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Friday, September 30, 2005

Tethys & Hyperion
A few pages at JPL worth checking out from Cassini's double flyby last weekend. Your choice of movies made from Hyperion images. The odd, irregular, tumbling moon looks like a sponge here, but that's just the illusion created by dark crater floors. Tethys looks like it partially melted then refroze. Check out this false color shot from less than 12,000 miles away. The same region as the human eye would see it. The photo captions explain briefly why the various false color shots are of interest to scientists. When I was a kid, I could name all of Saturn's nine--then ten moons, but the new list has outgrown my memory. Thirty-four moons have now been named, and more which have been discovered by Cassini await formal nomenclature. Here they are: Albiorix, Atlas, Calypso, Dione , Enceladus, Epimetheus, Erriapo, Helene, Hyperion, Iapetus, Ijiraq, Janus, Kiviuq, Methone, Mimas, Mundilfari, Narvi, Paaliaq, Pallene, Pan, Pandora, Phoebe, Polydeuces, Prometheus, Rhea, Siarnaq, Skadi, Suttung, Tarvos, Telesto, Tethys, Thrym, Titan and Ymir. Favorites, anyone?
The Dragons of Our Day A new Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, was installed at St John's Cathedral, Brisbane, on September 29. Here is an excerpt from his Installation Sermon, in part on Revelation 12 ("The great dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it"): Where, then, lurk the dragons of our day? What shape do they take? Where is the fire that consumes individuals, that destroys communities, that threatens goodness? Where are we deceived into choices that destroy? Well, their name is legion! There is that dragon called materialism which flies in company with its siblings, secularism and consumerism. This seduction would have us believe not only that life consists in the abundance of possessions but also that acquiring ever increasing volumes of things is both actually possible and good. Whereas the truth, according to one assessment, is that for everyone in the world to enjoy the same standard of living as is enjoyed in, say, Mosman in Sydney, we would need 7 planet earths to resource it. There is that dragon - instrumentalism - which would have us believe that human beings can be used or disposed of to achieve whatever ends seem desirable. This dragon has many lairs in the debates about abortion and euthanasia, reproductive technologies and stem cell research. It takes flight in company with the argument that because science can - it should. Whereas the truth is that careful and deep reflection on the honour due to human life is necessary in all these situations. The dragons of individualism and hedonism often take flight together. Where each individual becomes the centre, and that one’s pleasure becomes the yardstick, should we be surprised that isolationism and the fracturing of community are the offspring that soon spread their wings? ... [The "alternative vision" of Christianity] In a narcissistic culture we recognize that each person is created in the image of God. In an individualistic culture we recognize that we are called into relationships with God and with each other. In a hedonistic, consumerist culture we see that we find our lives by losing them and discover fulfillment by spending ourselves in service to God and others. In a culture sick from the abuse of power we see humility as virtue. In a fragmented world and church we affirm that we are reconciled across all divisions and boundaries. Paradoxically, this mature, thoughtful, humble, discerning spirituality is the weapon that pierces the dragons’ apparently impregnable amour. In fact, it already has. The struggle of the dragon to frustrate what is good and true reaches its climax on the cross. But it does not hold sway. The manner of Jesus Christ’s life and death, ‘by the blood of the Lamb’ as St John puts it, is the peculiar power by which the dragon has been conquered. Our vision of humanity born again, born from above, flows from that life. In fact the new vision was made flesh in Jesus Christ, a human life filled to the brim with heavenly life, divine life. This divine and human one fulfilled humanity’s upward reach in God’s downward stoop. Our part in the outworking of the struggle is to abide in Christ, to grow up into him. That is, to be so united with him and with each other that the shape and character of his life – his humility, reverence and service - flows into ours, making us his healing, reconciling presence in the world.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

If I Ran a Science Fiction Network
Bernard gave me food for thought on the last SF thread. He's right and I'm wrong there's absolutely no good SF on tv. Battlestar Galactica is better than average, though there's something about it that doesn't quite grab me. Maybe I have to be a regular viewer. I confess I've only seen about seven episodes. Good sf/fantasy tv-movie treatments I've seen recently on that network or elsewhere: A Wrinkle in Time, The Lathe of Heaven, Dune, and Gormenghast. Most of what is programmed for film on SciFi is ubertrashy. I would love to see an established sf writer or two or three be recruited to write two to four shows. I think Kevin Anderson would do a good job; his books read like movies. And his Seven Suns Saga, though not top-shelf literature, is excellently plotted and characterized. (I recommend it.) I avoid spin-off lit on moral principles, so I don't know how his Star Wars and Dune stuff is. Connie Willis is another sharp writer who could write for film. I loved her first novel Lincoln's Dreams (reviewed here). Certainly her award-winning Doomsday Book would be a worthy film effort. I think the SciFi channel should eschew the lame title and go with what fans like: SF. (No serious SF person refers to it as SciFi. Not one.) I think they could produce some good science shows. I remember a good number of interesting things (like this) on TLC or the Discovery Channel before they went true crime. I think they could take a stab at film versions of famous SF novels more regularly than the fourth sequel to Anaconda.
Moving Beyond Baby Food to a Balanced Diet
Picking up on a comment below about fruit cultivation ... Just returned from the annual diocesan retreat day given for clergy and lay staff and co-sponsored by the Center and the Priestly Life & Ministry Office. A good speaker and good reflection time on the Eucharist, especially this passage coming up Sunday: Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. About four items caught my eye and ear in this passage, but the focus, "think about these things," namely, the excellent and the praiseworthy brought me back to last night's meeting and the general tenor of strife around St Blog's. The extremes of bitterness, satire, holding grudges, rejoicing in others' misfortune, and other aspects are hardly associated with truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, or grace. And I think many of us, in our heart of hearts, realize this. We have been unable to hear and see directly in the apostle Paul what he did nineteen-plus centuries ago. But I think there's enough meat in his letters to discern that the best example of living the faith comes not from the ordinary layers of life, but from the extraordinary level of the saints. And certainly an adult level or saintly level of faith will require substantial nourishment, no doubt something more varied than one-crop agriculture. Or as I confided in a friend today, maybe it's time the laity of this diocese realized we don't need a bishop or a diocesan office any more to cultivate faith and theology in the next generation. We have the Scriptural and saintly resources to spread the authentic Christ-centered Good News and we require neither a particular ideology nor a budget to accomplish what we are called to do. Bishop Finn's praise of New Wine and its graduates is practically an endorsement for anything we can effect outside of a budgetary domain. And that's a good thing, don't you think?
"The Bishop Wants an Apple Orchard"
The diocese held its first of three information gathering sessions for the adult formation task force. It felt like St Blog's Live, though with a 60-40 prog tilt rather than 25-75. Some people said some articulate things. Some people said some silly or irrelevant things. Both sides of the Great Divide said things for each camp. The articulate/irrelevant camps, that is. Not much was said in terms of bridging any of these camps or expressing true catholicism, as opposed to one's own brand of orthodoxy. I left at half-time to go grocery shopping. But I did turn in my four page survey with three pages of Apostolicam Actuositatem tacked on the end. New Wine was compared to an orange grove. The bishop wants apples now. He's the king because Jesus established a hierarchy, so there you have it. Not one of the better moments of the night, and that came from a diocesan official I respect. Other people complained about various things (keep in mind this is adult formation information gathering): not being able to find the tabernacle, no consultation, too many divorces, I-was-starting-New-Wine-and-now-I-have-nothing-to-do, etc.. Today is the retreat day for the parish staffs of the diocese. I might suggest what I was too bothered to suggest last night: The bishop is in charge. If we disagree and he insists, we have no power to do anything about it. (My 12 Steps kick in here.) If New Wine has indeed prepared the laity of the diocese so well, why don't we cultivate an orange grove after picking apples? Do lay people need a diocese to take initiative for them? Personally speaking, I would be pleased and honored to teach and mentor the next wave of lay ministers. I received a good education and I'm more than willing to "give back." More later.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Homosexuality and the Priesthood “Homosexuals, even those who are celibate, will be barred from becoming Roman Catholic priests under stricter rules soon to be released,” the newspapers tell us. (Perhaps it has already happened as you read this.) I’m sure that my two or three readers will differ about the wisdom of such a ruling. A single statistic is often quoted: among the 10,667 individuals who alleged they were abused by a priest between 1950 and 2002, 81 percent were male. I do not know how to interpret that number – whether it tells us something about homosexuality, certain forms of repressed homosexuality, a more general sexual immaturity, the inexact reporting of sexual abuse, or that priests simply had more access to boys than girls. Perhaps an unmentionable sin was more psychologically reconcilable with outward celibacy than openly proscribed forms of sex. Furthermore, I do not know how the Vatican actually makes decisions, or whether, as John Allen suggests, “although Vatican officials will never say so out loud, few actually expect those rules to be upheld in all cases.” I want to ask a different question: If celibate homosexuals are barred from becoming Roman Catholic priests, what will be lost? According to Catholic teaching, homosexual acts cannot be approved. To the Church, homosexual persons are instead called “to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (CCC no. 2358). The CDF’s 1986 letter, Homosexualitatis Problema, elaborates, “Fundamentally, [homosexuals] are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption.” This “denial of self” is not really altogether different than the self-denial required of heterosexual Christians, since Jesus does say to all, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:39). But this particular spiritual counsel should serve to remind us that when we speak of homosexuality, we are very directly talking about a theology of the Cross. We must avoid speaking of homosexuality in such a way that, as the Jesuit Paul Crowley writes (in an article to which I am very indebted), “the Cross becomes a symbol of existential imprisonment in a condition not of one’s choosing.” This means that homosexuals should not imagine that they are counseled to a desperate flight from the pathologies of self or nature – a renunciation that Fr Crowley ultimately calls “an act of sheer will, hope against hope, which can only dissolve into hopelessness.” Indeed, as Frs Stephen Rossetti and Gerald D. Coleman, SS, have reminded us, the Catechism says that “Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being," and “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity” (CCC no. 2392-2393). They go on, “We would add that the person who embraces a commitment to celibacy in order to run away from homosexual feelings is a ticking bomb that will soon explode.” Likewise, a 1997 article in L’Osservatore Romano by Dr Gianfrancesco Zuanazzi counsels that “repression with the resulting ambiguities of behaviour must be avoided.” Sexual renunciation as a form of repressive loathing would, after all, leave us with a Cross promising only the hopeless romanticism of self-destruction (perhaps that “delighting in self-abasement” of Col 2:18). But, as the late Cardinal Basil Hume has written, “The church does not consider the whole personality and character of the [homosexual] individual to be thereby disordered. Homosexual people, as well as heterosexual people, can and often do give a fine example of friendship and the art of chaste loving” [Origins 4.27.1995]. If the “acknowledgment and acceptance” of a homosexual orientation is not a sad commitment to tragedy, what would it look like? We must begin with the Lord’s Cross. Fr Crowley first notes that the suffering and self-sacrifice of the Cross is not an end in itself. Karl Rahner writes that one is a Christian “only if he believes that everything positive and beautiful and everything which blossoms has to pass through what we call death.” One does not head towards death but through it. Second, the suffering and the self-sacrifice of the Cross must be a response to God’s gracious initiative. Rahner tells us to remember the Eucharist, where we discover God’s boundless love and find ourselves dwelling more and more in Christ, and then being drawn “ever more deeply also into the mystery of the Cross of Christ” so that “Christ’s sufferings flow over to us together with grace.” Third, the Cross is not only (or mostly) an individual combat with the flesh, but is also a giving and receiving of divine empathy, for Christ, in communion with the Father, “took on all forms of human suffering, including the burden of the sin of the world, endured them himself and redeemed them.” These characteristics, marks of a “path to joy,” must distinguish the sexual renunciation of a homosexual Catholic. What would then be lost in a world without gay priests? We would lose this distinct witness of a cruciform existence. The authentic celibacy of the gay priest, in the face of promiscuity or repression, teaches a world deeply afraid of any sign of powerlessness or defeat that “we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom 8:17). When we would think that we only encounter Christ in gloriousness and vitality, the gay priest reminds us that the presence of Christ comes with the constancy of affliction. And the sexual renunciation of the gay priest should teach us empathy – in Cardinal Hume’s words, “a fine example of friendship and the art of chaste loving,” agape in a world of eros. In a post-Scandal time of ecclesial self-interest and defensiveness, inevitably preoccupied with the recovery of power, lost glory, and longed-for visions of clarity and certitude, we might especially need the intensity of the homosexual testimony to the self-emptying of Christ. These are a few very, very quick thoughts. Please let me know what you think.
AA11: On Marriage and Family
In AA 11, the Church reiterates its teaching that marriage and the family unit form both the "the beginning and basis" of society. As Paul advised the Ephesians, Christ has blessed it in a unique way, serving as metaphor for the realities of both God and Church, but it is also being upheld as a holy institution to itself.

Christian husbands and wives are cooperators in grace and witnesses of faith for each other, their children, and all others in their household. They are the first to communicate the faith to their children and to educate them by word and example for the Christian and apostolic life. They prudently help them in the choice of their vocation and carefully promote any sacred vocation which they may discern in them.

That said, I guess there are other vocations, but I think we can give AA a pass on the incongruity of heaping praise on marriage and family only to suggest it is a spawning ground for other (higher, holier?) callings.

A list for spouses follows:

- to manifest and prove by their own way of life the indissolubility and sacredness of the marriage bond

- strenuously to affirm the right and duty of parents and guardians to educate children in a Christian manner

- to defend the dignity and lawful autonomy of the family.

Government has a list, too, for the needs of families:

- housing

- the education of children

- working conditions

- social security

- taxes

- safeguarding the right of migrants to live together as a family

Another mention of liturgy:

This mission-to be the first and vital cell of society-the family has received from God. It will fulfill this mission if it appears as the domestic sanctuary of the Church by reason of the mutual affection of its members and the prayer that they offer to God in common, if the whole family makes itself a part of the liturgical worship of the Church, and if it provides active hospitality and promotes justice and other good works for the service of all (those) in need.

A substantial list of activities within the family apostolate:

- the adoption of abandoned infants (what about older kids, too?)

- hospitality to strangers (refugees, immigrants, etc. and their families)

- assistance in the operation of schools (not just Catholic schools, but public schools, too)

- helpful advice and material assistance for adolescents (material assistance ...?)

- help to engaged couples in preparing themselves better for marriage (not for priests only)

- catechetical work

- support of married couples and families involved in material and moral crises

- help for the aged not only by providing them with the necessities of life but also by obtaining for them a fair share of the benefits of an expanding economy.

Justice advocacy, too. Nice.

At all times and places but particularly in areas where the first seeds of the Gospel are being sown, or where the Church is just beginning, or is involved in some serious difficulty, Christian families can give effective testimony to Christ before the world by remaining faithful to the Gospel and by providing a model of Christian marriage through their whole way of life. To facilitate the attainment of the goals of their apostolate, it can be useful for families to be brought together into groups.

Last bite sounds like a village to me.

What do you think?


Recovery: Something Difficult
The bishops are feeling the heat. NPR gives us a story on Levada from his Portland days that dogs him still. Apparently, diocesan lawyers tried to blame the mother of a seminarian's love child because she didn't practice contraception. It is whispered that Cardinal Rigali got a dressing down from his clergy last night, including a moral theologian. I googled this site, which naturally focuses on other people, mostly laity, who have lost their sense of sin. It is society's "sin of the century," and that may well be true. Recently on the home front, our diocesan vicar general mentioned the "loss of a sense of sin." He strikes me as wise enough to see it all around, not just manifesting itself as logs in lay eyes. Rock reported: "You seem to stress intention. You try to claim there was never a wrong intention," the priest reportedly told Rigali. But from a Catholic moral perspective, he said, the "horrific" outcomes of Krol's and Bevilacqua's cover-up vastly outweigh their efforts to protect the archdiocese from scandal. "The people are not interested in intentions," he told the cardinal. Some clergy seem to have the notion that a sense of sin is as utilitarian as a bottle opener. It's there, fully formed and ready to go; just fetch it from the kitchen drawer. "You open your beer with your teeth? No wonder your dentist loves you. Why don't you get your opener from the kitchen?" Like most people actually ever had a sense of sin developed to the point where they can just open the drawer, get it out, and use it ... like a tool. AA has it right, in the core of the Twelve Steps, the best non-Catholic plan for Reconciliation ever devised: 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. If the bishops have misplaced their drawer, these steps to recover it might be well advised. One makes a fearless moral inventory with the expectation of finding something. That's why it's called a search. Rigali's priests are right. The hierarchy should make a moral inventory with the intent that something will be found. And once it's found, it should be confessed. And then there are still five more steps to go, based on the assumption that people find it somewhat harder to change than they find opening a bottle: get ready to be changed, ask to change, make a list, make amends, then repeat steps four through nine as necessary. As a parent, I worry about teaching my daughter an appropriate sense of sin. When I do something wrong to a family member, I apologize. I have apologized to my daughter for losing my temper, for yelling, for forgetting something important to her ... things she can understand. When she has done something wrong, I believe the sincerity of her words, "I'm sorry, Dad," because I think (and hope) she appreciates the sincerity I attempt when I have wronged her. I don't have any better way of getting the message across; I hope it's enough. I don't enjoy seeing the bishops squirm. But they have to set an example above reproach. We need to see an example from them that is difficult and demanding. An example that most people might be unable, or at least leery of following. The inventory they conduct should run on the assumption that there is something to find in church bureaucracy that demands reform, repentance, and renewal. And if there is a sense of sin to be recovered, somebody has to do more than tell us what to do. The role of the bishop is to show us how to do it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

So Articulate
I love third graders. I especially love my daughter. Innocent still, yet able to speak wisdom. The other week, Brittany shared this gem:
I'm not a woman yet, but I am a young lady.

AA 9 & 10: "The Various Fields of the Apostolate"
Chapter 3 of AA (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Vatican II) leads off with this: The laity carry out their manifold apostolate both in the Church and in the world. In both areas there are various opportunities for apostolic activity. We wish to list here the more important fields of action, namely, church communities, the family, youth, the social milieu, and national and international levels. Since in our times women have an ever more active share in the whole life of society, it is very important that they participate more widely also in the various fields of the Church's apostolate. It's the lay apostolate, not a lay version of a priestly apostolate. This list isn't meant to be exhaustive or exclusive. And the nod to the more active role of women in larger society. AA 10 notes: As sharers in the role of Christ as priest, prophet, and king, the laity have their work cut out for them in the life and activity of the Church. And the Vatican bishops acknowledge also that it forms an effective complement to the work of pastors, citing the New Testament: Their activity is so necessary within the Church communities that without it the apostolate of the pastors is often unable to achieve its full effectiveness. In the manner of the men and women who helped Paul in spreading the Gospel (cf. Acts 18:18, 26; Rom. 16:3) the laity with the right apostolic attitude supply what is lacking to their brethren and refresh the spirit of pastors and of the rest of the faithful (cf. 1 Cor. 16:17-18). The liturgist in me smiles at yet another mention of active participation, and that liturgical prayer provides a necessary nourishment and foundation for the life of the parish: Strengthened by active participation in the liturgical life of their community, they are eager to do their share of the apostolic works of that community. AA 10 continues, citing the special insights of lay evangelization (They bring to the Church people who perhaps are far removed from it), "cooperation" in catechesis, and in both pastoral and material administration (offer(ing) their special skills to make the care of souls and the administration of the temporalities of the Church more efficient and effective). The parish is upheld as the community par excellence for Catholics, especially in the way it "brings together the many human differences within its boundaries and merges them into the universality of the Church." The parish provides the opportunity to work with the clergy, but the parish is also the place in which people bring "their own and the world's problems as well as questions concerning human salvation, all of which they should examine and resolve by deliberating in common." Is the parish wise to tread into endeavors such as 12-Step groups, fitness classes, and discussion groups? It would seem so. AA's vision of parish life would not necessarily be to limit adult ed to a speaker on stem cell research or just war (for example) but to invite an active discussion on such issues, particularly the prudential ones, which might still ask of us that personal examination and resolution--at least on the parish level. As far as possible the laity ought to provide helpful collaboration for every apostolic and missionary undertaking sponsored by their local parish.

"Every" undertaking? Every one? Hmm.

AA 10 also suggests for lay people - an "ever-increasing appreciation" of the diocese - cooperation in cities and rural areas, even across parish or diocesan boundaries - involvement in national-level and international apostolates This is constantly becoming all the more necessary because the daily increase in mobility of populations, reciprocal relationships, and means of communication no longer allow any sector of society to remain closed in upon itself. Thus they should be concerned about the needs of the people of God dispersed throughout the world. They should especially make missionary activity their own by giving material or even personal assistance. It is a duty and honor for Christians to return to God a part of the good things that they receive from Him. I worry that many parishes have lost (or have never gained) an appreciation for this wide-reaching sense of ministry or apostolate. Even today, parishes have remained very parochial, thanks to the emphasis on school identification, sports competitions, or even a competitiveness amongst neighboring pastors. Thoughts?
SF for the Uninitiated
Frequent guest Brigid asked about Dune when her turn at the SF author quiz turned up that tome's creator, Frank Herbert. On occasion I run across someone nearly or totally uninitiated to the world of science fiction and they ask about one book or another. Every SF fan will tell you something different, tilted by her or his own tastes, but if I were to put you on the track of science fiction, here's where your spanking new anti-grav hoverwheels might begin ... (Note: I'm not going to bother linking these authors or books; you have google or amazon and can probably find them yourself.) Asimov is a utilitarian writer. If you can imagine big ideas without tons of description, you might like him. His robot mysteries, especially Caves of Steel, are good. Every SF fan has read the original Foundation trilogy, the first two books of which were published as shorter works before being combined by his publisher. Robert Heinlein can be testy if you're not a libertarian. My favorite of his books is The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, which won the 1966 Hugo for best SF novel. Arthur C. Clarke rounds out the "Big Three," and an unofficial web site pins this accurate description on him: "At the heart of every Arthur C. Clarke novel lies a small puzzle with large ramifications. He is an author who takes an idea and drops it into a quiet pool of thought. There's a splash - that's the intriguing nature of Clarke's scientific genius. Then the ripples spread out, washing up on character, society, soaking the whole book in wonder. He's a science fiction writer whose imaginings reverberate outside the realm of fiction." That said, I can't recommend any of his novels above the others, though his collaboration with Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey is worthy. His short story "The Star" might be of interest to St Blog's readers. After the "Big Three" you have the killer B's: Benford, Brin and Bear. Three science guys with Big Ideas who just happen to be good writers, too. Brin is my favorite of the three for characterization and an optimistic bent. Brin wrote a good mystery Sundiver, a great fantasy, The Practice Effect, but my favorite is his award-winning Startide Rising. My favorite Bear novel is Moving Mars. These are sf/fantasy novels somewhat off the beaten path (non-feature film material) I've read that were significant (or that I just remember) and that unlike most sf tv, are not weird: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore Lost Horizon by James Hilton (ok, well, the only good film version is over sixty years old) The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (and his Mars trilogy is great, too) Alas Babylon by Pat Frank The Forever War by Joe Haldeman A Case of Conscience by James Blish A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes The Chrysalids by John Wyndham I will tell you that this year, there is no good sf on television. None whatsoever. If you must watch tv, watch non-sf instead.
Christian Paideia This is from a sermon preached by the Rev Dr Nicholas Sagovsky, Canon of Westminster Abbey, at Matins on August 28. The main text was Revelation 3:14-end. Dr Sagovsky, I might mention, is also an Anglican member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. The advice to the church is put in terms they can understand: what they need is to go to the right bank, to buy the right clothes, and to use the right ointment: 'Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see' (Rev 3:18). In western society, where three of our major preoccupations are the security of the banking system, shopping till we drop - think only of the row this week about imported clothes from China not reaching the shops in time for the Christmas rush - and the immediate provision of healthcare, this is talking our language. Then comes a very striking sentence: 'I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest therefore, and repent' (Rev 3:19). The overall context is clear: this is how the Lord deals with believers who have become spiritually complacent: one word is negative and one word is positive. The Lord shows them, sometimes very painfully, where they are in error and then he teaches them what Paul calls 'a better way'; he puts them down and he builds them up. This is exactly the strategy in this letter: first, it strips away the smugness and self-satisfaction of the Laodiceans, exposing their fundamental spiritual poverty, then it offers riches beyond anything they could have dreamt of; literally, the riches of a new mind (for that is what 'repentance' really means). But the riches Jeus offers can only be given to those who search for them in earnest; never to the lukewarm: 'The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it' (Mt 13:45). 'I reprove and discipline those whom I love.' In this one sentence we catch an echo of themes that are worked out in much greater detail in the Epistle to the Hebrews: 'Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?' (Heb 12:7). In Hebrews, the allusion to the Book of Proverbs is clear. Proverbs is quoted: My child, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Prov 3:11-12) The word that comes back again and again as 'discipline' in the Epistle to the Hebrews and in the Greek text of Proverbs, and in Greek literature, is the word paideia, about which a great deal was written in the ancient world. Paideia is the word for everything that is good in the treatment of children. It is education and discipline rolled into one. In Proverbs, and in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the context is that of the relationship between a loving father and the son who learns from his father. Paideia is the way a loving parent trains a naughty child. It is the way God educates and trains his lukewarm people, putting them down (think of their Exile) and building them up (think of their Return). In the secular world, paideia was what schoolmasters offered to children and philosophers to adults: training in life-skills, especially, of course, training in virtue. This is why learning to be a Christian was seen by the early Church as true paideia.
Creeds Compared
Rock posted the latest ICEL incarnation of the Creed. Compare to the authentic Latin version on the left. Maybe you'd like to take your own crack at translating it. Who knows? ICEL may give you a call. I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father: through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, (At the following words, up to and including and became man, all bow.) and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. Crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried. And rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life: who proceeds from the Father and the Son, with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. And in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. Compare it to draft 1, what went to the English-speaking bishops last year, as leaked by an Australian news agency: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, born of the Father before time began. God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father: through whom all things were made. Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, (At the following words, up to and including and became man, all bow.) and by the Holy Spirit became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. Crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life: who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. I can imagine the nitpicking that went on about what to do with and's, who thought "consubstantialem" is or isn't a direct translation of "consubstantial," and that the feminists would be heartened to find the Holy Spirit is no longer "He," but we're still going to translate "homo" just the same as we'd do with "vir." Just for spite, eh? Whatever final English version that emerges has some obstacles. Permit your favorite parish liturgist to make some suggestions for implementation: This would be a good time to get people to sing it. If they have to learn music, they'll have to learn the new words along with it, and I suspect that for singing congregations, the alterations will go down easier if there's music to go with it. Maybe the USCCB could commission about a half-dozen good composers to give us public domain music any parish could copy and use. The alternative is that people will trip up over the seemingly innocent placement of articles, not necessarily words like "consubstantial." Some people want the bow at the incarnation enforced? I'd be happy if the laity don't adopt another favorite liturgical gesture ... arms crossed in front of them and unmoving lips.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Burden of the Gospels The following, from Wendell Berry's forthcoming The Way of Ignorance: And Other Essays, is an excerpt of an excerpt published in the September 20, 2005 issue of The Christian Century: I think Jesus recommended the Samaritan's loving-kindness, what certain older writers called "holy living," simply as a matter of propriety, for the Samaritan was living in what Jesus understood to be a holy world. The foreground of the Gospels is occupied by human beings and the issues of their connection to one another and to God. But there is a background, and the background more often than not is the world in the best sense of the word, the world as made, approved, loved, sustained and finally redeemable by God. Much of the action and the talk of the Gospels takes place outdoors: on mountainsides, lakeshores, riverbanks, in fields and pastures, places populated not only by humans but by animals and plants, both domestic and wild. And these nonhuman creatures, sheep and lilies and birds, are always represented as worthy of, or as flourishing within, the love and the care of God. To know what to make of this, we need to look back to the Old Testament, to Genesis, to the Psalms, to the preoccupation with the relation of the Israelites to their land that runs through the whole lineage of the prophets. Through all this, much is implied or taken for granted. In only two places that I remember is the always implicit relation—the practical or working relation—of God to the creation plainly stated. Psalm 104:30, addressing God and speaking of the creatures, says, "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created . . ." And, as if in response, Elihu says to Job (34:14-15) that if God "gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together . . ." I have cut Elihu's sentence a little short so as to leave the emphasis on the phrase "all flesh." Those also are verses that don't require interpretation, but I want to stretch them out in paraphrase just to make as plain as possible my reason for quoting them. They are saying that not just humans but all creatures live by participating in the life of God, by partaking of his Spirit and breathing his breath. And so the Samaritan reaches out in love to help his enemy, breaking all the customary boundaries, because he has clearly seen in his enemy not only a neighbor, not only a fellow human or a fellow creature, but a fellow sharer in the life of God.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Church as Hobby
Frequent visitor Fred asked me what I thought of Anthony Esolen's piece in Crisis. Fred wrote, "I liked the beginning, but felt that the conclusion was a bit overstated." That was exactly my take on it. Esolen does well for the first third to half of the artcile--how much time it takes him to set up his point. Then he blunders into a diatribe about everything he doesn't like in the Church, apparently with a seeing eye into the hearts of people who wear pink or who golf on Sundays. The good stuff first: The Church is a gift from God. Grace is the source of human success, not our own efforts. Pride is a stumbling block for us and always has been. People try to control God rather than be guided by Him. The Old Testament is rife with examples of the Israelites "not getting it." Getting around to liturgy, Esolen writes: The worship of God is not, as politics justly is, a human work. To understand that the Church and its liturgy are given to us, says Benedict, is to carve out a legitimate and relatively free arena for politics, while providing for it what it cannot provide for itself, namely, a justification of its fundamental assumptions. But to consider Church and liturgy as man's work is to corrupt one's worship, subtly making it into a way to gain whatever earthly goods one may desire. I think it's important not to slip away from the notion that liturgy is wholly a descent of things from above. Esolen is aware that liturgy involves "... gifts we offer (God) in sacrifice" (Eucharistic Prayer I) and that the same prayer involves our petition to join the community of saints with the acknowledgement that though we don't deserve it, we ask for it all the same. Liturgical chutzpah. Esolen is right to say there's always the bootstrap trap: I can do it myself! But Esolen misconstrues the better of his opponents arguments, stating that the "incessant discussion" for women's ordination is based on human polity, rather than an honest willingness to discern God's will. Esolen tales the front end of his article to lay down his point: The clergy and laymen who cause the most harm in our Church right now are not those few who think of the Church as a powerful job. They are those, and their name is Legion, who think of the Church as a delightful and self-fulfilling hobby. And then he loses it, drawing extreme caricatures of Catholics: "Sashaying choristers with frilly robes, ... (s)oloists, under a tingly spotlight, crooning into the microphone and writhing for emphasis," and describing a scene I've never come across in thirty-five years: a "crooner often displays other parts of her body in more urgent need of cover." Esolen's Church is populated by "(r)ows and rows of the finest virtuosos, of lectors and lectresses, the Everyday Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, the Liturgical Commissars, Commissars of Religious Education, the Financial Commissar, the Grand Imperial Mystic Wizards of the Parish Council, and, thank God for one person who actually does work that is humble, unnoticed, and quite necessary, the janitor." Esolen goes on to praise those "who do their work unobtrusively and humbly, aware that they are not worthy of doing it, and praying that they will perform it in such a way as to help lead some soul to God, or at least not get in that soul's way." The writer ruins an otherwise good point about the meaning of lay ministry and church involvement with people who seem to bother him to the point that he inflates their sins to the size of logs in his mind. There's no point in denying that human beings get in the way of God in Church. They take matters into their own hands. Sometimes, it's out of ignorance, and other times it involves a lack of trust in God ("Somebody'd better do something, and it looks like it's gotta be me.") and occasionally it involves a degree of malice. We've known and seen all of those folks. When the fathers of Vatican II called for a renewed appreciation for the laity and their more energetic participation in the Church, they ... meant, as our Holy Father Benedict has insisted, that the laity should assume the responsibilities of adults in the Faith: fully committed to it and ready to evangelize, to bring Christ where it is inconvenient or difficult for the priest to go—to the oil derrick, down the mine, into the hospital ward, into the chambers of a party meeting, at a city council table. That would be to recognize the charism of the laity, to honor the distinction between church and the secular order, and to affirm that the secular order's health can be restored only in Christ. Good try, but no. The italicized phrase would be a problem. The lay apostolate is not dependent on "where it is inconvenient or difficult for the priest to go," but on the call of baptism. Priests can theoretically serve in public office, run governments and businesses, etc., but it is not appropriate for them to do so. They can also proclaim non-gospel Scriptures, serve as godparents, or bring up the gifts at Sunday Mass, but it is not their role in the Church. Esolen finally lost my attention with "The Church hobbyist contracts the sphere of the Church to the space within the building's walls, and then makes that space as amenable to himself as he can," followed by a long narrative on golfing. Some hobbyists have gone to seminary and involved themselves in their hobby to the exclusion of work. And many lay people, too. The lay apostolate, whether it is a full-time life's endeavor, or a "hobby" of sorts, demands certain qualities: - Sacrifice - Emotional maturity - An ability to let go - A deep and fulfilling spiritual life - Openmindedness, especially with people - A thirst for knowledge - The ability and willingness to mentor others to take over And lots of other items, most prominently, and attitude of faith, hope, and love in wading through these and other unlisted qualities. The scantily-dressed crooner of Esolen's imagination is a caricature of all that is wrong with the Church, starting not with the top of the parish heap, but the worst of the world's bishops and moving down from there. But behind every caricature, Esolen's, yours, mine, is a human person who has been called by God, and who is in need of steering to keep to the path of grace. It might well be that Esolen's people really do exist, even though I've never met any quite as flashy as he describes, and no parish I can recall has ever been filled with "commissars." But like it or not, the incarnated Body of Christ is composed of very human, very flawed, very sinful parts. It is the mark of an unorthodox God that He sees fit to make use of commissars and crooners to get into our thick heads a message that lawgivers, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and his own Son have tried for ages to get across.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What SF Writer Am I?
So I'm this guy, by quiz. I even like his writing, though he is a bit of a pessimist.
AA8: The Thread of Charity

AA takes a broad approach to the virtue of charity, speaking, I think, along the broad Jewish notion of loving-kindness (hesed). The expression of charity is God's will, we read:

While every exercise of the apostolate should be motivated by charity, some works by their very nature can become specially vivid expressions of this charity. Christ the Lord wanted these works to be signs of His messianic mission.

Assuming human nature, (Christ) bound the whole human race to Himself as a family through a certain supernatural solidarity and established charity as the mark of His disciples, saying, "By this will all ... know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

Highest among the Church's apostolic priorities?

"... pity for the needy and the sick and works of charity and mutual aid intended to relieve human needs of every kind ..."

AA8 continues, teaching that technological advances in travel and communication, by bringing the world's poor close to us and we to them, puts them within the necessary orbit of our concern. In other words, now that we see them on the evening news (if not the infomercials), we are obliged to assist.

Wherever there are people in need of food and drink, clothing, housing, medicine, employment, education; wherever (people) lack the facilities necessary for living a truly human life or are afflicted with serious distress or illness or suffer exile or imprisonment, there Christian charity should seek them out and find them, console them with great solicitude, and help them with appropriate relief. This obligation is imposed above all upon every prosperous nation and person.

Opportunists need not apply: In order that the exercise of charity on this scale may be unexceptionable in appearance as well as in fact, it is altogether necessary that one should consider in one's neighbor the image of God in which he has been created, and also Christ the Lord to Whom is really offered whatever is given to a needy person. It is imperative also that the freedom and dignity of the person being helped be respected with the utmost consideration, that the purity of one's charitable intentions be not stained by seeking one's own advantage or by striving for domination, and especially that the demands of justice be satisfied lest the giving of what is due in justice be represented as the offering of a charitable gift. Not only the effects but also the causes of these ills must be removed and the help be given in such a way that the recipients may gradually be freed from dependence on outsiders and become self-sufficient.

A few comments here: 1. The expression of care should be "unexceptional." 2. The importance of upholding human dignity. 3. The striving for purity of motives. 4. This apostolate is more properly considered an expression of justice, not generosity. 5. The "teach to fish" approach is superior to the "feed a fish" approach.

Community building is clearly a vital portion of the lay apostolate, which flies in the face of those who might suggest that a simple expression of charity alone is all that is required. This is why I find it hard to fault political organizers in the third world, as many Catholics (and others) do. While I have no particular love for marxism, especially expressions of its philosophy that demean the human person, it is true that political corruption and excess in Latin America and Africa long predate the emergence of liberation theology. Some (though not all) liberation theology advocates may have been on the wrong track, but only rarely did their opponents have anything practical or substantive to offer as an alternative to develop personal independence and material self-sufficiency. AA8 concludes by stating that participation in charity as well as social assistance is needed:

Therefore, the laity should hold in high esteem and, according to their ability, aid the works of charity and projects for social assistance, whether public or private, including international programs whereby effective help is given to needy individuals and peoples. In so doing, they should cooperate with all (those) of good will.

Thoughts?


Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday is King
Some sparse trolling in St Blog's today after sleeping in, balancing the checkbook and dealing with some car insurance items, a few sudoku diversions, then a trip to the library and a Japanese restaurant with the family. Then "Family Movie Night." Brittany wanted to see Jumanji again (she and Anita watched it last night), which I thought I'd seen, but it turns out I had it confused with another movie. A little rough for a nine-year-old, but that's probably over-protective dad talking there. I have an appointment with another astronomy book in bed tonight. Hopefully Anita won't be staying up too late. Your prayers, if you would please, for my wife. She's had a rough week with one of her physical ailments and despite feeling better today, she had an alarming episode while driving us in pre-drive traffic on the interstate today. Back to work tomorrow, but it's been a good day off.

Pray for the Gulf Coast

The situation seems very urgent indeed. Bill Cork of Tischreden has evacuated ("Along the way, we had to come to grips with the reality of what could be facing us"). Many others are too poor to escape the storm.

O blessed Lord, you ministered to all who came to you: Look with compassion upon all who have been, or are facing, displacement and exile as a result of the turbulence brought about by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. May all of these people, children of your creation, know the warmth of your embrace and fullness of your love. Restore to them assurance of your unfailing mercy; remove from them the fear, anxiety and loneliness that is experienced; strengthen them in spirit, hope and faith; and to those who care and provide for them, give patience, compassion, strength, care and love. Amen.

[adapted from the BCP; from The Rt. Rev’d D. Bruce MacPherson, Episcopal Bishop of Western Louisiana ]

O God, you divided the waters of chaos at creation. In Christ you stilled storms, raised the dead, and vanquished demonic powers. Tame the water, wind, and fire, and all the forces that defy control or shock us by their fury. Keep us from calling disaster your justice. Help us, in good times and in distress, to trust your mercy and yield to your power, this day and for ever. Amen.

[United Methodist Book of Worship #509]


Thursday, September 22, 2005

What is Lay Spirituality? I hope that you’ve been reading Todd’s commentary on Apostolicam Actuositatem. Towards the end of the first chapter, the decree tells us that “the spiritual life of the laity should take its particular character from their married or family state or their single or widowed state, from their state of health, and from their professional and social activity.” Todd writes, “I can't help but think that a thorough and expansive lay exploration of authentic lay spirituality is needed.” I can only provide a hint of a hint (of a hint) of what such a lay spirituality might look like, drawing from a recent article on Caravaggio by Fr Thomas J. McElligott. Fr McElligott draws our attention to three paintings. The first is The Supper at Emmaus (1601). While an innkeeper stares at Jesus as though nothing were out of the ordinary in just another seventeenth century Roman tavern, we are drawn into the recognition of the Risen Christ by the gestures of the disciples. The one at the left pulls his chair out of the frame of the painting towards us. The disciple at the right has his arms in a cruciform pose, with his left hand reaching out of the picture through the “barrier between the world of art and the world of the viewer.” We find ourselves wanting to reach in to catch the “startlingly real” fruit basket lest it fall off the table. This is “participatory art,” or what the art historian Walter Friedlaender called “realistic mysticism.” We are meant to ask ourselves, “Would I have seen the miracle, too?” There is a “naturalness and intimacy” in the religious scene that suggests a “mystic devotion which gave each individual a direct and earthly contact with God and His mysteries” – the painting shows “a world in which the acts of every day are steeped in echoes of biblical reality.” It is the artistic counterpart to St Philip Neri’s popular approach to the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. This first supper at Emmaus asks us to respond to a Risen Christ who appears in the ordinary, flooded by light. A later Supper at Emmaus, though, was painted after Caravaggio had been exiled for killing a man in a fight and was left wondering about “the extreme price paid by those excluded from God’s grace.” Its Christ is older and sad, the meal is meager, a couple dressed in poor clothing is at Christ’s shoulder and it is the impoverished woman who holds the symbol of Passover. The disciples are much more restrained – the one on the left makes only a small gesture, and, as for the disciple on the right, “his straining neck and weather-beaten face hold back whatever emotions might want to express themselves.” We see the “dark brown, blue-green shadows” of the evening light. Caravaggio’s biographer, Helen Langdon, writes that this represents, “the true Emmaus, the slow revelation of the divine to the despairing disciples, sharing an early Christian meal of extreme simplicity. … Night falls, but the risen Christ, with the power to forgive sins, brings hope in the dark journey through this world.” This painting shows that we only slowly recognize the divine through dim light and in our weariness, humanity being as “gnarled and ruddy” as the hand of the right disciple that rests next to that of Jesus. From 1601-1605, Caravaggio painted The Death of the Virgin for the altarpiece of the church of Santa Maria della Scala in Trastevere in Rome (it was never installed, eventually to pass through the hands of Charles I and Louis XIV on the way to the Louvre). The Order of Discalced Carmelites had been given the church and they had a devotion to the Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Roger Hinks writes of Caravaggio, “He has asked himself what these people really looked like in their bereavement. Something tremendous, incomprehensible, had come into their lives – and gone out of it again, with the breath that had gone out of the wonderful woman they had loved and lost.” The women here are dressed in working clothing and the room is bare. A nearby copper basin suggests that Mary’s body is yet to be washed, and the apostles are struggling with grief, heads bowed, and hands shielding their faces from view. Unlike other depictions of the Dormition, Jesus is not conspicuously present here - one looks in vain for any heavenly choirs. Another historian writes, “Caravaggio was making the case for personal experience. The painting’s representation of a deceased woman surrounded by mourners was truer, and more deserving of belief, in his opinion, than the supernatural panoply required by tradition. He did not soften the blow.” This is not an expression of unbelief. The Apostle Paul stands out in distinction from the other disciples in the painting - “his mouth is open in wonder; his eyes are lifted in a kind of amazement while Peter’s are narrowed in puzzlement.” But we can only see what Paul sees after we first come to terms with the unavoidable body of the Virgin, “death as really a human death.” (For the theology of the death of the Virgin Mary, see here.) What does this have to do with lay spirituality? In a talk, Fr John Burchill, OP, claimed that the religious “freely chooses to center his/her whole personal existence on what is the essence of the Christian mystery, the highpoint of the Gospel experience. In Jesus the Risen Lord, God has given us the unique thing necessary. Next to this unique thing necessary, every other good, no matter how attractive or beautiful, finds itself relativised. So the religious center their entire existence on the perception of the absolute value of the Kingdom.” Of course, this should not be an unreal escapism, but rather the intense anticipation of the world to come – a witness to eschatological tension. Lay spirituality, on the other hand, is a sinking of roots into this world to show that it will be redeemed, that “God is transforming the world and us in the world, to redeem the world itself through our own graced efforts and the gift of self.” Perhaps, then, lay spirituality has much to do with seeing Jesus in the present ordinariness of a tavern, as a slow revelation “in the dark journey through this world,” and leading us to glory only through the cruel reality of death. The spirit of the Gospel does not always need supernatural panoply, only the willingness to risk finding Christ in even the dregs of what Apostolicam Actuositatem calls our “earthly pilgrimage.”
The Progressive Lay Apostolate
The lay apostolate, according to AA7, is progressive, meaning that the aim is no less than a continual improvement in the status quo: God's plan for the world is that men should work together to renew and constantly perfect the temporal order. Does that mean things always will get better? No. It means we should work in the world, as if we expect to move closer to "perfection." Note also how AA describes what we often refer to as the secular as the temporal. Upon reflection, I like the use of "temporal" better. It does not necessarily exclude the "sacred," and it opens us to the expectation of finding the "sacred" in unorthodox places. The "good things of life," namely, the "prosperity of the family, culture, economic matters, the arts and professions, the laws of the political community, international relations, and other matters of this kind, as well as their development and progress, not only aid in the attainment of man's ultimate goal but also possess their own intrinsic value." Progress is a value, according to Vatican II. We can be realistic about our expectations of making progress outside of the agency of God's grace, but all the same, we are called to strive for it. The "temporal order" is described as independent of the realm of the Church. The Church's role is to "perfect the temporal order in its own intrinsic strength and worth and puts it on a level with (the human) vocation upon earth." This sets the table for the role and involvement of the laity in the world. It is our role, not the bishop's or priest's to bring the "strength and worth" of God's grace to bear on the ordinary and extraordinary situations of family, culture, economics, the arts, work, law, and diplomacy. These things are to retain their independence as human activities, but should be infused with the spirit of those Christians who operate within these spheres. I remember much fussing about priests who held political office. I think I would agree with those who suggest it is not seemly for a cleric to serve the public in that way. AA is not blind to bumps in the road ahead: In the course of history, the use of temporal things has been marred by serious vices. Affected by original sin, men have frequently fallen into many errors concerning the true God, the nature of man, and the principles of the moral law. This has led to the corruption of morals and human institutions and not rarely to contempt for the human person himself. In our own time, moreover, those who have trusted excessively in the progress of the natural sciences and the technical arts have fallen into an idolatry of temporal things and have become their slaves rather than their masters.

Here also, lay people must take the lead in discerning when we have stepped off into the abyss of "slavery," rather than mastering science and technology as tools to achieve good ends, not the ends themselves.

The next paragraph states the role of the clergy: a supportive and educational one for the laity. But lay people are charged with the "renewal of the temporal order" as a "special obligation." This last bit of AA7 is good to read as a whole: Led by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church and motivated by Christian charity, they must act directly and in a definite way in the temporal sphere. As citizens they must cooperate with other citizens with their own particular skill and on their own responsibility. Everywhere and in all things they must seek the justice of God's kingdom. The temporal order must be renewed in such a way that, without detriment to its own proper laws, it may be brought into conformity with the higher principles of the Christian life and adapted to the shifting circumstances of time, place, and peoples. Preeminent among the works of this type of apostolate is that of Christian social action which the sacred synod desires to see extended to the whole temporal sphere, including culture. Note some key principles above: charity is our motivation, action is necessary, cooperation, justice, adaptation. And the most important: social justice infusing the entire breadth of the "temporal sphere." Thoughts?
The Importance of Identifying Pathologies
Not everybody agrees with me on this. But yesterday's report on Philadelphia priest sex abusers plus some commentary on the abusers who circumvented "orientation purity" of archdiocesan seminarians post-1988 probably supports my theory. 1. People who molest children or seduce adolescents possess a psycho-sexual pathology that surpasses (if not overpowers) their sexual orientation. 2. Such perpetrators are addicts. Perping is out of control. Their addiction is a powerful and irresistable brew combining sex and power. 3. The hierarchical nature of the Church tends to attract and support people addicted to power, regardless of their sexual orientation or their sexual acting out. 4. For a religious victim, there is no greater power to be wielded than over one's spiritual life. And for many, there is no more powerful spiritual figure than the parish priest. 5. Not only do addicts groom their victims, but they also groom their co-dependents. They use charm to con their friends, supporters, loved ones, peers, and superiors. There are no "uncharming" addicts, only creeps. And no one is safe from being charmed. Cardinal Bevilacqua is probably not a criminal. But he is probably a co-dependent dupe. 6. The suave ones are creeps, too, of course, but they cultivate an air that makes it easy to blind others to their dysfunction, their creep-dom, if you will. If you take the training materials of VIRTUS or other programs seriously, you will begin to recognize the signs of abusive behavior. Prefer an alternative? Fine. Go to Al-Anon. Listen to the stories and you'll get a bead on the creeps soon enough. 7. The much bally-hooed ban on homosexual seminarians is a diversion. No more. The Church has the power to do this, obviously, but it only diverts serious attention from the core problem. Not all priest perps are homosexual, but virtually all of them are power addicts who use sex and other inappropriate means to dominate and control their victims. Address the root addiction (power, not sex) and we'll see some action. If the institutions of the Church are serious about addressing the problem of sexual misbehavior and abuse, they will need to approach the problem from the viewpoint of addiction, not moral misbehavior. A ban on gay seminarians is laughable for sex perps. Real perps will charm their way past the admissions board, the seminary administration, their spiritual directors, their classmates, and their bishop. Be they gay or straight sex addicts, they will cultivate a surface appearance of charm and talent, leaving mostly admirers in their wake. Simple gay guys who have no sexual attraction to minors will either compromise their integrity or they will simply not apply. It would not surprise me to learn that sexual predators would be in favor of the ban on homosexuals, or actively supported it. Why? Addicts consider themselves above the rules. Such a ban would not apply to them anyway. The excitement of the "forbidden" is even intensified by such obstacles. Take it from a person who has a family of origin flush with booze and the effects thereof. None of the Church's sex or cover-up scandals shocks or surprises me. It hasn't for twenty years. And if we continue heading in the current direction, neither will it surprise me that the scandals will continue. And not only that, efforts to prevent future scandal will continue along the same co-dependent lines as today: allow ourselves to be charmed by the guilty so as to scapegoat the innocent. That is, unless Catholics collectively wake up and see the underweared emperor in our midst and call him out. I don't see a reasonable alternative.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

You Could Really Write A Symphony on This Theme
Follow this link for a great new shot of Saturn's rings. There's a good selection of videos, too. On site this week: a shoreline on Titan, spokes popping up from the rings, and this Friday's close encounter with Tethys. JPL even runs a kid's page with interesting items worth checking out.
From Australia, From the New World
I often link ABC Online (Australia) in my posts. I enjoy their programming, which is driven by a staff of radio professionals who are clearly serious about serious music, but also bring the disarming Australian qualities of friendliness, familiarity, and a definite lack of snobbery to their work. If any of you readers are looking for a deeper understanding of classical music, I'd recommend Graham Abbott's Keys to Music, which airs weekly in Australia Saturday mornings, but which is available for weeks afterward online. Last week he analyzed Dvorak's much loved ninth Symphony, "From the New World." It's worth a listen. Abbott is clearly a gifted teacher, and if you were ever at a loss as to what to listen for in classical music, I'd recommend his program highly. My first exposure to the piece was stumbling across a Sesame Street clip when I was young. They played the second movement while the camera was very close to what seemed like an orange planet. Slowly, the shot pulls back and you can imagine my disappointment to see an orange, not a planet in space. When my school newspaper polled favorite songs in 1969, my choice was the "Largo" from Dvorak's 9th. "Let It Be" beat it out. Easily. It is a myth that Dvorak used an actual spiritual. He didn't. One of his students penned the text, "Goin' Home" and applied it to the music. Dvorak listened to black and native American music, but his musical themes were all his own, influenced in this work by his Czech heritage and the music he heard in his "new world." He suggested American composers should listen to the native and folk music around them, there to find inspiration for an authentically American music. Great composers like Ellington, Bernstein, Gershwin, and Adams have achieved this. I think future American sacred music can develop in this way as well.
Definitions, Clarifications from AA6
Two definitions, for starters: The mission of the Church pertains to the salvation of men, which is to be achieved by belief in Christ and by His grace. The apostolate of the Church and of all its members is primarily designed to manifest Christ's message by words and deeds and to communicate His grace to the world. And a clarification: This is done mainly through the ministry of the Word and the sacraments, entrusted in a special way to the clergy, wherein the laity also have their very important roles to fulfill if they are to be "fellow workers for the truth" (3 John 8). It is especially on this level that the apostolate of the laity and the pastoral ministry are mutually complementary. People have their own take on what "mutually complementary" means. AA carefully makes the distinction of the "special" ministry of the Word and sacraments for the clergy, but lay people not only have "an" important role, but "their" important roles. What might these be? The very testimony of their Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have the power to draw men to belief and to God; for the Lord says, "Even so let your light shine before men in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). Lay people aren't only involved in a passive showing of what they do. AA suggests we take initiative: " ... a true apostle looks for opportunities to announce Christ by words addressed either to non-believers with a view to leading them to faith, or to the faithful with a view to instructing, strengthening, and encouraging them to a more fervent life. "For the charity of Christ impels us" (2 Cor. 5:14). The words of the Apostle should echo in all hearts, "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16)." So, we are to take to heart the apostolic calling of St Paul. Since, in our own times, new problems are arising and very serious errors are circulating which tend to undermine the foundations of religion, the moral order, and human society itself, this sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen-each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning-to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church. These new problems and errors continue to this day, making AA all the more appropriate for extensive examination and study.
Lay Apostolate: It's Not Just in the World
A sort of segregation-speak has cropped up in the Church recently. It flows against the stated intent of the second Vatican Council. AA5 begins the second chapter of the decree, the one which sketches out the objectives of the lay apostolate. Good words to begin with: Christ's redemptive work, while essentially concerned with the salvation of men, includes also the renewal of the whole temporal order. Hence the mission of the Church is not only to bring the message and grace of Christ to men but also to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. Then a statement which should give pause to those who promote the non-overlapping apostolates of clergy in the Church and lay people in the world: In fulfilling this mission of the Church, the Christian laity exercise their apostolate both in the Church and in the world, in both the spiritual and the temporal orders. But then follows an important clarification: These orders, although distinct, are so connected in the singular plan of God that He Himself intends to raise up the whole world again in Christ and to make it a new creation, initially on earth and completely on the last day. In both orders the layman, being simultaneously a believer and a citizen, should be continuously led by the same Christian conscience. The way I read this is that our formation as spiritual people cannot be peeled away from our human interactions. Sacred things are clearly distinct enough from secular things to render a usually easy discernment. But the Christian brings an identical approach to either. I don't follow the speeches and other goings-on of politicians or other public figures grilled on the role of faith in their lives. For a Vatican II Catholic, it's a no-brainer: your faith informs the living of your whole life, even between nine and five. You can't get away from it, or pretend to turn off your faith like a light switch. Before my ministry days, when I worked in telemarketing and then in public radio, I was young and naive and brought my still-being-formed Catholic sensibility to my work. Strangely enough, I think I was more successful in those days. That's not to say I've become an ogre in seventeen years of ministry, but in the secular world, there were more challenges to keep me on my toes. If anything, I often feel I've gotten soft in some areas working for the Church these years. Far from being a cushy situation, I find I have to guard against certain attitudes and assumptions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Gay Ban
Phil Lawler says it, but he also reported last Fall that John Kerry was said to be excommunicated. Take the news with ...
But if it is true, then now can we address the real problem of pedophiles, misogynists, and other abusers in the priesthood?
Finishing Up AA4
The last four paragraphs of AA4 read as a loose collection of admonitions and suggestions. First, lay people are encouraged to open virtues and to avoid "all malice and all deceit and pretense, and envy, and all slander" as suggested by 1 Peter 2:1. In this way they attract people to the Church. A raft of New Testament Scripture quotes follow, touching on humility, avoiding ambition and worldly recognition, poverty of spirit, sacrifice, persecution for Christ's sake, as well as the promotion of Christian friendship among believers. Jesus' words are quoted, "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" summing up the thrust here. "This plan for the spiritual life of the laity should take its particular character from their married or family state or their single or widowed state, from their state of health, and from their professional and social activity. They should not cease to develop earnestly the qualities and talents bestowed on them in accord with these conditions of life, and they should make use of the gifts which they have received from the Holy Spirit." I think we have yet to achieve this on the whole. Lay spirituality, even on the progressive side, tends to model itself after the charisms of existing orders first, then adapt afterward. And while true, associating with existing orders is lauded in the following paragraph, I can't help but think that a thorough and expansive lay exploration of authentic lay spirituality is needed. We have the beginnings of this in Cursillo, TEC, REC, ME, and various movements like that. All in good time, I suppose. More virtues are listed: (Lay people) should also hold in high esteem professional skill, family and civic spirit, and the virtues relating to social customs, namely, honesty, justice, sincerity, kindness, and courage, without which no true Christian life can exist. And the Blessed Mother is held up as exemplar of the lay life in traditional language. Thoughts? Especially as to the notion of lay people developing spiritualities distinct from existing religious orders, but effective in covering the various bases?

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