Friday, January 31, 2003

Should I add comments? You decide
Let me know if you want them. E-mail me.
Archbishop Dolan: hope for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
A friend who had been a member of this archdiocese for years, but has since moved away, asked me the other day, "Well, how's it going? Is Dolan making a difference?" My answer was that there is no obvious stuctural change that one can attribute to Dolan's presence. Heads are not rolling. He is not sending squads out to reinstall kneelers. What is he doing? He's spending a year meeting everyone in the diocese at least once (I actually think he bilocates, and I feel reallysorry for Fr. Herda, his secretary, who has to try to keep up with him), scoping the landscape, and making good friends, so that when he does act, he will have the good will and support of his people. He is also spending a lot of time with and at those institutions that felt less than supported in previous years, such as pro-life groups and, for instances, the Schoenstatt movement. He is a breath of fresh air, and fun to have around, but he is not a steamroller.

This reminds me of Fr. Johansen's post about Romanitas. By the way, it is great to see Throwback back.
The Word of God is Source and Seed
I feel like doing one of those thoughtful, nuanced posts today, rather than a rant or a rollick.

This is the name of a hymn by Sr. Delores Dufner, O.S.B. that we sang at Mass the other day. It is sung to the tune called "Winchester New," which you may know as "On Jordan's Bank." I can't say that it is a bad hymn, but it does suffer a little from political correctness and from fuzzy theology. I'm going to comment on it one stanza at a time:
The Word of God is source and seed;
it comes to dies and sprout and grow.
So make your dark earth welcome-warm;
root deep the grain God bent to sow.
Obviously this is based on the parable of the sower and the seed. I suppose when it says the Word of God is source and seed, it means that it is sower and seed. I guess the word "souce" works with the meter better, but it does make it more impersonal.

Which brings me to my biggest criticism. The use of the word "It" at the beginning of line two strikes me as oddly depersonalizing, since we are obviously already referring to Christ (and, as we shall see, the Holy Spirit). True, the parable was referring to a seed, which in English is referred to as "it." I'm thinking this may be because of a hesitancy to call Jesus or the Holy Spirit "he." This hesitency to call Christ "he" is exhibited even in the third verse, where Jesus is mentioned explicitly. The phrase "make your dark earth welcome-warm" has a kind of sexual penumbra to me, which may even have been in the parable, but seems especially strong when written by a woman, as this song is. I really like the image "God bent to sow." It hightlights the divine condescension.
The Word of God is breath and life;
It comes to heal and wake and save.
So let the Spirit touch and mend
and rouse our dry bones from their grave
I get the point that the Holy Spirit continues the ministry of Christ in our day through the ministry of the Church, but this equation of the Word of God with the Holy Spirit strikes me as unbiblical. And even if it were legitimate it seems strange to put the verse about the Holy Spirit before the one on Christ. Obviously Word and Breath are related, but certainly distinct. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the Word made flesh. He (note "he") came to heal and wake and save. The Spirit continues to make this activity of the Word present in the Church, and so would "touch and mend and rouse [our] dry bones from their grave. A little precision would help this verse a lot.
The Word of God is flesh and grace
who comes to sing, to laugh and cry.
So dare to be as Jesus was,
Who came to live and love and die.
This is my least favorite verse. We finally get to the Christological verse and are a tad deflated. "Flesh" and "grace" seem a little low in its Christology. I'm flesh and grace, so to speak, but I'm hardly the word of God. How about "The Word of God is God and man"? So, if you sing, laugh, cry, live, love and die, you are an imitator of Christ. A pretty vague job description. Love, of course, if fleshed out properly, would be sufficient. Let's interpret this with a most liberal interpretation and give Sr. Delores the benefit of the doubt. I wish she had fleshed it out, however.

The final verse is a repeat of the first verse. It would have been cool if she had changed the "it" at the beginning of line two to a "he," just to make the point explicit that verses two and three were the real meaning of verse one. But, I suppose since the "Word" in this song refers to the Holy Spirit, Sr. Delores didn't wan't to refer to the Holy Spirit as "he." So we are left with an impersonal image.

I think with a little work this hymn could be much better. Theological precision is not a bad thing when it comes to hymn-writing.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

If you are wondering....
Why my blogging is lighter today, see HMS Blog, especially here and here. No, I'm not taking over anything. I think that is Mark Shea's job.
Canon law and communion for those darned proabortion politicians
As a follow-up to our earlier discussion on the Sacramento case, my good anonymous friend gave me this link to an old Homiletics and Pastoral Review article.

I'm certainly no canon law expert. This makes a lot of sense to me, however.
Dead Poets again
A reader writes:
That movie has always annoyed me too. It's the first of the interminable
and successful "Robin Williams vs. the Strawmen" franchise.

Quick question, though: If you're a teacher at a school that teaches children not to think for themselves, and you have a student with a psychotic and overbearing father, what is the ethical course in that sort of situation?
I answer: First, I wouldn't teach at such a school, if they exist. Second, if I did, I wouldn't engage in sneaky acts intended to undermine authority. I'd use due process to try to change the place, and if they wouldn't change, I'd quit. If something were criminal, I'd take appropriate action. As for the father, was he supposed to be psychotic? I can't remember the details enough. Maybe neurotic would be a better word. At any rate, overbearing fathers have been a problem for a long time. I should know. I am one. Or at least my kids tell me so.

The solution is not to undermine the authority of the father in the eyes of the son. You know, there are sometimes when the life of someone else and the direction it takes is beyond our legitimate control and under the control of someone else who is making decisions we wouldn't make. We've got to live with it, as long as it is within the reasonable bounds of law and morality. No 16 year old under the authority of his parents has the right to play Puck in Midsummer's Nights Dream. Sure, we can try to influence that direction by communicating with the authority, but sabotage is not the answer.
How I REALLY treat my kids
You don’t want to know. The disciplined, subtle and effective approach to discipline Kevin describes is the exception rather than the rule. I’m kind of a ranter. And therefore not very effective.
Racial Profiling
I saw a clear example today of racial profiling. And it really p---ed me off. We were closing on our new mortgage (our payments are going to be $135 less per month! We will save 30,000 over the life of the loan!). The loan company, Catholic Home Loans was using some national closing company, who sent a notary over to our house with the forms. The notary was African-American. As he drove through our neighborhood toward our house a squad car began to tail him. When he stopped in front of our house and started organizing his papers, the officer stopped and asked him if anything was wrong. THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO REASON FOR THE COP TO STOP HIM! He wasn’t doing anything unusual. He wasn't a teenager in a lowrider with the loud booming of the base blasting the neighborhood. If he’d been white, the police would have ignored him. I don’t like this kind of thing. It stinks.

I suppose I should charge Catholic Home Loans for the publicity!
Gregger's Digest
I blather on and on about something, then Greg Popcak summarizes it with great economy and precision in one suscinct paragraph. Must be that experience at Catholic Digest. Thanks for the plug, Greg. The check's in the mail.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Bishops and politicians
A loyal reader (and contest winner) asks:
I've got a theological question for you:
What would be the theological rationale behind a bishop's telling a Catholic politician not to take communion, as long as the politician will not change his position on abortion rights?

I answered:
"It is related to the canonical prohibition against being an accomplice to an abortion. See for a discussion."

Then I though, well, a more theological answer would refer directly to the sin of scandal, which, according to the CCC means "an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil." (CCC 2284). Notice that scandal itself is a sin against the fifth commandment! You should read the whole discussion of scandal at this point. Even if a politician weren't interpreted as an accomplice in the canonical sense, he would still be guilty of the sin of scandal, and it would be a grave sin indeed similar to, if not exactly falling under Canon 1373!
Someone is looking for something that I don't think I'm in any position to offer
Sitemeter indicated that someone found my site by doing a Google search for "Iraqi sluts." Boy, must they have been surprised!
Going it alone
I think these comments of Greg Popcak mirror my own on the willingness of Bush to go it alone, if necessary:
Likewise, through his stated willingness to "go it alone," the US is advancing a new doctrine of pre-emption that simply has no legal precedent. For example, even JFK refused to pursue a millitary strike against Cuba because he feared that the world would see him as an agressor nation like Japan at Pearl Harbor. This action of the present administration sets a precedent that other nations will follow in the future and we have to give serious thought to whether or not that is a good thing. If we act alone, then henceforth, any nation that believes itself just may proclaim--using our example as a precedent-- that it has the right to act against any other nation, with or without the support of the international community. Do we really want to send that message to China, N. Korea, or any other rogue state? Or, what if Israel decided to launch an offensive against every Arab state that was active in plotting against it? Certainly they would be "right" (using our present doctrine). So why do we stay their hand?

There are serious concerns here that go beyond our sense of rightness. There is, I believe a moral due process that must be observed. Everyone thinks that they are right, but prudent restraint has always prevented legal, civilized nations from acting on their own sense of rightness unless they had the support of the international community. This has provided a de facto (albeit imperfect) set of international checks.
I'm NOT N.O.
Greg: the correct spelling is "mwa-hahaha!" With an "m." Get it right, bucko!
What is it about dictators and greasy hair? Think of Hitler, for instance. And how did Stalin make his hair do that? Hm. There must be a mustache requirement, too.
Someone apparently called, because that is the only info he gave me, wins the lyric contest with this entry. The lines following "And far away across the field/the tolling of the iron bell" is "Calls the faithful to their knees/To hear the softly spoken magic spells." It is from the "Breath" reprise on Pink Floyd's classic "Dark Side of the Moon" album. I played side one for my teenage daughter a couple of years ago. She couldn't stand it. Too dark. Well, nihilism is like that.
A Taste of MilwaukeeSay, if you want to get a taste of my adopted home metro area (and Kevin Miller's native home metro area), tune in to Rush on Friday. The substitute host will be none other than Milwaukee talk show host Mark Belling of WISN radio.

Mark is one of the two big white talk show hosts in Milwaukee. The other is Charlie Sykes, of WTMJ. Both are conservative, with Catholic connections (Mark went to parochial schools, though hardly a poster boy for Catholic Schools Week; Charlie is a convert). Mark is pretty blustery at times and, in my mind, somewhat insensitive to the real plight of the poor. Sykes tends to lean in the libertarian direction, although he is much more careful and interested in real dialogue that Mark. Sykes has a weblog. Both can be heard online.

By the way, Bob Dolan of WISN's morning talk show Weber and Dolan is our new archbishop's brother!

I wonder if Paul (Belling's long-time silent, but often addressed and referred to producer) will be there, too?
Seriously, do these guys know Latin? The English for the closing prayer of the morning office on Wednesday of the third week of the psalter (is it no wonder that non-Catholics get confused when we talk about liturgy?) contains the phrase "as daylight fills the sky." In looking at the Latin, I just can't find where that phrase comes from. There isn't even a "mane" anywhere. Dynamic equivalent of what?
State of the Union
I'm afraid it left me cold. I really admire and have a lot of respect for this guy, but he's just not giving me what I need in order to be fully behind his intended military action against Iraq.

Part of the problem is that I just can't see Saddam Hussein as the equivalent of Hitler. He is at most a failed Hitler wannabe. That failure is due in no small part to the unchamberlain like action of G.H.W. Bush. And it didn't hurt that S.H. already had shown that he couldn't whip Iran.

And if he does or did have weapons of mass destruction, I do not see how using them would ever be an option for him. He would not only be the recipient of the wrath of the entire western world, but of the entire Middle East as well (I don't think even Syria would want him to use them). Including, dare we say, Israel, who would not hesitate to take care of any direct threat upon their sovereignty. He would have to be suicidal to use them. Maybe he is, but if he is he is just simply insane.

As for his internal oppression, this moves me and is enough for me to insight intervention, but the U.S. doesn't as a rule seem to be in the business of unilaterally intervening in countries where there is internal oppression. Witness Cambodia. Perhaps one could argue that Carter was president at the time. Still, I don't think internal oppression has often been the motivating force for U.S. military intervention. Correct me if I'm wrong on this.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Book of the Moment #3

Jacques Maritain, On the Church of Christ(Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1973.

One of Maritain's last books was on the Church. It was written in response to the questions: how can a Church full of sinners be called "holy?" In it he makes a distinction between the Person of the Church (Christ) and the personnel of the Church. He then applies the distinction to various problems of infallibility, authority, structure, etc. Then he discusses in a dispassionate way several historical examples of problems, the Inquisition, the treatment of the Jews, Galileo and Joan of Arc. This book is far less polemical than The peasant of the Garonne, also a post Vatican II book that exhibits kind of a (perhaps justifiable) mean streak. Professional ecclesiologists might cringe at a purative simplification and naivete, but I, for my part, have benefited immensely from ths book. Maritain claims it is not a work of apologetics, but the ideas he presents clearly has a great deal of usefulness in apologetic situations. It has also been extremely useful in negotiating the current Situation in the Church in the U.S.
no one is submitting an entry in my lyric contest. C'mon. Someone out there knows the lyric that follows the one I quoted. Am I the only Pink Floyd fan around?
Envoy Encore
In case one of you 35 people who read my blog besides the aforementioned Kevin Miller was confused about item 3 my previous post, I was not implying ANYTHING bad about Envoy. I love the site. I was talking about those guys who wrote in response to Carl Olsen's post on Vatican II. I just don't know why they bother reading a site they KNOW they are going to disagree with in a fundamental way and they KNOW they'll never be able to convince these benighted apologists that Vatican II was evil because they don't have a real intellectual leg to stand on. I'm just wondering. I also ask some of my friends who keep e-mailing me outrageous stuff from the Lidless Eyes, why do you read this stuff. I can barely stomach reading those kind of sites for more than, say, 15 seconds at a time. It is such a waste of time when I could be reading Aquinas, or the Bible, or maybe HMS Blog. I assume Mark Shea reads them because he has such a warped sense of humor.
Okay, already...
Okay, since I got an urgent, threatening e-mail from Kevin Miller insisting that he can't survive the day unless I post something, here are my current thoughts.

1) It must have been something in that chicken stuff they had in the seminary dining room yesterday.

2) Is there any way to canonize Peggy Noonan before she dies?

3) Why do these people even bother to read Envoy Encore? [See my next post for more on this, in case you are confused.]

4) My kids who are LotR fanatics and even loved the movies also loved Dave Barry's column.

5) I like the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

6) I wonder if Archbishop Dolan would come over to our house for our Seder supper on Palm Sunday?

7) Why is this site for the William whatever Ford Direct Loan Program not working right?

8) Okay, Michael Medved, Schindler's List is a great film, but was the graphic sex necessary? Really? I keep thinking about the actors involved. That's all.

Now, I need to get back to work.....

Monday, January 27, 2003

From Psalm 84 (83)
Quia melior est dies una in atriis tuis super milia,
elegi ad limen esse in domo Dei mei,
magis quam habitare
in tabernaculis peccatorum.
Courage! part 2
Oh, and, Kevin, the Lord of the Rings is very good on this issue. And I suppose country music is as well. Maybe you don't read the LotR because you listen to so much country music!
I've become more and more convinced of the importance of the virtue of courage (fortitude) in recent years. I'm not the only one who's noticing this. Although there is a feminine version of the virtue, I'm thinking mostly of the manly version, as I've hinted at in a previous post.

I think a lot about the men in the ancient epics. Would I ever have that kind of courage? I took this test and scored a 35. Darn, I'm a coward! Of course, I would not run into an apartment building to rescue a cat. That one hurt me.

I had a friend in college who did a stint as a radio operator for Witnesses for Peace on the Nicaraguan border in the 1980s. He was captured by the Contras, but escaped to tell about it. While I may not agree with his politics, I at least admire his valor.

I think many of us men who grew up in the late 20th century were inculcated with a certain timidity. Perhaps it was from seeing those images of the slaughter in Viet Nam at too early an age. Perhaps it was the commentary that accompanied those images. I don't know. I just know that I regret it and want my boys to learn courage. And to defend the weak. These are so important.

Like I said, I'm not addressing the feminine version of the virtue.