Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday, Spanish Baroque

From the Pill to Prop 8

All this confusion over the definition of marriage began long ago. It didn't start with the fight over gay 'marriage.' I've been saying this for some time now, and this piece from The Week makes the same argument. It's slanted to the left, of course, but it hits the nail on the head on the crucial point.
Gay marriage has come to be widely accepted because our society stopped thinking of marriage as a conjugal union decades ago. 
Between five and six decades ago, to be precise. That's when the birth control pill — first made available to consumers for the treatment of menstrual disorders in 1957 and approved by the FDA for contraceptive use three years later — began to transform sexual relationships, and hence marriage, in the United States. Once pregnancy was decoupled from intercourse, pre-marital sex became far more common, which removed one powerful incentive to marry young (or marry at all)
It likewise became far more common for newlyweds to give themselves an extended childless honeymoon (with some couples choosing never to have kids). In all of these ways, and many more, the widespread availability of contraception transformed marriage from a conjugal union into a relationship based to a considerable degree on the emotional and sexual fulfillment of its members — with childrearing often, though not always, a part of the equation.
This is what makes our job so difficult. The fatal premise was accepted, the poison pill was swallowed, long ago. We really do have to go all the way back to the beginning to explain why and how contraceptives got the ball rolling with the unravelling of the moral fabric of society. And when the overwhelming majority approves wholeheartedly of contraception, well, it becomes a monumental task.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

'But to serve'

This photo of Pope Francis washing and kissing the feet of young, tattooed detainees at a prison struck me deeply. I know that traditionalists were not pleased that the pope broke with some tradition in celebrating this Holy Thursday Mass, but I can't help thinking that this remarkable act of love and humility might just be one ray of light penetrating the sad, dark world these youth may live in, day in and day out. I'm sure they went to bed tonight with their souls a little more at peace than last night. 

And perhaps that's where conversion starts. You know, love. 


From The Guardian:
The shroud of Turin is to be shown on television for the first time in 30 years on Easter Saturday as a new claim that the four-metre-long linen cloth dates from ancient times proves its enduring ability to fascinate and perplex. 
As what the Vatican described as his parting gift to the Roman Catholic church before he resigned, Benedict XVI signed off on a special 90-minute broadcast of the shroud that will take place from Turin cathedral and be introduced in a brief preamble by his successor, Pope Francis. "It will be a message of intense spiritual scope, charged with positivity, which will help hope never to be lost," said the archbishop of Turin, Cesare Nosiglia.
Timed to mark the 30th anniversary of the shroud's last appearance on TV – ordered by Pope Paul VI in 1973 – the unusual programme on the state broadcaster Rai comes as the new pope, the former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, prepares for his first Easter as head of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why is it 'wrong to vote on rights'?

Gay 'rights' advocates descended on the Supreme Court Monday to rally in support of so-called 'marriage equality' before the Supremes hear oral arguments over the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The sign in the above image boldly proclaims that it is 'Wrong to vote on rights.' Think about that statement. What does it mean? If certain things in society are beyond the reach of the whims of the vox populi, doesn't that imply that there is a fixed order that exists outside our ability to change it? Doesn't it mean that WE are not the ultimate arbiters of what is objectively right and wrong after all? Doesn't it mean that there is indeed a tension that exists between reason, which is immutable, and the passions, which change? What, or Who, is the source of this fixed reality, this untouchable moral standard, that exists outside the reach and influence of the ballot box? I would argue it is 'the Laws of Nature and Nature's God.'

Advocates for gay 'marriage' cannot have it both ways. They cannot say, on the one hand, that 'We the People' have the power change the most fundamental social unit in society, and then, on the other hand, assert that this institution is so important that it is insulated from the caprices of the people.

Semana Santa

Spanish legionnaires carry the crucifix (wouldn't it be something if our military did something like this?)

I'll post more images as I find them online. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ex-Catholic Fueling Atheism in USA

From CNN:
(CNN) – Todd Stiefel is far from a household name, and the odds he gets recognized on a street corner, even in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, are small. 
For Stiefel, a slim, scruffy ex-Catholic, his public persona is his wallet and activism. Through the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, the 38-year-old has made an indelible impact on the nation’s fastest-growing “religious” group: the nonbelievers. Most of the highest-profile atheists campaigns –- flashy billboards in high-traffic areas, news-making efforts to get atheists to come out of the closet, and boisterous rallies - are funded by his fortune. 
Stiefel isn’t shy about his far-reaching goals. 
“What I am trying to accomplish is multifold, he told CNN. “I consider myself working on the next civil equality movement, just like women’s rights, LGBT rights and African-American Civil Rights. We are still in the early stages of eliminating discrimination against atheists and humanists. That is something I really want to accomplish.” ... 
Stiefel was born in Albany, New York, in 1974 to Catholic parents. He was raised in a Catholic household, confirmed in the church, attended Sunday school, went to a Catholic high school. 
“I was a cross-wearing, praying, religious-retreat Catholic,” Stiefel said. “You could say there were points that I felt the spirit.” 
But his faith, he said, fluctuated during high school. “I was always a skeptic,” he said, “and I always asked a lot of questions.”
Pray for Stiefel. God only knows why this guy left the faith and became so radicalized. Still, this story does not reflect well on the state of Catholic education in America. What kind of formation was he receiving in high school?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pope and Pope Emeritus

Some touching details are emerging about the meeting between Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict XVI. From the Associated Press:
And in a series of gestures that ensued, Benedict made clear that he considered Francis to be pope while Francis made clear he considered his predecessor to be very much a revered brother and equal. 
Traveling from the helipad to the palazzo, Francis sat on the right-hand side of the car, the traditional place of the pope, while Benedict sat on the left. When they entered the chapel inside the palazzo to pray, Benedict tried to direct Francis to the papal kneeler at the front of the chapel, but Francis refused. 
"No, we are brothers, we pray together," Francis told Benedict, according to the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi. The two used a different kneeler in the pews and prayed together, side-by-side. 
Francis brought a gift to Benedict, an icon of the Madonna, and told him that it's known as the "Madonna of Humility." 
"I thought of you," Francis told Benedict. "You gave us so many signs of humility and gentleness in your pontificate." Benedict replied: "Grazie, grazie."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Biden uses pope's homily to push political agenda

Reflecting on the homily given by Pope Francis at his installation Mass and a spontaneous meeting with religious sisters, Vice President Joe Biden offered the following reflection:
"In his homily, the pope said being human means respecting each of God's creatures, responding and respecting the environment in which we live. He said it means protecting people, showing love and concern for each other, every person, every child, elderly, those in need were often the last we think of and that's what in my experience being raised as a Catholic and educated by the nuns, that's what those, those lovely women I'm talking to symbolize to me. 
So I thought it was a good omen. "We are our brother's keeper. We have an obligation and I think that's the way, the only way we're going to make the world better and safer. 
"It translates at home with the simple things like making sure we fix the broken immigration system, making sure we make our neighborhoods safer by having rationale gun safety and international relations, reaching out and have war as the last option to protect our interests and so it was an exciting time..."
Of course, it doesn't mean protecting the unborn, right Joe?

This man is an embarrassment. Read the rest here.

Biden on NOT Kissing Pope's Ring

From the Associated Press:
VP Biden: Dignity trumps ring-kissing etiquette 
NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Biden doesn't kiss up to anyone — whether a queen or a pope. 
The vice president told a gathering of Irish-Americans in New York City on Thursday that as a young U.S. senator he was to meet the queen of England. 
He remembers getting a call from his mother, who told him not to kiss the queen's ring. 
Years later, when he was to meet Pope John Paul II, Biden says his mother told him not to kiss the pope's ring. 
Biden, a Roman Catholic descended from struggling Irish immigrants, says his dad said it was "all about dignity."
Thanks Mom! Who knew? Joe Biden is worried about his dignity! Funny though, because when it comes to his relationship with Barack Obama, there's something ole' Joe is perfectly comfortable kissing...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Get used to more of this...

Supporting my thesis from a couple of days ago on the media narrative and Pope Francis, as if on cue, from the Associated Press:
Jesuit pope offers hope to some targeted nuns 
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The election of a Jesuit pope devoted to the poor and stressing a message of mercy rather than condemnation has brought a glimmer of hope to American nuns who have been the subject of a Vatican crackdown, according to interviews with several groups. The nuns were accused of having focused too much on social justice at the expense of other church issues such as abortion.
'Stressing a message of mercy rather than condemnation...' no doubt an attack on Benedict's papacy. I am beginning to think that the Vatican should refute these Francis vs. Benedict hit pieces streaming out of the AP. These nuns have ditched more than their habits.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Face East

On the other hand, a common turning to the east during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of something being accidental, but of what is essential. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue but of common worship, of setting off toward the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle but the common movement forward, expressed in a common direction of prayer. ~ Pope Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy
I have to wonder, does anyone (i.e., the bishops out there) actually read this and implement it? It is quite sad to see such little enthusiasm from most of the leadership when it comes to heeding the counsel of one of the Church's most brilliant theologians and liturgists. But when it comes to the question of immigration policy, the U.S. bishops are clamoring to have their voices heard.

Luther's Folly

The error of Luther lay, I am convinced, in a false idea of historicity, in a poor understanding of unicity. The sacrifice of Christ is not situated behind us as something past. It touches all times and is present to us. The Eucharist is not merely the distribution of what comes from the past, but rather the presence of the paschal mystery of Christ, who transcends and unites all times. ~Pope Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy, Lecture Delivered During the Journees Liturgiques de Fontgombault

Benedict on 'fanaticism for the vernacular'

"Since the council, there has arisen in many places a fanaticism for the vernacular that is, in fact, very difficult to comprehend in a multicultural society, just as in a mobile society it is not very logical to hypostasize the congregation." ~Pope Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger The Regensburg Tradition and the Reform of the Liturgy

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Pope and the Media Narrative

It is clear to me that the media is attempting to divide Catholics by presenting Pope Francis as a clean break from Pope Benedict. Out with the old, in with the new! By now, I've lost count of the number of stories that have depicted Pope Francis' papacy as a 'more humble' one than that of Benedict. From the choice in shoes, to the cross, to the ring, to the mozzetta, to the vestments, to the duration of the Mass of Installation. One article's lead went something like, 'Pope Francis' style represents an indirect criticism of Benedict.'  Give me a break! It is sheer nonsense, but the stories keep coming. It's relentless. And it's intentional. 'Pope Francis is more simple, more humble, more approachable, less monarchical than Benedict.' It goes on and on.

The truth is, Pope Benedict's stunning resignation was the epitome of humility. What could be more humble than stepping aside from a position of such singular authority? Benedict's choice of traditional, elaborate vestments had nothing to do with self-aggrandizement or being 'fancy,' and to assert that it was demonstrates an embarrassing lack of understanding of Catholic culture.

Once lightening strikes the media and they come to realize that Pope Francis is actually Catholic, totally orthodox, and a fierce defender of traditional morality, their love-fest over his papacy will come to an abrupt end.

Christ and His Vicar

Pope Francis Elevates the Eucharist

Monday, March 18, 2013

Andrew and Peter: East Meets West in Rome

From the Associated Press:
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, left Monday for the Vatican to attend Pope Francis' installation Mass — the first time a patriarch from the Istanbul-based church is attending a papal investiture since the two branches of Christianity split nearly 1,000 years ago. 
Bartholomew said he was attending the installation Mass to underscore the importance he attaches to "friendly ties" between the churches and reflects expectations that the new pontiff will advance rapprochement efforts that began decades ago. 
"It is a gesture to underline relations which have been developing over the recent years and to express my wish that our friendly ties flourish even more during this new era," Bartholomew told private NTV television in an interview in Istanbul before his departure. "I am very hopeful in this matter." ... 
In a sign of common bonds between East and West, the Vatican said the Gospel during the installation Mass would be chanted in Greek instead of Latin, the language that will be used for many of the other elements of the ceremony.
And not to be overlooked, from the National Catholic Register:
Orthodox Church leaders had great respect for Benedict XVI and particularly valued his approach to the liturgy.
May that 'approach' continue. One thing, among many, that I admire so much about the Orthodox is how fiercely they guard their ancient liturgical traditions. And perhaps Benedict's greatest legacy is his effort, despite much opposition, to call Catholics back to an appreciation for their own beautiful and ancient liturgy. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hope and pray the liturgical reforms of Benedict continue under Pope Francis.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pope at Prayer

These images struck me as profound manifestations of the deep prayer life and Marian devotion of Pope Francis. 

 Pope Francis at prayer before the icon of Mary, Salus Populi Romani

At prayer before the relics of Pope Saint Pius V, another pope known for his austerity

Here's an interesting excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the practices of Pope Pius V. I can't help see a parallel to Pope Francis (of course, excluding the less than flattering insinuations about the predecessors of Pope Pius V. Pope Francis is blessed with an outstanding predecessor):
He began his pontificate by giving large alms to the poor, instead of distributing his bounty at haphazard like his predecessors. As pontiff he practiced the virtues he had displayed as a monk and a bishop. His piety was not diminished, and, in spite of the heavy labours and anxieties of his office, he made at least two meditations a day on bended knees in presence of the Blessed Sacrament. In his charity he visited the hospitals, and sat by the bedside of the sick, consoling them and preparing them to die. He washed the feet of the poor, and embraced the lepers. It is related that an English nobleman was converted on seeing him kiss the feet of a beggar covered with ulcers. He was very austere and banished luxury from his court, raised the standard of morality, laboured with his intimate friend, St. Charles Borromeo, to reform the clergy, obliged his bishops to reside in their dioceses, and the cardinals to lead lives of simplicity and piety.

Friday, March 15, 2013

336 Million Killed in China

This is stunning. From the Telegraph:
336 million abortions under China's one-child policy 
More than half a billion birth control procedures, including at least 336 million abortions, have been performed in the name of the one-child policy, China's Health ministry revealed yesterday. ... 
Official statistics showed that in addition to the terminations, Chinese doctors have sterilised 196 million men and women since 1971.
No doubt, the number is much higher. The culture of death is alive and well, sadly.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sagrada Familia

Hopes for the Pope

Some rough thoughts about my hopes for the next pope. I may add to this.

He should, in my humble opinion:

- Start with the in-house business. Reform the ensconced, entrenched Vatican Curia. Too many Cardinals have become too comfortable for too long within the frescoed halls. This includes replacing virtually the entire Press Office with faithful, competent, and, not to be overlooked, savvy journalists.

- If he's not elected pope, choose Cardinal Raymond L. Burke for Secretary of State.

- Recognize that we are still in the throes of a decades-long liturgical crisis, and that addressing and correcting this is of paramount importance. Liturgical abuses are not inconsequential, they are dangerous, poisonous.

- Related to the above, complete the circle of Benedict XVI's liturgical reform, a great part of which consists in encouraging the usus antiquior, the extraordinary form of the Mass. Deal appropriately with bishops who have resisted this (and there are many).

- Recognize the essential role that the beauty of liturgy has within the life of the Church, the culture at large, and promote it.

- Understand that a strong Catholic identity and culture rooted, of course, in traditional liturgy, serve as the best counterpunch to an aggressively secular and hostile society. As my friend Joseph said several posts down, "Time to stop being afraid of being different. Or, better yet, time to develop an alternative culture so strong that the fear of being different would never enter people's minds in the first place. Gotta be different when being the same is being pathetic."

- Understand the richness of Catholic art in its various forms, and the essential role it has in evangelization. In a grotesque, dark culture, it has never been more true that "Beauty will save the world." This is one of the Church's most sacred responsibilities.

- Recognize that many in the College of Bishops, sadly, will not share these priorities, and even resist change. However, the new pope must flex some 'Tu es Petrus' muscle to ensure that his agenda is faithfully implemented, regardless of the ambivalence (or hostility) of other bishops.

- Task a trusted Cardinal in the tradition of Benedict XVI (Cardinals Burke or Ranjith for example) to scour dioceses around the globe for rock-ribbed, orthodox priests and promote them to the rank of bishop ASAP. This will have immediate, positive ripple effects on seminaries, seminarians, newly ordained priests, parish life, etc.

- Encourage bishops, especially in the United States, to re-evaluate the need for elaborate, byzantine middle managements within their dioceses. At least in the U.S., the "middle management problem" is huge. These diocesan offices are staffed with people who are either poorly catechized, or simply reject the Church's teaching whole hog on core issues. They undermine the bishops right under their noses.

- Address in concrete ways the disasters that have befallen institutions of Catholic education, a monumental but essential task. Look at the success stories in the United States (Aquinas, Christendom, Magdalen, Wyoming Catholic College, etc. These are growing for a reason, after all.) and encourage others to follow their example.

- Follow-up to the previous: Deal with the Jesuits

- Deal decisively with scandalous politicians and public figures who tout their Catholicism and yet defy the teachings of the Church on the sanctity of life and marriage. 

Friday, March 08, 2013

It's a date

Conclave is set for Tuesday, March 12. Odds are, we'll have a pope one week from today.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Next Up, Sri Lanka?

'Liturgy and rites'...

From the Associated Press:
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — In one of his first appointments as pope, Benedict XVI picked a Sri Lankan archbishop to return to the Vatican for a top post overseeing the church's liturgy and rites. 
The choice of Malcolm Ranjith in 2005 rewarded a strong voice of tradition — so rigid that some critics regard it even as backward-looking. 
And it came as the church increasingly grappled with a critical question for the future: How much innovation can be allowed to cater to developing world congregations with fast-growing flocks? ... 
"The Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith's leadership quality is fantastic, excellent, and very specially the sermons," said Vijitha Ariyaratna, who works at a Colombo church. "The homilies are down to earth, they are simplified. I really admire him." 
Ranjith, however, has also earned detractors for his strong affinity for traditions in worship, such as the Latin Mass, that others have left behind. 
In 2009, he banned lay deacons from preaching in the Colombo archdiocese and required that Holy Communion only be offered to those kneeling and the communion wafer placed directly on their tongue — a style that has been abandoned by many parishes in the West.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Rand Paul's Triumph

I have to say, I am mesmerized by Rand Paul's filibuster. Going on eight hours now. It is classic.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Fake 'Bishop' Called Out

Note the pashmina used as a sash. 'Easy enough to spot' is right. Pretty embarrassing. 

Just when you think you've heard it all. From ABC News:
Among the men in red gathering today at the Vatican ahead of the papal election, the impostor in purple was easy enough to spot. 
The meeting had not yet begun when someone noticed that one of the bishops posing for pictures with the arriving cardinals was wearing his cassock and his crucifix slightly too short. 
On closer inspection they realized his purple sash was just a scarf.
I guess conclaves bring out the crazies.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

When in Rome...

Some clerical couture for you:

March 11

And so the date is set for the start of conclave. Apparently, this story was premature. The start of the conclave is still a question mark.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Two Keys for Evangelization

"The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb." ~excerpt from The Ratzinger Report

On Belonging to a Minority

The City of God and the City of Man
Today more than ever the Christian must be aware that he belongs to a minority and that he is in opposition to everything that appears good, obvious, logical to the 'spirit of the world', as the New Testament calls it. Among the most urgent tasks facing Christians is that of regaining the capacity of nonconformism, i.e., the capacity to oppose many developments of the surrounding culture. ~Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church

And this interview is from 1985. How much more necessary is the need for nonconformism in today's zeitgeist?