Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Coming at you.

As I look at the stack of collection envelopes so very thoughtfully provided by our parish, I noticed that next Sunday is the Catholic Campaign for Human Development's turn to take a chance at biting wholesale chunks out of my wallet.

Now, if you are an assiduous reader of this blog, and have developed sufficient skill at reading between the lines, you will be keenly aware sans doute that my views are not the sort of views which the CHD countenances with any sort of glee.

To shed further light on this, you might wish to click your digits on over to the USCCB's website and do a search for the CCHD, either by its abbreviated or proper name. Three things ought strike you, immediately.

1- Almost all the groups which suckle the milk of human kindness at the CCHD's teat have appalling acronyms. Yes, I know I am a lunatic right wing maniac, but I can't help but have my radar start making high-pitched whirring sounds at the tortured wordsmithing required to come up with an acronym that spells out some impactful word, i.e. "BLAST: Badger Lake Action Support Team" and the like. People who would like to avail themselves of my monetary largesse ought do well to think along different lines.

2- Almost none of these groups have actually done anything concrete to solve any poverty. This is because almost all these groups have views inimical to reality. You will read much about "breaking the cycle of poverty, but puzzlingly little of that cycle being broken, anywhere. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find that cycle so much as dented or dinged with CCHD funds. (Incidentally, the only way to eliminate poverty is to afford poor people open, free and unfettered access to the free-market system. Next question.)

3- As you look into what they stand for, the vast majority (can you see charity humming quietly in my choice of words?) of these groups have a decidedly, er, left-of-center political skew.

Now, a warning; in a few seconds you will run headlong into a litmus test. I happen to like litmus tests. I'm not comfortable looking at the world as black-or-white, but I'll cheerfully settle for "charcoal or dove grey."

OK, here is one litmus test:

One of these groups refers to The Heritage Foundation as -- watch this, now -- "the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation." ANY group that considers the Heritage Foundation "ultra conservative" can be safely said to be aswim with people whose personal happiness is directly related by how closely the USA resembles "a worker's paradise." In short, the sort of people -- richly deserving of our sympathy and prayers -- who would read (and believe) The Nation if it were only free and/or subsidized with taxpayer funds. One wonders at what groupthink would be on the Cato Institute.

Because you strike me as a cynical sort, dear Internet, I'll give you another litmus test. Free. It's easy. Find me ONE of the CCHD-affiliated groups which doesn't have a website scrofulous with musty and yellowing Days Of Rage terminology such as "community action" and "strengthening advocacy" and "leadership development." Find me one that says something like: "These people were poor and, thanks to our efforts, the cycle of poverty has been broken so they now have careers and are well on their way to prosperity."

In summary, what I will be doing this Sunday is absenting myself from the contribution stream, and slinging the funds to people who actually help the poor by (gasp!) lifting them out of poverty, instead of cranking out press so laden with agitprop verbiage that it more closely resembles a Norman Lear pitch than anything a reasonable person would recognize as reality.

As Christians, we are to be mindful Christ has commanded us to feed the hungry, not to "empower their advocacy" and to clothe the naked, not "fostering community clothing initiatives." If you really care about those in material poverty, and also care what people do with your money (which we will assume took you some effort to acquire) you just might wish to consider doing likewise.



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Remember me?

Sorry to have been absent so much of late.

Among the reasons why, it's because I have been SWAMPED with work stuff. What it all means is that I need your prayers. My main clients will be here in a week and I have just discovered that their files are ALL mangled. So not only must I run around ragged getting the things ready that I normally do, but now I also have to fix a COLOSSAL set of files, as well as make sure the project(s) involved go according to plan.

If you can spare 'em, please pray for me in this regard.



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

You might think...

...that nobody over at the Vatican is paying attention. When you read stuff like this (do NOT click on it if you are prone to hypertension) it's easy to do so.

Oh, ye of little faith. It seems someone has been paying c-a-r-e-f-u-l attention.

You want a money quote? The one that Bp. Galeone might do well to heed?

The Vatican official [Msgr. Camille Perl, Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission] acknowledged that the Ecclesia Dei commission is preparing the new document as a response to widespread limitations on the use of the 1962 Roman Missal. Msgr. Perl expressed some impatience with bishops who have set conditions that go beyond the framework of Summorum Pontificum, complaining that a "sense of obedience and respect for authority has been lost."



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Things that never come easy.

Dear Internet,

As I'm sure you have read recently, Abp. Niedereauer gave Holy Communion to a couple of members of a rather appalling group that calls itself "the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence." To spare you the Googling, and not drive too much traffic their way, suffice it to say this group is composed (primarily? exclusively?) of actively homosexual men arrayed in the traditional habits of women religious, with kabuki-ish makeup added frisson.

Anyway, two of them -- in full regalia -- presented themselves for Communion and His Excellency gave it to them. Someone recorded/photographed the goings-on. That much is known.

As you may well imagine, "there rose a tumult amongst the people" like you wouldn't believe. I, myself, was feeling rather tumultish, truth be told. As the Catechism plainly states, the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, actually present in "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity." Furthermore, St. Paul writes that to partake of the Eucharist in an unworthy shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

Something, incidentally, of which I'd really rather not be.

But Abp. Niederauer has apologized, pretty fully by my lights. It was very tempting to, prior to His Excellency's apology, to speculate on why he may have done so. Did he not notice the rather, er, eccentric garb of the homosexual activists? "How could he not have noticed?" asked many. Exegesis to rival the "JFK 'magic bullet' theory" sprang forth copiously from blogs and websites, and the temptation was strong, at least with me, to join the fray.

But His Excellency has apologized. And that, if we are to hold fast to the virtue of charity, should be that. The post-apology aftershocks -- while understandable -- are very lamentable. If we are to be true to the Gospel and all that it entails, we must be ready to exercise charity. Yes, it's difficult. Yes, it's infuriating that we had to (sort of) witness this appalling spectacle. Yes, it's galling that we had to endure Christ (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) being treated so sacrilegiously. Our wounded feelings are all understandable...maybe even commendable. But they must stand down against the call to be charitable.



Monday, October 15, 2007

Help a Brother Father out

This from Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP:
I have been asked by my province to study philosophy in Rome. I am having a horrible time getting any info on pontifical faculties in philosophy from the internet. I need info on the license/doctoral programs at the Gregorian, John Lateran, the Angelicum. Would you please put a brief note on your site asking anyone with personal info about any of these universities to contact me at neripowell(at)yahoo(dot)com?

If any of you have any idea of how to help Father, drop him a line!



Friday, October 12, 2007

The Rules of Engagement

You may recall this blog entry of mine. Good. Well, Fr. Michael C. McFarland, SJ (President of Holy Cross) has addressed the issue.

The specifics of the conference are a grayish area, apparently not dealing with artificial contraception or abortion. Yes, PP and NARAL will be there, but the subject of this meeting would seem to be unrelated to these problematic areas. So, assuming the most charitable spin possible in this situation, the Holy Cross administration still comes across as unbelievably tin-eared to the concerns of the faithful. The fact is that by merely giving PP & NARAL a forum on a Catholic campus -- even PP & NARAL speak of nothing but sunshine and lollipops -- they also bask in a certain moral "street cred" they don't deserve.

I'd also like to focus on something that is quoted in the article:
As a Jesuit college, Holy Cross is committed to its mission of engaging with the larger culture on even the most problematic and divisive of moral and spiritual issues.
I'd like to see clarified what the definition of "engaging*" is and, moreover, if the NARAL & PP crowd will be among those being engaged and if so, how and when and by whom. Because, frankly, I haven't seen a whole bloody lot of that from anyone at any level.



* Please, dear Lord, don't let the meaning be "oh, you know, just hanging out."

Real work for real human rights.

None of the bedwetter-speak or teaching-the-lepers-how-to-sing drivel. Looky.


PS Thanks to Fr. Powell!

Something to ponder. UPDATE (AGAIN)

UPDATE #2: The seminary has responded to the uproar. Nobody has explained why the seminary has chosen to contract its printing services with a company which also handles homosexual publications.

UPDATE: Jim Frankowiak, of the Coastal Public Relations Group wrote to the columnist referenced above to state the situation is due to an error at the printer, as the magazine Dialogue subcontracts its printing, from all indications, with an enterprise that also publishes a magazine named Flavor which readership appears to be primarily homosexual. Mr. Abbott, on the strength of his sources, stands by the article.

My opinion? Whether we like it or not, Charity demands we give the Seminary the benefit of the doubt (in a "trust-but-verify" sort of way?) in this case; regardless of what, in the Seminary's history, it has done to earn it. It could very well be a printing error. But if the explanation Frankowiak -- and I urge you to read it as writ -- gives is correct, there may be other questions which rise as a consequence. I think it fair to wait to deal with them as things develop.

I hope and pray this was nothing more than a lamentable mixup. But, alas, it seems very understandable that people have If I have acted inappropriately in this case -- I don't think I have, but I may not be an accurate arbiter of my own deeds -- I apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Our Lady of Bethlehem...ora pro nobis. Oy.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

How'd this guy get in?

If you have been following this story, you'll doubtlessly be aware of the outrage many people have expressed over the Holy Cross administration acting (as our Gallic cousins might have said) in the role of collaborateurs.

Of course, there has been some effort at deft tightrope dancing (another example of "THAT. That's what we're talking about.") from certain Vichy Holy Crossers along the lines of
Holy Cross believes that a state-wide meeting of educators, health professionals, counselors, and other professionals who are working to ensure the health and safety of at-risk teenagers does not constitute an attack on Catholic teaching.
(If you want to see a real case of speaking truth to power, read this.)

Anyway, the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Worcester, the Most Rev. Robert McManus has weighed in. What is refreshing is that the Bish has actually taken a stand -- an unambiguous one, no less -- on behalf of Catholic doctrine. Mind you, it says much that such a thing is refreshing instead of routine but, "any port in a storm."




Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Things to ponder

Read this (taking particular care to note the first two photographs) and then, if you can, tell me how it squares with I Corinthians 11:29?

Am I missing something?


Interesting, innit?

From an article at the CNA website comes this quote:

[In a] 2004 letter to American bishops from Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger): "not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia." Therefore "there may be a legitimate diversity of opinion, even among Catholics, about war and the death penalty, but not, however, with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
Thought you ought to know.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Continuing coverage.

Well, Mark is no longer "just plain ol' Mark." He is now, get this, The Reverend Mister Mark. God, in His infinite wisdom, saw to it that Martha, Martha got to witness the whole thing.

How cool is all this?



P.S. Check out Mark, sporting the summer clerics.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Shedding light.

One of the interesting aspects of being a denizen of the blogosphere is that people sometimes, in lieu of leaving something in the combox, will email you and let you know -- often with great vigor and warmth -- where it is exactly that you are wrong.

This is a great public service, as it lets me know where my golf balls, as it were, are landing.

The reason I mention this is because of late there has been some, er, spirited discourse over at Karen's on the matter of the future of the Society of Jesus. At any rate, I was informed by someone who took some slight exception to my views that I am (and I want to get this down verbatim) "retro-hallucinating." By this, it is meant that "my" ideal SoJ is the equivalent of thinking that 1950s America was precisely as depicted by Ozzie & Harriet. Or Leave It To Beaver, your call.

For a picosecond, I pondered if this was true.

Ah, but then I recalled the axiom taught me by the good Jesuit Fathers of my youth: "The actual proves the possible." That is, if such a thing is the product of my hyper-orthodox, giga-conservative mind, then how can we explain a the great number of Jesuits whose writings and actions pretty much square with my thinking on an idealized SoJ? Yesterday I posted in ALB something by a certain Jesuit named Fr. Vincent P. Miceli, SJ. From all I can gather on the late Fr. Miceli, he seems to have been clearly (oh, so verrrrrrrrrry clearly) on the traditionalist/orthodox end of the spectrum, more than any other Jesuit in the last 50 years of whom I'm aware. I mean, this guy teased Fr. Fessio, calling him (Fr. Fessio) a liberal. Stop and ponder that one.

But closer to home, my experience with Jesuits, jointly and severally, aligns closer to my "model" for the SoJ (and informs much of my thinking).

So, basically, how can this be? How can a SoJ that never existed have produced such a specimen as Fr. Miceli?

Now, I grant you that with +/- 20K Jesuits running around, there is going to be a gamut of thought. Fine. Perhaps the SoJ has evolved in such a direction and to such an extent that what I would prefer isn't likely to be manifested. Fine. But what smacks of arrogance and simultaneously of intellectually vacant thinking is telling me I am "retro-hallucinating."


Keep praying.

Dear Internet,

In a few moments, Mark Mossa will be ordained to the diaconate. While some times I don't quite see eye-to-eye with him, I think the world of him. He is filled with compassion and integrity and plain human decency. Pray for him and his vocation.



Friday, October 05, 2007

And on a happier note...

Happy Feast Day to St. Faustina, to whom I owe buckets, heaps and loads.

Here's why.



Wednesday, October 03, 2007

This is just so very COOL.



But the greatest of these is charity.

Dear Internet,

Color me reactionary -- you wouldn't be the first -- but my favorite English translation of the Bible is the (Catholic Edition) RSV. The old RSV, with all that "thee" and "thou" action going on. Douay-Rheims is good too, and online.

Anyway, as a result of this retro-proclivity of mine, I have always been jarred -- jarred, I tell you! -- when at a wedding one of the readings is I Corinthians 13:1-13. Part of the problem is that I am a pedantic Iberic. I'll grant you that one.

But in doing so, the version that gets read is the latest NAB* which has "Love" replacing "Charity." The upshot of all this being that Charity gets shoved into the back of the minivan. Mind you, Charity has a tough marketing row to hoe. Charity is an "active" thing. You can't go around feeling it. It demands things from a person. Love...not necessarily. While Love can be an active thing, it can also be a passive thing, something that is merely felt. So that way Love gets to skate ahead of Charity in our modern times.

Which is a pity.

Charity is, in my considered opinion, the lynchpin of a successful walk towards Grace. If Pride is the wellspring of all sin, then Charity is its polar opposite. Don't believe me? Fine. Try this. Go out and about today for an hour. The mall, perhaps. Somewhere where you stand a half-decent chance of interacting with people; some old guy asking you for directions, a little kid bumping into you, a cashier that has trouble making change, a parking attendant unsure of where there may be a vacant spot. Then, for laughs and grins, make it a specific point that no matter what you will be 100% charitable for that hour.

Assuming you last that long, take stock of just how bloody difficult it is. Arduous. Rigorous, even. This is clearly not our default setting as humans. In fact, the Catechism states it pretty clearly: Our fallen nature has"darkened our understanding, weakened our will, and left us a strong inclination to evil." That, people, conspires actively against being charitable. Especially the bit about "strong inclination to evil" which pretty much sums up our corrupting Pride.

When you think about it (and you bloody well should) it is impossible to be charitable and prideful simultaneously. The Jesuits phrase it as being a man (or, if circumstances call for it, woman) for others, although quite often it's never explained fully, but I digress. You cannot be absorbed in self-concern and simultaneously be charitable. "Leave me, everyone, I feel an impulse of charity is imminent!" doesn't quite work.

"All perfectly true, no doubt" says you. "But what does it all mean?"

I'll tell ya.

What we need most in this world, if we are to make a successful transition to the next, is Forgiveness. We need it by the bushel. The easiest way to get that if by exercising that over-atrophied spiritual muscle of Charity. Lucky for you (an me) the opportunities to exercise Charity are practically avalanching upon you as we speak. Whenever you read a blog entry (or comment thereon) that sorely tempts you to hurl invective and bile...or merely self-satisfied sarcasm, at the author. Whenever someone on whom you counted lets you down, bad.

Perverse as it may seem, rejoice. You have been given the opportunity to flex that Charity. You won't like it at first. But like all things you flex, it eventually becomes reflex. When that day dawns, stop and look and marvel at how far you have come in your walk with God.



* To which, cynics would say, the USCCB holds copyrights and thus could well be accruing monetary gain from the sale of the Lectionaries it requires be used at Mass. I'd never say that, but, you know, cynics would.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Weekend Update

Dear Internet,

It’s been a fair bit since I have blogged with any meaningful regularity. I know this true because strangers and passersby told me so their own bad self. So it’s only appropriate this blog entry deals with our weekend jaunt to Chicago. In order to minimize the stress levels to which modern life subjects us all, I’ll let you know that all went well.

That said, there are times when your mind is not weighed down with your everyday woes and cares when you start to notice the manifest weirdness that swirls unnoticed otherwise. In my case, this started when we were in the gate are awaiting the call to board the flight. There was a woman arrayed in very 1970s raiments. Frosty blue eyeshadow, the fauxest of faux eyelashes and a blouse with a print emulating a stained glass window designed by someone unfortunately suffering under the influence of mescaline.

As befits someone seemingly extricated from a time capsule ca. 1976 Nashville, she was also a rather voluble sort. She spoke to the unfortunates at either side in a pronounced Noo Yawk accent which I almost, but not entirely, managed to tune out. Considerably more difficult to tune out was her dog (a small breed best known for its propensity for oscillating at 20 megacycles and unexpected renal outbursts) and with a misanthropic disposition and anger management issues manifested by snarling loudly, so that it sounded like two asthmatic ducks fighting to the death over an iron lung.

Joy for me, Midcentury Dog Woman sat right behind us on the flight and promptly propped up her admirable feet on my armrests, as if she were flying ObGynAirlines. Other than her proffering me (quite unbidden) massages to the small of the back as she adjusted herself, and the Laryngitic Waterfowl sounds emanating from her general vicinity, the flight was uneventful. Not that MDW was content with just the foot propping thing, opting to afford us a considerable frisson by berating whomever she called upon landing to pick her up for suggesting she take a mode of transport which didn’t involve the berate-ee schlepping to the airport.

Upon arriving and checking in, I went for lunch. For some karmically unexplained reason, I was seated behind another socially dysfunctional woman who alternately berated her mother (seated directly behind me, and apparently dying of shame) and her father (on the cell phone) and her 3ish-year old son, who had had quite enough of the whole enterprise. As the woman’s patience wore ever thinner, her decibel output grew commensurately, her mother turned increasingly puce with embarrassment and her son’s displeasure became simultaneously more lachrymose and vocal. To my eternal relief, Angry Restaurant Woman eventually skated to the very ragged edge of a complete emotional meltdown and announced her departure. She didn't actually say she would be climbing atop a fast food restaurant with a cache of firearms, the better to vent her vexations upon pedestrians, but it wouldn't have surprised me.

Had I not been a fellow filled to the brim with the milk of human kindness, as well as busy working the chopsticks on behalf of some dim sum, I would have applauded heartily and bribed the lad to kick her shins upon egress.

The day, of course, wasn’t quite done. I had clients to see. Said client was unable to fetch me and I hailed a taxi. Our driver, a Somali national (if the profusion of stickers affixed to the interior of the vehicle are anything to go by) had the radio tuned to a Christian radio station – at full volume, no less – and in marked contradistinction to the message proclaimed over the airwaves, proceeded to weave suicidally in and out of traffic (of which there was an impressive, if immobile, amount) and honk vehemently at elderly pedestrians who adversely affected his progress. This jaunt took 45 minutes, during which time we heard an interesting exegesis of the story of Joseph in Egypt at 120 dB.

My theory is that said driver is someone manifestly trying to impugn Christians by juxtaposing his listening choices with driving as if here were trying to commit genocide in alphabetical order.
Dinner with the client proved uneventful in a good way.

The next day I arose, breakfasted and shopped* a bit. The client had issued an invitation to a white tie gala event and seeing as how said client represents a healthy hunk of my tithe, and how additional potential clients would be in attendance, I nodded assent. That went well, as well.
The next day (i.e., yesterday, Sunday) I decided to attend Mass at Holy Name Cathedral. Many of you have written me privately and have told me that Mass in the vernacular can be just as beautiful as Mass in Latin. While I still cannot find any sensible reason to give my agreement to such a view -- at dinner, I chatted with a "cradle Episcopalian" and I said the reason why modern Catholic liturgy is so near-universally banal is to prevent a flood of Anglican refugees -- this Mass was among the best I have attended in English, that is to say it was "not too bad at all." Celebrating this Mass was Francis Cardinal George, and His Eminence did so quite well, although I wish he hadn't delegated the homily. But now I pick nits.

There was minimal "pumping grace" or hand holding, the choir was good (if drowned out by the organist, so that it was difficult to make out if they were singing in Latin, English or Lutonian) and there was plenty of incense.

The Cathedral, alas, looks as if the 1970s had happened to it. Although that "ghetto of a decade" (to quote David Frum) hadn't managed to land a body blow on the Cathedral, it had definitely made contact in a couple of places. As usual, the tabernacle was hidden from the Great Unwashed (and even from the Pretty Good Yet Slightly Washed). As Veritas would say, one felt akin to Mary Magdalen, wandering in and sobbing "They've taken away my Lord, and I know not where they've put Him." It goes without saying the High Altar and all those "antiquated" architectural touches have been removed for our benefit, lest we forget we are a Bicentennial People.

Interestingly, it was also Red Mass in honor of Catholic judges and lawyers. It's safe to say, from the attendance at this Red Mass that, at least as regards lawyers, Chicago is in no danger whatsoever of a sudden shortage. An unexpected screech and crashing sound outside would have halved the attendee population quite easily.

But all in all, it was good.

So here we are.


* Karen, one of the highlights of any trip to Chicago was being able to stop at Paul Stuart. They had a sort of trunk-show thing going on and, being a man with a tenuous grip on my sartorial willpower, I ordered a suit. (Like an idiot, I realized I didn’t specify a “ticket pocket” on the jacket. ARGH!)