Friday, November 30, 2007

On proportion...

Just comment from the Times's Daniel Finkelstein:
Have you noticed that word disproportionate?

It keeps popping up in relation to Gillian Gibbons and the teddy bear.

The Archbishop of Canterbury called her jail sentence:

"absurdly disproportionate response" to a "minor cultural faux pas".

while the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Fosis), which represents more than 90,000 Muslim students in the UK and Ireland, said it was:

"deeply concerned" at what was a "gravely disproportionate" verdict.

Er, no.

It was not a misunderstanding of culture on the part of Gillian Gibbons. And the verdict was not disproportionate.

The arrest and imprisonment of this teacher was a political act, not a cultural or religious one. Its aim is not cultural preservation but terrorising the population. It is the classic move of a totalitarian state supported by a mob.

Why wasn't it disproportionate? This word implies that some sort of censure was required but that imprisonment was too much. The punishment wasn't out of proportion. It was unwarranted, outrageous, insupportable.

The use of the phrase "disproportionate" is offensive.

Spe Salvi - Random Observation No. 5

This will probably be my last 'random observation' concerning Spe Salvi, as I have other commitments this afternoon. Apologies for the superficiality of my reading of this document.
Firstly, Amy Welborn links to John Allen on Spe Salvi. He outlines the inital positive welcomes and reports the concerns of the decidedly "progressive" group 'Wir Sind Kirche':
The deliberately wide appeal of Spe Salvi does not mean that early reaction has been uniformly positive. The “Wir Sind Kirche” statement, for example, posed three critical questions about the encyclical:
• Why doesn’t it rely more on Gaudium et Spes, or “Joy and Hope,” the Pastoral Constitution on the Church and the Modern World from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which has long been a sort of charter document for the reform wing of Catholicism?
• Why doesn’t the pope ask whether the current structures and disciplinary systems of the church actually promote an atmosphere of hope?
• Will this encyclical generate real hope for progress towards ecumenical reunion?
It's the first of these questions that interests me most. It's striking that Pope Benedict XVI doesn't seem to refer to the Second Vatican Council or its documents at all in the Encyclical. (Take note of that - it could be an interesting trivia question at the theological dinner table.) In particular, he doesn't refer to Gaudium et Spes, the Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Why he doesn't would make an interesting study. Two reasons spring to mind and seem worthy of further investigation. Firstly, I seem to recall that Fr Ratzinger as peritus (theological expert) at the council was not enthusiastic about this document and was, I think, of the opinion that much of the second part of the document did not deserve to be part of a Pastoral Constitution (the most important sort of document issued by the Council.) Secondly, it might be that the whole issue of eschatology was not tremendously well dealt with by the Council and this document Spe Salvi reflects a more integrated and mature expression of the magisterium on eschatological matters. I should make clear that these are just my off-the-cuff speculations at the moment... I haven't given the matter much thought and am very much open to correction.
It is worth noting that he does draw on the Catechism of the Catholic Church in several places, and his drawing on the thought of Henri de Lubac so one could hardly accuse the Holy Father of neglecting those positive theological fruits of the Council and the Ressourcement movement. Indeed, one hopes that this encyclical will provoke a renewed interest in eschatology drawing on de Lubac's recognition of the social dimension of salvation and an honest appraisal of whether we take the reality of the Last Judgement seriously. I know that there are some of a more scholastic bent who are not fans of de Lubac, but I think he has something important to say on this issue. The idea of salvation being based around a me-and-Jesus axis does not do justice to the ecclesial dimension to salvation, and, for example, the Augustinian idea of our salvation as part of the Church which he describes as the Totus Christus or whole Christ.
Finally, I think this encyclical deserves particular attention for the manner in which it manages to incorporate some pretty serious biblical exegesis and modern philosophy in a fairly accessible manner.

Spe Salvi - Random Observation No. 4

Offer it up!
I would like to add here another brief comment with some relevance for everyday living. There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practised today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs”, thereby giving them a meaning. Of course, there were some exaggerations and perhaps unhealthy applications of this devotion, but we need to ask ourselves whether there may not after all have been something essential and helpful contained within it. What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ's great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love. Maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice ourselves.(Spe Salvi 40)

Actually, there are some interesting aspects of a mystical theology of suffering for others in paragraph 38:
Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solatio, “consolation”, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. Furthermore, the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie.
Echoes of Charles Williams?

Spe Salvi - Random Observation No. 3

There's a passage at the end of paragraph 33 which expresses very clearly the demand that the encounter with God places on the Christian conscience:
We must learn to purify our desires and our hopes. We must free ourselves from the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves. God sees through them, and when we come before God, we too are forced to recognize them. “But who can discern his errors? Clear me from hidden faults” prays the Psalmist (Ps 19:12 [18:13]). Failure to recognize my guilt, the illusion of my innocence, does not justify me and does not save me, because I am culpable for the numbness of my conscience and my incapacity to recognize the evil in me for what it is. If God does not exist, perhaps I have to seek refuge in these lies, because there is no one who can forgive me; no one who is the true criterion. Yet my encounter with God awakens my conscience in such a way that it no longer aims at self-justification, and is no longer a mere reflection of me and those of my contemporaries who shape my thinking, but it becomes a capacity for listening to the Good itself.
Certainly, ignorance does mitigate personal responsibility and culpability, but one sees in some circles the idea that 'being pastoral' means not pointing out some of the sinfulness present in this world. The theory is that if the faithful are not presented with the fullness of Christian morality, then God will not hold them responsible for sins committed in ignorance.
I've never been happy with that horribly nominalistic argument as it presents a misleading view of God and of the Christian life. Cultivating a dulled conscience amongst the faithful is depriving them of an encounter with the living God who wants only what is good for them. Living according to a distorted picture of 'the good' will inevitably obscure the vision of the God who is Good. Denying the existence of sin is a denial of the God who redeems us from sin. A lively conscience is the sine qua non of the adult Christian life.

Spe Salvi - Random Observation No. 2

On human freedom:
Since man always remains free and since his freedom is always fragile, the kingdom of good will never be definitively established in this world. Anyone who promises the better world that is guaranteed to last for ever is making a false promise; he is overlooking human freedom. Freedom must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Free assent to the good never exists simply by itself. (Spe Salvi 24)
That's a very succinct description of our fallen reality: Freedom must constantly be won over for the cause of good.

Spe Salvi - Random Observation No. 1

I'm reading through the new document and one of the obvious things that caught my eye was the fact that the Holy Father makes reference to the older form of baptism in paragraph 10:
In the search for an answer, I would like to begin with the classical form of the dialogue with which the rite of Baptism expressed the reception of an infant into the community of believers and the infant's rebirth in Christ. First of all the priest asked what name the parents had chosen for the child, and then he continued with the question: “What do you ask of the Church?” Answer: “Faith”. “And what does faith give you?” “Eternal life”. According to this dialogue, the parents were seeking access to the faith for their child, communion with believers, because they saw in faith the key to “eternal life”. Today as in the past, this is what being baptized, becoming Christians, is all about: it is not just an act of socialization within the community, not simply a welcome into the Church. The parents expect more for the one to be baptized: they expect that faith, which includes the corporeal nature of the Church and her sacraments, will give life to their child—eternal life. Faith is the substance of hope.
This is interesting in the context of the Holy Father's great interest in the older liturgical forms, but also in terms of the theology of baptism which he insists - even for infants - is about more than simply welcoming the believer into the Church. Anyone with a passing familiarity with St Augustine's struggle against Pelagianism will realise that the significance of infant baptism is frequently misrepresented today in a manner which smacks of the old Pelagian heresy. Indeed, Pope Paul VI insisted that the Rite of Baptism for Infants be revised a second time after the Council as the first Rite which was produced seemed to neglect the fact that infant baptism removes the stain of Original Sin. That's not quite the question that the Holy Father is dealing with here - but he is pointing to the supernatural significance of baptism and the fact that the child, although unable to believe himself, does receive the supernatural habitus of faith through baptism.
Pope Benedict follows this with an interesting explanation of death and eternal life, and the curious paradox that for the Christian death is both punishment and remedy.

Spe Salvi

In English, Latin, Italian or whatever you want.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Arrupe to Jesuits on Humane Vitae

Diogenes has posted a copy of the late Jesuit Superior General Fr Arrupe's letter to Jesuits on the occasion of the issuing of Humanae Vitae. It's worth a read, and it's easy to wistfully agree with Diogenes's desire that so many SJs failed to take it to heart.
However, his version of the English translation includes one of strangest translation errors I've ever read.
I think he's using the 1968 National Catholic Reporter translation which includes the following sentence:
In so fulfilling our mission as Jesuits, which is to make the thought of the Church understood and loved, we can help the laity, who themselves have much to bring to the problems touched on in the encyclical, and who rely on us for a deep understanding of their points of view.
This should read:
In so fulfilling our mission as Jesuits, which is to make the thought of the Church understood and loved, we can help the laity, who themselves have much to bring to the problems touched on in the encyclical, and who rely on us for a deeper understanding of the teaching of Paul VI. (pro intimiore penetratione magisterii Pauli VI)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Liturgical Curiosity

I attended the Mass of the Rings this morning. Of interest was the fact that amongst the concelebrating Cardinals was Emmanuel III Delly who wasn't wearing a chasuble. Instead, he was wearing what looked like a cope. This is because liturgical law states that when concelebrating in a liturgical rite which is not his own, a priest should retain the vestments proper to his rite. Thus, he wore Chaldean vestment and that garment which looks like a cope is, I think, called a Ma'apra.
Now, exceptions can legitimately be made in situations where (for example) Eastern rite priests don't have access to their regular vestments, but it's wonderful to see the splash of colour and variety that properly vested Eastern rite priests add to some of the larger concelebrated Masses in Rome.

Two more things:
My previous consistory post contains an error about Mons Marini. He was MC in Genoa, not Bologna, prior to his move to the Vatican.
Also, Rocco has a nice picture of the rings given to the new Cardinals. The Holy Father explained the design thus:
Questo, cari Fratelli neo-Cardinali, sarà sempre per voi un invito a ricordare di quale Re siete servitori, su quale trono Egli è stato innalzato e come è stato fedele fino alla fine per vincere il peccato e la morte con la forza della divina misericordia.
This [the crucifxion], dear brother Cardinals, will always be an initation for you to remember which King you are servants of, and what throne He was raised up on and how he was faithful to the end in order to conquer sin and death with the power of divine mercy.

Edited to add: For those who are interested, this photo shows the Holy Father's vesture for the Mass. Note especially the gold lace on his alb and the pontifical dalmatic.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Consistory Notes

My regular readers will not be surprised to know that I attended this morning's public consistory and I've been reading some of the coverage on various 'blogs such as The New Liturgical Movement and WDTPRS.

Needless to say, it was a wonderful event and much of the 'blog commentary is focusing on the Holy Father's vesture and the wonderful Papal throne which was dusted off for the occasion. (Cf Matt 13:52) They certainly added to the occasion and show that Mons Marini seems to be making his mark in terms of the 'style' in which the liturgy is celebrated. The fact that the liturgy was held inside St Peter's shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. The idea of holding an outdoor ceremony at the end of a Roman November, particularly one at which so many elderly princes of the Church were to be present was always optimistic, and it's been common knowledge in the city for quite a while that the whole thing would be moved indoors. It is unfortunate that this meant that many of the faithful who had travelled long distances to see their bishops being elevated to the Sacred Purple had to watch on TV screens in the Piazza , but there was no other realistic alternative. Thankfully, I did get inside the basilica and it certainly is wonderful when St Peter's is used for these solemn liturgies. There's something very special about the enthusiastic chanting of the responses and hymns in Latin by the congregation in such a manner that it threatens to raise the roof of this extraordinary building.

Some Liturgical Questions
Some questions have been asked in the comment-boxes of the various 'blogs about the absence of the altar cross - maybe it wasn't visible in the TV coverage, but the cross, rather than being placed on the altar behind the Holy Father, was rather placed at the top of the steps which lead down to the confessio. One wonders whether the intention was that the Holy Father should be facing the cross during the liturgy.
It should also be noted that the consistory is structured as a liturgy of the word - therefore, it's not at all inappropriate for the Holy Father to preside in his cope rather than just wearing choir dress. (I don't think anyone was complaining about the cope, but people are curious about the switch in vesture.)
I'm enthusiastic about Mons Marini, but I think he's still settling into his job. There were quite a number of gaffs during the consistory which jarred. The Holy Father read the formula for a Cardinal Deacon when imposing the birettas on a number of the Cardinal Priests and the wrong prayer was read before the Cardinals' profession of faith. The microphone was poorly handled as well, meaning that we frequently missed the first few words of the Holy Father's prayers. That being said, I can't imagine what it is like stepping into a job of that magnitude, and given his experience in Bologna, I'm sure that these little wrinkles will soon be ironed out. Whilst not a fan of his predecessor's style, having seen him at work on numerous occasions, I always respected his ability to run a liturgy smoothly and with a certain attention to detail. Speaking of Archbishop Marini, one is tempted to read something into the fact that he did attend the consistory, but quietly placed himself right at the back of the section reserved for the so-called Capella Papale. Cardinal Sodano, I understand, didn't attend at all. Having just turned 80, one wonders whether his retirement as Dean of the Sacred College is imminent. [Fr Z corrects me on this point. It seems that Cardinal Sodano was present. I don't recall where I read that he was absent.]

Other things which occur to me
It will not escape the attention of anyone who followed the consistory that great emphasis was placed on the bestowal of a red hat on Emannuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans. As head of a Church which is suffering much and whose members are enduring great fortitude, his elevation to the College of Cardinals is pregnant with meaning. As the Holy Father himself said:
Questi nostri fratelli e sorelle nella fede sperimentano nella propria carne le conseguenze drammatiche di un perdurante conflitto e vivono al presente in una quanto mai fragile e delicata situazione politica. Chiamando ad entrare nel Collegio dei Cardinali il Patriarca della Chiesa Caldea ho inteso esprimere in modo concreto la mia vicinanza spirituale e il mio affetto per quelle popolazioni.
These brothers and sisters of ours in the faith are experiencing in their own flesh the dramatic consequences of a continuing conflict and currently live in an eveor more fragile and delicate political situation. By calling into the College of Cardinals the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, I intended to express in a concrete way my spiritual cloeness and my affection for these suffering peoples.

It should be noted that as a Patriarch, His Beatitude will rank alongside the Cardinal Bishops in dignity and (unusually) does not receive a titular church in Rome.
Looking at the titular churches, some catch my eye:
Cardinal Vingt-Trois of Paris inherits San Luigi dei Francesi from his deceased predecessor Cardinal Lustiger. Cardinal Ortega's title of S. Maria della Presentazione is a newly erected title. So is Cardinal Njue's title of Preziossisimo Sangue di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo. Cardinal Brady's title of Ss. Quirico e Giulitta was vacant since 1968. The title of S. Salvatore in Lauro was re-established, but as a Deaconry rather than a Cardinal Priest's Title for Cardinal Comastri. Cardinal Coppa's deaconry of S.Lino and Cardinal Cordes's deaconry of S. Lorenzo in Piscibus are newly established. (Curiously, there are a number of 'open' and already established Deaconries.) [Credit must be given to Salvador Miranda for this useful resource which is great for digging up information about these issues.]

Friday, November 23, 2007

Consistory - The Bigletto Speech of Cardinal Newman

It used to be the custom that one who was about to be created Cardinal would take up residence in Rome and wait for the Pope to publish his appointment to the Cardinals gathered in secret consistory. The Cardinal-to-be would, at this time, be waiting for the messenger from the Vatican to bring the bigletto announcing his creation. Via the Newman Reader, one can read about Cardinal Newman's reception of the bigletto.
On Monday morning, May 12, Dr. Newman went to the Palazzo della Pigna, the residence of Cardinal Howard, who had lent him his apartments to receive there the messenger from the Vatican bearing the biglietto from the Cardinal-Secretary of State, informing him that in a secret Consistory held that morning his Holiness had deigned to raise him to the rank of Cardinal. By eleven o'clock the rooms were crowded with English and American Catholics, ecclesiastics and laymen, as well as many members of the Roman nobility and dignitaries of the Church, assembled to witness the ceremony. Soon after midday the consistorial messenger was announced. He handed the biglietto to Dr. Newman, who, having broken the seal, gave it to Dr. Clifford, Bishop of Clifton, who read the contents. The messenger having then informed the newly-created Cardinal that his Holiness would receive him at the Vatican the next morning at ten o'clock to confer the berretta upon him, and having paid the customary compliments, his Eminence replied in what has become known as his "Biglietto Speech"
This speech has become famous as one of the most penetrating and prescient analyses of the theological and ecclesiastical challenge of the Enlightenment and is still worth reading today:
Vi ringrazio, Monsignore, per la participazione che m'avete fatto dell'alto onore che il Santo Padre si è degnato conferire sulla mia umile persona—

And, if I ask your permission to continue my address to you, not in your musical language, but in my own dear mother tongue, it is because in the latter I can better express my feelings on this most gracious announcement which you have brought to me than if I attempted what is above me.

First of all then, I am led to speak of the wonder and profound gratitude which came upon me, and which is upon me still, at the condescension and love towards me of the Holy Father in singling me out for so immense an honour. It was a great surprise. Such an elevation had never come into my thoughts, and seemed to be out of keeping with all my antecedents. I had passed through many trials, but they were over; and now the end of all things had almost come to me, and I was at peace. And was it possible that after all I had lived through so many years for this?

Nor is it easy to see how I could have borne so great a shock, had not the Holy Father resolved on a second act of condescension towards me, which tempered it, and was to all who heard of it a touching evidence of his kindly and generous nature. He felt for me, and he told me the reasons why he raised me to this high position. Besides other words of encouragement, he said his act was a recognition of my zeal and good service for so many years in the Catholic cause; moreover, he judged it would give pleasure to English Catholics, and even to Protestant England, if I received some mark of his favour. After such gracious words from his Holiness, I should have been insensible and heartless if I had had scruples any longer.

This is what he had the kindness to say to me, and what could I want more? In a long course of years I have made many mistakes. I have nothing of that high perfection which belongs to the writings of Saints, viz., that error cannot be found in them; but what I trust that I may claim all through what I have written, is this,—an honest intention, an absence of private ends, a temper of obedience, a willingness to be corrected, a dread of error, a desire to serve Holy Church, and, through Divine mercy, a fair measure of success. And, I rejoice to say, to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often.

Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man's religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. Religion is in no sense the bond of society.

Hitherto the civil Power has been Christian. Even in countries separated from the Church, as in my own, the dictum was in force, when I was young, that: "Christianity was the law of the land". Now, everywhere that goodly framework of society, which is the creation of Christianity, is throwing off Christianity. The dictum to which I have referred, with a hundred others which followed upon it, is gone, or is going everywhere;
and, by the end of the century, unless the Almighty interferes, it will be forgotten. Hitherto, it has been considered that religion alone, with its supernatural sanctions, was strong enough to secure submission of the masses of our population to law and order; now the Philosophers and Politicians are bent on satisfying this problem without the aid of Christianity. Instead of the Church's authority and teaching, they would substitute first of all a universal and a thoroughly secular education, calculated to bring home to every individual that to be orderly, industrious, and sober, is his personal interest. Then, for great working principles to take the place of religion, for the use of the masses thus carefully educated, it provides—the broad fundamental ethical truths, of justice, benevolence, veracity, and the like; proved experience; and those natural laws which exist and act spontaneously in society, and in social matters, whether physical or psychological; for instance, in government, trade, finance, sanitary experiments, and the intercourse of nations. As to Religion, it is a private luxury, which a man may have if he will; but which of course he must pay for, and which he must not obtrude upon others, or indulge in to their annoyance.

The general character of this great apostasia is one and the same everywhere; but in detail, and in character, it varies in different countries. For myself, I would rather speak of it in my own country, which I know. There, I think it threatens to have a formidable success; though it is not easy to see what will be its ultimate issue. At first sight it might be thought that Englishmen are too religious for a movement which, on the Continent, seems to be founded on infidelity; but the misfortune with us is, that, though it ends in infidelity as in other places, it does not necessarily arise out of infidelity. It must be recollected that the religious sects, which sprang up in England three centuries ago, and which are so powerful now, have ever been fiercely opposed to the Union of Church and State, and would advocate the un-Christianising of the monarchy and all that belongs to it, under the notion that such a catastrophe would make Christianity much more pure and much more powerful. Next the liberal principle is forced on us from the necessity of the case. Consider what follows from the very fact of these many sects. They constitute the religion, it is supposed, of half the population; and, recollect, our mode of government is popular. Every dozen men taken at random whom you meet in the streets has a share in political power,—when you inquire into their forms of belief, perhaps they represent one or other of as many as seven religions; how can they possibly act together in municipal or in national matters, if each insists on the recognition of his own religious denomination? All action would be at a deadlock unless the subject of religion was ignored. We cannot help ourselves. And, thirdly, it must be borne in mind, that there is much in the liberalistic theory which is good and true; for example, not to say more, the precepts of justice, truthfulness, sobriety, self-command, benevolence, which, as I have already noted, are among its avowed principles, and the natural laws of society. It is not till we find that this array of principles is intended to supersede, to block out, religion, that we pronounce it to be evil. There never was a device of the Enemy so cleverly framed and with such promise of success. And already it has answered to the expectations which have been formed of it. It is sweeping into its own ranks great numbers of able, earnest, virtuous men, elderly men of approved antecedents, young men with a career before them.

Such is the state of things in England, and it is well that it should be realised by all of us; but it must not be supposed for a moment that I am afraid of it. I lament it deeply, because I foresee that it may be the ruin of many souls; but I have no fear at all that it really can do aught of serious harm to the Word of God, to Holy Church, to our Almighty King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Faithful and True, or to His Vicar on earth. Christianity has been too often in what seemed deadly peril, that we should fear for it any new trial now. So far is certain; on the other hand, what is uncertain, and in these great contests commonly is uncertain, and what is commonly a great surprise, when it is witnessed, is the particular mode by which, in the event, Providence rescues and saves His elect inheritance. Sometimes our enemy is turned into a friend; sometimes he is despoiled of that special virulence of evil which was so threatening; sometimes he falls to pieces of himself; sometimes he does just so much as is beneficial, and then is removed. Commonly the Church has nothing more to do than to go on in her own proper duties, in confidence and peace; to stand still and to see the salvation of God.

Mansueti hereditabunt terram,
Et delectabuntur in multitudine pacis.

Encyclical - Confirmation

Via the Bolletino:

Si informano i giornalisti accreditati che venerdì 30 novembre 2007, alle ore 11.30, nell’Aula Giovanni Paolo II della Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, avrà luogo la Conferenza Stampa di presentazione dell’Enciclica del Santo Padre Benedetto XVI dal titolo: "Spe salvi".

Interverranno: Card. Georges Marie Martin Cottier, O.P., Pro-Teologo emerito della Casa Pontificia; Card. Albert Vanhoye, S.I., Professore emerito di Esegesi del Nuovo Testamento, Pontificio Istituto Biblico.
It has been rumoured for quite a while, but the Vatican has today confirmed that the Holy Father will be releasing an Encyclical Letter entitled Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope) next Friday 30th of November. Cardinal Cottier (former Papal Theologian) and Cardinal Vanhoye (former Professor of New Testament exegesis at the Biblicum) will be presenting it at a press conference at that day.

Consistory 101

Amy Welborn gathers together just about everything you want to know about the upcoming consistory.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Via the Guardian:
Rome has revealed what its leading archeologist says is "one of the greatest discoveries ever made", a lost shrine dedicated to the ancient city's mythical founders.
Andrea Carandini told a press conference yesterday that a large vaulted hall beneath the Palatine hill was almost certainly the fabled Lupercale - a sanctuary believed by ancient Romans to be the cave where the twin boys Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. The professor acknowledged the evidence was as yet not totally conclusive, but said only "one doubt in thousand" remained.
Decorated with seashells and coloured marble, the domed cave was found close to the site of the palace of the first emperor, Caesar Augustus, by archaeologists. Ancient texts indicate that the sanctuary was indeed near the palace; a document from the 16th century, when it was still accessible, recorded that the emperor had embellished it with a white imperial eagle.
The outline of just such an eagle was found at the apex of the vaulted ceiling when probes were let down from the surface to examine the underground structure. Giorgio Croci, the engineer and professor in charge, said: "You can imagine our amazement. We almost screamed."
No one has entered the circular structure, the ceiling of which is 7 metres below the surface. More than three-quarters of its volume is filled with soil, but Croci said laser scans had indicated it was 8 metres high and 7.5 metres across. Part of the roof has fallen away.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Vote for Jesus

If Fr Sibley were still blogging, you can be sure that he'd have done a piece about the Japanese politican Mitsuo Matayoshi, who also likes to call himself The only God Mitsuo Matayoshi Jesus Christ. Wikipedia explains:
After a life of preacher he has developed a particular concepts of Christianity, strongly influenced by Eschatology. In 1997 He established the World Economic Community Party (世界経済共同体党) based on his conviction that he is the God and Christ.
His concept is both religious and political, a mix of christian eschatology like Augustine's De civitas Dei and modern political moralistic conservatism. According to his program he will do the Last Judgement as the Christ but the way to do this is totally within the current political system and its legitimacy. His first step as the Savior is to be appointed the prime minister of Japan. Then he will reform Japanese society and then the United Nations should offer him the honor of its General Secretary. Then Matayoshi Jesus will reign over the whole world with two legitimate authorities, not only religious but also political.
I must have missed that chapter of the Apocalypse.
And his tactics?
He has become well-known for his eccentric campaigns where he urges opponents to commit suicide by hara-kiri (disembowelment, note that he avoids the more polite seppuku) and says that he will cast them into Gehenna.

There's a translation of some of his campain literature here.
After the Upper House Election, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi should hand the seat of the Prime Minister to Jesus Matayoshi, the one true God. If he cannot, he should cut his belly and die. Jesus Matayoshi, the one true God, will throw him into the fiery depths of hell. The reason is that before you kill another person you should die yourself. The same goes to those voters who do not vote for Jesus Matayoshi, the one true God. You will understand the specific reason in election advertisements.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Coronation of Elizabeth II

There's an interesting piece in the Telegraph about the Coronation Ceremony of Elizabeth II:
On June 2, 1953, four Knights of the Garter held a canopy over the head of the Queen. What came next we were not allowed to see.
I have just watched a remarkable Technicolor film of the Coronation - which has quite a different flavour from the black and white images we are accustomed to. It is available on DVD under the title A Queen is Crowned. But I had not at first noticed that at the moment the canopy is raised, the continuity is cut.
The voice of Laurence Olivier, speaking a text by Christopher Fry, announces: "The hallowing, the sacring." The ceremonial that comes next, which we were forbidden to see on film, is the anointing. Oil is poured from an eagle-shaped ampulla, or flask, into a spoon. The spoon is the only piece of Coronation regalia surviving from the Middle Ages. The Archbishop of Canterbury anoints the monarch on the forehead, breast and hands.
The camera then picks up the narrative again, as the Queen is clothed with a wide-sleeved cloth-of-gold tunic reaching the ankles. It is gathered with a golden girdle. The young Queen looks like a figure in some Japanese play, walking in this wide, stiff gown to receive a jewelled sword, which she holds point upwards, swearing to defend widows and orphans. It is then placed on the altar.
There is a great deal of this sort of thing, and it is not laughable. I knew about the orb. "Receive this orb set under the Cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the power and empire of Christ our Redeemer," the archbishop says. But I didn't know about the wide, golden bracelets placed on the sovereign's wrists as she sits on the Coronation Chair. They signify sincerity and wisdom.
Each item of the crown jewels has its meaning. The sceptre stands for power and justice, and there is another golden rod, standing for equity and mercy. After the archbishop, in his wide cope, reaches up and solemnly brings down the crown on to the Queen's head, she sits holding the sceptre in one hand and the rod in the other. They all look heavy for a young woman to bear, but then so are sovereignty, justice and mercy.
These ceremonies take place as the Queen is seated on the Coronation Chair. It had the so-called Stone of Scone fitted into it. The stone was reputed to be the one that Jacob used as a pillow on the night he dreamt of the ladder into heaven with angels ascending and descending. When Jacob awoke he said: "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it." And he was afraid, and said: "How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
The Queen is then lifted into a different seat, her throne, by Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal, who do her homage, one by one. Her husband says: "I, Philip, become your liege man."
Of course, on one level, this could be dismissed as an Anglican sham, BUT the signs of this quasi-sacramental act still speak clearly and it would be a mistake of the highest order were the ceremonial of coronation watered-down.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Scary Cold War Stuff

From the BBC:
Newsnight has discovered that until the early days of the Blair government the RAF's nuclear bombs were armed by turning a bicycle lock key.
There was no other security on the Bomb itself
While American and Russian weapons were protected by tamper-proof combination locks which could only be released if the correct code was transmitted, Britain relied on a simpler technology.
The British military resisted Whitehall proposals to fit bombs with Permissive Action Links - or PALs - which would prevent them being armed unless the right code was sent.
PALs were introduced in the 1960s in America to prevent a mad General or pilot launching a nuclear war off their own bat - the Dr Strangelove scenario.
President Kennedy ordered that every American nuclear bomb should be fitted with a PAL.
The correct code had to be transmitted by the US Chiefs of Staff and dialled into the Bomb before it could be armed otherwise it would not detonate.
Papers at the National Archive show that as early as 1966 an attempt was made to impose PAL security on British nuclear weapons.
The Chief Scientific Adviser Solly Zuckerman formally advised the Defence Secretary Denis Healey that Britain needed to install Permissive Action Links on its nuclear weapons to keep them safe.
"The Government will need to be certain that any weapons deployed are under some form of 'ironclad' control".
The Royal Navy argued that officers of the Royal Navy as the Senior Service could be trusted:
"It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders".
Neither the Navy nor the RAF installed PAL protection on their nuclear weapons.
The RAF kept their unsafeguarded bombs at airbases until they were withdrawn in 1998.
Here we have proof, if proof were needed, that Pelagianism was a British heresy. How could anyone with a healthy regard for the doctrine of Original Sin say: "It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders"?

This is fun...

A nice game for those of a logical turn of mind: Factory Balls.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

And for your penance...

One of the reasons it's great to be Catholic is the knowledge that one's unlikely to receive a penance like this in the confessional:
An Indian man who believed he had been cursed for stoning to death two dogs has atoned for his sin by marrying another dog in a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony.
P. Selvakumar, a 33-year-old farm labourer from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, married the four-year-old stray bitch after it was bathed and processed to his village temple dressed in an orange sari and garlanded with flowers.
He was reported to have suffered a series of physical ailments after stoning the dogs to death and hanging their bodies from a tree.
“After that my legs and hands got paralysed and I lost hearing in one ear,” said Mr Selvakumar after the ceremony with his new "bride", whose name is Selvi.
A reception attended by some 200 guests was held for the newlyweds in the groom's house during which Selvi grew restless and ran away.

Liberation Theology - Chavez Style...

From the Telegraph:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, back in Caracas after a diplomatic spat with the King of Spain, has likened his situation to the persecution of Christ.
Mr Chavez, who was told by King Juan Carlos to “shut up” at a summit in Chile, said if he were to keep quiet “the stones of the people of Latin America would cry out”, paraphrasing words used by Christ in Jerusalem shortly before his crucifixion.
The Venezuelan information ministry later issued press releases detailing the relevant passages in the Bible to ensure the message was clear.
Mr Chavez also accused the king of supporting a coup that briefly removed him from power in 2002.
He added that the king’s public rebuke of his interruptions during a speech by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, demonstrated a colonial superiority complex.
During the summit Mr Chavez repeatedly shouted insults about Spain's former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, calling him a “fascist”.
When Mr Zapatero’s calls for restraint were ignored, the king leaned over to Mr Chavez and asked: “Why don’t you shut up?”
To paraphrase Senator Bentsen: Mr Chavez, you are no Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Music in Da Vinci's Last Supper?

From the Telegraph, another story purporting to report a discovery in Leonardo's Last Supper:
A computer technician claims to have discovered a real da Vinci code after finding music hidden in Leonardo's masterpiece, The Last Supper.

Giovanni Maria Pala said that the hands of Jesus and the Apostles, and the loaves of bread in the picture each represented a note, which formed a 40-second composition.

He made the discovery after superimposing a stave - the five lines used in sheet music - on the painting. The composition emerges when the "notes" are read right to left, following Leonardo's own technique.

Mr Pala, who will publish his findings in a book next week, said: "It sounded really solemn, almost like a requiem."

Alessandro Vezzosi, of Tuscany's Leonardo museum, said the theory was "plausible", but added: "There's always a risk of seeing something that is not there, but it's certain that the spaces [in the painting] are divided harmonically.

"Where you have harmonic proportions, you can find music."
*Rolls eyes*

Thursday, November 08, 2007

You've heard of Carbon Credits...

.... well now there's CheatNeutral:
What is Cheat Offsetting?

When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere.

Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.
Can I offset all my cheating?

First you should look at ways of reducing your cheating. Once you've done this you can use Cheatneutral to offset the remaining, unavoidable cheating.

But how does it work? The website usefully explains:
Steve and Lisa

Steve and Lisa met while on holiday in Spain, and quickly fell head over heels for each other. That Christmas, at his office party, Steve got drunk and unavoidably repeatedly cheated on Lisa with Cheri, a co-worker. He paid Cheatneutral just £2.50 and we invested his money in Alex, a single man with no prospect of finding a partner. In return for the payments, Alex agreed to remain single.

Thanks to Cheatneutral, Steve was able to come clean about his cheating to Lisa, and when he presented her with the Cheatneutral certificate they realised they wanted to get married. Their wedding is taking place in the summer. Steve continues to regularly cheat on Lisa and Cheatneutral continues to fund projects like Alex with his offset payments.
They also explain:
Jealousy and heartbreak are a natural part of modern life. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, it's just not possible to be faithful.

At Cheatneutral, we believe that we should all try to reduce the amount we cheat on our partners, but we also realise that fidelity isn't always possible.

That's why we help you neutralise your cheating. Your actions are offset by a global network of fidelity, developed by us. By paying Cheatneutral, you're funding monogamy-boosting offset projects - we simply invest the money you give us in monogamous, faithful or just plain single people, to encourage them to stay that way.

When you use Cheatneutral, we'll email you a Cheatneutral Offset Certificate, so you can prove to your loved one that your playing away has been successfully offset. Then, you and your partner are both happy, a broken heart is mended, and you can feel good about yourself again, all thanks to Cheatneutral.

And when you need to cheat again, we'll be here for you.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Not the Holy House of Loretto...

but an article from the Times about a church which has travelled 7 miles:
A 700-year-old church completed a week-long trip to its new home in eastern Germany so that its former site can be mined for coal. The Emmaus Church, first mentioned in documents in 1297, was originally in Heuersdorf, near Leipzig. Loaded on to a flatbed trailer and held by steel braces, it travelled 12 km (7 miles) to the Martin Luther Square in Borna in time for Reformation Day. The stone church weighs about 750 tonnes. The Mibrag company paid €3 million (£2 million) to move the church so that it can get at 50 million tonnes of lignite, or brown coal.