Friday, September 30, 2011

Ecclesial Backbone: Standing up for religion and families

The angel of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Abp. John C. Nienstedt, is having a heckuva month.

First, he puts out an action alert to his archdiocese in reference to the Department of Health and Human Services' regulation amendment requiring most religious employers to include contraceptives and sterilization coverage in any health plan under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (By the way, have you made your voice heard? Today's the last day!) That in itself would be commendable.

However, today the Archdiocese, in conjunction with the Minnesota Catholic Conference, issued a statement blasting Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, stating unequivocally that the pro-SSM group "has no recognition from nor affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church".
One of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN’s expressed aims is to defeat the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment that will appear on the November 2012 ballot, and which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The group misleadingly tries to convince Catholics that they can, in good conscience, support a state redefinition of marriage without undermining marriage itself. The Catholic Church, in keeping with Catholic teaching, reason and natural law, and in concert with many other faiths, strongly supports maintaining the current, traditional definition of marriage by voting “yes” for the Amendment during the November 2012 election.

Ask Tony: What is a liturgical abuse?

Here and there, if you read enough blogs, you will see various writers grump and gripe about liturgical abuses. Not all of them are Catholics; Anglicans and Lutherans also have their conservatives who shudder at the sound of guitars, howl at the presence of “giant puppets of doom” and wail at the first hint of liturgical dancing.

(Although I grew up with the Gather Hymnal, and am guilty of having strummed a six-string as a young music minister, my hymn preferences are slowly growing more traditional. Especially when I find myself at the afternoon Life Teen Mass; our parish’s combo is really good, much better than your average garage band, but ….)

If you come from an Evangelical or fundamentalist free-church background, you may have trouble “getting” the importance of proper liturgy for churches closer to the orthodox tradition. Especially since the Catholic Church embraces not just the Latin church, with over a dozen rites that with proper permissions can be used, but also twenty-two Eastern churches stemming from several different liturgical traditions, as well as the Anglican-use parishes (and the ordinariates now being erected under Anglicanorum coetibus).

So what’s the big deal if a particular parish wants to add or change something?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Musings in the check-out line

... Or read Cosmopolitan.
When you're in the check-out line at a grocery or drug store, don't you find yourself idly glancing at the covers of the gossip rags and mentally laughing or grumping at the contents they advertise? For instance, I'm more than a little amused at the continual efforts of OK! to break up Brad and Angelina in favor of Brad and Jennifer. And I'm irked at Cosmopolitan's persistent efforts to make women the sex toys feminists say they shouldn't be.

It gets better. Today I was at CVS to pick up a pack of lighters — non-smokers, please spare me the lectures — when I noticed the latest issue of Cosmo promises to divulge the secret of "four words that can seduce any man, any time".

Really? Does that include Barney Frank? or George Takei? (Boy, then it would be really "okay to be Takei"!)

The real objection I have — other than the patently stupid way they phrased it — is that the ad, if not the article itself, treats men as simply a collection of "hot and horny" buttons a woman can push to make him go to bed with her if she wants him to. Granted, some men act that way ... some men talk as if they'd get excited by the crack of doom. But you dig deep enough, and even these men have their limits. 

Most of them. Most of the time.

But not only does it set up an unrealistic expectation, it also clepes the woman a failure as a woman if these words fail to work their magic on her prospect. And that's part of Cosmo's deeper, uglier philosophy: if a woman isn't having plenty of sex — especially hot, blow-your-mind-out-of-your-flippin'-skull sex — there's something wrong with her as a woman and a person. (Because, of course, we men are just collections of "hot and horny" buttons; getting the man you want into bed should be as simple as snapping your fingers or twitching your butt. So why aren't you boinking like a rabbit right now?)

Unreasonable, demeaning, dehumanizing. For both men and women.

De gustibus non est disputandum. Someone, dear reader, could just as easily ask you, "You read that guy's blog? Gawd, you need to get a life!" And freedom of speech, I suppose, means freedom to publish mind-croggling, depersonalizing crap so long as someone's willing to pay for it. 

And that, I guess, is what depresses me most. Not that someone writes such crap, but that someone pays for and reads such crap, as faithfully as any doctor ever read her medical journals.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Bill Gates didn't say

Bill Gates may have given a speech at Mt. Whitney High in Visalia, California. That part of the urban legend may be true.

But the list below of things you won't learn in school didn't come from the Master of Microsoft. Rather, it originally appeared in an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune in September 1996, written by educator Charles J. Sykes, the author of Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good about Themselves, but Can't Read, Write, or Add.

It's nevertheless true ... brutally true:
Rule 1: Life is not fair — get used to it!
Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping — they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Reminder: Time to act is almost gone!

Stop reading this, go to my previous post on the new HHS rules, click the links and make your voice heard! That's what the democratic process is for!

Monday, September 26, 2011

From the "Doctor Hoo, boy" file

When I first saw this picture on What Does The Prayer Really Say, I thought the inestimable Father Z had picked it up from Bad Vestments. Seriously. After having seen some of the tackiest liturgical ensembles there, I was moderately relieved that the colors were at least subdued. No, it turned out that the source was the fine Australian blog Coo-ees from the Cloister.

But then I started reading the comments. Eagle-eyed fans of Doctor Who had picked up the young geek in the corner holding the picture of the Dalek and the sign that says "CON-SE-CRATE CON-SE-CRATE". As one woman said for the edification of the rest of us, "Daleks generally go around shrieking 'ex-ter-min-ate' in shrill metallic voices."

Since the Daleks are evil, one writer suggested that the young man was "a plant from the TLM group at the local university, or some such. He can't be a serious participant." 

Oh, yes he could be serious ... remarkably clueless but serious. Or does no one remember the Star Wars storm troopers that "stood with Planned Parenthood" on their Facebook page?

Sometimes the worst enemies of the Culture of Death are themselves. I'm not worried about the real long term, because the gene pool is self-cleansing, and the advocates of the Culture of Death are doing everything in their power to let us outbreed them. But you still have to hope that people like Dalek Boy and the nimrod who posted the storm trooper fail are signs that the CoD is losing its PR savvy.

Recycling a classic trashing

Dorothy Parker (©1939 Culver Pictures)
The mark of a great writer is that he steals only from the best. Phil Lawler is aiming for such greatness.

The template is Dorothy Parker's review of the 1933 film The Lake: "[Katharine Hepburn] ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B, and put some distance between herself and a more experienced colleage [Alison Skipworth] lest she catch some acting from her." As Elliott Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss) said in The Goodbye Girl, "If you're going to kill me, kill me with panache."

Phil Lawler wrote this about a series of "talks" being promoted by two Catholic colleges and two non-denom divinity schools entitled “More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church":

Finally the series will wind up at Fairfield—like Fordham, a Catholic school—for a discussion of pastoral care for homosexuals. The roster of speakers at the last session spans the spectrum of Catholic thought from A to B: from those who think the Church should be more accepting of homosexuals, to those who think the Church should be much more accepting of homosexuals.
Now, you may not be able to put new wine into an old wineskin (Mt 9:17; cf. Mk Mk 2:22, Lk 5:37), but you can put old wine into a new wineskine, and give new life to an old insult. My hat is off to you, Phil!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

California: the garbage can of the First Amendment

If I were a swallow, I'd have second thoughts about returning to San Juan Capistrano and consider chugging just a little bit further north to, say, Medford, Oregon. Or just stopping at the border at Tijuana.

Chuck and Stephanie Fromm (LSN)
From Peter Baklinski at

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA, September 21, 2011 ( – A Christian husband and wife from California have been fined by their City Council for lacking a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) while holding Bible studies and prayer meetings in their home.
“The fact that a governing body can effectively shut down an act of worship taking place in a private home does not sound like the heart of America,” said Chuck Fromm, who hosts the meetings.
What is at stake, he says, is “the right to gather.”
Since June 2010, the Fromms have opened their home on the northern outskirts of San Juan Capistrano, CA for a Sunday morning Bible study due to renovations at their normal place of meeting. Since last January, they have also hosted a Thursday evening Bible study, which like the Sunday meeting is said to draw anywhere from 6 to 40 people.
The Fromms say the non-denominational meetings are well-suited to their home, located on a sizable acreage similar to surrounding homes, and they say they have been careful to maintain low noise levels both inside the house and on the patio. They say visitors who attended the meetings never had trouble finding a place to park on the property, which is large enough to accommodate a corral, barn, and pool.
Last April, the city of San Juan Capistrano issued a notice to the Fromms stating that they had violated the city’s Municipal Code for Residential Districts by holding meetings for an “organization” in a residential area.
Section 9-3.301 of the San Juan Capistrano code prohibits “religious, fraternal, or nonprofit organizations” in residential neighbourhoods without a Conditional Use Permit. This prohibition applies to “churches, temples, synagogues, monasteries, religious retreats, and other places of religious worship and other fraternal and community service organizations.” San Juan Capistrano has a reactive code enforcement policy, meaning that officers only respond to complaints. 
Since last May, the Fromms have paid the city $300 in fines for holding their religious gatherings, but have also appealed the citation. Despite letters of support sent to the city from several of Fromm’s neighbors, who deny that the meetings are disturbing the peace, the city sided with the complainer last month.
The city’s hearing officer reiterated to the Fromms that regular gatherings of more than 3 people require a CUP and warned them that future infractions would carry a heftier penalty of $500, up from the June fine amount of $200.
California seems to have a problem not only with the "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment but also the "peaceable assembly" clause as well. Because the gathering doesn't have to be religious in nature to violate the code; it merely has to be regular, purposeful and involve more than three people. Maybe if they held these meetings under the cover of noisy, alcoholic celebrity parties ...?

You know you're a liberal Catholic ...

... when political correctness trumps theological correctness.

Fr. Séan McDonagh
Scripture, when translated with any concern to accuracy, isn't gender-inclusive. If you think about it, it makes sense: it was written long before feminists discovered that English cleped humans in general and nonspecific individuals as Man and men, and began to feel left out. The problem doesn't crop up in Latin, which uses different words for the different concepts (homo and vir). 

However, there are many places in Scripture and the Mass where the masculine noun and pronouns are more correct because of the senses beyond the bare literal (the analogical, the anagogical and the tropological). To try to make these passages "inclusive" would be to vitiate their extended meanings and theological utility.

However, Irish eco-theologian [How trendy can you get?] Fr. Séan McDonagh doesn't give a rat's patoot. According to Giacomo Galeazzi of La Stampa, Fr. McDonagh has said, “All Catholic women should write to their bishops to tell them they are not men." He has said they should complain that “not one woman was consulted during the rewriting of missal and about the use of archaic formulas” such as “for us men and for our salvation”.

While I strive for inclusive language, I've long felt the problem with the feminist argument is that it treats women as linguistically stupid. Until the language police came along, English-speaking women were well aware that they were included in such "archaic formulas", being able to tell from the context whether the use of man, men or he/his/him was gender-specific or not. Taking the principle to its logical conclusion, we should have such ridiculous constructions as person-o'-war (or warperson?), personhole, and humaning the barricades. Do liberals really need to patronize the people they've come to liberate and empower?

But moreover, the new translation is a done deal. It's been introduced in the UK and Ireland, and it takes effect in the US in just a bit over two months. The National Catholic Fishwrap and Commonweal may cheer and huzzah whenever clerics like Fr. McDonagh or Fr. Michael G. Ryan (the creator of the "What If We Just Said 'Wait'?" petition) strike a blow for "the Spirit of Vatican II", but for the rest of us it's just old, cold and overcooked. It's going to happen, and the only people who will think it a disaster will be those who want it to be a disaster. 

The complaint about the missal's "sexist language" is simply another desperate attempt to avert the inevitable. Get over it. Move on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Time to act is running out! — UPDATED

So you know that Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Disservices, has accepted the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine on eight “preventive services” that must be included in any health plan under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which include “all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

Now, HHS is prepared to exempt religious employers. "Consistent with most States that have such exemptions[?], as described below, the amended regulations specify that, for purposes of this policy, a religious employer is one that: (1) Has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization ... churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as ... the exclusively religious activities of any religious order."

As Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has remarked, this definition is “so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and health care providers.” Under this rule, “our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics.”

The net effect, of course, is to create a legal ghetto in which only a limited range of church-affiliated employers can act upon their consciences; if you don't fall within this range, you don't count, so you don't get to be considered religious or to have a conscience that objects to such practices. What if you're an agnostic, but have a moral objection to paying for other peoples' sterilizations and contraceptives? [Do such people exist? There are atheists against abortion, so I'm not willing to say no.] Sucks to be you; pony up your money, chump.

Ironically, this is being done for the benefit of people who don't want us to impose our morality on them.

So time's running out to make your opposition heard. You can file a comment through (if needed, reference Document ID# IRS-2010-0017-0038), and through the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment website. You can also send a message to your congresspersons to back the Support Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). When writing to, I suggest you use the same wording as the NCHLA uses:

Pregnancy is not a disease, and drugs and surgeries to prevent it are not basic health care that the government should require all Americans to purchase. Please remove sterilization and prescription contraceptives from the list of “preventive services” the federal government is mandating in private health plans. It is especially important to exclude any drug that may cause an early abortion, and to fully respect religious freedom as other federal laws do. The narrow religious exemption in HHS’s new rule protects almost no one. I urge you to allow all organizations and individuals to offer, sponsor and obtain health coverage that does not violate their moral and religious convictions.
The deadline to make your voice heard is September 30th, just ten days away. Do it now, and you won't have to kick yourself later for forgetting to do it!

[H/T to Father Z!]

Update: September 27, 2011
Patrick J. Reilly has a great breakdown on the issue on InsideCatholic. Reilly points out that the rules are so limiting that most Catholic non-profits, not being owned by the Church itself, would be excluded, as would Catholic colleges. "In fact, the HHS regulations were implemented immediately in August — an extraordinary move that allows public comment only after the rules are already in force — precisely because HHS wanted to ensure that students quickly receive free coverage for birth control and sterilization."

Chris Blosser of The American Catholic quotes Sr. Mary Ann Walsh at length, and it's worth repeating here:

Catholic hospitals, charities and educational institutions provide about $30 billion worth of service annually in this country. No one presents a baptismal certificate at the emergency room. The hungry do not recite the Creed to get groceries at the food pantry. Students can pursue learning at The Catholic University of America, Villanova or any other Catholic college without passing a catechism admissions test. The commitment to serve those in need, the sick, the hungry, the uneducated, is intrinsic to Catholicism. No federal rule (except now HHS’s) says the church must limit its service to Catholics if it is to be true to its teaching. HHS doesn’t get the parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped the stranger simply because he was in need.
Look at the numbers. Catholic hospitals admit about 5.6 million people annually. That’s one out of every six persons seeking hospital care in the United States. Catholic Charities serves more than 9 million people annually. Catholic colleges and universities teach 850,000 students annually. Among those served are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics and members of any other religious or irreligious group you can name.
One commenter said, "My impression is that our betters in DC would prefer not to have the ever-expanding number of citizens receiving aid/charity/welfare/services to be receiving from any hands but theirs." 

Oh, no, my dears, that's not it at all. The point is to impose the requirement on as many businesses and institutions as possible, and a conscience exclusion that reflected reality much more closely would deprive so many people ... especially all those poor Catholic college students so desperately in need of free contraceptives and sterilizations, boo hoo hoo. 

HHS believes they can get away with it because they can't envision religious groups getting out of charity and education altogether, or prevailing against the government in court. And can you imagine the stink they'd raise if such institutions tried to fire their non-sectarian employees, restrict services to fellow believers, and make religious indoctrination part of the services? Boy, it would be a race to see who would act first: the government, the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center! All of them screaming furiously, "DISCRIMINATION!"

You have to remember that, whether Pres. Obama is a churchgoing Christian or not, he is a true believer in "reproductive rights", especially abortion and contraception — more so than any president since Johnson. Moreover, the credibility of and public support for his presidency is suffering badly; his only hope now is for the Republican candidate to be a complete dud à la John Kerry in 2004 ... a scenario looking disturbingly likely. So he's playing to his political base; support for abortion is dying, but most people still haven't connected the dots between abortion and contraception. Especially those poor students at Catholic colleges — well, at least the Jesuit-run colleges, boo hoo hoo.

So why are you still reading this? Scroll back up, click the links and get to writing!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ask a rhetorical question, get an unnecessary answer

Mark Shea is fair in a similar fashion — he’s just as sarcastic towards the idiots on the right as he is towards the idiots on the left. One day he defends Michael Voris and his webmaster Simon Rafe against unjust accusations; another day he tells us what Voris’ real failings are. How can you not like him?
And then I explained why parenthetically. However, this didn't prevent a Kind Reader from sending me an e-mail: "Go to the Catholic Champion Blog ... and read all the post [sic] on Mark Shea."

Uh-uh. Nope. Sorry, that's a rolling "blue-on-blue incident" that needs to come to an end, rather than having half of Christendom take sides in it. I don't want to see a debate between Shea and Matthew Bellisario, far less a boxing match; for cryin' out loud, these guys are supposed to be on the same side! (Well, maybe an arm-wrestling contest ....) So no thanks, Kind Reader, let someone else dive into the bile.

It all comes back to the difference between making substantive criticisms and making personal ad hominem attacks. It's one thing to take something a fellow blogger has written and say, "Waitaminnit, that's not quite right." It's another to call your fellow blogger a "pompous blowhard" or to imply that he makes snide comments on your combox anonymously because he doesn't have the stones to do it openly.

Maybe this calls for "The Catholic Circular Firing Squad II: Under Friendly Fire".

Friday, September 16, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday! (Vol. 12)

First, a big, loud shout-out to everyone who sent their prayers and condolences to me and my family on the passing of my brother, Bob. Thank you so much, everyone, for your kindness and consideration!
So okay, three years of high-school debate and theater plus a semester college speech course don't a homilist make. But I found out last weekend that I can be pretty good at extemporaneous speaking with enough lead time. My nephew Aidan, though, promises to be better. But then, he's being trained as an actor and dancer!
It was a packed weekend. First, the rosary and visitation on Friday. Then the Mass of the Resurrection on Saturday (and enough sandwiches to feed three times the people who showed up). Then Sunday, remembering 9/11, seeing some friends and relatives off and feasting once again. Finally, Monday, more people leaving and a final feast to celebrate Ted's 52nd birthday. Diet? What diet?
My brother-in-law, Mike, is a wonderful guy.
Over the last few months, the lawn has suffered from lackadaisical attention, with weeds overtaking the front plant beds and grasses growing high where once a vegetable garden thrived. Having nothing else to do on Sunday, Mike took it upon himself to rectify as much as he could, later getting help from my uncle Paul. (I joined in at the very end after my buddy Larry left for home ... at least long enough to trim some overgrowth and hoist a few bags of mulch.) There's still quite a bit to do, especially in the vegetable garden area, but the front looks much nicer than it did Saturday. And all because Mike hates inactivity.

Family get-togethers are great media for reminding oneself of how certain family expressions come into being.

One night, many years ago when Ted was stationed at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas, we were gathered at his house for Christmas. As often happened, we dragged out Trivial Pursuit®, one of many games at which we Laynes take no prisoners and show no mercy. My mother had gone caffeine-free some time before; while we played, Ted made a pot of caffeine-laden java. Later, when he'd gotten a question that earned him a pie slice and put him in the lead, Mom, wired with the coffee, threatened to remove something important from his body with a rusty spoon.

I looked at Ted and put on my best Oxbridge accent: "I suggest a new strategy, Artoo: Let the Wookiee win."

Since my mother possesses a formidable temper, the tag stuck. And now, every once in a while, we can forestall her explosions and even get her to laugh if one of us looks at the other and says, "Let the Wookiee win!" Otherwise, we mentally grab our oh-God handles and duck for cover.

Is there a way you can lay claim to a dead loved one's possession and not feel ghoulish about it? I now have Bob's flat-screen TV and Blu-Ray player in my room, and I still feel like the charwoman in A Christmas Carol who made off with Future Scrooge's bedcurtains even before his body grew cold. Granted, leaving the room just the way it was when we took him to Denton Regional just three weeks ago, right down to the half-full container of popcorn, would have been just as creepy, but still ....

I've applied to GEICO for a job a couple of times in the past. Not even so much as a thank-you-but-we're-looking-at-other-applications e-mail ... not a bloody sausage. 

Well, now that I'm no longer needed as an in-home caregiver, I'm needed as a breadwinner. Tuesday I tried applying with GEICO again. Wednesday, I got an e-mail inviting me to test and interview for the job! Well, I got to HR on time despite a crammed parking lot that forced me to come in from the back forty, passed the test and had a great interview. So maybe Little Bro is helping me out from his corner of heaven ... thanks, Bob!

*     *     *

So that's all the news that's fit to print. Next week I hope to have a contribution for the Bright Maidens, and be back to my normal blogging patterns. Have a great weekend, and God bless!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The measure of our degeneracy

SparkNotes LLC has a mission: to enable your son or daughter to become a brain-dead slacker by pre-chewing and pre-digesting as much literature as possible, so no thought is unduly provoked.

Here's an example of this wretched travesty:

To be, or not to be? That is the question—
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
No Fear Shakespeare:
The question is: is it better to be alive or dead? Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all? Dying, sleeping—that’s all dying is—a sleep that ends all the heartache and shocks that life on earth gives us—that’s an achievement to wish for. To die, to sleep—to sleep, maybe to dream. Ah, but there’s the catch: in death’s sleep who knows what kind of dreams might come, after we’ve put the noise and commotion of life behind us. That’s certainly something to worry about. That’s the consideration that makes us stretch out our sufferings so long. After all, who would put up with all life’s humiliations—the abuse from superiors, the insults of arrogant men, the pangs of unrequited love, the inefficiency of the legal system, the rudeness of people in office, and the mistreatment good people have to take from bad—when you could simply take out your knife and call it quits? Who would choose to grunt and sweat through an exhausting life, unless they were afraid of something dreadful after death, the undiscovered country from which no visitor returns, which we wonder about without getting any answers from and which makes us stick to the evils we know rather than rush off to seek the ones we don’t? Fear of death makes us all cowards, and our natural boldness becomes weak with too much thinking. Actions that should be carried out at once get misdirected, and stop being actions at all.
 And if that's too hard for you still, you can take a break from this milquetoast rendition of great English poetry to read up on how to get rid of hair frizz, your September horoscope or which female rocker is the cutest.

When Western civilization collapses, will anyone be paying attention?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A grief observed

Bobby at Midway Airport (©1999 Anthony S. Layne)
For the next few days, this blog and Outside the Asylum will be untended as we prepare for my younger brother Bobby's funeral. I've posted some final words and a tribute to him on The Other Blog. Thank you everyone who has so far expressed their condolences, and to those who shall do so in the next few days to come.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gibsongate: Obama starts to alienate his last supporters—UPDATED

Gibson Les Paul DC with gold hardware
There are two segments of American society that still place some credibility in the Obama Administration: The mainstream media and the entertainment industry ... if they can still be considered separate entities. Not above shooting itself in the foot, the administration is now eroding one of those power bases.

If you have any knowledge or love of guitars, you know about Gibson guitars. They have made three of the most iconic axes ever to be played on stage or in the studio, from the late Les Paul's eponymous single-cutaway to the SG carried by John Lennon to the Flying V owned by Sammy Hagar (and played by Dr. Gregory House on House MD ... not the same one, of course). You can't buy a Gibson Les Paul in good shape for less than $800 unless you catch a very hard-up musician; in fact, Gibson licenses Epiphone to make Les Pauls with cheaper woods and sell at lower prices. The Les Paul DC is just one of many variants; they're not normally made with gold hardware, nor do they always come with vibrato arms. (Do not, for Pete's sake, call it a "whammy bar", or any number of guitarists will descend upon you to slap the taste out of your mouth.)

Guitarists from all over the musical spectrum just love Gibson guitars for the smooth "humbucker" sound produced by the double-coil pickups and the flattened frets that allow a greater freedom of movement over the fretboard. They are the Rolls-Royce of luthiers.

And, for reasons yet to be fully comprehended, the Department of Justice raided their factory on August 24th, shutting them down and forbidding them to move any of their stock.

The apparent premise for the DoJ's action is their interpretation of an Indian law requiring wood from Indian trees to be finished by Indians. Under a 2009 amendment to the Lacey Act of 1900, manufacturers and suppliers who purchase wood from a foreign company must obey that country's laws. However, to date India has not complained of importation violations nor requested US intervention, and charges have yet to be filed.

Now, there's some suggestion that the effort is politically motivated. CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, according to Andrew Lawton of Landmark Report, is a major GOP contributor, and that C. F. Martin Guitars uses the same wood but hasn't been raided once (let alone twice, as has Gibson). Another rumor is that the raid was motivated by the American Lumber Union, though I have no linkable source on that at this writing (9/5/11 @ 10:07 PM CDT).

[UPDATE: In his press conference shortly after the raid, Juszkiewicz related a story he'd heard that the Lacey Act (at least the amendment) was passed by Congress to benefit the lumber unions, in order to push vendors and manufacturers to purchase American lumber. The YouTube clip is 29:14 long; the reference to the story comes in at 23:39. Juszkiewicz explicitly states that the story is "hearsay"; it isn't a direct accusation of the Lumber Workers Industrial Union or the Industrial Workers of the World, nor does Juszkiewicz accuse the government of bending to IWW/LWIU pressure.—TL]

But Triple Pundit's Raz Godelnik suggests that Juszkiewicz's claim to complete legality may not be all that it seems. The government still holds wood seized as evidence in 2009 stemming from a US Fish and Wildlife charge; Gibson filed a motion to overturn it but was denied. And in 2010, a plan Gibson developed with the Rainforest Alliance had as its first principle "eliminating risk in its supply chain by identifying potentially illegal or unsustainable sources, banning future purchases of ebony or rosewood from Madagascar, and requiring all future purchases are from documented legal sources”. Kudos to them for doing that, but not exactly inspiring confidence that their supply chain is/was uncontaminated by illegal wood.

Nevertheless, the DoJ's immobility on the 2009 charges, when connected with this later raid, smells very fishy. The fact that the FWS charges weren't overturned, while carrying some presumptive bias, isn't a locked-tight guarantee that the accusations have good foundation; judges on all levels of the system have been known to make bad calls based on personal or political bias. And while I place very little credence in the claim of administration pressure on behalf of the American Lumber Union, I don't dismiss it out of hand; previous actions by the administration show that its interpretation of law — American or foreign — is very flexible when enforcing it against employers.

In fact, between raids on Amish milk producers, providing gay porn to school kids, forcing Catholic colleges to offer contraceptive coverage on employee health plans, bullying states to fund Planned Barrenhood and refusing to defend DOMA — oh, and linking to websites telling parents to let their kids masturbate — it appears the only thing the Obama Administration is prepared to enforce is its funhouse-mirror system of values. No wonder people like radio host Alex Jones are fed up with it:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Vatican II strikes back!

I am not a radical traditionalist.

I like Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony and the older English hymns; but I will sit through Masses with guitars and pianos because I'm there to receive the Body of my Lord, not to groove to the music. I don't think Vatican II was a mistake; it was perhaps ill-timed, and a lot of sins have been committed in its name, but it was a valid council nonetheless. I like mantillas and habits, but I also like t-shirts that say "What part of HOC EST CORPUS MEUM don't you understand?" and bumper stickers that proclaim, "We are Catholics. Sin is futile. Prepare to be baptized." I like fish on Fridays ... but I prefer steak. (Which is kind of the point, so I don't complain about it during Lent.)

As far as I know, I've never been to a Latin Mass ... at least, not in the last forty-three years. So I don't honestly know if I would prefer it or not. Any theological objections I had to the lame-duck ICEL translation of the Novus Ordo Mass have been answered by the new translation due to replace it on November 27th. Whichever Mass I go to, I want it celebrated reverently. That's the responsibility of the priest, who shouldn't be a doormat for his liturgists.

Nevertheless ...

I look at this first paragraph from Bp. Michael Warfel's Guidelines Regarding Celebration of the Extraordinary Form of Mass, and I shake my head in wonder:

 Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, (MPSP) article 5.2 notwithstanding, celebrating the Extraordinary Form on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation in parishes of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings as a regular Mass of obligation is not allowed at this time. [Parishioners in these instances may be drawn away from celebrating at the regular Mass for Sunday or Holy Day].
 What part of this paragraph from the Ecclesia Dei Instruction on the Application of Summorum Pontificum is giving His Excellency trouble?

The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the last edition prepared under Pope John XXIII, are two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as ordinaria and extraordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church. [From Summorum Pontificum: "These two expressions of the Church's "Lex orandi" will in no any way lead to a division in the Church's "Lex credendi" (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite."] On account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honor.
English is my native language. So I have no trouble understanding this passage: It means that the Extraordinary form is not inferior to the Ordinary Form. The Mass in the Extraordinary Form, if performed on Sundays or Holy Days, will fulfill obligations except those of the Easter Triduum. Therefore, Bp. Warfel's expressed concern — that people will somehow not fulfill their obligations if they don't attend an NO Mass on those days — is bogus. Are there too few people at the NO Masses?

But wait! It gets better!

MPSP, article 5.3 notwithstanding, celebration of ritual Masses (funerals, weddings, etc.) in the Extraordinary Form is not allowed at this time in the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. A priest must contact the Bishop in advance to ask for any exception to this policy and demonstrate pastoral consideration by not imposing the Extraordinary Form on a parish in these instances.
Has this been a big problem — people getting up in arms because the wedding couple/decedent requested a Latin Mass? Apparently so:

N.B.: It is important to remember that the Extraordinary Form generally does not enable full, active participation by the assembly which was called for by Vatican II. While the Extraordinary Form holds a definite place in the liturgical tradition of the Church, it does not meet the spiritual needs of the large portion of Church membership today.
Oh, so that's it! If you're not chanting responses or singing with the choir, you're not fully, actively participating! I think what Bp. Warfel has in mind is this:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.
In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work. ...
To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence (Sacrosanctum Concilium, §§14, 30).
Perhaps a Mass without "acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs" doesn't meet the needs of many of the people of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. But the intent of Summorum Pontificum wasn't for the spiritual needs of everyone; rather, it was meant for those who find themselves satisfied with the Tridentine liturgy. Rather, one of its purposes, as stated in the Instruction Ecclesia Dei, was to "effectively guarantee[] and ensur[e] the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it".

... [In] some regions, no small numbers of faithful adhered and continue to adhere with great love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms. These had so deeply marked their culture and their spirit that in 1984 the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, moved by a concern for the pastoral care of these faithful, with the special indult Quattuor abhinc anno, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, granted permission to use the Roman Missal published by Blessed John XXIII in the year 1962. Later, in the year 1988, John Paul II with the apostolic letter given as motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei, exhorted bishops to make generous use of this power in favor of all the faithful who so desired (Summorum Pontificum, Introduction).
Seems to me then that +Warfel, by appealing back to Vatican II, has determined that what the traditionalists, their pastors and the Holy Father want are irrelevant. The "very nature of the liturgy" demands full and active participation by the laity; it's the primary and indispensible source for true Christian spirit; so, dadgum it, they're gonna participate whether they like it or not!  

Not only are the guidelines of dubious liceity — Canon 392 pertains to the insurance that ecclesial laws are observed, but doesn't give the bishop power to override an apostolic motu proprio — they're wrongheaded and petulant.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Okay, I'll go ahead and say it ...


Back to the Catholic Bloggers idea ...

Back in April, based on some preliminary work that Richard Collins of Linen on the Hedgerow was doing, I floated the idea of an informal Guild of Catholic Bloggers for our side of the pond, and even got so far as a preliminary set of organizing principles.

Then life got away from me. As I've said before, I'm not a natural organizer or project starter.

On Monday, Richard announced the first meeting of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma, an event that promises to be fun and faith-filled, including High Mass and a talk by His Hermeneuticalness (as Father Z is pleased to call him). On reading that, I felt a little guilty for abandoning my newborn idea ... but went about my week anyway.

I don't own the copyright.
Then came another prompt, in the form of an announcement of a meeting of the Catholic Writers Guild from The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named. (Okay, you'd have to read the comments on this post — and possibly this follow-up post — to get that joke.) "Guild," I said to myself ... and the word guild went wandering off in my mind in search of something to connect with.

Today, just out of curiosity, I decided to check out the membership requirements of CWG. It's $24 per year; they cater mostly to professional authors, though bloggers are welcome; membership includes access to a review board whose approval acts as a kind of non-canonical nihil obstat and imprimatur ... approved books can add the CWG seal for the comfort of harried and concerned Catholic booksellers.

All well and good; I'm considering joining myself. But the meeting, a five-day retreat, sounds a lot more formal than I was thinking about (more along the lines of "a Mass and a blognic"). CWG is a professional organization; my idea is more of a social guild. No review boards, no political tests, no particular required stance on Mass in Latin or Michael Voris or the USCCB or the Gather Hymnal or dresses-versus-pants. Just a chance to get together with the people behind the blog posts, to chat, swap stories, exchange tips, maybe bowl (or golf or play darts), and worship together in our mutual faith.

So once again I ask: Who's still interested? Who didn't know about this before but is interested now?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shameless Pope-ery

A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing; 
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring: 
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain, 
And drinking largely sobers us again. 
Fir'd at first Sight with what the Muse imparts, 
In fearless Youth we tempt the Heights of Arts, 
While from the bounded Level of our Mind, 
Short Views we take, nor see the lengths behind, 
But more advanc'd, behold with strange Surprize 
New, distant Scenes of endless Science rise! 
So pleas'd at first, the towring Alps we try, 
Mount o'er the Vales, and seem to tread the Sky; 
Th' Eternal Snows appear already past, 
And the first Clouds and Mountains seem the last: 
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey 
The growing Labours of the lengthen'd Way, 
Th' increasing Prospect tires our wandering Eyes, 
Hills peep o'er Hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
—Alexander Pope, "An Essay On Criticism" (1709), ll. 215-232
With apologies for the title to Joe Heschmeyer!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tell me again how ridiculous the "slippery slope" argument is

BASEL, August 25, 2011 ( – Kindergarten children in Basel, Switzerland will be presented this year with fabric models of human genitalia in a “sex box” to teach them that “contacting body parts can be pleasurable.” [For this they need a class yet! Reminds me of the Bill Cosby joke: "Intellectuals go to class to study things that people do naturally."]
The kit for teachers to give sex-education lessons to primary school children uses models and recommends having children massage each other or to rub themselves with warm sand bags, accompanied by soft music [perhaps a saxophone?], according to The Local, a Swiss newspaper in English.
Children should be encouraged to develop and experience their sexuality in a pleasurable way,” Daniel Schneider, a deputy kindergarten rector for Basel who helped develop the sex ed curriculum along with experts, had said earlier this year.
He added, “It’s important that they learn to say no if they don’t want to be touched in a certain area.” [But it's apparently more important that they learn to say yes if they do.]
Education officials who have reportedly been flooded with over 3000 complaints from outraged parents have agreed to change the program’s name, but will do nothing to stop the materials from being distributed in schools, according to The Local. [Typical leftist idiocy: "You object to our program? Oh, we'll change the name so it sounds better!"]
Christoph Eymann, Basel education minister and member of the liberal democrat party (LDP), told the paper SonntagsBlick, “It was no doubt stupid to call it a ‘sex box’ [Ya think?] – we will change that.
“But we will stick to our goal: to get across to children that sexuality is something natural. Without forcing anything upon them or taking anything away from their parents.” [This guy must have missed the class "How to Be a Hypocrite without Anyone Noticing".]
 Of course, the real goal of the class is to undermine sexual discipline, sexuality will develop whether the children do anything about it or not. Once the little darlings are accustomed — and potentially addicted — to sexual stimulation, they'll have less resistance to stimulation by adults. Because, as we all know, children are "not inherently incapable of consent".

What "slippery slope"? Don't be ridiculous! Nobody takes that argument seriously anymore! That kind of thing could never, NEVER, NEVER happen here!

*sigh* No, I don't think they're all pedophiles. I just think they're all asshats.

A life on the road

©2011 Omaha World-Herald.
From 1970 to 1981, many a family trip started by crossing the Mormon Bridge on I-680 from Omaha to north of Council Bluffs. It was a flat start to miles and miles of farm-dotted hillsides, endless swaths of corn and grain, interrupted here and there by the occasional truck stop or Stuckey's.

At least once a year, it was off to Tuscola, Illinois, and later to State Line, Indiana, to spend either Easter or Thanksgiving — usually the latter — with my Grandma Layne. Almost always, Dad's sister, Ann Reese, and her family would be there; Grandma's sister Helen (Grandma's name was Beatrice) would often show up as well. Sometimes the trip included a visit to Grandma's farmland, where we would visit the tenant farmer, Bill Stoerger, and his family.

Grandma Layne was almost the stereotype grandmother you used to see in commercials and television. She knitted and crocheted. She stitched comforters, one of which was always spread neatly over her cherrywood queen-sized bed (which I inherited and had to give up, and I still feel sick about it). Her study was filled with neat little bric-a-brac and delicate porcellain pieces. She wore dresses and wore horn-rimmed glasses. She spoke in a quiet, grandmotherly tone and had a quiet sense of humor. 

(One night, my brother Bob and I were lying awake in our sleeping bags in the study while she was eating some ice cream and speaking to someone else — Mom and Dad? Anyway, we heard the clatter of the spoon in her bowl as she announced, "I can't eat another bite" ... and then we heard the unthinkable: Grandma belched. Quite loudly. Grandmothers don't burp! And they don't follow it up with a quip like, "Oh, well, maybe I can eat a little bit more!" Bob and I howled over that.)

The last time I crossed the Mormon Bridge to go to Illinois was in August of 1985. It was to lay Grandma in the cemetery in Tuscola, where a site beside Grandpa had been waiting for her since 1972. It would be the last time I saw my cousin Wayne, who died in an accident a few years ago, or my uncle George, who passed away just a couple of years ago. I don't remember when Great-aunt Gertrude passed; there were so many years when we just lost contact with our relatives out there.

The last time I crossed the Mormon Bridge was 2008. I'd gone back with Bob to Omaha on a weekend visit. While I was there, my friends and I decided to eat a prime rib dinner at the Pink Poodle in Crescent. As far as I know, the Poodle is still there, serving a pretty decent cut of meat.

But the stretch of I-680 from the Mormon Bridge to I-29 (pictured above) has been destroyed. 

Massive melt-offs up in the northern reaches of Montana and Wyoming, from where the Missouri River springs, led to high river levels all along the waterway, spilling over the banks between Ft. Calhoun several miles north of Omaha and Missouri Valley a few miles south of Council Bluffs. According to the Omaha World-Herald, "parts of the road and its supports ran against the grain of how floodwaters flowed and washed away like a weakened dam;" assuming an aggressive schedule, repairs will take until at least Thanksgiving of 2012.

Yes, the road will be repaired. Nothing to get all gloom and doom about. But ....

I used to drive an ice-cream (technically "frozen novelties") truck in a great, circuitous route from Blair to Fremont. As I drove down US 30 from Kennard to Arlington, the heat shimmering off the concrete, I would see a couple stretches of dilapidated, abandoned macadam that the concrete had replaced. They're still there, if you'd like to take a look. Old Lincoln Highway, which used to be connected to West Dodge Road at about 174th (now Burt St. acts as an access road), still takes you to Elkhorn on bricks ... but historical preservation ends at Cedar St. There was a time when I would see such cobblestone bricks on Old Military Road as it ran west of 168th Street, in patches where the blacktop had chunked off.

And as I drove along these pieces of 20th-century history, I would daydream and wonder about the people who had been that way before me, when the bricks and the blacktop had been fresh and new, who had driven their Fords and Chevys and Oldsmobiles to church — to market — to their jobs — to the recruiting stations and wartime factories. Perhaps they'd listed to the radio like we did on our way to Illinois; when the signal gave out, they'd sung songs and told stories just as we had. And when they got hungry, they'd find a roadside diner just as we found a Stuckey's; when they needed gas or a "comfort break", they'd find a Texaco or Standard with CLEAN RESTROOMS and a vending machine that dispensed twelve-ounce glass bottles of Coke or Pepsi.

And now I wonder: Fifty years from now, will that stretch of I-680 be obsolete as we flit around the skies like the Jetsons? Or will it be abandoned and surrendering to entropy as those now-crumbling chunks of what used to be US 30, because our country suffered an economic cascade failure?

And will anyone in that future, be it utopian or dystopian, look upon the ruins of I-680 and see the ghost of a little boy going over the river and through the long Iowa fields to visit his grandmother?