Friday, September 30, 2005

Post from Curmudgeon, Jr.

Had an idea for a short post tonight, but with Mrs. Curmudgeon running an errand and the little Curmudgeons vying for my attention, I'll have to postpone until tomorrow. Two-year old Curmudgeon, Jr. insists on making a contribution to the blog, which I've admonished him to keep short:


eoefb n dovnbzld;zkdn.

More from the literate (or semi-literate) members of the Curmudgeon family tomorrow evening!


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Plush Doll Wedding Update

OK, we resolved the issue with my daughter. I confessed to her that the stuffed cat was not really married to the stuffed bear because lacked the power to marry them (I told my three year old this ONLY after I obtained her promise not to report me to the Bishop for violating Canon 1379). Therefore, the cat and the bear were not married.

I used the opportunity to remind her that the only way she could get married was by a priest in the Church, when the time came, and that a civil marriage before a judge or a protestant minister would be no more valid than my marriage of the stuffed animals. I also reminded her that she promised that I could pick out her husband when the time came.

Organizing a "Sanger Society"

I tend not to post much on life issues. It's not that I don't care about them, of course; it's just that there are others who can do so more eloquently, and anyone who comes back to this blog more than once is unlikely to need any convincing from me. But I'm prompted by what is probably old news by now, and it was on, but there's probably some truth to it anyways:

Clinic: Free Abortions for Evacuees
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A doctor has offered to perform free abortions on hurricane evacuees (
search), saying it may be too dangerous for them to wait until they return home.
One of the great ironies of contraception and abortion--the tools of the eugenicists who sought to reduce the number of "undesireables"--is that they have resulted in fewer white kids from prosperous, well-adjusted families, but we still have gazillions of illegitimate, poverty-stricken black babies in the ghettos. Instead of a eugenic effect, widespread abortion and contraception appears to have had what the original eugenicists would call a dysgenic effect.

Considering the color and socioeconomic background of the evacuees we've seen in the news, and therefore the color and socioeconomic background of all those little non-persons our Doc is offering to scrape away pro bono, we know Margaret Sanger would be proud of him.

People in the pro-life movement talk some about the eugenic society origins of contraception and abortion advocacy, but I've never heard anyone talk about how that advocacy has failed even to serve the devious purpose that underlay it. I can kind of see why they don't do so--rhetoric of that sort, however effective on those who are actually listening to the whole discourse and who are thinking, can easily be taken out of context and used against the movement by everyone else who isn't really listening or thinking (which is to say, thanks to television, damned-near everyone).

Back in my glory days, when I was in a certain post-graduate academic program with time on my hands, I had the idea of putting up posters around campus inviting fellow students to an organizational meeting of a sham eugenics club, called the "Sanger Society."

My idea was to have the organizer rant in the poster against the missuse of abortion and contraception by modern day advocates, and call everyone to join a club that advocated a "return to the basics" of the eugenics movement, promoting abortion and contraception only among the "undesireables" and discouraging it among the well-to-do white folk. I would simply leave an email address to contact for informaiton, and then I could watch it fill up with hate mail from the pro-death crowd (and from minority activists who weren't thinking clearly). I still have the text I was working on for the poster that I never made:
Help form the XYZ University Chapter of the Sanger Society: Americans for Better Eugenics!!!
[INSERT GRAPHIC: Sanger Photo]
The Origins. In 19xx, Margaret Sanger started an organization dedicated to creating a better world through selective breeding. She recognized that many of the world’s problems—hunger, domestic abuse, drunkenness, and crimes against people and property—were perpetuated by the continual replenishment of the culturally and genetically inferior underclass through uncontrolled breeding. While more direct and ambitious eugenic efforts failed to wipe out the underclass in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific in the first half of the twentieth century, Ms. Sanger was developing a vision for a new, more humane, and less expensive way to address the problem of the underclass. That vision was to provide the underclass with sufficient birth control information and abortion services to encourage them to simply stop reproducing. As the affluent and biologically superior population in the affluent classes would grow to fill the void, the remnant of the underclass could be assimilated or sterilized as ecessary. Ms. Sanger recognized that within a few generations, the whole of the remaining population throughout the United States, and eventually, the world, could enjoy the tranquillity, good health, and prosperity promised which had been obstructed by the incessant rejuvenation of the underclass.
The Problem. The organization she started became Planned Parenthood, but that organization has betrayed her vision. Instead of pursuing a directed and selective campaign to implement population control for the underclass, Planned Parenthood promoted contraception and abortion for all women. The results have been horrific. In the decades that have followed, the underclass has clung to obsolete notions about human life and has largely rejected Ms. Sanger’s tools of contraception and abortion. The growth of the underclass has continued unabated, and with it, Wal-Marts, fast-food chains, methamphetamine and crack labs, MTV and NASCAR tracks have spread across the United States. Meanwhile, the more affluent and biologically superior strata have adopted and now misuse Ms. Sanger’s tools, and now that Upper Strata—not the underclass—teeters on the brink of its own extinction.
The Solution. The Sanger Society: Americans for Better Eugenics is committed to restoring Ms. Sanger’s vision to its true form and seeding it in the social, political and legal landscape. For now, the Society works on educating the Upper Strata about the social harm caused by contraception and abortion among their ranks, and the social good that comes from their use among the underclass. Ultimately, the Society envisions directed, and then mandated, reproductive planning for the underclass and stronger economic incentives for childrearing in the Upper Strata. The Society seeks to enlist affluent, deliberative thinkers from the Upper Strata in its effort to educate their peers and eventually elect legislators who will enact her vision, to train administrators who can implement it, and to appoint judges are willing to read the law in a way that will permit us to achieve our end. Although it is now a small organization in terms of members, it recognizes that its best hope for growth lies with the ranks of those studying at America's best universities, including XYZ University, and it seeks to form a chapter here.
We invite you to contact us if you are interested in helping start the XYZ University Chapter of the Sanger Society. Please send us an email at the address below, and we will discuss with you how we might go about organizing a group and gaining official recognition from the University.
The thought being, of course, that maybe a few students who saw this outrageous message might get the connection between our modern, precious, legally preposterous "constitutional right of privacy" from Conyers v. Georgia, Roe, Doe and Sandy Day O's contribution to Constitutional jurisprudence, Casey, with the bigoted purpose which was its genesis. I never got around to executing the poster scheme, but I offer the use of it free to whomever's listening.

BTW, I never set up the email address above--it doesn't really exist--so don't waste time composing any hate mail to that address. I take my hate mail at or in the comment boxes below.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Is a stuffed animal marriage forever?

At my three year old daughter's suggestion that her stuffed cat and my son's stuffed bear were married, I got out my 1962 missal and performed the nuptual rite for them. The cat and the bear manifested their consent; the marriage was declared and blessed by yours truly. Within a few minutes thereafter, though (before there was any question about consummation), my daughter was very upset about the marriage and wanted the cat and the bear "unmarried."

So what's protocol here? And what of my daughter? When I explained that Christian marriage was indissoluable, she cried. I can't just unmarry the stuffed animals, can I? I don't want my three year old daughter thinking that divorce is a quick and easy option, do I? I suppose I could call a tribunal and declare the marriage null for defect of form (for starters, they weren't valid matter, and I don't happen to have orders or jurisdiction for marriages). But of course, my little tribunal wouldn't have proper jurisdiction either, so the declaration of nullity would be itself a nullity.

My daughter is rather upset, but I fear that this is a turning point in her moral and spiritual growth. She needs to learn about the permanency of matrimony. She understands that Mrs. Curmudgeon and I can't be "unmarried," but if I give in on these stuffed animals, it's a chink in the armour, right?

Oh, what to do, what to do!!! If I refuse to declare them unmarried, she'll continue to cry. If I do "unmarry" them, then any doubts or worries she may have about Mrs. Curmudgeon and me will be my fault, and any rash marriage she might make (God forbid) will be my fault, traceable back to this fateful night when she was three years old.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Three schools of Radicalism

I'm a gadfly I know, introducing a new topic that I don't intend to get into anytime soon and which I shouldn't even raise until I've tackled what's still on the table, but before I put Kirk's The Conservative Mind back on the shelf, I want to get his paradigm of radicalism--the three principal schools of radical thought into which various other radical ideas more or less fit--into my blog. Someday, as I (or, more properly, "if I") continue to test the extent to which labels like "conservative" or "progressive" are useful in describing the non-doctrinal currents that have been pushing the visible, human structure of Holy Mother Church over the last decades, I may want to come back to them:

1. The Rationalism of the philosophes.
2. The romantic Sentimentalism of Rousseau and his disciples.
3. The Utilitarianism of Bentham.

Also, we'll throw in for later ruminations, the six tenets of 18th century radicalism which Kirk boiled down:

  1. If there is divine authority in the universe, it differs sharply in its nature from the Christian idea of God: for some radicals, it is the remote and impassive Being of the deists; for others, the misty and new-modeled God of Rousseau
  2. Abstract reason or (alternatively) idyllic imagination may be employed not merely to study, but to direct, the course of social destiny.
  3. Man naturally is benevolent, generous, healthy-souled, but in this age is corrupted by institutions
  4. The traditions of mankind, for the most part, are tangled and delusory myth, from which we learn little.
  5. Mankind, capable of infinite improvement, is struggling upward toward Elysium, and should fix its gaze always upon the future.
  6. The aim of the reformer, moral and political, is emancipation--liberation from old creeds, old oaths, old establishments; the man of the future is to rejoice in pure liberty, unlimited democracy, self-governing, self-satisfying.

(The Conservative Mind, 7th ed. p 26-27)

Love is not a feeling

The priest who preached the sermon at high Mass this morning said--as a parenthetical to the story of the conversion of Cyprian and the martyrdom of Cyprian and Justina--something he's said a number of times over the last couple of years, and something that certainly isn't a novel thought (as the Angelic Doctor would observe were he here), but it's worthy of repeating anyways because it's Truth which, if generally understood and accepted, would probably reduce the great Western malaise by half:
Love is not a feeling. Love is an act of the will.
Funny, growing up in my goofy Texas diocese, I didn't hear stuff like that said in sermons at all. It could be that I wasn't listening, but it was more likely that powerful, unambiguous stuff like that wasn't being said.


PS. It may seem to you that this is simply a "placeholder" post, one which I threw onto the blog just to have something new, because I lacked the time or motivation to do a more substantive post in which I respond to several loose ends raised by Todd or by Jeff (and now somewhat stale--they may erroneously think I've thrown in the towel), or I continue the thought on what it means to be "conservative" versus being what most people understand to be a "traditionalist" or a reactionary. If that's what you think is happening, congratulations! You're very perceptive. Not to take away from the great principle of which I was reminded today, but too much real reality is getting in the way of my virtual reality this weekend. Regards, C.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Is pewter a precious metal?

It's been reported to me through a source several degrees away from the action (and hence subject to confirmation) that Coday's parish (see If They're Worried, Finn's Doing Something Right, on September 15 below) is replacing its crystal communion set with a pewter set. Since when, my source asks, is PEWTER a precious metal? What the heck is pewter alloyed from anyways?

I can imagine someone ordering the clunkiest, ugliest vessels they can find, just to make a point that the glass vessels the Bishop made them get rid of were "more fitting."

And has there been some complaining about the cost? Somehow for centuries mission priests who may not have even had horses to get around with did manage to have precious metal vessels, but a parish in a reasonably prosperous part of Kansas City cannot get a gold-plated chalice and ciboria? Perhaps, with Finn's cuts to the CPLM, the parishes' diocesan assessment might go down and parishes will be able to use the money they save to buy some new, suitable vessels (or, heaven forbid, find some beautifully crafted antique vessels in a basement somewhere).

Friday, September 23, 2005

What is a conservative Catholic?

A couple of times, in a couple of places (i.e., in comments to other blogs and this one), I've asked what people really mean when they talk about "conservative" Catholics. Usually, in other blogs, I don't pose the question until the original post is stale and no one who cares to answer sees it, or simply no one cares to answer it, or I post it in this blog where, of course, my audience is quite limited. Nonetheless, I'm going to raise the question again, starting with a comment that I posted in a discussion about Bishop Finn last week in a blog by Todd, the fellow Kansas City blogger. The comment was a response to another comment by "Jeff," I believe:
"Conservatives"? That's a word I see thrown around a lot. (Also "Crunchy Con," the definition or origins of which I haven't the slightest idea of--please fill me in). Somewhere I've said this before (in a comment to Todd or Rocco or maybe at my own blog). A conservative position is doomed to fail in the Church (or for that matter in politics). We could make a good case that Bishop Boland as a "conservative," in that he mostly stayed-the-course from his predecessor, and the diocese suffered (not as badly as some, but it suffered). My hope is that Finn is no conservative; that he is a reactionary.

Another commenter, who I haven't engaged before, came back with this response:

"A conservative position is doomed to fail in the Church"

I do not know what your definition of concservative is, but I always took it as a way of conserving the truth handed down through the Apostles in TRADITION. Holding steadfast to the truth the Church has taught for over 2000 years. Truth that has remained unchanged and will until the end of time. Our Church is one of great and timeless beauty. If conservatives are holding on to the Church's teaching being loyal to Rome. I I do not see how thier position of obedience, loyalty, and submission would fail, and dissent and lack of mystery and going through the picking and choosing of what you will decide to believe would suceed. That just leads to confusion and argument. Perhaps our definitions are different, and if so I invite to say so.

I answered:
For Christe, I'm using the word "conservative" here with literal and current connotations; and NOT as a label for a substantive position in the same way you are, or the manner that someone like Russell Kirk (the late great post-New Deal synthesizer of what people now call "paleoconservative" or "traditional conservative" political thought, and a convert) might. As the word is thrown around these days in both political and ecclesiastical circles, it seems to mean generally keeping the status quo, slowing the rate of "progress" and approaching new ideas cautiously (but approaching them nonetheless). By conservative, I mean those who want to hold the line and tow the line wherever they happen to find that line. Elsewhere (I wish I could remember where) I described "conservative" in the current sense of the term as always being halfway between two points--a fixed point and another point that might be propounded at a given time (however far out that point might be). The "conservative" in this sense must define himself with reference to the present zeitgeist, even if he's defining himself in contrast to it. I've got more to say on this, but this is ultimately Todd's forum, not mine, so I'll save the rest for my own blog. But just so you know my perspective, I'm not a liberal or progressive; I'm a reactionary. However, I won't try to explain that because this comment is too long already.

In response extension of that, I'll start by reminding myself and anyone who happens to scroll down this far that "conservatism" is a socio-political concept that can only awkwardly be applied to ecclesiastical matters. One is typically not "conservative" or "progressive" in one's theology. As wiser men than I have pointed out, these two terms are commonly (and at least somewhat accurately) thought of as directions, without any referenced point to fixed Truth, as Christe suggests. In theology, which must be grounded in fixed Truth, one is either orthodox or heterodox.

That being said, when it comes to the governance and discipline of the church, the terms "conservative" and "progressive" could possibly have some currency. Before addressing how they're used or misused, I'll look at what they could mean, or mean to some people. In expansion of Christe's suggestion of "conservative" substance, I'll plagiarize the six characteristics of a conservative that were expounded by Russell Kirk in the opening of The Conservative Mind, an important book first published in 1953, written by the figure who, though not widely known, was perhaps the most important figure in moving "conservative" ideas from academic circles like the Southern Agrarians at Vanderbilt (i.e., Robert Penn Warren et al) to the rhetoric of Goldwater and Reagan:

1. Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. . . . .

2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism and utilitarian aims of the most radical systems . . . .

3. Conviction that civilized society required orders and classes, as against the notion of a "classless" society" . . . .

4. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked; separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. . . .

5. Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters, calculators, and economists" who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs. . . .

6. Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take Proficence into his calculation, and a statesman's chief virtue, according to Plato and [Edmund] Burke [the Whig!], is prudence. . . .

(The Conservative Mind, 7th ed., pp 8-9). I think it's clear that these conservative socio-political principles fit within (or are complementary to) the religious "conservative" description offered by Christe, and I think if the Church had been governed by this principle over the last fifty years or so, She would be more externally healthy, and the West would be a more humane place to live.

However, as I observed above, I'm not sure that when most people talk about "conservative" clerics or laymen, we mean that they act on the above principles or their ecclesiastical equivalents. I think most people simply mean, as I sat forth above, folks that are interested in preserving the status quo. More on this at my next post, which will probably be tonight (my list of Saturday chores is quite long).

(oops, it's ember Saturday and I've already blown it).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Fr. Harrison on Emily Rose

Brian Harrison, O.S., the wise Puerto Rican priest who usually has quite measured comments about everything, positively gushes in Seattle Catholic about the Exorcism of Emily Rose. I think Fr. Harrison is a bit too-uncritical, and maybe I'm a little too critical. I'll have to see it again, I believe.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Confirming Cardinal Pompeda wasn't there

Shortly after (and actually before) the meeting between Pope Benedict and Bp. Bernard Fellay of the SSPX a few weeks back, those with axes to grind with the SSPX started grumbling, and cwnews ran an article featuring a certain Cardinal Pompeda, a retired tribunal officer, making HIS conditions for a regularization of the SSPX known to the press. (I'd link the article but I can't access cwnews' website right now).

CWNEWS, which is a reliable source of information on most other Catholic topics, presented the Cardinal's comments as those of a Roman official, if not Official Rome. Many readers might have been led to believe that the Cardinal's conditions were relevant to the discussions taking places (as opposed to the Holy Father's conditions, or the SSPX's conditions). The obvious question that nobody at cwnews answered was, "Was His Eminence even at the meeting?"

I think we have an answer now. Papabile's blog includes an excerpt of the
DICI interview with Bp. Fellay, which confirms that while Benedict and Fellay were meeting, Pompeda may have been enjoying a nice lunch with his personal secretary in a trattoria somewhere and prepping for his media event. Maybe he wasn't doing that, but wherever he was, Pompeda was not at the meeting.

I simply don't understand why (what Jeff and Todd would describe as "conservative" Catholics), and generally sensible folks like those at cwnews, are so eager to interfere with (and faciliate those who wish to interfere with) the reconciliation of the SSPX. Is it not obvious that the SSPX would be better off within the regular structure of the Church, and the Church would benefit as well? One expects bombthrowing from the NC Reporter crowd, but not from cwnews. I'm thinking of dropping my subscription and depriving them of my $2.95 oer month.

More on Finn

Not much time for a post (I think I got ahead anyways yesterday), but there are more comments on Finn's Kansas City Star article by Todd from KC at catholicsensibility and Rocco at whispersintheloggia . Todd thought the article was good and then took Finn to task (politely, as is his way) for, among other things, cutting the center that offered the suspect New Wine program and for not keeping Rush and his chancery buddies around to meddle. To Todd, I'd say if there's more administrative fumbling from Finn than from his predecessor, it's because his predecessor didn't do any administering to speak of. I've tried not to bag on Bishop Boland in this blog, but he came out of retirement and talked to the press, so he's fair game for the next few days.

Rocco thinks Finn is right on target. But Rocco strays when he suggests that Finn-haters and Mahoney-haters are in the same boat. As I observed in his comment box. One group is upset because a bishop isn't behaving like a Catholic and is doing things that put distance between his diocese and the universal Church; the other is upset because the bishop is reining them in and exercising his office in a traditional way. I'm sorry, I don't see how the comparison works!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Squishy Alliancce.

I'm still editing, but I just learned that there is a webring entitled The Alliance for Moderate, Liberal and Progressive Blogs. Wow. Isn't controlling the major media outlets enough? Here's part of their schtick:

The Alliance for Moderate, Liberal and Progressive Blogs is primarily a religious blogring, but we also welcome those who maintain politically and socially moderate, liberal and progressive blogs. NOTE: Religious intolerance is STRICTLY prohibited. The administrator reserves the right to decide what is and is not religious intolerance, and to expel any member acting out of religious intolerance without warning.

Doesn't sound very tolerant to me, now does it? Be careful not to mention the Gospels in that ring.

This of course brings to bear the questions "What is tolerance?" and "What is prejudice?." Curmudgeon has some good answers (or rather, Curmudgeon can repeat someone else's good answers as if they were his own) in due time. Now back to editing.

Perhaps I should try to join the Squishy Alliance myself, just to see how long it takes to be shown the door.

Uncle Gilbert on Lost Causes and Becket

Uncle Gilbert on Lost Causes and Beckett

Spending the evening editing old posts, now that I know people are looking at this blog, but I do want to throw in another quote from GK Chesterton (What's wrong with the World, pp 36-37 in the Ignatius edition) to close the weekend with:

The task of the modern idealists indeed is made much too easy for them by the fact that they are always taught that if a thing has been defeated it has been disproved. Logically, the case is quite clearly the other way. . . .

When four knights scattered the blood and brains of St. Thomas of Canterbury, it was not only a sign of anger but of a sort of black admiration. They wished for his blood, but the wished even more for his brains. Such a blow will remain forever unintelligible unless we realize what the brains of St. Thomas were thinking about just before they were distributed over the floor. They were thinking about the great mediaeval conception that the church is the judge of the world. Becket objected to a priest being tried even by the Lord Chief Justice. And his reason was simple: because the Lord Chief Justice was being tried by the priest. The judiciary was itself sub judice. The kings were themselves in the dock. The idea was to create an invisible kingdom, without armies or prisons, but with complete freedom to condemn publicly all the kingdoms of the earth. Whether such a supreme church would have cured society we cannot affirm definitely; because the church never was a supreme church. We only know that in England at any rate the princes conquered the saints. What the world wanted we see before us; and some of us call it a failure. But we cannot call what the church wanted a failure, simple because the suchr failed. Tracy [one of the knights] struck a little too soon. England had not yet made the great Protestant discovery that the king can do no wrong. The king was whipped in the cathedral; a performance which I recommend to those who regret the unpopularity of church-going. But the discovery was made; and Henry VIII scattered Becket's bones as easily as Tracy had scattered his brains.
Goodnight all.

Bishop Finn in the KC Star

Bishop Finn in the Kansas City Star

The Bishop of Kansas City St. Joseph was interviewed for
a story in Saturday's Kansas City Star by Helen Gray. I'm not so sure I would have consented to it, were I the man under the mitre. The Star is an anti-Catholic rag, and its religion page (just recently demoted from a Religion Section, presumably because of lack of interest in its mushy, non-substantive fare) is run by a fashionable syncreticist who hasn't manifested a belief in too much of anything permanent that I can tell, Bill Tammeus.

Were I the the bishop (and thank God I'm not, because I wouldn't have the grace or patience to do the job here, as Finn seems to have), I'd at least run the full text of the interview on my own website, free from the editorial hatchet, as cautious
Archbishop Chaput did last fall when he let the New York Times interview him.

My first reaction to the article was that it wasn't as bad as I expected. However, on reflection, I think it really was bad. Even though I hate quantitative analysis (counting things alone rarely leads to understanding them), let's start there anyways:
  • Six (cautiously negative) quotations from two of the main chancery officials who've been ousted, Rush and Noonan.

  • Negative comments from the New Wine director.

  • 0 comments from priests happy with the new change

  • 0 comments from new chancery officials

  • 1 attributed general comment from a layman positive about the change ("We traditional Catholics have kind of been held back for many years") Surely they could have found someone to say more said than that!

  • 1 unattributed quotation from someone happy to see McBrien's column gone.

  • 1 laissez faire comment from retired Bishop Boland.

Hardly a balanced article, based on the numbers, was it? I do want to note that Bishop Boland's contributions to the article (i.e., his refusal to support or detract from Finn and his exposition of his diocesan governance strategy . . . I mean, non-governance strategy) are reflective of the way he governed the diocese: ignore things and let the staff do what they want, and snap back at concerned laity that objected.

Looking at the content of the article, Finn's comments and the discussion of his actions were cobbled together for the story to almost be incoherent. But I suppose that the main "beef" I have is with the usual distinction between the supposed "pastoral" bishop and the "strict constructionist" bishop, and the unchallenged subtext of the article that Finn isn't a "pastoral" bishop.

What is a "pastoral bishop"? Why the word itself answers the question! A pastoral bishop is a Pastor Bonus, a Good Shepherd—the Good Shepherd that Christ spoke of. Who's the better shepherd? A bishop who's attitude is to delegate and to "govern least"? Or is it the shepherd who's vigilant to keep sheep from straying and keeping predators from the flock?
Somebody gave me a CD containing a sermon by a priest who hailed from a sheep farm. In that sermon, he described in disgusting, vivid terms (terms Mrs. Curmudgeon could hardly listen to) what it means to take good care of the sheep. He told the story of his finding a ewe with fleece rot and scrubbing her raw, maggoty flesh with medicine in order to save her. This priest's point was that sometimes you have to inflict a little pain in order to do what's best. Would this priest have been a good shepherd if he had just let the ewe go when she struggled against him and bawled? No.

So, then, back to our bishops. Who's the more pastoral, the one who lets McBrien's heretical column run in the diocesan newspaper and funds programs that are incompatible with historic and established moral and doctrinal Catholic teaching, or the one who watches his flock closely, and takes decisive action when he sees their well-being threatened?

Now, we can't necessarily blame Helen Gray for this article, because her work has to go through multiple edits, including (we assume) one from religion editor Bill Tammeus, who's own columns leave no doubt he's got an axe to grind against anyone who takes traditional religious teaching too seriously. But, nonetheless, it wouldn't hurt to drop an email to Ms. Gray and let her know that there are plenty of Catholics happy with what's happening here. Her email address is .

Oh no people are finding my Blog

Oh no, people are finding my blog!

About ninety minutes ago, I added a counter script to my blog template. I've already had 14 visitors. I would have never guessed . . . really, because I've only had like three comments in the last seven weeks or so.

It's kind of frightening to think that people know I'm out there. I suppose I ought to get serious about editing my posts and cleaning up typos. In the meantime, I hope they aren't really reading this.

But if you out there are actually reading this, let me know if you think this is as bad as I think it is.

Exorcism of Emily Rose

Mrs. Curmudgeon and I had some free babysitting last night and a couple of movie passes, so we went to see The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Mrs. Curmudgeon had seen (via a Seattle Catholic,* link) a generally positive review of the film; I had seen the link but never got around to it. I don't know any of the details of the actual situation from which the film gets its premise, so I can only comment on it as a work of art. I have three thoughts, (just impressions really--not worthy of being called "analysis") which I hope to expand someday, perhaps after seeing the film again:


A. The crowd. Not all of the caterwauling was coming from the possessed woman; much of it came from the auditorium where the film was shown. People are breathtakingly rude. It shouldn't amaze me, but it still does. Kids talked and cut up through the whole film, and when occasionally someone would call out for them to be quiet, they'd scream profanity at them. Likewise, kids noisily stomped out of the auditorium at regular intervals (I guess that, although this film fell into the "horror" genre, it apparently wasn't the sort of Freddy/Jason/Chuckie flick these kids expected to see. Admittedly, this is the first time I'd gone to a late movie in many years (and I don't go to many movies at all), but I was appalled that people--even 21st century teenagers--acted that way.

B. The purpose and general message of the film. The review was accurate in the sense that it didn't send out the typically-Hollywood message that Catholics were statue-worshipping cranks or that the priest was stupid, crazy or evil. It was refreshing to see a priest doing what he was supposed to do on film (i.e., not breaking his vow of chastity). The director successfully got the message through that there is a willfully Evil One in creation and that he can manifest himself in horrible, sensible ways. He also attempted to get it across (with perhaps less success) that there's purpose of suffering.

C. The details. While the film had merit, there were a number of things that the director could have tightened up to make the work more coherent (without making it didactic). Some of the Catholic "jargon" in the script seemed shaky to me. I think that he could have had the priest speaking a bit more forthrightly about Satan, rather than vaguely about "dark spiritual forces." On the other hand, he did pull some good detail in, such as when the priest said a small portion of what I sounded like the unabridged version of the Leonine St. Michael prayer. Likewise, the dialog concerning the apparition of the Blessed Mother was awkward to traditional Catholic ears.

The director also could have checked his facts, i.e., the exorcism norms. Surely no simple parish priest these days would be authorized to perform an exorcism, much less on his own parishioner. Very few priests are trained to or authorized to perform exorcisms. Nor would it seem likely that a priest would perform an exorcism without at least one other cleric present, and without better restraints (restraining Emily with rags? C'mon!). The film gave no inkling of the steps that I hear are now required to rule out medical explanations of I also thought that throwing in the stigmata near the end was a bit of a stretch--it was a superfluous detail that had a potential natural cause (which was otherwise unexplored) and it thus undermined the supernatural events of the film. Did the director and script folks just decide from the beginning that they were going to do the stigmata and just stuck them in wherever it would fit, without really weaving them into the story?

And the defense lawyer's closing sequence was unbelievable and weak. Even a novice lawyer would have addressed the holes in the prosecution's case (which were presented in the film) before launching into a speech about doubts and possibilities. When the jury brought back a guilty verdict, Mrs. Curmudgeon had to ask "based on what?" My only answer was "malpractice by his lawyer." After all, through the two hours of the film, we as the audience heard that Fr. Moore tried to make her eat, that he had a medical professional in attendance at the rite, that she'd previously been on that psychotropic drug for weeks to no effect, that he visited her regularly before and after the exorcism, and that she refused further intervention of any kind.

I'm not asking that the film be a documentary. I'm not asking that the director be doctrinaire. I'm just merely suggesting that a little more attention to detail (consultation with a knowledgeable priest and a trial lawyer on the script), this good movie could have been a great one--more powerful, both technically and thematically.

But then, part of being a Curmudgeon is that I'm never happy with anything.


*Seattle Catholic is one of two essential almost-daily compilations of Catholic news; the other "essential compilation" of the day's news for Catholics is, of course, Catholic World News. Between the comprehensive set of links to mainstream press articles (and some original reporting) appearing every morning on CWN, and Seattle Catholic's fewer, but carefully-selected articles from both mainstream press and alternative opinion and news outlets (with coverage of special interest to Catholics of traditional comportment) posted around noon most days, one gets a good overview of what's going on in the Church, at least in this country from day-to-day.

Friday, September 16, 2005

St. Augustine joining the blog.

Well, I've been working on my blog title. I think I'm going to leave it as "Curmudgeon's Cave," even though it's kind of a mixed metaphor. At one time I was thinking of taking the pseudonym "Troglodyte," which which case calling the blog my "cave" was only natural. But I settled on Curmudgeon, and kept the "cave" simply because of the alliterative value (after all, nothing would prevent a Curmudgeon from having a cave, would it?). I've been struggling mostly with the tagline. Too much alliteration is silly (unless of course, you're writing Germanic poetry). I'm settling for now with St. Augustine of Hippo's quote,
Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

It seems to serve two purposes. The "anger" bit as an apologia of sorts, so that I can remind myself (and others can remind themselves) that anger is related to hope. One can be both expectant and angry; on the other hand, it seems that dispair and anger are mutually exclusive. The "courage" bit is a self-challenge of sorts, as I hide behind my anonymous blog, wondering where I have actually put myself out in the line of fire for my faith and the secondary values I hold dear. Thinking about the follow-through . . . the courage . . . is a reminder that wherever I can do so without compromising my duty to my family, I need to be charge in.

And whomever wants to pick up my leftover pseudonym is welcome to it.

Chesterton on discipline.

Continuing through What's Wrong with the World with my with Uncle Gilbert (page 76 in my Ignatius edition):
Thus, if an army actually consisted of nothing but Hanibals and Napoleons, it would still be better in the case of a surprise that they should not all give orders together. Nay, it would be better if the stupidest of them all gave the orders. Thus, we see that merely military subordination, so far from resting on the inequality of men, actually rests on the equality of men. Discipline does not involve the Carlylean notion that somebody is always right when everybody is wrong, and that we must discover and crown that somebody. On the contrary, displine means that in certain frightfully rapid circumstances, one can trust anybody so long as he is not everybody. The military spirit does not mean (as Carlyle fancied) obeying the strongest and wisest man. On the contrary, the military spirit means, if anything, obeying the weakest and stupidest man, obeying him merely because he is a man, and not a thousand men. Submission to a weak man is discipline. Submission to a strong man is only servility.

The beauty of Chesterton isn't his originality. Rarely does he say anything that hasn't been said a thousand times before or since. It's that he says those commonsense things so pithily. And not everything Uncle Gilbert writes is easy to swallow. I, for one, have a disinclination for follow the weakest and stupidest men simply because they wear the crown.

Spending other people's money in New Orleans

Here's another example of why I generally avoid the news, even in print. I just saw an article with this lead come over the wire:

NEW ORLEANS - President Bush was expected to tell the nation Thursday night the government would pay most of the costs of rebuilding the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast in one of the largest reconstruction projects the world has ever seen — estimated to cost $200 billion or beyond.

Um, bringing all resources to bear to help rescue people in immediate danger is one thing. Perhaps using some public resources (if voluntary giving isn't enough--it might be) to help out with short term lodging, food and clothing for refugees is somewhat justifiable given the magnitude of this event.

However, committing the rest of the country to pay for most of the rebuilding is quite another thing, especially when the promise appears to be just a futile attempt to ingratiate oneself with the crooked and incompetent local officials who failed to to meet their own public duty by preparing an immediate response plan for a predictable disaster, and who spent the first days after the storm on TV demanding that OTHER people do something.

As for rebuilding, that's what insurance is for, isn't it? The people down there lived with the calculated risk of hurricanes, just as we midwesterners live with the risk of tornadoes, hail, ice storms, and flooding of our own (not to mention, for those in the Cape Girardeau area, earthquakes. This promise to rebuild has nothing to do with being kind and charitable. It's just redistribution. Voluntary giving bestows grace on the donee and the donor. Coerced redistribution of wealth does not count as Christian charity, and in the end, it enriches no one.

Let's all give to those who are in need down there (I've sent my check directly to the Archdiocese of New Orleans--skipping the bureaucrats at Catholic Charities or the other agencies), but let's not demand that the government take from everyone else for them.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

If they're worried, Finn's doing something right!

Some guy just forwarded me an article that some other guy just forwarded him from the NCReporter online. The article by staff writer Dennis Coday, Too much focus on rubrics causes worry, is lamenting the fact that the bishop is insisting that we start following the rules and otherwise treating the Mass as belonging to the whole Church rather than just the liturgist in charge at one parish or another.

No time to comment on it fully this morning, but the first question that comes to mind is why in the heck do they need ELEVEN extraordinary ministers on a regular basis? I can see why he's balking at calling the ministers "extraordinary." Nothing extraordinary about it there. I've seen seen a single priest distribute Holy Communion to a full church that holds about 350 people in maybe 15 minutes (and it was in the old rite where he didn't just say "Body of Christ"; he said to each "Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.") Even if this guy's church seated 800, there's no justification whatsoever nearly a dozen lay ministers (except of course the furtherance of lay clericalism).

Oh, wait a minute he does say this:
...collect the ciboria for distribution of the bread and extra hosts from the tabernacle...

I get it now. What's all the fuss over bread? Ignoring our neighbors and instead worrying about crumbs and precious metals and whether we show a wafer proper reverence? In that case, Coday's right. It IS silly to make such a fuss over bread.

His quote of Berneir (whoever that is) also makes sense if it's only bread:
Berneir wrote that the Eucharist should be a communal experience and outward looking. It should be active if not down right activist. The Eucharist should drive us out into the world and to work building the kingdom of God, he wrote. "If we do not [do this work], our liturgies are empty." He wrote: A true Eucharist is never a passive, comforting moment alone with God, something which allows us to escape the cares and concerns of our everyday life. Eucharist is where all these cares and concerns come to a focus, and where we are asked to measure them against the standard lived by Jesus when he proclaimed for all to hear that the bread that he would give would provide life for the entire world.

I guess a liturgy without Christ present in the Most Blessed Sacrament and without congregational good vibrations WOULD be truly empty. I'll have to try to find out which parish this guy is from (although it's my policy, for now, not to name individual parishes or clerics below the rank of bishop here). But if I find out more I'll take this up again.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I finally heard the future Chief Justice speak.

Yesterday, I heard future Chief Justice John Roberts speak for the first time. I was walking through a lounge area past a TV, and I stopped for less than a minute. He sounds like a well-prepared appellate lawyer. Imagine that? What else is there to learn from the show?

I haven't paid much attention to the proceedings and don't hold out much hope that Roberts will be another Scalia. I did, however, look at the transcript of Teddy Kennedy's "questions" to Mr. Roberts, as well as some of the other Senators' transcripts. Is being the Chief really worth sitting through two days of those numbskulls talking at you? Certainly not for me. After all this talk about Roe, Roe, Roe your boat (where the real cases these days center around Planned Parenthood v. Casey, as any undergraduate who showed up for his "introduction to law" class should be able to tell you), I'd have finally stood up and shouted "Hey you clowns, read the Constitution! See Article V? It's YOUR job, not the Court's, to change the Constitution to suit the times! If you want to make sacrosanct right to scrape your mistress's troubles away in the Constitution, pass a frickin' amendment and put it there! (or in your case, Senator Kennedy, just drive her off a bridge and leave her and her fetus to drown). It just ain't there right now. In the meantime, spare me your 'emanations' and 'penumbras!' Instead, ask me some tough questions about what I'll really be doing most of my career--resolving disputes between the circuits on telecom law and banking regulations and assigning other lower-court judges to committees! If you can't handle those sorts of questions, just yield your seat to one of your staff, because you can't even read your 4x6 cards well!"

And that's why I'll never be a politician. One must be a fool or suffer them well.

The other disappointing thing was his associating himself with Jack Kennedy's abjuration of faith speech. Exactly what nuances he avoided when he said he agreed with JFK? Time will tell. But I again (another reason why I'm not a politician), I would have used the opportunity to speak a little truth about JFK in front of his baby brother. If Roberts would have done that, I would have stayed in front of the TV all day(but only if they showed a split screen with Teddy melting down upon hearing such things said about America's secular saint).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Chesterton for the day

I'm rereading bits of What's Wrong with the World in between my other books (and work and family). I should spend it proofreading previous or current posts. However, I'm not. Here's one of the many great quotes I underlined with my pencil the second time through with links to a couple of relevant sources imbedded.

I am quite ready to respect another man's faith; but it is too much to ask that I should respect his doubt, his worldly hesitations and fictions, his political bargain and make-believe.

(pg 24 in the Ignatius edition). Today nary a person would blink (not even those of us who would disagree) if someone were to write in a newspaper column (or a Supreme Court opinion) the following:

While we should all be hesitant to accept at face value another man's, er . . . person's, faith, we must always respect his, er . . . their, doubts, their worldly hesitations and fictions, er . . . dreams, their political bargain, er . . . social conscience, and make-believe, er . . . right to define one's own the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.
We sometimes say "if so-and-so were alive today, he'd be shocked." One has to think that Chesterton would not be surprised at all. Throughout this great little 95-year-old book we see Chesterton pointing out the seedling problems of his day (which germinated in the 16th century) that will become the great tangled moral jungle of our day.

Another couple grand ones from a few pages later (pg 33 in the Ignatius edition):

We often read nowadays of the valor or audacity with which some rebel attacks a hoary tyranny or an antiquated superstition. There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than offering to fight one's grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers.


There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed. There is another proverb, "As you have made your bed, so you must lie on it"; which again is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortable, please God I will make it again. We could restore the Heptarchy or the stage coaches if we chose. It might take some time to do, and it might be very inadvisable to do it; but certainly it is not impossible as bringing back last Friday is impossible. This is, as I say, the first freedom that I claim: the freedom to restore . . .

Indeed, these last line could be the basis of a reactionary motto, Libertem reddere vindico (anyone with better Latin is invited to revise before we go putting it on tombstones or letterhead or anything).

Monday, September 12, 2005

Helena, by Evelyn Waugh

This week I read Helena, Evelyn Waugh's novel (brought back into print thanks, in part, to the efforts of Amy Welborn of OpenBook. Very interesting, to see the Waugh pen at work on such a topic. Full of intentional anachronism, but Waugh does help you get into the mind of the "better set" of the fourth century. I really rather enjoyed it.

Have read a lot of Waugh now. The only major piece of fiction I think I haven't read is A Handful of Dust. I would have started it yesterday, but for my effort not to engage in unnecessary commerce on Sundays. I'll buy it this week and start it next weekend (If my wife doesn't get it first).

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A felt banner museum?

With Arthur Jones's column, with the impending "de-shaggification" of Old St. Patrick's Oratory in Kansas City, and the the general coming-to-its-senses of Catholicism in some places, I'm thinking of that quip that I heard somewhere but I can't properly attribute (it's much to clever to be mine): "We Catholics don't worship statues anymore. We worship felt banners."

What happens to all those felt banners? Some churches change them four or five times a year. There has to be a place for them somewheres.

I think we need a felt banner museum. Maybe we can find another old mansion in the Hyde Park area of Kansas City or maybe an empty convent somewhere--we'd need five or six thousand square feet, so we could display several dozen original specimens, keep thousands more in storage (for research someday), and generally see to it that progressive American Catholicism holds on to its "material patrimony."

Anybody have space available? If we did it here in Kansas City, this could become sort of the anti-pilgimage for people who don't want a trip to Alabama. While a certain set of Catholics flock the Irondale and to Hanceville to visit EWTN's studios and Mother Angelica's convent, another set can descend upon Kansas City to tour the NC Reporter offices and visit our little felt banner museum.

Editor needed!

OK, a couple of people have now discovered my blog, which means I shouldn't be so sloppy. At this point, there are too many typos to count or correct. Anybody want to clean this place up for me?

A GQ survey?

I used to hang up when people called me for surveys, without even trying to determine whether they were legitimate or not. Lately, though, as I've gotten further and further away from mainstream media culture, I've started taking those calls. They're a form of amusement

A few months ago, I spent 20 minutes doing a survey about television preferences and celebrities. The fact that I haven't watched TV in more than two years (except for the announcement of Ratzinger's elevation and an occasional snippet at my folks house or a hotel room or walking through one of the break rooms at my office) made the whole thing amusing to both me and the interviewer. When she mentioned a reality show about "Swapping Wives" or something like that, I stopped the interview and had her explain the concept to me. It wasn't like The Ice Storm, I found out. Ten or fifteen minutes of repeating "never heard of it" was a hoot, and I did my part in making it clear to the data-sifters that they don't have everyone hooked.

Just a few minutes ago, I finished a telephone survey sponsored by GQ magazine:
  • There were some questions about religion ("Would you exaggerate your religious observance to impress a date?" No. I'd probably need to downplay it. "Do you think it's important to practice a specific religion?" Yes. "How often do you attend religious services?" No choice for "more than weekly")
  • A couple of questions about adultery and fornication (Do I think monogamy is important? Yes. Which celebrities (from a list of women I'd mostly never heard of) would I sleep with? None of the above. I could get away with it, would I sleep with a friend, a wife's friend, a stranger? None of the above. If your wife cheated on you would it be ok to cheat on her? No.)
  • Questions about various other sins of impurity (Where do I download my pornography? Nowhere. When was the last time I looked at pornography? That depends on whether the Hall's department store billboard down the street last fall counted as porn. )
  • Questions about who should be in jail, including Michael Jackson and Bernie Evers and some guy named L'il Kim that I'd never heard of. I let them all go free. I wouldn't want any of them decide whether I ought to be in stripes merely because of what they might have seen about me on TV. The Golden Rule principle at work here.
  • Questions about gambling and getting high. I said smoking a doobie wasn't as back as cheating on your wife or falsifying an expense report. When asked about why I have gambled, one of the choices was not "because my Grandmother likes to go," so I had to say "none of the above"
  • There were a couple of questions of "Would you lead a monastic life if . . . " followed by some very un-monastic choices, most of which involved noteworthy exceptions to the vows of poverty or chastity. Fortunately, one of the choices was " if you could still have alcohol," which of course is something that you CAN do in a monastery from time to time. Therefore, I didn't have to pass on that one. Like the long-gone Capuchin Brother Epp on the back of the Free State Brewery T-Shirt everyone in KC has, I thought "Without beer, things do not seem to go as well."

So the question is, what will they do with my data? Should I have participated in an awful magazine's little game? I don't know, but I wish I'd had a speakerphone for my wife so she could have listened, too, because it was the most amusing thing that happened today.

My shot at Arthur Jones . . .

If we braced ourselves and logged on to NCReporter's website in the last couple of days, we heard from Arthur Jones, one of the crusty "progressives" who's got the church figured out (and surprisingly, it's not what any of the saints of the last millennium thought it was) up the street at the NC Reporter mansion. Lots of folks had something to say about his little piece, including Amy Welborn, of course. I can't be left out (yes, this is entirely too long, but I just can't stop trolling):

. . . The intellectual underpinnings of Vatican II (1962-65) had a strong economic component. This was the first council of Leo XIII’s Catholic social justice teaching church, one that sided with the workers and the poor as Europe’s Industrial Revolution crested. It was a council of bishops who had lived through two world wars and -- in Europe -- 20 years of economic depression between. They knew the poor firsthand. The increasing First World affluence was obvious, but those bishops knew the rest of the world was only barely entering into, economically, what the United States and Europe were emerging from. The poor needed a church attuned to them. A church that was Jesus’ yoke, actively easing the poor’s burdens. The Vatican II bishops said amen to that.

OK, what's fashionable to call "social justice" now with its secular, coercive statist trappings was once simply Christian charity and hospitality. Compare it to the condition of church and state in England prior to the reformation (See Cobbett's Reformation in England and Ireland). Rather silly of anyone to act like the Church's grasp of Christian charity started in Leonine times. Before Vatican II, every Catholic schoolkid at one time had to memorize the seven corporal works of mercy, and legions of clergy and religious (and laity) were performing them. Now, I'll bet most don't even hear that there's a list of such things (but they will be able to parrot the phrase "social justice" because they've seen it on a felt banner somewhere).

And "the church against state-as-state" after the Council??? Nonsense. The demands the NCReporter crowd make of the state—health care, secular entitlements, etc., are "church-surrendering-to-state." The preconciliar Church took a strong stand against the state. If the NCReporter crowd were really courageous, they'd be demanding that the secular state get out of these areas so the Church could assume the proper role it once held in society (this reminds me of a Chesterton quote I want to find).

The new pontificate? Karol Wojtyla widened the growing post-Vatican II internal Roman Catholic divide. It was obvious he would. In England as a young man, I’d gone to church with the families of √©migr√© Polish intellectuals who had fled Hitler in the 1930s. They were locked in their moment. John Paul II responded to type. Resignedly, for I knew that Catholic mindset, when Wojtyla was elected I wrote in NCR that he would be tough on priests who wanted to leave and on married couples who wanted to divorce. I had other items on my list, but because he was a new man on the throne and might grow in office, I didn’t run them. Uncharacteristic prudence on my part.

Mind you, JP2 did widen the post-conciliar divide, but not the way Jonesy thinks. He widened it by appointing and promoting too many weak or (in some cases, evil) men who failed to govern strongly and failed to make sure that the "spirit of Vatican II" was a true spirit, based on the actual documents of Vatican II interpreted (in the many unfortunate instances of ambiguity) within the tradition of the church. He widened the gap by letting the Bernardin crowd (and the analogous crowds in Europe—we'll call them the Daneels crowd) and other parts of the world have the run of the Church while the reasonably grounded folks with a sense of history and the traditional faith refused to be moved—or at least refused to move so quickly--and those whose faith was less mature (or as Jones might put it, more mature) were led to believe that faith was just a feeling--not just any feeling, but the feelings they were having at the moment.

I was editor when Pope John Paul II made his first U.S. visit. With all bases covered, I told one photographer -- he was Jewish, I believe -- where he’d be in the best position to get the up-close facial I needed of the pope.The photog called in when he’d developed his shots. “I got it, Arthur!” he shouted into the phone. “I got it. I had to go to Communion five times, but I got it.”

That such a profanation of the Eucharistic Lord is an amusing anecdote to our author is hardly surprising. I suppose that if a Catholic newspaper wants to use a Jewish reporter or photographer, it wouldn't hire one who takes the rules of his own faith seriously. That's not a requirement for Catholic reporters. Wouldn't it be a terrible blasphemy to a devout Jew to present himself to eat a piece of bread that we Catholics were worshipping as God?

John Paul II realized that the U.S. Catholic church -- more specifically the renewed women’s congregations, the engaged laity with highly networked women backed by many priests and some bishops -- was the only entity in the world loyal enough to the council, energetic and imaginative enough, educated and organized enough, wealthy and capable enough to challenge his pontificate’s intention to undermine Vatican II reforms and reimpose a top-down rule.

Certainly, American hubris to think that we were worthy of being considered a threat to Rome. Indeed! A bunch of empty-headed laity watching Jerry Springer and a few gray-headed nuns in polyester blazers (who have been preoccupied in the last two decades by the daunting task of selling off all those hospitals, empty convents, and unstaffable schools because somehow young women aren't willing to make a lifetime commitment to political activism, pagan goddess worship, and capital-P Progress as they were willing to take the habit, pray the office, and assume a life of performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy (instead of just lobbying someone else for them). Americans could never be regarded as a threat, and neither should the "renewed" women's congregations the vast majority of whose members have gone from running retirement homes to lobbying for them (or more often occupying them). None of this, however, reflects on those institutes which haven't "kicked the habit" and are still laboring in the vinyard instead of lobbying at the court.

The Wojtyla-Ratzinger response to a mobilized U.S. Catholicism was fierce. Oust or demoralize the conciliar Catholics, in America and elsewhere. Appoint U.S. bishops more Roman than American. So by the 1990s we had the Wojtyla-Ratzinger duo piously dictating a revisionist Vatican II to a body of near-traumatized bishops reduced to a papal claque and demoralized senior bishops.

Umm, I don't think my bishop, Finn, is traumatized (although he should be when he reflects on the garbage being published in his own diocese by a paper that uses "Catholic" in its title. I don't think Chaput is traumatized. Nor Sheridan, nor Vasa, nor Burke, nor Doran, nor Olmstead (well, maybe Olmstead when he's went from a healthy see in Wichita to the Phoenix mess). Demoralized senior bishops? Well, that WOULD suit me. It's high time the elder members of the USCCB be a little demoralized.

The new model is a reclericalized church with little faith in the faithful, none of that sensus fidelium nonsense. Make the educated feel unwanted and unwelcome by reimposing pietistic nonsense and childish attention to ritualized minutiae (the birdie-bobbing heads at Communion?) and bingo! it’s the 19th century of blessed memory again. As a Wojtyla-Ratzinger Eurocentric and Euro-eccentric strategy, it’s successful; as a model of church, it’s pitiful.

Ok, Mr. Jones. Let's put together a 10 question, multiple choice quiz. If you're still in Kansas City, we can do this locally. I'll take it around to those awful rigid clericalized parishes—conservative novus ordo parishes and the Latin Mass communities and maybe into the netherworld of the SSPX chapel and maybe some of the smaller parishes that have "suffered" under new, stubbornly orthodox priests formed in the "Wojtyla-Ratzinger" mould, and you can take it to several notoriously progressive and open minded parishes. We'll find out just how they compare as far as education and mature understanding of the faith. I'll bet the birdie-bobbing heads can better articulate their faith than the people cueing up in the "breadline" at the "with-it" parishes.

And birdie bobbing heads? What about active participation in the Mass? Isn't head-bobbing active participation? Granted it's not as active as genuflecting or kneeling at communion. It looks silly, I admit—not like kneeling. But, I guess that's not your point. I take it that your point is we shouldn't just want Jesus (here a little head-bob, as I ape a rigid, power-hungry sexist young priest of the W-R regime who tips his biretta). Jesus (head-bob) isn't as important as feeding the poor is he? Jesus (head-bob) doesn't want any reverence to him until everyone in the country is well fed and has a "living wage" job and free health care and a free apartment (and a free conscience and free condoms), does he? My Douay Rheims has Matthew 26:1-13 and Mark 14:1-8, which seems to answer the question for me, anyways. Maybe that incident is told differently in your Ecumenical New Living Ungendered Text?

The Wojtyla-Ratzinger continuum doesn’t play only to empty pews. Hundreds of millions of heaven-bound Catholics just want Jesus. They stand in line and question nothing. As is their right. Others, more pugnacious, Catholics steadfastly loyal and questioning, rooted in their eucharistic communities and New Testament realities, remain to demand better from the institution. People of large heart and devotion still confidently demur from much the Vatican would impose. The New Yorker lately quoted one of the sillier little U.S. bishops saying such folks are Mass-going non-Catholics. Hey-ho! There are very few bishops in this country who can cast the first stone about anything. (Fear not, folks, it’s the memoirists, not the bishops’ obituary writers, who get the final word.)

And I'll let those "sillier little bishops" cast whatever stones they need to if they're smashing progressivist idols with them.

Numbers-wise, the U.S. church will initially comfortably crash-land on the backs of three generations of Vietnamese, Filipino and Latino immigrants, particularly the latter. Unless the immigrants’ descendants and the currently activist volunteers can bolster the center and hold the U.S. church to its mission to the poor, Catholicism risks being one more lockstep sect comforting the comfortable by operating their charity basket for them.

No, no, the Church will crash land on the backs of the large, fruitful traditional Catholic families who are not homeschooling the next generation of priests and religious (out of the reach of the new Catholic education establishment), and from whom even more large and faithful Catholic families will come. To the extent the new immigrants fit that profile, they will participate in the rebuilding. To the extent they don't, they'll contracept and worry themselves into oblivion like so many NCReporter readers are doing today.

The U.S. church’s current vibrant center is those young Catholics who flesh out the Gospel and deepen their appreciation of the Jesus who began with the poor by serving the poor and continuing to demand systemic change. They and their involved and demanding parents and grandparents, and the supportive nuns and priests, they’re the candles -- soon to be relegated to backwaters in this new Dark Ages.

Or else the vibrant center those young Catholics who are being raised in large, traditional families, who learn to share, to obey, to love, and to serve in the home, and who have been spared (through homeschooling or the occasional independent school that pops up), the poison that has seeped into the establishment Catholic schools.

Indeed the center cannot hold as a force for social good and betterment under the Wojtyla-Ratzinger continuum.

Let's hope the "center" doesn't hold. The middle ground, accommodationist, Americanist approach has failed here in the states and throughout the world, as Jones' beloved Pope Leo feared it would. There's no permanence, no stability in defining yourself between two points, for even if one is fixed, the other is moving God-knows-where. The Centrist is obliged always to move exactly halfway in the new direction. That's why good Catholics shouldn't call themselves "Conservatives" or "Centrists." Conservatism (sorry, Russell Kirk, you've lost control of the definition) and centrism still defines itself in in reference to the Zeitgeist, and the Zeitgeist is always moving, so the conservative or the centrist myst move along with in.

Catholicism in the public square? We’re into the era of the museum-ization of Catholicism. Tot up how much has been spent rehabbing a dozen or so U.S. Catholic cathedrals and shrines in the past decade and you’d be astonished: from the $25 million for Baltimore’s basilica to nearly $200 million for Los Angeles’ Spanish box. Public Catholicism is U.S. Catholicism as a tour bus destination.

Good point. I'd like have saved most of those Cathedrals from the shagging they just took, and I'd like to have seen that money spent elsewhere myself—or at least held onto until we return to an era of good taste and respect for our history and traditions. Think how many heterodox theology professors we could have pensioned off and put to pasture with that money !!!

Once, the Roman Catholic church was almost the universal signal for the progress of the peoples. The church in Brazil, through its Gospel-focused energy, could have shown the universal church how to live with the poor. The church in the United States could have become the universal church’s test case for dealing with the frontier of most developed nations; materialism and affluence, relativism and capitalism, rapid technological change, bioethical frontiers and declining social mores. The church in Asia has in its fiber the understanding of the interreligious cooperative spirit. The church in Africa could remind solemn, ponderous liturgists, who think Jesus spoke Latin, that Mass is about joy and Eucharist and thanksgiving and jubilant celebration in words people can understand.

Um, I think those stodgy folks now know that Jesus spoke Aramaic (and probably better Aramaic that Jim Caviesel (sp?) does). The most ponderous of them would probably trade the atmosphere and reverence of the patriarchal (Coptic) African church for the nonsensical atmosphere we endure these days at St. Backslapper's.

The Catholic institution today is so disoriented it can’t even repeat the best lessons of its own evangelizing past. The Irish missionaries like Columba and Drostan knew 1,500 years ago what to do. They looked for what was solid in the pagan stock and grafted Christianity on to it. (Think “inculturation.”)

Well, . . . . . . I made it further than Todd of Catholisensibility, but now I can't go on . . . .

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I'm busy worshipping the "Golden Calf of the Electric Chair"

In an exchange with Rocco of whispersintheloggia and Todd of catholicsensibility now on who should be a cardinal Follow the link the the September 8 post and comments...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Yeah, I owe a post.

Yeah, I need to post something. However, I've spent a lot of time in the comments sections of other blogs lately. Oh well.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Death Comes for the Archbishop

Furiously reading. I just started Helena, by Evelyn Waugh, having finished Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. I can't believe I got out of high school without reading that book. It was wonderful, especially for a book written by a Protestant. Obviously Cather didn't get the details of Catholic devotion, but she understood the big picture and did a pretty good rough sketch of what it means to be a faithful priest.

On top of that, the setting of Northern New Mexico was wonderful. Having spent a lot of time around Taos and Cimmaron and Santa Fe as a kid, it was a bit of a thrill to read about what those dusty holes we drove past were like a 150 years ago.

Someday, I'd like to read a little more about Archbishop Lamy. But now, I have Helena before me. After that, I think I'll change things up and read something contemporary--Richard Hitchens' book The Abolition of Britain. It comes highly recommended (at least for a modern journalistic-type book). I also want to read A Handful of Dust, the last major piece of Waugh fiction I haven't read, and then some Hillaire Belloc (but where to start there?)