Friday, September 13, 2002

Canon Law
There is a headline guaranteed to excite people! Actually, I have always found canon law to be fascinating, even exciting. I have never found it to be dry and remote, but quite pastoral. Everything in it seems to be geared toward creating a community that most clearly gives witness to the Good News about Jesus. Canon lawyers are SO sensible and not subject to hyperbole or being derailled by some strange extreme position.

Exhibit A would be Fr. Paul Hartmann, a canon lawyer of my acquaintance here in Milwaukee who was the administrator of our parish, St. Anthony's, while we waited for a new pastor and who teaches canon law here at Sacred Heart School of Theology.

Exhibit B would be the incomparible Peter Vere, who gives us this wonderful reflection on Canon 212.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

The most important institution in society is a) the individual, b) the family, c) the state, d) the corporation.
Mark Shea is at it again! He's saying what I think, but 1000 times better.

I'm not an apologist for multinational corps. I think they do often treat people wretchedly (Nestle's among them). As a Catholic, the center of my social theory is the family, not the individual (the fetish of libertarians), the state (the fetish of leftists) or the corporation (the fetish of the leaders of the Stupid aka Republican party)....Insofar as something is good for the family, it's good. Insofar as it harms the family, it's evil.

He should be a writer. No, wait, he IS a writer!

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Percy and sola scriptura
Walker Percy, in The Message in the Bottle, gives what seems to me to be the best argument against sola scriptura that I've ever heard. First, he distinguishes between two types of statements, knowledge and news.

Knowledge is information that can be verified by the reader sub species aeternitatis, It that can be arrived at by anyone, anywhere, any time. For example, "lead melts at 330 degrees." Or "Man is a rational animal."

News is “A synthetic sentence expressing a contingent and nonrecurring event or state of affairs which event or state of affairs is peculiarly relevant to the concrete predicament of the hearer of the news.” For example, “There is a war party coming from a neighboring island.”

Next, Percy points out that the canon for acceptance of news are a) the relevance of the information for the predicament of the hearer and b) the credentials (trustworthiness) of the newsbearer. Then he states that:

The message in the bottle, then, is not sufficient credential in itself as a piece of news. It is sufficient credential in itself as a piece of knowledge, for the scientist has only to test it and does not care who wrote it or whether the writer was sober or in good faith. But a piece of news requires that there be a newsbearer. The sentence written on a piece of paper in the bottle is sufficient if it is a piece of knowledge, but it is hardly sufficient if it is a piece of news.

Clearly, if what the Bible presents us is good news, it not only has to be relevant to our predicament, but it has to be given to us by trustworthy newsbearers. And one cannot determine their trustworthiness from the text of the Bible itself! How do we know that the Apostles are trustworthy? Their trustworthiness is attested to by.......?

Note: In At the Origin of the Christian Claim, Luigi Giussani makes the point the the Apostles are more trustworthy, not less, because they knew Jesus personally.
One would hope that a theologian would have something theological to say about the one year anniversary of the terrorist attack (not "tragedy") on the United States. Well, I don't. The only thing I can think of is, as James Schall says, "We refuse to inquire whether there is anything about Islam itself that might be the origin of the problem." More specifically, does Islam (as Christianity does) have any resources in itself that can be used to authoritatively renounce terrorism? Quoting passages in the Qu'ran about civilians doesn't seem to help. The terrorists considered their victims to be "combatants" in the American economic and cultural war against Islam. Still, as Schall also points out,

Is there hope in dialogue? In "peaceful" means? This is the official line of the Church, even when Christians are under direct attack in Muslim countries. If there is any Islamic state that deserves to be attacked on humanitarian grounds, it is the Sudan. But we prefer martyrs to war.

A preference for martyrdom is not in itself lack of courage. In fact, it is quite courageous. But, a preference for martyrdom should not be a smokescreen for lack of resolve. Sometimes we are obliged for the sake of justice to engage in war. Do we have the courage to engage in a just war (assuming it can be sufficiently demonstrated to be just)? And to engage in it with the focus and energy necessary to win? Are we willing to make the sacrifice necessary (in lives, even) to secure a firmer peace for the whole world? If not, perhaps Schall is right that the soul of the west is sick. "The final lesson is that most democracies fail not because of some outside enemy, but because of something enervating in their own souls." By turning away from traditional values and virtues we have weakened our souls so that we sometimes can't even recognize, much less fight our real enemies.

Requiescat in pacem!

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

St. Paul on the ball
Boy, if today's first reading from 1 Cor. didn't give the Church in America a lot to chew on. Everything from "Christians don't file lawsuits against one another" to "sodomites don't enter the Kingdom." Where does one begin?
For those of you who despair of the future of the Jesuits, lets not forget that they have gems such as James Schall, Robert Spitzer, Joseph Koterski, Raymond Gawronski, William S. Kurz, and Michael W. Maher (no link available). Especially read the essay by Schall, pointed to by The Lady of Shalott which makes a non-Great Bookie case for reading classic literature.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Pet liturgical peeve #2489432
Buzzing flourescent lights in a church or chapel. Or those other kind of blueish lights like that have in the chapel here. I hate going into a chapel for silent mediation only to be faced with the nerve-racking flicker of flourescent lights (which I can see) or that "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
that goes on forever. Give me incandescent lights any day. Their color much more approximates candles anyway. They are softer and more "natural." Even if hotter and more expensive. Plus, I don't like blue-tinted liturgies.

Is this important? Not really.