Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

Dear God.

First, the frenzied, howling Sanhedrin. Slapping, punching, spitting all the while ... perhaps kicking him if he fell. During the night watch, his anxiety and fear for what he knew was coming was so great that the net of blood vessels around his sweat glands constricted, then hemorrhaged. Hematidrosis. As a result, his skin is extremely fragile and sensitive; every punch and slap is exquisitely painful.

The humiliation of the crowning as Rex Iudaeorum: not a wreath or circlet but a cap woven out of branches from the local thorn bushes, each thorn a nail in his scalp, with a staff made out of reed for a scepter ... a scepter with which he was struck like a club.

But that wasn't enough. Two Roman soldiers with flagella: whips of leather, with small bones tied to the ends which ripped the skin off his back and tore pieces of muscle out. Tied to a post, there was no way he could move, even involuntarily, that would avoid the clawing fragments that shredded his back. There's no way I can not hear him screaming his agony; slaves had been known to die as a result of the forty lashes.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ask Tony: Why doesn't the Catholic Church give away its wealth?—UPDATED

Manipulative image-mashing, meet scriptural cherry-picking.
I'm sure that this question is coming up more frequently with the election of Pope Francis, who seems determined to continue to live according to his vow of poverty as much as is practical. 

 If you've been to Vatican City, and walked through St. Peter's, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum, your mind just boggles at the treasure of artwork contained there. Then again, you could go to any cathedral and see the bishop perform the Eucharistic Rite with gold or silver chalice and paten.

The Catholic Church is wealthy, you think. But that doesn't seem right; it doesn't seem to be in keeping with the Founder who had no place to lay his head (Mt 8:20; Lk 9:58). So why doesn't the Church give it all away?

The answer isn't as simple as some people would like you to believe.

The words "rich" and "poor" are properly used only of people, not of businesses or institutions. There are a lot of people who really don't understand business finance or how it differs from personal finance; you really need to take at least an Intro to Accounting course to appreciate it. They hear a bank has $2 billion in assets and don't really realize that that same bank may have $1.8 billion in liabilities, that some of those assets will consist of buildings, equipment and other physical items that can't be easily or quickly converted to liquid funds. All they know is that $2 billion is a lot of money. But asset is not just another word for cash or money.

The same problem obtains for the Church. You don't run homeless shelters and soup kitchens out of tents and RVs; house basements are rather impractical church spaces for all but the smallest congregations. Eventually you're gonna build churches for your congregations and offices for your charitable work and diocesan organization, and all these things must appear as entries in the accounting books. In personal finance, that may be wealth; for a non-profit organization, these are costs of doing business.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Style vs. Substance—UPDATED

Pretty soon, the phenomenon Simcha Fisher calls the "papamoon" will be over — if it's not over already, as secularists and progressivists are starting to catch on to the fact that Pope Francis is Catholic (surprise!). But there are still people who are using Papa Bergoglio as "good pope" to tear down Papa Ratzinger as "bad pope" to serve their own agendas.

Michael Voris occasionally irritates me. He can come off as too pompous, too self-righteous, and too vulnerable to conspiracy theories. (And maybe this is just my capillary envy talking, but the hair — don't get me started.)

But when he's right, he's so right.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Should we be "desirable" ... or "sexy"?

Sexyadj. /ˈsɛksi/ From sex (Middle French sexe < Latin sexus (“gender”); thought to be connected with Latin seco, secare (“divide, cut”) by the concept of division, or “half” of the race) + -y — 1: sexually suggestive or stimulating; erotic. 2: generally attractive or interesting; appealing.
Desirableadj. /di-ˈzī-rə-bəl/ From desire (Middle English desiren < Old French desirer < Latin desiderare, orig., prob., to await from the stars < de-, from + sidus, star) + -able — 1: having pleasing qualities or properties; attractive. 2: worth seeking or doing as advantageous, beneficial, or wise; advisable.
If there’s a clear line between sexy and desirable, finding it is challenging enough.

Consider Penélope Cruz: There’s no doubt she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world today. Sexy, yes, beyond shadow of a reasonable doubt. But without unnecessarily vilipending Ms. Cruz (since I don’t know her personally) — is she really desirable?

A certain kind of trousered ape, a type all too familiar to us, would answer, “Well, yeah! Duh! Who wouldn’t like to wake up to that in the morning?” This is precisely the attitude that gets us the perennial female complaint, “Men are pigs!” And, unfortunately, even the best of us aren’t so far from the trousered ape that we don’t wonder what Ms. Cruz would look like with bed hair, no makeup and the sleep still in her eyes.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Too Catholic? Not Catholic enough?—UPDATED

So what do I think of our new pontiff, Francis?

It's funny — within two hours of his election I started seeing both sides try to claim him for their own, then two hours later I began seeing both sides damn him as belonging to the other side!

That having been said, it's tough to get a read on Francis. It goes beyond a "son of Ignatius" — a Jesuit — naming himself not after a co-founder of his own order, St. Francis Xavier, but after the founder of the mendicant Friars Minor, St. Francis of Assisi.  

He quotes Henri de Lubac, a contemporary of Teilhard de Chardin and presumed an influence in Vatican II (thus making him near schismatic in the eyes of traditionalists). As provincial for Argentina, according to John L. Allen, Jr., he resisted the movement towards liberation theology and insisted on a more traditional reading of Ignatian spirituality — not a plus in the eyes of the "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd.

He's on record as having openly and vocally opposed abortion and euthanasia, which was apparently forceful enough to warrant a rebuke from the Argentinian government as "ideological malfeasance" ... but not forceful enough for Marcelo González of Panorama Católico Internacional, who says "he has not fought against abortion and only very weakly against homosexual 'marriage'" ... which Francis called a "destructive pretension against the plan of God ... a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God." He has also ministered to AIDS victims and drug addicts as part of his episcopal duties.

In other words: Too Catholic for the progressives, not Catholic enough for the traditionalists. So probably just right for me.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Fraternal Order of Them What Has Been Shot At

Where the DWM will rank in the USAF order of precedence.
Thanks to movies, television shows and other media that have taken a much fairer look at the military since 1991, people who have never spent a day in BDUs have some familiarity with military culture and language. Steven Spielberg, courtesy of Saving Private Ryan, even resurrected an acronym from the ancient trivia of World War II — FUBAR (F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition or Repair) — that enjoyed some currency for awhile. SNAFU (Situation Normal: All F***ed Up) has been in common use so long that it's spelled in minuscule letters like any other noun.

Let me introduce you to an acronym that's cropped up quite a bit recently: REMF. The RE stands for "rear echelon"; the MF shall not be decoded in this blog even with asterisks — suffice it to say that it's a foul name suggesting the person acts on his Oedipal fantasies. The acronym has come up quite a bit in reference to the Distinguished Warfare Medal, an award recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense for "drone pilots and cyber warfare specialists whose actions have a direct impact on combat operations", as reported by Bryant Jordan of

Technically, "rear echelon" refers to the non-combatant elements of the military; that is, the administrative and supply units. By extension, it refers to units that don't routinely take hostile fire, no matter how important they are to the total war effort.

At least, that's how front-line troops see it. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Miscellanea; or, While you're waiting for the smoke ...

Over on The Other Blog, my latest post jumps off from a recent New York Slimes/CBS News poll. This cartoon reminds me of one fact I didn't cover there: Of the 500+ Catholics interviewed for the survey, 52% said the new translation of the Roman Missal was "a good idea", while only 32% said it was "a bad idea". (The rest said, "What new translation?")

*     *     *

If ever the Sacred College were possessed of a fit of madness and elected me Pope — an event only slightly more probable than my being struck dead by a meteor — the first thing I would do is re-write the election rules and junk most of the secrecy. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

The luxurious Domus Sanctae Marthae—UPDATED

Jesuit Father James Martin, who appears here and there as an Authoritative Catholic Source (and he is), threw a classic rant on Facebook the other day:

Exterior, Domus Sanctae Marthae, Vatican City.
The conclave hasn't even started, and I'm already submerged by a sea of stupid articles, idiotic commentary and boneheaded op-eds about the Catholic Church, by people who have no clue what they're talking about. I'm not talking about people with whom I disagree, or who challenge me with new ways of thinking about the church, but writers who seem completely clueless about the most basic concepts. Some of this is to be expected: the church is a highly complex institution with 2,000 of history behind it.
But the number of misinformed articles I've read about celibacy, the priesthood, the papacy, the church in this country, the causes of the sexual abuse crisis, church authority, papal infallibility, the role of the magisterium, life in a religious order, the vow of chastity, and Benedict XVI, just boggles the mind. Or at least my mind, which perhaps is too easily boggled. Needless to say, I don't expect commentators to know everything about the church. (I sure don't.) But I think it's a reasonable to expect that people should refrain from commenting (especially publicly) on stuff that they clearly don't know much about.

Father Martin, oddly enough, gives me hope for the future of the Society of Jesus. Note, if you will, that he didn't call the authors "stupid", "idiotic" and "boneheaded", because he's fully aware that intelligent people will occasionally say dumb things.  (Evidence A for the prosecution: Your Humiliated Blogger's prediction that Obama would go down to defeat.)

In show business, they call it "vamping": improvising dialogue and other business when someone has gone off-script, or a prop hasn't appeared when it was supposed to, or the hands are having a problem with a scene change. The chattering classes vamp as well, particularly when they have to kill time between Event A and Event B: they try to fill the gap with any kind of noise they can make to create the impression that they're reporting something of interest.  And that is a trap just waiting for victims to step into it.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My obligatory pre-conclave ramble

Catholics have had their traditional period of grief for the passing of the Pope — which is, in a sense, what just happened — and have moved on to the next stage: waiting in uneasy anticipation for the conclave to begin and end.

Once upon a time, I'm told, when the Bishop of Rome was selected by the priests and deacons of Rome, the ritual of showing the newly-elected Pontiff to the crowd was serious business: if the Romans booed their choice, they'd turn right around and elect a different person.

Nor was the conclave born of secrecy; in fact, the point of it was to get the electors to make their choice speedily.  Up until the 2005 conclave, the electors were housed inside the Apostolic Palace on rented cots that, as Fr. Andrew Greeley noted in The Making of the Popes 1978: The Politics of Intrigue in the Vatican, were almost as uncomfortable as the beds at his seminary.  For the 2005 election the Domus Sanctae Marthae was open; although it has a dining room and conference rooms like any two-star hotel, the bedrooms themselves are as modestly furnished as the cell of a modern convent or monastery.

No one wants to make the conclave a prolonged affair, especially not the cardinals themselves.