Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Card 2009

Mary Immaculate ...
This one work has to do
Let all God's glory through ...

Photo: Madonnina* on a Roman wall 2000
The Blessed Virgin
Compared to the Air We Breathe

- Gerard Manley Hopkins

Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-fixed
Snowflake; that's fairly mixed
With riddles, and is rife
In every least thing's life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life's law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God's infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our raceó
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess's
Was deemed, dreamed; who
This one work has to do
Let all God's glory through,
God's glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.

The wonder of it all!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
John 3:16, 17
Have a Merry 12 Days of Christmas
And a Blessed New Year!

My love and prayers are with you.

*Madonninas are little shrines to Mary with the Infant Jesus, which are built into walls and street corners in Italy. Most, like this mosaic icon with its gold background and its flanking marble columns from 1597 are exquisite works of art.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Letter 2009

Me by me, signed by grand-niece Jadis on my behalf :-)

Thoughts About Celebrating the "Holiday Season"

It seems to me that the "holiday season" is celebrated almost in a frenzy. Besides the frantic "holiday" shopping (which usually includes many personal purchases--retailers count on them!) we engage in the constant creation of, purchase of, and indulgence in "holiday foods and beverages," accompanied by the din of holiday songs.

The intoxication comes to a screeching halt on the actual day of Christmas. As soon as the profit motive dries up, the frenzy stops, and a blessed peace descends.

I don’t have energy to put up a tree any more. The good news is the less I decorate and the more I avoid holiday celebrations, the more I treasure the four week cycle of Advent. I get thrilled by the Advent readings in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Masses, which remind me of the Love that was behind the First Coming and the anticipated Second Coming of Christ.

The partially self-chosen poverty of having an undecorated house, eating a minimum of pre-Christmas treats, avoiding holiday parties and cookie exchanges and the like, all lead me to a deeper joy when the penitential season of Advent is over and when finally we reach the proper time to celebrate the birth of Christ, the Baby God. The Church gives us a long time to celebrate, until Candlemas on Feb. 2. So we can have our decorations and our feasting for 40 whole days. In this and many other areas of life, it seems to me, waiting only makes the satisfaction deeper and more meaningful. And that, after all, might be a very good reason for keeping Advent.

Review of the Year of Our Lord 2009

From the sublime to the mundane, an operation on my right foot January 28, was the start of about eight months of the worst surgical recovery I ever had, and I’ve had more than my share. Trying to navigate around my house with one knee propped on a knee scooter that had the turning radius of a Mack truck and not being able to drive my car for months was only part of the ordeal.
The offending scooter

And after all that frustration, the results for the January 2009 surgery are not much better than the previous foot surgery (on both feet that time) two years before.

The left foot also needs rework, but I’m not about to give any foot surgeon another whack at me! Much to be grateful for, however: once again, some friends brought meals and drove me to Mass after I was able to get out. Dear Liberty helped a lot!

I started work from home two weeks after the surgery and got immersed in a tough project with much stress. I thought I had an infection, but I didn’t have the time to see the doctor while the engineers and marketers kept changing the document I was working on, which dragged out to weeks of day, evening and weekend work. Finally I got antibiotics and recovered. And we got the document out.

I also started following my first cousin once removed Jerry and his wife Gretchen’s reports via email and Facebook about his deployment with the National Guard in Iraq and her adventures in Minnesota alone with three kids, who sometimes act out how much they miss their father. Hooray for Facebook! Who needs soap operas when real life touching dramas are unfolding every day before your eyes?

In spite of the gory story of my return to work after surgery, I still like my job and love my company, Data Domain. Remarkably, we still are getting regular bonuses (in lieu of pay raises). Part way through the year, I started work in the training group creating course materials, and I enjoy the trainers, who have to be more extroverted than tech writers. Data Domain was swept into a bidding war between two backup companies, until huge EMC won us with a 2.1 billion dollar offer that rival NetApp couldn’t match. The purchase had the fortunate side effect of raising a lot of employees’ underwater stock options above water, mine included!

We finally located a doctor who diagnosed a broken vertebra many years after Liberty started having pain in his back at 15 years old. On June 2 this year, Liberty had surgery and is still recovering. We’re hoping that he will now have relief from that lifelong pain and that it will give him a new lease on life.

Liberty had to wear a stylish plastic brace for months after surgery. Also note the lovely post-op stockings.

Continued restoring the house after the Great Advent Wreath Smoldering Ash Blowout two years ago. Just came across receipts from Country Curtains for their oldest style of white narrow ruffle curtains, which look just right in my old kitchen. Found imported lace curtains from Scotland for the living and dining rooms. Put white wooden 3” blinds on the bedroom and back porch windows. Got frames and springs fixed on the Victorian furniture from craigslist that had pretty much fallen apart the day I got it all home. Replaced the dining room table (which had two charred leaves) with a Victorian table, almost immediately regretting the replacement of the sturdy well-designed easily expandable ash table from a great American furniture maker (S. Bent) with what turned out to be a rickety old table from Scotland. Replaced carpet in the LR and bedroom with beautiful stained and finished oak (the finishing was just completed last week).

New floor, finally stained and finished

Now if I could only keep up with the maintenance! Got to get the date palm trees their yearly trim and get a new hole in the fence fixed, replace gutters, plus fix another fence that’s falling down, just for starters.

From November until Spring, while I was recovering, three painters that I’ll not so fondly refer to as the Three Stooges (Mendacity, Surly, and Slow) spent a few hours a day (on days when the winter rains weren’t coming down) month after month doing an exterior paint and patch job. I had signed a contract with them for $12,000, thinking they had the expertise to do a number of preliminary projects, such as divert a gutter downspout that flooded the basement, repair the picket fence, and paint concrete steps. They came highly recommended. So imagine my dismay when I discovered that their ineptitude was only exceeded by the mind-boggling level of BS that I heard during every conversation with the lead stooge. Not bitter, much, am I, as I survey the new paint peeling off the concrete, five window panes that they cracked, siding patches that are coming open, not to mention the hole in the fence, while Liberty is still trying to fix the flooding from the downspout? But it still looks nice, if you don't look too close. Liberty came in one day last week and said he overheard two women walking by, "What a beautiful house!"

The white paint I finally picked after agonizing about the choice for months makes my house stand out among the other homes in my neighborhood with their characteristically California-bright colors
A few roses still are blooming in the front of the house in December

Continued with: sponsoring my Godchild, Guadalupe, in Mexico, taking intermittent enjoyable Latin classes with St. Ann choir friends, singing Gregorian chant and polyphony with the schola connected to the Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Santa Clara, where the Traditional Latin Mass is said exclusively, reading and writing and thinking and praying about Catholic dogma and about liturgy that uplifts people’s minds and hearts to God, and spending far too much time on Facebook. I love Facebook, because it has connected me with friends I’d lost track of, helped me make some new friends, and keeps me in daily touch with a community of sacred music enthusiasts and others with whom I have many interests in common. And it’s a good place to share my sketches, paintings, photos, short pieces of writing, and links to longer blogs that I write. Plus I get to see photos of my friends and relatives and their children. For example, one friend posts a daily sunrise photo over a Northern Minnesota lake, and a herbalist friend posts photos of plants from her Portola Valley, CA garden and describes their uses. Cousin Jerry posts photos from Iraq and Germany. I did mention all the charming photos of everyone’s kids, did I not?

Started singing with my schola at a weekly Mass at the beautiful Five Wounds Portuguese National Church (only 3 min. from my home in San Jose).
Five Wounds Portuguese National Church in San Jose

Helped get Vespers materials for our schola to sing Vespers at Mission Santa Clara. Also sang with the schola at Mission San Rafael and Mission Santa Clara.

My poster for the Mission Santa Clara Vespers with an Image from Fr. Catala's Grave Stone
Our Traditional Mass at Mission San Rafael

Now I’m helping with a project to create chant booklets for monthly Vespers to start in the New Year at Five Wounds. It’s an answer to prayer for me that the newly ordained diocesan priest who is the pastor has invited us to hold Vespers. I’m also inspired by the zeal of large home schooled families, many of whose children sing with the schola and whose boys serve Mass and processions, with a kind of reverence and intelligent innocence one doesn’t often see in kids these days.

In the choir loft at Five Wounds where we sing. Look at all the young people!

I recently started swimming again (which I had to stop after the surgery)..

Sad to say, my ex-brother in law, Jay Daly, my niece Eowyn’s father, died suddenly in May after surgeries that were supposed to prevent cancer cells from spreading. Poor Eowyn was the one who found him dead. Jay was well enough known for his writing and other achievements that the Boston Globe published a long obituary article about him. Eowyn’s young son, Thomas, will miss their weekly visits, dubbed by his grandfather as Tuesdays with Thomas.

A Tuesday with Thomas at Jay’s

I’m also sad that my dear Aunt Peggy who helped raise me and my two sisters has been hospitalized in Boston after a stroke, and her sons tell me and my sisters that my aunt doesn’t want visitors. My prayers are always with her.

For a birthday present to myself in October, I drove to Santa Cruz and watched the sun setting over the ocean. Another woman watching the sunset told me to turn around, and I was just in time to see the yellow moon rising behind us.

Then in November, for the second year in a row, I flew out to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving. I visited my sisters and their children (except for nephew Aaron and his family, who I unfortunately couldn't get to see).
Most of the family (sans Martha and Aaron) at the New England Aquarium
My sister Martha

Jadis, the eight year old daughter of my niece, Mary, is artistic, so we took a field trip to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, where we picked out a watercolor pencil kit, and for the rest of my visit, we spent hours drawing together. Gizelle, the four year old daughter of my niece Susan, also drew along with us.

Me by Jadis
Chrysanthemums by me

While everyone was back to school or work my last day in Massachusetts, I drove off on my own to Cape Cod.
Buzzard's Bay Train Station with the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge

In Sandwich, MA, after a lobster dinner and a walk in the dusk on a silvered wood boardwalk, I came to the top of a rise while the red sun set behind me and the moon cast a silver trail on the Atlantic Ocean waves before me. It seemed odd to be looking at the ocean and having the sun setting behind me after years of experience with the Pacific Ocean in the West.

Other news: my daughter Sunshine/Lauren was working as a nanny in Canada for much of this year, but she moved to Cleveland a few months ago. She started a Facebook fan page for herself under the name Chef Raw La La then Sweet Raw La La. She has quite a following at her website, where she blogs and posts photos of herself and recipes and photos of her raw food preparations. Her website is evolving along with her eating, now it’s called Health Exhibitionist, since she has reintroduced some cooked foods into her diet. It’s amazing the gorgeous photos she can take with her Mac laptop. Here’s one:


Following are some other images from this year.

May God bless you at Christmas and always.


Linda (my ex sister in law once removed) injured her foot about the same time, so we got together for a cast party
Linda's son, my nephew Jeff and his son Cole came too, and signed my cast.
Coworker Candice came to my home for a remote Data Domain Friday beer bust and snapped this

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why do people make up these sappy Catholic stories?

Why do people make up sappy Catholic-related emails and send them around the Internet?

One of the annoying forwards that keeps showing up in my Inbox claims that it contains a prayer by Mother Theresa or St. Theresa. The purported prayer is always the same, a new agey blurb that affirms that we are all just where we are supposed to be... The manipulation used by the writer of this prayer email is well described in this blog and this.

Now today I got involved in trying to answer a question posed to me by a friend about a photo that supposedly shows a lady who mysteriously appeared from the crowd to hold Pope John II after he was shot in 1981. As if the guards would let some woman jump the barrier and grab the pope at such a time! Even if she was kind of blurry looking and wearing a gold-edged veil. But maybe the halo gave her away? :-)

The accompanying email claims that the photo was taken by one of the people at the audience where he was shot, and that the woman is Our Lady. The email also has fabricates quotes from Vatican officials and scientific analysis that purportedly proved the photo wasn't a PhotoShop fake.

One infuriating problem with lies, it seems to me, is that they waste your brain space. No matter how stupid the lie, I still feel I have to waste time figuring out how to communicate why I know it isn't true.

My friend asked me if I could tell if the image was PhotoShop enhanced. I did open it up in PhotoShop and enlarged it, but I don't have the expertise to tell what type of manipulation was done. But I can say for sure, my dear friend, of course it isn't real.

I told her I have seen photos and videos of the event and that there was no lady who appeared from the crowd. I sent her the following actual photo showing Pope John Paul II slumped in the arms of his aide after the shooting.

The email also shows a stained glass window that it refers to as evidence that Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski also believes the story, since the stained glass window is in the bishop's residence.

What is true, I told my friend, is that Pope John Paul II was deeply devoted to Mary. He believed that she guided the bullets so that his life was spared, and he gave the bullet that passed through his body to the bishop of Fatima, where it was in the crown of the statue of Our Lady.

The stained glass window is an artist's rendering of Mary protecting and comforting the pope. The image of Mary is Our Lady of Częstochowa, who is especially venerated by Poles.

It baffles me that a person would take the time to use PhotoShop to create a fake photo and then use email to send a fake story about it around the Internet. I'm working on a conspiracy theory, along the lines of how the perpetrators of such hoaxes are trying to make us Catholics look superstitious and gullible. Any alternative suggestions would be gladly received.

Following is the text of the offending email. See also this link, where the photo is declared a fake.

We don't know why John Paul II wanted to hide this picture for years. The Vatican published this picture recently, for first time. This picture was taken by one of his security guards just when the Pope was attacked and was falling down in his Papamobil. You can see the pain in his face.

Take a look at the above picture. You can see Mother Mary holding John Paul II in Her arms when he was shot in 1981.

This happened on May 13, 1981. Pope John Paul II was shot as he arrived in St. Peter's Square to speak to the people who had gathered there. When he was shot, he was holding the rosary, which he always carried. When he fell to the ground, out of nowhere, a woman rushed to his side! and embraced him. That pic is shown above. The picture is said to have been taken by one of the gathered people who was busy taking Pope's pics with his camera. The woman vanished as quickly as she appeared.
The gunman was apprehended in the square and sentenced to life in prison. The pope was critically wounded but survived after surgery and a long recovery. The surprising fact is that all the bullets passed just past his vital internal organs. When he recovered finally, the first thing Pope asked for was his rosary. When he got it in his hands, he said that he felt Mother Mary directing the bullets' path through him. Sure, John Paul II was always in the habit of praying the rosary regularly. He had once said "The best prayer I like is the Rosary".

Joaquin Navarro Valls, who is the one spokesman from The Vatican, said that they made a lot of studies for years of this incredible picture and of course about the quality of the developing of the picture because when it was developed nobody could see very well because the image was not clear. Finally, and after so many controls and being looking and checking by all the experts in photography (around the world), they decided that there were no tricks in it and today they give us this beautiful gift from our Mother of God. You can see the Mother of God holding John Paul II in her arms. Beautiful right?

I dont know whether You will believe me or not. But many do.. And among those who believed, Bishop Thomas Wenski recreated the picture on a glass window at his Florida residence. You can see that below.

This is an awesome prayer.
Believe it and you shall be blessed.
The problem with many of us is that we don't believe that God will open a window and pour out blessings that we won't have room to receive them. I dare anyone to try God. He is true to His word. God cannot lie and His promises are sure.

Three things will happen to you this coming week:
(1) You will find favor with someone you don't expect;
(2) You will be too relevant to be ignored;
(3) You will encounter God and you will never remain the same again..
My prayer for you today:
The eyes beholding this message shall not behold evil, the hands that will send this message to others shall not labor in vain, the mouth saying Amen to this prayer shall laugh forever. Remain in God's love as you send this prayer to everybody on your list. Have a lovely journey of life! Trust in the Lord with all your heart and He will never fail you because He is AWESOME !
If you truly need a blessing, continue reading t! his emai l:

Heavenly Father, most Gracious and Loving God, I pray to you that you abundantly bless my family and me. I know that you recognize, that a family is more than just a mother, father, sister, brother, husband and wife, but all who believe and trust in you. Father, I send up a prayer request for blessings for not only the person who sent this to me, but for me and all that I have forwarded this message on to.. And that the power of joined prayer by those who believe and trust in you is more powerful than anything. I thank you in advance for your blessings.
Father God, deliver the person reading this right now from debt and debt's burdens. Release Your Godly wisdom that I may be a good steward over all that You have given me Father, for I know how wonderful and mighty You are and how if we just obey You and walk In Your word and have the faith of a mustard seed that You will pour out blessings. I thank You now Lord for the recent blessings I have received and for the blessings yet to come because I know You are not done with me yet. In Jesus' name, I pray.
Amen .
TAKE 60 SECONDS and send this on quickly and within hours, you will have caused a multitude of people to pray to God for each other.
Then sit back and watch the power of God work in your life for doing the thing that you know He loves. Remain Blessed!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Notes from the Choir Loft (to my Schola's Director)

Thanks, Michael and all,for all your hard work in pulling the singing together.
It is a great thing that we are able to now sing the Traditional Latin Mass every week in the beautiful setting of Five Wounds Church. Thanks to Fr. Moreau and all for making it happen.

All: as Mike knows, I firmly believe that we should stick to the official definition of chant, which is "unaccompanied."

Here is a quote about the use of organ with chant from the preface to Willi Apel's book Gregorian Chant (from my CatholicPunditWannabe blog.

+ Apel deplored a then-present trend [in 1958] to setting chant to organ; he saw it as a practice destructive to chant, rendering it something "other than it really is and what it should be" p. xii.

The first principle derived from the above is this: Gregorian chant is unaccompanied singing. A second point, not mentioned in this book but elsewhere, is that Gregorian chant is prayer.

And as Apel stated so assuredly in 1958: "Chant is the traditional music of the Roman Catholic Church." He had no idea how much that fundamental statement would be challenged in the next decade and for many decades to come. We may be helping restore the chant to the pride of place that the Vatican II council said it should have. Let us pray.

If we must have the organ please address the following:

- The organ was drowning out the singing of the Ordinary chants. Much too loud.

- Often the organ was not playing the same notes we were supposed to be singing, so that made it almost impossible to sing the right notes.

Love in Him, your sister,


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Once Saved Always Saved: Reductio Ad Absurdum Theology of Gym Killer George Sodini

Theology of Gym Killer George Sodini

Following is a quote from the blog of George Sodini, who killed four people (including himself) and wounded nine others in a Pittsburgh gym on August 4, 2009. The mind of the about-to-be killer mulled over the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone and pushed it to its logical absurdity (reductio ad absurdum[1]).
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.

Some people think the blog is a forgery. There is some evidence to support that claim. For one thing, the web hosting site’s records for blog say that Sodoni’s blog was last updated December 2008, not on August 4, 2009, which is the date of the last entry supposedly entered by Sodoni. But this may be a simple clerical error. Or that web hosting record itself may be a hoax. I tried to check the original, but If you go to now, all you see is an empty page. (A cached version of the index.html page for the site is available at google.)

The quotes circulating from the real or bogus blog do mention accurately the name Tetelestai, the Protestant congregation that Sodoni frequented for years ( And one entry slams the Tetelestai leader, Alan R. Knapp, by name.

Tetelestai a Koine Greek word means “it is finished,” and is the last word/words of Christ on the Cross. The name refers to the congregation’s teachings that Christ’s death put an end to all penalties for all sin for all believers. One shorthand for that doctrine is “once-saved always-saved.” Another way of saying the same thing is “Eternal Salvation.” This is a common Protestant doctrine.

Even if the blog is false, a deacon at Tetelestai echoed the exact theology stated in the quote from Sodini’s blog. According to the following quote from the Pittsburg Valley News Dispatch, Deacon Jack Rickard believes unequivocally that George Sodini is in heaven. ‘Once saved, always saved’ — Deacon says killer rests in heaven

George Sodini rests in heaven now because he professed a faith in Jesus years before his shooting rampage, a Tetelestai Christian Church leader said.

Jack Rickard, a deacon … said the Bible makes it clear that “professing a faith in Jesus as savior means you will have complete eternal salvation.” Rickard, 80, of Indiana, Pa., said Tetelestai members “are firm believers in ‘once-saved, always-saved.’” …

Starting with Luther, Protestant theology rejected the Sacrament of Confession. There is no need for confession (or repentance even) according to their way of looking at sin.

There is a lot to be said on this topic. For one thing, it is far from convincing from my point of view that Luther said that God gave to him the doctrine of justification by faith alone when Luther was sitting on the privy!!

Corraborated by what I’ve been reading today when researching the Protestant position, many congregations teach that after a person professes belief in Christ any sins that person commits are covered by the Blood of Christ.

An image often quoted from Luther says that Christ’s sacrifice covered our sins like snow covers a dung hill. Many Lutherans say that there is no evidence for that image appearing in any of Luther’s writings. However, I found an actual quote from Luther’s writings in which Luther did refer to the stench of our sin being hidden by Christ’s sacrifice, even though the words snow and dunghill do not appear in the quote.

Here is yet another quote from a mainstream Lutheran site:

People are lost in hell because they reject Christ as Savior, not because they have committed the sin of abortion or some other sin. That is the truth of the gospel.

… When Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), [tetelestai again] he was saying that his task of paying for sins--including the sin of abortion--was complete.

That [the Cross] is where we find the certainty of our salvation, not because we have lived such a good life, but because Christ did so in our place. …

I have some first hand exposure to that theology. I left the Catholic Church in rebellion and intellectual pride when I was 18. At about 32 years of age, I started exploring Christian denominations. I began attending an Evangelical Free and other non-denominational fundamentalist congregations. In the enthusiasm of my conversion to being a “Bible-believing Christian,” I agreed with whatever they taught, including the doctrine of Eternal Salvation. At that time I looked back on when I had been a Catholic, and I decided that instead of having Eternal Salvation I had lived under the Damocles sword of Eternal Jeopardy.

But then after a while, I realized there was a lot of proof-texting going on to support the once-saved-always-saved position. Okay, there is “By faith are ye saved not by works, lest any man should boast.” But if the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, why didn’t they pay any attention to: “Faith without works is dead.” Or why didn’t they quote Peter, who said that many would fall away from the Faith? And that adulterers and fornicators (among other sinners would be damned? I don’t have space, but the Scriptures quoted on both sides of the argument are pretty well covered at this site

After long searching, I found a clarification of the once saved correlative belief that a believer can murder or commit adultery and still be saved; in a letter, Luther wrote that serious sin was not possible for a believer because the sin itself proved the lack of faith of the believer. This is quite different from the doctrine that the sins of the believer are not seen by God, and that after a profession of faith, the believer is assured of salvation. From other of his writings, Luther seems to have held both beliefs

As George Sodini’s case indicates, many denominations that have splintered off in the 500 years since the original rupture from the Catholic Church have built their whole belief systems on justification by faith alone (eternal salvation) and one other major catch phrase: Sola Scriptura. But the doctrine "by Scripture alone" is a whole other topic.

I want to end this rough essay with a bit of doggerel verse from the same website quoted above. The poem addresses the fatal flaw in the doctrine that George Sodini seems to have followed, the fallacy that led him to being convinced that he was guaranteed to be going straight to heaven after a murderous rampage.

A Poem by Dr. Michael Brown

God loves me and God loves you
Smile sinner, don't be sad,
God's not angry, he's not mad,
And even if you leave the path,
there's no hell and there's no wrath!
God sees your heart, and that's enough.
The judgment seat won't be that tough.
You can't sin away His grace,
Or take that smile from His face.
Trust me, sinner, to the end,
My name is Satan, I'm your friend".

[1] "Reductio ad absurdum (Latin: "reduction to the absurd") in formal logic is an argument to refute a proposition (or set of propositions), by showing that it leads to a logically absurd consequence."

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Julie/Julia Project: Two Characters Unequally Matched

Photo: Julia Child's Cambridge kitchen, on display at the Smithsonian..

In the movie, the Julie/Julia Project, the richness of Julia Child's life experience, relationships, and accomplishments (especially in Paris) contrasts sharply with the poverty of blogger Julie Powell's life, friendships, and ambitions in Queens and Manhattan.

The plot: Julie Powell creates a blog describing her self-imposed task of cooking all the recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year. Powell's ups and downs are portrayed by screenwriter Nora Ephron against the story of how Julia Child came to learn French cooking and write and publish that cookbook, as described in Child's autobiography, My Life in France.

The contrast the movie reveals between Julie and Julia is sort of like holding up a painting by a modern artist who never learned to draw against a masterpiece from an old master.

Don't get me wrong. I recommend the movie, with an additional caveat about the sexual situations and some foul language, some of it quoted from Julia Child herself. The sex is married sex, but still. The movie illustrates very clearly the link between the sensuality of food and that of sex.

Forty years ago, I watched all the PBS shows of the French Chef. At that time, the French were correctly if not charitably carping that Julia Child was not a real working chef. As Child admitted, she was a home cook and taught home cooking. She inspired me partly by her ineptness, actually. When I saw the lumpy buche de noel (Yule log cake) with the misshapen meringue mushroooms Child created in one show, I thought to myself, Hey! Even I can do that!

I started watching her show on PBS in Boston, continued when we moved to San Francisco and then when we lived in the prairie in Northern Minnesota up near Fargo. I still remember one midday when I carried a big steaming pot of garlic soup that I made from a recipe in Child's French Chef cookbook to a Freaky Foods Club meeting in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco.

The movie reminded me of my great affection for Julia Child. She was a bright original spirit, her cook books are very good, and her shows were entertaining and belied the impressive amount of work that she and her husband and many assistants did to prepare behind the scenes.

I also became acquainted with the Julie/Julia Project blog before it was famous, and I just now finished taking another look at the blogger's final posts. I have to say I can't abide its angry, mean, fairly superficial and not to mention expletive ridden and blasphemous writing. (When she hinted there would be an addition to the family [which turned out to be a dog], she wrote, "No, not a baby. J***s!) What does that say about her in contrast to Julia Child's tears and great sadness in the movie about the children she wanted but could not have?

I have to agree with Julia Chld's reaction to the blog: she said it was a stunt and that the writer was shallow and wasn't a serious cook.

One thing that is patently absurd is that in the movie Powell set herself a year's deadline for cooking all the recipes and then wailed that if she missed it she would have wasted a year. Huh? There was nothing to lose if she missed the deadline, nothing at all. It was inspiring to me that she got a book contract and a movie out of her blog, but was what she wrote actually worth all that? And her reported conversations with her imaginary friend Julia Child while she cooked seemed pretty absurd too.

The actor portraying Julie's husband has some tough lines to read when trying to console Julie after a reporter told her what Julia Child thouught of the blog. The husband speaks a psychobabbly bit about how the Julia Child that Julie has in her head is a different person from the Julia Child who doesn't appreciate the blog. And that somehow consoles the Julie character.

To tell the truth, I wonder if all the gourmandizing that Julia Child unleashed was altogether good for American culture. You cannot make a simple salad these days without a mix of six lettuces (with the mandatory arugila) in the circles I run in. My work cafeteria has all kinds of what I call yuppy food, when I'd like to sometimes go in at lunchtime and pick up a regular old low priced sandwich, with maybe romaine or curly leaf lettuce. Cooks these days don't seem to realize that good food can be made and enjoyed without expensive ingredients like varieties of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. Even good, traditional, priests who are Facebook friends are sending tweets (from Twitter) about their gourmandizing and wine bibbing.

Excessive preoccupation with food, even excellent well-prepared food, and with other aspects of what is called good living is just as bad as any addiction. What have we come to with a TV channel totally dedicated to Foodie-ism? I have to admit I'm delighted that American cooking is no longer only packaged mixes, Wonder Bread, and convenience foods of all kinds. But food is not the meaning of life.

As St. Paul said, "The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17). And in Phillipians 3: 18, 19, St. Paul wrote that those who make their bellies their god are actually enemies of the Cross.

"For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. Their minds are occupied with earthly things."

The true focus of our lives should be what St. Paul writes about in the next two verses (20 and 21):

"But our citizenship 13 is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.."

Great cooking, Parisian living, cooking shows, book contracts, fame, and fortune, all are intensely attractive. But as St. Paul tells us, our minds must be on heavenly things, we should be busy while waiting our savior, and we need to be humbly subjected to Christ. Ever hear of a saint who insisted on extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar on his mixed Spring greens? Me neither.

Aside from all this, in the face of Julie and Julia's atheism, I am sad, and all I can do in the face of that sorrow is pray for their souls.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Architect of the Protestantization of the Liturgy, a Freemason?

This blog contains quotes from two email Newsflash letters from Robert Moynihan, Inside the Vatican editor and journalist In these excerpts, Moynihan describes some of the controversy around Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, a prominent figure behind the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms. From my own readings of the council document on the liturgy, I have been amazed at how far the reforms diverged beyond the intent of the actual text. For example, Latin was not supposed to be replaced with the local languages, but local languages were to be "allowed" in certain parts of the Mass . . . .

One of the quotes I found in this article indicates that one goal of the reformers was to Protestantize the liturgy. “We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants.” —Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, L'Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965

Also pretty convincing is the story that Archbishop Bugnini was a Mason, one of whose stated goals is to work against the Catholic Church. As the story goes, as soon as Pope Paul VI was presented with convincing proofs of Archhbishop Bugnini's Masonry, the pope immediately removed Bugnini from his position and banished him to Iraq.

From: Dr. Robert Moynihan
Subject: Letter from Rome, #231
Date: July 15, 2009 9:00:44 PM PDT

A Dying Cardinal

I was a friend of the late Cardinal Edouard Gagnon, who died two years ago at the age of 89 (his dates were January 15, 1918 to August 25, 2007) .

A Canadian who was for many years the President of the Holy See's Pontifical Council for the Family, Gagnon was known in Rome for his full support of the prohibition of artificial contraception in Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. (Note: The demographic collapse of the West is often attributed, in Rome, to the rejection by the West of the teaching of Pope Paul VI in that encyclical. Inotherwords, the social, cultural and historical, as well as moral and spiritual, consequences of the rejection of that encyclical have been profound.)

The demographic collapse of the West is often attributed, in Rome, to the rejection by the West of the teaching of Pope Paul VI in that encyclical [Humanae Vitae].

He died on August 25, 2007 in Montreal at the Saint-Sulpice Seminary.

On hearing of his death, Pope Benedict XVI said that Cardinal Gagnon was a "faithful pastor who, with an evangelical spirit, consecrated his life in service to Christ and his Church."

It is widely known in Rome that Gagnon went on a special mission for Pope John Paul II in the late 1980s to investigate the Society of St. Pius X, found by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (photo), in the hope of finding a way to avoid a schism, and that his mission failed.

It is now generally forgotten that Pope Paul VI gave Gagnon a different mission 10 years earlier, in the late 1970s in Rome.


The following is drawn from an interesting 2007 article by Msgr. Vincent Foy, the oldest diocesan priest in the Archdiocese of Toronto, a canon lawyer by training.

"About 1977 the Pope (Paul VI) asked Bishop Gagnon to conduct an investigation of the whole Roman Curia. There were widespread rumors of corruption and infiltration by enemies of the Church. These led to the often-repeated saying of the Pope that the smoke of Satan had entered the Church [my emphasis]. This was an immense task, which took many months of intense work and many interviews.

"Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, in a (2001) interview with Latin Mass magazine, reprinted in Christian Order this year (2007), gives this account, based on a conversation of Bishop Gagnon with an Italian priest, Don Luigi Villa of the diocese of Brescia.

"Bishop Gagnon (she said) 'compiled a long dossier, rich in worrisome details. He requested an audience with Pope Paul in order to deliver personally the manuscript to the Pontiff. This request for a meeting was denied. The Pope sent word that the document should be placed in the offices of the Congregation for the Clergy, specifically in a safe with a double lock. This was done, but by the very next day the safety box was broken and the manuscript mysteriously disappeared. This theft was reported even in L’Osservatore Romano (perhaps under pressure because it had been reported in the secular press). Cardinal Gagnon, of course, had a copy, and once again asked the Pope for a private audience. Once again his request was denied. He then decided to leave Rome and return to his homeland in Canada'... (end of Hildebrand quote)

(still Foy writing) "Bishop Gagnon wrote me on June 10th, 1979, about ten months after the election of Pope John Paul II (October 1978). He said, in part, 'He (the Pope) must feel that if he started changing or contradicting the VIPs around him he would be engaged in a constant battle and would not be left enough time or strength to preach and write — all you can do for the Church is to pray and fast. We should not judge him — but I am waiting for his settling down after Poland to tell him that I am sorry for him and cannot continue working in the present set-up..."

(For a full report on this matter, see:


Having known Cardinal Gagnon, and having read these accounts of his work in the 1970s and 1980s, I was always hopeful of conducting a long interview with him. However, the opportunity did not present itself, and in the summer of 2007, I learned that the cardinal was dying. I therefore decided to buy an airplane ticket and travel to Montreal to pay my last respects to him before his passing. This is what happened...


Two years ago, on July 22, 2007, I wrote this report to myself; it has never previously been published:

"I am writing this at 11:06 on Sunday morning in Montreal. It is a perfect summer day under an azure sky with a light breeze blowing over the square cobblestones of the piazza in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady -- Notre Dame -- in the center of Montreal.
"I first thought I would not be able to get in to see the cardinal. The courtyard was empty, a sign said the rectory was closed on Sundays, when I looked in there was no one inside, and there was no white bell. So I walked around the basilica, then inside it, spoke with an usher, and he told me I could go back to the sacristy. There, I met a priest, who told me to go back to the same door of the rectory at 116 rue de Notre-Dame. I went back, and pushed the asterisk number. No answer. Again. No answer. Then I saw a man sitting inside at the desk. He had not been there before. I knocked on the window. He buzzed and the door opened and let me in. (The following conversation then occurred.)


"Who are you and what do you want?"

"I am an old friend of Cardinal Gagnon. I would like to see him."

"He is very weak, too weak to see anyone."

"I called some days ago, they said I could see him briefly."

"Come, we will go and ask."

I walked behind him into the hallway of the rectory. "Wait here," he said. I waited in a waiting room. There was a Documentation Catholique on the table about the Pope's trip to Brazil.

The priest came back. "He is too weak. He does not wish to see anyone."

"But I have come so far."

"No, I'm sorry," he said. "He is too tired."

I pulled out a copy of my magazine. "Take this and ask him one last time." Reluctantly, he took the magazine, turned and went back down the hall.

Another minutes passed as I waited alone in the reading room. Then, his voice: "Robert? (pause) Robert?" I went to the door and looked down the dark hall. He was standing up on top of four stairs at the end of the hallway. He motioned to me. "Come. He will see you. But only for you to say goodbye to him, nothing more. You can only stay for a moment."

I walked down the hallway and into the room. Light was coming into the livingroom, and off to the left was a door leading in to a less bright bedroom. There, on a hospital bed with intravenous tubes set into his arms on each side, lay a very old, pale man. Two oxygen tubes entered his nostrils. It was Cardinal Gagnon.

"Your Eminence," I said. "I have come to say good-bye to you."

His eyes recognized me. "You are doing good work," he said. "I read your magazine."

"How are you feeling?"

"Very tired," he said.

"I wanted to thank you for everything you have done, the work you have done for the Church."

He barely acknowledged my words.

The priest stood in the doorway of the room. "Come away now, let him rest," he said. "Don't tire him any further."

I reached out my hand and took his hand.

"Your eminence, many years ago, you helped me. I wanted to thank you for that. You helped me at the very start of my career..."

"You have written well," he said. "Continue. Your work is important."

The other priest was insistent now. "Come," he said. "It is time."

"Your Eminence," I said, "you have done so much for the Church...."

He was silent, and his eyes closed.

"Your Eminence, you must be tired. All the struggles over the years..."


"Robert, it is time to go," said the priest who had brought me to him.

"Your Eminence, the study you made for Pope Paul VI in the 1970s..."

He opened his eyes and looked directly into mine.

"The study that was stolen," I said.

He knew what I was talking about, I feel sure. He knew immediately and clearly.

"Did you keep any copy of the document?"

"No," he said, and I felt a great weariness in him. "They ordered me to destroy every copy," he said. "And I obeyed."

"So there are no copies of your report?"

"No," he said. He closed his eyes. He seemed enormously, extraordinarily tired. I felt like I was almost cruel, to continue to push him to think, to recall, to speak...

The other priest called to me again. "Robert," he said. "Don't ask him anything else. It is enough now."

But I had one more question.

"Is there anyone else you confided in, who knows the content of your report?"

"There is someone," he said, with a sigh, and closed his eyes as if he were going to fall into a slumber out of his great weariness.

"Who?" I asked.

"Monsignor..." and he coughed as he said the name, and a little spittle came out onto his thin, dry lips...

"Who?" I asked again. "I couldn't hear what you said..."

I bent my head closer to his lips. I put my ears only an inch or two from his mouth.

"Monsignor (name)," he said, and whispered the name. "He helped me prepare the report."

"Monsignor (name)?" I said, repeating the name.

"Yes," Gagnon said.

"Monsignor (first name) (last name)?" I said, giving both his first and last names.

"Yes," said Gagnon. "We worked together on it. He knows everything that it contained."

My heart skipped a beat. I had not obtained the report itself. But I had gotten something almost as good: a living witness...

"Go talk to him," Gagnon said. "As you see, my time remaining in this world will be brief now... You must pray for me."

"I will pray for you," I said.

"The other priest said, 'Come, come, he is too tired now..."

"Will you give me your blessing?" I asked Gagnon.

He lifted his thin, white, bony hand, where there was a long red splotch underneath the skin due to a hemorrage from an intravenous needle.

"Benedicat te omnipotens Deus, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus." ("May Almighty God bless you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.")

He moved his hand about an inch and a half, trembling, in the sign of the cross.

He closed his eyes. He was simply too tired to keep them open.

The priest tugged on my arm, and gestured with his eyes towards the door.

I left Gagnon's side and walked out of the bedroom, out of the livingroom, out into the green hallway, down the steps and out to the front door.

"You were lucky," the priest said to me. "You shouldn't have been able to see him today. I am never here on Sunday mornings. I don't know why I came down. And if I hadn't come down, no one would have been here to let you in."

"Thanks for helping," I said.

"You were very lucky," he repeated.

And he let me out the door, and it closed behind me.

From: Dr. Robert Moynihan
Subject: Letter from Rome, #22
Date: July 18, 2009 9:50:56 AM PDT

The Briefcase Left Behind


When I got back to Rome after my brief July 22 meeting with Cardinal Gagnon not long before his death in August 2007, I called the monsignor whose name Gagnon had given me.

He agreed to meet with me, and we sat down at a cafe at the bottom of via delle Fornaci.

And we began to talk.

From: Dr. Robert Moynihan
Subject: Letter from Rome, #23
Date: July 19, 2009 9:00:44 PM PDT

The Briefcase Left Behind (continued)

I began my conversation with the monsignor indicated to me by Cardinal Gagnon asw he lay dying with the simple fact of Gagnon's passing in August of 2007.

We spoke in Italian. The conversation took place in the fall of 2007.

"I was sorry to hear of Cardinal Gagnon's passing," I said.

"Yes, so was I," the monsignor said. "He was a great servant of the Church. He suffered a great deal."

"I knew him," I said. "He was always helpful to me, especially when I was beginning."

"He was a kind man."

And then we began our usual conversation, on the state of the Church, the latest news in the Vatican, and so forth. Our conversation turned naturally to the publication on July 7, 2007, of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which promoted wider use of the old rite of the Mass.

"I'm confused," I said.

"Why?" he said.

"The whole thing," I said. "What happened at the Second Vatican Council, the Constitution on the Liturgy, the Commission established to revise the Mass, Monsignor Bugnini... And now, 40 years later, we seem to be still in a state of confusion. It seems like all the things we held sacred — all the things we loved — have been trampled upon."

"You are too gloomy," he said, waving his hand dismissively. "Yes, things have been trampled upon, but the essential remains. Don't lose heart."

"Does the essential remain?" I asked. "Look around. We have some who don't care about any traditions at all, they look at the 'old Church' as narrow and guilt-ridden, and they will do anything not to go back. And we have many traditionalists who seem to focus solely on externals — it sometimes seems an idolatry of the ritual..."

"I don't see it that black-and-white," the monsignor said. "You are leaving out all the individuals, all their acts of sacrifice, their good humor, their prayer. You have fallen into a trap. In the fight over truth, don't forget grace. Remember, there is God, the Holy Spirit, Mary..."

"But why do so many seem not to care?"

"Some are thoughtless. Some are persuaded the Church should be changed. Some just flow with the tide. Some are motivated by money. And then there are those who serve other masters. That was the case with Bugnini..."

I was startled. Not because of what he said, because it is an old allegation, but because of the way he said it, as if it was something settled, beyond discussion.

"Of course, I have heard that," I said, "but why do you say it so bluntly, as if it were certain? I thought it was just an allegation?"

"It is certain," he said. "At least, as certain as anything can be in this world. He went to a meeting in the Secretariat of State, with his briefcase. It was in 1975. Later that evening, when everyone had gone home, a monsignor found the briefcase Bugnini had left behind. The monsignor decided to open it to see who the owner was. And when he opened it, he found letters inside addressed to Bugnini, as to a brother, from the Grand Master of Italian Freemasonry..."

"But could those letters have been forgeries?" I asked. "Could someone have opened the briefcase, seen it was Bugnini's, and then slipped these false documents inside, to frame him?"

"Well, theoretically, I suppose, that is possible. [Note to readers: Bugnini himself always said the allegations were false, that he was never a freemason, and that the charges were made against him by disgruntled conservatives who opposed the work he had done on the liturgy.] But Paul VI, at least, didn't think so. When the evidence was brought to him, he came to the conclusion that Bugnini needed to be removed immediately from his post. Bugnini was made the papal nuncio in Iran. After more than 25 years as the head of the liturgical reform, he was abruptly fired and sent to a country where there are hardly any Catholics at all. It was a type of banishment.

"That is very sad," I said.

"No," he said, "it is very human... And today, 35 years later, it is in the past. It is something we can do nothing about."

"But if this is really true," I said, "then Paul VI may have approved of the new Mass under 'false pretences,' as it were. Wouldn't that raise questions about the entire liturgical reform? And why, then, did Paul VI not go back to the drawing board, if he believed what you say was true?"

(For more on the letters in the briefcase, see:


The Monsignor Sums Up

"Look," the monsignor said, "no matter how many defeats the Church suffers, no matter how many betrayals, there is always hope..."

"But the losses are so great," I said, "it is as if the link between our time and the past has been severed..."

"No!" He looked fiercely at me. "You yourself are evidence that it has not been severed. And so am I. And I tell you, that even were you to fall, and betray the faith, and even were I to fall, and even if all around us were to fall, still, the Church will not be defeated. She will prevail. Non praevalebunt!"

And I looked at him and marveled at his faith.

And I still had not asked him about the Gagnon dossier...


(More to come...)

To read the NewsFlashes or to subscribe to Moynihan's daily email Letter from Rome, go to

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Stop at the Vestibule of the Castle of Pleasure?

It is amazing now to think back on the fact that Fulton J. Sheen, a Catholic archbishop, had a weekly TV show that was vastly popular in the 50s and 60s, in which he defended the Catholic faith. We used to watch it every week when my grandma could convince my uncle to give up watching equally popular comedian Milton Berle on another channel. According to Wikipedia, when Sheen won an Emmy, Berle quipped, 'He's got better writers.'"

I came upon Sheen's book Three to Get Married on Amazon just now when I was browsing in reaction to the current tempest about Christopher West's interpretation of John Paul II's Theology of the Body, after West was interviewed on ABC news. See this link for one reaction to the debate.

Alice von Hildebrand has objected to West's popularizing of the topic and points out that her late husband Dietrich covered the topic of married love and its sacramentality and mystery more appropriately. I have to agree that von Hildebrand's books are more decorous on the subject of the role of what used to be called love in Holy Matrimony than West's rather racy approach, but now I think Fulton Sheen's writings may be better than either Hildebrand or West because what Sheen writes is both respectful and engaging. With all due respect, Hildebrand (and Pope John Paul II) on the subject are a bit dry. Here is an excerpt from Sheen's Three to Get Married.

[W]hen sex is divorced from love there is a feeling that one has been stopped at the vestibule of the castle of pleasure; that the heart has been denied the city after crossing the bridge. Sadness and melancholy result from such a frustration of destiny, for it is the nature of man to be sad when he is pulled outside himself, or exteriorized without getting any nearer his goal. There is a closer correlation between mental instability and the animal view of sex than many suspect.

I have been trying to put similar thoughts into words for quite some time. I pity the young people who have been trained to believe that sex expression is a good in itself, and that "relationships" must be "free," conditional, and nonexclusive. How many people these days would decide to marry someone without trying them out first? How many people think of marriage at all when they consider starting a "relationship"?

Nobody talks about the pain of creating a profound union with another person (which occurs as an often unwanted result of intimacy), or about the feeling of being exteriorized, pulled outside oneself that ensues when the "relationship" stops. Sheen's words give a vivid glimpse of the real toll the experience of intimacy without commitment takes on a person.

Here is another quote from earlier in Sheen's book:

What some people love is not a person but the experience of being in love. The first is irreplaceable, the second is not. As soon as the glands stop reacting with their pristine force, couples who identified emotionalism and love claim they no longer love each other.

The above quote is a bit dated sounding, unfortunately, because the word love itself is often exorcised from the equation. People routinely throw themselves into sexual relations out of desire (Boy is s/he hot!), then decide later if there is a chance they might love each other. Since love and commitment are often absent from the start, it is a miracle if a couple can actually get to the point of labeling their provisional "relationship" as love, especially since passion diminishes after a while.

But even if a couple makes it to the love phase, they may redefine what they feel as "not love" at any time, either before or after marriage. Think of the many movies that show couples living together sometimes even in the final stages of wedding planning who find their "true loves" and dump their current partner without a thought. But then, you don't have to go to the movies to see people dumping their partners, wedded or not.

The marriage bond is also seen as provisional. The words "Til death do us part" and "For better or worse." have no meaning. Sheen was writing at a time when there was little open cohabitation (which was against the law) and when promiscuity was much less acceptable, but Sheen still has a lot to say about all these topics, and about how important God is in the picture.

Two glasses that are empty cannot fill each other up. There must be a fountain of water outside the glasses in order that they may have communion with each other. It takes three to make love.

Okay, the water/fountain/love/God/true communion and satisfaction metaphor may not work completely, but you get the idea.

Maybe this is one example where Christopher West has said it better. In his recent ABC news interview, West said: "The problem is we have kicked God out of the bedroom. Do the math on that. If God is love, and we kick him out of the bedroom, then what's going on in your bedroom? It ain't love. ... We have to bring God and sex back together," said West.

Speaking of God in the bedroom brings to mind a related quote I found recently in the conversion story of Marilyn Prever, in Honey from the Rock,: Sixteen Jews Find the Sweetness of Christ. Prever, who is a very funny woman, wrote that when she finally realized they were ready to seek instruction, she and her husband went to a priest that someone told her was "easy to talk to."

When we brought up the topic of birth control, intending to get instructions in natural family planning, he hastened to assure us that "it's none of the Church's business what you do in the privacy of your bedroom." As I imagined all the mortal sins I could commit with impunity, from first-degree murder to blasphemy, simply by closing my bedroom door, I realized that something serious must have happened to the Catholic Church...

That priest and others like him have "kicked God out of the bedroom." Something serious HAS happened in that many Catholics, lay and clergy and religious decline to obey or defend the Church's teaching about the evils of contraception, extramarital "sex," cohabitation, and divorce. I pray that the misperceptions that even many clergy hold on these vitally important matters are cleared up and there is a widespread return to accepting the teaching authority of the Church by those who call themselves Catholic.

All these things that our are society thinks of as good are evils, because they go against God's plan for our happiness. We violate the laws of nature and of nature's God to our peril.

Christ forbade divorce because marriage is a holy thing that is a Symbol (with a capital S) of His Love for the Church, a Love that is summarized by West as Free, Total, Faithful, and Fruitful. When people practice intimacy outside of marriage or while setting up barriers to life within marriage, it is a grave misuse of a God-given gift, and that misuse creates unmeasurable amounts of harm that ripple out to the whole of every society in the world.

Another quote from Christopher West that I like because I've drawn the comparison myself before: he said in the ABC interview that contraception is like bulemia, you want to have the pleasure and prevent the natural functioning of body from its completion.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Wish I was a Whale

In 1984 or so,when I was a graduate student, writing instructor, and divorced mother of two small children, I wrote a pro-life opinion piece that was published in the Minnesota Daily. In the article, I described waiting for a bus with my children one frigid day in downtown Minneapolis and seeing protesters parading with bloody photos of battered baby seals. They didn't seem to be attracting any censure, which seemed unfair to me, since protesters who carried photos of bloody aborted babies are roundly condemned.

I was reminded of that article last week, when a friend from my traditional Latin Mass schola gave me a Pro Life Zinger check to pay for some local honey I'd picked up for her. The check is printed with a cartoon of a pregnant woman on her way to an abortion clinic. A thought balloon originating from the womb of the cartoon woman says, "I wish I was a whale."

It is not an exaggeration to say that as a society, we often seem to have more compassion for the offspring of seals and whales and owls than we have for our own species.

The Life Checks company that makes the ProLife Zinger checks is not trying to make light of abortion. They are trying to provoke a reaction against it. In case you are interested in this cause and can handle a little scorn, you can purchase Life Checks for yourselves by contacting 1(888)524-3257

We Cannot Deny We Are Aware of the Atrocity

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Schwabmunchen 2 after the Allies liberated Germany. German civilians were forced by the Third Army soldiers to dig up bodies, make coffins, and give the victims more-decent burials. The photo shows about 500 Germans attending burial services for the victims. The German pastor conducting the services said local residents were unaware of the atrocity.

In Germany during Nazi rule, if a Catholic protested in front of a death camp, perhaps with a sign that said, "Stop the Killing!" he or she would almost certainly have been killed too.

Here and now, if we protest in front of a place where abortions are performed, we only risk scorn and perhaps a feeling of futility. Some of us might get arrested. The abortions continue in spite of our prayers, works, and occasional sufferings. Thanks to the peaceful, prayerful protests, a few lives are being saved here and there, but many long years have passed since abortion was legalized, and still every year millions are being mutilated and killed in their mother's wombs.

In the face of great evil done in the name of a faulty ideal, it seems that even well-meaning individual citizens are pretty much helpless to stop it.

I suspect that there may come a time when people like me, who stand by helplessly, complaining perhaps to one another, but not doing anything more that an occasional prayerful vigil at an abortion clinic, we may be condemned for our complicity because we didn't go far enough. That thought struck me recently when I've been looking at movies that showed how American soldiers punished Germans who had lived near the death camps.

Old army films on YouTube from 1945 show how the Americans rounded up the well-dressed middle class Germans from nearby villages, brought them to the camps, and made them dig up the dead from the mass graves and rebury them. The Germans were forced by the Americans to perform these tasks amidst the putrid stacks of rotting bodies that the Nazi guards had slaughtered and left behind before the guards had run away.

The actions that the Americans took against the Germans who lived near the camps reveal that the Americans must have felt that the villagers should have done something to stop the horror, no matter what it might have cost them. I wonder if that is a realistic thing to believe, that the so-called good Germans could have made a difference?

It's impossible to believe their claims that they didn't know what was going on. The stench of the smoke coming out of the crematorium chimneys alone must have been a dead giveaway of what was going on inside.

I have been known to tactlessly predict to abortion supporters that when the world wakes up and exposes the heinous crimes of our abortion-justifying society, people who stood for the "right" to abortion will be held accountable. Now I also think that we who stand by and wring our hands might also be held to that same standard.

I remember as a child after World War II hearing members of my family wonder, "How could the Germans have stood by and done nothing?" How, indeed?

But, as I think of it, the killing in both cases is quite similar to the atrocities practiced by the Romans at the time of Christ. The Romans were no less brutal than the Nazis with their gladiator games and crucifixions. If one person in a village fought against the Roman or the Nazi occupation, the rest of the town was decimated. Decimation meant that one out of ten of the people in the town were killed in retribution.

Maybe for us it's a mix of things that's stopping us: Helplessness and fear. We have not been punished yet for disagreeing, but that day might yet be coming.

Maybe we aren't supposed to rise up and take the strong actions it might take to turn things around? The early Christians didn't fight the Romans, they concentrated on being holy themselves. But still, shouldn't we be doing everything in our power to make the killing stop? I don't know. I really don't know.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Questioning Two of Obama's Notre Dame Commencement Statements About Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Reducing the "Need" for Abortion

[Y]ou have to search far and wide to find out about the fact that embryonic stem cells have already been proven to be too undifferentiated to be useful. They morph unpredictably when injected into another person, not changing into the desired sort of cells but often becoming cancer cells.

...Obama doesn’t realize that the fallacy of "free sex" and the fallacious idea that we cannot control ourselves outside of marriage have led to accepting abortion as a price a woman has to pay for her “freedom.”

See below for more.

[Photo: Rev. Fr. Jenkins, President of Notre Dame, Beams at Obama's Compliments]

During his commencement speech after receiving an honorary law degree at Notre Dame University on May 17, 2009, President Barack Obama made two statements that obviously contradict Catholic Church doctrine. And after both statements, to my sadness, thousands of the badly catechized Catholic graduating class and their families cheered.

Pity the Poor Families Awaiting Great Cures for Family Members. Or Pity Them for Being Fooled by the Embryonic Stem Cell Hype?

Obama mentioned Catholics who believe that it is wrong to kill a human being for research purposes in the same breath with parents who have been propagandized into thinking that stem cell research may be their only hope for a child suffering from an uncurable disease such as diabetes. And to my sadness, thousands cheered.

This uncritically accepted statement is yet another indication that embryonic stem cell research has been hyped so much that it is protected from normal scientific accountability. The fact is ignored that only adult stem cells have actually proven useful. They are already being used. My podiatrist uses them to help in healing foot bones after surgery. But you have to search far and wide to find out about the fact that embryonic stem cells have already been proven to be too undifferentiated to be useful. They morph unpredictably when injected into another person, not changing into the desired sort of cells but often becoming cancer cells.

Setting aside how embroyonic stem cell research is a heinous act because it ends the life of a human being, it should be reconsidered because it is also a futile act. Many embroyos are already been killed for this research, and their cells are being experimented upon. And the results so far are zero.

Reducing the "Need for Abortion"--By What Means, Licentiousness Combined with Contraception? Or Self Control Along with Obedience to the Will of God?

Obama also mentioned one of his campaign slogans that convinced at least one Catholic niece of mine of his good will,that we should work to reduce the “need” for abortion. And to my sadness, thousands cheered.

Obama didn’t talk about the means he would use to meet that goal: contraception.

Many "modern-thinking" Catholics refuse to admit that contraception is a root cause behind the abortive mentality, even though the Church teaches against it as the grave evil that it is. Pope Paul VI spoke of these and other consequences in his Humanae Vitae.

Contraception supports the mindset that intimacy outside of marriage is a great good that should be defended at all costs, even when it costs the lives of children through abortion when they are conceived when they aren’t wanted, and it often costs the heartbreak of the mother, the father, and/or the grandparents, who might want the child if their freedoms to choose life hadn't been eroded.

Obama seems not to realize that the fallacy of "free sex" and the fallacious idea that we cannot control ourselves outside of marriage have led to accepting abortion as a price a woman has to pay for her “freedom.” As a journalist friend recently wrote me, it is a sad thing that women have been convinced that their freedom depends on their being able to kill their own children. I have always noted that the loudest spokesmen for "freedom of choice" have been ... men, like Hugh Hefner, licentious proponents of mens' being able to access women for sex at any time without any commitment.

Wake up! There is never any “need” for abortion, no matter what the circumstances are of the child’s conception. It is always and everywhere true that two wrongs (rape and abortion, incest and abortion, a child’s deformity and abortion, a woman’s inability to carry a child to term without risk to her life and abortion) do not make a right. Two wrongs never never make a right..

It is also a lie that teaching children about sex separate from marriage and making contraception freely available reduces unwanted pregnancies. But that topic is for another day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Conservatives are Happier! Is This Old News to Everyone But Me?

Conservatives are more likely to be older, married and religious, all of which increases happiness [quote from "How Our Unconscious Votes," Newsweek May 26, 2008]

I found the above quote in an old Newsweek in a break area at work. I know this is almost a year old, but I've been out of touch. :-) Below is more of the context from the article.
In a 2006 survey by Pew Research Center, 47 percent of conservative Republicans described themselves as "very happy," but only 28 percent of liberal Democrats did. That led columnist George F. Will to write that "liberalism is a complicated and exacting, not to say grim and scolding, creed. And not one conducive to happiness." ... The right-left happiness gap existed not only in the United States but in nine other countries, too. In part, that's because conservatives are more likely to be older, married and religious, all of which increase happiness.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Few Things Can Constitute a More Explicit, In-Your-Face, Denial of Catholic Seriousness than the Choice of Pro-abortion Commencement Speakers

Father Richard John Neuhaus, the late editor of First Things wrote the following in 1999 about pro-abortion commencement speakers:
It is exceedingly tiresome when college and university administrators protest that they don’t do what they so obviously do do. While effusively affirming their devotion to their ‘Catholic identity,’ they deny it by the most egregious of actions. One university president assures me that it has been made perfectly clear that this year’s commencement speaker will not be ‘honored’ in any way.' What twaddle. Being chosen as commencement speaker is as great an honor as most institutions provide. Chatter about ‘Catholic identity’ or, even more tenuously, ‘education in the Jesuit tradition’ is, a Jewish friend observes, comparable to advertising ‘kosher-like’ hot dogs. Few things can constitute a more explicit, in-your-face, denial of Catholic seriousness than the choice of pro-abortion commencement speakers. (First Things, August/September 1999)

Obviously, Father Neuhaus would have a lot to say about Notre Dame University's invitation to pro-abortion Presiden Barack Obama if Neuhaus was alive today.

What's Stopping Anglicans Who Want to Join the Catholic Church?

Musings Prompted by Bits from Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua,

As you may know, John Cardinal Henry Newman was a famous convert to Anglicanism in 1845, and he is being considered for canonization by the Roman Catholic Church. The first time I tried to read Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Defense of One's Life), I found it dull. Praise I'd previously seen for Newman's writing style was always of the sort on the back cover of my paperback edition of the Apologia. The blurb claims that Newman is "is one of the great masters of English prose." After recently revisiting the book, I found that at the very least the ideas it expresses are growing on me, so I'm glad I gave it a second look.

Yesterday I grabbed the Apologia Pro Vita Sua to have something to read while I was eating breakfast. Opening at random to an appendix, I found some apt observations that are related to modern issues around ecumenism, and to the reception of Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
Newman wrote:
I am bound to state plainly what I feel and have felt, since I was a Catholic, about the Anglican Church. I said, in a former page, that, on my conversion, I was not conscious of any change in me of thought or feeling, as regards matters of doctrine; this, however, was not the case as regards some matters of fact, and, unwilling as I am to give offense to religious Anglicans, I am bound to confess that I felt a great change in my view of the Church of England. I cannot tell how soon there came on me,—but very soon,—an extreme astonishment that I had ever imagined it to be a portion of the Catholic Church. For the first time, I looked at it from without, and (as I should myself say) saw it as it was. Forthwith I could not get myself to see in it any thing else, than what I had so long fearfully suspected, from as far back as 1836,—a mere national institution....

Newman went on to write about the good that the the Anglican Church has done to him and to many others and how he could not wish to oppose it as long as the Anglican Church was teaching authentic doctrine, especially since the Catholic Church in England at that time was so small in numbers.

Not for its own sake but for the sake of the many congregations to which it ministers, I will do nothing against it. .. What our duty would be in a different time and in other circumstance, supposing for instance the Establishment lost its dogmatic faith ... is another matter altogether.
Doubtless the National Church has hitherto been a serviceable breakwater against doctrinal errors, more fundamental than its own. How long this will last in the years now before us, it is impossible to say, for the Nation drags down its Church to its own level; ... I should wish to avoid every thing ... which went to weaken its hold upon the public mind, or to unsettle its establishment, or to embarrass and lessen its maintenance of those great Christian and Catholic principles and doctrines which it has up to this time successfully preached..

I don't doubt that Newman would now say that the "different time and other circumstances" he mentioned are now upon us, in the face of how the Anglican Church apparently has "lost its dogmatic faith."
To give one example, one Anglican bishop, the Bishop of Durham (in 1985), announced his lack of belief in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection and implied he was not alone among Anglican bishops to disbelieve in these doctrines. When I looked into the Episcopal Church in the 1970s, Episcopalianism being the American version of Anglicanism, I found that they prided themselves in being all-inclusive in doctrine. For example, whether you believed in the Transubstantian or not, the church wanted you to feel at home. The doctrinal deviations and the ordination of women and of even flagrantly practicing homosexuals as priests and bishops has driven droves of Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
It inspires me that whole groups of Anglicans are attempting to swim the Tiber together. I have read of whole congregations from the Church of Ireland and the Traditional Anglican Communion (which has been separated from the Anglican Church for twenty years), who have petitioned Rome to be admitted. I also heard a passing reference once to Episcopalian congregations in the United States who have also done the same. I can't find any details about any the outcomes of any of these requests except at the website of the Traditional Anglican Communion. The last communication they received about their September 2007 petition to join the Catholic Church was a letter from Archbishop Levada in July 2008. Levada's letter was cordial and encouraging, but the letter seemed to put the TAC request into a holding pattern.
I am not diplomatic by nature or by training, and so it seems wrong to me that anyone who wants to join the Catholic Church would being denied. But at the same time I know that the Church has to carefully consider many issues that are outside my ken.
The letter to the TAC from Archbishop Levada mentioned that their request had to be considered in the context of how the situation within the broader Anglican church had "become markedly more complex." Maybe the Church does not want take in the TAC in fear that it would close the door forever on the possible reunion of mainstream Anglicans and Roman Catholics, even though the chances for reunion between two religious groups with such divergent beliefs seems well nigh impossible to me.
Knowing what I do about how hard it is to get even a few people to agree on matters of faith, I believe it is a downright miracle that whole groups of Anglicans have been converted together and desire now to worship in union with Rome. My heart is with them. I pray that the Anglicans who are united in this desire will be welcomed home.
I'll end with another quote from Newman:
I cannot deny, what must be ever a sore point with Anglicans, that if any Anglican comes to me after careful thought and prayer and says, 'I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, and that your Church and yours alone is it, and I demand admittance into it,' it would be the greatest of sins to reject such a man, as being a distinct contravention of Our Lord's maxim, "Freely ye have received, freely give."

Further reading:
Damian Thompson's "Holy Smoke" article, "Anglicans facing ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’ says Cardinal at Lambeth"<
John Cardinal Henry Newman's "Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Fr. Richard Neuhaus, the late editor of First Things journal, was a convert also. When Fr. Neuhaus died recently within a month after the death of Cardinal Avery Dulles, another convert, a blogger at the blog of a third prominent Catholic priest convert, Father Rutler, wrote: [W]hat a great time he and Dulles must be having being introduced to Cardinal Newman and that really great convert -- St. Paul!"
On a personal note, I couldn't be an Anglican or Episcopalian for the simple reason that these religions were started by Henry VIII. Watching The Six Wives of Henry VIII gave me a pretty good idea of what kind of a man HE was.