Thursday, November 27, 2008

Into Great Silence

This film was delivered just before I left for my mother's home for Thanksgiving. This morning while everyone else was in bed, I got up and watched the film. I need to watch it a second time at home in a more comfortable setting so as not to be distracted, but I have a few thoughts.

1. I am not suited to be an ascetic of that degree. Living a life centered around the Divine Office with its chanting and daily work would just not work for me given my disabilities in life. The Office as a reading experience coupled with a life of interior prayer...

2. For those same reasons, I just didn't get into the film. Watching them go through their daily routines was instructive and edifying, but the Great Silence is not anything new to me and their chanting sequences was merely an exercise in watching them sit in the dark and turn on and off their reading lamps.

3. My two favorite parts were their first excursion outdoors and the blind monk's speech towards the end. The group's conversation about different orders' outlooks on even a mundane topic as washing of hands before entering the refectory was instructive. Their final determination that it was not the symbol, but them who was in error was quite insightful. And of course, the blind monk who thanked God for his blindness explaining his pity for a godless world with no reason to live was wisdom itself.

Lord, you seduced me and I was seduced.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Strategy After FOCA

I've written the following even though it mostly sums up and rehashes various points already made by many commentators out there. However, I write it because I have never seen articulated to the degree I'd like it to be (or maybe it's just my failure in looking) the strategy of finding common ground between social conservatives and libertarians. Given that Republicans shortly will no longer be in power in any branch of government, it presumes a return to power sometime in the future. In the meantime, they must work to follow the principles here at the party level until that future arrives...

I've been thinking about abortion for a long time, about how we can best counter it and the various strategies being followed today. We all agree that abortion is bad, it cheapens human life and takes us down the slippery slope. The question how to best combat abortion. On the one hand, there is the option of a federal amendment that would completely criminalize abortion as murder anywhere in the United States. This would take Roe v. Wade totally out of the equation. On the other hand, there is the option of simply seeing Roe v. Wade overturned and have the issue of abortion kicked back to the states for their own legislatures to consider. This has been the most publicized option with Supreme Court nominees coming under the microscope for their views and, in extreme cases like Bork, sent away. I believe that the second option, though coming more and more under attack for being ineffective, is still the best hope for dealing with abortion.

First, it is important to consider why the Supreme Court option is coming under attack. Critics out there point to the fact that even though Republicans have held the presidency six terms to three since Roe v. Wade was decided, the balance of the Supreme Court has never apparently been enough to overturn that decision. This has led to the idea that Republican presidents are not committed to the idea of overturning Roe v. Wade and are merely using the Christian segments of the Republican base to get elected and are then washing their hands of the issue until the next election. Critics point especially to the justices appointed by Bush 41, moderates who have trended more liberal than conservative in their decision making. They also point to Bush 43, who before the outcry over his first choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, nominated one of his close confidants who was more a Bush loyalist than a small government jurist with strong credentials.

Some critics who have come to see the Supreme Court option as a red herring point instead to an all encompassing federal constitutional amendment as being the better option. While this avenue bypasses the judicial branch altogether, it does have its own drawbacks. The chief drawback is that the three different procedures for amending the US Constitution given by that document are all quite lengthy or convoluted. One example is the 27th Amendment, which was proposed along with the Bill of Rights, but not ratified itself until 1992. A second one is the Equal Rights Amendment, which despite broad support, has consistently failed. Another drawback is that even if the constitution is appropriately amended, it would still be interpreted by the Supreme Court; if that court should come to be dominated by activist jurists, the amendment would be interpreted into toothlessness.

It all leads back to the Supreme Court and who is sitting on the bench. In order to prevent disillusionment, it is important to temper expectations. An outright majority of small government jurists should not be expected to overturn Roe v. Wade at the drop of a hat. Rather, it should be expected that they would over time and in concert with lower court judges of the same outlook set up a legal framework to counteract the activist bent seen in the federal judiciary over the last few decades. A slow and steady approach has the virtue of not causing a harsh reaction in favor of preserving the status quo. Once the Supreme Court and lower courts of the federal system set in place a rational system that is not going to legislate from the bench and that is going to respect the natural rights of all citizens, the high court can tackle the chief issue itself.

In conclusion, the abortion issue must be argued in a natural law framework. Too often, the pro-life cause is both identified by others and by itself through its religious framework. This is counterproductive for a number of reasons, the chief of which being that people don't like to give up their rights, even if those rights aren't real rights. Unless the paradigm of the argument itself is altered, it is destined to continue to fail. Social conservatives and liberatarians in the United States can make common cause if social conservatives change their language from a biblical one to a natural law one and if libertarians can be shown that rights for their own sake are not rights at all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's New?

Rorate (and Father Z, though I don't have that link) reports the nomination of Cardinal Llovera of Toledo, Spain as the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He will replace Cardinal Arinze. Archbishop Ranjith is most likely headed home to Sri Lanka.

Cardinal Llovera is known as the 'little Ratzinger.' According to Neil Young's Film Lounge's list of papabili, the cardinal is number six.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Funeral Arrangements

Father Z talks about funerals. He reports on a fellow priest's funeral and how the priest was 'canonized' instead of having his inherent sinfulness recognized. Purgatory is a very real place and if people die and their friends and family go off thinking they've 'gone to heaven,' then they're probably not going to be praying for the deceased who are most likely languishing in Purgatory.

  • A nice casket or coffin.
  • If celebration must be had, a wake would be fine, but save the good feelings for that and not the funeral.

My funeral:
  • Mass, of course. A Requiem Mass in the old form would be cool.
  • No uplifting songs. It's a funeral. Chanting is preferred.
  • Please wear black. And see that the priest does so as well.
  • And no homilies that are 'feel good.' I'd like some fire and brimstone about the Four Last Things.
  • Perhaps the Dies Irae could be sung or recited? It would be included in the old form of Mass at least.

  • Whatever leftover money there is from my estate should be applied toward stipends for Gregorian Masses to be said for the deliverance of my soul from Purgatory.
  • And then an annual Mass said for me on the day of my death.
  • Or even better, sign me up with something like this.

That's all for now. I'll add more later as I think of it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Muhammad Sven Kalisch

This article from Spengler should be read by all as well as those to which it links.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Out of the East

You all know Spengler, the columnist at Asia Times Online. At least I hope you do. It surprises me how little play he gets in the Catholic blogosphere given how often he talks about the Catholic Church and his obvious admiration for Benedict XVI.

Anyway, he has a new piece posted about the recent conference in Rome with a group of Muslim scholars. Spengler refers to the conference as a 'pyrrhic propaganda victory' for the Church. The Soviet example:

Leonid Brezhnev left the 1975 Helsinki meetings on European security
cooperation convinced that he had won an enormous concession - final recognition of the Soviet Union's postwar borders - in return for lip service to human rights that the communist regime never could or would provide. "Instead," wrote Cold War historian John Gaddis, the Helsinki Accords "gradually became a manifesto of the dissident and liberal movement ... What this meant was that the people who lived under these systems - at least the more courageous - could claim official permission to say what they thought."

The Jewish "refusenik" Natan Sharansky became a symbol of Soviet human rights violation, and president Ronald Reagan's personal support for the dissidents - often over objections of his diplomats - introduced hairline fractures into Soviet Power.

On contrast to this, Spengler describes the concessions of the Muslim scholars in Rome. After much negotiation, they agreed in their statement to pledge their adherence to the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights. Spengler points out the problem with this:

The fact that the attending Muslim scholars - who have no authority over the laws of Muslim countries - piggy-backed on the UN Declaration of Human Rights does not augur well for the "Helsinki" strategy. After all, having signed the UN Declaration of Human Rights does not in the least inhibit Muslim governments from persecuting non-Muslims in their own countries; why should the affirmation of such rights by a group of Muslim scholars have any additional impact?

Spengler then goes on to discuss the superficial agreement between Catholics and Muslims on abortion, but he makes the argument that the two religions have fundamentally different outlooks on God's relationship with Man:

[...] At best the conflation of the Islamic and Judeo-Christian concept of love is an exercise in self-deception. For those who find the theological arguments obscure, I suggest searching the word "love" in any of several online versions of the Koran, and doing the same in the online Bible, and comparing its frequency and context. Even more simply, try a Google search on the respect terms, "God loves you" and "Allah loves you".

The column concludes with a look at Tariq Ramadan's participation in the conference and a look at the consequences of a photo op with the Pope. Spengler ends with a brief paragraph and I join my hopes to his:

Ramadan, as Sandro Magister observed, portrayed the November 4-7 meeting as a rollback of Benedict's Regensburg speech. I hope the pope proves him wrong.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thoughts This November

UPDATE (11/16/08 1259): Ed over at Hot Air examines the response of the Charleston diocese and quotes a bit of Scripture:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


It's getting on into November and with the failing of the year, it's both dark and rainy. It's about five in the afternoon and it's already night out.

In the spirit of Father Z's post about a reform of the calendar, I want to bring up a few thoughts.

1. For those out there who think that no harm would come from playing with the 1962 calendar, I urge you all to think again. Just look at the fact there is a faction of the Russian Orthodox Church that is referred to as the Old Calendarists. Moving from Julian to Gregorian time seems not a big deal, but it was to them. Messing with the 1962 calendar with rearrangements and all that would just not be smart if you're looking to increase unity, not decrease it.

2. In case you missed it, Father Jay Scott Newman's piece for his parish in South Carolina has made national news (a nod to Father Z whose post is informative).

Father Newman's first point is not something I am qualified to expound upon beyond the most superficial reading as a layman. However, I would like to point at the comments left for the article at the local newspaper's website. They are quite scary in how they illustrate just how the Catholic Church is disliked and even hated. Not that we needed any reminder, but it's still an important lesson. When I was a boy, my grandmother told me the story of how a cross was burned in her neighbors' yard. Her neighbors though weren't black, they were Catholic.

Father Newman's second point is worth repeating lest we fall into the same trap with Obama those did who disliked Bush:

Barack Obama, although we must always and everywhere disagree with him over abortion, has been duly elected the next President of the United States, and after he takes the Oath of Office next January 20th, he will hold legitimate authority in this nation. For this reason, we are obliged by Scriptural precept to pray for him and to cooperate with him whenever conscience does not bind us otherwise. Let us hope and pray that the responsibilities of the presidency and the grace of God will awaken in the conscience of this extraordinarily gifted man an awareness that the unholy slaughter of children in this nation is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States and constitutes a clear and present danger to the common good. In the time of President Obama’s service to our country, let us pray for him in the words of a prayer found in the Roman Missal:

God our Father, all earthly powers must serve you. Help our President-elect, Barack Obama, to fulfill his responsibilities worthily and well. By honoring and striving to please you at all times, may he secure peace and freedom for the people entrusted to him. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Black Pope

On November 1, Father Z featured a column written by Archbishop Gregory of Atlanta in the run up to the election. The statement ended up being pro-life, but it was meandering and took many detours. Many commenters felt that it was written by the archbishop more to convince himself than his flock. Others made the comment that it was to be expected that such a nuanced position should come from the former president of the USCCB...

Now today from Times Online, we have this: Black Pope could follow Barack Obama's election, says US archbishop.

Archbishop Gregory, who in 2001 became the first African American to head the US Bishops Conference, serving for three years, said that the election of Mr Obama was "a great step forward for humanity and a sign that in the United States the problem of racial discrimination has been overcome". Like Mr Obama Archbishop Gregory comes from Chicago, and was previously Bishop of Belleville, Illinois.

I wonder what inferences we can draw about how His Excellency voted if he thinks Mr. Obama's election was a great step forward.

Tip o' the hat to Drudge.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Hallows' Day

I don't have much to post lately. Mainly I'm just waiting for Election Day to see what will come of it after all this time.

If you haven't seen them yet, Father Z has two posts detailing words of wisdom:

ON FIRE! Bp. Finn of Kansas City - MUST READ

Bp. Vasa of Bend, OR! WDTPRS is impressed - kudos!