On 14th June this year about 1,500 people filled Westminster Cathedral. Every seat was taken; people stood in the aisles and spilled out on to the piazza outside. The occasion was a mass, but not an ordinary mass. It was indeed a mass in what is now officially called the ``extraordinary form'' of the Roman rite, i.e. the mass as it had existed before the changes that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). It was celebrated by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, and was the first mass in the traditional form to be celebrated in the Cathedral by a cardinal in thirty nine years.
Before the mass, Cardinal Castrillon had addressed the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, a group which had striven for forty years to preserve the ancient liturgy. He told them to `take heart' because the new Pope sympathised with them, and he spoke of the `sacrifices' of those members of the Society `who have not lived to be here today.'
To outsiders, all this emotion, this talk of sacrifices made by dead Catholics for the liturgy might well be unintelligible. What are the great issues at stake? Why should people throng Westminster Cathedral and spill out onto the street, including many too young to remember the old ways, just to experience a service in Latin conducted by a prelate with his back to the people?
In July the Pope was in Australia for World Youth Day. About four hundred thousand of the young, who had travelled from all parts of the globe, acclaimed him at a vast open-air mass in Sydney. But the mass had some new-old features Latin (Gregorian) chant, an altar adorned in the old style with crucifix and seven candles, and an attempt at solemn reverence that is not usually seen at these mass liturgical events. Something is in the air.
The truth is that the Roman Catholic Church has been in crisis ever since the Second Vatican Council, a crisis not only of falling numbers attending mass, a reduction of vocations, the virtual extinction of some religious orders, but a crisis of identity of the Church itself. The confident, tightly centralised "triumphalist'' Catholicism that followed the sixteenth century Council of Trent and regained many of the lands that had been lost to Protestantism, the Church that claimed to be "the one ark of salvation for all," has been replaced by the "pilgrim Church," tentatively stretching out to other faiths, often apologetic about the past, sometimes ready to play down its most distinctive doctrines.
* * * * *
Nearly 25 years ago, a Pole was dining in my college in Cambridge. He told us that he had been an altar boy in Poland, and had often served the masses of the Archbishop of Cracow. A year or two after that prelate, Karol Woytila, had been installed in the See of Rome, he decided to visit him, for John Paul II never became too grand for his old Polish friends. The Pope (so he told the story) strode up to him, punched him lightly in the chest, and began: Introibo ad ad altare dei ... to which our guest responded: Ad deum qui laetificat iuventutum meum. ("I will go unto the altar of God'' "To God who giveth joy to my youth.'') This was the opening exchange between priest and server of the old "Tridentine'' Latin mass, abolished in the early1970s, and the two continued it right down to the Confiteor. Then the Pope shrugged his shoulders and said: "Well, that's no use to us anymore." His old altar boy replied: "No, Holy Father, and that's why I no longer go to church." To which the Pope (he said) instantly rejoined: "Don't blame me. Blame that maniac John XXIII!"
* * * * *
But what is the fuss all about? Is this just a matter of some people preferring to talk to God in Latin? Or is it the re-igniting of a subterraneous culture war that has troubled the peace of the faithful over the past forty years?
First of all: it is not just a question of Latin. The "Tridentine'' mass and the Latin mass are not one and the same thing. True, the Tridentine mass must be said in Latin in the Roman church. But decades ago you could attend Tridentine masses in High Anglican churches in Cornwall celebrated entirely in English. The new order of mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council, was originally meant to be usually in Latin, but is nearly always said in the vernacular. But whatever the language, it is different from the old mass, in feel, liturgical gesture and some would even say in theology. The liturgy has always embodied both prayer and doctrine: it is both lex orandi and lex credendi. The ultras would argue that the changes in the mass were part of a stealthy attempt to alter doctrine. The great Council of Trent (1546-63) marked the final separation between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism with ferocious clarity. Catholic doctrines such as the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, reaffirmed by Trent, are liturgically enforced in the Tridentine mass with no possible ambiguity.
The ultras have a point. A pious Catholic who had fallen asleep in 1960 and woken up forty years later would be puzzled indeed at a modern mass (unless he had been allowed to slumber all those years in Brompton Oratory or a few other traditionalist redoubts.) He would find the modern Church culturally and psychologically so altered that he might be tempted to see it as a new religion masquerading under the old name. He might, like my Polish acquaintance, decide not to bother any more.
* * * * *
To undo the Council of Trent would be no mean endeavour, although to anyone with a sense of the religious history of Europe during the last four hundred and fifty years it must seem a madly ambitious one. But what really ignited the Catholic culture wars was the way it was done: by an unprecedented exercise of papal power. Hardly anything of what happened was prescribed by the Second Vatican Council, not the turning around of the altars, not the almost universal use of the vernacular, not the scaling down of the sense of transcendence and sacrifice, not the discouraging of the faithful from kneeling when receiving holy communion, not the receiving of communion in the hand rather than on the tongue. Traditionalists point out that the Council had decreed that the Latin language was to be preserved. (And the "maniac" John XXIII had been totally opposed to the vernacular in the mass.) It had all been done by Pope Paul VI, Archbishop Bugnini and a close circle of liturgical experts. It was never even passed by a synod of bishops.The paradoxical conclusion might have been forseen: it was the most pious Catholics, most devoted to the papacy and its prerogatives who were most outraged, but who felt most bound by loyalty and obedience. Their anguish when they were presented in 1971 with the abolition of the old rite can be imagined.
01 October 2008
An excellent article on the identity crisis that has been taking place in the Church since Vatican II
30 July 2008
Your daily dose of heresy
As a young girl growing up in Milwaukee, Janice Sevre-Duszynska often fantasized[That places it in the right category.] about becoming a priest while helping clean the sanctuary of the church her family attended.
“I’d sit in the priest’s chair, go to the pulpit, make believe I was preaching and giving communion,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why couldn’t I be up here?’” [Make believe is still fun!]
Now, 50 years later, she will get her wish, but it could come with a price — excommunication from the Roman Catholic church. [NB the small "c".] On Aug. 9, in defiance of the church’s 2,000-year ban on women in the priesthood, she will be ordained [No she won’t be.] by Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an activist group that has protested the ban since 2002. [Okay… what language is being used here? So far, its a "ban". Can’t only things that are actually possible be banned? Right there is a ban on importing Cuban cigars in the USA. But it is still possible to smoke them here.]
In 1998, she disrupted the ordination of a Lexington priest [classy!] at the Cathedral of Christ the King by pleading with then-Bishop J. Kendrick Williams to ordain her as well. In 2000, she impersonated a reporter [a liar too!] to attend an annual meeting of Catholic bishops in Washington, D.C., where she grabbed the microphone and again called for the ordination of women. And in 2002, she was arrested as part of a group protesting ordination of deacons by the Catholic Diocese of Atlanta. [and stingy! "If I can’t be ordained, no one can!"]
But Sevre-Duszynska, who will be ordained at the Unitarian Universalist Church [Yah…. that’s about right.] of Lexington, does not fear excommunication. She expects it. “I’m really waiting for that parchment from Rome,” she said. [That ineffable gibbet of ignorance and arrogance.]
She became eligible for excommunication [Good grief! This is this paper’s religion writer?!?] in 2006 when she was [not] ordained a deacon by Roman Catholic Womenpriests. According to Catholic church doctrine, that office must also be reserved for men. Deacons perform many duties of priests, such as baptisms, marriages and funerals, but they cannot say Mass, consecrate the Eucharist [Yah… ‘cause those are really different] or hear confessions. [Or anoint.]
Sevre-Duszynska believes that Catholicism is too exclusive. “Roman Catholic Womenpriests believe in inclusivity — men, women, married, divorced, disabled,” [aardvarks, potatoes, big scary puppets] she said.
In 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, she was arrested again, for trespassing at a Nevada weapons testing site. [Why violate her rights? Let her go anywhere she wants there!]
One of the blogs I read (I can't remember which) had a satirical piece a couple weeks ago asking why there are no traditional women who are pretending to be ordained. While the piece was hilarious, it underlined an important point: all the women who are truly Catholic (as in, they recognize and assent to the basics, like the Real Presence, apostolic succession, so on and so forth) can see that the Church is more important than their own selfish desires (note that these women "priests" always justify themselves by saying things like, "I've always wanted to be a priest, it's all about satisfying my own wants," not "I feel that God is calling me to be a successor to the apostles and a priest in the order of Melchizedek.").
25 July 2008
If you only read one article all year, choose this one
He ventured forth to bring light to the world
The anointed one's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action - and a blessing to all his faithful followers
And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.
The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.
When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”
In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.
And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.
He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.
And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.
From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.
And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.
And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.
From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.
In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.
As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.
And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.
The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.
And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.
Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.
And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.
Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.
But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.
And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.
Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.
On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.
And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”
16 July 2008
I go incommunicado for a while, and all hell breaks loose...
Major U.S. city officially condemns Catholic Church
A San Francisco city and county board resolution that officially labeled the Catholic Church's moral teachings on homosexuality as "insulting to all San Franciscans," "hateful," "defamatory," "insensitive" and "ignorant" will be challenged tomorrow in court for violating the Constitution's prohibition of government hostility toward religion.
Resolution 168-08, passed unanimously by the City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors two years ago, also accused the Vatican of being a "foreign country" meddling with and attempting to "negatively influence (San Francisco's) existing and established customs."
It said of the church's teaching on homosexuality, "Such hateful and discriminatory rhetoric is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors." As WND reported, Resolution 168-08 was an official response to the Catholic Church's ban on adoption placements into homosexual couple households, issued by Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.
The board's resolution urged the city's local archbishop and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to defy the Vatican's instructions, concluding with a spiteful reminder that the church authority that issued the ban was known 100 years ago as "The Holy Office of the Inquisition."
The resolution also took a shot at Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco, saying, "Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear."
The anti-Catholic diatribe had been challenged in U.S. District Court on similar grounds, but District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled in favor of the city, saying, in essence, the church started it.
She wrote in her decision, "The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith provoked this debate, indeed may have invited entanglement" for instructing Catholic politicians on how to vote. This court does not find that our case law requires political bodies to remain silent in the face of provocation."
She ruled that the city's proclamation was not entangling the government in church affairs, since the resolution was a non-binding, non-regulatory announcement. Since no law was enacted, she ruled, city officials – even in their official capacity as representatives of the government – can say what they want. "It is merely the exercise of free speech rights by duly elected office holders," she wrote.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which is appealing the District Court decision on behalf of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and two Catholic residents of San Francisco, disagrees with Patel's decision.
"Sadly, the ruling itself clearly exhibited hostility toward the Catholic Church," he said in a statement. "The judge in her written decision held that the Church 'provoked the debate' by publicly expressing its moral teaching, and that by passing the resolution the City responded 'responsibly' to all of the 'terrible' things the Church was saying."
Thomas More attorney Robert Muise will present oral arguments in the case tomorrow morning in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Our Constitution plainly forbids hostility toward any religion, including the Catholic faith," he said. "In total disregard for the Constitution, homosexual activists in positions of authority in San Francisco have abused their authority as government officials and misused the instruments of the government to attack the Catholic Church. Their egregious abuse of power has now the backing of a lower federal court. … Unfortunately, all too often we see a double standard being applied in Establishment Clause cases," Muise said.
Thomas More attorneys argued in the District Court case that the "anti-Catholic resolution sends a clear message" that Catholics are "outsiders, not full members of the political community."
The cultural, and now political, straight-arm to adherents of the Christian faith in San Francisco has been increasingly public in the last two years. Just one week after the anti-Catholic resolution was passed, the San Francisco Board issued a similar resolution against a mostly evangelical group.
Following a gathering of 25,000 teens at San Francisco's AT&T Park as part of Ron Luce's Teen Mania "Battle Cry for a Generation" rally against the sexualization of America's youth culture by advertisers and media, the board spoke out formally again.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution condemning the "act of provocation" by what it termed an "anti-gay," "anti-choice" organization that aimed to "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."
Openly homosexual California Assemblyman Mark Leno told protesters of the teen rally that though such religious people may be few, "they're loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco."
The Chronicle also reported a San Francisco protester against the evangelical youth rally carried a sign that may sum up the sentiment: "I moved here to get away from people like you."
The Thomas More Law Center hopes the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will decide in the case of Resolution 1680-08 that even if a large portion of the community is at odds with a religion's views on homosexuality, the government cannot be used as a weapon to condemn religious faith.
Currently, as WND has reported, Colorado and Michigan are tackling the question of whether the Bible itself can be vilified as "hate speech" for it's condemnation of homosexuality, and Canada has developed human rights commissions, which have decided people cannot express opposition to homosexuality without fear of government reprisal.
It's been a while since I've seen something this offensive.
03 June 2008
The stink of hypocrisy is nauseating
At this rate, Barack Obama will have repudiated every one of his friends in Chicago by November.
Obama resigned from Trinity United Church of Christ over the weekend after another rant from its pulpit made the rounds, this time from Catholic priest and longtime Obama friend Michael Pfleger. In a racially charged (and buffoonish)harangue, Pfleger mocked Sen. Hillary Clinton for her sense of entitlement as a white person. In a press conference announcing his decision, Obama said he was leaving the church for two reasons.
First, he claimed that as long as he belonged to the church the controversial views of its pastors and guest preachers would be unfairly imputed to him. Perhaps so. But the real question is how Obama could have been a member of the church for 20 years — and accepted the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as a personal spiritual mentor — without appreciating the radical “Black Liberation Theology” that is at the church’s heart. Obama’s claim to be innocent of Wright’s radicalism is not credible.
Second, Obama said that he was severing his ties with the church out of respect for its other members, complaining that the media has been harassing them in the storm around his relationship to the church. How very high-minded of him. But the fact is Obama didn’t feel obligated to do his fellow parishioners this courtesy until dumping Trinity became a political imperative for him.
Obama has slowly walked away from the church as political calculation has dictated. When the first videos of Wright damning America surfaced, Obama compared him to an obnoxious but harmless uncle and gave a widely acclaimed speech in Philadelphia, saying he could no more repudiate Wright than he could repudiate the black community or his own family. When Wright held a press conference at the National Press Club simply reiterating some of his toxic views, Obama starkly distanced himself from him — his Philadelphia speech suddenly inoperative. Pfleger then prompted him to leave the church altogether.
Any suggestion that Obama didn’t understand the nature of his church is absurd. As Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has documented in his extensive reporting, Obama regularly attended weekly services at Trinity; he went through its membership classes, which retail its radical theology; he was regularly profiled in its magazine, which is shot through with black nationalism. Not to mention his close relationship to Wright.
Why was Obama drawn to Trinity? On Monday, Kurtz reported on a profile of Obama published in 1995 in the Chicago Reader that appears to shed some light. It tells us that the young politician did not accept “the unrealistic politics of integrationist assimilation — which helps a few upwardly mobile blacks to ‘move up, get rich, and move out. . . .’ ” Obama didn’t embrace black nationalism to the extent that Wright did — but, according to the profile and to Obama’s first book, that was only because Obama regarded that approach as an impractical way to organize constituencies for his own brand of change.
For Obama and Wright, integration encouraged blacks to buy into the notion that they can overcome obstacles like racism and poverty on their own, without relying on the government. That kind of self-reliance makes it harder to build coalitions for liberal policies, and such coalition-building is what community organizing — Obama’s post-college vocation — is all about.
According to the 1995 profile, Obama said he was “tired of seeing the moral fervor of black folks whipped up — at the speaker’s rostrum and from the pulpit — and then allowed to dissipate because there’s no agenda, no concrete program for change.” The formula Obama devised was simple: He would supply the agenda, and people like Wright would supply the rage.
Now, Obama the presidential candidate — selling the soothing politics of unity and inspiration — has carefully pirouetted away from his former church. But he has yet to give a full, honest accounting of his relationship to Wright and Trinity. The public and the press should demand one.
24 May 2008
Oh no, we can't upset the pinkos!
MOSCOW, Russia (AP) -- Members of Russia's Communist Party are calling for a nationwide boycott of the new Indiana Jones movie, saying it aims to undermine communist ideology and distort history.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" stars Harrison Ford as an archaeologist in 1957 competing with an evil KGB agent, played by Cate Blanchett, to find a skull endowed with mystic powers.
It hit Russian screens Thursday.
Communist Party members in St. Petersburg said on a web site this week that the Soviet Union in 1957 "did not send terrorists to the States," but launched a satellite, "which evoked the admiration of the whole world."
Moscow Communist lawmaker Andrei Andreyev said Saturday "it is very disturbing if talented directors want to provoke a new Cold War."
21 May 2008
Thank God for the United Nations
Bangkok - The United Nations will send nearly a quarter of a million condoms into cyclone-hit Myanmar to help needy survivors with no access to contraceptives, a UN official says.
So far, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said it had sent 72 800 condoms to survivors struggling to maintain their family planning after the storm hit in early May.
A total of 218 400 condoms would be delivered, UNFPA aid advisor Chaiyos Kunanusont said.
"We don't want regular use of contraception disrupted. An emergency usually damages the health system, so people don't have access to condoms and contraceptives," said Chaiyos.
Who needs things like food, water, and first aid kits when you can send condoms to disaster victims to make sure they can still have sex without that unwanted side effect of pregnancy? Good thing the United Nations is around to help these poor people!
16 May 2008
More thoughts on yesterday's events
The California supreme court, by a 4-to-3 margin, ruled Thursday that it is not sufficient that California has enacted a domestic-partnership scheme that makes available to same-sex couples “virtually all of the same substantive legal benefits and privileges” as marriage. The court instead invented a “right of same-sex couples to have their official family relationship accorded the same dignity, respect, and stature as that accorded to all other officially recognized family relationships.” In short, it required that marriage itself — both the term and the institution — be redefined to be fully available to same-sex couples.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George’s majority opinion is as arrogant as it is confused. Never mind that, as his opinion concedes, “[f]rom the beginning of California statehood, the legal institution of marriage has been understood to refer to a relationship between a man and a woman.” Never mind that the very right to marry that he so wildly misconstrues is built on that understanding. Never mind that California voters in 2000 overwhelmingly ratified that understanding by adopting by initiative — by a 61.4-percent majority — the California Defense of Marriage Act.
As associate justice Marvin R. Baxter aptly stated in dissent, "Nothing in our Constitution, express or implicit, compels the majority’s startling conclusion that the age-old understanding of marriage — an understanding recently confirmed by an initiative law — is no longer valid. California statutes already recognize same-sex unions and grant them all the substantive legal rights this state can bestow. If there is to be a further sea change in the social and legal understanding of marriage itself, that evolution should occur by similar democratic means.”
Fortunately for Californians, they will likely have an opportunity this November to undo their court’s mischief. Headed for the state ballot is the California Marriage Protection Act, a voter-sponsored initiative that would amend the California constitution to provide expressly that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The initiative would thus override the court’s misinterpretations of the state constitution. (The California Defense of Marriage Act in 2000 was an ordinary law, not a constitutional amendment.)
Reasonable people of good will have competing views on whether and how state laws should accommodate same-sex relationships. Our own views on this matter are traditionalist. But in a representative democracy, everyone ought to agree that any changes should result from legislation, not from activist judges who twist and distort constitutional text to their own ends.
Both John McCain and Barack Obama say they are opposed to same-sex marriage, but both oppose a constitutional amendment to codify that view. Such an amendment is the surest way to prevent judicial meddling. But there is nonetheless an important difference between these candidates. McCain, judging from his record and his recent speech against judicial activism, will try to appoint judges who will refrain from engaging in such meddling. About Obama we know no such thing, and have reason to suspect otherwise. We hope that Senator McCain will be willing to draw this distinction, which puts him on the right and popular side of this issue.
15 May 2008
A sad day
One of the joys of working at a well-connected firm that is involved in high profile cases is that I get the scoop on these cases before they become public knowledge. Such an instance came today, when I heard about the result in the case challenging the California same-sex marriage ban and had read much of the opinion before it became public. The Becket Fund filed an amicus brief in this case, hence how we knew of the decision before it was released to the news outlets.
The verdict was that the ban is unconstitutional, thus making California the second state (after Massachusetts) to allow gay marriage. What I can't understand is why the plaintiffs were challenging this law in the first place. Before this case, California had one of the most liberal and inclusive civil union systems in the country. Same-sex couples could enter these unions and receive virtually all of the important benefits that come with being married, such as survivorship rights, custodial rights of children, etc. In fact, the court explicitly stated that this was the case. Apparently still not satisfied with what they did have, however, the plaintiffs filed suit, claiming that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional because it violated due process and the right to privacy.
From what I can tell, the reasoning used by the California Supreme Court wasn't faulty. Unfortunately, however, it highlights the main recurring problem with a large part of our judicial system today: basing cases on the mythical right to privacy. The court followed in the footsteps of such well-reasoned decisions (sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell) as Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade, which held that a right to privacy can be gleaned from the provisions of the Constitution. For those of us who believe that the Constitution, you know, means what it says, this is somewhat problematic, as there is nothing close to a right to privacy anywhere.
I'm trying not to stress the moral aspect of this whole issue (though obviously anyone who knows me knows how I feel about gay marriage), only how it keeps being made clear to me that judicial thought in this country went downhill long ago.
13 May 2008
No, I'm not dead...
First, finals consumed my soul for about two weeks, starting right after I posted my last entry. I felt OK about how they went...unfortunately, the school is very slow with posting grades, so I still don't actually know how I did.
After that, I had less than 24 hours in which I had absolutely nothing to do. It was glorious. Then write-on started. For those of you who don't know anything about law school, write-on is a competition of sorts for getting on a journal. It involves a week of fairly grueling writing, editing, and bluebooking (citations). It was a blast, let me tell you.
To top it all off, I started my summer job yesterday. I'm working at the Becket Fund, a public interest law firm that specializes in religious liberties work. It was a pretty laid back first day, with not much to do except research the use of "sectarian" as a synonym for Catholic in 19th century laws (pretty interesting stuff, at least to me). As a little background, in the 1870s, most states passed these laws now called the Blaine Amendments, which prohibit the use of public funds for "sectarian" schools. Most modern scholars agree that by "sectarian", the lawmakers meant "Catholic", thereby allowing funds for nondenominational (read: nonsectarian) Protestant schools while prohibiting their use for Catholic schools. These laws are still in effect today and have recently become relevant again with the rise of school vouchers. Taxpayers in several states have sued their state governments, claiming a misuse of their tax dollars. The Supreme Court has not declared these amendments unconstitutional, but they have ruled that school vouchers do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This is a step in the right direction, but what the Court really needs to do is declare these amendments unconstitutional and take the decision out of the states' hands. For more information on the Blaine Amendments and what the Becket Fund is doing to try to have them declared unconstitutional, see this website.
That's about all I have for now, as there's not much else that's happened recently that is worth writing about (it's amazing how quickly things went downhill after the Pope left). Hopefully now that I have more free time (and time to kill at work, like right now), I'll be able to write more.
17 April 2008
I'm nauseated beyond belief. The fact that someone could find life to be so utterly trivial is truly a tragedy.
Update: Apparently, the story was a hoax. That makes me feel better, but only slightly.
16 April 2008
Thoughts on the papal ceremonies this morning
I never get tired of hearing Kathleen Battle sing, and this morning was no exception. Her performance of the Lord's Prayer (even though it wasn't the correct wording of the Our Father) was quite excellent. I had chills running down my spine the whole time.
I've said it before (though not here) and I'll say it again: President Bush is one of the most Catholic-sounding Protestants I've ever seen or heard (too bad the music selections--that version of the Lord's Prayer and Battle Hymn of the Republic--are two of the most quintessential American Protestant hymns that exist). I don't know if the rumors about him converting to Catholicism after his presidency is done are true or not, but I pray that they are. Come on, Mr. President, join your good friend Tony Blair and come home to the Church. We would be exceedingly happy if you did so.
I won't comment at length on the Pope's speech this morning, but here it is if you want to read the full text. I was glad that he devoted a large chunk of his comments to the notion that truly free societies cannot exist without Truth as their foundation and even quoted the late beloved John Paul the Great in doing so. All in all, his speech set a good tone for the rest of his trip, in which he will hopefully continue to make his voice heard for true peace and justice as well as for the place of faith in modern society.
Still to come tonight: a prayer service with the U.S. bishops at the National Shrine.
Update: I forgot to mention that it's the Pope's 81st birthday, and I just discovered that he shares a birthday with another one of my favorite people, Rafa Benitez.
First of all, you now have the option of subscribing to my blog in three ways. You can add me to your Google Reader, to another feed aggregator, or subscribe to e-mail updates. Now, you're free to do whatever you want, but I would highly recommend giving Google Reader a try. If you're not familiar with it, Google Reader is a place where you can aggregate feeds (both Atom and RSS) from basically any website you want, including blogs, news services, and the like. I just started using Reader when I started my blog (a little more than three days ago), and I'm already addicted. It's a fantastic service, and you should definitely check it out (and add my blog, of course!).
Second, you have the option of viewing my posts based on the labels I put on them. Pretty straightforward.
Third, I added a box entitled "My Del.icio.us", which has links to noteworthy articles/websites/whatever as well as a comment on them. This will replace my "Links from Google Reader" box soon, as I can't comment on the stories from Reader.
Fourth, I added links to a few Catholic blogs I read religiously (no pun intended). These, along with a few others, make up my "Catholicism" tab on Google Reader and are where I get a lot of my news and ideas for topics.
And last but not least, I added a (small) list of blogs written by friends of mine. Right now, the only person there is Matt, who deserves much credit for introducing me to the ways of the blogging world. If you happen to read this blog and want to be included, let me know and I'll be happy to add you!
That's all for now. I'll probably comment later on the Pope's activities today, but I haven't had a chance to watch them yet.
Music in the Church
Catholics don't argue about abortion or the death penalty nearly as much as they argue about what music is sung (or not sung, or used to be sung) at their local Sunday Mass. It was ever thus -- at least since the 1960s, when Sister first shortened her habit, strummed a G7 chord and, to hear some Catholics tell it, all heck broke loose.
Among his more fastidious devotees, Pope Benedict XVI is valued most for the fact that he is not Casey Kasem, and Mass is no place for a hit parade, and church is most relevant when it is serious. (The point of this trip is just that: G et serious.) Do not hold your breath waiting for "One Bread, One Body" -- a '70s liturgical hit at most American parishes -- to be performed at His Holiness's mega-Mass tomorrow at Nationals Park.
But don't listen for too many sacred hits of the 10th century either. While Benedict understands the deep power of ritual, and loves little more than a Gregorian chant, what he and 46,000 others will be singing (or not singing) tomorrow will be a sort of compromise, neither modern nor traditional, but a little of everything. As soon as tomorrow's Mass playlist hit the Web, the new traditionalists were fuming on blogs and comment threads. (The pre-show includes African hymns, a "celebratory merengue" and some Mozart; the Mass itself includes a gospel-style Kyrie, some traditional Latin chants and several new interpretations of standard hymns.)
Like devout record store clerks, American Catholics are still having a sort of Stones-vs.-Beatles debate about what the classics really are.
Imagine a bizarro world where all the 25-year-olds want Mozart and all the 60-year-olds want adult-contemporary. The kids think the adults are too wild. The backlash against "Kumbaya Catholicism" has anyone under 40 allegedly clamoring for the Tridentine Mass in Latin, while the old folks are most sentimental about Casual Sunday (even more rockin', the Saturday vigil Mass), and still cling to what's evolved from the lite-rock guitar liturgies of the 1970s. The result, for most parishes, has been decades of Masses in which no one is entirely satisfied, and very few enjoy the music enough to sing along.
"The great majority [of Catholics] are totally inert at Mass," says Thomas Day, 65, a humanities and music professor at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. Day wrote a book called "Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste," which is often cited by those who'd like to see a return to Mass music that is to them more sacred. "Most Catholics have either forgotten or never knew traditional music," Day says.
The great enemy in the Benedict era? Why, somehow, it's Sister and her guitar.
Although everyone says rock Mass is long dead, there are parishioners still complaining about it. There are faded, nearly gone memories of singing nuns and hippie laity and teenage guitarmies at the altar of love; or faded stories of pop phenomena like Sister Janet Mead, the now 70-year-old Australian nun who discofied "The Lord's Prayer" and charted gold on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1974 (and who then released an album of an entire rock Mass).
It's been a long time since anyone at church was singing the hosanna from "Jesus Christ Superstar" or Cat Stevens's "Morning Has Broken" at the offertory. Even the vast catalogue of the St. Louis Jesuits -- the stalwart, lite-rock ballads heard in almost any Mass for the past few decades ("One Bread, One Body"; "Be Not Afraid"; "For You Are My God") -- has come under assault.
It's "Day by Day" -- out, and Agnus Dei -- in. Younger priests now go to weekend-long workshops to brush up on their Gregorian chants, or to learn the lost seminary art of singing the entire Mass in Latin, English or both.
"You know, just today I received a publication from a mainline Catholic music organization, and there are aspects of it that seem like the musical version of the AARP quarterly, if you know what I mean," says Jeffrey Tucker, 44, a choir director who lives in Auburn, Ala., and is the managing editor of Sacred Music, a journal of the Church Music Association of America. "There is no question that we are talking about a generational issue here. The young priests and the young people just can't seem to get 'hep' to the whole 1970s thing, and the old people just don't understand why."
Tucker encounters this all the time, and blogs about it frequently. At a recent conference, a jazz pianist confided to Tucker that he'd been playing at church, but there was a new, young pastor who had taken over and "he said, 'You know what that means.' [And] I said, 'Well, I'm not entirely sure.' So he added, surprised that he would have to clarify, 'That means he wants Gregorian chant!' " In one of his many blog posts at New Liturgical Movement, Tucker characterized most Catholic church parishes as ruled by a "hard-core" group that "is fanatically attached to music of the 1970s and fears even the slightest hint of solemnity, warning darkly that the new priest is going to take the parish into a new Dark Age."
In news stories with a "conservative Catholics" angle, the church's most faithful frequently mention the nightmare of Mass as it was in the decades after the Second Vatican Council. Loaded words like "hippie" and "total mess" and "Brady Bunch" get thrown around. There are stories of suburban churches built in mod, saucer-shaped architecture. ("Lots of guitars and banjoes," a 32-year-old Catholic man moaned to The Post's Metro section the other day, recalling the church scene of his youth. "I felt uncomfortable about it constantly.")
So really it's a retro movement, but instead of "I Love the '80s" (or '70s or '60s), it's "I Love the 1000s [Up Until 1963]," with Benedict encouraging Catholics toward rediscovering the beauty of the old way. He is on record as thinking of rock music as "anti-Christian," and once fretted (according to his memoirs) over Bob Dylan's appearance with Pope John Paul II in 1997. Benedict canceled a Vatican Christmas concert in 2006, fearing it far too pop in nature. He also shuns guitars in church. (Sister has been in big trouble lately. The pope doesn't like her music, isn't so wild about some of her politics, and when it comes to her role in priestly matters, don't even go there.)
Tucker says the music debates going on in parishes nationwide present a more serious issue for American Catholics, "having to do with what is appropriate at liturgy, what is timeless, what is sacred -- but the [young vs. old] demographic element is very difficult to deny."
In defense of guitar Mass, was it really so bad? It was the soundtrack of a lot of social justice efforts. The St. Louis Jesuits stuff conjures up, for many, memories of food banks and felt banners, of youth group carwashes and, more nobly, martyred nuns and priests in Central America. Maybe that was the problem for some churchgoers? The groovier music really was of its time, and came with an agenda?
"What about silence?" wonders Day, the music professor, 18 years after he wrote "Why Catholics Can't Sing."
If he has any prescriptive at all for Mass music, he says, "it would be to cool it. Pick plain, simple music. Plain, square hymns with reasonable accompaniment. And listen to silence occasionally."
A mingling of pope and politics...
15 April 2008
Rather spry for a man who will be 81 tomorrow, no? He doesn't make any official public appearances until tomorrow, but I'm still extremely excited right now!
14 April 2008
There has been a lot of press recently about the pope's "approval ratings" among Americans. For the most part, the results are encouraging. According to CNN, 80% of people they surveyed had a favorable view of the pope. This is higher than I might have expected, and that is a good sign. However, there have been more telling opinions published in recent days that claim to have found deeper problems with the views of American Catholics. This article from Slate claims that the more "orthodox" members of the Church are displeased with Benedict's perceived moderation, and there is a veritable plethora of opinions from "progressive" Catholic sources pining for change in the Church and in the papacy. These people were the same ones who lamented Benedict's election in 2005 as the end of whatever hope they had of gaining ground on the issues of clerical celibacy, female priests, and the like. In short, the more progressive members of the Church argue that Benedict has already gone too far in cracking down on touchy subjects, while the conservative members argue that he has not gone far enough in such matters.
While I obviously lean toward the "orthodox" side of things, what people on both sides fail to realize is that the office of pope is unlike any other. His position as the pastoral leader of Christians all over the world is not the same as the one he had as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was Joseph Ratzinger's job there to be the watchdog of the Church, so to speak. It is the job of Benedict XVI to be the Vicar of Christ on Earth, and because he is such a gentle and insightful man, he realized from the very beginning that this was necessary.
All of this aside, I firmly believe that Benedict's trip across the pond will unite Catholics as well as people of all faith traditions. After all, how often does the spiritual leader of one-sixth of the world come knocking on your door?
I will, of course, be waiting with baited breath for all of the pope's public appearances (I'm especially curious to see his speech at the United Nations) and will likely comment more as his trip progresses.
Get excited, people!
Miracle of miracles, another post!
Now that that's out of the way, let me expound on my introduction. A big part of why I started this was to have someplace better than Facebook to share news articles, opinions, etc. I will provide links and commentary on articles that I find particularly interesting and insightful, but I also added this nifty box down to your left entitled "Links from Google Reader". Having just discovered the joys of Google Reader, I'm quickly getting the hang of perusing items from a wide variety of websites, and I plan to share articles I find interesting (but not necessarily comment-worthy) this way. I hope you'll take a gander at them every once in a while.
It's exam crunch time here at the law school, so I'd better close and actually be productive today (but honestly, being in the exam crunch will probably make me post MORE, not less).
Yes, I started a blog...
First off, let me explain the title of this blog (in case you're too lazy to Google it). It comes from the Vulgate (Revelation 21:5), and is commonly translated as "Behold, I make all things new". This verse is part of one of the most beautiful parts of the Bible, and I would highly recommend reading it if you have a chance. Heck, in the spirit of blogging (isn't everything supposed to be linked?), here you go. Eventually, I'll figure out how to make these things more streamlined...
What can you expect from reading this? A veritable smattering of topics, that's what. Anything is fair game, though I can give you an idea of the things about which I am most passionate and we'll proceed from there. I will likely post many Catholicism-related things (many of which will be written by people more articulate and knowledgeable than I), with many posts dedicated to baseball, soccer, news/politics, and happenings in my life thrown in. I'm an eclectic person, so you get an eclectic array of topics.
That's all I have for now (and it's almost 2:00 in the morning), so I'll close.