Sunday, July 31, 2005

Chavez needs Exorcism

I do so love this:

Ouspoken Catholic cardinal took his war of words with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to a new level in an interview published Sunday, calling him "a paranoid dictator" who needs "an exorcism."Rosalio Castillo, Venezuela's only cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, also accused Chavez of rounding up more than 100 political prisoners and torturing some captives.

"The difference is in the way it's said. There are those who speak diplomatically, and others like me who speak clearly so that everyone understands," the 82-year-old cardinal said. The Roman Catholic Church has been one of the most critical voices of Chavez, a former paratroop commander and self-styled "revolutionary."

Go Jesuit, It's Your Feast Day!


Today is a very special day. The last day of July, which can only mean two things. First is that I think the month has gone by far too fast. I would like my month back, if that's ok. The second is that this would also be the feast day of the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius de Loyola. Anyone who didn't think I wouldn't make a big deal out of this is insane. It would be like Cnytr just ignoring Aquinas' feast day, except worse, since, as the name might indicate, Aquinas did not found the Dominicans.

Ignatius is a fun saint to read about. Almost as fun as Augustine, really. One of the best parts, aside from the pre-conversion stuff, are the volumes of letters he wrote while superior general of the Jesuits, particularly to St. Francis Xavier and the heads of the various provinces througout Europe. On one occasion, a superior had neglected to send him regular reports of the province. In response to this, Ignatius wrote in a letter to him "You did well to observe obedience in the matter of writing every week [...] What you should have done was to find someone, once the letters were written, to carry and deliver them." Classic, really.

Fellow blogger Mark Mossa, just finishing up his Jesuit regency at Loyola New Orleans, is currently in the process of writing a biography of St. Ignatius. Here is the latest sample on his blog. You know you're in for a treat when the title of the post is "Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"When a soul finds no pleasure or consolation in the things of God, it also fails to find it in any thing created."
-St. Ignatius de Loyola, Spiritual Excercises, IX

"Men (to be) Astutely Trained"


+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously."
-Hubert H. Humphrey

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Quiz-takers Anonymous?


Lately, I've been getting the feeling that I have become addicted to the whole online personality quiz thing. I can't help myself! I just find it so interesting seeing which character I would be in a 15th century romance novel, were it to be written by Euripides, proofread by Aristotle, and set in Middle-Earth.

Not only that, but when I go in to take one quiz, I see a whole bunch of others and think to myself, "now that would be a good quiz to take, and before I know it, I've taken more quizzes and tests in one day that I will ever take over an entire week of midterms.

Then, of course, comes the part where it affects everyone else, the point when I decide that everyone who reads this blog would be interested to know the results as well, and then take the quiz themselves.

Perhaps a support group is needed for people like myself. It could have a set program, and we could talk about our feelings after singing "Kumbaya". That being said, "Hello, my name is David, and I have a problem with taking internet personality quizzes..."

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint."
-Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Even Pope's get frustrated

Even Pope's get frustrated- that's the feeling I get from these statements.

"It seems that people don't need us," he said in Italian, saying that in today's society, "all we do seems useless."

"All of us together want, on one hand, to suffer with these problems and, through suffering, transform the problems, because suffering is precisely the way of transformation, and without suffering nothing is transformed... This is also the meaning of the parable of the grain of wheat that fell on the earth: Only through a process of tormented transformation does one obtain the fruit and see the solution, and if the apparent inefficacy of our preaching is not a suffering for us, it would be a sign of a lack of faith, of a lack of genuine commitmeny... We must take these difficulties of our time seriously and transform them by suffering with Christ, and so transform ourselves, and in the measure that we ourselves are transformed, we can also answer the question articulated earlier; we can see the presence of the kingdom of God and make others see it," he stated.

In face of "the so-called great Churches," which seem to be "dying, especially in Australia, but also in Europe, not so much in the United States," the Holy Father said that he does not believe in "a recipe for a rapid change." "We must go forward, go through the tunnel with patience, with the certainty that Christ is the answer and that in the end his light will appear again." Conviction Benedict XVI continued: "Without reference to the true God, man destroys himself. We see it with our own eyes. "In all this suffering, not only must we not lose the certainty that Christ is really the face of God, but in addition we must deepen this certainty and the joy of knowing it and of really being, therefore, ministers of the world's future, of the future of every man."

As I said before, he sounds frustrated to me; I hope that World Youth Day will be of a great consolance to him-that is always an amazing, crazy gathering. I can understand how he feels, watching the culture around me. As he is the voice of the Church, I can't imagine how much more frusterating it must seem to him.

"The Good Doctor"


Oh, y'all are going to love this [source]:
WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Friday threw his support behind legislation to expand federal financing for embryonic stem cell research, breaking with President Bush and religious conservatives in a move that could impact his prospects for seeking the White House in 2008.

“It’s not just a matter of faith, it’s a matter of science,” Frist said on the floor of the Senate.
Matters of science, which pertain to the world and the created universe, of course, being superior to matters of faith, which pertain to God.
Said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.: “As a physician, Sen. Frist has a moral calling to save lives and alleviate suffering. He honors his Hippocratic Oath today by recognizing the unique healing power of embryonic stem cells.”
“I give huge moral significance to the human embryo, it is nascent human life,” he [Senator Frist] said. “What that means is as we advance science, we treat that embryo with dignity, with respect.”
Ok, let me see if I have the logic straight.
1) We want to heal people
2) We want to treat human embryos with respect
3) The best way to do both is to harvest unwanted embryos for body parts and other things of that nature, since this is, of course, a sign of great respect that your organs etc. are valuable enough for us to want to kill you.

Maybe I'm missing something, here, but somehow I doubt it.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"Under every stone lurks a politician."

About Us


There's been enough confusion about who and how many of us there are on here, so we've decided to finally get around to writing biographies about ourselves.

DAVID: Well, I'm going into the Jesuit novitiate August 14th. I spent four years in a Jesuit high school, Strake Jesuit of Houston, TX, and a year at Texas A&M, which I absolutely loved (WHOOP!). While there, I majored in philosophy with a minor in religious studies. There was also a very brief period when I was an economics major doing a minor in philosophy, but I don't like to think of those times. I hope to earn a doctorate in philosophy so that I can teach it on the university level. Or theology. I'm not particularly picky, and both subjects are enjoyable.

fj: So ambitious! I also attend Texas A&M, except my goal is to learn about cows. That's right, cows! I won't go into why I should not be using the word cow (as it would make anyone else I know qute aggrivated because it doesn't mean what most people think). I also love sheep, but I'm not as interested in their technical aspects. So, as someone who is attending an expensive university to lean about cows, I am a double biomedical science and animal science major. If you want to know something about animals, ask.

DAVID: Yeah, she's pretty good at animals, I must give her that. I once wanted to study medicine, mostly for the same reason I wanted to become a preist, to help and heal people. My interests are actually pretty varied, my knowledge base would probably be best described as "broad though shallow in all but a few areas." I come by it honestly, though. When I was in school and bored, I had a rather geekish tendancy to pass the time by reading random articles from the encyclopedia.

fj: See, I think everyone does that- most people just won't admit it. I'm a very practical person. I like to know how to do things- I can stick-weld, shear (anything, but specifically I'm good at show-cuts and hand shearing) fix or build just about anything, I'm proficient in almost all aspects of animal husbandry, love to cook, and I spend lots of time outside. I'm also a huge fan of anything sci-fi, especially Asmov. I also enjoy philosophy and theology, but I am HORRIBLE at explaining it to others. I was requested by my ethics professor (class was crop ethics) to defend the morality (note: not legality) of GM plants using a Thomistic arguing style. Now that was fun! AND he said I sounded like Aquinas, esp. with my last response WHOOP!
Oh, and of course I was born and raised Texan, and I absolutely love this state.

DAVID: Sadly, I was born in Florida, not Texas (always a source of embarassment for me), but having spent the last 16 years here, I like it quite a bit. If I had a choice, the novitiate would be moved to Texas. And trust me when I say that some of the info that I have gathered is some of the most impractical on the face of this Earth. Like the fact that President Taft invented the concept of the 7th inning stretch, and was the only person to ever be the head of more than one branch of government (he was the chief justice of the Supreme Court a few years after his presidency).

fj: I know all sorts of impractical things! For instance, if you don't strip the lanoilin from the fleece before shearing, it shears a hair bit easier than stripping it first. It's also easier to use fencing pliers to mend fences than needle nose, although they work in a pinch. It's more dangerous to have an empty gasoline can with fumes in it than a full one. You can make good halters by using rope and hog rings for around $1 a halter, as well, instead of buying all that "specialty" or pre-made stuff, AND they last longer! Now, living in a city in an apartment, do you have any idea how often that knowledge gets used?

Ah, well. In that way I'm like the Jesuits; I do like to know things. I'm probably a bit more inclined toward the (gasp!) Dominican or Franciscan spirituality, however.

DAVID: My knowledge can be even more useless than that, trust me. Among my varied interests and hobbies are all things Shakespeare, history (especially military history), movies, and camping. I was also a Boy Scout, attaining the rank of Eagle in 2001, and did theatre my senior year of high school.

fj: So, by reading this, you now know more than you ever wanted to about us, and none of it useful to boot!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

World's Toughest Catholic Quiz...

A friend sent me the link. I know many readers are in RCIA, and/or new to the faith, so I thought I'd throw it up here. It's fairly basic, but does expect that one understands why the wrong answers are wrong- some answers are only off by a word. If you do not, it has a brief explanation at the bottom.

I knew 19 of 20- got the archbishop wrong, LOL!

The World's Toughest Catholic Quiz

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"The Devil Went Down to Georgia..."

And I'm back from my vacation in Georgia. Good stuff all around, really. Saw family, relaxed on a beach, read a few books, all the finer things in life, really. One thing that I appreciated was a lot of good conversations and questions that have given me inspiration for future posts.

Another was the opportunity to observe interesting things. Especially as we drove down through the center of Georgia (on a route, for the educated, that took us from Savannah to Columbus to Montgomery) and Alabama. Like the fact that every 200 yards or so, I would see another Baptist church. Or that every 5th one of these Baptist churches advertised themselves as a "Full Gospel Church". As compared to a half-Gospel church, I suppose. Or maybe there's a church out there that really has a thing for the synoptic Gospels. Sorry, John, I guess that whole "Bread of Life" discourse was just too much for that particular group.

What is perhaps my all-time favorite part about it, though, is the small church that I went to, St. Michael's, which I make a point of attending at least once when I'm in the area. Not a big parish by any stretch of the imagination. Heck, I'd be incredibly surprised if the census went above 200. It was not a large building, and might be about the size of the chapels in the massive cathedrals. The thing that I like about it is that despite its miniscule size, you walk into that church and don't mistake it for anything else. It's pretty ironic that I can walk into a church in, oh let's just say San Fransisco, a huge building that absolutely dwarfs St. Michael's, and yet I might not know it is a church right off hand. I might think it is the headquarters of a major corporation. Or, more likely, the headquarters that Superman used in the movies. For all my love of the great churches and cathedrals, I am actually fairly easy to please. It doesn't need to be huge, or have gargoyles (cool as those may be), or enough gold trimmings to put Fort Knox to shame. It just needs to look like a church, to serve as a constant visual reminder that I am in God's house.

For the uncertain, this would entail (at minimum):
  • one crucifix, prominently displayed
  • stations of the cross
  • tabernacle w/ Blessed Sacrament, also prominently displayed
  • stained glass, preferably with images related to God
  • in addition, pews would be nice. I've read about one church using "mauve stacking chairs". Please avoid that. Kneelers would be needed too, since I'm going to be doing some kneeling during mass.

As you see, my needs are fairly simple.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"To speak in general of those who should be admitted, the greater the number of natural and infused gifts someone has from God our Lord which are useful for what the Society aims at in His Divine service, and the more experience the candidate has in the use of these gifts, the more suitable will he be for reception into the Society."
-St. Ignatius de Loyola, Constitutions of the Society of Jesus

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Playing Politics...


Your Political Profile

Overall: 70% Conservative, 30% Liberal
Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

How Liberal / Conservative Are You?

I must say, I'm surprised at how conservative I am. Quite surprised, really. The 100% fiscal conservatism really threw me for a loop, given my fondness for Chesterton's writings on the topic. I figured somewhere around 50% on that. How remarkably curious. Perhaps I can make my own political quiz. Yes, that'll show them. That'll show them all...

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"There are two kinds of revolutionists, as of most things - a good kind and a bad. The bad revolutionists destroy conventions by appealing to fads - fashions that are newer than conventions. The good do it by appealing to facts that are older than conventions."
-G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, 30 April, 1910

UPDATE: Ok, so having had a complaint from Publius about the link not working, here it is, a good working link: How Liberal or Conservative are you?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Musings...of a Holy Roman Pontiff

The Holy Father has joined the blogging world...and here's why:

The musings of a Holy Roman Pontiff:

“Holy Father, why would you desire to become one of them? I answered that I don’t want to become one of them, Heaven forbid! I just want to muse - I really, really like the idea of musing. I even like the way the word sounds. So, I am here to offer the musings of a pontiff. Note: in no way should my musings be construed as ex cathedra pronouncements or official Church teaching. This is a personal interest and off the pontifical record. It’s merely an opportunity for me to take off my miter, kick back, and muse.

I love parody; I found this blog AWSOME. It is brought to you by Rick from Unam Sanctam.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

History and the Nazi Party

In the chapter entitled "Internal achievements of Nazism," one textbook quoted by AFP states: "Hitler lent dignity and prestige to the German government within a short time, establishing a strong administrative set-up."

I really can't believe someone actually published something like this, and that a school would use it- despite protests from pretty much everyone.

A Jesuit priest and social activist, Cedric Prakash, says the books contain more than 300 factual errors and make little mention of the holocaust. Despite protests from parents, peace activists and educationists, the updated school books still contain the same objectionable text this academic year.

Sunday Again

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Liturgical Music & Synod

All I can say to this is "yay!"

"VATICAN CITY, JULY 22, 2005- The working paper of the next Synod of Bishops suggests that "songs used at present" in the liturgy should "be reconsidered." Based on responses from diocese, religious and the laity to a questionnaire, the text acknowledges in No. 61 that "to enter into sacred or religious usage, instrumental or vocal music is to have a sense of prayer, dignity and beauty." In the liturgy, music must have "integrity of form, expressing true artistry, corresponding to the various rites and capable of adaptation to the legitimate demands of inculturation, without detracting from the idea of universality," the document states.

In connection with the question of liturgical singing, the paper states that "musicians and poets should be encouraged to compose new hymns, according to liturgical standards, which contain authentic catechetical teaching on the paschal mystery, Sunday and the Eucharist." Gregorian chant In particular, the document suggests the rediscovery of Gregorian chant, as it "fulfills these needs" and, therefore, can "serve as a model," quoting Pope John Paul II. In No. 61, the text states that in the responses to the questionnaire with which they concluded the synod's first preparatory text, "some lamented the poor quality of translations of liturgical texts and many musical texts in current languages, maintaining that they lacked beauty and were sometimes theologically unclear, thereby contributing to a weakening of Church teaching and to a misunderstanding of prayer."

The paper refers in particular to youth Masses, stressing the need "to avoid musical forms which, because of their profane use, are not conducive to prayer." "Some responses," it adds, "note a certain eagerness in composing new songs, to the point of almost yielding to a consumer mentality, showing little concern for the quality of the music and text, and easily overlooking the artistic patrimony which has been theologically and musically effective in the Church's liturgy."

Unfortunately, I feel that some will see this only as a suggestion to be briefly considered and discarded; if only it were a bull... However, going from an, ahem, innovative parish, shall we say, to the one which I now attend leads me to believe that those parishes which do work to see that they music is reverent, beautiful, and dignified will have a higher attendance than those which do not. Hopefully, then, other churches will then follow the suggestion. Simply switching pastors at my old parish- which now has a fullblown Lifeteen thing and 'teenage' music- have left the masses 75% full, down from almost full under our old pastor (and the music was ok at best then). The music is DREADFUL. I mean, the Gather book is not perfect, but it is much better than that which is sung at my former parish. If parishes can move toward songs which express the Catholic faith (yes, meaning no protestant symbolic-Eucharist songs and whatnot) fully, and without reservation, I would expect church attendance to increase.

I want more attendance Church because the only catechesis many adults recieve is during the homily at mass; sometimes I think that many priests forget this. I know my parents, raising the three of us, were exhausted at the end of most everyday and could not attend any type of workgroup, or even wanted to read. Anyway, I've known people not to go to mass because the music was so bad; obviously this means 1) they don't realize what "holy day of obligation' means, or 2) the music is so bad it negates their culpability, and that 3) if we can get them to go to mass, perhaps the homily can help instruct them in something as basic as "Go to church on Sunday."

I wish we had better catechesis so we could explore deeper theological topics than "go to mass on Sunday," but that doesn't seem to be the case at the moment.

I realize that there can be a wide opinion of what constitutes "reverent and dignified," however there are some things which are obviously not. The Old Rugged Cross, while a pretty song, should not be sung during mass.

The other problem, I think, which led to this is the fact that there is a bit of a priest shortage in the US. Our priests must concentrate on theirsacramentall duties, obviously that must come first, but things that were formerly being done by religious are now being done by the lay people. Whereas many priests/brothers/nuns used to be musicians, we now have the theology/liturgical minded groups (which usually include our priests), and a lay musically minded groups; these groups do not seem able to communicate effectively with each other at this time.

This looks like it will be a very interesting Synod, I hope they are able to discuss liturgical music and give a good thorough response. I can understand, however, if it is not at the top of their list.

God is, well, God

David- scan throught this for me please?

From a brief conversation tonight:

"Well, if God was subject to time then by that very statement the God would cease to be God because it wouldn't comply with the very way in which we know God to be!"

Ah, well, at least it is easy to refute the changeable god. If God was subject to time, then it would not be under His control, and if he isn't in control of everything, then he is obviously not God.

LOL. The very simplest explaination perfect for a 5 min. phone conversations.

And no, this was a I-called-my-friend-to-see-how-they-were-doing call. We began discussing a 'philosopher,' as I'll call him, which my friend must read for a class they're in. She was like, "Ooookay. I know. That wasn't my contention." LOL. I just don't like people who miss the obvious- such as this 'philosopher.'

Crazy new-age profs. Sigh. Why no Aquinas or Plato, anybody? They have their faults, but still, they are better than these guys! All I hear about are Kant, Hume, Nietzsche, Tze, and others of that ilk. Ah well!

The Holy Hour


Recently, I was in a Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, and decided to do a Eucharistic holy hour. Now, being of a somewhat forgetful nature (just ask fj), I forgot to bring my breviary and Bible with me, so I looked on their bookshelf to see if they had one or the other to at least do some spiritual readings, even if I couldn't do lauds. One book that I came across was Twenty Holy Hours, an out-of-print book by Mateo Crawley-Boevey. Having prayed one of those hours and given a quick glance at several of the others, I can say that it is a pretty good book. My one complaint was that it took me only 45 minutes to pray, but in its defense, the book is designed for a group prayer. Also, most of the holy hours are for First Friday devotion (exactly 12 out of the 20, in fact. Go ahead, ask me how I calculated that one. I dare you.), but I'd say that using it solely for a First Friday is more of a suggestion than a liturgical requirement here.

And now my oh-so-subtle segue from a book on holy hours to the holy hour in general.

Personally, when I do my holy hour, I like it to have a certain amount of structure. I've got a routine that I worked out, and I like it pretty well. That, incidentally, is probably one of the best arguments I've got against those who say that the early Christians just spontaneously had mass whenever and did whatever came to their hearts without any standardized liturgy: its a whole lot easier to worship and be focused on God when you aren't focused on what you should do next. Frequently I do it either before a tabernacle or a monstance with the Blessed Sacrament in it, but not always.

Quite a bit of what I do and how I do it during the holy hour is influenced by Bl. Fulton Sheen's The Priest is Not His Own, where he is talking about the priest and his spiritual life. When I start, it will almost always be with the LOTH. Even if I am doing it at a time outside of lauds or vespers time, such as the middle of the day, I'll use the hour appropriate to the time. Call me old fashioned, but I like to start out with prayer united to the Church.

After this, I may do some spiritual reading, typically either from the Bible or some of the non-Scriptural readings from the Office of Readings (usually 1-2) in the back of the breviary. Recently, I've also been reading from both the Summa and the Catechism on the virtues (right now, its courage, since I'll admit that I'm a bit nervous at the moment about leaving everything and everyone that I know behind to go to the novitiate). Fr. Pacwa, I know, will sometimes read prayerfully an encyclical by John Paul, particularly appropriate since he wrote much of them while in the Presence of the Lord. Others I know have read parts of Augustine's Confessions. Your basic rule of thumb for the reading is going to be:
a) make sure it is by a Catholic, preferably a saint. While Aristotle's Metaphysics and Nicomachean Ethics were huge influences on the writing of Aquinas, and are certainly good works of solid philosophy, I just can't see that providing spiritual nourishment, which is not always the same thing as intellectual satisfaction.
b) make sure it is something you can pray over. If you are in Adoration, make sure it doesn't lead your thoughts far from the Eucharist. On that note, don't read too much, or you will probably get concerned with reading, as opposed to praying. Brief and to the point are better. The whole purpose is to give you something to reflect upon prayerfully.

Next comes one of my favorite parts, the rosary. My personal preference when praying the mysteries is to use a Scriptural Rosary booklet. The one I have is a bit old, distributed by the Padre Pio Prayer Group, taking the Scriptural quotes from Douay-Rheims. Any translation will do, really, just make sure that if you do use a booklet, it has an imprimatur.

After all this, I finish it all off with a brief version of the Jesuit examination of conscience. Basically, there are five parts to it:
  1. Thanksgiving (after this, I typically say a 'Glory Be')
  2. Intentions (usually an Our Father and a Hail Mary after this, plus one Our Father for any special or novena intentions)
  3. Experience- how have you experienced God's love today
  4. Contrition- how have you responded inadequately to or rejected God's love (this, for the relativists reading right now, would be what theologians refer to as "sin", a real thing that people can actually do) An act of contrition would be an appropriate thing to end this part with.
  5. Hope- pray and focus on both how you will correct the sins you went over in "contrition", and ask God for a particular grace or spiritual gift-patience, humility, etc.

Obviously, you should feel free to do what suits you best. Sometimes in adoration the best thing is to just sit there for a bit and meditate or do some contemplative prayer, an excellent guide to which can be found towards the end of the CCC. Perhaps one of the biggest things though: don't worry if it has been more than an hour by the time you finish. Jesus isn't worried, so you shouldn't be either.

And one final note, since I could find nowhere else to mention this: just because you're not a priest, member of a religious order, or hoping to be either of those two, doesn't mean that you can't do a holy hour. Lay people should absolutely pray as often as their scheldule permits.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?"
-Matthew 26:40

Friday, July 22, 2005

"Passion of Christ, Strengthen Me"


Came across some advice on EWTN a few days ago about praying from Fr. Groschel. One really great thing that he suggested was to look at a crucifix for several minutes in prayer. I've been doing this for a little bit, and can say that it is most definitely solid advice. Personally, I prefer to do so first thing, so as to get in a proper disposition, but I don't think that would be a hard and fast rule by any stretch. Unless I'm in a church, I'll typically use the crucifix at the end of my rosary. Bigger ones can have their uses, though. For one thing, you can see the wounds quite a bit better, unless, of course, you got your rosary 'supersized' when you bought it.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"If you are looking for an example of humility, look at the cross."
-St. Thomas Aquinas

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Most Excellent!


You know, it's been a while since I've done a good rant, just typing in a heat, publishing, and then say "come what may." Far too long, I think. For those who may be new to this site, this might be the time to duck for cover.

I'm fairly annoyed at this tendancy that I've been observing to do the bare minimum. Someone does something, I criticize it, and the defense is "well what's wrong with [insert what you will here]?" It's not that there's necessarily anything wrong with what is being done, but there ain't a whole lot right or commendable about it, either. It It's the bare minimum, obeying the moral law like a checklist, but not going the extra mile, where someone says that not only are they going to obey the letter of the law, they're going to obey the spirit as well, and strive to better themselves. Too often, people will focus on not doing anything wrong, rather than actively doing what is right.

Another name for virtue ethics is aretaic ethics, from the Greek word for "excellence". When we behave with virtue, it is said to be a certain perfection or excellence of the self. Contrasted to the deontological, or "duty based" ethics, you discharge your duty, not a bit more, and that's what is morally good. "Duty for duty's sake", as Kant put it.

With Christ's Sermon on the Mount, simply doing one's duty was no longer the standard. The law that we obey is no longer the finish line, where we can say that we have done our best, but becomes the starting point. The law only requires us to go with our neighbor the mile of his journey that he asks, but Christ challenges us to go with him until he is altogether finished with the trip. The law allows us recompense if our brother strikes us, but Christ challenges us to end the cycle on our own by turning the other cheek for him. We were not told merely to dot all the i's and cross all the t's, but to "Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt. 5:48)

Let's raise the bar a little bit, then, shall we?

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"I say that a man must be certain of his morality for the simple reason that he has to suffer for it."
-G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Judge John Roberts

This is one of the few times I will blog what others are blogging about, and-to-boot, this is mainly going to be excerpts and links for ya'll to follow. They are linked, for the most part, to the individual entries/articles which refer to him.

"Thankfully, President Bush has selected Judge John Roberts, a highly qualified nominee, to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Judge Roberts understands the difference between applying laws and rewriting them. He understands that he cannot rewrite the Constitution to fit his own personal political opinions, but that instead he must faithfully adhere to it."
-Fr. Pavone, Priests for Life

"The fact that his wife Jane also served as President of Feminists for Life is also a good sign."
-The Curt Jester

"President Bush's nomination of Judge John Roberts gets a nod of approval from various figures which may give an indication of where he stands on the life issues:"
- Catholics in the Public Square (there are many posts about him, so scroll through the blog).

"Okay, one Roberts SCOTUS thread coming up!"
-Jimmy Akin (I'll add his other post on him after he posts it-I'm very much looking foreward to his opinion regarding Judge Roberts.)

Wikipedia's Biography.

Last, but not least, CNN and BBC, if you want to see what the mainstream news is saying.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Catholicism and Fundamentalism"


I've been quite busy this summer, as far as reading books are concerned. Finished 1 (well, sort of), read 5 more, and working on 2 1/2 others right now (3 1/2, actually, now that I have a copy of Utopia). One of the books I finished was Catholicism and Fundamentalism, by Karl Keating, the founder of Catholic Answers. As a matter of fact, this was actually his first book. Having read through it all, I have to say that my very favorite part was the name of the bishop who issued the imprimatur.

Answer: Most Rev. Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles (not yet the Cardinal we know him as now)

To quote that most august philosopher Larry the Cable Guy: "I don't care who y'are, at's funny right thar!"

As it happens with most books I read voluntarily, I found it to be quite good. The reason for this is simple: I've got a lot of books that I want to read, most of them by very good authors. If you want to bust into a list that includes Aristotle, Aquinas, Shakespeare, and God, you've got to have something special going for you. Sadly, while I've been meaning to get at The DaVinci Code, it's just going to have to wait a while, although I have read a few bits and pieces, and currently hope that the experience will be time out of purgatory for me.
The book is clearly designed for easy absorption so that one can finally have quick and clear rejoinders and answers for anyone in, for example, a dinner party conversation and gets asked about certain aspects of the Church, her doctrines, and almost as importantly, her history.

Many areas are handled excellently by Mr. Keating that with a less delicate treatement could have gone sour. The Church's record with respects to things such as the Inquisitions are particularly noteworthy for this. There's two extremes that he could have taken on this:

1) "The inquisition? That's a bunch of anti-Catholic hogwash cooked up by paranoid delusionals such as Jack Chick!"
2) "Yes, the inquisition happened, it was terrible, and the people who did it were thrououghly evil. We were an evil and corrupt Church back then, but we've changed now, and are far more enlightened and tolerant, in the Spirit of Vatican II."

He skates the mean of these two extremes with a skill that would make the master of the Golden Mean, Aristotle himself, rather impressed. He acknowledges the inquisition, though he also puts to rest beliefs that millions were killed in a bloody rampage. He makes clear that yes, this is the same unchanging Catholic Church that exists today, but that the events were due to a selective disobediance, not a proper adherance, to the Church's teachings (believe it or not, you just might be able to legitimately call Torquemada a sort of "cafeteria Catholic" in his own time, throwing out Church teachings for what the fashion of the day happened to be). Definitely did it with a tact that I lacked, that's for dang sure.

Overall, a great intro to apologetics, and while I wouldn't necessarily use this for catechisis (believeing as I do that apologetics and theology, while intimately related and drawing from each other in many respects, are two distinct pursuits) it does give a good explanation of many of the Church's more difficult to understand teachings, including the "Mother Of All Doctrines", real presence and transubstantiation.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"It is a great thing to know our vices."

Monday, July 18, 2005

Strange Dreams

What a strange dream, especially for me.

I was at a huge writing desk, the kind I've always wanted. It is essentially a slab of a hardwood on 4 pegs, no fancy stuff, no drawers, nothing. I'm writing on plain paper, translating Latin to English. The room has a mahogany, candlelit feel to it, although all the light comes from a window to the right. The piece I am translating is a letter- the weird thing is, I remember distinctly it was either Cicero or Augustine. I'm assuming it was Cicero since I have never even seen any writings from Augustine in Latin that I can think of. Then again, this was a dream, so who knows. Anyway, I was translating this, and the Latin was clear as day, I could read it as easily as you could read this (trust me...I can't read Latin fluently...yet). As I read it in Latin, I wrote it in English. There was a person standing behind me, however, and no matter how simply and clearly I wrote, or explained it as I wrote, they simply did not get it. I really wish I remember what it was- I remember a paragraph distinctly, and repeating it over and over again to this person, but not I cannot remember what it was!

Ah, well, I rarely remember dreams, so this was interesting to me!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Pope Photos!

They are located HERE!

This is the Holy Father with the late Bishop Luigi Locati, who was killed in town of Isiolo, Kenya Friday. He was shot by three gunmen; they don't know who or why or anything yet, and are still investigating.

Anyway, I so love pictures! Be sure to go check all of them out; there are many, many, of them from all sorts of different situations! Over 200 photos!

This one is my absolute favorite:

Now I've gone and done it...

Well I've gone and done it. I read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

My sister attended a party-thing when she got the book, read it with her friends that night (fri-sat am), and I grabbed it about 7pm on Sat night and finished it at 12:40. I wish I could do that with Aquinas! There should not be any spoilers below. I know most people haven't read it yet, so I kept it very bland as to what is revealed.

My initial reaction to the book was disappointment. This one simply came nowhere near to my expectations. J.K.'s writing style has changed a bit, as has the whole perspective of the series. This book sets up everything that is to follow, and that, I think, is why I was disappointed. I also did not like seeing two typos on the first page! Geesh. Although I will blame the editor for those, and not the author. Anyhow, a book like this was due to come out at some point, and this one does wrap up many, many lose ends, opens quite a few more, and leaves off ready to plunge into the second half of the adventure (and once you read it you'll know what that sentence means ).

The twists this time around were, in all honesty, predictable. The Half-Blood Prince was who I thought it'd be, as the character killed off- and those were supposed to be the big twists of this book. I was quite upset that the wedding was left out of the book!

What I immensely enjoyed in this one- the part I was not disappointed in- was the further revelation Lord Voldemort's history and development. There is now further insight into who he is and how he came to be that way. I love reading motives into actions (you can predict more of what is to happen) and now we know quite a bit more about him.

Remember all the stir when it was said the 5th book was so much darker than the rest? This one isn't. It is a bit dark- it has to be, look at the overallplot of the series- but overall takes a much lighter tone than book #5, even with character X dying.

I'm very much looking forward to Cnytr's take on it; she always has a neat perspective.

So, all in all, it is a necessary and needed book, it will span the transition nicely, and I'll leave you with this quote:

"Meanwhile the Hogwart Library had failed Hermione for the first time... "I haven't found a single explanation of what [they] do! Not a single one! I've been through the restricted section and even in the most horrible books, where they tell you how to brew the most gruesome potions- nothing!"

"This Is Our Faith"

One of the things that I needed to do in order to be ready for the novitiate was to read a book, This Is Our Faith, by Michael Pennock. They asked us to read this to ensure that we were all on the same page with theology and Church teachings.

I have had the opportunity to read some books by Pennock before. As a matter of fact, we used a few as textbooks in my theology I-III classes (no books used in IV, it was more debate and discussion oriented) in high school. Overall, he's a pretty decent author. He knows well how to keep things simple, and explain them in a very straightforward manner.

Unlike the others I have read, where his goal was to educate junior high and high school students, in this his target audience is an RCIA class. Here, far more so than the high school books, he clings very closely to the CCC, constantly quoting and cross-referencing so that by the end, any adult with even close to no knowledge about the faith should come out of it with a pretty good understanding of what we believe and the solid basics of why.

Quoting not only the Catechism, but also from Scripture, various theologians from the time of the Fathers onward, and several other sources, this is not only a useful introduction to the faith. Quite frequently, people become so knowledgeable in theology and philosophy that they have problems explaining things without jargon or technical terminology. If you or someone you know has this problem, this book might be a good way to cure that.

Good as it is, it isn't without its problems. Probably my biggest pet peeve is how Mr. Pennock seems to refuse to capitalize the word "Church", even when saying "the Church" or "the Catholic Church". Also, I felt that the chapter explaining the Trinity might have been lacking in substance, but that could be due just as much to the fact that I'm working on Aquinas' "Treatise on the Trinity" in the Summa as anything. Plus, there were a few times when discussing the Church, its infallability, etc. when I thought he didn't really answer the questions in a straightforward way, but kind of "puttered around" the issues, if you will.

All in all, a pretty decent read, and definitely worth taking a look at if you have the time.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloraim+

"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job."
-Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Friday, July 15, 2005

St. Bonaventure


Today is the feast day of St. Bonaventure, bishop, scholar, and close friend to Thomas Aquinas. By way of trivia, the main cemetary in Savannah, Georgia, where I'll be for the next few days, is also named after him.

St. Bonaventure was born about the year 1218 at Banorea in Tuscany. He sutdied philosophy and theology at Paris and, having earned the title Master, he taught his fellow members of hte Order of Friars Minor with great success. He was elected Minister General of the Order, a position he filled with prudence and wisdom. After being made Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, he died at the Council of Lyons in 1274. His writings did much to illuminate the study of both theology and philosophy.

What I find intriguing about this is that his colleague and friend from his time at the University of Paris (who else but Aquinas?) died en route to this exact same council.

Sadly, one of the more interesting stories, about his involvement when the papacy was left vacant for almost three years between Clement IV and Bl. Gregory X, was omitted. As I recall, he gave new meaning to the term "raise the roof"...

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"Justice requires that to lawfully constituted Authority there be given that respect and obedience which is its due; that the laws which are made shall be in wise conformity with the common good; and that, as a matter of conscience all men shall render obedience to these laws."
-Pope Pius XI

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Historical Relativism


Of all the particular variations of relativism, I think my favorite might just be the historical version. A darling of progressive personages, this sentiment is commonly expressed in the form of "The Church must change to adapt to the needs of the 21st century", or when Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB said while covering the papal elections that "the very concept of sin is changing." [source] A major part of it is the belief that as man progresses and becomes more enlightened, our morality improves.

First to Sr. Chittister's definition of sin, then to the larger claim that our morality can progress. The basic definition of sin would be "a willful rejection of God's love". How this concept has changed at all since the beginning of time, I'm not quite sure.

The arguments against historical relativism are fairly simple: one, that the justifications for various actions have not changed significantly over the course of human history, and two, that the actions themselves have not changed significanlty over the course of human history. Same old sins, same old stories, basically. As Ecclesiates 1 says "What is it that hath been? The same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? The same that shall be done. Nothing under the sun is new." (9-10)

The part about the excuses I can attest to personally. I recall one occasion where a friend of mine was presenting an argument that she felt was a surefire lock for justifying homosexual behavior. She has put a lot of thought into it, and was convinced that she has a completely new approach to the matter. Interestingly enough, in trying to find a unique defense, she had inadvertently delivered an unusually similar argument as the Manicheean heresy back in the fourth century, namely, that sexual activities which could not result in procreation were to be preferred, since child birth was to be avoided. The key difference was the motive behind avoiding childbirth: one was concerned about overpopulation and doing everything possible to "reduce the problem", while Manicheeism held material existance to be evil, and that everything possible should be done to keep new material beings from existing.

In his book Just and Unjust Wars (which I would enthusiastically recommend to all people, regardless of interest in a military career), Michael Walzer, since he is of course primarily concerned with the military applications of ethics, wrote of common excuses given by soldiers charged with war crimes, obediance to orders from a superior and that they were caught up in the heat of the moment.

In Henry V, there is a scene where King Henry goes incognito with a cloak at night so that he is able to wander about the camp for a bit. Along the way, he meets three soldiers, and when they discuss whether the cause of the war is just, one of the soldiers says that they don't need to worry about it, "For we know enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us."(IV:i:182-185) Compare that to the defense at Nuremburg, where the claim was that they were only obeying orders when they did what they did. 400 years have passed, but nothing seems to have changed. 300 years before Shakespeare, Aquinas also deals with the issue in II-II of his Summa, and from the sources that he cites, it is clear that even then he was not the first person to deal with this excuse.

If the excuses for a given action are the same over time, then that would tend to indicate that the action being excused are also pretty much the same. That and the fact that we haven't exactly had a great many new or improved thoughts in at least 2,000 years (and there's some who'd say that is a generous estimate). Were we to have some new moral code that is so dang superior to the old one, you'd almost expect us to behave differently than we have in years past, but we really don't.

If you read Augustine's Confessions, you see him pretty much run the gamut of sins, either from personal experience or refutation. Perhaps one of my favorite parts( though this isn't a sin per se) is towards the end of book X, when he describes a tendancy of ours which is essentially what we refer to as "rubbernecking". I laughed quite a bit when I read that, I must say. In addition, if you read Book I the Greater of Aristotle's Metaphysics, he goes over positions and opinions held by previous philosophers, you can definitely see the philosophies and opinions held by later philosophers. By the end of it all, you can find refutations for Hume, Kant, Descartes, and almost every major modern philosopher, and all this in the 4th century B.C.

This would be why I look with a cocked eyebrow whenever someone says that so-and-so has a brand-new idea that has revolutionized philosophy.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+
"The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race."
-Don Marquis

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bishop DeLaney

My bishop died in his sleep this morning :(. It wasn't totally unexpected, as he had pancreatic cancer, but it's still a shock. His successor, Msgr. Vann, was supposed to be ordained [edit: ack, I didn't mean ordained, can't think of the word, you know what I mean:)] tomorrow morning. Bishop DeLaney was the one who confirmed me, and I grew up in his diocese. I wish I had a picture of him, but none of mine are online; here is a pretty good one from the diocese website. I ask that you all will please pray for him.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Anglican News

"LONDON (Reuters) - The Church of England voted on Monday to move toward ordaining women bishops, a step which could provoke an exodus of conservative clergy and deepen the widening splits within the worldwide Anglican Communion. A synod meeting in the city of York voted to "remove legal obstacles" in Church law to women bishops, a process Church officials say could take about four years to complete. All three houses of the synod -- the church's parliament -- voted in favor. The most senior house, the House of Bishops, voted 41 for and only six against."

This would be big news. Not necessarily suprising news, but big news nonetheless. More and more Anglicans have been jumping ship, and it is thought over 800 priests will leave if women bishops are 'ordained.' Speculation seems to be in the direction that many of these priests, and hopefully their parishes, would join us. Time will tell how many stand up to their declarations to leave if this was to happen. We have the Anglo-Rite, let's put it to use!

I don't understand why one would stay for the 'ordination' of women to the priesthood, yet balk at their, to use a me-an-David term, bishophication. I could use long fancy correct terminology, but c'mon, that's a great word! Anyway, I don't understand that point; if women are being 'ordained' into the priesthood, would not one assume they would become bishops as well?

Vacation in the Moutains!

"Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI on Monday headed for the Italian Alps, where he was expected to enjoy a nearly three-week holiday reading, writing and taking leisurely walks in the woods...According to Rome-based daily Il Messaggero, the recently-elected pontiff would be taking advantage of the quieteness of the mountains to start work on his first encyclical."

Vacation in the mountains, that sounds lovely. I'm sure it's starting to get verrrrry warm in Rome this time of year, but at least they have air-conditioning now. Why o why do I have "How do you solve a problem like Maria," running through my head as I read this? Anyway. I can't wait to read the encyclical if he does decide to begin work on it!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Compendium Images

"ROMA, July 5, 2005 – There is an unexpected novelty in the new "Compendium" of the catechism of the Catholic Church presented by Benedict XVI on June 28. It features prominently, in full color, fourteen sacred images. As the pope has explained, the images are not there purely for the sake of illustration. They are an integral part of the new catechism. They are to be reproduced in all the translations of the "Compendium." And each time they are to be placed in the same position with respect to the text. Each of the images is accompanied by a detailed commentary, with extensive citations from the Bible and the Fathers of the Church."

I found this intersting. I can't stand the illistrations in my breviary- red white a black, and to me they look like a poor linocut.

Within the Compendium are fourteen colored sacred images, and are to be "reproduced in all the translations." Pictures really do say more than a page of black and white. "A picture is worth 1000 words," and even moreso for the person who cannot read- or at least does not enjoy doing so.

It is one thing to read about how the mass should be celebrated, or the laity should act, etc, etc, but to have pictures which show the reverence and awe accorded to God; these help to make what is written, or what is read much more real; especially if you do not have a reverent atmosphere at your parish.

I haven't seen much religious artwork produced during my lifetime. I know of only one artist whom I like, and only her Mary paintings. I would like to see some religious artwork done in a contemproary design; what happened to our history? There are the great murals and icons of the catacomes, the High Middle Age, the Rennissance, Baroque period..and then it just ends. I see barren Churches, churches I would think to be protestant were it not for the crucifix and tabernacle- and even these they must put into law so that all churches will have them! Those that are on the barren side (meaning crucifix, no tabernacle, or only those two) often have these felt..things... hanging beside them. Why? Go to an eastern church, in communion or not, and look at all the beautiful iconography. Sometimes the mind does wander during mass, and what better to bring you back and keep your focus on Christ, then these stunning depictions of his life? I've been to two churches which were obviously Catholic once you were inside. One was very cluttered, and one very elegant. They were both full of icons, paintings, statues, and just everything! Both churches, the one that had some arrangement to its collection, and the one without, brought about a vivid sense of the reverence the artist had for the focus of his work. You knew what that church was for; it was for worship of God. It wasn't for Lifeteen parties (don't ask), it wasn't for shouting to your friends across the nave, and it wasn't for running about like a chicken that lost its head. Even the young children behaved quite well- they were not bored during mass as children often seem to be- they only had but to look at the walls or the ceiling to be brought back to Christ and to the mass. I love artwork, and especially good artwork.

And that is what the required 14 images made me think of. Even though some things may sound boring and legalistic in writing, merely looking at these images gives one thoughts and ideas to meditate on, more to think about and learn.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Info on Eucharist Synod!

Usually I wouldn't copy something this long, but it's from a secular source and, well, read it!

"VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican singled out divorcees who remarry and Catholic politicians who support abortion on Thursday in criticizing the faithful who continue to receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin.

The lament came in a new document on the Eucharist that details abuses of the sacrament and the need for better instruction to ensure it remains sacred. The 85-page text is the working draft of a final document that will be developed during the global synod, or meeting, of bishops Oct. 2-23 in Rome.

The paper covers a range of issues related to the Eucharist: It suggests, for example, that Latin be used during international liturgical gatherings so all priests involved can understand the proceedings, and it suggests that parishes consider using more Gregorian chants to prevent more "profane" types of music from being played.

It calls for priests not to be "showmen" who draw attention to themselves and says lay people can have an important but "minimal" presence in Masses. It says the tabernacle -- which holds the bread and wine held by Catholics to be the body and blood of Christ -- should have a prominent place in the church and not be shunted off to a corner.

Most significantly, though, the document laments the fact that fewer and fewer Catholics are going to Mass on Sundays -- in some countries, only 5 percent of the faithful attend -- and that fewer Catholics are going to confession.

As a result, many Catholics are living in a state of mortal sin when they receive Communion, it said. The Church defines sin as a free and deliberate violation of God's law; a mortal sin is one that involves a "grave violation of God's law" and "deliberate consent." Catholics can repent their sins by confessing them to a priest.

"The faithful frequently receive Holy Communion without even thinking that they might be in a state of mortal sin," the document said. "As a result, the receiving of Holy Communion by those who are divorced and civilly remarried is a common occurrence in various countries."

It noted that confession isn't always available to the faithful because of the acute shortage of priests in parts of the globe, but said the sacrament nevertheless was necessary. It cited statistics showing there was one priest for every 1,797 Catholics in 1978 compared to one priest for every 2,677 Catholics in 2003.

The document, "The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the church," was written starting in 2004 based on responses received by bishops from around the world reporting on their own experiences. It stresses that it is not a theological treatise on the Eucharist and in fact it restates church teaching on most key issues.

In one section, for example, the document criticized the faithful who support Catholic politicians who themselves back abortion and other policies contrary to church teaching.

"Some receive Communion while denying the teachings of the church or publicly supporting immoral choices in life, such as abortion, without thinking that they are committing an act of grave personal dishonesty and causing scandal," it said.

"Some Catholics do not understand why it might be a sin to support a political candidate who is openly in favor of abortion or other serious acts against life, justice and peace."

I love it!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Rock the Vote!


Nod to Jimmy Akin's (typically) excellent blog for making me aware of this: the BBC is taking a poll currently to see who the greatest philosopher ever is. My vote: St. Thomas Aquinas (naturally). Now all of you go out there and vote! While they don't post current results, one person on Akin's combox says that Marx is currently in the lead. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but either way, flood the ballots in favor of the Church's greatest philosopher/theologian.
UPDATE: I've just found out that voting ends at midnight tonight, so there's no time like the present.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"I believe that scientists looking at nonscientific problems are just as dumb as the next guy."
-Richard Feynman

Relativism: Round Two!


Down in the combox, the friend's rejoinder:

he argues that there is a difference between truth and absolute, the difference being that anything absolute must withstand the test of time whereas truth does not have to do that. he says there are no tangible absolute truths, because we have no way of knowing that these tangibles will exist tomorrow... i don't know what to say to that.

I put the response up here so that it didn't get lost in the shuffle.

The more I read, the more I am sure he's just inadvertently fudging definitions of words. Something is called eternal, not absolute, when it lasts forever (more specifically, has no beginning or end.) Something that withstands the test of time, incidentally, is called a classic, although I have never yet heard the phrase "classic truth". Who knows, perhaps someone will surprise me. I rather doubt it, though.

An absolute truth is one that does not vary from person to person. If 'a' is true for Pat, then it is also true for Jen, Will, and Meg as well. That is what is meant when a truth is said to be absolute. While it is true that we have no way of knowing when the world or things in it will end, as Christ reminds us when He says"Watch ye therefore, because ye know not what hour your Lord will come." (Mt. 24:42) we do know how things are, which is what matters, not how things will be or might be.

I got the feeling that your debate was at least sparked by, if it doesn't center around, morality, so now to that.

There's a few things to remember about the laws that we are morally bound to obey. The first thing is that there are three basic varieies: natural law, Divine law, and human law.

Natural law refers to the moral laws that God has written on our hearts. As the name would tend to suggest, it is a part of our very nature, and so long as our nature does not change (ie, so long as we are humans) there is no reason (that I can think of, anyway) that this would change either.

Divine law refers to moral precepts and commands that God has given to us outside of the natural law, primarily through Divine revelation. Since the time of public revelation has ended, this too should be free from change, at least until the Second Coming. Minor clarifications are made, of course, as the ramifications and consequences of what has been revealed to us becomes clearer, but as your friend does not seem to be Catholic, and hence would probably not understand too well the concept of "development of doctrine", I wouldn't go into that. If your friend challenges you on this and you do have to give an explanation, I would keep it very basic and along the lines of "what was revealed to us in the time of Christ did not change, but our understanding of it simply became clearer".

Human law would refer to disciplinary laws made by governments or the Church of that are apart from both natural and Divine law. These laws may change at the discretion of the authorities, so long as they do not conflict with the other two. A classic example of a Church law that could change would be priestly celibacy. I am personally all for it, but at the same time recognize the right of the Church to change this. (Another example, just for all the SSPX-ers and those of that ilk who might happen to be reading this, would be the language that the Mass is celebrated in.) Typically referred to as civil law, I felt this designation to be a more accurate one.

Following this, morality can be considered absolute because:
  1. Human nature is the same in all persons (as evidenced by the fact that they are all called "human") and so the laws within that nature will be the same for all people without exception, and can thus be said to be absolute.
  2. Divine revelation was for the sake of all people, as opposed to a particular group, and so will apply in the same way for all people without exception, and can thus be said to be absolute.
  3. While it is true that the specific precepts of human law can and do change, the basic priciple itself, that of respect for the law, which can be inferred both from natural and Divine law, does remain the same, and so applies to all people without exception, and can thus be said to be absolute. (for more on obedience to civil law, here is a previous post on the subject)

I must admit that I'm becoming curious as to how the outcome of this will turn out. Do let me know.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person."
-Socrates (as quoted by Plato), The Death of Socrates

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

JPII Poster

I looked all around this website, and as far as affiliation with the Church or Catholic organizations, it seems to be supported by the Diocese of Cologne, the WYD people, and these guys, which seem to be a website for (a? the?) cathedrals of Cologne. So there's the disclaimer!

"Late Pope John Paul II is the grand-father of the World Youth Day (WJT). It was him, who – in 1984 - initiated the first world meeting of young people in Rome. His idea: Every two years, the Pope invites young people from all over the world to come to one town to experience Christ and his living church.

We want to say thank you to the inventor of the World Youth Day: By means of the biggest mosaic portrait the world has ever seen. To accomplish this, we need your photograph. From thousands of portrait photographs, your portraits, we will build an image of late Pope JP II."

Go take a look! This should be an English link (the site is in frames). If it is not English, click the british flag on the top right-hand side! I'll edit this tonight so I can put the picture in of the poster :).


Israel Issues New Pope John Paul II Postage Stamp

"Pope Benedict XVI was presented with two special edition stamps by Israeli and German officials on Wednesday marking the visit of the late John Paul II to the Holy Land and the church's upcoming World Youth Day in Cologne.

The Israeli stamp depicts John Paul's stop at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, where he left a letter asking forgiveness for acts committed against Jews by Christians throughout history.

The German stamp celebrates August's World Youth Day, for which Benedict will travel to Cologne on Aug. 18-21 - a trip originally planned by the late John Paul. The German-born pope is due to visit the Cologne synagogue during the trip and say prayers in Hebrew."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

What Heresy would you subscribe to...

Which heresy would you subscribe to?

Apparently mine would be Pelagianism. No original sin (whoop!), but no grace either!

What heresy would you be?

Now, in all seriousness, "O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorum." That is my favorite phrase on earth :0).

Monday, July 04, 2005


Happy 4th of July!!!! BBQ, Crawfish, fireworks and fishing! Hooray!

Y'all might enjoy this song as well:

Happy Independence Day!


Well, it being the 4th of July, I could think of no better thing to put up than a patriotic hymn. Arguably the most recognizable of all such hymns is America, the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates, so that's the one I went with. There's 8 verses, all told, but the first four are probably the better ones, so those are the ones I'll put up. For those of you who feel you've been cheated by this, here is a link for you.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self the country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Happy Fourth, everyone!

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloraim+

"This is the best form of polity: being partly kingdom, since there is one at the head of all; partly aristocracy, in so far as a number of persons are set in authority; partly democracy, i.e. government by the people, in so far as the rulers can be chosen from the people, and the people have the right to choose their rulers."
-St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II:cv:1

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Make Poverty History

VATICAN CITY, July 2 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict hailed Saturday's Make Poverty History rally in Scotland and urged world leaders to honour past commitments to help the world's poorest people."God intended the earth and all it contains for the use of everyone and of all peoples," the Pope said in a message sent to Scottish Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien."For this reason, people from the world's richest countries ... should urge their leaders to fulfil the pledges made to reduce world poverty, especially in Africa, by the year 2015," he added.Saturday's demonstration in Edinburgh was aimed at putting pressure on the leaders of wealthy nations to agree measures to tackle global poverty at a summit in Scotland next week.The Pope said he would pray for the leaders to play "their part in ensuring a more just distribution of the world's goods."

I like his prayer. We pay farmers NOT to grow food, burn the extra which was grown, and refuse to support any gm-style foods which may help the poor in the world, and then lament about the poor. America has poor people- and although the poor may always be with us, we could at least try to keep them from starving as well! Being poor not the problem- the problem is food distribution.

Say What?


As many of you know by know, fj and I are regular readers of the blog Cnytr. What you may not know, however, is how to pronounce it. That's ok, neither did I. Until now, that is. Ka-night-er. (not, ka-niggits, ka-night-er). I still don't know what it means, and according to The Old Oligarch,
the meaning of the name remains a closely-guarded secret.
Well, at least I won't mis-pronounce it anymore.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+
"I Love the 90's: where nostalgia and instant gratification come together."
-"Mallard Fillmore"

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Villiage Called...


Hat tip to Seeker for pointing out this delightful little survey by Corpus Christi church in sunny Pacific Palisades, California. And to make sure that no one feels left out or excluded, here's a short quiz for the children that they provided. My favorite question/answer set:
Q: Who was St. Francis of Assisi?
A: An animal lover

I suppose its just very bad timing that I'm working on Chesterton's bio of him right now. Perhaps if I weren't that question and its dreadfully oversimplified answer wouldn't annoy me quite so much. Ah well.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"I drink from the keg of glory, Donna. Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land!"
-'Josh Lyman' to 'Donna Moss', The West Wing



A reader writes (I'm a little excited, because this is the first time I've ever been able to type that on a post):

i was having a discussion with a friend on absolutism, which he claims does not exist... that nothing is absolute except for God because nothing else will be true and stand the test of time.
Those are always fun.

i was wondering if you could help me out here in explaining absolutism to my friend.
"Ask and ye shall recieve..."

God bless
And you as well.

p.s. love the blog
Well, thank you!

As it happens, I was thinking of doing something on relativism soon anyway, so now I've got a good excuse.

The next time that you talk to your friend, the first thing you may want to do is have a slight clarification of terms. From what you are saying, it doesn't sound like he's using the term "absolute" in the standard way. The way it looks like he is using it is to say that only God is unchangeable and eternal, which is quite correct. He may just be saying the right thing in the wrong way. The next thing is to clarify what he means to say that only God is true. You can say that only God is truth itself, not unlike when Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." (Jn. 14:7) Or when Aquinas said that "Truth Himself [ie, Jesus] speaks truly, else there's nothing true" in his great poem Adoro te Devote. What you can't say is that everything is false except for God. For one thing, if that statment were true, then it would demonstrate that there is at least one thing true outside of God.

Most good arguments against relativism, incidentally, take the form of pointing out contradictions of that nature: that it's wrong to "impose one's values on others", except of course, for the value of not imposing your values on others; that any statement of relativism is going to be an absolute statement; of subjectivism is going to be objective; or that the sentiment that "The only truth is that there is no truth" (according to our good friend Frederick Nietzche) practically disproves itself, if you think about the words for more than 30 seconds while engaging common sense.

Once y'all do that, then the real fun can begin! The core of absolutism is very simple: truth exists, and is not determined by our opinions, but by what is actually out there in the real world, facts that do not change from person to person, but remain the same for all people. So, obviously, an explanation of truth is going to be needed.

One thing you may wish to do is to clarify the distinction between truth and being, which appears to me to also be an issue with him. With a proper definition of truth in hand, and a way to defend the definition, the merit of absolutism should become fairly clear to anyone. The two things are very similar, but still distinct. Truth is dependant on reality, without being exactly the same thing. Aristotle had a wonderfully concise definition of truth in The Metaphysics: "A man speaks truth when he says that which is, is, and that which is not is not; and speaks false when he says that that which is not, is, and that which is, is not." (Ia:i)

As a side note, if you ever hear someone talking about the "correspondance theory of truth", that would be it: that a thing is true because what we have concieved in our intellects about it corresponds to how it is outside of our minds, in reality. You can also mention that truth isn't determined by what will be, but what is, so saying that absolutism is false because eventually things will no longer be as they are is not particularly valid. It is true to say that I am alive, despite the fact that 70 years from now I'll probably be feeding the worms with my fellow Jesuits at the cemetary in Grand Coteau, LA.

The common response to this given by the relativists (and their country cousin, the skeptic) is the question: "so how can we be sure that what we experience, what we sense and conceive in the intellect is actually outside of it? We never leave our minds, so how do we verify things as true?"

That our minds are able to accurately recieve information through the senses and intellect is what must be the first principle of philosophy. The interesting thing about first principles is that you can't prove them, but you can't deny them, either. If you try and prove them, it will be circular reasoning, if you deny them, you will end up with a gross contradiction. You can, of course, demonstrate the impossibility of denying them, however. If a person thinks that the mind is unreliable, they will come to an unusual problem: this unreliable mind has somehow managed to stumble upon what would be one of the greatest facts of all. G.K. Chesterton put it quite well in what might be the best introduction to Aquinas' philosophy yet written, St. Thomas Aquinas

[E]ven those who appreciate the metaphysical depth of Thomism in other matters have expressed surprise that he does not deal at all with what many now think the main metaphysical question; whether we can prove that the primary act of cognition of any reality is real. The answer is that St. Thomas recognised instantly, what so many modern sceptics have begun to suspect rather laboriously; that a man must either answer that question in the affirmative, or else never answer any question, never ask any question, never even exist intellectually, to answer or to ask. [...] If a man feels that all the movements of his own mind are meaningless, then his mind is meaningless, and he is meaningless; and it does not mean anything to attempt to discover his meaning.
If you will allow me to borrow some wit in the same vein as Chesterton, those who say that our minds cannot know what is really true do not know what they are talking about.

The best argument against this principle would have to be that there are people whose senses aren't quite working properly(such as those who are blind and deaf) or who may have a problem with reasoning, such as Downs' Syndrome. Simply because one person can hear something does not indicate that something can be heard. More still, just because a multitude can hear something is no more evidence, since you can decieve the many in a similar manner as the one. It could very well be that the deaf person is hearing what there is to hear-nothing-and that the rest of us are decieved.

The answer is that we determine things such as blindness to be defects not because they are possessed by the majority, but because the eye is designed to see. If it cannot see, then what it is designed for is being prevented, which would be what it means for a thing to be defective. Similarly with the ear and other such things.

So that should about do it for you, I hope. Let me know if there is anything else. In the mean time, I suspect that I will put up another post or two along the same topic over the course of the next several days.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"To err is human, to persist in erring is devillish."
-St. Augustine