Monday, August 29, 2005

Recent Doings

As readers of the effervescent Catholic and Enjoying It know, Mark Shea has finished writing a book on the Blessed Virgin. That's why he's been so scarce in the blogosphere this past year or so. It's also why I've been so scarce in the blogosphere for the last four months or so; I was helping out as a no-doubt-minor member of Mark's "trusty team of editors."

This is by far the most ambitious authorial project Mark's undertaken. The book has fourteen chapters which discuss and explain the Church's teaching and devotion to our Lady to wary Evangelicals and misguided Catholics alike. Without vanity I can say that "I know this stuff" about as well as an educated layman can possibly know it. Mark's book was still an eye-opener to me, and it will be to lots of other Catholics and to Evangelicals who've been snookered by the counter-Catholic polemics of their religious culture.

The book presents clear, concise, and highly-readable explanations of virtually all Marian things ranging from the earliest stirrings of Marian devotion to the proclamation of the Assumption in 1950. Relatively minor matters, such as our Lady's appearance at Knock, which are not covered in exhaustive detail are still generally discussed and placed in their proper theological, historical, and cultural context. As a kind of "intermediate-level primer" on Mariology, the book should be found in the library of any Catholic. But that isn't the book's most salutary aspect, in my opinion.

The most salutary aspect comes from Mark's broad experience as a pagan, then an Evangelical Christian, and his wide reading and deep appreciation of the progressive godlessness of Western civilization. In addition to explaining what Catholics believe about Mary, Mark has managed a brilliant portrait of why Mary matters. Catholics accustomed to thinking of Marian devotion in "honor thy mother" terms, as a "merely" fitting complement to the Incarnation without natural value or practical influence in our lives, will be astonished to read how Mary has served the Church of her Son as a weapon against heresy, despair, and their inevitable culmination in the culture of death.

English-speaking Catholics who are seriously interested in pursuing Marian reading have two choices. One is to purchase Carrol's massive three-volume work, Mariology, read and study it, then spend a couple of years or so "updating" their knowledge in light of John Paul II's pontificate. The other is to acquire Mark's book which, in a broad and sufficient way, gives you every salient benefit of Carrol's work and the enhanced appreciation of Mary which has come about through John Paul's papacy. The readability of Mark's work, and its division into Chapters which can be read separately, highly recommends it. When it's published, everyone I know who is interested in Catholicism is going to get a copy.

Mark's book is, as modern Catholic apologetics go, a long book. There's a reason for that. I've said before that while Mary isn't the sum and substance of the Catholic faith, she is a rubric for all of it. There simply is no way to write a book of this high value about Mary and not discuss just about everything else Catholicism is, has been, or may become. That Mark has managed the task in a single book is a prodigy of elegance. I think this work may well be a major part of Catholicism's apologetics for decades to come.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

More Drudgery

Random thoughts and knee-jerks on the recent headlines from the Drudge Report.

When the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth did this, it was an affront to everything decent in American politics. I guess the moral authority of a grieving mother with PAC affiliations and a PR-firm really is absolute.

Can anyone imagine a more frivolous life than this one?

It's really a very simple state of affairs. They've got their own faith, with its own calvary, its own saints, and its own Ascencion and we have ours.

The process of Iraqization gains momentum. "Quick, let's un-ass Iraq in a dignified way before anybody notices we wrecked the country and then ran like teenaged vandals!" Senator Hagel made his own Tonkin-Gulf vote giving Junior that blank check to de-build and re-build Iraq, and now it looks like he's gearing himself up to deny appropriations for the Iraqi army just as soon as the Holy Jihad of Allah (or whatever the hell it's going to be called) reaches Baghdad. Ah well, who better than he to teach us the lessons of Vietnam all over again.

Israel continues to make only token gestures towards peace to the Middle East. But a dire fate willed by Allah awaits them -- rumor has it that Senator Hagel is planning a major speech pledging to bear any burden, pay any price, to support Israel's democracy!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

How Stupid Is SBC / Yahoo?

When you lose your password and username for your email account, and so are unable to receive emails, SBC has a nifty service that will retrieve both of them. Just put in your password, and they email you your username! Once you put in your username, they email you your password! So, if you can give SBC a piece of information you don't know, SBC will send you the other piece of information you don't know -- so long as you don't have a problem to begin with.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

In Case Anyone Is Trying to Email Me

My computer has lost the email passwords. I can't send or retreive email. My ISP will not re-set my passwords until I give it the super-secret customer code printed on the bill. Of course, we throw the bills out after we pay them, so it may well be another month before my email is reconnected. If you need to get in touch with me, leave a message at St. Blog's Parish Hall. That's about the best I can do for now.
A Neo-Cath by Any Other Name . . . .

What does ‘Neo-Catholic' Mean?

The term is pejorative. It is intended to describe a shallow faith that does not participate in or appreciate the Church's history, traditions, and spiritual life. In its religious sense, the term refers to Catholics whose religion is made up almost entirely of rote and unreflective memorization of the Catechism and an unquestioning enthusiasm for the papacy of John Paul II. In its political sense, it describes an orientation that employs Catholicism as a blanket authorization for any Republican policy rather than as a guiding set of political principles which exist above party affiliation. Overall, "Neos" are said to be insufficiently Catholic because their essential religious orientation comes from what are perceived to be the worst aspects of Evangelical Protestantism -- personal affection for individual leaders vs. true obedience to the visible Church; a narrow, Fundamentalist, sola scriptura-style understanding of Church teaching; a confusion that makes the United States government equal or superior to the hierarchy of Christ's Church, and which thinks of the American people as being identical to Biblical Israel; and, a pharisaical life-style that redefines the practice of Christianity as obedience to middle-class priorities and conventions.

Traditionalist Catholics apply the label because they are irritated at the inability of many "neo-Catholics" to appreciate what are claimed as serious errors of the post-Vatican II Church in the area of morals, culture, and Church discipline. "Neo-Catholics" are supposedly unable to take a broader view that understands Catholicity as the task of ensuring that no significant changes occur to the doctrine, practice, and teachings of Catholicism as they existed when Christ gave them to the Apostles in 1940. They claim that "Neo-Caths" accept the modern errors and mistakes because they don't know any better, having been "brainwashed" by an effective campaign of propaganda under John Paul II's reign that was dedicated to hiding these errors and punishing anyone who pointed them out. A "Neo-Cath," for example, is said to accept the Novus Ordo primarily because he thinks the Mass is what Evangelical Protestants say about the Eucharist -- a communal meal, with symbolic significance, but without the miracle of transubstantiation.

Liberal Catholics apply the label for the same reason, except the "serious error" they identify in the post-Vatican II era is the failure to rewrite the Church's moral teachings on sexuality and family. "Neo-Catholics" are supposedly unable to take a broader view that understands Catholicity as an evolutionary process by which the Church jettisons inauthentic cultural holdovers and embraces a brighter, more loving vision in which married women priests using contraception perform homosexual marriages. "Neo-Caths" have also been brainwashed, in this view, by an effective campaign of propaganda under John Paul II's reign that was dedicated to binding Catholic allegiance to the structures of power and oppression which existed before the Council. A "Neo-Cath," for example, is said to accept the Church's prohibition of women priests primarily because -- like any Evangelical Protestant who follows his beloved pastor from motives of personal affection rather than Christian obedience -- he thinks the priesthood is whatever John Paul II said it was.

As usually happens, Left and Right are better at mirroring than fighting each other. The essence of Traditionalist and Liberal dislike of Neo-Catholicism is that Neo-Catholics try very hard to believe what's in the Catechism and to follow the pope. Ask any Traditionalist or Liberal Catholic about the sins of the Neos and you'll find that the Neos are pretty much doing what the Traditionalists and Liberals are doing themselves. If a Neo-Catholic sins by giving George Bush's presidency greater moral authority than the Popes regarding, say, the invasion of Iraq, well, he's certainly not doing anything more than a Traditionalist who gives the Dead Hand of Marcel Lefebvre the same superiority when it comes to the form of the Mass. If a Neo-Cath sins by reading the Catechism's excoriations of homosexuality as a license to use words like "fag," "queen" and "pervert" to sum up his brother's life, that Neo-Cath is certainly no worse than people who think a papal press conference has given them the authority to use "baby-killer" and "murderer" to describe Catholics who serve in the Marine Corps.

Traditionalists and Liberals pretty much agree that Neo-Caths have failed, in some significant way, to conform their appreciation of life to the whole of Catholic teaching. As Robert Bolt might have had St. Thomas More say, "I thank God that only a third of the Church has gone off the rails."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

If the Leftist Fascists Keep This Up . . .

. . . . I might just support Roberts' nomination. Turns out the New York Times -- ever ready to demand that we keep the government out of our bedrooms -- has been caught trying to pry open the adoption records of Judge Roberts' children. Sounding like Sandy Berger with a wedgie, the Times' editor claims everything was on the up-and-up: "Our reporters made initial inquiries about the adoptions... They did so with great care, understanding the sensitivity of the issue."

Yeah, sure. Just like they would have published, with great care, the home-study report prepared for each adoption. I've been through this process, folks, and it involves a social worker coming to your house on several occasions and questioning you on some of the more intimate details of your life.

Like your religious beliefs.

Or why you don't have any children.

Or whether you had a drinking problem.

All of that would be good for a few yuks at the Times' editorial meetings, which would focus (after the laughter died down) in trying to spin Roberts either as a Torquemadan Psycopath or a hypocrite and moral degenerate.

And let's not forget the money.

Of course our society doesn't sell children. It just happens, completely by chance, that adoptive parents are going to pay between $30,000.00 and $150,000.00 to all sorts of agencies, homes, social workers (they get the least, and in fact a fair wage) before baby sleeps his first night in the nursery. (And yes, they pay to lawyers to. Unless they hire me. I don't charge for uncontested adoptions). If you get any adoption done for less than $20,000.00, then you've been on the receiving end of a minor miracle.

Now the Times wouldn't be so crude as to suggest that the Roberts "shopped" for children, spending more or less money depending on ethnicity, age, etc. No, the Times wouldn't be so crude. That's Molly Ivins' job.

The Times would have mused about latent racism in the adoption world, and wondered aloud about the "economics" of adoptions -- all in such a way as to portray the Roberts as adoptive counterparts to Cruella DeVille. It would have wanted to know where the money came from. Did Roberts get a loan, a loan from someone who can be third-hand connected to a fourth-hand acquaintance of a member of a "right-wing hate group" like the Federalist Society or the Republican Party? Wouldn't that make Roberts not only slave to the Pope, but to right-wing special interests as well?

I don't know anything about the Roberts' adoptions, except that people who adopt children are as brave and caring as any parent. We go through things most people don't have to think about for an instant. Why them and not us? Is this God's judgment? Why sure I'll bare my soul to a social worker so that she and some other people can decide if I and my wife are "fit" to raise a child in a society that ash-cans 1.5 million of them like used Chicklets every year. Thirty grand up front, no payment plans? No problem. That's why we bought the house, after all.

The editors and reporters at the Times who thought up this stunt are greasy, weevily little sleaze-balls. Sensitivity and care? Sure, like mosquitos and ticks. It would be interesting to know if conspiring to violate a court seal is a prosecutable offense. Maybe the human ticks who thought up this stunt could, with care and sensitivity, call up some more lawyers and ask about that.