Saturday, February 27, 2010

Miriam's hymn and archeology

One of the oldest passages in the Bible is the hymn of Miriam in Ex. 15. It is such an exuberantly joyful hymn, full of astonishment. That is why it is an appropriate Easter hymn; it is sung at the Vigil.

The Roman Church also sings it on the first Saturday of the four-week psalter at morning prayer, so we prayed it this morning.

Coincidentally, I read a news article just now about the reuniting of a manuscript of this text from the 7th century. It had existed in separate part, one at Duke, the other in London. An Israeli scholar who knew of the London manuscript saw a t.v. show about the Duke manuscript and saw great similarities between the two. They are now reunited and on display.

Our family sings a song from the charismatic renewal that uses this text.
I will sing unto the Lord,
for he has triumphed gloriously,
The horse and rider thrown into the sea.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Partial communion of the Catholic university

I'm toying with the idea that there might be an analogy between the "partial" communion with the Catholic Church that Lumen Gentium talks about in #8, and a university that is "partially" Catholic. It contains some of the elements that are distinctively Catholic (as opposed to, for instance, a secular university, which may have some natural goods that belong to the Catholic university, but none of the distinctive elements that flow directly or indirectly from Revelation). Since the university is characterized by the pursuit of truth, the designation of a partially Catholic university would modify the LG text to read, "although many elements of...of truth are found outside of [the fully Catholic university's] visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the [fully Catholic University], are forces impelling toward catholic unity."

So, you might have the equivalent of Fully Catholic Universities (TM), Mostly Catholic Universities (TM), Somewhat Catholic Universities (TM), and Barely Catholic Universities (TM).

I think the Cardinal Newman Society's criteria for a fully Catholic university are probably pretty close to the ones I would consider essential for being a FCU. That, plus agreeing with my theology. :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The right arm of the majesty of God and Christopher West

As Fr. Zuhlsdorf has so often and so admirably proves, the robust sense of a liturgical prayer does not always survive its ICEL translation. The game of discovering this will be over soon, but in the mean time, we can benefit from seeing through the veil that ICEL has cast over the ancient spiritual tradition of the Church by going back to the Latin and seeing what the prayer really says.

A case in point: the collect from Saturday after Ash Wednesday. You may have prayed the following prayer:

Look upon our weakness
and reach out to help us with your loving power.
We ask this.....

In the prayer the Lord reaches out with his loving power to strengthen us in our weakness. You may be surprised to find out that the original sense of the Latin prayer is much more militaristic than this. The sense of spiritual battle is much stronger:

Omnipotens, sempiterne Deus, infirmitatem nostram propitius respice, atque ad protegendum nos dexteram tuae maiestatis extende. Per Dominum....


Almighty and eternal God, look down with favor upon our weakness, and extend the right hand of your majesty to protect us. Through our Lord....

I won't harp on the fact that "All-powerful, eternal God" becomes "Lord," or that "propitius" isn't really translated, unless it is in the word "loving." What I want to focus on is that it is the right arm of the majesty of God (biblically, a military phrase--the right arm holds the sword) that protects us in our weakness. He fights for us because we are too weak to fight ourselves. Sometimes our weakness prevents us from doing on our own what needs to be done to save us from our enemy, so Christ, the right arm of God, comes to conquer the enemy by standing in the breach, so to speak. This is the classic doctrine of spiritual combat. It is why we were encouraged to wear scapulars and sprinkle holy water on our houses. The idea that we will be made strong enough through a purely interior act of grace to resist the devil in this life is naive. A sick person needs protection while he is healing.

I think this principle of the spiritual life is what is behind one of David Schindler's criticisms of Christopher West. Schindler thinks that West is too optimistic about the ability of men in this life to overcome the distortion of our response to women that original and personal sin have caused.

This weekend I went to the Men of Christ conference in Milwaukee. Three thousand men gathered in the beautiful Milwaukee Theater to be encouraged and to encourage one another, to repent and to worship.

One of the main speakers was Christopher West. I have posted on him before here and here on this blog and here and here on HMS Weblog. As I've said before, his actual teaching does not offend me; it seems like a reasonable patristic reading of the relationship between human sexuality and the history of salvation. He said many of the same things for which he has been criticized, including the reference to Hugh Hefner as rightly rejecting a puritanical, dualistic approach to sexuality. Once again, I was neither offended, nor did I find anything problematic. It helped that it was all men (although I was a little uneasy about the presence of the two women who were signing for the deaf).

On the other hand, I am a trained theologian. I am quite aware of the analogous nature of the comparison of human sexuality to our spiritual life, something that Fr. Richard Hogan has made clear (see the first of the HMS Weblog posts above). If I were a man in the padded seat, steeped in our cultural distortion, yet almost totally ignorant of the basic teachings of the Church and not yet "protected" by an active spiritual life, would I get that important point? For instance, ought a man who has not been healed of our current culture's distorted understanding of the human breast be so quickly invited to reflect upon our Blessed Mother's breasts? This is Schindler's question. I don't know the answer. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is homeschooling the default for parents?

Christopher Tollefsen, of the Witherspoon Institute, things so in his article, "Are There Harms of Homeschooling?." He says, "...the option of home-schooling should be the prima facie starting point for parental deliberations about their children’s education."


Christopher Wolfe on Legislating Morality

Frank Beckwith links to a talk by Christopher Wolfe on whether one can or should legislate morality. Wolfe is a great political philosopher and constitutional scholar who used to teach at Marquette University. He is now working for Thomas International. One of his projects is the establishment of a liberal arts university with a Thomistic focus.

Wolfe's Thomistic two-pronged argument is based on the link between legislation and the cultivation of virtue. Sure, we can't actually legislate morality, but we can and should use legislation to creates an atmosphere that directly or indirectly assists citizens to cultivate virtues (or at least minimizes their opportunity to cultivate vices).

One other point needs to be made about "legislating morality." Wolfe doesn't emphasize it (because his focus is different), but I'm sure he would agree. One of the most important reasons for outlawing evil human acts like abortion is that they are evil, no matter what the subjective culpability of the person seeking or performing an abortion is. I intend to come back to this in a later post. Abortion is a serious evil that a just society needs to prevent. There are two reasons it is seriously evil (in Catholic moral discourse, a "grave matter"): it takes innocent human lives and it drives a wedge between mother and child. The law of the land should outlaw abortion, whether citizens become more moral because of the law or not.

Pages for Classic Catholic

I just discovered how to create pages in Blogger. I will be adding pages to this blog as time permits. See to the left below the picture. I have already create an "About Classic Catholic" page.

Chesterton and paleolithic man

In The Everlasting Man, Chesterton spends a great deal of time arguing that man did not evolve into a spiritual being, but rather that man was spiritual from the beginning. He uses the Cro-magnon cave paintings as examples of paleolithic man creating genuine art:
For in the plain matter like the pictures there is in fact not a trace of any such development or degree. Monkeys did not begin pictures and men finish them; Pithecanthropus did not draw a reindeer badly and Homo Sapiens draw it well. The higher animals did not draw better and better portraits; the dog did not paint better in his best period than in his early bad manner as a jackal; the wild horse was not an Impressionist and the race horse a Post-Impressionist. All we can say of this notion of reproducing things in shadow or representative shape is that it exists nowhere in nature except in man; and that we cannot even talk about it without treating man as something separate from nature. In other words, every sane sort of history must begin with man as man, a thing standing absolute and alone. (Ch. 1)
Now archeology is beginning to discover the same thing. Recent finds in Turkey affirm that corporate worship on a very elaborate scale predates even agriculture itself (see Smithsonian article):
To Schmidt [the chief archaeologist on the dig] and others, these new findings suggest a novel theory of civilization. Scholars have long believed that only after people learned to farm and live in settled communities did they have the time, organization and resources to construct temples and support complicated social structures. But Schmidt argues it was the other way around: the extensive, coordinated effort to build the monoliths literally laid the groundwork for the development of complex societies.
Religion did not come from agriculture; rather, agriculture came from religion!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The University and the defense of women

One of the points made repeatedly at the Men of Christ Conference this weekend at the Milwaukee Theater was the duty of men to protect women. I think we have almost completely abdicated this responsibility because it seemed to feminists to be chauvinist. Women should take care of themselves; men should control themselves.

I myself look back on instance when, like Christopher West, I did not come to the defense of the dignity of a woman when I should have. I recall one time when I was at Marquette in the lobby of a dorm. Two boys were manhandling a girl. Now, I believe the whole episode was "in fun," but I also think that gentlemen do not treat women like that even in jest. It made me think of three year olds. Men on campus should be encouraged to behave like gentlemen. When they don't, we should call them on it. In this case, I didn't, and wish I did.

A University has a duty to create an atmosphere in which women can have a sense of safety and protection, just as much as they have a duty to protect homosexuals against violence and unjust discrimination and minorities against racial harassment. A fornication culture should not be allowed on campus, any more than a homophobic or racist culture, even if fornication will inevitably happen. The university can do this. It has has the bully pulpit on this issue as much as they do on the environment, on "homophobia," on any socially progressive topic.

And it has to be a cultural change, but just a warning and training against date rape. Date rape is often the end of a long series of disrespectful interactions between a girl and a predator. Any of those actions should be automatically rejected by women and strongly criticized by men who are aware that they are taking place. I remember reading a story in the Marquette Tribune about the evils of date rape. The editorial writer told a story to illustrate her position. It began in a bar when a guy plied a girl with drinks. Then he invited her to his place. Then they started making out in the couch. They continued to drink. Then he "invited" her into his bedroom. Then they disrobed. Then, when he was just at the ultimate point she said "no." He continued anyway. No guy on campus should ever allow another guy to do this kind of thing.

I hear that campuses who take this seriously have women and men that are happy and healthy in their relationships because they do not fear each other.

A university that won't protect the women who live, work and study there is not fully Catholic, even if they have all kinds of other Catholic identification markers because they aren't communicating a belief about the importance of dignity of women and the necessity for protecting it.

Emeth Society

My friend and fellow theologian, from DeSales University, Rodney Howsare, mentioned on Facebook, the Emeth Society, "A Book and Film Society Promoting Catholic Culture in the Diocese of Phoenix." Wow! Would I love to be part of an effort like this!

On this page I found a link to the Biblia Clerus page, which the Congregation for the Clergy offers to help priests prepare homilies by interpreting the Bible in light of Tradition, especially the Fathers, and the Magisterium. Awesome!