Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Wisdom of Ithilien

I've never met Edwin Tait, nor am I likely to. But I've been reading his online commentary and thoughts for years, and he's one of those folks whose writing gives you hope. Hope for lots of things -- reasonable and respectable Catholic / Protestant dialogue; the reappearance of Christendom; the survival of man's ability to cherish truth, beauty, and goodness. So I was delighted to see that he's put up some thoughts on our new Pope:
Benedict XVI is a "conservative" not because he wants to return to an earlier era, and not because he thinks progress is impossible, but because he understands that for progress to take place it must build on what has already been learned rather than rejecting it. Progress implies a goal. And as Chesterton pointed out more than a century ago, you can't have progress if the goal keeps moving. We live in a society that has glorified change for its own sake. Suggest that a given change might possibly be bad, and you find yourself branded a "conservative." And in a society that has abandoned a shared vision of truth, slurs and labels are our most powerful weapons, because rational disagreement has become impossible.
It's an essay well worth reading.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Meet the Mess

In case anybody missed "Meet the Press," here is a condensed version of last Sunday's installment:
MR. RUSSERT: So, baby, whassup with this Catholic stuff, eh? Women priests? Gay sex lesbian? Bad outmoded, past antiquated yeah what? Gimme your juice now!

REV. THOMAS BOLIN: The Church is always conscious of her divine mission, and of the need for continuity in teaching. Pope Benedict is a sign of that awareness, because he will continue the mission of John Paul II, which was to bring the perspective of Catholic orthodoxy into the world.

MR. RUSSERT: Purges, eh?

THOMAS CAHILL: A truly Christian Church has nothing to do with Christianity, for to have anything to do with Christianity one must define it, and all definitions are exclusivist and intellectually violent to people who don't fall within the definition. Jesus never judged anybody, and He never will.

MR. RUSSERT: Sister Aquin, you got bazooms, are you pissed at Pope?

SR. MARY AQUIN O'NEILL: As a Christian, I try not to make definitions and I'm trying, with all the love and courage I can muster, to think of this Pope as though he were a Christian. I can only hope that he'll give me the same respect.

MR. RUSSERT: Pope prays to Great Thumb. Roman Catholicism declared itself the only Church. Contradiction, or free steak knives?

FR. BOHLIN: What John Paul tried to do was recognize the commonality of goodness, truth, and beauty in the human experience, and reach out to other religions on that basis, recognizing all the while that Jesus Christ is the only source and end of all goodness, truth, and beauty.

MR. RUSSERT: Yeah whatever. Buddhists saved, right?

FR. BOHLIN: Uh . . . .

MR. RUSSERT: Or Church eats self, neh? Old Church, non-Catholics burn Hell, new Church says all religions good, whassup?

FR. BOHLIN: Oh God, why didst thou not give us a Bible made of bumper stickers?

MR. RUSSERT: Fessio, you show fascist, hate part of Church. Tell why hate Hans Kung.

FR. FESSIO: I've let this carnival of mental defects go on long enough. Look, let me explain this. We respect Buddhists because they're made in the image of God. We realize their religion is a human creation which nonetheless bears some marks of the Gospel insofar as the humans who created Buddhism were striving for truth, beauty, and goodness. We don't accept their faith as divinely revealed because it's not. What is divinely revealed is the Gospel, and the fullness of that Gospel resides in the Catholic Church under the stewardship of her Vicar, the Pope. He can't change the Gospel any more than you or I can. He will instead try to present it again to a world made weary by war and disagreement and try to re-Christianize our culture so that we can live authentic lives of free happiness under God. Do you want me to spell anything, Tim?

MR. RUSSERT: Nope. Gotta staff. Sister, you still got bosoms -- pissed at Pope, right?

SISTER O'NEIL: I'm glad we can talk about the truth. I've been so frightened lately. The truth is ineffable. Save Christianity from male-centrism.

MR. RUSSERT: Gonna buy goodies now, ya! Watch the pretty people, buy things this instant!! More stitches, less riches! Ending's better than mending. Credit, go get your credit!! . . . . . Cahill, nobody believes this Catholicism crap entirely, too many ridiculous ideas. Say more?

MR. CAHILL: Abolish the papacy. There never was a papacy. Destroy the Roman monster before your children are raped by priests!!!

MR. RUSSERT: Married priests do jig-jig at home, eh? Not bother Billy and Betsy, right?

MR. BOTTUM: Anglicans, Lutherans -- all the Churches with married and female priests still experience sexual scandals. I don't think that's the root of the problem. It's interesting to see how the consciousness of liberalism has centered on the groin. But this Pope is far less enthusiastic about capitalism than John Paul II, but he's still being called a reactionary because he won't let people wear condoms.

MR. DIONNE. I have to disagree with comments about Christianity being indefinable and ineffable. It's not, it's right there in the Nicene Creed. What I don't like is anybody dividing the Christian community by trying to explain the Creed, as though we have to have a single, common understanding of what it means. The Church is going to lose a lot of ground if it insists on narrowing our understanding that way, particularly among women who want to be ordained.

MR. RUSSERT: Condoms, sex, birth control, all groin things -- Church can change choppy quick now, right?


MR. RUSSERT: Why no? Why? Why right now you tell!

FR. FESSIO: Look, ladies and gentlemen, if you're really interested you ought to make a serious effort and spend some hours reading about these issues and the Church's teaching about them. We can't do this with soundbites because God didn't give us a Bible made of bumper-stickers.

MR. RUSSERT: Hey, Bub, WHOLE HOUR HERE less commercial. I cram whole big semester of journalism in hour! So say again, condoms, sex, birth control, all groin things -- Church can change right? Not right? You tell why now!

FR. FESSIO: Those are things the Church has always taught, although their definition has become clearer over the centuries. There must be unity of understanding, for only that unity expresses the divine unity between Christ and his bride, the Church, a unity of heart and life. Ordaining women can't express that unity, because the priest is to represent Christ in the prefigurement of the divine marriage known to the Church.

MR. RUSSERT: Oho! Sr. O'Neill, you still got ‘em, pissed at Pope, right?

SISTER O'NEILL: The sacraments are dying because there's a shortage of priests. But I'm conflicted about ordaining women because that somehow suggests that the priesthood is a special part of Christianity. It's more important that everyone be a priest and a layman, all at the same altar. I want voting, consensus, and popularity within the Church.

MR. RUSSERT: Bohlin, no more sacra juju?

FR. BOHLIN. No. The laity are the battlefront of the Church, both in their aspect of struggling to realize the Gospel and to evangelize others. The shortage of priests will be cured by faithful Catholics living and winning this struggle in their homes and families.

MR. RUSSERT: Pope gonna subvert democracy, right?

MR. BOTTUM: Not at all. It's just that Catholics in politics must remain faithful to Catholic teaching if they're to remain Catholics. Whether they choose to remain in politics is up to them, but in order to call themselves Catholics they must be faithful to the Church's teaching.

MR. RUSSERT: Pope gonna subvert democracy, right?

MR. DIONNE: Oh, it's very problematic. There's the risk of a backlash, and most American Catholics don't validate Church teaching on this issue. The Church accepts abortion rights in Europe. The Church risks being out of touch if it makes abortion a central issue on par with capital-gains tax deductions for the resale of oil commodities.

MR. RUSSERT: Nobody gonna love you if don't buy stuff. Here's stuff to buy, buy now, buy now nownownow!!!! Back after you buy, you buy, fall in love with things now, buy buy buy!!! . . . . .

MR. RUSSERT: Back. Playing video now . . . watch most American Catholics don't buy abortion crap from Church. You buy things now, though, go buy!!! . . . .


Saturday, April 23, 2005

At Readers' Behest . . . .

Here is a photograph of our beautiful daughter:


Thank you, God.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ignorant Armies

Reading Antony Beevor's Stalingrad, I came across some quotations that sum up the fate of man without Christ. I tell myself that without Him we are lost. I commit to it as a principle of action. But it sometimes helps to find concrete examples of what life without Him is like.

Beevor writes about the disgruntlement among German troops, bogged down in the vast Russian war-zone, as the winter of 1941 hit them:
"Samizdat discovered by Russian soldiers on German bodies demonstrates that there were indeed cynics as well as sentimentalists. ‘Christmas,' ran one spoof order,'will not take place this year for the following reasons: Joseph has been called up for the army; Mary has joined the Red Cross; Baby Jesus has been sent with other children out into the countryside [to avoid the bombing]; the Three Wise Men could not get visas because they lacked proof of Aryan origin; there will be no star because of the blackout; the shepherds have been made into sentries and the angels have become Blitzm├Ądeln [telephone operators]. Only the donkey is left, and one can't have Christmas with just a donkey."
The German satirist has aptly depicted not only the "transvaluation of all values" effected by Nazism, but done so with a biting, humorous indifference that betrays no inkling of Germany's true situation. He and his fellow soldiers were fighting to conquer Russia, not realizing that they had themselves already been conquered; this lampoon is a monumental testimony to the extent of the conquest.

Equally revealing is Beevor's translation of the comments made about the piece by Russian intelligence. "‘I do not understand,' a Red Army intelligence officer has written at the bottom of the translation. ‘Where does this come from?'" It comes from the patrimony Russia had lost a generation ago, when it too was conquered by the same enemy that had overtaken the Reich.

So the two vast war machines confronted one another, their mighty quarrel marked only by one side's apathetic perversion of Christ's message and the other's attempt to obliterate it entirely. What choice is this? How is it that men should die in the millions for such worthless causes? Because without Mercy to set the limit of evil, there is no other choice.
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Long Live Pope Benedict XVI!!!


Long live the Pope!
His praises sound
Again and yet again:
His rule is over space and time:
His throne the heart of men:

All hail! The Shepherd King of Rome,
The theme of loving song:
Let all the earth his glory sing
And heav'n the strain prolong.

Beleaguered by
By the foes of earth,
Beset by hosts of hell,
He guards the loyal flock of Christ,
A watchful sentinel:

And yet, amid the din and strife,
The clash of mace and sword,
He bears alone the Shepherd Staff,
The champion of the Lord.

His signet is the fisherman's
No scepter does he bear
In meek and lowly majesty
He rules from Peter's chair

And yet from every tribe and tongue
From every clime and zone
600 million voices sound
The glory of his throne

Then raise the chant,
With heart and voice,
In Church & school & home:
"Long live the Shepherd of the Flock!
Long live the Pope of Rome!"

Almighty Father bless his work,
Protect him in his ways,
Receive his prayer, fulfill his hopes,
And grant him length of days!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Breaking News!!!! Read All About It!!!

Pope Dies, Interregnum Begins
"We're vindicated," Say Sedevacantists.

* * *

SSPX Refuses to Acknowledge Pope's Death
Not bound by Vatican rulings, says Bishop.

* * *

Little-Known Papal Claimant Calls for Unity
Excommunicates SSPX and Sedevacantists

* * *

Observers Wonder if Church Can
Survive Total Loss of Membership

(NOTZENIT) -- The world of the Roman Catholic faithful has been rocked by the death of John Paul II, who some observers say was holding the Church together with public-relations smoke and mirrors.

Citing differences of doctrine, culture, and discipline, officials of the Society of St. Pius X have refused to acknowledge the death of Pope John Paul II, opening the possibility that the group's separation from the mainline Roman Catholic Church will continue.

"There is no prudent reason to believe that Pope John Paul II has died," reportedly remarked Bishop Vorhang als Heib, Superior General of the SSPX, which broke away form the mainline Catholic Church in the 1970s. Society members believe that after the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church became too liberal in its theological views.

"Sacred Catholic tradition requires that the death of a Pope be verified by tapping his forehead three times with a silver mallet and calling out his baptismal name," said an adviser close to Heib. "That practice, like everything which is an unalterable part of the true Gospel, was abandoned by the Church after the Second Vatican Council."

Without the mallet-tapping, he said, "true Catholics cannot be sure the Pope is dead."

The official, speaking from the Society's headquarters at Schloss Speckandegg, Switzerland, noted that while John Paul II had received the last rites, such rites can't prove that he died, or was even gravely ill. "Under the new Novus Ordo religion," he said,"the so-called ‘last rites' can be given to anyone who is ill, even with a head cold!"

Asked about the apparent contradiction in the Society's stance formed by reports of a state funeral for the Pope, including the public viewing of his body in the Vatican palace, Society spokesmen declined to comment.

"Things can be made to appear which are not, in fact, the case," said one close adviser to the Society's leadership, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "After all, John Paul II had the appearance of being our Pope since the Society's founding."

Society leaders vowed to continue opposition to Pope John Paul II's pontificate. His policies were controversial for many Catholics who felt the Church was deviating from traditional norms and becoming too modern.

"We can't allow false quibbles to impede our loyalty to the true religion," said the SSPX official. "Facts are facts. It is a fact that the Catholic Church is in disarray, riven with modernism, and that only the Society's clear vision of the faith can save her."

Other ultra-traditionalists, however, disagree with the Society's position. On Tuesday the Sedevacantist movement met for a special mass to pray for the election of a "devout pope, who will defend the faith."

In the company of breakaway Bishop Thuc U, the Temporary Rotating Ad Hoc Chairman of the Very Loose Association of Sedevacantists, worshipers met in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, formerly a JC Penney store in the Billington Heights Mall in Sedona, California. The congregation listened enthusiastically as Bishop Thuc lectured on the current state of affairs.

"The Vatican's bureaucrats have at last admitted," said Bishop Thuc, "that we have been right all along, that the See of Peter is vacant." Sedevacantists take their name from two Latin words meaning that the seat of Peter is unoccupied and that there is no present pope. Thuc's remarks generated a round of applause from the crowd, estimated to be at least nineteen people, many of them unaware that the JC Penney had closed its doors.

Thuc, 198, also said that the upcoming papal election will likely not produce a true pope who would gain a following in the Sedevacantist movement. "An article of faith it is," he said, "that the Church is sede vacante, without a Pope. Facts are facts. Allow theological quibbles about mallet-tapping to obscure the truth, we cannot. The Church in disarray is, only the clear vision of those wise enough to tell that there is no Pope can save her. Thinking of saved Church, brings warm feelings to my heart."

Both groups, however, have rejected an appeal from a current claimant of the papal throne for unity. Elected Pope in a conclave held by his parents, a John Deere service technician, and some prison pen-pals, Michael I recently exhorted both the Society of St. Pius X and the VLAS to accept him as Pope.

"With the death of the usurper calling himself John Paul II, the path is clear, my young Padwans," said Michael, addressing a lawn-jockey via portable loudspeaker on the outskirts of Delia, Kansas. "Facts are facts. We can't allow theological quibbles about mallett-tapping or catalogue stores to obscure the truth, that the Church is in disarray and only I can save her! I do not take this action lightly. I love the Church. I love orthodoxy. Rest assured that the power you give me I will lay down when this crisis is over."

His call was rejected by leaders of both groups. "We cannot, as faithful Catholics, be certain that John Paul II is dead," said als Heib, "we certainly cannot take seriously a man who is not only not dead, but who calls his followers ‘Padwans,' which is a language unknown to Tradition and more in keeping with the New-Age paganism of the current Pope."

Bishop Thuc U, who was reportedly last seen near the Orange Julius kiosk, could not be found for comment. Several persons claiming to be temporary associates of VLAS, however, confirmed that they disagreed with one another and would not submit to the "yoke of a Sedevacantist Pope."

Informed observers say that the divisions between groups are representative of the Catholic Church's amazing decline over the past few years.

"The disintegration of the Church is apparent, and due primarily to the Church's refusal to accept estrogen as proper matter for the Eucharist," said Church expert Fr. Richard McCryin of Notre Lame University.

Fr. Andrew Weesly, another Church expert, traced the Church's impending death to its primitive sexual taboos and rigid authoritarian structure.

"No Catholic can doubt that the Church was constituted by Jesus Christ," he said, "but if we are to have a Church in future we must question whether Jesus Christ was as smart as He's made out to be by disciplinarian bishops hand-picked for their unswerving loyalty to primitive sexual taboos."

The controversy comes at a time when the Catholic Church is experiencing a constant trickle, stream, river, torrent, apocalyptic tidal-wave of disaffection among everyone. No one in the world thinks Church teaching is relevant to their lives, and many believe that the recent sex-scandals involving every Catholic priest and every Catholic child in every parish in every part of the world have seriously weakened the Church's ability to hold the attention of a methamphetamine addict with ADD, let alone serve as the moral focus of modern, right-thinking society.

"It's time for change," said Mike Emetic, spokesperson for Voice of the Faithful, a lay organization representing the views of nearly every Catholic layman in the world. "We've had enough of Bishops, Popes, and all that medieval stuff. It caused the sex-abuse scandal. The sex abuse scandal. Did I mention it caused the sex-abuse scandal? Why isn't estrogen part of the Eucharist? Isn't it time we joined the twenty-first century? Why can't we be more like mainline Protestant denominations? They have an entirely neutered and decadent leadership, and their membership is growing daily."

A key indicator of the crisis' severity is Rome's inability to effectively reach out to Catholics at the membership level. The Church hierarchy seems increasingly out of touch and unwilling to address members' concerns.

A call placed by this reporter to the Vatican at 8:00 o'clock p.m. local time went unanswered for several minutes. Finally a Vatican spokesman identifying himself as Guido Albignoni was reached. After admiting to being a high-ranking part of the Vatican staff, Albignoni hastily terminated the interview when questioned about the Church's unwillingness to ordain transgendered hamsters to the priesthood.

"They all gone, cheerin' a new pappa," he claimed, "I gotta get the crew. Gonna be lots of paper and such out in'a da Santo Petro square. No time for you, fella."

Only time will tell if the Catholic Church can recover her former prestige and influence.
Odd Musings on the Next Pope

Now that His Holiness' body has been put in its temporary resting place, I return to blogging. When he died, and was buried, I didn't have any words for it. He had a life one can sum up in a million words or a few dozen. Here are the few: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (KJV). Had the Church been run by a hireling, or a routine and ordinary Pope, content to tend the institution and provide a name fot its inertia, I and millions of others should probably not have joined her in these past decades. But fortunately, that was not to be.

The Church was loved and ruled by a man called from obscurity, from nowhere by God's own voice. He was strong, this man, and gentle too. He was brilliant and very simple. He was happy in suffering, generous in triumph. He was so unlike the world that it took your breath away just to see him. This, you said to yourself, must be how grace appears when it transforms the human person. And this was just one life. Just one. It wasn't a movement, or a program. It was just a man, one man, living each day as I must live each day. I will miss him. I knew he had my back, that he refused no suffering or hardship that any man might undergo for following Christ. He was a real leader.

There's lots of speculation about who the next Pope will be. I have my pet theories, others have theirs. I won't share them, because when all's said and done it's kind of silly, like the distressing and impotent conversations lawyers have about what the jury's thinking and doing. I will, however, predict this: I doubt very much we'll get a Pope who can match John Paul II. In fact I wonder if his pontificate wasn't a consolation for the Church, the kind which God sends to encourage spiritual progress while providing the happy strength of memory and hope against the dry times that He knows must come in every life.

I don't think the next Pope will be a corrupt man, bedeviled by sins and uncleanliness. He could, of course, be such a man, and in that case we should soldier on as best we can. But I don't think that will happen. What I do think is that the next pope may well be disappointing to people accustomed to the brilliant and heady fecundity of John Paul's pontificate. The next pope may match John Paul II in one area or another, but not in all of them. He may well suffer by comparison.

The next Pope may lack John Paul's brilliant appreciation of mass communication. He may not be philosophically acute, or even particularly interested in theological issues. He may have character flaws. He may not be gentle. He may not be kind. He may be cold and aloof. Or he may be too warm, too familiar, and a lax disciplinarian. He may be provincial in his outlook, or too fascinated with the "big picture" to be concerned about the mundane details which give that picture a concrete application in the lives of his flock. Perhaps most galling, he may be too vain or too thick-headed to realize just how disappointing he is to so many of us.

It's also true that the late Pope's popularity resulted from that unique and incredibly-powerful confluence of personality and history which marks the life of all great men, for good or ill. For that reason the spectacular value of John Paul II's achievements may be distant, or unfamiliar, to many Catholics in future. History "dawns" on individual lives at particular times, leaving an indelible mark on one's perspective and priorities which may not be easy to read in future days. So those of us in middle age know what the Soviet Empire and its domination of Central Europe threatened for the future of civilization. But that threat has vanished like a bad dream at sunrise; many Catholics, upon whom history dawned on 9/11, or upon whom it will break in future crises, may not be as edified as we by the laurels of older victories.

While there is no reason to expect it, is good reason to contemplate the prospect of a future Pope -- or several Popes -- who will be regarded (perhaps rightly so) as bunglers, non-plussers, and duds. Their mis-steps and disappointing gaps in judgment will provide great comfort and encouragement to those religious cultures whose contemplation of Christ's Church is composed in equal parts of false perfectionism, bitter zeal, and schadenfreude. That culture, as experience shows, is not confined only to self-styled Traditionalists but runs the gamut of all the other worldly and heretical tastes which are irritated by one or another part of the Gospel. They combine to sing an unintended, but entirely unified, chorus that the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be since she enjoys a false glory that rests not on Christ but the shallow and temporary enthusiasm generated by one man's extraordinary showmanship.

They will, of course, be wrong to say so. As they are have been wrong to say it in past centuries when the "death" or "irrelevance" of Catholicism was loudly proclaimed by everyone who thought themselves on the "right" side of history. John Paul II's pontificate did not define the Catholic Church; it was defined by her. Every jot and tittle of John Paul II's career was deeply shaped by the Church's life through all the ages and conditions of history through which she has passed. It is impossible to say that he was a great man who merely happened to employ Catholicism as the metier of his magnificence. His greatness was Catholicism itself, the realization of what the faith intends for the human person. Attempts to isolate that greatness, to reduce it to the dimension of temporal policies and personal preferences are worldly propaganda, for propaganda gains its chief effect, not by forwarding its own cause, but by banishing contrary ideas from popular contemplation.

In our time, the banished idea is the Gospel, and its message that each of us is called to be what John Paul II was to the Church and the world, urbi et orbi. No, most of us aren't called to be popes or powerful men. A hundred years from now no one will remember our names. We can "be not afraid," and testify resolutely and cheerfully to the truth in the face of the "Soviet occupation" of our own culture. And so we will have lived as part of the Church, whose life through all the ages and conditions of human history will continue to inform and shape the lives of saints. The same Church, the same faith, that shaped John Paul II's life also shapes ours. It is not brash to make such comparisons. If millions gathered to hear John Paul II, they were surely as inspired by his message as he was in his own turn inspired to hear it.

That is something worth remembering. Catholicism is greater than any man. It is greater than man himself. Karol Wojtyla did not enter the room of tears only because he was an able man, and chosen by the Church as her Vicar. He entered it because of the anonymous service of millions throughout the centuries and the unspectacular service of dozens of Popes before him. His pontificate was the heir to the legacies of Gregory the Great, Nicholas, the fabulous skein woven by men like Leo XIII, Pius XII, and St. Pius X. It was also heir to the muddled legacy of Leo X, Honorius, and Alexander VI. Each of them, for good or ill, was granted their time, their place, by God. The Church profited from their good works, and survived their mistakes, in ways that no merely-human institution can match.

So the next Pope will enter the room of tears, and don the vestments that ravel a new thread into the skein of Gospel history. The Church will profit from his good deeds, and she will survive his mistakes. No man made the Church. No man may unmake it. May God save and guide the next Pope and his flock. May He grant us all the grace to love, and be loyal, during our short time in the present age and condition of human history. We owe a good deal to the anonymous faithful of prior ages, and even to the mediocre Popes who shepherded many of those faithful. We should be confident that future ages will owe at least as much to us, and to our next Pope. That will be a very great deal, indeed.
More Blogging; for Now, Some Drudgery

Now that the Pope's body has been laid in its temporary resting place, I return to blogging. By tomorrow I hope to have posted the following --
Some random thoughts on the next pope. Not on who he may be, but on the fact that he will no doubt be a dud and a boob compared to John Paul II and why that's something we shouldn't worry about.

Breaking news from the Tongue-in-Cheek Newservice about the Society of Pius X, the Sedevacantist movement, and the Papacy of Michael I.

Another installment of the Plus ca Change, Plus C'est La Meme Chose series explaining the curious parallels between some Catholic responses to the Nazis and modern Catholic responses to the latest eruption of the Culture of Death.

Musings on the Remnant's inability to comprehend the mysterious following of Palm Sunday by Good Friday, and thereby, self-styled Traditionalism's inability to fully live the Catholic faith.

Hopefully, I can complete my essay, "Why George Bush's America Creeps Me Out." And -- even more ambitious -- a fuller presentation of my views on the invasion of Iraq.

I also have other things, bits, tidbits, and replies to reader emails. If I have time, I'll also include questions/notes for the reading group's upcoming discussion of Canticle for Liebowitz
For now, I'll just take potshots at random headlines from the Drudge Report.

Item: What are you willing to bet that the guys who saved all this garbage took heat from their Edwardian counterparts? Turns out they did a great service to everyone. It raises an interesting question. What would happen if the documents contained Paul's Second Letter to the Romans? The one in which he gives us a thoroughly "Augustinian" view of sola fide? Or the one in which he cautions the Romans against asking the departed for intercessory prayer?

Item: Now there's a website tallying the number of times the F-word is used in the HBO series Deadwood. (No, no link. If you know the F-word, you know everything on the site already). So far it's 1,519 times, an average of 1.45 times per minute. In a related story, TV executives are meeting to discuss their indecent programs. I wonder how many times they'll use the F-word?

Item: The teeth are poking out from behind the world's smile. The AP reports that the conclave is a "historic gathering steeped in intrigue." Already? I mean, the Cardinals haven't even poisoned anybody yet, and since they're blocked from the Internet I don't see how they're going to wire-transfer the funds needed to buy each other's votes. More interesting is the AP's decision that the Catholic Church doesn't have anyone in it.

The AP claims there's "an exodus of the faithful" from the Church, a veritable "stream of people leaving a church whose teachings they no longer find relevant." The juxtaposition of these claims to the sex-abuse scandals shows that the reporter, William J. Kole, means an exodus of bourgeois Americans and effete Europeans. News for Mr. Kole -- they were "exodusing" the Church long before the sex-abuse scandals. Pat Buchanan was right on that score, although wrong to attribute it to John Paul II. Or maybe not, because we also have this story from the AP about Ted Nugent addressing the NRA convention. Here's Ted, shouting to applause and cheers:
"To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot 'em."
I've been a member of the NRA, and I can hyperventilate with the best of them when discussing so-called "gun control." But this is sick, and that the NRA would provide a congenial audience causes me to rethink continued support for that organization. Nugent's rhetoric is an example of the same dehumanizing litany that killed Terri Schiavo. A common denominator marks Terri's case and the cases of rapists, murderers and child molesters. That thread is not what they did or did not do, it is not the causes for which they were subjected to remedial violence.[****]

The fact that links Terry Schaivo and Nugent's targets is the relegation of a human person to a zone in which he or she is regarded as being unworthy of law, and unworthy of life. Like Judge Greer and Michael Schaivo, Ted Nugent is vehemently opposed to maintaining lebensunwertes leben -- "life unworthy of life." The trick in Nugent's case is to place the sole responsibility for de-humanization, exclusion from the mutual obligations of respect which bind the human family, on the subject rather than the community which dehumanizes him. Human solidarity involves the recognition of an intrinsic dignity which cannot be removed by anyone but its divine author; to use the parlance of the founding, human solidarity demands the recognition of inalienable rights, rights which cannot be deprived except as God Himself may will. The Christian tradition has been relatively clear that the only acceptable justification for the taking of human life is the protection of the community. But even then, the Christian tradition has been equally clear that what occurs is the violent end of a human life which is fundamentally identical to the human lives of everyone else. It is that particular consciousness which observes rights and extends legal protection to criminals, because it means that they too are members of the community who may appeal to the mutual human obligation to do justice.

The AP claims there's a veritable "stream of people leaving a church whose teachings they no longer find relevant." I think that's probably true, in the West. The West has become so infected by the Culture of Death that Christianity really is "irrelevant" to life in our society. The conservatives rail about liberal judges "killing Terri," and then go off and applaud as Ted Nugent urges them to kill "the bad guys." The liberals rail about right-wingers like Nugent and their abusive views on crime and punishment, then go off and applaud the courage of Michael Schaivo for putting Terri down like a sick dog. Each side thinks it has a principled position, but the only principle involved is the Culture of Death, and all the arguments are about which part of it to implement first. In the end, we won't get a society where the right-wingers are killing all the criminals or the left-wingers are killing all the elderly. We'll get a society where we kill everybody -- babies, carjackers, old people, child molesters, sick people, rapists -- we'll get a society that's continually scouring itself free of "life unworthy of life." No longer relevant? One can only wonder at the hubris behind such a judgment, and fear the desolation it will cause mankind.

[****] By which I mean the deprivation of liberty or health/bodily integrity without the subject's consent in response to a decision or condition of life which is unacceptable to the community.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Et Cum Spiritu Tuo: Goodbye, Papa.


Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine
Secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum
Lumen ad revelationem gentium,
Et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.*

This was dear to his heart.

*Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord,
in peace, according to Thy word:
For mine own eyes hath seen Thy salvation
Which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all the peoples
A light to reveal Thee to the nations
and the glory of Thy people Israel.