Saturday, November 29, 2003

The US Through Foreign Eyes?

Ever since its English-website version debuted this year, I've been occasionally reading Al-Jazeera, one of the Arab world's leading independent news outlets. Well, it's sort of independent. In addition to imitating CNN with its "global" coverage, Al-Jazeera's also imitating NPR: Al-Jazeera was started by a $150 million loan from the ruling family of Qatar, where the network is located, and some reports have it that the family funds the network to the tune of an additional $100 million annually. Al-Jazeera reaches the Arab world by satellite (and is regularly preferred by up to 40% of Arab viewers, according to some estimates). Recently, the network's broadcasts were banned in Iraq by the United States, which claimed that the network was cooperating with Iraqi terrorists (Al-Jazeera calls them "resistance fighters," or even "anti-occupation activists") to stage televised attacks on American troops. Al-Jazeera's portrait of the United States -- its government, people, and life -- is relentlessly hostile and phobic. But if that's not surprising to you, something else I noticed might be. Let me show you what I mean by first quoting from Al-Jazeera's current (11/29/03) edition -- you'll see distaste and fear of the United States hanging on every participle:

From the Culture Section:
Item: "US Author Hailed by Germans" Thousands of Germans cheered . . . Michael Moore as he began his European tour . . . . "I live in a country in which it is almost a matter of national policy to keep people stupid. I am almost embarrassed to talk about it but I feel you are owed an explanation." . . . the best-selling author was far from embarrassed to tell a full house some unpleasant truths concerning the war in Iraq, poverty and violence in America and the 2000 presidential election. He urged Germans not to let their country become "like the US" and said Americans were waking up to the "lies" of the Republican administration . . . the author could barely utter a sentence without clapping, whistles of approval and applause. . . . . Germans attribute Moore's popularity to his mirroring of what is popular thinking in Europe, particularly after opposition grew in France and Germany to the US-led war in Iraq. . . . .

Item: "History... Another Victim of Occupation" No exhibition in the world could have rivaled the Mesopotamian artefacts [sic] held at Iraq's National Museum. . . . But all that changed within the space of a few terrible days after US forces occupied the Iraqi capital . . . The home of 170,000 artefacts was looted and smashed. . . . . While US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, joked that he did not think the museum had too many vases to steal . . . Questioning the minister about allegations that some US troops had encouraged looters to take some kind of wild revenge on the Baathist government, al-Jazairi said an ongoing investigation into just what happened would be completed within months. . . . .

Item: "German Tribute to Ali a Tearjerker" Boxing legend Muhammad Ali accepted a gong in a tribute at the prestigious Bambi awards ceremony in Germany, visibly moving some in the room to tears. The 61-year-old, who suffers from degenerative Parkinson's disease, picked up a special award late Thursday for his lifetime achievements. Ali, who started out as Cassius Clay, was world heavyweight boxing champion from 1964 to 1967 when he was stripped of his title for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. . . . .

Item: "Bahrainis Embrace Political Satire:" The crowd roared with laughter when actors on a makeshift stage poked fun at the royal family and politicians in Bahrain . . . . The organisers, [are] the leading Shia opposition group Al-Wefaq Islamic Society . . . The play also tackled other sensitive issues like rising unemployment and alleged corruption in Bahrain, a regional finance hub and the headquarters of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. . . .
From the Economics Section:
Item: "US Pets Get $31 Billion Pampering" The United States boasts of more domestic pets than humans and it is only natural that the holiday season spawn a veritable treasure trove of gift items . . . For those wanting to impress their pets, the Gucci goat hair dog bed comes for a cool $2,050. . . . Bruce Van Horn of the website . . . says he places his hands on his dalmatian Goodboy and his cat Sarafina during his yoga session, so that they can reap the benefits of his meditation practice. . . . .

Item: "China and U.S. Spar Over Trade Duties" China has issued a warning to the United States that their warming bilateral ties could be seriously affected if Washington continued imposing discriminatory duties on Chinese goods. . . . Critics of the move accuse Bush of compromising its free trade credentials in favour of political interests ahead of the 2004 presidential election. At the heart of the dispute are US claims the [sic] undervalued Chinese yuan is giving China a trading edge that has undercut US manufacturers and caused Americans to lose jobs, a rationale independent economists have largely dismissed.

Item: "Iraq Oil Output Rising Despite Attacks" Iraq's crude oil production is rising despite resistance attacks on its energy infrastructure . . . Production in the northern oilfields around Kirkuk is crippled by resistance attacks . . . . .
From the Sci-Tech Section:
Item: "Global Warming Crisis Worsens" Fast-rising temperatures in 2003 are adding a new urgency to the problem of global warming . . . The gloomy picture painted by the UN Climate Change Convention (UNCCC) . . . came ahead of a fresh effort to breathe life into the sickly Kyoto Protocol. . . . anecdotal evidence and scientific data from several countries suggest [2003] will be the hottest year since record-keeping began. . . . The 188 parties to the UNCCC meet in Milan . . . to assess progress in addressing climate change. Topping the agenda will be the future of the Kyoto Protocol . . . that deals specifically with the emissions of carbon pollution blamed for global warming. The Protocol was badly hit when the United States, the world's biggest polluter, pulled out of it in March 2001 in one of President George Bush's first acts after taking office. . . .

Item: "Transatlantic Rivalry Spills Into Space" Space is the latest arena of rivalry between the United States and the European Union. And, the issue: a satellite navigation entity that will end the monopoly of the US' Global Positioning System (GPS). . . . The EU's Galileo [GPS] threatens US dominance in space . . . But the US is not happy. Secretary of State Colin Powell has reportedly sent missives to a dozen European Union countries to give up the programme. . . . [GPS] was developed in the ‘70s by the United States military . . . Washington has allowed the system to be used by other countries free of cost. But the overall control is with the Pentagon. . . . Galileo versus GPS is the latest in a recent list of strong disagreements between the EU and the US preceded by . . . the invasion of Iraq.
From the Arab World News Section:
Item: "Two Iraqi Sisters Found Dead" Bodies of two young Iraqi sisters have been discovered by US troops near Baquba . . . according to the occupation force. A US military source said on Friday that they informed Iraqi police and handed over the bodies. The source said both deaths appear to be civil murder cases. However, the brother of the girls had earlier said that US troops at Ibn Firnas airport . . shot Fatima and Azra, 15 and 12, on Thursday at midday as they were collecting wood . . . . .

Item: "US Army Report on Iraq Self-Critical" Washington's reluctance to declare US troops an occupying force stymied efforts to consolidate its hold over Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. . . . "commanders did not initially take measures available to occupying powers, such as imposing curfews, directing civilians to return to work, and controlling the local governments and populace," the evaluation report says. . . . the report said unidentified "higher officials" constrained the occupation effort . . .

Item: "Hearts and Minds: US Style" As American troops exit the former Presidential Palace complex in Tikrit, the last thing they see . . . is the Fourth Infantry Division motto: Strike First. . . . I asked my escort Specialist Jack Craig, a military policeman from Minnesota, how he correlated the "strike first" directive with the US . . . policy of attempting to win the "hearts and minds" of the local population. "Actually, I see 'hearts and minds' as a tactical doctrine. To me, it means that's where we should aim first," said Craig. "Shoot them in the body or in the head, but just make sure you shoot them first." . . . [A US civilian advisor says:] "One problem is that a lot of our soldiers are sh*t-scared and want to get out of here alive, no matter what that entails." . . . aggressive and violent behaviour on the part of individual soldiers are not the only contributors to the American alienation of the local people. . . .

Item: "US Arrests 41 Suspected Fighters" US troops have arrested 41 suspected anti-occupation activists, including a man believed to have helped foreign fighters infiltrate Iraq. US forces captured 37 resistance fighters in a cordon and search raid east of the hotspot city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, and three individuals suspected of an attack against the family of the city's police chief two weeks ago. . . .

Item: "Bush Visit Dismissed as Mere Stunt" . . . George Bush's stealthy visit to Iraq has been greeted with derision in the Arab world . . . In Iraq itself, many people termed it a cowardly swift stopover . . . Some said they would have preferred Bush to have had the courage to visit the country more openly and meet ordinary people. . . . "What good did his visit bring us? We want to see him and his troops leave Iraq at once. We want Saddam back!" piped in Hilal Muhayed, 16, as his teenage friends nodded in approval. . . . "Bush's secret visit to Baghdad opens presidential election season," said the Beirut-based Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, owned by Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. . . . In the Iranian capital Tehran, the country's Foreign Minister . . . said Bush's visit to Baghdad showed that Washington was afraid of the Iraqi people.
From the Global News Section:
Item: "Political Success Eludes US Muslims:" Dearborn, Michigan . . . boasts one of the largest populations of Arab Americans of any city in the country, the majority of them Muslims. Yet, Dearborn has never elected a Muslim representative to the US Congress. . . . In the history of the United States, no Muslim American has ever been elected to the US House of Representatives or the Senate . . . Dr Imad al-Din Ahmad, a Palestinian Muslim who ran for the US Senate in 1988, said Muslim immigrants often come from homelands "that arrest people for speaking out about political issues" . . . Jameel Johnson, the chief of staff for US Rep Gregory W Meeks, D-NY, and an African American Muslim, said many black Americans had difficulty reconciling voter participation with America's history of racism and political disenfranchisement. African Americans in the southern United States endured years of discrimination and violent efforts to bar them from the voting booth. The subsequent cynicism towards politics among black Muslims is a reflection of that nefarious legacy, Johnson said . . . Whether or not anti-Islamic discrimination accounts for the lack of Muslim Americans in Congress is unclear. However, Ahmad said that both religious intolerance and xenophobia have hindered their political evolution. . . ..

Item: "Struggle Over Indonesian Schools:" On his recent whirlwind visit to Jakarta, US president George Bush . . . pledged $157 million over six years to improve the country's school system. . . . Bush's move followed similar US attempts at introducing changes in the educational systems of a number of Muslim countries . . . since the 9/11 attacks. He appeared to be acting on the advice of his more hawkish advisers, who aim to replace a curriculum perceived as radical and anti-American with a more compliant alternative. . . . A recent report released by the Global Campaign for Education, an international coalition of development agencies, teachers' unions and community groups, looked at 22 rich countries and how much aid they provide to boost education in developing countries. The US scored 12 out of 100 points and was considered the least generous aid giver when its donations are measured as a proportional share of its national income. Development groups and the United Nations estimate that $5.6 billion in additional aid is still needed . . . "The extra $5.6 billion needed for education is one-fifth the amount Americans spend on pizza each year . . . " said Oliver Buston, a senior policy advisor for the development group Oxfam.
From the Special Reports Section:
Item: "Iraq Under Occupation" US and British occupation of Iraq is regarded as the re-emergence of the old colonialist practices of the western empires in some quarters. The real ambitions underlying the brutal onslaught are still highly questionable - and then there are the blatant lies over weapons of mass destruction originally used to justify the war. There were no great victory marches by the occupiers, nor were they thrown garlands of flowers and greeted in triumph. More US soldiers have died in Iraq since George Bush declared an end to the war on 1 May 2003 prompting the question: Will Iraq turn into a new Vietnam eventually bringing the US to its senses ... or perhaps to its knees?

Iraq's history, and along with it that of the Arab Muslim world, speaks of several similar encounters. In the past, enemies attacked from East and West before they were swallowed by the moving sands of the region, or forced to retreat, leaving behind a phoenix-like people who adore life and still accept to die for their freedom.

The escalating Iraqi resistance seems to be setting the stage for another act which might usher in a new Arab World or set the clock ticking for the end of yet another empire.
* * *

You can see why this monotony can get a tad irritating. For Al-Jazzy, reporting on "Culture" means regurgitating Michael Moore's mindless, Euro-pandering drivel as a fearless expose about the stupidity, violence, and mendacity inherent in American life. It means that the real reason for Muhammad Ali's fame is his opposition to the Vietnam War. "Culture" means speculating that the United States planned and desired the looting of Iraq's national museum and noting that an American official is a heartless Philistine. "Culture" means the Shia Al-Wefaq opposition group putting on a "Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland" show about the corruption of Bahrain by the U.S. Navy.

Al-Jazzy's reporting isn't confined to genteel (note to Al-Jazzy's editors: "genteel" doesn't mean "non-Jewish") cultural issues. The network also covers Economics, which means reporting how Americans (in addition to being as stupid as Michael Moore says we are) are fatuous pet-pamperers. I can just hear the shouting from a hundred Damascus barbershops -- "They spend millions on dogs and nothing, nothing on the starving Palestinians they murder every day via their Zionist lackeys!!!!" (Which isn't true at all. We spend lots of money on the Israelis). For the scribes in Qatar, "economics" means figuring out what unworthy, illegitimate, and deceitful motive the Bush Administration really has for starving all those Chinese television workers since everybody knows that cheap imports don't cause a loss of domestic manufacturing jobs. (I guess that's why no other country but our own stupid and bloodthirsty nation levies import tariffs). "Economics" means never passing up a chance to explain that the Iraqi thugs who're blowing limbs off their own people are really "anti-occupation activists." Adam Smith and Milton Friedman? Forget it -- Al-Jazeera's way over their heads when it comes to ekunumics.

It shouldn't be surprising that a news organization savvy enough to trace the veiled connection between Bush lying about Chinese television sets and American pet-owners murdering Palestinian children would be right on top of things when it comes to science and technology. Sure enough, Al-Jazeera has uncovered "anecdotal evidence" that the world will be seared by man-killing heat waves because the United States -- [Now pause, and then intone with sonorous voice: "The World's Biggest Polluter"] -- torpedoed the Kyoto protocol, mankind's only hope to avoid being as choked with smog as thick as . . . well . . . . smoke from ten thousand oil-well fires started by a deranged Arab dictator! Only that level of intelligence can see the evil behind sending "missives" against the freedom-loving peoples of the world in order to keep them (and the Chinese Army, which is funding the Galileo project) from having a GPS system free of control by the Satanic Pentagon, let alone understand why the whole GPS issue is connected to the invasion of peace-loving Iraq by the Stupid Third Infantry Division.

But perhaps the fault is ours. I mean, what else can one expect of a nation run by a coward who has to sneak into Baghdad because his advisors thinks Iraq is a dangerous country full of terrorists . . . uh, "anti-occupation activists," who only display RPG launchers as a sign of their commitment to peace? Of course such a coward would conspire to keep the Stupid Third Infantry Division from calling itself an "occupation force." Why, if the Stupid Third Infantry Division's commander had been given permission to get on a bullhorn and shout "Hey, we're not liberating you from anything -- our status is occupation force!" the US couldn't have conspired with the non-Iraqi, non-Arab, and non-Muslim thieves (I suspect the Swiss Mafia, myself) who swarmed into the National Museum under covering fire from our M1A1 tanks so that Donald Rumsfeld could make an ass of himself. It figures that a nation so depraved as to deserve Michael Moore's condemnation would send sh*t-scared, trigger-happy teenagers to murder Iraqi schoolgirls and provoke righteous "anti-occupation activism." That's why Al-Jazeera can treat the stupid joking of a soldier as a serious comment about what the GPS-guided, World's-Most-Polluting, Coward-Commanded, Army of Stupids is really up to.

Maybe we deserve to be judged by non-sequiturs and a double-standard or two. Maybe that's why Al-Jazzy realizes that Arab-American immigrants, fleeing from savage regimes which think the phrase "rights of man" isn't the Sharia and wouldn't care if it were, are naturally too frightened to participate in American politics because of Jim Crow. That's why my grandfather must never have voted and why he was terrified every time a car drove past his house at night -- he knew all about Jim Crow, and he'd come from Mussolini's Italy. Don't you see it? The connection's obvious! (Actually, Grandpa was a die-hard FDR man, but why should we let facts interfere with our narrative any more than Al-Jazeera lets facts interfere with its reporting?) That's why Muslims should band together against the xenophobia and racism that's turned Dearborn Michigan into a lilly-white Presbyterian country club and vote Muslim -- not Democratic, Republican or Eco-Libertarian, mind you, but Muslim,, so America can have elected officials in proportion to its Muslim population. (Actually, on second thought this report shows that Muslims are politically savvy enough to have caught on to American-style victim/identity politics. I wonder what their claim for reparations will be? Maybe they were forced into centuries of slave-trading by the same Jewish interests that are behind Joe Lieberman's run for the White House.) Anyhow, it's undoubtedly part of the same corruption behind the US's attempt to destroy the purity of Islamic youth by injecting the curricula of Indonesian madrassas with syphilitic "compliance." If that stupid coward Bush had his way, Indonesian children wouldn't learn how the polio vaccine was really invented by Hassan Ibn-Poliovaccine and then stolen by a Mossad agent codenamed "Jonas Salk." Why, Indonesian children wouldn't be able to watch Michael Moore documentaries about how stupid, violent, and sick Americans are! That's just more proof of America's evil -- we're trying to give Indonesia $157 million for education when everybody knows that's less money than we have. I can hear the shouting from every coffee shop in Amman: "They spend billions on pet meditation, and only hundreds of millions on Indonesian schoolchildren! Allah will curse them unless they spend more on corrupting our youth and subverting us with that Jonas-Salk story, more, much more!" Or is that Moore?

But I don't want to be too negative, so I should point out that Al-Jazeera isn't all doom-and-gloom. They report happy stories too. Like how a new day is dawning because the US Empire will be quickly brought to its knees by the same teenagers-with-RPGs strategy that's already obliterated Israel and restored the Palestinian homeland. Yes, the polluting, stupid, violent, and cowardly Bushites will be swallowed up by the wrath of the peaceful Iraqi people who adore life and so can't wait to move to Dearborn and be persecuted by its monolithic whiteness. According to Al-Jazzy, a new Arab world will come the only way it apparently can -- in a bath of blood accompanied by howls of righteous anger at the worthlessness of the United States.

* * *

Like I said, that's not really the surprising thing about Al-Jazeera's reporting. The surprising thing is how much that reporting is like our own media's view of things. It's remarkably similar -- from Sam Donaldson's explaining that whenever Americans act like stupid, tantrum-throwing children they vote Republican to Cokie Roberts explaining the real motive behind the latest "move" of the Bush administration. On Friday morning I listened to NPR's reporting of Bush's visit to Baghdad, and learned that it was a sneaky "stealth" visit whose planning was dominated by the administration's fear of terrorists and which irritated the Iraqis, who are suffering under the American occupation's inability to immediately provide them with the security and prosperity enjoyed in, say, Dearborn, Michigan. It was explained how Bush's real motive was to shamelessly primp his image for the 2004 elections. In fact, that's how just about every major news outlet's covering the visit. The same kind of coverage is given to all these stories -- America is dooming the world to a permanent Coppertone tan because we killed the Kyoto protocol . . . . our troops are trigger-happy civilian-killers . . . . our soldiers are "sh*t scared" and can't stand serving in Iraq because they only joined up to pay for college . . . . a quagmire like Vietnam . . . the end of American influence in the world . . . Americans are overfed, over-pampered nitwits who won't have given "enough" to the needy of the world until foreign aid equals 90% of our GDP . . . surreptitious meddling in other cultures . . . . the wonderful way of life that isn't American . . . .

I haven't read anything in Al-Jazzy that I haven't already learned from Dan, Sam, Cokie and the gang. Oh sure, Jazzy's a little more vibrant, it's anti-American tune more allegro than the New York Times' continually-whining adagio -- and at least Sam and Cokie seem a teeny bit sad when they remind us what sorry sons-of-bitches we all are. (Or is that schadenfreude? Sometimes it's hard to tell). But the message is basically the same -- if only the corrupt, polluting, and stupid Bushite Empire can be brought to its knees (by RPG-wielding thugs or "blue country" voters, it doesn't matter), a new day will dawn in which the air will sparkle, children will laugh, and we can all adore life and live free. That's it. I'm outta here . . . . . the news is on.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

I Think It's A Good Idea

How about in person blogging? Here we all are, posting our thoughts and perspectives on the internet, being occasionally chided by Savonarolas about our failure to have "real" lives and live in a "real" world, and probably wishing we could meet one another. I know I'd like to smoke a cigar with Jeff Culbreath and I. Shawn McElhinney, and I can tell you from personal experience that Mark Shea is one of the most charming and amiable fellows you could hope to seat at your dinner table. Wouldn't it be interesting, and just plain fun to get together into small informal meetings over beer or coffee and shoot the breeze?

Well, there's a nifty little internet organization called Meetup.Com. You can find it here. What they do, is allow people interested in just about anything to schedule informal social get-togethers at local venues. The process looks simple and convenient. You sign up and propose a meeting in your area. (You can also define your own "area" if you don't like the one assigned to your zip code). People who are interested in meeting then vote about scheduling and location (the proprietors have a preselected list of meeting places like taverns, restaurants, etc., organized by zip code). The voting closes a few days before the event, and then everybody gets an email about the time and location. People can RSVP, and if fewer than 5 say they're coming, the meeting is off. This is all done with email reminders. So basically you can be sure that if you're going to a meeting, there are at least 4 other people who said they were going to go.

So how about it? Will the Mark Shea fan club "meetup" in Seattle? Or Phoenix? Or New Jersey? How about the Knights of the Immaculata? Or how about just meeting to talk about prayer, the Rosary, who will be the next Pope, or how to keep your kids Catholic? Myself, I'd like a Sigrid Undset "meetup" to discuss her novels, or a Tolkien "meetup" to discuss LOTR -- I don't get anything from LOTR, and I'm convinced I'm wrong about that, but need someone to explain it all to me. How about a Catholic dinner and movie group? It sounds like a good way to evangelize too -- anyone can "meetup," so you might find yourself talking to a curious Protestant about why we don't worship Mary. Did I mention this would be a way for existing groups of people to schedule their own meetings? I'd really like to see someone try this (preferably the Mark Shea Fan Club) and find out how well it works. Why not start it myself? Well, the good reason is that I live in a rural area, but maybe it's because I don't have a real life, being enmeshed in electronic ephemera and all . . .
If Traditionalists Talked Like this . . . .

Fr. Jim posts one of the most elegant apologias for Catholicism's traditional usages I've ever read in this post from Dappled Things. Here's an excerpt:
I have no objections in principle to the vernacular in the Mass. I don't think Mass "facing the people" is from the Devil. I don't want to ban Marty Haugen music. I do not yearn to outlaw Communion on the hand or to force you to kneel to receive It. If a priest wants to wear those polyester horse blankets that pass for Gothic chasubles these days, more power to him. Altar girls, felt banners, and the banjo ensemble: go for it. You won't hear me screaming objections.

But here is what I do object to, and very strongly: the fact that, contrary to the explicit instructions of the Second Vatican Council, one can scarcely find a Mass in Latin, and even then it's often viewed with suspicion; that Mass ad orientem, though just as licit as it has always been, is so rare as to be practically non-existent in Latin-rite churches in this country; that Gregorian chant and the polyphonic heritage of the Western Church have been so universally replaced by songs of the present day (or from the 1970s) that people don't even have an option to worship regularly in the context of the traditional music; that the way that Communion has been received in the Western Church for over 1,000 years is now frowned upon or openly discouraged in some quarters; that vestments of more traditional design -- whether Roman or Gothic -- are disparaged or effectively banned for being obsolete and not up-to-date (as if any liturgical garment were "up-to-date"); that every modern option that has been introduced in the last 25 years is now obligatory for all; that every liturgical option that Bl. John XXIII would have recognized is now somehow retrograde and reactionary, even if current legislation continues to allow it.

. . . I object because these nasty tendencies have alienated two generations of Catholics from their birthright. The forms of worship that our ancestors practiced for centuries -- and in some cases for over a millennium -- have been forcibly pried from the Church, so much so that those once-common elements of Catholic worship are now as alien to millions of Catholics as Buddhist or Muslim worship would be to them. This is not an indictment of what has taken the place of those traditions. It is, rather, an indictment of the narrow-minded intolerance with which those traditions have been replaced and continue to be shut out of the Church's life. If the "contemporary liturgies" and the music of the St Louis Jesuits are as spiritually uplifting and relevant as their admirers say they are, then they really have nothing to fear from a widespread and permanent offering of worship according to the more classical forms of Catholic liturgical tradition. By alienating those traditional forms and making it burdensome to celebrate them, one merely succeeds in alienating the Catholics who prefer them and in fostering factionalism and a (not always unjustified) sense of paranoia.
Now Fr. Jim is not what I usually think of when I read the word "Traditionalist." He has no suspicion about whether the Holy See is occuped by a Catholic, doesn't post running monologues about the Dolchstoss of True Catholicism[TM] by the Illuminati, and doesn't have pejorative opinions about the salvation of people who happen to like Marty Haugen, felt banners, and the idea that they might see C.S. Lewis or a couple of (former) Buddhist monks in Heaven. So I wonder: If Traditionalists argued like Fr. Jim, would anyone recognize them as Traditionalists? If Latin Mass featured an editorial like the one above, would anyone subscribe to it? If the answer to those questions isn't an unqualified "yes," then what can we say about the value of Traditionalism?
Savonarola Logs On Again

As I wrote earlier, Jeff Culbreath is thinking about taking a break from blogging. I'm not trying to disagree with that decision, whatever it may be. I'm just replying to a fellow named "JG" whose comments on Jeff's musings leave no doubt that he thinks we ought to throw our computers on pile of kindling. He's once again logged on to harangue about the evils of, uh, logging on. His words are in blue, mine are in black.

Mr. Culbreath: I see you were back on line to read comments. We're praying for you. Pray for us.

"That we may wield the instruments with only so much vehemence as may be needed to scourge you properly."

Never forget the graces conferred by mortification.

A reminder brought to you via the Internet! Can closing pop-up ads count as mortification?

Let us take our example from the panoply of Saints.

Like St. Isidore? "Almighty and eternal God, who created us in Thy image and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful, especially in the divine person of Thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, bishop and doctor, during our journeys through the internet we will direct our hands and eyes only to that which is pleasing to Thee and treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Or, if you like: "Omnípotens aetérne Deus, qui secúndum imáginem Tuam nos plasmásti et omnia bona, vera, pulchra, praesértim in divína persóna Unigéniti Fílii Tui Dómini nostri Iesu Chrísti, quaérere iussísti, praesta quaésumus ut, per intercessiónem Sancti Isidóri, Epíscopi et Doctóris, in peregrinatiónibus per interrete, et manus oculósque ad quae Tibi sunt plácita intendámus et omnes quos convenímus cum caritáte ac patiéntia accipiámus. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. Amen."

E.g., with St. Benedict, let us roll naked in the nettles until we are cured of this scourge of electronic ephemera that substitutes pride, emotionalism, and modernism for the reality of life."

Oh man, rolling naked in thorns - is that where spiritual direction ends up? "Uh, Fr., about next Thursday, I think I have to wax my dog and I won't be able to make it . . . no, no, I'll call you in a couple of days to set up another time . . . . I see . . . yes, well, sorry -- the refrigerator's running and I've gotta go, Bye!" Seriously, though, this time Savonarola has a point (as did the real Savonarola), but I wonder how hard-and-fast JG's application of the principle (when he's not on the Internet, of course) really ought to be.

Is it possible to roll naked in electronic nettles of ephemera that substitute pride, emotionalism, and modernism for the reality of life? In other words, is it possible for Internet discourse to be an act of mortification? I bring that up because, sometimes, on a very rare day, I feel bereft and pained about ending a holy hour. Of course, at such times basking in the sweet comfort of Our Lord's superiority is infinitely preferable to going back "out there" and actually dealing with the muck, stupidity, irreligion and sinfulness in the world (not to mention my own muck, stupidity, irreligion and sinfulness). But something pushes, presses, on the soul -- "OK, it's time, you've had enough, now get out there and do what you're supposed to be doing, don't be afraid, go on . . . SHOO!! GIT, DOGGONE IT!!!!"

At those moments does it matter that, once out in the hard world, one finds enjoyable things there? That the food tastes good, the bookstores are open, coffee is sold, and enjoyable people abound? Do those things lessen the mortifying character of this life? Perhaps it's one of God's mercies that he gives us earthly enjoyments -- we sometimes see, in the very act of savoring them, how nothing except Him can truly satisfy and how He is the author of all goodness. Does that mean blogging must be dreary and onerous before it can become a sacrifice? I think not. In fact, I think what made St. Benedict a saint is what made him happy to roll around in nettles -- Pius XII says it was because Benedict had found "such sweetness of soul" that he disdained temptations to an unworthy life. Pius XII, Fulgens Radiatur, ¶ 7 (1947). I don't think it was the pain that made Benedict holy. Rather, I think it was the love which let him transcend caring about pain that vivified him.

Maybe happiness in blogging or using the Internet can be found in like manner -- as something onerous, but only to anyone who isn't already warmed by a higher love. I doubt using the internet is like that for many people, and know it's not always like that for me (except when I'm talking to Baptists about Catholicism. You want nettles? Spend some time with people whose research into Catholicism begins with Boettner and ends with Hislop.) But one needn't wait until one can "truly" mortify oneself like a great saint before trying to do it at all. Maybe the point is to start doing a good thing, and let the "fake" or "lesser" joys get burnt off while one's doing it. Maybe the impurities are within us, not our technology.

V*R*S*N*S*M*V -- S*M*Q*L*I*V*B

Amen. St. Benedict, pray for us. And to that I add, D*T*T*B*O*W*T*B*W (don't throw the baby out with the bath water).

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The Catholic Church and the Nazis

Courtesy of the Ratzinger Fan Club, we learn of an essay in First Things by Fr. Martin Rohnheimer entitled The Holocaust: What Was Not Said. The essay raises a number of thought-provoking and (for a Catholic who loves the Church) painful historical memories, written apparently as a rebuke of what Fr. Rohnheimer calls "popular Catholic apologists, most of them nonhistorians," who have defended the Catholic Church "by trying to demonstrate that the Church's record during these years is beyond reproach." Since I'm a non-historian who has defended the Church's record in print, I was immediately intrigued, but ultimately disappointed, by what Fr. Rohnheimer had to say. I think the essay has a great deal of value, and that it's well worth reading especially if one's familiarity with the criticisms of the Church during this period is limited to execrable pieces of drivel like John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope. Cornwell's work is so flawed, sloppy, and disingenuous that it's virtually an insult to anyone who thinks the Holocaust, Catholicism, and anti-Semitism are serious subjects. I don't pretend to be an expert (I am, after all, a "non-historian"), but Gunter Lewy's classic The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany remains unsurpassed as a tough and unsympathetic examination of the Church during this period. But there are a number of things which have come to irritate me greatly during my (limited) reading about Catholicism and the Nazis. Chief among them are what I see as some disordered perspectives on the intersection of moral judgment and historical research as well as a kind of self-abasing triumphalism that often causes Catholics to downplay the significance of the Church's actions during the same period. That's a prologue to what follows, namely the first of several reflections on Fr. Rohnheimer's essay, most of which will be critical, but which aren't meant to entirely dismiss his thoughts on the matter.

The Church: One, Holy, Catholic and Prophetically-Omniscient?

After detailing what he views as deficiencies in the Church's policies and public statements about Jews generally and Nazism particularly, Fr. Rohnheimer writes: "Had the Church really wanted to mount effective opposition to the fate that awaited the Jews, it would have had to condemn — from the very start — not only racism but anti-Semitism in any form, including the social anti-Semitism espoused by not a few churchmen. This the Church never did: not in 1933, not in 1937, nor in 1938 or 1939." Toward the end of his essay, Fr. Rohnheimer repeats this sad judgment, arguing that the Church cannot "boast that it was among those who, from the start, tried to avert Auschwitz by standing up publicly for its future victims." The significant thing about these statements, which can be fairly taken to encompass the entire arena of popular (and scholarly) debate about the subject, doesn't lie in their acerbity but in the gargantuan task which, it is assumed, the Church should have accomplished. Is it really appropriate to expect that the Church be able to "boast" that it "tried to avert Auschwitz from the start" before she can be exhonerated against charges found in Hochhuth, Cornwell, or even Lewy?

Fr. Rohnheimer honestly concedes that "there was no direct road from Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism to Auschwitz." This is true, and it is why the moral framework he has assumed doesn't fit the inquiry he's trying to conduct. If there is "no direct road" from one to the other, it is because the criminal policies to which "Auschwitz" refers aren't inevitably-foreseeable consequences of Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. His judgments, however, rest on the opposite premise, that we're permitted to evaluate the Church's actions and omissions in light of a "fate" that was "awaiting" the Jews. Only in that frame can we speak meaningfully about a Church that did not try to "avert" the Holocaust "from the start." From the start of what? The world? The end of WWI? Hitler's taking an interest in politics?

It should be obvious to anyone that, God's sovereign providence being what it is, we can indeed write about a "fate" that was "awaiting" the Jews in 1933, 1937, 1938, and 1939. We can with equal justification describe the American Civil War as a "fate" that was "awaiting" North Americans in 1859, 1492, and 700 A.D. With the passing of time, the unfolding of a future which is always decreed but seldom revealed, we may perceive links and effects which might not have been obvious to those who acted at the moment. Discerning those connections is an historian's duty. But however much it is part of an historian's duty, this "God's-eye view" of history is impermissible to a moralist, who has the duty to judge justly. Gavrilo Princip is morally guilty of murdering the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but he cannot be judged guilty of murdering every British soldier who fell in the First or Second Somme offensives.

At least, Princip cannot be so judged by men. God may judge him guilty of the whole of the First World War, as He may judge Pius XI to be responsible for every death in every Nazi concentration camp. Only God may judge thusly, because only He is competent to judge: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Romans 11:33 (KJV). Men are incompetent when it comes to such matters, and for Fr. Rohnheimer to write about dead men as though their future lay as plainly before them as our past lies behind us, is as crude and unsophisticated an approach to history as the one used by the "non-historians" and "apologists" he chides so strongly.

The Nazis didn't commit themselves to what has become known as the "final solution" until 1942; their years of institutionalized dithering and bureaucratic indecision about whether to commit genocide was one of the signal reasons Arendt coined her famous phrase about the banality of evil. What could plausibly induce us to accept Fr. Rohnheimer's invitation to judge Pius XI or Pius XII harshly for failing to "avert" Auschwitz "from the start" in 1933, when Himmler himself didn't decide to build Auschwitz until 1940? I think there is only one plausible motive for this error, namely the palsied thought of Karl Marx, which has marked modern historiography like a lash across the back.
[W]e do not start from what men say, imagine, conceive. . . in order thence and thereby to reach corporeal men; we start from . . . their life-process [and] show the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. Morals, religion, metaphysics and all other ideology and the corresponding forms of consciousness thus no longer maintain the appearance of independence. They have no history, they have no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, change, along with this their real existence, also their thinking and the products of their thoughts. It is not consciousness that determines life, but life that determines consciousness.

Karl Marx, German Ideology
I do not mean to excoriate Fr. Rohnheimer particularly here; his error is no greater than the errors of any educated Western man, who has been trained to accept Marx's philosophy as the dominant method for evaluating human action. Marx's influence can be found lurking almost everywhere in Western thought, from the libertarian's insistence that material forces (albeit different from those described in Das Kapital) produce near-utopian societies to lunatic theories about the Bible being a "patriarchal" construction built to serve a dominant class. Chief among Marxism's errors is an ignorance of mystery, an insistence that we live only in a world of empirical connections and transparent motives which create neat sequences that are as traceable and predictable as a row of dominoes. Within the context of something like the Holocaust, this thinking provides a false sense of comfort because it purports to subject what John Paul II has called the "mystery of iniquity" -- which is itself an aspect of the mystery of human freedom -- to a simulacrum of comprehensibility and controllability.

In that imaginary world we can easily attribute the Holocaust to the moral foreknowledge of men. We can conveniently limit ourselves to Marx's self-answering questions about whether the clergy and laity were, in fact, enmeshed in the circumstances which lined up the deadly dominoes from the cobblestones of the Odensplatz to the gates of Treblinka. "[W]e do not start from what men say, imagine, conceive. . . in order thence and thereby to reach corporeal men; we start from . . . their life-process [and] show the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process . . ." In that world it is enough to ask whether anyone had, or should have, read Mein Kampf to know whether they can be blamed for failing to avert the "awaiting" Holocaust. But that is not how God created the world; knowing about the "ideological reflexes and echoes" of Pharisaism's "life-process" cannot tell us whether Paul would always spend his life persecuting the Church.[1] Reading Mein Kampf cannot have told anyone living in the 1930s what would become of Germany for the same reason. Men are free, the Church tells us, because we are made in likeness of God. Human freedom dominates human history because it prescinds from the divine freedom manifested in God's creation, incarnation and redemption. We pay a high price for the simulated understanding offered by a Marxist view of history; thinking about men as though they were characters in a Greek play, surrounded by a chorus extolling the inevitable powers of external forces, abandons the moral necessity of freedom even as it attempts to vindicate man's place in a moral world. I am sure Fr. Rohnheimer, like all of us, knows that this imaginary world doesn't exist, that there is room for grace and freedom. But if that world doesn't exist, we have no right to expect Pius XI or Pius XII to have lived in it.

Any reasonable attempt to place historical actions into a moral framework must proceed with a healthy regard for individual human freedom and the uncertainties it causes in every life. This obligation will inevitably disappoint both champions and accusers of the papacy. The champions can't trumpet the publication of Mit Brennender Sorge or Summi Pontificatus as parts of the Church's master plan to avert a known future, and accusers can't complain about the encyclicals' failure to achieve the goals of such a hypothetical plan. What can actually be discussed is a far more limited question -- whether and to what extent, for example, Mit Brennender Sorge was an appropriate or morally-acceptable response to the conditions in Germany in March, 1937. Those conditions do not include an obvious "fate" that was "awaiting" the Jews, an inevitable second world war, or even the continued vehemence of Nazism's persecution of the Church herself. If we really are obliged to live in a world where such things should have been thought of as inevitable by the men involved, then we're obliged to live in a world that has no use for encyclicals and preaching at all. The whole of Catholic belief is tied to the proposition that men change and miracles happen; her prelates should not be judged as though this belief were false.

Perhaps because he senses the rashness of his perspective, Fr. Rohnheimer concludes his essay by veering toward the opposite error, eschewing the idea of moral judgment because "[w]hat is at issue . . . is not the question of guilt or innocence . . . but recognition that the Catholic Church contributed in some measure to the developments that made the Holocaust possible." I disagree with him. It is a non-issue whether the Church contributed "in some measure" to "developments" that made the Holocaust "possible." Of course the Catholic Church did that. When Fr. Rohnheimer phrases things so pallidly, we may as well say that Abraham contributed "in some measure" to the developments which "made the Holocaust possible" -- if Abraham had not listened to God there could not have been Jews in Germany. No one is interested, no one should be interested, merely in whether the Catholic church did something that somehow affected the possibility of something else. Whether or not the Catholic Church is viewed within a divine or secular framework, the only significant question is whether and how she is good for man. The important question really is the one which Fr. Rohnheimer asked at the beginning of his essay, "Was the Church . . . a bulwark against anti-Semitism?" In other words, did the Church serve as the pillar and bulwark of truth?

That question cannot be usefully answered by debating whether or how well the Church followed a master plan to avert the Holocaust "from the start." The Church did not have such a plan -- not in 1933, 1937, 1938, 1939 or in any other year, and no reasonable person ought to expect her to have had one. Nor should we try and locate the particular domino which the Church ought to have plucked out of some imaginary fated chain of consequences -- not unless we're willing to set a moral standard for our own consciences that would cause any sane man to conclude that "silence" and "complicity" is morally safer than risking posterity's condemnation of his actions. A useful answer can only begin by expecting no more from Pius XI, or Pius XII, and their curia than we can justly expect of ourselves. Which of us really wants to mount an effective opposition to the Nigerian genocide of 2008? Is our plan specific enough? How guilty are we for preaching only about "human rights" while omitting the express condemnations of President Obesanjo and his officials which, if uttered, will avert that genocide "from the start?" A good test for evaluations of the Church's role during the period 1920 - 1945 would be to examine their utility for guiding the Church's actions in the present. When such evaluations would require the Vatican to predict Nigeria's future history, as Fr. Rohnheimer has required Pius XI to know Germany's future history, then we're not judging truly.

Approaching the question correctly will disappoint the age's passion for worldly certainty and ultimate judgments. It will disappoint Catholics who want to believe that the Church attends every significant moment in history with a detailed master plan to achieve the common good. It will disappoint others (Catholic or not) who want to believe that the Church's role in the mystery of freedom was another victim of the concentration camps. And it will disappoint professional scholars who, like Fr. Rohnheimer, seem to have unfortunately confused the perspicacity of their researches with the consciences of their historical subjects.

[1] See, e.g., Acts Chapter 7: "Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Acts 17:57-59 (KJV).

Monday, November 24, 2003

Catholics With Spines

St. Thomas Aquinas College in California has resignfired a member of its board of governors because he's also on the board of a company that uses pornographer Hugh Heffner as a spokeman. Congratulations and way to go, TAC!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2003

One Good Idea Deserves Another

I am glad to read that I. Shawn McElhinney's going to Mexico for Christmas. He needs to find a relaxing place and reward himself for his labors. Here's something I found very nice when I was in Florida (first time to the beach in 30 years), which I hope Shawn will try:
Step 1: Find a good warm sunny area by the beach and a very comfortable chair.

Step 2: Sipping from a thermos of coffee, sit around reading or taking short walks on the beach until it's very hot. Smoke some cigars (for mornings I suggest English-Market-Selection Hoyo Excaliburs or, later on, Punch's admirable Chateau Lafitte) to warm up the soul and banish the morning's toothpaste-breath.

Step 3: Around noontime, open a cooler full of Corona, and drink until you're slightly-more-than-mildly inebriated. Continue smoking cigars (by this time I've switched to good strong maduros like Hoyo's Sultan or JR's Ultimate #1).

Step 4: Loudly refute all heresies. If seagulls aren't flying, you're not refuting loudly enough.

Step 5: Break for a late lunch. I suggest sandwiches of first-quality ham on Italian bread, garnished with red onions, and dressed with olive oil and italian seasonings. Drink more beer as needed. Te Amo's spicy Toro cigar makes an admirable finish for these sandwiches.

Step 6: Continue driking beer, smoking cigars, and refuting all heresies. If couples with children are approaching within 20 yards of your chair, you're not refuting loudly enough.

Step 7: Nap until sunset.[1]
Try it -- it does wonders for the soul.

[1] It is quite possible to refute all heresies in the course of an afternoon and still have time for a nap: When one is slightly-more-than-mildly-inebriated the refutation of all heresies takes a good deal less time and effort than one might expect.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Touch Not the Unclean Blog?

Jeff Culbreath is one of the people my conscience throws up whenever I start spasming and knee-jerking my way into a snit over Traditionalism. He's congenial, reasonable, passionate, learned, and principled. He's recently expressed an interest in terminating his blog. Now this is being thought out with the counsel of his spiritual director, and so I don't even presume to think about quarreling with or questioning it. I have my own spiritual director, and I know how good and helpful that can be. (Although, to be honest, my spiritual direction hasn't progressed to sophisticated topics like blogging: My director is still at the, "There are actually Ten Commandments, you know" stage). Anyhow, one fellow posted a rather exuberant paean to disconnecting from the Internet in the Name of True Catholicism[TM], and I thought I'd reply to it here rather than waste Jeff's bandwidth. His words are in blue, my replies are in black.

The culture war is happening out there. Satan lures us to the internet where mortal sin is a click away.

Yep, porn is just a click away. But I recall that the Aquinos, desperate to keep young Thomas from "wasting" his life, threw a real live naked woman into his bedroom one night. So I don't see how anything's really changed from then to now -- I have nude women close at hand, and St. Thomas had a nude woman close at hand. Thomas threw the woman out of the room and burned a cross onto the door. One thing he didn't do was come up with a theory that bedrooms are evil and no one ought to have one. Continuing the parallel, we can't cancel our ISP subscriptions and think we've done something positive for Jesus.

Satan doesn't need the Internet to play in. He's got the human mind, where mortal sin is a thought away, with no clicking required. And if the Internet, where (as you've admitted) means that all sorts of people are out there clicking away, doesn't that mean the Internet is also "out there" where the culture war is happening? People may read blogs in the privacy of their own living rooms, but the mind they use to read with goes wherever they do when they disconnect. I think that means blogging can be a very good thing, sort of like burning a cross on the monitor screen.

Every minute we use blogging, fixing html, etc., we could be praying another Rosary or another hour of the Divine Office. We could be praying with our kids.

I know the fellow isn't a Protestant, but this reminds me of what Protestants do whenever they go on and on about how praying to saints is time "wasted" because it could be used praying to Jesus. We can always (and very plausibly) cram the whole of Christian life into the beatific vision, because the beatific vision is indeed the proper end of human life. But I don't understand this impulse to use a spiritual drive-compression program or fast-forward button and leap past everything God wants us to do in order to get ready for the beatific vision -- like praying to saints, blogging about how good it is to pray to the saints, or spending time on anything else that can be plausibly (and wrongly) called a "distraction" from God merely because it's not the beatific vision itself. People have to be very careful about jettisoning things as "distractions," because that impulse can itself be used as a distraction from the very things being jettisoned.

We've all had that experience of being distracted with something at prayer and then, just when we think we've licked it, realizing that we've just skidded mindlessly through a whole decade of the Rosary because we spent all our time thinking about how distracting distractions are and why we get distracted and why we shouldn't be distracted, etc. The only way to snap out of that spiral is to "cut and run" -- to junk the whole idea of distraction and just jump right back into the good stuff. It seems to me that sorting things out into "distracting" and "non-distracting" categories based on our personal preferences (and disagreements about them) is a larger manifestation of the same profitless spiral. Does God want you to witness by blogging? Then blog, and don't dither over whether there's a hierarchy of tasks you could be climbing. After all, in the first glorious mystery of the Rosary God may want me just to meditate on the sheer fact that "Jesus is not dead" -- even though the whole subject of the Resurrection includes far more (such as Jesus as redemptor mundi and the Resurrection as proof of the possibility of repentance) all of which is indeed a higher and more sublime aspect of the mystery. Mary chose the better part, but there are also places for Marthas, and if God wants me to be a Blogging Martha right now, then who am I to quarrel and demand mystical contemplation instead?

Fight the good fight, but do it in the real world.

I don't know how the interaction of human minds via the internet isn't "real." Indeed, men having rational souls, the idea occurs that some blogging might be a more "real" way to fight the good fight than pounding down potato salad at a KofC "friendship dinner" with the local Masonic Lodge. (Yes, Virginia, my old parish KofCers were really big on fellowshipping with the Masons). Not that everything (or most things) off line are like that, but it seems to me that evangelizing means going where the evangelees are -- to the Areopagus, for example, even though there were all kinds of nasty pagan things there, too. If people are on the Internet (and they are), then Catholics ought to be on the Internet.

The whole blogging/St. Blog's thing has lured us away from God's work, and at least know many are realizing it.

Look, just about anything can lure anyone away from God's work. Sin being a matter of disproportion, even a love of the Rosary can be used to lure someone away from God's work. This whole line of thought strikes me as an extension of the Evangelical/Reformed habit of forgetting the idea of disproportion and trying instead to make lists of the Things Which Are Limitlessly Good and Lists of the Things Which are Always Bad. All they end up doing is foreswearing cigars and spending hours listening to Jim Neighbors gospel records while worrying that he might have been gay. I can't think of anything drearier than that, unless it's another scoop of German potato salad at a KofC friendship dinner with the Tasseled Ones.

I think that's why the traditional Catholic presence online is sparse.

People with nothing better to do than read my blog know that I have a love-hate relationship with Traditionalists. On the one hand, I love the aspects of the faith that traditionalists (and just about only traditionalists) preserve (heck, they go way beyond "preserve" -- they live all that good stuff), and their uncompromising "invasive" attitude that sees the Church confronting the world rather than vice versa. On the other hand I suspect that Traditionalist Catholics are often people who've just grown too darn tired to stay in Catholicism and have therefore opted for a Righteous Remnant over a universal Church. Didn't I read an editorial in Latin Mass magazine complaining about how Traditional Catholics are marginalized? I think that might have been the same issue that had an article arguing against a widespread use of the indult because the Latin Mass is "our Mass" and those Novus Ordo trained priests would just fumble the rubrics. Orthodoxy is always elegant, but Catholicity can be messy as all get-out. Only God can expect men to combine the two, because only He can bring one out of the other. Traditionalists will win me forever once they start following Him and trying to do the same thing. I classify "you don't hear from us because we're too pious to talk to the peanut gallery" as a step in the opposite direction.

I pray more will follow.

Yeah, and if I were Rembert Weakland or the editor of America I'd be on my knees right there with you. Before I got on the Internet I didn't even know there was a Traditional Latin Mass, I kid you not. You want to keep it that way? I'm sure there are many in the Church who would approve.

Let's turn the computer off and get down on our knees in prayer. Then, let's teach our kids, assist Mass daily, help decorate the High Altars of our churches and clean our churches, learn more Latin, and pray some more.

Well, first we'd have to figure out whether learning to conjugate amare is a distraction from decorating the High Altar, or whether decorating the High Altar is a distraction from sweeping out the vestibule, or whether sweeping out the vestibule is a distraction from assisting at Mass . . . .oops! We just skidded right through Sunday!

For those still lurking around, turn off your computer and get to your nearest traditional Catholic church/chapel -- join the Church Militant in the Battle for Mary and Christ.

And don't forget that you read this on the Internet!

* * *

Jeff, if you stop blogging, I will miss you. But as I said on your site, it will be worth it knowing that you're doing whatever it is God has in store that's even better than your blogging. My prayers are with you.


Friday, November 21, 2003

Geoff Horton Asks a Good One

Does Hannah have a list of books she'd like to drool upon?

No, not really. And I'd appreciate any suggestions for children's picture books, music, etc. which is authentically Catholic. I'd like it if the saints weren't strangers to Hannah's nursery. Anybody know of good picture books and music for infants?
A Modest Christmas List

Just in case anyone who is related to me (or who otherwise feels himself compelled by custom or some other strange reason to buy me a Christmas present) is reading this blog, here is a modest list of books I'd like to have.

Carlyle, et al., , A History of Medieval Political Theory in the West
Gardiner, Ed., The Great Books, A Christian Appraisal
Wayne & Goldman, Eds., A History of Private Life, (NB: I have vol. 1.)
Halecki The Limits and Divisions of European History,
de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution
de Wohl, Founded on a Rock: A History of the Catholic Church
Congar, Tradition & Traditions
Adam, The Spirit of Catholicism
Bouyer, Spirit & Forms of Protestantism
Salmon, The Infallibility of the Church
Dollinger, The Pope and the Council
Denny, Papalism:A Treatise in Response to the Papal Encyclical Satis Cognitum
Shotwell and Loomis, The See of Peter
Aldiss, Brian, Space Opera
Cole, Robert W., The Struggle for Empire
Dodge, Theodore Ayrault:
Hannibal: A History of the Art of War, Etc.
Caesar: A History of the Art of War , Etc. . .
Alexander: A History of the Origin and Growth of the Art of War, Etc.
The Campaign of Chancellorsville
On Campaign with the Army of the Potomac
A Bird's Eye View of Our Civil War
Duggan, Winter Quarters
Feuchtwanger, Leon, Josephus, Jew of Rome & Josephus and the Emperor
Foote, Shelby
Stars in their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign
Chickamauga and Other Short Stories
Gottfried, Bradley M, Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Holland, Belt of Gold
Leckie, Hannibal
Michaud, Annals of the Man-Kzin Wars: An Unofficial Companion Guide
Byzantium: The Early Centuries
Byzantium: The Apogee
Byzantium: The Decline and Fall
The Normans in Sicily: The Normans in the South 1016-1130
The Normans in Sicily: The Kingdom in the Sun 1130-1194
Paradise of Cities: Venice in the 19th Century
A History of Venice
Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam
To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign
Sutcliff, The Eagle of the Ninth

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Why SecretAgentMan Has Problems Relating to the Media

It's true -- I can't relate to the media. Just can't, and as a diagnostic/therapeutic act let me explain why. This story about Michael Jackson (originally linked) at Mark Shea's Catholic and Enjoying It! provides an apt occasion for me to show you what goes on in my mind whenever the "media hanky" is run back and forth between my ears. The story is in bold, and my simultaneous thoughts and comments are in brown italics.

* * *

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - Michael Jackson and his attorney will "choose their own time and their own place" to surrender to face child molestation allegations, a family attorney said Thursday. A friend said he was going to "fight this tooth and nail." (Didn't know Michael's attorneys were also accused. Let's hope good English never returns to the AP -- we'd be left with only halve the. story. )

Investigators waited for the singer at Santa Barbara's small airport on Wednesday
(Why?), along with a throng of media (And why would they bring tons of art supplies with them?), but he did not appear. (OK. Probably didn't appear at the 7-11 on Rosemont, or Piggly Wiggly on 37th Avenue, either.) Jackson had left Las Vegas in his private jet Wednesday (Oh! That's why they were waiting for him at the airport!), but his whereabouts were unknown, according to published reports. (Maybe if they referred to something besides published reports, they could find out where he is. I see a vicious spiral here -- you can't know it unless it's in the published reports, therefore no one can put anything into the published reports. Break the chain, people!)

He was expected to surrender to authorities as soon as Thursday, and law enforcement officials said charges would be filed.
(I didn't know it was illegal to surrender to authorities. Or is it only forbidden on Thursdays?)

Brian Oxman, who has been an attorney for the Jackson family for years but is not directly representing Michael Jackson in this case
(Because he's already settled thirty child-molesting civil cases for Jackson and knows better than to touch this one with a barge pole), said Thursday that Jackson and attorney Mark Geragos were working on the timing of the surrender. (Work is needed on the timing -- Geragos is having problems learning the "Moonwalk.") Geragos is also the defense attorney in the Laci Peterson murder case (and is therefore familiar with conducting "the-dog-ate-my-exculpatory-evidence-your-Honor" defenses).

"They will choose their own time and their own place to do this," Oxman said on CBS'"The Early Show.""It will be designed to be as quick as possible from their own perspective."
(The self-importance of these people amazes me. They sound like the Israelis after the ‘72 Munich Olympics -- "We will choose the time and place of our response." If I was the DA there'd be no "surrender" -- Jackson's a fugitive and should be apprehended per LAPD/LASD S.O.P. when and wherever -- "With your left hand, remove the keys from the jet and throw them out the window. Do it now! Step out of the Jet with both hands on your head. Do it now!" . . . )

A family friend, Steve Manning, told ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday that Jackson's family came to Las Vegas to support him. "He feels he's been wrongly accused and he's going to fight this tooth and nail," Manning said. "He's at war right now and he's going to use any weapon he has to fight these charges."
(No . . . not that . . . not THE GLOVE!!! Maybe plastic surgery's answer to Peter Pan will sick Mr. Bubbles on ‘em -- now that would be a reason to tune into Court TV.)

His arrest warrant set bail at $3 million and Jackson was directed to give up his passport, authorities said.
(Gee, I mean isn't that entrapment? If it's a crime to surrender to authorities, whether on Thursday or not, aren't they entrapping Jackson into committing the offense of Surrender By Passport? Besides, I bet Mike's already got a spare passport that reads "Liz Taylor," so what's the use?)

Get over here and get checked in," District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. advised the King of Pop at a news conference broadcast worldwide.
(Oh, great Scott! Checked in??? Only a justice system that features a prosecutor named "Sneddon" could so trivialize the matter. "Your room's almost ready, Guest #455678883, just let the maid turn down your bunk and place complimentary chocolates on the pillow." What do they call the gas chamber in California -- "checking out?" "aroma therapy"? Sheesh.)

The 45-year-old singer was in Las Vegas when dozens of law enforcement agents swarmed his Neverland Ranch compound Tuesday to serve a search warrant.
(Huh? How did we get from the Santa Barbara airport to Michael "Blood and Guts" Jackson waging war on the criminal justice system, to Laci Peterson, through Sneddonesque blithering, to swarming law enforcement agents at Neverland? Let's hope the AP never regains coherence, otherwise we'd be able to chew only that part of the minivan which the government intends to replace with fiber-optics).

Jackson left Las Vegas in his private jet on Wednesday,
(You said that already, when you were talking about the Laci Peterson case) according to reports in Thursday's Los Angeles Times and Santa Barbara News-Press (Those are published reports, by the way -- so you can know that what's in them is really true.). He was escorted by Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies (Now, on top of prosecutors who've graduated from the San Quentin School of Hotel Management, we've got helpful police escorting the suspect to his getaway jet. How, I ask, is a man going to commit the offense of Surrender to Authorities when the Authorities are bound and determined to keep him at large? This is gross inefficiency which I'm sure will get Governor Kindergarden Cop's full attention.) to his own jet and flew from a private terminal at the McCarran International Airport, according to an airport security guard the Times did not name. (Because his name wasn't already published somewhere, that's why.) The News-Press said Jackson's pilot had not filed a flight plan and neither newspaper reported where the jet was headed. (That's because it's a place where dreams are born, and time is never planned. It's not on any chart, you must find it with your heart. It might be miles beyond the moon, or right there where you stand. Just keep an open mind -- like the ECUSA -- and then suddenly you'll find . . . Never Never Land.)

Jackson is charged by the state with lewd or lascivious acts with a child under age 14, punishable by three to eight years in prison, law enforcement officials said.
(No -- not the officials who politely ask Michael to "check in" to his jail, but who will also escort him in the opposite direction! They couldn't have been so primitive as to have "charged" him with "crimes." Surely they "formally suggested" that he engaged in "untoward activity.")

"Michael would never harm a child in any way," Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman said in a statement
(which he held by two fingers). "These scurrilous and totally unfounded allegations will be proven false in a courtroom." ( . . . but not anywhere else, not after Mike's already had his bite at the Bad Apple -- I bet Mike's publicists are hearing something, like a muffled clock, getting closer, closer . . . Tick Tock, Tick Tock . . . . )

Similar allegations surfaced against Jackson a decade ago, but they never led to the filing of criminal charges
(Or the formal suggestion of untoward behavior, or reservations at the Los Angeles County Residence Inn -- but that was only because Tom "Concierge" Sneddon hadn't graduated from law school.) and in 1994 the probe became inactive (Not if current stories are to be believed.). Jackson had maintained his innocence but reportedly paid a multimillion-dollar civil settlement, and the child would not testify in any criminal proceeding. (In more primitive times they called it "Wereguild," but in Sneddonland it's probably called a "wildlife use fee" or some damn thing -- Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!)

Sneddon said this case was different because he had a cooperative victim and because of a change in state law "specifically because of the 1993-94 Michael Jackson investigation."
(Sorry, Tom, but that "check in" business put you on the wrong page of my book for good. Surely prosecutors who think criminals should be able to "check into" their jails don't enforce "laws" -- ‘Ol Bellhop Boy must have meant that Mike "inappropriately deviated" from "state guidelines").

Sneddon told the news conference multiple counts would be filed against Jackson "in a very short period of time," and noted that no civil case has been filed and none is expected, unlike 1993.
(When no one in the DA's office was bright enough to go to the boy's parents and explain how bad it would look for the criminal case if there was a concurrent civil suit, but how good it would look for a later civil suit if there was a criminal conviction. They were all too busy, you see, pretending that white LAPD detectives never used the "N" word, to think about "timing.")

(OK, that's how you know the writer's punchy for lack of sleep -- he's just started three one-sentence paragraphs with the word "Sneddon") would not say when or where the alleged crimes (You can also tell the writer's not native to the Hilton State -- California isn't barbaric enough for crimes -- it has "incidents", "behavioral inconsistencies" . . oh heck . . . . ) took place or how old the child was. He said an affidavit outlining the details will be sealed for 45 days. (Of course, no reason to go back on the "police-escorted-getaway-and-room-service-incarceration" policy which has served California so well . . . .)

But Oxman
(the moron) told CBS that the case involves the alleged molestation of a 12-year-old boy at Neverland Ranch, the storybook playground where the singer has been known to hold sleepover parties with children (whose parents, by allowing their children to be Tinkerbell's guests, also qualify for a comped stay at the LAPD Sheraton's Celebrity Suite)

In a documentary broadcast on ABC earlier this year, Jackson said he had slept in a bed with many children. "When you say bed you're thinking sexual," he said in the interview. "It's not sexual, we're going to sleep. I tuck them in. ... It's very charming, it's very sweet."
(Since I'm talking to and about some Californians, may I suggest that they update a quaint old custom called "tarring and feathering"? Of course, we needn't be so gruesome as to use such an atavistic name. We could probably satisfy the Sneddonocracy by calling it a "bioethically-sensitive avian/petroleum intervention" -- how about it?)

Jackson, in a statement Tuesday, noted that the allegations surfaced the same day a new greatest hits CD, "Number Ones," was released, but the district attorney dismissed any connection.
(Because he's strictly a Tori Amos man.)

"Like the sheriff and I are really into that kind of music," Sneddon said.
(See? What did I tell you?)

On Wednesday, CBS pulled a Jackson music special planned for next Wednesday on his greatest hits and the impact on pop culture of the former child star who got his start with his brothers as a member of the singing-and-dancing Jackson 5.
(And the AP announced a special series of training courses for journalists, who have been reporting the news in newspapers for hundreds of years with varying success from socially-useful pieces of investigative journalism like Woodward and Bernstein's reporting to sloppy and/or lying journalism like William Duranty's stories on the Soviet Union, and who suffer from diarrhea of the typewriter which causes them to produce giant run-on sentences that string nonsequiturs together in a pretence of elegant comprehensiveness.)

The singer had international hits with the albums "Thriller" (1982), "Bad" (1987), and "Dangerous" (1991), but saw his career begin to collapse after the 1993 allegations.
(And the Great Blondin was the first man to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope (1859) but his career declined after he died. Hey -- why not end it by showing I can produce something as non-sequitur and inane as the AP?)
Can Anyone Help Me Here?

A Protestant recently opined as follows during a discussion: "Well fundamentally all Catholics are hypocrites because neither Jesus (nor Paul) had any regard for oral law or oral tradition."

Now this is an interesting claim, and has me wondering what the fellow makes out of the story of Enoch. In Genesis, we read that Enoch, Methuselah's father, lived for 365 years and "walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." Genesis 5:24 (KJV). Well over a thousand years later, St. Paul wrote the Hebrews that "[b]y faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Hebrews 11:5 (KJV). As I see it, while the inspired author of Genesis tells us Enoch pleased God (Enoch is twice described as "walking" with God) during his lifetime, he doesn't tell us whether Enoch was "translated" or whether Enoch underwent death.

It also seems to me that the fellow ought to conclude that the additional elements in St. Paul's story aren't found in Holy Scripture before Paul wrote to the Hebrews. These elements do appear in the book of Sirach ("Enoch pleased the Lord, and was translated, being an example of repentance to all generations." Sirach 44:16; "But upon the earth was no man created like Enoch; for he was taken from the earth." Sirach 49:14). But my understanding is that Protestants believe the book of Sirach, while wrongly included in the "false" Catholic canon as "Ecclesiasticus", is not Scripture. That conviction firmly places Sirach's information in the category of "extra-biblical tradition," and it still doesn't answer the question of how this tradition remained in the Jewish mind from the date of Genesis' composition (2,000 - 1,200 BC?) to the date of Sirach's authorship (2nd Century B.C.).

There being no Scripture which contains the additional elements of Enoch's story, it seems to me that someone who rejects the idea of infallible Tradition can only conclude that Enoch's whole story was preserved (a) by oral and perhaps written knowledge that was not God-breathed, or (b) by Scripture which existed from Moses' day to the day St. Paul wrote Hebrews and which then vanished. Since I'm not aware of anyone who maintains (b), I'm left wondering why St. Paul apparently had such high regard for this non-Biblical information that he included it in his letter to the Hebrews.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

My Daughter Has Good Taste

Little Hannah is already showing good taste in literature. She crawled/toddled over to a stack of books this morning, and immediately drooled on Mark Shea's This is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers the Real Presence.
Wreckovating Triumphalism

Apparently, there are plans to raze the shrine and church at Fatima and build new ones. Architectural models of the proposed new structures, together with computer-generated views, can be found here. It looks like the custodians of Fatima have hired the firm of Speer, Bauhaus, and Dada to draw the plans (they were the architects who worked on the Los Angeles Taj for Cardinal Mahoney), because the new church looks like the combination of a sundial, a cheese-grater, and the ventilation deck of a WWII Tiger tank. This is really sad, and I hope it never gets built.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Mission Briefing

As you know, I went on a mission to the People's Republic of China on 11/1/03 (that's 01/11/03 for you internationally-savvy types). After lengthy and delicate negotiations with the Communist government, Mrs. SecretAgentMan and I rendezvoused with a beautiful, wonderful fourteen-month old baby girl and exfiltrated her to the United States. Her Chinese name is Li Qiao, and we've also named her "Hannah," which means "Grace of God." She's a born SecretAgent -- when we were in Guongzhou, she liberated a tiny jade goat from a shop without anyone noticing (we later returned it, and were met with many smiles and a lot of laughter). Her favorite lullaby (so far) is "Immaculate Mary." She smiles and waves her fingers when she hears it. She's also very cheerful and brave. When she tries to walk and falls on her bottom, she just smiles and giggles, then gets up again with the help of an extended finger. (She absolutely does not like it if you pick her up, she wants to pull herself up).

Right now, she's home with an exhausted "Uma" (that's Mrs. SecretAgentMan), eating Cheerios by the boxful and being constantly licked by Auggie, our Springer Spaniel. She thinks Auggie's very funny, especially when he licks her feet. He does that wonderfully, very gently and tentatively, because he knows how delicate and precious she is. I think the whole world knows it, too. And for a Spaniel who's gone from "Surrogate Child" to "pet" in the past twenty-four hours, I think Auggie's adjusting nicely. Thanks to everyone whose prayers went with us on our journey. God answered them.

I spent a fair amount of time taking notes while we were in China (Beijing, then Chengdu, then Guongzhou, then Hong Kong and home), and even though we spent most of it in a Preferred Tourist Bubble, I think a lot of things I saw were very interesting and so I'll be blogging on those in the near future if time allows. I'll need Hannah's and Uma's permission, of course, and then it must be said that putting a law practice on hold for two weeks is not the best way to create free time. But I did see one beautiful sight that I want to tell you about now.

It was the second day after the orphanage officials brought Hannah to us. My wife was holding Hannah in her lap. Hannah looked up, black eyes shining, and lifted her right hand. Two fingers, her first and middle, were extended and slightly curved, the others lower and curled inward. The Madonna and child. It was the sign of a blessing from the God-Man who made her and who destined her from the beginning of time to live with us and be our daughter. It was a sign from His Immaculate Mother, whose prayers had borne such perfect fruit in our lives. Christ is King, alleluia, alleluia! Ave, Maria! Only He could make someone as beautiful as Hannah. Only He could have inspired her mother to bear her, then give her up to an unknown fate. Only He could have shepherded her and protected her until we had been prepared for her. There is nothing beyond the power of His love and our Lady's prayers. May His blessings rest forever on us, on Hannah, her birth mother and the good Chinese people who, even in the valley of the Culture of Death, protected and cared for her. Amen.