Formerly Ad Orientem

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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem

He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

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Irish Elk
Tuesday, June 25, 2002  

The Duomo, Florence


"We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one's life. But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being." G. K. Chesterton


Commentary: Law could be the next pope: Go ahead, scoff, the way you did at all those warnings about the killer asteroids.


Many say Catholic bishops' reform only scratches the surface: M.D. Harmon writes in the Portland Press Herald.

[T]raditionalists ask why the bishops took testimony on the issue of clerical child sex abuse from left-of-center sources, but did not invite prominent orthodox Catholic intellectuals and commentators.

Conspicuous by their absence were theologian Michael Novak, law professor Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard, Boston College's Peter Kreeft, Pope John Paul II's biographer George Weigel and Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, publisher of the magazine First Things, among many others.

They were purposefully excluded, according to the
National Review's Rod Dreher, because their testimony would have pointed the bishops in a direction they did not wish to go.


Taj Mahony: Cardinal Roger Mahony threatened, hoodwinked and strong-armed to get a lavish new cathedral built in L.A. The result is a colossal monument to his ego, Ron Russell writes in New Times. The paper's series on the Cardinal, "Legacy of Shame," may be read here.


Yellow Armadillo: Don't expect the new Catholic cathedral to wind up on postcards of L.A.'s scenic attractions, writes Jill Stewart in New Times.

In the sparest of terms, our new cement cathedral, created by renowned Spanish architect José Rafael Moneo -- best known for designing banks and airports -- is butt-ugly.

It's oppressive. Fortress-like. And really, really ochre.

It reflects a boring squareness, with its imposing walls built nearly out to the sidewalks along Temple Street, Hill Street and Grand Avenue. Equally unappealing are the yellow cement scales that armor the boxy structure like cascading shingles. Think of the sheathed Batmobile from the Batman movies and you have the general idea. What exactly is this cathedral armored against, that it must be blanketed by thousands of coffin-sized slabs of yellow cement?

One resident of nearby Echo Park described the cathedral as "like a giant display of closed louvers. I am being nice when I say perhaps it is in homage to the 1950s windows that typify this part of town."

Hardly anyone to whom I spoke would talk on the record, as if they might be cast into hellfire and damnation. Everyone is scared of Cardinal Roger Mahony, the archbishop of Los Angeles, a powerful holy man who is known for his occasional temper tantrums and abiding vindictiveness.

Typical was the comment from a high-ranking executive with a major developer downtown. Just like me, he is thrilled that the cathedral, though truly ugly, will bring more activity downtown.

"It never ceases to amaze me how you can spend $163 million on something so oppressive," he says. "There was a worldwide contest to find this world-famous architect. Why does it have to be this fortress? God, it's so ugly! If you tell the truth about it, the angels will bless you, because they will think you're right!"

(Thanks to John Hench for the link.)


Monday, June 24, 2002  
St. Vibiana's Cathedral, Los Angeles, shown here in 1940,

is to be succeeded by this, aptly described by Widening Gyre as "a grim hangar for God."

The new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels – such a lilting name for such a graceless structure! – reminds me of the Alewife
MBTA station in Cambridge, or a nuclear plant, or a wastewater-treatment facility.

You would think people would have learned by now. Consider Boston's grand Old City Hall and the contrast with its current successor, built in the New Brutalist style of the 1960s.

The architects of City Hall explain that the structure of the building is suggestive of the workings of government. In this explanation the massive brick plaza flows into the building where there are large public spaces. The upper floors provide repetitive anonymous space for agencies, and the bold middle section is for the elected officials who are the conduits between bureaucrats and the public. The result is an uncharacteristically desolate building.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney reflects on the exterior of his new monument.

The Cathedral should gently but clearly speak to the downtown hubs of government, business and the professional community, serving not only as a geographical point of reference, but truly linking the secular with the sacred: God's handiwork now in vital touch with our human handiwork.

Vital touch with a wrecking ball would be more like it.


Another volley across the Islamofascist bow by the incomparable Lileks: Be sure to read this screed all the way to the end. Clever. Then wrenchingly sad.

Palestinian child abuse decried by Little Green Footballs: More than anything, this is what has turned me against the Palestinian cause – the systematic, organized perversion and abuse of their own children in the service of hate and bloodlust. If anything on this wretched planet deserves to be called evil, it is this.

Amazing what a few offensive remarks by Ted Turner and a threatened boycott can achieve: CNN actually presents the Israeli side – with a vengeance – in a report on the Mideast crisis. Here's to balance, in a hurry!

The Killing Mantra: A new study tells American mothers that the safest way to get the kids to school is to put them on the bus. Not so in Israel. After another Palestinian terrorist incinerated another Israeli bus, a Netanya mother revealed the painful difference to BBC News: "If my kids end up having to get a bus, I will give them a loving speech before they go in case they never come back" —back from the limb-littered killing fields suicide-bombers have made of Israeli cities and towns…And Palestinian mothers? They, too, give a loving speech before their children go, sometimes videotaping it, but all too many of them actually hope their youngsters never come back. The sickening fact is, the strongest desire of certain Palestinian parents is for their children to die, killing as many Jews as possible, from infants to old people, in the process. Diana West writes in the Washington Times.


Gay couple, surrogate mom expecting quads

Meehan and Dysarz met in California in 1998. By 2000, they were busy building a hair-salon business, but their home seemed empty, and they decided to pursue fatherhood.

Last fall, a 23-year-old woman came into the salon with three children. Dysarz thought the children were adorable. He kidded the woman about taking them home. Then he heard her say she felt as if she had been given a calling: to become a surrogate mother.

She agreed to help Meehan and Dysarz. Working through a Lexington fertility clinic, she became pregnant in January.

The men said they are following Kentucky law in paying her only for medical and living expenses. Those costs run $1,000 each month.

"Michael will be 'Dad,' because he's the biological father," Dysarz said. "I'll be 'Thomas.'"

Meantime, in the Massachusetts governor's race…

Reich backs gay civil marriage, calls it civil rights issue

BOSTON (AP) – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert Reich supports the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, saying it is a civil rights issue.

Reich, like the four other Democratic candidates, had previously supported civil unions, which provide the benefits of marriage for gay couples under a separate legal structure. However, gay marriage would draw no distinction between same-sex and opposite sex marriages.

Reich said he wanted to give same-sex couples the right to marry under civil law, and did not want to address the policies and rights of religious groups.

In addition to recognizing the equality of gay and lesbian couples, a "gay civil marriage" will also allow same-sex couples legal standing to challenge federal and state laws defining marriage as the union of two people of opposite sex, Reich said.

Reich's position may slow the momentum of the two Democratic front-runners, state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien and Senate President Thomas Birmingham, observers said.

"It's staking out the liberal territory and saying this is mine and reminding people 'I'm the true liberal in this race,"' said Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University. "He's trying to stand out in a very crowded field."

Mitt Romney, the only Republican running for governor, opposes gay marriage but supports domestic partnership laws, which would give some benefits to gay couples.

Reich does not see the issue as liberal vs. conservative issue, and said he would use the "bully pulpit" of the governor's office to push for the measure.

"Ultimately, it's a matter of educating the public, because nothing gets done unless the public understands and accepts and wants it," he said.

Reich, a former Labor Secretary under President Clinton, said he had taken some lessons from that administration's handling of the gays in the military issue.

"Once you begin to try to satisfy everyone you sometimes end up satisfying no one," he said. "I think on issues of principle such as this you have to be very clear and state your position."

Has Massachusetts really gone so far down the road toward Scandinavian-style social nannyism that all the Democratic candidates should readily embrace civil unions, that the Green and Libertarian candidates should support marriage rights for gays, and even the Republican candidate should back domestic-partnership benefits?

Do these positions actually reflect mainstream opinion in Massachusetts? I'm not convinced – not convinced at all. In today's political climate in the Bay State, appealing to common sense with a defense of the traditional family is a sure way to get accused of intolerance – but someone ought to have the fortitude to stand up and do it. Why are the leftist social engineers simply ceded the field? They can't speak for everyone in Massachusetts. They don’t.

One more reason to be dismayed at the collapse of the moral authority of the Catholic hierarchy in Massachusetts.


Friday, June 21, 2002  
Moral capital squandered: Archbishop Desmond Tutu overcomes aparthed to become a shill -- or dupe, take your pick -- for Islamofascism and the anti-Western Left. Opinion Journal's great take on the sadly misguided South African cleric (third item):

So let's see if we have this straight: Tutu is calling for a boycott of Israel because he doesn't think Jews should be allowed to live in certain places. Didn't he use to be against apartheid?

Tutu won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.


Fine site: Cut on the Bias.


Suicide-bombings in Israel: A chronology.


The Real Nazis: They're not the Norwegians, writes Jonah Goldberg.

...[I]t is indisputable that Arab countries have a real problem with various death cults and nihilism. You cannot read of the prosperous parents — far from Israel and the "Occupied Territories" — who openly dream about their children blowing themselves up, and deny this obvious point. I saw a picture not long ago of an "art project" at a Palestinian "University" which depicted the massacre of Jews at a pizzeria, complete with constuction-paper viscera of Jewish children. Everyone thought it was just beautiful. A culture that cheers and celebrates the wanton murder of women and children has got problems; a culture which goes into raptures at the thought of its own children dying to commit these murders is, in the most literal sense, soulless.

This death cult is fueled by fantasies of scoring vengeance and vindication in the death of Jews. The Palestinians are the Arab world's Sudeten Germans. The "liberation" of their coreligionists and ethnic brothers is used as a utopian carrot guiding brainwashed donkey after brainwashed donkey to murder and suicide. I am not saying that Arabs or Muslims generally are Nazis or Nazi-like. That would be absurd. But I am saying that the Arab world is the only place left on this planet which bears a reasonable resemblance to Germany in the 1930s, with the open and accepted dissemination of Nazi-like ideas and ambitions...


Thursday, June 20, 2002  
The Elephant in the Sacristy?

Or the inspiration for the winning ode in the first annual Catholic Light Worst Free Verse Poetry Contest?


i stand at the
and feel the rail in my
as the elephant cries a great pachyderm
large enough to hold the world and with a
it falls and turns to mud upon which the
steps never even realizing or if he does he keeps it deep within his
with who knows what pains caring for these
bring that he grinds the world to mush under his dung-crusted
and i wish i could give this great thick-skinned brother of mine
a peanut
but the sign says don't

humans can read and so say they're better than
which can't but if i couldn't read i would give the elephant
a peanut

who is the
here can you tell me


A magnificent piece today by the indispensable Amy Welborn.

There have been worse times in the Church, yes.

Think globally, through centuries. Christians have been subject to seizure, torture and execution. And still are. Christianity has been split a hundred ways in a hundred heresies. There have been terrible popes, questionable popes, and three popes at a time. Bishops, for much of Catholic history, have been far more concerned about the income from their lands and other holdings than about the Faith. Good, holy people, from Francis of Assisi to Joan of Arc to John of the Cross to Teresa of Avila to Bernadette to Padre Pio have been viewed with suspicion and worse by church authorities. Catholics have been led in prayer by priests of all types since the beginning. And still we are here. Because, of course, Jesus promised that we would be.



-- Banner displayed on an overpass, Massachusetts Turnpike, Newton, today


Wednesday, June 19, 2002  

Consider, if you will, the Capybara…

The world's largest rodent, the South American capybara is classified by the Vatican as a fish.

When the Spanish missionaries found the capybara in Brazil during the 16th century, they wrote to the Pope to ask, "There's an animal here that's scaly but also hairy, and that spends most of its time in the water but occasionally comes on land. Can we classify it as a fish, so the indigenous people can continue to eat it during Lent?" Not having a clear description of the animal (and not wanting the petitioners to starve), the Pope agreed and declared it to be a fish, and it is still classified as such.

This interesting bit of trivia (particularly useful to know if you have a hankering for a capybara steak on a Friday in Lent) is offered to well-meaning correspondents who see in the Vatican decision to retain Cardinal Law's services the Divine Hand of Christ or the fulfillment of Fatima Prophecy. Or who see in the Pope's endorsement of the Neocatechumenal Way proof that The Way is other than the secretive and seemingly cult-like movement it is.

If it looks like a sect, and quacks like a sect: For an eye-opening account of the Neocatechumenal Way, read this excerpted chapter from The Pope's Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church, by former Focolare member Gordon Urquhart.


It's a Mystery leaves no doubt as to the cause of the present miseries in the Middle East.

This is why there will never be peace in Israel, and why the Palestinians will continue to murder innocent children, their own and the Israeli's. How do you make peace with people who want nothing other than to drive you into the sea? One state has always been the Palestinian solution...Pray for the souls of these poor people, for their families and for a resolution to the undescribable evil that is terrorism and suicide bombings... I am sickened by this...

The headlines:

Suicide Bombing Kills 7 in Israel

Nineteen die in blast

Interview with the Mother of a Suicide Bomber:
"I prayed from the depths of my heart that Allah would cause the success of his operation. I asked Allah to give me 10 [Israelis] for Muhammad, and Allah granted my request and Muhammad made his dream come true, killing 10 Israeli settlers and soldiers. Our God honored him even more, in that there were many Israelis wounded."

"When the operation was over, the media broadcast the news. Then Muhammad's brother came to me and informed me of his martyrdom. I began to cry, 'Allah is the greatest,' and prayed and thanked Allah for the success of the operation. I began to utter cries of joy and we declared that we were happy. The young people began to fire into the air out of joy over the success of the operation, as this is what we had hoped for him."

Saudi Ambassador to London: 'I Want Peace with Israel; I Long to Die as a Martyr; Stoning and Amputating Hands Are at the Core of Every Muslim's Belief.' (MEMRI)


St. Bluto's

Remember the scene in Animal House when John Belushi's Bluto Blutarsky, in full toga, encounters the beatnik guy with folk guitar singing, "I Gave My Love a Cherry"?

Wonder what Bluto's reaction would be to the whole St. Joan of Arc Parish experience so colorfully described by Mark Shea?

It's a beehive of activity at St. Joan's and only a churl could find fault with…the worthy projects underway, such as the neo-pagan ecospirituality task force, the weekly homilist, the Hatha Yoga in the Sanctuary, the staff bursting with Gay Pride, the Mission Statement indistinguishable from a Unitarian committee on Spelling Reform for Guatemala, and the confirmation class that produces graduates who boast that their faith is "a mix of Eastern Religion and Christianity."

Continuing the church roundup: Steve Schultz at Catholic Light finds all the stops pulled out at a "two-hour bilingual Eucharistic shindig" marking the golden anniversary of St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

I will say this: We must separate the fact that Christ becomes present in body, blood, soul and divinity from everything else. Christ is there whether the homily is boring, the altar boys are wearing sneakers, the music is irreverent, or not. Even if there is an awards ceremony during the Mass Christ is still there. "Awards ceremony? What on Earth is he talking about?" you say.

And Alexandra Baldwin at Oremus reports on attending a christening in church apparently designed by Jean-Claude Killy in this dispatch, "Half Price Lift Ticket with Each Child Baptized":

A good time was had by all. My husband and I were particularly thrilled with a little game called 'Find the Tabernacle.' It was cleverly hidden outside the main body of the church in a delightfully Bauhaus, wedge-shaped chapel. Obviously the church is suffering from a severe lack of funds, and had to commision the Crucifix and Tabernacle from the Arts and Krafts division of that well-known discount house 'Kute and Kreative Katholic Koncepts.' The Crucifix looked like it was made entirely of gilded tin foil, and the Tabernacle itself could only have been made by cutting down the hood of an El Camino, adorning it with slabs of molton glass and painting it with thick layers of encaustic. I am sad to say that, being without my glasses, I missed the Stations of the Cross, but Bryan assures me they were along the same lines.


In defense of paranoid alarmists, in praise of DC churches

Emily Stimpson really clicks in this response to a Washington Post TV critic so settled in his own liberal prejudice that he can't recognize a propaganda bag-job when he sees one. (You would think most discerning viewers over age 12 would hear sirens whenever Linda Ellerbee appears on screen, which perhaps is why her Molly Ivins-meets-Saturday Morning-TV act appear on Nickelodeon.)

And Emily writes movingly of her memories of Washington's National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, to which she repaired from Capitol Hill on 9/11. "My memories of that day are a jumbled mix of tv screens, tour groups, and incense," she writes. Meantime, Steve Schultz at Catholic Light describes his own recent visit to the D.C. basilica.

I visited the National Shrine one Sunday afternoon in the late 1980s to attend a Latin Mass. With all the tour groups going through, it was a bit like going to church in the Capitol Rotunda, or Grand Central. They have, unfortunately, discontinued the Sunday afternoon Novus Ordo Latin Mass in favor of a Spanish Mass, a move explained as substituting one "foreign-language" Mass for a more popular one. Latin is not a foreign language, however, as far as Roman Catholicism is concerned, and it is hoped that the official language of the universal Church will be restored to the National Shrine.

Take a virtual tour of the National Shrine.

And while in Washington, be sure to pay a visit to St. Matthew's Cathedral, where Cardinal Cushing said the Funeral Mass for John F. Kennedy. The historic cathedral has been undergoing restoration. A Novus Ordo Latin Mass is offered Sundays at 10 a.m.

St. Matthew's Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

A reader adds: Don't forget the first official Catholic church in Washington, outside of Georgetown, St. Patrick's, on 10th Street N.W., between G & H streets. It's smaller and less ornate than either St. Matthew's or the National Shrine...but it is beautiful and they make many efforts to promote traditional liturgical music.


Tuesday, June 18, 2002  
A Renaissance in Chicago

Fr. Frank Phillips C.R. celebrates Mass at St. John Cantius

St. John Cantius Church in Chicago has become a center for reverent Masses and Catholic family life, according to this report.

The stories of two converts mirror the story of the Chicago church they attend, a church that almost met the wrecking ball only a dozen or so years ago but is now the center of a vibrant Latin Mass community.

What attracted Amos Miller and Amy Lightfoot to the faith are much the same things that revived and rejuvenated the parish of St. John Cantius: a yearning for unchanging truths and values, a grounding in tradition and a reverence for God expressed through the most beautiful music, art and liturgies man has fashioned.

Via Sacra: Read the newsletter of the Society of St. John Cantius, a new religious community of men formed with the approval of Cardinal George and the Congregation of the Resurrection. Its mission is a Restoration of the Sacred in the Church through solemn liturgies, devotions, sacred art, sacred music, as well as instruction in Church heritage, catechetics, and Catholic culture in the context of parish ministry. The community presently includes two priests, four seminarians and four members in formation.


Before and After "Renovation"

From Gerard Serafin's site, these photos of the Proto-Cathedral of St Joseph in Bardstown, Kentucky, after renovation and before. Here is the old church that--at what expense?--was deemed unworthy of the 'new liturgy' and needed to be made adapted to 'the spirit of Vatican II,' Gerard Serafin writes. "Which church would captivate our children's imagination more? Which church would 'speak' more to the broken-hearted, the sorrowful, the lost? Which church seems to sing the glories of creation and of art and of 'holiness' and of 'catholic fulness'? I know which church would have the feel of 'home' for me! I know which church would transport me into the Presence and the communion of the saints!"

Steve Schultz writes of the redone sanctuary: It appears to be devoid of crucifixes or anything of the symbols that existed previously. What is the sacrifice of the Mass without the symbol of our Lord suffering and dying?


The Classical Moment: From Beauty & Meaning to Signature Cartoon-Kitsch: Duncan Stroik writes about sacred architecture. From the archive: Stroik and Archbishop Lipscomb discuss the document "Built of Living Stones" on WNET.


At Thrown Back, Fr. Rob Johansen responds to Michael Rose & Co. and offers eloquent testimony to the priesthood:

While the Bishops were debating their important policies, rules, and position papers, the real Work of the Church was going right along, in obscure, unknown situations like me anointing that dying man. All of the policies and rules and Important Debates are just so much wind compared to that...All the bloggings, bleatings, and bloviations in the world don't amount to beans against the Sacrament by which I helped usher that one soul into eternity. Blogging is fun, but Anointing that old man is why I Became a Priest.


Monday, June 17, 2002  

John Boyle O'Reilly Memorial, Boston, by Daniel Chester French

The Pilot: A Restorationist's Lament

Once edited by the great John Boyle O'Reilly, The Pilot, now the official organ of the Boston Archdiocese, is the nation's oldest Catholic newspaper. But if the grapevine and the parlous state of the archdiocesan budget are any indication, the paper is not long for this world. And that is a shame.

The state to which the paper already has fallen is cause enough for regret. The Pilot had already come to be regarded by Lake Street as little more than a vehicle for the cardinal's weekly column by the time the previous editor, a monsignor, was recently dispatched for penning an editorial suggesting discussion on priestly celibacy. A young staff-writer whose politics were not in line was cashiered at the same time, for budget reasons, according to an archdiocesan PR spokeswoman with a six-figure salary.

Now The Pilot is edited by a Spanish émigré, Antonio Enrique, a devotee of a secretive sect, the Neocatechumenal Way (more links here), whose main qualification for the job appears to be a willingness to churn out editorials from the Lake Street bunker defending the cardinal while criticizing media coverage of the current crisis. The managing editor of the Archdiocese's Spanish-language monthly also is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. Both editors emigrated with their families from Spain in 1996 at Cardinal Law's behest, to serve, according to The Pilot, as missionaries to the Latino community.

Why, one wonders, would Cardinal Law bring members of this sect over as homesteaders and set them to running the archdiocesan papers? Loyalty? A shared suspicion of American mainstream media?

If The Pilot does go under, how much would it cost to buy the name and set about operating – perhaps in an online version – the quality Catholic paper Boston deserves?


Father's Day 2002

"Freedom from Fear," Norman Rockwell

A father perseveres as pain of Sept. 11 lingers

ACTON, Mass. - After his two children are asleep, Michael Sweeney climbs into his empty queen-sized bed and whispers to the dark.

Am I doing well with the kids, Amy? he asks his wife, Madeline Amy, who died in the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks. Am I raising them like you would have wanted? After nine months of raising two children by himself, Sweeney still looks for reassurance from the woman who once slept beside him.

Since his wife's death on American Airlines Flight 11, Sweeney, 42, has learned to tie hair ribbons. He attends elementary school ice cream socials and drives his 6-year-old daughter, Anna, to gymnastics practice. At bedtime, he reminds his 4-year-old son, Jack, that Mommy will never come back from being dead.

Today is Father's Day for a changed father.


Friday, June 14, 2002  

Francesca, Maureen Mullarkey

Artist and critic Maureen Mullarkey has a beautiful website devoted to her work that is well worth a visit. She also writes compellingly on matters liturgical: Here is a cached copy of piece she did for Crisis in 2000, "Worship Gone Awry."


All-American Catholic Scandal: Philosopher-culture critic Thomas Hibbs writes on the bishops, the media, and democratic culture.


Pro-life Democrat wins congressional primary in Maine

State Sen. Michael Michaud, an abortion-rights opponent, wins the Democratic primary in Maine's Second Congressional District.


Thursday, June 13, 2002  

At Thomas More College in New Hampshire, the planned Chapel of the North American Martyrs, designed by Duncan Stroik, of Notre Dame, editor of Sacred Architecture and board member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy. See articles by Stroik on "The Roots of Modernist Church Architecture" and Notre Dame colleague Thomas Gordon Smith on "An Architecture to Honor the Church's Vision" at Adoremus.


On the St. Thomas More theme, see Widening Gyre's pointed commentary on Prince Charles' unveiling of a portrait of the famous martyr, and a tribute to St. John Fisher at Adoremus.


Ship of Foolishness

I had always enjoyed Ship of Fools, especially its Mystery Worshiper church reviews, only to revisit the site in recent months and note its Intifada section, which makes no bones about its purpose as a vehicle for Palestinian propaganda. Read the section's editorial mission statement– which ran un-updated in the wake of Sept. 11 or the Palestinian suicide-bombing campaign or the Passover massacre or the desecration of the Church of the Nativity – and note its patently absurd premise, that the Western press is slanted in favor of the Israelis (see HonestReporting.com for a clearer perspective). Ship of Fools, citing a lack of resources, announced June 12 it was suspending its ongoing coverage of the Palestinian crisis, but has maintained an archive, from which a link to the above editorial policy had been removed.

Shilling for evil isn't funny in the slightest. And make no bones about what the Islamofascists represent. Some of the headlines from this past week:

The Baby Face of Hate:
MEMRI releases an astonishing example of the "true Muslim" faith.

Poll: Majority Palestinians See Israel's Elimination as Goal

Padilla sought radioactive material

Fatah Military Wing Claims Bombing in Israel


Welcome Fr. Rob Johansen at Thrown Back: A note about the title: I'm indebted to Fr. Peter DiMaria, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for the inspiration of my blog's title. Since those of us of a more conservative bent are often referred to as "Throwbacks", he turned the pejorative into an adjective. Somebody that's "thrown back", therefore, looks to the Tradition for guidance, not feeling the need to constantly "improve" things to suit the whim of the day.


Restorationists, rejoice: Red Sox owners see home-field advantage: Lore of Fenway seen as lure no new park could match.

Save Fenway Park!


Wednesday, June 12, 2002  
Two different perspectives on the Mass and the purpose to which it is put:

From Mario Derksen, writing in New Oxford Review on The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:

In short, the only difference between the Sacrifice of the Cross and that of the Mass is that the mode of offering is different. On the Cross, the mode of offering was bloody; in the Mass, the mode of offering is unbloody. This is the only difference. Since Christ's Sacrifice is present both on Calvary and at every single Mass, it is the same Sacrifice, and what is said of one must be said of the other. Therefore, since Christ's Sacrifice on Calvary was propitiatory — i.e., sin-atoning — so is the Sacrifice of Holy Mass. The Council of Trent teaches very explicitly: "Appeased by this sacrifice [of the Mass], the Lord grants the grace and gift of penitence and pardons…crimes and sins."

By giving us the Mass, our Lord has ensured a way to apply the graces merited on His Holy Cross to us today, to all of His faithful in any and every age. As James Cardinal Gibbons noted, "In the Sacrifice of the Mass I apply to myself the merits of the sacrifice of the cross, from which the Mass derives all its efficacy." The Mass carries the Cross throughout the centuries until Christ returns. Each and every day (except Good Friday), the Church celebrates Mass to make present what Christ has wrought, to dispense and unlock again the infinite graces which He earned for us so that God's wrath for us on account of our sins might be appeased. Since Christ's Sacrifice is infinite and all-pleasing to God, there is potential forgiveness of any sin, if our souls are properly disposed and we are truly penitent.

From Rev. William Kremmell, then assigned to a parish in Revere, Mass., in an essay, "The Use of Media in the Liturgy," in Reading, Preaching and Celebrating the Word (Sunday Publications, 1980):

I once introduced a sermon on ecology by dumping a bag of trash in the sanctuary. I noted the shock of many people in the congregation, and suggested that they should be equally shocked at the litter on the sidewalks and streets of our community, since God is likewise present there and our neighborhoods are therefore as holy as the sanctuary of the Church building. On another occasion (the Feast of Christ the King) I placed a television set on a table in the sanctuary; I put lighted candles on either side of the T.V.; and I asked the people in the congregation: "Who or what is enthroned and given the greater place of honor in our homes, Christ our King, or the television set?" On one Easter Sunday, I gave my homily while seated atop an eight foot ladder in front of the altar. I suggested that we all want to be UP, to be on top of things in our life, and that this is Christ's ultimate promise to us through his Resurrection. I have used masks on Halloween, helium-filled balloons for the Ascension, and once I used a sledge hammer to break down the walls that separate us from one another, even at Mass. I have used many visuals (some people might be tempted to call them "gimmicks") which are the stuff of our people, just as Jesus used the fig trees and vineyards were the stuff of His people. I have used drama and have involved the congregation in the action; they have enjoyed it, and through it they have grown in their appreciation of the gospel message.


Tuesday, June 11, 2002  
Why not just publish a press release from the abortion lobby and call it news?

Wait – that appears to be just what the Boston Globe has done in this puff piece on the executive director for Voters for Choice.

It occurs to me that newspapers too rarely try to reach beyond the stereotypical in the fleeting anti-abortion comment they seek to "balance" stories that otherwise are briefs for abortion advocacy groups. Why not contact some of the many thoughtful and eloquent – and not-easily-pigeonholed – abortion-opponents out there to provide an enlightening perspective that dissents from the received wisdom of the newsroom?

I am seeking just such balancing opinions. Read the Globe story and, if you like, contact me with a brief and clarifying comment on why "choice" on late-term abortions ought not necessarily be deemed by default "progressive." (This NYT account from North Korea might provide inspiration.) Replies will be posted.

Some questions that do present themselves – but are not addressed – in the Globe story: If the late-term abortion question only deals with extreme cases involving the early induced delivery of unborn children who lack brain and central nervous system and will promptly die outside the mother's womb, what is the big debate? Is it possible many – perhaps most – cases do not involve such "open and shut" instances of fatal deformity? If the baby was going to die as soon as it was born, what was the hurry to terminate the pregnancy? Why is the right to an early termination of a child – who will die anyway -- so sacrosanct? What of those children who are not going to die anyway? Why did it matter to the "devout Catholic" woman profiled that the child terminated be christened? Do unborn children have souls? If they do, is their life or death an unquestioned matter of parental "choice"?

More questions: The subject is presented as a cradle Catholic who did not question the view that abortion was the province of "bad" people, and who – according to the feature lead – "prayed" to have her baby, deformed or not – until her priest bid her to "follow her conscience." Oh so? And is rube-like attachment to Catholicism somehow endearing in the case of this woman whose conscience takes her to a more enlightened political position – but not so in the case of the sterotypically dogmatic bogey-women of the Religious Right who so dogged this champion of freedom that she was forced to leave the state?

Emily Stimpson weighs in: Setting the glaring, screaming journalistic bias aside, I have a big question of my own. Like what the Holy Hell was that woman’s priest thinking? That whole millstone thing doesn’t just apply to priests who molest children. It also has a very special meaning for teachers who tell people to "follow their hearts" and perform intrinsically evil acts.


What to call "The Situation?"

In the tradition of The New Republic, which ran a contest in the 1980s to "name the Iran-Contra Scandal" and finally settled on "Iranamok," Steve Schultz at Catholic Light is casting about for a better shorthand moniker to hang on the current crisis than the euphemistic catch-all, "The Situation."

My choice from his nominees: "Kettle of Fish." This has a certain cultural resonance, carrying with it connotations of Friday fasts and mackerel-snapping, no?


Friday, June 07, 2002  
Elegy for the Democrats

My late grandmother voted in every presidential election between 1920, when women were granted the vote, and 1976, missing only one, around the time her husband died (1928? Al Smith probably couldn't have been helped, anyway.) She always voted Democratic. The Democrats are my ancestral affiliation. I grew up worshiping at the shrine of JFK and RFK. I now disagree profoundly with the party on positions that its leadership and most vocal and influential constituencies have come to decree -- since 1972, anyway -- as litmus tests. It remains saddening to me to contemplate the party -- or what was left of the once-great party of FDR and Truman and John and Robert Kennedy and Scoop Jackson and Gov. Robert Casey -- may now be irrevocably lost for the next generation or more.

The Last Pro-Life Democrat? Robert Novak writes on the defeat of Robert Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania. Crisis Magazine reports on Casey’s Heirs: The Plight of the Pro-Life Democrat Visit Democrats for Life.

"We will not take care. We do not give a damn." -- Then-UN Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan to a Soviet delegate who had urged Moynihan to take care lest his rhetoric offend other nations, 1976. This space hasn't agreed with every position taken by Pat Moynihan, but has always respected and quite enjoyed the illustrious statesman from New York, whose loss to the Senate is rendered all the more grievous by the choice voters made on his successor. Read profiles on Moynihan in the Boston Globe and New York Times.


A bracing splash of Chesterton...

provided by Widening Gyre and Dappled Things.

Here's a link to the Chesterton classic, Orthodoxy. Dive in at any chapter. You'll be happy you did.

But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies. Chapter II -- The Maniac


Father Bob Carr responds.


Thursday, June 06, 2002  
Democrats Should Be the War Party

"Seen in the light of today's events, Democratic leaders view a War Party policy as unthinkable," Richard J. Tofel writes in the Wall Street Journal. "What of our 'allies'? they wonder. What of academia? The Washington press corps? The State Department? The United Nations? Jimmy Carter? Jesse Jackson?

"But this was precisely the sort of thinking that paralyzed the Republican Party before Pearl Harbor (and even after the Anschluss, the fall of France and the Battle of Britain). It is why virtually an entire generation of Republican leaders became ineligible to lead the country after Dec. 7, 1941--and why no one in the pre-Pearl Harbor leadership of the party was ever nominated for president, much less elected.

"That is the choice for Democrats today, I believe. The Pearl Harbor of our time--the moment that truly changes everything--was not last Sept. 11, I fear. It lies ahead. And that looming threat requires us to choose between becoming the America Firsters of the 21st Century and returning to being the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy."


June 6 is the feast day of Saint Norbert, Bishop, Founder of the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré and apostle of the Holy Eucharist.

Norbert receives the white habit of his order from the Blessed Virgin herself.

Thanks to Annunciations for noting the date! -- Mark Cassian Norbert Sullivan


Wednesday, June 05, 2002  

L'Audace: Thoughts on the Mass by the late Patrick Lally.


A final question on the A-bomb: Is its use on liturgists an objective sin?

"Are they classified as human beings?" asks E. L. Core.

"Now you're moving into an area of casuistric hair-splitting that I prefer to leave to the Jesuits," remarks John DaFiesole.

"Bad idea," says Dave Pawlak. "They'd mutate, and be able to reproduce by themselves. And we don't want that."


"In the name of populism, our liturgical elite has taken over. 'Liturgical experts' have invented a liturgy that only a professional liturgist could ever love, and they've forced it on the common folk in the name of populism. Satan saw that the 'American Church' lacked persecutors so he gave her liturgists." Peter Kreeft


Recovery of the Sacred: Reforming the Reformed Liturgy

James Hitchcock gives an extraordinarily incisive analysis of the liturgical abuse and destructive liturgical reforms brought about by professional liturgists and other "experts" over the last thirty years. Hitchcock chronicles the havoc wreaked by modern liturgists who abandoned the noble purposes of the classical (pre-1965) Liturgical Movement whose aim was to deepen people's appreciation of the inexhaustible mystery of the liturgy by elevating the practice of the liturgy to incorporate neglected riches of earlier centuries, especially the Patristic Age. Instead of seeking a deeper understanding of the great traditions of the Church through the ages, liturgists have sought "relevance" by means of continued adaptation to contemporary culture. Hitchcock reveals how the tendency toward a desacralized liturgy has had the most profound effects on the whole life of the Church, as well as society.


A Wreckovator's Manifesto

Jesuit liturgical architect Rev. Thomas R. Slon of the New York firm of Arthur John Sikula Associates writes in America (5/6/02):

Renewal and Renovation

...Faced with heightened rhetoric, angry preservationists, liturgical consultants of various stripes and opinionated congregations, a pastor might do well to get back to basics. Amid a variety of reading materials that, one hopes, are being recommended by local diocesan offices of worship, there are three basic documents a pastor can and should rely on when faced with renovation projects. The first is the seminal document issued in December 1963 by the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium (hereafter S.C.), the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.” Although it is not meant to be a handbook for church design, it does inspire and exhort. It also recovers a theology of the Eucharist that is based in the Scriptures and the patristic tradition.

The second document is the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (G.I.R.M.). In the recent revision of 2000, the overall composition and content of this instruction remain the same, except for some minor additions to the earlier edition of 1975 made to clarify points or quell potential abuses.

The third document is the recently published Built of Living Stones (B.L.S.), which contains directives from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This document replaces Environment and Art for Catholic Worship, which was originally issued in 1978 by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy of the N.C.C.B. (In terms of overall principles, however, the B.L.S. is in concert with the 1978 document. While it clarifies the earlier statement, in no apparent way does it overturn it.)

Although these three documents differ in style and sometimes even in their respective detailed directives, and thus reflect the progress of the renewal effort, they are consistent in their essential principles. What they all reflect is the major shift in the understanding of the liturgy itself from a singular focus on the presence of Christ in the consecrated host to a renewed understanding of the fourfold presence of Christ at the eucharistic celebration: in the people assembled, in the priest presiding, in the Word proclaimed and preached and most especially in the elements consecrated at the altar (S.C., No. 7).

In addition to this expanded theology of Real Presence, these documents also recover a strong sense of the liturgy as “public worship performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members” (S.C., No. 7). In other words, the liturgy is “the action of Christ and the people of God arrayed hierarchically” (G.I.R.M., No. 16). No longer that which is done by a priest on behalf of the people, the liturgy is now seen as the work of the assembly. The priest or bishop completes the hierarchically assembled gathering, but his function is in “presiding over the assembly and of directing prayer” (G.I.R.M., No. 310). While this does not eliminate a previously understood power to confect the Eucharist, it does broaden the role of the priest to encompass a still broader understanding of the entire liturgy.

This expanded theology results in a liturgy that requires a space significantly different from what was required before the council. As B.L.S. indicates, “Catholics who live and worship in the United States in the twenty-first century celebrate a liturgy that is the same as that of earlier generations in all its essentials but significantly different in its language, style and form” (B.L.S., No. 4). If the church building is to serve the needs of the liturgy, it stands to reason that it too will be significantly different in its language, style and form.

From this, certain design principles follow:

• “The general plan of the sacred building should be such that in some way it conveys the image of the gathered assembly” (G.I.R.M., No. 294). Previously, the building was meant to highlight a sanctuary reserved for the clergy, the visual focus of which was the tabernacle. Now the reason for the building is to accommodate the assembly and enable it to conduct the sacred liturgy (G.I.R.M., No. 288).

• While the shape and form of the building should express the hierarchical arrangement of the church and the diversity of functions, nevertheless it “should at the same time form a deep and organic unity, clearly expressive of the unity of the entire holy people” (G.I.R.M., No. 294). While the G.I.R.M. continues to use the language of sanctuary and nave, it seems that a church consisting of two discrete rooms, one the sanctuary and the other the nave, joined at a proscenium arch, is inconsistent with the overall principle of organic unity. Another form seems to be called for here to unify more clearly the one people with those ministering.

• It is by virtue of baptism that the Christian people have “a right and obligation” (S.C., No. 14) to celebrate the Eucharist. Hence the importance of the baptistery as symbol has been realized. The recovery of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which reaches its climax at the Easter Vigil and throughout the Easter season, requires that the font be more than the former holy water stoup. There is to be “one font that will accommodate the baptism of both infants and adults” (B.L.S., No. 69).

• “The altar should occupy its place so that it is truly the center on which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally focuses” (G.I.R.M., No. 299). The importance of the altar as situated somehow in the midst of the assembly is self-evident to most, though some will argue that the altar ought to be located at the east end, according to the ancient traditions of the church. But this is not a claim made in the recent documents. What is important is that there is to be only one altar, because it “signifies to the assembly of the faithful the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church” (G.I.R.M., No. 303). Furthermore, it should be “freestanding to allow the ministers to walk around it easily and Mass to be celebrated facing the people” (G.I.R.M., No. 299).

• There should exist a “close and harmonious relationship” between the altar and the ambo (B.L.S., No. 61). The ambo should be “a natural focal point for the faithful” during the liturgy of the word (G.I.R.M., No. 309).

• With regard to the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, easily the most neuralgic issue raised by renovation projects, the documents give the disputants wide berth. They allow for reservation in the sanctuary, even on the former high altar. They also allow for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in a separate chapel. People will argue about which is to be preferred. The principles seem clear, however. If the Blessed Sacrament is reserved on the former high altar, which is now no longer used as such, or somewhere else in the main body of the church, sufficient separation between the tabernacle and the altar is to be maintained, and the centrality of the altar as focal is not to be compromised (B.L.S., No. 79-80).

The documents nowhere require that the tabernacle be visible from the main body of the church. What is required is that the place where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved be conspicuous, that is, easily found by a person intent on praying before the Blessed Sacrament. While some decry this as a desecration of the church and a relegation of the Real Presence to a closet, the documents make clear that the chapel where the sacrament is reserved ought to be “noble, worthy, conspicuous, well-decorated and suitable for prayer” (G.I.R.M., No. 314).

Any attempt at design implies an interpretation of these principles. But the texts can be misused and manipulated to justify almost any design based on personal preference and piety. Pastors must guard against people of various interest groups using the texts in this way. Those texts are meant for instruction and guidance, not as weapons for bludgeoning opponents in liturgical warfare.

Clearly these documents are not meant to dictate floor plans, or the shape and style of the building. Indeed, with regard to style, the church has never adopted any particular style or form as its own, solely suitable for the liturgy (S.C., No. 123). At the same time, the church does have an interest in maintaining its own patrimony in terms of authentic art and architecture from former times. In able hands, adapting a building to the new liturgy does not necessarily entail ruining it or compromising the building’s original aesthetic. Mere restorationism, however, is of no help to the living church and the progress of the liturgical reform.

In all of this, design professionals and consultants are essential. Finding them, hiring them, and enabling a parish community to work with them, in conjunction with the local bishop and the diocesan office of worship, is no doubt the most difficult task for a parish and pastor embarking on a renovation project. While there is plenty of bad design done in the name of the reform, as there is plenty of bad liturgy done in the name of the reform, none of this discredits the reform itself. The principles of liturgical design have solid theological grounding, and realizing them is a long and arduous process. We as a church are only in the early stages of that process. Mistakes will be made. New insights will be gained. But a church design or renovation project will be successful only if there is an extant vibrant liturgical practice for which to design. The building will support and enable it. Without a living liturgy, however, the building will remain little more than a tomb-like monument to a former age.


Place kick me, Jesus, through the goalposts of life.


Countering "Beige Catholicism"

Fr. Andrew M Greeley writes in Commonweal (11/9/01):

Catholics are different. We belong to a sacramental church and hence are a sacramental people, distinct from those who are less sacramental than we are. Since Vatican II, however, a type of false prophecy-based on an illegitimate reading of the council-- has suggested that Catholics abandon these differences and become "just like everyone else." Such a melange would not be Catholicism.

Any cultural heritage is a tool kit, a set of paradigms that suggests attitudes and responses to the problems and opportunities of life. Usually, such a heritage is subconscious and unreflective, which makes the problem of defining and describing it complex. Here I will try to examine contemporary Catholic attitudes and responses, especially toward what we have traditionally called the sacramentals.

Priest and theologian Robert Baron, born in 1960, says that he was raised and educated in what he calls "beige Catholicism," a Catholicism stripped of much of its beauty, its rainforest of metaphors, denuded in an effort to be "just like everyone else." Beige Catholicism is somehow trapped between the solemn but empty rituals of the past and a bare-bones, low-church Protestantism-not quite Catholic but not really Protestant either.

The issue is not restoration. The Catholicism of the forties and fifties cannot and should not be restored. Rather, the issue is whether the church, in its haste to adjust to the postconciliar world, jettisoned much of what was distinctive and precious in the Catholic sacramental heritage. Consider four examples of the church's discarded heritage: plain song, statues, the rosary, and meatless Fridays.

* Gregorian chant: Plain song flourished for fifteen centuries. It has recently been celebrated in best-selling CDs. Yet liturgists have virtually banished it from Catholic worship on the ground that it has no place in the postconciliar liturgy. But to suggest that occasionally a congregation might sing the Kyrie, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei, perhaps in antiphonal mode with a skilled schola cantorum, does not imply membership in the Society of Pius X or rejection of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Rather, it is to advocate the recovery of a tradition of great beauty that has been part of the Catholic heritage for ages.

True, plain song is not of the essence of the Catholic heritage. It could disappear and Catholicism would remain Catholicism, albeit marginally the poorer. But if something is beautiful and hints of God's loving presence in the world, why abandon it? Why not sing the Pange Lingua on Holy Thursday?

* Statues: My pastor in Tucson presided over the construction of a new church in which there were niches for only two saints, Mary and Joseph. In a lecture I gave there, I remarked that the pastor ought to have a storeroom full of saints, so he could trot out one or two to be saint-of-- the-month. That way parents could bring their kids and tell them the stories of the saints, our stories of God's love. Catholicism is a religion awash in great and wonderful stories.

My monsignor, in giving his vote of thanks for my remarks, said, well, now, if Father Greeley wants to donate some statues, sure wouldn't we be glad to have them. So now when you enter Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Tucson, you'll find two life-size wood carvings of Saints Brigid and Brendan by Robert McGovern. More than that, there are Byzantine icons flanking the altar and statues everywhere, inside and outside of the church, and even a garden of saints in front of the rectory.

It might be said that all this "stuff" that used to litter our churches is not essential to Catholicism, not even really part of Catholic doctrine. They are accidentals, derivatives that have been added to the heritage over the centuries and are not important. God, Trinity, incarnation, church, pope-- these are the essentials of our faith. However, such an argument confuses the way we first encounter our religious heritage and its stories with the way the doctrines are systematically arranged by theologians and catechism writers. Stories come first, then theological and catechetical systematization, which in turn enable us to critique the stories. But then, in what Paul Ricoeur calls the second naivete, we return to the stories. Religion begins and ends with them.

* The rosary: The monsignor in Tucson had so many people seeking instruction that he divided them into those who were already baptized and those who were not, an appropriate decision since the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is technically only for the nonbaptized. (The baptized had their own ten-week course, "Faith Affirmation.") He discovered that many of the nonbaptized could hardly wait to get a rosary, because this was proof that they were really going to be Catholics. So he made distribution of rosaries an integral part of their preparation.

The Rosary! Hasn't that been banned by the liturgists? Isn't it a holdover from medieval superstition? Shouldn't we give up the nervous fingering of the beads of the grandmas and the babushkas? One of the great arenas for the study of comparative religion is the taxi cabs in American cities. One sees every variety of prayer beads under heaven. Why should we give up ours?

* Fridays: We did give up fish on Friday, one of the great definitions of Catholic identity, and for no good reason of which I am aware. Most likely we were contemptuous of it as preconcilar. Despite the fact that some bishops think all you have to do to recreate a metaphor like this is to make a new rule, it won't work. A mentality has to emerge among Catholics that we do some things not because they are a rule but because, as Catholics, we like to do them.

Chant, statues, the rosary, Friday abstinence-none is essential, but until we find better metaphors for the presence of God's personal love in the world, we would do well to conserve what we have rather than toss them into the ashcan of history.

Perhaps the most powerful of all our metaphors is that of the Madonna. It would be difficult to find in the conciliar documents a hint that Mary was no longer fashionable, but, in sad truth, we hear little about her these days. This may be for fear that Marian devotion might offend our separated brothers and sisters. English historian Eamon Duffy has lamented that, in the last thirty years, theologians have written little about Mary. They ignore her the way Victorian novelists ignored sex. But why? Does she embarrass us? And why leave her to those who wish to multiply her titles or to those fixated on gnostic interpretations of private revelations?

And then there is purgatory. It has been swept away. In his wonderful novel The White Hotel, D. M. Thomas suggests that purgatory is a place where our task is to straighten out the messes we have made of our human relationships. This seems like a legitimate exegesis of the purgatory story, and a reassuring, encouraging explanation of its pain-which is also a joy. We can wisely pray for such souls-that they work through their problems. And we can ask their help in anticipating the pains and the joys of purgatory ourselves by striving for reconciliation in this life.

I offer this interpretation as one possibility. My point is that any attempt to take seriously the Catholic heritage that does not take into account purgatory (even if the name harkens back only to thirteenth-century Ireland) is gravely deficient. For whom are we to offer our pains, whether suffering terminal cancer or a toothache? For whom are we to pray if the dead really cannot profit from our prayers? Do we even realize that a heritage which recommends and reinforces praying for the dead is a heritage which is both rich and benign?

A sacramental religion, one that believes in the presence of a loving God in God's creation, will inevitably become a heritage in which sacramentals abound. You may wipe them out as thoroughly as they have been cleansed from our churches on the ill-advised notion that only the altar, the ambo, and the font should remain. But once they have been eliminated, our people will invent new ones because we are a sacramental people. Our problem, therefore, is how to reinterpret and rearticulate our stories so that they represent the substance of our faith. Nine first Fridays on the record will not guarantee the presence of a priest when we need one. But celebrating the liturgy on those days will reinforce our conviction that God watches over us as beloved children in life and at the moment of death.

If we are to begin to retrieve the Catholic heritage, I suggest there are four dimensions we must consider.

* The sacramental imagination: It has not completely disappeared from the lives of the faithful, no matter how little the church has tended it in the last third of the century. The task will be to raise it again for their formal consideration. This will involve becoming more conscious and explicit about what it means to be Catholic. For example, we make the sign of the cross with holy water when we enter a church to recall the graces of our baptism, to understand that God's love for us lurks in life-giving water, and to remind ourselves that we are entering a place where God is present in a special way. Most people know that or knew it once. But they need to hear it often. It is the task of our teachers in this time of transition to remind us that we are different because we are sacramental, and that we are sacramental because we believe grace is everywhere.

* Discernment: We must discern what elements of the heritage may require more emphasis than others. Not every private devotion or pious custom of the past should be revived. Most novenas had run out before the council because there were too many of them, the prayers were too odd, the promises too automatic. But visits to the Blessed Sacrament disappeared because priests began locking up the churches, despite the fact that there are now adequate security devices which would permit the church to remain open for those who want to "drop in and say a prayer."

* Explication: We must learn how to explicate our stories so that the risks of superstition, folk religion, and idolatry are minimized. Sacramentals are not instruments of magic by which we try to manipulate or control God. Lourdes water cannot compel God to cure someone, but it can be seen as a means of invoking God's maternal love. A votive candle reminds us of our ongoing prayer.

Recovering and rearticulating our symbols, therefore, is part of the task of religious maturation, of the journey from the "first" to the "second naivete." It constitutes the phase of "criticism" when we unpack our symbols and then put them back together again, when we progress from the simple understanding of the child to the sophisticated faith of an adult. Perhaps one can say that today American Catholicism is collectively struggling toward the second naivete.

* Beauty: We must represent our sacramentality in ways that emphasize and celebrate its beauty. Of the three transcendentals-the good, the true, and the beautiful-the last is the first we encounter. It is, as John Paul II has said, the portal of God. It attracts us; we examine it and see that it is good. Yet in contemporary American Catholicism, the beautiful is not only the last of the transcendentals, it has become an appendage.

Whatever might be said of past practices-the Irish built schools and used the school hall for Mass-there is no longer an excuse for omitting beauty from our sacramental life. We need to elevate the functional with the kind of transcendent beauty that tears a hole in the fabric of ordinary life and allows grace to pour in. The minimalism of beige Catholicism desires only the commonplace...


Tuesday, June 04, 2002  
Whither Goes Our Liturgy?

Duane L. C. M. Galles writes in a 1996 article for the Saint Joseph Foundation newsletter:

But what can be done now? There is one approach which does not require express permission from the diocesan bishop or his liturgical gauleiters and can be implemented at once…What I am suggesting is the use the Missal of Paul VI but with "decency and order," as our Anglican brethren would say. Classic liturgy is already at hand and can be had if the missal of Paul VI is but celebrated using the Roman Canon and most of the ceremonies of the Missal of St. Pius V.

In fact, the Church of Saint Agnes in Saint Paul, Minnesota, has been doing precisely this since 1970. One of its five weekend Masses is always a solemn sung Latin Mass and, although the missal of Paul VI is used, the liturgy has most of the ceremonies of the Roman rite that Fortescue described so lovingly and so well. Never in its history since 1887 has a Sunday passed at St. Agnes without a Latin Mass and it is organic liturgy just as Vatican II wished.

But even in its more numerous English Masses, Saint Agnes can say with the noted liturgist, E.C. Ratcliffe, "My business is liturgy, not circus." What Saint Agnes offers is classic liturgy, the Missal of Paul VI with classic Catholic ceremonies, vestments and vessels celebrated on its original ad orientem neoclassical Carrara marble altar with communicants devoutly kneeling at the (still intact) rail…

St. Agnes Church, St. Paul, Minn.


Monday, June 03, 2002  
"I say that its purpose was political and military, sadistic and humanitarian, horrible and welcome." Paul Fussell, on the dropping of the A-Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The debate over The Bomb at St. Blog's has drawn a number of thought-provoking contributions, from Veritas and Disputations, John Betts and Mark Butterworth, Louder Fenn and E.L. Core. For this space, an enjoyable result of the give-and-take over such a grim subject has been a reacquaintance with the writing of the curmudgeonly Paul Fussell (with whom the Atlantic did this interview in 1997).

Fussell, in Thank God for the Atom Bomb, writes from the perspective of a combat veteran in defending the bombing as necessary to ending an unspeakably ghastly war in the Pacific.

Arthur T. Hadley said recently that those for whom the use of the A-bomb was "wrong" seem to be implying "that it would have been better to allow thousands on thousands of American and Japanese infantrymen to die in honest hand-to-hand combat on the beaches than to drop those two bombs." People holding such views, he notes, "do not come from the ranks of society that produce infantrymen or pilots."…

Former Pfc. E. B. Sledge, author of the splendid memoir With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, noticed at the time that the fighting grew "more vicious the closer we got to Japan," with the carnage of Iwo Jima and Okinawa worse that what had gone before. He points out that

What we had experienced in fighting the Japs on Peleliu and Okinawa caused us to formulate some very definite opinions that the invasion…would be a ghastly bloodletting…It would shock the American public and the world. [Every Japanese] soldier, civilian, woman and child would fight to the death with whatever weapons they had, rifle, grenade or bamboo spear.

The Japanese pre-invasion patriotic song, "One Hundred Million Souls for the Emperor," says Sledge, "meant just that." Universal kamikaze was the point…And the invasion was going to take place: there's no question about that. It was not theoretical or merely rumored in order to scare the Japanese. By July 10, 1945, the prelanding naval and aerial bombardment of the coast had begun…

…John Kenneth Galbraith is persuaded that the Japanese would have surrendered surely by November without an invasion. He thinks the A-bombs were unnecessary and unjustified because the war was ending anyway. The A-bombs meant, he says, "a difference, at most, of two or three weeks." But at the time, with no indication that surrender was on the way, the kamikazes were sinking American vessels, the Indianapolis was sunk (880 men killed), and Allied casualties were running to over 7,000 per week. "Two or three weeks," says Galbraith. Two weeks more means 14,000 more killed and wounded, three weeks more, 21,000. Those weeks mean the world if you're one of those thousands or related to one of them. During the time between the dropping of the Nagasaki bomb on August 9 and the actual surrender on the fifteenth, the war pursued its accustomed course: on the twelfth of August eight captured American fliers were executed (heads chopped off); the fifty-first United States submarine, Bonefish, was sunk (all aboard drowned); the destroyer Callaghan went down, the seventieth to be sunk, and the Destroyer Escort Underhill was lost. That's a bit of what happened in six days of the two or three weeks posited by Galbraith. What did he do in the war? He worked in the Office of Price Administration in Washington. I don't demand that he experience having his ass shot off. I merely note that he didn't.

It is worth noting that a million American lives were expected to be lost in an invasion of mainland Japan; that 123,000 Japanese and Americans had killed each other on Okinawa weeks before the A-bomb killed 140,000 in Hiroshima; Hiroshima was indeed militarily significant as headquarters of the Japanese Second Army; and that the foe was an expansionist power of singular barbarity that preferred death to surrender, regarded with moral contempt conquered peoples who chose otherwise, and was preparing a kamikaze defense of the homeland to the last man, woman and child.

Catholic just-war thinking starts with a “presumption for justice,” not a “presumption against violence,” maintains George Weigel (second essay). In an immoral business, in which no choice is palatable, might it not be argued that the evil of the a-bomb is preferable to the greater evil of extended warfare, in that the bomb hastens the end of warfare and the imposition of justice?

And on the "Ends Justifying the Means" question: If it would lead to information that would prevent the terrorist destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Sears Tower, I would unhesitatingly prescribe the Iron Maiden for Osama bin Laden.

When I read that we will fight the Japs for years if necessary and will sacrifice hundreds of thousands if we must, I always like to check from where he's talking: it's seldom out here. Lieutenant (j.g.) John F. Kennedy, US Navy, 1943


‘The Wild Geese come in their thousands with the October moon. They blacken the sky and they cry the coming of Autumn. Where there are low marshlands, or sloblands, they settle down, and then the cabins are cooking them with much butter or grease in the bastables all the Winter. About the estuary of the Shannon, and all up the river into Limerick, they must have whizzed and moaned, that Winter of 1691, when Ginkel offered the terms that ended the Jacobite War, and started bitter quarrels among the tired and tattered Irish. The flying Irish, down the Shannon or down the Lee with Sarsfield, looked up at the skies, and took the name, The Wild Geese. It was the end of a period. It was all but the end of a race.’ Seán O’Failáin

Widening Gyre and Mark Cameron offer fascinating commentary on a Canadian challenge to the 1701 Act of Settlement that barred Catholics from the English throne.

Here is a very interesting page on the Wild Geese, the expatriate Irish soldiers of fortune who fought across the world after the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of the Boyne. The battle is still being fought more than three centuries later by some on the Orange side.


In praise of the Old Mass

Dave Pawlak attends the Old Mass and finds in it "Catholicism, pure and simple." Here is a short and useful catechism of the ancient Roman Rite.


Wanderer pronounces Latin Mass Magazine anathema

More than a whiff of the fever swamp about The Wanderer, which is out to tar as schismatic Latin Mass Magazine because the latter ran a critique of Humanae Vitae. Mark Cameron comments.


Middle of the Storm, indeed
Father Bob Carr, shown in this Boston Herald photo gallery (right) going toe to toe with protesters at Boston's Holy Cross Cathedral, is a priest of strong opinions.

For example, Fr. Carr's recipe for curing what ails the Church, prescribed in interviews with the Globe and Herald, includes closing parochial schools and ending social services that serve non-Catholics.

In his statement, Carr suggested several concrete steps are needed for the church to regain its focus, including shutting down Catholic elementary and high schools where students and their parents do not attend church.

In those cases, he said, the church is ''providing a service to people who have essentially rejected our faith. Such schools should be closed and the assets sold and given to the poor,'' unless, he said, the money is needed for legal settlements with people who were sexually abused by priests.

While he said he did not have any particular schools in mind, Carr said in the interview that the litmus test for closing or keeping a school open should be how many parents and children are ''active in the faith.''

In his statement, he suggested selling the cardinal's residence in Brighton and giving the money to the poor, again unless the money is needed for settlements. Carr also criticized Boston College, saying the cardinal's home should not be sold to BC because ''it would be silly to offer it to a Catholic institution that itself produces people who, by their inactivity as Catholics, reject our faith.''

Wonder if Mother Teresa had a "Catholics Only" sign on the door of the hospice?

In the view of this space, the Church's charitable works are vital to the poor, and Catholic schools in the inner city offer precious hope for a better life to children who otherwise would have little. Consider the examples of such schools as Nativity Prep and Mother Caroline Academy in Boston. Should these schools be closed because black children who attend them are not Catholic? Should the Church sell off schools and soup kitchens that serve the neediest of the needy in favor of a one-time payment to the poor, and a subsequent reliance solely on prayer?

Fr. Carr also has made something of a cottage industry of criticizing Boston College, which he sees falling short in its Catholic mission. That secularists of the Left prevail in American academia is news to no one; that there are those who would prefer to see BC a thoroughly secular university is not surprising. BC certainly has its faults. But BC has its strengths, too, which are rarely cited by certain critics who fail to see the forest for the trees.

For example, you might not guess from the outcry over the honorary degrees BC granted the head of the MacArthur Foundation and the former governor of Massachusetts that the University also gave commencement honors to not one but two priests, a devoted nun, and a laywoman director of Catholic Charities. You wouldn't see such a tribute to Catholic good works at Harvard or Princeton or Yale. Consider, too, some of the BC faculty on the orthodox side of the ledger: Peter Kreeft. Thomas Hibbs. Jorge Garcia. Fr. Matthew Lamb, a member of the advisory board of the Faith & Reason Institute. Fr. Ron Tacelli, SJ, author with Peter Kreeft of the Handbook of Christian Apologetics. Or Slavic Languages chairman and Armenian Rite deacon Michael Connolly.

The author of this space is loyal to his employer, as Fr. Carr is to his, but would, in any case, compare Boston College favorably to any university in the land, let alone any other Catholic institution of higher learning -- even Fr. Carr's alma mater, the archdiocesan-run school across the street.


Local Man Snags the Big One, or the Joy of the Small-town Newspaper

Harried by the steady stream of woe headlined in the major dailies? Step back and contemplate the wonder of the lunker laker.

Caspian's deep depths are home to some of those big trout that wear their large snouts to a smooth roundedness as they plumb and scrape the lake floor in quest of smaller prey.

The area's wiliest fishermen sit patiently in their boats every day, dreaming of an encounter with one of those wise old lakers.

At about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, Terry Hall of Hardwick was somewhere in the middle of the lake when his quiet dreaming was abruptly interrupted by reality.

When Thomas Jefferson, mulling the choice of government without newspapers or newspapers without government, chose the latter, he must have had the Caledonian-Record in mind.


Life is good

Sox take two of three from Yanks in New York.


Friday, May 31, 2002  
Row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow

Kudos to the Widening Gyre for posting an all-time Belloc favorite, The Pelagian Drinking Song.

Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.

And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Especially barley brew!


There is, no doubt, a special place in Purgatory……for whoever did this to the cathedral in Syracuse. (Thanks to the Cranky Prof for the link.)


E. L. Core is a gifted poet: See for yourself here.

The Eve of June
(May 31, 1990)
[Companion to "The Greening Spring"]

night's chill,
the fog lifts
with the rising sun.
Sweet Williams (pink, white, lavender)
crowd corners, just without trees' reach;
glad daisies stretch for the warming sunshine;
and flags fly on neat lawns, stately assemblies.
Mothering earth breathes free on the Eve of June.
Little children, clad for the heat after noon,
shiver in shorts in short straggly lines,
stamping, as everyday, for school's bus,
champing today for school's end,
telling me, tolling me:
precious springtime passes
oh too

E. L. Core
to Dad


Were it not for the atomic bomb, I might not be here today

My father, a lowly seaman second-class, was in naval radar training in 1945 when the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the Second World War to a close without the need for an invasion of the Japanese mainland that would have cost millions of lives – potentially including my father's.

I thought of this when reading Veritas' argument, supported by E. L. Core, that no case could be made for the use of atomic bombs against Japan in the war. Maintains Chris Burgwald: "I don't see how anyone who values innocent human life could endorse dropping The Bomb on Japan."

You could if it meant saving many, many more innocent lives while bringing a close to a conflict that had brought – and would continue to bring – untold suffering. The end, in these circumstances, would, in my view, justify the means. [Similar means had, in fact, already been employed: See the firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo.]

Consider the nature of the foe we opposed [Warning: You will likely want to avoid the photos here] and the dogged resistance – exhibited to the last man on Okinawa and elsewhere in the Pacific – with which an invasion of the Japanese mainland would have been met. Consider, too, the result had the Nazis or the Japanese won their race to build the bomb before we did.

The world would not have been a better place had the Axis prevailed. Had the enemy not been stopped, many, many more innocents would have suffered and died. This is not say the Japanese civilian population shared in the culpability of the imperialist warlords who started the war, and it is horrible and tragic that civilians by the hundreds of thousands died as a result of a war their leaders brought to their shores. Yet many Japanese civilians had been so thoroughly inculcated in the martial message of the Rising Sun that they were prepared to act as kamikazes or kill themselves rather than surrender, as did villagers on Okinawa. The number of civilians who would have died in a military invasion of Japan would have been staggering. Were I a sailor or Marine who had survived atoll-by-atoll fighting in the Pacific only to look forward to a planned invasion of Japan, I likely would have thanked heaven for anything that brought the whole ghastly war to a close.

As General Grant demonstrated in the Wilderness Campaign, a horrifying war of attrition described memorably by Bruce Catton, the willingness and capability to endure – and inflict – brutal force can be necessary to end greater and more prolonged brutality.

Not a pleasant fact of history – but a fact, nonetheless.


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