Monday, March 31, 2003

If you are going to buy icons,

Please don't buy them from Bridge Building. They don't follow any of the rules of iconography, which is an old and sacred practice. Writing an icon is not a pastime for fruity artists to undertake, artists who make icons to "The Lord of the Dance" but is rather a holy activity, to be undertaken after prayer and fasting.

Buy your icons from real monks! May I recommend Holy Resurrection Monastery? They don't paint them there, but they are real Catholic monks, and you are helping their work by buying the icons. Thanks to Whys Guys for pointing the weirdness of Bridge Building Icons out.

Athanasius' Guide to Latin in One Easy Lesson

The first step in learning to read any language is to find something that you want to read. For example, I learned to read German by reading Edith Stein's Finite and Eternal Being auf Deutsch. So, let's begin with a text. How about the first verse of the Stabat Mater?

Stabat Mater dolorosa
Iuxta crucem lacrimosa
Dum pendebat Filius

The next step is to go download William Whitaker's Words program. Really, go download it. I'm waiting. . . .

Ok. This wonderful program is a dictionary. If you type in a latin word, it will tell you the meaning. But it is really much more than that. The program also tells you all sorts of other information about how the word fits into the sentence. See, Latin is an inflected language, which means that the ending or inflection of the word changes its function in the sentence. This is part of the genius as well as part of the difficulty of Latin: words can be put in just about any order, so long as you have the endings correct. Tricky, eh?

Fear not. What you should do is write down the meaning of all the words in the sentence you want to translate, along with the part of speech, case, mood, tense, number, voice, etc. of the words. Then you will be able to put them together into a coherent whole. Part of the problem with these sorts of languages for English speakers is that we tend to jump to a meaning before we've finished the sentence. This is natural in English because we can often guess what a sentence will say, because of its rigid word order. You can't do that in Latin! You need to keep an open mind until you have the whole sentence down. Keep your mind quiet until you have all the pieces of the puzzle. Then you will be able to find the meaning.

Now, take a look at what Words gives you. Type in "crucem": you will get the following output

cruc.em N 3 1 ACC S F

crux, crucis N F

cross; hanging tree; impaling stake; crucifixion; torture/torment/trouble/mise

First it gives you what you type in, then the part of speech "N", which means it is a noun. The 3 1 can be ignored for now, but the "ACC S F" is crucial. It tells you the case, number, and gender of the word. Obviously "crucem" means "cross, hanging tree, etc." But how does it fit in the sentence? The "ACC S F" tells you that it is the object of the verb or preposition, that it is singular, and that it is feminine.

There are five cases that you need to know for Latin nouns. They have lots of functions, but I am simplifying them a lot for the purposes of a simple lesson. Here goes:

Nominative The subject of a sentence
Genitive "of" the word
Dative "to" the word. It is the Indirect Object case.
Accusative The direct object
Ablative "in, with, by, for"--it is a catch-all case with something of an adverbial sense.

So, crucem means "cross", and it is singular (one cross, not two), and it is accusative, so the cross is the object. Someone is doing something to the cross.

Now, look at stabat: It is a verb, and Words says that it is "IMPF ACTIVE IND 3 S." You need to know a bit of basic grammar. IMPF tells you that it is imperfect tense, which means a past action that isn't completed--translate with "was standing." It is active voice, so that the subject is doing the action, not having action done to it. It is indicative (look it up. I can't tell you everything!), and third person singular. This means that he, she, or it was standing. Look at the rest of the sentence. See the word Mater? Words tells you that it is the nominative singular of "mother." So the mother is the subject of the sentence. Look up dolorosa: it is an adjective meaning "sorrowful", and could modify lots of nouns. But since it can be nominative, singular, and feminine, it is a good bet that it modifies "Mater."

Look what we've got so far. We have "mother" (subject), "was standing", and "sorrowful" (modifies mother). So you can write your first Latin translation: "The sorrowful mother was standing." (Note, Latin doesn't have articles like "the" or "a" or "an"--context must tell you what to use.)

Where was she standing? Look up juxta. It means "near", and can be a preposition taking the accusative case (that's what PREP ACC means). Looks like it would fit with crucem, doesn't it? So the sorrowful mother was standing near the cross? Makes sense!

What about lacrimosa? It means "tearful, weeping, or causing tears." Now, we have a bit of a problem. What does it modify? Look at the options Words gives you:





Adjectives have to agree with the word they modify in case, number, and gender. Do any of these possibilities for lacrimosa match any of the words we have? It can't be the last two, because they are plural, and we don't have any plural nouns. It can't be the second, because we don't have any ablative nouns. So lacrimosa must modify Mater, even though it is four words away. Now adjust your translation: "The sorrowful, weeping mother stands near the cross."

One more phrase. You can do this mostly on your own. Look up Dum, pendebat, and Filius. Check the cases, the tense, number, mood, and voice of the verb, and work out a phrase. Done yet? Ok, I'll help. Dum means is a conjunction meaning "while", Filius is the nominative singular of "son", and pendebat means "he was hanging." "Son" must be the subject. So put it all together, and you have "The sorrowful, weeping mother was standing near the cross while her son was hanging." (The "was hanging" and "was standing" sound a bit stilted--you could probably just use "hung" and "stood.")

See how easy that was? Now you know what the first verse of the Stabat Mater really means! I suggest you find some prayers or texts you want to read, get yourself a Latin grammar, and just dive right in to the language. Bona fortuna!

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Latin Thursday, or Why ICEL is EVIL

The Lady of Shalott used to do Latin Fridays, but hasn't done them recently. Consider this my gift to you.

Today I was flipping through my prayer book, which happens to have the Latin and English versions of the prayers of the Mass. I read some prayers in Latin, looking over to the English to make sure that I had done it correctly. But instead, I found that I needed to correct the English. In fact, there is not a page in the book, and nary even a paragraph, where the translation put out by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy was not grossly inaccurate or downright contrary to the meaning of the Latin. Recently liturgists have complained about the Vatican's new translation guidelines, found in Liturgicam Authenticam; I propose to prove to you that the liturgists are ninnies at best, demonic at worst. Read on for examples.

Take a look at the prayer of consecration in Eucharistic Prayer I. Here is the Latin
Simili modo, postquam cenatum est, accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, item tibi gratias agens benedixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens. . .

Here is the English, as ICEL has it: "When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said. . . ."

Here is an accurate translation. The parts in bold are the parts they ommitted:

"Likewise, when the supper was ended, taking the noble chalice in his holy and venerable hands, again he blessed you, giving thanks, and gave it to his disciples, saying. . . ."

What is the point of leaving out the words sanctas and venerabiles? Are Jesus' hands not holy and venerable? If I were grading this translation in a Latin class, it would get a C-, at best.

But wait, there's more! In EP III, for example, the Latin says in primis cum beatissima Virgine, Dei Genetrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis tuis et gloriosis Martyribus et omnibus Sanctis. . . . The ICEL has it "with Mary, the virgin mother of God, with the apostles, the martyrs, and all your saints. Here is the correct translation:

Especially with the most blessed Virgin, Mary, the mother of God, with your blessed apostles and glorious martyrs, and all the saints. . . .

Once again, why did ICEL leave out the most blessedness of Mary, the blessedness of the apostles, and the gloriousness of the martyrs? Are they not blessed and glorious? This translation gets a D-.

One more. I was waiting in line for confession once, and I started reading the Universal Prayer of Pope Clement XI, which is beautiful in Latin. But don't read it in English! Towards the end of the prayer, Clement says the following:

Da, ut mortem preaveniam, iudicium pertimeam, infernum effugiam, paradisum obtineam.

The proper translation is:

Grant that I may anticipate death, that I may dread judgment, that I may escape from hell, and that I may obtain Paradise.

Now look at the ICEL. You better sit down when you read this, because it will make you furious.

"Help me to prepare for death with a proper fear of judgment, but a greater trust in your goodness. Lead me safely through death to the endless joy of heaven."

What? Where in the Latin does it water down the fear of judgment with "but a greater trust in your goodness?" The word is pertimeam! It means to fear greatly, to a great extent. There is no mollification of the fear in the prayer.

One suspects ICEL doesn't like all this talk of hell. One suspects the devil doesn't like people to talk about hell either, much less to dread it.

If you want to pray the Latin Rite correctly, you are going to need to learn some Latin, at least until good translations are made. Stay tuned for my next blog, where I give you Athanasius's "How to Read Latin in One Easy Lesson."

Prayer for Enemies, again

A reader asked me to post the Orthodox prayer for enemies again, since Blogger ate my archives. Here it is:

Thou who didst pray for them that crucifed thee, O Lord, Lover of the souls of men, and who didst command thy servants to pray for their enemies, forgive those who hate and maltreat us, and turn our lives from all harm and evil to brotherly love and good works: for this we humbly bring our prayer, that with one accord and one heart we may glorify thee who alone lovest mankind

As thy first martyr Stephen prayed to thee for his murderers, O Lord, so we fall before thee and pray: forgive all who hate and maltreat us and let not one of them perish because of us, but all be saved by thy grace, O God the all-bountiful.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Just think how bad he would have been!

My friend Paul over at Immaculate Heart posts about a friend of his who linked to a porn star from his blog. Paul speaks of the blessing his wife and his faith have been for him: I know that if I had not married the wonderful woman I did, that I would be a lecherous bachelor seeking all sorts of entertainment.

I have heard a story about Vince Lombardi. Apparently, the coach was a daily communicant, which led one of his players to say "How can he be such an a**h*le and go to communion every day?" Another player, a little more theologically astute, said "Think how bad he would be if he didn't go to communion every day!" I agree with Paul: but for my faith and for my wife, there is no telling what sorts of things I would be sinking into. The world is a very dangerous place these days, with all sorts of temptations ready at hand. Let me give you an example: do you remember the good old days when if you wanted pornography, you had to go to a dingy store in a scary part of the outskirts of town? Now, things worse than anything one could find at such a store are available to all of us at the press of a button. Instant porn, all the time! It makes it very difficult to be a chaste man. As Paul says, without faith, there would be no obstacle to such things.

Back in the days when I left my adolescent atheism behind, I told a priest friend that God was necessary, at least as a regulative idea to guide human behavior. In other words, if you believe in God, it is difficult to go too far astray. Acting as a believer in a sort of Pascalian wager is good for you, and self-indulgence is bad for you, regardless of whether God does exist. My friend Fr. Buffer quite correctly pointed out to me that that wasn't good enough, since as Tolkien told C.S. Lewis, it isn't just a nice myth, but it is true! Nevertheless, the notion of faith as a check on behavior is accurate. I shudder to think where I would be if I did not have faith.

No war blogging

If you want that kind of stuff, go to NRonline or HMS blog.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Pet Peeve, on my way Up North

I stopped in the library at Marquette, one of my almae matres, and tried to make some copies. I have in my wallet copy cards from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois-Chicago, but Marquette uses a different system. Why can't colleges all use the same stinking copy card? I don't have room for more cards from different libraries!

I will be gone until Sunday

I'm going up to the frozen northlands of Wisconsin.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

St. Joseph Day

Today is St. Joseph Day. For your consideration, I provide you with an El Greco painting (click on it to see a larger version, but please remember that no scan of an El Greco has ever captured the colors. Go to Madrid or Toledo and look at them in person!) and a reflection on St. Joseph and fatherhood that I wrote in a note to Emily Stimpson a while back. I hope you enjoy it. P.S. to Mom: I promise to write something soon about how true Marian devotion starts with a realization of the love one's own mother has.

Dear Emily,

I happen to think that women have it much better than men. Women are the most intimately involved in co-creation with God of new human beings. Men are almost entirely secondary.

I have been thinking a lot about this since Melissa (my wife) and I are hoping to be pregnant soon. What is the true role of father in a family? It is clear from lots of sources what the role of mother is: to bring about new life, to nurture it, educate it, show it the unconditional motherly love that is a foretaste of God's love. But what about the poor father? His job turns out to be "to help the mother do all that she has to do."

If the family life were a football team, the mother is the quarterback, the children are the wide receivers and running backs, and the father is the offensive line. The mother is the star of the show, and the most vital element. If she fails, the whole family fails. She is the one who makes the children develop to their full potential, just as a good quarterback gets the ball crisply out to the backs and receivers so that they can succeed. Everything centers around the mother/quarterback.

The offensive line often gets ignored or forgotten, just as the father is ignored and forgotten. But this is fine, and as it should be. The mentality of a good offensive lineman is to protect the rest of the team, and to heck with recognition. This is what a good father should be, a selfless protector who knows he isn't the star of the show, but who is ok with that. Consider what we know of St. Joseph. All he does is guard and lead Mary and Jesus. As I recall, we don't have even a single word of Joseph recorded in the Gospels. He is pure offensive lineman, and is the perfect model for any prospective father.

Hoping to be a good offensive lineman,

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Navarro-Valls says the obvious

VATICAN CITY, MAR 18, 2003 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls made the following declaration today to journalists concerning the latest developments in the international situation: "Whoever decides that all peaceful means that international law has put at our disposition have been exhausted assumes a serious responsibility before God, his conscience and history."

Amen, amen! It is a serious responsibility. If we are going to war, let us pray that it is the right thing to do. As you know by reading this blog, I am still somewhat undecided. I think that the conditions of a just war per CCC 2309 may be satisfied, since "the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations" is lasting, grave, and certain, if we count Iraq itself as a member of the community of nations. I further think that after twelve years, "all other means of putting an end to it" have been shown to be "impractical or ineffective." I wish the French had not obstructed further means of putting an end to it. I am not worried about success, but am worried about the use of arms causing more evil than it solves. I think this war may be just, but then the pope says otherwise. He is smarter than I am, and his words should carry great weight. I would feel much better if those who oppose the war would produce a credible alternative that included disarmament of Iraq and freedom for the Iraqi people. I have heard no such plans, since the only plans that got through the French obstruction had no teeth.

In any case, I hope you will all join me in praying the words of the Divine Liturgy, "For our public servants, for the government and for all who protect us, that they may be upheld and strengthened in every good deed, let us pray to the Lord." Lord have mercy!

Angie from Iraq on WLS

As I was jogging back from church this morning, I heard the tail-end of a stunning call from Angie, a US citizen born in Iraq. She left when she was 17. Angie said, with tears in her voice, "Bush is not going to kill the Iraqi people. They are already dead. Saddam has killed the Iraqi people. I couldn't say this in Iraq, or they would rip my tongue out. Those people who say these things about Bush have no idea what Iraq is like. Thank God for Bush! Thank God for the United States!"

I don't think I have done justice to her passionate words. I had tears in my own eyes. War is a terrible thing, and I still hope and pray for a peaceful resolution. But words like Angie's make me think that this war may in fact be the charitable thing to do.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

My blogger-in-law's thoughts on the Rosary

Sue over at Where Charity and Love Prevail is starting a series on the twenty mysteries of the Rosary. Go take a look.

Insomniac Blogger

I am sitting in my living room, Manhattan on ice at hand, while my beautiful wife sleeps the sleep of the blessed. Melissa is one of those people who can sleep on a dime: one minute she is carrying on an intelligent conversation with me, and the next minute she is gone. Since she became pregnant, it has only gotten worse. I hope the baby-to-come will be as good a sleeper as its mom!

Since I can't sleep, and since I've also just finished all the Lord Peter Wimsey novels I have, and furthermore since I have given television up for Lent, I am going to tell you about some thoughts running through my head today. First of all, have you ever thought for a moment just how fragile the Church is? Forget about the monumental cathedrals, the unbroken succession of bishops back to the apostles, the triumphs over the various heresies. Think rather on how close she (the Church is a she, the Bride of Christ) has been to disaster from the very moment of her founding. From the beginning, of the twelve hand-picked apostles, two betrayed Jesus, nine ran away, and only one stood by the Cross. Even after Pentecost heresy was quick to threaten her, with the Gnostics claiming that Jesus wasn't really God, or that he didn't really rise from the dead. St. Paul's missionary journeys were half missionary and half disciplinary. After hundreds of years of bloody persecution, the Church was finally legalized by the edict of Milan, but was almost immediately embroiled in the Arian heresy, where perhaps most of the bishops accepted the proposition that Jesus wasn't really God.

After avoiding that disaster, mostly through the efforts of my great pseudonym St. Athanasius, there were any number of Christological controversies, over monophysitism, monothelitism, and all sorts of -isms. The Church pulled through, but always only by the skin of her teeth. Chesterton describes it as a roller-coaster ride, with the Church always just about to plummet off the tracks into disaster. After the Christological controversies were settled, it seemed that the Church could relax, that orthodoxy was safe. But then, in 1054, the Great Schism plunged a dagger into her heart. How could the Church survive, breathing with only her western lung? A few short centuries after that, there was an intellectual challenge, as the work of Aristotle was recovered, along with the great Arab commentators on Aristotle, Averroes and Avicenna. There appeared to be a complete scientific explanation of everything that left out God. Would faith and reason be forever broken apart? It was only due to the work of great men like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Albert the Great that the Church remained devoted to the proposition that faith is reasonable. (If only Islam had kept hold of its great intellectual tradition!) Then again, a few short centuries of relative peace, followed by the horrible cataclysm of the Protestant Reformation. Started by a fornicating priest, it would spread across Europe, and would even rip a Catholic England away from the Church just so a self-indulgent king could change his wife. Disaster! How could she survive?

Yet the Church survived, and even gained strength, through the work of counter-reformers, like my namesake St. Charles Borromeo, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross. Without the work of such as these, the Reformation could have eradicated the Church. Once again, a few centuries of a fitful rest, and then the Enlightenment, an age marked by intellectual hubris. We humans are smart enough to create a paradise on Earth! The Church, of course, was expected to wither and die, and it came close. Yet after all the bloodshed of the numerous revolutions and great wars, culminating in the heresy of nationalism that was the scourge of the twentieth century, the Church, battered and bruised, still survived.

It is miraculous, is it not? But how were these miraculous effects achieved? Through the hard work of ordinary men and women like us. Somewhere, St. Josemaria Escriva asks "Why do you pray for inspiration? That is why God gave you reason!" These great saints perhaps didn't know that their work would succeed, or that the Church would endure. St. Athansius, for example, probably thought he would lose. Perhaps they knew, as we all know, that Jesus has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church; nevertheless, the gates of hell could prevail in my country, in my family, or even through most of the world. The guarantee is that the Church will remain, not that there will remain any more than one member of that Church. Everything could quite easily fall apart. It is our job to preserve the Church, actively, prayerfully, dying at our posts if it becomes necessary, using every gift that God has given us to transmit the good news of Christ's death and resurrection to our children.

If you think the Church proceeds by inertia, think back in your own family history. Why is it that you are Catholic, if you are? In my case, there are two reasons. My great-grandfather on my father's side wanted to marry a woman, but she said "No, not unless you become a Catholic." He went off and married somebody else, but she died. So he went back to my great-grandmother and asked her to marry him. She said "No, not unless you become a Catholic." He thought that this time he ought to take her advice, and converted from Lutheranism. My mother was raised Methodist, but met my father while she worked in a restaurant. He liked her looks. She was already taking instruction to become a Catholic, I believe (she can correct me in the Comment box, if I am incorrect), and marrying my father confirmed that change. But for a few accidents of ancestry, I may have not been given the gift of the Catholic faith. If I stumble, if I fail to teach my children, or if I am merely indifferent to the formation they receive, the two-thousand year old line of transmission of the faith may stop with me. The Church may die out in my family, if I do not act!

The Church is fragile, and could vanish at any time, from your family or nation. It will endure; we have Christ's promise for that. But whether it endures as one or two lonely hermits in the desert, or as a vibrant, living Church, depends on us.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Ask and you shall receive

Snownomore asks in a comment below for a referral to where I wrote about teaching contraception before. Since said Snownomore is a delightful woman, well worth knowing, for those of you who get a chance, I have complied. Here's the original post, from sometime in November.

I teach the Church's position on contraception in my ethics class, and

nobody complains. Yes, believe it or not, when we discuss natural law ethics, I use the Church's prohibition of contraception as my example. I show how Aquinas proceeds: there is the first object of practical reason, which is the good, and then the first indemonstrable precept, that good is to be done and evil to be avoided. Then arises the question "What is good?" At this point one needs to examine human beings to decide what human goods are. It is not a simple matter of taking a poll on what humans like, but rather a matter of finding out what the real goods are that contribute to human flourishing. For example, in a time of plague, it may be the case that 51% of the people are sick. But the fact that 51% are sick doesn't make sickness health. Similarly, if 51% of humans think that fornication were right, it would still be wrong, because fornication doesn't help humans to flourish. We always proceed from a vision of what humans should be.

So far, so good. We have a sketch of how natural law theory works. But how do we figure out particular precepts of the natural law? I use contraception as an example. We take a good hard look at the nature of the human person and of the sexual act. Sex is an act that by its very nature includes the gift of self to another, a total gift of the whole person to the other person. If its procreative dimension is taken away, the act becomes false, a restricted and shallow use of another for pleasure rather than a self-gift of love.

We then look at it more concretely. I draw a circle on the board to represent a woman. In the circle I place the various elements that contribute to the whole that is woman. So, it looks like this: (intelligence, judgment, wisdom, humor, love, sexual organs and attributes.) This represents the whole woman. I then draw another circle representing a man: (sexual organs.) I point out that if sex is open to the gift of life, the man needs to consider the entire woman, for she could be the mother of his child. If the sexual act is sterilized, the man no longer needs to consider the whole woman, but can just consider (sexual organs.) The woman becomes nothing other than a tool to be used for pleasure. Evidence that this is the case can be seen in the desperate things that women do to fight to stay sexually attractive, from botox to fad diets, from breast implants to mutilating their faces in plastic surgery. Look at what Joan Rivers has done to herself in a futile attempt to remain "sexy." Further, look at what happens to the man: because of contraception, the man is able to live his life like a fifteen year-old boy would like to live, full of sex without consequences. Once a student asked me when men grow up, and I said "Only when they have to." If men can have sex without consequences, they will never grow up. Thus men become incapable of being good husbands and fathers, since they never had to, because of contraception and the improper attitude to sex that it engenders.

I also use statistics, pointing out that the teenage suicide rate has doubled since the sexual revolution occasioned by The Pill, and that most marriages end in divorce. I point out that the marriages of those who abide by the Church's teaching on contraception almost never get divorced. "So how many of you want to grow up and be divorced?" Not too many hands rise at that question. Divorce may be sometimes necessary, but it is never desired.

I then ask the students a simple question, if they think, honestly, that contraception leads to human flourishing: "Umm, no." I then say "If that is the case, then is the Church correct that it is a bad thing?" "Yes." Perhaps it is a result merely of my wonderful teaching abilities or commanding personality, but as of yet no-one has disputed me on the conclusion.

The moral of the story? The teaching on contraception hasn't been rejected as much as it has never been taught. It can be taught in a way that allows the students to come to the correct conclusion on their own. I appeal to all of you to teach the Church's teaching on the Gospel of Life--it can be effectively taught for the simple reason that it is true. It must be taught because our children deserve to know the truth. Teach it!

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Atheists and the French

First, I apologize for the creeping utilitarianism in my last post. Of course I can take action if my neighbor is cursing me and buying guns. But I can't just pre-emptively shoot him in the head.

Ok. Recently some French leader was quoted as saying that under no circumstances would they vote for a UN resolution authorizing war. No matter what the evidence is of Iraqi noncompliance with UN 1441 (which the French voted for) the French will not enforce the resolution. This all seems very reminiscent to me of an argument that Mark Shea hosted on his blog. He asked the atheists in the audience what they would do if God in all His glory appeared to them. Many of the atheists responded in the same way as the French: "There is no amount of evidence that could make me change my mind." When one makes statements like this, one has abandoned rational thought.

Finally, I'm still undecided about this war. I think that the case could be made to intervene based on Iraq's aggression against its own people, but I don't hear that case being made very often. I am about 50-50 on this one. I won't be too sad if the invasion starts tomorrow, but I'm still not sure about the truth of the matter.

Another war post

As I understand it, Vatican opposition to the war has to do with two things: the "preemptive" aspect, and the lack of international support. As I wrote below, I think there are some problems with the narrow construal of self-defense: if my neighbor utters curses against me and starts building weapons to destroy, surely I can take some action? Even so, the fact is that Saddam is an aggressor against his own people. But I do have a great difficulty with the requirement that the war get approval from the UN before it can be considered just. A war is just or not because of the type of war it is, and no amount of French approval or disapproval can change the status of that war.

Perhaps I have misunderstood the arguments being made. Maybe someone can enlighten me?

The Root Causes of Terrorism:

The causes that produce it consist of the failure of the Western world -- the Catholic Church prominent among that world's institutions -- to embrace Islam. Thus says Cacciaguda. Good post. Ite, legete! (Go, read!)

I taught the immorality of contraception again

in my philosophy class, and yet again nobody fought me on it. Perhaps they recognize the truth of the matter when it is taught to them. I implore you all, teach this doctrine! We shouldn't condemn our kids to ignorance on this sin.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Rory Cooney's Heretical Song

I went to Mass at a parish in Wisconsin this weekend, and the technically proficient choir opened the liturgy with Rory Cooney's song "Now." I contend that this song is not only an awful imitation of gospel music, but that it is completely heretical, and should be stricken from the hymnbook. Let me give you some of the lyrics:

Don't want a heaven after I'm gone; I need a place to keep my family warm.
Don't want a future where God sets things right; I need a neighborhood to walk safe at night.
Don't want a banquet in heaven above 'til no one is hungry in this world that I love.

The refrain is "Now is the moment, now is the time, this very day there is salvation."

The message of the song is clear: don't seek heaven, try to make heaven on earth. In fact, there is a clear denial of the importance of individual salvation. Rather, we are called to work for social justice, to the neglect of our immortal souls: "Don't want a heaven. . ." "Don't want a future where God sets things right. . . ." In other words, don't hope for the Second Coming, but focus simply on the here and now. This is against the clear teaching of the church as found in the Catechism:

675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.

But wait, there's more: take a look at this quote from Gaudium et Spes: She further teaches that a hope related to the end of time does not diminish the importance of intervening duties but rather undergirds the acquittal of them with fresh incentives. By contrast, when a divine instruction and the hope of life eternal are wanting, man's dignity is most grievously lacerated, as current events often attest; riddles of life and death, of guilt and of grief go unsolved with the frequent result that men succumb to despair.

It is the hope of the resurrection and the Second Coming of Christ that are the motivation for our works of love. Aquinas points out that human dignity comes from the great end all humans are called to, union with God in the beatific vision (heaven). You are valuable to me because you are valuable to God. If, as Cooney's song suggests, I abandon my hope of heaven, of a future where God sets things right, why would I ever bother with you? You have infinite value because an infinite Being values you, not because I or Rory Cooney value you. No heaven, no social justice!

P.S. Browsing through Cooney's links at the website for his parish, one is not surprised to find links to Voice of the Faithful, Call to Action, and We Believe (the anti-Adoremus).

Saturday, March 08, 2003

New Bible Translation

Go read the Revised Fundamentalist Version, where they've used the "Doctrinal Equivalence" method of translation to make the Bible say what the Holy Spirit obviously meant it to say.

(I know, I know, satire perhaps isn't the best ecumenical method, but it is so funny. . . .)

Friday, March 07, 2003

Child-molesting priest's victim says she forgives him, so Catholics want to give him an award!

Disgusted? Well, replace "priest" with "famous director Roman Polanski" and replace "Catholics" with "Hollywood" and see if your level of disgust stays the same. See this story.


Maybe they'll stay this time. Now, if only someone could figure out why Internet Explorer is giving me the "Done, but with errors on the page" message.

Sign me up for a copy of "The Passion"

Without the support of a studio or a distribution deal, Mr. Gibson and his Icon Productions are reportedly financing the $25 million project themselves, believing "The Passion" will find its audience.

I definitely want to see it. Or, rather, put it this way: I don't want to see it, since it looks to be a graphic and realistic description of how my sins caused my Savior to suffer and die. But for that very reason, I think I must watch this movie. In fact, I might watch it every Good Friday. I pray that Gibson is doing a good job--this could be a Really Good Thing.

Read the article by Raymond Arroyo here.

The ultimate search engine

At The Curt Jester.

Lent, Television, and Lord Peter Wimsey

I am attempting to give up television for Lent, with the possible exception of the NCAA tournament. One thing that I have noticed during this first week of Lent (Eastern Catholic Lent started on Monday) is how quiet the world is. No-one has been shouting at me this week. I hadn't noticed how demanding television is, how much it calls to us and attempts to remake our lives in its image, frenetic and relentlessly consumptive.

I've also been reading Dorothy L. Sayers novels, and just started one called Murder Must Advertise, in which the intrepid detective Lord Peter Wimsey disguises himself as a copy writer for an advertizing agency. There is a passage that aptly describes modern life: All over London the lights flickered in and out, calling on the public to save its body and purse: SOPO SAVES SCRUBBING--NUTRAX FOR NERVES--CRUNCHLETS ARE CRISPER--EAT PIPER PARRITCH--DRINK POMPAYNE--ONE WHOOSH AND IT'S CLEAN--OH BOY! IT'S TOMBOY TOFFEE--NOURISH NERVES WITH NUTRAX--FARLEY'S FOOTWEAR TAKES YOU FURTHER--IT ISN'T DEAR, IT'S DARLING--DARLING'S FOR HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES--MAKE ALL SAFE WITH SANFECT--WHIFFLETS FASCINATE. The presses, thundering and growling, ground out the same appeals by the million: ASK YOUR GROCER--ASK YOUR DOCTOR--ASK THE MAN WHO'S TRIED IT--MOTHER'S! GIVE IT TO YOUR CHILDREN--HOUSEWIVES! SAVE MONEY--HUSBANDS! INSURE YOUR LIVES--WOMEN! DO YOU REALIZE?--DON'T SAY SOAP, SAY SOPO! Whatever you're doing, stop it and do something else! Whatever you're buying, pause and buy something different! Be hectored into health and prosperity! Never let up! Never go to sleep! Never be satisfied. If once you are satisfied, all our wheels will run down. Keep going--and if you can't, Try Nutrax for Nerves!

Lord Peter Wimsey went home and slept.

I suggest we do the same: turn off the TV! You will be startled at how much of your thoughts were dictated to you by the idiot box.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Comment updates

Once again, Blogger ate my template. They are moving things around on servers, apparently, and the updated template that includes comments won't load. I'm sure they'll fix it, eventually.

Whether war with Iraq is just

I haven't written much about the upcoming war, for several reasons. First, I like to keep this blog mostly politics-free. Second, I don't think there is much we can do about war until election season other than fast and pray--the choice is President Bush's, not mine. Finally, I am just not sure what I think. Here is the source of my indecision: I will write in the form of a Thomistic Quaestio:

Objection 1: For a war to be just, it has to be that "the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain." (CCC 2309) Is Iraq an aggressor? Not yet. As someone in Blogland wrote, if there is a guy on the subway with a knife in his pocket, you can't shoot him on the theory that he might stab you. It is part of respect for basic human dignity that we can't take pre-emptive action. So, it seems that war isn't allowed in this case.

Objection 2: Even though their job has shifted from inspector to detector, the inspectors' work is showing some fruit: surely it is better to follow the French plan and put lots of inspectors in Iraq and thus make it impossible for Saddam to develop WMD (Weapons o' Mass Destruction).

Objection 3: Wouldn't our massive first strike plan (as has been reported in the news) cause a disproportionate damage to the people of Iraq?

sed contra: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

(Note, I have no answer, so I will just answer objections) Reply 1: The example of the guy on the subway with a knife is not appropriate. Rather, the case is this: your neighbor has a knife, and you know that he tortures and kills his wives and children. Isn't this aggression? Do we not have a duty to the children of the murderer? Similarly, Hussein's people deserve to be liberated from his murderous reign. Sure, he has not attacked us, but he attacks his people every day. (Apparently he poisoned one of the scientists so that he couldn't talk to inspectors.)

Reply 2: If we follow the French plan, doesn't the integrity of the United Nations vanish? In order for there to be an effective international law, that law must have teeth. If the words of UN resolutions mean nothing, then every other tyrant will know that he can do evil as long as he allows inspectors in, but that he is free to obfuscate and delay and trick.

Reply 3: It depends: if the first strike targets civilians, it is as immoral as Hiroshima or Dresden, and must not happen. But we don't know the plans yet, and Bush seems not the type to launch indiscriminate cruise missiles.

As you can see, I am stumped. The main stumbling block is the fact that Saddam has not attacked us. But then again, see my Reply 1. Lacking any true conviction on this matter, I am going to fast and pray for peace, and thank God that "The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good."

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Some quit blogging for Lent, others start.

One of my sisters-in-law has now started blogging. Check out "Where Charity and Love Prevail."

Still can't update my template

Arggghh! I promise comments are coming. Darn Blogger. . . . I guess I get what I pay for.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

A Lenten Suggestion

I've been thinking a bit about this. It seems that some 90% of Catholics dissent from the Church's teaching on contraception. May I make a suggestion? If you are a part of this 90%, perhaps you should consider giving up sex for Lent. The purpose of contraception is to reduce the sexual act from mutual self-giving open to the creation of a new immortal soul to a mere use of the other for pleasure. In other words, we thank God for the gift of the pleasure of sex, but not for the sexual act itself, which is ordered to new life. Perhaps an appropriate Lenten practice would be to abstain from sex. This would have one immediate good effect: it would make the married couple relate to each other as human beings, as persons, rather than as tools for pleasure.

St. Paul recommends this in 1 Col 7:5: "Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control. " Those who disagree with the Church's teaching on contraception could take the occasion of Lent to step back, to gain control over their sexuality, and to pray. Perhaps a starting point for the prayer would be the beginning of the book of Genesis, the book of Tobit, Jesus' teaching on marriage in Matthew 19, Humanae Vitae, John Paul II's Love and Responsibility, or philosophical arguments of Janet Smith, John Finnis, and Germain Grisez, among others. Pray out of an attitude of humility to the truth, since the Truth is Jesus Christ. Ask God to help your mind come to see the truth of the matter.

Try it for forty days, and see what you come up with. What are you afraid of?

I'm trying to add comments

Seeing as Amy Welborn and Mark Shea, the Czarina and Czar of Catholic Blogonia, have curtailed their blogging, I thought some of the excess traffic might come here if I added comments.

Update: I think I've done everything right, but the comments aren't appearing. Apparently my updated template hasn't been loaded yet. If anyone knows how to fix this, drop me a line. Comments soon, I promise!

Mardi Gras

Today is Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnival (which means "Goodbye, meat!"), the day on which Catholics traditionally pig out, and in some cases, the day upon which they engage in serious mortal sinning, a practice I do not recommend. The reason to eat to excess on this day is that one needs to clean out the pantry of all the food that one is not going to eat in Lent. Thus the feasting.

Let's think about this a little. What are the fasting regulations for Roman Catholics? Abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, and on all Fridays in Lent. Fast (only two meals, or one regular meal and two little ones) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Hmmmm. Did you know that all Catholics are supposed to refrain from eating meat on every Friday? It's in Canon Law: Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent. Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. So that bit of Lenten fasting is inconsequential. What about the second part? Only two meals on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday? How many of you eat three meals on an ordinary day, anyway? Many people skip breakfast. So, we see that Lenten fasting is no hardship at all, and is not noticeably different from the general practice of most people.

If your eating habits in Lent are no different than they are in the rest of the year, then why are you celebrating Mardi Gras? It doesn't make sense! May I suggest that you should consider the fasting regulations as the merest bare minimum of what you must do, but not a prescription of what you should do? It is like the law of the Church that says you need to go to communion and confession at least once a year, whether you need it or not. Are you satisfied with receiving communion once a year? Of course not! Similarly, don't be satisfied with minimal fasting.

P.S. Concerning abstaining from meat on Fridays: the bishops in this country have made the rule that one may eat meat on Friday if one engages in some penitential practice. So what do you do for penance last Friday when you had that hamburger?

Do NOT click on this link!

I'm warning you, don't go here.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Victor is writing me a song!

He had a contest on his blog yesterday, promising that whoever commented with a suggestion for a song would get a genuine Victor Lams Synthpop Song within twenty-four hours. So sometime today, my very own song about people who show their houses for sale with great big pee stains on the carpet is going to be posted on Victor's blog. Hooray!

Three reasons why you must fast

(Courtesy of my pastor, Fr. Thomas Loya). Moses only received the Ten Commandments after forty days of fasting. Elijah only saw God after forty days of fasting. Jesus only began preaching the kingdom after forty days of fasting. Jesus says to us in John 13:15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.

Are you greater than Moses? Than Elijah? Than Jesus? Then you must fast!

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Note to people selling houses

Make sure that you clean up the urine stains from your carpets. My wife and I are in the market for a new home, and have seen several houses whose carpets were almost completely yellow from urine, hopefully from pets. If your carpet looks like this, it would be better to rip it out before showing the house. Or just knock off $30,000 from the price.


An interesting discussion on icons and their use in worship is happening over at Steal This Blog, a weblog of one of our seperated brethren (may the separation be healed!) in the Orthodox Church.