Friday, December 30, 2011

Catholic Culture

A friend with Polish roots sent me a link on a rich Christmas tradition in Poland.
On the first Thursday of December, crèche masters from around Poland and other parts of the world display their szopki at the history museum in the Krzysztofory Palace. The winning models are placed on display throughout the Christmas season. The szopka is a traditional Polish folk art that has its origins in the Middle Ages. The tradition is a rich and colorful one, having evolved over the ages. The szopki depict the Wawel Cathedral, which is a part of Krakow’s Wawel Castle with a Nativity scene set inside its doors. Some of the models are as small as 6 inches while others are around 6 feet high.

How's that for cool?

The Pope and Relativism

From the Telegraph:
In a message for the 2012 World Peace Day of January 1, Pope Benedict said that neither peace nor justice was obtainable if the objective norms of morality expressed in the Ten Commandments continue to be rejected.

He words represent another severe criticism of moral relativism, the humanistic creed that holds there can be no objective standard on which to base morality. ...

"Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law that he did not lay upon himself, but which he must obey," he said in his message, Educating Young People in Justice and Peace.

"Its voice calls him to love and to do what is good, to avoid evil and to take responsibility for the good he does and the evil he commits," he said.

"Thus, the exercise of freedom is intimately linked to the natural moral law, which is universal in character, expresses the dignity of every person and forms the basis of fundamental human rights and duties - consequently, in the final analysis, it forms the basis for just and peaceful coexistence."

Thursday, December 29, 2011


“I’m done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe.”
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Only weeks after Jenni was diagnosed with cancer, she found out she was 10 weeks pregnant. Doctors told her she had to terminate the pregnancy or stop treatment while pregnant for the safety of the baby. Jenni reportedly did not consider terminating the baby. She decided to forgo radiation and chemotherapy while pregnant.

"Terminating the baby." It's amazing how such a chilling thing can be said with utter insouciance.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Block Him

From FoxNews:
WASHINGTON – As a year marred with fights and stalemates within the federal government comes to a close, Republican lawmakers and President Obama are embroiled in yet another battle of wills.

Republican lawmakers are refusing to officially adjourn for the year in hopes of deterring Obama from making any unconfirmed appointments to controversial boards while Congress is on vacation.

Senate Republicans and the president can’t agree on new National Labor Relations Board members, leaving only two chairs on the board filled going into the new year. ...

In an effort to prevent these recess appointments, Republicans are having the Senate ‘gavel in gavel out’ every few days, meaning they are not officially adjourning for the year.

If this prevents the Senate from taking a recess, lawmakers believe Obama will be stopped from making any recess appointments.

This is what I like to see.

Dewey the Progressive

Tiffany Jones Miller wrote an insightful piece on progressivism that appears on National Review Online:
If the progressive label seems less radical today, it is only because progressivism is less well known than its liberal progeny. It was initially an academic phenomenon far removed from American politics. Particularly in the post–Civil War American university, professors — many of whom had obtained their graduate training in German universities, and whose thought reflected the “intoxicating effect of the undiluted Hegelian philosophy upon the American mind,” as progressive Charles Merriam once put it — articulated a critique of America that was as deep as it was wide. It began with a conscious rejection of the natural-rights principles of the American founding and the promotion of a new understanding of freedom, history, and the state in their stead. From this foundation, the progressives then criticized virtually every aspect of our traditional way of life, recommending reforms or “social reorganization” on a sweeping scale, the primary engine of which was to be a new, “positive” role for the state. As the progressives’ influence in the academy increased, and growing numbers of their students sallied forth into all aspects of endeavor, this intellectual transformation gradually began to reshape the broader American mind, and, in time, American political practice. “A new regime in thought,” as Eldon Eisenach writes, “began to become a new regime in power.”

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mount Athos

Watch this incredibly rare look into the secluded life of the monks living on Mount Athos. It is impossible not to be deeply moved by this. I couldn't help thinking, "If only the Orthodox accepted the Pope."

The reporter comments, incorrectly, that the Orthodox Church is the only church that has not changed any of its teaching in 2,000 years. Of course, that is the view of the Orthodox, so I'm not surprised that it was repeated here. That statement was the only issue I had with this phenomenal series. Catholics can learn a lot from their Orthodox brethren when it comes to strict liturgical reverence and the mystical life. How wonderful it would be if East and West were united once again!

Saint Stephen

The sarcophagus of Saint Stephen in the Church of San Lorenzo in Rome

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Open Secret

From the Telegraph:
Vatican throws light on history as it opens secret archives

...100 of the most historically significant documents held by the Vatican's Secret Archives are to go on public display in Rome – the first and probably last time that they will leave the buttressed stone walls of the tiny city state.

The priceless documents span more than a millennium, from the 8th century to modern times, and feature a cast of historical characters ranging from the Knights Templar to Galileo, Martin Luther and Henry VIII.

They are normally kept in air-conditioned, climate-controlled rooms in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, which boasts more than 50 miles of shelves, as well as in a high-security underground bunker.

Archivists have gathered them together for an unprecedented exhibition, to be held in Rome's Capitoline Museums, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Secret Archives in their present form.

Christmas Morning Attack

From the Associated Press:
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas pleas for peace around the world were brutally ignored in Nigeria, where an explosion Sunday claimed by Muslim extremists ripped through a Catholic church during Mass.

Authorities say at least 25 people were killed by the explosion at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, near the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Boko Haram, a radical Muslim sect waging a sectarian fight claimed the attack and another bombing near a church in the restive city of Jos.

The assaults come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.

Benedict didn't refer explicitly to the bombings in his Christmas Day survey of the world's trouble spots, delivered from the sun-drenched loggia of St. Peter's Basilica. But the Vatican issued a statement denouncing them as a sign of "cruelty and absurd, blind hatred" that shows no respect for human life.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Let's Get Real

Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. ...

Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.

... let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart. -Pope Benedict XVI
Giotto's Nativity

Friday, December 23, 2011

Theodore Roosevelt on Family

I don't often praise the arch-Progressive Theodore Roosevelt, but I came across this quote and thought it certainly warranted an airing here.

“It is exceedingly interesting and attractive to be a successful businessman . . . or farmer, or a successful lawyer, or doctor, or a writer, or a president, or a ranchman . . . or to kill grizzly bears and lions. But for unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly makes all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison.”

A professor in college once related how Roosevelt would often single out large families for praise when out and about, holding them up as great assets to America. This, obviously, was before the worldwide birth control frenzy that substantially whittled down the average family, transforming children from gifts from God into rapacious economic consumers to be minimized and controlled. In my view, Roosevelt makes up for an array of political solecisms with his pro-family take, which was a common attitude, at one time.

The Affirmative Action Illusion

Jeff Jacoby, writing for The Boston Globe, makes the case for eliminating affirmative action policies in higher education. Pretty convincing. Here's a snippet:
IF RACIAL preferences in higher education were good for racial minorities in higher education, we surely would have seen definitive evidence of it by now. Instead, a widening shelf of empirical research suggests that the opposite is true - that affirmative action in academia is not advancing minority achievement but impeding it. ...

When an elite institution relaxes its usual standards to admit more blacks and Hispanics, it all but guarantees that those academically weaker students will have trouble keeping up with their better-prepared white and Asian classmates. Minorities who might have flourished in a science or engineering program at a middle-tier state college are apt to find themselves overwhelmed by the pace at which genetics or computer architecture is taught in the Ivy League. Many decide to switch to an easier major. Others drop out altogether.

Especially when it comes to issues of race, no matter how bulletproof the evidence, ideology will always trump reason and cheap political pandering will outweigh the common good. Consequences be damned.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Life for Christians in Iraq

From the Telegraph:
Father Immanuel Dabaghian, one of Baghdad’s last surviving priests, is expecting a quiet Christmas. To join him in the Church of the Virgin Mary means two hours of security checks and a body search at the door, and even then there’s no guarantee of survival. Islamist gunmen massacred 58 people in a nearby church last year, and fresh graffiti warns remaining worshippers that they could be next.

The Americans have gone now, and Iraq’s Christian communities – some of the world’s oldest – are undergoing an exodus on a biblical scale.

Of the country’s 1.4 million Christians, about two thirds have now fled. Although the British Government is reluctant to recognise it, a new evil is sweeping the Middle East: religious cleansing. The attacks, which peak at Christmas, have already spread to Egypt, where Coptic Christians have seen their churches firebombed by Islamic fundamentalists. In Tunisia, priests are being murdered.

Maronite Christians in Lebanon have, for the first time, become targets of bombing campaigns. Christians in Syria, who have suffered as much as anyone from the Assad regime, now pray for its survival. If it falls, and the Islamists triumph, persecution may begin in earnest.

Who else is talking about this tragedy?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shroud of Turin

From the Telegraph:
Italian study claims Turin Shroud is Christ's authentic burial robe

Just days before Christmas, a new study has emerged that suggests that one of Christianity's most prized but mysterious relics – the Turin Shroud – is not a medieval forgery but could be the authentic burial robe of Christ.

...The scientists used extremely brief pulses of ultraviolet light to replicate the kind of marks found on the burial cloth.

They concluded that the iconic image of the bearded man must therefore have been created by "some form of electromagnetic energy (such as a flash of light at short wavelength)." Although they stopped short of offering a non-scientific explanation for the phenomenon, their findings will be embraced by those who believe that the marks on the shroud were miraculously created at the moment of Christ's Resurrection.


Read more on this story here.

The Gingrich-Roosevelt Ticket

In this article, appearing in National Review Online, John Fund highlights some very troubling comments made by Newt Gingrich regarding the Roosevelts.
But at the same time Newt tries to wrap himself in the Reagan mantle, he also exhibits another nostalgic tic that should give conservatives agita. Newt is an unabashed admirer of the Roosevelts — Theodore and Franklin. Together those two presidents embodied the Progressive Era and the New Deal, developments which dramatically expanded Washington’s powers and radically changed the expectations Americans had of government.

Just last week, Newt made clear his desire to emulate the two men when he told Newsweek magazine that, in handling intractable problems such as poverty, “we’re gonna experiment and experiment and experiment until we break through.” When Newsweek’s Peter Boyer dryly noted that this might “not please the ear of a small-government conservative,” Gingrich didn’t flinch: “It makes me, in some ways, like the two Roosevelts.”

I am pretty stunned that Gingrich, for all his brilliance, is so unreservedly pro-Roosevelt during a Republican primary. What is he thinking? It's going to be pretty difficult to win over the tea party crowd if you evince nostalgia for the two presidents who are most to blame for the deleterious accretions of big-government.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A First

Blessed Kateri Tekawitha

From ABCNews:
Jake Finkbonner was near death for months with a flesh eating bacteria, but made a miraculous recovery that the Vatican credited to The Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, marking the second miracle for the 17th century Mohawk-Algonquin woman and clearing the way for her to become the first American-Indian saint.

Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree Monday approving the miracle attribute to the intercession of the woman, and she could be canonized as soon as February. The Vatican said it believes that the prayers Finkbonner’s family directed to Tekakwitha were responsible for bringing the boy back from the brink of death.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cardinal Burke on Holy Communion

Economic Recovery

From Politico:
For the first time, a majority of Americans say President Barack Obama should be voted out of the White House next year, despite a small increase in the number of people who say the country’s economic outlook is improving, a new poll shows.

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said the president should not get a second term in office — 43 percent said he should be reelected, according to The Associated Press-GfK poll.

Could the alleged uptick in our collective economic outlook have anything to do with more and more Americans calling for a one-term Obama presidency?

Lost In the Enthusiasm

Appearing in The Guardian, John Bolton writes with characteristic bravado about past decisions and warns about what the premature, politically calculated withdrawal of American troops in Iraq could signal, most notably with regard to Iran's influence in the region. We already gave them a top secret drone, why not hand them Iraq as a follow-up gift?
America's complete withdrawal of its troops from Iraq is a tragic mistake. It jeopardises the gains made by President Bush's (and Tony Blair's) eminently correct 2003 decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and risks the broader Middle East falling into chaos. Sadly, Bush himself initiated this mistake by agreeing to this end point in our status-of-forces agreement with Iraq, but it was consummated by Barack Obama, who never wanted to be in Iraq, and who is now delighted to pull the plug.

But those, like Obama, who welcome US withdrawal as vindicating their opposition to the Iraq war are profoundly misguided, ignoring the international coalition's real successes in Iraq and the dismal implications of their McGovernite "come home, America" strategy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Catholic Herald's Missed Opportunity

I came across this story on BadgerCatholic, and I have to say, I'm disappointed, but not in the least bit surprised. The Milwaukee Catholic Herald featured a letter to the editor from a woman who feels that, rather than focusing on the words we say at Mass, the Church's time would be much better spent focusing on, you guessed it, women's ordination to the priesthood. (Cue yawn.)

There have been a number of instances of this kind of sloppy oversight on behalf of the editors of the Herald. A forum was once given to our firmly committed, pro-abortion 'Catholic' mayor to air his views on violence, a somewhat curious subject to write about as an abortion advocate. And on another occasion, space was given in the Letters to the Editor section of the Herald for a batty liberal religious sister to assert her scandalous opinion that God is, in fact, pro-choice. And now, we see more space given to the totally, utterly, thoroughly hackneyed complaint of alleged discrimination against women in the Catholic Church. Someone, stop the bleeding! Why was there no reply/clarification in the same section of the paper on the part of the editors of the Church's position on the matter? This could have been a great opportunity to spell out the Church's teaching on priestly ordination, but instead the claim went unanswered. The Milwaukee Catholic Herald is not supposed to be an unbiased paper (if such a thing exists), that ought to feel compelled out of "fairness" to equally grant a forum to both sides of the issue, and then act indifferent to the correct Catholic position. This is a Catholic paper and, even if the occasional false (and dare I say it, heretical) view is given some ink on its Letters pages, the paper should always, without fail, present the Catholic teaching in a smart, coherent way. Is this asking too much?

I don't know if this editorial reticence stems from poorly catechized individuals at the helm who aren't up to the challenge of tilting lances with dissident Catholics, or whether it's slapdash oversight, or a combination of the two, but it's a serious problem. Sadly, many Catholic incorrectly believe that women can and should be ordained to the priesthood. With that in mind, papers claiming to be Catholic, and especially diocesan papers, cannot waste an opportunity to catechize the faithful in the truth.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Walker Recall Update

From bad to worse. From Politico:
Signatures of names like Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler are being considered valid on recall petitions of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as long as they are properly dated, a government board indicated Tuesday.

Suspicious signatures will be noted, but reviewers on the Government Accountability Board will be looking primarily to see whether the signatures are accompanied by a Wisconsin address and signed during the appropriate time, according to WISN12.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Paul Ryan Disappointment

What could have been

Republicans are being asked to choose from a very flawed cadre of candidates. Conservatives can make a strong case against Romney (Massachusetts healthcare law) and Gingrich (baggage on steroids). This election should be ours for the taking. The one man who could have sailed to an election night victory with relative ease is Paul Ryan, and he is sitting this one out. Most conservatives agree that this election is probably the most important election of the last fifty years. I have to say that I'm deeply disappointed in Paul Ryan. His concerns are understandable: his kids, family life, his ongoing 'work to do' in Congress, etc. But he chose to get involved in public life, and he had a golden opportunity and responsibility to rescue this country from the precipice of irreparable damage.

Another assertion most conservatives agree on is that, if Obama wins reelection, the damage to the country on his watch will not be reversible. We will set out on a path of European-style socialism from which there will be no return. With all this in mind, why on earth did Paul Ryan stand down? George Washington himself genuinely did not want to run for reelection, but he knew that the survival of the country depended on it. That is why he is rightly called the American Cincinatus. Even if Ryan only agreed to serve out one term, he could have at least ensured the final termination of this national nightmare known as the Barack Obama presidency. He could have. He should have. And he didn't. Barack Obama shamelessly mischaracterized Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" with outright lies. Ryan, for his part, famously reduced Obama to a stunned silence in the sham healthcare roundtable discussions. Ryan certainly would have eviscerated Obama in the debates and on election night. He has the character of a Boy Scout, and so there would be no fear of some highly paid scandalmonger uncovering dirt on him.

Why Paul? Why??

The 'Intellectual' President and His Allies

James Taranto wrote a thought-provoking piece that appears in The Wall Street Journal:
The lefty intellectual resents successful businessmen and conservatives because they threaten his own sense of superiority. Wealthy businessmen's material success is a mark of higher status than the professor or journalist's mere affluence. Conservative politicians act as if the lefty intellectual is not morally superior. In addition, conservative intellectuals challenge his sense of cognitive superiority. Within journalism and academia conservatives are smarter than liberals on average, because the former are those who have managed to succeed despite going against the grain ideologically.

Left-liberal intellectuals, then, fail to appreciate the intellectual shallowness of the president's class-warfare rhetoric because it seduces them by reinforcing their own superiority over competing elites.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

On Suicide

Brendan O'Neill offers some insights on the strange, au courant way of discussing suicide on the part of the cultural elites. From the Telegraph:
The shift in the way suicide is discussed really reveals a broader, societal inability simply to say: "Suicide is bad." Moral relativism is now so deeply rooted that we even feel bad criticising people who kill themselves and who in the process cause heartbreak and distress. We almost seem to believe they have a “right” to take their own lives, in the same way people have a right to speak their minds or wear funky clothes (indeed, courtesy of the increasingly influential and fashionable euthanasia lobby, the “right to die” has become a cause célèbre in chattering-class circles). is another thing entirely to depoliticise suicide, to elevate it above everyday testy moral debate on the basis that insensitive remarks might cause offence or, worse, bring about further death and sorrow. If anything, it is more likely to be our moral squeamishness about condemning suicide, our collective failure to say as a society that it is a wicked act, which gives a kind of green light to desperate people.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"On your own economics"

Mark Steyn has done it again. Hands down, he is one of the right's best political and cultural writers out there. Here's a snippet from his latest, a devastating critique of Obama's so-called 'New Nationalism', Teddy Roosevelt-esque speech of last week. From National Review Online:
In what area of life are Americans now “on their own”? By 2008, Fannie and Freddie had a piece of over half the mortgages in this country; the “subprime” mortgage was an invention of government. America’s collective trillion dollars of college debt has been ramped up by government distortion of the student-loan market. Likewise, health care, where Americans labor under the misapprehension that they have a “private” system rather than one whose inflationary pressures and byzantine bureaucracy are both driven largely by remorseless incremental government annexation. Americans are ever less “on their own” in housing, education, health, and most other areas of life — and the present moribund slough is the direct consequence.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Marines on the Front Lines

A powerful clip from the front lines in Afghanistan, as the Marines take on the Taliban.

Dismantling Obama's Straw Man

Charles Krauthammer wrote a devastating critique of Barack Obama's speech from earlier this week. From National Review Online:
Where to begin? A country spending twice as much per capita on education as it did in 1970 with zero effect on test scores is not underinvesting in education. It’s mis-investing. As for federally directed spending on innovation — like Solyndra? Ethanol? The preposterously subsidized, flammable Chevy Volt?

Our current economic distress is attributable to myriad causes: globalization, expensive high-tech medicine, a huge debt burden, a burst housing bubble largely driven by precisely the egalitarian impulse that Obama is promoting (government aggressively pushing “affordable housing” that turned out to be disastrously unaffordable), an aging population straining the social safety net. Yes, growing inequality is a problem throughout the Western world. But Obama’s pretense that it is the root cause of this sick economy is ridiculous.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ark of the Covenant

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico

An excerpt from the Holy Father's remarks today, commemorating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. From The Vatican Today:
“The only pitfall of which the Church can and should be afraid is the sin of her members. Mary, on the other hand, is Immaculate, free from all stain of sin. The Church is holy, but at the same time marked by our sins. For this reason, the pilgrim people of God, turn in time to Christ’s celestial Mother and ask her help; they ask that she accompany their journey of faith; that she encourage their commitment to the Christian life and that she support their hope."

National Security Disaster

From The Envoy:
Iran's Press TV on Thursday broadcast an extended video tour of the U.S. spy drone that went down in the country late last week--and it indeed looks to be intact.

American officials have acknowledged that an unmanned U.S. reconnaissance plane was lost on a mission late last week, but have insisted that there is no evidence the drone was downed by hostile acts by Iran. Rather, they said, the drone likely went down because of a malfunction, and they implied the advanced stealth reconnaissance plane would have fallen from a high altitude--the RQ-170 Sentinel can fly as high as 50,000 feet--and as a result, wouldn't be in good shape.

Iranian military officials have claimed since Sunday they brought down an intact American spy drone--and now they are giving video tours of what looks to be a drone in apparently decent condition, in what is sure to be another humiliating poke in the eye for U.S. national security agencies. ...

The video tour may also be a move to bid up the price Iran could receive for sharing the highly advanced American stealth drone technology with countries such as China and Russia. Defense experts have suggested that those countries have the advanced military know-how to be able to use the access to the previously secret U.S. RQ-170 technology to benefit their own programs.

No doubt, a salivating Russia and China are knocking on Iran's door to get access to this intelligence jackpot.

French Catholics Take a Stand

French Catholics draw a line in the sand

I've touched on this story before. It looks like it's making headlines once again. From the AFP:
One of Paris's top theatres was bracing Thursday for a showdown with Catholic extremists vowing to disrupt the opening of "Golgota Picnic", a virulent on-stage attack on consumerism and religion.

French fundamentalist Catholics have been waging a sometimes violent campaign of protests in recent months against works they perceive as blasphemous, picketing plays and pelting theatre-goers with eggs.

"Golgota Picnic" by Argentinian director Rodrigo Garcia, is moving to the Theatre du Rond Point on the Champs Elysees after a run in the southwestern city of Toulouse, where it drew protests and charges of "Christianophobia". ...

This time, however, mainstream Christians have also voiced offence at a play that is peppered with provocative references to Christianity, before a musical epilogue performed by a naked pianist.

"Golgota Picnic" is a virulent critique of consumer culture as well as religion, at one point showing actors making hamburgers out of meat and live worms, while buns litter the stage in an allusion to the bread of Christ.

Two "crucifixion" scenes shows an actor being nailed to the floor through his clothes, while in another the actor lies splayed in a cross on the ground, while his face is covered with ground meat.

A long monologue describes Christ as a "bloody devil", and the apostles as "12 losers among the millions who listened to Christ".

The Archbishop of Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois is urging Catholic faithful to join in prayer Thursday night in protest at a play that "insults the figure of Christ".

I wouldn't use adjectives like 'extremist' 'fundamentalist' or 'violent' to describe what's going on in France. I guess if you're a committed Catholic with a little fire in the belly, and someone who will not stand idly by while your God is insulted and blasphemed by a ragtag band of aging, pathetic bohemian nihilists, you're automatically consigned to the 'hateful' and 'violent' 'extremist' category. Throwing eggs may be a bit messy and over the line, but it's not an act of violence. Reading this loaded article, you'd think the Catholics in France were doing the same things the radical Muslims are doing all over the world.

What about a story discussing the fundamentalist, violent and extreme atheism and 'Christianophobia' currently sweeping the continent?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Immaculate Conception

The Coronation by Annibale Carracci
"Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity ...., alone made in thy entirety the home of all the graces of the Most Holy Spirit, and hence exceeding beyond all compare even the angelic virtues in purity and sanctity of soul and body . . . . my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all-inviolate spotless robe of Him Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment . . . flower unfading, purple woven by God, alone most immaculate" (Saint Ephraem, "Precationes ad Deiparam" in Opp. Graec. Lat., III, 524-37).

The Danger Within

This is disturbing, from TFP:
Pro-Homosexual Clubs Found at 107 Catholic Colleges

Why are pro-homosexual clubs allowed to promote anti-Catholic behavior on Catholic campuses?

After examining the official web sites of 244 Catholic universities and colleges in America, TFP Student Action found that 107 – or 43% – recognize student clubs that favor the homosexual agenda. Many of these clubs promote same-sex “marriage,” open homosexuality in the military, and push for the mainstreaming of unnatural vice.

Six so-called Catholic colleges and universities in Wisconsin have gay-friendly clubs or associations on their campuses: Alverno College, Cardinal Stritch University, Edgewood College, Marquette University (big surprise there), Saint Norbert College, and Viterbo University.

Where is the outrage? How can the Church offer a credible defense of the institution of marriage to the younger generation when this kind of nonsense is going on with impunity at our own institutions of higher education?

Fallon Discusses Faith, Liturgy

Jimmy Fallon a liturgical traditionalist? Who knew?

I was pretty surprised when I came upon this story. Late-night television personality Jimmy Fallon discussed his Catholic upbringing in this NPR interview, which was mentioned in Catholic Beat. It seems like he's a lapsed Catholic, but his observations on liturgy are worth noting. Asked whether he still attends Mass, Fallon said:
Mr. FALLON: I don’t go to – I tried to go back. When I was out in L.A. and I was kind of struggling for a bit. I went to church for a while, but it’s kind of, it’s gotten gigantic now for me. It’s like too… There’s a band. There’s a band there now, and you got to, you have to hold hands with people through the whole Mass now, and I don’t like doing that. You know, I mean, it used to be the shaking hands piece was the only time you touched each other. ... Now, I’m holding hand – now I’m lifting people. Like Simba. I’m holding them (Singing) ha nah hey nah ho. I’m doing too much. I don’t want – there’s Frisbees being thrown, there’s beach balls going around, people waving lighters, and I go, ‘This is too much for me.’ I want the old way. I want to hang out with the, you know, with the nuns, you know, that was my favorite type of Mass, and the grotto, and just like straight up, just Mass Mass.

Like most Catholics, Fallon is not a theologian or a liturgist, but he intuitively recognizes the shallowness of so much that takes place during many contemporary Liturgies. It's sad, but I would be willing to bet that many Catholics have simply tuned out as a result of the utter silliness that goes on at so many parishes.

Pearl Harbor at 70

AP photos

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Interview With a Chaplain

We need more Catholic chaplains in the military! From Joan Frawley Desmond, writing for the National Catholic Register:
As U.S. Withdraws From Iraq, a Chaplain Completes 2nd Tour

Priest says he'll stay in the Army for as long as his bishop lets him. Next assignment: helping to recruit more chaplains.

A few more looks back. These pictures are simply amazing.

VP from PR?

Would the governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, make for a nice pick for Vice President? After reading this The Wall Street Journal article, I have to say, it's a fascinating thought.
As a student at Georgetown, Mr. Fortuño subscribed to the conservative magazine "National Review." In 1980, he was so inspired by Ronald Reagan's message that he volunteered to stuff envelopes for the Gipper's presidential run. Twenty-five years later, he returned to Washington as a Republican representing Puerto Rico in Congress.

Yet as historic as he may be for Puerto Rico, Mr. Fortuño offers even greater possibilities for the Republican Party. Ever since JFK's 1961 speech about transforming the Western hemisphere, just about every U.S. president has spoken of paying more attention to our own backyard. In that enterprise, few vice presidents would come with Mr. Fortuño's experience in the region—or the ability to speak about free markets in a way that resonates with our neighbors to the south.

Revisiting Abortion on the Hill

From FoxNews:
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., an outspoken pro-life advocate, is preparing to do battle again on Capitol Hill.

On Tuesday, he'll chair a House hearing in support of his latest legislative effort, the Prenatal NonDiscrimination Act (PreNDA). The measure would ban abortions done on the basis of gender or race.

"It would simply say that you cannot discriminate against the unborn by subjecting them to an abortion based on their race or sex," Franks says.

He points to a finding by the Guttmacher Institute: "...the abortion rate for black women is almost five times that for white women."

Franks also believes that sex-selection abortions are on the rise in the U.S. and notes a Zogby International poll that found 86 percent of those surveyed believed gender-based abortion choices should be illegal.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Myths of Vatican II

Mass at Vatican II: no guitars, drums, dancers, streamers

In this CBSNews Story, much is made of the divide between the progressive wing of the Catholic Church and the allegedly hidebound hierarchy and traditionalists who are interested, we are to believe, solely in control and power, and in keeping women in a state of perpetual servitude. It is incredibly frustrating to read stories like this one because so much of its central premise is completely false and it necessarily results in the absurdity of rest of the arguments presented. The central premise in this example, as in so many, is the infallibility of the allegedly true disciples of Vatican II. In this piece, these authentic followers are the liberal nuns in the United States and their allies. According to this agitprop, these nuns and their admirers are the authentic torchbearers for the Vatican II agenda, which had (allegedly) as its primary aim, the decentralization of the Catholic Church. From the story:
Catholics were no longer expected, as some put it, to simply "pay, pray and obey," but now could make their own decisions about their faith.

Another reform hallmark of Vatican II: Use of the English-language Mass.

Where was it ever implied that Catholics can "make their own decisions about their faith"? Why remain Catholic if you can do that? Starting your own religion sounds much more attractive and fun. The part about the Mass is also completely inaccurate, as the Council actually reaffirmed the time-honored role of Latin within the Liturgy, allowing the use of the vernacular only for limited parts of the Mass.

These true-blue daughters of the Council, who thought they were predestined by God to complete the circle started by Vatican II, are now watching in dismay, perceiving the clock being turned back, as the young guns, the new seminarians and religious sisters, are actually expressing an interest in tradition and demonstrate a savvy knowledge and reading of Vatican II that is diametrically opposed to their old way of reading it. In other words, you have "The Spirit of Vatican II" movement, favored by liberal activists and then you have The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. What the media fails to recognize, either by ignorance or design, is that these two concepts represent completely different things. Much of the discussion about Vatican II is pathetically devoid of any serious knowledge of what the Council documents actually state, and instead bandies about this carefully crafted myth of Vatican II's "spirit" as some sort of Hegelian, revolutionary act that set the gears in motion for a fundamental, root and stem rejiggering of the Catholic Church from the top down. It bears repeating: This interpretation is completely false and unfounded, and yet it is astonishing to note how much mileage is gained from the rehashing of this old storyline.

Another resilient line dogging the post-Vatican II Church is that the Church of today consists of two entities duking it out for control of the right to be truly Catholic. In one corner is the patriarchal hierarchy, committed to its old ways with its command center in the Vatican, and in the other corner are the liberals and dissenters, fighting the good fight, and that, if anything, these renegades are more authentically 'Church' than the mossy hierarchy, with its endless obsession with morality. Of course, the media has a vested interest in aiding and abetting the latter side, since they share the same objectives, i.e., social engineering on gender issues, promoting abortion, etc. Their goal is to create an alter-'Catholic' church that is basically a de-sacramentalized institution, stripped of those medieval and oppressive notions like priest, sin, hell, bishop, and so on. Liberals, especially the feminists (and believe me, there are scads of them underneath the rocks of dying religious orders) absolutely love to play this card. "It's us, the righteous, democratic ones, the victims verses the Old Boys Club, i.e., the pope and his sycophantic minions."

Across society, radical feminists have long sought to emasculate men and erase an awareness of traditional manliness. This has been accomplished by competing with men on their own playing field and by mocking men as boorish, violent and ultimately superfluous. In many segments of our society, feminists have seen remarkable triumphs. The Catholic Church, lead by the Holy Father and the bishops, represent Leonidas and the 300, perhaps the last institution standing that, according to the feminist template, has stubbornly refused to collapse like a house of cards under the weight of their calls for capitulation. If you can't beat 'em, marginalize 'em, so the strategy goes. This is not to say that feminists have scored zero victories in their fight with the Church. The soft-sofa, Oprahfication of the liturgy, which has seen the marginalization of the priest in favor of a greater inclusion of women in various newfangled liturgical roles, has its origin in the feminist movement. The people, we are told, need to see that the Mass is not just about the male priest, but also about the female 'Eucharistic ministers' and the altar girls, and so on.

If anything, there needs to be a "Setting the Record Straight on Vatican II" document from the leadership, in which the most common misreadings of the Council documents are definitively corrected and clarified so that when the media sets out to make sweeping, dumb assertions about Vatican II, there will at least be a way to fact check. Of course, just reading the documents will also do. Vatican II never endorsed the idea that nuns should jettison the habit and the convent in favor swank apartments, liberal social activism and embracing dissent from Church authority. These folks fancy themselves as victims, but that is merely a rhetorical ploy to gain traction by tugging on the heartstrings. I have little patience for the crocodile tears of people who have had a hand in undermining the Church in the name of Vatican II for the past forty years, causing untold confusion among the faithful.

It's a bit ironic, because these liberal nuns and their friends love to whisper about the allegedly avaricious power-hoarding on the part a controlling male-dominated hierarchy, while making it perfectly clear that they themselves have one thing in mind: acquiring power and control. I once read a quote by Nancy Pelosi in which she reminisced about her childhood dream to be a priest. She said that, while she loved the sisters who taught her, she knew that the priests were the ones with the power.

Liberals, no matter where you find them, in the Church or out of it, have one goal in mind and that is power. The Holy Father has spoken eloquently on the real meaning of leadership, as being rooted in service and in serving the goal of unity, which is ultimately rooted in authentic love, which calls for a total outpouring, a gift of self, something antithetical to a quest for amassing power. As far as his office is concerned, the pope's declarations are not exercises in raw power, or the expressions of the mere opinion of a man, but rather a manifestation of the unbroken inheritance of a 2,000 year-old institution, founded by Christ.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Narcissism Roars Back

A fascinating article by Jennifer Allen on the rise of narcissism, appearing in the Telegraph:
While the media and social media had a role in normalising narcissism, photography has played along. We exist in and for society, only once we have been photographed. The photographic portrait is no longer linked to milestones like graduation ceremonies and weddings, or exceptional moments such as vacations, parties or even crimes. It has become part of a daily, if not minute-by-minute, staging of the self. Portraits appear to have been eclipsed by self-portraits: Tweeted, posted, shared.

According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was the man who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water. According to the DSM-IV [Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders], 50-70 per cent of those diagnosed with NPD [Narcissistic Personality Disorder] are men. But according to my Canadian upbringing looking at one’s reflection in a mirror for too long was a weakness particular to the fairer sex and an anti-social taboo. ...

We contemporary narcissists simply hold the camera or the phone in front of our faces and push the button.

But this approach has led to a profound shift in the vanishing point, which has historically been understood as a point disappearing on the horizon. What disappears today is the photographer’s hand, holding the camera aimed at himself. While the hand lies outside the frame, the outstretched arm seems to vanish into the foreground. The vanishing point is not off in the distance, but on our bodies. Once we directed our gaze outwards, now we look inwards and invite the world to watch as we lose ourselves.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

George Will Doesn't Like Newt

I was pretty taken aback by the force of George Will's latest piece, appearing in The Washington Post, in which he tears into Newt Gingrich as basically being a complete phony. He's not too hot on Romney, either. Will makes good points, but it concerns me that such vituperative rhetoric against one of our own could be damaging in the long run. Again, I can't help but lament that Paul Ryan didn't get in this race. The race, and the presidency, was his for the taking.
Gingrich, however, embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive. And there is his anti-conservative confidence that he has a comprehensive explanation of, and plan to perfect, everything.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Hollow Ceremony

"In this holiday season, we affirm our commitment to each other, as family members, as neighbors, as Americans, regardless of our color, or creed or faith, let us remember that we are one, we are a family."

The president made these remarks last night at the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in Washington. For all its innocuous fluff, this statement simply galls me, in the same way those condescending Coexist bumper stickers do. This was, after all, a special ceremony relating to Christmas, and the president, in his remarks, dismissed faith as somehow unimportant, that we as humans can overcome our differences in creed because we are, apparently, bigger than religion, bigger than God. Contained in this statement is a reemergence of the president's narcissistic worldview. Humanity, without the divisiveness spawned by theology's age-old grappling with the big questions, can come together as one, bland, agnostic family. I'm all for living together peacefully with people of different backgrounds, but we can't just treat religion and the primal questions about our existence and our destiny, questions to which religion seeks to provide answers, as one of those many incidental things in life that we can just gloss over in our happy enthusiasm for our common 'we are one family' Weltanschauung.

Being Catholic, for example, is central to my existence, as it provides definitive answers to a host of essential questions, about the origin of mankind, and, more importantly, about my final end. It's not something I can cooly set aside in a rush of sanitized Hallmark Card patriotism that aims to treat the core teachings of my faith as ultimately not that important, in light of the common values that unite us all (a reference the president frequently uses). Where do those values come from? What is their source?

It's not that I'm simply picking on Obama. I can see a lot of our leaders making similarly banal, hollow statements.

The One?

Writing for National Review Online, Ramesh Ponnuru makes a pretty airtight case for supporting Mitt Romney this go-around, especially by addressing the most common concern raised by cautious conservatives against him.
The narrowness of the candidates’ differences on pertinent issues militates in favor of picking the one who can best implement the sensible agenda they largely share. It also reduces conservatives’ need to worry about candidates’ sincerity. If President Romney were to do an about-face on carbon caps, the right to life, or taxes, he would be going to war with the vast majority of his party. The fact that conservatives do not regard him as the leader of their movement tightens this constraint on him. A Republican president with more capital among conservatives would be able to deplete it.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

'Putin's third empire'

I thought this piece on Vladimir Putin's irrepressible global ambitions was pretty accurate, and alarming. Yet another reason for good results in November, 2012. From The Guardian:
As prime minister for the past four years, Vladimir Putin never really went away. But his looming reincarnation as the all-powerful, executive president of Russia – the country's "paramount leader" in Chinese parlance – poses a stark challenge for which the US, Britain and other beleaguered western powers seem ill-prepared. As president, potentially until 2024, Putin has one overriding objective: the creation of a third, post-tsarist, post-Soviet Russian empire.

Putin famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union, the "evil empire" of Ronald Reagan's imagining, as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century". His aim, once this weekend's heavily managed parliamentary elections and next March's presidential coronation are out the way, is to put this disaster to rights. Reinstalled as president, and with his political potboy, Dmitry Medvedev, pushed aside, Putin will again exercise unchallengeable control over Russia's external affairs.

'Merry Christmas' Wins Out

From Rasmussen Reports, it turns about an overwhelming majority of Americans prefer 'Merry Christmas' over 'Happy Holidays' at the stores.
Holiday shoppers, as they have for several years, would prefer to be greeted with signs reading “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” this season.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 70% prefer that stores use signs that say “Merry Christmas.”

Coptic Christians Brace for Storm

From The New York Times:
For those attending Mass at St. Mark’s, in the upper-class district of Maadi in Cairo, the elections represent the beginning of a democratic Egypt but also instill fear of a party coming to power that favors Islamic law.

It is widely expected that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party will dominate the political landscape. This expectation has already affected the Christian community. Since the Jan. 25 revolution that removed President Hosni Mubarak from power, 100,000 Christian families have emigrated abroad, according to Naguib Gibrael, the Coptic Church’s lawyer.

It's sad to see a people who have had an enduring presence in Egypt for about two-thousand years, and centuries before Islam checked in, packing their bags and heading for sunnier pastures. But who can blame them?

Affirmative Action

George Will wrote an excellent article for the The Washington Post on the self-defeating consequences of affirmative action:
Liberals would never stoop to stereotyping, but they say minorities necessarily make distinctive — stereotypical? — contributions to viewpoint diversity, conferring benefits on campus culture forever. And minorities admitted to elite universities and professional schools supposedly serve the compelling goal of enlarging the minority component of the middle class and professions. ...

“Academic mismatch” causes many students who are admitted under a substantial preference based on race, but who possess weaker academic skills, to fall behind. The consequences include especially high attrition rates from the sciences, and self-segregation in less-demanding classes, thereby reducing classroom diversity. Blacks are significantly more integrated across the University of California system than they were before the state eliminated racial preferences in 1996, thereby discouraging enrollment of underprepared minorities in the more elite institutions.