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The CWR Blog
Commentary on matters big, small, light, heavy, ecclesial, secular, musical, and otherwise.

• A friend, whose alma mater is the University of Notre Dame, wrote me this morning: "Apparently, Pope Francis gave some crazy interview in which he implied that Catholics should not be 'obsessed' with ND football.  A sure sign the end of all things is nigh." He did not send a link to the original comment in Italian, so I cannot verify.

• It is rumored that the word of the month for September is "credibility". It's not clear how credible those rumors really are.

• In recent decades, there have been serious cuts to the funding of good, sharp satire. One reason is that it's difficult to satirize a culture that would make most forays into the satirical arts look like a pale imitation of the madness that holds sway. A recent example is the case of a former British soldier who is now, well, something else altogether:

A former trained soldier has swapped her Territorial Army beret for a veil and become Britain's first transgender Muslim woman. Lucy Vallender used to be called Laurens and says she is finally 'true to herself' after a sex change three years ago. The 28-year-old is now married to a Muslim man she met on an online dating site, but he did not know she was once a man when they wed.

 No, of course he didn't. Because that would likely exhibit some sort of "gender bias", right? Except I doubt that was part of the equation. But if this story were an equation, we'd have to use the "≠" sign as nothing adds up.

• Speaking of changes, the former Crystal Cathedral is undergoing many substantial changes:

The Crystal Cathedral was to [Robert] Schuller what Graceland was to Elvis. Now it has been bought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which has long coveted having a cathedral that sat at the center of its vast footprint of 1.2 million Catholics. 

The name has already been changed to the Christ Cathedral. But the work of liturgical consultants, priests and architects to transform a temple so closely identified as a symbol of Schuller's sunny, uniquely Southern Californian theology into one that conforms to the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church has just begun.

"The exterior will always be the Crystal Cathedral, at least for a while," said Duncan Stroik, a professor of architecture at Notre Dame and editor of the publication Sacred Architecture Journal. "Catholic on the inside, but kind of Protestant on the outside."

Those who have taken on the project recognize that their assignment is a intimidating one, but they also have faith: They can turn the Crystal Cathedral into the Christ Cathedral.

Read the entire story on the LA Times site. It is heartening to read the comments by Dr. Stroik, who is leading the way in the revival of great Catholic architecture, as evidenced in part by his recent book, book, The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence, and the Eternal, which was reviewed for CWR by Dr. Amanda Clark earlier this year.

• Is Hollywood out of ideas? Has it tapped out when it comes to fresh cinematic adventures for the masses? I'd say the answer is tilting hard toward “Yes” when there is a remake of Left Behind currently in the works. And it stars Nicholas Cage. Yes, the Apocalypse is upon us, and it will cost you $10.00 to experience for two hours.

• In light of recent events and the reaction of some, I propose that Matthew 16:18 (New Jerusalem Translation) be re-written as follows:

So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it, up and until a twenty-first century pope gives a lengthy interview which fractures the very foundation of said community and destroys the faith of millions and plunges the world into darkness and confusion not seen since said pope's comments about atheism a few months earlier.

A bit wordy, I suppose, but I'm sure the original Greek will flow like honey. (And, please, spare me the angry e-mails. Just leave angry comments. We need more comments. I get paid by the comment.)

• Clueless Cut of the Week comes courtesy of mushy, trendy, lefty “Evangelical” author and know-it-all, Brian McClaren: “We have a Catholic priesthood more concerned with keeping women out of the priesthood as the world is destroyed by carbon gases. … We have evangelicals with the audacity to say that homosexual people are ruining marriage. I think anyone who says that should be laughed off the stage. Heterosexual people do that on their own, thanks.” No word if McClaren and Jody Bottum are working on a book together yet.

• I enjoy reading nearly anything by the Anglican Scripture scholar N.T. Wright, and his recent interview with Christianity Today about the Psalms is no exception:

Are songs and poems from the ancient Near East really sufficient for shaping our worldview today?

There is a prejudice in much of contemporary Western society that imagines that humankind grew up sometime in the 18th century, that everything before then is sort of silly, and that everything after then is sophisticated, intelligent, and informed by science.

But what is true today was true in the first century: There was a clash of worldviews. The early Christians discovered themselves drawn into the Psalter's ancient Jewish way of seeing God as both totally other than the world and radically present—dangerously present—within it. And of course, this very description of God is also the description of Jesus. The Psalms enabled the first generation of Christians to navigate the world of their day, a world not all that different from our own.

Wright's new book is titled The Case For the Psalms

The New York Times' reporter, Laurie Goodstein, is one of the most anti-Catholic, unfair journalists writing for a major newspaper—but only because Maureen Dowd is not a journalist.

• Two summers ago, I met composer Frank La Rocca, a convert to the Catholic Church and Emeritus Professor of Music. California State University. His most recent album, “In This Place,” is a glorious, beautiful collection of sacred music. Highly recommended!

• “The enemy of great is good.” I know it's not original with Nick Aliotti, but I do like the saying. I also like what I'm seeing from the Oregon Ducks football team this year, even if I'm not allowed to use their new $68 million athletic facility (paid for by Oregon's wealthiest Catholic), which is just a few minutes from my home. And, yes, I've taken classes (in philosophy) at the University of Oregon, so I really am a Duck. Sorta. Kinda.

• “Every charge against Pius XII can be proven wrong.” What do you expect a devout Catholic to say? Except that the man who said it, Gary Krupp, is Jewish, not Catholic. Fascinating interview.

• Why might a Jew who is strongly attracted to Christianity decide to not convert? The story of philosopher Franz Rosenzweig is instructive in many ways. Jews who do decide to become Catholic, Roy Schoeman told me years ago, do not usually “read themselves into the Church”, as do many Protestants:

Therefore it is rare – although not unheard of – for a Jew to "read" himself into the Church. More frequently it requires extraordinary interventions on the part of Heaven, in the form of miracles, apparitions, or theophanies, to convince them. As St. Paul said, "For Jews demand signs and Greeks [i.e. Gentiles] seek wisdom" (1 Cor 22).

Read that entire September 2007 interview on Ignaitus Insight.

• Was Christianity in the United States between the world wars a robust, vigorous, and deeply lived faith? William Alexander Percy, the uncle of novelist Walker Percy, didn't think so, as Gene Fant writes in a First Things post:

He goes straight to the throat of the deep South’s cultural Christianity with bare knuckles and brutal prose. He was concerned about the demise of religion in the lives of the young people he knew. He termed this sort of pseudo-faith as filled with “the ghosts of dead phrases—salvation, washed in the blood of the Lamb, He descended into hell, the resurrection of the body, born of the Virgin Mary.” He knew even in the pre-World War II era that a cultural religion is no religion at all but is a winking form of hypocrisy that finds thin consolation in a genial Sunday morning service that is detached from either the life of the mind or the reality of the work-a-day world.

Which is not to say, of course, that all Christians were winking hypocrites then, just as they aren't now. But it does make much better sense of what transpired in the Sixties, which would not have happened had there not been plenty of fallow ground. Two books that discuss this history and offer many compelling insights are Ross Douthat's Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (2012) and Russell Shaw's American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America (Ignatius Press, 2013).

• Speaking of American history, here is a fun exercise: ask a young person—anyone under the age of sixty—this question: “Which political party—Democrat or Republican—introduced the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery?” Or: “Which of the two parties established the Ku Klux Klan and fought against the suppression of that group?” Then show them this graphic. It's not that I'm pro-Republican, but rather that I'm pro-history. And we Americans are illiterate zombies when it comes to history. 

• The pope's meeting with an eight-member council of cardinals in early October may well result in a number of reforms, writes Russell Shaw

If the creation of the council, along with two other new advisory bodies (see sidebar), is any indication, structural reform is high on this pope’s to-do list. Announcing the cardinals’ council, the Vatican said it would consider not only changes in the Roman Curia — the central administrative machinery that assists the pope — but also “the government of the universal Church.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, is the only American member of the group. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is its coordinator. Other members include Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, an Italian cardinal who heads the “Governorate” of Vatican City State; Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai; Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising; and Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop emeritus of Santiago, Chile.

Stay tuned, as the meeting begins in less than a week.

• What do God and Bigfoot have in common? A Dominican explains.

• “Is there a commercial radio station out there that plays music anything like Marty Haugen's? If there were, would any self-respecting teenager listen to it? The notion that today's popular liturgical music appeals to youth is laughable on its face. Young people at the century's turn ridicule it mercilessly as much as it deserves. Of course the Catholics on college campuses do play it, but only because they have no choice. They belong to a lost generation born after 1965 and know nothing better.” So writes Dr. Joseph P. Swain in his new book, Sacred Treasure: Understanding Catholic Liturgical Music (Liturgical Press, 2013). Look for a CWR interview with Dr. Swain in the near future. To get a sense of the book, read his 2007 CWR article, “Music is an Uncompromising Meritocracy”.

• Nancy Pelosi (D) recently invoked divine authority while criticizing Republicans working to bring a semblance of fiscal responsibility to the federal budget:

“It’s a most incredible thing. I said yesterday at a press conference on this subject, I said: unless we – it was in Houston, I go to Mass wherever I go, and at the pulpit, the priest said, in Houston, Texas – not one of your liberal bastions – he said: ‘I think it’s important for people, not just to come to Mass on Sunday and pray, but when they leave here not to prey on people,’” she said.

“And it isn’t exactly what they are doing: preying on people,” she added.

In other news, Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, in September 5th interview with The Wanderer, indicated quite clearly that Pelosi should be excommunicated:

Q. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, when recently questioned at a press briefing about the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did in murdering a baby born alive at 23 weeks as compared to the practice of aborting a baby moments before birth, refused to answer. Instead she is reported to have responded: “ As a practicing and respectful Catholic this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this. I don’t think it should have anything to do with politics.” How are we to react to such a seemingly scandalous statement? Is this a case where Canon 915 might properly be applied? [Editor’s Note:Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law states that those who are “ obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”] 

A. Certainly this is a case when Canon 915 must be applied. This is a person who obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin — cooperating with the crime of procured abortion — and still professes to be a devout Catholic. This is a prime example of what Blessed John Paul II referred to as the situation of Catholics who have divorced their faith from their public life and therefore are not serving their brothers and sisters in the way that they must — in safeguarding and promoting the life of the innocent and defenseless unborn, in safeguarding and promoting the integrity of marriage and the family.

Read the entire interview.

• By what percent do you think firearm-related homicides have increased since 1993: 20%? 40%? More? Not even close:

Firearm-related homicides declined 39 percent and nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69 percent from 1993 to 2011, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Firearm-related homicides dropped from 18,253 homicides in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011, and nonfatal firearm crimes dropped from 1.5 million victimizations in 1993 to 467,300 in 2011.

For both fatal and nonfatal firearm victimizations, the majority of the decline occurred during the 10-year period from 1993 to 2002. The number of firearm homicides declined from 1993 to 1999, rose through 2006 and then declined through 2011. Nonfatal firearm violence declined from 1993 through 2004 before fluctuating in the mid- to late 2000s.

Also of interest, in light of many dubious assertions about the need for more gun control:

In 2004 (the most recent year of data available), among state prison inmates who possessed a gun at the time of the offense, fewer than two percent bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show. About 10 percent of state prison inmates said they purchased it from a retail store or pawnshop, 37 percent obtained it from family or friends, and another 40 percent obtained it from an illegal source.

The report from the Bureau of Justice also notes, “From 1993 to 2010, males, blacks and persons ages 18 to 24 were most likely to be victims of firearm-related homicide.

•  The head of the Anglican communion, The Most Rev Justin Welby, has been pondering the social “revolution” in the realm of marriage and same-sex relationships, and while he remains confused about many aspects of it, he apparently is convinced that traditional-minded Christians should take the blame for the sins of others:

The Most Rev Justin Welby told an audience of traditional born-again Christians that they must “repent” over the way gay and lesbian people have been treated in the past and said most young people viewed Christians as no better than racists on the issue.

Archbishop Welby, who as a young priest once opposed allowing gay couples to adopt children, said the church now had to face up to what amounted to one of the most rapid changes in public attitudes ever.

While insisting that he did not regret voting against same-sex marriage in the House of Lords, he admitted that his own mind was not yet “clear” on the wider issues which he was continuing to think about

The Telegraph article (Aug 28, 2013) also reports, “And he admitted that, despite its strong official opposition to allowing same-sex couples to marry, the Church is still 'deeply and profoundly divided' over gay marriage.” There's also the matter of a 500-year-old division over King Henry VIII's divorces and marriages. But I suspect that's not as relevant as being relevant today, when relevancy really, really matters.

• Why is the New York Times always wrong about the Catholic Church? Because it is drunk.

• I won't link to the page (as it contains too much vulgarity and I don't need the complaints), but I simply cannot pass over this recent quote from Miley Cyrus: “Times are changing. I think there’s a generation or two left, and then it’s gonna be a whole new world.” Ah, to be twenty and brainless again.

• Speaking of a new world, a professor of geography and environmental systems recently argued that overpopulation is “nonsense.” That was stunning enough, I suppose. Proof that the end of the world is nigh? It was published in the New York Times. Maybe someone is drunk.

• Looking for some heavy reading? Consider the essay, The Poverty of Liberal Economics” by Adrian Walker:

The neoconservatives are therefore right to insist that a sound economy must give ample scope to the self-expression of human dignity through economic creativity. They are also right to affirm that economic freedom is a sine qua non of such creativity. No less an authority than John Paul II has said so in his social encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991). Nevertheless, the neoconservatives go wrong by assuming that what I will call “liberal economics” is the best context for understanding what economic freedom is. By “liberal economics,” I mean the theory, going back in all essential respects to Adam Smith, according to which the market alone organizes the economic life of society, not by marshaling the coercive power of the state, but by maximizing individuals’ freedom to enter into informed, mutually beneficial contractual exchanges for specific economic purposes decided by “self-interest.” 

Needless to say, it has something for everyone.

• From the just-released USCCB document, “Stewards of the Tradition – Fifty Years after Sacrosanctum Concilium,” from the Committee on Divine Worship:

At the Extraordinary Synod on the twentieth anniversary of Vatican II in 1985 and ever since, a key term surfaced for interpreting both the documents of Vatican II and the nature of the Church: communio. This is fittingly applied also to the Sacred Liturgy, which builds up and expresses the Church. Used in a variety of ways and contexts in subsequent Church documents, the term communio often refers to the relationship of the baptized as incorporated into the Trinity of persons who are the one true God. This is what constitutes the Church: that we are rooted in the very life of our Trinitarian God, experiencing most profoundly in the celebration of the Eucharist the reality of being "many parts, yet one body." (1 Cor.12:20).

Read the entire text.

• “Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic.” — Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance (Ignatius Press, 2004).

 
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Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight.
 
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