Carl’s Cuts for the End of May

Thoughts on news and views from CWR’s editor

More cuts! My goal is to post such cuts once a week. Last week, I missed the cut. Here goes!

• From Andrew Fitzgerald, a day after the horrific tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma:

Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley was a guest this morning on The Catholic Channel on SiriusXM. The Archbishop was in Moore, OK, yesterday surveying the damage and talking to residents in the aftermath of the tornado and he talked about the remarkable resiliency of the people he encountered.

 He described meeting a 94 year old woman who’d had her home destroyed.  It was the second time she had lost her home to a tornado, the last time being in the devastating 1999 storm.

 “She reached into her pocket and pulled out a stack of hundred dollar bills and she was handing them out to people,” recalled Archbishop Coakley.  “This was a woman who, the day before, had lost her home for the second time and her response was to give, to share.  This was truly the widow of ‘The Widow’s Might.’  She had nothing and yet she was giving her all.”

Amazing. Let’s continue to keep the people in Moore in our prayers, along with all people, wherever they are, who are suffering because of natural disasters.

• Speaking of praying, this coming Sunday, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Holy Father will be leading an hour-long, worldwide Eucharistic Adoration. This, says Vatican Information Service, “will be broadcast from St. Peter’s Basilica next Sunday, 2 June from 5:00pm-6:00pm local time”:

Its theme is: “One Lord, One Faith”, which was chosen to testify to the deep unity that characterizes it. “It will be an event,” Archbishop Fisichella explained, “occurring for the first time in the history of the Church, which is why we can describe it as ‘historical’. The cathedrals of the world will be synchronized with Rome and will, for an hour, be in communion with the Pope in Eucharistic adoration. There has been an incredible response to this initiative, going beyond the cathedrals and involving episcopal conferences, parishes, lay associations, and religious congregations, especially cloistered ones.”

From the Cook Islands to Chile, Burkina Faso, Taiwan, Iraq, Bangladesh, the United States, and the Philippines, the dioceses will be synchronized with St. Peter’s and will pray for the intentions proposed by the Pope. The first is: “For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.”

• Congratulations to the great Dr. Ray Dennehy, who will receive, this weekend, the Rupert and Timothy Smith Award for Distinguished Contributions to Pro-Life Scholarship.

When asked what receiving the Smith award meant to him, Professor Dennehy told CalCatholic: “For the last 48 semesters I have debated abortion at UC Berkeley—for the last 10 years in front of their School of Public Health, mostly with Malcolm Potts. This year, for the first time, I did not receive an invitation, so that was kind of disheartening, but then I heard I was getting the Smith Award. That’s very meaningful. This is an award given by my peers, by people in the trenches, and that gives it a special kind of meaning.”

Professor Dennehy also told the story of a recent email from a former student who had never agreed with the pro-life position. “But once she got pregnant, and re-read some of my stuff, she told me that there was no way she could ever have an abortion. That one email made my whole career worthwhile.”

• Three weeks ago, I wrote a post, “Pope Francis, Romans 8, and the theme of theosis”; yesterday, the Holy Father began a series of audiences focused on ecclesiology, and he once again took up the topic of theosis, or divinization:

What is this God’s plan? It is to make us all the one family of his children, in which each of you feels close to Him and feels loved by Him—feels, as in the Gospel parable, the warmth of being the family of God. In this great design, the Church finds its source. [The Church is] is not an organization founded by an agreement among [a group of] persons, but—as we were reminded many times by Pope Benedict XVI—is the work of God: it was born out of the plan of love, which realizes itself progressively in history. The Church is born from the desire of God to call all people into communion with Him, to His friendship, and indeed, as His children, to partake of His own divine life. The very word “Church”, from the Greek ekklesia, means “convocation”.

That paragraph, in fact, is very similiar to one of my favorite passages from the Catechism: paragraph #1.

• Some churches aren’t making the cut. The Daily Mail took photos of a church and a mosque in London. Guess which was overflowing with young adherents? And which had about 20 or so, most of them elderly? Yep, that’s right. The paper notes,

In the past ten years, there has been a decrease in people in England and Wales identifying as Christian, from 71.7 per cent to 59.3 per cent of the population.  In the same period the number of Muslims in England and Wales has risen from 3 per cent of the population to 4.8 per cent — 2.7 million people. And Islam has age on its side. Whereas a half of British Muslims are under 25, almost a quarter of Christians are approaching their eighth decade.

• Yesterday, May 29th, was G. K. Chesterton’s birth; he was born in 1874. What would he have thought about England becoming Muslim? In 1911, he wrote: “A good Moslem king was one who was strict in religion, valiant in battle, just in giving judgment among his people, but not one who had the slightest objection in international matters to removing his neighbour’s landmark.” (ILN Nov. 4, 1911; see the Chesterton and Friends blog). And, from Orthodoxy: “…but out of the desert, from the dry places and the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone.”

• Who uttered this (supposedly good humored) cut at Catholics? “”You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that.” Here’s the answer.

• Sometimes a single paragraph jumps off a page, as did this one, from a Financial Times essay, “Mind field”, about the newest (and fifth) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

Over recent years there has been an increasing tendency to view the public as victims of drug-mongering. But millions have been strikingly eager to believe they and their children are entitled to a life free of anxiety, grief, rage, confusion, shyness and periods of deep suffering – and more than ready to accept that they can buy a product to ensure this. It may be that the pharmaceutical industry has shown us what a capitalist response to a spiritual problem looks like.

• A recent piece in the Catholic Herald, “The atheist orthodoxy that drove me to faith” (May 23), written by Megan Hodder, has been making the rounds; it is certainly worth reading if you’ve not yet seen it. Hodder writes,

I started by reading Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, aware that it had generated controversy at the time and was some sort of attempt –futile, of course – to reconcile faith and reason. I also read the shortest book of his I could find, On Conscience. I expected – and wanted – to find bigotry and illogicality that would vindicate my atheism. Instead, I was presented with a God who was the Logos: not a supernatural dictator crushing human reason, but the self-expressing standard of goodness and objective truth towards which our reason is oriented, and in which it is fulfilled, an entity that does not robotically control our morality, but is rather the source of our capacity for moral perception, a perception that requires development and formation through the conscientious exercise of free will.

If only we could get many Catholics to read the works of Ratzinger/Benedict with this same intellectual curiosity and openmindedness!

• That would include Han Küng, who recently wrote an essay titled, “The paradox of Pope Francis”. As many readers know, Küng has been on a long but consistent journey away from Catholicism and orthodoxy since the 1970s, and has, at different times, attacked many key Catholic doctrines (the papacy, male-only ordination, etc.), as well as making personal attacks on John Paul II and Benedict XVI. So, what deep theological issues does Küng take up in writingn about the new pontiff?

It is astonishing how, from the first minute of his election, Pope Francis chose a new style: unlike his predecessor, no miter with gold and jewels, no ermine-trimmed cape, no made-to-measure red shoes and headwear, no magnificent throne. Astonishing, too, that the new pope deliberately abstains from solemn gestures and high-flown rhetoric and speaks in the language of the people.

Ah, so Küng’s beefs have been mostly about wardrobe and big words. That’s good to know. I’m sure someone at the Vatican is also filing that away for future reference.

• Over a dozen readers have forwarded me the link to the insta-classic essay, “Don’t make fun of the renowned Dan Brown”, written by Michael Deacon for The Telegraph. It is quite hilarious:

Renowned author Dan Brown got out of his luxurious four-poster bed in his expensive $10 million house and paced the bedroom, using the feet located at the ends of his two legs to propel him forwards. He knew he shouldn’t care what a few jealous critics thought. His new book Inferno was coming out on Tuesday, and the 480-page hardback published by Doubleday with a recommended US retail price of $29.95 was sure to be a hit. Wasn’t it?

Well, the infernal tree-destroying, history-revising, logic-mocking, thrill-killing thing is indeed at the top of the New York Times‘ bestseller lists. No surprise. Such is the semi-literate age in which we live. As Dr. Anthony Esolen, who has translanted Dante’s Inferno for Modern Library Classics, wrote in his recent CWR review of Brown’s new hack-by-numbers novel, “I defy anyone to find for me a best-selling novel written in English before 1950 that is as relentlessly inane and chic-trite and morally destitute as this one.  In saying so, do I also mean to impugn the tastes of his readers?  Let me answer by adapting Dante’s verse over the gates to the lower world: Lasciate intelligenza, voi ch’entrate.” Read the entire review and pass it along to your Brown-believing friends (but don’t expect them to remain friends after reading it).

• Just so you know that it isn’t just narrow-minded religious zealots like myself who smirk at Brown’s tenuous relationship with facts, here is a piece at The Daily Beast about errors in Inferno. My favorite:

Langdon’s “body tensed” when he saw a tube marked with a biohazard symbol, as if it might suddenly explode. Dr. Sienna helpfully tells him “We see these occasionally in the medical field.” Occasionally? The biohazard symbol is in every doctor’s office and hospital room, on the garbage bins for biological material and the boxes for the disposal of used needles.

• No one was audited, nor was anyone’s e-mails hacked, in the writing of this column. Just so you know. There, don’t you feel better now? Good. 

• I’m mildly surprised that I haven’t been audited. Seriously. Why? Because, as FOX News reported a week ago, “Internal Revenue Service mishandled tax returns of adoptive families, flagging for further review 90 percent of those who claimed the adoption tax credit for the 2012 filing season. And a report by the federal agency’s Taxpayer Advocate Service also found that nearly 70 percent of adoptive families — more than 35,000 — had at least a partial audit of their tax return. By contrast, just one percent of all returns are audited.” David French writes of this IRS-induced insanity:

So Congress implemented a tax credit to facilitate adoption – a process that is so extraordinarily expensive that it is out of reach for many middle-class families — and the IRS responded by implementing an audit campaign that delayed much-needed tax refunds to the very families that needed them the most. Oh, and the return on its investment in this harassment? Slightly more than 1 percent. This audit wave got almost no media coverage, but what was the experience like for individual families? In a word, grueling. Huge document requests with short turnaround times were followed by lengthy IRS delays in processing, all with no understanding for the unique documentation challenges of international adoption.

As French notes, many people who have never been involved in adopting a child don’t realize the amount of endless paperwork, time, money, and emotional duress is involved. (And then there are those adoptions that, for different reasons, don’t come to fruition; we’ve gone through two of those.) Good grief.

• I enjoy both anniversaries and music trivia. And since this is an edition of “Carl’s Cuts”, I should note, before the year is out, that just thirty years ago, Canadian rocker Bryan Adams had a huge hit song, “Cuts Like a Knife”, that features this inane chorus: “It cuts like a knife/Oh but it feels so right”. Bryan: I’ve had cuts, physical and emotional, and none of them ever felt right. Seek help.

• Some popular music, thankfully, deserves positive attention. Which is why, about ten years ago, I wrote an essay for Saint Austin Review titled, “The Incarnational Art of Van Morrison”. It never made it online, so I recently posted it on the site that I co-founded last year with historian and music nut, Bradley Birzer. “Legendary for his difficult personality and his dislike for the press,” I write, “Morrison has often sent confusing signals about his religious affections. Yet his finest work can rightly be called incarnational. This is not to say it is strictly ‘Christian,’ but that it is rooted in reality (uncommon in much pop and rock music) and seeks to incarnate spiritual truth and meaning in concrete forms, themes, images, and narratives.” 

• Gonzaga University has been having a poor run of it lately when it comes to stories that dull the school’s image. The most recent bad news is that a music professor, who is a Jesuit priest, is under investigation for allegedly purchasing child pornography. From the SpokesmanReview:

The investigation, headed by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and local office of the FBI, is looking into dozens of online purchases and movie downloads made by someone using the credit card and mailing address of the Rev. Gary Uhlenkott, a music professor who was placed on administrative leave by the university following last month’s raid. No charges have been filed and Uhlenkott has not been arrested, but authorities say the investigation is continuing.

Phil Lawler writes, “Can you, dear reader, spend $1,600 on your own entertainment—even assuming it’s healthy, licit entertainment—without prompting questions from your spouse, your boss, your parents, your colleagues, or your accountant? I certainly can’t. And unlike Father Uhlenkott, I haven’t taken a vow of poverty.”

• Cutting edge conversational advice: Want to get a lively conversation going? Combine topics such as “atheists” and “same-sex marriage”, or “Catholics” and “charismatics”. Watch the sparks fly!

Cutting to the bone: “I rarely read editorials by the New York Times anymore, not because they’re liberal (Michael Kinsley is liberal and worth reading) but because they’re banal.”

• A while back I wrote about the “bravery” of (currently unsigned) NBA player Jason Collins, who publicly acknowledged that he is homosexual and has been treated like Superman eversince. I learned later that journalst and CNN “Reliable Sources” host Howard Kurtz was fired by The Daily Beast because of his coverage of Collin’s un-closeting. What horrible, homophobic deed did Kurtz dare to pursue? A UPI report says, “Kurtz incorrectly accused Collins of leaving out the fact that he was at one point engaged to former girlfriend Carolyn Moos.” Warren Cole Smith observes:

In fact, disclosure of the engagement got a short mention in Collins’ article. Kurtz later apologized for the error, but stood by his original point: That Collins may have been, to use the politically correct vernacular, “true to himself,” but he had been and continues to be deceitful toward others. But The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown, proudly progressive in her public demeanor, used the minor error as an excuse to can Kurtz, who now awaits the verdict of CNN, where his contract will soon be up for renewal.

Kurtz’s mistake, it seems to me, is that he was working for The Daily Beast, not the IRS. If the latter, he simply could have pleaded the Fifth and been on his merry way.

• Of the love that dares not utter its name, but seems to be everywhere, all of the time, 24/7, in your face and on the news, the Daily Mail reports that Prime Minister David Cameron believes that “gay marriage” will make for stronger families and long-lasting relationships. The only problem, of course, is that the evidence says otherwise:

Look at what has happened in those countries that have already made same-sex marriage legal. In not one case has there been any indication of a wider revival in marriage. Indeed, in most countries its decline has merely accelerated.
In Scandinavia, where hostility to the two-parent family is central to the ruling political orthodoxy, the widening of the legal definition of marriage has done nothing to stop the institution decaying.

And so forth and so on.

• On a related note, Carson Holloway makes a point, in this Public Discourse essay, about the recent Boy Scouts decision that is as simple as it is true:

Whatever else one thinks about the new policy, this much is certain: It can’t last. No doubt many of the delegates thought they would be buying peace and quiet by enacting this compromise, but they are bound to be disappointed. The compromise policy’s short life is predictable, in the first place, in light of the kind of people it is meant to placate, people that the Scout delegates have seriously misjudged. Socially liberal political activists don’t believe in compromise. They believe in winning.

The proof, as if it is necessary, is seen in the push for “gay marriage”. Thirty years ago, homosexuality was to be merely tolerated. Then it was to be cleansed of any negative connotations. Then it was to be celebrated. At this rate, it will be illegal for a man and woman to marry one another in 20 years.

• There is a new Templeton Report out, titled, “The World’s Muslims on Democracy, Religious Freedom, and Sharia”. An introductory page states, “New research, exploring the social and political attitudes of Muslims around the globe, has revealed that most adherents of the world’s second largest faith have a nuanced attitude towards the role that sharia law should play in their countries. In most countries surveyed, a majority of Muslims want sharia—the legal system and moral code of Islam—to be the official law of the land. But the research also implies that most Muslims also want freedom of religion for people of other faiths.” The study (PDF) is over 200 pages long, and I’ve not read it yet. Here is a bit from the section on “Suicide Bombing”:

Muslims in some countries surveyed in South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa region are more likely than Muslims elsewhere to consider suicide bombing justified. Four-in-ten Palestinian Muslims see suicide bombing as often or sometimes justified, while roughly half (49%) take the opposite view. In Egypt, about three-in-ten (29%) consider suicide bombing justified at least sometimes. Elsewhere in the region, fewer Muslims believe such violence is often or sometimes justified, including fewer than one-in-five in Jordan (15%) and about one-in-ten in Tunisia (12%), Morocco (9%) and Iraq (7%).

That’s encouraging! Wait. Maybe not. Meanwhile, in a WSJ essay, “The Problem of Muslim Leadership”, Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes:

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the Woolwich murder, it was good to hear expressions of horror and sympathy from Islamic spokesmen, but something more is desperately required: genuine recognition of the problem with Islam.

Muslim leaders should ask themselves what exactly their relationship is to a political movement that encourages young men to kill and maim on religious grounds. Think of the Tsarnaev brothers and the way they justified the mayhem they caused in Boston. Ponder carefully the words last week of Michael Adebolajo, his hands splashed with blood: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day.”

Of course, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists or sympathetic to terrorists. Equating all Muslims with terrorism is stupid and wrong. But acknowledging that there is a link between Islam and terror is appropriate and necessary.

On a closely related note, see my May 2nd blog post, “The Ambiguity of Islam”.

• The wonderful Joseph Pearce was recently interviewed on Relevant Radio about his new book, Shakespeare on Love. The show is archived and can be heard here..

• Here was the scene in Eugene, Oregon (where I live) about three weeks ago: hundreds of people flocking to hear a message of peace and compassion from a celibate man dressed in robes, a man reverantly called “His Holiness” and supposedly having a direct connection to the divine. Yeah, the Pope was in town! No, actually, he wasn’t. But the Dalai Lama was, and folks here couldn’t get enough of him:

The Dalai Lama regaled the 11,000 who packed the University of Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena on Friday with stories about when he was a child in Tibet, about how he believes women are biologically more sensitive and inclined to compassion, and how the next Dalai Lama might even be female.

A pregnant woman interviewed for the local news story said, “It was really positive hearing about having compassion and affection for my child-to-be…” So, it was somehow revelatory and unique to hear positive words about an unborn child? Is that how bad things have become in the enlightened West? Apparently so. I haven’t found a text of the Dalai Lama’s speech, but apparently it was about that most controversial topic: peace:

He spent an hour shoulder-to-shoulder with a massive audience who cheered nearly every mention of peace. “By speaking out like he does, I believe we can reach peace by the end of this century,” Carrigan said. “My daughter’s generation are going to see the fruits of the labors we are undertaking now.”

Dare I say that the Dalai Lama, in speaking out about peace, appears to be more courageous than Mr. Collins in announcing his homosexuality! More seriously, talk of reaching peace by the end of this century reveals a remarkably facile grasp of both human nature and current events. Mr. Carrigan might want to spend some time talking to some of those suicide-bomb-supporting Muslims in Palestine before gets too carried away. As for getting carried away, the local left-wing rag, The Eugene Weekly, couldn’t contain itself:

So as he postpones nirvana and as part of his mission to promote values and ethics in the interest of human happiness, encourage harmony between religions and foster the welfare of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama is making his first-ever trip to Eugene. We get a lot of famous people coming through this town, but not usually of the “manifestation of the bodhisattva of compassion” variety…

For some reason, I cannot imagine the Pope, who makes far more modest claims about his relation to the divine, getting such positive treatment. If only the Pope would talk about peace and compassion, right?

• The Knights of Columbus site has a fine interview with Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Philadelphia, for whom my parish prays for every Sunday.

• Pope Francis has an unusual gift for mixing metaphors and coming up with striking images to convery spiritual concepts.

• Roy Schoeman, convert from Judaism and outstanding author, has a new radio program:

I just wanted to let you know, in case it is of interest (and also to ask for prayers), that this Saturday – May 18 – I will be beginning a new project, a weekly live radio call-in show called “Salvation is from the Jews”, that will be broadcast live on Radio Maria.  Radio Maria is a worldwide Catholic network that goes out both on local AM and FM stations, and the internet.  The list of stations, and a listen-live link to listen over the internet, can be found on their website:  Your prayers for the show, and/or tuning in or calling in, are very, very welcome! 
The purpose of the show is to discuss the role of Judaism in salvation history, the many ways that the Catholic Church is the continuation of Judaism after the coming of the Messiah (i.e. “post-Messianic Judaism”), the joy of entering the Church, and the role of the conversion of the Jews in bringing about the Second Coming.   A number of Jewish entrants into the Church will join me on the show to share their stories and perspectives.

Visit the show’s page on the Radio Maria site.

• About twenty years ago (I find myself using that phrase often now, as I hit my mid-forties), I discovered a wonderful little bookstore, Windows Booksellers,. Then located on the edge of the University of Oregon campus, it is owned and operated by the members of a small Evangelical house group, Church of the Servant King (see this 2005 article for some background). It was there that I bought some of my first works of Catholic apologetics and theology, including Henri de Lubac’s Catholicism, Karl Adams’ The Spirit of Catholicism, Thomas Howard’s Evangelical Is Not Enough, and Ronald Knox’s The Belief of Catholics. Since then, the bookstore has moved twice, to ever bigger locations; and, since then, I’ve bought hundreds of books there. 

Early on, during one of my frequent visits, I met Brian Logan, who wore various hats, including being a leader in the house church and running the exceptional coffee shop, Theo’s, which is above the bookstore. Over the years, Brian and I had many conversations, some of them short and in passing (usually as he made espresso) and others longer and more involved, and almost always about theology and or music (we both love jazz). He would often ask me what I was reading, and in recent months we talked about von Balthasar, who he had recently started to read. Earlier this month, I received a stunning phone call: Brian, who was just 52 years old and the father of two young children, had died the day before of a heart attack. I had seen him a few days earlier, when I had stopped in to get an americano. It had been a frustrating week, and when Brian asked me how I was doing, I joked, “I need some answers to this crazy question called life!” He laughed and said, “You and I both know Who has the answers.” It was a small thing, the sort of banter you have with someone who has been there for years. 

Now he is gone. May God grant Brian mercy and repose. I miss him. Here is more about Brian Loganrequiescat in pace.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Carl E. Olson 1217 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.