Friday, January 17, 2003

For those who will not settle for anything less than a perfect Church
I would never think of leaving the Church because of the scandals that frequently occur in her midst. I've never much understood those who divide themselves from Mother Church because they want to form a more perfect one. The history of the Church is full of attempts to separate in order to live the Christian life more perfectly than those others. What these people find out is that they bring the very sinfulness that they are fleeing with them into their new situations.

One time my wife and I were considering joining a charismatic community. I remember at one prayer meeting one of the leaders went to the window of the room we were in and stuck out his tongue at the world. The implication was that we had somehow achieved moral perfection in that room because we had fully received the Holy Spirit and didn't want to be infected by the filth of the world. I made the decision right then and there not to join the group (also, because they seemed to neglect or marginalize the Church's social teachings). As the later unseemly history of another one of the group leaders showed, the filth of the world had not been exorcised from its members by the Holy Spirit.

Human beings are sinners before and after baptism. It couldn't please the devil more than to see divisions in the Church based on unreal expectations of each other. In the Screwtape letters Lewis talks about going to church with people who's sins we know. Screwtape tries to get Wormwood to get his subject to focus on the sins of the person in the pew next to him. Screwtape says something like, "Don't let him think about how much worse she would be if she WEREN'T a Christian."

The Church is a school of love. How can we learn to love unconditionally if everyone is perfect? Saint Therese of Lisieux (called "the Little Flower") lived in a community that has sometimes been labeled "dysfunctional," yet she used the imperfections of her community (not to mention her own) as a springboard for love and holiness.

One very important aspect of a loving community is unity. To divide because others aren't perfect is, I'd think, a grave sin. To stay is often painful, but to divide because of the sins of others accomplishes nothing but the splinterization of the Church.

Jacques Maritain wrote a book on the Church called On the Church of Christ in which he distinguishes between the person of the Church and its personnel. The person of the Church is Jesus Christ who is present in the Church and acts in the Church. Yet the personnel in the Church (and this notion can be extended to include all of us) do NOT in their every action manifest the acts of the PERSON of the Church. How do we distinguish? How do find the actions of Christ in the Church as opposed to the non-graced actions of the personnel?

In the end what do we come to Christianity for? To find s perfect society? To receive love? Or rather is it to receive the POWER to love, which we, and our fellow Christians, can learn to use (or not) after a long schooling full of failures? Love in Christianity is a potential that needs to be actualized. We all are given the grace to love, but we only imperfectly allow that grace to guide our activity.
More on warrior virtues
Kevin Miller says in a e-mail:

At the same time … I do think (I believe Aquinas thought) that there are even higher forms of courage, and I wonder whether that doesn’t need to be taken into account.

I will say that I don’t have a problem with people choosing as a matter of Christian witness not to bear arms.
I agree with both points and implied the latter in my original post. Kevin says he may on this later. I can only imagine that it will be a much more careful and complete presentation on the issue.

I hope to write a full-blown essay at some point including all these points and specifying relationship of manly virtues to the other virtues, especially the cardinal and theological ones. It may have to wait until next summer, however. Right now I'm tryin' to prepare three encyclopedia articles, coauthor an article on homosexual seminarians, read Luigi Giussani's The Risk of Education in preparation for a conference in April, teach two course, be a minor administrator at a seminary, homeschool two highschoolers and somehow demonstrate to my wife that I love her.

All together now: "Aawww!" (Are those violins I hear?)
Reading books
It has occurred to me that I don't read books much anymore since I'm out of grad school. Maybe I spend too much time on the internet, but I just don't seem to have the time to sit down and read a book. This idea came to me when I was thinking about what book I ought to talk about next in my Book of the Moment (TM). For people like me the best resource is here.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Weigel, just war, and manhood
I've always admired Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. Their apostolate to the poor puts to shame those of us who spend so little time in direct contact with and service to the poor. Their commitment to peace and their absolute rejection of war in the name of the Gospel has a certain plausibility to a child of the '60s. Those of us raised during the Vietnam war, especially those of us raised in a liberal diocese, such as Oklahoma City was in the 1960s under Bishop Victor Reed, have a tendency to pacificism. We have a visceral reaction to war and violence that leads us to a cold reaction to any warlike talk or activity on the part of the United States.

Yet, I believe that this squeamishness toward war is in many cases not the result of an internalization of the Gospel, so much as a failure of manliness. Reading George Weigel's "Moral Clarity in a Time of War" (as well as rereading LotR and parts of the Illiad with my kids) has led me to ask the question, "What ever happened to the manly virtues?" and "Did Christianity nullify them?" The idea of the warrior as a noble calling, and the exaltation of the concomitant virtues has been a dominant theme in almost every traditional culture until the modern era, whether it be the medieval knight, the Indian brave, or the Hindu warrior caste, the warrior held a high, if not the highest position in the tribe, city-state or nation.

The just war tradition, if Weigel is right that it is a tradition of statescraft, includes the idea that the role of a warrior is essential to a morally responsible society and that society ought to cultivate among its citizens the virtues necessary to be a good warrior.

Yet, that is not what those who more or less absolutely reject the possibility of war—whether in the name of Christ or not—are saying. In claiming that "The just war tradition 'begins' with a 'presumption against war' or a 'presumption against violence,'" they are denying the validity of the soldier's calling. If, as Weigel says, "rightly constituted public authority is under a direct moral obligation to defend the security of those for whom it has assumed responsibility," then it also has the duty to prepare to do so by cultivating a corps of men who have the physical and mental ability to do so—a warrior class, so to speak.

In traditional cultures, and in some contemporary cultures, such as Switzerland and Israel, this corps consisted of all able-bodied adult men (and in Israel women, too, but that is another question).

If Wiegel is right about the obligation of the state, then Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, et. al. are dangerously wrong. I do not see how pacifism of the Catholic Worker sort can ever be admitted side by side as a legitimate vision of political life. I cannot see how the rejection of the call to arms can be anything more than an evangelical counsel on the level of poverty, chastity, and obedience for consecrated religious. I can see that a certain minority of Christians will withdraw from conflict as a prophetic witness to the Kingdom, but in a world that has not yet seen the parousia, it would be wrong to simply reject out of hand any resort to arms as a part of the struggle for justice and, yes, peace (in the sense that Weigel uses the word).

A related question is, "Are only men eligible to be warriors, and are the concomitant virtues only manly?" I'd probably address that question later. I'll also explain why this makes me think that it was not a good idea to do away with altar rails!

And the winner is....
Terrence Berres of My Virtual Study who says, "Young People Speaking Their Minds." The song, of course, is Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," featuring Steven Stills. Thanks for being a faithful reader, Terrence! By the way, the name of the group came from a sign on the highway in Missouri that says "Springfield/Buffalo." I've passed that sign many a time on I-44.

Some of you are asking, "What happened to Classic Catholic!" See my next Book of the Moment (TM).
New Contest
I occasionally listen to late 60s rock on Moontaxi. One thing I've observed is just how unrelentingly pagan all those Jimi Hendrix songs and the like are. And I don't mean the rarified Socratic/Plotinic philosophical paganism. The music is very cthonic.

I'm listening to classical more now.

Anyway, the contest goes like this: I quote a line from a song from the 50s, 60s or 70s. The first person who e-mails me with the next line in the song gets a mention and a link in my blog.

Here's the first one: "Nobody's right if everybody's wrong."

Enter early and often!

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

And to illustrate my previous point...
There is this guy who sits behind me in Mass who doesn't like the words that are printed in the missal, so he says his own. No, I'm not talking about changes to so-called "inclusive" language, I'm talking about using some translation of a prayer that is more literal than the ICEL we are saddled with.

It sounds something like this: "May the Lord accept this holy sacrifice from your hands, to the praise and glory of his Holy Name, for our good, and for the good of His Holy, Catholic Church." And then there are those who say, "Lord, I am not worthy to take you under my roof; only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

You probably know by now I don't much like ICEL translations, but I don't think there is any more warrant for a worshipper to change the words we are given than there is for a priest to do so. I'm not arguing the merits of the ideosyncratic translations. Often they are in fact better than the one that ICEL has made. But, we have an office (munus) when we participate in the Mass, and that is to use the text we are given, not to use the text we wish we had been given.

And keep praying for a better translation. Or, where appropriate, a return to Latin.
Note to any priest of and in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Most. Rev. Rembert Weakland, O.S.B., is not our bishop. So, when you get to that part in the Eucharistic Prayer that say that we pray for "N our bishop," don't say "Timothy, Richard and Rembert our bishops." Timothy Dolan is our archbishop. Richard Sklba is his auxiliary, but Rembert is not our bishop. We certainly ought to continue to pray for him both as our former archbishop and as a fellow member of our diocesan family, but we don't have to alter the liturgy in order to do it. When you do stuff like that you come off sounding so darned political! What about mentioning him in the general intercessions? Or offering the Mass for him?

Oh, and for those of you who are thinking, "Oh, he just says that because he didn't like Archbishop Weakland," you don't know me very well. I'd say it if our archbishop had been Karol Wojtyla. To me the words of the Mass have a particular meaning and the priest shouldn't monkey around with it, no matter whether his modification promotes some genuine good or not (e.g.: It is good to pray for your former archbishop).
Changes in the plot of the Lord of the Rings in the movies
Our friend Karl at Summa Contra Mundum (say, are you looking for philosopher? You should hire him!) says: "Further, the changes do nothing to effect the general theme and direction of the work."

I answer: There are two types of criticisms of the movie: the nitpicky ones that say, "But in the book Frodo picked up the ring first, then said, "You mean this?" Jackson has him SAYING "YOU MEAN THIS" FIRST! AAAAAGH!" I agree with Karl. That kind of criticism doesn't understand what moviemaking is all about.

On the other hand, there is a legitimate question as to whether "the changes do nothing to effect the general theme and direction of the work." I tend to think some of Jackson's changes did do that, especially those dealing with Arwen, Aragorn and Galadriel. (Note: I haven't seen the Two Towers, so I can't comment on those changes, but if what my daughter said about Faramir is true, then I'd say Jackson or the screenwriters really don't get it.) I believe that the specific values that Tolkien wanted to highlight in the books are in some cases at least muted, if not downright altered in the movie. I think, for instance, there needs to be characters like the Faramir of the book. He says something about devotion, humility, and wisdom that a Faramir that wants to use the ring wouldn't say.

I guess I'll have to shut up until I see the movie. If I do. Which I might not. Because I'd rather spend my time reading the book.

Monday, January 13, 2003

E. F. Schumacher on justice and mercy
In the life of societies there is the need for both justice and mercy. "Justice without mercy," said Thomas Aquinas, "is cruelty; mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution"--a very clear identification of a divergent problem. Justice is a denial of mercy, and mercy is a denial of justice. Only a higher force can reconcile these opposites: wisdom. The problem cannot be solved, but wisdom can transcend it. Similarly, societies need stability and change, tradition and innovation, public interest and private interest, planning and laissez-faire, order and freedom, growth and decay. Everywhere society's health depends on the simultaneous pursuit of mutually opposed activities or aims. The adoption of a final solution means a kind of death sentence for man's humanity and spells either cruelty or dissolution, generally both.--A Guide for the Perplexed, p. 127.
I don't know that I agree that his dichotomies are actually opposites, but I do agree that they need to be reconciled, and that wisdom is the answer. I especially agree with his last sentence. I think de Lubac, Vatican II and John Paul II have made a similar point
Men are pigs?
Karl, you should read this fairy tale. It is beautiful and gives a slightly different version of things than the one you report. In short, a man cannot simply rely on the woman to live a pure life, even if in some cases it happens that way for the good of the man. Really, it is a great book that every boy and girl ought to read, if not own.
Priests in the rectory
In the Milwaukee archdiocese it is the norm for the priest NOT to live in the rectory or even in the bounderies of the parish. I don't get this. What good father lives away from his family?
Gloria Patri in the Liturgy
Use of the Gloria Patri in the Latin Mass has always been muted. Now, it is not used at all, which I think is a impoverishment. The Roman liturgy already has fewer and less explicit mentions of the Trinity (usually just a coordinating formula) than in the Byzantine, where one really KNOWS he's worshiping the Triune God. I also think we should use the entrance, offeratory and communion antiphons and psalms rather than (or at least as well as) using hymns.