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Sep. 1st, 2012

(no subject)

I think I'll start posting here again. Just a fair warning.

Apr. 22nd, 2011

Writer's Block: Earth Mk. II

If you could design your own planet, what would it look like and who would live there? Describe the colors, the creatures, and the culture.

Hmm. Let's see. On my world the dinosaurs would never have gone extinct. This solves a multitude of problems:

a) Living dinosaurs = no fossils = no fossil fuel = no expansive culture of energy leading to pollution, global warming, suburbanization, and uglification of the enivornment. Or, at the very least, if dinos were still alive, we could propagate their species as a renewable resource for our cars. A VERY long term resource, but a resource nonetheless.  

b) Counteracts the Malthusian nightmare by having the spitting dinos (Dilophosaurs?) keeping the Wayne Knight population of the world low (and trust me, we all know some Wayne Knights.)

c) Coexistence of men and dinosaurs reconciles Creationist and Evolutionist theories. Once man can clone Jesus, all shall be settled.

Economics would tend towards the Georgist. Instead of First and Third World countries, there would be Seventeenth and Eighteenth world Countries (if we need distinguish between them at all). Religon would tend towards the cultus type, something sacramental with a definite hierarchy (sound familiar?) while the immediate society would feature an abundance of institutions and guilds for the person to join. The theory of art would be somewhere between Savonarola and Theotocopulos (take it easy, people!) Green and brown would be the predominant colors, reflecting the abundance of organic culture. Workplaces would never be allowed to exceed six stories in height. Everyone would have to get a boating license as a necessity, and a driving license as a luxury. Politics would not be so banal as to assume the proper end of man is universal democracy. The more enlightened would be ruled by philosopher-kings and their aristocratic advisors. The less enlightened would have the guidance of primitive warlords who had won their posts by reading the complete works of Ernest Hemingway, owning a certain amount of stock in Old Milwaukee and Slim Jim, and having won the WWE Championship. In either case, there would be many more countries than there are now, and a great deal more differentiated.

Punishment would consist of being sent to the Neutral Zone, a place of the Earth where everything was the same color, the same odor and the same texture.  

And ducks would talk. Horses would have their own congress, as well.

Apr. 21st, 2011

The Bishop's Egg - Vatican II

File:True humility.png

And now for the continuation of my last post, wherein (as you might recall) I laid out the reasons for my reversion to the Church of my youth. To summarize, my main point being that the Catholic Church has been the one most equipped at retaining universality of sanctification and salvation, by which I mean, its appeal to the different subcultures of society, indeed, the world, has not been confined to any one group. I maintained that it has done this through Her one great characteristic: Tradition, the 'handing down' of the Gospel entrusted to Christ and His Apostles, wherein there is no innovation, only (as St. Vincent of Lerins put it) expansion of thought, without alteration [Commonitorium, XXIII].

Yet all of this brings up a topic which would certainly be brought up eventually - Vatican II and its subsequent changes. For those of you with immensely more important things to do with your life, perhaps a brief history might explain why this council is so important.  In 1868, Pope Pius IX called for an Ecumenical Council [that is, consisting of every bishop in the world] at the Vatican in order to address certain issues which were then facing the universal Church. One of the dogmas laid down was that of Papal Infallibility, which means that whenever the Bishop of Rome speaks on matters of faith and morals, and then only by using a certain formula of saying it (known as 'ex cathedra'), he can never err due to the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Unfortunately, the Council was prematurely suspended due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. Many issues were left unresolved. It would be nearly one hundred years before they would be addressed. And if history has taught us anything, it is that the sequel is never as good as the original.

Fast-forward to 1962. John XXIII had called for a new council to deliberate on how the Church was to approach the 'modern' world. Once again all the bishops of Christendom would be summoned to the Vatican Basilica to discuss the state of the Church, and once again, the French and the Germans would wreck havoc. This time, however, it wasn't the external pressures of a Bismarck, but the internal strivings of the Rhineland bishops which were the source (not to mention the French-speaking delegates).* Scrapping the rubrics prepared for the Council and rejecting the voting process originally set forth, the progressive bishops set forth a set of rubrics. These rubrics, adopting a more conciliar tone, seemed to be a drastic change from older statements of the Papacy and the Magisterium, such as the Syllabus of Errors (1864) and "Mediator Dei" (1947). Suddenly the Church which had stood against modernism, spiritual liberalism, and religious indifferentism under Pius X had made a volte-face. Some of the Council Fathers (including Archbp. Lefebvre, who helped draft the first set of rubrics) attempted to reconcile this conciliation by asking that the overtly simplified documents of the progessive's proposal be counter-balanced by sister documents which more thoroughly explained these documents in a more Thomistic approach. This proposal was rejected, and the new documents, ambiguous and potentially misleading as they were, were pushed through and finally approved. In the process of doing so, many of the concerns of the conservative Bishops were ignored, ridiculed, or even silenced. ** The rest, as they say, is history, and only someone with an extreme case of tunnel vision could say that the state of the Church afterwards was not in the very least affected by the decisions of this council.

This of course is a highly simplified history of the Second Vatican Council and has been told much better elsewhere (vide Ralph Wiltgen's The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber). The question remains: what are we to make of this council? Has it effectively changed the lex orandi and the lex credendi of Catholicism?  To be fair, there are arguments for both camps. Even those in the traditionalist camp will admit that most of the documents of this Council are orthodox, or at least could be interpreted so. The emphasis on Latin as the language of the Church and the pride of place Gregorian chant are two examples of orthodox teaching from the document Sacrosanctum Concilium. Yet the problem isn't where the council speaks clearly, but where it is less than straightforward. The distinction between civil and moral freedom of religion is blurred; the promotion of a Catholic state and the Social Kingship of Christ is muddied; the proactive conversion of the Jews, the status of protestant churches in relation to the Catholic Church, the extent to which the laity was to 'actively participate' and how much of the vernacular could be admitted to the Mass - these issues were never fully fleshed out in the Council, as opposed to past Councils, where the focus was always the clarification of doctrine and dogma, not its mystification and equivocation. (If one were to think of the Council Fathers of Nicea, looking into the future and seeing how many theories were being put forward for the correct definition of the phrase 'subsistit in' in Lumen Gentium,  would not a few be discouraged at their efforts of obtaining exactitude?) That the progressive bishops and peritii ('advisers') may have done this intentionally to reinterpret them according to their whim at a later date is not out of the question, even considering that one of the prominent members of the liberal side, Cardinal Suenens, compared the Council to the French Revolution of 1789.

So the Council was a Revolution that led to the Reign of Terror, a terror all the more awful because it led to spiritual death, rather than physical. Are we to blame it on the Robespierres of the Council, or on the Napoleon Bishops that followed it? By which I mean, was the council rotten from the start, or was it only due to the later faulty interpretation (the 'Spirit' of Vatican II) that we are beset with problems now? I will come down in the middle and say that the council is certainly not the most admirable council in the Church's history, yet it is a little more respectable than a Robber Council; shall we say a Capitalist's Council?

Of my own approach to this Council (and those of many of my fellow Catholics) I shall speak of at a future date. As it is Good Friday, I have run out of juice, and my Alexander Pope is calling to me, I shall lay down my electronic pen for now. Good night.

*Considering the track record of the German peoples in the years since the last council, starting with a Kulturkampf and ending with Mein Kampf, we can safely agree with Evelyn Waugh's assertion that "I think it a great cheek of the Germans to try to teach the rest of the world anything about religion." (A Bitter Trial) Our present Pope has in some great degree placated the actions of his countrymen; still it must be remembered that Benedict is Bavarian, and the staunchly Catholic Bavarians have never been gung-ho about being numbered with their Northern neighbors, by any stretch of the imagination.

** Few proponents of the 'collegiate' spirit of Vatican II are likely to mention the incident of Cardinal Ottavianni's microphone being turned off in mid-speech during one of his denunciations:

"On October 30, the day after his seventy-second birthday, Cardinal Ottaviani addressed the council to protest against the drastic changes which were being suggested in the Mass. "Are we seeking to stir up wonder, or perhaps scandal, among the Christian people, by introducing changes in so venerable a rite, that has been approved for so many centuries and is now so familiar? The rite of Holy Mass should not be treated as if it were a piece of cloth to be refashioned according to the whim of each generation." Speaking without a text, because of his partial blindness, he exceeded the ten-minute time limit which all had been requested to observe. Cardinal Tisserant, Dean of the Council Presidents, showed his watch to Cardinal Alfrink, who was presiding that morning. When Cardinal Ottaviani reached fifteen minutes, Cardinal Alfrink rang the warning bell. But the speaker was so engrossed in his topic that he did not notice the bell, or purposely ignored it. At a signal from Cardinal Alfrink, a technician switched off the microphone. After confirming the fact by tapping the instrument, Cardinal Ottaviani stumbled back to his seat in humiliation. The most powerful cardinal in the Roman Curia had been silenced, and the Council Fathers clapped with glee." (Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber, 28-29)

Mar. 20th, 2011

Writer's Block: You've got the look

How important is physical attraction in selecting a romantic partner?

Immensely important. When it comes to the opposite sex I'm an aesthetically shallow person. I'm a shallow person overall, but you already knew that. (However, my idea of beautiful is more classically conditioned, so there's really not a lot of what the Modern World considers 'beautiful' which catches my eye. Unless you look like Vivian Leigh, Madame de Pompadour, or Judith of Bethulia, you needn't fear my amorous advances.) Still, there is something to be said for the personal energy inherent in every female body - their 'soul', if you will. I've often considered what would happen if two girls were to swap brains (a la some Steve Martin movie) if they would still look the same and the answer is emphatically no. A person's self-esteem, their choice of attire, their general outlook on life - all of these affect how they look, and they don't depend on physical appearance. Rather vice versa. Just look at Mona Lisa and try and tell me she would still look as intruiging if you thought she had the personality of an ice princess, instead of the obvious tease she is. 

Mar. 19th, 2011

A Kind Of Important Post

Dear friends, it's about time I was completely honest with you. I've been less than forthcoming about a certain catastrophic change in my life. Some of you already know about it; others of you might have guessed the fact (or else hit very close to the mark) merely by the tone of some of my most recent comments either here or on the Book of Faces. I've been putting off this announcement because I have been unclear as to how to phrase it, in addition to which I was, to put it mildly and bluntly, scared to confess it at all, knowing how it would affect my friendships, my views on life, the general situation of where I am right now. But now, seeing that the second Lent since this event has finally come around, and recognizing that enough is enough, I've decided it is time to spill the proverbial beans.

I have turned Recusant. In other words, I have converted to the Roman Catholic Church. Reverted, rather. Most of you know I was baptized Catholic, but was raised a Methodist. Well, I've come to find out that baptismal regeneration's a doozy of a thing. Ever since I was of a mind to critically consider religious matters, I have always had the inclination towards the Catholic viewpoint, if not Catholicism itself. You see, I still hated the Baal which was set up in its place by my protestant forbearers. As Bishop Sheen (God bless his soul) one wrote, "there aren't five people alive in the world today who hate the Catholic Church for what She truly is."

So, why, Tim? What made you take the plunge (into the Tiber)? Of course, there are a hundred reasons at least behind my decision, as I am sure there are behind any major undertaking. Some of them are intensely personal, so I politely ask that you mind your own damn business (unless of course I feel led to tell you anyways); a lot of them are fairly common knowledge. All entailed a great deal of introspection and prayer. A paraphrase of the multitude of reasons could best be summed up under an entymological understanding of the words 'holy' and 'sacred', and what they mean.

Holiness is a concept many of us struggle with on a daily basis, that is, those who are bothered enough to struggle with it. A helpful consideration to make might be comparing it to holism, to a point. (I am Catholic, after all, not a Pantheist.) What I mean is that the sum of a system must be considered without having to divide it neatly up into little parts. In terms of religious ethics, this might be best expressed in understanding that none of the theological virtues can stand alone. Expanding the context even further, we could even say that the virtues in toto are dependent upon the contemplation and worship of the divine. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are not mutually exclusive practices. Some of these may come easier for us as believers, but we are not allowed to neglect any of them. To be holy good means to be wholly good.

Realizing this, I knew I had to look somewhere for that Church which provided completeness. A lot of churches will lay claim to it, but were there any that had the credentials for believing it? The Church of Rome certainly had a lot of evidence towards holism in this regard, in that it was fully represented in many social factors:

1. Age: Most churches have a peculiarity when it comes to age brackets. They tend to dominate at either end of the age curve - either very old or very young. Mainline (traditional protestant) tends to attract the older and Pretending-Not-To-Be-Mainline ('contemporary') attracts the younger. Most often, a church will have two types of these services, in order to attract both, but more often than not the two are not wont to intermingle. Roman Catholicism manages to attract both without altering her services. (On the objection of guitar masses, I will speak in a moment.) A charming story demonstrates this easy familiarity between age groups. As he was filming a production of 'Father Brown' set in France, Alec Guinness was approached by a young French boy, who conversed so intimately with the bewildered and French-illiterate actor that he was left speechless, and could only reply in nods and smiles. The boy's parents having located him, he left with a simple "bon soir, mon pere!" From that point on, the former Anglican Guinness began to reconsider his opinions about a church where a child could be right at home around a priest, let alone their elder. My general reception in the Catholic Church has not belied this experience.

2. Gender: Males are more fully represented in the Catholic Church. While there is always the necessity of promoting the feminine aspect of Creation as having received its determined form of the Heavenly Father, the unfortunate tendency of late has been to overemphasize the female at the expense of the male. Services focus on the emotional and the subjective side of worship ('feel-good'), without having the counteracting influence of the objective. In a lot of churches, this has led to the phenomenon that Cardinal Heenan referred to as "the boys and the men smoking outside the Church." The result has been so powerful that even the Roman churches have felt it to some extent; still, of all the churches facing the crisis nowadays, the Roman seems best equipped to fight it without compromise.

3. Education: Protestant circles mightn't let in on a dirty little secret of theirs: there is a caste system within most mainline denominations. While the division between the two is never exact, there are roughly two groups one can ascertain in any church - the Intellegensia and the Populists. The Populists are constituted of laymen and the general public. These are the 'simple folk', those ostensibly Osteen, who tend to be orthodox because heresy, or rather the process of working through it, is time-consuming, and Populists are nothing if not practical. On the other hand, there are the Intellegensia, those who had enough free time to go to seminary and lose their faith, only to reimagine it in terms much more abstract, since the abstract is infinitely more accessible and adaptible. They constitute the clergy and hierarchy. Their idol is Herr Bultmann, the German theologian who felt it perfectly acceptable to drop all of the old Biblical imagery (since it was wrapped up in out-dated Palestinian myth, anyhow) and redefine it for the modern day. Hence, though they more than likely have abandoned faith in a personal, gender-defined Deity who takes sides on certain issues, they will bestow the title on "God' on the vague, impersonal Zeitgeist which seems to be nothing more than the collective will of the people (with the optional addition of 'Nature' for those of a more ecological leaning).   

Needless to say these two groups don't usually have very nice things to say about the other. Having been raised up in the Populist camp from my youth, the Intellegensia (upon my decision to enter the ministry) took upon themselves my re-education from a 'believing' to a 'feeling' mindset. Their efforts failed, save in teaching me one thing: that as much as the fatuousness of the Populist mindset irritated me, the propositions which the Intellegensia submitted for my intellectual assent were outright insanity. When one is presented with the assertion that Jesus's body was devoured by dogs in the tomb and never rose from the dead, but that a mental, spritual resurrection could still be expected from the illusion that He did, one wonders why one would bother putting on one's Sunday Best for Sunday School Agnosticism.

Please don't get me wrong - I am not denying that there is a caste in society. There are inequalities in our world and anyone who tries to promote a vision of pure democracy is selling you something. However, one is faced with the fact that there are virtuous hierarchies and not-so-virtuous hierarchies in the world. At the heart of the virtuous hierarchies of this world is one thing: submission. As that great forgotten intellectual of the twentieth century Nicolas Gomez Davila so aptly expressed it, "The supreme aristocrat is not the feudal lord in his castle but the contemplative monk in his cell." Those who have the greatest estimation of their proper position in life are those who express the greatest humility and are therefore, the most suited to the prestige and leadership of their fellow men. 

And this is reflected in the relations of her different classes. In the Catholic Church there are the Populists and the Intellegensia, yet nowhere else, save in Her fold, is the relation between the two so cordial, nor the theology so interchangeable. This is because the hierarchy does not make it a point of rejecting (or at the very least, affirming in some back-handed way) the orthodoxy of her creed. The faith of the simple Breton peasant is the same as that of Dr. Pasteur. For them, science is not a negation of the truths of the Christianity, only lovingly extended commentary. They know that the teachings of Holy Scripture and Tradition are indeed, "hard sayings"; yet through love and obedience towards their Author, and following His example of bearing the hardest fact of all - the Cross - they come not only to know, but love, the fundamental truths of the Faith.

Thus far are the basic reasons for my reversion. I understand some of you will have comments on my joining an "imaginary Church" - that is, a Church which is the bastion of Tradition and Antiquity. I will have more to say in response to that in a further post, but as the matter lies now, I have carried on much too long and must return to work. 


Nov. 30th, 2010

(no subject)

We that have done and thought,
That have thought and done,
Must ramble, and thin out
Like milk spilt on a stone.

-- William Butler Yeats, 'Spilt Milk'

Nov. 15th, 2010

Writer's Block: Passing the time

What's your favorite thing to do on long car rides?

On my family's trip out to California, we had to take the bus for about six hours since the train broke down. I managed to entertain myself for the whole trip with a marker and a piece of cork.

Nowadays, either a nice book or a motion-induced nap is my activity of choice.

Nov. 14th, 2010

Writer's Block: In the jungle

Which animal would you choose to be for a day, and why?

A fox, of course!

Nov. 13th, 2010

Writer's Block: BFFs

If you were in solitary confinement for the rest of your life, and you discovered a cockroach in your room, would you kill it or make it your friend?

I'd train it to roll over and play dead.

Nov. 12th, 2010

Writer's Block: Holiday Style Trends

Faux fur, scarves, cardigans, paperbag skirts… what are your favorite holiday style trends this year?

I got a used London Fog jacket for $5 from Goodwill plus my old green plaid scarf. Being chilly never looked (or felt) so good. Although I could always use a good cardigan sweater; any suggestions on where to get one, especially around Lafayette?

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