Saturday, March 25, 2006

My Computer is Down

The home computer I use for blogging is down. Two nights ago the monitor made a loud popping sound and stopped working. I think that means the video tube's burned out. I know it means I can't see anything. Right now there are two possible solutions: (1) Buy a brand-new computer and get divorced, or (2) something else. I think I'll go with something else. When I find out what it is, I'll let you know. Until then, there will be light or no blogging since I can't access the fifteen half-written blogs in my computer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Belated Blogburst for Terri

I was asked, along with many others who blogged about the judicial murder of Terri Schaivo, to remember her death with a blog post. Herewith my "salient" posts on the matter, which explain what her case meant in my view:
March 31, 2005: The Mind Reels

March 25, 2005: Due-Processing Terri's Death

March 23, 2005: Disgusting.

March 22, 2005: Brickbats from the Leftist Nationalizers

March 21, 2005: Lies, Damn Lies, and Federalism

April 18, 2005: More Blogging; for Now, Some Drudgery

October 27, 2003: A Note to Jack Cade: The First Thing We Do, Is Keep Lawyers In Perspective

Monday, March 20, 2006

Prayer Request

Received via email:
Monday. The next 24-36 hours will be critical if my son, 28, is to avoid being designated "brain dead," or impaired which God forbid. Should he awake, even partially, it will remain to be seen what if any long term damage was done. Thank you for your prayers. He apparently vomited in his sleep, deep into the night after St. Patrick's day dinner with us and other visits with other friends Friday; it went into his lungs, causing a heart attack and depriving his brain of oxygen, causing also pneumonia, kidney failure, etc. His state was not discovered until the next day at 1 PM by my daughter who had stayed over at his apartment for the night. Previously she thought he was just sleeping. When she finally tried to stir him his lips were blue. His kidneys have rebounded somewhat but no improvement yet in the "higher functions of the brain" affecting coma. The question is how long his brain was deprived of oxygen. Needless to say our hearts are broken. He had just returned most sincerely to the Church, and our hearts were warmed Friday when he was the one who asked us to make sure we prayed together before St. Patrick's day supper. Is it possible he had too much alcohol after he left here? Yes. With his other friends we do not know. He only had a Guinness when with us. Some prescription drugs were found in his system. He was not depressed, but had been treated for an anxiety disorder. Quite to the contrary of depression; he spoke in joy about his new girlfriend and his future at work (he is an engineer). ---Stephen Hand
The French: C'est Stupide

Here's a story about French youths protesting new laws that would make it easier to hire and fire young workers. "Slave labour by the back door!" they cry, "If you take away our security, you'll pay!" On the Damoclean sword of at-will employment, one student adds, "You can't live with a knife at your throat."

And here's a story about the eevil United States, a country where at-will employment terrorism has run amok, resulting in almost full employment. "We are approaching full employment and some employers are already dreaming up perks to attract the best talent," say tyrants.

It's true I don't like a lot of things about American-style economics. But one of the good things that contribute to the greatness of American life is this iron rule -- if you don't invest yourself in what you're good at, your life and career quickly deteriorate into a series of short, sharp shocks.

So here's a note to the French: Stop being so frightened of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. There was a time when you guys conquered Europe. There was a time (hell, more than one) when y'all were the intellectual leaders of the world. "If you take away our security, you'll pay," was not the motto of France in those days.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Helpful Suggestions for Police Officers

With full recognition that there's another side to this story, I offer these tips to police about how to be obnoxious, pompous, and almost guaranteed to be taken to court on a ticket, treated to a screaming fit, or physically attacked by a stopped driver. These techniques were observed first-hand by me while serving as a police offier, and also gleaned from police reports as an attorney:
-- Use patronizing terms like, "Buddy" or "Hon" when speaking to the subject.

-- Deliver pompous and overblown lectures to the effect that anyone who does 53 in a 45 on a long stretch of speed-trap tarmac is a disgusting specimen of pseudo-parent who doesn't deserve to raise children.

-- Follow the subject's car for two to three miles and then hit him with the lights and sirens when he turns into his own driveway.

-- It's good officer safety to put your hand on or near the butt of your firearm when approaching a stopped car. It's ridiculous and offensive to keep it there through the whole stop without cause. If you can't tell whether you're in a threatening environment while you're going through all the motions of contacting the driver, returning to your cruiser to check license and registration with Dispatch, returning to the car, talking to the driver again, writing him a ticket, and then having him sign for the ticket, well, you probably ought'nt to have a gun in the first place.

-- Deal with a driver's raised or exasperated voice by ostentatiously calling for "backup" for the sole and express purpose, not of serving your legitimate concerns for safety, but of intimidating the driver into being "nice."

-- Make the driver get out of his car. Tell him you're giving him a warning, not a ticket. Then tell him you don't think he's being appreciative enough, and maybe he hasn't learned his lesson.

-- When there's no manhunt or amber alert, act like you're doing a scene from Hotel Rwanda. Shine your maglite right in the faces of everyone in the car. Ask for everyone's ID, including the kids.

-- Make the driver get out of his car. Notice the square object in his shirt pocket. Demand to see it "for officer safety." Then take a couple of cigarettes out of the pack of Marlboros and tell the driver you're checking for marijuana.

-- Do everything you can to prolong and distract your contact from its actual purpose. Respond to every frown, every rolling-of-the-eyes, and instance of pique with admonishments to respect law enforcement, pay attention, shut up ("backtalk" and "sass" are particularly good words to use), and/or calm down.

-- Be sure to invade the driver's personal space when speaking to him. Words delivered from a distance of eight inches in a low, menacing tone of voice will be sure to impress upon the driver not only the need to use his turn signal, but your own power and authority.
If you'll follow these tactics you'll be guaranteed to make more arrests, have more fights, and show up in court on your off-duty time than any other officer you serve with.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Check It Out

I've posted more in the past three days than I have in the past three months.

The Dossier's been noticed by the National Catholic Register.

It's the new template (thanks Chris), including the Snarky Dog. I like the Snarky Dog. Looking at him, you just know he's the mastermind of the operation. (If you think I'm hallucinating, scroll down and look for yourself.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Guardian Scratches Its Head and Sighs,
"God: Can't Live With Him, Can't Live Without Him!"

Courtesy of The Curt Jester I read a recent editorial in the Guardian that brought to mind an earlier post in this blog about the same newspaper, and the two articles coalesced into proof of Mark Shea's dictum that the history of secularism can be written in two volumes titled, "What Could It Hurt?" and "How Were We Supposed to Know!" Click on the links to the Guardian's two articles and you'll see what I mean.
Volume I, the Guardian, 2004: What Could It Hurt? Wherein our intrepid paper worries that backwards Italy might kowtow to "the Catholic church's stance that a woman's mission is to stay at home and breed."

Volume II, the Guardian 2006: How Were We Supposed to Know! In this installment, our incisive paper publishes an editorial bemoaning Britain's "falling birthrate," and praising women who "stumble towards their own private insights into the importance of mothering - to which they cling in the face of not just zero endorsement from wider society but active contempt."
This is what one might call an "irony-rich environment," folks.

Ms. Bunting's Guardian editorial is cogent, intelligent, timely, and just the thing the West needs to hear. It's also a mirror image of the Vatican "policies" denounced by the Guardian's report in 2004.

And yet, the Guardian's 2004 editorial claims that Catholicism demeans women by preaching their enslavement as stay-at-home "breeders."

So, if one follows the Vatican's "policies," and essays respect and awe of motherhood one is demeaning women as "breeders." On the other hand, if one follows Ms. Bunting's advice and essays respect and awe of motherhood, one is doing something very positive for women and society.

I think the key is found in the fact that Ms. Bunting didn't say a word about God, Christ, or Catholicism in her editorial. If she had done so, the Guardian's editors would have immediately realized that she was out to oppress women into being "stay-at-home breeders."
Ms. Bunting: "In other words, the self we are encouraged to develop through much of our education system and early adulthood is of no use whatsoever to a new parent. What use is that sassy, independent, self-assertive, knowing-what-you-want-and-how-to-get-it type when you fast forward five years to the emotional labour of helping a child develop self confidence? Once there's a baby in the cot, you need steadiness, loyalty, endurance, patience, sensitivity and even self-denial - all the characteristics that you've spent the previous decade trashing as dull or, even worse, for losers. Forget trying to work out your own feelings - you'll be too busy trying to work out those of your children; ditto self-confidence and self-expression."

The Vatican: "Among the fundamental values linked to women's actual lives is what has been called a ‘capacity for the other.' Although a certain type of feminist rhetoric makes demands ‘for ourselves,' women preserve the deep intuition of the goodness in their lives of those actions which elicit life, and contribute to the growth and protection of the other. . . . This intuition is linked to women's physical capacity to give life. Whether lived out or remaining potential, this capacity is a reality that structures the female personality in a profound way. It allows her to acquire maturity very quickly, and gives a sense of the seriousness of life and of its responsibilities. A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society. It is women, in the end, who even in very desperate situations, as attested by history past and present, possess a singular capacity to persevere in adversity, to keep life going even in extreme situations, to hold tenaciously to the future, and finally to remember with tears the value of every human life."
Can't you see the vast difference between these points? Ms. Bunting is talking about a certain and false feminist worldview that hinders or prohibits women from living their ‘capacity for the other.' She's talking about motherhood being the litmus test that separates economic and sociological abstractions and life-as-it-is-actually-lived. The Vatican, on the other hand, just hates women. It's there for anyone with eyes to see. Ms. Bunting is offering a respectable inquiry into the follies of Western secular materialism. The Vatican hates women.

In fact, just don't even bother with the comparison and memorize this: THE VATICAN HATES WOMEN. That's why anything the Vatican says about women mentions God -- referring to "God" is just a trick to make women into "breeders." It's why the same things said without reference to God are responsible, thoughtful critiques of how we live and worthy to publish in the Guardian.

If the Vatican would just leave God out of it, we could explore all these issues reasonably, free from the dogmatic blinkers (The Vatican Hates Women) that keep us from honestly and dispassionately (The Vatican Hates Women) examining (The Vatican Hates Women) modern (The Vatican Hates Women) problems (The Vatican Hates Women).

Heck, we might actually decide to respect motherhood, so long as we don't have to kowtow to a bunch of eunuchs and their weird God-talk. Of course, it would help if we kept a few of those women-hating eunuchs around to tell us how not to be women-hating eunuchs. But that's God for you. Can't live with Him. Can't live without Him.

Postscript: Nothing in the above should be read as a characterization of Ms. Bunting's opinions about religion in general, or Catholicism in particular. It's the juxtaposition of viewpoints that tells the tale here, not anything Ms. Bunting has said about faith, God, or Rome. Men who have abandoned or lost God will accept any good thing so long as they remain free to deny that it comes from His hands. What could it hurt? How were we supposed to know!
Short Note on Tom Monaghan's "Theocracity"

I'm behind the curve on Tom Monaghan's plan to establish a Catholic city in Florida. Others have already said most of what there is to say about it, such as Mark Shea, Dom Bettinelli, Erik Keilholtz and the Curt Jester. The media's hateful bias against the project has also been commented on by the above, and by Newsbusters. I'm sorry that I've left some people out, but at this point it should be asked why, after all this exhaustive commentary, I'm going to blog about it.

Because, as I've had occasion to say before, I'm a blowhard with a blog. I get to blog about anything I want, even if it's a dead horse covered in strike marks from a thousand Louisville Sluggers.

Is it right for Catholics to segregate themselves in theologically-gated communities? Erik and Jeff think it's not. I'm not so sure. As Mark points out, the urge to found distinct communities of like-minded individuals is a deep part of American culture, and one that doesn't seem to have done America much harm. I wouldn't like to live there, primarily because only time will tell if this place can (or is permitted to) exist as something besides a function of Tom Monaghan's enthusiasm. I wouldn't like to live there, secondarily because I'd be wondering if my "virtue" was merely fear of ostracism, and because I like to operate "outside the green zone" so to speak, dealing with all the heretics, goofballs, nuts, and wicked people. What does that say about me? I think the only sure thing that can be said is that I'm not cut out for life in a religious community; the rest of the judgment only comes in the form of my conscience and my awareness of what God wants from me. Does He want Abraham leading his rag-tag band through Egypt, or does He want David ruling a godly community? Both options are possible; one man's retreat from responsibility is another man's Cluny.

That brings up something else interesting about some Catholics' reactions to the project. (Having mentioned their opposition, I hasten to say this does not apply to the Curt Jester or Erik). Some of it sounds a lot like Protestant criticism of monastic life -- that it's "sheltered," "decadent," and pretends to a purity that, in reality, is just the result of fear at the prospect of doing God's work in the world, etc.[1] I don't say any of the Catholics who make such arguments are "not really" Catholic, only that they might be failing to appreciate the Church's tacit dictum that one should pursue holiness "by all means necessary." If that means wandering through the Hittites and Egyptians of modern America, or the relative (and it is, after all, relative) seclusion of "theocracity," so be it. The real test of "theocracity" will be its residents' ability to appreciate that fact.

If Ave Maria residents regard themselves as a part, albeit a unique one, of the Church's vast tapestry of social life, and can authentically pursue and articulate that identity beyond the life of Tom Monaghan, then Ave Maria will be proved a Heaven-sent opportunity for sanctity and sanity. On the other hand, if residents come to regard their project as a superior example of Catholic life, perhaps even (God forbid it) as a Church within a Church, then Ave Maria will be a failure.

So it seems to me the people involved are undertaking an enormous, heart-wrenching, and difficult task. They are trying -- at least if they're doing it right -- to prove how abnormal Catholic life really is, when compared to the world's standards. If they begin cheering at having crossed the finish line now, as though they had said "goodbye to all that" ("that," of course, being secularism, sin, and their discontents) that will be a very bad sign indeed.

[1] This is not entirely the Protestant view. Anglicans, Episcopalians and Lutherans have traditions of celibate religious communities (primarily in Europe). But this is, in the main, the reaction most Protestants have to monastic religious life.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Notes on Anti-Semitism

Reading the blogs recently, I came across a comment-box conversation that raised an old perspective on anti-Semitism, one which holds that the term is rightly used only as to "racial" characteristics and should not be confused with "proper" arguments against the Jewish religion, culture, or (by extension) the State of Israel. I say "by extension" because this perspective arose prior to the creation of modern Israel. I've never bought into that distinction, although I considered it rather closely when I was writing my review of Hitler's Pope. The review wasn't the place to go into that, but now that I have a blog, I can set out my opinions about this nice and false distinction.

An example of what I'm writing about can be found in the 1930s German Catholic publication, Lexikon fur Theologie und Kirche, discussed by Fr. Martin Rhonheimer in his useful (but deeply-flawed) article, "The Holocaust: What Was Not Said":
In the first volume of the same lexicon, published in 1930, the well-known article on "Anti-Semitism" by the German Jesuit Gustav Gundlach had drawn a distinction between a volkisch anti-Semitism promoted for strictly racist motives (which was to be rejected), and an anti-Semitism promoted for general political, economic, and cultural reasons that Christians might accept. As examples of the latter Gundlach cited two Austrian politicians, Karl Lueger and Georg von Schoenerer, prominent and outspoken anti-Semites who had strongly influenced Hitler during his years in Vienna. It is noteworthy that in the same article Gundlach rejected as unjust ‘laws which single out Jews simply because they are Jews,' while not hesitating to call ‘global plutocracy and Bolshevism' forces that manifest ‘dark aspects of the Jewish soul expelled from its homeland' and which are ‘destructive of human society.'[1]
The moral flaw in this supposedly "proper" definition of anti-Semitism should be apparent, but unfortunately it tends to escape notice because it immediately provokes historical and factual arguments (I use the terms only as adjectives indicating the subject, not nouns indicating the quality, of these arguments) about such topics as the number of Jews at the New York Stock Exchange or the Comintern, or whether Lenin's maternal grandfather was a Jew and what, if anything, all that is supposed to tell us about Jews, Capitalism, and Bolshevism.

The moral flaw in Father Gundlach's closely-parsed definition of anti-Semitism isn't revealed by arguing about specific pieces of information. It's revealed by comparing it to Nazism, Communism, and other false philosophies that rely on determinism. Fr. Gundlach uses determinism to deny the human dignity of Jews ab initio and, if his argument is followed through, the dignity of everyone else too. From the Catechism:
God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. "God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him." Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts. Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.[2]
Perspectives on ideas, culture, or politics which locate their evils (real or supposed) in something other than the Church's teaching on sin (grave matter, knowledge of God's law, and deliberate assent) deny the free will and hope of beatitude that are at the core of human existence. "Global plutocracy and Bolshevism" may indeed witness to "dark aspects of the soul," but, to the extent such things may be said, they should be said about our common heritage of a fallen nature, and not about some allegedly-unique character of Jews, Englishmen . . .

. . . or Germans. One wonders what Fr. Gundlach might reply to arguments that while laws and social conventions which single out Germans simply because of their blood are unjust, law and custom may still guard us all against the "dark aspects" of the German soul which are destructive of human society. He would probably point out that to speak of a "German soul" in any ontologically-distinct sense flirts with denying not only the Church's teaching that each man has his own soul which lives as grace and will allow, but also the Church's teaching that humanity is circumscribed by two Adams:
St. Paul tells us that the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ. . . The first man, Adam, he says, became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. The first Adam was made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life. . . The second Adam stamped his image on the first Adam when he created him. That is why he took on himself the role and the name of the first Adam, in order that he might not lose what he had made in his own image. The first Adam, the last Adam: the first had a beginning, the last knows no end. The last Adam is indeed the first; as he himself says: ‘I am the first and the last.'[3]
If the Germans have a special sort of defect in their souls, they do not descend from Adam as other men do. So with the Jews, and if that is true for the Jews, then what are we to make of our Lord's having a "Jewish nature" that does not descend from Adam as our own natures do? "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." Hebrews 2:16 (KJV).

The distintion between "racial" anti-Semitism and "cultural/religious/political anti-Judaism" is false because they share a determinist view of Jewish nature (the "the Jewish race," the "Jewish soul") that compels both viewpoints to the same conclusion. What does it matter whether the malice of "the Jews" results from their genetics or their souls, so long as either cause compels "the Jews" to act against human society?

This is why Jew-hating Christians labor diligently to filter the Gospel, to remove from Jesus what would otherwise be the ‘stain' of His ‘Jewishness.' The "racial anti-Semites" try to remove Him from "the seed of Abraham" with crackpot theories about His lineage. The "cultural anti-Judaism" bunch tries it by portraying Jesus as a divine messenger who came to repudiate Judaism and the Jews, and not as the Lord of Moses who came to fulfill the Law. Both branches of this sick tree come from the same root, the idea that the Jews are not -- for whatever cause -- fully human.

I suspect that animus is behind Fr. Gundlach's prevaricating phrase about the "Jewish soul expelled from its homeland." What does he mean to suggest? He means, I think, to suggest that the true Jewish "homeland" is not the soil of Israel but the favor of God and that, having repudiated "its" homeland, the "Jewish soul" has been outraged into a "dark" hatred of human society. He is, therefore, firmly in the camp of "cultural anti-Judaism" and yet ends up making essentially the same arguments the Nazis made about Jews being a culture-destroying race.

Fr. Gundlach and Christians who think as he did would no doubt hasten to explain that the "darkness" in the "Jewish soul" can be healed by accepting Jesus as the Messiah. That doesn't make their views more amiable. If anything, it makes them more perverse. For they have tacitly defined Christianity as a faith that regards unconverted Jews as something less than human. If anything, the paradigm runs the other way: It was our Lord who called us gentiles "dogs." Mark 7:27 (KJV). For that we were, living without the divine favor represented by the Law of Moses. It was the fulfillment of the Law by the most holy "seed of Abraham," and not His mythical expulsion of Jews from the human family, that gained us a full place in the human story. It is ironic when the "dogs" bite their elder brothers, conditioning Jews' humanity on their acceptance of Jew-hating doctrines, and then express shock and anger when Jews equate evangelism with genocide.

But what else may we call a Christian witness that implicitly conditions humanity itself on adherence to credal distinctives? What should we call it? We should call it by its proper name -- the "teaching of contempt."

[1] Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, "The Holocaust: What Was Not Said," First Things, November, 2003. The full text of Fr. Rhonheimer's article can be found here. My (unfinished) critique of the article can be found here.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pp. 1730-31. The relevant text can be found here.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, P. 360 (quoting St. Peter Chrysologus (d. 450 A.D.), Sermo 117: PL 52,520-521). The relevant text can be found here.
Have a Nice Day, Peasant

Via Mark Shea we read about this Texas program to compliment good drivers. Texas police are pulling over drivers to praise their good driving habits:
Deputy Taylor says they're not trying to scare anyone. Deputies will simply wave to good drivers and politely ask them to pull over to the side.

"What I'm trying to focus on, and the only thing I'm trying to focus on, is rewarding someone for good driving. There are going to be some people who are not going to like it because the only experience they have with law enforcement is negative," Taylor said.
What a bunch of baloney. First off, the story itself talks about flashing lights and driver fear of being given a ticket. The police are "politely asking" good drivers to pull over just as they "politely ask" bank robbers and drunks to pull over. But that's not the real problem.

If the Travis County Sheriff wants to compliment good drivers, why not put up a website or publish a congratulatory advertisement in the local paper? Why not have officers take down license plate numbers and send the owners a complimentary letter enclosing free tickets? Because those things won't let the Travis County Sheriff's Department do what it's really out there to do -- shred the Constitution, if only just a little bit of it.

What this department is doing is conducting spot-searches of vehicles and their occupants under the guise of a "traffic safety program." Ordinarily, for the police to detain individuals for any length of time, police must have a "reasonable and articulable suspicion" that the individual is involved in a violation of the law. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). (There are exceptions -- wrong ones, I think -- for random roadblocks which sieze everyone's car in an announced and carefully-regulated manner, but that's not happening here). Under this "howdy good driver" program, the police get to pull people over for doing the right thing -- which means for no reason whatsoever.

While handing out free sports tickets, of course, the deputies get to scan the inside of the car. They get to observe the occupants and see if they're acting "nervous" or "furtively" putting things under the seat. (Just this morning I "furtively" put my cell phone under the drivers' seat because my door locks stopped working and I didn't want my phone snitched). Maybe they'll ask for drivers' licenses so they can record who they spoke to, and run a warrant check or two. And anything "suspicious" they find instantly expands their power to search and detain.

Upon finding something untoward, the officers can order (or "politely ask") the occupants to get out of the car and stand on the side of the road. They can pat down the occupants for "officer safety." They can look inside the passenger compartment to see if there are weapons or trussed-up bank presidents. And again, anything "suspicious" they find instantly expands their power to search and detain.

This is "have a nice day" tyranny, and it bothers me. The usual defense for conduct like this boils down to saying that the guilty have nothing to hide. It's not about whether the guilty have anything to hide. It's about whether our country is governed by laws that restrict power. If it is, then the guilty can hide anything they damn well want to hide until the law lets the police uncover it. If it's not, then look foward to the police entering your house without a warrant in order to compliment you on the fact that they didn't find any marijuana in your dresser drawers.
Appropos of a Controversy

St. Blog's is buzzing with controversy about Catholics being ordered to leave the Diocese of Orange, California because they want to "kneel before Jesus."

It just so happens that, both of us being well ahead of the curve, Shawn McElhinney of Rerum Novarum and myself conducted an excruciatingly extremely detailed investigation of this very question back in 2003. The table of contents can be found here. From that conversation, a few facts can be drawn that bear on the appreciation of what Michael Liccione calls "the new schism.

Fact One: It is within the power of the local ordinary to require congregants to stand after the Agnus Dei: The Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani a/k/a the GIRM, which is the manual for Mass in the United States, says, "[t]he faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise." GIRM § 43. So, if the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise, then nobody kneels. Period. My posts in the "Great Kneeling Debate" are largely dedicated to explaining why, in my simple opinion, the Diocesan Bishop ought not to require this silly liturgical innovation. (Secondarily they also contain my opinion that my own Bishop had not, by virtue of an op-ed piece in the Diocesan paper, actually made the determination required by GIRM § 43). But if the commanding general of your division can't order you to do something silly, one of you isn't in the army anymore. Catholics who insist on kneeling despite a Bishop's directive under GIRM § 43 are disoyebing a lawful directive from their Bishop.

Fact Two: There's a lot of talk about how Rome has "stepped in" and allowed Catholics to ignore their Bishops and kneel during the Agnus Dei. Now it may be that some directive has come down since 2003 which annuls the GIRM's grant of authority to the Bishop to determine this liturgical question, but if there is none of the people who are claiming willy-nilly that the Vatican says Catholics can ignore their Bishops are quoting or referring to it. I wish Rome had, in fact, done this, but I don't think Rome has.

What Rome has said is that Catholics are not forbidden to kneel while receiving communion or after receiving communion. Rome issued these decisions back in 2003/2004 because a number of interested authorities were trying what amounted to a "spirit of Vatican II end run" around the venerable practice of kneeling and claim that Catholics were no longer allowed to kneel at those times.

Now I can't tell from the stories which started this ruckus (which can be found here and here) exactly what offending practice these allegedly "traditional" Catholics are engaging in. Are they kneeling to receive communion, which is allowed? Are they kneeling in private prayer after receiving communion, which is also allowed? Or are they insisting on kneeling after the Agnus Dei in direct violation of a Bishop's decision on the matter, which is most definitely not allowed?

A letter from the parish bulletin quoted by one of the stories says: "But if you intentionally oppose these liturgical norms, particularly by not standing after the "Lamb of God" . . . ." So it seems it's the third issue that's hit the mark, and on this third issue -- standing or kneeling after the Agnus Dei -- the "traditional" Catholics are in the wrong.

In this connection it's interesting to examine the source one of these blogs uses to "prove" that the Vatican has overruled the Bishop about standing after the Agnus Dei. It is a column from EWTN that quotes a 2003 opinion of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Such an exchange is called a "Dubium," which basically means that the Congregation is responding to a question, or an uncertainty, put to it about a matter within its purview. Here is the dubium and the response of the Roman Congregation:
In many places, the faithful are accustomed to kneeling or sitting in personal prayer upon returning to their places after having individually received Holy Communion during Mass. Is it the intention of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, to forbid this practice?

Responsum: Negative, et ad mentem. The mens is that the prescription of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, no. 43, is intended, on one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of the Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.
Note that what is being asked is not whether the faithful may kneel or sit after the Agnus Dei. The question being ruled on is whether they may kneel or sit "upon returning to their places after having individually received Holy Communion." That has nothing to do with kneeling after the Agnus Dei; if it did, Catholics would be equally justified in sitting after the Agnus Dei and all the way through communion. That's not any "traditional" Catholicism with which I'm familiar, and the fact that this directive is being hastily and overzealously claimed as Rome's last word overruling the Bishop (and thereby writing § 43 out of the GIRM) gives me pause before concluding that anybody is being punished for fidelity to Holy Mother Church.

That having been said, I can partially agree with Mr. Liccione that this is a stupid issue altogether, and that Bishops who spend fifty or seventy seconds on it have lost their sense of priorities. But the Bishop's letter raises other issues which aren't trivial:
- Personal attack and false allegations against Bishop Brown
- False allegations against the American Bishops
- Personal attack and false allegations against Fr. Martin Tran
- False accusations/ condemnations against various ministries of the Diocese of Orange as heresy, supporting abortion and contraception.
Are these charges true? On the one hand, I'm tempted to say they're not, since the Bishop's unilateral and furtive letter-writing campaign seems anxious to avoid a public examination of them. On the other hand, some arguments on behalf of these "traditional" Catholics seem equally anxious to ignore specifics and rush into hysterical denunciations of a Bishop for supposedly decreeing that "kneeling before Jesus" is a "mortal sin." The only thing that's clear to me is that tempers and vanity are running so high that nobody's yet interested in authentic dialogue about what's happening.

And that, as somebody should remind our pastors, is how reformations happen. It's their job to avoid these things, or handle them sensibly when the arise. But many of our Bishops have a habit of "getting tough" and "laying down the law" only with those Catholics who are already most likely to do whatever the Bishops want. Had these traditional Catholics been wearing rainbow sashes, there would no doubt be "dialogue" and "pastoral outreach" about "concerns" rather than terse letters inviting them to be Catholics in somebody else's diocese. That's part of the picture here, too.

Faithful Catholics are becoming tired of getting treated like villains while their openly-heterodox, thrice-divorced-never-annulled, contracepting, same-sex-marriage-ing, and otherwise-indifferent brethren are treated to open arms, kid gloves and kind words. It almost seems, at times, that orthodoxy and pious affection for time-honored forms of devotion are the two things guaranteed to provoke suspicion and even enmity from our pastors. It almost seems that our pastors, like parents whose overindulgence eventually becomes an excuse for sloth and low standards, expect heterodoxy and promiscuous indifference to the spiritual life in the Church and become nervous and threatened whenever the laity tries, however bumblingly and stupidly, not only to live the way the Church tells them to live, but to expect others to do so as well.

More later, as time permits . . . . .

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Something Cool Has Happened

The Dossier has a new look, thanks to Christopher Blosser of Against the Grain / Ratzinger Fan Club fame. I think Chris has done a bang-up job designing his and other websites such as Musings of a Pertinacious Papist and Ad Limina Apostolorum to name only two.

So, having received a lot of complaints and gripes that my site won't be read in anything but Internet Explorer, and that it doesn't have a "feed," and getting really tired of telling people I don't know the difference between Mozilla and a sequel starring Matthew Broderick, I asked Christopher if he could do something.

I think he did great. What do y'all think? Sound off in the comments box and let me know.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Something Cool is Coming

Something cool is about to happen to The Dossier.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Good Question

Disputations has a good question to ask at the beginning of Lent: "Do you think of yourself primarily as a disciple of Christ, or as a Catholic? As a follower of a Person, or as a member of an institution?" Please go over there and read the whole thing. (Note to the Wary: It's not "We are Church" stuff nor a prescription for ecclesiastical anarchy. In fact, its the exact opposite of those things).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

This Just In

WASHINGTON, MAR 2, 2006 ( -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg falls asleep during oral arguments on the Texas redistricting case. When questioned later, Ginsburg expressed her consternation at having fallen asleep: "I don't understand it," she said, "I drank a nice cup of tea at lunch, and suddenly I felt this overpowering need to be one with the universe, to define my own concept of existence . . . . as a desk blotter."

Legal experts were astounded at the occurrence and pondered its implications for American law. "We're not sure whether Justice Ginsburg was a functional human being during those fifteen minutes," said Judge George Greer of Lebunswertes Lebens Law School. "She didn't move. She didn't talk. Sure, she looked like someone who might have a form of consciousness, but for all anyone could tell, she was in a persistent vegetative state."

Asked if he thought Associate Justices David Souter and Samuel Alito, who sit on either side of Ginsburg in the historic courtroom, should have nuged Ginsburg back into consciousness, Professor Greer demurred. "It depends," he said, "on whether she had ever expressed a desire not to be woken up. If she had, it would be cruel to have revived her."

More on this story as it develops . . .
Miscellaneous Notes


Memo to Nihil Obstat:

Hey, buddy -- you're the one who knows how to spell "Hooters."


We took our daughter to tour a preschool-cum-speech-therapy program. She understands everything. In fact she was acing the intelligence tests for children 2 - 3 years older than she was. But she has problems speaking. Consonants are tough, especially the beginning ones. Part of that's from having been raised in a government orphanage, and the other part is from having been raised in a government orphanage where everyone spoke Chinese. Chinese isn't big on consonants. That makes it a mellifluous language, BuT oNe THaT DoeSN'T TRaNSiTioN To ENGLiSH, WHeRe eVeRY oTHeR SouND iS a CoNSoNaNT. Sometimes I think conversational Chinese could be achieved by singing the right combination of lines from "Louie Louie" and "The Name Game."

But the main reason our girl's having difficulty is probably the fact that her father is a dork. When she was two, I asked her if she favored scrambled or fried eggs. I'm not kidding, "Sweety, do you favor scrambled or fried eggs?"
"His assessments," the teacher who evaluated my student-teaching stint at a local High School wrote, "are a bit over the heads of the students." Yep. Or should I say, "How perspicacious of him?"
As my wife and I toured the preschool classroom, looking at the bright decorations and indestructible furniture, we came to the corner where the small class had a morning pow-wow. The teacher told us they sat in a circle and talked about letters, names, and lots of other things.

"And this is the purple egg," she said while handing me an eponymously-violet plastic easter egg. "Each child holds it in turn to talk, and when they're talking, no one can interrupt."

"Ah," I said, "I guess you use a plastic egg because a conch shell might break?"

Sure, guy. That's what the teacher needs -- to think your house looks like a boat-shaped island where kids named Piggy and Ralph chase each other with pointy sticks. Or to think that you think her classroom resembles said island. Or to think you're nuts. Or to think all three.

If I don't watch it, my daughter's biggest problem in life is going to be the consonants that spell GeeKY FaTHeR.


Jesus refers to his followers as "little children." John 13:33 (KJV). "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3 (KJV). "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14 (KJV). John and Paul, speaking in persona Christi, say it too. "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now . . . " Galatians 4:19-20 (KJV). "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:1 (KJV). Little children. Little children of God the Father.

I think about my daughter eating spaghetti. She likes spaghetti. She doesn't like it to be cut up, she wants to twirl it around her fork like I do. But her hands are too small and the fork is too heavy. So usually she ends up eating it with her hands. She likes to do this while standing on the bench in our kitchen alcove. That makes it easier to grasp a strand of pericatelli, hold it above her head, and lower it into her mouth. At the end of dinner, our daughter has turned into a giant ball of pasta sauce with a big smile.

Little children of God the Father. We're created to live in a universe where things are too complicated, the fork is too heavy, but we still have to live and we're still delighted by good things even if we're not entirely read to enjoy them as they can be enjoyed. I wonder if God sees His children as balls of pasta sauce with big smiles and is pleased because He knows they're doing the best they can with what they have and that they'll soon grow and learn and get even better at living the life He's given them. I think so. Little children of God the Father.

Of course there are times when our girl's just bad. She has this awful habit of swiping at me or her mommy when she's angry, half-hitting, half-scratching us. And she's going to have anger to deal with when she gets to the age of reason. She can throw terrible, disproportionate fits when she doesn't get her way. She's the sort who gets angry, and then gets angry about having to be angry, and then gets angry about that, until there's a thunderhead at 25,000 feet and Katy, bar the door. We'll have a time out, which won't work because she won't stay in one place or stop yelling. She'll push and swipe when we try and stay with her. So we when the tantrums get really, really bad we have a super time out in her bedroom or the bathroom. I close the door behind us, and we sit together while I read The Wanderer until she's done yelling and screaming.[*****]

By then, she's usually crying, frightened the way strong emotions will frighten someone, especially a three year old to whom even dandelions are strange and unexpected things. She regrets the bad time, and wants to be held, for everything to be all right again. That's the moment of perfect joy, tainted only by my anxious desire that her sorrow and her fear vanish forever, for us to get on with the business of being happy. So she says "sowwy," and we hug and go out to play. Soon she's laughing again, and all's right with the world, not least because I have seen how God regards me when I'm sorry for disobeying Him. Little children. Little children of God the Father.

Let's all keep trying, and let's all go to confession. It's Lent. Lent's a season of trying, a time of confession. "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:1 (KJV). Little children. Little children of God the Father.


[**] If anybody's got a better idea, I'm all ears.