Friday, February 27, 2009

The PP to the PQ

Those of you who read the Puella (you all should, you know) ought to note that she will be blogging for the next 37 1/2 days from this place.

Update your feeds.

In case you'r unfamiliar, here's a taste:

Actually I think geography is a scandal anyway. Let me tell you why.

Go on, PP, tell us! Tell us!

All right, seeing as you insist. I was one of those children who could read when they started school and figured out the principle of perspective when it came to drawing classes before anyone thought to use a word as long and as Latinate as “perspective” within my earshot.

Er, and that means….?

It means that I figured out that when the class was told to “draw a table” (look, we were six!), two legs would have to be shorter than the other two. And the flat bit on top would look funny. My classmates thought I was being stupid and that I would surely get sent to the Headmaster (one Mr. Bellis, a ferocious man who terrified the daylights out of all of us, unless it was your birthday - it was never mine, mine was always in half-term - when he gave you a lolly. Best Headmaster ever). I thought it was just bleedin’ obvious. My teacher was astounded. Then she (Mrs. Cook, wearer of pink fluffy body-warmers) taught me the word “perspective.”

Right. And this is going…

I’m getting there. I was also the kid who would pester my father to teach me about angles and degrees and stuff.

This is remarkable because…?

I was seven.

Oh. Yes. That does sound a little odd. Weren’t you into Barbies?

Yes. And My Little Pony. But I tried to convince Barbie to ride Majesty whilst constructing an equilateral triangle.

You were a strange child, PP.

Tell me about it. Anyway.


Anyway. Maths isn’t really my father’s forte, being as he is a humanities teacher.


History and Geography.


And so I grew up with a rather traditional idea of what Geography would be like when I FINALLY got to do it at high school. It would be cool! We’d spend our lessons examining maps and learning about boundary changes and where different tribes of people live and originated from and the suchlike. It was going to be SO cool.


But that’s not what Geography turned out to be like.



Well…what WAS it like then?

We…they…well…the first lesson was about shopping.

This sounds like my kind of school.

Shaddup. We learnt about different types of shops. And then weather systems. And then the two major ways in which waterfalls are formed (which I can still recall now, incidentally).

Well that’s all very logical. Human geography, climate, and physical geography. Right?

It wouldn’t have been so bad. But they NEVER EVER taught us about WHERE STUFF WAS. Four years of high school and not a globe nor atlas in sight. I learnt more about border conflicts in the Middle East and the former USSR by watching (*spit*) the BBC rather than at school.

Thank goodness I pestered my parents enough to get a nice big kick-bottom world atlas for my birthday. It had sections on each continent. Including North America. And here’s the crux.


It clearly stated that North America consisted of three countries. Mexico, the USA, and Canada.

Not Greenland?

That’s in Europe. Norway. And stuff.

Ok. And…?

Well somewhere, somehow, they’ve scandalously shifted the North/South American boundary. Apparently now all those little bits between Mexico and Columbia are now also in North America. Plus all the bits floating around in the Caribbean! I’m scandalised. SCANDALISED, I tell you!



PP…don’t you have work to do? Like, an MA to finish?



I don’t remember the last time I saw 3:50am. The last time there was an all-night Adoration vigil, maybe? Which was…about eighteen months ago. Yikes!

This evening was spent reading a paper and making notes. Then I listened to Fr. Z’s newest podcast…and then it was 1am! So I started getting ready for bed, feeling tired…and now here I am, feeling even more tired, but unable to sleep. Rats!

My usual tactic in such situations is to lie here and think myself to sleep. But seeing as it’s nearly four in the morning I may just plod on with some work.

I hope no-one’s hoping I’m going to be happy and chatty tomorrow at Mass!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Pill Tries to Choke Fr. Finigan

The Lefty "Catholic" Rag, The Tablet has apparently asked Fr. Timothy Finigan of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, and The Hermeneutic of Continuity, to remove from his blog a gloss of an article that appears in the current edition of that paper, on the grounds that that Fr. FInigan's gloss infringes on their copyright.

The article, by Elena Curti, is titled, "That Was Not My Mass". Fr. Finigan has published a new reply, that is unambiguously compliant with the Tablets rights.

I had stayed out of this one, since the blogosphere had already amply covered the story, and I had nothing new to add.

I cannot add substantively to the story at this point, but I can and do express my hearty support for Fr. Finigan, for his blog and for his laudable Blackfen ministry.

You can join the Facebook group, "Support Fr. Finigan" by following the link, ante (FB registration req'd).

You might also visit his blog (link super) and leave a note of encouragement.

You could also e-mail Deputy Editor Elena Curti at The Tablet and tell her what you think of her piece.

UPDATE: There is a petition for an apology from The Tablet:

Go here to sign it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I am not like Puella Paschalis

My dissimilitude to that Northern Light of Blogging Europe is not the point, really.

The point is that I, unlike the PP, am not en route from a trip to Switzerland, and therefore have no excuse for the dearth of posts in the past 9 days (unless working 15 hour days including Saturday and Sunday can count as an excuse).

At some point soon, hopefully today, I will have something up by way of reply to Prof. Kmeic's latest.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I know, I know...

A week since I posted anything. Apologies to those with whom I am in arrears. Please bear with me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Just wondering...

Is it me, or is the Catholic blogosphere rather slow today?


Chemicals help you feel normal...

The Onion Has the cure for Polyanna Syndrome: Despondex!

Hat tip to Clayton at the Weight of Glory.

SSPX post Updated

See below

Friday, February 13, 2009

RE: Church PR and the SSPX "Kerfuffle" (w/ thanks to Fr. Zuhlsdorf for the term, 'kerfuffle' )

Not that he needs it, but go and pay him a visit at WDTPRS.

Now, I am assuming everyone agrees that the Vatican badly fumbled the handling of the Bp. Williamson affair.

The following observations are general - they are not meant to be directed at any individual. In fact, as Fr. Lombardi has said, the problem is cultural, and the failure systemic.

So, what follows is not an autopsy of the failure, but some unsystematic thoughts on the gravity of the situation, and (eventually) what I think are some elements of a broad vision of what needs to be done in order to avoid similar debacles in the future.

  1. First, regarding the gravity of the situation: it is very grave, indeed. The move to lift the excommunications of the SSPX bishops remains a laudable act of mercy on the part of the Holy Father and an important step in the healing of a deep wound in the Church's body. Peter's office exists for the unity of all Christians, and so Peter is duty-bound to work for the restoration of full communion. That said, the "PR aspect" of the situation created by the airing of Bp. Williamson's (+W) anti-semitic remarks just days before the announcement of the remission, and the Vatican's failure to foresee the inevitable reaction in the mainstream media (MsM), is not a matter of secondary importance. Indeed, it is of primary importance, even theologically.
    • When people receive a distorted image of the Church, and are revolted by the distorted image, they are driven away from the very source of the abundant life that all people constitutively crave - from the salvation that only She can offer. The more these distortions are reinforced, the harder it is for people to see the Church for what She truly is, and so the harder it is for them to reach Her. The stakes are infinitely valuable: human souls. The losses are eternal. When the Church does not do everything She can to present a true image of Herself, indeed, when her easily preventable failures in this regard provide the Enemy with amunition, the only word for it is scandal.
    • If it helps, think of it in terms of Trinitarian theology: God is essentially self-communication so perfectly loving that He eternally generates His Son, and from their perfection proceeds His Holy Spirit. Their mutual self-communication is so perfect as to be ineffably blessed unity of being in trinity of persons. God's self-communication is so great that it makes a whole universe and a creature, Man, to be in love with Him; He sends His Son to draw His creature into His perfection. The way this is accomplished - the way we are brought into this life, is incorporation through baptism, and the verb we use to indicate the act of participation in the Sacrament of this incorporation is "communication". The Church is the vehicle God uses to involve us in His self-communication.
I'll have more later. Please continue checking this entry today and through the weekend.

UPDATE: more regarding what there is to learn

  1. The dicastery responsible for the negotiations with the SSPX almost certainly knew of +W's positions vis à vis the holocaust (i.e. that he is a holocaust-denier), and certainly knew of certain currents of thought present to one degree or another among the membership of the SSPX (frankly, they are currents that are present in the broader membership of the Church, as well, and this is alarming, indeed as Pope Benedict XVI and all his recent predecessors have said repeatedly, unacceptable), the mildest of which are most charitably described as ambiguous. The good folks at PCED - and they have some very good people, starting with the President of the Commission, Dario Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, who is a courageous and extraordinarily capable Churchman - have been dealing with the SSPX for so long that they have become de-sensitized to them - someone described Williamson (and by extension, those of his ilk in the SSPX) as the "crazy uncle". I like the metaphor: if one lives with one's crazy uncle (I think of an Archie Bunker type, just in case this helps), one does get used to his rantings. This is why one's wife or mother, father or brother, or someone, anyone, really, in the family needs to be permanently on guard just to make sure one does not accidentally decide it would be a good idea to bring Uncle Harry to the Hunt Club membership dinner. The importance of this role being "in-house" cannot be emphasized too much. There is absolutely nothing wrong per se with the inward-lookingness of a given dicastery - indeed, the institutional capacity to grind on, heedless of the outside world is often a necessary one; the problems are created when there is no one on staff at PCED (or any other dicastery, for that matter) specifically and explicitly tasked with thinking about the potential PR pitfalls - and teaching opportunities - in each and every decision, major and minor.
    • At present, the Sala Stampa is responsible for managing announcements like the remission of the SSPX bishops' excommunication. Here is what the folks there needed to supply: (1) a clear, concise statement explaining what the lifting of an excommunication does, and does not do - it does mean people can regularly go to confession and receive communion in any Catholic Church, while it does not in any way, shape or form "rehabilitate" the person from whose shoulders the penalty is lifted (1a) a person on hand from Legislative Texts to answer questions from the press corps - ideally the person would be a lawyer with experience explaining canonical concepts to the uninitiated (2) a clear, concise, written statement explaining that the Holy Father and the Congregation for Bishops were aware of +W's holocaust denial, and were lifting the excommunication despite his scandalous positions, because of considerations having entirely to do with the internal order and discipline of the Church, and that (2a) +W would never, ever, under any circumstances have any role of responsibility within the Church (2b) a clear, concise statement from the Director of the Press Office reiterating the Church's abhorrence and repudiation of anti-semitism in all its forms (2c) a one page summary with the "money quotes" condemning anti-semitism from the last 6 popes (2d) a larger Press Packet with lenghtier excerpts from Papal and magisterial pronouncements on the same subject.
    • The above would not have been able to stop all the lies and distortions. It would, however, have created a record to which both Church representatives and other, more responsible journalists could point and turn for clarification. Said simply, it would have given the Church control of the record, thereby obviating the need for the Her to correct the record.
  2. Basically, in order to complement the necessarily inward-looking staff that deal with the sorts of things for which a given dicastery exists within the Curial universe, every dicastery needs to have people on staff to look outward, and help the decision-makers craft their messages. The Press Office needs to be pro-active, demonstrating a desire to be open, clear, straightforward and helpful in parsing the often complex and unfamiliar language of official statments, documents and acts- the PO also needs to let it be known throughout the corps that those who treat the Pope and the Holy See fairly will get scoops every once in awhile; in the vision that is beginning to take shape in my head of what Vatican communications might be, I am imagining the Press Office in the role of PR coordinator anong the various dicasteries, as well.

Recent Posting...

Throughout the day, I'll be posting snippets, brief thoughts, some reflections of a few sentences' length, on all manner of things.

This is because I am extremely fragmented today, in thought, responsibilities, and even in body (I walked 4 1/2 miles to work today. It was not the distance, mind you; it was the shoes, the cobblestones and the thousands of red protestors going the wrong way, i.e. in the direction opposite my own).

Spiritual Ruminations: fasting and abstinence

I was just thinking that one of the reasons fasting and abstinence are such powerful spiritual weapons is that they stump the demons.

Fasting and abstinence are mortifications that one imposes on oneself, like the donning of a hairshirt or flagellation. Unlike these last, however, fasting and abstinence essentially involve, indeed consist in foregoing things that are good in themselves.

Since demons are essentially self-indulgent (though like any true narcissus, a demon is capable of enormous seòf-deprivation if he can see the potential benefit for himself in it), they must be terribly confused by somenone's skipping a meal or taking a pass on the steak or keeping the cork in the bottle, especially when the discomfort incurred or the pleasure foregone is offered as penance for the sins of another, maybe even a stranger.

Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tradition and Education: for my brother

It is my brother's birthday tomorrow, Feb. 11th.

He sent me this article by David Brooks a week or so ago, and I have been too much taken with other things to think consecutively (as Stanley Cavell would say) about it.

I am almost ready to offer a few thoughts, by way of response, in something approaching presentable style.

In the meantime, have a read.

Truth Commission for Bush Administration?

From the Reuters service, via yahoo! news

So, let me get this straight: the Bush administration's disputable policies are comparable to Apartheid or any of these places?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. "truth commission" should investigate Bush administration policies including the promotion of war in Iraq, detainee treatment and wiretapping without a warrant, an influential senator proposed on Monday.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, urged a commission as a way to heal what he called sharp political divides under former President George W. Bush and to prevent future abuses.

He compared it to other truth commissions, such as one in South Africa that investigated the apartheid era.

"We need to come to a shared understanding of the failures of the recent past," Leahy said in a speech at Georgetown University.

"Rather than vengeance, we need a fair-minded pursuit of what actually happened," the Vermont senator said. "And we do that to make sure it never happens again."

Some Republicans and intelligence officials have resisted any suggestion of broad inquiries into accusations against the Bush administration, saying it would be a distraction or weaken morale in the fight against terrorism.

"If every administration started to re-examine what every prior administration did, there would be no end to it. This is not Latin America," the Judiciary committee's top-ranking Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, told reporters last month.

President Barack Obama, who suggested shortly before he took office in January that he did not favor prosecuting Bush administration officials over their counterterrorism policies, said on Monday his administration would seek to uphold "our traditions of rule of law and due process."

"Nobody's above the law and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing ... people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen," Obama told a news conference, his first since taking office.

"I will take a look at Senator Leahy's proposal ... but my general orientation is to say let's get it right moving forward," he said.

Bush spokesman Rob Saliterman said only, "We're not going to respond to every call for more investigations."

Leahy said he had not begun to promote the truth commission idea with the Obama administration or with the Democratic- controlled Congress. But he suggested it could be formed by both Congress and the White House, and said the panel must have credibility across the political spectrum.

Issues to investigate would include the Justice Department's firings of several U.S. attorneys, which Leahy said may have been motivated by a White House aim to influence elections, policies on the treatment of terrorism suspects and other areas "where (congressional) committees were lied to."

That included the war in Iraq, he said. "There were lies told to the American people all the way through."

Bush has acknowledged that intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was wrong, but said he never lied to the public about the war.

Leahy said he wanted the Defense Department investigated for filming Iraq-war protesters, which he said came "shockingly close" to the FBI's Vietnam War-era Cointelpro operation to investigate domestic war protesters. "We fought a revolution in this country so we could protest the actions of our government," he said.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

Monday, February 09, 2009

What sort of kid were you?

This, once again, from the Mulier Fortis -

I was a creative kid:
When you were a kid, you always had to be doing something with your hands.
Whether you were painting a picture or just doodling, you had to be creating something.

You were too busy thinking about your future creations to listen in school.
It's likely that every part of school was a challenge for you, except for art class.
So, what were you?


With regard to the sentire cum ecclesiae blogging initiative, perhaps I jumped too quickly in medias res. I would like to explain a little more fulsomely why I have thought to undertake the experiment, whence my sense of the need or at least usefulness of it comes, and what I hope to learn from it.

  1. The experiment in democracy that has engulfed the world needs to be guided by the perennially valid reflection on human action that had its first permanent expression in the philosophical writings of the ancient Greeks. That way of thought has been carried to our day by the Christian tradition of thinking. More to this, and more importantly: the philosophical tradition of thinking that began in pagan Athens has been refined and perfected during the course of its transmission through Christianity, a phenomenon that essentially involves, even though it is not limited to, the synthesis of a particular Hebrew theology of history, with the Greek spirit of inquiry into the ultimate reason of things, and the Roman system of social governance (cf.). Western civilization is incomprehensible outside this tradition.
  2. We need to apply the Church's perennially valid way of thinking about politics to the problems that arise in contemporary society; in order to do so, we need to be aware of our present inheritance of the principles of morality is precisely that - an inheritance. This means that it has been developed and refined in history. We need to recover the Church's way of thinking in order to understand and properly apply the known principles of morality in our lives, and especially to our our public intellectual life.
  3. The perennially valid principles of morality, as they are authoritatively enunciated and taught by the Catholic Church, are not imposed by the Church on the world. They are proposed by the Church, with Her authority, in order to guide, i.e. inform and perfect our action in the world. In other words, they emerge from the Church's reflection on the concrete conditions of our life, and if we would be good sons and daughters, we must participate in that reflection, must let ourselves be guided by those who have come before us, in a spirit of docile humility. Our participation in the tradition is therefore essentially a matter of education.
Therefore, those who would think with the Church must learn how to do so. This is a messy, and often imprecise business (I mean the learning process), that is conducted often (though not only) in the equally messy business of life.

I hope to learn with those who would learn with me, in the hope that our learning together might be of benefit to each other and to the Church.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Damon Linker on ending the Culture War

I found this on one of the TNR blogs.

Money quotes:

Some Americans believe that an abortion is an act of lethal violence against an innocent human being whose rights (like everyone else's) should be protected by the state. Other Americans believe that the only legally relevant moral considerations in an abortion are the wishes of the pregnant woman -- which of course presumes that the fetus is not a human being in need of protection against lethal violence. These are contrary and incompatible metaphysical assumptions about matters of life and death and human dignity. On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court declared that the fundamental law of the United States affirms the position of the second group and rejects the views of the first. On that day, the Constitution ceased to be neutral on this matter of metaphysics.
Just before this succinct statement of the problem, Linker offers this observation:

Public opinion data tell us that each generation is more open to and accepting of the dignity of gay relationships than the one before it.

Lenten reflections: choler

Update - Thanks to Patricius for reminding me that English words often do not end in vowels. Imagine the fun: "the effect of choler(a) on my soul.

I have decided that the spiritual barometer for me this Lent has to involve choler. I have too much of it, and I enjoy it too much.

There will be injustices, stupidities, inefficiencies, insufficiencies, and things of all kinds that just rub me the wrong way, until the coming of Our Lord in glory.

Choler is a cheap substitute for righteous indignation, and long exposure to it destroys the soul's capacity for joy.

I am becoming more sensitive to the effects of choler on my soul, as I improve and expand my ability to check my choleric expressions.

What Office Supply Are You?

I am a calculator, apparently, which comes with the following description:

No matter what someone tells you, you're likely to focus on facts and data.

You're a highly analytic person. You are only concerned with what you can know for sure.

You look at situations objectively, and you have no problem approaching problems from multiple angles.

You would make a good analyst or investment banker. You are confident enough to make tough calls and hard decisions.
I think they are working on a mathematical model of rationality: the quintessentially modern understanding of ratio as essentially ratiocinatio. Don't forget your Hobbes, people: he is everywhere, I say! Everywhere!

So, which are you?

You all should know that I found this at the Mulier Fortis. Want to know what office supply she is? Well, click here to find out.

Speaker Pelosi, answer these questions:

Hat tip to Clayton at The Weight of Glory!

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

I understand that you recently argued in favor of funding several now-aborted contraception initiatives in the stimulus package, on a nationally-broadcast political analysis program.

At the time, you argued for keeping the contraception funding in the stimulus package because it would help, "reduce cost[s]."

Now, Mm. Speaker, the funding was to go to those who receive public health benefits, i.e., the most needy people in our nation.

I am pointing this out, Speaker Pelosi, because, you see, when I reflect that you are the mother of five children yourself, I wonder whether you consider them as things to discard as too costly under certain circumstances, or things you might have foregone if times had been rough or circumstances less prosperous for you?

Speaker Pelosi, answer this question: how is the Democratic Party true to its ethos and historical role as the working man's party in America, if the policies it propounds treat the families of the country's working poor as unworthy of expansion?

Speaker Pelosi, answer this question: are children luxury goods, the privilege of the wealthy?

Speaker Pelosi, answer this question: are children the playthings of the privileged, to be avoided or discarded if they become a burden on the state?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

SENTIRE CUM ECCLESIA #1: Material and Formal Cooperation in an Act

This is part of a new LD blogging initiative, the first in a projected series. We'll see how it goes. I will continue with it if there is interest.

Formal cooperation in an act is a person's (natural or corporate) free participation in the action of a principal agent, including the sharing, on the part of someone involved at some stage of the chain of events that culminates in an act, in the intention of a principal agent to perform that action.

Formal cooperation may be either cooperation in an action for the sake of the action itself, or as a means to some other end.

Material cooperation is of two kinds: direct (immediate); remote (sometimes called mediate).

Immediate material cooperation is the participation of a person in circumstances, including direct performance of or involvement in acts that are essential to the commission of another act, such that the ultimate act could not occur without this participation, commission or involvement.

Remote material cooperation is a person's participation in or commission of an act, or involvement in circumstances that are not essential to the commission of another act, such that the ultimate act could occur even without the cooperation of the person involved in the related act.


The issue arose for me out of a reading of Bishop Joseph Martino's Letter to Sen. Casey
regarding Sen. Casey's vote against the Martinez amendment to a senate bill, the purpose of which was to expand pediatric health care coverage.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf of WDTPRS first posted it there, and there has been lively discussion of it over the past few days.

Here is the text of the letter:

January 30, 2009

Dear Senator Casey:

I wish to thank you for voting in favor of the Hatch Amendment to the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reorganization Act of 2009 which would have made unborn children eligible for child health assistance had it passed. I am grateful for what you have done on behalf of children in America who are without health care.

It is with deep regret, however, that I learned of your vote against the amendment offered by Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) to the same Children’s Health Insurance Act. Senator Martinez’s amendment would have reinstated the Mexico City Policy. That policy, instituted in 1984, required foreign non-governmental organizations “to agree as a condition of their receipt of [U.S.] federal funds” that they would “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning . . . .” It also prohibited them from lobbying governments to make abortion legal. In effect, the reversal of the Mexico City policy will mean that over 450 million dollars of American foreign aid will go to organizations that are militant in promoting abortion as a method of population control, particularly in countries that find abortion objectionable on moral grounds. Senator, is not this vote a contradiction of your repeated claim that you support the protection of unborn life?

Contrary to a release issued by your office yesterday, the 1973 Helms Amendment does not provide the same restrictions as the Mexico City Policy. The Helms Amendment prohibits only U.S. funds from being used to pay for abortions or to motivate or coerce anyone to practice abortions. It in no way keeps U.S. federal funds from organizations which use their own money to pay for or support abortions. Nor does it place restrictions on organizations that lobby foreign governments to reverse anti-abortion laws. While I understand that the Helms Amendment is still in place, it does not have the same effect in limiting abortions abroad.

On Respect Life Sunday, October 5, I addressed the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton. In keeping with the obligations of my episcopal office, I called upon my brothers and sisters in faith to be vigilant against the objections to the Church’s teaching on life so prevalent in current political discourse. I vowed to be vigilant in correcting Catholics who are in error with regard to the sanctity of life. Your vote against the Mexico City Policy will mean the deaths of thousands of unborn children. This is an offense against life and a denial of our Catholic teaching on the dignity of every human being. This action is worthy of condemnation by all moral men and women.

Your release also says that you support “family planning . . . specifically because reducing unintended pregnancies reduces the number of abortions.” I remind you that it is never permissible to use immoral means (e.g., artificial contraception) to achieve a good end.

As I have done on several occasions, Senator, I urge you to consider that Church documents speak clearly and compellingly on the special responsibility that falls to you as a lawmaker to oppose abortion and other clear evils, including contraception, infanticide, euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research. To that end, I refer you to two documents:

1. Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life. It says, “Catholics . . . have the right and the duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life and to the responsibility of everyone in this regard. John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a ‘grave and clear obligation to oppose’ any law that attacks human life.”

2. Christifideles Laici. It states, “If, indeed everyone has the mission and responsibility of acknowledging the personal dignity of every human being and of defending the right to life, some lay faithful are given a particular title to this task: such as parents, teachers, health workers and those who hold economic and political power.”

I remind you further that when he was Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger sent a memo to the bishops of the United States advising them that advocacy of, or participation in, abortion and euthanasia can never be justified by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits or requires it. He said there can be no diversity of opinion among Catholics regarding abortion and euthanasia.

It is my deepest wish, Senator, to convince you of the necessity of rescinding your vote on the Martinez Amendment. It is the height of irony that this amendment was defeated while the Senate passed legislation to provide health insurance for children who would otherwise be without it. What hypocrisy offers health insurance to children in one part of the world when children in another part will be deprived, by the stroke of the same pen, of their first breath?

I recognize and respect the burdens that you bear as a United States Senator; however, I remind you that your responsibilities as a Catholic bound by the faith of the Church exceed even those of your office. Your failure to reverse this vote will regrettably mean that you persist formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unnecessary policy.

As I have done several times before, I offer to make myself available to you to discuss the grave concerns that I raise here.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D.
Bishop of Scranton

Now, before beginning our efforts to parse the moral issues raised by the letter, I need to clarify a point of interpretation.

The explanatory note accompanying the bishop's letter speaks of the senator's rescinding his vote. HE Martino writes of "reversing" the vote. Now, the Rules of the Senate make it very difficult to change a vote, although a senator may be permitted to do so by unanimous consent of his colleagues (cf. 12.1 of the Rules). It is not clear that this rule applies to votes on amendments, and I do not know what the consuetude in the Senate is. In any case there is no guarantee that such permission would be given in the case at hand.

Therefore, the bishop's instruction is to be understood to enjoin the senator to vote, Yea! in future attempts to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, and probably also to work toward bringing an initiative in this regard to a vote in the Senate.

Now, readers, go to work on the problem!

SENTIRE CUM ECCLESIA: A Lazy Disciple Blogging Initiative

I have decided to start a new blog initiative: explanations of moral principles and categories; case study and application will always be involved, though not always in the same way.

I will try to select the matter I intend to discuss from posted items and/or discussion columns I find on the various blogs I frequent.

This exercise is for edification and delight, mine and yours. It will succeed to the extent that there is good participation, so invite your friends.

Check back later today for the first entry.

To all, the very, very best!


Friday, February 06, 2009

Prayers for Justice Ginsburg

The Associate Justice of the UNited States Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has pancreatic cancer; she has undergone surgery. Please pray for her.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

SSPX - AP's Nicole Winfield Reports

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican on Wednesday demanded that a prelate who denied the Holocaust recant his positions before being fully admitted as a bishop into the Roman Catholic Church.

It also said Pope Benedict XVI had not known about Bishop Richard Williamson's views when he agreed to lift his excommunication and that of three other ultraconservative bishops Jan. 21.

The Vatican's Secretariat of State issued the statement a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the pope to make a clearer rejection of Holocaust denials, saying there had not been adequate clarification from the church.

The Holy See on Jan. 24 announced the rehabilitation of four bishops excommunicated in 1988 after being consecrated without papal consent.

Just days before, Williamson had been shown on Swedish state television saying historical evidence "is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed" during World War II.

Williamson has since apologized to the German-born pope for having stirred controversy, but he did not repudiate his comments, in which he also said only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II and none were gassed.

Though the Vatican said it did not share Williamson's views, Jewish groups voiced outrage at his rehabilitation and demanded the prelate recant.

Williamson and the three other bishops were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who in 1969 founded the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X opposed to the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, including its outreach to Jews.

The Vatican said Wednesday that, while Williamson's excommunication had been lifted, he still had no canonical function in the church because he was consecrated illegitimately.

"Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to episcopal functions within the church, will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah, which the Holy Father was not aware of when the excommunication was lifted," the statement said. The Shoah is the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

Jewish groups welcomed the Vatican statement, saying it satisfied their key demand.

"This was the sign the Jewish world has been waiting for," said Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, thanked Merkel for her "righteous comments" and said the process to heal the "deep wound that this crisis caused to the Catholic-Jewish dialogue" could now begin.

Williamson's interview on Swedish state TV was aired Jan. 21. The decree lifting his excommunication bore the same date, although it was not announced until three days later. The broadcaster said the timing was a coincidence, but Williamson has expressed his views about the Holocaust previously.

Wednesday's statement was a remarkable turnabout by the Vatican, which had considered the Williamson case "closed" after Benedict issued a lengthy denunciation of Holocaust deniers last week and the society itself distanced itself from Williamson's views.

On Jan. 28, the pope said he felt "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews, and warned against any denial of the full horror of the Nazi genocide.

The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, cited those comments Tuesday in telling the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference Avvenire that, as far as he was concerned, "the question can be considered closed."

Yet the pressure continued, including from Roman Catholic leaders in Benedict's native Germany and Merkel's comments Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear if the Vatican's newest statement Wednesday satisfied Merkel.

"The chancellor has spoken and has nothing to add to her comments from yesterday," her spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told reporters in Berlin.

In addition to its demand of Williamson, the Vatican also said society as a whole must fully recognize the teachings of Vatican II and of all popes who came during and after it in order to have a legitimate canonical function in the church.

There was no answer to several calls placed Wednesday to Williamson's home in La Reja, Argentina.

Note from the Secretariat of State on the Lifting of SSPX Communications

English Translation courtesy of the formidable Rorate Caeli bloggers - They also have the original.

Commentary is running on several threads simultaneously at Fr. Zuhlsdorf's WDTPRS blog.


Following the reactions caused by the recent Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, with which the excommunication of the four Prelates of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X was remitted, and regarding the negationist or reductionist declarations on the Shoah from Bishop Williamson, of the same Fraternity, it is considered convenient to clarify a few aspects of past events.

1. Remission of the excommunication.

As already published previously, the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, dated January 21, 2009, was an act by which the Holy Father graciously responded to the reiterated requests by the Superior General of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X.

His Holiness desired to remove an obstacle which prevented the opening of a door to dialogue. He now expects that an equal disposition will be expressed by the four Bishops in complete adherence to the doctrine and the discipline of the Church.

The extremely grave censure of latae sententiae excommunication, in which the aforementioned Bishops had incurred on June 30, 1988, then formally declared on July 1 of the same year, was a consequence of their illegitimate ordinarion by Mons. Marcel Lefebvre.

The removal of the excommunication released the four Bishops from an extremely grave canonical censure, but has not changed the juridical position of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X which, at the current moment, does not enjoy any canonical recognition by the Catholic Church. Not even the four Bishops, though released from the excommunication, have a canonical function in the Church and they do not exercise licitly a ministry in it.

2. Tradition, doctrine, and the Second Vatican Council.

For a future recognition of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, the full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and of the Magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and of the same Benedict XVI is an indispensable condition

As it was already affirmed in the Decree of January 21, 2009, the Holy See will not avoid, in the forms judged appropriate, to deepen the the interested party the still open questions, so as to be able to reach a full and satisfactory resolution of the problems which originated this painful division.

3. Declarations on the Shoah

The positions of Mons. Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly refuted by the Holy Father, as he himself remarked on the past January 28, when, referring to that brutal genocide, reaffirmed his full and unquestionable solidarity with our Brethren receivers of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide must lead "mankind to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man", adding that the Shoah remains "for all a warning against forgetfulness, against denial or reductionism, because the violence against a single human being is violence against all".

Bishop Williamson, for an admission to episcopal functions in the Church, will also have to declare, in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner, distance from his positions regarding the Shoah, unknown to the Holy Father in the moment of the remission of the excommunication.

The Holy Father asks to be joined by the prayers of all the faithful, so that the Lord may enlighten the path of the Church. May the effort of the Pastors and of all the faithful grow in support of the delicate and burdensome mission of the Successor of Apostle Peter as "custodian of the unity" in the Church.

From the Vatican, February 4, 2009.

R.I.P. Michael Dubruiel 1958-2009

Mr. Dubruiel's widow, the highly respected Catholic blogger, author and Catholic apologist, Amy Welborn, asks for your prayers. Fr. Zuhlsdorf is doing spiritual bouquet.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Another oldie but

This, too, comes from the Stamford Advocate, originally, an excellent paper for a great city...

Alice has already gone through the looking glass, when Humpty Dumpty says to her with an air of scorn, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.” Alice presses him, asking whether he really can make a word mean so many different things. Humpty rejoins, “The question is—which is to be master. That is all.”

Humpty’s rejoinder is frankly chilling. If Alice believes that it is possible through appropriate language to stand in a relation of equality to one’s fellows (by using the same words, for example, or by trusting another’s language, which is a way of saying that one trusts that one’s fellows tell the truth), Humpty essentially claims that language has no power but what one gives to it. In other words, words themselves are meaningful to the precise extent that I have power to impose myself (therefore my language) on others. My will and the force I can bring to bear in championing its direction, are the ultimate arbiters of meaning. This is “creation of values”, which is precisely Nietzschean nihilism in its National Socialist permutation.

Humpty Dumpty’s stance toward language is eerily similar to those among us who, however well-intentioned, insist that the language of religious faith be allowed the same autonomy that the human capacity for religious conviction requires.

Take the basic statement, “I am a Christian in my own way.” This may mean that the person making the claim has his or her very intimate understanding of what Christianity requires. If this is what the claimant means, then there is not necessarily any problem. There will be no problem, so long as the person making such a claim goes on to specify that he or she believes all of the things that all (or the vast majority) of those who have called themselves, “Christians” have believed in the two millennia that have passed since Christianity’s foundation.

The problem is that most people who say things like that actually mean something quite different. Usually, people who say such things mean that they believe some things that Christianity teaches and disbelieve others. There is nothing wrong with that, in itself. There is everything wrong with rejecting some central tenets of Christianity and calling oneself Christian.

Imagine the Mad Hatter saying, “I don’t think that you have to go to Church or believe in Christ’s physical resurrection, in order to be a Christian.” Alice might say, “Well, going to Church is what Christians do precisely because for nigh on two millennia to be Christian has been to hold in the physical resurrection of our Lord, who said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ Disbelieving the physical resurrection of Jesus does not, on its own, make anyone a bad person. It only means that he is not a Christian, who does not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. So it seems that you are wrong.”

Things begin to go badly awry when Humpty encourages him to drop the qualification on the grounds that it is useless. Alice has her idea of what Christianity is, and so does the Hatter, and that is just fine with Humpty.

We tend not to recognize that religious language is language just like any other, because we have (for the most part, and fortunately) been taught that each of us is free to develop his or her relationship to God as he or she thinks fit. Recently, however, we have failed to see that groups of people who see fit to develop their relationship to God in very specific, historically established and traditionally grounded ways, have a right to a word for their communion (etymologically so); they have a duty to use their word properly, and to protect it.
Think about it this way: what would we think of a person who claims to be a Yankee fan, but always roots for the Red Socks and is only happy when the Yankees lose? Would we accept that he is a Yankee fan “in his own way”? That is what Humpty would do, and you all remember what happened to him.

An Oldie... please bear with me...

I have been under enormous pressure on many fronts and have been unable to post on any of the things I have promised to folks. I am working on all of them: SSPX; joy; the nature and scope of liberal education. Please accept the following as a promise of things to come...

This was first published in the Stamford Advocate, in 2005:

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was known as “the Pope’s rottweiler,” a staunch enforcer of doctrine and vigorous defender of the Church’s teaching authority. While there is little in the character of the man to justify the canine metaphor, Joseph Ratzinger did indeed enforce true doctrine and defend vigorously the Church’s teaching authority, when he was head of the CDF, the office once known as the Holy Inquisition. When he became Benedict XVI, many declared that the election of Ratzinger to the Papacy meant the end of ecumenical efforts and “inter-religious dialogue”. Many of these call themselves Christians, notwithstanding their disbelief (express or implied) in the Church’s teaching authority. Famously, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times declared that, “The cafeteria is closed.”
What that columnist apparently fails to understand, is that the cafeteria has been closed for roughly two thousand years. It has been closed since the precise moment in which Christ, whilst He was physically present on Earth, said to His disciple, Simon, “You are the rock, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
The Successor to Peter, Benedict XVI is a “doctrinal hard-liner”. He believes that the Catholic Church is true, and that the purpose of Christianity is to protect the integrity of God’s revelation, which is the Good News of Salvation, and to proclaim that Good News to every single human being.
Those who see this as an obstacle to ecumenical efforts believe that either one is a doctrinal hard-liner, or one is open to dialogue. This is a false dichotomy. Its premises are dubious and its conclusions are reprehensible.
Benedict has always been the first to offer the hand of friendship to Christians sincerely in search of unity. Listen to him:
“I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking part in this [Anglican ecumenical] convocation. The significance of your meeting is sensed…in this city from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ's Gospel in England. Nor can I fail to recall that…Saint Boniface brought that same Christian faith from England to my own forebears in Germany…The lives of these saints show us how in the Church of Christ there is a unity in truth and a communion of grace which transcend the borders of any nation. With this in mind, I pray in particular that God's will may be done by all those who seek that unity in the truth, the gift of Christ himself.”
Unity in truth. Communion of Grace. These are the terms with which Benedict describes the Church. They are far from the mushy “unity in diversity” and “community of tolerance” for which some so-called ecumenical Christians advocate. In what would unity in diversity consist? In the “tolerant co-existence” of one group of people who believe it is good to engage in sex acts with persons of one’s own sex, who think a woman has a right to pay a physician to tear the flesh of another human being from her womb, heart beating, alongside another group, whose members consider that such sex act and “medical procedures” are sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance, perhaps? Perhaps. Perhaps there ought to be tolerant co-existence among such different-minded people.
Words have no meaning if all of them together enjoy the name of Christians.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Apologies - I was tagged in a MeMe

I owe posts to people. my only excuse is that saying nothing is better than saying something stupid: a fortiori saying nothing is better than saying lots of stupid things. This last, perhaps, impugns what follows:

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.

1. I was born with an incarcerated hernia and had emergency abdominal surgery at the age of 6 weeks.

2. When the fever was really raging, my dad’s golden retriever, Little Big Ear, kept constant vigil by my crib. His vigilance is credited with alerting my parents to the gravity of the situation, and saving my life.

3. There was a nearly 400-point difference between my English and Math scores on the SAT: 420 Math.

4. I went to Fairfield College Preparatory School, the Jesuit secondary school of Connecticut.

5. After the heartbreaking end of my first great romance, I seriously considered joining the Jesuits.

6. I moved to Rome to study philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University and complete my discernment.

7. I spent a morning in prayer at the tomb of St. Ignatius, and, when I rose and returned to the University, and was on my way up the stair to the library, I saw a girl, who was descending; I said, “I’m going to marry that girl.” I did.

8. Her name is Ester, by the way, after the courageous and cunning Hebrew queen.

9. My son’s name is Joseph Matthew Altieri.

10. I speak Italian fluently, am conversant in French, while I read and understand Spanish; I read Latin as though it were English, but I cannot negotiate any passage of ancient Greek from any period without the assistance of a grammar and a dictionary.

11. My Ph.D. dissertation is called The Soul of a Nation: America as a Tradition of Inquiry and Nationhood.

12. I love New England.

13. I am an able cook – more inventive, though less disciplined than my wife, who is an excellent cook.

14. I have a soft spot in my heart for Brussels sprouts.

15. Part of my current job includes simultaneous translations of the Pope’s homilies.

16. I have been loved better than I know how to love.

17. I have lived almost half my life outside the U.S.

18. I love my country.

19. I was an altar boy.

20. I delivered an address to John Paul II.

21. I can recite most of Bolt’s A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS by heart (this is no great accomplishment – it is a short play).

22. I was a hockey player when I was younger – a goaltender.

23. I am a practicing Catholic.

24. I enjoy walking alone for miles and miles, preferably in the very early morning.

25. The person who tagged me in this was my best friend in my boyhood, and I love him dearly.