Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I wanna do this ...

Lenten reading plan with the Church Fathers. The best part is, there's pdfs with all the texts! So I don't have to go digging up my copy of Early Christian Writings. [Via an Aid to Memory.] And it will certainly be better than whatever fare Continental airline's entertainment system dishes out on the flight across the pond on Thursday ... :-)

Monday, February 27, 2006

The ghost of Sanjay Gandhi?

The Telegraph has a disturbing story, about a kind of forced sterlization program in Uttar Pradesh.
Thousands of primary school teachers have been ordered to find two "volunteers" for sterilisation as part of a draconian solution to India's population explosion.

The order was issued to 6,400 teachers in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state (pop 170 million), where the teachers have been given until March 31 to meet the "sterilisation target" or face disciplinary action.
The plan, imposed by a district magistrate in the southern city of Allahabad, is a radical approach to dealing with India's population of almost 1.1 billion.
The nation's population, as displayed on a giant screen in the capital at noon yesterday, stood at 1,089,752,843. It is expected to overtake China (currently 1.3 billion) by 2020 as the world's most populous nation. It is estimated that 29 children are born in India every minute.
The magistrate, Amrit Abhijat, has remained unapologetic despite an outcry from religious groups and social activists. They say the scheme evokes memories of the forced sterilisation of the Indira Gandhi government of the 1970s, when nearly a million men and women, mostly from the lowest castes, were targeted. "The root cause of all evils is population explosion," Mr Abhijat said.
Experts disagree over whether the population will be a burden or a boon in the years ahead. Some economists predict India will benefit from the fact that China's economy is expected to slow by 2030 because of the ageing effects of its one-child policy.
India, by contrast, is one of the youngest countries in the world, with half the population now under 25, a fact that could give India a potential competitive edge over Europe where the population will soon be top-heavy with pensioners. Any advantage could depend on India's ability to educate its masses sufficiently to compete in the global economy.
[Lifted from Zadok]
[Sanjay Gandhi, elder son of Indira Gandhi, who was killed in a plane crash in 1980, gained notoriety, among other things, for a forced sterlization campaign in the UP in the mid--70s during Emergency (when Mrs. G invoked a draconian clause in the Constitution, and suspended parliament, effectively killing democracy for two years). When elections were held in 1977, this campaign was supposed to have been one of the contributors to Mrs. Gandhi's electoral defeat. It didn't last long, the opposition Janta government lasted three years, and Mrs. G was back in power in 1980.]


Mark links to a neat article by Alan Creech on fundamentalism, both Catholic and Protestant. Go read it! It's generated some thoughts that I might get to blogging about tonight. [That's after I blog about the Chant Workshop over the weekend, and get through the ludicrous number of things piled up on my to do list. Oh geez, there's parish council as well. :-)]

More DaVinci battles ...

... in the courtroom this time. (Via Bill Cork)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lo sciopero ....

Only in Italy (maybe France too) would they have a page that lists upcoming strikes.

[Not only that, there's a government commission to monitor strikes! Ah --- proletariat of the world unite!]

Shady Vatican real-estate deals?

Or so this breathless NCR piece might imply (Hat tip to Dogwood for the link)
An Italian-owned Manhattan real estate development company with ties to high-ranking Vatican officials is bidding on properties owned by dozens of U.S. dioceses and religious orders. Some church real estate professionals have questioned the company's tactics, while others praise the firm for its promise to revitalize vacant church property.

The Park Avenue-based Follieri Group, founded nearly three years ago by Raffaello Follieri and his father, Pasquale Follieri, has "entered into contracts for the acquisition of over $100 million of church property in three U.S. cities" and is "actively bidding on an additional quarter billion dollars of church assets," according to the company's Web site.
The article goes on to talk about the activities of the Follieri group, its supposedly high-pressure tactics, and tries its best to imply that there is something rotten about the fact that one of the company's VPs is the nephew of Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano. However, it admits
"They used the Vatican connection and they found out that it got them polite teas with the bishop, but no further. It's a European approach to an American business relationship."
The critics are never identified ("some of the church real-estate professionals") and their criticisms don't amount to more than "the thing smells, in my opinion." As to Follieri himself, this is his plan:
The company, says Follieri, is focused exclusively on church properties in the United States, a niche that he hopes will redound to the company's credit. Further, says Follieri, "We are a profitable organization, but we are interested in the social good for the community." The group is committed to developing properties that are compatible with the church's social mission, he said.

Yet, he said, that commitment to good social outcomes does not give them an advantage in the bidding process for church property. "We sit down when [a bishop or diocesan official] receives us and we explain what we do. Some of the bishops embrace the projects, some are not interested. It is like any other venture. Some people are interested, some are not."
And then there's the implication of sleaze, or at least of monetary influence. The articles tries to make much of the group's sponsoring a fundraiser for the charitable arm of the Vatican mission to the UN ("access to Vatican officials doesn't come cheaply." Maybe I'm missing something. If a Veep is Cardinal Sodano's nephew, why on earth do they have to buy access to "Vatican officials?"), and then darkly implies that their hosting a hospitality booth at the USCCB meeting in DC had something to do with the Bishops' vote to ask the Vatican to raise the ceiling of property deals that can be done without Vatican approval from $5.1 to $10.3 million. Um. If the "Vatican" is in on this company, isn't this in the "Vatican's" interest as well?

I really have no knowledge at all about church real-estate deals, and, until now, haven't heard of the Follieri group. Maybe they're rotten, maybe (like any good company), they're trying to use their connections to increase their profits. What I find amusing is the way this NCR piece just tries so hard to make this sound so much more nasty than it probably is.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More Battlestar ...

So, I finally got around to watching last Friday's episode of Battlestar Galactica at C's place, "Captain's Hand." Of course it was good. Even the worst epsiode so far ("Black Market") was good. But they went to the abortion issue. As it started, G leaned over to me and said, "you might not like 'cause of the way it goes." Here's the brief paragraph from the episode guide:
Back on the Galactica, Rya Kibby's desire to exercise her legal right to an abortion, and the revelation that Doc Cottle has been providing this service to women in the fleet for the past few months, becomes an incendiary political issue. The fleet's pro-life Gemenon faction threatens to pull its support for President Laura Roslin unless she condemns the practice of abortion and makes it illegal.
Well, it wasn't quite one-sided. I'm not at all surprised that Lara Roslin is presented as a die-hard pro-choicer, the "I've fought all my life for women to have control over her body" type. I don't know if the producers would be able to conceive of powerful, self-confident women as being pro-life. The presentation of the pro-lifers, the religiously conservative Geminons (neatly filling current blue-state stereotype, by threatening dire political consequences if President Roslin didn't act) was irritating: raging religious fanatics quoting scripture, "Do you know know the gods say in scripture that abortion is an abomination?" The only role the spokesperson had was to glare angrily and stalk out of the room, twice, in the episode.

The most interesting point, which, to me, really gets to the heart of the matter, was Admiral Adama's. He points to the Number on President Roslin's dry-erase board (the number of surviving humans) and basically reminds her of what she herself had said, way back in the mini-series, "if we want to save the human race, we'd better start reproducing babies." Fighting her beliefs (which, it would seem, is what I see as the standard pro-choice line, that a woman's freedom trumps the right of her child to life), President Roslin issues an executive order outlawing abortion in the Fleet.

Really, I don't know that a mainstream TV production could do much better than this on the issue.

[Predictably, the Battlestar message board is already beyond 50 pages of discussion on this episode. Surprisingly calm. I was expecting a shouting match on there, given the nature of the topic! One post made an interesting observation -- the pregnant teen, Rya, has both her parents? That must be rare!]

The ending was great too -- the way VP Balthar (oh he makes my skin crawl. The adolescent dolt! He's one of my favs!) uses the issue to announce his own campaign for the presidency, "when we take away any of our freedoms [guess, the freedom of the child doesn't matter at all] we become like the Cylons" Brilliant rhetoric, easily reminiscent of current political debates on civil liberties and the "war on terror."

However, as Gina 6 applauds his uncharacteristic show of resolve and chutzpah, did I detect the slightest bit of sarcasm? I mean -- and of course, the nature of 6 is so unclear (is she "real"? Just in his consciousness? What?) -- well, she's talked about following God before. Presumably the monotheistic God, the one most closely resembling the Judeo-Christian God from the rhetoric of previous episodes. Can she be pro-abortion? Or is all that rhetoric purely manipulative, to get under Balthar's skin? Besides, wouldn't she want the destruction of the human race? (Presumably after whatever schemes involving Cylon-human interbreeding have run their course.)

Now, I don't know what to make of Lee Adama being made Commander of Pegasus. It seems logical -- but seems not right at the same time. Can't put my finger on it. And what does this do to the Lee-Dualla angle?

Oy. I love this show! I'm bummed that I'll be missing the next three episodes on Friday (this Friday in Auburn at the chant workshop, next Friday in Rome, the following is Matt B's birthday. We're gonna celebrate! That he's here! And cancer free! Woo hoo!)

Now maybe we should ask them about the cartoons instead?

Hindu gods reject Himalayan ski-resort. [Via Relapsed Catholic]. It's the kind of story that would make one shake their head and sarcastically deploy that tired slogan from the 45th anniversary of Independence, "Mera Bharat Mahaan" --- "My India is great."
Nine out of 10 gods who expressed a preference said the village would be inimical to the valley's interests.

As so often with religion, however, things were not as simple as they first appeared. Suspicious minds noted that Maheshwar Singh, the "king" of Kullu, is a former MP for the Hindu-nationalist BJP party, sections of which are against foreign intervention.

Mr Sims could barely conceal his irritation. "The gods were asked all the wrong questions," he said.

The Himalayan Ski Village has been rejected "as it is presented" to the gods.

As keen students of the Hindu religion, Mr Ford and Mr Sims will know that, when the correct offerings are made, the gods are often open to persuasion.

Selling God's Love ...

so the parish email got its third announcement from USCCB Publishing, advertising the new publication of the Pope's first encyclical, "God is Love." What's not mentioned is that a neat .pdf version of the text is available on their website! Come on guys --- you're offering the text free! Be proud of that! (Of course, the blogosphere beat 'em --- Clayton Emmer had a .pdf text out the week the encyclical came out).

Not that it wouldn't be nice to have a few print copies floating around -- heck, I might get some just to show my appreciation of the USCCB's magnanimity on this occasion! At $6.96 a pop it's not a bad deal. But then, I'd much prefer the beautiful edition put out by Cantagalli .... wait! I'll be able to! In a week or so! :-)

Habemus cardinales ...

[I should have just said "We have hinges .... " since cardo = hinge ... :-p] After much speculation in circles that care about these things, many breathed a sigh of relief as the Holy Father announced his first list of cardinals today, on the Feast of the Chair of Peter. Rocco has the scoop. Two more American red hats --- Abp Sean O'Malley of Boston and Abp William Levada, formerly of San Francisco, and currently the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. The cardinals will be created in a consistory on March 25.

Shoot, why couldn't he have done this while I was going to be in Rome March 3-9, eh? :-)

Anyway, it's s aaid that only two being can create something out of nothing --- God, with creation, and the Pope with cardinals! :-)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The evanescent blogsophere ...

The financial times weighs in on blogging. A decent, if not flattering survey that hits the mark for sure:
The dismal traffic numbers also point to another little trade secret of the blogosphere, and one missed by Judge Posner and all the other blog-evangelists when they extol the idea that blogging allows thousands of Tom Paines to bloom. As Ana Marie Cox says: “When people talk about the liberation of the armchair pajamas media, they tend to turn a blind eye to the fact that the voices with the loudest volume in the blogosphere definitely belong to people who have experience writing. They don’t have to be experienced journalists necessarily, but they write - part of their professional life is to communicate clearly in written words.”

And not every blogger can be a Tom Paine. “People may want a democratic media,” says Cox, “but they don’t want to be bored. They also want to be entertained and they want to feel like they’ve learned something. They want ideas expressed with some measure of clarity.”

Which brings us to the spectre haunting the blogosphere - tedium. If the pornography of opinion doesn’t leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium.
The article doens't talk about the religious or the Catholic blogosphere specifically, where there isn't much "mainstream" competition for information. Diocesan newspapers, in the main, are boring. CNS, Zenit and other newsires provide a staple of information. There's some national Catholic periodicals, but all have a particular ideological bias, or are low in intellectual heft (Catholic Digest). The blogosphere provides a great medium for some decent Catholic commentary, and does democratize the spread of information having to do with Catholicism. And there's so much stuff of real substance out there.

Of course, the dangers of evanescence remain.

This post will be beyond browser view by the end of the day ... :-)

[So, what say ye, about me restricting blogging for Lent? Ugh. I'm going to Rome. Squash that ... ]

The Truth Will Set You Free

Amy links to this great blog at Notre Dame,The Truth Will Set You Free, which discusses the whole issue of academic freedom at Catholic universities/colleges, in light of the recent address of the President of Notre Dame on this issue [centering around the legitimacy of a Catholic college in sponsoring and financially supporting the Vagina monologues. Before commenting, read the address and other commentary :)]

And the bird-flu is in India ...

... in western Maharashtra state (whose capital is Bombay). Eight people have been quarantined. And it's in western Europe as well.

Guess there won't be any pollo on the menu while in Rome ...

If acclamation were the only criterion ...

... this person would likely be canonized.

Listening to the Bible ...

[Well, that was a longer hiatus than I'd expected. I can't convey just how much is piled up on my plate. All I can say is .... the countdown to Rome is on!]

This morning found me bright and early driving down to Mount Pleasant (near Charleston) to meet with the Honorary Italian Consul. When I woke up I decided it wouldn't be a complete waste of an almost 4 hour roundtrip drive time if I could listen to a book of the Bible, specifically Exodus, since we're going over the whole idea of covenant in my Tech class. (Hey, if I'm going to ask the students to read something, I'd better make sure and read it too!) So, I searched the iTunes music store for a bible podcast ... there were a few, but none that had gotten to Exodus yet. I did find this cool site however, that has all the books of the Bible available in mp3 format (and several different languages as well!). The translation is the World English Bible, a public domain translation designed for reading. It's not bad. Certainly better than the NAB, but let's not go there ...

Anyway, I pretty muched listened to all 40 of the chapters of the Book of Exodus on the drive. I must say, it's a very interesting experience listening to the Bible. For one, one catches a whole different set of details, and doesn't have to bother with distracting footnotes that interrupt the flow of the text [phone calls are another thing altogether]. I've never actually heard the Bible on tape (or on iPod in this case) before, and I quite enjoyed the exeprerience. I've a feeling I'll be downloading many more books, especially of the Old Testament. [It's been years since I've actually read the Old Testament seriously. The snippets one gets at Mass are few, and generally get swallowed up by their being linked to the Gospel. Besides, one would be forgiven if one thought at times that the Old Testament consistent of not much other than the Prophet Isaiah ]

And probbably, it's the only way to really get through all the mind-numbing detail of legislation and ritual instruction in the latter part of Exodus and pretty much the entire book of Leviticus. [I wouldn't recommend driving while listening the first eight chapters of 1 Chronicles either. Not conducive to staying focused on the road, I would imagine!]

[On a separate note, it always takes one back, just how bloody the Bible is. But that's a whole another conversation...]

Here's some cool Bible Podcasts:
The Bible Podcast: so far, they have Genesis, Romans, John and are working through Hebrews.

One Year Bible on Radio: what it says!

Another Bible in a Year podcast.

And not the Bible per se, but here's the Praystation Portable, that lets you download the Church's daily liturgy every day.

[And yes, the meeting with the Honorary Consul was successful, in that it took him barely 5 minutes to glance over my application and stamp it. Now to overnight it to Miami ... which is where the visa will come from ... ]

Friday, February 17, 2006

Short hiatus ...

Back in town. But taking the students on retreat in an hour. No blogging till Sunday at the earliest.

Setting the record straight ...

I cannot fathom how anyone could go to Paris or Rome on a "Dan Brown" tour, following the "history" of the place using one of his novels. Some tour guides in Rome give an "Angels and Demons" tour, but set the record straight.
Some tour groups, of course, try to cash in on Brown's inventions. But this, according to Tony Polzer, the director of Three Millennia Tours, only leaves a tourist so confused that they can't appreciate the genuine beauty and intrigue of the city.

"Rome is an amazing city on many different levels," Polzer told me. "Whether you're talking about the assassination of emperors or the power of the aristocracy in the Middle Ages, to the popes of today -- there have been some incredible things going on throughout the three millennia history."

Polzer said that his tour aims to debunk Brown's myths about Rome and the secret Illuminati society, in order to genuinely illuminate his clients. "Like the one the reporter from the Financial Times went on," he said. "Our tour covers the path of the so-called Illuminati -- the four altars of science and the illuminate lair."

(That includes the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo; St. Peter's Square; Santa Maria in Victoria; Piazza Navona; and Castel Sant'Angelo, for those who haven't read the book.)

"The difference is that instead of giving our opening introduction by describing the illuminate according to Brown's vision, we commit to proving the group never existed in this way, or stage of Rome's history, at least," Polzer said.
. Three cheers!

... and today's Gospel ...

[Mark 8:34 - 9:1]
Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
What could one give in exchange for his life?
Ok. Ok. I get it already ... :-)

Thursday, February 16, 2006


The Gospel at today's Mass, Mark 8:27-33, is Mark's account of Peter's confession of Jesus as the Christ, Jesus' praise of Peter, the first prediction of the Passion, and Jesus' rebuke of Peter.

At the daily Mass in the beautiful chapel here (oh man the acoustics rock), Fr. B took the tack that what Peter had to give up was his attachments to thinking the way human beings do, to thinking the way the world does. This thinking with the world infects a Christian's thoughts. He (she) needs to think with God's mind (or something to that effect). And then, further, that we need to give up our attachments, to be purified.

Well, how very appropriate. Especially when he said "such as this attachment for books that some of us have." And not just the material attachments (of which, I have relatively few). But the good ones, the ones to rootedness and community, to home, to independence.

Such excitement! Such fear!

[What gave the homily an added power was that Father has brain cancer. At breakfast he said that he feels that the Lord is stripping him away of everything. To see him at the altar, offering the Divine Victim, and all our lives with Him, takes on a whole new level of meaning.]

Move over Air Force One ...

The Curt Jester introduces us to Cephas One .... :-)

Girl thrown into burning pit to please the gods ...

just north of India's commercial capital. [Hat tip to St. Liz for the link. This TOI report suggests that she's stable. According to another report that St. Liz has read, she died.]
MUMBAI: In a shocking incident, a 22-year-old girl was thrown into a burning pit to 'appease the gods', at Tembi Pada in Virar, 62 km from Mumbai.

Worse, the girl, Jyotsna Tandel, was not given any medical assistance from the time of the incident around 10 pm on Friday till 6 am on Saturday.

At present, she is in KEM Hospital, Parel, with 64% burns that she suffered after being 'offered for sacrifice' in a pit.

On Saturday, she was rescued from the house where she was held captive by so-called faith-healers and rushed to Sanjeevani Hospital in Virar (W).

The Virar police have since arrested two members of a family — Vijay Mangela (22) and Anita Mehar (21) — in this connection.

On a visit to the village, which is a settlement of fishermen, TOI learnt that Jyotsna and 20 other youngsters were suffering from chicken pox. The Mehar family claimed to have the 'power' to cure the condition.
India is such a bizarre place. Someone once remarked that it's like having a modern 21st century world view live cheek-by-jowl with animist neolithic worldviews. I'm not going to give the incredulous, "in this day and age!" line. In this day and age, us supposedly civilized moderns do all kinds of horrendous things, and we just seem to have perfected the means to cause havoc and destruction across a large scale. And let's not even talk about the promotion of killing the unborn as a moral good.

What this kind of stuff gets me thinking about is something along these lines: well, we're all shocked. But just why are we shocked? If all worldviews and outlooks are equally correct, then should we not respect the religious beliefs of this people who sincerely think they're appeasing their gods? After all -- who knows anything about God, or the gods anyway, really? We really cannot know anything about what is truly right or wrong, can we, after all?

How on earth can we talk about good and bad without talking about first principles and absolutes? I simply do not get it.

[This is not to say that reasonable people cannot have genuine disagreement in the area of morality, or that the only reasonable alternative is, say, Catholic dogma. But to simply cut off the basis of the conversation, to deny the knowability of truth, seems to me to be, well, foolish at best.]

The installation of the eighth archbishop of San Francisco

Rocco has the report, including large quotes from Archbishop Niederauer's homily. This part caught my eye:
Here is where misunderstandings and conflicts can arise. In the many moral dilemmas that face them today, Catholics look to their Church, to their faith, to be a compass, not a weathervane. The Church must point toward the true North of God's loving will, and not merely track where the winds, or the polls, are blowing. This is not a new issue. About seventy years ago, the poet T. S. Eliot indicated why many people in our modern world aren't' particularly fond of the Church: "She is hard where they would be easy, and easy where they would be hard." "Hard where they would be easy:" think of abortion and euthanasia; "Easy where they would be hard:" think of capital punishment and immigration law.

What then are citizens to do, when they disagree? Well, first of all, disagree without being disagreeable. Presume good faith until it is proven otherwise. At the end of one of his poems, Robert Frost famously suggested his own epitaph: "I had a lover's quarrel with the world." I believe that is a richly helpful image. God often had a lover's quarrel with his people, Israel, and the prophets were his spokespersons. Please presume that if the Church challenges an action, a policy or a program it is because she loves the world around her, and wants what is best for it. All around you here in the Cathedral today you can see evidence of the Church's lifelong love for the arts: Architecture, painting, sculpture, and music. Always presume that it is love that led to a quarrel, and that love will endure when the quarrel has passed.
Can I get an amen?

Blogging seminarians ...

Mark has discovered a few.

I'd like to suggest Catholic Heart (not really a blog) by Andrew Trapp of our own Diocese.

[And, yours truly will join the ranks soon enough ...]

Oh my! Efficiency and compassion!

From the Italians. So, it turns out, I don't have to go to Miami in person to get a Schengen tourist visa. There's an honorary consul in Charleston. I'm meeting him bright and early Monday. He looks over my papers, verifies my ID, and then I can overnight the package down to Miami. And this isn't new. Apparently, they've had this for the past six years. So why the heck didn't anyone tell this to me yet?

[I'm attributing this efficiency and compassion to the fact that the Italian prime minister is the Jesus Christ of politics. It's just as well that he gave up sex till after the April elections too!]

Anway, it would be too efficient, of course for things to be completely straightforward. The copy of Paolo's Italian residence permit (he's my official host) has to be mailed. It cannot be faxed. So that means €€ to DHL it over the pond ... Still, going to Charleston for a morning is a lot better than finding a flight, getting a hotel and renting car to get to the consulate in Miami.

Now, the larger question is, why on earth do they need an honorary consul to verify my ID just so that I can send my papers down to Miami anyway? The Dutch and the Germans take applications by mail in Atlanta. I tell you --- questi Italiani sono pazzi. I think they take tips from the Indian babus.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So this will be home ...

I'm up in DC at what will be my new home (for the next several years) after August. Feels weird. Totally cool to catch up with R, who was in choir with me at UR (gosh, how long ago?), and is now a novice. My future superior, it turns out, is at a conference. Anyhoo, he'll have enough time to lay down the law later on, I'm sure :)R's been graciously answering all the questions I've peppered him with ...

So next year remains excitingly, exhileratingly, nervously, apprehensively nebulous still. Oh well. Abraham could do it, leaving Ur of the Chaldeans. And so many others down the road. I'll survive :)

[And I better get to bed soon --- morning prayer's at seven forty five! :)]

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

India's anti-conversion rally

Kumbh Mela in Gujarat. This is a first that I've heard of. Backed by the state government, with none other than the Butcher of Ahmedabad, Narendra Modi, pontificating.
Supported by the state government, the religious heads wanted all induced conversions—poaching, as they term it — stopped. Calling the missionaries and their supporters pakhandis and hypocrites, Morari Bapu chose to remind them of the teachings of Jesus Chris.

Addressing a crowd of more than two lakh devotees, Morari Bapu quoted from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible to say that even Christ’s word forbade conversions. ‘‘It is hypocrisy to not follow what you preach. When the Bible says do not convert, please don’t. It is great that you are good doctors, and have the money to help poor and ailing. But once they have been healed, let them go back home (re-convert) as good doctors do.”
[Jesus Chris? Must be another incarnation of Buddy Jesus]. Which passage from Luke though? And what the frig? "Good doctors?" Where does one even begin.
Raising the rhetorical pitch, Morari Bapu went on to ask, ‘‘Are induced conversions are good but is coming back home bad? Plane-loads from the Vatican can come here and carry out conversions, but if we organise a ghar vaapsi, it is bad. Let everyone be clear that this programme is about peace and tolerance as characterised by the Hindu ethos. No one should be scared of it,’’ he said.
Wow. Planeloads. From the Vatican no less. Which has, what, 500 citizens?

Goes to illustrate the huge, wide gulf on the issue. Say "conversion" and rational, secular (in the Indian use of the word), reasonable Indians foam at the mouth. No distinctions made. Every conversion is bad by definition, because, you know, how on earth could anyone deny the glories of Sanatana Dharma?

In a democracy, there ought to be freedom to practice and propogate one's religion. No one ought to be forced or "induced" (sounds like a procedure one would hear of in the maternity ward) to any faith. But that freedom has to exist. This sham of attacking Christians as purveyors of spiritual violence masks what may be the underlying reality that's being threatened here. That Christians have a vision of human dignity, especially of the poor and downtrodden that may be lacking otherwise, and are willing to sacrifice their lives in service of it. And if this prompts Hindus and others to re-examine their attitudes and beliefs in this regard, so much the better. [I don't think it would be entirely unfair to say this is what lead to many of the 19th century Hindu reform movements of folks like Dayanand Sarasawati and Vivekanada.]

At least the Sangh Parivar's propoganda piece passed off peacefully.

The travel bug bites again ...

I just done it. Bought my tickets to Rome. Frequent flier miles. On Northwest (well, it's Continental, a NW partner. That way I have only one stop, instead of flying to Detroit then Amsterdam then Rome. And they give me Elite privileges so I can get the seats with the legroom!).

In two weeks! (March 2 - 9)

WOO HOO! Ancora a Roma! Sono lietissimo! Fa due anni che sono stato a Roma ... e non posso aspettare .... ! Vado a Roma .... Vado a Roma! Sì, sì, sì ... Roma bella!

[Ok. I'll stop. For now :-)]

Of course, the crazy thing is that I have to go to the Italian consulate in Miami and give them my passport and some papers to get a tourist visa. A, the joys of an Indian passport. It takes 5 minutes. But I still have to do it. Every time. But I guess the money that's saved in the freq. flier miles will go in the flight to Miami, the hotel room and the rental car. ::sigh:: (Actually, all that is still less than the cost of a flight to Rome). So this will happen mid-week next week.

And I'm not going alone. J from right here is using this as her vacation (her b/f can't go. Shoot.). Coray from Cambridge UK will likely come and join us for a day or so. Paolo from Pisa as well. Definitely will make it to Assisi this time.


And. See Pope Benedict. For the Angelus that Sunday. And the General Audience that Wednesday. Yes, with thousands of other people. But still. WOO HOO!

[Then there's the retreat with the students this weekend. The trip to Auburn, AL next weekend for the Chant workshop. Boy. The novitiate is going to be strange next year! Best get this bug worked out 'fore then :-D]

Pope: Science and Faith compatible

Pope says Science and Faith are Compatible. Not really news for many. But I guess it is in some quarters.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Survival comes first for the last Stone Age tribe world

The fascinating story of what may be the only tribe in the world that lives in complete isolation from the modern world. (From the UK Observer). And they defend their isolation violently.
Describing the Sentinelese tribe of India's remote Andaman islands in his travel journals, the notoriously trite 13th-century explorer Marco Polo wrote: 'They are a most violent and cruel generation who seem to eat everybody they catch.'

While their cannibalism has never been proven, little has changed here in the remotest parts of the Bay of Bengal over seven centuries and Delhi's furthest-flung outpost is still occupied by aggressive 'stone-age' tribes who hunt wild pigs and fish with arrows, believe that birds talk to spirits, and lack both the skills to make fire and a word to describe a number greater than two.

Having survived occupations of the islands by the Burmese, the British and the Japanese and most recently a tsunami which took the lives of almost 2,000 other islanders in the archipelago, the elusive Sentinelese remain one of the most enigmatic peoples on earth - but today the very existence of the tribe may be under threat, and not because of the encroachment of the rest of the world.

The remarkable story behind the murders of Indian fishermen Sunder Raj, 48, and Pandit Tiwari, 52, sounds like a chapter from a Joseph Conrad novel, but it happened here in the Andamans late last month. The two men were killed by loin-clothed Sentinelese warriors on 27 January, after their boat accidentally drifted on to the shore of North Sentinel Island, a tiny outcrop in the Indian Ocean.

Other fishermen, who witnessed the attack from the water, described how the pair, believed to be drunk on palm wine, died after they were attacked by near-naked axe-wielding tribal warriors when their craft beached on the island, a preservation area strictly out of bounds to the outside world.

An Indian coastguard helicopter, sent out to investigate, was attacked with bows and arrows by the same tribal warriors, leaving the pilot under no illusions as to the safety of landing. The fishermen's macheted bodies were exposed in their shallow graves when the down-draught from the chopper's rotor blades blew away the sand. One of the crew later remarked to police that he was surprised to see bodies. 'I thought they roasted and ate their victims,' he said.
Some of the victims' families are calling for justice, but one thinks his son got what he deserved for breaking the law. The local authorities will not interfere, both because there is no way really to talk to the tribe (without armed conquest, basically), and because international groups would decry any interference in their life. There's also great scientific interest in the tribe.
Anthropologists separate the indigenous tribes living on the archipelago into two groups. It's thought that those living on the Nicobar islands - the Shompen and Nicobaris - are of Asian descent, while the four surviving Andaman tribes - the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and the Sentinelese - all originated in Africa, a fact that makes their survival all the more remarkable.

The most reclusive of all are the Sentinelese, who have violently rebuffed all approaches from the outside world. According to a recent study of the tribes carried out by a team of biologists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, the indigenous islanders, often described by anthropologists as 'pygmies', may actually represent the first Asians - an early wave of 'out of Africa', who reached the Far East more than 40,000 years ago and have since evolved separately from most of the other native people of Asia, the South Seas and Australia.

The scientific team's findings, based on DNA samples, fit into an ongoing debate about how and when the hominids who evolved in Africa to become Homo sapiens moved out into the Middle East, Asia and the rest of the world. One relatively new idea is that beaches exposed by low sea level provided a useful pathway, and the oceans supplied reliable food, allowing these humans to migrate easily.

The 'Stone Age' moniker, so regularly applied to the islanders, refers to the fact that the Sentinelese have lived in isolation for 60,000 years: genetically, therefore, there is a direct line between them and their pre-Neolithic ancestors. Unlike real Stone Age tribes, though, they probably use metal salvaged from shipwrecks, although their hostility to outside incursions means nobody has properly studied the question.
Read the whole thing!

I couldn't help but think of End of the Spear. Christian missionaries have had no success here at all. And one thinks of the Naga headhunters of northeast India, who were successfully Christianized in the 19th century and now form the largest single collection of Baptists in Asia.

All kinds of questions: is it acceptable for a "stone age" tribe to get away with murder? Is their isolation from the modern world justifiable, even if it be on romantic ("oh cool savages, let them not die out. so quaint!") or scientific ("hey we can test various evolutionary theories here!") grounds? Does the state (in this case the Indian state) simply let them be, since they're isolated, and do not attack unless provoked, and otherwise do not interfere with the rest of the populace?

And perhaps the most provocative, at least in some circles: would their "Christianization" be a horrible thing? A destruction of their culture? Imperialism?(The descendants of the Naga headhunters don't think their fate was so horrible.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Orangeburg Massacre: 38 years on

Not to be forgotten!
"It's been 38 years and there are still unanswered questions. It seems to me that it would help all, for the healing process, for such an investigation to take place," Hugine said.

Gov. Jim Hodges, a Democrat, was the first governor to come to the ceremony on South Carolina State's campus observing the deaths.

Three years ago, Republican Gov. Mark Sanford surprised many when he issued a statement saying the state apologized for the event during the 35th anniversary.

A bill, introduced in the state Senate last year, would have created a three-member panel to look into the Orangeburg Massacre and recommend what compensation should be made to the victims and their families. The bill died quietly, suffering the same fate as a similar bill a year earlier.

"I hope that it is more than South Carolina State that stops and pauses to remember this event because while it did happen on the campus of South Carolina State University it involves the entire state of South Carolina," Hugine said.
I can hear it now: "we gave them their friggin memorial on the State House and the Flag. Don't get too darn uppity now!" Sheesh.

"Someplace in Turkey"?

Plane skids off runway in NY: no injuries. Well thank the Lord for that, for sure. But here's the kicker in this AP story:
Turkish Airlines flight 1 skidded off the runway at 9:20 p.m. as it was landing, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The flight was arriving from someplace in Turkey, he said.
Someplace in Turkey? Excuse me? I mean how better can one demonstrate that legendary American parochialism than this?

Besides, can't you just look at a friggin timetable to find out where Turkish Airlines Flight 1 took off? It was Istanbul. Sheesh!

[According to the discussion at Airliners.net, it probably slid of 31L. 4R is in use for landings now (this from a pilot who just landed a 767 there). Which may make for some interesting crosswind landings, given the wind direction.]

Paris Hilton in Indian director's 'Mother Teresa'? - Entertainment News - Webindia123.com

Paris Hilton in Indian director's 'Mother Teresa'? Via - Entertainment News - Webindia123.com [Hat tip to Corey for the link.]

Ok. This is even worse than the Michael Jackson flap. Anyway, knowing just how clueless Bollywood can be, I'm not too worried that this would go anywhere. I can see Paris Hilton's PR firm just going wild with this one though ...

An evening with Mozart ...

It is his 250th birthday this year, after all. The SC Philharmonic had a concert at the Koger Center downtown. A short symphony by Salieri (that had to have been intentional. Why highlight Salieri? All that rivalry stuff in the movie was all made up anyways ...), the Violin Concerto in A Major (one of my favorites) and then (with the USC University and Concert Choirs), Davide Penitente. Just fantastic!

Interesting how Mozart simply put large chunks of his Great Mass to different words in Davide Penitente. Which brought back memories of hearing the Great Mass performed at the Vienna Cathedral ... gosh, nearly 10 years ago now!

The concert was preceded by a delicious dinner at Gervais and Vine, a delightful little taperia in the Vista, and then martinis at the Blue Martini. Didn't quite like the jazz band there --- not a big fan of jazz with electric guitar, but the drummer rocked.

Meanwhile, I'm just digging the Graduale Simplex that just arrived!

"If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, The appetite may sicken and so die ..." Ah, nothing like the Bard. :)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Battlestar Galactica rules!

Tonight's episode was just ... oh man ... awesome!

I loved the way the personal lives of the characters, their emotional entanglements, were combined so skillfully with the high-octane adventure setting they found themselves in! The acting rocks!

And I cannot believe they killed a rather important secondary character! Gosh! The fact that I feel sad just goes to show how they've got us all wrapped around their fingers!

And oy --- they've got you feeling sorry for the Cylons.

[Don't you love the non-spoiler review? :-)]


[Side note 1: TWC's "Startover" feature sucks. Trying to be TiVo without the DVR. Nowhere near it. It dropped to live about 4 minutes after we'd started viewing. Most frustrating! Luckily, at the next commercial break we could start it again and view the whole episode. Phew. I'd've been really p/oed else!]

[Side note 2: I've been thinking of upgrading the laptop before seminary starts. It's settled that it'll be a Mac. After tonight's episode, C's good friend A took me back to his place to show just how easy it would be to network PCs and Macs. That way I can keep the PC desktop and have a nice Macbook. :-) Maybe even the new Macbook Pro with the Intel Chip. We shall see. Apart from the educational value of that visit, it was thrilling to ride in A's 2005 Corvette. Talk about G forces while negotiating Beltline Blvd! Hoo boy! And, really really neat to see his pictures from a recent visit to Mac HQ in Cupertino, with photos of him in front of the iTunes Music Store. The store. As in the 2500 odd servers that are the physical imprint of this virtual reality. Neato! (A, incidentally, is the creator of X-Plane, one of the coolest flight sim products there is.)]

Friday, February 10, 2006

"We can cope, why can't you?"

In the comboxes below, commentor Assiniboine asks, "We can handle this sort of thing, and you can't?" That's basically the analysis offered by Michael Cook of the Australian internet magazine MercatorNet. I agree to a large extent, though I feel it might come across as a bit too self congratulatory.

Why is blasphemy not treated in as strict a way in the modern Christian (or, rather, "post-Christian") West the way it was in Elizabethan England? Is it precisely because of the rise and challenge of secularism? I.e., would a modern theocratic Christianity respect freedom of expression and respond with the same kind of civil and respectful response that Cook points to with respect to the Da Vinci Code? One wonders. [Of course, it would seem to me, a modern theocratic Christianity is a rather outlandish prospect. Unless it is in the fevered imaginings of those who equate the Bush administration with the Taliban.]

Wisdom from Cardinal Arinze ...

His take on Pope Benedict and the reform of the liturgy: no hammer. CNS interveiw.
Cardinal Arinze said the main challenge facing his congregation is to encourage a spirit of prayer, which must grow out of faith. He said bringing people to Mass regularly is essential, and it hinges largely on two factors: catechesis and high-quality, faith-filled liturgies.

Celebrating Mass well involves lay ministers, but primarily the priest, who sets a tone through every word and gesture, the cardinal said.

"Suppose a priest comes at the beginning of Mass and says: 'Good morning, everybody, did your team win last night?' That's not a liturgical greeting. If you can find it in any liturgical book, I'll give you a turkey," Cardinal Arinze said.
Hmmm. Guess we shouldn't be talking about the Gamecocks at Mass? Shoot. On the Tridentine Mass:
While some have proposed a wider indult to allow use of the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass with fewer restrictions, Cardinal Arinze said he is happy with Pope John Paul II's rules, which require the involvement of the local bishop.

"When you speak of wider use for everybody, it raises some questions, which have to be examined more carefully," he said.

The cardinal said he thought that for most people the question is not the Tridentine rite versus the new Mass, but the much more basic issues of faith, love of Christ and the appreciation of the importance of Sunday Mass.

"If a person has these, many of these other problems would fall into line," he said.
The cardinal said that if done well Sunday Mass will not be experienced as a heavy obligation, but as a spiritual banquet, a celebration appreciated by the faithful who are hungry for spiritual nourishment and want to adore God.

"You should not need a commandment to enter such a banquet hall," he said.
A huge Amen to that!

[Via Bill Cork.]

Wanted: Manly Men

Commonweal : Wanted: Manly Men Commonweal takes on Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Oh delicious polemic, so reminiscent of Fr. Neuhaus' monthly pontifications. Get out the popcorn and take a ring side seat.

[Here's the background.]

Cartoon round-up

Hardly comprehensive.

First, the Catholic angle:

At Mirror of Justice, an interesting post on the measured Vatican reaction seen through the lens of the aims and goals of Vatican diplomacy. [Via Open Book]. Read it.

The muder of an Italian priest in Turkey has received much attention in the Catholic press, though maybe a little less in the wider news media. John Allen offers some background in this week's Word from Rome. Cardinal Ruini is already calling him a martyr. Then there's this:
I asked Padovese what he believes the real motive was for Santoro's murder. He said he doesn't know what demons drove this young man, but said dismissing it as an isolated act is a mistake. Rising Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Christian prejudice, Padovese said, shaped the context in which the teen acted.

"It's the anti-Christian climate that has been produced in Turkey," Padovese said. "There's a strong current of religious extremism, and that climate can fuel this sort of hatred. It's passed along in families, in schools, in the newspapers."

Padovese said that every week the Turkish bishops' conference prepares a bulletin citing "denigrating comments" or "banalities" about Christianity that have appeared in the Turkish press.

"There's a false image of our presence that usually goes unchallenged," he said.
Rocco has the English translation of a recent letter Fr. Santoro sent to the Pope. This week's Tablet online (UK) has a round-up of the anti-Christian backlash around the world. Alain Woodrow writes that it's important for the faithful to keep a sense of humor.

The protests have reached India. This is really small for India though. Kashmir is a different story. A lot more Islamist.

Der Spiegel has had some interesting stories:

Middle Eastern media awash in anti-semitism.
Even as the Muslim world protests against the Muhammad caricatures printed in the West, a number of Arab newspapers publish virulently anti-Semitic cartoons. But nobody's paying much attention. After all, Jew baiting in the Arab world has become the norm.

In the end, it was the image of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban with a lit fuse that proved perhaps most offensive. After all, as the Web site of the Arab-European League -- a group supporting the rights of Arab and Muslim communities in Europe -- pointed out: "The issue for us is not about depicting the prophet or any other theological consideration. It's about stigmatizing a whole population of more than 1 billion Muslims through portraying their symbol as being a terrorist, megalomaniac, misogynic (sic) and a psychopath. This is racist, xenophobic and calling for hatred against Muslims."

That's a valid point. But it would have been a lot more forceful had the Web site not published a political cartoon a few days earlier depicting Anne Frank in bed with Ad
Gettolf Hitler, who is looking amorously appeased. As if that wasn't offensive enough, the illustrator throws in one of the worst crimes in recent European history by name dropping Marc Dutroux, the convicted Belgian killer infamous for kidnapping young girls, raping them and then starving them to death. Hitler is saying, "Write this one in your diary Anne!"
Legoland is burning. An article on the reaction in Denmark.
While Danish flags are being burned and embassies attacked in Islamic countries, Muslim immigrants and Danes are coming closer together. Following the intense international scrutiny over Muhammad caricature affair, many are hoping to send the world a message of peace.

This is not an issue of free speech. An interview with Pakistani scholar Ahmad Rashid. Illustrates quite well the gulf in perception.

Satanic Verses taught us a lesson.
There are some lessons (the British) learned from "The Satanic Verses" that I'm afraid others in Europe still need to learn. One of them is the simple lesson that blasphemy is a double-edged sword. If the intention is to critique Islamic radicalism, that aim has certainly not been achieved by the Danish cartoons because it is the radicals who have benefited from the fact that passions are inflamed. If the intention on the Muslim side is to censure authors or writers, that too fails. Calls for the death of the writer in the "Satanic Verses" affair created enormous publicity for the novel. Indeed, Rushdie became a very wealthy man as a result of the affair. But there was no gain on either side in terms of reaching mutual tolerance or understanding.

Mutual incomprehension, mutual outrage, in the Economist (subscriber only, so I'm reproducing segments below):
WHEN, last September, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, it knew it was testing the limits of free speech and good taste. But it could never have imagined how much. For Denmark itself, this has been the biggest crisis since the Nazi occupation during the second world war. But the implications for the already vexed relations between the West and Islam go far wider. Denmark's prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, summed it up: “We are today facing a global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of governments.”

At least ten people have died so far in protests against the cartoons. Several were killed in Afghanistan as police shot into a crowd besieging a Norwegian peacekeepers' base. More were shot dead as they tried to storm an American military base in the south of the country, setting cars alight and hurling rocks. The protests continued on Friday in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, India, Kenya and several other countries. In Malaysia a massive demonstration erupted as a conference on relations between the West and Islam got under way. Speaking at the meeting, Malaysia's prime minister, Abdullah Badawi, talked of a “huge chasm that has emerged between the West and Islam.”


Western governments have reacted with shock and muddle. There is a growing feeling in continental Europe that Britain and America should have taken a principled stand on grounds of free speech, but have failed. In France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority—roughly 10% of the population—there has been surprise at the relatively conciliatory response of Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, who called the publication of the cartoons “insensitive” and “unnecessary”. Many in France are baffled at the reluctance of the British and American press to publish the cartoons themselves. (On February 8th, three editors and a reporter quit the New York Press over a decision not to reprint the cartoons, and President George Bush called on world governments to stop the violence and be “respectful”.)

To be sure, the official French reaction has been measured. President Jacques Chirac declared that freedom of expression was “one of the foundations of the republic” but added a plea for “respect and moderation” in its application. And one editor at France-Soir, a small newspaper that was the first to claim the “right to caricature God”, was sacked after publishing all 12 caricatures. Yet it seemed that the paper's owner, a Franco-Egyptian, had been seeking an excuse to get rid of him anyway. The rest of the press, along with those who see the matter as a test case of the ability of French democracy to withstand the demands of political Islam, have taken an increasingly muscular position.


Some protests seem to have been spontaneous; others have been deliberately manipulated by Islamist elements. While demonstrations have been widespread, the number of participants has generally not been large. Moderate leaders, from Iraq's foremost Shia authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who heads the Organisation of Islamic Conferences, have called for Muslims to express their feelings peacefully. A fatwa issued by Egypt's highly respected grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, states that Muslims should understand that others will attack their faith; and although they should reject this “perverted behaviour”, he said, they should protest peacefully, with “wisdom and fair exhortation”.

This stand presents a clear contrast to the rabble-rousing tactics used by others. A Danish imam, Abu Laban, may have started the whole thing by touring the Middle East to drum up outrage, including distributing far more offensive cartoons of the Prophet (as a pig, as a paedophile) which he said had been “received” by Muslims in Denmark. Iran's supreme guide described the furore as a plot “concocted by Zionists angered by the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections”—though the Palestinian vote took place four months after the publication of the cartoons.

Some Muslims find all the hullabaloo distressing. “What it shows is that we lack confidence,” says the headmaster of a Cairo school. “If we were confident about our faith we wouldn't have to react so hysterically.” Many others, however, feel it marks an important precedent. In a Friday sermon at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saleh bin Humaid, a Saudi preacher, extolled the spirit of defiance that was unifying Muslims. “A great new spirit is flowing through the body of the Islamic nation,” he said. “The world can no longer ignore the nation and its feelings.”

By midweek, moderate Muslims in Denmark, Britain and elsewhere were appealing for calm. Cool-headed leaders, including clerics in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, urged restraint. International efforts were also under way to ease tension. A joint statement issued on Tuesday by the United Nations, the Organisation of the Islamic Conferences and the EU condemned violent protests while calling for respect for religion. The EU's foreign-policy supremo, Javier Solana, said he would travel to Arab and Muslim countries to try to calm their anger. He may be gone for some time.

How curry conquered the world

[Hat tip to Dogwood for this NYT review].
A couple of years ago, as a spoof, a London newspaper designed the cover for an ultranationalist magazine. It showed a lout in a leather jacket and Union Jack T-shirt sitting down to an Indian meal, surrounded by the slogans "Keep Curry British!" and "Bhuna! Nan! Pilau! Curry is your birthright!"

The lout may be right, as Lizzie Collingham tells it in "Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors," her fascinating if digressive inquiry into curry and how it grew. Curry, which originated in India, has become one of the most internationalized foods on the planet, right up there with pizza. Karee raisu (curry rice) is one of Japan's most popular foods. Samoans make a Polynesian curry using canned fish and corned beef. In New York, several restaurants on the stretch of Lexington Avenue known jokingly as Curry Hill do a brisk business selling kosher curries. The British, having mastered the art of curry and chips, have moved along to culinary innovations like chicken Kiev filled with curry sauce.
A fascinating tale! Boy --- more to read! Yay! :)

A chantin' we will go ...

So, the parish is sending a group to the chant workshop in Alabama. Eight people signed up, possibly nine. I'm pumped! It will be a quick trip --- 5 hour drive to Auburn, stay overnight and drive back Saturday night after the Vigil Mass.

And just as this was being finalized, my order from Cantica Nova finally arrived (it was backordered), a nice new print of the Graduale Simplex from Libreria Editrice Vaticana, with a supplement with the English translation of the praenotanda, and a CD on learning Gregorian Chant. Woo hoo!

As some of y'all know, my first introduction to Catholic liturgy were these dusty old Tridentine Missals lying around in the library of St. Xavier's in Bombay. And this one Manual of Gregorian Chant, an English translation of a Solesmes work dating from around 1910 or thereabouts, that I managed to borrow, month after month, for two years, from the library ... after which, it vanished into the shadowy corners of Br. Dominic's domain, never to emerge again. While in my possession, I taught myself the delightfully simple four-stave (neumes) notation, and cast several chants to memory. A few still remain, such as the Carthusian version of the Salve Regina, the Asperges, and the entire (simple version) of the Te Deum.

I don't think that Gregorian Chant is going to make a huge comeback anytime soon, or displace the Haugen-Haas Complex (you know, like the Military-Industrial Complex beloved of leftish thinking :-)). But anything that helps with the revival of this neglected heritage of the Latin Rite is awesome.

Cannot wait! :-)

[I must say that I will probably be burnt at the stake in all kinds of circles, since I actually do like some Haugen-Haas stuff. Can't win 'em all ... :-)]

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Save the Americorps NCCC

go to Waldie's world to find out more. Yes, when budget cuts come, guess what gets cut?

It's ok to poke fun at Christians ...

... but definitely not Muslims. The entire editorial staff of the alternative weekly NYPress walked out after the management refused to print the offending cartoons.

Yet, they didn't mind printing this story? 52 funniest things about about the upcoming death of the Pope? [Via Open Book.] It's absolutely disgusting.

Because, you know, it's a horrible idea to offend a religion of peace. They might come behead you. Neither the Catholics (nor the Poles) would.

The travails of Rome's Protestant Cemetery

[Hat tip to Dogwood for this link]. This NYT story details the sorry state of affairs as this historic cemetery, where Shelly and Keats, among other luminaries, are buried, crumbles. Trust the Italians to completely neglect this. Sono Protestanti, after all!

[Note to self: add this to the itinerary on the next trip to the Eternal City. Besides, Georgina Mason sings the praises of this little patch of earth. Though I wouldn't go so far as Oscar Wilde and call it the "holiest spot in Rome!"]

Evolution in SC public schools ...

Some students from the journalism school showed up at the office today to get some feedback on a bill pending before the South Carolina legislature that would require some alternative to evolution, maybe a religious viewpoint, to be taught in public schools in the State. At least that was how it was portrayed to me. This was the first I'd heard of the idea, so I shared my thoughts, that religion and science have different areas of competence, that the scientific method has limits and doesn't describe all reality, that, from a Catholic perspective, what biology tells us about the growth and evolution of life on earth is not necessarily incompatible with divine revelation, that reason and faith are not opposed, and so on.

Nothing too terribly exciting. This is for a dry run for a new news show for the Univ's cable network, it seems. So, this particular interview won't see the light of day really. It was however quite clear that these student reporters did not expect this perspective. They thought I would condemn evolution and be supportive of such a legislative measure. Boy. I suggested they might get a more predictable reaction at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry or maybe RUF or Cru or a similar group.

Anyway, I searched the website of the SC State Legislature, and the only thing I can find is S.909, a bill dated June 2005, introduced by Sen. Fair of Greenville that says the following:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Chapter 5, Title 59 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 59-5-160. In the promulgation of policies and regulations regarding kindergarten through twelfth grade education, the State Board of Education shall implement policies and a curriculum that accomplish the General Assembly's desire to provide a quality science education that shall prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."

SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
Well, this is not exactly what I was told was in the bill. As it is worded, actually, I have no problem with the bill, if interpreted strictly (i.e. narrowly). Of course, I don't think that this is the intent of the bill's framers. [The larger problem, is that philosophy as such is hardly taught in the public schools. It seems a little strange to bring in a philosophical discussion when dealing just with biology.] Maybe the reporters were right in interpreting this as an attempt to teach other "theories" of evolution (such as Intelligent Design or even creationism) in the classroom? Then there's this story that appeared in the State in December.
Fair said Monday he is merely “trying to get students more engaged” in looking at the origins of life from different perspectives. He said he is not campaigning to put the teaching of “creationism” on par with evolution.

Monday’s vote enraged educators from the college and public school ranks in the audience.

“Science is not democracy,” said Jerry Waldvogel, a Clemson University professor.

“Science is not negotiated,” said Doug Florian, a College of Charleston professor.

“Science is based on evidence,” said Joe Pollard, a Furman University professor.
All that said, I found the quotes from the professors a little hilarious at first, and way too defensive. "Science is not democracy?" What a bizarre statement! I guess he means that scientific fact is not established by a democratic majority -- a majority of people believing in a flat earth won't change the scientific reality. Ok. Fine. "Science is not negotiated?" Um. I guess not politically negotiated. But negotiated, certainly. That's what peer review and reproducibility of experiments is all about, I thought. Maybe I'm misunderstanding negotiated. Anyway, one can forgive the Clemson prof. He is at that other school, ya know ... :-) Of course I'm sympathetic to the scientific crowd in this case. To a point. Sometimes, I feel, the lady doth protest too much.

[And just in case the Vatican had not made its position clear enough, outspoken head of the Vatican Observatory, Fr. Coyne, repeated his earlier criticisms of creationism and Intelligent Design, at a talk in Palm Beach, FL, last week. He takes on Cardinal Schönborn's editorial from the NYT again, calling it tragic. I wonder if he's read the Cardinal's clarification that was published in a recent issue of First Things, that makes the very important claim that the use of reason is not confined simply to the scientific method, but also includes that realm of mental activity known as philosophy, whose evidence comes from the simple observation of life and reality around us.]

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Oh those benighted Anglicans ...

Lord Carey: Ashamed to be an Anglican.
The former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday he was "ashamed to be an Anglican" following Monday's vote by the Church of England to disinvest from companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in the territories.

The February 6 divestment vote, which was backed by current Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, was "a most regrettable and one-sided statement," Lord Carey said, and one that "ignores the trauma of ordinary Jewish people" in Israel subjected to terrorist attacks.

Lord Carey joined Jewish leaders protesting the vote by the General Synod, the church's legislature, to adopt a "morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories and, in particular, to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc., until they change their policies."

The church's call to pressure Caterpillar and other multi-nationals to withdraw from the territories was a "one-eyed" response that "only rebukes one side," Lord Carey said, and displayed the church's "propensity to reduce complex issues to black and white."

Or, he might have added, pink. But that's a whole another tale. This is not to say that the Israeli government is saintly. But this is just, well, knee-jerk. And stupid. Again, it seems to be driven by that propensity to appear righteous and guilt-free, rather than actually engage the issues at hand.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The cartoon intifada

Christopher Hitchens is predictable, but good. "Yep. Told ya! This isn't just the real nature of Islam. This is what all religion is all about." Cartoon Debate: The case for mocking religion. I'm afraid he has a point:
Many people have pointed out that the Arab and Muslim press is replete with anti-Jewish caricature, often of the most lurid and hateful kind. In one way the comparison is hopelessly inexact. These foul items mostly appear in countries where the state decides what is published or broadcast. However, when Muslims republish the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or perpetuate the story of Jewish blood-sacrifice at Passover, they are recycling the fantasies of the Russian Orthodox Christian secret police (in the first instance) and of centuries of Roman Catholic and Lutheran propaganda (in the second). And, when an Israeli politician refers to Palestinians as snakes or pigs or monkeys, it is near to a certainty that he will be a rabbi (most usually Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the leader of the disgraceful Shas party) and will cite Talmudic authority for his racism. For most of human history, religion and bigotry have been two sides of the same coin, and it still shows.
That he can't see anything more to religion is well, his business. He also gets to the heart of this whole matter of "offensiveness"
The question of "offensiveness" is easy to decide. First: Suppose that we all agreed to comport ourselves in order to avoid offending the believers? How could we ever be sure that we had taken enough precautions? On Saturday, I appeared on CNN, which was so terrified of reprisal that it "pixilated" the very cartoons that its viewers needed to see. And this ignoble fear in Atlanta, Ga., arose because of an illustration in a small Scandinavian newspaper of which nobody had ever heard before! Is it not clear, then, that those who are determined to be "offended" will discover a provocation somewhere? We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.
But then, the classic, rabid Hitchens also emerges:
It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger.
I guess it takes a certain kind of dense obstinacy to wilfully equate Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger with the "exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers."

But, as Relapsed Catholic points out, I'm not going to ask that he be beheaded. :)

I have many thoughts on this fracas. Most of which involve a grudging acknowledgement that maybe Samuel Huntington's prognostications are self-fulfilling. I am quite appalled at the Vatican's official response.
The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion.
Excuse me? I would certainly hope it does include that right. Because nowadays, "offense" is equated with "criticism." There is a difference between desecration and criticism. And one of the cornerstones of a democracy is the freedom to criticize anyone, including the religious establishment. Of any religion.

And really, is the response really equal to the provocation? Worldwide street demonstrations? Riots? Trade boycotts? The burning of embassies? Burning the Danish flag? [As someone pointed out, it has the Cross on it. I'm offended! Let me find some infidels to blow up ...] Threats of violence? How puerile and adolescent can people get?

And I'm sure there will be some who will say, "well, this is the West's fault. Look at how Muslims have been treated. This is the result of colonialism. Of imperialism." Fie, I say! A pox on your kind! May your tribe ever decrease! [Ah, but then -- that's being done too, right? Just look at Europe's birthrate.]

Roundups of the controversy:
Sign and Sight [Via . GrArts & Letters Dailyeat set of links on the right hand side]
CaNN [Via Relapsed Catholic]

And, definitely go see the cartoons themselves.

[All that said, a few more thoughts. I think it's equally puerile to display the offending cartoons on one's website, as the last link suggests. And also, I wonder if those who are so sympathetic to the sense of offense that Muslims feel at this, i.e. some corners of the secular Western establishment, the State Department, those who've sacked editors over this, will be as sympathetic when, say, the offended party consists of conservative Christians? Then, will everyone become champions of free speech? And those on the Christian right who seem almost delighted that the Muslim world is playing up to every stereotype in the book, will they stand for the freedom of expression when dealing with offensive, nay, desecratory material that is anti-Christian? Such as this. Or this? I wonder.]

Say it ain't so ...

This is not an Onion story. [Via Amy, who's beyond belief as well.]
SECRET discussions between the Roman Catholic Church and Michael Jackson to put the prayers of Pope John Paul II to music appeared to be in disarray last night after the singer fled members of the press who had got wind of the project.

Pope John Paul, who died last April, wrote 24 religious prayers and chants and Church officials now want to set them to music.
What are they thinking? Oh, that's right. They're not.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Light blogging ...

... well it's been two days since the last post. Busy times --- Confirmation this week. So don't expect much on here. [Of course, the last time I said this, I turned around and blogged away. A ver ... ]

Friday, February 03, 2006

Rural development in India -- forgetting the poor?

Today's Morning Edition on NPR had a story on rural development in India. Go listen! . The BBC also does a story on the Rural Employment Guarantee program that the Government just passed. It seems like a ludicrious idea, a sop to the Communists who prop the coalition from the outside. Here's a balanced assesment.

A General Congregation of the Society of Jesus ...

... is in the offing (Via Zenit.) Given that this happens rarely, this is news indeed. And, it seems, the Superior-General (Il Papa Nero, the Black Pope -- no, not race. Vestments.), Fr. Hans Kolvenbach, will resign and the Society will elect a new Superior. [Here's Rocco's now confirmed rumors from a little while back.]

And in what could be bigger news, an Italian journal is reporting that the Holy Father wants to lift the excommunication against the followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre. [I wonder what happens then. Do the SSPX and the FSSP merge? :-)]

[Gosh -- what am I thinking? Reconciliation with a bunch of traddy nuts -- howsoever important, is really not more important than a General Congregation of the largest religious order in the Church]

Thursday, February 02, 2006


[Unknown German Master. Via the Lion and the Cardinal]

St. Peter's church downtown (no, not this one) had a Solemn Vespers for the Feast of the Presentation today, to install their new director of music. The music was simply beautiful. Thomas Tallis (O Nata Lux). Stanford's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. One contemporary hymn and a couple of Spirituals thrown in. A wonderful and prayerful service, and it was nice to see the people come out in support of their new choirmaster. As Monsignor remarked in his homily, "he's turned things up a notch here."

The program had a beautiful old blockcut lithograph, probably taken from an old Tridentine Missal, "In festo purificationis BVM." Afterwards we had some fun poring over the blockcut to decipher the Latin inscriptions on the side of the image of the BVM being presented in the Temple. One was a quote from Gen. 46:30, Jacob's farewell words to Joseph, "Iam laetus moriar, quam vidi faciem tuam, et superstitem te ... [relinquo]. ["Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive." RSV]. On the left, from Hannah's hymn of praise at the birth of Samuel, apparently from 1 Kings 1: 28 --- i.e. 1`Samuel 1:28 in the modern reckoning, "Idcirco et commodavit eum Domino cunctis diebus [quibus fuerit accomodatus Domino]" ["Therefore I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD." RSV]

All that Latinitas aside, I was a little curious whether in a normal Solemn Vespers one completely omits the Psalmody and replaces it with the Liturgy of the Word from the Mass of the day (with the Magnificat being proclaimed prior to the proclamation of the Gospel). And what's up with praying the Nunc Dimittis at Vespers? I don't know if this was a legitimate option in the Liturgy of the Hours or not. My guess is it was adapted. Still beautiful and prayerful and glorifying the Lord. Just not, technically, Vespers. Yes, I nitpick. :)

I absolutely loved the Litany of St. Cecilia, though. Especially this line. "Saint Cecilia, who by thy pleadings moved the hearts of pagans and brought them into the true Church, pray for us." Apparently, Fr. McAfee [does he know he's named after a major anti-virus program?] in the Latin story below was onto something. Heh.

[Great info and links at the Lion and the Cardinal and Fish Eaters [Both via Don Jim]

And here is the prayer for the Feast of the Presentation:

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine
Secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium,
Et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

[And. We're one month away from Lent. Less actually.]

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The return of Latin?

In the Church, i.e. Well, it's growing in popularity, according to this article in the Washington Times. Laudemus Dominum! (Via Dappled Things)

Here's an interesting thought:
When you worship God, you don't want to use something as common as street language, so you need to dress the language up," Father McAfee said. "It's like glossolalia -- speaking in tongues -- or it's like poetry and prose. The English Mass is prose, the Latin Mass is poetry. You need time to enter the words to understand their meaning.
"If a person's in love, and they have a choice between prose and a poem, they choose a poem. The liturgy is a love song between Christ and His church."
Amen to that!

[Though, I found this quote to be rather bizarre and anachronistic.
"Converts are very open to it. Again, they want the whole thing. At St. Catherine's [his former parish in Great Falls], I converted two Jews because of that Mass."
Granted, one should be generous in allowing for the fact that the reporter most likely messed this up completely, but still. Does anyone still talk like that? I converted x or y? I did? In modern evangelical circles one tends to readily acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the main mover and shaker. Anyway, I don't know if it's quaint, or reminiscent of the teaching of contempt that we've thankfully moved away from. And no, I'm not generally on the side that says that we've come to such a pass as to categorically reject the need for mission to the People of the Old Covenant. What way or form that mission might take, is, of course, a whole another topic. Cardinal Dulles offers a useful summary in a recent issue of First Things.]

All Encyclical ... all the time ...

At the Ratzinger fan club.

Enough summaries and links of blog coverage of the Encyclical to keep you reading all through the weekend ...

The cover letter ...

... to the Encyclical. Sandro Magister translates this unprecedented "cover letter" that went out with the latest issue of Famiglia Cristiana (a popular Catholic weekly in Italy), explaining why he wrote the encyclical.

How lovable can this man get?

Besides, what he writes is simply gorgeous. English translation by the Catholic Outsider.
The first question is this: Is it truly possible to love God? And moreover: Can love be imposed? Isn’t it a feeling that we either have or not?

The answer to the first question is: yes, we can love God, since he has not remained at an unreachable distance, but has entered and is entering in our life. He comes to us, to each one of us, in the sacraments through which he operates in our existence, with the faith of the Church, through which he addresses us; letting Himself be found by men, which have been touched by Him and transmit His light; with the event with which he intervenes in our lives; with the signs of creation, which he has given us. He has not only offered us his love, be he lived it first and knocks in so many ways in our hearts to awake our responsive love. Love is not just a feeling; will and intelligence belong as well to it. With his word, God addresses our intelligence, our will and our feelings in a way that we can learn how to love him “with all the heart and all the soul.” Love, in fact is not found beautiful, but it grows. In a sense, we can learn it slowly in a way that it will embrace more and more all of our strength and open to us the way to a straight life.


And finally there is the question: with his commandments and prohibitions is not the Church making bitter the joy of the Eros, of being loved, that pushes us to the other in the desire to become a union?

In the encyclical I have tried to demonstrate that the deeper promise of the eros can grow only when we don’t seek to grab a sudden happiness. On the contrary, we find together the patience of discovering the other in a deeper way, in the fullness of body and soul, in a way that, at the end, the other’s happiness becomes more important than mine one. Then we not only want to grab, but to give, and is in this liberation from the self that man finds himself and becomes fulfilled with joy. In the encyclical ’encyclical I speak of a road of purification and growth that are necessary to fulfill the true promise of the eros. The language of our tradition has call it “education for Chastity”, which at the end, it doesn’t mean anything else but the learning of full love in the patience of growing up.
You know, this is just awesome! Besides I've read and re-read the Encyclical so many times. There's so much there.

And apparently, there's a special edition of the encyclical being put out by Cantagalli (a fine Italian publisher, one might add). And you know what, it's selling 3000 a day.

It just makes one wants to give a big raspberry to those sniffy theologians who said that this thing is lightweight and would be ignored. Well, you know, 'cause the Pope didn't immediately rush to the latest Cause of Progress and Enlightenment.

Now how do I get my hands on that Cantagalli edition ... oh wait. I'm trying to get rid of stuff before heading to the novitiate ... :-)

Why a Canon lawyer does what he does ...

One tends to have a rather poor opinion of lawyers. When one thinks of them, one's opinion of canon lawyers is probably dimmer still. Why does the Church of Christ need lawyers of all people? [Besides, isn't their work simply about creating pain for divorced people?] The answer is simple at one level -- a body needs a skeleton, to make a rather crude biological analogy, and pretty complex at another. [And no, their work isn't simply about making life difficult for the divorced.]

Anyway, go read this beaitufl reflection by canonist Pete Vere (whom Amy quoted in the post I linked to below), Their Haunted Expression. [Of course, this is via Open Book]

During yesterday's Vespers ...

... one of the intercessions was,
Direct our leaders according to your will, and help them to keep us in peace.
. And another,
Do not direct world leaders to give attention only to the needs of their own nations, but give them, above all, a respect and a deep concern for all peoples.
How wonderful that the Church Catholic was praying this worldwide yesterday, even as the President of the most powerful nation on earth got ready to give his State of the Union adddress! :-)

Bishop and priests pelted with stones in India ...

Via Zenit. As I was saying about the folks at the Conversion Agenda (see below) ... [or rather, their ilk. Not implying that it's the same people who did this!] they're quite obviously not into Gandhian-style non-violence. This is the kind of thing one hears about happening out there in lawless Bihar. And, for a while, in Gujarat. That it happens within 100 miles of Bombay is even worse.

Out there to force conversions? What? What planet are these people on? What is the Bishop going to do? Say, "convert else you get an F?"
BOMBAY, India, JAN. 31, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Ivan Dias condemned a "violent attack" suffered by a bishop and some priests of the Vasai Diocese on Sunday and called on the authorities to take action.

"We are deeply shocked to learn of the violent attack made yesterday by certain unruly elements on the Most Reverend Bishop Thomas Dabre of Vasai and the priests who were accompanying him on a very praiseworthy humanitarian mission," said the archbishop of Bombay in a statement.

The statement was published today by the bishops' conference of India.

The Vasai bishop and priests were attending the inauguration of a boarding school for tribal youth at Gosali in Mokhada Taluka, in the Thane district, in the state of Maharashtra.

Cardinal Dias said that Bishop Dabre and the priests were pelted with stones. One of the priests, Father Brendon Furtado, suffered an ear injury.

The incident took place when Bishop Dabre, 60, along with 10 priests, nuns and social workers, went to the village to inaugurate the Suryodaya Ashram, a boarding school for 60 tribal boys and girls, the SAR News reported.

Just before the inauguration ceremony, 40 to 50 suspected members of the Bajrang Dal and Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, organizations of the fundamentalist Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, began to throw stones.

They were under the false impression that the Catholic bishop went there to convert students, SAR said. Other sources reported a much higher figure of attackers.


A visibly shaken Bishop Dabre said: "It was the most horrible experience as stones were pelted in all directions in and around the building. There were about 200 parishioners within the building and outside, who had gathered for the inauguration of the ashram." They feared for their lives, he added.

"The fundamentalists who attacked us do not know that we have come to serve the poor tribals and we are opposed to forceful conversion," Bishop Dabre observed.

For his part, the archbishop of Bombay added in his statement: "Such a barbaric and unwarranted outburst of violence is indeed a disgrace to our Indian culture of respect and tolerance, and it sadly reveals a serious lack of a sense of civilized democracy in the politico-religious groups which instigated it.

"It is particularly painful that the incident occurred on the eve of the assassination anniversary of our beloved father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of 'ahimsa' [nonviolence], which was the weapon with which he fought and won independence for a secular India."

Archbishop Dias added: "I am confident that the authorities concerned will take prompt action against the perpetrators of the criminal deed and will adopt such corrective measures so as to dissuade the repetition of similar episodes which seriously endanger communal harmony and wreck the secular fabric of our dear motherland."
I hope the Cardinal's trust isn't misplaced. [Last year, the state supreme court in Orissa acquited seven of the 13 men originally convicted of the brutal murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines.]

[On a completely different note, I am delighted that Zenit, whether by design or oversight, continues to call Bombay, well, Bombay. There's nothing wrong with Mumbai. But insisting that Bombay be called Mumbai in English is like insisting that Moscow be called Moskva in English. Or Paris, Paree. A pox on the Shiv Sena.]