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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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Irish Elk
Saturday, March 24, 2007  

Six Degrees of Pope Benedict &c

The York Daily Record reinterprets the famous Kevin Bacon parlor game to connect a Spring Garden Township, Pa., accountant with the Pontiff.

Can you connect yourself to the pope in six people or less?

* * *

The March 24 edition of The Spectator carries an interesting essay, "The Pope's anti-liberal revolution."

Writer Piers Paul Read describes BXVI's recently-published Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist as a "theological tour de force":

Sacramentum Caritatis opens with a lucid exposition of the Catholic belief on the Eucharist. The priest’s words of consecration during the Mass turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ - a transformation Pope Benedict describes as ‘a sort of “nuclear fission” which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world’.

This belief, with its connotations of cannibalism and human sacrifice, has always been hard to take. Even in Christ’s lifetime, many of his disciples, according to Saint John, regarded the idea as ‘intolerable ...and stopped going with him’. It was a defining bone of contention between Catholics at the time of the Reformation. Luther downgraded the change from transubstantiation (the bread and wine become the flesh and blood of Christ) to consubstantiation (bread and wine remain bread and wine but co-exist with the flesh and blood of Christ), and Calvin disbelieved it altogether.

Thus the first of the threefold challenges posed by the Eucharist, Pope Benedict writes, is belief in this mystery of faith. The second is to celebrate the sacrament with the dignity and beauty it merits: ‘everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty’. And finally, the Eucharist must be an inspiration to those who partake in it to a commitment to the betterment of mankind.

Read the piece soon before the article disappears into the paid archives.

* * *

The pope has been warned of a green Antichrist, who will be “a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist."

In the Spectator, Read writes:

At the retreat preached before the Pope and top Vatican officials shortly before the publication of Sacramentum Caritatis, Cardinal Biffi, the former Archbishop of Bologna, repeated the apocalyptic prophecies of the Russian Orthodox theologian Vladimir Sergeevich Soloviev at the end of the 19th century. When the Antichrist appears, he warned, it would be as a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist promoting the shared ethical values of all the world’s religions at the expense of the person and sacrifice of Christ.

The impulse is to scoff. But Earth Worship indeed has become all the thing in the trendier precincts. Consider the pretentious hybrid-limousine-liberals Charles Krauthammer skewers for literally trading in ecological indulgences.

Or consider the earnest green Manhattanites who are so committed to mortifying themselves to leave "no impact" on the earth that they have given up toilet paper and elevators.

The dishwasher is off, along with the microwave, the coffee machine and the food processor. Planes, trains, automobiles and that elevator are out, but the family is still doing laundry in the washing machines in the basement of the building. (Consider the ramifications of no-elevator living in a vertical city: one day recently, when Frankie the dog had digestive problems, Mr. Beavan, who takes Isabella to day care - six flights of stairs in a building six blocks away - and writes at the Writers Room on Astor Place - 12 flights of stairs, also six blocks away - estimated that by nightfall he had climbed 115 flights of stairs.) And they have not had the heart to take away the vacuum from their cleaning lady, who comes weekly (this week they took away her paper towels).

They are fastidious in their efforts to "tread lightly on the planet," yet they relegate their toddler daughter to daycare while Dad goes off to his Writers Room; giving up the Fifth Avenue high rise with the cleaning lady to live someplace where one of them might stay home and give as close attention to their growing child as to worm-composting, might be one sacrifice too many.

Granted I am no one's idea of an earthy-crunchy, yet I am sympathetic to the agrarian or distributist ideal of living in harmony with one's surroundings and with Creation, and what these showy Earth-worshipers are doing doesn't seem to be it. Their intentions may be well-meaning, but their priorities seem quite skewed.

"What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around?" Albert Brooks' character says in Broadcast News.

"Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing... he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance."

Who's to say he won't be Green?


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