Friday, March 30, 2007

My Sweet Lord!

From the Guardian:
The unveiling of an anatomically detailed sculpture of Christ made entirely out of milk chocolate has infuriated Catholic groups in New York.
"This is one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever," said Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League. "It's not just the ugliness of the portrayal, but the timing - to choose Holy Week is astounding."
The 1.8-metre-high sculpture, which depicts Jesus suspended as if from the cross, has been dubbed "My Sweet Lord" by its creator, Cosimo Cavallaro.

Fascinating Titanic Letter

From The Times:
A passenger who died in the Titanic disaster had written to his wife from the liner, saying that he thought it was unsafe.
While most of his fellow passengers in first class were awestruck by their palatial surroundings, Alfred Rowe — his mood perhaps soured by a bad cold — sat down to write to his wife Constance, confiding that he thought the ship “too big” and a “positive danger”.
Mr Rowe, 59, a British businessman, was on his way to his ranch in Texas and had been on the ship for only 24 hours. His letter has come to light for the first time in 95 years.
Writing on Titanic-headed notepaper, he described a near-miss with the SS New York and admitted that he would prefer to be on another ship, adding: “The Mauretania and Lusitania are quite good enough and big enough for me.”
In an elegant copperplate hand, Mr Rowe described how the Titanic’s wake caused the New York’s moorings to break. “We had the narrowest possible escape of having a hole knocked in us yesterday by the New York,” he wrote. “The two ships actually touched and but for a steam tug that had a little hold on the New York we would have had a hole knocked in us.”

Thursday, March 29, 2007

In the News

From the Telegraph:
The fog of war may have begun to lift 62 years ago but pockets linger on - not least in the art world where the theft and mayhem of the Nazis still cast a shadow.
This time the exploits of a daring woman war reporter, the US 101st Airborne Division - the Screaming Eagles of D-Day renown, a hoard of art plundered by Hermann Goering and a day in charge of Hitler's Alpine lair have left the National Gallery with a headache over one of its most popular paintings.
Cupid Complaining to Venus by Lucas Cranach the Elder, a Renaissance masterpiece worth millions, may have to be given up by the gallery after claims that it was looted by the Nazis and then grabbed by Patricia Lochridge Hartwell, a war correspondent for Women's Home Companion magazine, in 1945.
Miss Hartwell, who was with the Screaming Eagles in Germany after the bloodbath of Omaha Beach, is thought to have taken the painting when she was given control of Hitler's former residence for a day by Lt Col Robert S Smith of the 101st Airborne, an experience she wrote about in an article titled: "I governed Berchtesgaden."
Texas-born Hartwell, who was 29 at the time, wrote of her day in charge: "As governor, I found I was also responsible for the safety of Goering's one hundred million dollars' worth of stolen art."
Her son, Jay Hartwell, told The Art Newspaper that his mother had been told she could help herself from a warehouse full of art. As well as taking the Cranach, Hartwell, who died in Hawaii in 1998, is also said to have had one of Goering's military sashes turned into a hat and handbag. The Cranach was painted in about 1525 and depicts Cupid complaining to Venus about being stung by bees while stealing a honeycomb, illustrating the moral that "life's pleasure is mixed with pain".
Also in the Telegraph:
A nun has broken her silence on the "miracle" recovery from Parkinson's Disease that may be pivotal in sainthood being confered on Pope John Paul II.
The 45-year-old French nun told superiors at her convent in Lyon that she was cured overnight after praying to the dead Pontiff.
Speaking to the Italian religious magazine Totus Tuus (All Yours) she recalled how her symptoms had worsened after she was first diagnosed in 2001 so that, by 2005, she was too weak even to watch television to see Pope John Paul give his final Easter blessing from the Vatican.
Two months later, on June 1, her Mother Superior suggested she pray to the Pope because "John Paul has not yet completed his work".
The nun said: "It was 5pm, I wrote it with difficulty and it was almost illegible."
The next morning she awoke, "amazed that I had been able to sleep.
"I jumped straight out of bed, because my body was no longer rigid and painful."
By June 3 "my left hand no longer trembled, I could write and I stopped taking my medicine."
Four days later, she said, her neurologist confirmed that her Parkinson's had gone.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pickled brain to return to village

From the Telegraph:
The pickled brain of a 19th-century Italian anarchist, which has been on display in a glass jar in Rome since his death, is finally set to return home.
Giovanni Passannante, a cook, gained notoriety for lunging at Umberto I, the king of Italy, with a three-inch kitchen knife during a royal visit to Naples in 1878.
The then 28-year-old Passannante missed his target, and gouged the prime minister instead. He was arrested and sent to the prison island of Elba. After a decade of solitary confinement, he was judged to be insane and was transferred to an asylum.
When he died in 1910, his body was fed to pigs, but his brain was preserved so that it could be studied for signs of innate criminality.
The brain is currently on view at Rome’s crime museum, but will be transported to his home town of Savoia di Lucania, in the deep south of the country, on May 11.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Another Jane Austen Story

From the Telegraph:
A picture claimed to be the only oil portrait of Jane Austen is to be sold in America because opposition from the National Portrait Gallery which refuses to support its authenticity makes it harder to sell in this country.
Henry Rice, the owner of the disputed portrait and a sixth generation descendant of England's favourite woman novelist, said yesterday that it was "a scandal" that the picture would be lost to Britain. He also said that he was fed up with "effectively being called a liar" by those who questioned the painting's origins.
The portrait purportedly shows Austen at the age of 13 or 14 in 1788 or 1789, looking a little chubby with a joke playing about her lips in a flowing white dress and holding a green parasol. It is thought to have been painted by the British society painter Ozias Humphrey who has placed his subject walking in fields near her family home in Hampshire.
The portrait, measuring 5ft by 3ft, passed down to Mr Rice through generations of the family Jane Austen's brother, Edward. It only came to prominence in 1884 when it featured as the frontispiece of the first published collection of Austen's letters and for 60 years after, it was accepted as the most important image of the novelist.
The National Portrait Gallery attempted to buy it from Mr Rice's father in the 1930s but then in 1948 came a bombshell when Dr R W Chapman, a prominent Austen scholar, dated the dress in the picture to 1805 when Jane would have been aged 30. It was also suggested that Jane's father, an impoverished country vicar, could not have afforded such fine clothes for his third child and that it was possibly a portrait on Jane's distant cousin, Jane Motley Austen.
Since, experts' opinions have raged back and forthand on five occasions, Mr Rice offered to sell the picture to the NPG but the gallery declined.
In 1998, Jacob Simon, a curator at the NPG, revealed that during a restoration, the lining of the picture had been removed and revealed a tax stamp paid by the canvas supplier - "Wm Legg, High Holborn, London". Mr Simon said that Legg was recorded as working in Holborn for only four years from 1802, which would put Jane in her late twenties, not at all like the young girl in the portrait.
Mr Rice claimed yesterday that fresh research in the last 10 years - notably by Professor Claudia Johnson of Princeton University and Brian Southam, chairman of the Jane Austen Society - backed his claims that the portrait was genuine. He said that the date of the tax stamp was "not reliable"and that it had been found that Jane had a cousin at the court of Marie Antoinette in France who sent fashionable cloth to the Austen family for dresses.
Mr Rice said: "This picture has never left out family and has always been a portrait of Jane. Effectively we have been called liars.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Brief Reflection on the Possibility and Value of a Gospel According to Judas Iscariot

The Fascination Provoked by the Idea of the Gospel of Judas
As I mentioned previously, I was actually intrigued and enthusiastic at the idea of a prominent biblical scholar collaborating with a well-known novelist in the writing of the Gospel according to Judas. One must admit, Judas Iscariot is a fascinating figure, one whose evil behaviour led to the greatest crime ever committed and whose influence on human history is hard to underestimate. How did he see Jesus? What would his account of the Gospel-story be like? What new perspective would his words add to our understanding of the Story of Salvation?
As I pondered these questions, and wondered what a fictional re-creation of Judas's memoirs would be like, it occurred to me that I would probably learn very little about Jesus from such an account. Certainly, I would learn what Christ looked like to one who was willing to sell Him for 30 pieces of silver. I would learn what Christ looked like to one who did not know Christ at all. I would learn what Christ looked like to one who did not properly hear the message of God's fatherly forgiveness and did not realise that even the greatest of all sins could have been forgiven.
A Quest for the Historical Jesus
I suspect that much of the enthusiasm for The Gospel According to Judas by Benjamin Iscariot is the idea that such a work could provide an unbiased account of the life of Jesus. The desire for such an account is nothing new. For the past couple of centuries there have been attempts to see past the pious accretions of the faith (and those of the writers of the canonical gospels!) in order to see the so-called ‘real Jesus’. To be honest, it would be fascinating to have a journalistic account of the day-by-day activities of Jesus of Nazareth as written by a first century reporter from the Nazareth Daily Telegraph. However, no such document exists and the history of research into the 'Historical Jesus' shows that there are certain inescapable limits to any attempt to reconstruct such an account. Now, in saying this, I do not in the least wish to denigrate the work of scholars in their research into the life of Jesus. Their research and their insights have supplemented our knowledge of Christ and His actions. However, despite the work of good and faithful scholars, there have been too many attempts to replace the canonical Gospels with an alternative, and supposedly more accurate, picture of Jesus. The writers of these biographies are generally taking the canonical Gospels and making judgements about what is plausible and implausible in their contents. Such determinations are extremely risky judgements and are invariably coloured by the prejudices and outlooks of those who are doing the writing. Thus, as has been frequently noted, the picture of the 'historical Jesus' which emerges there is a striking resemblance to the scholar who wrote the work. It has been said that these writers look into the well of history in an attempt to see Christ, and instead receive a faint reflection of themselves.
This does not mean that Christ is unknowable to us today. Nothing could be further from the truth, he is nearer to us and more accessible to us than any other figure in human history. Just as he made himself present 2,000 years ago in his physical body, he is accessible to those who believe in him by means of His ecclesial body (the Church) and His sacramental body (the Eucharist). Those of us who have faith realise that He reveals Himself and makes Himself present to those who approached him by means of his ‘three bodies.’ By this, I do not mean that historical attempts to learn about Jesus are totally useless, or that non-believing historians can know nothing about Him. What I do assert, however, is that anyone who is aware of the continued presence of Christ will know that there is something about Him that is wholly inaccessible outside of the experience of Ecclesial and Sacramental Communion with him. As Pope Benedict notes in the preface to his forthcoming book about the life of Christ, the historical picture of Jesus as presented by the Gospels, “is an historically sensible and convincing figure. His crucifixion and the impact that he had can only be explained if something extraordinary happened, if the figure and the words of Jesus radically exceeded the hopes and expectations of his time.” The incarnate Christ makes himself accessible to historians by entering into human history. However, he enters history in such a way as to become a huge question mark – posing a challenge to the disinterested observer about the possibility of making sense of Himself in a manner that goes beyond the purely historical.
It is in this context that we understand the Gospels. The Church has always understood them as historical, albeit freely admitting that they are not written from the supposedly unbiased prospective of our imaginary first century journalist. It is worthwhile looking at what the second Vatican Council teaches about the historical character of the Gospels and their composition:
Dei Verbum 19 Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1). Indeed, after the Ascension of the Lord the Apostles handed on to their hearers what He had said and done. This they did with that clearer understanding which they enjoyed after they had been instructed by the glorious events of Christ's life and taught by the light of the Spirit of truth. The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus. For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who "themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word" we might know "the truth" concerning those matters about which we have been instructed (see Luke 1:2-4).

For the secular historian, the Gospel accounts have value in as much as the methods of historical science can assess when they were written, by whom they were written and the approach taken by the original authors to their subject. In general, judgements of this type about ancient documents can be pretty speculative. The Church receives them as historical documents, but not in any naive manner. She acknowledges frankly that they were written by men who worshipped Christ as the Son of God and who told their story in such a way as to give testimony to Christ. This they did whilst still telling the honest truth about Jesus. To sceptics this seems like a form of bias that hopelessly compromises the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts. However, let's think about this little. The fact that he was worshipped and proclaimed as the Son of God before the Gospels were written would suggest that there was something extraordinary about Christ that did not need embellishment in order to provoke faith amongst those who knew Him. The second thing to bear in mind is that unbiased accounts are not necessarily the best way to get to know a person. Certainly historical science would benefit from having a neutral observer’s description of what Christ did. The inescapable fact is that no such source exists, it is useless to bemoan the fact that it doesn't exist and it is impossible to try and recreate such an account. What we do have are the recollections of some of those who knew him, recollections which were valued by the communities who were most interested in keeping the memory of Jesus alive. These might not be the ideal sources for a historian, but they cannot be dismissed as useless either. For someone who wants to gain a knowledge of Jesus Christ which goes beyond the purely historical, for someone who wants to know the person of Jesus Christ, these Gospel accounts are precious. If we want to know who a person really is, especially a truly sympathetic person, we will ask their friends and those who love them best. Those who are intimate with another are able to convey the truth about their friend because, loving them they have achieved a form of knowledge that goes beyond the merely external and superficial. We think, for example, of the things that Archbishop Dziwisz and Pope Benedict have to say about Pope John Paul II. Their accounts are not unbiased, they are not cold chronicles of each and every significant event in the late pontiff's life, but they are valued by historian and ordinary person alike for the way in which they conveys something about the ‘who’ of Pope John Paul II, rather than a mere description of ‘what he did.’ Therefore, we can recognize the ‘bias’ of the Gospel writers as not being something negative. Again, if we are asked by someone to tell him about a friend who is dead or far away, how would we do it? Like the Gospel writers we will choose particular events and happenings about our friend that particularly characteristic. We will recount particular anecdotes and recall particular phrases that seem to bring out particularly clearly the personality of our friend. We will allow what we know of our friend today to influence we think was important about his past. We will recall details that seemed unimportant when they first happened if they shed light on our friend’s present. Such an account need be no less truthful than the report of a neutral observer and this form of storytelling about our friend will tell the listener much more about who our friend really is than a private investigator’s dossier or an investigative journalist’s account.
Therefore, a Christian will never value any account of Christ's life above the Four Gospels. Quite apart from the Church's insistence on the historical nature of the Gospels and the truthfulness of everything written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a believer will realise that the Gospels are precious. They are recollections of the Lord written with love. They are written with the awareness that He is the Messiah and the Son of God. This love and this knowledge informed by faith is not inferior to the account of a disengaged observer, indeed it is much more valuable. The believer will also realise that knowledge of Christ is also inextricably linked to His Church and His sacraments. Knowing Christ demands of us the willingness to grow in the same love of Christ that seduced the sacred writers, and gave them their particular knowledge of Him.
This poses a problem for the unbeliever, and the Christian who would want to make the Person of Christ known to unbelievers. Despite our belief in the historicity of the Gospels, we must accept that to one without faith the truth of these ancient documents is legitimately open to question. Again, even if we did have iron-clad proof of the miracles, for example, it would not be enough to prove that Christ is the Son of God and our Saviour. The credibility of the Gospels and of Jesus Christ is tied up, not in the demonstrable reality of the Gospel accounts, but on the power of His message and His grace working on men's hearts.
The Unreliability of Judas’s Account
It should therefore become evident to us that Judas, despite His closeness to the events of the Gospel and the deeds of our Lord, would be singularly unable to tell us anything about Christ. Ultimately, he did not understand Christ and did not have that love in his heart that makes a true knowledge of Christ possible. In his betrayal of Christ he showed that He misunderstood Christ's mission. In his refusal to repent of this heinous deed he showed that he did not truly hear Christ’s message of God's forgiving paternal love.
Judas would certainly have been able to give us a chronology of Christ's earthly mission. Would he have denied the miracles? I suspect he would not. Indeed, I suspect he would be even more awed by the miracles than the writers of the canonical Gospels, and may even have wanted to exaggerate them. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us about miracles and that really happened, but for the purpose, not only of showing us Christ's divine power, but of helping us to understand the nature of Christ's kingdom. Judas would not have been blind to the power evident in the miracles worked by Christ, but ultimately shows us that he never attained an understanding of the mystery these miracles were to have revealed. One of the more plausible explanations of Judas’s betrayal is that seeing Christ's supernatural power he betrayed Him in order to provoke Our Lord into an act of rebellion. If this were the case he would have understood the miracles as being acts of brute power, rather than manifestations of the loving kindness of God and the inauguration of a new kind of Kingdom. Thus, in order to justify his behaviour, he would seek to lessen his guilt by exaggerating the power of the one he sought to trick into leading an uprising.
Setting this speculation aside, we can say that by his ultimate act of despair, Judas shows his incapacity to teach us about the Son of God. An account of Christ's life written by this most wretched of apostles would end up telling us more about the power of doubt and hatred. The distorted image of Christ visible in such an account would testify rather to the darkest dimensions of our fallen human nature, would tell us about power of the devil to make men blind and the terrifying mystery of man's refusal of grace and his unwillingness to cooperate with God.
Judas’s account would not, as some seem to think, be the sort of neutral historical description which might supplement our understanding of the historical events which lead to salvation. The word Gospel means Good News. Any so called Gospel of Judas would be no such thing, what would be the darkest and most upsetting work of literature imaginable.

A Mozart Opera

One of my favourite Victor Borge pieces:

And "Page Turner"

Here come the rumours again...

In today's Bolletino:
Il Papa ha ricevuto ieri sera in Udienza: Card. Francis Arinze, Prefetto della Congregazione per il Culto Divino e la Disciplina dei Sacramenti; Card. Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Presidente della Pontificia Commissione "Ecclesia Dei".
Yesterday evening, the Pope received in audience:
Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments
Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei."
And speaking of rumours, is anyone else hearing the 1st Sunday of Advent 2009 as the proposed introduction date of the new translation of the Missal in English?

Italian Bureaucracy at its Best

Via Ansa:
An Italian woman has managed to prove her existence in a year-long battle with Italian bureaucracy after the death of a namesake.
Maria Giuliani, 74, received an official apology from pension agency INPS Tuesday after it put her back in its databank.
"But they only did it because the local media got hold of my case," Giuliani said.
The woman was deprived of her pension rights and wiped off municipal and health computers when another Maria Giuliani died in January 2006.
"The first I heard about it was the following March when I went for a check-up".
"My GP fell back into his chair and said, 'But you're dead!'. 'No, I'm alive and kicking and I want to be examined,' I said. But he said he couldn't do it because officially I no longer existed".
The only good thing about the affair, Giuliani said, was that "I got to play dead and send my husband and daughter to do all the standing in line for me".
Despite the apology, the feisty pensioner still can't quite forgive Italian officialdom.
Before she signed the certificate declaring herself alive, she told reporters, "they actually warned me not to make false statements".

The horror!

From the Times:
Having been depicted as a romantic heroine in the film Becoming Jane, Britain’s best-loved author has been given a makeover by a publisher.
According to Wordsworth Editions, which sells millions of cut-price classic novels, the only authentic portrait of Jane Austen is too unattractive.
Helen Trayler, its managing director, said: “The poor old thing didn’t have anything going for her in the way of looks. Her original portrait is very, very dowdy. It wouldn’t be appealing to readers, so I took it upon myself to commission a new picture of her.
“We’ve given her a bit of a makeover, with make-up and some hair extensions and removed her nightcap. Now she looks great — as if she’s just walked out of a salon.”
[Dixit Zadok: The mind boggles.]
The only contemporary portrait of Austen is a sour-faced sketch by her sister Cassandra that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. But the author’s friends and family described her as “very attractive” and “like a doll”, and a niece, Anna, said that Cassandra’s depiction of Jane was “hideously unlike” her.
A Victorian engraving made from that picture formed the basis for the new watercolour, which will appear on the cover of a “deluxe” collection of her works, to appear in September.
Where aesthetics allow, the publisher prefers to use an image of the author on the front cover. Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde all made the grade, but other literary titans may now be in line for airbrushing.
Ms Trayler said: “Virginia Woolf wasn’t much of a looker. I’m also considering making over George Eliot, who was frumpy, and William Wordsworth, who was pretty hideous. Most poets were really unattractive, with the one exception being Tennyson, who has wonderful bone structure.”
Patrick Janson-Smith, a leading literary agent, said: “Portraits of modern authors are airbrushed the whole time, especially American lady authors of a certain age. It’s a shock to meet a writer when the reality falls a little short. We live in a shallow world where authors are increasingly sold on their appearance.”
Curiously, of the Austen siblings, Jane is the only one for whom there is no surviving professional portrait.
And also from the Times:
TV is to turn Pride and Prejudice into a time-travel saga. The broadcaster wants to emulate the success of the BBC One series Life on Mars, in which a detective is catapulted back in time, and build on the triumph of a run of Jane Austen adaptations, featuring stars such as Billie Piper.
In Lost in Austen, Amanda, a chardonnay-swigging West London girl, discovers a bonnet-wearing woman in her bathroom who introduces herself as Elizabeth Bennet. Through a series of accidents, Amanda is transported to Regency England, where she melts before Mr Darcy’s brooding glare. Miss Bennet, meanwhile, breathes life into the modern girl’s useless boyfriend.

Royal Jigsaw Maps

From the Telegraph:
Kew Palace slotted an important piece of its royal history back into place yesterday when it unveiled a cabinet of jigsaw maps used to teach King George III's children.
The mahogany cabinet houses a collection of dissected maps – precursors of the jigsaw puzzle – and was a main feature in the nursery at Kew, the King's main home, in the mid-1700s.
It was through assembling the carved wooden pieces that a young George IV and William IV first learned the geography of Europe, the Empire, Africa and the American colonies they believed they would one day head.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Another example from the Telegraph of a case where the introduction to the story seems to flatly contradict the substance of the article.
We are unable to distinguish right from wrong if we rely on pure logic alone, according to a study that shows how morality is based on feelings.
That's a rather sweeping statement! Let's read on...
Neuroscientists traced abnormal moral choices -notably cold-blooded "utilitarian" judgments where one person's life is sacrificed for the greater good - to damaged emotional circuits, revealing how, in these cases, moral judgment fails without feelings.
This discovery will inform the philosophical debate about the degree to which moral judgements are based on norms or emotions.
This doesn't seem to correspond with the blanket statement with which the story opened.
Our work provides the first causal account of the role of emotions in moral judgments," said co-senior author Prof Marc Hauser of Harvard University. He emphasised that not all moral reasoning depended strongly on emotion. "A wide class of moral judgments are completely normal even without emotional input, showing that we have a cold moral calculus that operates without emotional inspiration," he said.
But for a certain class of moral judgments a small region behind the forehead, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), is important.
The discovery was made by researchers at the University of Southern California, Harvard University, Caltech and the University of Iowa after studying six people with damage to the VMPC who behaved in a matter-of-fact way when considering difficult dilemmas.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

That Judas Novel...

Amy Welborn is asking the right question about the controversy.

All well and good, but the questions still goes begging: Why did the Pontifical Biblical Institute accede to Moloney's request?
This is in response to Fr Paul Mankowski, S.J.'s clarification of the Pontifical Biblical Institute's lack of involvement in the production or approval of this book.
A week ago, we Jesuits of the Pontifical Biblical Institute were informed in the course of a regular community meeting that our main lecture hall would be in use on March 20 at the request of a former faculty member (Salesian Father Frank Moloney) for the public launch of a novel he had co-authored with Jeffrey Archer. The Rector apologized in advance for any inconvenience caused by the event itself and for any ructions provoked by attendant publicity.

That publicity -- both before and after the event -- gave rise to lurid headlines ("Pope Gives Blessing to Gospel of Jeffrey Archer") and to nonsense of other kinds as well. Here's the lede from the Times of London:

Jesus never turned water into wine, He did not walk on the water and He never calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, according to a new 'Gospel' published today with Vatican approval and co-authored by Jeffrey Archer.

The following points are offered in correction of errors of fact, emphasis, or interpretation given in the English-speaking media:

* The Pope did not "bless" the Archer-Moloney novel.

* The Pontifical Biblical Institute provided the bottled water at the speaker's rostrum for the Archer-Moloney press conference. Its scholars had nothing whatever to do with the book's content.

* The Archer-Moloney novel was not "published with Vatican approval."

* No biblical scholar, including my former colleague Fr. Frank Moloney, believes Fr. Frank Moloney to be "the world's greatest living biblical scholar."

* Fr. Moloney is not "one of the Pope's top theological advisers."

* The International Theological Commission, of which Fr. Moloney was a member, enjoys the same level of teaching authority as the Philatelic Office of the Holy See -- that's to say: zero.

* The teaching of the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum §11 has not been abrogated.
Before I had a chance to find out more about this book, I was actually quite enthusiastic about an Archer-Moloney attempt to tell the Gospel story from Judas's point of view because I had occasion to read a few of Moloney's articles about the Gospel of St John and found them to be well-informed, scholarly and orthodox. I'm not very clued-in to the whole world of Biblical Theology, so I presumed that Moloney was a fairly well-respected and orthodox priest and professor. Needless to say, some of his reported statements in the press and what I am hearing about this book are casting my initial assessment of Moloney's work into doubt.
What strikes me in particular, however, is that the pre-launch publicity made a huge deal of the fact that the book was being launched at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. Fr Paul Mankowski may only have been formally informed of the launch last week, but for the past month or two invitations to the launch have been circulating in Rome which, if one doesn't read them carefully, create the impression of the Biblical Institute having a significant role to play in the launch of the book. They don't have the Biblicum's coat of arms on them, as one would expect from an official invite, but they do include the name of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in a larger font than anything else on the invitation:


will host the presentation of the novel


Recounted by Jeffrey Archer with the Assistance of Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B.
The volume will be presented by its co-authors
Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 4:30 p.m.
Aula Mahna of the Pontifical Biblical Institute
Entrance: Piazza della Pilotta, 35 - 00187 Roma

As I say, if one weren't paying attention, one could easily think that the Biblical Institute had a greater role to play in the book than it actually did. Certainly, someone has (wittingly or unwittingly) associated the name of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Holy See with some very dubious material.
By the by, one part of Fr Mankowski's article struck me forcefully:
Archer recounts to Gledhill how Moloney bowled him over by his insistence that Jesus "never did" walk on water, etc. Archer never suggests there was a reasoned chain of argument, he merely mentions Moloney's knowledge of the ancient languages and admits to despair about knowing when the Gospel accounts are true: "You have to be as clever as Frank," he says, "to know when they are and when they aren't."
That admission is tantamount to saying that truth is irrelevant to the Bible, since only a fraction of Christians could ever be so endowed as to make the critical distinctions. But I'm not convinced the situation is as bad as all that. Someone with reason to know once remarked that many things revealed to mere children are hidden from the clever.
The attitude that Mankowski attacks is a form of gnosticism - the assertion that the truth of the Gospel is only accessible to those possessing the arcane gnosis of advanced Biblical scholarship.

Some Art...

I had a little bit of business at the Vicariate (located in the Lateran Palace) yesterday afternoon and whilst there snapped a shot of the frescoed ceiling.

There's an exposition of quite a large number (over 100, I would say) of Marc Chagall's paintings at the museum which forms part of the Vittorio Emmanuele Monument which is well worth a look.

Unsurprisingly, as a Jewish artist he painted some wonderful depictions of scenes from the Old Testament. The above shows the Children of Israel eating the 1st passover meal.

And this is a very charming depiction of Abraham being visited by the three angels. Note the scene of the sacrifice of Isaac in the top right-hand corner.

And this is a painting of a synagogue from the early 1930s. You can click on any of these pictures to enlarge them. I think I've spotted a significant detail in the synagogue scene - can anyone else spot it?

Napoleonic Campaign

From the Telegraph:
Mr Napoleon - great-great-grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jerome, King of Westphalia - is standing for parliament in Fontainebleau and environs. A pro-European, he's campaigning under the centrist banner of presidential candidate François Bayrou.
If Mr Bayrou, head of the Union for French Democracy, wins the French presidency - a prospect no longer improbable - Mr Napoleon stands a good chance of being elected on his coat tails, ousting the current Right-wing UMP deputy Didier Julia, in power since 1967.
If so, Mr Napoleon could well find himself thrust to the forefront of French politics - if only because of his attention-grabbing name.
Incredibly, Mr Napoleon is also 1,120th in line to the British throne, thanks to the marriage in 1807 between Jerome Bonaparte and German princess Katherine of Wurttemberg.
Charles grew up resenting his ultra-conservative father, Prince Louis, who all his life dreamt of an Imperial restoration. In the late 1960s Charles was a student radical in Paris, eventually earning a PhD in economics from the Sorbonne. The author of serious books about his illustrious family, he openly identifies with the "rebels" of the Bonaparte dynasty.
His divorce from distant cousin HRH Beatrice de Bourbon and remarriage to a commoner provoked his late father to disinherit him as head of the Imperial House a decade ago. Mr Napoleon claims the real reason for the short-lived succession crisis was Prince Louis' disapproval of his "republican and democratic" values.
Five years ago he moved to Corsica - birthplace of Napoleon I - and forged a political alliance with leftists to take control of Ajaccio's city council. Astonishingly, Mr Napoleon's enemy in that battle was the right-wing Bonapartist party, which he dismisses as a "corrupt clan".

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Monday, March 19, 2007

Buon Onomastico Santo Padre

Joseph appears to us ever attentive to the voice of the Lord, who guides the events of history, and ready to follow the instructions, ever faithful, generous and detached in service, an effective teacher of prayer and of work in the hidden life at Nazareth. - Pope Benedict XVI

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Deputy Dressed As Leprechaun Tickets Speeding Drivers

From Youtube:
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -- Speeding and aggressive drivers in Orange County needed more than the luck of the Irish to avoid a traffic citation on Thursday.
An Orange County sheriff's deputy dressed as a leprechaun and equipped with a laser speed-detection gun targeted speeding and reckless motorists in the area of University Boulevard and state Road 417.
The "leprechaun" also held a sign reading, "Watch your speed or it will cost you your pot of gold."
Motorcycle units stopped violators and issued the traffic citations after being informed by the "leprechaun" via radio. Officials said they issued about a ticket per minute.
In the past, Orange County sheriff's deputies have targeted speeding motorists while dressed as an elf, the Grinch and a man waiting for a bus.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Rome 'blogs...

Added a couple of 'Rome 'blogs' to the Blogroll...
Winds of Westernesse - Student doing the 'semester in Rome' thing.
At Home in Rome - American who has made a home for herself in Rome.

Fra Angelico Paintings on the Market

Last year I posted twice about some re-discovered Fra Angelico paintings. The Times has an update:
A pair of Renaissance paintings worth more than £1 million that were found hanging in the spare room of a terraced home in Oxford are likely to be lost to the nation. The discovery of the long-lost Fra Angelico masterpieces last year stunned the art world. But it looks as if the paintings will be sold abroad because an export licence will almost certainly be granted.
The late Jean Preston bought the panels in the United States for £200 in the 1960s, and brought them back to the UK in the 1990s. Export licences are never refused for works that have been in the country for less than 50 years because they are not deemed to be part of the national heritage. It means that some of the world’s wealthiest museums and collectors will attend the sale at Duke’s auction house in Dorchester, Dorset, next month.

Papal Portrait

From the Times:
Michael Noakes must be the only man on earth who can suggest to God’s emissary how he should stand and how high he should raise his hand in blessing.
The British artist found himself in the pontiff’s private quarters at the Vatican earlier this year doing just that as he persuaded the Pope to stand still.
“Please raise your hand, Holy Father, nearer your head,” he heard himself saying. “Would you, Holy Father, move your right foot forward?”
Surrounded by leather-bound antiquarian books and a couple of paintings of saints, he was painting the Pope’s first formal portrait. For Noakes, it was the ultimate blessing as an artist — and as a Catholic.
Speaking to The Times yesterday, he recalled how he had been in Rome last year to unveil a portrait of the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, at a seminary in Rome.
He said: “At the end of the unveiling, a young Maltese monsignor stationed in the Vatican came over and said simply, ‘Will you paint the Pope for us?’.” The invitation was all the more surprising because the last Pope had steadfastedly refused to pose for any portraits.
A year after the initial invitation Noakes was contacted again by the Vatican and a date was set.
His informal brief was to portray the Pope with his hand raised in blessing or greeting and wearing his crimson cape with fur trim and heavily embroidered stole.
When Archbishop William Levada, the Pope’s head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asked him how long he would need, Noakes replied: “Four, five or six sittings of two and a half hours”. He went grey. He was obviously thinking he’d been in the job for three weeks and couldn’t possibly ask for that sort of commitment of time.
“I’m a professional and I make do with what I’m given, although that’s bound to affect what I can do. I dearly wanted more time.”
Noakes sketched feverishly, trying out different poses and expressions to take back to his studio. He could barely relax enough to make conversation and the Pope, who had no difficulty in standing still, did not ask him any questions about himself or comment on anything beyond the portrait.
The Pope’s only suggestion was that the picture ought to show him with his mouth closed.
For Noakes, he came over as a slightly shy man: “I wanted to imply that. He also smiles a great deal, but it’s an oil painting and is going to be around as part of the records for a long time. So I made him look cheerful, with a degree of gravitas and a bit of a twinkle.”
You can see the portrait at the link above.
Noakes's website includes a gallery of some of his previous work.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Some extracts from the Confessio of St Patrick

On the eve of St Patrick's Day, it seems fitting to post a few extracts of St Patrick's Confession. It's a pity that the bruhaha surrounding his feast day obscures this exceptional document. Its title invites comparisons to with the Confessions of his contemporary St Augustine. Needless to say, St Patrick's (much shorter) work cannot compare with the peerless Bishop of Hippo's tour de force, but there are certain similarities. Perhaps the most striking thing is the fact that more or less contemporaneously we have examples of a Bishop allowing the reader access to his interior life through the medium of an autobiographical recollection which shows the work of God's grace in the personal victories and struggles of the author. Offhand, I cannot think of any other patristic authors who attempt something in this way. Both frame their autobiography as a Confession - a confession of their sins for the sake of the more important task of confessing the power and glory of God's grace working through human weakness. The reader will note that St Patrick's vocation to be a shepherd and a missionary is central to this work - a theme more or less absent in St Augustine's reflections on personal conversion.
1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; [note: This does not mean that he wasn't a Christian... rather, despite being Christian he still did not truly know God] and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.
2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.
3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.
13. Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things? Me, truly wretched in this world, he inspired before others that I could be—if I would—such a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with humility.
Patrick writes of his mission to the barbarian Irish - note that they lived beyond the bounds of the Roman empire, at the very edge of the known world.
34. Thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that today I may confidently over my soul as a living sacrifice for Christ my Lord; who am I, Lord? or, rather, what is my calling? that you appeared to me in so great a divine quality, so that today among the barbarians I might constantly exalt and magnify your name in whatever place I should be, and not only in good fortune, but even in affliction? So that whatever befalls me, be it good or bad, I should accept it equally, and give thanks always to God who revealed to me that I might trust in him, implicitly and forever, and who will encourage me so that, ignorant, and in the last days, I may dare to undertake so devout and so wonderful a work; so that I might imitate one of those whom, once, long ago, the Lord already pre-ordained to be heralds of his Gospel to witness to all peoples to the ends of the earth. So are we seeing, and so it is fulfilled; behold, we are witnesses because the Gospel has been preached as far as the places beyond which no man lives.
This passage sounds ever-so-slightly Augustinian
36. Whence came to me this wisdom which was not my own, I who neither knew the number of days nor had knowledge of God? Whence came the so great and so healthful gift of knowing or rather loving God, though I should lose homeland and family.
38. I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon a after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: ‘To you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our fathers have inherited naught hut lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.’ And again: ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of’ the earth.’
39. And I wish to wait then for his promise which is never unfulfilled, just as it is promised in the Gospel: ‘Many shall come from east and west and shall sit at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.’ Just as we believe that believers will come from all the world.
St Patrick met with opposition in his mission - seemingly from the British clergy
46. Thus, I should give thanks unceasingly to God, who frequently forgave my folly and my negligence, in more than one instance so as not to be violently angry with me, who am placed as his helper, and I did not easily assent to what had been revealed to me, as the Spirit was urging; and the Lord took pity on me thousands upon thousands of times, because he saw within me that I was prepared, but that I was ignorant of what to do in view of my situation; because many were trying to prevent this mission. They were talking among themselves behind my back, and saying: ‘Why is this fellow throwing himself into danger among enemies who know not God?’ Not from malice, but having no liking for it; likewise, as I myself can testify, they perceived my rusticity. And I was not quick to recognize the grace that was then in me; I now know that I should have done so earlier.
56. Behold now I commend my soul to God who is most faithful and for whom I perform my mission in obscurity, but he is no respecter of persons and he chose me for this service that I might be one of the least of his ministers.
57. For which reason I should make return for all that he returns me. But what should I say, or what should I promise to my Lord, for I, alone, can do nothing unless he himself vouchsafe it to me. But let him search my heart and [my] nature, for I crave enough for it, even too much, and I am ready for him to grant me that I drink of his chalice, as he has granted to others who love him.
58. Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God from his people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that he gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing.
61. Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words of my confession. I testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before God and his holy angels that I never had any reason, except the Gospel and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had previously escaped with difficulty.
62. But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have been the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ave Caesar (Ides of March)

No votive candles this year... But a number of floral tributes:
The sign says: Rome will always honour your memory - Hail Caesar. -The Sons of the City.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

CDF Notification: Fr Jon Sobrino SJ

From today's Bolletino:
1. After a preliminary examination of the books Jesucristo liberador. Lectura histórico-teológica de Jesús de Nazaret (Jesus the Liberator) and La fe en Jesucristo. Ensayo desde las víctimas (Christ the Liberator) by Father Jon Sobrino, SJ, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, because of certain imprecisions and errors found in them, decided to proceed to a more thorough study of these works in October 2001. Given the wide distribution of these writings and their use in seminaries and other centers of study, particularly in Latin America, it was decided to employ the "urgent examination" as regulated by articles 23-27 of Agendi Ratio in Doctrinarum Examine.

As a result of this examination, in July 2004 a list of erroneous or dangerous propositions found in the abovementioned books was sent to the Author through the Reverend Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

In March of 2005, Father Jon Sobrino sent a Response to the text of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Congregation. This Response was studied in the Ordinary Session of the Congregation on 23 November 2005. It was determined that, although the author had modified his thought somewhat on several points, the Response did not prove satisfactory since, in substance, the errors already cited in the list of erroneous propositions still remained in this text. Although the preoccupation of the Author for the plight of the poor is admirable, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has the obligation to indicate that the aforementioned works of Father Sobrino contain notable discrepancies with the faith of the Church.

For this reason, it was decided to publish this Notification, in order to offer the faithful a secure criterion, founded upon the doctrine of the Church, by which to judge the affirmations contained in these books or in other publications of the Author. One must note that on some occasions the erroneous propositions are situated within the context of other expressions which would seem to contradict them3, but this is not sufficient to justify these propositions. The Congregation does not intend to judge the subjective intentions of the Author, but rather has the duty to call to attention to certain propositions which are not in conformity with the doctrine of the Church. These propositions regard: 1) the methodological presuppositions on which the Author bases his theological reflection, 2) the Divinity of Jesus Christ, 3) the Incarnation of the Son of God, 4) the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, 5) the Self-consciousness of Jesus, and 6) the salvific value of his Death.
The whole thing is worth reading - it strikes me as a fine example of how a Christological text should be examined and evaluated with discernment and I'm sure that the critiques applied to Sobrino's writings could easily be applied to many other contemporary theological authors. It is worth noting that in addition to highlighting those areas where Sobrino explicitly contradicts a magisterial or creedal statement, the orientation of his method is also subjected to criticism:
2. In his book Jesus the Liberator: A Historical-Theological View, Father Sobrino affirms: "Latin American Christology…identifies its setting, in the sense of a real situation, as the poor of this world, and this situation is what must be present in and permeate any particular setting in which Christology is done" (Jesus the Liberator, 28). Further, "the poor in the community question Christological faith and give it its fundamental direction" (Ibidem, 30), and "the Church of the poor…is the ecclesial setting of Christology because it is a world shaped by the poor" (Ibidem, 31). "The social setting is thus the most crucial for the faith, the most crucial in shaping the thought pattern of Christology, and what requires and encourages the epistemological break" (Ibidem).

While such a preoccupation for the poor and oppressed is admirable, in these quotations the "Church of the poor" assumes the fundamental position which properly belongs to the faith of the Church. It is only in this ecclesial faith that all other theological foundations find their correct epistemological setting.

The ecclesial foundation of Christology may not be identified with "the Church of the poor", but is found rather in the apostolic faith transmitted through the Church for all generations. The theologian, in his particular vocation in the Church, must continually bear in mind that theology is the science of the faith. Other points of departure for theological work run the risk of arbitrariness and end in a misrepresentation of the same faith,
In addition to asking oneself what an author is saying in a particular text, we need to ask ourselves, 'Why is he saying that? What motivates him? What assumptions does he start with? To what end is he directing his writing?'
Those who have a little theological formation will appreciate how ancient many of Fr Sobrino's errors are. The same confusions and mistakes keep cropping up throughout history. One, however, which is a more 'modern' heresy than most is the question of the human conciousness of Christ and the possibility of His 'having faith'. It's extremely useful that this Notification serves as a reminder of the Church's teaching on this issue:
8. Citing Leonardo Boff, Father Sobrino affirms that "Jesus was an extraordinary believer and had faith. Faith was Jesus’ mode of being" (Jesus the Liberator, 154). And for his own part he adds: "This faith describes the totality of the life of Jesus" (Ibidem, 157). The Author justifies his position citing the text of Hebrews 12:2: "Tersely and with a clarity unparalleled in the New Testament, the letter says that Jesus was related to the mystery of God in faith. Jesus is the one who has first and most fully lived faith (12:2)" (Christ the Liberator, 136-137). He further adds: "With regard to faith, Jesus in his life is presented as a believer like ourselves, our brother in relation to God, since he was not spared having to pass through faith. But he is also presented as an elder brother because he lived faith as its ‘pioneer and perfecter’ (12:2). He is the model, the one on whom we have to keep our eyes fixed in order to live out our own faith" (Ibidem, 138). These citations do not clearly show the unique singularity of the filial relationship of Jesus with the Father; indeed they tend to exclude it. Considering the whole of the New Testament it is not possible to sustain that Jesus was "a believer like ourselves". The Gospel of John speaks of Jesus’ "vision" of the Father: "Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father". This unique and singular intimacy between Jesus and the Father is equally evident in the Synoptic Gospels.

The filial and messianic consciousness of Jesus is the direct consequence of his ontology as Son of God made man. If Jesus were a believer like ourselves, albeit in an exemplary manner, he would not be able to be the true Revealer showing us the face of the Father. This point has an evident connection both with what is said above in number IV concerning the relationship between Jesus and the Kingdom, and what will be said in VI below concerning the salvific value that Jesus attributed to his death. For Father Sobrino, in fact, the unique character of the mediation and revelation of Jesus disappears: he is thus reduced to the condition of "revealer" that we can attribute to the prophets and mystics.

Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, enjoys an intimate and immediate knowledge of his Father, a "vision" that certainly goes beyond the vision of faith. The hypostatic union and Jesus’ mission of revelation and redemption require the vision of the Father and the knowledge of his plan of salvation. This is what is indicated in the Gospel texts cited above.

Various recent magisterial texts have expressed this doctrine: "But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision".

Though in somewhat different terminology, Pope John Paul II insists on this vision of the Father: "His [Jesus’] eyes remain fixed on the Father. Precisely because of the knowledge and experience of the Father which he alone has, even at this moment of darkness he sees clearly the gravity of sin and suffers because of it. He alone, who sees the Father and rejoices fully in him, can understand completely what it means to resist the Father's love by sin".

Likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the immediate knowledge which Jesus has of the Father: "Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father". "By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal".

The relationship between Jesus and God is not correctly expressed by saying Jesus was a believer like us. On the contrary, it is precisely the intimacy and the direct and immediate knowledge which he has of the Father that allows Jesus to reveal to men the mystery of divine love. Only in this way can Jesus bring us into divine love.
There's lots of interesting stuff in the notification - an analysis of it in a classroom would provide a very useful lesson in Christology and theological method. (It would be fascinating to learn who precisely drafted this Notification.) I also find it interesting (although I don't think the notification says this explicitly) that the condemned position of Sobrino in section VI of the Notification seems to lead to a form of Pelagianiam. The great mysteries of Christianity stand and fall together.

Pink Martini

I'd never heard of Pink Martini until Jane of Alle Psalite linked to this Youtube video:


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ye cannot halve the Gospel of God's grace

This is a fascinating poem of John Henry Newman with the most un-poetic title 'Liberalism'.. As an Anglican he travelled to Italy and whilst there fell seriously ill. His recovery lead him to the conclusion that he was spared by Divine Providence for some mission back in England. He believed that he had a role to fight against Liberalism (or the 'Anti-Dogmatic' principle) in the Church of England.
On his return home, he wrote the following verses in Palermo:

Ye cannot halve the Gospel of God's grace;
Men of presumptuous heart! I know you well.
Ye are of those who plan that we should dwell,
Each in his tranquil home and holy place;
Seeing the Word refines all natures rude,
And tames the stirrings of the multitude.

And ye have caught some echoes of its lore,
As heralded amid the joyous choirs;
Ye mark'd it spoke of peace, chastised desires,
Good-will and mercy,—and ye heard no more;
But, as for zeal and quick-eyed sanctity,
And the dread depths of grace, ye pass'd them by.

And so ye halve the Truth; for ye in heart,
At best, are doubters whether it be true,
The theme discarding, as unmeet for you,
Statesmen or Sages. O new-compass'd art
Of the ancient Foe!—but what, if it extends
O'er our own camp, and rules amid our friends?

US Military in the News

Kudos to Marine Gen. Peter Pace for not being afraid to speak his mind:
A senior US army chief has said he supports the Pentagon's ban on gays serving in the military.
Speaking in an interview published by the Chicago Tribune newspaper, Marine Gen. Peter Pace said he believed homosexual acts were "immoral".
Marine Gen. Pace said: "As an individual, I would not want (acceptance of gay behaviour) to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behaviour."
Also in the Telegraph:
US Army recruiters are targeting teenage paintball enthusiasts in an attempt to fill the gaps in military ranks.
Paintball contests, in which camouflaged players charge around the woods splattering each other with gas guns that fire paint pellets, are now more popular in America than surfing, snowboarding or even baseball - attracting 10.4 million participants.
Spotting the pastime's similarity to charging around Iraq in camouflage shooting real guns, the army hopes that some of the "weekend warriors" can be tempted to make a more serious commitment to soldiering.

It's Out!

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity).

Monday, March 12, 2007

Boy Bishop!

Westminster Cathedral has revived the tradition of the Boy Bishop - read about it at Solomon, I Have Surpassed Thee.

Church organist required for jungle meteorite hunt

From the Times:
Wanted: one organist for concert in remote Bolivian jungle accessible only by raft. Must be prepared to face rapids, alligators and 30C (86F) temperatures. Ability to swim a bonus.
Church organists are rarely an essential part of expeditions into the Amazonian rainforest, but a team of scientists about to embark on a journey to a far-flung meteorite impact site in Bolivia believe that one will be key to achieving their mission.
Colonel John Blashford-Snell, a professional adventurer who made headlines in 2000 when he took a grand piano 350 miles (560km) along the Amazon River as a present for the Wai Wai tribe in Guyana, intends to deliver a pedal organ to the isolated Ojaki community as a way of persuading its people to help his expedition.
The colonel’s team, which will also help to install a clean water supply and perform medical duties for the Ojaki people, are reliant on local expertise to build bridges to the impact site, which is five miles wide. The locals are religious and have asked the visitors to install an organ in their newly built church.
The organ — a pedal-powered Harmonium donated by St James’s church in Milton Abbas, Dorset — will be flown to La Paz and then transported by lorry 120 miles over the Andes to the Beni river. It will then be loaded on to a 59ft (18m) boat for a 430-mile journey over rapids and more dangerous, man-made hazards.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Palazzo Massimo

Check out Roman Miscellany - he's done a post with some splendid pictures of the annual feast at the Palazzo Massimo which commemorates a miracle of St Philip Neri.
If you are in Rome on Friday 16th of March, it would be sinful to not stop by the Palazzo.

Friday, March 09, 2007

An interesting survival

From the Times:
A medieval painting of the Last Judgment has been restored to its rightful place in a Wiltshire church after an absence of 450 years. The work is known as a doom board — it is believed to have been painted shortly after the Black Death in the 1390s — and only a few survive. Most were destroyed during religious reforms in the reign of Edward VI, but parishioners at St James the Great, in Dauntsey, hid theirs behind plaster. It has now been restored at a cost of £120,000.

Choir Wars

From the Times:
A Church of England clergyman who was exasperated by the increasing dissonance among his choir has decided to silence them.
The discord that led the Rev Colin Randall, Team Rector of Wellington in Somerset, to suspend the weekly singing at St John’s Church developed over styles of worship.
The choir had established a reputation for cathedral-standard music. It excelled at difficult psalms and anthems as the congregation listened.
Mr Randall, by contrast, preferred the entire church to join in with more modern classics such as Graham Kendrick’s Shine, Jesus, Shine. Disagreement over the two approaches built up, and any harmony was shattered for good last year when Mr Randall sacked the choirmaster, Colin Drummond, after 13 years of diligent service. Half the choir then left in protest.
Mr Randall claimed the be-haviour of a small number of remaining singers was “so lacking in Christian discipleship” that he felt obliged to put an end to their Sunday singing for the foreseeable future.
Mr Randall publicly thanked the choir members for their commitment and hard work and said that he looked forward to reinstating weekly singing once a new director of music was in place. He hoped that the new director would recruit new members, including children and young people.
Mr Randall declined to comment yesterday but said that the decision had followed “some months of thought”. He said he would come to an agreement with Val Williams, the choir leader, about services for which the choir would sing, such as Easter Sunday.
The parent of one former choir member said: “Colin [Drummond] was brilliant. He educated and brought the children on and invited the children and parents to his home a couple of times a year, but he was good with everyone.”
Mr Drummond, whose wife and two sons also left the choir, said: “I am very saddened. Less than a year ago we had a large choir that was well known for its outreach, particularly among young people in Wellington. Now there is nothing.”
John Andrews, communications officer for the Diocese of Bath and Wells, said the problem was about styles of worship. “There is a slight history down there,” he said, adding that any choir would “drift” without a choirmaster.

Interesting Legal Question...

From the Times:
A Roman Catholic teenager has brought a landmark legal action against a council for sending her to live with Protestant foster parents.
The young woman, identified only as “AR”, is seeking damages of £70,000 from Highland council for housing her with two sets of Protestant foster parents after she was taken into care aged 8.
Now 18, she has been granted legal aid to mount a case against the council and was yesterday given the go-ahead for it to be heard in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scot-land’s supreme civil court.
In a written ruling after a brief hearing last Friday, Judge Lord Uist appeared to admit yesterday that the case was unprecedented, saying that it involved “novel and difficult questions of law”.
Legal papers were served on Highland council this year, while documents lodged before the court yesterday said only that the council had failed to accommodate the girl’s religious needs.
According to the papers, the council failed to ensure that she could follow “her religious persuasion throughout the period she was looked after and accommodated”.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Chris Bliss Juggling...

Biretta doff in Mark Shea's direction.
As someone who can barely drink a cup of coffee without scalding himself, consider me duly astonished.

Benedict's Memoirs of JPII

If the Telegraph is to be believed, the Pope has been quite frank about some of the things that happened during John Paul's reign:
In a new book of memoirs about his predecessor, Pope Benedict recalls the events of the World Eucharist Congress at Bologna in 1997, a gathering of 300,000 young Catholic pilgrims who were to be exposed to the singer's iconoclastic songs and their "completely different" message.
Pope Benedict wrote: "The Pope appeared tired, exhausted. At that very moment the stars arrived, Bob Dylan and others whose names I do not remember.
''They had a completely different message from the one which the Pope had.
"There was reason to be sceptical - I was, and in some ways I still am - over whether it was really right to allow this type of 'prophet' to appear."
Pope Benedict's new book, John Paul II, my loved predecessor, is published by Edizione San Paulo and will be sold with Famiglia Cristiana, the Catholic newspaper, next week.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bringing you all the really important stuff...

Rocco has the skinny on the new head of 'CEI' (The Italian Episcopal Conference) - Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco. The sharp-eyed among you will note the little stars set into the collar of his cassock. This shows that the photo was taken when he was Bishop to the Italian Armed Forces. Military chaplains in Italy get to wear these little stars on their cassocks or habits.
Rocco also reports that a leaked copy of some indult (Indult? What indult?) is circulating about the City.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Savoy Showdown...

The royalists among my readership will be interested in the following story from the Telegraph:
While the titles and honours of the Italian royal family have not legally been recognised since 1946, when the republic was founded, Prince Victor Emmanuel, 70, has ruled over the House of Savoy since the death of his father, Umberto II, in 1983.
However, his cousin Amedeo, 63, the 5th Duke D'Aosta, strenuously maintains it is he, not Victor Emmanuel, who is the true heir to the defunct monarchy.
Last summer, Amedeo declared that he had changed his name to Savoy and would assume power. However, his attempt to seize control will be fiercely fought by Victor Emmanuel in a closed hearing at a court in Arezzo at an undisclosed date this month.
Victor Emmanuel has said Amedeo's membership of the dynasty has now been cancelled, "because of his gravely injurious behaviour towards the honour of our royal person." In addition, he denounced Amedeo and his son Aimone to the court for usurping the name of Savoy and the position of family head.
Amedeo believes his cousin gave up the right to call himself Umberto II's heir when he married a Swiss biscuit heiress and champion water-skier without his father's permission in 1971.
To back up his claim, he has produced letters between Umberto and Victor Emmanuel, in which the last king warned his son about the consequences of marriage without his express permission.
"It could bring about the loss of all your rights to succeed as Head of the House of Savoy and your claim to the throne of Italy, reducing you to the status of a private citizen," wrote Umberto. When Umberto heard that Victor Emmanuel had married Marina Doria secretly in Las Vegas, he wrote again in panic, reminding him "word for word" of what he had said.
His sister, Princess Maria Gabriella, has switched her allegiance and is backing Amedeo's claim. "My father asked to be buried along with the royal seal, and that was his way of showing that the dynasty ended with him," she said.
Oh, and it seems as though a portrait of Lady Jane Grey has been discovered.

Well, the Post-synodal Exhortation is coming...

The Bolletino announces the release of the Exhortation next Tuesday, 13th March. It will be entitled "Sacramentum Caritatis" (The Sacrament of Charity) and will deal with the Eucharist as the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church.
Nothing about a Motu Proprio... yet...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Transfiguration

Today's Gospel provides a good excuse to link to Fr Z's Patristic Rosary project and in particular his post about the Transfiguration.
Particularly notable is the reflection of St Maximus the Confessor:
The Lord does not always appear in glory to all who stand before Him. To beginners He appears in the form of a servant (Phil 2:7); to those able to follow Him as He climbs the high mountain of His Transfiguration He appears in the form of God, the form in which He existed before the world came to be (John 17:5). It is therefore possible for the same Lord not to appear in the same way to all who stand before Him, but to appear to some in one way and to others in another way, according to the measure of each person’s faith. When the Logos of God becomes manifest and radiant in us, and His face shines like the sun, then His clothes will also look white. That is to say, the words of the Gospel will then be clear and distinct, with nothing concealed. And Moses and Elijah – the more spiritual principles of the Law and the Prophets – will also be present with Him.

On the 2nd Sunday of Lent last year, Pope Benedict noted:
When one has the grace to live a strong experience of God, it is as if one is living an experience similar to that of the disciples during the Transfiguration: a momentary foretaste of what will constitute the happiness of Paradise. These are usually brief experiences that are sometimes granted by God, especially prior to difficult trials.
No one, however, is permitted to live "on Tabor" while on earth. Indeed, human existence is a journey of faith and as such, moves ahead more in shadows than in full light, and is no stranger to moments of obscurity and also of complete darkness. While we are on this earth, our relationship with God takes place more by listening than by seeing; and the same contemplation comes about, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light that is kindled in us by the Word of God.
For those who read Italian, the Holy Father's words at today's Angelus are particularly striking. I shall post an English translation when it is made available.

Friday, March 02, 2007


From the New York Times:
ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) -- What began as a routine training exercise almost ended in an embarrassing diplomatic incident after a company of Swiss soldiers got lost at night and marched into neighboring Liechtenstein.
According to Swiss daily Blick, the 170 infantry soldiers wandered 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) across an unmarked border into the tiny principality early Thursday before realizing their mistake and turning back.

Lunar Eclipse - Saturday Night

Check out the Lunar Eclipse Computer.