Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Peter Shulman's War

I found a really amazing website this weekend: Peter Shulman's War. It's difficult to explain the site. You have to go there and see it for yourself. After reading Mr. Shulman's introductory / explanatory story I think his war's being fought against the forces which try to criminalize and destroy childhood generally, and his own childhood in particular. It may seem to some that his resistance has taken an extreme form. But aren't the forces arrayed against childhood formidable? Even the mighty Green Army can only keep them at bay for a year at a time.

Peter Shulman's War has three things I like. One of them is toy soldiers, tanks, and airplanes. Those are good things. Myself, I'd have a dragon-infested forest surrounded by several medieval kingdoms. I figure about 300 dragons would do. (Could you imagine building a Great Dragon out of Alien vinyl kit parts? - Shudder -). I'd have a few castles, lots of villages, and about 10,000 toy figures. Every spring, the Dragons would emerge from slumber and resume their predations on the crops, livestock, and people of the realm. A boy king might be manipulated by evil advisers who are intriguing with the Dragons to conquer the world. The Eastern Empire (a terrifying alliance of samurai, saracen, and viking toys) might invade. Thank goodness for the Military Order of St. Michael the Archangel!

That takes leisure, the kind of leisure only wealth enables. It's always been that way, of course; it can't be helped and there's no use in anyone's envious whining about it. No, Mr. Shulman's not using all the otium he's put into his war to write philosophy, Free Tibet[TM], or do other things which "really matter." Half of that kind of reaction is just covetous resentment got up in drag as an ethical proposition. Lots of people, most of whom are Americans, would be better off if they stopped trying to do things which "really mattered" and started playing in the woods with toys. Preferably they'd play with their children, who might then be rescued from the childhood-destroying, innocence-hating culture of whom Brittney Spears and psychotic little-league parents are just symptoms.

Peter Shulman's War is also eccentric. I value eccentricity. An eccentric is usually just a personality who's refused to grow neatly along the trellis of bourgeois life. Catholics are generally eccentric, although we don't think of ourselves that way. We adorn our churches with nativity scenes and parade statues of the Blessed Virgin through the streets with a joyous sense of pageantry that flows from the same spring that produces Mr. Shulman's delight in the Green Army's annual advance into the forest. We like colors and bright things, gargoyles and stained-glass, because we're children immersed in the fascinating world God has made for us to play in. I don't think we built St. Peter's Basilica just because It Is Our Duty As Catholics To Produce Magnificent Edifices. I think we built it because it's beautiful, and because God is beautiful, we ought to have beautiful places in which to think about and worship Him. There's something very dignified about that, and something equally dignified about Peter Shulman's War.

So I'm proud to announce that, hopefully this summer, I'll be flying an F-4G in Peter Shulman's War as a newly-minted Lieutenant in the 52nd Attack Squadron, VI Attack Wing, 5th (Green) Air Force. The 52nd does "Wild Weasel" missions; we fly around daring the Gray Army's AA and SAM batteries to shoot us down. When they try it we blow them up, making the skies safer for the rest of our Green pilots. I've noticed, however, that just about all the officers above me are flying the F-105. I wonder how I got the newer plane? (The best planes go to experienced pilots, Stachel. But at flight school they . . . . Flight School! At flight school they'll tell you anything. You'll take the Pfalz. And Stachel . . . . Let's hope you get to like us.) I'm going to enjoy this. All summer, when things are bleak, I can think about a field of green grass, where the air is hot from the sun and cicadas buzz near sleepy dogs . . . . Zzzzooooommmmm! . . . . there I go flashing through the trees in my F-4G, shrikes underwing, ready to strike the Grey Forces. Thank you, Peter Shulman.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Church Moves to Protect Public Health

Annoyed as heck by stories like this, I thought I'd write my own.


BOSTON (AnnoyingPress) - The Boston Archdiocese is asking parishioners who are dying to forgo long-standing traditions -- including the last rites - to avoid spreading their illnesses.

The request, made in a memo sent to all churches in the nation's fourth largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, follows similar moves in some western states hit hard by people dying.

"While at this time we do not advocate refraining from offering the last rites, we made suggestions that anyone who had symptoms of death or who would be vulnerable to death refrain," archdiocesan spokesman the Rev. Christopher Coyne told the Boston Herald for its editions Wednesday, one day before Christmas.

The practice of gathering family around a death-bed is also being discouraged. The memo suggests "a telephone call or a note of condolence would be gracious and fitting" for those who do not wish to be near dying people.

Federal health officials have described death as a serious public health problem. According to the Center for Disease Control at least 2.5 million people died in the United States in 2002, many of them from illnesses. A lower amount of death isn't expected anytime soon, experts say.

Earlier this month, Catholic church officials in parts of the San Francisco area abandoned communion procedures including sharing a chalice of wine and placing wafers on parishioners' tongues to avoid spreading the flu.

The dioceses of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Reno, Nevada, sent letters suggesting other ways to offer Communion, such as distributing wafers in hermetically-sealed plastic wrappers called "Theosis Paks."

"We feel confident that these measures will allow Catholics to avoid contact with the sick and dying," said Fr. Prophylaxis of the Damien De Veuster Center for Liturgical Hygiene in Palo Alto, California, which developed the "Theosis Pak" or "TP" for short. "A Catholic Church should be a place of worship, not a plague vector or a concern to public health. TPs will help the Church keep that focus," he said.

But some officials see ways for the Church to do more. "We've come a long way from the Catholic Church that killed Galileo," said Frieda Hoyt-Tasselhoff, deputy public health assistant for the City of Boston, "but there's still a long way to go." She referred to the Catholic practice of bringing animals into Church for religious rites honoring Francis Assisi, a medieval monk, and the practice of dunking numerous infants in the same pool of cold water without procedures in place to prevent the spread of disease among the children. "We look forward to more dialogue and an eventual partnership with the Church to protect the public," she said.

Officials at the Archdiocese could not be reached for comment. They had called in sick.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

I love it so much, here it is again

The twenty-fifth day of December.
In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the
creation of the world
from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation
of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world,

Jesus Christ

the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary,
being made flesh.
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

I love this because of its insistence on placing the nativity of Our Lord in time. As He condescended to become a man, His birth is dated like all other days in this-or-that month during the history of someone else's empire. But not entirely like all other days, because this particular day is set inside the course of the ages, all flowing toward that day and taking their meaning from it. It depicts Our Lord's nativity as the culmination of everyone's "time" by using the Jewish reckoning of time, the Greek reckoning of time, and the Roman reckoning: However great the Exodus, the Olympics, or the fouding of the City, it says, this Day is greater than them all.

And it says He came because of love, His desire to "sanctify the world by his most merciful coming." Time and cosmos, all sanctified, men sanctified, by a holy reunion of God and His creation. A reunion inspired by a blazing love, not demanded by the chill bonds of duty, or the compelling obligation of a contract. Those things were given to the weak, to all of us, whose eyes are dim and who cannot trust the idea of a love so grand because we have never known such a love. We think God keeps His promises because He made them, as though a being so high and mighty would never make himself a laughing-stock among lesser creatures by breaking His word. But that's not why He keeps His promises. He keeps them because He never promises anything but Himself to begin with.

I wish I could love Him as much as He deserves. But today I can only love him a little. So I shall do that, and hope, because He sanctifies mercifully. O happy day, when the cruelty and coldness of the world is shattered and put to shame, and He reclaims what belongs to Him and has belonged to Him forever. Perhaps, seeing as He makes all things new, he will look down on this little potsherd and make it whole again for His glory's sake. Because He sanctifies mercifully. Rejoice, Emmanuel! God with us! Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Uh, OK . . . but . . . are you sure I'm not Aragorn?

Congratulations! You're Merry!

Which Lord of the Rings character and personality problem are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
I love this; my favorite Christmas thing

The twenty-fifth day of December.
In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world
from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world,

Jesus Christ

the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary,
being made flesh.
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

McElhinney's Asking for It

So there he goes, taunting me again with being late on the reply to the kneeling business. My quick responses follow in black.

As SAM has manifested the intention of responding yet again to my last response on this thread. I find it intriguing that SAM needs to take four months and fifteen thousand words to respond.

Yeah, been workin' on it night and day, too. Lost my job. The wife left. The dog left. House got repossessed. Been typin' it by splicing my computer into the phone lines near the bridge I'm livin' under.

I know SAM well from message board battles in days of yore and he is aware of my tremendous respect for his talents.{1}So noting that, it seems appropriate at this time to issue a brief monitum to him on this subject.

OK, monitum me.

Essentially SAM's only "escape hatch" in this dispute is what I noted in my last response with regards to whether or not the local ordinary in question has manifested the intention to pass an authentic directive on the matter of discussion. All of the legal rhetoric in the world cannot circumvent this so there is no point in making the attempt to -whether 15,000 or 50,000 words are used.

Nope, that's not the only "escape hatch." Actually there is no escape hatch -- there's just an ever-narrowing sphere of vision as the JDAM of my intellect streaks toward your liturgical bunker. (BTW, if it does go that long, it'll be because I won't cut out all the other natterings I was led to while working on the issue).

Nonetheless, it is interesting that SAM wants to post a response when your humble servant will be absent the country.

Interesting? It's diabolically clever, is what it is. I can picture you now Shawn, padding back from the beach once again to call up my reply in the hotel's internet cafe, biting your lip, briefly wondering whether it's worth buying a Mexican laptop and missing all that sun, then padding back to your cabana, there to fall into a fitful and restless sleep . . . then getting up again, padding back into the hotel to call up my reply . . . . ..

The readers can take away from that whatever they will of course. If this was happening during my conspiracy theorist days I could spin quite a yarn on the matter but I digress.

Shawn, didn't you think it was odd, getting that better-than-expected deal on flights to Mexico at just this time?

The rest of this post will be bits and pieces on what The Secret One noted about his end of the year agenda. His words will be in black font:

Nope, Brownson's not finished. Brownson's conclusion let me into some other thoughts about the Church as a political institution, which in turn led me to thinking about what ol' Tim calls "epistemology" and so I'm gonna go into that a little bit. Rohnheimer's article is a nice bracing tonic for the Impeccability Brigade, but he's got some of his own problems of analysis that are emblematic of the Total Failure Battalion, so my perspective is going to be pretty much macro with only a little micro with an excursis into Catholic/Jewish relations. (Hey -- why shouldn't I make it as easy on myself as I can?) Enloe really gets my goat with all that Plato stuff, so I hope I can chime in on that topic even though it's all Greek to me. Scalia's just Olympia Snowe in black chenille, gonna talk about that a little. No problem for the help, although I'm not sure how many of my suggestions actually made it. Have a great Christmas, and try to stay away from the internet cafe . . . .

Friday, December 19, 2003

Just a Blog Before I Go . . .

In keeping with my practice of blogging only on unique topics you can't find anywhere else, here's my take on Cardinal Martino's comments about video of Saddam's capture by Coalition forces.

"I felt pity to see this man destroyed, looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures," he said. "Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him.

Well, three cheers for Cardinal Martino. I should hope any priest who sees a man brought low by his sin would feel pity, that his priestly heart would reach out in compassion over the tragedy sin has wrought. I can't understand the widespread hostile reaction to this part of the Cardinal's comments. It seems (and I know I haven't read every blog about it) to basically say that Saddam is an evil murdering tyrant who deserved to be put in that situation. Of course Saddam is an evil, murdering tyrant who deserves that situation. What difference should that make to Cardinal Martino?

Sin is always a freely-chosen action with its own disastrous consequences. Sinners deserve the fate which befalls them. "And one of those robbers who were hanged blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing; thou art under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly: for we receive the due reward of our deeds." Luke 23:39-41 (DRV). Should a priest's heart remain unmoved by the squalid and disgusting consequences of another's sin?

"And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee: This day thou shalt be with me in paradise." Luke 23:42-43 (DRV). Jesus, seeing St. Dismas like that, "a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bore, had a sense of compassion for him." Saddam isn't the good thief. He's not looking for absolution. But the hope called forth in every Christian by God's saving omnipotence compels us to add "yet" to those judgments.

Jesus didn't suddenly develop compassion, pity and solidarity with Dismas' tragedy only after being acknowledged as Lord. Jesus was already on the Cross by then. He'd been pouring His compassion, pity, and solidarity out on mankind all along, whether or not Dismas knew of it. If we're to decry the extension of pity, compassion, and a sense of solidarity (however tentative and qualified) to a man because he's chosen his fate, then we will have defined Christianity as a Pelagian heresy.

There is a fate worse than any evil which can befall a man in this life. It is Hell. It is a place of grievous loss, vicious torment and unending suffering that exceeds all the pain Saddam has caused in this life. If we believe this, if we really believed it, we should earnestly desire Saddam's salvation. We can't earnestly desire Saddam's salvation while simultaneously castigating Christ's priest for displaying the divine condescencion that makes the hope of salvation possible. Cardinal Martino has a priestly heart. May all the priests who hear my confessions have such a heart.

"I felt pity to see this man destroyed, looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures,"

The Cardinal has it wrong here. No, they couldn't have spared us the pictures. I understand that no one who loves his fellow men wants to picture them in Hell. It's an unpleasant contemplation. And for the same reason, no one who loves his fellow men wants to see pictures of them being arrested, prodded like cattle, and put on public display. But the main reason we don't like to think about our loved ones in Hell is that God has told us all about Hell in some pretty vivid and frightening detail. God did that for a reason, to show us the pain sin causes and to show us that the devil and his minions are not quasi-divine beings with miraculous powers but are ultimately just impotent sufferers of a freely-chosen doom. These pieces of knowledge are inseparable, we can't have one of them without the other. The pictures and video taken of Saddam by Coalition forces serve an analogous purpose in the secular realm. They show the world (and, most importantly, the Iraqi people) that Saddam is not happy and prosperous, that his sins have brought him low. They show the Iraqi people that Saddam is not the quasi-divine being that a generation's worth of propaganda has said he is -- he's just an impotent sufferer of a self-chosen fate, having his head examined for lice by his capturers. That's an important message, one that had to be sent.

So, Cardinal Martino is batting .500 on this matter. May all the priests I encounter in life do at least that well.
Notice on Future Blogs

Because we try and implement Catholic social teaching (or at least the spirit thereof), my office regards Christmas week (and Easter week) as a paid holiday. So no secretarial staff will be around and, I also have a lot of work to do in the next 10 days or so. Blogging will be light to non-existent. However, by the first of the year I plan to have blogs as follows:
(1). to Shawn McElhinney -- the final, crushing blow in my offenseive on "Kneeling and Communion";

(2) to a reader, some commentary on interpreting Church documents viz. obedience;

(3) to a reader, some commentary on extra ecclesiam nulla salus and invicible ignorance;

(4) to Tim Enloe, a dump-truck of stuff on the papacy and history;

(5) the final installment of Orestes Brownson and Homosexual Bishops;

(6) The rest of my commentary on Fr. Rohnheimer's article on the Church and the Holocaust;

(7) Some thoughts on Antonin Scalia, the death penalty, and Evangelium Vitae.
I've been promising these (except #6 & #7) on and off for two months. The problem is that I want to be as thorough as I can, so I've had to write, pause, write and etc. What I hope to do is work on them as "breaks" from the routine. If you don't want to keep checking every single day, subscribe using the Bloglet window above. You'll get emails when an entry is added. Your email will be kept secure, as I won't share it and I believe that bloglet doesn't share them either. I'm on that list too, and haven't gotten a single piece of new spam as a result. Have a merry and blessed Christmas!
Many Thanks!

A fellow (or lady) with the handle of "Random Catholic" gave me an Amazon gift certificate! Happiness and abashedness in equal measure are my reactions, as well as gratitude. Thanks very much, I will put it to good use. I hope you have a merry and blessed Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A New Strain of Liturgical Thinking: Dossier (Ahem!) "Scoops" Spirit Daily

Spirit Daily has reported on some drastic measures being taken to prohibit reception of communion on the tongue protect Catholics participating in that highly-dangerous and unsanitary practice called "the Eucharist." Here's the story from Spirit Daily:
The Bishop of San Jose, California, has issued a statement implementing temporary changes in Eucharistic celebration due to the flu epidemic. Because the strain this year is especially transmissible, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath is suspending the offering of Communion under both Species and has ordered Communion distributed only on the hands. He has also asked that the Sign of Peace be adapted so that it "does not involve shaking hands or touching." He has requested that congregants refrain from holding hands during the Lord's Prayer, and has directed all who administer the sacrament to wash their hands with an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution. "While I realize that these measures are drastic, I have been assured by public health officials that they are necessary so that we can do our part to foster health," said the bishop, who took the action after he was approached by members of the medical community.
But a lot of the Diocesan press release from which this was taken got left on the cutting-room floor before the story reached Spirit Daily. Through various clandestine means, the Dossier has obtained the full release,[1] which picks up where the Daily's story ends. Photos originally intended for release are also included:


. . . The restrictions, however, are only temporary. Bishop McGrath has announced that they will soon be replaced by the Diocese's new Project Wildfire. "We're very excited about the project," said Fr. Charles Dutton, Director of the Diocese's Ministry of Public Outreach, "it's going to be a milestone in liturgical sanitation."

According to Wildfire plans released by the Diocese, an extensive rebuilding project will leave each parish Church sitting atop a state-of-the-art, microbiologically-clean Liturgical Environment consisting of a series of ring-shaped levels connected by elevators and an emergency network of ladders in the central shaft called "The Central Core":

Schematic of Wildfire Liturgical Environment

Persons who wish to attend Mass will progress through five successive types of decontamination, one on each Level. Beginning at Level 1, parishioners will remove their clothes and undergo strip-searching for contaminated personal objects, as well as a complete physical examination, by trained members of the Knights of Columbus.

After receiving the first of a series of disposable paper garments, they will descend to Level 2, where antibiotics and antibacterial purgatives will be administered. After a variable waiting time, parishioners will descend to Level 4 where they will be scanned to ensure that decontamination procedures have left them free of influenza.

Magnified image of influenza virus

"Each level renders the parishioner progressively free of influenza risk, explained Fr. Dutton. "The paper suits issued on one level are discarded and burned on the next, so there's no danger of the flu virus reaching the next level."

Finally, each parishioner will have the outer layer of his or her skin removed by a process Fr. Dutton called "flash burning."

Test parishioner undergoes "flash burning."

"It's quite painless," Fr. Dutton explained. "Its only purpose is to remove the outer layer of skin, which is the last refuge of a possible influenza virus, including any viruses contacted from other parishioners or staff in the first four levels."

Magnified image of influenza virus. Icky, isn't it?

After the flash-burn process, parishioners will be issued Clean Suits.

Clean Suits as approved by Diocesan Liturgy Affairs Committee

The suits will be issued in the season's liturgical color. "It's important for people to actively participate in the liturgy," said Fr. Dutton, "wearing clean suits in the season's color will foster a spirit of communal sharing in liturgical procedures."

Clean-suited parishioners bond during liturgical procedure

But the Diocese is taking no chances when it comes to contamination. Even though experts have pronounced the Wildfire process safe, the possibility that dangerous influenza organisms might penetrate to even the lowest level still worries planners.

Magnified image of influenza virus. Frightened yet?

"We've agonized about it," Fr. Dutton explained, "and concluded there's no other way to ensure the safety of our parishioners."

That's why each Church will be equipped with a nuclear self-destruct device buried at the bottom of "The Central Core."

Construction worker, Central Core, St. Francis' Church in Beaverton

If interior sensors detect the release of influenza, computers will begin an automatic countdown to detonation. A safeguard has been provided in the event of a false alarm: One priest in each parish will be equipped with a key that can be inserted into any one of a series of stations scattered around each level and which, if turned before a certain point in the detonation countown, will end the auto-destruct sequence.

We've already tested it, and it works fine," said Fr. Dutton. "The defense system is perfect," Fr. Dutton said, "it'll even bury our mistakes!"

Fr. Mark Hall of St. Joan's in Kenyon races to insert his key during a test.
Deacon Jeremy Stone follows.

Obviously such a sweeping renovation of liturgical practices will require changes in how things are done, Fr. Dutton noted. "For example, since Mass will be offered deep underground on Level 5, we're going to have to come up with alternatives to traditional decorations like stained glass windows."

"Meditation Panel" at St. John's Level 5, Williamsport

And sacristies, he said, will take on a decidedly-new appearance.

Sr. Ruth Leavitt examines the HEPA compliant sacristy at St. Bernard's, Cedarton

The use of clean suits will also change the way the liturgy appears to today's Catholics. Expert liturgists are still ironing out the details," said Fr. Dutton, "but we have a pretty good idea what the final result will be."

Commission of Liturgical Experts at a recent meeting.

With help from some of his staff, Fr. Dutton gave a presentation of what a typical baptism will look like under the new Wildfire regulations.

Fr. Mark Hall and Sr. Karen Anson rehearse new baptismal procedures.

But some parishioners are distressed at the thought of changes in the way the Church does things.

"I'm not sure about it," said, Jeanne Williamson, a thirty-year parishioner at St. Aloysius in Teasdale. "What's wrong with former practices? Abolishing communion on the tongue seems to have done the job. Do we really need to wear Clean Suits?"

"I'll put one of them things on over my dead body," said Robert "Gramps" Jackson of St. Mark's in Logan. "Nobody's gonna burn off my skin, painless or otherwise. Besides, the alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution's a heckuva lot more reverant than standing around with a colander on your head."

But Diocesan officials remain undeterred. "This is the safest, best way we've been able to come up with that will ensure a safe Liturgical Environment," Fr. Dutton said. "Sometimes the Church must respond to new challenges, and I'm confident that we will do that in a communal, pastorally-sensitive manner."

[1] Of course not, silly.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Hysteria and the Hysterical Hysterics who Have It Redux

Via Lane Core's blog: Evidence that even more Democrats are suffering from Hysterical Conspiracy Hysteria. The Democratic Party is rapidly turning into a clearing house for loony conspiracy theories. That's what happens when you've blunted your mind by trying to achieve what is, in effect, a sexual Disneyland run by Joseph Stalin: You start keeping your (organic) grapefruit juice in padlocked, stainless-steel jars and collecting copies of Catcher in the Rye. What's next? Will the Democratic Party's 2004 Platform be printed on blurry mimeograph paper and distributed anonymously? Stay tuned - but only if you have a tinfoil hat to keep out the BushWaves generated through your monitor by that secret chip on your video card!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Questions that Answer Themselves (Sort of)

John F -word Kerry gave a really interesting speech at Drake University today. In addition to his major theme, namely the unspeakable blasphemy of Howard Dean's campaign brutally crushing a better-qualified Yale-educated Massachusetts Democrat under its treads, the Senator made some interesting detours into U.S. policy on Iraq. Herewith a selection, with the Senator's [bleep]ing profanity [bleep]ing removed for the sake of [bleep]ing clarity:
Shortly after he took office, Thomas Jefferson – America's first chief diplomat – laid out the goals of American foreign policy: "We are pointing out the way to struggling nations who wish, like us, to emerge from their tyrannies." For 225 years . . . these words have guided an America that has come to believe that the surest way to defend our people is to advance our ideals. . . . Saturday evening, halfway around the world . . . Jefferson's promise was fulfilled again. Saddam Hussein was a totalitarian who waged a reign of terror against his people and repeatedly endangered the peace of the world. And no one can doubt that we are safer – and Iraq is better – because Saddam Hussein is now behind bars. . . . I also believe that those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe we are not safer with his capture don't have the judgment to be President – or the credibility to be elected President."(emphasis supplied).
Now President Bush said rather the same thing about Saddam in the 2003 State of the Union Speech:
"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late."
And when he signed the U.S. resolution authorizing force against Iraq:
"The Iraqi regime is a serious and growing threat to peace. On the commands of a dictator, the regime is armed with biological and chemical weapons, possesses ballistic missiles, promotes international terror and seeks nuclear weapons. The same dictator has a history of mass murder, striking other nations without warning; of intense hatred for America; and of contempt for the demands of the civilized world."
So, according to John F -word Kerry, George Bush has the judgment and credibility to be elected President -- at least when it comes to Iraq. Why? Because George Bush realized that capturing Saddam would make us and the whole world safer. Now how could capturing Saddam Hussein make us and the whole world safer? Why, it can only be because Saddam Hussein was a threat to us and the whole world. That's what John Kerry says when he goes on to imply that Saddam Hussein is linked to world terrorism: "The threat of Saddam himself is gone. But the threat of terror continues to reach from the streets of Baghdad and the Middle East to the streets of Asia, Europe, and America itself."

OK, I can understand that. Lots of people agree with Kerry on this count, even fellow liberals like Tony Blair. But what I can't figure out is why lefties who'd respond to a Kerry win over Bush with howls of joy so high-pitched only a dog could hear them, think John Kerry is a sick and malevolent demagogue:
Daniel Schorr: "Sept. 11 provided momentum for an attack on Iraq, although no connection between the terrorist acts and the Saddam Hussein government has ever been convincingly established. . . . And now, the continuing and escalating guerrilla war against US troops has raised the question of whether the administration took America into the war under false pretenses . . . ."

Paul Krugman: "There is no longer any serious doubt that Bush administration officials deceived Americans into war. . . . Thanks to reporting by . . . The New York Times and The Washington Post, and . . . The New Republic, we now know that top officials, including Bush, sought to convey an impression about the Iraqi threat that was not supported by actual intelligence reports. . . . [S]ome commentators have suggested that Bush should be let off the hook as long as there is some interpretation of his prewar statements that is technically true. Really? We're not talking about a business dispute that hinges on the fine print of the contract; we're talking about the most solemn decision a nation can make. If Bush's speeches gave Americans a misleading impression about the case for war, close textual analysis showing that he didn't literally say what he seemed to be saying is no excuse."

Albert Gore, Jr.: [W]hat we now know to have been false impressions include the following: (1) Saddam Hussein was partly responsible for the attack against us on September 11th, 2001, so a good way to respond to that attack would be to invade his country and forcibly remove him from power; (2) Saddam was working closely with Osama Bin Laden and was actively supporting members of the Al Qaeda terrorist group, giving them weapons and money and bases and training, so launching a war against Iraq would be a good way to stop Al Qaeda from attacking us again; (3) Saddam was about to give the terrorists poison gas and deadly germs that he had made into weapons which they could use to kill millions of Americans. Therefore common sense alone dictated that we should send our military into Iraq in order to protect our loved ones and ourselves against a grave threat. . . . Now, of course, everybody knows that every single one of these impressions was just dead wrong. . . . I think it is no longer possible to avoid the conclusion that what the country is dealing with in the Bush Presidency is [a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty].
According to Schorr, Krugman and the Talking Mannikin Gore, saying that Saddam posed a threat to us and the world raises "the question of . . . false pretenses," a question whose answer is that the Bush Presidency -- and, by extension, the Kerry Campaign -- constitute "a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty." No shilly-shallying now, no hair-splitting exegesis of Kerry's speech can be allowed: "We're not talking about a business dispute that hinges on the fine print of the contract; we're talking about the most solemn decision a nation can make."

So which is it? Is John Kerry a lying demagogue with a totalist ideology that he and Democrats think is more important than the mandates of basic decency? Or does the Cylon Imperious Being Al Gore lack the judgment to be President -- or the credibility to be elected President?

Monday, December 15, 2003

A Song for Saddam

"Complicated Shadows"
- by -
Elvis Costello

Well you know your time has come
and you're sorry for what you've done.
You should never been playing with a gun
in those Complicated Shadows.
There's a line that you must toe
and it'll soon be time to go.
But it's darker than you know
in those Complicated Shadows.

All you gangsters and rude clowns
who were shooting up the town
when you should have found someone
to put the blame on.
Though your fury's hot and hard
I still see that cold graveyard,
there's a solitary stone that's got your name on

You don't have to take it from me
but I know of what I speak.
You think you're like iron and steel,
but iron and steel will bend and break
in those Complicated Shadows.

Sometimes justice you will find
is just dumb not color-blind,
and your solitary mind can't take it all in.
All those phantoms and those shades
will jump up on Judgement Day
and say to the Almighty
that you're stinking of sin!

But the jury was dismissed.
Took his neck and gave it a twist.
So you see you won't be missed
in those Complicated Shadows

You can say just what you like
in a voice like a John Ford film.
Take the law into your hands.
You will soon get tired of killing
in those Complicated Shadows

Complicated Shadows
Complicated Shadows
Complicated Shadows
Recruiting for Special Mission

Wanted: Someone in the San Jose, California or Annapolis, Maryland areas for a secret mission. Click on "make contact" to apply. (Zealous nonsmokers need not apply).
Hysteria and the Hysterical Hysterics Who Have It

The facts are as follows. Halliburton has a contract with the U.S. Government to help rebuild Iraq. As part of that contract, Halliburton's (pre-tax) profits are calculated by a percentage applied to Halliburton's own costs to provide goods and services. Halliburton's costs are routinely reviewed by government auditors as part of the payment process. One of these routine audits noted that gasoline Halliburton imported into Iraq for civilian use until the domestic oil industry is rebuilt cost more when it came from Kuwait than when it came from Turkey. Further inquiry determined that Halliburton's Kuwaiti subcontractor was charging more for gas and Halliburton either (a) hadn't caught the increased costs, (b) thought it was entitled to be paid despite the differences in price, or (c) let the issue slide by while hoping to make some extra money. The total amount of extra money Halliburton received because of the higher cost from the Kuwaiti supplier (who charged $61 million more than Turkish suppliers) was between $1.2 million and $4.3 million; at most, that's about four thousandths of one percent (0.004%) of Halliburton's gross revenues of $10.81 billion for the past nine months.[1] President Bush applauded the auditors and, discounting Halliburton's explanation, said he expected the additional money to be repaid.[2] Vice-President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton and on its board of directors until he resigned to serve as Vice-President several years ago.

Democractic presidential hopefuls responded with the following bits of hysteria:
Howard Dean: "We've recently learned what many Americans have suspected for a long time - special interest contributor Halliburton is overcharging the American taxpayers. Now this President is preventing entire nations from bidding on contracts in Iraq so his campaign contributors can continue to overcharge the American taxpayers."[3]

Dick Gephardt: "The Bush administration's policy in Iraq of putting the corporate special interests first is unacceptable. Vice President Cheney's former employer won a contract without a competitive bid and proceeded to bilk the American taxpayer for tens of millions of dollars. It is time for a change. As president, I will put the American soldiers and taxpayers first and the corporate special interests last."[4]

John F -word Kerry: "Halliburton is guilty of shameful war-profiteering, and they need to be held accountable. It's dead wrong that Halliburton is bilking American taxpayers by overcharging the government $61 million for fuel while our troops on the frontlines are underfunded, overextended, and some have literally been left to buy their own body armor. Think about what $61 million could buy for our troops in need rather than lining the pockets of Halliburton executives. The Bush Administration should be ashamed that they bent over backwards for their biggest contributors while leaving American troops in danger."[5]

Wesley Clark: "George W. Bush is a president for Big Oil, of Big Oil, and 'buy' Big Oil. He is more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq."[6]

John Edwards: "Based on today's report, we now see the truth . . . A company that donates huge sums to the president and once was chaired by the vice president is now war profiteering at taxpayer expense. This war profiteering is poison to America . . . We need an antidote now." [7]
The first thing that stands out here is an hysterical, wild-eyed preference for slithery rhetoric over facts. John F -word Kerry says Halliburton "overcharged" the government by $61 million and neglects to mention that happened because the Kuwaiti subcontracter "overcharged" Halliburton by the same amount. Never mind that $61 million dollars will only buy about ten Blackhawk helicopters, the money Halliburton actually stood to receive -- the only ‘extra profit' involved -- is at most $4.3 million. That's about seven hundredths of one percent (0.07) of the amount Kerry claims was "overcharged" to Halliburton's profit. It's also not the "tens of millions of dollars" Dick Gephardt says was bilked" from the American taxpayer: "4.3" is not equal to "10," or any multiple thereof.

The second thing that strikes me is the Democrats' hysterical delight in legitimizing their loopiness with even loopier conspiracy theories. Maybe that's why they get so irate over the idea of "gun nuts" with "vast, right-wing" conspiracies -- the Democrats believe that only the military is entitled to have guns, and only Democrats with conspiracy theories are entitled to run the military. (Hmmmm . . . I wonder of John F -word Kerry was talking about silenced Blackhawks? It's plausible; Blackhawks are a lot cheaper and quieter when they're built without engines). A few months back we were treated to Hillary's dark speculations that President Bush knew about 9/11 beforehand, and now US policy in Iraq is being intentionally described as a plot to bilk the American people and repay Bush's campaign contibutors. Never mind the fact that the whole "overcharge" business was discovered by an audit that is routinely performed for the precise purpose of catching overcharges, it still proves what the Democrats ‘knew all along' -- that "George W. Bush is a president for Big Oil, of Big Oil, and 'buy' Big Oil. He is more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq." It amazes me that leaders of the Democratic Party can talk this way while at the same time castigating Republicans for "divisiveness."

The third thing that strikes me is how calmly Democrats react when the same thing happens in matters closer to their hearts, i.e., their publicly-funded vote-buying projects. When a scheme enacted ostensibly to provide for the public welfare or "invest in America" turns out to be more expensive than originally allowed it's not an "overcharge" that calls forth shame, anger, and denunciation. Nor is it part of a pork-barrel plot to bilk the American people and buy off key Democratic constituencies. It's simply business-as-usual or, perhaps, an indication of how the problem is even bigger than we thought it was and why Democrats need to address it by raising our taxes so high we'll need wheelbarrows to tote the payments.

Forget policy issues -- these guys aren't intellectually or morally mature enough to be President.

[1] Markets & Stocks: Halliburton Company

[2] "If there's an overcharge, like we think there is, we expect that money to be repaid."

[3] Dean campaign's official website

[4] Gephardt campaign's official website.

[5] Kerry campaign's official website.

[6] Clark campaign's official website.

[7] Edwards campaign's official website.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Sad News

Due to work and family commitments, Lover of Christian Art has discontinued his "Catholic Point of View" blog. People who stop by here and read my stuff know that I really liked the CPoV. I will miss it.
Commentary on the Burbling Church (2)

The reasons for this series are explained here. This "installment" comments on a story linked by Mark Shea that deals with yet another iteration of the same theme -- the reduction of Christianity to something that asks no more of us than we're willing to ask of ourselves. It's called Repas de Fraternite. The story's words are in blue, mine in black.

How Quebec Catholics remember Jesus with bread and wine will change dramatically if more than 110 Catholics - from young adults to leading theologians and a few church bureaucrats - have their way. [ ] Intimate family-like meals, with hearty chunks of crusty bread, as well as wine, soup, other food, Scripture readings, singing and discussion, often in the absence of a priest, would largely - but not wholly - supplant the traditional mass.

"He took a hearty chunk of crusty bread and strewed crumbs all over the table. Then he ripped off chunks and threw them around to the guests (not forgetting the dog) and said, 'Take this, all of you, and gnaw it. This is good crusty bread from the trendy new bakery on the corner, it has caraway seeds, and doesn't it make you feel so delightfully peasantish, so unlike your alienated BoHo selves which have been tormented with infantile rebellion and cowardly self-pampering for so many years?' Then he took the bowl of soup and blessed it, saying, 'Take this, all of you, and blow on it. This is the bowl of Soupe D'Artichauts Perigourdine, the soup of the New Menu. It will be served to you and to all, so that you can affirm your own goodness and feel that you're faithful common people, plain working people of the earth, who are so simple and innocent (despite being on the fast-track for tenure, having a SEP and a 401(K), driving Volvos with heated seats, and owning a sexual pharmacopeia that would put a metropolitan hospital to shame) that you only need to sit around this warm and cheery room thinking about how delighted God must be that you've included Him.'"

A campaign to promote the "Repas de Fraternité" was launched at the end of October at the Relais Mont-Royal, a young-adults' centre sponsored by the archdiocese of Montreal at 500A Mount Royal Ave. E.

Another diocese which would rather be a nonprofit corporation working for children, the homeless, and any other serious cause and is, therefore, diligently trying to obliterate itself.

Actor Mario Bard, who co-founded the Relais seven years ago, said the intimate sacred meals were conceived as a way for the church to carry on now that fewer and fewer priests mean fewer and fewer masses.

Not that Masses are worth going to anyway -- no thick crusty bread, no pot a feu and no romantic reveries about our personal bucolic warmth and indubitable oneness with God.

But the motivation is far more profound than that, he said, aiming to build the kind of community that he has found "lets me become human again."

This is how depravity works. First, one spends a lot of time stripping away the elements of glorified humanity and trying to become just a "natural" animal. Doing this makes one feels naked, and cold, and frightened. So, rather than retrace one's steps, one searches for new goodnesses that can be violated and hid inside, like the dead-but-still warm corpse of an animal into which a freezing trapper will crawl to survive the night. The upwards turn at the bottom of this "V" is what makes sinners into antichrists. And antichrists always want to be human. Just human, all human, nothing but human. No theosis for them, nosir. Theosis means going back around the Horn, undoing the harm that's been done, ripping apart those scars that have grown up over one's spiritual self-mutilation and starting over. The deepest fear is that it can't be done, the winds of sin will be too strong at the Horn (haven't the winds of sin done so much damage already? Surely they must be unbeatable!), and so our antichrist goes on and on and on, violating more goodnesses, leaving more corpses in his wake, until there's nothing left but a wasteland, an abomination of desolation.

A manifesto signed by about 110 Catholics says the failure of the eucharist to fulfill its original purpose of building the church as a community poses a mortal danger to the church in Quebec and France, where vocations to the priesthood and attendance at mass have been dropping.

Where are the stories that would make the media consistent and allay suspicions that it, too, is haunted by a spirit that wants to eradicate the Church? "90 Americans sign manifesto urging repeal of the First Amendment." -- "105 Frenchmen Support Bush in Iraq." Of course, the difference is that those stories would be news if the groups were sponsored by the Bush Administration or President Chirac, which makes one wonder what spirit might be haunting the Archdiocese of Montreal.

"A church that no longer embodied community would run the risk of becoming a (mere) religion, providing ceremonies and other services to people who hardly know one another, if at all," the manifesto says.

And a movement of self-selecting fruitcakes is a community? No, guys, it's not a community. It's a movement of self-selecting fruitcakes who are so fruitcakey that they can't abide real communities -- where other people can be encountered, dirty street-people who have smelly and distasteful views about the Church as a hierarchy and the Mass being a holy representation of Calvary. Real communities have rules, and leaders, and winners and losers. Being hateful to all that crap, y'all have to invent the theological equivalent of your gated yuppie communities and tenured enclaves, removing yourself from the dark alleys of "mere religion" and shielding yourself from the filthy scum who would otherwise accost you and demand that you put money in their collection baskets. I mean, God only knows what kind of human trash would show up if you just had a parish-wide breakfast or dinner after Mass! And besides, the people who cook and clean up at parish functions don't have much time for signing manifestos and having their egos stroked by stories in a big newspaper that will no doubt be read in the faculty lounge! Much better to create a new movement where the perfecti can suck their Bouillabaisse, explain away Church teaching, and sing "We Are Church" or some other trendy self-affirming ditty.

The intimate meals, complementing large gatherings for traditional masses, would allow Christians to create communities on a human scale, it says.

Yeah, but that's not what you're about. You're about "supplanting" the Mass in favor of priestless guacamole-and-fondue parties. But, since we're on the upward swing of that "V", we have to start our new project by "merging" ourselves and some goodness to be corrupted, just like the freezing trapper "merges" his bullet with the bison. See, if these guys were in any way serious about Catholicism and community they'd just start having parish dinners. In fact, they'd start turning traditional Masses into social events as a way to get people to come to Mass. They wouldn't be signing manifestos proclaiming new dogma about the "original purpose" of the Mass, condemning the Church for "failing" that purpose, and then getting all excited about not having priests at their meetings as though they were teenagers being left alone for the weekend. And they wouldn't be simultaneously telling you why they're so new, different, and radical while also telling you that they're just doing what the Knights of Columbus or the Knights of the Immaculata are doing.

The signatories include more than 30 women and about 20 priests. Among them: Msgr. Paul Delorme, in charge of Laval for the diocese of Montreal; Deacon Robert Sauvageau, head of the diocesan office of education; Irénée Beaubien, Jesuit founder of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism; Gilles Routhier, vice-dean of theology at Université Laval in Quebec City and on the staff of the Institut Catholique de Paris; Guy Lapointe, director of the Centre culturel chrétien de Montréal and one of several Dominican priests among the signers; and Odette Mainville of the Université de Montréal, known for explaining theological issues to the public at large.

Head of the Diocesan Office of Education . . . Vice-Dean of theology . . . Director of the Center . . . faculty member . . . .yeah, it's a real grass-roots movement. These are the kind of people that, a century or so back, tried to live "the simple life" by having picnics in the country (complete with champagne, foie' gras and servants), putting silk leashes on sheep, and then pretending to be "simple shepherds."

Also among those who signed the manifesto was Roland Leclerc, the Trois Rivières priest whose mysterious, though apparently accidental, death just over two weeks ago shocked the many Quebecers who knew him from his appearances on religious television programs.

Ah, he must have been assassinated by operatives of Opus Dei (which is a fascist cult dedicated to reviving the ugliest aspects of the pre-Vatican II Church, dont'cha know).

Leclerc is interviewed on a publicity video for the campaign. "It is important," he says, "that the Christian community recognize lay people, lay people capable of inviting their brothers and sisters to join them around a table to share the bread of the Word and the (physical) bread. That bread becomes holy to the extent that it is shared. For the real presence is when we share bread together."

Yes, it's all for the lay people, those humble toilers of the earth who are so just like our good Head of the Diocesan Office of Education . . . founder of the Centre for XYZ . . . . Vice-Dean of theology . . . . . faculty member famous for "explaining" theology to the public . . . innocent labor, bucolic simplicity -- what could be finer! Of course they'll need to have it explained to them, those sweet and magnificent sheep, and so our Toiling Academics and Bucolic Bureaucrats will need some silken nooses leashes for their picnicking on the Body of Christ.

I wonder if syphilis and AIDS are holy -- I mean, to the extent that they're shared ‘an all? Better not go there. Simple Working Professor Odette Mainville might have to famously explain that they are while using a lot of qualifiers and misapplied truths like "in a certain sense . . . our Lord shared suffering with his loved ones." That might make the sheep nervous. It might even scare some of them into straining at the silken leash, pulling toward the thorny ground of "true / false" and "did Jesus found a Church?" Let's just focus on the crusty bread and the Soupe au Pistou shall we? Hmmm . . . they smell soooo gooooodddd!!!!!

I sometimes wonder if guys like the Head of the Diocesan Office of Education would be so enthused about these loopy ideas if they were responsible for hearing confessions (at the parish level) for six hours a week, or if the priestly faculty members of "Centres" would be so enamored of this BoHo bullcrap if they'd been on 24-hour, 7-day-a-week call for last rites and the distribution of communion to shut-ins for at least five years. Probably so -- radicals are generally inclined to ignore reality, which is why they become radicals in the first place. We'd probably still have ended up with Bucolic Yupster Theology, a lot of really bad "necessary-abortions-are-just-venial-sins" confessions, and sick people who went to their graves wondering why they'd been given chicklets with Tielhard de Chardin's picture on them.

Campaign organizers and the publishing partnership of Fides and Médias Paul have published a book of essays and worship suggestions, Le Repas aujourd'hui ... en mémoire de Lui, a booklet of commentaries on the Gospels, and a CD of songs for possible use at the meals. A conference on the Repas is planned for the weekend of March 27-28.

Medias Paul -- Paul's media, eh? I wonder if they'll put this in their booklet for possible use at these "joyful" communal meals of crusty bread and rich, hearty soup:
For first of all I hear that when you come together in the church, there are schisms among you. And in part I believe it. For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved may be made manifest among you. When you come therefore together into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord's supper. For every one taketh before his own supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry and another is drunk. What, have you not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not.
-- 1 Cor. 11:18-23 (DRV)
Probably not.

In the book, containing contributions from Bard, Mainville and several other authors, Georges Convert, the Relais's priest since it was founded, writes that there would be a problem with today's masses even if the shortage of priests were not as serious as it is.

How serious is serious? According to statistics summarized in a review of the book Global Catholicism, in 1950 there was 1 priest for every 1,203 Catholics. In 2000 there was 1 priest for every 2,579 Catholics. That sounds like a 100% decrease in the number of available priests, doesn't it? But consider these statistics regarding the "deployment" of priests in 1950:
Europe had 49% of the world's Catholics but 76% of the Church's priests.

Latin America had 33% of the world's Catholics but only 9% percent of the Church's priests.

North America had 8% of the world's Catholics, and 6% percent of the Church's priests.

Africa had 3% percent of the world's Catholics, and 3% of the Church's priests.
The thing I notice about these statistics is that the higher number of priests in 1950 was largely concentrated in an "overserved" Europe, where the proportion of the Church's priests assigned was much higher than Europe's proportion of global Church membership. Here are the same statistics for 2000:
Europe had 27% of the world's Catholics but 52% percent of the Church's priests.

Latin America had 42% of the world's Catholics, but only 15% percent of the Church's priests.

North America had 7% percent of the world's Catholics and 15% of the Church's priests.

Africa had 7% of the world's Catholics, and 12% of the Church's priests.
Again, Europe claims both the majority of the Church's priests and a minority of the Church's membership. Things in North America have actually improved -- from an 8% : 6% Catholic/Priest "ratio" in 1950 to a 7% : 15% "ratio" in 2000. Latin America -- Latin America -- still has the most severe "priest crisis", with a 33% : 9% Catholic/Priest "ratio" in 1950 and a 42% : 15% figure in 2000. Are we really expected to solve this problem by junking the Mass in favor of crusty bread and Soupe au Potiron?

One solution is suggested by statistics on seminary populations. In 1950, Europe and North America had 92% of the world's Catholic seminarians. But fifty years later, Europe and North America only had 29% of the world's seminarians: Asia, Latin America and Africa had 70%. Europe and North America don't have a shortage of priests. What they do have, is a scarcity of men interested in the priesthood. Why is that? Too much nutmeg in the Creme de Chou-Fleur Iseult à la Bretagnet? Not hardly.

Consider a typical North American / European Catholic young man, moderately faithful, who feels some sort of gentle and hard-to-resist tug on his conscience to do and become more Catholic than he is. He looks around his community for men who have felt the same longing and tried to follow it. What does he see? Why, he sees Deacon Sauvageau praising La Soup au Riz à la Parisienne as better fare than the Blood of Christ, and Fr. Beaubien nodding appreciatively while Odette Mainville famously explains why the priestly life of the Mass represents the Church's failure to follow Jesus. In short, our young man sees the kind of idiot pusillanimity that he can easily accomplish on his own and without membership in the celibate Order of Melchizedek.

I suspect the difference might also depend on the elements that go to make up diamonds -- time and pressure. In Asia, Latin America, and Africa there are today martyrs, men and women who are murdered for following Jesus Christ. There is poverty, sickness, and war. There are demons who haunt the old religions (and some of the new ones) and use them to scourge humanity. There is no time for Christian weakness, ennui, and decadence because those things will get you (and others) killed to no purpose. In such circumstances the priest is an essential center, a living connection to the God-Man whose cataclysmic glory on the Cross is the only thing powerful enough to conquer the darkness. The priest must be strong and noble, not because strength and nobility are fine concepts that we praise because we don't know what else to do with them, but because they are essential survival tools which are more important than medicine, cookstoves, and a good knife. The priest in such circumstances doesn't have time to indulge the modern West's perpetual angst over human sexuality. He doesn't have time to natter and muse about alternative ecclesiastical modalities and biblical reinterpretations -- those things don't frighten Muslim armies, cow barbarian mobs, or help people whose children are dying of infections that get cured by over-the-counter medicine in the West. People are sick. People are starving. Life is lived on stark, hard terms that don't apply at the Universite de Laval, where the human mind has apparently become so emaciated that it can focus only on silly, insignificant things, such as whether Bisque de Crevettes is too rich for a self-worship services during Lent. In those troubled and frightful places, God is the only being who can possibly save men, in this life or in the next. It must concentrate the mind wonderfully on the need for priests who are strong and noble and self-giving because the people need strength, nobility and uncompromising love just in order to live (and die) as people.

The diabolical thing is that, spiritually speaking, our lives are just like the lives of Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans. The only difference is that here the lions and barbarians are flitting about in the air, pouring into our minds mind through the glass portals of television sets, haunting the pages of the books we study, and designing the toys we buy our children. From this standpoint, the West's material prosperity and political stability has done only one thing. It has stripped away the physical arena and its consolation of undeniable brutality and distilled our fight into the most essential and excruciating battleground of all, the battleground of the soul. The lions, evil empires, and barbarian legions are in our minds, but they are no less deadly on that fact alone. Why did the Nazis commit genocide? Was it because Germans were poor? Hungry? Physically threatened? No. It was because Germans gave their souls to Nazism, to the corruption that roamed through their culture seeking the destruction of souls. Why do we murder our own babies? Is it because we are hungry, attacked, or dying of disease? No. It is because we've been conquered by wickedness in high places, and given our souls to the Prince of the Air. As the evil becomes more concentrated, our minds become more diffuse, more easily distracted, less capable of apprehending the awful reality in which we live. That's why Western nations end up aborting babies -- their moral leaders are too busy fantasizing about Soupe de Laitue as a sacrament and encouraging young men to give their lives for coffee-klatches and sing-alongs. That's why young men aren't being inspired to join the enervated, inconsequential, and "presiding" preisthood. They can already lead lives of febrile insouciance without having to make the sacrifices that the priesthood would demand.

"Today, to the extent that the congregation assembled is an agglomeration of more or less anonymous individuals, the current form in which the mass is celebrated cannot create community," he writes.

Since we're being all "Emile Zola" about it, dwelling on the righteousness of imaginary peasants and fantasized factory workers, why don't we start by taking a page from the humble workmans' book and admitting that it's a poor craftsman who blames his tools. When a priest thinks that what he does cannot create community, will he not tailor his participation in the Mass to his belief? How can he expect -- or demand -- that his flock stop being anonymous individuals, when he himself admits that the central purpose of his life, the task to which all his energies are ultimately directed, cannot help his flock transcend that fate? Deep within this mentality is a denial of God's ability to create human unity by sovereign acts of miraculous kindness and nourishment, and a concomitant deification of man as the source and summit of the human family.

St. Paul understood differently. After rebuking the Corinthians for a similar distortion of community, he recounted that the real basis of the human family is a miracle:
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, And giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat: This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.
-- 1 Cor. 11:23-29 (DRV)
I think anyone who doesn't believe that the creation of a human community requires, not one miracle but thousands and thousands of them on a daily basis, knows very little about humans and human communities. I dare say he tends to think that the manicured campus is the ordinary environment of human events; that the polite maneuvering one sees on faculty committees is the human soul's default response to frustration; and that the whole elegant construct of civilization is just the spontaneous manifestation of "right reason" and human nature. He will go on thinking like that until his daughter-in-law shoots herself in the head, driven by guilt because she and he have been making the beast with two backs for nineteen years. Any man can put trousers on an ape, but only God can create the difference between an ape and a man. Unless we subordinate our lives to adoring that miraculous event it won't matter whether we're living the trendy-left romanticism of Relais or the trendy-right decency of Hillsdale -- our ignorance of the divine mystery will leave us with nothing better to do than sit around and pick nits off each other until our "community" goes up in an explosion of disordered passion.

"We become a Christian community when each member can speak after having heard the word of the gospel and can share his or her own manner of experiencing the gospel."

Yes, but without the thundering transcendence of God, encountered in awe and glory, there can't really be any good news. Where is the tumultuous miracle? Where is the divine power making us even greater than the things we imagine? Is it floating in a bowl of Soupe de Moules au Safran? Is that what the curtain will close on at the end of man's cosmic drama -- a group of marginally well-developed mammals sitting around a fire, munching animal flesh and soaked roots while talking about themselves? That's all these mild "let's-celebrate-our-ordinariness" schemes can really offer, and it's not enough. Once the frisson of self-congratulation has palled, and we've sucked all the Potage Parmentier into our greedy mouths, we'll notice that we're alone again, naked and cold. Then we'll look for another goodness to merge with, another spasm of dying warmth to enjoy, until that too palls and leaves us alone in the freezing night again.

Instead of expecting the cosmos to stop turning while we gulp soup and yap at each other, we ought to be looking for what we truly need -- a light that cannot die and warmth that never fails. The course into that holiness will have to battle back around the Horn. It will have to gloriously dare a miraculous journey straight into a searing blaze of blinding light that would obliterate an ordinary creature. That's where we have to go, and it's where the Mass takes us. It's the miracle we need, the miracle we must have, because a Christian community can't exist among ordinary creatures.
Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise. All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit. From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name . . .

Look with favor on your Church's offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself. Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ . . . May he make us an everlasting gift to you and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints . . .

Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.
We need the Mass, not a fashionable movement that wants to sell our Eucharistic birthright for a mess of pottage.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

And Now for Something Completely Different

From Fr. Bryce Sibley, comes . . . . . The Funniest Caption I've Read All Year!!!!

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Darth Burke to Princess Lassa: "I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing"

Recently, Wisconsin Bishop Raymond L. Burke entered contention for the Athanasius-Bruskewitz Medal, which honors Catholic prelates who think you should be able to tell the difference between a Catholic and a character on the Lifetime Television Network, by asking Wisconsin State Senator (and Margaret Sanger impersonater) Julie Lassa to choose between her God and her other god when it comes to voting on abortion and related issues. The full story, from the ever-tolerant and deep-thinking Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, can be found here. Being absorptionally-challenged when it comes to the American media, I felt compelled to ebulliate** in reply. The story's in blue, my comments aren't.

Madison - As the nation's Roman Catholic bishops seek ways to persuade Catholic lawmakers to adopt church views on issues such as abortion, a Wisconsin prelate on the rise has warned two state legislators and a congressman they risk their spiritual well-being if they do not.

Now is this single direction of spin warranted? As I see it, there are actually two ways to view this dust-up. One of them is that it's about whether Catholic lawmakers are going to "foist" Catholicism on decent Americans. The other is that it's about whether Catholic lawmakers must, in order to be Catholic lawmakers, actually be Catholics. For far too long (beginning with that lying drug-addict who treated women like used tissue-paper -- I mean John F. Kennedy), Bishops have allowed the answer to be an unequivocal "Yes," as in "Yes, Canon law requires every Catholic lawmaker, every year and before Easter, to publicly announce why he or she can't conscientiously participate in a St. Patrick's Day Parade that excludes gay-rights organizations." For the first time since Bishop Bruskewitz's courageous notice to the Catholics in his spiritual charge, another bishop is talking turkey about what it means to betray America by servile obeisance to the Pope in Rome er, be Catholic (sorry, we'll get to that later). So I guess it's not surprising that the Journal-Sentinel sees only one way to phrase the issue -- as a threat to the American people, who are assumed to be allergic to the very idea of talking turkey. Anyhow, what's so wrong with a Roman Catholic Bishop rhetorically holding two fingers together and choking the crap out of a State Senator while saying, "I find your lack of faith disturbing"? If a PETA dizz-brain can throw red paint on Mrs. Van-Richey's mink coat, surely Burke's entitled to use his episcopal stationary.

La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke sent letters to the lawmakers as the first step in efforts to get them to change their pattern of voting, which Burke said contradicts the church's teachings on abortion and other issues related to human life. On Tuesday, Pope John Paul II appointed Burke to serve as the archbishop of St. Louis.

Well, let's hope this was a Parthian shot at Wisconsin's Catholic lawmakers that will scream right across the bows of Missouri's Catholic lawmakers, rather than a meaningless "letter-op" ginned up so that the NCCB can do something about pro-abortion Catholic politicians without actually doing it.

"If they were to continue to do that, I would simply have to ask them not to present themselves to receive the sacraments because they would not be Catholics in good standing," Burke said in an interview.

OK, so maybe it's not a letter op -- let's see if Rep. William Clay (Democrat from Missouri's First District which includes St. Louis) gets a similar letter. In 2002, Clay voted (a) to allow military medical establishments to perform abortions; (b) to continue legalized partial-birth abortions if the physician thinks the mother's "emotional health" is put at risk by having her baby; (c) against the partial-birth abortion ban altogether; and (d) to permit HMO's, insurance companies, any "health-care entity" as well as the federal and state governments to discriminate against physicians or medical facilities that refused to perform abortions (just like Lassa). In 2001, Clay voted (a) against recognizing an unborn child as a "person" for purposes of punishing someone who killed the child while committing a crime of violence; (b) to reverse the "Mexico City" policy of refusing to use US international aid funds for abortions; (c) for using tax money to pay for abortions in prisons; and (d) again to allow US military facilities to be used for abortions overseas. Gee, that's eight pro-death votes in two years, and Dante says Hell only has nine circles. Sounds like an appropriate occasion for Bishop Burke's pastoral concern to me, and I hope he takes advantage of it.

He said he sent the letters to make it clear to the lawmakers that as practicing Catholics they cannot support legislation that is "anti-life," which he noted includes abortion and assisted suicide. He did not mention the death penalty, which the pope has urged the United States to eliminate.

Thereby threatening another principle held dear by America's upper crust -- the convenient use of Church teaching, which becomes hypocrisy when it doesn't toe the correct political line. By the way, if you can understand all those squiggles and dots in Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism, you'll realize that the Pope hasn't morally obliged the United States to "eliminate" (as opposed to "change the circumstances and manner in which it decides to inflict") the death penalty. Now there are a lot of people who, because they're prone to filtering Church teaching through the priorities of their own politics, like to say that the Pope has decreed the death penalty to be immoral and inadmissible under any and all circumstances. They range from KookyTrads desperate to prove that John Paul II is the Antichrist; conservatives like Antonin Scalia who'd rather protect their cushy tax-funded careers than knock the rust off their consciences and deal with a disagreement between current US law and what the Church is actually teaching; and loopy "peace-and-justice" Catholics who think the Church may be divinely-ordained only insofar as she lends moral grist to their personal, trendy-left mills. And let's not forget all sorts of people who don't give a damn about how many welfare-roll-bloating, aggressive-windshield-cleaning untermenschen we execute, but do care about being able to gin up a "hypocrisy" charge whenever the Church preaches against their right to use contraception, have abortions, and do whatever, wherever, whenever, with whomever.[***]

"They can't promote any legislation, which would either continue or worsen the anti-life practices," Burke said.

Just like they can't subscribe to P*nthouse, join the (now-inclusive) Klan, prepay an abortion clinic on their daughter's twelfth birthday, or flay their dogs alive. It's a very hide-bound and rigid way of life, Catholicism; the Church often angers people by putting their hobbies on her Top Ten list of Things That Crucify God.

Burke declined to name the legislators and the congressman who received the letters.

That's because he's persecuting them with public villification.

But under the state's open records law, the Journal Sentinel obtained a copy of the letter Burke sent to state Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point).

Because the Journal-Sentinel wants to pretend that the Bishop is persecuting them with public villification. What a relief! This whole story would have died without names but, being so concerned with life generally, the Journal-Sentinel managed to revive it by using Wisconsin's Open Records Law. Quick! Somebody buy Terri Schaivo a NARAL membership and have Burke write her a letter!

The 2 1/2-page letter details how Lassa voted on several recent bills and legislative initiatives related to abortion - including her vote against a bill that would have allowed health care professionals to refuse to participate in procedures that violate their personal or spiritual beliefs.

Yeah, and that was a really principled decision for Lassa, who has to be solicitous to the views of all her consitutents. (See below). Actually, of course, this is just another illustration of why liberal "tolerance" is another name for Orwell's "boot stamping on a human face -- forever." Rep. Lassa has a conscientious right to ignore the religious teachings she has sworn to obey, but no Catholic physician has a conscientious right to obey those same teachings because Lassa wants every knee to bow to the god of Abortion. By the way, does anyone really think that if American governments force Catholic doctors to violate their own consciences by participating in abortions, American governments won't end up forcing Catholic women to violate their own consciences by having abortions?

"As a faithful member of the Catholic Church, you have an obligation to fulfill the duties of your office with regard not only to the laws of the state, but also with regard to the moral law," Burke wrote. "You have failed to restrict the evil of abortion when the opportunity presented itself."

Burke is oblivious of the fact that he's not amongst the pasta-sucking, Mary-worshiping peasants of Italy. He's in a civilized country, a decent country, a Protestant country where: "the separation of church and state is absolute - no Catholic prelate would tell an elected representative (should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote - no church or church school should be granted any public funds - and no man [except Catholic nominees to the federal judiciary] is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. America is neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish - it's a country where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source - it's a country where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials! Lassa is right -- whatever issue may come before her as a State Legislature -- on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, or any other subject -- she will make her decision solely in accordance with what her own conscience tells her to be in the national interest, without regard to outside religious pressure or dictate.[****] The state is not God -- it is more important than God, and that's why the above must be memorized in order to answer the first question on the civics test given to American Catholic politicians.

In the letter, dated August 29, Burke cited a statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics." He stressed that bishops have a duty to "enlighten the consciences of political leaders to the protection of life, especially political leaders who are Catholics."

That's not allowed -- the separation of Church and state forbids religious bodies from seeking to impose their will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of American officials! It's interesting, how official America's interpretation of the First Amendment -- most frequently applied only to Catholicism -- resembles the Church's Concordat with Nazi Germany. The Concordat prohibited Catholics from organizing themselves as Catholics for political purposes, and required the Church to "prescribe regulations for the exclusion of clergy and members of religious Orders from membership of political parties, and from engaging in work on their behalf." Concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich, Art. 31 & Art. 32. I'm always astonished at how strongly the Church is villified for adopting this policy with respect to a Nazi police state, but how necessary and wholesome the policy becomes when it's to be applied here, in a country that supposedly gives the Church and her children all sorts of rights to free religious exercise, political association and speech. The only "principle" I see operating is that societies which deify the state and perpetrate mass murder want the Church to be politically neutered. Of course, at the time of the Concordat Hitler had already neutered political Catholicism by jailing Center Party members. Our officials haven't quite gotten around to that -- the wood is still green and besides, there aren't many American Catholic voters who could even join a self-respecting Center Party: Lassa doesn't do photo-ops in parishes because it costs her votes.

"I call upon you to consider the consequences for your own spiritual well-being, as well as the scandal you risk by leading others into serious sin," Burke wrote Lassa.

Ah, but we might be overlooking something -- Rep. Lassa might eaily have gone through a "pastorally-sensitive" RCIA program, and therefore be unaware of things like "spiritual well-being," "scandal," "sin" and "consequences."

The mailing to Lassa included a 26-page booklet containing the text of "Living the Gospel of Life." Burke asked Lassa to study the statement and schedule a meeting with him to discuss it.

How dare he! Zis is a democracy!!!! Katolische prelates are not allowed to zend booklets to representatives of ze Reich, err, ze Amerikan volk!!!! Bishop Galen Burke ist violating ze "regulations for the exclusion of clergy . . . from membership of political parties, and from engaging in work on their behalf" . . . errr . . . ze Virst Amendment's rule against religious bodies "seeking to impose their will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of American officials."

Lassa said she never scheduled a meeting with Burke and was surprised to receive the letter from him.

"If I went to meet Burke," she said, "I'd have to sit in his office. But here I stand. I can do no other."

"I'm concerned that the bishop would pressure legislators to vote according to the dictates of the church instead of the wishes of their constituents because that is not consistent with our Democratic ideals," Lassa said.

"Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community -- however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things -- whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds." Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, ¶ 8 (1937).

"When I was elected, I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and that means I have to represent all the people of all faiths in my district."

"But, as regards political power, the Church rightly teaches that it comes from God, for it finds this clearly testified in the sacred Scriptures and in the monuments of antiquity; besides, no other doctrine can be conceived which is more agreeable to reason, or more in accord with the safety of both princes and peoples. . . . Those who believe civil society to have risen from the free consent of men, looking for the origin of its authority from the same source . . . [commit a great error by refusing to] see, what is manifest, that men, as they are not a nomad race, have been created, without their own free will, for a natural community of life. It is plain, moreover, that the pact which they allege is openly a falsehood and a fiction, and that it has no authority to confer on political power such great force, dignity, and firmness as the safety of the State and the common good of the citizens require. Then only will the government have all those ornaments and guarantees, when it is understood to emanate from God as its august and most sacred source." Leo XIII Diuturnum ¶¶ 8 & 12 (1881).

Your choice is simple, O Cheerleader of Death, Vestal of Dilation and Extraction -- if your oath to uphold the Constitution requires you to break your oath to Jesus Christ, then a simple regard for clarity obliges you to choose which oath you will keep. That's what Bishop Burke is saying, and he's right. I'm sorry that forty years of "God-made-bunnies" catechesis and episcopal somnolence has led you to believe otherwise. (On a brighter note, it may be for this very reason that God might not hold your impending sacrilege against you as fully as He will lay it against the priests, bishops, and catechists who have labored -- or not labored -- to produce it). But it is the truth, and it is better that you and all the other Roman Methodists wake up to it and so become either good Romans or good Methodists. Either way, your chances for divine mercy will improve dramatically: See Revelation 3:16.

Elected to the Assembly in 1998 and to the Senate in a special election in May, Lassa said she sometimes feels a conflict between her personal values and beliefs and the need to represent her constituents' views. "But I can't let my religion take precedence over my duties as a legislator," she said.

Lassa sounds just like another civil servant that comes to mind:
[For Eichmann] a law was a law, there could be no exceptions. In [his trial at] Jerusalem [Eichmann] admitted only two such exceptions . . . he had helped a half-Jewish cousin, and a Jewish couple in Vienna for whom his uncle had intervened. This inconsistency [between his duties to the Reich and his own inclinations to mercy] still made him feel somewhat uncomfortable, and when he was questioned about it during cross-examination, he became openly apologetic: he had ‘confessed his sins' to his superiors. This uncompromising attitude toward the performance of his murderous duties damned him in the eyes of the [Israeli] judges more than anything else, which was comprehensible, but in his own eyes it was precisely what justified him, as it had once silenced whatever conscience he might have had left. No exceptions -- this was the proof that he had always acted against his ‘inclinations,' [to mercy] whether they were sentimental or inspired by interest, that he had always done his ‘duty.'
-- Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, p. 137 (New York: The Viking Press, 1964).
How did Lassa get this way?
"[I]f men, using their personal liberty, were to deny all dependence on a superior Authority possessing coercive power, they could by this very fact cut the ground from under their own dignity and liberty -- by violating, that is, the absolute order of beings and purposes. As they are established on this same foundation, the person, the state, the government, with their respective rights are so bound together that they stand or fall together. And since that absolute order, in the light of right reason, and in particular of the Christian Faith, cannot have any other origin than in a personal God, our Creator, it follows that the dignity of man is the dignity of the moral community willed by God, the dignity of political authority is the dignity deriving from its sharing in the authority of God. No form of state can avoid taking cognizance of this intimate and indissoluble connection -- least of all a democracy. Accordingly, if those in power do not see it, or more or less discount it. their own authority is shaken, as is social morality, and that specious appearance of a purely formal democracy may often serve as a mark for all that is in reality least democratic."
--Pius XII, "Democracy and a Lasting Peace," ¶¶ 37-41 (1944).
"I appreciate that the bishop has expressed his opinion and I will take that into consideration, but I have to consider what's in the best interest of my constituents."

Well, we already know what that is, don't we? A never-ending political career for Julie Lassa, by the Will of God, Student-Body President, State Senatrix, and Lady Protectress of the Abbatoir. Hell will be unpleasant, of course, but it will no doubt be made even more galling in Ms. Lassa's case by the fact that she didn't even have any fun while sinning but arrived, instead, merely by mouthing puling and telegenic pseudo-pieties.

Rep. Marlin Schneider (D-Stevens Point), whose Assembly District is part of Lassa's Senate district, called Burke's letter outrageous. Churches ought not use the pulpit for blatant political purposes," said Schneider, who is Lutheran. "When they start telling legislators how to vote, they've crossed the line."

And here we find the taproot of all this "concern" about episcopal alligators swarming to devour Mr. & Mrs. America. Preach it, Brother Schneider! "[S]ince the temporal power is baptized as we are, and has the same faith and Gospel, we must allow it to be priest and bishop . . . since we are all priests alike, no man may put himself forward or take upon himself without our consent and election, to do that which we have all alike power to do . . . a priest should be nothing in Christendom but a functionary . . . Whatever the ecclesiastical law has said in opposition to this is merely the invention of Romanist arrogance. . ." Martin Luther, Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, (1520). This works very well if one's trying to throw a nasty, garlic-eating Pope out on his ear, but like the sorcerer's apprentice, people who really buy into this guff develop a kind of chain-reaction that ends up forbidding even Lutherans from trying to "impose" their beliefs directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials. First they came for the Catholic doctors who wanted to avoid performing abortions for "conscientious reasons," then they came for . . . . well, you get the picture.

Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, said her organization was contacted by Burke's office for assistance in researching Lassa's voting record on abortion issues.

My God! These Catholics are everywhere! They're keeping tabs on legislators' voting records! They don't have the right to do that! This is a democracy, dammit!!!!

She said Lassa was the only legislator whose voting record was requested by Burke's office.

But I thought Burke was trying to thwart the operation of democracy in Wisconsin! There is more than one State Senator in Wisconsin, isn't there? Surely a horde of episcopal alligators intent on destroying the American Way would target everyone with their fatwas regardless of religious affiliation?

Hamill applauded Burke's effort to hold Catholic public officials accountable for shaping public policy in ways that are contrary to church teachings.

Uh, might this be another issue than whether Bishops can "shape" public policy by "manipulating" legislators? Could there be an honesty issue here, or doesn't the Catholic Church have a right to expect Catholics, so long as they are Catholics, to live their Catholicism? Oops -- bite my tongue! If the Boy Scouts don't have the right to expect Boy Scouts to live the Boy Scouts' creed, the Catholic Church surely has no such right. Come to think of it, didn't the Reich outlaw the Boy Scouts in favor of a more "progressive" youth movement?

Pro-Life Wisconsin has organized a campaign urging Catholics with pro-life views who live in U.S. Rep. David Obey's district to write the Democrat to complain that his voting record on abortion issues is not in keeping with his Catholic faith.

Shocking!!! Outrageous!!!!! Catholics daring to "shape" policy by writing letters to policymakers!!!! They can't do that! This is a democracy, dammit!!

Obey's office did not respond to inquires about whether he received a letter from Burke.

. . . although a voice crying "Liberate me!" amidst devilish cackling could be heard on the answering machine tape . . .

The subject of Catholic elected officials and their responsibility to represent the church's views on political issues is of increasing concern to church leaders.

Did Bishop Burke also abolish political campaigns, voting, and the necessity of re-election, without anyone but the Journal Sentinel noticing? Since Rep. Lassa (and all the other Catholic representatives who, unlike her, may choose to remain Catholic) are elected, why are we being treated to language that suggests an impending theocratic coup d'etat? I think that if the Journal Sentinel were run by college-educated people (as opposed to people who've graduated from college), we wouldn't read only that the issue is whether Catholic politicians will represent "the Church's views." We'd at least also read that the issue is whether the Catholic Church can expect Catholics, so long as they claim to be Catholics -- so long as they gain votes by engaging Catholic sympathies -- to actually be Catholics. Discussing the story on rational lines would, of course, forego the teasing angst generated by the episcopal alligator angle, and thus get in the way of the Journal-Sentinel's real purpose for existing -- making money by getting people to notice that Cushy-Tush toilet paper is on sale at Walgreen's.

Even if Bishop Burke were foolish enough to think that the sincere preaching of Catholic truth would do anything besides (temporarily) reducing the Church's American membership by half and the Church herself into a media laughing stock, and so actually did intend to publicly influence the tremendous world-historical decisions of Wisconsin legislators, I fail to see why the Journal-Sentinel Beobachter's reporting has to be so ominous and pejorative. Isn't it funny how no one says that Planned Parenthood expects candidates who receive its blood money to represent "Planned Parenthood's views"? Isn't it also funny how no one says that pornographers expect candidates they support to represent, uh, "pornographic views"? No, when secular pressure groups try and influence candidates to adopt "safe" pagan viewpoints, they're all just engaging in healthy politics. Even the "industrial" and "business" lobbies are seen as obnoxious only because they have "too much" influence, rather than any influence at all. Only Christianity, it seems, can exert an Inadmissibly-Sinister Influence on our holy democracy.

At a meeting this fall of U.S. bishops in Washington, D.C., an initial report was offered by a new task force on Catholics in Public Life organized after the Vatican issued a doctrinal note on the subject. John Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, which represents Wisconsin's Roman Catholic bishops, said the subject is under increasing discussion in church circles. But he knew of no organized effort by Wisconsin bishops to send letters to elected officials reminding them of their duty to represent Catholic teachings.

Same point as above -- it's not fundamentally about whether the Church is able to subvert the democratic process by forcing Catholics to "represent the Church" rather than decent American pagans. I can understand, however, why members of the media elite are unable to think of Bishop Burke's letters in those terms. American elites get their power by pretending to represent the people's wishes while doing something else, and so from their viewpoint it stands to reason that the Church would do the same thing and give Catholic legislators their marching orders after they get elected.

Kathleen Hohl, interim communications director for Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, said Dolan had not sent letters on this subject to any lawmakers representing districts in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. "To my knowledge, it's not anywhere on the to-do list," she said. "It has not come up within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee."

That's probably because Bp. Dolan's too busy "fully supporting" priestly celibacy while
enabling his priests to exploit the sex-abuse crisis in their pursuit of wives.
So naturally, he's pastorally-sensitive to Rep. Lassa's need to represent all her constituents rather than the narrow parochialism of a Catholic sub-group.

[**] It's a nice word. It means to bubble or boil up, but it also contains the prefix "e" and the word "bull," so it might well be perfect to describe my blogging.

[***] There are also good people who don't fit any of these descriptions, but just don't get it nonetheless.

[****] Yeah, I know he was. The country's a mess, and I just wanted to be clear that everybody's had their finger in the American pie of moral depravity.