Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ask Tony: Did Pope Francis just teach that animals go to heaven? — UPDATED

The short answer: No. The Pope didn't say anything like that; the Pope didn't say anything remotely near that.

This is possibly the most bizarre case of papal malreportage I've seen since I started writing. Somehow, Pope Francis' simple reassertion of orthodox teaching about the future renewal of creation got transmogrified into a declaration that animals go to heaven.

Let's begin with the papal general audience of November 26, as reported by Zenit. The general audience has often been an opportunity for the reigning pontiff to catechize the people directly, as well as to make remarks on current events or give a report on what he's been doing the last week.

Francis began the homily, "In presenting the Church to the men of our time, Vatican Council II was very conscious of a fundamental truth, which must never be forgotten: the Church is not a static, still reality, an end in herself, but is continually journeying in history towards the ultimate and wonderful end which is the Kingdom of Heaven, of which the Church on earth is the seed and the beginning. ... And some questions arise spontaneously in us: when will this final passage happen? What will the new dimension be like, which the Church will enter? What, then, will happen to humanity and to the creation that surrounds it?"

The end towards which the Church journeys, "Paradise", is "[m]ore than a place, it is ... a 'state' of mind in which our most profound expectations will be fulfilled overabundantly and our being, as creatures and children of God, will reach full maturity," said the Pope. "We will finally be clothed with joy, with peace and with the love of God in a complete way, no longer with any limit, and we will be face to face with Him! It is beautiful to think this, to think of Heaven. All of us find ourselves down here, all of us. It is beautiful; it gives strength to the soul."

So far, so good. Then:
At the same time, Sacred Scripture teaches us that the fulfilment of this wonderful plan cannot but be of interest also to all that surrounds us and that issued from the thought and heart of God. The Apostle Paul affirms it explicitly, when he says that "creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). Other texts use the image of a "new heaven" and a "new earth" (cf. 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1), in the sense that the whole universe will be renewed and will be freed once and for all from every trace of evil and from death itself. What is anticipated, as fulfilment of a transformation that in reality is already in act since the Death and Resurrection of Christ, is, therefore, a new creation; not, therefore, an annihilation of the cosmos and of all that surrounds us, but a bringing of everything to its fullness of being, of truth and of beauty. This is the plan that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has always willed to realize and is realizing. [Bold and italic fonts mine.—ASL]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A medieval Icelandic poem

Yesterday, my friend and Catholic Stand colleague Susan Anne posted on her timeline Heyr, himna smiður (Hear, O heaven's smith). The poem was written around the beginning of the thirteenth century by Kolbeinn Tumasson, an Icelandic chieftain, supposedly as he lay dying from an injury received at the battle of Viðines; over 700 years later, the late Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson gave it a musical setting.

(By the way, in case you're wondering what those strange letters are and how they're pronounced, ð is called eth and Þþ is called thorn; both are pronounced close to the English th. Eth does have a capital; however, it isn't used in Icelandic.)

You can follow the link above to find the hymn sung by Ellen Kristánsdottir. It's an absolutely haunting melody that intentionally recalls medieval music. The video gives a literal English translation; I decided to recast the translation into a more poetic form.

Heaven’s Smith, give ear
To the poet’s prayer.
May come soft to me
Thy loving mercy.
So I call on Thee;
Thou didst create me.
Servant am I Thine;
And Lord art Thou mine.

God, I call on Thee,
That Thou wouldst heal me.
O Mild One, take heed,
For Thee we most need.
Rid, O Suns’ great King,
From Thy kind loving,
All care and distress
From the heart’s fastness.

O Mild One, guide me;
For we most need Thee
Ev’ry hour we spend
In this world of men.
Grant, O Virgin’s Son,
That Thy will be done,
All Thine aid divine
To this heart of mine.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Now the fundamentalist paranoia begins

The image to your left is from a site titled Now The End Begins, a fundamentalist site pretty much dedicated to hating the Catholic Church as the "whore of Babylon".

It's no particular secret that Evangelical megapastor Rick Warren is a fan of Pope Francis. Warren recently met Pope Francis at the 2014 Vatican Conference on Marriage and Family, and spoke along with Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore at a colloquium led by the pontiff.

This wasn't bad enough. Although he's given no indication that he's about to "cross the Tiber", Warren is advocating closer ties between Catholics and Protestants.

"We have far more in common than what divides us," Warren said in a two-minute video. "When you talk about Pentecostals, charismatics, evangelicals, fundamentalists, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, on and on and on and on. Well they would all say we believe in the trinity, we believe in the Bible, we believe in the resurrection, we believe salvation is through Jesus Christ. These are the big issues."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A tour of the new St. Mark Catholic Church in Denton, Texas

Old parish location, 2800 Pennsylvania Dr., Denton. (Photo: St. Mark Catholic Church.)
The way I've heard it told, almost as soon as the doors of the church at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Teasley were opened, the parish formed a committee to build someplace else. And that was over fifteen years ago. Two-thirds of that time was spent finding suitable land — or, rather, not finding suitable land, because not available or too expensive. Another few years were spent fighting a parish priest whose tastes ran more towards Southern Baptist "big box" churches; strange to say, the parish building committee wanted something more Catholic.

Then came Fr. Baby George. (No kidding; that's his name.) And things started moving.

Father George does the smiling, happy, nice-guy bit very well; but make no mistake: if you stand still within ten feet of him and look like you've got nowhere to be just now, he's likely to give you something to do, and give it to you very abruptly. Many's the time I've seen people pass out flyers with a slightly befuddled, how-the-hell-did-I-get-here look in their eyes. Obviously, the flyers were in Fr. George's hands just three or four minutes before. That's how you get churches built.

That, and incessant fundraising. A native of India, Fr. George's accent almost thick enough to require subtitles. And like many immigrants with noticeable accents, he jokes about it. Recently, he told of a woman who approached him and said, "Father, people tell me two things about you. They say they can't understand you, and that you're always asking for money. What I want to know is, if they can't understand you, how do they know you're asking for money?"

When Fr. George arrived, just shortly before my brother Bob's death in September 2011, the effort was pretty much at a standstill. On December 7, the Second Sunday in Advent — 3½ years later, and only about six months after groundbreaking — Bp. Michael Olson will formally dedicate the new parish plant.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Nobody's dreaming of a Caucasian Christmas

I keep telling myself that I'm swearing off outrage porn forever, that I have no further desire to read about minor gaffes and goofs that the political commentariat has decided to inflate into major issues. Then comes an example of something Fr. Erik Richtsteig is pleased to call "STOOPID VISIBLE FROM SPACE"; and not only do I read, I begin foaming at the mouth.

What can I say? I'm human, and therefore prone to sin. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Besides, sometimes it's fun. Because postmodern society occasionally hands you polished, hand-cut gems of 99.9% pure dumbth, and it's almost criminal to let them pass by unremarked. Moreover, social media gives people ample time and opportunity to let their least-considered thoughts come out of their heads; I should know, having set a few free myself. The down side is that Twitter, Facebook, and so forth allow stupid to find stupid and become mutually reinforcing.

For instance, you would think a major C/W star singing a somewhat mawkish but otherwise harmless Irving Berlin tearjerker about holiday snow would be nothing to get fussed about. But somehow, some people managed to find Darius Rucker singing "White Christmas" at the Rockefeller Square tree-lighting ceremony to be ironic, if not a calculated insult to black Americans everywhere:

"Darius Rucker/Hootie just sang 'I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas' at the tree-lighting ceremony. Because America is f**king with us all[.]" [Yes, sentimental ditties are part of a giant conspiracy to torment us and deprive us of our freedoms.]
"Darius Rucker singing White Christmas unironically[.]" [It might be ironic, if Rucker hates snow.]
"Of course they have Darius Rucker singing 'Dreaming of a white Christmas', f**king white people." [And what would you expect him to sing at a tree-lighting ceremony — "F**k da Police"?]
"Somehow, I just watched Darius Rucker sing 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas' on national television mere feet away from the protest[.]" [I might be wrong, but the protesters didn't seem to find it especially provocative. Stupid protesters.]

It seems there aren't enough examples of obvious racism to get cheesed off about; some people have to "decode" ostensibly innocent books, movies, and songs so they can fulminate against their "racist" subtexts. It's like trying to uncover government secrets from the ingredient list on a box of Rice Krispies; at the extremes, it almost goes beyond the fatuous to verge on the clinically paranoid.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Catholic Stand: Time For Catholics to Leave the Democrats?

Now that the election is over, the post-game analysis and forecasts for the coming sessions will occupy the media for at least the next week or so. It’s also a good time to consider whether it makes sense for faithful Catholics to remain tied to the Democrat Party.

Catholicism is the largest single religious communion in the United States; we number between one-fifth and one-quarter of the population. Being so large a bloc, if we voted as consistently as do black Protestants, we would have tremendous influence on public policy: we would not necessarily be able to impose what laws we wish, but we would be in a far better position to persuade the rest of the nation to go along.

However, the political amity that my colleague, Dr. Denise Hunnell, so well described in “Elections and Eternity”, probably could be best described as the remnants of a temporary unity, brought on by the shared experiences of our political leaders in the Great Depression and World War II. The tension of subtly shifting values was manifesting itself even in the 1950s, and it finally erupted in the riots, protests, and violence that scarred the “Vietnam era”. Today, the “conservative Democrat” and the “liberal Republican” are mere memories, even oxymorons.

The explosion, when it came, functionally split the Church in America in half. The split was further polarized when Ven. Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae; so certain had so many people been that the teaching on contraception would be changed that, when the pope forcefully restated it, the shocked and disillusioned abandoned the pews; weekly Mass attendance fell below 50% almost overnight. Even today, the “cultural” or “Christmas and Easter” Catholics are more likely to be liberal in their politics, while those who are highly active in their parishes are more likely to be conservative.

Read more in Catholic Stand!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A coldly calculated soft genocide—UPDATED

Nairobi, Kenya
Kitui, Kenya is about 83.1 miles (133.9 km) east of the capital city of Kenya. The following extract is from the website of the Catholic Diocese of Kitui:

Stand by the truth

Dear Christians, fellow Kenyans and all people of good will, We, the Catholic Bishops in Kenya, meeting at St. Mary’s Pastoral Center in Nakuru, greet you in the name of Our Lord.
During our weeklong Ordinary Plenary Assembly, we have taken stock and reflected deeply on the state of the nation and have identified the following issues of great concern:

  1. 2.   The Tetanus Vaccine
Dear Kenyans, due to the direction the debate on the ongoing Tetanus Vaccine campaign in Kenya is taking, We, the Catholic Bishops, in fulfilling our prophetic role, wish to restate our position as follows:
  1. The Catholic Church is NOT opposed to regular vaccines administered in Kenya, both in our own Church health facilities and in public health institutions.
  2. However, during the second phase of the Tetanus vaccination campaign in March 2014, that is sponsored by WHO/UNICEF, the Catholic Church questioned the secrecy of the exercise. We raised questions on whether the tetanus vaccine was linked to a population control program that has been reported in some countries, where a similar vaccine was laced with Beta-HCG hormone which causes infertility and multiple miscarriages in women.
  3. On March 26, 2014 and October 13, 2014, we met the Cabinet Secretary in-charge of health and the Director of Medical Services among others and rasied our concerns about the Vaccine and agreed to jointly test the vaccine. However the ministry did not cooperate and the joint tests were not done.
  4. The Catholic Church struggled and acquired several vials of the vaccine, which we sent to Four unrelated Government and private laboratories in Kenya and abroad.
  5. We want to announce here, that all the tests showed that the vaccine used in Kenya in March and October 2014 was indeed laced with the Beta-HCG hormone.
  6. On 13th of October 2014, the Catholic Church gave copies of the results to the cabinet secretary and the Director of Medical Services. The same was emailed to the Director of Medical Services on October 17, 2014.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Not a news flash: Catholic Church still doesn't have female priests

Angela Wilson: perhaps a priest, but not a Catholic priest.
Note to the London Telegraph: Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger is not a Catholic priest. In fact, since she wasn't ordained in any church which has female priests, she isn't a priest. If she'd been ordained in the ELCA or the Church of England, I'd call her a priest. She wasn't; therefore, she isn't. She's not a bishop, either.

Self-identification doesn't turn fantasy into fact, no matter what you do to support the illusion. I can call myself an elephant or the King of Ireland for the rest of my life; I could spend those days eating peanuts and communicating in nasal trumpets, or wearing a crown and issuing edicts; the rest of the human world would still be under no obligation to indulge my mishegoss. No amount of foot-stamping insistence would change that. No news story full of gushing adulation for my foot-stamping insistence would change that.

It wouldn't matter if a validly and licitly consecrated bishop in good standing performed the rite of ordination perfectly according to the rubrics: "... the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women ...." (Pope St. John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis [1994], 4) This wasn't just the late pontiff's whim; it's been a fact of the Church since the beginning (vide CDF responsum ad propositum dubium, 1995). If the Church doesn't have the authority, then neither do the individual bishops. Nor can individual bishops obtain such authority by appeal to Scripture or the Holy Spirit; that's a piece of Protestant legerdemain, not Catholic teaching.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lena Dunham's rubber reality check—UPDATED

Photo: Dianna E. Anderson.
It used to be a "tell-all autobiography" told everything about people other than the author; the author himself would confess to a couple of juicy sins here and there, and would immediately return to dishing the dirt on other Famous Figures. But even the most jaded, libertine celebrity kept some secrets, understanding that there would be some things that would alienate the fans.

The point of an autobiography, after all, is to brag on yourself. The subtitle of every autobiography ought to read "How I Made It to the Top, and All My Glorious Achievements". In the case of the tell-all, it should read "How I Made It to the Top, All My Glorious Achievements, and Some of the Wild Bacchanalian Adventures I Had Along the Way".

I haven't forgotten the subdivision of autobiography that comes closer to the Confessions of St. Augustine: "How I Got to Be So F**ked Up, and How I'm Recovering". Now, in this kind of book, you can blame your mother, your father, yourself, the Church, the State, society, blah blah blah; the point is, though, you recognize that being f**ked up isn't a good thing.

Unless you're Lena Dunham. Then you confess to doing all sorts of things to and with your baby sister that are creepy even for a seven-year-old, compare your behavior to that of a sexual predator, then get upset — in her own words, go into a "rage spiral" — when people accuse you of having molested said baby sister. This isn't just classic narcissist behavior; this is a reality check that failed.