Monday, January 30, 2006

In this House of Brede...

It's worth having a look at Chiara's review of the excellent 'In this House of Brede'. I got this book for Christmas and finished it a couple of weeks ago. (It's the only book I've ever read that's made we want to become a Benedictine nun. ;) )
I should point out that it has recently been re-issued by the Loyola Classics stable of Catholic Fiction which is under the general editorship of none other than Amy Welborn.

Miracle for the Cause of John Paul II?

From Reuters:
VATICAN CITY, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The Vatican may have found the "miracle" they need to put the late Pope John Paul one step closer to sainthood -- the medically inexplicable healing of a French nun with the same Parkinson's disease that afflicted him.
Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Catholic Church official in charge of promoting the cause to declare the late Pope a saint of the Church, told Reuters on Monday that an investigation into the healing had cleared an initial probe by doctors.
Oder said the "relatively young" nun, whom he said he could not identify for now, was inexplicably cured of Parkinson's after praying to John Paul after his death last April 2.
"I was moved," Oder said in a telephone interview. "To think that this was the same illness that destroyed the Holy Father and it also kept this poor nun from carrying out her work."
John Paul suffered from Parkinson's Disease during the last decade of his life. His body trembled violently and he could not pronounce his words or control his facial muscles.
"To me, this is another sign of God's creativity," he said, adding that the nun worked with children.
He said Church investigators would now start a more formal and detailed probe of the suspected miracle cure.
He said his office had also received many letters and e-mails from people claiming they had been miraculously cured or otherwise helped with a serious problem after praying to the Pope even while he was alive.
But under Church rules, only those "miracles" which occurred after the Pope's death can be investigated and eventually used as proof of holiness.
It should be noted that a Cardinal is amongst those who claim to have received miraculous healing on the intercession of Pope John Paul II while he was still alive.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Isn't this cool?

A Periodic Table made out of various photos. Click on each element to see the full photo.

Papa Benedetto and Dove...

There are some nice images of Pope Benedict and the dove released at today's Angelus. (It's nice to see him with such a big smile on his face...)
Of course, this custom is nothing new... Look at this picture of Pope St Gregory the Great. :D

In a change to our previously scheduled programme...

Okay, I never thought I'd blog about Paris Hilton, but this story in the Telegraph is worth passing on:
Ever since her rise to fame on the international party circuit, the debate has raged in the gossip columns from Los Angeles to London. Is the heiress Paris Hilton really the most air-headed socialite the world has ever seen? Or, as her supporters claim, is her dizzy bimbo act so outrageous that it can only be a deliberate, if off-beat, self-marketing ploy?
Now, it seems, a leaked transcript of a legal statement she made in private may have proved the prosecution case beyond doubt. Her responses to a series of lawyers' questions reveal that the heir to the Hilton Hotel fortune admits not knowing some of her friends' names, thinks that everyone in Europe speaks French, and believes that London is not in the United Kingdom.
Her comments came when Hilton, 24, responded to a defamation lawsuit brought by the film actress, Zeta Graff, who has accused her of planting untrue tabloid stories about an alleged fight the pair had in Kabaret, a London nightclub, last June.
When subsequently quizzed on the last name of a companion identified as Terry, the best she is able to offer is: "It is like a weird Greek name. Like Douglas." Later in the interview, the woman whose surname is synonymous with international travel shows an astonishing ignorance of geography.
Asked whether the offending newspaper article appeared in any "UK publications", she replied: "No. There is stuff in London."
When Mr Stein pointed out that "London is a UK publication", she conceded "Right. UK. Whatever."
She then blamed her confusion about where the article might have appeared on the fact that she had spent last summer in Europe, where English-language television and newspapers were, she said, unavailable.
"I was in Europe the whole summer, and all there is is like French," she explained. "I didn't see anything because I wasn't in America."
Hilton, who is expected to inherit at least £30 million from the Hilton family fortune, also seems to show little sense of occasion or self-awareness. Under examination in the courtroom and facing a $10 million fine, she still thought it worth remarking aloud: "I'm hungry".
Asked what caused the nightclub bust-up with Ms Graff, Hilton explained: "I just said to her, she is old and should stay at home with her child instead of being at nightclubs with young people. And just that, I just - what else did I say? Just that she is not cute at all."
It is not the first time Hilton has portrayed herself as a resident of the more remote regions of Planet Celebrity. She has previously admitted to not knowing what a soup kitchen was and thinking that the giant retailer Wal-Mart sold only wall-hangings.
Some, however, believe her claim that she is simply manipulating her image to bolster her own Paris Hilton brand, which has made her a millionaire in her own right from franchising deals on nightclubs, television appearances, jewellery and perfume. She describes the brand as modelled on the doll, Barbie, whom she describes as "an American princess".

On a more serious note, the Telegraph reports that Venice's 'Moses' Dam project is under pressure.
The Telegraph reports the Pope's call for greater efficency at the Roman Rota as being a softening of the Church's position on divorce. *Sigh*
We also have a report on 'Ultimate Christian Wrestling'.
Like many American preachers, Rob Adonis delivers his sermons bathed in sweat, passion and a spotlight. He is, however, probably the only one who spreads the word while wearing a purple leotard decked out with Spandex crosses. As the 300lb, 6ft 4in professional wrestler puts it, he "wrestles for the Word".
Ultimate Christian Wrestling, the ministry he founded in 2003, tours churches and venues around the South, in what is - even by the Bible Belt's standards - an unorthodox drive to win converts.
Its matches feature traditional pro-wrestling moves such as headlocks and body slams, coupled with themes and stories from the Bible. Its mission is to "minister the Gospel of Christ to the Lost and to see lost souls saved".
Despite fierce competition from traditional churches, it has taken off in the Southern states where pro-wrestling is popular entertainment and the battle for believers' souls shows no signs of letting up.
Among church leaders, Ultimate Christian Wrestling's reputation has spread. The "Ultimate Armageddon Tour," which has clocked up 30 venues in Georgia, Florida, Virginia and Alabama, is about to expand into Texas and the Carolinas.
Among the 500-strong ringside audience at the Harvest Church was wheelchair-bound Mary Dial, 51, from Elberton, Georgia, and her son Rick, 33, a pest controller. "I used to drink Monday through Friday, but I've sorted myself out since I started coming to UCW," he said. "I've welcomed Jesus into my heart, and I often pray with the wrestlers when the show is over."
As they prepared to go on, 14 of the wrestlers - who go by such soubriquets as "God's Property" and "Damien Synn"- gathered in their changing room and prayed before an 8ft wooden cross. The same cross doubles as a ringside prop, with a wrestler dressed as a bloodied Jesus suspended from it for dramatic effect.
In the ring, fights featured "power dives" off the top ropes and the use of chairs as weapons.
The theme of the bout watched by the Sunday Telegraph was redemption, with a wrestler representing Judas Iscariot wilting before the crowd's angry reaction and attempting to seek forgiveness.
[Zadok's Note: Are we seeing the (re)birth of the Mystery Play in the Bible Belt?
Adonis, in real life a school teacher by the name of Rob Fields, began wrestling professionally in 1999. The concept of a Christian wrestling group, he said, was born when God appeared to him in a dream two years ago.
He accepts that this particular brand of muscular Christianity is not for everyone, but refuted the idea that faith and pro-wrestling are incompatible. He points out that in the Old Testament, Jacob wrestles with an angel.

Have previously unknown watercolours by Adolf Hitler been discovered in Belgium?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Donne Portrait...

There's a story in the Telegraph about the National Portrai Gallery in London seeking to raise the funds to purchase a portrait of John Donne:
The National Portrait Gallery launched an urgent public appeal for £1.6 million yesterday to buy one of the nation's most romantic portraits, of the metaphysical poet John Donne, to prevent it being sold abroad.
The gallery and its supporters, including the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, say that the picture of the poet, posing as a melancholy lover and painted around 1595, is of such national importance that its loss would be "a catastrophe".
In addition to the story itself, I was struck by the following:
Although they admit that a five-month race to raise the money may be "touch and go", they have ruled out asking for lottery help because of the Heritage Lottery Fund's poor record on saving works of art.
Last year the fund, which recently told St Paul's Cathedral that it did not appeal to a "wide enough range of people" when it applied for a £9 million grant, allocated just £2.5 million of its £300 million-plus annual "pot" to save works of art.
There's also a charming footnote in the history of the painting:
Donne bequeathed the portrait on his death in 1631 to their forebear, Robert Kerr, the 1st Marquess, who was a close friend. It has remained in the family for 375 years, hanging at their homes, Monteviot in Roxburghshire and Newbattle Abbey, outside Dalkeith, ever since.
Almost humorously - probably due to one of the early marquesses mishearing Duns for Donne - it was misattributed as a portrait of the mediaeval poet Duns Scotia for much of that time. The error was corrected by the National Portrait Gallery itself, but only in 1959.
BTW, Duns Scotia? Surely that's more usually rendered 'Duns Scotus'.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Very Happy Anniversary...

It's the vigil of the feast of St Thomas Aquinas here in Rome, so I don't think I'm being premature in wishing my heartiest best wishes to my good friend (and true daughter of St Dominic) Lauren of the Cnytr blog. She'll be celebrating 1 year in the Third Order of Preachers (Lay Dominicans) on the feast of St Thomas.
May God grant you many happy years following your vocation!

(Lauren, have I embarassed you enough?)

The Manchester Passion...

From the Telegraph...
Forget J S Bach: the BBC has come up with an alternative Passion this Easter in which pop performers will dramatise the last hours of the life of Christ with the misery-laden lyrics of bands from Oasis to The Smiths.
The corporation is to stage an hour-long "contemporary retelling" of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus on Good Friday, with the streets of Manchester standing in for Jerusalem. It will be broadcast live on BBC 3.
But it will risk incurring the wrath of traditionalists, who already believe that the BBC has dumbed down its religious output, by mingling pop culture with words from the New Testament story.
The event will be accompanied by an orchestral score incorporating songs by a number of bands produced by the city over the past 30 years, some of whose members are better known for their excessive lifestyles than religious devotion.
Among the songs are Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now by The Smiths, and the hit Wonderwall by the band Oasis.
Much of the action is expected to take place near Manchester's gay and red light area close to Canal Street as the group "process" towards Albert Square in the city centre.
During the Last Supper, the character playing Jesus will sing Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart.
Meanwhile, the Judas figure, knowing he is about to betray Jesus, sings the downbeat anthem by The Smiths, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now.
In the Garden of Gesthemene, which will take place in a Manchester park, Jesus sings Sit Down by James as he prays alone, and then duets with Judas - Blue Monday by New Order - as he is arrested by performers dressed as police officers.
As the group converges on Albert Square in the centre of the city, a separate crowd of people carrying a 25ft-long, white cross will arrive from the other side of the city.
The trial of Jesus by Pontius Pilate will be accompanied by the singing of Wonderwall by Oasis, the chorus of which goes:
"I said maybe
You're gonna be the one who saves me?
And after all
You're my wonderwall."
The Virgin Mary will express her emotions at the foot of the cross in the song Search For the Hero by M People, which featured in a recent car advertisement.
At the climax of the programme, the resurrected Christ will appear on the roof of Manchester town hall and, if the draft script is followed, will belt out a reprise of Wonderwall.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Interesting page...

The Cross and Crucifix Glossary - a handy illustrated reference of the various forms that the Cross can take. Curiously, it forms part of a site run by a Luteran minister who collects various types of crosses and crucifixes.

Bishop's Apron?

In reference to my query here, a commenter pointed me to this page, from which I took the above picture. Does the above show an Anglican Bishop in his apron?
One commenter also said:'Apron' is probably a reference to the kind of purple bib worn by some Anglican bishops. It is attached to the collar, and may look like a shirt front, but it actually only covers the front of the torso, and can be easily removed.
I'm fairly sure that's not what 'apron' means. I came across the reference to the apron in a 19th Century novel and the item of clothing described is a rabat, also known as a 'stock'. Note that a rabat can also refer to a tiny piece of cloth which a cleric wears between his collar and a white shirt when wearing a cassock. (They have a special name for that piece of cloth in Rome, but it escapes me for the moment...)

Caravaggios found?

From the Telegraph:
Experts were divided last night on whether two paintings found in a church organ loft were Caravaggio masterpieces worth tens of millions of pounds or merely good copies.
They were discovered seven years ago in Loches, central France, and have now been authenticated by one Caravaggio expert.
The works, Pilgrimage of Our Lord to Emmaus and St Thomas Putting his Finger on Christ's Wound, had apparently hung in the church of St Antoine for two centuries. One critic said that if genuine, each could be worth at least £40 million.
But Pierre Rosenberg, a retired director of the Louvre, was doubtful. "They can be nothing more than good copies," he said. "Caravaggio never copied his own works. The originals are known."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Anglican Vesture Question...

Reading a 19th century novel recently I came across a reference to an Anglican bishop wearing an 'apron'. I've tried to establish what this might mean exactly and have come up with the following
Brewer says: Bishop's Apron represents the short cassock which, by the 74th canon, all clergymen were enjoined to wear.
Here I read: 'It was in the form of that sleeveless cassock of purple, opening at the side, whose lower flap is called a bishop's apron; the corner of the frogged coat showed behind the chair-back, and the sash lay crumpled on the floor.'
That's all very well, but I'm not quite sure I understand or can imagine what the apron is. Could anyone explain more clearly or point me to a picture of a bishop in his apron?

Why no summary? No analysis?

Because the encyclical does not lend itself to it. Any quick and dirty summary would do it an injustice. I've therefore decided to refrain from commenting on it for the time being, other than to note that in the questions it address and the connections it makes, we have something genuinely thought-provoking. Is there novelty there? The social teaching of the Church is not my area of knowledge, but I think the clear articulation of the relationship between the Church and its work in society is a more systematic expression than we have had up to now. Beyond that, I'm not saying anything else for another little whole.

Deus Caritas Est... (Not having read it all yet...)

Folks, I am incredibly lame. Not happy with reading Deus Caritas Est on the internet, I made my way to the Vatican Bookstore to pick up hard copies in English, Italian and German. (Okay, I admit it, I wanted a Benedict XVI 1st Edition...) Why not Latin? Despite being online, it's not yet availible in hardcopy format.
Anyway, flicking through these various versions, I noticed one thing that surprised me from a linguistic point of view.
Have a look at DCE 3. The English translation is: Here the German philosopher was expressing a widely-held perception: doesn't the Church, with all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most precious thing in life? Doesn't she blow the whistle just when the joy which is the Creator's gift offers us a happiness which is itself a certain foretaste of the Divine? Blow the whistle? A sporting metaphor in Deus Caritas Est? I then turned to the Italian: 'Non innalza forse cartelli di divieto proprio là dove la gioia, predisposta per noi dal Creatore, ci offre una felicità che ci fa pregustare qualcosa del Divino?' That talks about the Church erecting 'forbidden' notices.
What about the German? 'Stellt sie nicht gerade da Verbotstafeln auf, wo uns die vom Schöpfer zugedachte Freude ein Glück anbietet, das uns etwas vom Geschmack des Göttlichen spüren läßt?' That looks more or less similar to the Italian version.
And the Latin? 'Nonne fortasse nuntios prohibitionis attollit Ecclesia ibi omnino ubi laetitia nobis a Creatore praeparata felicitatem nobis praebet quae praegustare nos etiam sinit aliquid de Divina natura?' Again, notices of prohibition.
I guess we're lucky to have a more informal translation. ;)

Anyway, on a first skim, I'm impressed. Benedict is linking together some of my favourite themes. I especially like his use of the 'eyes of Christ' metaphor:
18. Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern. This I can offer them not only through the organizations intended for such purposes, accepting it perhaps as a political necessity. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave. Here we see the necessary interplay between love of God and love of neighbour which the First Letter of John speaks of with such insistence. If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties”, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper”, but loveless. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.
I'm chuffed that I used it myself a few days ago.
Looking through the footnotes, I'm disappointed that I didn't solicit people's opinions as to what sources he would be quoting. I'm not at all surprised to see Nietzsche there and St Augustine is (of course) also strongly represented. I don't see Aquinas listed and the references to Plato and Aristotle show that this writing is very much in the philosophy-friendly tradition of Catholic theology. (Note particularly the following about Aristotle's unmoved mover: The divine power that Aristotle at the height of Greek philosophy sought to grasp through reflection, is indeed for every being an object of desire and of love —and as the object of love this divinity moves the world —but in itself it lacks nothing and does not love: it is solely the object of love. I've heard the Italian aristotelian Enrico Berti make much of this aspect of Aristotle's unmoved mover being a final cause that attracts as though by love.)
Anyway, I want to read this properly.
I did pick up a couple of extra copies of the English translation and have decided to offer them gratis to my fellow Catholic bloggers. If you keep a Catholic blog and want a copy of the Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1st Edition (English translation) of Deus Caritas Est, drop me a line (e-mail address in the sidebar) with the URL of your blog and a snailmail address I can send it to. Please note, this is for bloggers only - if you don't have a blog, I'm not sending you anything.
Edited to add: I'm slightly chuffed to spot a printing error in the 1st Edition - the first heading is the Italian word 'Introduzione' rather than the English 'Introduction'.
Edited to add again: Okay, I'm out of copies of Deus Caritas Est. I'm somewhat amazed that someone took offence at my tongue-in-cheek wording of my 'bloggers only' stipulation. I certainly wasn't trying to thumb my nose at 'mere readers'. I just thought it'd be nice to give a little bonus to my fellow bloggers. This commenter rather puzzlingly described my 'mere readers' as my 'bread and butter.' Granted, it's gratifying to see hits on the site meter, but it's not like I'm making any money out of this. As this commenter used some off-colour language, I've seen fit to delete the comment and ban his IP address.

Deus Caritas Est...

In Latin.
In English.

Henry VII's Chapel Discovered...

In the Telegraph:
As muddy holes go, they don't get much more romantic. Beneath four feet of heavy south London clay, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of Henry VII's lost chapel at Greenwich.
The site is where he and a host of his Tudor successors - Henry VIII, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I - worshipped.
The existence of the chapel, part of the Royal Palace of Placentia, a Tudor favourite but pulled down in the 17th century to be replaced by Greenwich Hospital - now the Old Naval College - has long been known from paintings and records.
But until a bulldozer's bucket scraped against brickwork a month ago, no physical evidence of the chapel had ever been discovered.
Careful scratching away by a team of four archaeologists from the Museum of London has revealed the eastern walls of the chapel, a 10ft by 5ft section of floor made from black and white glazed tiles laid geometrically, and, beneath, a so-far unexplored vault.
The floor, at the eastern end of the chapel, almost certainly supported the altar before which the Tudor monarchs would have prayed.
The archaeologists may also have unearthed the spot where Henry VIII stood during his marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves.
Both weddings took place in the Palace of Placentia - which means pleasant place to live - but records do not show whether they were in the chapel itself or, more probably as some historians believe, in a private room or closet in his quarters overlooking the chapel.
To the east of the chapel, more works have unearthed the foundations and fireplaces of its vestry.
Placentia is the least known of London's Tudor palaces. Formerly a manor called Bellacourt, it passed to Henry VI who named it L'Pleazaunce or Placentia because of its agreeable situation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Deus Caritas Est - Predictions

I predict...

1. That the uninformed liberal intelligentia will be amazed that the 1st Encyclical is not a mass excommunication of gays, women and anyone who has ever had sexual relations inside of or outside of marriage.
2. That there will also be a cadre of right-wing thinkers (?) who will be disappointed for much the same reason.
3. There will be general amazement that the Pope is talking about eros. No one will listen when it is explained that he's talking about more than just sex.
4. The encylical will be quoted selectively. Most commentators will miss the main point.
5. The discredited 'copyright story' will get new legs. It will be presumed that the Pope writes these things to fund the Vatican budget deficit.
6. At least one commentator will pronounce 'agape' to rhyme with 'grape'.
7. It will be worth reading.


'Not yet!' says Rocco.

Confiteor meme (Part 2)

I confess that... a party I thought it would be fun to waltz with a coat-stand. The coat-stand fell apart. I was perfectly sober at the time. (I'm not invited to many parties.)
...I'm damnably lazy.

Something for the monarchists...

From the Times:
A VACANCY for head of state has arisen in Europe’s smallest independent territory: the self-proclaimed principality of Seborga on the Italian Riviera (population: 362).
Prince Giorgio I, who has reigned in the Ligurian hillside village for 43 years, said that he had decided to abdicate at the age of 70. His successor will be elected in two months.
During the interregnum Seborga, which was founded in the 11th century, will be run by its parliament — twenty-four priors and eight departmental ministers. Unfortunately for outsiders, the new prince, like the priors, must have been born and baptised in Seborga.
A further drawback is that Italy does not recognise Seborga’s independence, although according to some historians Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator, once remarked that Seborga “certainly does not form part of Italy”. It does have its own currency, the luigino, valued at $6, which is accepted in the village shops and bars.
Seborga has its own stamps and a sign at the entrance to the village reads “Principality of Seborga”. It has a patron saint, St Bernard, and a Latin motto, sub umbra sedi (sit in the shade). Its borders are guarded by a local militia and it claims diplomatic relations with 45 states.
The inhabitants, known as “seborghini”, take their status seriously, not least Giorgio I, alias Giorgio Carbone, the former head of the local flower-growers’ co-operative.
In the 1960s Signor Carbone revived Seborga’s independence, noting that it had been a principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1079 until 1729, when it was acquired by Vittorio Amadeo of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont and King of Sardinia.
He claimed that Seborga had not been listed as a Savoy possession when Italy was united under the Savoy dynasty in 1861. It had, therefore, never been part of the modern Italian state. His fellow citizens agreed, and elected him prince.

On a more generally recognised note, it's interesting that the republic of San Marino is the only survivor of the various kingdoms, principalities and city-states which used to exist on the Italian peninsula.

The Bible in the Aussie vernacular...

From the Telegraph, one of those semi-regular wacky translation stories:
The Australian broadcaster who translated large sections of the New
Testament into Strine
has turned his attention to the Bible once
This time Kel Richards has rewritten well-known Old Testament stories
in the Australian vernacular.
Instead of the familiar opening of "In the beginning God created the heaven
and the earth", Richards offers: "Out of the blue God knocked up the
whole bang lot … God said 'let's have some light' and bingo - light appeared."

The Aussie Bible also retells the story of Joseph, whose jealous
brothers sold him into slavery and told their father he had been killed by a
wild beast. Joseph's father, Jacob, cries out: "He's been killed! Maybe
a dingo got my boy!"

Monday, January 23, 2006

A foretaste of Deus Caritas Est

Of interest is the Holy Father's address to the members of the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum' this morning. Of worthy of special is when he addresses himself to outlining the new encyclical:
La parola "amore" oggi è così sciupata, così consumata e abusata che quasi si teme di lasciarla affiorare sulle proprie labbra. Eppure è una parola primordiale, espressione della realtà primordiale; noi non possiamo semplicemente abbandonarla, ma dobbiamo riprenderla, purificarla e riportarla al suo splendore originario, perché possa illuminare la nostra vita e portarla sulla retta via. È stata questa consapevolezza che mi ha indotto a scegliere l'amore come tema della mia prima Enciclica. Volevo tentare di esprimere per il nostro tempo e per la nostra esistenza qualcosa di quello che Dante nella sua visione ha ricapitolato in modo audace. Egli narra di una "vista" che "s'avvalorava" mentre egli guardava e lo mutava interiormente (cfr Par., XXXIII, vv. 112-114). Si tratta proprio di questo: che la fede diventi una visione-comprensione che ci trasforma. Era mio desiderio di dare risalto alla centralità della fede in Dio – in quel Dio che ha assunto un volto umano e un cuore umano. La fede non è una teoria che si può far propria o anche accantonare. È una cosa molto concreta: è il criterio che decide del nostro stile di vita. In un'epoca nella quale l'ostilità e l'avidità sono diventate superpotenze, un'epoca nella quale assistiamo all'abuso della religione fino all'apoteosi dell'odio, la sola razionalità neutra non è in grado di proteggerci. Abbiamo bisogno del Dio vivente, che ci ha amati fino alla morte.

Così, in questa Enciclica, i temi "Dio", "Cristo" e "Amore" sono fusi insieme come guida centrale della fede cristiana. Volevo mostrare l'umanità della fede, di cui fa parte l'eros – il "sì" dell'uomo alla sua corporeità creata da Dio, un "sì" che nel matrimonio indissolubile tra uomo e donna trova la sua forma radicata nella creazione. E lì avviene anche che l'eros si trasforma in agape – che l'amore per l'altro non cerca più se stesso, ma diventa preoccupazione per l'altro, disposizione al sacrificio per lui e apertura anche al dono di una nuova vita umana. L'agape cristiana, l'amore per il prossimo nella sequela di Cristo non è qualcosa di estraneo, posto accanto o addirittura contro l'eros; anzi, nel sacrificio che Cristo ha fatto di sé per l'uomo ha trovato una nuova dimensione che, nella storia della dedizione caritatevole dei cristiani ai poveri e ai sofferenti, si è sviluppata sempre di più.

Una prima lettura dell'Enciclica potrebbe forse suscitare l'impressione che essa si spezzi in due parti tra loro poco collegate: una prima parte teorica, che parla dell'essenza dell'amore, e una seconda che tratta della carità ecclesiale, delle organizzazioni caritative. A me però interessava proprio l'unità dei due temi che, solo se visti come un'unica cosa, sono compresi bene. Dapprima occorreva trattare dell'essenza dell'amore come si presenta a noi nella luce della testimonianza biblica. Partendo dall'immagine cristiana di Dio, bisognava mostrare come l'uomo è creato per amare e come questo amore, che inizialmente appare soprattutto come eros tra uomo e donna, deve poi interiormente trasformarsi in agape, in dono di sé all'altro – e ciò proprio per rispondere alla vera natura dell'eros. Su questa base si doveva poi chiarire che l'essenza dell'amore di Dio e del prossimo descritto nella Bibbia è il centro dell'esistenza cristiana, è il frutto della fede. Successivamente, però, in una seconda parte bisognava evidenziare che l'atto totalmente personale dell'agape non può mai restare una cosa solamente individuale, ma che deve invece diventare anche un atto essenziale della Chiesa come comunità: abbisogna cioè anche della forma istituzionale che s'esprime nell'agire comunitario della Chiesa. L'organizzazione ecclesiale della carità non è una forma di assistenza sociale che s'aggiunge casualmente alla realtà della Chiesa, un'iniziativa che si potrebbe lasciare anche ad altri. Essa fa parte invece della natura della Chiesa. Come al Logos divino corrisponde l'annuncio umano, la parola della fede, così all'Agape, che è Dio, deve corrispondere l'agape della Chiesa, la sua attività caritativa. Questa attività, oltre al primo significato molto concreto dell'aiutare il prossimo, possiede essenzialmente anche quello del comunicare agli altri l'amore di Dio, che noi stessi abbiamo ricevuto. Essa deve rendere in qualche modo visibile il Dio vivente. Dio e Cristo nell'organizzazione caritativa non devono essere parole estranee; esse in realtà indicano la fonte originaria della carità ecclesiale. La forza della Caritas dipende dalla forza della fede di tutti i membri e collaboratori.

In brief, he's saying that the word 'love' has become so abused that one fears to speak it any longer. But we cannot abandon such a primordial concept - we need to repurify it. Looking to the incarnation, he treats of 'God', 'Christ' and 'Love' as inseperable themes for the Christian faith. (A faith that transforms.) By man's saying 'yes' to his created corporality and and the indissoluble 'yes' of marriage between a man and woman (this form is rooted in creation) eros transforms itself into agape - the love for the other is no longer for one's self, but rather a preoccupation with the good of the other, a willingness to sacrifice and openness to new life. Christian love of the neighbour following the path of Christ is not simply 'beside' or 'against' eros; rather in the sacrifice of Christ it finds a new dimension.
The letter will have two parts - one a theoretical analysis of love, the second having to do with eccleisal 'caritas'. The Pope is particularly interested in the unity of these two themes. He intends to look at how we are created for love and how eros (especially between a man and woman) is interiorly transformed into agape and thus responds to the true nature of eros. On this basis, one can clarify the biblical concepts of love of God and neighbour. He will also show that agape is not simply something individual, but must become an essential act of the Church. He notes too that this is not something that is added 'by chance' to the Church but forms part of the nature of the Church. As word of human faith corresponds to the Divine Logos, so to the Agape which is Divine must corrspond the agape of the Church which is its charitable activity. This activity, in addition to practical help for one's neighbour, includes in its essence communicating to others the love of God which we have revealed. It must make the living God visible in some way. God and Christ cannot be foreign words in charitable organization. They indicate the origin of ecclesial charity. The power of charity (Caritas) depends on the power of the faith of all members and collaborators.

I apologise that I can only give a poor paraphrase rather than a literal translation. I like the way various themes are tied together. I guess that the media will jump on the whole 'sex is good,' says Pope angle, and shan't overlook the stress on 'heterosexual marriage'. However, I think that what is interesting is how the Holy Father proposes linking 'caritas'/'charity' to 'eros' and 'agape' and the insistence that our faith cannot be detached from our charitable efforts. That'll give food for thought for anyone proposing a faith-neutral model of social justice to the Church. It'll also be a reminder to some of us that there is life beyond dogma and that our doctrinal propositions and ecclesiological posturing must also bear the fruit of charity.

This sounds like something the Whapsters would cook up...

Sancta Sanctis frequently identifies Catholic themes in pop-culture. Well, according to the Times pretty much the opposite effort is being performed by British animators - they are introducing pop-culture themes into a Catholic story:
IS IT a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the Flying Friar, a real life 16th-century monk who has become the latest addition to the world of comic book superheroes.
Joseph of Copertino, a Franciscan priest renowned for his ability to levitate, will join the world of costumed crusaders next week when a new graphic novel is published in Britain and America.
The Flying Friar, by Rich Johnston and Thomas Nachlik, is based on one of the Church’s most extraordinary saints who, although canonised for his extreme modesty and patience, is more remarkable for his apparent ability to fly and demonstrate supernatural strength.
The story of St Joseph, according to sources such as the Oxford Dictionary of Saints, bears a startling resemblance to modern fictional heroes such as Batman or Spider-Man. Joseph Desa was initially an outcast, born into such extreme poverty in 1603 that he was delivered in a shed. He seemed to be a simpleton and was nicknamed The Gaper because of his habit of wandering around open mouthed.

Here's the best part:
Mr Johnston, a British author of graphic novels, attempted to keep his character faithful to the saint, but has embellished his adventures by creating a fictional adversary in the style of Superman’s enemy, Lex Luthor. The story involves Joseph’s struggle with Lux Luther, a ficticious childhood friend and great nephew of Martin Luther, the founder of Protestant Reformation.
In the final act, Joseph must use his special powers to avert Luther’s plan to rain
fiery death on Copertino, his home town.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Children's Letters to Satan...

This is hilarious. An excerpt:

All Hail Satan, Ruler of the Underworld! I'm fourteen years old and I'm lead bass guitarist in a heavy metal band called Kings of Satan. I have worshipped you since I saw Fantasia when I was little. My room is practically a shrine to you, almost. I have all kinds of black t-shirts and posters with skulls and blood and stuff. I used to have a dead mouse from out by the gravel pit, but my mom threw it out.

Our band is really great and we sound a lot like Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden when we play their songs. If you made me and my friends really popular and rich and famous, we could tour hotels all over the place. We would throw away those little Bibles you find in hotel rooms and put Kings of Satan CDs there instead. We played at a big school talent show last month, and we kicked hiney! Except the doofus announcer read our name as "Kings of Stan." My soul is yours for eternity. Would you please send me an autographed picture, and a girlfriend?
Rock on!

Hands up if you went to school with 'Crash'...

Hitler's plan for a Rome away from Rome...

In the Telegraph:
Adolf Hitler intended to recreate the Vatican's St Peter's Square in the
centre of Berlin to honour his ally Benito Mussolini, newly discovered documents
have revealed.
Albert Speer, the fuhrer's chief architect, was commissioned
to draw up the plans, which have been discovered by historians examining his
They had been stored in a secret room inside Moscow's Museum of
Architecture after being taken to Russia at the end of the Second World War.
In total, there were more than 200 boxes of files belonging to Speer, whose
grand designs for the rebuilding of Nazi Berlin under Hitler were already well
But the plans for a new, Germanic version of St Peter's Square -
complete with a giant statue of Mussolini - in Berlin have astonished
Speer built a scale model of how he planned to recreate the
columns of St Peter's Square, which encircle the piazza in front of the
"Speer's plans included the columns from the square and at the centre
instead of a fountain as in Rome there would be a huge statue of Benito
"Hitler considered the Eternal City [Rome] to be the only city in
the world to rival Berlin so he wanted to better it in every way possible."
Speer's documents show that Hitler took a great interest in the plans and was
delighted with the architect's model.

The mind boggles.

Today's Angelus...

I had forgotten that today was the 500th Anniversary of the foundation of the Swiss Guards. It seems that Cardinal Sodano celebrated a very beautiful Mass for them in the Sistine Chapel this morning.
Anyway, I decided to attend the Pope's Angelus this morning and was pleasantly surprised to hear the band of the Swiss Guards playing as I entered the Square.

It seems that most of the Corps were on parade.

Check our Rocco's translation of the Holy Father's remarks. (I too was disappointed that there was no consistory announced.)

More knowlegeable souls than myself will be able to tell me the significance of the various uniforms - I'm guessing we see here the uniforms of the Officers, NCOs and ordinary guards.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Cool advert...

Over at the Google Video of the Day Blog.
(The sad thing is, that video is scarily close to my interior life...)

Over at Rocco's place...

Full marks for this post.

This however, is much less satisfactory. Personally, I've never been able to buy into the kneejerk revulsion for Cardinal Kasper exhibited by some commentators. Doubtless he and the then Cardinal Ratzinger were located on differing places of the theological spectrum and it's no secret that my sympathies have tended to lie with Ratzinger. However, I've always thought that Kasper should be paid the same respect that I would demand that theological opponents of Ratzinger should pay him. Both are serious Catholic theologians, and the presumption must be made that they are aware of the gravity of their roles as Cardinals of the Church and that they know enough not to lead the Church into heresy. That doesn't mean agreeing with everything either of them say, but it does mean the strong presumption that their statements fall within the allowable spectrum of theolgical discourse.
Now, the news report on which Rocco bases his post is worth reading. However, I think that his analysis of Kasper's position is wrong. Rocco says:

So everything that we keep hearing screamed about as dogma and "the most
important things in the life of the church" every day has just been clarified --
by a cardinal of the church who's not a self-anointed anything, no less -- as
being on the tier of mere "ethical problems," "not on the top of the hierarchy
of truths" should not obstruct the greater good of unity, so long as the
participants don't get all self-righteous and make themselves impediments to

What Kasper actually says is:
He told a press conference at Ushaw that the differences in how Christian communities are dealing with ethical matters were not automatically church-dividing; "we have to see if they are differences in pastoral approaches or doctrinal differences, " he said.
What he is saying is that these ethical questions can be church-dividing; what needs to be done is to discern whether were are talking about a difference of pastoral approach or of doctrine.
With regards to the issue of doctrine, it's important to call to mind John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae.
EV 57 Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
On Abortion he says
EV62Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable. 72 Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.
On Euthanasia he says
EV65 Taking into account these distinctions, in harmony with the Magisterium of my Predecessors and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
Depending on the circumstances, this practice involves the malice proper to suicide or murder.
What that boils down to is that the Church infallibly teaches the value of human life and the immorality of abortion and euthanasia. That's not simply doctrine, it's an infallibly taught moral dogma.
By Kasper's criteria, material difference on these specific issues would seem to be a sufficent obstacle to Church Unity. We're not talking about pastoral approaches. We're dealing with doctrine.
I think Rocco's difficulty arisies with the common misunderstanding of the term 'hierarchy of truths'. This does not mean that some aspects of revealed truth are more or less true. Rather, it's an acknowledgement that some of these truths are more or less central to the Christian Faith. However, as the Directory on Ecumenism notes:
75. Moreover, the "hierarchy of truths" of Catholic doctrine should always be respected; these truths all demand due assent of faith, yet are not all equally central to the mystery revealed in Jesus Christ, since they vary in their connection with the foundation of the Christian faith.
176. The question of the hierarchy of truths is also taken up in the document Reflections and Suggestions Concerning Ecumenical Dialogue:
"Neither in the life nor in the teaching of the whole Church is everything presented on the same level. Certainly all revealed truths demand the same acceptance of faith, but according to the greater or lesser proximity that they have to the basis of the revealed mystery, they are variously placed with regard to one another and have varying connections among themselves".
That means that we can acknowledge that what unites Christians is greater than what divides them, and we can make progress on the basis of the great issues that unite us without throwing the lesser truths as an obstacle to cooperation. However, the Roman Catholic Church cannot set aside these lesser truths as the Divine Revelation is a unity and the abandonment of even the least of these truths would damage the whole.
As Catholics we are called to have confidence in the unified and consistent nature of revealed truth and that dialogue with our seperated brethern on the basis of the greater truths of Christianity will lead to understanding of those truths which are lower on the hierarchy of truths. What we do not admit is any notion that there can be a more true or a less true when dealing with the Deposit of the Faith.
(As an aside, I would note that the place of a particular teaching on the hierarchy of truths does not depend on the solemnity with which it has been taught by the Magisterium. For example, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff have been taught in the most solemn ways possible. However, that does not place them at the top of the hierarchy of truths.)
Ultimately, what Kasper is describing is a great tragedy. There have been some great advances on the level of dogmatic theology (agreement with the Luterans on Justification, a recognition by some Protestant groups of the necessity of a teaching authority) but the hope that this might inspire is being shattered by an increasing difference on ethical matters, and Kasper does not seem to be arguing that we can set these aside easily.
I'll leave the final word with Cardinal Kasper:
Called to be holy, Cardinal Kasper said, the church also is called to be prophetic, to listen to the world, to understand its hopes and struggles and to offer guidance and hope based on the Gospel.
"The dividing lines which have unfortunately become evident on ethical issues since the latter half of the last century are therefore not secondary or irrelevant for an understanding of the nature of the church," he said.
"In touching on holiness, they touch on the essential nature of the church itself," the cardinal said.
Cardinal Kasper acknowledged that Christian communities that, for example, have ordained women to the priesthood or have decided to bless homosexual unions have done so out of a belief that they are exercising a prophetic role in society and demonstrating God's love, acceptance and call to all people.
However, he said, Christian communities must act in continuity with the faith of the Gospel and the earliest Christian communities.
"We should not imagine that we possess more of the Holy Spirit today than the church of the early church fathers and the great theologians of the Middle Ages," he said.

Newman and Friendship...

The 3rd Edition (1871) Newman's Oxford University Sermons are prefaced by one of the most touching letters of friendship I have ever read. The dedication to Dean Church is a gem of noble sentiment and affection. Church and Newman were colleagues during the time of the Oxford movement and were seperated by Newman's conversion to Catholicism. 1871 found Church as Anglican Dean of St Paul's and Newman was Superior of the Oratory in Birmingham.
The dedicatory letter makes reference to one of the most dramatic events in the history of the Oxford Movement. In the 1840s, Newman came under the censure of many of the Anglican bishops of England for his Catholic interpretation of the 39 Articles, the so-called Tract 90. This condemnation was to reach its zenith with the formal condemnation of the Tract by the Convocation of Oxford University. However, just before the vote of Convocation on the issue was to be taken, the two Proctors (Church was the Junior Proctor) exercised their ancient (and rarely exercised) veto on the motions put before Convocation. The drama is described as follows in Ward's history of the Oxford Movement:
“A full Convocation at Oxford,” says a contemporary writer, “is an imposing spectacle. The theatre, one of Wren’s noblest works, with its rostra and semicircular galleries, is admirably adapted to enable a large assembly to see and be seen, and to hear a person speaking from one of the rostra .though it would be unsuited to a debate in which men spoke from their places. It is fit for its purposes—solemn proceedings and set speeches. On the 13th of February [1845] it must have contained fifteen hundred persons, for nearly twelve hundred voted, and the neuters must have exceeded three hundred.”
“When the whole assembly,” writes Dean Stanley, “was crowded within the theatre, packed as closely as the area of that splendid building would permit, the Registrar of the University read out the incriminating passages of The Ideal of a Christian Church. (Zadok's note: This book was by Ward.) Grown wiser, and we may add, more just, by the experience of the attack on Dr. Hampden, they did not condemn the whole book, but certain extracts which were chosen from it. The general proceedings were in Latin, but it was curious to hear the grave voice of the Registrar proclaiming in the vernacular from his high position these several sentences [from the book]— 'Oh, most joyful! most wonderful! most unexpected sight! We find the whole cycle of Roman doctrine gradually possessing numbers of English Churchmen!’ Once again the English language was permitted to be heard in that assembly; the Vice-Chancellor rose in his place and announced in Latin that by permission of the Chancellor, to Mr. Ward, and to Mr. Ward alone, was to be given the privilege of using in his own defence his native tongue. Then followed the apology for the book, at that time known in its every part, now probably become one of the obsolete curiosities of literature. It consisted of an effective address, challenging all parties in the Church equally to vindicate their subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, and calling upon him who was without fault to throw the first stone.”
The speech over, the Vice-Chancellor put the question. There was a roar and counter-roar of “placets” and “non-placets.” A scrutiny was then ordered, and the first resolution—the censure of the passages from the Ideal—was carried by 777 to 391; the second—the degradation—by a much smaller majority, 569 to 511. Then came the proposal for the condemnation of Tract 90. The Vice-Chancellor read the resolution. But now the two Proctors rose, Mr. Guillemard and Mr. Church, and uttered the words which, except on one memorable occasion, the Hampden case, no one living had ever heard pronounced in Convocation. When the resolution was put, a shout of “non” was raised, and resounded through the whole building, and “placets” from the other side, over which Guillemard’s “nobis Procuratoribus non-placet” was heard like a trumpet and cheered enormously. The Dean of Chichester threw himself out of his doctor’s seat and shook both Proctors violently by the hand, and, without any formal dissolution, indeed, without a word more being spoken, as if such an interposition as the Proctor’s veto stopped all business, the Vice-Chancellor tucked up his gown, and hurried down the steps that led from his throne into the area, and hurried out of the theatre; and in five minutes the whole scene of action was cleared. Mr. Ward was cheered by the undergraduates as he left the theatre, and the Vice-Chancellor was saluted by hisses and snowballs from the same quarter.
It was noticed that Mr. Gladstone’s non-placet was peculiarly vehement. He voted in Mr. Ward’s favour on both propositions. All the Fellows of Balliol without exception supported Mr. Ward likewise in both votes.
Newman had already retired to Littlemore from University and pastoral life at this stage. He would be received into the Catholic Church later in 1845.
It should be noted that in 1871, Newman was still a controversial person in Catholic and Protestant circles, thus explaining the delicacy of Newman's dedication to Church:


WHEN I lately asked your leave to prefix your name to this Volume of Sermons preached before the University of Oxford, I felt I had to explain to myself and to my readers, why I had not offered it to you on its first publication, rather than now, when the long delay of nearly thirty years might seem to have destroyed the graciousness of my act.

For you were one of those dear friends, resident in Oxford, (some, as Charles Marriott and Charles Cornish now no more,) who in those trying five years, from 1841 to 1845, in the course of which this Volume was given to the world, did so much to comfort and uphold me by their patient, tender kindness, and their zealous services in my behalf.

I cannot forget, how, in the February of 1841, you suffered me day after day to open to you my anxieties and plans, as events successively elicited them; and much less can I lose the memory of your great act of friendship, as well as of justice and courage, in the February of 1845, your Proctor's year, when you, with another now departed, shielded me from the "civium ardor prava jubentium," by the interposition of a prerogative belonging to your academical position.

But much as I felt your generous conduct towards me at the time, those very circumstances which gave occasion to it deprived me then of the power of acknowledging it. That was no season to do what I am doing now, when an association with any work of mine would have been a burden to another, not a service; nor did I, in the Volumes which I published during those years, think of laying it upon any of my friends, except in the case of one who had had duties with me up at Littlemore, and overcame me by his loyal and urgent sympathy.

Accept then, my dear Church, though it be late, this expression of my gratitude, now that the lapse of years, the judgment passed on me by (what may be called) posterity, and the dignity of your present position, encourage me to think that, in thus gratifying myself, I am not inconsiderate towards you.

I am, my dear Dean,
Your very affectionate friend,

ADVENT, 1871.

On intelligent design...

In the Telegraph...
And CNS... Both make reference to the recent Osservatore Romano article.
I'm currently reading Newman's Oxford University Sermons wherein he said the following:
Others, again, have been too diligent and too hasty in answering every frivolous and isolated objection to the words of Scripture, which has been urged,—nay, which they fancied might possibly be urged,—from successive discoveries in science; too diligent, because their minute solicitude has occasioned them to lose sight of the Christian Evidence as a whole, and to magnify the objection, as if (though it were unanswerable) it could really weigh against the mass of argument producible on the other side; and too hasty because, had they been patient, succeeding discoveries would perhaps of themselves have solved for them the objection, without the interference of a controversialist. The ill consequences of such a procedure are obvious: the objection has been recognized as important, while the solution offered has too often been inadequate or unsound. To feel jealous and appear timid, on witnessing the enlargement of scientific knowledge, is almost to acknowledge that there may be some contrariety between it and Revelation. (pp 3-4)

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Baby squirrel monkey...
A newly discovered type of insect...
A very Italian affair:
Calabria in southern Italy is famous for its ruthless mafia and hot chilli peppers and is certainly no stranger to passion, intrigue and vendetta.
But the tale of an affair between one of its female mayors and a local council leader has reached a finale worthy of grand opera - and gripped the entire nation.
Another cruel twist was the death on the town hall steps of a journalist who had chronicled their romance, just as the melodrama reached its climax.
Like the errant Eve of the Old Testament, Miss Catizone's fate was sealed by a forbidden fruit, in this case that of love.
After months of backbiting, her former allies decided to back a motion of no-confidence against her.
Her cause was not helped by a poll on Sunday showing her popularity had slipped to a mere 11 per cent. Miss Catizone alleged that Mr Adamo "was the occult director of this miserable affair". Deciding to jump before she was pushed, she handed in her resignation on Tuesday.
"I've been politically raped," she declared before rushing out of the council chamber and locking herself in the mayor's office.
Almost simultaneously, Antonino Cartera, 49, a political reporter and leading chronicler of the saga, collapsed and died of a heart attack outside.
He lay dead on the town hall steps for two hours, a victim of Italy's bureaucracy and a delay in issuing a death certificate. The council resumed its work regardless.
"Even I didn't expect such inhumanity. They [the council] didn't even stop when faced with a death," said Miss Catizone.
Her last political act, for the time being at least, was to lower the council flag down to half mast to show her respect for the journalist.
All of Italian life is there - from bureaucracy to bella figura.
There's a sobering piece in the Guardian about expolited children in Italian cities:
For three weeks, police kept the man under surveillance, watching as he picked up his merchandise in the outskirts of the city and dropped it off in one of Rome's most attractive piazzas. The 35-year-old Romanian was not dealing in drugs or contraband cigarettes but children. He controlled a group of nine boys aged between 10 and 14, who were transported every day into Rome and told to beg for money or wash the windscreens of people's cars. Each child earned €50-70 a day, which they handed over to their boss in return for food and clothing. After secretly videotaping the man's activities and amassing enough evidence, police arrested him.
There is a lot of money to be made out of the exploitation of children and a recent report by the social studies institute Eurispes and the children's charity Telefono Azzurro shows how many vulnerable young people there are in Italy. According to a survey by the two organisations, at least 50,000 foreign children are forced to beg on the streets or work instead of going to school. In Rome alone, the number is put at 8,000.
The minors, mostly young boys, are sent abroad by relatives in the hope of making better lives for themselves and arrive after long and frightening journeys, passed along the route by people smugglers. More than a third of these lone youngsters come from Romania, arriving overland and hidden in the backs of trucks, often armed only with the telephone number of a relative or a fellow countryman. Albanian minors arrive clandestinely under cover of night on the coast of Le Marche in the east of Italy, after a two-hour trip by boat across the Adriatic Sea with other illegal immigrants. Moroccan children undertake a voyage partly by sea and partly overland through Gibraltar, Spain and France.

There's also an article on the mysterious tribute paid annually to Edgar Allen Poe:
For the 57th year running, a mystery man today paid tribute to Edgar Allan Poe by placing roses and a bottle of cognac on the writer's grave to mark his birthday.
Some of the 25 spectators drawn to a tiny, locked graveyard in downtown Baltimore for the ceremony climbed over the walls of the site and were "running all over the place trying to find out how the guy gets in", according to Jeff Jerome, the most faithful viewer of the event.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

God is friendship...

Thinking about Deus Caritas Est brings to mind one of the most challenging meditations written by Newman:
Thou, Mary, art the Virgin of Virgins. To have a virgin soul is to love nothing on earth in comparison of God, or except for His sake. That soul is virginal which is ever looking for its Beloved who is in heaven, and which sees Him in whatever is lovely upon earth, loving earthly friends very dearly, but in their proper place, as His gifts, and His representatives, but loving Jesus alone with sovereign affection, and bearing to lose all, so that she may keep Him.
This picture of the Virgin is put before us as a model for all our human loves. If we take the Gospel to heart, these loves are not set aside, but rather transformed. Of course, it does not come naturally to us to love in this manner. We are inclined to think that loving Christ means that we must now neglect our earthly friends. We think of it as an either/or proposition.
However, if we consider our most intimate friendships, I think that we can find traces of Divine Love. In our closest friendships, we are capable of seeing goodness and depth and potential in the other that outsiders overlook. In loving another, we acquire a knowledge of them that tends to the Divine. We look on our friends with sympathy and catch glimpses of their true potential, which is their real existence. God looks on all of us with infinite sympathy and in seeing as we should be (i.e. fulfilling the plan he has laid down for us) he guides us towards our true end which is Himself. By knowing and loving our friends, we value them in a way which may not be understood by the impartial observe. Being known and being loved by God, every human being is more valuable than we can imagine.
Describing true friendship, St Aelred of Rievaulx says, 'such friendship prudence directs, justice rules, fortitude guards and temperance moderates.' If we strive for such friendship lived in virtue, we have the opportunity of seeing through the eyes of Christ. Indeed, elsewhere, St Aelred says:
...what more sublime can be said of friendship, what more true, what more profitable, than that it ought to, and is proved to, begin in Christ, continue in Christ, and be perfected in Christ.
Now, as Newman notes, there does exist the risk of setting up purely human friendships in opposition to love of God. We can absolutize them to the neglect of the Creator or corrupt them by exploitation of the other (for cheap affection, or popularity, or monetary gain) or we can simply overlook the supernatural foundation of our human loves. That is why we must always be attentive to the operations of grace in all aspects of our lives, and in particular within those human relationships we hold most dear.
That is not the whole process though. Christ has some harder words for any who would seek perfection - "Love your enemies" he tells us. See the face of God in those whom we would normally despise. That is sainthood. We stand in awe of those men and women who have lived the Gospel by forgiving their enemies and by caring for those whom others neglect for love of Christ and brother. However, to reach that stage, we must first learn a Christ-like love of our friends, to see them with Christ's eyes and to recognise Christ in them.


The encyclcial is being released one week from today. (That's the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul.)
Here's what Reuters has to say.

Press coverage of 'Deus Caritas Est'...

A disappointingly wrongheaded report in the Telegraph.
Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, expected in the next few days, warns believers not to confuse love with lust or degrade it "to mere sex".
The encyclical, a papal letter to bishops that sets out Roman Catholic policy, discusses the relationship between "eros", or erotic love, and "agape", a Greek word referring to unconditional, spiritual and selfless love.
"It is not totally negative on eros," a Vatican source said. "It argues that eros under the right circumstances is OK."
So, watch out folks, we're going to be 'warned'!
John Allen, a columnist with the National Catholic Reporter and one of the most respected Vatican watchers, said: "The Pope wants to make sure that everything he does is grounded in fundamentals in terms of objective truth.
"The encyclical is his attempt at being a compassionate conservative. In his mind, you can't really be free and happy unless you accept God's plan for human life."
When he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope was known as a staunch traditionalist whose election as pontiff filled liberal Catholics with dismay. While the encyclical focuses on sex, it is likely to be a good deal less controversial than the Vatican's recent instruction banning homosexuals from the priesthood.
Although the instruction is a much less important form of Vatican communication, it has infuriated Christian gay activists who see it as discriminatory.
An attempt to be a 'compassionate conservative? That's a rather superficial analysis. And why bring in the recent instruction? Because the press (and not the Vatican) is obsessed with sex.
Pope Benedict's first encyclical could prove a profitable source of income for the Vatican. The leaking of its contents coincide with news that the Vatican is to transfer copyright on papal texts to its own publishing house, which will then charge others wishing to publish them.
The introduction of Vatican publishing rights is one of the new Pope's first important administrative acts. A major source of controversy between the Vatican and publishers wishing to reprint papal texts will be the Vatican's desire to charge rights retroactively on any papal texts of the past 50 years.
The last pope published 2,770 titles under his name in English, 1,000 in Spanish and 330 in Italian, plus titles in other languages.
When Pope Benedict was still a cardinal, he published hundreds of texts, especially in his native Germany, with publishers having already acquired the rights. They could now face demands for hefty back-payments.
Oh yes! The teaching minstry of the Papacy is suborinate to the Vatican budget deficit...
I'm less than impressed with the Telegraph.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

In the news...

The Telegraph publishes the (alleged) picture of Lady Jane Grey.
Also in the Telegraph, this unusual story from India:
Raju Raghuvanshi, believed by friends and family to have died in prison, came home this month after a short jail sentence to be greeted by shouts of "Help!Ghost!" He has now enlisted the help of police to try to convince them that he is alive.
Mr Raghuvanshi was sent to prison in October for a minor tax infraction. He fell ill and was transferred to a prison hospital in another district. Word spread that he had died and that his body had been cremated because no one had retrieved it.
When he returned to Katra, about 400 miles from Delhi, his family ostracised him and neighbours bolted their doors. The frosty reception left him bewildered.
"My family thinks I am dead," he said yesterday. "They will not permit me to enter my home because they think I am a ghost." The best proof he had - that his feet were still properly attached, not turned backward as ghosts' feet are thought to be - was dismissed.
Mr Raghuvanshi said his brothers even "argued that they had completed all religious
death ceremonies" and he should not have come back to haunt them.

The Times reports on a parrot who spilled the beans on an affair:
WHEN Chris Taylor’s best friend repeatedly mentioned the name Gary, his suspicions were aroused. He didn’t know a Gary.
And, when the best friend made slurpy kissing noises every time he heard the name Gary on television, Chris wondered if Ziggy was trying to tell him something about some other pretty boy. The penny dropped when, one romantic evening as Mr Taylor cuddled his girlfriend Suzy Collins on the sofa, Ziggy blurted out: “I love you, Gary.”
What gave the game away was that Ziggy spoke the fatal phrase in Ms Collins’s voice. Even by the standards of African grey parrots, Ziggy is a mimic and a half, and from his cage in the corner he had heard every bill and coo of a secret love affair.
A chill ran down Mr Taylor’s spine. He turned to Suzy, whose cheeks had flushed to beetroot. As she dissolved in tears she was forced to admit to a month-long fling with Gary, some of their intimacies conducted in Mr Taylor’s home while he was out at work, but Ziggy wasn’t. She could not deny it; every time her mobile phone had rung, Ziggy had piped up in perfect imitation of her: “Hiya Gary.”

ANSA has a nice piece about Georg Ratzinger:
The pope's brother is nostalgic for the days when he and his sibling used to play Bach to each other, eat food out of cans and wash up together afterwards .
Monsignor Georg Ratzinger has fond memories of when he and his younger brother used to spend spare hours in a house in Pentling, a small Bavarian village which Benedict XVI is said to still consider home .
"We were never great cooks, which is why we often ate canned food," Ratzinger senior admitted in an interview with Corriere della Sera's magazine supplement Style

Monday, January 16, 2006


I found it difficult to get enthused by this quiz. Perhaps apathy is taking hold.
You scored as Mathematics. You should be a Math major! Like Pythagoras, you are analytical, rational, and when are always ready to tackle the problem head-on!





























What is your Perfect Major? (PLEASE RATE ME!!<3)
created with

Some pictures...

The Pope meets the Roman Chief Rabbi. (I like the picture of the Resurrection in the background.)
Migrating birds in Algeria. (The Romans used to pay great attention to bird formations as providing omens for the future.)
The baptism of the youngest member of Spain's royal family. (Why two candles?)

Lady Jane Grey...

From the Guardian:
Queen of England for nine days, then dispatched by the axeman at the Tower of London at the age of just 17, Lady Jane Grey and her tragic story have exerted a deep fascination for centuries. She is the only English monarch since 1500 of whom no portrait survives. Or so it has long been assumed.
But experts are now claiming that a painting that hung for years in a house in Streatham, south-west London, is of Lady Jane. The owner inherited the work from his great-grandfather, a collector of 16th-century antiques.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Forgot to link this...

Rocco posted an interesting piece on consistories.
And in today's news...
Jane Austen is being rebranded.
Jane Austen is to be relaunched as a romantic novelist in the style of Danielle Steel and Dame Barbara Cartland.
Her six novels are to be given glossy, pastel covers designed to appeal to women put off by the idea of reading a 19th century writer.
Mansfield Park, for example, features a couple in Regency evening dress linked by a shooting star, while Pride and Prejudice has a swallow, flowers and a bonneted beauty with her back to a whip-wielding dandy.
The editions will be subtitled "A Classic Romance", and quotes by celebrities will adorn the jackets. They will be piled high in airports and supermarkets from May.
Harriet Evans, the editor of the series, said: "Jane Austen is the fairy godmother of women's fiction and we want to take her back to her romantic roots."
The novels needed to look more relevant to women who read accessible modern fiction, she said.
But David Gildon, the pre-eminent bibliographer of Austen, feared "vulgarisation" of the classics. "I hope they are not trying to reduce them to the level of a Barbara Cartland," he said.
There was no need to reach a new audience, he said. "So many paperbacks are out there already and with all the TV and film adaptations you don't need to foist them on people's attention."
The new covers were designed by Ami Smithson, who has worked on commercial novels by authors such as Jane Green, Lisa Jewell, Adele Parks and Marian Keyes.
Miss Smithson said: "I enjoy commercial female fiction, which Jane Austen could be perceived as writing. So I took the lightest and brightest elements of those types of covers - I wanted them to seem like a covetable piece of period wrapping paper."
The Telegraph reports on Il Papa's much-commented on visits to his former apartment:
The Vatican, citadel of secrets and intrigue, has thrown up another little mystery: what has the Pope been doing on a spate of night-time missions to his old cardinal lodgings?
Over the past few weeks, the German pontiff has been seen sneaking back to his old room outside the Vatican walls three times, La Stampa reported yesterday.
At about 9pm a plain, dark car carrying 78-year-old Pope Benedict and his private secretary, Don Georg Gaenswein, swirls out of a side door of Vatican city. It then doubles round in the back streets before arriving at 1 Piazza Citta Leonina, a hall of residence for senior Church figures and the Pope's home as a cardinal for almost 24 years.
A Vatican security guard is always waiting in front of the apartments in a pedestrian zone tucked behind St Peter's Square. The Pope gets out of the car disguised in the plain black priest's robes he wore when he was the Catholic Church's senior theologian.
Wearing a black hat and with his head down, he opens the wooden door himself, as he did for all those years, and tiptoes inside followed by Don Georg.
"We shouldn't be surprised " wrote Marco Tossati, La Stampa's Vatican correspondent. "The calm existence he had before, and the most certainly more weighty one he has now are separated by just a few hundred metres; maybe the temptation is just too much even for the strong but delicate personality of Benedict XVI."
The Pope is already starting to gain a reputation for slightly eccentric behaviour and a penchant for disguise. At Christmas he delighted crowds by turning out in a red, fur-lined hat that used to be worn by popes in the Middle Ages to keep their heads warm. He has also been seen wearing red Prada shoes and pricey Serengeti sunglasses.
Discretion seems to be the catchword for the Pope's recent evening visits to the security of his old home. He does not even stop for a chat with his former room-mates, who La Stampa said, would be relieved that he no longer indulges in his old habit of playing Bach and Mozart a little too loudly.
There's also some Italian social commentary:
Italy's highest court has decided to ban the last verbal resort of the Italian elite when challenged by social inferiors only doing their job.
From now on, anyone who tries to avoid a speeding ticket or push past a difficult secretary to speak to the boss using the subtle threat, "Do you know who I am?" could be sued.
A judge in Rome's Court of Cassation this week ruled in favour of a Sicilian lawyer's organisation that disciplined one of its members for using the phrase to try to jump the queue for the photocopier.
Named only as Nicolò V, the lawyer, in a hurry and angry at a law graduate described as Concetta R for not moving aside to let him make his copies first, tried to threaten her with the class-ridden phrase: "Lei non sa chi sono io".
The woman complained of harassment to the lawyers' order of Caltagirone which found in her favour and the lawyer was duly disciplined.
Besides the hundreds of barons and countesses who still draw social respect from their title even under a republic, professionals such as doctors, lawyers and even journalists are called by their title.
"Usually the people who use this phrase are either out of touch with reality or they don't count at all," said Fulvio Sarzana, a Roman lawyer.
"Anybody who really is someone moves with a little more caution."
Gabriella Carlucci, a television presenter turned MP with Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, was widely mocked for trying the magic line with a Roman traffic warden.
The official had stopped her silver Porsche after the last general election and was treated to the offending question.
Titles are a big deal here - anyone with a secondary (Masters) degree can call themselves 'Doctor,' whilst some professions have their associated titles. For example, one properly calls John Smith the architect 'Architect Smith'.
I couldn't help but laugh at this cartoon by Gianelli - The Pope address Cupid: 'If you don't want to be changed into a devil, be sure that they are a man and a woman.' That's a reference to some leftwing parties who are campaigning for same-sex civil unions.
This is animal cruelty.
The Times has a story about a bus fanatic who managed to 'borrow' three buses for jaunts before being apprehended.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Like something out of a bad novel...

From the Telegraph:
The children share their birthday, are in the same class and their nicknames mean the same thing. But it was only when their parents started working together that suspicions were raised.
Now DNA tests have revealed that two 10-year-olds in southern Thailand were swapped at birth - even though one is a boy and the other a girl.
Both mothers had fainted when their babies were born and no other family members were in the delivery rooms, so there were no announcements of "It's a boy" or "It's a girl."
Questions began to be asked a decade later when the parents who raised Jirivuth Boonyu, the boy, came to work at the rubber plantation where those of Orawan Chanthont, the girl, are in charge.
Colleagues remarked on resemblances between each 10-year-old and the younger child in the other family - both sets of parents had a further child. A visual comparison followed and that invited further investigation. Thailand's central institute of forensic science settled the issue.
Very difficult for all concerned...

Confiteor meme...

Someone (I forget who...) tagged me with the confiteor meme ages ago. Anyway, so many are my faults that I've decided to post them individually on an occasional basis.
Fault 1: I confess that I am irrationally annoyed by right-handed people who insist on wearing their watches on their right wrist.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

In the news...

More foolishness - further proof that even serious newspapers don't know how to report on religious stories. A theological speculation by an Vatican offical is blown out of all proportion and put in a misleading context.
A psycho-esque situation here in Italy:
Signor Sartori lived alone with his mother at the house in the northern village of Orsara Bormida, near Alessandria. He was unemployed apart from odd jobs, although he always “dressed smartly and carried a briefcase”. Inside the house, however, the rooms were strewn with rubbish and the walls were covered in writing and drawings.
Some of the writing was rambling and incoherent, but included the phrase “For those who find us, my mother is in the bedroom wardrobe. She died on 20 Nov 2002 at 23.30. I found her in front of the television with her eyes wide open. Nothing had prepared me for such an unhappy and unexpected event. When I saw my mother was dead it was as if I had died too.”
He said he had dressed her “very carefully in a nice white blouse, the smartest I could find, and a blue suit and shoes of the same colour”.
As if addressing his mother, he wrote: “I wanted to leave you in your bed but if I did I would not have been able to come into your room any more. I could not permit the odour of death to corrupt the sweet features of your face. I combed your hair, powdered your face and tried to make you as comfortable as possible.”
He fixed a photograph of his mother holding him as a child on the door of the bedroom. One of the walls carries a drawing of Christ with a crown of thorns and the words “help me”.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Nativity Scene...

I was in the church of San Alfonso and am still unsure as to why anyone would decorate a side-altar with a nativity scene inside a defunct computer monitor.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Vatican-Britiain Diplomatic Tension...

I'm a little surprised this has taken so long to get into the papers...
THE Vatican has warned Britain that it risks violating a longstanding treaty by transferring its Embassy to the Holy See to premises within the British Embassy to Italy.
A team from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is being sent to Rome this week in an attempt to avert a diplomatic row over the move, which the FCO insists is not a merger.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pope’s Secretary of State (Prime Minister), has notified London that under the 1929 Lateran Treaty between Italy and Vatican City, the Vatican has “sovereign status” and is entitled to foreign missions separate from Italy.
Francis Campbell, 35, the new British Ambassador to the Vatican, presented his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI just before Christmas.
He is working, however, from offices within the British Embassy to Italy with a reduced staff after the closure of the offices of the Embassy to the Holy See on Via Condotti.
Mr Campbell still occupies Villa Drusiana, the official residence of British ambassadors to the Vatican, a rented villa near the Appian Way. But staff have been dismissed and the villa is to be handed back to its owners at the end of this month. The new Ambassador to the Holy See is due to move into a building in the grounds of Villa Wolkonsky, the residence of Sir Ivor Roberts, the Ambassador to Italy.
British officials insist that the missions to Italy and the Vatican remain juridically and administratively distinct. Vatican sources, however, argue that senior Holy See officials cannot be expected to go to Villa Wolkonsky.
The Foreign Office has justified the closure of the Via Condotti offices and Villa Drusiana on cost-cutting and security grounds. The residence costs €10,000 (£6,860) a month to rent before the cost of security, housekeeping and gardening staff.
In a recent interview with The Times Mr Campbell defended the closure, saying that garden parties and other “19th-century” diplomatic methods were out of date. But the villa and its lovingly tended English-style garden have in the past been an effective and discreet setting for diplomatic and religious encounters.

By-the-by, any reports I've heard about Mr Campbell have been positive and it's quite something that a Northern Irish Catholic should land this job. (Some trivia - the Nuncio responsible for the dioceses of Northern Ireland is in fact the Dublin-based nuncio to Ireland not the nuncio to London)