Saturday, April 2, 2016

Items of Interest: Bright Week

The Shaken Conscience of a Pro-Life Activist
by Karen Swallow Prior (Christianity Today). «These words, penned by the son of one of my enemies in the culture war, are the essence of the entire abortion conflict: ‹recognizing the humanity› of the other. The tragedy of the conflict is the failure of both sides to recognize the humanity, whether that of the abortionist or that of the nascent child.»

The Virtue of Hate
by Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik (First Things). «Burning hatred, once kindled, is difficult to extinguish; but that is precisely what Jews must do when reassessing our relationship with contemporary Christianity. The crimes of popes of the past do not negate the fact that John Paul II is one of the righteous men of our generation. If Christians no longer hold us accountable for the crime of deicide, we cannot remain indifferent to such changes. Christians have every right to assert the truth of their beliefs. Modern anti-Christianity is no more excusable than ancient anti-Semitism.»

Ethika Politika: Three Responses to Roberto Rivera
In the Week of Dominica Quadragesima II, I posted here Roberto Rivera's EP lament The Depressing Problem with Pro-Life 2.0. Here are some excellent, thoughtful responses:
Strategy, Theology, and Saving Unborn Lives: A Response to Roberto Rivera by Erik Clary
How Evangelicals Saved the Pro-Life Movement: A Response to Roberto Rivera by Joe Carter
Evangelicals and the Run to First Principles: A Response to Roberto Rivera by Matthew Wright

Innovation in the Guise of Tradition: Anti-Ecumenist Efforts to Derail the Great and Holy Council
by George Demacopoulos (Public Orthodoxy). «In sum, the self-proclaimed ‹traditionalists› are demanding that the Great and Holy Council abandon the historical and canonical practice of the Orthodox Church in order to ward off an imaginary dilution of Orthodox purity. Their claims are couched in the language of Apostolic and Patristic tradition but, ironically, their position is dangerously innovative.»

The Fall of the House of Neuhaus
by Anthony Annett (Commonweal). Cardinal Peter Turkson: «I should note that some have claimed that Centesimus Annus changed the tenor of Catholic social teaching, and even abrogated prior teaching on the market economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Saint John Paul II follows directly in the footsteps of his predecessors. And like his predecessors, he recognized the twin dangers of both collectivism and individualism.»

Friday, February 26, 2016

Items of Interest: Week of Dominica II Quadragesima

How Hebrew Catholics Live Lent Well
by Peter Jesserer Smith (National Catholic Register). «[F]or Hebrew Catholics, both those living in Israel and in communities around the world, the Church’s Lenten pilgrimage is enriched with a perspective born of their heritage and closeness with the Jewish people and common kinship with Jesus the Messiah. “Hebrew Catholics” not only applies to those Jews who found the fullness of their Jewish identity in embracing the Catholic Church, but also those Catholics who belong to Jewish families or have Jewish ancestry, and practice Jewish traditions they chose to celebrate in the light of Catholic teaching.»

Making Sense of Isaiah 7:14 – “Young Woman” or “Virgin”? (Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)
by Eric Jobe (Departing Horeb). This series addresses an issue regarding the relationship between the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) in the Emmanuel prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, which notably contains a disputed reference to what Christians have taken to be a prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Almost everyone is now familiar with the fact that a significant variant exists between the Hebrew Bible (all extant versions are the same) and the Septuagint. In part 1 of this series, Dr. Jobe looks at the textual data regarding Isaiah 7:14 in multiple Hebrew manuscripts and translations into other languages. In part 2, he examines the “wibbly-wobbly” nature of prophecy and the way the biblical text is interpreted differently at different times to refer to different events within history. In part 3, he delves into the meaning of the words themselves within the socio-linguistic context of ancient Israel.

The Depressing Problem with Pro-Life 2.0
by Roberto Rivera (Ethika Politika). «I can’t help but suspect that some important things have been lost in the transition from ‹Pro-Life 1.0› to ‹Pro-Life 2.0.› We are trying to oppose abortion by challenging the premises of the Sexual Revolution while, at the same time, remaining silent about the technology—and the accompanying mindset—that made the Sexual Revolution possible. And we talk about Planned Parenthood targeting poor communities while having little to offer the people who live in them, apart from some pregnant women, besides anecdotes and self-help nostrums. Like I said, things have changed but not all of the changes were for the better.»

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Items of Interest: Week of Dominica I Quadragesima

How the Torah Revolutionized Political Thought
by Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman ( «In ways that were astonishingly new and counter-intuitive, in ways that served the purposes of no known interest group, the political philosophy of the Torah may be seen to rise like a phoenix out of the intellectual landscape of the ancient Near East. Throughout the ancient world the truth was self-evident: all men were not created equal. It is in the five books of the Torah that we find the birthplace of egalitarian thought. When seen against the backdrop of ancient norms, the social blueprint espoused by the Torah represents a series of quantum leaps in a sophisticated and interconnected matrix of theology, politics and economics.»

A Bunch of Terrible Fallacies for Atheism
by Mark Shea (National Catholic Register). «In this piece, I want to look at the curious way that atheists themselves cannot content themselves with those two good arguments. They are oddly driven to pad the case with a whole raft of fallacies too.»

Speaking of the Poor, Especially When You’re Not: The Preferential Rhetorical Option for the Poor
by David Mills (Ethika Politika). «The poor should go first in the distribution of the good of attention. Any sustained statement about economic theory should relate that theory to the poor. If an idea is praised for creating wealth, it should be interrogated for its effect on the vulnerable. One should not speak as if real people were not involved and if general improvement were not bought at a great cost to some.»

Can the Pan-Orthodox Council be saved from shipwreck?
by Antoine Arjakovsky (The Wheel) «At the Second Vatican Council, in October 1962, some courageous bishops, sensitive to the breath of the Holy Spirit, refused to accept the ultra-conservative agenda proposed by the Roman Curia and shifted the course of the Council. We dare to hope that, among those who assemble on the island of Crete this June, there will be some spiritual figures who will know how to assume their responsibilities and avoid a shipwreck for the Orthodox Church.»

If You Want to Understand the Bible, Listen to the Magisterium
by Scott Eric Alt (National Catholic Register) «One key corol­lary to the Protes­tant doc­trine of sola scrip­tura is the belief in the “perspicuity”—or clarity—of scrip­ture. It has to be thus; if you claim that Scrip­ture and Scrip­ture alone is the infal­li­ble guide to faith and prac­tice, then you must also claim that Scrip­ture can be read and under­stood by any­one. Easy peasy. Else, what guards against dis­unity? What guards against two peo­ple pick­ing up the text of Scrip­ture and com­ing to wildly diver­gent doc­trines on bap­tism or the Eucharist or jus­ti­fi­ca­tion? That never hap­pens, except to igno­rant, unsta­ble folks. It cer­tainly does not hap­pen to sound-​thinking peo­ple such as myself. And yet, though there may not be quite so many as 33,000 divi­sions, there sure are a lot of them. Insta­bil­ity has run amok. How did that come to be, if the Bible is so clear? No one seems to have a sat­is­fac­tory answer.»

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Taste of Childhood

I bought our 16-year-old daughter some Uncrustables.  I had a coupon, they were on sale, and she got this dreamy look about her as she described in fantastic detail how good they were as elementary school cafeteria fare.

I think they look pretty awful:

She, on the other hand seems totally transported.

I can identify with her, though.  I also had a coupon for the corn dogs that were on sale.  They probably look pretty awful too:

I can remember being young, under 8, anyway.  We lived out on the east side of Flagstaff, Arizona, out in the country.  As an aside, it's not out in the country anymore. Judging by the last time I drove through, in 2001, it's a regular neighbourhood with real addresses that don't start with Rural Route 1. I imagine the inhabitants aren't on 8-party phone lines like we were either.

I always loved days on which we had to run errands in town because my mother could often be talked into a trip to Der Wienerschnitzel, a drive-through hot dog joint on the corner (a famous corner, I learned later, but I'll get to that in due time) of Switzer Canyon Drive and US-66.

It's still there.  The name has been changed to Dog Haus − a welcome change, really, since as far as I can recall one could never get anything approaching Wienerschnitzel anywhere on or near the premises. But one could get corn dogs, and this one got quite a few of them in mid-1970s.  Each with a packet of yellow mustard.  I remember it with the same kind of fondness my daughter has for Uncrustables.

Oh yeah − famous corner.  Back in '71 or '72 it is said that Jackson Browne was on that very corner of Route 66 in East Flagstaff, when he saw a girl driving a Toyota pickup pull out of Der Wienerschnitzel, and, just maybe, she slowed down to take a look at him.  Though the song he was writing along with Glenn Frey (who passed from this life last month) ultimately named a smaller town some 60 miles east, it was that very corner I recall so vividly from my own boyhood that became an image in the lyrics of a song I'd sung along with hundreds of times before I ever knew the story.

So take it easy, maybe have a corn dog or an Uncrustable, or better yet, search your remembrance for the taste of childhood.

Here's the song.
Here's the Arizona Daily Sun article.
Here's an LA Times article on the song and its setting(s).

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beginning the Fast

Deacon Greg Kandra wrote an article yesterday in which he concludes that, as far as fasting goes, Roman Catholics are serious wimps.  He contrasts the current Roman Catholic rules with those of the Eastern Orthodox, and yes, wimpy is an apt description.

And guess what: the current practice is far more wimpy than the one it replaced 33 years ago, as is  made clear in this chart I borrowed from the Fasting and Abstinence page at Fisheaters:

That, of course, is nothing as robust and difficult as the traditional Orthodox fasting rules, but it's certainly more challenging that what the canonical minimums demand today.


That's the thing. If you approach Lent with an attitude that asks «What is the least I can get by with and still be okay?», your spiritual issue might be something a bit more serious than simple wimpiness.  Search your heart. You can do better. Make it a challenge. Extend yourself. Practise some actual self-mortification. Be hungry, and while you're physically hungry, get spiritually hungry. It's hard. Put yourself out a bit.

From a Melkite Catholic page on the Fast:
• The first day of Great Lent and the last three days of Holy Week are days of fasting.
• All Fridays of Great Lent are days of abstinence from meat.
• Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence. 
• Every day of Great Lent is a day of fast and abstinence.
• On Saturday and Sunday fish, wine and olive oil are permitted.
• Saturday and Sunday are not Fast days – food may be taken at any time.
• Certain feast days are treated like Saturday and Sunday 
• The First, Middle and Last weeks of Great Lent are kept strictly. The other weeks are relaxed.
• Abstinence from meat on all days of Lent.
• Abstinence from meat on all Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. 
The idea of “fasting and abstinence” is to gain self control, a simplification of life-style, a solidarity with the poor and hungry, and to return to Paradise. As such fasting and abstinence should always be focused towards making life simpler not more complicated...
Fasting is not extraordinary – for the Christian it is a regular aspect of the spiritual life. 
Fasting is depriving the body of food from midnight till noon. For the Christian the hunger that results is a real call to be mindful of our thirst for God. It is a call to identify with the poor, whom God loves especially. It is a way for us, as mature men and women to take charge of our body and of our needs, rather than to allow the body, its needs and passions to rule over our life. 
Fasting is also a beautiful opportunity to express our solidarity and communion with Christians all over the world. There are many deeply moving stories of our brothers and sisters who observed the periods of fasting during harsh famines and wars. Imagine the power and the grace that is filling the world during this time of darkness and cold, as men, women and children, rich and poor, virtuous and sinful alike, together offer up penance for the sins of the world and in anticipation of the Coming of Christ! 
Abstinence refers to the practice of foregoing all foods that come from animals (meats, poultry, dairy products, eggs). 
From the creation of our Parents in Paradise to the time after the great flood, people ate only fruits, grains and vegetables. This is the food of paradise! The practice of abstinence reminds us of our high calling to manage all creation in the Name of the Lord. Our hunger for meat and other rich food serves as a reminder of the enmity that exists in creation as a result of sin. Especially during this holy season when the liturgy reminds us of the role that the stars, the angels, the earth itself, the beasts of the field, the ox and the ass all played in receiving the Savior of the world, abstinence calls us to set aside our enmity even with the animals in order to restore peace on earth. 
Thus, we fast to experience hunger and, realizing our emptiness and dependence, to seek the One who alone satisfies our needs. We abstain in order to strive for peace, to cleanse ourselves body and soul to worthily receive Our Lord.
So I suppose one can say observing the minimum is wimpy. And it is. More than that, though, it reflects a fundamental lack of seriousness about the demands of a Lord who isn't very interested in how little you can do and still avoid the outer darkness.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Items of Interest: Week of Dominica Sexagessima

Bioethics and the Catholic Church: 21 Questions for Janet E. Smith
by Sean Salai, S.J. (America Magazine). «It is not too facile to say that legislation is either a matter of legislating morality or of legislating immorality; there can be no third option. Either abortion is moral or immoral; it is not like the choice between vanilla or chocolate ice cream. One has to take a stand; does abortion take a human life or does it not? The problem is that our culture no longer believes that it has any means to determine what is true and what is false...Since our culture is thoroughly skeptical and relativistic, the ability to make strong arguments does not translate into persuasive arguments.»

The Progressive Roots of the Pro-Life Movement
by Emma Green (The Atlantic). «‹Too many historians took for granted that the pro-life movement emerged as a backlash against feminism, and/or as a backlash against the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973,› Williams said in an interview. Many of today’s most ardent anti-abortion activists likely identify with this kind of sexual conservatism and resentment toward a meddling government. But in many ways, their political convictions are counter to the original aspirations of the movement. As Williams writes in his book, ‹The pro-life movement that we have always labeled ‹conservative› was at one time much more deeply rooted in the liberal rights-based values than we might have suspected.›»

Educating Father Abraham: The Meaning of Wife
by Leon R. Kass (First Things). «It is not exactly traditional to speak about the education of Abraham. Pious tales of the patriarch regard him as a precocious monotheist even before God calls him, a man who smashed his father’s idols, a man who sprang forth fully pious and knowledgeable about the ways of God. But, in my view, a careful reading of the biblical text shows otherwise: Abraham indeed goes to school, God Himself is his major teacher, and Abraham’s adventures constitute his education, right up to his final exam, the binding of Isaac.»

Saladin and the Problem of the Counter-Crusade in Medieval Europe
by Jay Rubenstein (Historically Speaking) «Introduction: In 1105 a Muslim Damascene scholar named Ali ibn Tahir al-Sulami argued in a treatise that Muslims needed to learn anew the practice of jihad. A wicked race of unbelievers, polytheistic Christians who insisted on worshipping three gods instead of one, was waging war—their own version of jihad—against Islam. After centuries of wrangling, the faithful needed finally to set aside differences and together drive out the invaders.»

Who Are Noahides, and Why Aren’t They Christians Anymore?
by David Mills (Aleteia) «Noahides, reports the Jewish web magazine Tablet, ‹struggle to stand up for their beliefs despite being surrounded by Christian families and friends.› It’s a fascinating story, in the odd byways of American religion departments, but also a challenge, because according to the writer, they’re inevitably ex-Christians. Some are ex-Catholics. ‹Their feelings on Christianity and Jesus range from respect of the ‹all religions have something to offer› variety to palpable disdain. They’ve given up what they consider idol worship to follow Jewish theology.›»

A Biblical Warning on the Nature of Government
by Msgr. Charles Pope (National Catholic Register) «Samuel’s warnings were valid then and are still so now. It seems clear enough that God has set forth the family (nuclear and extended) as the primary center of care, rather than a centralized authority (which too easily expands; becomes intrusive; and further breaks down the family, church, and community, replacing them with itself). Subsidiarity is lost, and as Samuel says above, He will take the best...»