In 2009 I had a post on the discernment of spirits in which I mentioned my discomfort with the idea of personified evil. Not very Ignatian of me, I guess, but I'm holding out for a religious universe with no devil.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


Vatican Cool to German Challenge to Divorce Rule ...

The Vatican put a German diocese on notice Tuesday that it disapproves of its challenge to church teaching on whether Catholics who remarry can receive Communion .... The diocese of Freiburg issued an official set of guidelines this week explaining how such divorced and remarried Catholics could receive the sacrament .... Church teaching holds that Catholics who don't have their first marriage annulled, or declared null by a church tribunal, before remarrying cannot participate fully in the church's sacraments because they are essentially committing adultery. The issue has vexed the Vatican for decades and has left generations of Catholics feeling shunned by their church ...

I once looked into getting an annulment. Most churches have a marriage tribunal website: here's the one in New York, where an annulment costs $1000+. I was aghast at the byzantinian complexity of the process and the high cost of it - I couldn't believe most divorced Catholics went through it. As it turns out, most don't. According to a post at Georgetown University's research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), only about 15% of divorced American Catholics ever even apply for an annulment ....

In the CARA survey we also asked Catholics who had experienced divorce if they had ever sought an annulment. Only 15% indicated that they had. As shown in the figure below, requests for annulments have declined in the United States along with marriages in the Church. In the most recent year with available data there were 6.5 marriages celebrated in the Church for every single case for declaration of nullity of marriage introduced by Americans. It is important to note that 49% of Church annulment cases introduced globally in 2011 were from the United States followed by Poland (6.4%), Brazil (5.6%), and Italy (5.1%).

Here are two charts from the above cited blog post (click to enlarge) ...

This means that at least 85% of divorced American Catholics - and almost a third of Catholics are divorced - are considered by the church to be unworthy of communion .... that's a lot of people. I'm glad the German church, at least, is trying to change this.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Europa Report

This week's movie rental was Europa Report ...

a 2013 science fiction film ... [which] recounts the fictional story of the first crewed mission to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. Despite a disastrous technical failure that loses all communications with Earth mission control and the death of one of the crew, the remaining members continue their mission to Europa and encounter a baffling mystery.

The basic story is that a commercial corporation sends a space craft with six astronauts/scientists ...

to Jupiter's icy moon, Europa ...

where they drill under the ice to the liquid below in search of life ...

whereupon things go terribly wrong ...

NPR didn't like the movie much, the Washington Post liked it a bit more. I thought it was interesting and visually intriguing but I doubt I'll ever want to see it again ... it's a found footage film in which all info presented appears to be video recordings made by the crew, so it was a little too low affect for me. Here's a trailer ...

What I saw today

- The government shutdown is killing lab animals: How the Shutdown Is Devastating Biomedical Scientists and Killing Their Research

- The effect of diminished belief in free will: Studies have shown that people who believe things happen randomly and not through our own choice often behave much worse than those who believe the opposite.

- Gregory Berns, professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, writes in the NYT about a study of dogs minds (yes, they have minds :) through an MRI: Dogs Are People, Too ...

- Keith Ward gives a lecture on the Omega Point ...

Monday, October 07, 2013

Patrick Parkinson and Geoffrey Robinson

News from Australia, Catholic church attempted to conceal sexual abuse evidence.

The church's response to clergy sex abuse has always been to say it will change the way sex abuse allegations are responded to, but one thing that is never mentioned is *why* there is so much Catholic clergy sex abuse world-wide (and why it keeps getting covered up). The church continuously avows that there is no more sex abuse in the Catholic church than in any other institution but here's the beginning of a 2012 article at ABC Religion & Ethics by Patrick Parkinson AM, Professor of Law at the University of Sydney, which refutes that belief ...

Restoring faith: Child sexual abuse and the Catholic Church

There are comparatively few allegations of child sexual abuse by ministers of religion in other churches. There are some, as there are in all other organizations involved in work with children and young people. With colleagues I have done a study of the prevalence of abuse in the Anglican Church across Australia. I have some knowledge also of what has happened in other churches. Reliable statistics are not available, but in my opinion, and based on the available data, there has been around six times as much child sexual abuse by clergy and religious in the Catholic Church as there is by ministers of religion in all the other churches in Australia combined - and I would regard that as a conservative figure.

Admittedly, the Catholic Church is the largest denomination in Australia, and it is also one in which priests and religious have been involved in schools and orphanages, unlike ministers of other churches. Even still, the reality is that the levels of abuse in the Catholic Church are strikingly out of proportion with any other church - and, from what I have seen, this is an international pattern. That makes it inevitable that a great deal of the focus of the national royal commission, so far as it concerns churches and faith-based organisations, is bound to be on the Catholic Church. This is also so because of the very serious allegations raised first by the Victorian Police and then echoed from the experience of a long-serving senior detective in NSW.

The allegations that some people in leadership within the Catholic Church have in comparatively recent times dissuaded victims from going to the police, failed to report known criminal misconduct where it had been admitted, or otherwise made more difficult the work of the police and the criminal justice system in bringing offenders to justice, are matters of immense seriousness ....

You can also listen to an audio talk with him here - Patrick Parkinson on the Catholic sex abuse crisis

The one Australian Catholic clergyman I've seen bring up this subject is retired bishop Geoffrey Robinson. Here's a recent interview with him at NCR ... Australian bishop launches petition for council on sex abuse. Here's just a bit of it ...

What was your reaction to Cardinal Pell's testimony before the Royal Commission?

One thing I'm trying to avoid is allowing the media to set up a confrontation between Cardinal Pell and me. That being said, the cardinal did testify that there is nothing wrong with the structures or the setup of the Catholic church. The fundamental difference between us is that I believe we must search out the causes and the contributing factors to abuse, and we must eradicate them. And in doing that, we must follow the argument, wherever it leads. Whereas for Cardinal Pell, all the church's teachings are set in stone, and you may not even question them.


Your petition sounds hopeful about the new pope.

He's made a lot of good noises and done a lot of nice things so far. He has said that when we consider the poor and injured, we must give a particular place to victims of abuse in the church. He also promised that victims of abuse will be present in a particular way in his prayers for those who suffer.

But Pope Francis still has to face the big questions. The biggest of them all, it seems to me, is sexual abuse. All he seems to have done so far is endorse what Pope Benedict did, and that doesn't go far enough.

What are you calling on Pope Francis to do?

In this petition, I'm asking him to set up a council. Big changes in the church can only come from two sources: the pope or the bishops in council. So if the pope wants serious change, he needs to set up a council if he is truly to confront everything involved in sexual abuse. That was the lesson from John XXIII and Vatican II: John alone could not have achieved everything the council did ...

Sunday, October 06, 2013


This week's questionable ;) movie from the library was - Inescapable. Here's the blurb at Amazon ...

Twenty-five years ago Adib (Alexander Siddig, Syriana, Cairo Time), a promising young officer in the Syrian military police, suddenly left Damascus under suspicious circumstances. Abandoning the love of his life Fatima (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler, The Ides of March), he made his way to Canada and wiped the slate clean. With a beautiful wife, two grown daughters, and a great job in Toronto, Adib is confident he s built a successful life from scratch. But when his daughter Muna suddenly disappears in Damascus, his past threatens to violently catch up to him. Teaming up with a Canadian emissary (Joshua Jackson, Fringe), Adib must now confront the turmoil he thought he left behind so many years ago in order to find Muna. Both a tense mystery and a stirring character drama, INESCAPABLE is an action-packed thriller driven by the undying and uncompromising love between a father and his daughter.

I chose it because of the actors: Dr. Bashir of DS9 (Alexander Siddig) was the main character in the film ...

Also in it, Joshua Jackson, who was Peter in Fringe and Oded Fehr of The Mummy :) ...

But sadly it wasn't a great movie - you can read a review at the NYT: You Can’t Escape the Past, and Other Truisms. Here's the trailer ...

Telling a story with images

An interview (Italian with English subtitles) with Monsignor Dario Viganò, who has taught cinema at university, but who was made the head of Vatican TV just before B16 left office. He discusses movies and the ways to tell a story with images (reminded me of scriptwriting ;) and shows video images from the change-over from Benedict to Francis - some are really worth a look :) ...

Saturday, October 05, 2013

What's in my fridge?

What's in a vegetarian's refrigerator? Probably what's in everyone's, minus the meat, fish, and eggs. I have grapefruit juice and cranberry juice. Milk, cheese, butter, and half and half. Peaches and baby tomatoes. Bread, protein powder, and peanut butter. Yum :)

Pacific Rim: the book

- Del Toro was inspired by Goya's The Colossus

My latest E-book from the library is Pacific Rim: The Official Movie Novelization by Alex Irvine. I didn't have high hopes for it, and the writing leaves a bit to be desired, but the actual story is more interesting than I had expected. Here's the basic plot from the Wikipedia page on the movie ...

In 2013, human cities come under attack by the Kaijus: colossal extradimensional beasts who rise from an interdimensional portal on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. To combat them, the nations of the Pacific Rim build the Jaegers: equally colossal humanoid war machines, each manned by two pilots whose brains are linked to share the overwhelming mental load of piloting the sophisticated machines. Though the Jaegers are effective, the Kaiju attacks grow more frequent and powerful. By 2025, the Pacific Rim governments have discontinued the Jaeger project and resort to building massive coastal walls to protect humanity from the Kaijus. The four remaining Jaegers are redeployed to Hong Kong to defend the unfortified coast until the wall is completed. Stacker Pentecost (Elba), commander of the Jaeger forces, devises a plan to end the war by using a nuclear weapon to destroy the portal.

I don't think you have to be especially interested in mechs to enjoy the book (or the movie) but I suppose it doesn't hurt (they play a role also in Ready Player One). I guess I'll rent the movie when it's available .... Wired liked it: Pacific Rim Is Literally the Most Awesome Movie of the Summer .... TIME magazine, not so much: Pacific Rim: Transformers Transcended. Here's Richard Roper's review ...

Friday, October 04, 2013

The San Damiano cross

When I saw this in the pope's homily in Assisi ...

Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts.

... I was reminded of the scene in the movie Brother Sun Sister Moon in which Francis comes upon the ruins of San Damiano church and sees the crucifix hanging inside :) .....

The San Damiano cross was moved from that church by the Poor Clares to the Basilica of Santa Chiara in 1257 - the crucifix that now hangs in the San Damiano is a copy. As stated in Wikipedia, the Jesus on this crucifix ...

is represented both as wounded and strong. He stands upright and resolute .... This representation contrasts with the regal Christ portrayed on the cross in earlier centuries and the suffering, dying, crucified Christ depicted generally throughout the Church since the beginning of the 14th century ....

See the Wikipedia article for explanations of who (and what) all the other figures represented on the cross are thought to be. One of the figures, on the lower right side of the cross, is said to maybe be a cat, but I can't find it (click to enlarge photo) ...

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Hobbit

This week's movie rental was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ...

a 2012 epic fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson. It is the first installment of a three-part film series based on the 1937 novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.

I first read the book when I was a teen and I still recall that line in the beginning which Gandalf speaks to Bilbo in the Shire ... I am looking for someone to share in an adventure :) Some of the characters in this film, the story of which precedes The Lord of the Rings, are familiar from that earlier film series, including Gandalf, of course ...

But this segment of the film series dwells mostly on Bilbo, who is played by Sherlock's Dr. Watson :), and on the leader of a company of dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield ....

My favorite character, though, was the wizard, Radagast the Brown, who had a special relationship with animals. He had hedgehog friends ...

And he had a neat sleigh that was pulled at super speeds by bunnies :) ...

I didn't feel the movie was as good as LOTR, but then I didn't like The Hobbit novel as much as the LOTR novels either - the earlier story lacks the drama and moral high stakes of the later story. I guess that's why Jackson added a lot to the movie that wasn't in the book in an effort to make it both more exciting and more serious. Unfortunately, it didn't really work all that well for me, but still, it was worth a watch. You can read the review in The Guardian here. One thing I did especially like about the movie was the song the dwarves sang ...


Yesterday I had a post about the pope's latest interview and the reforms that are being talked about - I wondered if some of the issues I thought important would ever be addressed. But I deleted the post because, with all the optimism and good will Francis has brought to the church, I didn't want to be a buzzkill.

Today, though, I saw a story that made me feel quite bitter about the whole thing ...

Lehmann rules out women priests

Women's ordination would split the Church, Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz has warned.

Asked in an interview with the German Catholic Church's official internet portal when he thought the Church would allow women to become priests, Cardinal Lehmann said that, although he personally could imagine it happening, as a Catholic theologian he did not see how the Church could change the teaching of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

But he said women's ordination must not be made a yardstick of women's standing in the Church. "I wish we could have been definitive on the ordination of women as permanent deacons. The discussion over the last 20 or 30 years has been too slow for my taste ... Meanwhile we must open all the other important positions there are in the Church for women."

Asked to evaluate the first six months of Pope Francis's papacy, Cardinal Lehmann said Francis had made a strong start but it was worth remembering that as regards spiritual renewal, theological world vision and analysis of the Church's place in the world, Pope Benedict XVI "did a great deal which will have a lasting place in the future Church."

Pope Francis's "impulses and charismatic impacts" must now lead to renewal, he stressed.

I just have to comment ...

Women's ordination would split the Church

Really? Given that a majority of Catholics want women to be allowed to be priests, why would this be so?

as a Catholic theologian he did not see how the Church could change the teaching of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

This is a joke - Francis has already contradicted B16 on a number of issues, and nothing either past pope has said about women's ordination has been said 'infallibly'.

But he said women's ordination must not be made a yardstick of women's standing in the Church .... ... Meanwhile we must open all the other important positions there are in the Church for women."

A man tells women what they cannot consider a yardstick of their standing in the church. I can't speak for all women but I'm pretty sure that nothing but women's ordination will satisfy most of them.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Jesuit School of Theology: Berkeley

In 1977, the faculty of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley published an open letter to the Apostolic Delegate in The Los Angeles Times in response to the Vatican's 1976 document declaring women could never be priests. The letter was signed by twenty-three of the twenty-six theologians at the school (including Joseph Tetlow SJ and Michael Buckley SJ) and it has been suggested that some of the signatories' careers were blighted because of their public stance. I admire those Jesuits who signed the letter for being willing to stand up for this issue.

I can't link to the original letter but it was published in the LA Times on March 18, 1977, and Commonweal also published it (you must be a subscriber or buy the article to read it from Commonweal). In the letter, the signatories give four reasons why they disagreed with the Vatican document ... 1) the poverty of the scriptural evidence cited, 2) the lack of unison amongst the Church Fathers cited, and 3) the way the document tries to use tradition, but it was the fourth reason given that really touched me and so I posted it below, along with other bits of the letter ....


An Open Letter to the Apostolic Delegate

We, the undersigned theologians of the Pontifical Faculty of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley … wish to discuss the recent Declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the ordination of women to priesthood which asserts: "The Church, in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination." …. it is our judgment that the conclusion of the Declaration is not sustained by the evidence and the arguments alleged in its support, and that it could sanction within the Church a practice of serious injustice.


4. The sacramental sign necessary to act in persona Christi is to be located within the human person rather than within masculine or feminine sexuality. There is a legitimate concern of the Declaration that "the image of Christ" be perceived by the faithful in the priest. We do not see how women's ordination would derogate from this. On the contrary, the presence of women as priests, as well as men, could be an abiding sign to the faithful that all Christians "have put on Christ Jesus" and in this identification lies their hope for salvation. It is simply a matter of fact that the exclusion of women from priestly ordination in our day does not reinforce "the image of Christ" for a growing number of people, but rather symbolizes sexual discrimination within the Church.

The Declaration correctly maintains that no single person can lay claim to ordination as a personal right. The profound issue of justice does not arise because one woman has been denied presbyteral orders. The issue of justice is engaged when an entire class of Catholics is antecedently excluded on principle even from the possibility that Christ might call them to this ministry, so that simply because they are women it is impossible to admit them to this service of word and of sacrament. The exclusion of any group of Christians from a life or from a function to which they feel a call is so serious an action by the Church, it should be supported as an obvious demand of the Gospel. Any evidence should be overwhelming which makes discrimination an imperative. This Declaration does not contain such evidence.

The Declaration offers neither encouragement nor leadership to the growing movement for the rightful evolution of women within the Church. The emerging consciousness of women's rights is a major moral development of our times, and one which the Declaration positively acknowledged. Despite this recognition, however, the Declaration retards that movement and commits the people of God to abiding and exclusive government by men. In its decision, the Roman Congregation may well be repeating in its own form and through its insufficient sensitivity to the issues involved, such condemnations as those of the Chinese Rites, of the Copernican understanding of the solar system, and of the early emerging biblical movement at the turn of the century.

This is the reason that we write to you, Your Excellency. Roman Congregations have made serious mistakes in the past whose harm to the Church we continue to experience centuries afterwards. We believe that we may well be on a similar path again, and the effect of aligning priesthood with masculinity may identify the Church as regressive for millions of human beings in the future. It is our conviction that this Declaration, because of the faulty nature of its argumentation and conclusions, could impose a grave injustice on Catholic women and undermine the position of the Successor of Peter within the United States, continuing what has become a serious dissipation of his authority.


[W]e make our reflections public to support in their pain those who have read in this Declaration a decision that women will always occupy a secondary role within the Church. There is no question that some have taken serious scandal from this Declaration, that so decisive a document could be issued whose consultation was so minimal and whose argumentation appears so weak. Perhaps this letter can give hope to some who feel here a deep injustice, indicating that one can disagree without either leaving the Church or without a destructive bitterness and mutual recrimination …..


Yard photos

When I feel down, I go outside and then things seem not so bad. Today I saw the blue jay trying to decide if it was safe to get a peanut ....

There are still some oleander flowers ...

My neighbor's cat gave me the gimlet eye ...

And I knew there was a squirrel up high in the pecan tree eating nuts because I could hear him nibbling, but I couldn't see him :) ...

Francis, Rahner, Reynolds

- Pope Francis' new interview with La Repubblica ... Excerpts from Pope Francis’ (second) explosive interview

- Karl Rahner's books online: Grace in Freedom, and Homanisation, and The Christian of the Future, from Religion Online

- remember this story: Australian priest, advocate for women's ordination excommunicated .... it was not long before the conservative press had articles/posts saying that he was not excommunicated for supporting women's ordination and same-sex marriage, but instead for heresy and desecrating the eucharist (see Damian Thompson and First Thoughts). An article today at NCR clears this up - Excommunicated Australian priest: I did not give Communion to a dog