Walter Cardinal Kasper, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, told a Liverpool university audience yesterday that the Catholic Church had weakened itself by “cutting itself off from its Jewish roots for centuries . . . a weakness that became evident in the altogether too feeble resistance against the persecution of the Jews” during the Holocaust. Cardinal Kaspar also said that the Vatican would open all of its wartime archives to scholars.
It is impossible to underestimate the significance of the address made by Cardinal Walter Kasper at Liverpool Hope University on Monday night, in which he promised that the Vatican archives on the wartime record of Pius XII will be opened within six years. This is a hugely welcome piece of news, as the 260th Pope has been the focus of junk historians for decades. “It is our belief that we have nothing to hide and that we do not need to fear the truth,” said Kasper, and he may well be right.
It is noteworthy that the American media universally ignored Cardinal Kasper’s remarks, whose importance far exceeds the announcement that the archives will open. The vilification of the wartime pope, Pius XII, for alleged inaction during the Holocaust presumes that the Vatican had the power to stop the Nazi murder of six million European Jews simply by denouncing it. But the Cardinal made a far more important admission of Church responsibility, and one that Jews should accept in full satisfaction of their grievance against the wartime Vatican: by cutting off its Jewish roots, the Church had weakened itself to the point that it was incapable of offering adequate resistance to Nazi evil.
Cardinal Kasper stated that “the church must draw its vigor and strength from the rootstock of Israel. If the engrafted branches are cut off from the root, they become withered, weak and eventually die. Thus, cutting itself off from its Jewish roots for centuries weakened the church, a weakness that became evident in the altogether too feeble resistance against the persecution of Jews.”
The pope will be going at the invitation of the Catholic bishops there to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Lviv’s becoming the metropolitan see (the Catholic capital city, so to speak). This
“is not the best occasion for the Pontiff’s visit to the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church,” Dmitry Sizonenko, acting secretary for inter-Christian relations of the Moscow Patriarchate’s External Church Relations Department, told Interfax-Religion (www.interfax-religion.ru).
While relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have improved a lot, this
has not eased the poignancy of the unsettled situation in Ukraine’s western regions. It is the most painful aspect in our relations. There is however every reason to hope that these problems will be resolved, the Vatican demonstrates a greater understanding today of the Moscow Patriarchate’s position,” Father Dmitry said.
That is probably true, but it’s a question whether the Moscow Patriarchate demonstrates a greater understanding of the Vatican’s position. Storm Clouds in Ukraine will help explain this.
Update: After you finish “Storm Clouds” you will want to read his Troubles in Ukraine, published by National Review Online.
I sent out a notice about Father Oakes’ “On the Square” article, Atheism’s Just So Scenarios, to a list of apologetics websites. Among the responses was one from a writer who said he’d looked at our website and:
I also saw that you had a section called “On the Square” — sounds like a Masonic expression to me.
Although some of the Catholic Church’s critics have revived the old prejudices of the Catholic Church as a monolith, the better to sue her, “the Church is much closer to a confederation of families than a modern corporation,” points out Archbishop Charles Chaput in today’s “On the Square” article, Suing the Church. And that, he continues, “has real, everyday results” on the life the Church. Click here to find out what they are.
As study of tens of thousands of couples in Britain, Germany and Australia reveals that a happiness gap between spouses was a predictor of divorce—but only when the husband was feeling better about life than his wife:
The happiness gap widened when wives were lumbered with most of the housework, if they had different social backgrounds to their husbands, or if they had higher than average incomes.
But the gap was closed when couples were matched in social backgrounds, if they had a common religion [especially if Catholic, the authors note], if the chores were shared or if the woman was a housewife, a student or retired.
At Christianity Today, Christopher Benson—one of our bloggers at Evangel—interviews James Davison Hunter about his new book and why Christian strategies to transform culture are ineffective:
Benson: Why are the principal strategies for cultural change failing?
Hunter: Evangelism, political action, and social reform are worthy undertakings, but they aren’t decisively important if the goal is world changing. These strategies don’t attend to the institutional dynamics of culture formation and cultural change; in fact, they move in exactly the opposite direction of the ways in which cultures do change.
How is it that American public life is so profoundly secular when 85 percent of the population professes to be Christian? If a culture were simply the sum total of beliefs, values, and ideas that ordinary individuals hold, then the United States would be a far more religious society. Looking at our entertainment, politics, economics, media, and education, we are forced to conclude that the cultural influence of Christians is negligible. By contrast, Jews, who compose 3 percent of the population, exert significant cultural influence disproportionate to their numbers, notably in literature, art, science, medicine, and technology. Gays offer another example. Minorities would have no effect if culture were solely about ideas, but that’s clearly not the case.
I completely agree with you, Matt. Friday Night Lights is hands down the best show on television.
Admittedly, since I’m from rural Texas and a fan of high school football, I’m culturally predisposed to love the show. But even if I weren’t I’d still adore it for one of the reasons you noted: The Taylors.
The Taylors are unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the small screen. There has simply never been a more honest and sympathetic portrayal of a married couple—much less a Christian couple with a rock-solid marriage—produced in Hollywood. Even scenes in which the Taylors fight (and they argue about as often as any normal couple) reveals more genuine love and emotion than all of the sex scenes in the history of television combined.
Take, for example, this clip from a previous season:
Eric and Tami Taylor are the best advertisements for marriage I’ve ever seen in pop culture.
If you haven’t watched Friday Night Lights yet, rent the first six episodes of the first season. A few episodes is often necessary before you get accustomed to the pace and setting—it didn’t grab me at first but when it did, it didn’t let go. I suspect if you give it a chance you’ll soon be hooked too.
I liked Lost. A lot. I have to say that and repeat it so the Losties don’t kill me for what comes next: it wasn’t the best show on television the past three weeks. That position belongs to Friday Night Lights, the beautifully filmed drama that people think is about football. But it’s not. Really.
Friday Night Lights’s timing is fortuitous: while Lost is done, it rebooted with several new characters and an intriguing new central storyline. I won’t recap it here, but I will make a brief case why it’s worth your attention:
1) The show oozes–and there is no other word for it–authenticity. More than any other network show I’ve ever seen, FNL makes me feel as though I was really in the middle of the world I’ve been dropped into, observing the events as they unfold. And no wonder. They don’t film it like most shows, with three cameras and scripted movements. Instead, the actors are given instructions about the plot points and allowed to improvise with the camera’s following them, which creates a beautiful effect. Don’t believe me? Check out the teaser:
2) The Taylors. The central characters are hardly perfect, but they wear and bear their imperfections with a gracious faithfulness unknown in TV-land. They have managed to find that difficult equilibrium of respect, candor, and love, all while dealing with the practical realities of raising children and seeking excellence in their work.
3) The plot. There are no islands, no vampires, and–best of all–no time travel. There’s only that guy from down the street. You know, the guy who cares a bit too much about his football because he doesn’t have any other life. And the guy who thinks football is a waste of time because he wants his son to get an education. And the capable-but-underachieving girl who only wants to get away from her broken life, but has no way of doing it. And the talented kid whose mom is too drugged out to raise him. And the kid who doesn’t much like white people.
You know: the stuff of real life. The best part of Friday Night Lights is that it manages to take life in a small Texas town (which is not so different from the small Washington town I grew up in) and draw us in to the powerful narratives and dynamics that are always present, but that we might miss in our own lives.
Readers who have not done so will want to read George Weigel’s “On the Square” article, Storm Clouds in Ukraine. He offers a provocative take on a matter that is both of some political importance to the security and stability of Europe, western and eastern, and of some interest as a test of the ability of such nations to live with religious pluralism.
Agenzia Fides, the Vatican’s missionary press agency, has published the names of Catholics killed while on mission in 2009. According to the report, 30 priests, 2 religious sisters, 2 seminarians, and 3 lay volunteers were killed last year—nearly twice the number killed in 2008. The report hesitates to call these men and women who died while serving the Church martyrs because the circumstances of many of their deaths are unknown. But reading through the short biographies of each pastoral worker a pattern emerges, entire lives dedicated to serving Christ in the poor: Fr. Joseph Bertaina, 58 years a priest, over 40 years a missionary in Kenya; Fr. Ramiro Luden, 34 years a missionary in Brazil; Fr. Mariano Arroyo Merino, 39 years a priest, 12 years a missionary in Cuba; Fr. Jean Gaston Buli, 24 years a priest in Congo; Fr. Jeremiah Roche, 41 years a missionary in Kenya.
We can surely hope that they have been greeted as we all hope to be greeted some day: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. . . . Come, share your master’s joy.” Fides’ list and a short biography of each of the missionaries killed in 2009 can be found here.
Catholic World News reports that Fr. Michael Kelly, S.J. the CEO of the Asian Catholic News agency, finds the Catholic doctrine of “transubstantiation” meaningless in this “post-Newtonian world of quantum physics”. Since I use quantum mechanics every day in my work, I think I can match my understanding of this post-Newtonian world of quantum physics against Fr. Kelly’s, and I do not find the doctrine “meaningless”.
Stating that “Catholics can become fanatical about one form of the Body of Christ in the bread of the Eucharist as the REAL presence of Christ,” Father Michael Kelly, the Jesuit CEO of the Asian Catholic news agency UCA News, criticized the doctrine of transubstantiation in a May 24 column.
In his column– a critique of the new, more accurate liturgical translations that reflect the content and dignity of the original Latin– Father Kelly writes:
“Regrettably, all too frequently, the only Presence focused on is Christ’s presence in the elements of bread and wine. Inadequately described as the change of the ‘substance’ (not the ‘accidents’) of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, the mystery of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist carries the intellectual baggage of a physics no one accepts. Aristotelian physics makes such nice, however implausible and now unintelligible, distinctions. They are meaningless in the post-Newtonian world of quantum physics, which is the scientific context we live in today.”
It was a standard maneuver of dissident theologians in the 1960s to affect incomprehension of binding doctrine rather than honestly and forthrightly saying that they rejected it. No one is fooled by that transparent ploy anymore, and one assumes that Fr. Kelly realizes that. It must be, therefore, that he is genuinely confused. I will try to unconfuse him. (more…)
I want to thank Wheaton College, out here in Illinois, for inviting me to give this year’s commencement address.
I recognize that, as a practicing Catholic, I was a difficult choice for the school to make—since Wheaton College is, after all, the school so well featured in the movieProzac Nation. A school with such a strong tradition of openness to atheism, polymorphous sexuality, and the rejection of religious affiliation.
It is fitting that your school should boast such famous alumni as, um, let’s see now. The list says Ken Babby, whom I don’t actually know, but he’s listed as the youngest senior officer in the history of the Washington Post, which is sure something.
And Dr. Mary Ellen Avery, and former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman, and literary agent Esther Newberg, again whom I don’t know but I’m sure she’s famous. Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Keener, too.
All of you should be enormously proud that you are graduating from school, as many famous people did, most of them anyway, and I’m grateful that you would have a Catholic like me in to speak about the challenges facing America’s new graduates as they enter the world after being trained in Feminist Criticism and Introduction to Film Studies.
I . . . um, I’m sorry, what? You mean that there is more than one Wheaton College? That the Evangelical one in Illinois isn’t the former women’s college in Massachusetts?
Barack Hussein Obubble: the moniker fits, now that the grand Keynesian scheme of refloating the world economy on a tide of government debt has come undone. Global stock markets fell 3 percent to 4 percent overnight because American incompetence and American weakness have combined to make the world a dangerous place in which to risk money.
What ails the market is a simultaneous breakdown of Washington’s economic and strategic policies.
We have drawn repeated attention (“Who Will Bail Out the Bailer-Outers?,” May 10) to the Bernie-Madoff-like Ponzi scheme on which the Obubble was founded. America runs a budget deficit close to 12 percent of GDP, unprecedented in peacetime, with a savings rate of under 3 percent. The trillion and a half dollars of federal debt that must be sold annually to finance this deficit are sold to banks, who buy them with cheap funds provided by the Federal Reserve and a great deal of leverage. Two-thirds of the deficit is financed by the banking system, and half of it is financed by banks overseas. The whole world repeats the exercise.
Chains (and chain-letters) break at the weakest link, and the weakest link was Greece, followed closely by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. European banks bought these countries’ debt with enormous leverage, which turned into the European equivalent of America’s subprime disaster. America’s subprime disaster, to be sure, is not yet over; all that has happened is that American banks have made excellent money buying Treasury securities with very cheap money. Charles Morris called it a “long con” yesterday at the Daily Beast:
His report card indicates he’s a “pleasure to have in class,” but ninth-grader Jason Laguna was recently suspended from his high school in Haverstraw, New York for insubordination and endangering the “safety, health, morals or welfare of himself or others.” His offense? A rosary around his neck. One school official cited the worry rosary beads might imply a gang affiliation, despite Laguna’s mother’s insistence that worry was moot. In other news, after reading this story I realized I may be something of a Marian gang member myself.
In Storm Clouds in Ukraine, today’s “On the Square” article, George Weigel warns of what he calls “an exercise in hardball politics under the veil of public piety that was, in fact, a harbinger of danger for religious freedom, for Ukrainian democracy, and for the future of Europe.” He’s talking about a prayer service.
I dedicated over a half a decade to watching one of the most ambitious and ambiguous serial narratives in modern times. I became emotionally invested in the moral lives of the characters. I waited through a painfully long hiatus to find out how the series—one of the great works of pop culture—would be resolved. Finally, I sat through the torturous finale waiting for the denoument to provide closure and resolution—only to have my dedication and patience rewarded with a frustratingly disapointing ending.
But enough about The Sopranos and Battlestar Galactica. Let’s talk about Lost.
The term deus ex machina is often used to refer to a contrived plot device that lazy storytellers use to solve an inexplicable problem. While the phrase is often translated as ” god from the machine”, a more accurate rendering would be “god from our hands” or “god that we make”, implying that the device of said god is entirely artificial or conceived by man.
The producers and main writers of Lost, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, created a deus ex machina in both senses of the term by hand-crafting both a god and an unnessary plot device in the form of the Christ-figure, Dr. Jack Shephard.
In general, a character should display more than one correspondence with the story of Jesus Christ as depicted in the Bible. For instance, the character might display one or more of the following traits: performance of miracles, manifestation of divine qualities, healing others, display loving kindness and forgiveness, fight for justice, being guided by the spirit of the character’s father, death and resurrection.
I reference this source because I suspect this is where Cuse and Lindelof derived their information on what a Christ-figure should be. The character of Jack not only embodies all of those listed traits, but telegraphs that he exemplifies them, and then, for good measure, has the other characters point this out too. Jack has such a god-complex that that other characters actually mock him for having a god-complex.
In case that is too subtle, the producers also gave him a name with a Biblical allusion (the Good Sheperd), a father whose name screams God-figure (Christian Shephard), have him drink from a cup in the garden after submitting his own will to the higher purpose, give him holy wounds in his side in a fight with the Devil, and then have him sacrifice his life for both his friends and enemies. No doubt the producers would have called the character “Jesus Christ” had their lawyers not warned that the name might already be trademarked.
A friend sends along a link to a New York Timesarticle about naming: “Giving one’s offspring odd, random or deliberately misspelled names is a form of mistreatment that also hurts the rest of society.”
Remembering his fascination with American naming habits, she adds, “I am sure Fr. Neuhaus is chuckling up there.”
Hunting for logical fallacies in the daily news is like fishing in a well-stocked pond—it’s easy and glibly rewarding. When criticizing a politician’s record, the fallacy of Tu Quoque is particularly useful; the New Atheists seem to find the Straw Man fallacy quite efficient when characterizing Christians; and when reporting on sex-abuse scandals, Selective Attention has done its part to portray the Church as morally monstrous. Poisoning the Well is, alas, alive and well when affixing political prefixes to conservatives; the Congress’ discourse was rife with False Dilemmas when arguing the partisan points of health-care reform; and Guilt by Association has long been a popular choice for dealing with Supreme Court nominees. We can instantly recall dozens of recent instances of Appeals to Emotion, Appeals to Ignorance, and Question-Begging.
Besides misadventures in informal logic, philosophical jargon is often co-opted for less precise purposes. “Logical” used to mean “related to logic,” but now it seems to be a synonym for “reasonable.” To “refute” an argument used to mean to defeat it decisively; now it seems only to indicate counterargument. “Justifying” something, if I recall, used to mean giving a sound line of reasoning to excuse an action. But in today’s New York Times, a headline reads, “U.S.-Born Cleric Justifies the Killing of Civilians.” Does he now? Anwar al-Awlaki’s utilitarian argument, the Times reports, is that American civilian deaths are merely “a drop in the sea” compared to the plight of Arab civilians in war zones. Some justification.
And in “On the Square” tomorrow, George Weigel declares the recent inauguration of Ukraine’s new president “an exercise in hardball politics under the veil of public piety that was, in fact, a harbinger of danger for religious freedom, for Ukrainian democracy, and for the future of Europe.” His article should be posted about midnight.
A rambling and rather strange interview with the raunchy pop-star Lady Gaga appeared this weekend on England’s Times Online. Columnist Caitlin Moran sets the scene for her session with Gaga (“arguably the most famous woman in the world”) by describing the decor of the star’s dressing room (“it resembles a pop-Gothic seraglio, . . . scented candles burn churchishly”).
The obviously awestruck interviewer then notes that the effect of meeting the pop diva is “one of having been ushered into the presence of a very powerful fairytale queen: possibly one who has recently killed Aslan, on the Stone Table.”
At one point, Gaga tells Moran of a recent “miracle-like experience, where I feel much more connected to God.” The reporter then asks:
To what extent is sharia compatible with Western law? Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Britain’s Supreme Court president Lord Phillips created a stir in 2008 by proposing that British courts might permit the application of Muslim religious law. Numerous American scholars have suggested that sharia might have an application to family law. All the proponents of importing sharia into the West cite the example of Jewish religious law, Halakha, which has coexisted seamlessly with Western law for two thousand years.
In a “Spengler” essay published today at Asia Times Online, titled “Wife-beating, Sharia,and Western law,” I characterize these proposals as “monstrous.” Sharia, I argue, stems from a radically different, and indeed antithetical, concept of the relation of the individual to the state.
The one thing that Syria’s president Basher Assad likes about the United States is President Obama himself. “I want to distinguish between the person of Obama and America in its capacity as a state. The president has good intentions . . . but then there is Congress, the lobby, which intervenes in our relationship, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively,” he said in an interview published this morning in Italy’s leading daily La Repubblica.
The Obama administration’s penchant for bashing its allies while crawling to its enemies evokes utter contempt from the world. The national security establishment is watching in horror as America’s influence in the Middle East evaporates. Turkey is allied with Iran and doing everything it can to sabotage sanctions against Iran; America’s pullout from Iraq all but guarantees the emergence of an Iranian satrapy; Afghanistan is doing badly; and America’s one ally in the region, Israel, is the administration’s whipping boy. Obama’s West Point commencement address over the weekend was a defeatist manifesto, as I wrote yesterday on the Spengler blog.
The great division in Washington now lies between the national security establishment, and President Obama who—as Sen. Joseph Lieberman reportedly said in a contentious May 19 meeting with Congressional Democrats—is sacrificing America’s most important alliances in order to repair relations with the Muslim world.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, the proprietor of one of the world’s nastiest rogue regimes, took America’s credibility to a new low. In an AFP summary, this is what Assad had to say:
Responding to a friend who noted that hotels now advertising themselves as “gay-friendly” would never advertise themselves as “heterosexual-friendly” and rarely as “child-friendly,” a second friend responded:
What if hotels who say “family friendly” really came clean and said they were Fornication Friendly and Adultery Friendly? The hotel business revels in what the French call the cinq à sept: rooms used from 5 to 7 with expensive room service for the same price as a room full of kids pushing all the buttons in the elevator and eating every kind of free food the hotel offers. Even the easy availability of porn for the business traveller says this is a lust-based business model. Adding “gay friendly” is just greedy, trying to get the last few percentage points of fornicator market share.
O tempora! O mores! When was it not so? Though, for what it’s worth, the bread and butter of the hotel business today is the business traveler on per diem. Believe me, we’re too tired at the end of the day for expensive fornication with talented professionals, or even enthusiastic amateurs.
So, a clue: back as far as hotels existed, hotels and prostitution went together like bread and butter—right back to ancient Greece and Rome, truth be told. It may not have been emphasized on the television, but in the radio episodes of Gunsmoke, they’re pretty clear about what kind of business Miss Kitty was running up on the second floor of her establishment.
If you want to point to an epochal, behavior-changing development, maybe the automobile and the motel should be higher on your list. The former gave people the mobility to get away from family, friends, and neighbors, and the latter, with its little detached cottages or single story row buildings with detached entrances that allowed one to circumvent the nosy concierge. All told, a lot more fornication friendly than most hotels today, what with all the security cameras and magnetic door keys creating permanent records of everyone’s comings and goings.
I suppose that’s true, but now, of course, almost no one minds fornication (not that anyone knows the word anymore) and so would not mind the record of their comings and goings being made public. Adultery is still a furtive activity (I hope) but hotels are so afraid of violating their customer’s privacy that the surveillance is not a threat.
It is a pleasant daydream, though, to think of a hotel that advertised itself as “family friendly” and required that its customers be married.
An interesting article in the New York Times on the decline of black congregations in Harlem:
All Souls’ Church, on St. Nicholas Avenue, and any number of the traditional neighborhood churches in Harlem that had for generations boasted strong memberships — built on and sustained by familial loyalty and neighborhood ties — are now struggling to hold on to their congregations.
The gentrification of Harlem has helped deplete their ranks, as younger residents, black and white, have arrived but not taken up places in their pews. Longtime Harlem families, either cashing in on the real estate boom over the past decade or simply opting to head south for their retirement, have left the neighborhood and its churches. Then there are the deaths, as year by year, whole age bands are chipped away.
Without a sustainable membership, and with no fresh wave of tithe-paying, collection-plate-filling young members, these churches have struggled to keep their doors open, to maintain repairs and to extend their reach in the community.