Friday, February 29, 2008

A question which should never have needed to be asked...

answered authoritatively by the CDF:
on the validity of Baptism conferred with the formulas
«I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier»
and «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer»


First question: Whether the Baptism conferred with the formulas «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier» and «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer» is valid?

Second question: Whether the persons baptized with those formulas have to be baptized in forma absoluta?


To the first question: Negative.

To the second question: Affirmative.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these Responses, adopted in the Ordinary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, February 1, 2008.

William Cardinal Levada

+ Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
By the way, note that the question seems to originate from the English-speaking world. In the Latin original and all the translations, the defective formulae are given in English.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ironic Monument Placement...

This plaque is in the Sacristy of St Peter's Basilica.
Due to his interference in Church affairs, Emperor Joseph II was known as the Sacristan-Emperor or the Sacristan of Europe (depending on what language you speak).

On veils and things
Out of curiosity, if any of my readers has an American (Novus Ordo) breviary to hand, I wouldn't mind finding out how the responsorial after the reading from the Book of Exodus in the Office of Readings is translated. The British/Irish/American goes as follows:

Moses put a veil over his face, so that the people of Israel would not see its brightness; all of us, however, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord who is the Spirit, transforms us into his very likeness, in an ever greater degree of glory.
To this very day their minds are covered with the same veil; all of us, however, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord who is the Spirit, transforms us into his very likeness, in an ever greater degree of glory.
Given the recent fuss over certain liturgical prayers, I'm curious as to whether the American translation is significantly different.

For the sake of my blood pressure, please... no discussions in the comment boxes about Judaism, the Pope, changes to the Missal, etc... I'd just like to see the American translation, and I'm too busy to moderate a debate on any touchy issues.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Weird Theologian Trivia...

Okay... a very short quiz... no prize except for the bragging rights...

1. Which famous theologian introduced Henri de Lubac to shark-fin soup in a Parisian Chinese restaurant?

2. Which Father of the Church suffered from haemorrhoids?

3. Which figure in the Early Church was prevented from handing himself over for martyrdom by his mother? How did she stop him?

4. Which medieval spiritual writer was prominent in the court of the Scottish King before becoming a monk?

5. Which Doctor of the Church craved fish on his deathbed?

Answers/Guesses welcome in the comments box. Alternatively, post your own piece of weird theologian-trivia. (And by that I mean weird trivia about theologians rather than trivia about weird theologians.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Two from Rocco...

Good news from Westminster where Cardinal Murphy O'Connor should be commended for some stern action:
Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic church in England and Wales, intervened in the affairs of the hospital of St John & St Elizabeth in London, where he is patron, after protracted rows over the adoption of a tighter ethical code banning non-Catholic practices such as abortions, contraception and sex-change operations.

Scalps from Tuesday evening's decision include Aida Hersham, a Persian heiress and socialite, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, son of former Times editor William Rees-Mogg.

The cardinal's office confirmed the appointment of a new chairman, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank. The former army chief of staff will select new directors, who will meet on Monday. A spokesman for the cardinal said: "In light of recent difficulties and challenges the cardinal asked the board to resign their office. This was to enable a new chairman to begin his office with the freedom to go about ensuring the future wellbeing of this Catholic hospital. The cardinal offered his sincere thanks to the old board and all they had done."

The hospital's deputy chief executive, Claire Hornick, said in a press statement that there was no intention to issue further details about the resignations. It also aimed to allay fears about the future of the hospital: "Lord Guthrie, supported by Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, has stated that under his chairmanship there is no desire that the hospital be sold and that the committed plan remains to continue the objects of the charity, which, guided by its Catholic ethos, is to serve the local community."...

The GP practice, which has 9,000 patients, has scandalised staunch Catholics, who believe its activities undermine the religious ethos of the hospital....

The cardinal's primary objective has always been for St John & St Elizabeth to remain a Catholic hospital and several issues were jeopardising that aim, including GPs prescribing the morning-after pill and referring patients for abortions.

In 2005 he wrote to the then chairman, Lord Bridgman, and said: "There must be clarity that the hospital, being a Catholic hospital with a distinct vision of what is truly in the interests of human persons, cannot offer its patients, non-Catholic or Catholic, the whole range of services routinely accepted by many in modern secular society as being in a patient's best interest."

The Right Rev George Stack, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster, was appointed to the hospital's ethics committee to ensure Catholic teaching was upheld in the new code. Its introduction, however, led to a boardroom revolt in December, with two directors resigning in protest, arguing that the cardinal placed Catholic values above patient care. Bridgman stepped down a week later.
About time!

Then, there's this wonderfully ironic quotation from Pope Benedict:
"Even with all his humility, Augustine was certainly aware of his intellectual stature. But for him, even more important than great highbrow works of theology was bringing the Christian message to the simple. This deepest intention of his, that guided all his life, emerges from one letter written to his colleague Evodius, where he shares his decision to suspend for the moment the dictation of the books of De Trinitate, 'because they're too exhausting and I think they will be understood by few; even more urgent are texts that, we hope, will be useful to many' (Epistulae 169: 1, 1). So it was more useful for him to communicate the faith in a way understandable to all than than write great theological works."
One need hardly mention how Joseph Ratzinger's plans for a scholarly retirement to Germany were so rudely interrupted.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pope to Jesuits

The Pope met the members of the General Congregation of the Jesuits this morning. I look forward to reading the English translation of this fairly strong address:
So e capisco bene che questo è un punto particolarmente sensibile e impegnativo per voi e per diversi dei vostri confratelli, soprattutto quelli impegnati nella ricerca teologica, nel dialogo interreligioso e nel dialogo con le culture contemporanee. Proprio per questo vi ho invitato e vi invito anche oggi a riflettere per ritrovare il senso più pieno di quel vostro caratteristico "quarto voto" di obbedienza al Successore di Pietro, che non comporta solo la prontezza ad essere inviati in missione in terre lontane, ma anche – nel più genuino spirito ignaziano del "sentire con la Chiesa e nella Chiesa" – ad "amare e servire" il Vicario di Cristo in terra con quella devozione "effettiva ed affettiva" che deve fare di voi dei suoi preziosi e insostituibili collaboratori nel suo servizio per la Chiesa universale.

I know and I understand well that this [the call to defend Catholic doctrine in difficult areas] is a particularly sensitive and demanding point for you and for some of your confreres, above all those charged with theological research, interreligious dialogue and dialogue with contemporary culture. Precisely because of this I have invited and again I invite you today to reflection in order to rediscover the fullest sense of your characteristic "fourth vow" of obedience to the Successor of Peter, which does not only involve readiness to be sent on mission to far-off lands, but also in the most genuine Ignatian sense of "thinking with the Church and within the Church", to "love and serve" the Vicar of Christ on earth and with that "effective and affective" devotion which should make you his most precious and irreplaceable collaborators in his service for the universal Church.
It should be noted that I've heard some minimalistic readings of the 'Fourth Vow' in suggesting that it merely meant that one should be obedient to the Pope in terms of where one was sent on mission. Pope Benedict, and the true Ignatian tradition, takes it more seriously than that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Theodore of Mopsuestia (4th Century) on the Duties of Deacons

When they bring out the Eucharistic bread they place it on the holy altar, for the complete representation of the passion, so that we may think of him on the altar, as if he were placed in the sepulchre, after having received his passion. This is the reason why those deacons who spread linens on the altar represent the figure of the linen clothes of the burial of our Lord. Sometime after these have been spread, they stand up on both sides, and agitate all the air above the holy body with fans, thus keeping it from any defiling object. They make manifest by this ritual the greatness of the body which is lying there, as it is the habit, when the dead body of high personages of this world is carried on a bier, that some men should fan the air above that. It is, therefore, with justice the same thing is done here with the body which lies on the altar, and which is holy, awe-inspiring and removed from all corruption; body which will very shortly rise to an immortal nature.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Station at Santa Balbina

Today's Lenten Station is the much-overlooked church of S.Balbina on the Aventine. There are some lovely remains of frescoes on the left wall of the church.

St Peter being crucified - to avoid the inevitable question, I'd better point out that he's said to have been crucified upside-down.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Restaurant in Siena

Folks, another bleg.

Siena is one of my favourite cities, but I'm usually unlucky in terms of picking restaurants when I visit there. I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations for a restaurant within the historic centre of Siena. Something reasonably priced and not too tourist that I could take a small group to (less than ten) for a decent lunch. Any suggestions?

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Folks, my memory ain't what it used to be. Today's 1st reading about Abraham reminded me that I'd read something somewhere about Luther's objection to the prayer of the Mass concerning the sacrifice of Abraham our father in faith. I'm 80% sure that it was in one of De Lubac's works, but I've flicked through my copies of The Splendor of the Church, and Catholicism but haven't found it. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
I'm usually pretty happy with Ignatius Press books, but this isn't the first time I've been inclined to curse them for not putting an index at the back of De Lubac's works.

Edited to add:

Aha! It wasn't De Lubac at all. Idly opening Ratzinger's Truth and Tolerance I found the following book-marked with a used metro ticket:

In the Roman Canon, in the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Missal as reformed by Pope Paul VI, the request is made to God that, with a gracious and tranquil countenance, he be pleased to look upon the offerings of the Church, as once he did upon the offering of his just servant Abel, upon the sacrifice of our Patriarch Abraham, and upon the holy sacrifice, a spotless victim, offered by the high priest Melchizedek. This petition called forth Luther's anger and was also strongly criticised in the circles of the Liturgical Movement as a misunderstanding of Christian worship, as the "regression" into Old Testament, pre-Christian attitudes. The early Church whose faith and prayer is expressed in this text, thought otherwise. For the early Church there was no clear break between the prayer of the nations, the prayer of Israel, and the prayer of the Church. Of course, the "novelty" of Christian worship and practice was a fundamental category of the Christian faith: the Lord has brought to pass something new, the new thing itself; but this new thing had been prepared for, and history, for all its confusion and errors, had been leading up to it. It was, of course, a matter of distinguishing between what led up to Christ and what was opposed to him. It was a matter of subjecting all this to a process of purification and renewal, but this would in fact mean, not destroying things and making an absolute break, but initiating renewal and healing. Faith makes its appearance in the history of religions as a crisis and the judgement, but not as a total condemnation of them.
The prayer "Supra quae", from which the quotations above are taken, is thus an introduction to the discernment of spirits, the interpretation, both critical and positive, of pre-Christian ways of worship. The choice of these figures is in many respects significant; Abel is the first martyr - someone who has not killed but let himself be killed and thus himself became a "lamb", anticipating the fate of Christ, the true Paschal Lamb. Abraham is ready to sacrifice Isaac his only son, and thus to give up his future, the meaning of the promise; the lamb, the ram, takes the place of the son - the light of Christ casts its rays ahead in multiple refractions. Melchizedek, the King of Salem, is priest of El Elyon - of "the most high God"; he offers bread and wine. This mysterious figure repeatedly drew the attention both the early Judaism and of the growing Church; the Letter to the Hebrews sees him as representing the priesthood of Jesus Christ as against the Aaronic priesthood.
Abraham is the forefather of Israel - our father, the Canon therefore says of him, drawing on Pauline theology. To become a Christian means entering into the history of faith that began with Abraham and, thus, accepting him as father. The sacrifice of Abraham referred to by the Roman Canon epitomises the transition from the "heathen" cult to the purified cult of Israel and, with the sacrifice of the lamb (which links Abraham with Abel), indicates the move towards the Christian cult, at the centre of which stands the Lamb who was sacrificed (Rev 5:6) - Christ, who gave himself to God on the night of suffering and to in his love reconciles us and draws us up to God. In that sense, the whole of the history of religion is referred to in this text, first leading up to Abraham (Israel) and, thereby, to Christ, and interpreted from his standpoint - from that of him who also offers us the standard by which to make the requisite distinctions, who is indeed himself that standard. (pp 95-98)
By the by, that part of the Roman Canon is, in my opinion, perhaps the most evocative and striking of the whole prayer, if one will concede the legitimacy of passing such judgements in these matters.

At S.Maria Maggiore

During the week, I blogged about the tomb of Bartolomeo Sacchi, also known as Platina and asked for help in translating the Greek inscription. Anyway, I've taken another picture of the Greek (click to enlarge) which should help any friendly 'Grecian' (thanks Petellius!) to translate it.

I also thought I'd share with you this marble relief (Lirioni, c.1730) which is on one's left as one enters the Basilica.
It commemorates the attempted assassination of Pope Marinus I (882-884) during Mass. However, as soon as the assassin crossed the threshold of the church he was stricken blind and rendered incapable of fulfilling his task.

Japanese 'Christian-style' Weddings

Via the Telegraph, this interesting story about how Japanese couples are adopting Christian-style weddings as part of 'Western culture':
As with any Westerner working in Japan, it helps to be smart and presentable and to have a grasp of the local language.
But for Kevin Charles, a suave and friendly American living in Tokyo, being "just the man for the job" has involved exactly that. The 32-year-old's regular job is as a translator - but every weekend, he also becomes best man to Japanese bridegrooms.
Mr Charles, from Missouri, is part of a bizarre and growing craze among Japanese couples for Western-style wedding ceremonies, widely seen as a fun alternative to their staid, traditional Shinto counterparts.
In the name of authenticity, foreigners stand in as fake reverends and best men, and while the vows over which they officiate are legally worthless, it is providing a lucrative source of income for growing numbers of Westerners.
"I am basically a surrogate best man, and am at the groom's side during the ceremony to make sure it all goes smoothly," said Mr Charles, who has now stood in at more than 350 weddings.
"Working at a wedding is good money. It's common to receive about 10,000 yen (£48) for a single wedding which takes an hour. If you do six a day, you earn double what you'd expect from teaching English."
Such weddings recreate every ritual of the Western ceremony in detail. The bride typically walks down a petal-strewn aisle, accompanied by a singing choir and smiling "priest" clutching a Bible, while the groom often sweats, fluffs his lines and loses the ring. In fact, the only traditions Mr Charles doesn't take part in are the drunken stag-do and the post-wedding dalliance with a bridesmaid.
"People embrace these weddings because they are very romantic and match images from Hollywood movies," he said.
Figures show that numbers of young Japanese couples are shunning Shinto ceremonies, which normally involve only family members and are sealed with sips from a sake cup rather than a romantic kiss.
More than 70 per cent of the 750,000 weddings performed in Japan last year were "Christian-style", despite the fact that only one per cent of the population is Christian.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Decisive Self-Induced Austrian Defeat

Via Wikipedia a random tale of military disaster:
The Battle of Karánsebes was an early episode Austro-Turkish War of 1787-1791. Different portions of an Austrian army which was scouting for forces of the Ottoman Empire fired on each other by mistake, in a self-inflicted disaster. The battle took place on the evening of 17 September 1788.
The army of Austria, approximately 100,000 strong, was setting up camp around the town of Karánsebes (now Caransebeş, in modern Romania). The army's vanguard, a contingent of hussars, crossed the Timiş River nearby to scout for the presence of the Ottoman Turks. There was no sign of the Ottoman army, but the hussars did run into a group of Gypsies, who offered to sell schnapps to the war-weary soldiers. The cavalrymen bought the schnapps and started to drink.
Soon afterwards, some infantry crossed the river. When they saw the party going on, the infantry demanded alcohol for themselves. The hussars refused to give them any of the schnapps, and while still drunk, they set up makeshift fortifications around the barrels. A heated argument ensued, and one soldier fired a shot.
Immediately, the hussars and infantry engaged in combat with one another. During the conflict, some infantry began shouting "Turcii! Turcii!" (Romanian for "The Turks! The Turks!"). The hussars fled the scene, thinking that the Ottoman army’s attack was imminent. Most of the infantry also ran away; the army comprised Italians from Lombardy, Slavs from the Balkans, and Austrians, plus other minorities, many of whom could not understand each other. While it is not clear which one of these groups did so, they gave the false warning without telling the others, who promptly fled. The situation was made worse when officers, in an attempt to restore order, shouted "Halt! Halt!" which was misheard by soldiers with no knowledge of German as "Allah! Allah!".
As the cavalry ran through the camps, a corps commander reasoned that it was a cavalry charge by the Ottoman army, and ordered artillery fire. Meanwhile, the entire camp awoke to the sound of battle and, rather than waiting to see what the situation was, everyone fled. The troops fired at every shadow, thinking the Ottomans were everywhere; in reality they were shooting fellow Austrian soldiers. The incident escalated to the point where the whole army retreated from the imaginary enemy, and Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II was pushed off his horse into a small creek.
Two days later, the Ottoman army arrived. They discovered no fewer than 10,000 killed and wounded soldiers.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Via Amy Welborn

Amy's just posted and there are two items that caught my attention.
Firstly, she links to this excellent article by Edmund Oakes SJ on Newman and Conversion.

Secondly, she links to a San Diego organisation that provides "dignified burial for abandoned and unidentified children." It's non-denominational, but the Knights of Columbus play a big part in what they do. It's heart-breaking to think that this service is still needed. It reminds me of the fact that the early Christians would either care for or bury children abandoned by families according to the customs of ancient Rome. Ironically, this led to the charge of infanticide being made against Christians.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Astonishing words from Scalia

Biretta-doff to Jeffrey Smith for this one. I usually stay out of the American political debates on torture and so on, but this report of what Judge Scalia (a man I had been inclined to respect) had to say in a recent interview astonished me.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that aggressive interrogation could be appropriate to learn where a bomb was hidden shortly before it was set to explode or to discover the plans or whereabouts of a terrorist group.
"It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn't, I don't know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that," Scalia told British Broadcasting Radio Corp.
Stick something under the fingernail? Could you imagine the outrage if it were suggested that such activities were justifiable if used against American troops? But let's read on...
U.S. interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, have been the subject of growing debate in the United States, and could play a role in the military trials of six men charged in connection with the Sept. 11, attacks. The issue also could find its way to the Supreme Court.
Scalia, visiting London during a break in the court's calendar, referred generally to those methods as "so-called torture," and said practices prohibited by the Constitution in the context of the criminal justice system — including indefinite detention — are readily allowed in other situations, such as when a witness refuses to answer a question in court.
"I suppose it's the same thing about so-called torture," he said in the interview. "Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to find out where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited by the Constitution?
"Is it obvious, that what can't be done for punishment can't be done to exact information that is crucial to the society? I think it's not at all an easy question, to tell you the truth."
I can't believe that a man who should have an understanding of natural justice made that argument. He's basically saying that people outside the criminal justice system, who have neither been convicted nor charged with a crime are entitled to less protection from the law than those found guilty of a crime in a court of law? Yes, I know we're dealing with terrorists or suspected terrorists here, but there are still basic questions of principle here at issue: what prerogatives does the state have in its use of physical force and how are the natural rights of man to be respected? Scalia seems to be opening a Pandora's box here in suggesting that the State has powers of physical coercion which go beyond the regular 'law and order'/'criminal justice' areas and which do not seem consonant with the rules of law. This is worrying, especially as he's not just talking about detention, but is suggesting that it's okay to treat certain prisoners in a way which would be unconstitutional/'cruel and unusual' if these same prisoners were actually convicted of a crime. Hard cases make bad law, and these tough hypotheticals seem to be opening very dangerous ground in terms of excluding certain people from the most basic protections of the law in circumstances which seem ill-defined and open to grave abuse... abuse which would be without legal recourse as Scalia seems to be pushing the whole issue outside the regular system of legal justice.
Yes, I know we're talking about some very bad people who are deserving of contempt and stiff punishment, but justice and freedom can only be defended by sticking to the principles of justice and freedom:
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake! (From A Man for All Seasons)

He made some interesting comments on other issues as well:
Scalia, a judicial icon among American conservatives, an acerbic wit and often abrasive personality, said Europeans had no business "smugly" decrying those techniques as torture. Earlier in the interview he also faced down criticism of the U.S. death penalty.
"Europeans get really quite self-righteous, you know, (saying) 'no civilized society uses it.' They used it themselves — 30 years ago," he said, adding that a majority of Europeans probably supported capital punishment anyway.
Scalia said that neither he nor any of the eight other Supreme Court justices who collectively make up the United States' highest court should be seen as setting the moral tone for the international community.
"I don't look to their law, why do they look to mine?" he said.
Hmmmm... He does raise an interesting question... to what extent should we be concerned with the exercise of justice and questions of human rights in other countries? I don't think he should be so touchy about European (sic - it's always risky to generalise about Europe... it's quite a hetrogenous continent, you know...) criticisms of the US Supreme Court. He's not under any obligation to listen to them, of course, but is it really so strange to imagine that countries might actually (*cough*) learn from each other by seeing and comparing how justice is done in the great democracies of the Western world?
(By the by... I doubt that the more hysterical and shrill critics of American justice on this side of the Atlantic would ever force themselves to think of the US Supreme Court as 'setting the moral tone for the international community'!)

I don't have time to moderate a debate on torture. Life is too busy, so there will be no comments box for this post.

What a bishop is supposed to do...

Kudos to this Italian (Sicilian) bishop for taking a stand. He's putting more than a cosy relationship with certain politicians or his personal comfort on the line:
An Italian bishop has been given an armed escort for the first time in more than 20 years after he defied the Mafia by refusing to celebrate the funeral mass of a Godfather.
Bishop Michele Pennisi, 62, stood his ground against the Cosa Nostra and said that he would not allow the funeral of one of its bosses, Daniele Emmanuello, 43, to take place in his church in Sicily.
Within days of making the ruling he was the target of a poison pen campaign and posters and flyers of him appeared overnight containing threats against him.
Emmanuello, 43, was the Godfather of his family and had been on the run for more than ten years before he was tracked down by police to an isolated country farmhouse at Villarosa near Enna two months ago.
In the shoot-out with police he was gunned down and as he lay dying officers pulled from his throat pizzini, or little notes, that he had used to pass on orders to members of his crime family.
Bishop Pennisi said: "The Lord will protect us and free us from the Mafia and from the pizzo [protection money payments].
"I have been the target of threats and insinuations from the beginning, and I did not wish to respond to and give further ammunition to these people.
"However the police have told me not to underestimate these people and as such I have been assigned protection - I understand the last religious figure to do so was the Bishop of Palermo in 1984.
"The flyers said that I was a servant of the State because I had refused to allow Emmanuello's funeral to take place in my church.
"I believe this was the right decision - my mission is against the Mafia and I have always believed that between the Mafia and Christian values there is no compatibility.
"It is the Christian duty of everyone to fight crime and make these so called men of honour become new people.
"I assured the Emmanuello family of my spiritual help but that I was not going to allow the funeral to take place in the church.''

Do not disturb...

As today is the Station at S.Maria Maggiore, I thought I'd share with you one of my favourite little-known Roman funerary monuments. The above simple monument is that of the family of Bartolomeo Sacchi, also known as Platina, the humanist, Papal historian and Vatican librarian. It's tucked away in a little alcove to the left of the high altar.
The interesting bit is the second Latin inscription:
Quisquis es, si pius, Platynam et suos ne vexes, anguste jacent, et soli volunt esse.
which roughly translates as Whoever you might be, if you are an upright man you will not disturb Platina and his family who lie tightly-packed and wish to remain alone.
Click on the photo for an enlargement. I'd be fascinated to learn what the Greek text underneath says.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dominican Hostess-General

I was up at Santa Sabina today, and snapped a pic of a tombstone I've been meaning to photograph for ages. It's described on the Church Ladies' 'blog the floor between the fourth and fifth pillars, there is memorial of particular interest especially to Dominican Tertiaries. It covers the tomb of Stephania dell'Isola, a Tertiary who, because of her on failing and generous hospitality to any of the Brethren that passed her way, was given the unique title of "Hostess General of the Order of Preachers", as may be read in the inscription. She had lived about 6 miles north of Rome and when she died in 1313 was brought to Santa Sabina for burial. She is depicted wearing the cloak and mantle of the Tertiary and holding the book of the Tertiary Rule in her hands.

[ A Short Guide to Santa Sabina, Fr Hilary J Carpenter OP]
Click the photo for an enlargement and to inspect the Latin text.

Near the church is a door with a suitable reflection for Lent:

All things are passing...

Rowan Williams for Dummies

David Aaronovich gives the Dummies' Version of Rowan Williams's speech:
I was pedantic enough - unlike some of his most enthusiastic assassins - to read the bloody speech.
Here is my summary so you don't have to: there are lots of religious people in Britain who look to religious precepts in their solving of domestic and contractual problems, and in directing their behaviour. This is “unavoidable”. Some of these solutions are recognised in English and Scottish law, and some of them aren't. Where they aren't, we run the danger that people will both feel and be marginalised.
Not only that, but with a non-hierarchical religion, such as Islam, we risk this marginalised legal process being controlled at a local level by “primitivists” and not by wise authorities: a bit like, say, the bishops of the Church of England. If we handle this right, we could have sensible Sharia courts with legal standing, and if we handle it wrong we could have a lot of bongo-brains exercising real power, but outside the law. And we won't like that.
That's his argument. And the Archbishop was quite aware of some of the objections. Supplementary courts could not, he argued, be used to undermine human rights.
So we would have a Britain-friendly supplementary Sharia and a “market element” in law for those who freely chose it - and who, sensibly, could object to that? Neither Dr Williams nor his argument deserved the beating-up they received. And if his contribution was “unhelpful”, it was largely rendered so by the reaction to it. Obscurity rarely in itself incites hatred. But he was obscure, because it is only with great difficulty and by seeking for evidence that we can work out where his direction of travel might take us.
Interesting... still objectionable for various reasons, but the scale of the hysteria rendered an intelligent dissection of Rowan Williams's ideas impossible.
I can't say I agree with Aaronovich's response to the speech, but his summary is, I think, quite useful and accurate.

Friday, February 08, 2008

RIP Fra' Bertie

I was wondering why the Order of Malta were flying their flag at half-mast this morning. Their Grandmaster Fra Bertie passed away yesterday. May he rest in peace.

Interesting Debate

There's an interesting debate happening over at Fr Philip's blog: Is it appropriate to wash off one's ashes after Mass?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Two Blogs worth a Look...

The provocative Jeffrey Smith has two interesting project-blogs on the go at the moment. Ever Ancient, Ever New takes a look at what's good about 20th Century Church design. I can't say I agree with each and every one of the chosen churches, but there are some wonderful examples. This more upbeat appreciation is much needed.
Less seriously, Rampant Clericalism is a collection of clerical portraits.

Get her out of Canada!

The Seraphic Single has been promoting her new book which she is selling in order to fund her (temporary?) escape from Canada. She gives a taster of her work here by posting the first chapter of her novella. Enjoy!

(As you'll tell from the first chapter The Tragical Tale of Aelianus of England is a sombre and realistic account of the plight of the single woman. This book does for Canadian Catholicism what Bonfire of the Vanities did for Wall Street and the Upper East Side. Hmmm... I should get a job writing blurbs...)

Philosopher Murdered!

Via the Telegraph:
After 500 years, one of Renaissance Italy's most enduring murder mysteries has been solved by forensic scientists.
Ever since Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, a mystical and mercurial philosopher at the court of Lorenzo de' Medici, suddenly became sick and died in 1494, it has been rumoured that foul play was involved.
He gained notoriety when, at the age of 23, he offered to defend 900 of his opinions on philosophy and religion against all-comers.
His subsequent tract, The Oration on the Dignity of Man, has been called the "manifesto of the Renaissance".
However, he died aged 31 - two years after Lorenzo - together with a man who might have been his lover, Antonio Ambrosini, who was also known as Poliziano.
Last July, a team of scientists from the universities of Bologna, Pisa and Lecce exhumed the two corpses and subjected them to a battery of tests.
The scientists used biomolecular technology and scanning equipment as well as DNA analysis to find a cause.
Yesterday they concluded that both men had been poisoned with arsenic, after finding a toxic quantity in their bones.
There's a surprising footnote:
However, Pico's close friendship with Girolamo Savonarola, the fanatical Dominican friar, appears to have earned him the enmity of Lorenzo's son, Piero de' Medici.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Cardinal Merry del Val

One of the joys of Ash Wednesday is re-opening the Lenten volume of the breviary and re-discovering holy cards that one had forgotten about. I don't even recall where and when I found the above, but it was issued by the cause for the beatification of Cardinal Merry del Val (his full name being: Rafael María José Pedro Francisco Borja Domingo Gerardo de la Santísma Trinidad Merry del Val y Zulueta ) but since it has the Litany of Humility inside, it was a nice rediscovery.

Lenten Stations

Those of you with older missals or liturgical calendars will note that the days of Lent are marked as Stations at particular Roman churches. In earlier times, the Pope would have celebrated Mass at a different Roman church each day of Lent. The custom was partially revived by Bl. John XXIII who re-instated the annual Ash Wednesday Papal Mass at Santa Sabina on the Aventine. Pope Benedict will be there this afternoon, processing from the nearby Benedictine Abbey of S.Anselmo to S.Sabina.
The rest of the Lenten stations are marked by a solemn Mass (usually in Italian) at each station church during the weekdays of Lent at 5pm. In addition to these 'official' station Masses, for a number of years the North American College has been organising morning station Masses at each of the churches. They began at 6.45am at Santa Sabina this morning, and will continue for the rest of Lent at 7am each morning. The NAC has a very handy list of the churches here.
Incidentally, I didn't realise that the cross on the forehead was not the universal custom on Ash Wedneday. The Italians and much of Europe have the ashes sprinkled atop their head - if you watch the Papal Mass on TV today, you'll see this being done.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


In honour of Carnavale, I've decided to post something a little weird: The World Beard & Moustache Championships 2007 Winners. [Biretta-doff: Jawbone Radio]

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Pastoral Innovations - Not to be Imitated

Strange news from Germany. I'm not sure if this priest is Catholic or not:
Desperately wanting to see his flock increased by at least three-fold, a German priest has started offering money to his parishioners in exchange for attending mass.

Instead of passing out collection trays during church services, Father Burkhard Westphal doles out five-euro notes in envelopes to everyone who attends Sunday mass at his church in Collinghorst, Germany.

Westphal said that with his innovative idea, the number of churchgoers has increased from about 60, to 189.

"The aim is to provoke and raise interest in the Church. I wanted to bring as many people as possible to talk about the Bible," the priest said.

"Anyway, people are returning the money by dropping them during collection," he adds. "(It only means) God's message of giving seems to have got through to most."

Christian Civilisation continues to Erode...

Via the UK's Daily Telegraph:
Husbands with multiple wives have been given the go-ahead to claim extra welfare benefits following a year-long Government review, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
Even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, the decision by ministers means that polygamous marriages can now be recognised formally by the state, so long as the weddings took place in countries where the arrangement is legal.
The outcome will chiefly benefit Muslim men with more than one wife, as is permitted under Islamic law. Ministers estimate that up to a thousand polygamous partnerships exist in Britain, although they admit there is no exact record.
The decision has been condemned by the Tories, who accused the Government of offering preferential treatment to a particular group, and of setting a precedent that would lead to demands for further changes in British law.
Four departments - the Treasury, the DWP, HM Revenue and Customs, and the Home Office - were involved in the review, which concluded that recognising multiple marriages conducted overseas was "the best possible" option. In Britain, bigamy is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Islamic law permits men to have up to four wives at any one time - known as a harem - provided the husband spends equal amounts of time and money on each of them.
A DWP spokesman claimed that the number of people in polygamous marriages entering Britain had fallen since the 1988 Immigration Act, which "generally prevents a man from bringing a second or subsequent wife with him to this country if another woman is already living as his wife in the UK".
While a married man cannot obtain a spouse visa to bring a second wife into Britain, some multiple partners may be able to enter the country via other legal routes such as tourist visas, student visas or work permits.
In addition, officials have identified a potential loophole by which a man can divorce his wife under British law while continuing to live with her as his spouse under Islamic law, and obtain a spouse visa for a foreign woman who he can legally marry.

Book Meme

La Serafica tagged me:
The 123 Rules:
1. Pick up the book nearest you with at least 123 pages. (No cheating!)
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Count the first five sentences.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five other bloggers.

Okay... Like Seraphic, the book nearest me is in foreign... Giovanni XXIII - La carezza del Papa a pocket-sized anthology of quotations from Bl John XXIII compiled by Savierio Gaeta.
Il segno più evidente che la volontà è decisa consiste nel deside­rio di ascoltare sempre la voce di Gesù che parla coi suoi esempi, colle sue lezioni, colle sue grazie, colle regole della nostra vita ec­clesiastica e religiosa, e poi col desiderio di segnalarsi in questo ser­vizio con grandi cose; ma nel senso della unione con Gesù povero, sofferente, disprezzato. Tutto ciò che non è volontà di Dio è fantasia, è capriccio, è natura. Biso­gna volerla e cercarla in tutto, perciò combattere, pregare e atten­dere.
Rough translation:
The most evident sign that the will is decided consists in the desire to always listen to the voice of Jesus who speaks with his examples, his lessons, his graces, with the rules of our ecclesiastical and religious life, and then with the desire to distinguish oneself in this service with great things; but in the sense of union with the poor, suffering and despised Jesus. Everything that is not the will of God is fantasy, whim, nature. One needs to desire and seek it in everything, and therefore to fight, to pray, to wait.

I don't like tagging people, so I'll pass on that.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Islamic extremism continues to win hearts and minds

Via the Telegraph:
The Bishop of Rochester has been forced to take added security measures after he received death threats for suggesting that parts of Britain had become "no-go" areas for non-Muslims.
Threatening phone calls were made to the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali after he wrote that non-Muslims faced physical attack if they entered some Muslim-dominated enclaves.
He has taken police advice on his security after he and his family received death threats but is said to be "continuing as normal".
Bishop Nazir-Ali said in a statement on his website last night that he did not intend to offend Muslims, but to demonstrate that the policy of multi-culturalism had not worked.
The irony...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Love onions? Too macho to cry?

Scientists have the answer:
A tear-free onion that should be tastier and healthier has been created by using genetic tinkering to turn off the enzyme that makes us cry.
The onions, which can be chopped without painful, stingy, weeping eyes, have been tested in the laboratory by New Zealand Crop & Food Research scientist Dr Colin Eady, with his collaborators in Japan.
"If the research progresses well, would like to see them become the household and industry norm within the next decade," says Dr Eady.
The research team has been unable to induce tearing by crushing their model tearless onions, which emerged from a discovery by Japanese scientists of the gene behind the tears. "When you slice the vegetable, it doesn't produce tears."
The key is not to introduce a foreign gene but to silence one using a phenomenon called RNA interference. By stopping sulphur compounds from being converted to the tearing agent and redirecting them into compounds responsible for flavour and health, the process could even improve the onion.

More Young Italians Live at Home

This report from ANSA deals with one of the peculiarities of Italian contemporary society:
(ANSA) - Rome, January 31 - An increasing number of young adult Italians remain with their families because of low wages offered for entry level jobs, according to a new report.
The socio-economic think-tank Isae said that the number of young adults staying home had climbed by 6% in 13 years and today about 75% still lived with their parents.
According to Isae, 68.4% of young adults lived with their parents in 1991 while in 2004 this percentage rose to 74.1%.
In 1991, the think-tank pointed out, first job salaries were 83% of the average national salary, while in 2004 they were only 74%. Last October Economy Minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa sparked polemics when he referred to the young adult Italians living at home as ''big babies''.
''Let's get these big babies out of the home,'' the minister told a parliamentary committee in regard to a budget measure to set aside funds to help young adults pay the rent on a place of their own.
''We need to encourage young people to leave home. If they don't, they just stay with their parents, they don't get married and they don't become independent,'' he said.
Bank of Italy Governor Mario Draghi recently has spoke on the need to improve prospects for young people in regards to both salaries and job security.
''If they expect to have a salary which is lower than in the past and have to battle continually with job insecurity, they will lower their spending permanently,'' he said.
Low salaries and precarious working conditions also prevent young people from leading independent ''adult lives'', Draghi added.
The economic reality of why young adults stay at home is in contrast with the stereotype of young Italians living at home for the comfort and security.
This stereotype was the basis of a successful 2001 French film, Tanguy, about a 28-year-old college graduate who fights his parent's efforts, even in court, to get him out of the family nest.
The film was inspired by a real Italian court case won by a son whose parents tried to force him out of their home.
In Italian marriage vows couples promise to maintain their children until they fulfill their aspirations. This concept is recognised by the country's constitution which does not set a time limit on this obligation.
It's a live issue whether this trend is a cultural or an economic one. One of the interesting canonical implications is the extent to which the traditional Italian mother-son relationship, combined with economic forces keeping young Italian men living with their parents is actually decreasing the capacity of Italian men to consent properly to marriage.

Matters Theological

Quite a succinct way of expressing what I find most off-putting about von Balthasar:
"De Lubac was, in the end, at once more strictly orthodox and more radically humanistic. For as will later be argued, where von Balthasar celebrated in the end the spectacle of a divine gnostic drama, de Lubac, like Berulle (and like Bulgakov), pointed towards the serene eternity of the God-Man." - John Milbank, The Suspended Middle, 14

St Thomas on Whether, if man had not sinned, God would have become incarnate?
I answer that, There are different opinions about this question. For some say that even if man had not sinned, the Son of Man would have become incarnate. Others assert the contrary, and seemingly our assent ought rather to be given to this opinion.
For such things as spring from God's will, and beyond the creature's due, can be made known to us only through being revealed in the Sacred Scripture, in which the Divine Will is made known to us. Hence, since everywhere in the Sacred Scripture the sin of the first man is assigned as the reason of Incarnation, it is more in accordance with this to say that the work of Incarnation was ordained by God as a remedy for sin; so that, had sin not existed, Incarnation would not have been. And yet the power of God is not limited to this; even had sin not existed, God could have become incarnate.
Setting aside the question of whether this is the Angelic Doctor's complete and final answer on this thorny question, I think that it's worth noting what I take to be the central insight of his answer: we first and foremost know Christ as Saviour and Redeemer. We need to beware of any latent anthropological optimism in our theology which neglects this. We may also affirm him as the 'perfect man', the fulfilment of the project began in Adam and as the Word through whom the World was made... but in the order of knowing, these come after and are primarily derived from our recognition of Christ as Saviour.