Sunday, January 30, 2011

(Belated) New Year's writing resolutions

This is a very personal post, one that perhaps shares too much, so please forgive the many instances of the vertical pronoun which follow:

Yesterday, in congratulating The Crescat on getting into the top 30 Catholic blogs, I half-quipped, half-whimpered that neither of my blogs had broken into the top 200 yet. Poor, pitiful me.

Then, today, I ran across this article from the late philosopher and novelist Ralph McInerny, “On Being a Catholic Writer”. Among the interesting insights he shared, he left a bit-slap for me (and for hundreds of other would-be pundits):

“The dilettante writes to amuse himself, an easy task, but the serious writer seeks to interest a reader. … No one owes you a reading. It has to be earned.”


The loss of Catholic culture

One topic that has broached the surface of the Catholic blogosphere in the last week is the loss of Catholic identity. The issue has appeared in First Things, in Fr. John Zuhlsdorf’s What Does The Prayer Really Say and in Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s Standing On My Head.

I touched on this topic back in October; however, I treated it solely as a doctrinal issue, as part of my general “close the cafeteria” rant. While the various attempts to water down or actively corrupt Catholic doctrine is part of the problem, and no small one either, it isn’t the whole problem.

A lot of the focus is on regular Mass attendance. There’s been no end of despair in the last forty-three years over the difference in number between those who claim to be Catholic in national polls and those who actually have their butts planted in the pews every Sunday and holy day of obligation.[1] The primary cause of this disparity, however, is depressingly simple: Lousy homilies.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Do we have a right to miracles?

Occasionally, amidst the dreck and smut of modern culture, you get glimpses of truths retained.

The late comedian Sam Kinison had spent some time as a revival-tent preacher; even in his last years, as his mind was sinking into a morass of drugs, sex and nihilism, he retained some elements of his Evangelical Christianity. The example I have in mind is an exchange he posed between Jesus and his disciples at the Eucharistic miracle of the loaves and fishes (Mt 14:13-21):

“Hmm … five thousand people, and nobody brought a sack lunch. Well, I guess you expect ME to get it!”

“Well, you are the Son of God.”

“Yes, but I didn’t come down to Earth to be ‘Jesus the Miracle Caterer’!”

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What did the Pope really say?-Round 2

For once, USA Today got it right and the rest of the MSM got it wrong.

In a speech to the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal which oversees annulments, Pope Benedict XVI underscored the importance of thorough priestly premarital counseling with the statement, “No one can make a claim to the right to a nuptial ceremony.” The right to a church wedding, the AP reported correctly, “requires that the bride and groom intend to celebrate and live the marriage truthfully and authentically.”

Well, that’s not all. There are some other impediments to marriage which need to be caught, the most basic of which are consanguinity and religious vows. The most drastic impediment is having formally abandoned the faith, as when people ask to be “de-baptized”; in such cases, unless and until the person reconciles themselves with the Church through the sacrament of confession, all other sacraments are withheld, including a church funeral. The Church takes marriage far more seriously than do many of the marriageable, who tend to treat vows like promises and promises like pie crusts.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why Roe must go—UPDATED

This post originally began life as an update to an earlier post, which you can read here. However, it just grew like Topsy.

Near the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist, has been indicted on seven counts of murder, two counts of infanticide and 33 counts of felony abortions performed after the 24-week limit imposed by the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. The lengths Dr. Gosnell is accused of to insure that babies died as a result of his ministrations—delivering them and then severing their spinal cords—is compounded by the grand jury's report, revealed in the Philadelphia Daily News, that "[t]he [Pennsylvania] Department of State literally licensed Gosnell's criminally dangerous behavior," and that the Department of Health "gave its stamp of approval to his facility." Several other clinic workers have also been indicted; the clinic has also been implicated in the deaths of at least two women. [1/21/11: HT to The Anchoress for providing the link to the grand jury's report.]

In his post on the Slate dated today, William Saletan writes:

The question for [anyone] who asserts an indefinite right to choose is whether this part of the indictment [i.e., the  felony abortion charges] should be dropped. You can argue that what Gosnell did wasn't conventional abortion—he routinely delivered the babies before slitting their necks—but the 33 proposed charges involving the Abortion Control Act have nothing to do with that. Those charges pertain strictly to a time limit: performing abortions beyond 24 weeks. Should Gosnell be prosecuted for violating that limit? Is it OK to outlaw abortions at 28, 30, or 32 weeks? Or is drawing such a line an unacceptable breach of women's autonomy?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Goodstein's "smoking gun" a water pistol

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times is apparently determined to be the Bob Woodward of her generation. She’s picked an issue about which she will seemingly never suffer a loss of credibility no matter how blatantly she distorts her source materials, and a home in which she is free to indulge her journalistic excesses in the name of muck-raking. Moreover, she’s found a devoted audience, the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh’s “dittoheads”, who are ever ready to hail her prophetic wisdom so long as she feeds their sense of righteous indignation.

I need to make it clear right from the start that media investigation of the abuse scandals per se is not a bad thing. We Catholics owe a lot to the many honest journalists who have covered these stories, as painful and embarrassing as they’ve been. It should also be understood that I am not, not, NOT defending the bishops who deliberately paid off victims for their silence, who shuffled predator priests around, who dithered and dallied about removing known ephebophiles from the priesthood until it was too late. No, I’m merely dealing with Goodstein’s ongoing attempts to implicate the Vatican in every sexual-abuse scandal, and the meretricious journalism with which she’s pursuing her goal.

I’m speaking, of course, of Goodstein’s article yesterday (1/19/11) about a 1997 letter from the apostolic nuncio of Ireland, the late Abp. Luciano Storero, to the Irish bishops concerning a working document on child sexual abuse policy. The letter expressed some reservations of the Congregation for the Clergy about the committee’s proposition, which recommended that even suspicions should be reported to secular authorities, and that confidentiality should not be offered even if the lack of confidentiality were a deterrent to someone coming forward with a report (Section 2.2). In the second paragraph, Goodstein immediately signaled where she was heading: “The [letter] appears to contradict Vatican claims that church leaders in Rome never sought to control the actions of local bishops in abuse cases, and that the Roman Catholic Church did not impede criminal investigations of child abuse suspects.”

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On the veneration of saints (Part II)

In Part I, we looked at the inaccurate, unjust and uncharitable charge that prayer to saints is idolatry. But more needs to be said about the communion of saints and their role in Catholic theology and prayer life.

Saint comes from the Latin sanctus, which in turn translates the Greek hagios (γιος, = "most holy thing, saint" [Brown-Driver-Briggs]; "sacred (physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated):—(most) holy (one, thing), saint" [Strong]). While sanctus is ordinarily spoken of as an attribute of God, there are points in the NT letters where Christians are spoken of as "holy ones"; see for example Philippians 4:21-22: "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household." Hebrews 13:24: "Greet all your leaders and all the saints." Especially interesting is 1 Peter 1:15-16: "… [B]ut as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy'" [cf. Lev 11:44-45].[1]

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On the veneration of saints (Part I)

One of the motivations for my last post came while I was reading the news yesterday that on May 1 Pope Benedict XVI will beatify his predecessor, Ven. John Paul II. Mainstream-media comboxes aren’t good reading, unless you’re fascinated by the reflections of the uninformed on the misinformation they get. Ordinarily, I skip past the “peanut gallery”.[1] But one comment caught my eye; as I remember, it went something like this: “One of the Ten Commandments is against idolatry. Praying to saints strikes me as idolatry. I have never been able to understand the Catholic Church and its thing about saints.”

Indeed, our audacious Protestant friend doesn’t understand the Catholic Church if he thinks praying to a saint is idolatry. In fact, he doesn’t understand idolatry or prayer, either.

Uncivil Discourse

The smoke from Jared Lee Loughner’s weapon had hardly a chance to dissipate when liberal hate-mongers in the MSM started to accuse Sarah Palin and the Tea Party as accessories before the fact to mass murder. The grounds? One of the victims, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, is a Democrat “targeted” by the Tea Party for unseating in her next re-election bid.

Never mind that Loughner is a paranoid schizophrenic with an established history of drug abuse. Never mind that the only demonstrable concern he had with politics was his alleged anger at being “snubbed” by Giffords at some public function. Had Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann and the New York Times waited just a few days for these facts to come forward, they would not now look like idiots and hypocritical opportunists.