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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Advent Calendar

- Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Bethlehem in Germany,
Glitter on the sloping roofs,
Breadcrumbs on the windowsills,
Candles in the Christmas trees,
Hearths with pairs of empty shoes:
Panels of Nativity
Open paper scenes where doors
Open into other scenes,
Some recounted, some foretold.
Blizzard-sprinkled flakes of gold
Gleam from small interiors,
Picture-boxes in the stars
Open up like cupboard doors
In a cabinet Jesus built.

Southern German villagers,
Peasants in the mica frost,
See the comet streaming down,
Heavenly faces, each alone,
Faces lifted, startled, lost,
As if lightning lit the town.

Sitting in an upstairs window
Patiently the village scholar
Raises his nearsighted face,
Interrupted by the star.
Left and right his hands lie stricken
Useless on his heavy book.
When I lift the paper door
In the ceiling of his study
One canary-angel glimmers,
Flitting in the candelabra,
Peers and quizzes him: Rabbi,
What are the spheres surmounted by?
But his lips are motionless.
Child, what are you asking for?
Look, he gazes past the roofs,
Gazes where the bitter North,
Stretched across the empty place,
Opens door by door by door.

This is childhood's shrunken door.
When I touch the glittering crumbs,
When I cry to be admitted,
No one answers, no one comes.

And the tailor's needle flashes
In midair with thread pulled tight,
Stitching a baptismal gown.
But the gown, the seventh door,
Turns up an interior
Hidden from the tailor's eyes:
Baby presents like the boxes
Angels hold on streets and stairways,
Wooden soldier, wooden sword,
Chocolate coins in crinkled gold,
Hints of something bought and sold,
Hints of murder in the stars.
Baby's gown is sown with glitter
Spread across the tailor's lap.
Up above his painted ceiling
Baby mouse's skeleton
Crumbles in the mouse's trap.

Leaning from the cliff of heaven,
Indicating whom he weeps for,
Joseph lifts his lamp above
The infant like a candle-crown.
Let my fingers touch the silence
Where the infant's father cries.
Give me entrance to the village
From my childhood where the doorways
Open pictures in the skies.
But when all the doors are open,
No one sees that I've returned.
When I cry to be admitted,
No one answers, no one comes.
Clinging to my fingers only
Pain, like glitter bits adhering,
When I touch the shining crumbs.

A Jesuit's blog on St. Ignatius Day

It's the feast day of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, and so it seems appropriate to mention that Jesuit Rob Marsh has revived his blog, All Things Seen and Unseen, and that he has a post for this day - Feast of St Ignatius

And here's one of his past homilies for John 1:35-39 ...

* * * * * * *

Sunday Week 2 Year B
January 19th, 1997
Robert Marsh SJ

This year epiphany pursues us. In these weeks each gospel speaks about the way God is discovered in our lives. Today the epiphany takes the form of an awkward encounter. In an unexpected question: “What are you looking for?” In a question given instead of an answer: “Where do you stay?” In an answer that itself is a question: “Come and see.”

You can’t make anything of this prickly conversation without letting yourself get inside it. From the outside it’s just words. Just noise. Just some story of dead people, long dead people. But from the inside it’s alive—it’s epiphany. So step inside with me for a moment or two. Join those two travellers on the road, step inside their skins, and feel what it’s like to be walking the dusty roads, trailing after someone you hardly know, on some fool’s errand, for someone else. Following this guy, trying not to be seen, because, for the life of you, you don’t know what you are supposed to do if he spots you. How long have you been trailing him? Too long perhaps and the midday heat is annoying you and the thirst is annoying you but you don’t want to risk losing him to stop. And then in your daydreaming you almost run into him. He’s stopped. He’s right in front of you, staring right at you. And, scared out of your skin, you are trying to put together some apology or explanation, when he smiles a little and, never taking his eyes off yours, says “What are you looking for?” What are you looking for? What can you say? You start to say something lame but you are still caught by his gaze and you realise you don’t want to lie to him. So what are you looking for? What are you searching for? For a good cool drink? For a place to sit down? For peace and quiet? Oh, for some sense to life, and some security from debt, some safety from disease, some hope for tomorrow, some love to give and receive. What are you looking for? What are you really looking for? For peace on earth? For an end to death and dying? You don’t know! Too small or too big those desires; too easy or too risky. You don’t know what you are looking for but you know you want something, you know the voice that wakes you in the night—in the hour of the wolf—and whispers your name and won’t let you sleep as you chase in circles the fears and the hopes of twilight. You know you are searching—and searching for words to express the search—but all that comes out in the end is “Where do you stay?”

It seems to be a good answer because his smile broadens and his eyes cloud as he goes inside to search for an answer worthy of your question. You’ve surprised him. Where does he stay? Where does he call home? Where are his roots and his sanctuary? He too is drawn deeper. Where does he find the sap for his vine, the blood for his body, the breath for his spirit? Who does he belong to? He’s quiet for a long time—as long as you took to answer his question—and then he reaches out his hand to take yours and says, “Come and see.” And you do. And both your lives are never the same again.

“Look,” says John the Baptist, “there’s the Lamb of God.” A promise of great revelation, of great epiphany, of great mystery. But the revelation comes on a street corner. The epiphany shines in the obscurity of a restless, searching heart. The mystery unfolds in a late afternoon of conversation. Look where we find God—where God finds us. Look how the kingdom comes, look how we become disciples, look how God comes among us. In a human voice, in a human yearning, in the touch of a human hand.

But are we looking for Jesus? Are we ready for him? And, above all, are we willing for our lives to never be the same again?

* * * * * * *

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jesuits in Japan redux

- Blackthorne and Fr. Alvito SJ (Shogun)

In the news: more on the upcoming Scorsese film based on the Shusako Endo novel, Silence, about the 17th century Jesuit missionaries to Japan. The film has several contributing Jesuit consultants, including James Martin SJ, and the cast includes Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe (Inception).

The characters in the novel/movie are based on real people - Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Chiara and Portuguese Jesuit Cristóvão Ferreira - who were in Japan during the Tokugawa shogunate and the Shimabara Rebellion, when it was getting tough to be an "out" Christian. Here's a bit from Wikipedia about Cristóvão Ferreira ...

Ferreira was sent to Asia, where he was a missionary in Japan from 1609 to 1633, becoming the head Jesuit under the oppression of the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1633, Ferreira was captured and renounced Christianity after being tortured for five hours. He became the most famous of the "fallen priests" and changed his name to Sawano Chūan (Japanese: 沢野忠庵). He registered at a Buddhist temple in accordance with Japanese law, and called himself "a member of the Zen sect" .... he married a Japanese woman and wrote several books, including treatises on Western astronomy and medicine, which became widely distributed in the Edo period. He also privately wrote a book on religion entitled 「顕疑録」 (The Deception Revealed) in 1636, but it was not published for 300 years. He participated in government trials of other captured Jesuits. He was often present during the use of efumi, whereby suspected Christians were ordered to trample on an image of Jesus Christ. He died in Nagasaki in 1650.

I've read a past discussion between Endo and Jesuit William Johnston on Christianity and Zen Buddhism - link - and what's interesting is that Endo, a Japanese Catholic, seems much more Christianly conservative than Johnston. I've not read his novel, but I would guess that it's a kind of opposite in theme to the past movie on a similar subject, based on the novel by James Clavell, Shōgun. The story in that novel and movie was ....

based on the adventures of [real life] English navigator William Adams. The series follows Pilot John Blackthorne's experiences in Japan in the early 17th century. After his ship, the Erasmus, is wrecked along the coast of Japan, Blackthorne must juggle his identity as an Englishman associated with other Europeans, namely Portuguese traders and Jesuit priests, and the Japanese culture into which he is thrust. As an Englishman, Blackthorne is at odds with the Portuguese and the Jesuits. The powerful Catholic foothold in Japan puts Blackthorne—a Protestant—at a disadvantage, but it also brings him to the attention of Lord Toranaga .... Blackthorne and the warlord forge a tenuous alliance.

I did rent the Shogun movie a few years ago and I read the book many years ago and liked both - the Jesuits in them were, ahem, kind of diabolical ;) .... the main Jesuit character was based on real life Jesuit João Rodrigues. I hope the Scorsese movie gives an account of events that balances Catholic, Protestant, and Japanese views, rather than erring on the Catholic pov.

Read more about the history of Christians in Japan here. In modern day Japan, Catholics are a tiny minority and even among them, the church's teachings are not going over well ... Japanese bishops: Vatican mindset doesn't fit Asian church.

A question

Why is the church going to have the upcoming synod of the family when the conclusion to be reached has already been decided? In the news - Changes in synod process designed to increase discussion, cardinal says ...

[...] Some responses [to the Vatican survey] questioned the Church’s teaching or encouraged greater understanding of people who cannot always live up to that teaching. Cardinal Baldisseri said that the bishops “must recognise that the faithful perceive the truth” about the Gospel and its values and their input cannot be ignored. “But the bishops have the responsibility and authority to discern ways to apply the constant teaching of the Church,” he said.

Actually it was a majority of responses from every survey made public around the world that questioned the Church's teaching, not just "some". Yet the decision of the synod has already been determined before it begins: the church will ignore the results of the survey and continue with failed teachings. I suppose this should come as no surprise, given that Pope Francis has said there's no need to change church teaching on contraception and that he wants to make Paul VI a saint for Humanae Vitae.

There's a post at NCR today that touches on the pointlessness of trying to push these rejected ideas - What our parish does about contraception and family planning. Here's just the end of it ...

[...] As a pastor, I have to say that the teaching of the magisterium on contraception does not seem to take into account the reality of most people's lives.

While we pay lip service to the difficulties married couples encounter in living the church's teaching, we don't provide much of an answer. What are people supposed to do in difficult situations like the ones I have encountered in ministry?

What do I say to a mother of six children in her late 30s, who came to me once? She had chronic high blood pressure and diabetes. Her doctor told her that another pregnancy would be life threatening. Her periods were very irregular. What should she and her husband do? They also did not see how they could care for more children in their family, since her husband had recently lost his job. They were overwhelmed with trouble. Neither abstinence nor NFP seemed to be an answer. She clearly had a responsibility to her six children and her husband, as well as to an openness to life.

What do we say to women in abusive marriages? Leave your husband? Abstain from sex with him and risk his increased anger?

How can we tell families struggling with unemployment, mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, natural disasters, or other serious problems that they should risk another pregnancy?

Is it prudent for families facing long separations because of things like military service or deportation to have another child?

We don't seem to have a good answer for the complex ethical struggles that beset our people. Our teaching, at times, seems inadequate. Even worse: At times, it seems insensitive. But we just continue on as before.

What does our parish do about contraception? We teach as the church teaches.

Are we having any significant impact? No.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Christian defense of terrorism :(

Today I saw what seemed like a pretty creepy (Christian) defense of terrorism at CIF Belief ... If we can have just war, why not just terrorism? by Anglican priest, Giles Fraser. I just wanted to make a few comments about it ....

Fraser begins by writing that it's hard to define terrorism because states and political entities don't want their acts to fall under that definition ....

[T]here is no internationally agreed definition [of terrorism] ... the Israelis won’t have any definition that would make them terrorists for bombing old people’s homes in Gaza, and West Bank Palestinians won’t have any definition that will make them terrorists for fighting back against occupation with petrol bombs.

Aside from the biased way this is presented, it's also misleading ... there *is* a generally accepted definition of terrorism: the promotion of terror through the deliberate targeting of civilians. Read what Human Rights Watch said on the subject - Gaza: Palestinian Rockets Unlawfully Targeted Israeli Civilians. Here's just a bit of that longer article ... Under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, civilians and civilian structures may not be subject to deliberate attacks or attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and military targets. Anyone who commits serious laws-of-war violations intentionally or recklessly is responsible for war crimes.

Fraser goes on ...

I took part in the Moral Maze recently on Radio 4 and was howled at for suggesting that there could be a moral right of resistance to oppression. And the suggestion was made that, as a priest, I ought to take no such line. The weird thing about this is that Christianity has thought a great deal about the idea of just resistance. The Reformation, for instance, saw a flurry of moral justifications for resistance to the state, when that state is seeking to impose on its subjects its own particular understanding of religious faith. In 1574, for example, Theodore Beza published his The Right of Magistrates in which he affirmed the right of resistance – and violent resistance in the final instance – to state tyranny .... Oliver Cromwell, for instance, would almost certainly be a terrorist. Come to think of it, so too would Moses and his famous (and very violent) run-in with the Egyptian state. And both of these were “religiously inspired”. If we can have just war, why not just terrorism?

First, we are not talking about "resistance to oppression" here, we're talking about terrorism .... imagine the difference between Martin Luther King's or Gandhi's or the Tibetan monks' resistance to oppression and Hamas shooting rockets at civilians.

Second, there's no way to spin this conflict as resistance to religious persecution. Even if it were that kind of conflict, there's no Christian justification for targeting and killing innocent people to get what you want, no matter how good what you want is .... if that was the case, Jesus would probably have joined the zealots, not told Peter to put down his sword.

Here's a short 2012 video from Human Rights Watch (from the page linked to above) ...

Sunday, July 27, 2014


I haven't been posting much lately, partly because I hurt my back a bit again and partly because it's so hot here it's hard to even think - the last few days have been between 102 and 106! I've reverted to "comfort" reading for the duration .... that would be a Star Trek series of books about a ship under the command of Will Riker. The series is Titan. The books are by different writers and of differing quality. I'm not sure they would appeal to anyone not already a Star Trek fan, but at least they're keeping me company for a while.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Here's one of the kittens who's a visitor in the yard. The black tail at the bottom belongs to his mom ....

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Last night I had a dream ...

- *

with the president in it :) Perhaps that's because I've been thinking about his recent signing of the executive order to prevent discrimination against LGBT people by federal contractors. Some religious groups asked for an exemption from the order but Obama did not allow one ... good! Not just me who thinks so ... 100 Religious Leaders to Obama: No Religious Exemption in ENDA Executive Order.

But today I was reading an article about the executive order at Christianity Today, and I was a little less happy after reading this ...

[...] Many religious organizations, such as World Vision, World Relief, and Catholic Charities partner with the federal government, but often receive grants, not contracts, so are not affected by the order, said Stanley Carlson-Thies, director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance. Religious organizations with federal grants are currently protected: A 2007 religious exemption memo from the federal attorney general's office says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act "is reasonably construed" to exempt World Vision (and other religious organizations that administer federal funds through social services programs) from religious nondiscrimination requirements on other federal grantees ....

Douglas Laycock, a professor of law and religious studies at the University of Virginia.

"And very important, [the] executive order creates no right for anyone to sue anyone else. So gay rights groups cannot organize litigation against religious contactors," he said. "Only the contracting agencies can enforce this order, and they may quietly enforce it with attention to religious liberty—which is what this administration has mostly done so far." ...

So this appears not to be quite the win for justice I had hoped for.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tobit, Sarah, and the UK assisted dying bill

I've been reading about the uk assisted dying bill which is in the House of Lords. It appears that all faith groups are opposed to it (there's a post about it at Thinking Faith) and some who are for it include Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Hawking.

I think there are at least two reasons why the religious arguments against the bill have not been convincing ...

One reason is that the worries religious people bring up .... that the bill will lead to the forced killing of the disabled, or that the bill will allow relatives to coerce ill family members into choosing death ... do not address the actual bill, which only allows terminally ill patients who will die within six months to decide for themselves if they want assisted suicide.

The other reason is less brought up but I think it underlies a lot of the religious arguments against the bill .... the (repugnant to me) belief that people do not have the right to decide for themselves when they will die because that's only God's prerogative ... During Friday's ten-hour debate, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said the Bill was not about relieving pain or suffering. "The bill is about asserting a philosophy ... the ancient Stoic philosophy that ending one’s life in circumstances of distress is an assertion of human freedom." - The Tablet

I don't know exactly where I stand on the bill, but it makes me think about the Book of Tobit ...

This book tells the story of a righteous Israelite of the Tribe of Naphtali named Tobit .... he slept in the open and was blinded by bird droppings that fell in his eyes. That put a strain on his marriage, and ultimately, he prayed for death. Meanwhile, in faraway Media, a young woman named Sarah had prayed for death in despair. She had lost seven husbands to the demon of lust, Asmodeus, 'the worst of demons', who abducted and killed every man she married, on their wedding night before the marriage could be consummated. God sent the angel Raphael, disguised as a human, to heal Tobit and to free Sarah from the demon.

Both Tobit and Sarah were both suicidal and prayed for death. God wasn't angry that they did so, and he sent an angel to fix what was wrong in their lives. But what are people who don't get angelic fixes supposed to do?

Some further reading from the blog of the Philosophy Faculty, University of Oxford ...
Economic arguments and assisted dying

- The Wedding Night of Tobias and Sarah by Jan Steen

Friday, July 18, 2014

Imaginative contemplation

In a couple of weeks it will be St. Ignatius day so I'm going to have some posts every once in a while until then on Ignatian spirituality. For today, something about imaginative contemplation. Imaginative contemplation is the kind of prayer used to foster a relationship with Jesus through putting oneself with him in the gospel stories - a kind of virtual reality experience which can be very vivid and has the power to engage the emotions. I saw a page on this today at the British Jesuit site, pray-as-you-go, which has a number of podcast contemplations of some NT passages. Here's the beginning of info on the page ...

Imaginative Contemplation

Saint Ignatius believed that God could speak to us just as clearly in our imagination as through our thoughts and our memories. In his Spiritual Exercises he writes of contemplation as a very active way of engaging your feelings, emotions, and senses to place yourself in the scene described.

Contemplation isn't about trying to place yourself in a historic setting, like dreaming you were back in the Middle Ages, it's about trying to encounter Jesus in a personal and unique way. Through the contemplation, the Holy Spirit makes present the mystery of Christ found in the particular passage, and helps you to explore things in a way you might not find possible through our normal podcasts. While these reflections are much longer than our normal podcasts, you shouldn't feel constrained by the time of the track. Go at your own pace; God is in no rush ...

Creighton University has a page too on imaginative contemplation - Praying with Our Imaginations

And here's a video of James Martin SJ on imaginative contemplation ...

Bill Clinton: the Israeli/Palestinian conflict

I was watching a video interview with Bill Clinton today from India where he's doing some charity work with children. At one point in the interview he was asked about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict ...

* * * * *

NDTV: And it was a crisis you made a successful intervention in to de-escalate the crisis. There is another crisis in the world today that some would say needs the intervention of somebody like you. What's happening between Israel and the Palestinian people today, and I have to ask you and I know the world, not just India, is interested in what you have to say on this. 200 people dead on the Palestinian side in Gaza, almost 80% of them are children and women; one Israeli dead by comparison. Yet the statement we've seen from the White House, many people believe, continues to be partial to the Israeli perspective. Where do you come in on this? How can this crisis be resolved? Do you believe Israel has been fair?

Bill Clinton: Well, first of all Hamas was perfectly well aware of what would happen if they started raining rockets in Israel. They fired a thousand of them. And they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them. Now, I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu could and should make a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians. I believe if he did it, and he did it with either President Abbas or with his coalition, if in return for Hamas' renunciation of terror and recognition of Israel's right to exist, I believe 60% of the people of Israel would support it.

NDTV: So what's holding him up?

Bill Clinton: Well, his coalition wouldn't support it, so he'd have to go to a national unity government to pass it. But I think that you'd find that more than 60% Israelis support trying to defend themselves if they get 1000 rockets shot at them. They have a defence system against such missile attacks, the so-called Iron Dome and they haven't died in great numbers yet, although they certainly could have. It's a miracle to me that they fired 1000 rockets in there and more people weren't killed. So they know when Hamas attacks them that Hamas has set up a situation, which politically can't lose, because they can say well, if I attack them back, they always hide behind civilians, and I'll kill civilians; and if I don't, we'll look like fools letting somebody shoot a 1000 rockets at us and not responding. What this proves is that there ought to be serious peace talks, serious ones, and I think the whole existence of this national unity government between the Fatah government on the West Bank and Hamas is the direct result of the lack of progress.

NDTV: Do you blame Prime Minister Netanyahu at least partially for not moving fast enough on the possibility of peace?

Bill Clinton: I think they are partly responsible, but I also think, you know for example, when Hillary was Secretary of State, she helped secure an agreement, the only time Israel ever agreed to freeze settlements as a part of talks, they never had before. So they agreed to a nine-month freeze, and during the whole time the Palestinians didn't want to talk to them. And three weeks before the freeze expires, they say give us another nine months and we'll talk to you. That was a big mistake. So there are mistakes on both sides. But the main thing is they share this little piece of land and this big stretch of history. They know each other so well. They know how many children they have; they know how many grandchildren they have. They know what those grandchildren are doing. It's ridiculous. You talk to them in private you can swear they're all in a big family reunion and they're either going to share their future on positive terms, or share their future on negative terms, and that's the larger truth here and they have to figure out what it is. Over the long run it's not good for Israel to keep isolating itself from moral opinion because of the absence of a viable peace process. But in the short and medium term, Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage on Israel by forcing it to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas. But it's a crass strategy that takes all of our eyes off the real objective, which is a peace that gets Israel security and recognition, and a peace that gets the Palestinians their state ...

* * * * *

Thursday, July 17, 2014


- Hiroyuki Sanada

This week's DVD rental was Helix ...

an American science fiction thriller television series that premiered on Syfy on January 10, 2014. The series follows a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who travel to a research facility in the Arctic to investigate a potential outbreak of disease. While there, they find themselves stuck in a life-or-death situation that could decide the future of mankind.

I've only seen a couple of episodes so far but it seems like a cross between The Thing and World War Z, but sadly, not as good, and there's a pretty steep ick factor. I choose it because one of the actor is is Hiroyuki Sanada (remember Dogen from Lost?). Unfortunately, it looks like he may end up being one of the bad guys. Here's a trailer ...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sri Lanka: the pope, the Jesuits, the inquisition and the civil war

- Francis Xavier requesting John III of Portugal for a Catholic expedition in Portuguese India

Sri Lanka Buddhists Demand Apology From Pope Francis Over Christian Colonial Rule. The pope's planning to travel to Sri Lanka and some there aren't happy about it - so what's up? It has to do with Catholicism in Sri Lanka, both past and present.

First, the past, with a visit to the Goa inquisition ...

The Goa Inquisition was the office of the Portuguese Inquisition acting in Portuguese India, and in the rest of the Portuguese Empire in Asia. It was established in 1560, briefly suppressed from 1774–1778, and finally abolished in 1812 ... St. Francis Xavier, in a 1545 letter to John III of Portugal, requested an Inquisition to be installed in Goa .... The inquisitor's first act was to forbid any open practice of the Hindu faith on pain of death. Sephardic Jews living in Goa, many of whom had fled the Iberian Peninsula to escape the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition to begin with, were also persecuted. The narrative of Da Fonseca describes the violence and brutality of the inquisition. The records speak of the necessity for hundreds of prison cells to accommodate the accused. From 1560 to 1774, a total of 16,172 persons were tried and condemned or acquitted by the tribunals of the Inquisition. While it also included individuals of different nationalities, the overwhelming majority—nearly three fourths were natives, almost equally represented by Christians and non-Christians. Many of these were hauled up merely for crossing the border and cultivating lands there. Seventy-one autos de fé were recorded ....

Yep, we're talking about that Francis Xavier = the friend of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first Jesuits, celebrated for his missionary zeal in the Far East and whose bodily relics reside in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, India. An interview I saw today comments on this - 'Xavier was aware of the brutality of the Inquisition' ...

Francis Xavier and Simão Rodrigues, two founder-members of the Society of Jesus were together in Lisbon before Francis Xavier left for India. Both were asked to assist spiritually the prisoners of the Inquisition and were present at the very first auto-da-fé celebrated in Portugal in September 1540, at which 23 were absolved and two were condemned to be burnt, including a French cleric. Hence, Francis Xavier could not have been unaware of the brutality of the Inquisition.

Modernly, the Jesuits have been involved in helping the Tamil people (Hindus, Muslims, Catholics) during and since the civil war in Sri Lanka. Here's an article from the Australian Jesuits: Why Tamils flee Sri Lanka. Related: a Wikipedia article on Jesuit Eugene John Hebert, who died in Sri Lanka during the civil war. There seems to be something of a rift in the Sri Lanka Catholic Church, but the possible perception that the Catholic Church has and does support the Tamils (and Tamil Tigers) as opposed to the majority Buddhist government may also help explain why the pope's visit to Sri Lanka might be considered controversial by some.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pope Francis and women bishops in the C of E

Yay :) Finally, women bishops in the C of E - Jubilation as Church of England's synod votes to allow female bishops
. This from Damian Thompson on Pope Francis and the C of E's vote for women bishops ...

[...] How will Pope Francis react? Some Anglicans suspect that he’s secretly pleased: they see him as a fellow liberal who would be open to ordaining women if only John Paul II hadn’t declared it to be a theological impossibility. They’re wrong. Francis talks about expanding the ‘ministry’ of women, but when he’s pressed on the subject he makes jokes about bossy priests’ housekeepers and Adam’s rib. There’s definitely a streak of old-fashioned Latin American misogyny in the Holy Father.

The Catholic Church in the UK is in a tizzy over this - God knows where the women bishops vote leaves Anglican-Catholic relations and The Church of England’s vote for women bishops has created an insurmountable obstacle to unity

That reminded me of how years ago Cardinal Kasper, now said to be Pope Francis' favorite theologian, tried to doom women bishops in the C of E - link. NT Wright responded to Kasper's talk - Women Bishops: A Response to Cardinal Kasper

I don't understand the Catholic version of ecumenism - it seems to mean everyone else becoming Catholic rather than respecting differences. Or perhaps the Catholic hierarchy is feeling lonesome as the last church that still discriminates against women.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hee hee :)

I'm watching reruns of Stargate Atlantis and tonight's episode, The Game, had the characters discussing the famous trolley thought experiment, but in a way that makes obvious how silly the set-up of that ethical problem really is :) ...

Balthasar and women

I'm reading a November 2013 article in The Tablet by Karen Kilby on Pope Francis' belief that we need a "theology of women" ... Second sex?. Being a Balthasar scholar, she mentions him too in the article. Here's just a bit of it ...

[...] Hans Urs von Balthasar, said to be the favourite theologian of John Paul II and also supported by Benedict XVI.

In Balthasar's thought, masculinity is associated with activity, femininity with receptivity. Receptivity is a good thing we are all called as Christians to be fundamentally Marian, receptive towards God, and so there is a certain sense in which women have the advantage in the Christian life. But Christ did not just happen to be male insofar as he was to represent God (the active party) to the world (the receptive party), he had to be a man. And so a priest, to represent Christ to the (essentially female) Church, also has to be male.

Balthasar's presentation of the sexes has drawn criticism from a range of voices. What Francis' view on it would be is hard at this stage to know does he think we need something genuinely different from the kind of vision of women that John Paul II and Balthasar were developing, or just that these lines of thought need to be better expressed and disseminated?

There are in any case, it seems to me, reasons to hesitate about the idea of the Church needing a new "theology of women". The very notion of such a theology is in danger of suggesting that the female sex is a problem to be solved, something "different" that needs accounting for. There is a danger that the quip I once heard from a young physics student "Funny chaps, women" will be the subtext of any such theology ....

Further reading (I haven't read these yet myself but the titles look interesting) ... Sex, Death, and Meloframa: A Feminist Critique of Hans Urs von Balthasar and A Man and Three Women. Hans, Adrienne, Mary and Luce, both by Tina Beattie

Friday, July 11, 2014


- These Are America’s First Churches — and They’re Still Worshipping. I didn't realize before reading this that the United Church of Christ has some of the oldest churches, like the First Church in Windsor pictured above. There's a Wikipedia page with a larger list of the oldest churches plus photos.

- 100 Faith Leaders To Obama: Religious Liberty Shouldn’t Be Used To Discriminate Against LGBT People

- The confidentiality of confession vs the reporting of sex abuse has been in the news. Today I saw a blog post at The Tablet - Why I agitated for confessions in the Australian Anglican Church to no longer be bound by confidentiality - about how the Anglican church in Australia has decided that the fundamental theological principle at stake is that the safety of members of the Church and the public should be of paramount concern in relation to the confidentiality of confessions. I think the Catholic church should also give priority to mandatory reporting of abuse over confidentiality of confession.

- Memo to the Supreme Court: Morning-After Pills Don't Cause Abortion, Studies Say ... whenn it comes to Plan B, there is now fairly definitive research that shows the only way it works is by preventing ovulation, and therefore, fertilization .... ella, like Plan B, doesn't prevent pregnancy if a woman has already ovulated.

- Also at The Tablet: Stopping the rot by Jason Berry. What's scary to me is that everyone believes Cardinal Pell is the guy to rely on to fix the banking problems. See what I think of him ... Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Pell and the Ellis sex abuse case and Pell, sex abuse, church money

- Israel, unlike Hamas, isn’t trying to kill civilians. It’s taking pains to spare them.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

10 years a blogger

Noticing that in a few months I will have been blogging with Blogger for 10 years, though my first home wasn't here at Perspective. I first began blogging when a writing friend and Quaker, David, asked me to join his group blog, friendly skripture study :)

Monday, July 07, 2014

Francis meets sex abuse victims

The Pope met with sex abuse victims, but though he said that Bishops will be accountable for sex abuse, when one of the victims he met with asked him to remove Cardinal Brady and other bishops who had covered up abuse in the past, his response was not affirmative ...

Irish abuse victim tells Pope she wants Cardinal Brady removed

Clerical child abuse survivor Marie Kane (43) has asked Pope Francis to remove Cardinal Seán Brady as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland due to his handling of a clerical child abuse inquiry in 1975 ....

“It’s a big thing with me that there are still members of the hierarchy there who were involved in the cover-up. I feel personally they (Church) cannot contemplate any change happening, there will be no success” as long as such people remained in place, she told The Irish Times today.

During a meeting in the Vatican, she told Pope Francis that “cover-up is still happening and you have the power to make these changes.” There were others besides Cardinal Brady, she said, but “I didn’t want to go into a litany.”

Pope Francis responded that “it was difficult to make these changes,” ...

Why can Francis remove a bishop who bought a big house but cannot remove one who has covered up sex abuse?

More on this ... Irish abuse survivor asks Pope Francis to remove Cardinal Seán Brady as archbishop

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Be not afraid

I read two articles today about very different subjects but both seemed to be about religious groups trying to inspire fear in their members ...

First, Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson writes at The Daily Beast about unwarranted conservatives fears of attacks on religious liberty ... Even After Hobby Lobby, the Religious Right is Still Terrified ...

[...] What can progressive people, and progressive religious people in particular, do to demonstrate that American culture is not trying to take away their freedom to pray, worship and believe as they wish? How can we speak to their fears in a way that gets them to understand that there is nothing to be fearful of? Vigilance, yes, is prudent and necessary in any free society, but fear bordering on paranoia—fear that is objectively unwarranted—is corrosive.

Religious freedom is something I would fight and die for. But I do not feel threatened by our precious separation of church and state in this beloved United States. That separation should not only protect religious people and communities from interference by the state, but should also protect the secular culture from unwarranted influence and control by the church, synagogue or mosque. Robert Frost got it right: fences make for good neighbors. And while church and state are good neighbors in America, it’s the fence between the two that make for real religious liberty.

Within only a day or two after the Hobby Lobby ruling, prominent evangelicals called upon President Obamato declare broad religious exemptions to his upcoming executive order banning discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people by federal contractors. Just stop and think about the image of religious people pleading for the “right” to discriminate against certain fellow citizens. What would Jesus do, indeed?!

I am keenly aware that such a view might be perceived by some as having a good dose of paranoia of my own. But I think that while oppression and discrimination against LGBT citizens can be demonstrated with ease and myriad examples, oppression of religious people by the government and society is much more difficult to document. Anti-gay sentiment is waning in American society, and with that forward progress, conservative churches will see a loss of credibility and a diminished effectiveness of their fear-mongering. That is as it should be. Neither the church nor the state is served by it.

The other article that made me think about the use of fear was this ... Vatican Officially Endorses Exorcism ...

[...] This move by the Holy See comes amid growing reports on the Catholic Church’s renewed interest in exorcism. Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis makes frequent references to the devil. Last year, many saw his laying on of hands on a man allegedly possessed by demons as an act of purgation.

The church believes that demonic cases are on the rise because more people are exploring the dark arts (black magic and a host of other “satanic rituals”) with the help of information readily available on the Internet. Across Italy and Spain, dioceses are schooling more priests in administering exorcism rites. Training more priests in this field is also part of the church’s effort to sideline self-proclaimed exorcists.

“Diabolical possessions are on the increase as a result of people subscribing to occultism,” Father Francesco Bamonte, the president of the Italy-based IAE, told the Telegraph.

Saturday, July 05, 2014


The chinese trumpet vine has a flower ...

One of the little stray cats in the yard takes a nap ...

Friday, July 04, 2014

Fireworks and Aliens

This 4th of July I'm reminded of the video clip above - it's a scene from Aliens in which the marines' only ship off the planet of monstrous alien creatures has just blown up, and the little girl tells them they have to get inside because the aliens come out at dark. The fire, the smoke, and the dread ... it all reminds me of the coming of darkness that signals the setting off of 3+ hours of fireworks in my neighborhood. Last night many people here set of fireworks ahead of the 4th and the noise was incredible ... the cherry bombs and rockets sounded like nuclear detonations. The stray cats in my yard were terrified, running all around in a frenzy to get away from the explosions, but having no luck because the noise was coming from every side. I can think of lots of practical reasons not to allow private fireworks ... injuries, fires, bad air quality, damage to wildlife ... I hate fireworks :(

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Movies for the 4th of July

There's a post at NCR - Should a Catholic pick a favorite war film?. If you're a pacifist like me, you may still have watched many war movies, if only to remind yourself of how horrible war is. I found particularly creepy the Knights of Columbus used a war movie to advance their political agenda - see my post For Greater Glory. But anyway, here below are some of the movies I've seen about war (in sort of alphabetical order). A few are old - I blame my college boyfriend who had an interest in war movies and even made me watch some that were silent! ;) I think they're all "good" films, but I found them all so disturbing that I doubt I'll ever want to see any of them again ....

- Alexander Nevsky ...
Alexander Nevsky (Александр Невский) is a 1938 historical drama film directed by Sergei Eisenstein ...... The film depicts the 13th century conflict between the Teutonic Knights and the Russian people of Novgorod. It follows the knights as they invade Pskov and massacre its population. Alexander Nevsky then rallies the people of Novgorod and at a battle on the surface of the frozen Lake Chudskoe, the outnumbered Novgorodians defeat the Germanic invaders. Alexander Nevsky was made during the Stalinist era, when the Soviet Union was at odds with Nazi Germany. Stalin directly requested that Eisenstein make a film that would warn the Soviet people of German aggression.

- Black Hawk Down (I posted about this too - Somalia at the movies ) ...
Black Hawk Down is a 2001 British-American war film directed by Ridley Scott. It is an adaptation of the 1997 book of the same name by Mark Bowden based on his series of articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer, which chronicled the events of the Battle of Mogadishu, a raid integral to the United States' effort to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The film features a large ensemble cast, including Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner and Sam Shepard.

- Breaker Morant ...
Breaker Morant is a 1980 Australian feature film, directed by Bruce Beresford and starring British actor Edward Woodward as Harry "Breaker" Morant. The all-Australian supporting cast features Bryan Brown as Lieutenant Handcock, Lewis FitzGerald as Witton, and Jack Thompson as Major Thomas ...... Breaker Morant concerns the murder trial of three Australian soldiers, officers of the elite Bushveldt Carbineers in South Africa. Harry "Breaker" Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton are accused of the murder of one Boer prisoner, the subsequent murders of six more, and Morant and Handcock are accused of the sniper-style death of a German missionary, the Rev. Hesse. Their defense counsel, Major Thomas, has had only one day to prepare their defense.

- A Bridge Too Far ...
A Bridge Too Far is a 1977 film based on the 1974 book of the same name. The film tells the story of Operation Market Garden, a failed Allied attempt to break through German lines at Arnhem in the occupied Netherlands during World War II. It was directed by Richard Attenborough and featured an ensemble cast of many film stars. The name for the film comes from a comment made by British Lt Gen Frederick Browning, deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, who told Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery before the operation, "I think we may be going a bridge too far." ..... [starring] Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Elliott Gould, Edward Fox, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Kemp, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, Liv Ullmann, Maximilian Schell, Hardy Krüger and Ryan O'Neal.

- Casualties of War ...
Casualties of War is a 1989 war drama about the Vietnam War, starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn. It was directed by Brian De Palma, with a screenplay by David Rabe based on actual events that took place in 1966. The theme of Casualties of War is how normal moral behavior is discarded during war times and shows it in the extreme when soldiers become savages who can dehumanize innocent by-standers, and also about personal responsibility for maintaining that morality in extreme conditions.

- Das Boot ...
Das Boot (IPA pronunciation: /das boːt/, German for The Boat) is a 1981 feature film directed by Wolfgang Petersen ..... The movie is the story of a single mission of one World War II U-boat, U-96, and its crew. It depicts both the excitement of battle and the tedium of the fruitless hunt, and shows the men serving aboard U-boats as ordinary individuals with a desire to do their best for their comrades and their country. The story is based on an amalgamation of the exploits of the real U-96, a Type VIIC-class U-boat commanded by Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, one of Germany's top U-boat "tonnage aces" during the war.

- Enemy at the Gates (I posted about this too - How to remain a pacifist ) ...
Enemy at the Gates is a 2001 war film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, starring Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins and Ed Harris set during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II .... The film's title is taken from William Craig's 1973 nonfiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, which describes the events surrounding the Battle of Stalingrad from 1942–1943. It is based on a duel mentioned in the book that developed between the legendary Soviet sniper Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev and his German counterpart, Major Erwin König, as they stalk each other during the battle.

- Helen of Troy (I posted about this too - Stellan Skarsgård is Theseus :)) ...
Helen of Troy is a 2003 television miniseries based upon Homer's story of the Trojan War, as recounted in the epic poem, Iliad. This TV miniseries also shares the name with a 1956 movie starring Stanley Baker. It stars Sienna Guillory as Helen, Matthew Marsden as Paris, Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon, James Callis as Menelaus, John Rhys-Davies as Priam, Maryam d'Abo as Hecuba, and Stellan Skarsgård as Theseus. The series was entirely shot on location in the islands of Malta.

- The Last of the Mohicans ...
The Last of the Mohicans is a 1992 historical epic film set in 1757 during the French and Indian War and produced by Morgan Creek Pictures. It was directed by Michael Mann and based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel of the same name and George B. Seitz's 1936 film adaptation, owing more to the latter than the novel. The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, and Jodhi May, with Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig, and Steven Waddington in supporting roles.

- The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc ...
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc is a 1999 historical drama film directed by Luc Besson ..... the story of St. Joan of Arc, the famous French war heroine of the 15th century and religious martyr, played by Ukrainian-born Milla Jovovich. The story begins with young Joan witnessing the atrocities of the English against her family, following her through her visions, to her leadership in battle, through doubt (with Dustin Hoffman playing a character who we are never sure is God, Satan or Joan's own conscience and who is visible to only Joan), and finally to her trial and execution ...


- On the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, religious institutions want freedom to discriminate ... [A]s religious people, we have to ask ourselves: Do we really want our legacy in this moment to be that we asked for special permission to discriminate against members of our community and citizens of our country? I posted about this a few days ago here.

- France's burqa ban upheld by human rights court. I'm sure some see this as another "attack on religious liberty" but I think banning the burqa is a good thing. I wrote about this earlier ... Andrew Brown and myself on the burqa ban and Why I'd ban the burqa

- How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions

- Yesterday my sister, who lived in Japan for years, was telling me about the Moomins ...

Moomins (Swedish: Mumintroll, Finnish: Muumi) are the central characters in a series of books, and a comic strip by Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson, originally published in Swedish by Schildts in Finland. They are a family of white, roundish fairy tale characters with large snouts that make them resemble hippopotamuses.

And about the Moomin cafe in Japan ... Japan's 'anti-loneliness' cafe goes viral. Check out the photos :)

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Passive-aggressive Pope Francis

Humor is used as a way to shame and silence people so that they fail to question or challenge the underlying meanings embedded in the oh-so-innocent joke [but] It’s important to call people out on offensive jokes ...
- link

In a recent interview, Pope Francis jokes 'woman was from a rib' as he avoids vow to reform church, the Pope commented on women ...

In his first interview with a female journalist since his election to the spiritual leadership of the world's 1.2 billion baptised Catholics, Pope Francis dodged a string of questions about whether he intended raising the status of women in his church ....

when his interviewer, the Vatican correspondent of the Rome daily Il Messaggero, Franca Giansoldati, asked him whether he could detect an underlying misogyny in the Catholic church, Francis replied: "The fact is that woman was taken from a rib." Giansoldati wrote that he then laughed "heartily" before saying: "I'm joking. That was a joke."

The 77-year-old pontiff went on: "The issue of women needs to be gone into in more depth, otherwise you can't understand the church itself." But did he envisage, say, appointing a woman to head a Vatican department? "Well," replied the pope cryptically. "Priests often end up under the sway of their housekeepers." ....

At NCR, Phyllis Zagano wrote about the interview ...

[...] I cannot believe that a world-class person like Francis, who seems so much in touch with individuals and their suffering, is capable of making remarks such as these. Yet I know he lives in a society where the ordinary needs of clerics are often taken care of by unmarried women or religious sisters who cook, clean, do laundry, order supplies and serve as receptionists, often on nights and weekends. Just like Mom ....

When you catch some priests or bishops making similar comments, they chuckle, "Oh, no, ha ha, just joking." Other clerics, the ones who buy their own groceries and cook their own chicken, may smile wanly and say nothing when such wisecracks fly past. Only a very few will man up to the fact that these words hurled in jest have insulted a woman, thereby all women, thereby half the body of Christ. That, after all, is the bottom line. The men who think like this just don't get it. Will they ever? How can the church move forward when the "we" is all male, all the time, and women are the "they" to be both ridiculed and theologized about?

What I find especially depressing is that most people are so grateful for the positives about Francis, that they are willing to ignore his attitudes about women.

Some articles about Francis and women from the past ....

- Pope Francis, women and 'chauvinism with skirts'

- Francis talks about women and the faith

- Pope wants 'capillary and incisive' role for women in church

- Francis shoots down women cardinals

- Is calling for women cardinals an act of clericalism?

- We are at a crossroads for women in the church