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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

Rocco takes a look at the appointment of nuncios around the world and the Holy See's new philosophy under Benedict:

As with the Blume appointment, we can see the roots of a new trend: diplomatic postings being given to prelates with first-hand experience in the places to which they're sent. This turns on its head the previous State convention that the nuncio should be an unblemished arbiter free from prior connections with the place which would affect his objectivity.

It's nice to see that the Vatican is finally figuring out that experts with on-the-ground experience are more likely to get done what needs to be done effectively rather than guys who've made a name for themselves in the Curia. Hopefully, Sodano's successor will be of the same model. The Vatican can't risk any more 'insensitivities'.
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Papabile continues his coverage of the Pope's meeting with the Society of St. Pius X. This is interesting:

While I [Papabile] won't reveal all details in this, I do think it's strange that he demanded the SSPX recognize the validity of the election of the Pontiff. They do that on the front page of their web sites, and mention the local Bishop and the Pontiff in all their Masses.

This may be more of a detail item regarding the Priests, a small minority of whom are crypto-edevacantist.

Various sources have suggested that any rapproachment between the SSPX and the Vatican could possibly lead to a break-up of the SSPX as its more radical members refuse to compromise. We'll see how that plays out as mid-level discussions continue.
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The always well-informed Amy Welborn looks at Father Richard O'Brien's moonlighting as a consultant to The Da Vinci Code movie production:

It's sort of like a bad, ironic joke

...that Fr. Richard McBrien is the hired gun consulant on the DVC movie. Perhaps it's a natural step for him, who can say? Nevertheless, news of his work was published in the Notre Dame magazine last spring.

I wonder if Father O'Brien will get a role in the movie like Father O'Malley S.J., who was one of the principal consultants for The Exorcist and at the same time played Father Dwyer, the best friend/confidante of Jason Miller's Father Karras...

On a side note, I recommend the book American Exorcism by Michael Cuneo. Aside from its in-depth look at the various forms of exorcism in the United States, Cuneo's book also talks about the role of The Exorcist in creating the 'hero-priest' mystique that remains with us to this day (in contrast to Bing Crosby's sweet, laid-back do-gooder image).

The Catholic Church would do well to consider the impact of Father Karras on its image and what it could do to try to recapture some of that magic. Posters of Neo-as-Priest are one thing... A movie with Jason Miller and Max von Sydow quoting the Roman Ritual is quite a bit more powerful.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A picture of a so-called Adonis



beach bunny vaticanista has had the above picture posted for awhile. As she's not updated lately, everytime, I check her out, it's still the top post. So I thought I'd post it here.

The picture is of course Msgr. Georg Gänswein, the personal secretary of Benedict XVI.

For now

I direct everyone over to the right to the links under Daily Readings, especially Papabile. Just about everyone has info on the meeting today between Benedict and the superior-general of the Society of St. Pius X.

The word on the street is that a universal indult is going to be granted for the pre-1970 Roman Missal Mass (I'm not going to jump in and call it the Pian rite).

Along with that, there is also speculation that the 'Pian rite' may be a topic at the upcoming Synod of Bishops. But as I said, Papabile has the scoop, because as Rocco keeps saying over and over, it's P's story.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Making up

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano is meanwhile reported to have said that while the omission was accidental, the Vatican could have been more sensitive.

Yah think?

Read the complete article Sharon settles row with Vatican from BBC News.

The gift of the Magi

In a concise essay, Pietro De Marco examines the theology behind the symbols used at World Youth Day and how they call for catechesis among Catholics.

ROMA, August 26, 2005 – In the the kontakion on the nativity of Christ by the greatest of the Byzantine religious poets, Romanos the Melodist, the Child Jesus instructs the heart of his Mother on the meaning of the Kings and Magi who were asking Mary to permit them to adore her Son: "Welcome those who have welcomed me. I am in them as I am in your arms; I did not leave you, and yet I came with them."

The kontakion proceeds: "And she opens the door and receives the company of the Magi. She opens the door who is the unopened door through which Christ alone has passed. […] She opened the door, she from whom was born the Door, a little child, God before the ages."
[...]

Read the complete article Felix Colonia: More on the Epiphany of the Catechist Pope from www.chiesa.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Magister: WYD and Constantinople

Sandro Magister takes a look at World Youth Day and upcoming events, namely the trip to Constantinople.

On World Youth Day, Magister notes,

And he kept this promise, too. From August 18-21 in Cologne, Benedict XVI did not bestow upon the crowd a mere theatrical gesture, or nothing more than a striking phrase. He led the young people to look, not at him, but always and only at the true protagonist: that Jesus whom the Magi adored in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread,” and who is now concealed in the consecrated host.

Joseph Razinger took a big risk in Cologne. Cardinal Angleo Scola, one of the many bishops who came to catechize the young people during the first three days of the vigil with the pope, thought he would win them over with a ten-minute recitation from “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. Benedict XVI, on the other hand, challenged everyone’s attention span with a difficult explanation of “the different nuances of the word ‘adoration’ in Greek and in Latin. The Greek word is ‘proskynesis’. It refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure. [...] The Latin word is ‘ad-oratio’, mouth to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is love.”

The now-famous tangent into linguistics will certainly be a hallmark of Ratzinger's papacy along with everything else. Aside from his message to the youth of the world, Magister examines the message to the Jews and the Muslims.

On the Jews, as Magister notes, there was no reference to Israel, simply the two faiths. It is an important distinction that all too often gets lost amid calls of anti-Semitism when anyone criticizes Israel. On the Muslims, Magister quotes an Algerian Muslim university teacher:

Khaled Fouad Allam, an Algerian Muslim with Italian citizenship who teaches at the universities of Trieste and Urbino, wrote in the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, "Avvenire":

"Benedict XVI's words are a big, healthy jolt for us. At a moment in which the wicked teachers seem to be raging within our communities, his words are an encouragement to bring forth true educators, who exist and are active, but who are not able to make their voices heard as they really need to be. The pope is right when he says that there can be no room for apathy and neglect. We need the courage to denounce and isolate those who use inflammatory speech and incite violence by using the name of God."

In his look at the visit to Constantinople, Magister notes the warm relations between the top theologian of the Patriarchate and the former top theologian of the Roman Church. They have been working to reinvigorate the commission on Catholic/Orthodox dialogue. Magister also mentions the Protestants and Benedict's concern:

What deeply concerns Ratzinger is the silence – or surrender – shown recently by many Christian authorities, especially Protestant ones, over attacks in various countries against the inviolability of each human being's life, from conception to natural death.

As I've noted here before, the best chance for reconciliation is between Rome and the Orthodox. When it comes to so many of the Protestant churches, the chance is simply not there, as so many of them are too far gone. Instead perhaps, we should look to them rather as crucibles of faith, where men and women can find their way eventually to the Catholic Church and the fullness of God's truth.

Anything else would either be a compromise of that truth or simply something too cosmetic to have any real meaning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The September shuffle

If you read my more esteemed colleagues in the world of Vatican watching, you'll know that there is a big shuffle coming in September as far as retirements, new appointments and basically the reorganization of the Curia to suit Benedict XVI's tastes.

I shall not prognosticate, as I have no material with which to do so.

Aside from the filling in the slots with names, the question remains of how Benedict will organize his administration of the Holy See.

If you're familiar with the basic theories of government, there are two primary models that political scientists normally use. The first is the 'wheel' model. The seat of power is in the middle and spokes extend outward to the world at large in direct lines. This model is for those who are interested in hands-on governance.

The second model is the classical pyramid model. The seat of power is at the top and there are various ever-widening layers of bureaucracy between the top and the real world. The best example would perhaps be John Paul II. His entourage were certainly there to limit access and filter the flow of information. In the Holy Father's last years, this was augmented especially by Sodano and the Secretariat of State.

Which of our two models (or some form of them) will Benedict choose? Looking back at the fact he's risen from being the prefect of CDF, it may be useful to look at his administration there. But on the other hand, as it's been noted time and again, being a department head is a bit different from sitting at the head of the table.

Some factors to consider:
1. Benedict is pushing eighty. He seems to be in good enough health, but will he choose a model that will be less time and energy consuming?

2. Benedict is more hands on. As it was noted at WYD by observers, the Holy Father was not inclined to say a few words to those he spoke to, but rather to take a moment and have a brief little conversation. He's very hands on with the people he meets.

3. Trusted advisors are on hand. Benedict XVI has his trusted secretary and several others who we've grown familiar with since April. He trusts them, but will he be willing to allow them to shield him?

4. On the same line as 3.: Will Benedict be able to find enough subordinates to fill all the slots that need filling so that he can rest easy with the fact that he is not being undermined or will he have to keep his friends close and his enemies even closer and keep a firm hand on things?

We'll see how the shuffle turns out when the music stops.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Down the road: Sydney

The ever on-top-of-things Amy talks of World Youth Day in Sydney.

I doubt I'd want to go, although I'm sure the experience would be worth it. But hopefully next time around, I'll have cable to watch it on TV/web feed.

Maybe I'll have to start a fund for anyone who would wish to contribute for possible pilgrims to Sydney in 2008...

It is done

World Youth Day wrapped up yesterday. Check out the other Vatican watchers for more info. They covered it much better than I.

The main topic covered here over the last few months also concluded yesterday, when the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine moved its seat from Lviv to Kiev. Protesters protested and promised to keep protesting.

As we see again here, this move is pretty much exclusively opposed by the Orthodox of the Russian Church:

The service was attended by head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church Lyubomyr Huzar, Greek-Catholic archbishops from all parts of Ukraine and abroad, and representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church.

The other two Orthodox churches in Ukraine have no problem with it. We'll see if they are able to keep up the protests as promised. Husar, strengthened by the move, will be pushing for the elevation of the UGCC to patriarchate status here. Then the conflict really begins.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Not all Orthodox are upset

Blah, blab, usual story that we've seen for the half year or more, with added protests and police present to keep the peace. However...

The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate Filaret said that the decision on shifting Guzar’s residence to Kiev is the domestic affair of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. The Russian Orthodox Church lashed out at the shifting of the residence of the Guzar’s church to Kiev.

The Orthodox Church is split in three in Ukraine. There's those loyal to Moscow, those who are loyal to an independent Kiev patriarch and those loyal to /another/ Kiev Patriarch. Notice that it's only the ones loyal to Moscow who are making a stink about this move.

Read the complete article Protests against shifting center of Greek-Catholic Church to Kiev from ITAR-TASS.

Fashion faux pas or calculated move?

Angela Merkel, who is bidding to become the German chancellor in elections next month, appeared to breach protocol yesterday when she met Pope Benedict XVI with her head uncovered.

By contrast, Doris Schröder, the wife of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, wore a black lace veil over her blonde hair as she chatted to the Pope on his return to his native Germany.
[...]

Read the complete article Black lace for Mrs Schröder, but pastor's daughter Angela Merkel welcomes the Pope bareheaded from News.Telegraph.

Mrs. Schroeder, despite being a protestant and the wife of a social democrat, benefited from the experts of the foreign ministry. I was reading the other day at Speigel Online about Ms. Merkel's fashion sense and how the German press has been all over her for some candid photos taken when she was on vacation. They were not impressed with her baggy trousers with elastic band, plain white tennis shoes and frumpy-looking shirt. Could this be another fashion faux pas or perhaps some kind of move to make the CDU more hip?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

More on the visit to Turkey

According to the Turkish Daily News, the Pope will be visiting November 28th through the 30th.

However, "as of yesterday it was still not clear whether this would be an official visit."

November 30th is the Feastday of St. Andrew, the patron of the Constantinople Patriarchate, whose relics it held until the relics were removed to St. Andrews in Scotland by Divine guidance.

Tomorrow's the big day

Not much time to post much this morning. I have Confession in a couple hours. But as it is nearly Sunday the 21st, the media is picking up the impending move to Kiev.

It's afternoon in Ukraine and Sunday (liturgial Sunday) is but a few hours away.

From CWN: Ukrainian prelate defends controversial move to Kiev

But the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church insisted that the move "is not aimed against anybody, and is motivated by the real needs and development of the Byzantine Catholic Church." Cardinal Husar has explained that the Ukrainian Catholic Church-- which suffered brutal persecution during the Stalinist era, and has emerged with new vigor since the collapse of the Communist regime-- deserves representation in the country's cultural and political center.

From the BBC: Ukraine church move fuels rivalry

A Kiev-based group, calling itself the Union of Orthodox Citizens, has declared that it would "defend Kiev as the mother of Russian cities and New Jerusalem - which cannot exist without the Third Rome (Moscow)".

[...]

According to Vatican sources, Pope Benedict XVI shares the opinion of his predecessor, the late John Paul II, that in view of the persecution the Uniate Church has suffered, its ambitions are understandable - and will have to be addressed sooner or later.

However, the Vatican also prefers a cautious approach and does not like being "bounced" by the Uniate leadership.

There is, on the face of it, not much the Vatican can do about the planned move to Kiev on 21 August.

However, giving the Uniates a Patriarchate is another matter.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The holiest job fair you'll ever attend

COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) - Young priests in sharp suits and sunglasses are turning heads and winning hearts at the Catholic World Youth Day festival in Cologne.

They are the type of men Pope Benedict hopes will secure the future of the Church and inspire youngsters to choose a religious life, which may be why he has insisted on addressing seminarians personally during his four-day visit to Germany.

Read the complete article Dashing young priests turn heads at Youth Day from Reuters.

I'd particularly like to see this:

The more dashing young priests at World Youth Day seem to have an entourage of adoring teenage girls.

That young people are asking questions of those who they see as their peers, that certainly goes a long way. Asking 'stodgy old men and women' how they get along without a wife, children or S-E-X is just something teens today are not going to do. Teens don't even talk to their parents about sex. Handsome young seminarians on the other hand...

From "Off the Record"

I don't usually link to "Off the Record, but this is hilarious:

NCR's John Allen on WYD:

"As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he was like the church's bulldog," said Pedro Russell, a 21-year-old from Bitteroot Valley, Montana, who cuts quite a figure -- tall, with bright green hair, and a rosary around his neck.

"He was puttin' the smack-down on heresy," Russell said. "Personally, I'm looking forward to that. There was a lot of slightly misguided teachings that I grew up with. Knowing that there's somebody up there who's made his entire cardinal's career out of straightening out those heresies and defending the true, solid teachings of the church is something I am very, very excited about for the youth. He'll be able to deliver a strict, simple answer that will lead them to deeper life. "

NYT's Ian Fisher on WYD:

"As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger he was like the church's bulldog; he was putting the smack down on heresy," said Pedro Russell, a 21-year-old Montanan who had both green-dyed hair and a rosary around his neck.

"Personally I am looking forward to that," he said. "There were a lot of slightly misguided teachings that I grew up with. Knowing that there is somebody up there who has made his entire cardinal's career out of straightening out those heresies and defending the true solid teachings of the church is something I am very, very excited for the youth."

Did Russell give a press conference?

Anti-Semitism

(CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI, visiting a synagogue in Germany, has warned of a rising wave of anti-Semitism.

"Today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners," the pope told members of Germany's oldest Jewish community Friday.
[...]

Read the complete article Benedict warns of anti-Semitism from CNN.

From CWN:

Cologne, Aug. 19 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) encouraged "sincere and trustful dialogue" between Christians and Jews, and condemned the "unimaginable crime" of the Holocaust, during an August 19 visit to the synagogue in Cologne.

To the sound of a ram's horn, and the traditional Hebrew greeting, "Shalom alechem," Pope Benedict became the second Roman Pontiff ever to visit a synagogue. He used the occasion, on the second day of his visit to Germany, to underline his intention to pursue close relations with Judaism, noting that this was "a path on which Pope John Paul II (bio - news) had already taken decisive steps."
[...]

Unconfirmed: Benedict to visit Turkey

Istanbul, 19 August (AKI) - Pope Benedict XVI - head of the Catholic church - will visit Turkey on 28-30 November, according to the Turkish daily Milliyet.
[...]

Read the complete article VATICAN: POPE TO VISIT TURKEY from AKI.

The article goes on to detail past efforts at inter-religious dialogue and John Paul II's efforts that Benedict promised to continue. The article also puts much stock in the idea that Benedict is coming as some kind of "reassurance to the Turkish population of the Vatican's efforts in inter-religious dialogue and its support for the country's EU membership bid." Cardinal Ratzinger has said in the past that he opposes Turkey's EU membership as a dilution of European identity.

As far as the visit goes, the Holy Father was invited to Turkey by the Patriarch of Constantinople soon after his election and inauguration. If in fact he is going, Benedict is simply taking the patriarch up on his invitation, though he will no doubt address the Turkish question when he arrives in Constantinople.

(Factoid: Road signs in Greece still refer to Istanbul as Constantinople.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Navarro-Valls categorizes the Pontificate

Pope Benedict's first day of his first foreign trip led Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls to draw a comparison.

"John Paul expressed himself in gestures; this pope gives great space to words. This will be a pontificate of concepts and of words," the spokesman said.

Read the complete article Young people on banks, in Rhine, give pope rousing welcome to Germany from Catholic News Service.

The Brotherhood in Germany

Magister examines the control that the Muslim Brotherhood exerts over many and the most important of the Muslim organizations in Germany and across Europe.

ROMA, August 18, 2005 – The penultimate event of Benedict XVI's visit to Cologne, before the vigil and Mass with the young people of World Youth Day XX, will be a Saturday, August 20 meeting with the "representatives of some of the Muslim communities."

The meeting will take place at the residence of the city's archbishop. The Muslims asked the pope to visit a mosque, but Benedict XVI declined the invitation.

His prudence is understandable. Cologne and Munich – where Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop from 1977 to 1981 – are the cities in which the Muslim Brotherhood, which has for decades been the main ideological and organizational source of radical Islam in the world, has gained control of most of the mosques and of active Islam in Germany and in Europe.

Mahdy Akef, an Egyptian now residing in Cairo who is the present murshid, or supreme guide, of the Muslim Brotherhood worldwide, is an explicit supporter of the suicide terrorists in Iraq. From 1984 until 1987, he directed the most dynamic Muslim center of Germany, in Munich, with its great mosque in the northern part of the city.

Munich was the birthplace of the Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland, IGD, one of the largest Islamic organizations in Germany. The IGD is under the full control of the Muslim Brotherhood and has sixty mosques spread throughout the country.

For a few years, its organizational headquarters has been located in Cologne. The president of this body is Ibrahim Al Zayat, a 39-year-old Egyptian, the charismatic leader of a network of youth and student organizations that are linked to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, WAMY, the largest Islamic youth organization in the world. WAMY is financed by Saudi Arabia, bears a strong, rigorist Wahhabi imprint, and produces vehemently anti-Jewish and anti-Christian publications.

Curiously, the commitment to young people on the part of the Roman papacy, which is celebrating one of its key moments in Cologne during these days, has in that same city a parallel in one of the leading centers in Europe for promoting radical activism among young Muslims.
[...]

Read the complete article From Cologne to the Conquest of Europe: How the Muslim Brotherhood is Challenging the Pope from www.chiesa.

Of key interest is Magister's look at the various Muslim leaders whom various Vatican officials have met over the years. Many of these leaders are well connected to radical Islam:

This is the same kind of misunderstanding that has compromised the dialogue between Vatican authorities and Muslim representatives a number of times.

One memorable occasion was the audience on October 13, 1993, held at the Vatican by John Paul II and Hassan Al Turabi of Sudan, who at the time was the leading ideologue in the world for radical Islamism, an inspirer and protector of Osama Bin Laden.

But in more recent times, and after the shift that took place on September 11, one can recall the meeting in Doha, in Qatar, from May 27-29, 2004. On the one side were Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the previous foreign minister for the Holy See, and Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and on the other were the leading imam of the Al Azhar mosque in Cairo, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, and one of the most widely followed leaders of Sunni Islam, Youssef Al Qaradawi.

Both prior to and since this meeting, Tantawi has repeatedly justified the Palestinian suicide terrorists. As for Qaradawi, he justified such acts even outside of the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Qaradawi completely embodies the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood, and is the de facto Islamic "maestro" with the greatest audience among the Arab people. But Qaradawi also has a broad audience among Muslim immigrants in Europe, where he founded the European Council for Fatwa and Research, which is headquartered in Ireland, in 1997.

The interreligious meetings organized every year by the Community of Sant' Egidio, with the participation of numerous cardinals and bishops, are another example of murky dialogue.

Last July 24, the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, "Avvenire," criticized the fact that at the 2004 meeting in Milan, authorization to speak had been granted to another apologist for the suicide terrorists: Ahmad Al Tayyib, the rector of the Al Azhar university in Cairo.

"Avvenire" also defined as "imprudent" the fact that some Italian universities – including the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, which is affiliated with the Pontifical Gregorian University – have signed last June 15 an agreement to collaborate with that same university, Al Azhar. This is the most influential university in the Sunni Islamic world, with 400,000 students from 92 countries, and is under significant control from the Muslim Brotherhood.

One would think that the Vatican intelligence organs could get some serious information on these guys before they ended up meeting with various members of the Curia and at times the Holy Father himself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Stranger in a strange land

When Pope Benedict XVI lands in Cologne for World Youth Day, he will be arriving in a country that has become foreign to him. The churches are empty, the politicians are non-believers and the people in the east are complete strangers to God. And now organizers of the biggest religious festival of the post-war era plan to turn it into a launching pad for a new religious awareness.
[...]

Read the complete article WANTED: PIOUS PEOPLE: When the German Pope Returns Home, He'll Find an Un-Christian Land from Spiegel Online.

This article is chockful of depressing factoids. Let's take a look...

Two-thirds of young people say that it's cool to believe in something.

Only 32 percent of Germans surveyed said that they had great or very great confidence in the church.

Pope Benedict XVI fares only slightly better than the church as a whole, with an approval rating of 36 percent. But he isn't especially popular among 18 to 29-year-olds, who are even less likely to express confidence in the pope than the general population.

Just under two-thirds of Catholics -- and less than half of all Protestants -- believe in life after death, a central tenet of Christianity.

Twenty-seven percent of the faithful say that God is not all-powerful, a concept that also deeply contradicts Christian teachings.

In the East, the pope would find cities and villages filled with nonbelievers, places where only one in three people believes in God.

In 1992 there were still 19,266 Catholic priests. In 2004, this number had shrunk to 326. In the whole of Germany, 210 trainee priests were accepted into seminary last year.

Every 75 seconds, a Christian leaves the church. In 2003, 180,000 Protestants left the church. Only 60,000 joined.

According to the report, the number of Catholics has decreased every year since 1974. The latest figures for 2003 show that around 65,000 more Catholics were buried as were baptized.

This meant in 2003 there was a "decision to join negative," as they put it in the report, of 117,000. Fewer Catholics were baptized in 2003 than at any time since 1960. There were exactly 205,904 Catholic baptisms in 2003. That's 3.5 percent lower than the previous years and 31 percent lower than in 1990. In other words, Catholics are dying out.

And finally:

The Germans have irrevocably moved into a post-religious world. They would like to believe. They suspect that it might help and therefore they respect anyone who is able to believe. But they themselves, for the most part, can't do it anymore. They read Peter Hahne, because Ratzinger is too hard for them. They still say "the pope is right, that's how it should be." But if a politician starts seriously talking about God, they roll their eyes and change the channel.

The pilgrimage paths on Our Lady's field will be deconstructed in an environmentally sound fashion. The components are biodegradable. Only the 3,000 chalices made by ThyssenKrupp pose a slight problem. They have been built to last an eternity and cannot be recycled. And very soon there will no use for them in this country. Only the papal hill will remain. It will be a reminder of an unreal event. Something which is almost impossible to believe.

Orthodox protest

KIEV, August 17 (Itar-Tass) -- Dozens of people who support Ukraine’s Brotherhood party organised a protest in front of the residence of the papal nuncio (the Vatican’s envoy) in Kiev on Wednesday.

They protested against the planned transfer of the cathedra of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from Lvov to Kiev.

The protesters demanded “to stop the expansion of Catholicism to Orthodox territories and give up plans to transfer the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics to the Ukrainian capital, the historical centre of Slavic Orthodoxy”.

The Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) has decided to transfer the residence of the supreme archbishop from Lvov to Kiev on August 21.
[...]

Read the complete article Orthodox believers organise protest in front of Vatican embassy. from ITAR-TASS.

Aside from the protest outside the nuncio's residence, the article basically recounts the same details from the article in the previous entry.

Some data from ITAR-TASS:

There are presently over 27,500 religious communities in Ukraine. Over 10,000 of them are under the authority of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, just over 3,000 are controlled by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, and more than 3,000 are under the UGCC.

Mark August 21 on your calendars when Husar is officially installed in Kiev and see if there is a general acclamation of 'Patriarch!'. Three patriarchs in one city ought to make things quite interesting...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What is World Youth Day?

According to the organizers of World Youth Day 4 All, it ought to be a gathering for discussing relevant topics in the Church. I wonder though just who those guys think attend World Youth Day?

Maybe... world youth attend World Youth Day... Maybe! I think we're on to something here!

World Youth Day is a gathering of young people from around the world to affirm their faith and enjoy the fellowship of one another through a variety of fun and faith-enhancing activities. I just find it very amusing that these people want to turn it into a seminar for the discussion of the dumbing down of the morality of the Church, with the youth of said Church as active participants. Do we really need to be asking little 12 year olds about the proper place of condoms in the Church?

Does that sound as ridiculous to anyone else as it does to me?

Alexy II speaks out

Moscow, August 16, Interfax - Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia expressed his hope for Vatican’s wise and considered approach to the problem of transferring the chair of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics to Kiev.

‘These actions cannot be justified either from historical point of view, or by church rules and canons. Kievan chair from the very first years of its existence was an ecclesiastical capital of the Russian Orthodox Church, first as the centre of metropolia, and later as the major one among the Ukrainian dioceses’, - Alexy II said in his interview to the Moscow Patriarchate press service.
[...]

Read the complete article Alexy II calls the Roman Catholic Church to show wisdom in the problem of transferring the Uniate chair to Kiev from Interfax.

The Patriarch of Moscow laid down the preconditions for a meeting with the 'Pope of Rome':

...the policy of proselytism, the champion of which in Ukraine is the Greek Catholic Church, would be stopped.

The article then concludes with the story that during the years of the suppression of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, the Orthodox assisted the Uniates and that the way Rome was repaying their kindness was just a slap in the face (or something to that effect).

The move form Lviv to Kiev is supposed to happen before the end of August. I read the comment somewhere that referencing canon law is pointless since the Orthodox and Rome do /not/ share a common code of canon law. So Alexy II doesn't get points there. The point that the Catholics should be more grateful for the help of the Orthodox also rings hollow, given the fact that the Orothodox pretty much had the monopoly on religion (such as it was under godless communism) in the USSR. From Wikipedia:

At the state organized 1948 sinod in Lviv (Lvov), some [Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church] clergy were coersed into proclaiming the annulement of the 1596 Union of Brest thereby breaking the canonical ties with Rome and transferring under the Moscow Patriarchy. This move's acceptance was mixed. With many crergy members and lay beleivers turning to ROC, some adamantly refused. While the UAOC [one of the splinter Orthodox groups in Ukraine] and UGCC church property in Ukraine was liquidated by the Soviet authorities or transferred to the [Russian Orthodox Church], many beleivers refused to accept liquidation of their churches and for nearly 40 years the UAOC and UGCC existed in Western Ukraine underground lead by the clergy members under the threat of prosecution by the Soviet state.

As Wikipedia points out in the article on the Greek Catholic Church, it is not the implanted creature of Rome that the Russian Orthodox Church makes it out to be:

Within Ukraine itself, the UGCC is a minority faith of the religious population, being a distant second to the majority Eastern Orthodox faith. However, since the Ukrainian Orthodox were split into at least three denominations around the onset of independence in the 1990s, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church denomination thereby accidentally became the second largest religious organization in Ukraine in terms of number of communities.

Papabile

Papabile has returned.

And there was much rejoicing! Welcome back.

Catholicism in China

My brother and I went to visit our parents this last weekend. On Sunday, we attended Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Fort Dodge. The celebrating priest was visiting from India and in his homily, he talked about being a Christian there. This included being a minority and the hostility toward Christianity there.

Perhaps it is mere coincidence that Sandro Magister would write about India's northern neighbor a day later. The article is a summation of Sino-Vatican relations over the past year or so. Please read it.

Read the article:
New Bishops for Tomorrow’s China
from www.chiesa.

The basic premise of the article is that the Patriotic Association, the official Church in China, and the underground Church that maintains unity with the Holy See, are converging. Magister explains the situations of several bishops who while officially approved in the Patriotic Association, are tacitly united with Rome as well.

What I am more concerned with is the situation in Taiwan. This quote stands out:

As for Taiwan, the Holy See has already made it known that it is ready to move its nunciature from Taipei to Beijing, where it was before Mao rose to power. It has paved the way for this transition with both the government and the Catholics of Taiwan, with whom it will in any case maintain de facto relations. But “it would be fitting that this step be taken, not before, but after Beijing has guaranteed genuine religious liberty,” as Joseph Zen, the bishop of Hong Kong, has cautioned.

I'd like to know just what 'paving the way' with the Republic of China and the Catholics of Taiwan entails. Joseph Zen clearly states the qualification that needs to come about before the Holy See moves from Taipei to Beijing. If the Holy See tries to grasp too much in China, it's going to find itself getting burned, badly.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Sounding off on celibacy

I was watching 'World News Tonight with Peter Jennings' tonight (it's still titled that) out of morbid curiosity to see who had the anchor's chair and saw the piece on Monsignor Clark.

They had the obligatory interviews with the so-called experts. Father O'Brien blamed Clark's affair and declining numbers of priests on celibacy. The president of the Catholic League's words were simply those of sorrow. The 'average Catholic on the street outside St. Patrick's' made some shallow comments about getting with the 21st century, blah blah blah.

I just don't like O'Brien. Yes, he was asked to deliver a sound bite and he provided one, but is the guy really that shallow? (You're all saying, 'yes, he is'.) I just find it entertaining that guys like Father O'Brien can look no farther than the US border when they make their pronouncements on how celibacy is dumb and needs to be done away with for good. Even in the US, if you buy all the stories out there of traditional movements that have a net number of vocations, celibacy doesn't seem to be that much of a hurdle for those entering the religious life.

A sound bite on ABC News may score points with the viewers, but if all the evidence is true, O'Brien and his colleagues have time against them...

(This post is more my reaction than any serious analysis. Don't read too deeply.)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Chess with Death

I'm not going to get into the whole situation in New York.

What I will get into is chess. Specifically, chess with Death. Yesterday, I watched one of my favorite 'religious' movies, The Seventh Seal. Max von Sydow in the movie is the knight Antonius Block who challenges Death to a game of chess in order to buy time to perform one meaningful act before he dies. Along the way, there is much soul searching and looking for answers in plague-ridden medieval Sweden.

Death has no answers. The witch who has carnal knowledge of the devil has no answers. The only one who provides any is the squire Jons, but his are answers that deny God, answers that Block, despite his doubts and his fears, cannot accept.

I'm not a film critic, so we'll not delve too much. How many of you have seen the film and what do you think? Does the film have anything to say to us in our post-modern, increaingly secular society?

For myself, I would say yes. Block's doubts are at once timeless, but at the same time, increasingly relevant. The question is how will we face them? By seeking God with all our hearts or turning away into the darkness of eternal death?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Waiving diplomatic immunity

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Archbishop William Levada agreed Wednesday to waive diplomatic immunity and answer questions about sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests after he takes over as the church's guardian on doctrine _ the Vatican post formerly held by Pope Benedict XVI.
[...]

Read the complete article Levada to Answer Questions on Priest Abuse from The Washington Post.
The deposition had been held up by the immunity issue and is now scheduled for January.

[...]
Abuse victims' attorneys want to question Levada as part of the bankruptcy case of the Archdiocese of Portland. Last year, Portland became the first Catholic diocese in the nation to declare bankruptcy, citing sex abuse lawsuits seeking more than $155 million in damages.

Levada led the Portland Archdiocese from 1986 to 1995, when he became the archbishop of San Francisco.
[...]

Nothing earth-shattering. I just found it interesting that they were being held up over immunity, though that isn't all that surprising, given the case of that one guy who never stepped out of the Vatican City in order to avoid arrest by the Italian cops and extradition back to the US.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Gandalf, the Church and the Code

British actor IAN McKELLEN has slammed the leaders of the Catholic Church for urging people not to read DAN BROWN's controversial novel THE DA VINCI CODE.

While the book has proved hugely popular internationally, the Vatican's reaction to the way its religion is depicted by Brown has been far from positive.

But McKellen, who recently finished filming a movie version of the book with TOM HANKS, brands the church's stance against the novel "pathetic".

He says, "People are always interested in mystery, but when it's a mystery that suggests that a major influence on all our lives - the Catholic Church - has perhaps been misleading us all this time, then it becomes spectacularly sensational.

"The idea that it shouldn't be read, which I think is the official Vatican line, is pretty pathetic."
10/8/2005 02:37

From contactmusic.com.

See especially the last two paragraphs. Sir Ian seems to think that the 'mystery' has factual basis...

It really is too bad Mel Gibson didn't make 'The Lord of the Rings' instead of Peter Jackson. Tolkien must be rolling over in his grave with comments like this from guys who played central characters in his fundamentally Catholic novel-turned-movie.

Detente with the Masons?

Rome, Aug. 08, 2005 (CNA) - In an unusual show of “openness” to the Catholic Church, a Masonic lodge in Italy has announced the appointment of a Catholic priest as chaplain. The news was announced during an address to members of the lodge by Grand Master Fabio Venzi of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Italy.
[...]

Read the complete article Masonic Lodge in Italy appoints Catholic priest as chaplain, claims "openness" to Catholic Church from Catholic News Agency.

Freemasonry has alwasy intrigued me, though I've never really read a whole lot about it. Its relationship with the Church is perhaps my true interest. For instance, a portion of the sedevacantists of the world believe that there has been no pope since Pius XII died because John XXIII's election was invalid? Why? Because according to the theory, in the 1930s, John XXIII became a Freemason and thus incurred automatic excommunication. (More info can be found at Wikipedia.)

Then there's the case of P2 and the conxpiracy theories that surround it and the supposed membership of various high-ranking Church officials. The principal case is the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano and the involvement of P2 and the Vatican Bank. If one goes down this path even further, one reaches the fringe where it is believed that John Paul I was murdered to prevent investigation of corruption in the Vatican Bank...

But we shalln't go there. In any case, if a Masonic Lodge wants to appoint a Catholic chaplain, I'm interested in seeing what, if any response there will be from the Church.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Cosmetic post

At the moment, I'm testing out new things that require the blog to be republished...

More new links

As you might have noticed, I finally went with Blogrolling and its one-click link addition feature has proven addictive. ;)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Levada's last Mass

The article from The San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at the last Mass of William Levada before his move to Rome later this month. It takes the obligatory look at the sex abuse issue and those who think he's not done enough. It's a standard article. Read it for yourselves if you wish.

I'll just call attention to the last paragraph and the sentence that I've bolded:

Levada's new appointment in Rome will last five years. His successor in San Francisco will likely be chosen within the next six months, a topic of great interest for local Catholics.

Is the AP writer misinformed, did Benedict suddenly introduce term limits or did Levada say he's only going to stick around for five years? What did I miss?

Catholic sites in Iowa: the Grotto

One often reads about pilgrimage sites around the world, particularly those ancient ones in Europe that remain popular among the faithful. Pilgrimage has been an ever-present motif in our culture, from The Canterbury Tales onward. Yet too often those places worth visiting near us are forgotten or simply not publicized enough. Though well known in Iowa and among those who look for such places, the Grotto of the Redemption is a worthy place of pilgrimage.

"If your messages are carved in stone they are well nigh imperishable. The imperishableness is the outstanding feature of the Grotto."
-Father Dobberstein

From the website:
"The story of how the Grotto came into being is as moving as are the scenes it portrays. It is generally told as a fact that as a young seminarian, Father Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia. As he fought for his life he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Mother of God) to intercede for him for the grace of health. He promised to build a shrine in her honor of he lived."

Once Father Dobberstein arrived in Iowa and became pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul in West Bend, he set to work on his creation, a monument of stone depicting the fall of Man and his eventual redemption through Christ as well as Mary's role in that process.

It's really pretty amazing. I've been to the Grotto several times over the years and had the privilege of hearing the lecture on the building by Father Dobberstein's original assistant and successor, Father Greving (nowadays, the tour guides give a short introduction and then play the video of Father Greving's lecture).

As far as pilgrimages go, a stop at the Grotto is always an interesting experience and a faith-enhancing one as well. Next time you're blowing along Interstate 80 on summer vacation or some other reason, give a thought to taking a day to driving up into northwest Iowa and visiting West Bend.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Sydney's ace in the hole

From the always well-informed Amy comes this on Cardinal Pell's efforts to enlist Mel Gibson to recreate the Passion for Sydney, should it be chosen to host World Youth Day 2008.

[...]
The crucifixion reenactment -- similar to scenes from Gibson's hugely successful film "The Passion of the Christ" -- would begin with the Last Supper staged at Sydney's landmark Opera House at sunset, and would end with the crucifixion of Christ at St. Mary's Cathedral, according to bid documents the newspaper said it obtained.

The Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, told the newspaper that intermediaries had "started approaches" to Gibson to stage the event. Gibson's involvement with World Youth Day was on the city's "wish list," Pell said.

"He might well be attracted. I think his devotion to Christ is very real," he said.
[...]

I find that last comment of Pell's to be rather funny. I'm sure he means it a different way, but it just sounds like there is some doubt that Mel's devotion to Christ is very real. The guy spent his own money in making a movie about the Passion, in an effort that became something of a quest and the cardinal only 'thinks' that Mel's devotion is very real. Really.

In any case, if they can confirm Mel's involvement before the final decision is made, I would say that would clinch the deal for Sydney. Mel's movie is the direct anti-thesis of the Da Vinci Code mindset. Can you imagine the publicity WYD would get if such an event were to be put together? I have no doubt CNN and every other major news network would be all over that, aside from the usual coverage from the Catholic outlets.

New link

From Father Jim at Dappled Things comes the new link at the left under 'Catholic liturgy'. The New Liturgical Movement is a new blog looking at (you guessed it) the new liturgical movement. Interesting stuff, have a good read.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Re: Vatican and Israel

John Allen today briefly recounts the latest on the Vatican-Israel affair at The Word From Rome. A few points are interesting:

A July 28 declaration, plus an accompanying note listing instances when John Paul II had in fact spoken out about terrorism against Israel, was issued by the Press Office of the Holy See. For that reason, most observers assumed the material had been prepared by Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesperson.
[...]
A senior Vatican source told NCR on July 30, however, that Navarro was not the author of the documents. In fact, according to this source, the first time Navarro saw them was on the papal plane bringing Benedict XVI back to Rome on July 28 from his vacation in Val d'Aosta, after they had already been released.

According to this source, the documents were prepared by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the official in the Secretariat of State responsible for relations with governments -- in effect, the pope's foreign minister. They were then released under the aegis of the Vatican Press Office.

This vindicates Mr. Navarro-Valls of the charges made against him in this instance. Mr. Allen then points out how this would be the third instance that State has meddled and caused much controversy, starting with the Maciel press release back in May then the 'anti-Christian' remark on the London Bombings in July.

As Rocco at his blog likes to point out and as I noted a long while ago here, State is quite active in its turf war. As Rocco pointed out the other day, with the CDF man now in charge, they seem to be going out in a blaze of glory.

Civilizations clashing? (conclusion)

With the actors of the hypothetical clash set out, the question remains: is there an actual clash of civilizations? Is Islam in its totality fighting the Western process of globalization?

No.

But how can one say no? After all, if the likes of al-Qaeda are tacitedly approved by so many Muslims around the world, how can there not be a clash?

Just as there are different levels of warfare, so too there are different levels of this conflict. The final example will be Iraq, which is the present flashpoint of the alleged clash. On the one hand, there are the foreign fighters who are supported in-country by Ba'athists and others who are against the US involvement in their country. On the other hand, there are those who support US from both the Sunni and Shi'ite sides. (It is also important to note that it is never mentioned that the Kurds who for the most part support the US also happen to be Muslims.)

With all these different factions vying for control both peacefully and through violence, they are all Muslims of different stripes. To say that 'Islam' is the source of one side and not the other would be factually incorrect. The Sunnis who simply want a stable government and peace to return are as much Muslims as the foreign fighters (who knows what the Ba'athists are, being socialistic secularists).

In the wider context of global Islam, is Islam the first cause of all the violence against the proponents of globalization? Again, no. Look back at what was said about Shariah law. So much of Shariah law refers more to fourteenth century custom than to what Muhammad was actually preaching to his followers in Mecca back in the seventh century. Veils, the subjugation of women and so many other customs that are seen as forms of Islamic repression are simply sediment that has accrued over time and taken as holy writ when it fact the provenance of such concepts is simply nonexistent.

In the end, there are those Muslims who are fully integrated into the Western world. There are those who are disgruntled, but do nothing. And there are those who actively resist the West with guns and bombs. Those who advocate violence and those who tacitly consent to violence are fighting for an Islam that is more their own construction than the authentic Islam that they claim it to be.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Civilizations clashing? (part 3)

Over the last quarter-century, Saudi Arabia has spent its petrodollars on spreading the Wahhabi version of Islam all around the globe, first for altruistic reasons and later for reasons of survival. At the same time, the Saudis have spent much time and effort supporting efforts in Afghanistan and then al-Qaeda. In the former case, they wanted to defeat godless communists and the in the latter case, they wanted to save themselves from a coup d'etat.

Since September 11th and the rising tide of terrorism that has taken place on Saudi Arabian soil, the Saudi royal family has slowly come around to the fact that buying off the likes of ibn Laden and his supporters will no longer serve their purposes. Since then, they've moved to clamp down as best they can and at the same time initiate reforms that have been promised for decades but never carried out. But for the Saudis and the rest of the world, it is too late to undo the damage wrought.

Is there a clash of civilizations? For the moment, let us suppose that yes, there is a clash. Who are the principal actors. On the one hand, there is al-Qaeda, the world-wide network of terrorist cells founded and sustained by the Wahhabi form of Islam. On the other hand, there is the so-called Coalition of the Willing led by the United States and its allies around the world. It is an assymetrical war, with the vast military resources of the US confronting al-Qaeda abroad while security, intelligence and law enforcement organs work both at home and abroad as well to stop terrorist attacks before they occur.

In the second tier of actors could be included the entire Muslim world. As it has been noted, the Saudis did their work too well in disseminating the Wahhabi doctrines of Islam. As various sources point out time and again, there are very few mosques even in the West that can validly claim to not display or have on hand literature or information on Wahhabi Islam. Despite so many claims that Islam is a religion of peace (which is a valid debate for scholars), imams may proclaim their disgust at terrorism and hatred, but in the reading rooms and libraries of their mosques, young men may easily access the very literature that proclaims just the oppose. The Saudis did their work too well.

We have the first tier of actors in the form of committed hard-core jihadists of al-Qaeda. Associated with with this first tier are the imams and others who make no secret of their hatred for the West and who actively recruit new members, even in the heart of Western cities such as London and elsewhere. In the second tier lies a good majority of the Muslim world who give tacit consent to the works of the first tier by continuing to tolerate the distributed literature and active recruitment under their very noses of those hard-core believers of the first tier.

The question of Western civilization and the actors on its behalf is a question that is perhaps beyond the scope of this essay. Western civilization is not dying, by any means. But it has been so completely diffused around the world that it is difficult identify any specific actors. There are so many traditions and successors to Western civilization that identifying any one as 'Western civilization' would be pointless and inaccurate. Instead, it is simple enough to identify 'globalization' as the counterpart of an Islam that would turn back the clock from the 21st century back to the 7th.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Civilizations clashing? (part 2)

(Thanks to John for not letting me get ahead of myself.)

With the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan concluded and people heading home, Saddam Hussein in 1990 invaded Kuwait. Kuwait is as we know one of the Gulf oil states. President Bush 41 drew a line in the sand and in early 1991, the United States armed forces expelled Saddam from Kuwait.

Unfortunately, Bush 41's line in the sand was drawn in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which as we've seen, is the stronghold of fundamentalist Wahhabism. What was even more outrageous for jihadists such as Osama ibn Laden was that 'infidels' were being based in the same country where the holy cities of Mecca and Medina were located. Non-Muslims have never been allowed to enter the holy cities without special permission and the fact that tens of thousands of foreign military personnel were based in Saudi Arabia with the blessing of the king of that land was simply unacceptable.

Osama ibn Laden has been the central figure in the story of al-Qaeda. The son of a rich Saudi family, ibn Laden ended up in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviets. Using his wealth, he did much to bring in the Wahhabi doctrines of his homeland. This put him in a position to serve as a central point for the various cells that would form after the end of that war. But he shouldn't get all the credit. The Saudi royal family deserves some as well. After the oil crisis of the early 70s, the Saudis were flush with petrodollars. With rampant inflation, those dollars had to be spent before their value went down. So the Saudis, like good Muslims, started spending those dollars on building a network of schools around the world in Muslim countries. Those schools would of course teach good clean Wahhabi doctrines to the students. Thus over time, in places where Muslim communities had lived in peace with their non-Muslim neighbors for generations, tolerance slowly degraded and sectarian strife grew. As the 80s came in and on through the 90s, the rulers of Saudi Arabia were not as pious as King Faisal. With the growing hatred of their western lifestyles and corruption, the Saudi royal family didn't spend their money charitably, but rather spent it in a bid to buy off the fundamentalists. In short, they were paying ibn Laden and the jihadists to take their terrorism elsewhere.

The final straw was the continued and unrelenting US support for the House of Saud, the ruling house of Saudi Arabia. In the land their father created out of the disparate factions of the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudi princes and their descendents slipped ever further into corruption and vice. In a country where Wahhabism has thrived in no small part due to the sponsorship of the royal house, this slide was been viewed as a betrayal. Yet despite the unpopularity of the ruling elites, they managed to hang onto power by spending the oil wealth of their country in an attempt to buy off their citizens. But the average Saudi Arabian was and continues to be disgruntled. Since the Gulf War, various sources have indicated that Osama ibn Laden is more popular in Saudi Arabia than the House of Saud.

Ibn Laden and the nascent al-Qaeda turned their eyes away from their homeland and came to the Great Satan itself: the United States.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Civilizations clashing? (part 1)

Magister opens his latest with the following little prologue:

Everyone is talking about it, but few know what it is. The Vatican is confusing matters. Pietro De Marco analyzes Islamic terrorism and the Christian response to it in the light of Huntington's theory.

Going on, he introduces the gist of what everyone is talking about:

ROMA, August 1, 2005 – "There is no clash of civilizations, there are only small groups of fanatics," Benedict XVI responded last July 20 to a journalist who asked if Islamic terrorism shows that a clash of civilizations is underway. The pope had been besieged by journalists during his first public appearance outside the protected solitude of his mountain retreat, at Les Combes in Introd, close to Mont Blanc, and this was one of his fragmentary responses.

Read the complete article Required Reading: A Brief Catechism on the Clash of Civilizations from www.chiesa.

I urge you all to read the full article and Di Marco's essay before going on with this.

*
*
*

You've read the article and essay, right? Good. We're on the honors system here. First a disclaimer. I've never read Huntington, though I've personally listened to various authorities and read various articles from different sources. As a student of political science, I'm not a sociologist and 'trends' in mass behavior are not my area.

But here's what I think...
Aside from all the talk on culture, civilization, religions of peace or war, we have to realize one very important fact. The metaphorical gates of Ijtihad (independent juridical reasoning and interpretation of the Islamic law) closed in the Sunni world in the fourteenth century (1). All legal decisions had from that point on to be based on past decisions. Shariah law is effectively the same now as it was when the Turks were on the verge of taking Constantinople. (The Shi'ites on the other hand still allow their judges to interpret Islamic law according to present circumstances.)

Depending on which Muslim country one examines, the Shariah law is more or less enforced in just about everywhere. From places like Pakistan where Shariah law exists side by side with a western-style court system to places like Saudi Arabia, where the Shariah law (coupled with Wahhabi fundamentalism) is the law of the land, totally and without exception, the ancient law is paid at the very least lip service and at the most it is enforced without question.

In addition to its archaic nature, Shariah law also has a fundamental quality that is recognized among all objective scholars. Despite what true believes may believe, the Shariah represents the fourteenth century legal landscape rather than the laws and doctrines of Muhammad. The legal landscape it represents may have retained traces of the old ways of the early Muslim community, but it had also acquired much in the way of local cultural custom from various sources that do not represent Islam. The veil and all the subsequent extensions in burqas and other garments meant to completely cover a woman are perhaps the most well known examples of social custom infiltrating the Shariah law and being accepted as what was handed down from Muhammad's time.

The rise of al-Qaeda is intimately tied with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and I won't delve into that here. But it suffices to say that the particularly extreme Wahhabi doctrines imported from Saudi Arabia by the likes of ibn Laden and diffused among the many young men who had come to fight the atheist Soviets from around the world. These young men fought a jihad against the godless communists under the auspices of the United States. The war, when it was concluded, saw the Soviets expelled and the US involvement basically ended completely. Without a foreign power, that land in central Asia slipped into anarchy and civil war from which it is just emerging due to the renewed intervention of the United States.

Unfortunately, the damage was already done. The freedom fighters of Afghanistan watched as the US abandoned the land they'd fought to free. They watched as the US entered a period of material prosperity while Afghanistan destroyed itself in civil war. These young men returned home, taking with them their well-learned skills. When Osama ibn Laden issued his call against the United States, these jihadists were scattered around the world and well placed to begin forming and organizing terror cells.

--------------------
Footnotes
(1) Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. New York: Random House, 2000