Monday, July 31, 2006

Where are the peacemakers?

As we continue to watch the destruction of Lebanon by an over-zealous Israeli government, I find myself both shocked and horrified that after three weeks and scores of civilian deaths, we seem to be nowhere closer to peace. Although the pope has called for an immediate ceasefire, one has to wonder what prevents Christian leaders and other religious leaders together from jumping in with both feet and putting a stop to this madness, which most recently resulted in the deaths of scores of civilians, mostly too poor to flee the fighting in Qana. One might wish that Christians and Jews and Muslims around the world would rise up and demand an end not only to this conflict, but to all of them.

If the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the decades of bloodshed in the "Holy" Land (it can hardly be called that anymore), the devastation of Africa, teach us only one thing, let it be that war just doesn't work. It never has, and it never will. All it does is kill poor people by the millions.

Many will point to the U.S. Civil War and World War II as exceptions because both managed to end an institutionalized atrocity--though they were secondary rather than primary effects of both wars. Remember that the U.S. turned immigrating Jews away during WWII and had "internment" camps of its own for Japanese Americans, and African Americans have yet to achieve the full equality promised them in the 14th Amendment after more than 100 years.

And, to quote my mother and generations of mothers before her, two wrongs don't make a right. The "war on terror" will never be won by using terrorism's tactics--torture, hostage-taking, violence against the innocent, assassinations--which the governments of the U.S. and Israel use with impunity.

"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus said. How I wish some of the Christians in the Bush administration would take that one to heart. For my part, I will certainly try harder.

In vino veritas

Having denied charges that he shares his father's anti-Semitic views, a drunk Mel Gibson showed allegedly showed different colors in his traffic stop last weekend, when he was pulled over for driving drunk at almost 90 miles an hour.

Despite attempts by the police department to cover them up, Gibson's remarks--including, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world"--have now hit the news and won't be going away any time soon, and for now his apologies are falling on deaf ears.

Mel's defenders point out he was drunk--and he is a recovering alcoholic, so there's no joy for anyone in this--but as film critic John Anderson, pointed out, according to Reuters, "How many people when they are drunk and angry start lashing out at the Jews?" Indeed.

Well, perhaps Mel will be less ready to wear his (Tridentine) Catholicism on his sleeve--although the Catholicism of that age was pretty anti-Jewish. As Philip Cunningham points out in a recent article in Commonweal:

The 1938 draft [never published] of an encyclical on Nazi racist ideology prepared for Pope Pius XI . . . reflected the church’s longstanding teaching that the Jewish people collectively were responsible for Christ’s death. As a consequence of that inherited guilt, it stated, there was an “authentic basis of the social separation of the Jews from the rest of humanity.” This was not due to race but to religion: “The Savior . . . was rejected by that people, violently repudiated, and condemned as a criminal by the highest tribunals of the Jewish nation.” Bearing a collective responsibility for the death of Jesus, the Jews were doomed “to perpetually wander over the face of the earth . . . through the ages into our own time.” And the church was charged with guarding against “the spiritual dangers to which contact with the Jews can expose souls."

Wow, post-conciliar Catholicism ain't lookin' so bad after all. Let's hope this is the last we hear from those who celebrate Gibson and his torture flick (The Passion of the Christ) as the zenith of all things Catholic and Christian.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ordination at sea--or on the river

The Washington Post has a big story today about the next batch of women to be ordained on a boat, this time shoving off from Pittsburgh. Continuing a movement that began in Germany in 2002, another 12 women will be ordained, eight to priesthood, four to diaconate. They join five female bishops and 40 other female priests and deacons who have been ordained on boats in rivers. One local bishop, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington, told one of the women in a letter that the service will be a "mockery" and that he fears for the "salvation of [her] soul." Talk about a guilt trip.

The more interesting piece of the story is that the Post sought comment not only from academics like Lisa Cahill of Boston College (pro: "There is a transfer of loyalty, and I think it [women's ordination] will happen at the grass-roots level first.") and Kevin Irwin of Catholic University (con: "Rome has spoken, so why keep going back to this?"--what an argument!) but to bloggers, which the Post characterizes as primarily conservative. (Where are my public relations people?!)

One more well-known blogger, Rocco Palmo (the Post says he's 23) of Whispers in the Loggia, had this to say: "I think this movement is dying out. Women's ordination groups are made up of older women. The younger generation doesn't see this as an issue. They know the place of the church is to serve and not tinker with these kinds of things." Rocco just took a tumble in my estimation--his fawning over the appointment of Donald Wuerl to Washington didn't help--but what does that quote even mean? Since when are "service" and justice for women unrelated? With 70 percent of Catholics supporting women's ordination, I hardly think the movement is "dying out." Plus I think it incredibly rich that a 23-year-old could so easily dismiss this cadre of "older women." Most are in their 50s--ancient indeed!!!

Of course, no one consulted CatholictotheLeft (sigh), which agrees with pro-women's-ordination Phyllis Zagano, also quoted in the Post story, when she says, "One is not ordained to priesthood and then sent out into thin air." Indeed, if one is ordained, one is ordained for service in a local church, that is, chosen for service to a specific group of God's people in a specific place. Last I checked, there were no local churches floating on rivers, although if global warming keeps up, the "barque of Peter" may indeed have to invest in floating sanctuaries.

At the same time, the Roman powers-that-be have themselves to blame for making this possible: They have perpetuated an outdated theology of orders rooted in "ontological change" passed from bishop to ordinand and have tied apostolic succession to bishops rather than the whole people of God. I find it hard to criticize these women for turning this theology against the patriarchal establishment. All they had to do was find a bishop or two willing to give them the "whammy," and, !Shazam!, we have women priests. And the patriarch's arguments against orders for women, quite frankly, have been thoroughly discredited on both historical and theological grounds.

The real problem, of course, is with our theology of ministry. Between Roman intransigence and the widespread belief that we can't be Catholic without "priesthood," we have gotten nowhere in renewing our understanding of ordained ministry.

Try this one one for size: There is no theological reason why a layperson, duly appointed by the assembly, cannot preside at eucharist. If you wish to deny that statement, you in effect argue that the church never celebrated eucharist until around the 4th century, when "priesthood" became more institutionalized, having been adopted from the Roman state religion in the grand takeover under Constantine.

Still and all, I always come back to Richard McBrien's basic comment on the question of orders, which goes something like: If Jesus came back today and we started all over, do you think we'd end up with the system we have today?

Criticize the ordained women all you want, but if their ecclesial disobedience provokes some real discussion about ministry and leadership in our church, then bully for them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The tax man cometh

A Washington lawyer has filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that the Missouri Catholic Conference--the lobbying group of the state's bishops--violated laws regarding its tax-exempt status in pressuing about 50 candidates to return funds accepted from a pro-stem cell research lobbying group. The conference threatened to expose those candidates that accepted the money: "The Missouri Catholic Conference is committed to informing Missouri voters about campaign contributions promoting human cloning and embryonic stem cell research, and will report to Missouri voters regarding candidates who choose to associate themselves with this and similar organizations that promote such unethical practices.”

One of the candidates in question, Jim Guest, a Republican from northwest Missouri, was not amused, according to the New York Times: “I’m not sure if extortion is the right word, but they basically threatened me if I didn’t return the money, and that’s certainly stepping across the line.”

Now that the election season is upon us, this is going to keep coming up. Even in the Missouri Catholic Conference didn't violate the law, they're coming pretty close--and it's not just the Catholics. Under cover of being non-profit religious groups, plenty of churches are taking sides in elections (all but telling the flock for whom to vote) rather than doing the "issue education" permitted by law. It's a fine legal line that's getting crossed a lot lately, especially since it benefits the current regime.

That might be fine if religious groups were bound by the same disclosure rules other political action committees are--but they're not. And I think few Catholics especially know how their Sunday donations--which are funnelled through the parish to the diocese and on to the state and national conferences--are being used in the political process. The Illinois Catholic Conference, for example, used its muscle and money to oppose the inclusion of sexual orientation on the state's non-discrimination and human rights laws, despite the fact that religious groups are exempt.

The solution, of course, is for religious institutions to abandon the privilege of tax exemption if they want to be in the nitty-gritty of politics. That would be the more transparent thing to do, but I think it unlikely to happen any time soon.

Monday, July 24, 2006

What did you do on your summer vacation?

Folks usually don't put a trip to the confessional on their summer beach schedule, but an Italian priest wants to make sure everyone has the opportunity to reconcile while lazing in the sand, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Father Vito Cantó, the 33-year-old founder of the "salvavidas de Jesus"--which translates to something like "life preservers of Jesus" (I could be wrong; maybe "life guards"?)--has started a new ministry on Italian beaches. Showing up in boats equipped with altars for Mass and wearing brown T-shirts that say "Jesus, our salavation," the goal of the group is to spread the gospel among the sun worshipers.

Responses have been mixed, though: Some take the "salvavidas" up on the offer, while others aren't sure if the whole thing is a joke. And though I'd give Father Vito points for creativity, his ministry does sound suspiciously like something Jay Leno might do for a laugh. Still, when it comes to meeting people where they are, the Life Guards of Jesus get extra credit from me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

On to the truly bizarre

We finally have the answer for why Israel is bombing Lebanon to bits. No, it's not the Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers or the firing of rockets into northern Israel. And it's not knee-jerk hawks in the Israeli government who think every provocation should be met with overwhelming force.

Nope. It's the gays.

That's right, according to a couple of Jerusalem's Orthodox rabbis. God is displeased with the coming WorldPride event in Jerusalem and has withdrawn protection from Israel. Rabbi Pinchas Winston said it best: "God has told the Jewish people, 'If you are not going to fight for my honour, you will be forced to fight for your own honour." He should talk to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who also like to blame bad things--like 9/11--on gay people.

God's honor is so important that it's evidently worth the lives of more than 300 Lebanese civilians and about 20 Israeli ones. And we wonder why so many people think "organized religion" is a bunch of hooey.

Far be it from me to get involved in another religion's disputes, but I prefer gay Rabbi Mark Solomon's attitude: “The true sodomites, in Jewish tradition, are not homosexuals, but those who show selfish intolerance of visitors or anyone who is different." Take that, you big meanies.

Of course, all this does little for the people of the Holy Land, who probably wonder if the "peace of Jerusalem" is ever going to be anything more than a pipe dream.

Intelligent Designer gets drunk

Don't know what the ID was thinking when he wrote his name on this poor croc. Now I know where the politicians got the idea of putting their names on signs at big infrastructure projects. Anyway, turns out that the ID isn't much of an artist--I mean, come on, all caps? Surely he can do better. Besides, isn't this just a little mean? Like naming your kid something they'll get made fun of for. All the other crocs probably think this one's a Bible beater.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Giving new meaning to outsourcing

First it was computer programming, then tech support, and now--Masses for the dead. That's right, next time you fill out the Mass card and send your $10 or $15 bucks to the parish, they're likely to send your intention to India, according to the Ottawa Citizen, although The New York Times evidently reported the same thing a year ago. One Mass is as good as another, no? And besides, farming them out let's the Indian clergy make 10 times more celebrating the liturgy than they would if an Indian Catholic made the same request.

What is this, the Middle Ages? Since when did Mass once again become a "thing" offered to God on behalf of a dead person, rather than a celebration of a particular community who lifts its needs and those of the world to God? This has been going on, of course, for years, even centuries, but I hardly think it's consistent with a renewed understanding and practice of the liturgy.

I'm sure many will point out that this is just another expression of the glorious universality of Catholicism, but in reality it is yet another step backward, another objectification of the Eucharist into some strange currency God accepts in return for springing a soul from purgatory. And it's silly at best, sacrilegious as worst.

Why is this liturgical outsourcing necessary? Evidently there aren't enough priests in North America to keep up with all the Mass requests, and once again, instead of reforming a system that no longer meets the needs of the people of God, we come up with a theologically bizarre way of maintaining the status quo.

Many today talk of a loss of the "sense of the sacred" in the liturgy, yet those same people seem completely willing to reduce the eucharist to a mere "unbloody sacrifice," an imitation of ancient animal sacrifice minus the slaughter to appease an offended god. And that is surely an offense against the eucharist.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

With friends like these ...

Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who married a Korean manicurist five years ago in a Moonie ceremony but then left her after being threatened with excommunication, is at it again, now announcing that he's taking up the cause of reconciling the hierarchy with the legions of Catholic priests who left to ordained ministry to marry: "I feel it is time for the church to reconcile with married priests," the archbishop said. Milingo has also evidently rejoined his wife, although he says this is irrelevant.

The Vatican response was as predictable as it was inaccurate; a Vatican statement indicated that if Milingo was making such arguments, "there would be no choice but to condemn them." Actually, there would be absolutely no reason to condemn them, since Roman Catholicism (not to mention the Eastern Catholic churches) has been admitting married Lutheran and Anglican/Episcopal clergy to orders for some time. Many are, interestingly, conservatives who left their folds because of women's ordination. (Coincidence?) A friend pointed out that if he wanted to be a married Roman Catholic priest, his best course would be to get ordained in another tradition, marry, and then come back to the fold!

It's too bad, though, that the more-than-a-little-nutty Milingo is currently the most outspoken proponent of what is not at all a bad idea. There is no small number of inactive married Catholic clergy who would very much like to return to ministry; the only obstacle is an arcane Western church rule (mandatory celibacy) that is now preventing the faithful all over the world from having access to the sacraments to which they have a right. One wonders if the reason these men aren't being readmitted is simply that many are fairly liberal in the first place and so might swing the clergy back toward the middle.

Anyway, sorry, guys, you deserve a better champion than Milingo, though one archbishop, even one married to a Moonie, is better than none at all.

Or maybe not.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sticks and stones

The Catholic bishops of New Zealand are making one last-ditch effort to prevent the airing of a particularly offensive episode of South Park. "Bloody Mary," which features a bleeding statue of the BVM that later is discovered to be menstruating, has been given the go-ahead by N.Z.'s Broadcasting Standards Authority. The Catholic bishops have one more shot at an appeal and are raising the money to do so. The episode received a record 35 complaints seeking to prevent the it from airing.

As offensive as this show is, though--and let's admit that this episode is indeed particularly repulsive--I'm not sure protest is the best response. In fact, I wonder if getting all hot and bothered about things like this just encourages further abuse. Sometimes people do things just to get a rise out of their target, and we Catholics seem to get in a huff pretty easily.

I wonder, too, if there's not a message for us in South Park and similar parodies: In a way, they tell us how we're viewed by a certain segment of the population, one that for better or worse tends to decide how we might be viewed. It's certainly true that visions of Mary in frosted glass, in a stain beneath a Chicago underpass, and on a grilled cheese sandwich make Catholics seem a little credulous, even silly.

There's also no denying that there are are some people who use alleged visions of Mary to drive their ideological agenda. Isn't there a woman in New Jersey who claims that the BVM appears to her to vomit in disgust over abortion and to complain about lay people distributing communion? Even the bishop of the diocese in which Medjugorje is located has asked the visionaries there to stop claiming that Mary is appearing to them, as the alleged visions there have been as much a source of discord as harmony in that diocese.

At any rate, if we don't like South Park, we probably shouldn't watch. But it's probably not best to ignore it either. As for the BVM, I don't think she's in any danger.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Battle of the blogs

Catholic blogging just got more interesting, with the debut in the Richmond, Virginia diocese of two competing blogs on the new bishop, Francis X. DiLorenzo. A Richmond Voice is generally critical of the bishop, while Richmond Catholic rejoices in the diocesan turn to the right since DiLorenzo took over from Walter Sullivan. The latter especially praised the bishop for delivering the diocese from "liturgical wildness"; DiLorenzo was notorious in his former diocese of Honolulu for forbidding hula dancing in the liturgy, which the diocese had previously permitted as a legitimate form of inculturation. (Hula, contrary to popular tourist belief, is not some semi-burlesque activity.)

The story in The Virginian-Pilot goes on to note that most Catholic blogs tend to be conservative, including Open Book by Amy Welborn, whose blog (and other writings I imagine) got her an op-ed spot in the New York Times; unfortunately, CatholictotheLeft wasn't mentioned as the exception that proves the rule. Damn.

So I labor on in obscurity ...

Monday, July 10, 2006

The real story from Valencia

Well, those hungry for a diatribe against anything other than heterosexual marriage at last weekend's family conference in Valencia, Spain, were probably a bit disappointed. Good Pope Ben made the expected statements about the family being the "pillar of society and truth" (the truth part is a little confusing), but for the most part he was subdued. Maybe someone told him that he was starting to sound grumpy. Maybe he was just off his game.

The big story from Valencia, though, is that Papa Ratzi may have actually used the Holy Grail--yes, the one Jesus used at the Last Supper. It seems the Valencia cathedral has an ancient stone cup, now attached to a jewel-encrusted (and damn ugly) medieval base.

Unfortunately, regardless of whether it is the actual Holy Grail, the vessel does not conform to current liturgical law on cups for Mass, which must be either made of or plated in precious metal, or at least have an interior lining made out of precious metal. Since it is made out of brown agate, the Holy Grail simply cannot be used at Mass. (You liturgical sticklers out there getting the point?)

In other words the pope himself broke liturgical law. Crucify him! Crucify him! Kids, this is why liturgical law is not in the Code of Canon Law; it is too easily modified and is practical (rather than theological or doctrinal) for the most part, which is why I doubt B16 was even aware that he wasn't following the rules. But he wasn't.

Even better, though, were the comments of the head of the Vatican Museums' department of early Christian art, Umberto Utro, about the alleged Grail, according to Catholic News Service: "It's impossible Jesus drank from it; that there were such rich and fine vessels used at the Last Supper was nonsensical," he said, especially since Jesus and most of the apostles came from humble or poor backgrounds.

"He most probably used a cup made from glass like everybody else," he said.

Whoops. Glass isn't really allowed anymore either. Bad Jesus! Bad, bad, bad.

Friday, July 07, 2006

O say can you see?

A megachurch in Memphis has a new take on Lady Liberty. Dubbed "The Statue of Liberation Through Christ," World Overcomers Outreach Ministries has erected the 72-foot replica of the New York icon with a twist--well, several to be exact. Instead of a torch, Liberation holds a cross, and on her crown is inscribed "Jehovah." Instead of a tablet welcoming the poor, Christian Liberty holds the Ten Commandments. A single tear slides from her eye, which Apostle Alton R. Williams, according to the New York Times, explains "is God's response to what he calls the nation's ills, including legalized abortion, a lack of prayer in schools and the country's 'promotion of expressions of New Age, Wicca, secularism and humanism.' "

I like the response of a local 11-year-old girl, Evelyn Douglass, who said that the Statue of Liberty represents America and the cross represents only one religion: "It's not right that they are mixing the two." I think you may have a career in law, Evelyn--though spending $260,000 to erect a 72-foot religious eyesore is, I grant, what America is all about.

Williams disagrees, of course: "This statue proves that Jesus Christ is Lord over America, he is Lord over Tennessee, he is Lord over Memphis." I'm not sure this is what Jesus had in mind.

Still, these kinds of things seem to be cropping up all over my home state. Two giant crosses have sprouted within 50 miles of my parents' house, one in front of a gigantic porn superstore. That one at least got a response; the "XXX Warehouse" now sports a new sign: "Closed on Sunday."

The man who should have been pope

The following is long--some might say boring--but indulge me. Among my key complaints with our current leadership--episcopal and lay alike--is the constant tone of conflict, of condemnation, which is sometimes downright hysterical. But there is another way, from the man who would have gotten my vote for pope (if the merely baptized got a say anyway). Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's chief ecumenical and interreligious officer, offered the following reflections at the recent religious summit in Moscow:

"We are concerned about the problem of peace. We are threatened by ethnic, cultural, national and unfortunately also religious tensions and conflicts; we are confronted with the problem of international terrorism, which misuses religious ideas for perverse ideological purposes, kills innocent people indiscriminately, and spreads fear and horror among the population.

"We are concerned about the problem of justice in our world, where more than two thirds of the world's population live in inhuman conditions of poverty and misery, whereas others live in prosperity and affluence. In addition, there are situations of exploitation, of discrimination and of oppression of human freedom and of fundamental human rights.

"We are concerned about the situation of secularism, especially in the Western world, which deprives human values, both personal and social, of their ultimate religious foundation orientation. As a consequence they are marginalized and made relative to the point that relativism and tolerance themselves become intolerant and oppressive. We lament especially the decline of family values."

Take note: No condemnation, just a measured, thoughtful, and compelling presentation.

And the solution, as Kasper offers it:

"What is the contribution that we as Christians and we as the Catholic Church have to offer? ... First: Respect for the human person, and I add, respect for each human person. Christians are convinced that God created the human being, male and female, in his image and likeness so that each human being, regardless of his or her ethnic, cultural, religious or national belonging is of immeasurable value and merits unconditional respect from other human beings.

"Each individual has the fundamental right to live in a dignified way according to his or her culture and conviction. Such respect for each human person is the foundation for justice, as justice is the foundation for peace. There cannot be peace without justice grounded on mutual respect.

"At the heart of the human person's very nature there stands one's religious conscience. Consequent to this is the moral obligation to follow one's religious calling and seek the truth, and therefore also the need to have free will in religious matters, including the possibility of changing one's religion or even professing oneself atheist...

"But there cannot be human rights for the individual alone, without responsibility for others and for the common good. There is no freedom without personal and social responsibility; freedom of the individual person is possible only within the context of solidarity towards all...

"This brings me to the second point: mutual respect among religions. As has already often been said, there cannot be peace in the world without peace among religions. Obviously, religions are not the same as each other; on the contrary, there are indubitable fundamental differences between them.

"Nevertheless, there is one thing they have in common, which is lacking in a merely secularized conception of the world and of human life: religions inspire openness to transcendence and many believe in a divine reality as the foundation and destiny of all reality; therefore they call for respect for what is holy and stand in opposition to today's widespread attitude of cynicism and disrespect towards nature and human beings. Where respect for the transcendent is lost, respect for the human person is in danger as well....

"As we respect other religions, we must categorically reject the exploitation, abuse and misuse of religion, especially when it is used as a pretext for hate, oppression and terrorism. God is a name of peace and cannot be used as an argument for killing innocent people. As Pope John Paul II in the Message for the World Day of Peace 2002 said: "Terrorism exploits not just people, it exploits God: it ends by making him an idol to be used for one's own purposes."...

"The only alternative to the often quoted danger of a "clash of civilizations" is dialogue between civilizations and religions. Today we live in a world where religions no longer live isolated from one another; in the ongoing process of so-called globalization people of different religions are drawing more closely together and often they live side by side.

"Thus, religions are called not only to tolerate and respect each other, which is in itself no small thing, but they must go a step further: religions have to continue to dialogue and cooperate with each other for the restoration of moral and social values, for justice and peace in the world.
Dialogue does not at all mean syncretism, i.e. a mixture or confusion of religions or an agreement on the lowest common denominator. Dialogue builds on truth and on respect for truth, as Pope Benedict XVI often emphasizes (cf. e.g. World Day of Peace 2006). Dialogue means to share common values and to transmit them to a world which so urgently needs them....

"I would like to close with a point, which seems fundamental to me: As a child I grew up during the horrors of the Second World War. From this traumatic experience I urge you to tell everyone who bears responsibility that war can never be a means to solve problems; war always creates new problems; war is an evil and, insofar as it is up to us, we should do all that is in our power to avoid it and to ban it from the face of the earth.

"Let us tell the world: We as religious people stand for peace: Peace of the heart, peace in our nations and between nations, peace between religions and hence peace in the world."

How might the world respond to Catholicism differently if the pope took such a tone: gentle, compelling, hopeful, rather than condemnatory, hyperbolic, and fearful. Wouldn't we all rather be in such a church?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Jerusalem, my happy home

The hysteria over World Pride, to be held in Jerusalem in August, continues unabated. Some of the best quotes so far:

New York Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who is organising the counter religious parade two days prior to WorldPride: "This is not the homo-land, this is the Holy Land." I'm SO making a T-shirt out of that one. It's the best anti-gay slogan since "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"

Activist Charles Merrill, 72: "Gays are the meek in society and love all of humanity." Well, humanity's better-dressed portions, maybe. And I know a few in the drag community who would prefer "fierce" to "meek," but there you go.

Religious activists are currently organizing a "Modesty Parade" to counter World Pride, which sounds great, since I think all virtues should have parades of their own. Except temperance--too boring!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And the greatest threat to the Holy Land is ...

The International Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade! At least according to Jerusalem's chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, who sent a letter to Pope Benedict asking the pontiff to condemn "strongly and unequivocally . . . this terrible phenomenon, out of hope that a general protest from different religious leaders will awaken the lost hearts who are deceiving themselves and immeasurably harming their souls, and discourage the willful wrongdoer from cursing and corrupting the human way." The rabbi is likely to find sympathy with the pope, who will no doubt issue at least a strong condemnation of same-sex marriage when he arrives in Spain this week for a big family conference.

Better yet, though, are comments by an Israeli member of parliament: "The gay parade in Jerusalem is a parade of swine on Temple Mount. It's a revolting parade of filth. Do you want to set Jerusalem alight? Do you want to force your sexual tendencies upon us?" Evidently Muslim, Jewish, and Christian groups are all condemning the parade. At least they can agree on one thing. All this while Israel and the Palestinian Authority teeter on the brink of yet another bloody conflict, light years away from any real peace.

And we wonder why modern folk are barely interested in the religions of the Book. Could it be that instead of seeking the "peace of Jerusalem" after nearly 60 years of conflict, they'd rather have hissy fits over a parade that will last a single day?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Liturgical revisionism

Some comments about the new liturgical translations and the liturgical reform in general need some response, I think, and since this is my blog, I’m going to bring them up front.

Two common inaccuracies keep cropping up: first, that the liturgical reforms after the Council somehow went beyond what the Council actually asked for; and second, that the 1970 translations were somehow bad or inaccurate.

As for the first, Sacrosanctum concilium called for a “general reform” (#21) of all the rites with "full, conscious and active participation" being the “paramount concern” of the reform (#14). By and large the Novus Ordo follows the general order of Trent minus the Latin and a lot of medieval attachments.

The Novus Ordo is not a "new Mass," and Trent itself was hardly some "pure" liturgy; it was simply the Roman liturgy of the time imposed on all the churches, thanks mostly to the printing press. And evidently, the reformers after VCII got the intention of the Council right, because the liturgical reforms of the Council have been widely welcomed and imitated by other Christian churches. Besides, one has to interpret SC (which received only 4 negative votes) not just as an independent text but by how it was received and implemented.

As for the second objection, it's completely inaccurate to say that the Mass wasn't translated correctly in the first place. It was done well, using the principles of dynamic equivalence as found in Comme le prevoit, which outlined the rules in force at the time. This claim that we currently have "bad translations" is completely spurious. They're "bad" only because Rome changed the rules.

The new translation, quite frankly, was prepared more quickly and by fewer qualified people than the 1970 edition and is more ideologically driven. And the purpose of the translation is not somehow to mimic the Latin original, the editio typica, which is more or less a model for the creation, translation, and adaptation of liturgical books for other churches.

No one celebrates the liturgy from the editio typica anyway, except maybe in Vatican liturgies. Everyone uses the translations and texts found in their own language group's liturgical books (created by the bishops conferences; see SC, 22[a]), many of which (German, Italian, English RCIA and OCF), incidentally, include original texts composed in the vernacular language, all of which were approved by the Vatican.

What has happened in the past 15 years is simply regime change, and with the new regime has come a new liturgical theology (or ideology) that treats Roman texts as if they fell out of heaven. Which they didn't. And this approach is quite frankly a novelty in Catholic tradition, which has always permitted liturgical variation. Note that the Eastern churches in communion with Rome have never, not even after Trent, been required to replace their liturgies with those of Rome.

If the Tridentine liturgy receives wider use, we'll know for sure that what's going on is not some great desire for uniformity, but a concerted effort to overturn the 2,147-to-4 vote in favor of liturgical reform.