Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Political Realism

Speaking of McCain, in a useful article about Republican attitudes towards the Gang of 14, Richard Baehr concludes that, contrary to the majority opinion of conservative talk-radio:

The gang of 14 compromise helped two Supreme Court nominees get approved quickly and a few Appeals Court nominees to be confirmed as well. Use of the nuclear option in 2005 would have enabled a few additional Appeals Court nominations to get through in 2005 and 2006.

But it would also have given a blank check for the next Democratic President who took office with a majority for his party in the Senate to get all of his or her judicial nominations approved from the start. That would be a really bad deal for the GOP, much worse than the gang of 14 deal, a compromise in which the GOP gained more than it lost.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Humpty Dumpty

From John Richardson's blog:

Much of the problem is that the Anglican Communion was always a mongrel organization. Ostensibly representing something called ‘worldwide Anglicanism’, it was actually the result of the successful propagation of the British Empire, not Anglican theology.

Nevertheless, it should have been obvious that a body bonded more by historical accidents and affections than theology would find it hard to hold together as a global manifestation of the universal Church, any more than the Commonwealth has been able to survive as a political institution in the face of the dissolution of the British Empire.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

On Secondary Matters

It often happens in complex discussions that one side will say "That's just a secondary issue, it's not of primary importance." However, while in some sense the issue itself may be secondary, it may force a position on primary matters. For example, David Virtue interviews J.I. Packer at the current Anglican Mission in America Winter Conference and there is this:

VIRTUEONLINE: On women's ordination. CANA is opening up the subject and AMiA has opened up this subject, do you think that pursuing women's ordination as an issue will eventually bring schism and division among the orthodox?

PACKER: My hope is that the ordination of women will never bring about church division. This is not a part of the gospel, it is a secondary issue rather than a primary one and I would hope that an amicable arrangement, not to everyone's full satisfaction, but a workable arrangement, can be arranged that have differed historically can come together. It is hoped that 10 splinter bodies will come together in the Common Cause diocese.

Now if one assumes that ordained ministry has a prophetic role but not a priestly role and if one agrees with Packer regarding Holy Orders and the sacraments in general, then yes it is a secondary matter. However, by the same token, agreeing that women's ordination is a secondary matter by implication also commits to ecclesiastical and sacramental views that are incompatible with the doctrinal position of the Catholic Church and of the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

While it would be clearer to discuss these ecclesiastical and sacramental positions directly, it is not intellectually honest to dismiss a doctrinal matter as secondary if it has implications that a majority of Christians have considered of primary importance. Although not all news about the Church is good, there is no gospel without the Church as the creeds make clear.

Maternal Ontology

Seems to me that mothers go through more significant ontological changes than other folks. I was reminded of this by Rachel Balducci's musing on What's a Mom to Do?

"....One of the trickiest parts of being a mom, I have found, is that need to remember who I am while becoming someone else entirely. A woman has a baby and she is instantly transformed, whether she likes it or not, into someone who is no longer the center of her universe. And while that change happens suddenly, there are a million other changes that happen over the coming days, months and years. Reading materials start to change, music selections change, what we do with our time – slowly these other human beings that have entered our life begin to make demands on our time and energy that have a tremendous impact on nearly everything about us...."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Underhanded Secularism

Via Zenit, this translation from Pope Benedict XVI's address to the Slovenian eucharistic conference:

The Pope then went on to consider the "main challenge" facing the Church in Slovenia: "Western-style secularism, which is different and perhaps more underhand than Marxist secularism." It results in "the unbridled pursuit of material goods, the drop in birth rate and the reduction in religious practice with a notable diminution in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life."

"Each generation is called to renew the choice between life and goodness and death and evil. We as pastors have the duty to show Christians the path of life, that they in their turn may become the salt and light of society. I encourage the Church in Slovenia, then, to respond to materialist and selfish culture with a coherent evangelizing activity that begins in parishes."

Referring to the National Eucharistic Congress, which will be held in Slovenia in 2009, Benedict XVI stated that the Eucharist and the Word of God "constitute the true treasure of the Church. Faithful to the teaching of Christ, each community must use earthly goods simply, in the service of the Gospel."

He added: "On this subject, the New Testament is rich in teachings and in normative examples so that at all times pastors may correctly approach the delicate problem of worldly goods and their appropriate use. In all periods of the Church, witness to evangelical poverty has been an essential element of evangelization, as it was in the life of Christ."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Not swimming the Tiber

While most of Rome is to the southeast of the river, Vatican City is on the west of the Tiber and for many swimming is not needed if one does adequate research.

Brague's Law of God

There is a useful review of Remi Brague's The Law of God by Christopher Morrissey in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. George Weigel also refers to the book in an article in Commentary.

In a review at the Hoover Institute, Benjamin Balint says:

Brague argued in his book Eccentric Culture (2002) that Christianity comprises neither a third element in European culture nor a synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem, but “the common structure of our relationship to both sources.” It conditions the very way Europe relates to the past: “Christianity is not an element among others in European culture, but its very form, the form that enables it to remain open to whatever can come from the outside and enrich the hoard of its experiences with the human and the divine.”

In a 1992 issue of First Things, Brague writes about Christ, Culture, and the New Europe and notes:

Forgiveness, then, turns out to be more than a theme for sermons. In Europe in any case, and likely even in the world at large, forgiving one another is by far the most real and concrete of all political programs. If we want peace, historic wounds must be healed. Can they be? In order to answer this question, we have to realize that forgiveness is basically a religious idea. It begins with faith: we first have to believe, in the teeth of all evidence to the contrary, that reconciliation is possible, that both we and our enemy can change our hearts.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


1 Glory be to God on high,
God whose glory fills the sky:
Peace on earth to man forgiven,
Man the well-beloved of Heaven!

2 Sovereign Father, Heavenly King!
Thee we now presume to sing;
Glad Thine attributes confess,
Glorious all and numberless.

3 Hail! by all Thy works adored,
Hail! the everlasting Lord!
Thee with thankful hearts we prove
Lord of Power, and God of Love.

4 Christ our Lord and God we own,
Christ the Father's only Son!
Lamb of God for sinners slain,
Saviour of offending man!

5 Bow THine ear, in mercy bow,
Hear, the World's Atonement Thou!
Jesu, in Thy name we pray,
Take, O, take our sins away.

6 Powerful Advocate with God,
Justify us by THy blood!
Bow thine ear, in mercy bow,
Hear, the World's Atonement Thou!

7 Hear; for THou, O Christ, alone
With Thy glorious Sire art One!
ONe the Holy Ghost with Thee,
One supreme Eternal Three.


1 Sons of God, triumphant rise,
Shout th' accomplish'd Sacrifice!
Shout your sins in Christ forgiven,
Sons of God, and heirs of heaven!

2 Ye that round our altars throng,
Listening angels, join the song:
Sing with us, ye heavenly powers,
Pardon, grace, and glory ours!

3 Love's mysterious work is done!
Greet we now th' accepted Son,
Heal'd and quicken'd by His blood,
Join'd to Christ, and one with God.

4 Christ, of all our hopes the seal;
Peace Divine in Christ we feel,
Pardon to our souls applied:
Dead for all, for me He died!

5 Sin shall tyrannize no more,
Purged its guilt, dissolved its power;
Jesus makes our hearts His throne,
There He lives, and reigns alone.

6 Grace our every thought controls,
Heaven is open'd in our souls,
Everlasting life is won,
Glory is on earth begun.

7 Christ in us; in Him we see
Fulness of the Deity.
Beam of the Eternal Beam;
Life Divine we taste in Him!

8 Him we only taste below;
Mightier joys ordain'd to know,
Him when fully ours we prove,
Ours the heaven of perfect love!


1 How happy are Thy servants, Lord,
Who, thus remember Thee!
What tongue can tell our sweet accord,
Our perfect harmony?

2 Who Thy mysterious supper share,
Here at Thy table fed,
Many, and yet but one we are,
One undivided bread.

3 One with the living Bread Divine
Which now by faith we eat,
Our hearts, and minds, and spirits join,
And all in Jesus meet.

4 So dear the tie where souls agree
In Jesu's dying love:
Then only can it closer be,
When all are join'd above.


1 Happy the saints of former Days,
Who first continued in the word,
A simple, lowly, loving race,
True followers of their lamblike Lord.

2 In holy fellowship they lived,
Nor would from the commandment move
But every joyful day received
The tokens of expiring Love.

3 Not then above their Master wise,
They simply in His paths remain'd
And call'd to mind His sacrifice
With steadfast faith and love unfeign'd.

4 From house to house they broke the bread
Impregnated with life Divine,
And drank the Spirit of their Head
Transmitted in the sacred wine.

5 With Jesu's constant presence blest,
While duteous to His dying word,
They kept the Eucharistic feast
And supp'd in Eden with their Lord.

6 Throughout their spotless lives was seen
The virtue of this heavenly food;
Superior to the sons of men,
They soar'd aloft, and walk'd with God.

7 O what a flame of sacred love
Was kindled by the altar's fire!
They lived on earth like those above,
Glad rivals of the heavenly choir.

8 Strong in the strength herewith received,
And mindful of the Crucified,
His confessors for Him they lived,
For Him His faithful martyrs died.

9 Their souls from chains of flesh released,
By torture from their bodies driven,
With violent faith the kingdom seized,
And fought and forced their way to heaven.

10 Where is the pure primeval flame,
Which in their faithful bosom glow'd?
Where are the followers of the Lamb,
The dying witnesses for God?

11 Why is the faithful seed decreased,
The life of God extinct and dead?
The daily sacrifice is ceased,
And charity to heaven is fled.

12 Sad mutual causes of decay,
Slackness and vice together move;
Grown cold, we cast the means away,
And quench the latest spark of love.

13 The sacred signs Thou didst ordain,
Our pleasant things, are all laid waste;
To men of lips and hearts profane,
To dogs and swine and heathens cast.

14 Thine holy ordinance condemn'd
Hath let the flood of evil in,
And those who by Thy name are named
The sinners unbaptized out-sin.

15 But canst Thou not Thy work revive
Once more in our degenerate years?
O, wouldst Thou with Thy rebels strive,
And melt them into gracious tears.

16 O, wouldst Thou to Thy church return,
For which the faithful remnant sighs,
For which the drooping nations mourn!
Restore the daily sacrifice.

17 Return, and with Thy servants sit
Lord of the sacramental feast;
And satiate us with heavenly meat,
And make the world Thy happy guest.

18 Now let the spouse, reclined on THee,
Come up out of th ewilderness,
From every spot and wrinkle free,
And wash'd and perfected in grace.

19 Thou hear'st the pleading Spirit's groan,
Thou know'st the groaning Spirit's will:
Come in Thy gracious kingdom down,
And all Thy ransom'd servants seal.

20 Come quickly, Lord, the Spirit cries,
The number of Thy saints complete;
Come quickly, Lord, the bride replies,
And make us all for glory meet;

21 Erect Thy tabernacle here,
The New Jerusalem send doen,
Thyself amidst THy saints appear,
And seat us on Thy dazzling throne.

22 Begin the great millenial day;
Now, Saviour, with a shout descend,
Thy standard in the heavens display,
And bring the joy which ne'er shall end.


John and Charles Wesley published Hymns on the Lord's Supper in 1745. It contains 166 hymns, organized into six sections:

  1. As it is a Memorial of the Sufferings and Death of Christ
  2. As it is a Sign and a Means of Grace
  3. The Sacrament as a Pledge of Heaven
  4. The Holy Eucharist as it implies a Sacrifice
  5. Concerning the Sacrifice of our Persons
  6. After the Sacrament

I'll be posting the hymns in reverse order and then, perhaps, adding a few comments.

Friday, January 18, 2008

On Miracles

There's a nice posting over at Crossed the Tiber on miracles.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The speech the Pope didn't give

Translation by AsiaNews

It is a great joy for me to meet the community of "La Sapienza - Università di Roma" on the occasion of the inauguration of the academic year. For centuries, this university has marked the progress and the life of the city of Rome, bringing forth intellectual excellence in every field of study. Both during the period when, after its foundation at the behest of Pope Boniface VIII, the institution was directly dependent upon ecclesiastical authority, and after this, when the Studium Urbis became an institution of the Italian state, your academic community has maintained a very high standard of scholarship and culture, which places it among the most prestigious universities in the world. The Church of Rome has always looked with affection and admiration at this university centre, recognising its sometimes arduous and difficult efforts in research and in the formation of the new generations. There has been no lack, in recent years, of significant instances of collaboration and dialogue. I would like to recall, in particular, the worldwide meeting of university rectors on the occasion of the Jubilee of Universities, which saw your community take the responsibility not only for hosting and organising the meeting, but above all for making the complex and prophetic proposal for the development of a "new humanism for the third millennium".

I am moved, on this occasion, to express my gratitude for the invitation extended to me to come to your university to deliver an address to you. In this perspective, I first of all asked myself the question: What can a pope say on an occasion like this? In my lecture in Regensburg, I indeed spoke as pope, but I spoke above all in the guise of a former professor of the university, seeking to connect memory and the present. But at the university "La Sapienza", the ancient university of Rome, I have been invited as "Bishop of Rome", and so I must speak in this capacity. Of course, "La Sapienza" was once the pope's university, but today it is a secular university with that autonomy which, on the basis of its founding principles, has always been part of the nature of the university, which must always be exclusively bound to the authority of the truth. In its freedom from political and ecclesiastical authorities, the university finds its special role, and in modern society as well, which needs institutions of this nature.

I return to my starting question: What can and should the pope say in meeting with his city's university? Reflecting on this question, it has seemed to me that it includes two more questions, the clarification of which should by itself lead to the answer. It is necessary, in fact, to ask: What is the nature and mission of the papacy? And again: What is the nature and mission of the university? It is not my intention here to belabour either you or myself with lengthy examinations of the nature of the papacy. A brief summary should be enough. The pope is, first of all, the bishop of Rome, and as such, in virtue of apostolic succession from the Apostle Peter, he has Episcopal authority in regard to the entire Catholic Church. The word "bishop"—episkopos—, which in its immediate meaning refers to "supervision", already in the New Testament was fused together with the biblical concept of the shepherd: he is the one who, from an elevated point of observation, surveys the whole landscape, making sure to keep the flock together and on the right path. This description of the bishop's role directs the view first of all to within the community of believers. The bishop—the shepherd—is the man who takes care of this community, the one who keeps it united by keeping it on the path toward God, which Jesus points out through the Christian faith—and He does not only point this out: He himself is the way for us. But this community that the bishop cares for as large or small as it may be—lives in the world; its conditions, its journey, its example, and its words inevitably influence the rest of the human community in its entirety. The larger it is, the more its good condition or eventual decline will impact all of humanity. Today we see very clearly how the situation of the religions and the situation of the Church—its crises and renewals—act upon the whole of humanity. Thus the pope, precisely as the shepherd of his community, has increasingly become a voice of the ethical reasoning of humanity.

But here there immediately comes the objection according to which the pope does not in fact truly speak on the basis of ethical reasoning, but instead draws his judgments from the faith, and therefore he cannot claim that these have validity for those who do not share this faith. We must return to this argument later, because it poses the absolutely fundamental question: What is reason? How can an assertion—and above all a moral norm—demonstrate that it is "reasonable". At this point, I would like to note briefly that John Rawls, while he denies that religious doctrines overall have the character of "public" reasoning, he nonetheless sees in their "non-public" reasoning at least a reasoning that cannot simply be dismissed by those who support a hard-line secularist rationality. He sees a criterion of this reasonableness in, among other things, the fact that that such doctrines are derived from a responsible and well grounded tradition, in which over a long span of time sufficiently strong arguments have been developed in support of the respective doctrines. It seems important to me that this statement recognises that experience and demonstration over the course of generations, the historical backdrop of human wisdom, are also a sign of their reasonableness and their lasting significance. In the face of an a-historical form of reason that seeks to construct itself in an exclusively a-historical rationality, the wisdom of humanity as such—the wisdom of the great religious traditions—should be viewed as a reality that cannot be cast with impunity into the trash bin of the history of ideas.

Let's return to the opening question. The pope speaks as the representative of a believing community, in which throughout the centuries of its existence a specific life wisdom has matured; he speaks as the representative of a community that holds within itself a treasury of ethical understanding and experience, which is important for all of humanity. In this sense, he speaks as the representative of a form of ethical reasoning.

But now we must ask ourselves: What is the university? What is its purpose? It is a huge question which I can only answer once again in almost telegraphic style by making just a few observations. I believe that it can be said that the true intimate origin of the university lies in man’s craving for knowledge. He wants to know what everything around him is. In this sense the Socratic questioning is the impulse that gave birth to the Western university. I am thinking here, just to mention one text, the dispute that sets Euthyphro, who defends mythical religion and his devotion to it, against Socrates. In contrast Socrates asks: “And do you believe there is really a war amongst the gods, with terrible feuds, even, and battles . . . Are we to say that these things are true, Euthyphro? (Euthyphro, 6: b and c). In this apparently not very devout question—but which drew in Socrates from a deeper and purer sense of religiosity, one that sought a truly divine god—the Christians of the first centuries recognised their path and themselves. They accepted their faith non in a positivist manner or as a way of getting away from unfulfilled desires but rather as a way of dissolving the cloud that was mythological religion so as to discover the God that is creative Reason as well as Reason-as-Love. For this reason, asking themselves about the reason for the greater God as well as the real nature and sense of being human did not represent for them any problematic lack of religiosity, but was part of the essence of their way of being religious. They therefore did not need to solve or put aside the Socratic dilemma but could, indeed had to accept it. They also had to recognise as part of their identity the demanding search for reason in order to learn about the entire truth. The university could, indeed had to be born within the Christian world and the Christian faith. We must take another step. Man wants to know; he wants the truth. Truth pertains first and foremost to seeing and understanding theoria as it is called in the Greek tradition. But truth is not only theoretic. In correlating the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mountain and the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Isaiah 11, Augustine asserted the reciprocity of scientia and tristitia. For him just knowing is source of sadness. In fact those who only see and learn all that happens in the world end up becoming sad. But the truth means more than knowledge. The purpose of knowing the truth is to know what is good. This is also the sense of Socrates’ way of questioning: What good thing makes us true? Truth makes us good and goodness is true. This optimism dwells in the Christian faith because it was allowed to see the Logos, the creative Reason that, in God’s incarnation, revealed itself as that which is Good, as Goodness itself.

In medieval theology there was a great dispute over the relationship between theory and praxis, over the proper relationship between knowledge and action, a dispute that we must not go into further here. In fact with their four faculties medieval universities embodied this correlation. Let us begin with medicine, which was the fourth faculty according to the understanding of that time. Although it was seen more as an “art” than as a science, its inclusion in the realm of the universitas meant that it was seen as belonging to the domain of rationality. The art of healing was seen as something guided by reason and was thus beyond the domain of magic. Healing is a task that always requires more than simple reason but exactly for this reason it needs the connection between knowledge and power and must belong to the realm of ratio. Inevitably in law faculties the relationship between praxis and theory, between knowing and doing takes front seat for it is about giving human freedom its right shape which is always freedom in reciprocal communion. The law is the premise upon which freedom is built; it is not its adversary. But this raises another question. How can we identify what the standards of justice are, that is those that make freedom as part of a whole possible and serve mankind’s goodness? Let us come back to the present. It is a question that is related to how we can find legal rules that can govern freedom, human dignity and man’s rights. It is an issue that concerns us insofar as it relates to the democratic processes that shape opinions but also one that can distress us insofar as it relates to humanity’s future. In my opinion Jürgen Habermas articulates a view, widely accepted in today’s world of ideas, in which the legitimacy of a constitution as the basis for what is legal stems from two sources: the equal participation of all citizens in the political process and reasonable conflict-resolution mechanisms in politics. Insofar as the reasonable mechanisms are concerned he notes that the issue cannot be reduced to a mere struggle for who gets more votes but must include a “process of argumentation that is responsive to truth” (wahrheitssensibles Argumentationsverfahren). This is well said but it is something difficult to turn into political praxis. We know that the representatives of this public “process of argumentation” are for the most part political parties which shape the formation of the public will. In fact they invariably will seek a majority and will almost always take care of the interests they pledge to protect which are very often partisan and not collective interests. Responsiveness to the truth always takes the back seat to partisan interests. To me it is significant that Habermas should say that responsiveness to truth is a necessary component of political argumentation, since it reintroduces the concept of truth in philosophical and political debates.

Pilate’s question then becomes inevitable: What is truth? How do we recognise it? If we turn to “public reason” as Rawls does, another question necessarily follows: What is reasonable? How does a reason prove to be the true reason? Whatever the case may be, it is obvious that in the quest for freedom and for living together equitably groups other than parties and interest groups must be heard; although that does not mean that the latter are any less important. Let us go back to medieval universities and the way they were set up. Along with law, philosophy and theology had their own faculty with the task of studying mankind in his totality and thus keep alive responsiveness to truth. One might even say that this is the real and enduring meaning of both faculties—they maintain responsiveness to truth and prevent man from being distracted in his quest for the truth. But how can they do this? This is a question which we must always work at and which can never be raised and answered once and for all. Hence at this point not even I can properly give you an answer. I can though invite you to keep asking this question, one that has involved all the great thinkers who throughout history have fought for and sought out the truth, coming up with their own answers and enduring their own fears, always going beyond any one answer.

Theology and philosophy are an odd couple; neither can be totally separated from the other and yet each must keep its own purpose and identity. Compared to the answers Church Fathers formulated in their day and age, St Thomas Aquinas deserves a special place in history for highlighting the autonomy of philosophy as well as that of the law. He equally has the merit of pointing out the responsibilities that fall on reason when it questions itself on the basis of its own strengths. Unlike neo-platonic ideas that saw religion and philosophy inseparably intertwined, the Church Fathers had presented the Christian faith as real philosophy, insisting that this faith corresponded to the needs of Reason in its quest for the truth, that is a faith that was a “Yes” to truth when compared to mythical religions that had ended up turning into mere custom. However, when universities were founded in the West those religions were no more—only Christianity existed. This meant highlighting in a new way reason’s own responsibility, one that was not absorbed by the faith. Thomas lived at a special time. For the first time all of Aristotle’s philosophical writings were available as were the Hebrew and Arabic text that embodied and extended Greek philosophy. Thus as Christianity interacted with others and engaged their reason in a new dialogue it had to fight for its own reasonableness. The Faculty of Philosophy, i.e. the so-called artists’ faculty, was until then only a preparatory stage before moving onto theology. Afterwards it became a faculty in its own right, an autonomous partner to theology and the faith which the latter reflected. We cannot dwell on the gripping confrontation that followed. I would say that St Thomas’ idea about the relationship between philosophy and theology can be expressed by the formula handed down by the Council of Chalcedon on Christology, namely that philosophy and theology must relate to each other “without confusion and without separation.” “Without confusion” is understood in the sense that each will maintain its own identity so that philosophy is truly a free and responsible search for reason and aware of its own limits and thus of its own greatness and vastness. Theology must instead continue to draw from a source of knowledge that it has not invented and that is always greater than itself, and which always renews the process of thinking since it is never totally exhausted by reflection. “Without confusion” does not stand alone for there is “without separation,” that is the idea that philosophy never starts from scratch in isolation but is part of great dialogue found in the accumulated knowledge that history has bequeathed and which it always critically but meekly accepts and develops. Yet it should not shut itself off from what religions, especially the Christian faith, have received and given to humanity as a sign for the path to follow. Indeed History has shown that many of the things that theologians have said in the course of time or that Church authorities have put in practice have been proven false and today they confuse us. But it is equally true that the history of the saints and the history of the humanism that has developed on the basis of the Christian faith are proof of the truth of this faith in its essential core, making it something that public reason needs. Of course, much of what theology and faith say can only be appropriated from within the faith and thus cannot be seen as a need for those to whom this faith remains inaccessible. It is true however that the message of the Christian faith is never only a "comprehensive religious doctrine" in Rawls’ terms, but that it is instead a force that purifies reason itself, further helping the latter to be itself. On the basis of its origins the Christian message should always encourage the search of the truth and thus be a force against the pressures exerted by power and interests.

Well, so far I have only talked about the university in the Middle Ages, trying however to show to what extent its nature and purpose have remained the same all along. In modern times knowledge has become more multi-faceted, especially in the two broad fields that now prevail in universities. First of all, there are the natural sciences which have developed on the basis of experimentation and subject matters’ supposed rationality. Secondly, there are the social sciences and the humanities in which man has tried to understand himself by looking at his own history and uncovering his own nature. From this development humanity not only acquired a great deal of knowledge and power but also an understanding and recognition of the rights and dignity of mankind. And for this we can be grateful. But man’s journey can never be said to be over and the danger of falling into inhumanity is never just warded off as we can see in today’s history. The danger faced by the Western world, just to mention the latter, is that mankind, given its great knowledge and power, might give up on the question of the truth. At the same time this means that reason in the end may bow to the pressures of partisan interests and instrumental value, forced to acknowledge the latter as the ultimate standard. From the point of view of the academic world this means that there is a danger that philosophy, feeling incapable of fulfilling its task, might degenerate into positivism, a danger that theology and the message it has for reason might be confined to the private sphere of a group more or less big. If however reason, concerned about its supposed purity, fails to hear the great message that comes from the Christian faith and the understanding it brings, it will dry up like a tree with roots cut off from the water that gives it life. It will lose the courage needed to find the truth and thus become small rather than great. Applied to our European culture this means that if it wants to constitute itself on the basis of its arguments and whatever appears to it to be convincing, with concerns about its own secular nature, it will cut itself off from its life-sustaining roots, and in doing so will not become more reasonable and pure but will instead become undone and fragmented.

And so let me go back to the initial point. What does the Pope have to do or say in a university? He certainly should not try to impose in an authoritarian manner his faith on others, which can only be freely offered. Beyond his ministry as Pastor of the Church and on the basis of the intrinsic nature of this pastoral ministry, it is his task to keep alive man’s responsiveness to the truth. Similarly he must again and always invite reason to seek out truth, goodness and God, and on this path urge it to see the useful lights that emerged during the history of the Christian faith and perceive Jesus Christ as the light that illuminates history and helps find the way towards the future.

From the Vatican, 17 January 2008

Feast of Corpus Christi

In 1264, Pope Urban IV asked Fr. Thomas Aquinas to compose an Office for the new feast of Corpus Christi, in honor of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, which is celebrated on the Thursday or Sunday following Trinity Sunday. Tom Kreitzberg has a nice page about these hymns.

Here are the first four verses from Gerard Manley Hopkins' translation of Adoro Te Devote:

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

(I'm posting this now, out of season, in preparation for a series of postings on Wesley's Eucharistic Hymns.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Calling Democratic Bluff

Jeff Gannon writes:

As the result of liberal historical revisionism, few Americans realize that Democrats ruled the segregated South until the 1960s. Democrats were the party of Jim Crow and Bull Connor. Senate Democrats, including former Ku Klux Klan recruiter Robert Byrd and Bill Clinton mentor William Fulbright and Al Gore, Sr. filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The stalemate was broken by Senate Republicans ensuring passage of the bill.

The racism that never left the Democratic Party has bubbled to the surface in the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the presidential nomination. The Clintons went out and got BET founder Robert Johnson to put the smear on Obama - in order to avoid the backlash that took place after Bill Shaheen and Bob Kerrey each took shots at the uppity Illinois senator.

Even though Republican President George W. Bush appointed more blacks to positions of real power and authority, idiots like Kanye West blurt out on national television that "Bush doesn't like black people." African-Americans have consistently given an overwhelming majority of their votes to Democrats based on illusory promises that are never fulfilled.

However, the Clintons are going to have to take down the black guy if they are to achieve their own political ends....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Freedom of Education

Nancy Salvato writes, in The New Media Journal:

As an education reformer, I read about education every day. I read about ways to hold institutions of higher learning accountable for their education curriculum, I read about how important it is to have highly qualified teachers, and I read how students not receiving an equitable education should be afforded the right to attend private schools or charter schools with the tax dollars set aside for public education. While all of these are noble ideas, none of them address the real problem with education.

The real problem is that nowhere is it written in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that there is freedom of education. Unlike religion, which received protection from the faction of the majority by the Bill of Rights which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” nowhere is education specifically addressed in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Yet, today, we have in place a Department of Education funded by the taxpayers’ money and a public education system funded by the taxpayers’ money.

I am convinced that James Madison, who fought tooth and nail against using public money for religion, would have felt the same way about education. How can I be so certain about this? No one, especially James Madison, wanted the state to support a single system of religious beliefs. Furthermore, against majority opinion, James Madison fought against a general assessment tax which would have given “individual citizens the option of designating his taxes to any one of a number of denominations.”

Read it all

Catena Aurea

Catena Aurea, The Golden Chain, is a commentary on the four gospels which St. Thomas Aquinas made by organizing selections from the writings of the early Church Fathers (Basil, Chrysostom, Gregory, etc). In the preface to the english edition, John Newman writes:

All such commentaries have more or less merit and usefulness, but they are very inferior to the 'Catena Aurea,' which is now presented to the English reader; being all of partial and capricious, dilating on one passage, and passing unnoticed another of equal or greater difficulty; arbitrary in their selection from the Fathers, and as compilations crude and indigested. But it is impossible to read the Catena of S. Thomas, without being struck with the masterly and architectonic skill with which it is put together. A learning of the highest kind,—not a mere literary book-knowledge, which might have supplied the place of indexes and tables in ages destitute of those helps, and when every thing was to be read in unarranged and fragmentary MSS.—but a thorough acquaintance with the whole range of ecclesiastical antiquity, so as to be able to bring the substance of all that had been written on any point to bear upon the text which involved it—a familiarity with the style of each writer, so as to compress into few words the pith of a whole page, and a power of clear and orderly arrangement in this mass of knowledge, are qualities which make this Catena {iv} perhaps nearly perfect as a conspectus of Patristic interpretation. Other compilations exhibit research, industry, learning; but this, though a mere compilation, evinces a masterly command over the whole subject of Theology.

The Catena is so contrived that it reads as a running commentary, the several extracts being dovetailed together by the compiler. And it consists wholly of extracts, the compiler introducing nothing of his own but the few connecting particles which link one extract to the next.

The Catena Aurea is available in print from Amazon and is also online in various formats, for example, it is at Catechetics Online in a chapter by chapter format.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Carroll on Eucharistic Hymns

Speaking of Dr. Carroll, here's an article on Eucharistic hymns:
Singing for the Supper or the Sacrifice?

Dr. Carroll is organist/choral director at the Carmelite Monastery, Philadelphia; associate professor at Westminster Choir College, Princeton, and Scholar in Residence, PHMC, Ephrata. The article above first appeared, I assume, in the Adoremus Bulletin.

Lucy Carroll on Chant

Here's a good introduction to chant, by Lucy Carrol. She

In the wake of the Council, certain chants were culled from the great repertoire and put into a little book called Jubilate Deo. The easiest Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus were put together into a Missa Jubilate Deo. The same Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus, with a different Gloria, became known as the Missa Primitiva.

I must confess to a hearty dislike for these re-names; I continue to call them by their Liber Usualis names. However, I have no qualms about mixing and matching other chant pieces. Our congregation at the monastery can sing the Kyrie from the litany, Kyrie VIII, Kyrie XVI; Kyrie XII Pater Cuncta (a congregational favorite); Kyrie XI Orbis Factor (a choir favorite).

They know Gloria VIII, the Ambrosian Gloria, and one psalm-tone-like Gloria in English.

They can sing Sanctus and Agnus X (Alme Pater); XVI; XVIII, (Deus Genitor Alme); and VIII (de Angelis).

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Saint Elias Maronite Catholic parish

While western Virginia is a bit of a Catholic backwater, we are blessed to have, in addition to the common Roman rite parishes, a Maronite Catholic church - Saint Elias (at 4730 Cove Road, just off Peters Creek Road):

St. Elias Catholic Church is located in Roanoke, Virginia. The church belongs to the Maronite Rite, which evolved from the Antiochene Tradition of Catholicism.

The Maronite Rite takes its name from a holy hermit called Maron, who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries near Antioch, in Northern Syria. He was a staunch defender of the Catholic faith. His disciples followed in his footsteps. It has been said that their history "is the story of a people who were continually willing to shed their blood and sacrifice their lives and possessions for religious convictions and human liberties."

The Maronite Church became a formal entity with the institution of the Maronite Patriarchate of Antioch and the Whole East in the 7th century. The first Patriarch was St. John Maron chosen in 685 C.E. The residence of the Maronite Patriarch is now in Lebanon.

The Maronite Church professes the same faith and beliefs of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It also administers the seven sacraments instituted by Christ, and obeys all the rules and ordinances issued by our Holy Father the Pope, the successor of Saint Peter in the Vatican.

The only difference between the Maronite Church and the Roman Church is in the Divine Liturgy.

Community Organizing

The various political campaigns prompt this ironic juxtaposition of three links with reference to Alinsky:

From a "progressive" site: Jesus and Alinsky

And on First Things, Neuhaus writes, in passing:

Our old hand thinks part of the problem is with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), an effort launched more than thirty years ago by the late Saul Alinsky of Chicago, who made no secret of his strategy of hijacking the resources of the Catholic Church for his self-declared revolution. IAF is, under various names, still very much a force in community organizing around the country. But why are Catholic dioceses and CCHD so hesitant to insist that assisted programs be commensurate with Catholic support and teaching? Part of the answer is a good ecumenical impulse gone awry. In many urban areas, liberal Protestant churches are a small minority in community coalitions but exercise a large influence, often because Catholics don’t want to offend them by pressing issues such as support for crisis pregnancy centers or opposition to partial-birth abortion. Another part of the answer is that it is naively assumed that more "inclusive" groups will more impartially serve "the common good," when, in fact, any viable organization has its particular goals-a.k.a. "interests"-for good or ill.

And, to make the connection even more obvious: a useful, even if overheated, Catholic City article.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Call to Pray

Richard Owen reports in London Times Online that:

Pope Benedict XVI has instructed Roman Catholics to pray “in perpetuity” to cleanse the Church of paedophile clergy. All dioceses, parishes, monasteries, convents and seminaries will be expected to organise continuous daily prayers to express penitence and to purify the clergy.

Vatican officials said that every parish or institution should designate a person or group each day to conduct continuous prayers for the Church to rid itself of the scandal of sexual abuse by clergy. Alternatively, churches in the same diocese could share the duty. Prayer would take place in one parish for 24 hours, then move to another.

Vatican watchers said that there was no known precedent for global prayer on a specific issue of this kind. There are about one billion Roman Catholics worldwide.

The instruction was sent to bishops by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes of Brazil, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy. He told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that he was acting in the Pope’s name. The Pope wanted Catholics to pray for the “mercy of God for the victims of the grave situations caused by the moral and sexual conduct of a very small part of the clergy”, he said.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


From Fr John Zuhlsdorf's blog:

Epiphany is from the Greek word for a divine “manifestation” or “revelation”. The Church’s liturgy for the feast, especially in its antiphons for Vespers, reflect the tradition that Epiphany was thought to be the day not only when the Magi came to adore Christ, but also the same day years later when Jesus changed water into wine at Cana, and also when He was baptized by St. John at the Jordan.


In each of these three mysteries Jesus is revealed to be more than a mere man. He is man and God. The are many “epiphanies” of God in the Scripture, for example, the burning bush seen by Moses, the Transfiguration, and the abovementioned. The history of the modern feast of Epiphany is ancient and complicated history. In the East Epiphany was an extremely important feast far more important than the relative latecomer Christmas. In the West, the Nativity developed first and the celebration of Epiphany came later. In many places in the world, Epiphany, and not Christmas, is the day to exchange gifts, in imitation of the Magi. Epiphany truly really falls on the 6th of January, the twelfth day after Christmas (as in “On the Twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…” – which some think comes from Ireland during the time when Catholicism was illegal). Twelfth Night as in Shakespeare’s play, refers to Epiphany. In the post-Conciliar calendar, it can be transferred to Sunday and perhaps this is good: the ancient and mysterious feast now gets more attention than it did when it was observed strictly on January 6th.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Twelve Dramas - Shakespeare

  1. Anthony & Cleopatra
  2. As You Like It
  3. Coriolanius
  4. Hamlet
  5. Julius Caesar
  6. King Lear
  7. Measure for Measure
  8. Merchant of Venice
  9. Romeo & Juliet
  10. Tempest
  11. Twelfth Night
  12. Winter's Tale

Patristic Greek

There's an excellent new resource for reading early post-apostolic Christian texts: A Patristic Greek Reader by Rodney Whitacre, Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry.

To quote Mike Aquilina's recommendation on the back cover: "This is more than a book. It's an opportunity to learn Greek from a superlative teacher and to learn Christianity from the greatest ancient masters. Dr Whitacre's anthology is unique, a model of both pedagogy and mystagogy. The Spirit has been leading the churches to 'return to the sources,' and A Patristic Greek Reader is a beautiful beginning for that journey."

The text provides all the resources needed for someone who has completed a beginning Greek course (at the level of, say, Wenham's Elements of NT Greek). Additionally, translations are provided for all texts so one can even use it for a sampling of patristic texts if one does not yet have a beginning fluency in New Testament Greek. Readings include selections from the Didache, Clement, Ignatius, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Chrysostom, and Symeon among others.

Dr Whitacre selects texts focusing on three themes: the person of God, the plan of God, and God's pattern for life. To quote from the introduction:

'A great deal of energy in the early church was spent in discussion of the person and character of God, that is, the mystery of the Trinity--both the unity of the Godhead and the characteristics of each of the divine persons. Included here is also the teaching about the two natures of Christ, both divine and human. The second general theme, the plan of God, is also discussed in many of the writings. They reflect profoundly on the salvation that has been accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus, they try to understand the relation between Israel and the church in God's work in history, and they develop further the church's understanding of the cosmic dimension so God's plan, already touched on by Paul (e.g., 1 Cor 15:20-28; Eph 1:10). Many of the writings are also concerned with the third theme, God's pattern of life for the people of God. The forms which life in Christ should take, both on the personal and the corporate level, are frequently discussed. This theme includes the patterns of relationship within the body of Christ as well as with those outside the body. The nature of the sacraments and the institutional structures that are appropriate for the people of God also come under the corporate dimension of the this third theme. On the level of the individual we find teaching about love, prayer, asceticism, and holiness of life.'

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Church Body

From Lumen Gentium:

8. Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element. For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body (cf Eph 4:16).

Needing Grace

"What can grace mean to us, who live well enough without favors from gracious authority?" - Philip Rieff, Charisma, page 82.

I need Thee every hour...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

30/30 Accessibility

In these modern times with concern about accessibility, I'd like to propose the thirty-thirty rule:

A religious tradition is accessible if its main liturgical events are within 30 miles and 30 hours of wherever one's apt to be in spacetime.

Lots of religious sects assume one's not apt to travel and are only accessible on that assumption.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day

This eighth day of Christmas is the day of Jesus' circumcision and also the holy day of Mary, Mother of God. Mark Shea writes in This Rock (1994):

As a former Evangelical, I know anti-Marian arguments. But, having been a Catholic for nearly six years, I've been surprised to discover how much larger Mary looms in many Protestant minds than in Catholic ones. Maybe I'm languishing in a papally-induced spiritual blindness, but Jesus seems as big to me as ever. Only Mary has changed sizes since I "poped." She got a lot smaller and less threatening.

Since I became a Catholic she often, after directing me to her Son, has seemed to slip out of the room for long stretches, leaving me to talk with him while she busies herself with quietly praying for me or doing some other motherly task. She has been a most unobtrusive presence--endlessly loving and interceding, but not nearly as noisy about it as my Protestant upbringing would have led me to believe.

Yet how can this be? Books have "proven" that Catholics are obsessively fixated on our Lady to the exclusion of faith in Christ. They have shown that all we think about is the way in which Mary can save us from sin. They have demonstrated that I spend day and night obsequiously seeking to have her declared a fourth member of the Trinity.

Of course, there are benighted souls in my communion (Mother Teresa, say) whose summary of Marian devotion is: Love Jesus as Mary loves Jesus, love Mary as Jesus loves Mary. Such people seem to think that Mary is not a goddess but that she has a significant place in the drama of redemption. They regard her as remarkable in that her choice to love and obey the as-yet-unseen and unincarnate Messiah was the very key to the Incarnation.

They find a subtle difference between such faith (unbuttressed and unrehearsed) and the wobbly performance of Peter and Thomas. They attach some quirky meaning to the fact she was the first disciple to say "yes" to the incarnate God and that it was this "yes" and the love it expressed which was the basis of the first and deepest love relationship the Son of God ever experienced as man.

Such cultists seem to have this notion that her role in the life of the Church might extend beyond the physical fact of providing a uterine environment and three square meals a day to the Second Person of the Trinity--that she is something more than a disposable first stage in the Incarnation.

For some reason they hold the belief that Jesus, who obeyed the law perfectly, obeyed the command to love his mother in a way unique in human history and that imitating him might involve us in that love relationship too. They are bewitched with the fact the dying Jesus commanded the disciple he loved (that is, you and me) to have Mary as mother and that she was commanded to have the beloved disciple (that is, you and me) as her son.

These people suspect that as the risen Christ remains human forever, so he remains his mother's son forever. If she loves him, she just might love those who are in him as her own and pray they will love her son with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Likewise, if Jesus loves her in a unique way and we are to be like him . . . well, you can work that one out.