Thursday, November 30, 2006

Today's and tomorrow's papal schedule

Thursday, 30 November Friday, 1 December
  • Holy Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit - Homily of the Holy Father
  • Farewell ceremony at the Airport of Istanbul
  • 13.15 Departure from the Airport of Istanbul to Rome
  • 14.45 Arrival at the Airport of Ciampino (Rome), Deo Volente, safe and unharmed. (Pray.)
[Hat tip to Christopher, "Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Journey to Turkey Nov. 28 - Dec. 1, 2006"]

Update on Pope's visit to Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque
Istanbul - Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul went off without incident early Thursday evening despite fears that conservative Muslim or nationalist groups might try to upset the visit.... Unlike his predecessor Pope John Paul II who visited the museum in 1979, Benedict did not make a sign of the cross when entering the Hagia Sophia. After the Hagia Sophia the pope was driven the small distance across to the equally huge 17th century Sultan Ahmet Mosque (or Blue Mosque as it is widely known), his first visit to a mosque since the beginning of his pontificate in April 2005, where he made a silent prayer alongside the Mufti of Istanbul Mustafa Cagrici. Earlier on Thursday the pope renewed an invitation to Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to discuss how to overcome the biggest dispute between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, namely the failure to come to agreement over the concept of apostolic primacy.... After his visit to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque the pope was scheduled to meet Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Mesrob II.
Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Fast. Pray.

Koran to replace Bible at swearing-in oath?

Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran (Dennis Prager, "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on,", Tuesday, November 28, 2006).

For a contrary view, see Stephen Bainbridge, "Dennis Prager goes off the Rails re Keith Ellison" (Professor Bainbridge's Journal, 11/28/06):
Prager's argument strikes me as fundamentally misguided. In the first place, Prager appears to be misinformed. He posits that:
"... for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament ...."
In fact, however, my understanding is that Jewish politicians and civil servants often take the oath of office by swearing on the Torah rather than the Christian Bible. (Anybody got any empirical evidence on way or the other?)

In the second, and more importantly, while I am a firm believer in the idea that immigrants to the United States (and their children) should be encouraged to assimilate to American culture, I don't share Prager's notion that it's necessary for politicians and government officials to "take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book" in order to "affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization."
Bainbridge's argument is essentially that freedom of religious exercise is a core value of American civilization.

The deeper question which neither Prager nor Bainbridge really addresses here is the question about the overarching framework of values that holds together a pluralistic culture allowing for religious diversity and freedom. Those who celebrate multicultural diversity often use culinary metaphors. The metaphor of a 'fruit basket' is usually preferred to that of a 'melting pot' these days, because not everyone favors assimilation. We may prefer our diverse cuisines -- Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Greek, etc. -- to retain their distinct flavors, rather than being blended down into one Genuine All-American [TM] Stew. Sticking with the 'fruit basket' metaphor allows the plum and strawberry and banana and peach and melon to each remain what it is. Fair enough. The question that remains, however, is this: What is the basket that holds all this fruit together? Prager is panicked about the erosion of what he terms "American civilization," which sounds a trifle Normal Rockwellesque. On the other hand Bainbridge's apologia for religious liberty leaves unaddressed the question of what context of values provides a foundation for liberty, since liberty simpliciter can mean everything and so means nothing. Liberty -- and equality -- are two ideas that require a third, justice, to give them meaningful definition; and justice requires a discussion of natural law.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Al Qaeda and the Pope

  • Al Qaeda Calls Pope's Visit 'Crusader Campaign' (Fox News 11/29/06): "Al Qaeda in Iraq on Wednesday denounced Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey, calling it part of a "crusader campaign" against Islam.... Al Qaeda in Iraq issued its statement on an Islamic militant Web site it often uses to post messages."
  • CNN's Anderson Cooper on terrorists in Istanbul ( "Tonight we are broadcasting from Istanbul, one stop on Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey.... An Islamist party called for a demonstration in Istanbul on Sunday. They expected more than 100,000 protestors, but only about 20,000 showed up. There are some extremists here to be sure. I just spent the morning with an Islamist lawyer who is defending a number of Turks accused of participating in a series of terrorist attacks in 2003 that killed more than 50 people. As we were putting the microphone on him, I couldn't help but notice the gun he was carrying on his waist. During the interview, he called Osama bin Laden a freedom fighter and explained why suicide attacks were justified under his brand of Islam."
  • Al Qaeda planned to assassinate Pope John Paul II: report (, 11/11/02): Al-Qaeda planned to assassinate Pope John Paul II on two occasions during visits made or planned by the Pontiff to the Philippines in 1995 and 1999, The Times of London reported today.
Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Fast. Pray.

[Hat tip to Janice for the Fox News article]

Hispanic illegitimacy & new U.S. underclass

In an article entitled, Hispanic Family Values? (CITY Journal), Heather MacDonald writes:
Unless the life chances of children raised by single mothers suddenly improve, the explosive growth of the U.S. Hispanic population over the next couple of decades does not bode well for American social stability. Hispanic immigrants bring near–Third World levels of fertility to America, coupled with what were once thought to be First World levels of illegitimacy. (In fact, family breakdown is higher in many Hispanic countries than here.) Nearly half of the children born to Hispanic mothers in the U.S. are born out of wedlock, a proportion that has been increasing rapidly with no signs of slowing down. Given what psychologists and sociologists now know about the much higher likelihood of social pathology among those who grow up in single-mother households, the Hispanic baby boom is certain to produce more juvenile delinquents, more school failure, more welfare use, and more teen pregnancy in the future.

The government social-services sector has already latched onto this new client base; as the Hispanic population expands, so will the demands for a larger welfare state. Since conservative open-borders advocates have yet to acknowledge the facts of Hispanic family breakdown, there is no way to know what their solution to it is. But they had better come up with one quickly, because the problem is here—and growing.

The dimensions of the Hispanic baby boom are startling. The Hispanic birthrate is twice as high as that of the rest of the American population. That high fertility rate—even more than unbounded levels of immigration—will fuel the rapid Hispanic population boom in the coming decades. By 2050, the Latino population will have tripled, the Census Bureau projects. One in four Americans will be Hispanic by mid-century, twice the current ratio. In states such as California and Texas, Hispanics will be in the clear majority. Nationally, whites will drop from near 70 percent of the total population in 2000 to just half by 2050. Hispanics will account for 46 percent of the nation’s added population over the next two decades, the Pew Hispanic Center reports.
Read the entire article. A good against-the-grain writer on this topic.

[Hat tip to RDD via Michelle Malkin's blog.]

Digest: from Ankara to Ephesus, then on to Istanbul

Today the Pope celebrated Mass in Ephesus, the ancient site where St. Paul established one of the many early church communities he planted on his missionary journeys. Ephesus was notable as an important center for early Christianity. St. Paul used it as a base, and probably wrote First Epistle to the Corinthians from there, and also later addressed an Epistle to the Ephesians themselves. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the Apostle John lived in Asia Minor (present day Turkey) in the last decades of the first century and guided the churches of that province from from Ephesus as his base. After the Emperor Domitian's death, St. John returned to Ephesus during the reign of Trajan, and died there around AD 100 "at a great age." Ephesus was one of the "seven cities" addressed in Revelation (2:1–7). St. Ignatius of Antioch also addressed a letter to the Ephesians early in the second century, which begins: "Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia ..." (Letter to the Ephesians). Just outside of Ephesus is also the House of the Virgin Mary (pictured right) (Meryemana in Turkish, meaning "Mother Mary"), a popular place of pilgrimage, which is believed by many Christians and Muslims to have been the last home of Mary, to which she was taken by the Apostle John after the crucifixion of Jesus, fleeing the persecution of Christians in Judea. Finally, Ephesus was the setting for the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, which resulted in the condemnation of Nestorius and defined Mary as Theotokos (Greek: Mother of God), signifying the divinity of her Son, Jesus. See the last two links below for Pope Benedict's outdoor Mass in Ephesus. (Also see Ephesus: An on-line Panoramic Virtual Tour)

  • Turkey thawing (Spero News, 11/29/06): Just prior to the Pope arriving to Turkey, Deniz Baykal the main opposition party leader, called for an end to any anti-pope protests.
  • Pope visits Virgin Mary's home (Spero News, 11/29/06): While at the place that is traditionally thought to have been the home of the Virgin Mary the pope said prayers, with security guards and press keeping to a distance.
  • Missal introduction for Pope's visit to Turkey (Spero News, 11/28/06): Following is the introduction of the missal that was prepared by Archbishop Piero Marini for Pope Benedict XVI during the apostolic journey in Turkey.
  • In Ephesus, Supreme Pontiff becomes a simple country pastor (John L. Allen, Jr., 11/29/06): On a beautiful fall afternoon on a Turkish hillside, Pope Benedict XVI, Supreme Pontiff of the 1.1 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, metamorphasized into a simple country pastor, celebrating an outdoor Mass for no more than 300 pilgrims – perhaps half Germans who belong to the nearby German-language parish of St. Nicholas.
  • Pope Offers Message of Peace before Christian Minority at Mary's House:
    Ankara, Nov. 29, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI left the Apostolic Nunciature in Ankara, Turkey this morning and traveled by plane to Ephesus, where he celebrated Mass at the “House of Mother Mary” with a group of Turkish Christians. The Pontiff spoke of “Christ, our peace,” and pleaded for peace in the world. Amid strict security, to protect the Holy Father from threatening assassins, Pope Benedict returned to the themes of peace and religion, speaking not of Islam, but of Christianity. Drawing from Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus, the Pope emphasized the motto of his trip to Turkey, "He, Christ, is our peace" (Eph 2:14).” “Mary’s divine motherhood and her ecclesial motherhood are thus inseparably united,” Pope Benedict concluded. “Mary teaches us that the source of our joy and our one sure support is Christ, and she repeats his words: ‘Do not be afraid’ (Mk 6:50), ‘I am with you’ (Mt 28:20). To the strength of his arm let us entrust ourselves (cf. Lk 1:51). Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany us always on our way! Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!” Following the celebration of the Mass the Holy Father traveled from Izmir to Istanbul where he is meeting the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
  • Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Turkey, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006.
Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Fast. Pray for the Holy Father.

Islamic law spreading in the UK

Sharia law is spreading as authority wanes (, 11/29/06): Although Sharia, which is derived from several sources including the Koran, is applied to varying degrees in predominantly Muslim countries, and has no officially binding status in Britain, the BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action has produced evidence that it was being used by some Muslims as an alternative to English criminal law in some British communities.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Best Benedict links

For ongoing coverage of the Apostolic Journey of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey, the best websites I've found include:

Benedict update

  • Pope Preaches Brotherhood on Turkey Trip: ANKARA, Turkey - Pope Benedict XVI began his first visit to a Muslim country Tuesday with a message of dialogue and "brotherhood" between faiths, and Turkey's chief Islamic cleric said at a joint appearance that growing "Islamophobia" hurts all Muslims. "The so-called conviction that the sword is used to expand Islam in the world and growing Islamophobia hurts all Muslims," Bardakoglu said at a joint appearance. Benedict also said guarantees of religious freedom are essential for a just society. His comments could be reinforced later during the four- day visit when the pope meets in Istanbul with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians. The pope is expected to call for greater rights and protections for Christian minorities in the Muslim world, including the tiny Greek Orthodox community in Turkey.
  • Turks haunted by Muslim teen's fatal shooting of Catholic priest: TRABZON, Turkey -- The Rev. Andrea Santoro knelt in prayer at a pew in the rear of his church. The Bible on the nearby lectern lay open at the Book of John, Chapter 16, in which Jesus tells his disciples of his forthcoming death -- and the challenges they will face after he is gone. "The hour is coming," Jesus warns them, "when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God." As Santoro prayed, 15-year-old Oguzhan Akdin stepped toward the front door of the Santa Maria Catholic church and once inside, the Turkish boy raised his handgun and shot the kneeling priest twice. The boy turned and ran. The priest collapsed on the marble floor of the church, dying almost instantly."
  • Would-be John Paul assassin asks to meet Pope: "I (Mehmet Ali Agca) asked the Turkish government to release me for one day so that I can discuss theological issues with (Pope) Ratzinger," Agca said in comments passed on by his lawyer Mustafa Demirbag at a news conference.
  • Vatican fears Pope could be a genuine target for murder: "The Pope has refused repeated requests to wear a bullet-proof vest ... A Vatican source said: 'Security staff suggested to the Holy Father that for safety’s sake he should consider wearing a bullet proof vest but he dismissed the idea immediately.'"
  • Christians in Turkey frustrated by popular distrust: ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Christian pastor Behnan Konutgan knows a little about religious tolerance in Turkey. "This year we have seen rising prejudice against Christians. Islamic and nationalistic sentiment is growing, probably because of the Iraq War, and people are angry," he said in his office, with no sign, hidden away in a rundown district of old Istanbul. "We are not able to open schools or train priests. This is something that the state must do and reforms are under way but the foundations law does not go very far," said Father Francois Yakan, the patriarchal vicar of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
  • BENEDICT XVI: "MY TRIP IS NOT POLITICAL BUT PASTORAL": Speaking to the journalists accompanying him on his flight, the Pope affirmed that his visit to Turkey "is not political but pastoral," and that its aim is "dialogue and the shared commitment to peace." As he descended from his aircraft, the Holy Father was greeted by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, by the governor of the local region, and by the military commander and the mayor of Ankara, the capital of Turkey, a city of some five million inhabitants. Also there to greet him was Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini O.F.M. Cap., of Izmir, president of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Turkey. The Holy Father then went to a room within the airport building where he held a meeting with the prime minister. Following this meeting, which lasted 20 minutes, the Pope travelled by car to the Mausoleum of Ataturk some 45 kilometers from the city.
    Nov. 28 ( - Pope Benedict XVI visited the tomb of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, on Tuesday, November 28, shortly after his arrival in the country. In the "Golden Book" that is kept on the site for comments by distinguished visitors, Pope Benedict wrote in English: "In this land, a meeting point among different cultures and religions and a bridge between Europe and Asia, I willingly make my own the words of the founder of the Turkish republic, expressing the wish for 'peace at home and peace in the world.'"
  • POPE ARRIVES IN TURKEY FOR HIGH-STAKES VISIT: Sitting under a large portrait of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, the Pope and the Turkish prime minister spoke for about 20 minutes. The Pontiff reportedly asked for Erdogan's help in the cause of dialogue between cultures, and the Turkish leader replied that his government was committed to that cause. Immediately after their airport meeting, Erdogan flew to Latvia for a meeting of NATO leaders, while the Pope traveled in a bulletproof car to the mausoleum of Ataturk.
  • POPE BENEDICT XVI ARRIVES IN TURKEY, “A BRIDGE BETWEEN ASIA AND EUROPE”: ... The two heads of state shook hands and processed from the plane on a red carpet. "I want to express happiness to see you and your delegation in our country," Erdogan told the Pope. He described the Pope's visit as "very meaningful."
    "I really wanted to come to Turkey because Turkey has become a bridge ... between the religions," Benedict reportedly told the Prime Minister through an interpreter.
  • In Turkey, Benedict XVI Becomes a Defender of Freedom (Sandro Magister, 11/29/06): And he appeals that “the religions utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence.” As an example of the “particular charity” between Muslims and Christians, he cites an Arab prince of the eleventh century, one esteemed by Pope Gregory VII

Pray for the Holy Father

Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Fast. Pray.

The following prayer was composed by Bishop William E. Lori, supreme chaplain, for the Spiritual Pilgrimage with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on his Nov. 28-Dec. 1 pastoral visit to Turkey.
Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence.

We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
"Pray without ceasing." -- I Thessalonians 5:17

[Acknowledgement: "Spiritual Pilgrimage With Pope Benedict XVI," EWTN]

Schedule of live coverage by EWTN

Specials schedule is subject to change without notice.


(90:00) LIVE
Tues NOV 28 6am ET - LIVE
Tues NOV 28 5pm ET - ENCORE

Tues NOV 28 9:30am ET - LIVE
Tues NOV 28 8pm ET ENCORE

Tues NOV 28 11am ET - LIVE
Tues NOV 28 11pm ET - ENCORE

Wed NOV 29 4:30am ET - LIVE
Wed NOV 29 9pm ET - ENCORE

(90:00) LIVE
Wed NOV 29 12pm ET - LIVE
Wed NOV 29 11:30pm ET - ENCORE

Thu NOV 30 2am ET - LIVE
Thu NOV 30 2pm ET - ENCORE

Thu NOV 30 10am ET - LIVE
Thu NOV 30 10pm ET - ENCORE

Fri DEC 1 1:30am ET LIVE
Fri DEC 1 11am ET - ENCORE

(60:00) LIVE
Fri DEC 1 5:30am ET - LIVE
Fri DEC 1 10pm ET - ENCORE

Sha'ria on inequality of Muslim an non-Muslim

No Muslim can be sentenced to die for murdering a non-Muslim:
Nothing in the law of Muhammad states that the blood of the disbeliever is equal to the blood of the Muslim, because faith is necessary for equality. The people of the Covenant (Jews or Christians) do not believe in Muhammad and Islam, thus their blood and the Muslim's blood cannot be equal. These are distinctive texts which indicate that a Muslim is not to be put to death for (murdering) one of the people of the covenant or an unbeliever, but a free Muslim must be killed for a free Muslim, regardless of the race.
[Ibin Timiyya, Vol. 14, p. 85, cited in Serge Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet: History, Theology, Impact on the World (Boston: Regina Orthodox Press, 2002), p.106.]

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pray for the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to leave tomorrow morning on a 9:00 o'clock flight from Rome's Fiumicino Airport to Ankara, Turkey. Thus will begin the Pope's long anticipated visit to this country in a Muslim world in many ways ill-disposed to receive him. Shouting "Allahu akbar!" Muslim protestors occuppied the Hagia Sophia in Instanbul on Wednesday, Nov. 22nd, to protest the Pope's visit. On Thursday, Nov. 23rd, the Anatolia news agency reported that "Two men who converted to Christianity went on trial Thursday for allegedly insulting 'Turkishness' and inciting religious hatred against Islam" ("Christian converts on trial in Turkey"). Yesterday (Sunday, Nov. 26th), more than 25,000 people joined demonstrations against Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit, with 4,000 police backed by riot trucks, armored vehicles and helicopters monitoring crowds ("25,000 Protest Pope's Visit to Turkey," ABC News International, Nov. 26, 2006). (La Stampa has a live video clip of local protests in Istanbul today: "Il Papa in Turchia: le proteste locali.")

In its cover story of Nov. 19th, Time magazine's David Van Biema writes:
For the traveling Pontiff, it was not a laid-back Turkish holiday. The citizens of the proud, predominantly Muslim nation had no love of Popes. To the East, the Iranian government was galvanizing anti-Western feeling. The news reported that an escaped killer was on the loose, threatening to assassinate the Pontiff when he arrived. Yet the Holy Father was undaunted. "Love is stronger than danger," he said. "I am in the hands of God." ... He enjoined both Christians and Muslims to "seek ties of friendship with other believers who invoke the name of a single God."

That was 1979 and Pope John Paul II. But when Benedict XVI travels to Turkey ... on his first visit to a Muslim country since becoming Pope last year, he is unlikely to cloak himself in a downy banner of brotherhood, the way his predecessor did 27 years ago. Instead, Benedict, 79, will arrive carrying a different reputation: that of a hard-knuckle intellect with a taste for blunt talk and interreligious confrontation. Just 19 months into his tenure, the Pope has become as much a moral lightning rod as a theologian; suddenly, when he speaks, the whole world listens. And so what takes place over four days in three Turkish cities has the potential to define his papacy--and a good deal more. "The Passion of the Pope" (Time, Nov. 19, 2006)
It will be recalled that the Grand Mufti of the Palestinian Territories, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, said the Pope must make "a personal and clear apology to 1.5 billion Muslims in this world for the insult caused by his lecture [in Regensburg] ..." ("Pope faces Muslim calls for unequivocal apology," Free Republic, 9/19/06)

Last month, two Turks hijacked a Turkish airliner carrying 113 passengers to protest the pope's visit to Turkey ("Turks hijack airliner to protest pope's visit," Chicago Sun Times, Oct. 3, 2006)

Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who is serving a life sentence (now in Turkey) for the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in May 1981, has written to Pope Benedict XVI from jail, warning him not to go to Turkey as planned. In a letter to an Italian daily newspaper, he addressed the Pope ominously: "Your life is in danger. You absolutely must not come to Turkey." ("Papal assassin warns Pope Benedict his 'life is in danger' if he visits Turkey,", London, 9/20/06)

This morning's London Telegraph carries the headline article, "Pope death threats put Turkey on high alert" (, Nov. 27, 2006), reporting: "An army of snipers, riot police, secret agents and bomb disposal experts has been mobilised for the Pope's four-day visit to Turkey. Naval units will patrol the Bosphorus armed with machine guns after warnings to police and security services that the life of Benedict XVI may be threatened by Islamic extremists after he arrives on Tuesday."

Finally, Adnkronos International (AKI) reports that "Sales of Pope Murder Book Soar Ahead of Benedict XVI's Visit," referring to a book by Yuvel Kaya entitled The Plot Against the Pope -- "a highly speculative potboiler narrating how the conservative Roman Catholic society Opus Dei, a subversive masonic lodge and the CIA collude to make the pontiff's murder a pretext for a US attack against Iran."

The Pope's Itinerary

The Vatican has released the full schedule for Pope's visit to Turkey (Nov. 13,, which is set for November 28 - December 1, 2006:
The high point of the papal voyage remains the Holy Father's meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople (pictured below, right). But during his stay the Pontiff will also meet with Turkish government officials and with other religious officials including Muslim, Jewish, and Armenian clerics as well as leaders of the country's small Catholic community.
November 28
The Pope will leave Rome's Fiumicino airport on Tuesday morning, November 28, for a 9 o'clock flight to Ankara, arriving there at Esenboga airport early in the afternoon. He will travel immediately to the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, and later pay courtesy call on President Necdet Sezer. (In a break from the usual protocol, the Turkish government leader will not meet the Pope's plane at the airport.) Later the Pope will meet with other top government officials, including the deputy prime minister and the minister for religious affairs.
November 29
On November 29, Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass at Ephesus, the site of St. Paul's missionary work. Then he will travel to Istanbul, to be received by Patriarch Bartholomew (pictured right) at the patriarchal church of St. George.
November 30
November 30 is the feast of St. Andrew, the patron saint of the Constantinople see. The Roman Pontiff will join the Ecumenical Patriarch in a liturgical celebration, and then the two are expected to sign a joint statement.

That afternoon, the Pope will visit the Hagia Sophia: once a Christian basilica, later a mosque, and now a national museum. Then he will visit the city's Armenian cathedral, for a meeting with Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Mesrop II. Later he will meet the local leaders of the Syrian Orthodox, Jewish, Evangelical, and Muslim communities. He is scheduled to have dinner with the country's Catholic bishops.
November 31
On Friday morning the Pope will celebrate Mass in Istanbul's Catholic cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
December 1
His Holiness will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit; then head for the airport for a farewell ceremony and 13:15 departure from the Airport of Istanbul for Rome. Deo volente, that evening will find him safely home in Rome.
For further details, see the substantial synopsis of related news items posted by Christopher Blosser at Against the Grain under the title of Anticipating Benedict's Papal Visit to Turkey (Nov.24, 2006), with continuing updates.

Update 11/28/06
  • CHANGE OF PLANS: TURKISH PREMIER WILL GREET POPE: Nov. 27 ( - In a noteworthy reversal of policy, the Turkish government has announced that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will greet Pope Benedict XVI when the Pontiff arrives in Ankara on November 28. The Vatican warmly welcomed the move, saying it was a "much appreciated... gesture of attention."

  • VATICAN ANNOUNCES PAPAL VISIT TO MOSQUE, AS TURKS CONTINUE TO PROTEST: Vatican City, Nov. 27, 2006 (CNA) - In what is being reported as an attempt to “ease Muslim anger” by the Turkish press, Pope Benedict XVI will visit Istanbul’s famed Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet) -- which stands in a square of the same name in the historical district of Istanbul, opposite the “Aya Sofya” (or Hagia Sophia) museum -- during his visit to Turkey this week. Vatican Press Office director Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed Sunday that Benedict will pay a short visit to the mosque on Nov. 30, the same day he is scheduled to visit the Hagia Sophia, which was converted to a mosque and is now a museum.

What the media is missing in the 'condom debate'

You've probably seen the reports on a possible "Catholic shift on condoms" at the Vatican. Secular and liberal Catholic media go ape over this sort of news, and just as predictably miss the point.

Michael Luccione says that he wouldn't worry about any of this too much: "In the first place," he says, "even if the Pope did permit condom use by married couples for AIDS prevention, that would not involve any endorsement of contraception. The contraceptive effect of condom could be unintentional and thus, by the principle of double effect, morally neutral. But it is unlikely that he would encourage even purely prophylactic use of condoms in such a case. They don't work as well as abstinence for either purpose, so approving their use in these circumstances would only encourage people to take undue risks."

Secondly, he says, "The disagreement among theologians about this issue is not over contraception but over the question whether condomistic intercourse counts as a conjugal act at all.... The people who think it's not are, in my opinion, right for the wrong reasons."

See Luccione's three-part blog series on the topic over at Sacramentum Vitae: "The Catholic condom debate."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Evidence of alleged cure credited to Cardinal Newman sent to Vatican

BOSTON (CNS) -- Evidence of an alleged miraculous cure in the Archdiocese of Boston attributed to the intercession of Cardinal John Henry Newman has been sent to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes in Rome.

The Roman postulator of the cause, Andrea Ambrosi, was assigned by the archdiocesan tribunal in Boston to be the official carrier of the package of documents, which contained two copies of the evidence. He flew from Boston to Rome and handed over the package Nov. 14 to congregation officials at the Vatican.

[Pictured above: Peter Jennings, spokesman for the sainthood cause, Father Paul Chavasse and Andrea Ambrosi, on Nov. 9, 2006, with the package of documents before sending them to the Vatican in support of the sainthood cause of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. Photo courtesy Peter Jennings /Heather Milligan -- The Pilot]
The package, containing the sworn testimonies and the medical evidence of the healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan, 68, of Marshfield, was sealed during the closing session of the tribunal Nov. 9. Deacon Sullivan had a severe spinal disorder, but was restored to full mobility in 2001 after praying for Cardinal Newman’s intercession.

The package was wrapped in brown paper, tied with red ribbon and secured with the wax seal of Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston.
The cause of Cardinal Newman’s canonization was opened in 1958 in Birmingham, England, his home diocese, and was introduced in Rome in 1987. One reason for the long preparation was the amount of evidence to be collected and studied. In addition to his published works, some 20,000 letters written by the cardinal have survived.

In 1991 the Vatican declared that Cardinal Newman had lived a life of “heroic virtue” which was worthy of imitation, giving him the title “Venerable.”

The detailed CNS article concludes with the following summary observations on the Venerable Cardinal Newman:
Cardinal Newman, who died Aug. 11, 1890, at the age of 89, was an Anglican priest and a leading intellectual in the Church of England before he converted to Catholicism in 1845. He was ordained two years later and was still a priest when he was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879.

Cardinal Newman, prolific as a poet, essayist and novelist, and renowned as a preacher, was best known as a theologian. He made important original contributions in the development of doctrine, in the role of people’s belief in discerning truths of faith and in a carefully-nuanced understanding of papal infallibility.

The cardinal is frequently referred to as the missing father of the Second Vatican Council because his teachings on the laity and doctrine had an influence on those proceedings, some 70 years after his death.

Catholic scholars today have ranked the cardinal’s "Apologia Pro Vita Sua," written in defense of his conversion to Catholicism, as one of the great spiritual autobiographies of Christian history. His writings on education influenced a generation of U.S. educators, and Newman campus ministry centers at colleges nationwide are named for him.

In general, the Church must confirm two miracles through the intercession of the sainthood candidate before canonization.
[Acknowledgement: "Evidence of alleged cure credited to Cardinal Newman sent to Vatican" (posted 11/17/2006), The Pilot, Official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston]

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006

"O give thanks to the Lord; for He is good;
for His mercy endureth forever."

-- 1 Chronicles 16:34

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mayo Clinic confirms 'Pill' link to breast cancer

For years, public health officials have been avoiding any alarming statements about links between the 'pill' and breast cancer. Such links, along with links between abortion and cancer, have been a matter of public debate in the private sector for some years. Yet anecdotal evidence of such links has existed within the medical profession for some time. Michael Forrest just sent me the following example of an email he received from a friend:

I had a very interesting conversation with one of our MRI techs at the hospital today. Breast MRI's are becoming widely used to diagnose breast cancer. Usually an ultrasound or mammogram detects something suspicious and the MRI is used to confirm a diagnosis.

Anywayz, I was looking at the report for a breast MRI patient today and I noticed something peculiar that the radiologist stuck at the beginning to his report. It said: "Patient has a history of oral-contraceptive use over four years beginning at age 17."

Intrigued by the candid admission, I called the MRI tech over and asked her about it. I said I thought it was interesting that a board certified MD chose to put that in the report even though there are vehement denials in the medical community about the contraceptive/breast cancer link. She very bluntly said, "Of course there's a link, we know there's a link."

It would be interesting to find out where the radiologists are getting their info from, but this at least shows hope that the medical community is no longer hiding their eyes on this issue. If we can get more info from radiologists like this out, Planned Parenthood and others will, hopefully, have nothing to hide behind.
Then, today, comes the announcement that the Mayo Clinic has confirmed the link. The morning edition post from WorldNetDaily (November 22, 2006) carries the title: "'Pill' causes breast cancer? 'Measurable and statistically significant' connection confirmed." The article states:
A new study from the Mayo Clinic has concluded that there is "a measurable and statistically significant" connection between the pill and pre-menopausal breast cancer, re-enforcing the recent classification of oral contraceptives as Type 1 carcinogens.

That ruling from the International Agency for Cancer Research was supported by the report published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings this month that comes even as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is being highlighted by pink ribbons, pink soup cans and other promotional devices.

However, the study that found that the risk association was 44 percent over baseline among women who had been pregnant who took oral contraceptives prior to their first pregnancy has been, to a large degree, ignored by many media organizations.
The study is available online through the Mayo Clinic or at the Polycarp Research Institute.

[Hat tip to Michael Forrest]

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pro multis means "for many," Vatican rules

Vatican, Nov. 19 ( - The Vatican has ruled that the phrase pro multis should be rendered as "for many" in all new translations of the Eucharistic Prayer, instead of as "for all" as it is currently, CWN reports in a news post entitled "Pro multis means "for many," Vatican rules." The article goes on to report: "Cardinal Francis Arinze, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, has written to the heads of world's episcopal conferences, informing them of the Vatican decision."

The translation of 'pro multis' in the ICEL (International Committee on English in the Liturgy) version of the Consecratory formula of the wine in the Novus Ordo runs into problems with the biblical texts of Matthew 26:26-28 and Mark 14:22-24. As The Catechism of the Council of Trent explains, the words "for all" are not used becaused, with the miracle of Transubstantiation, the fruits of the Passion are being referenced alone, and only to the elect did Christ's Passion bring the fruit of salvation.1 The alteration in the Consecratory formula of the wine in the Novus Ordo seems undeniably evident, profoundly altering the heart of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This has now been recognized.

I know some very, very happy people. Count me among them. Long dismissed as a piece of trifling hairsplitting or explained away by deft rationalizations, the problems with the tendentious earlier translations of 'pro multis' as "for all" have now been recognized and their longsuffering critics vindicated. Deo gratias.

  1. Catechism of the Council of Trent, trans. John A. McHugh and Charles J. Callan (New York, 1923; Rockford, IL: TAN, 1982). [back]

The silver lining ...


Monday, November 20, 2006


Irish drinking buddies

There once were two Irishmen, named Shawn and Pat, who were the best of friends. During one particular night of revelry, the two agreed that when one passed on, the other would take and spill the contents of a bottle of fine, Irish whiskey over the grave of the fondly missed and recently dead friend.

And as fate would have it, Shawn would be the first to pass.

Pat, hearing of his friend's illness, came to visit his dear friend one last time.

“Shawn,” said Pat, “can you hear me?”

Faintly, Shawn replied, “Yes, Paddy, I can.”

Bashfully, Pat started, “Do you remember our pact, Shawn?”

”Yes, I do Patty,” Shawn strained.

“And, you'll also remember that I was to pour the contents of a fine, old bottle of whiskey over your grave, which we have been saving for, going on 30 years now?” said Pat.

“Yes Patty, I do,” whispered Shawn.

''It's a very ‘old’ bottle now, you know,” urged Pat.

“And what are you gettin' at Pat?” asked Shawn, briskly.

“Well Shawn, when I pour the whiskey over your grave, would ya mind if I filter it through my kidneys first?”

Liturgical abuse: "Offer it up"?

I once privately related to my priest my frustration when trying to recollect myself before Communion and focus on Christ when eight Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion regularly file up from the ranks of the laity and self-consciously stand about the Altar looking a bit like nervous community theater actors auditioning for a part. We have a healthy, able-bodied priest at each Mass, and at least one deacon (sometimes two) on hand. The priest's attitude toward my complaint was very sympathetic, but his counsel was to "Offer it up."

His counsel keeps surfacing as an unresolved question in my memory. "Offer it up"? Why offer this up? I could understand offering up the pain of arthritis, or the anguish of the death of a loved one -- something over which one has no control and can do little but pray. But if someone was, say, suffering from a troubled conscience because he was having an adulterous affair, would the priest counsel him to "Offer it up"?

The problem here is that the sort of thing being permitted in our parish and parishes across the country are in direct violation of Vatican's published liturgical laws. The Vatican Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum, expressly forbids our current practice:
[158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason....
In view of this, I struggle to make sense of my priest's counsel. It is not that I wish to be a doctrinaire knit-picking stickler about the letter of the law in these matters. In my view, the letter of the law is not the primary thing. The law is always a means in service of an end, which here is the purpose of liturgy: divine worship. What is of primary importance here, in my view, is the amplification of whatever faciliates divine worship, honors God and elevates and edifies the human heart, and the elimination of whatever does not.

Yet perhaps there is one sense in which I can understand my priest's counsel. For whatever reason, circumstances are what they are. Whether the reason is because he may be afraid or unwilling to go against the tide of institutionalized liturgical abuses and make the mandated changes may be beside the point here. Given the status quo, I may lodge my objections with my priest and bishop, but then what? Have I any alternative but to "Offer it up"? My priest, perhaps despite himself and the Church's failure in self-administration, may have a point.

Renew International: queries

The Diocese of Charlotte has just implemented a program produced by Renew International, called “Why Catholic?” Like all of Renew International’s materials, prima facie impressions of the materials are positive. However, Renew International was founded by a coalition of Call to Action AmChurch types bent on remaking the Church in their own image. This can be seen from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Critique of the Original Renew Program (the original Renew Program was produced in 1986), as well as from the background check of Renew 2000 contributors that came out with the subsequent program: Background Check of Renew 2000 Contributors Reveals Renew 2000 Texts Laced with Call to Action Names. An index of links critical of the heterodoxy of Renew 2000 can be found at Revealing the Truth about Renew 2000, and Dr. Regis Martin, S.T.D., Professor of Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville (who was one of this year's speakers at Lenoir-Rhyne College's annual Aquinas-Luther Conference), in a review of one of the leader’s manuals, concludes that it is “seriously impaired in its content, and in its tone or spirit, alien to the ancient and Catholic faith we profess in the Creed.” First, he says, it fastidiously avoids mention of the Fatherhood of God. Second, there is a persistent tendency to divorce the Christological significance from the historical Jesus, so that the ‘Christ of faith’ has nothing to do with the ‘Jesus of history.’ Third, there is no mention of Original Sin and its treatment of the whole subject of human sinfulness is woefully inadequate. And much more (see Renew 2000 Commentary by Regis Martin, S.T.D.). (This is only the tip of the iceberg, as you will see if you explore these links.)

Renew International now appears to have garnered the backing of the USCCB, which features it on its webpage under the heading of the “Secretariat for Evangelization” in its listing of National Catholic Evangelization - Programs. The Bishop of Charlotte, Rev. Peter J. Jugis has approved and encouraged the use of the Renew International program, “Why Catholic?” for use in parishes throughout his diocese (Karen A. Evans, "Why Catholic? Why Not? New Program Offers Adults Chance to Explore, Expand Faith" [pdf], Charlotte News and Herald, May 19, 2006). Our priest is now endeavoring to recruit me as one of many faciliators in our parish to impliment this program in many small groups throughout our parish.

I would not relish dragging my heels about something so positive as a catechetical initiative. I pray regularly for the catechetical renewal of the Church. Yet if the program is designed by revisionists whose devious aim is to use their small group approach to refract ecclesial focus, to undermine magisterial authority, to democratize the Catholic message, to continue the AmChurch decentralization of Catholic Church in America, to continue the process of protestantizing and revising the Church and detaching her from the only moorings she has in her own traditions, I wonder how I can work within the program.

Some of the Renew-sponsored programs, I'm quite aware, present a very attractive front. One, in particular, for which title I'm inclined to have a soft spot is "Theology on Tap," although I've never been to an official Renew-sponsored pub theology session.

I note that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has implemented a 3-year Renew International program from the US in his Westminster archdiocese of London, England. I also note that the London Oratory announced that it would not be taking part in the program. ("Who Wants Priestless Parishes?" CWN, August 2003)

Mary Jo Anderson, in “Buried in the Fine Print: An Inside Look at RENEW 2000,” suggests that the programs materials are deeply flawed, but ends with a quotation from a priest implying that they could still be made use of fruitfully in competent hands. This leaves me flummoxed: Why approve deeply compromised materials? What are these people thinking? Is it as if we have no competent writers to produce uncompromised materials?

If any of you are familiar with the Renew programs, led me know what you think.

Fr. Cantalamessa: have no fear of "end of the world"

ROME, NOV. 17, 2006 ( Regarding the "end of the world" biblical texts assigned to the lectionary readings for this time of the liturgical year, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Pontifical Household preacher, says: "My advice is to be calm and to not let yourself be in the least bit troubled by these visions of catastrophe."

So far, so good. Certainly the Christian has nothing to fear who reposes his hope in the promises of Christ. But then Fr. Cantalamessa goes on to suggest a distinction between the "absolute end of the world, after which there can be nothing but eternity," and "the end of a world that is being treated not the end of the world."
Jesus says: "This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place." Is he mistaken? No, it was the world that was known to his hearers that passed away, the Jewish world. It tragically passed away with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. When, in 410, the Vandals sacked Rome, many great figures of the time thought that it was the end of the world. They were not all that wrong; one world did end, the one created by Rome with its empire. In this sense, those who, with the destruction of the twin towers on September 11, 2001, thought of the end of the world, were not mistaken ...
Okay, so there is a sense in which we could even say that the "world ends" for each of us as an individual when he dies. Fair enough. Buy why say this? Only to show how Jesus was not mistaken is saying that "This generation will not pass away" before the "end of the world" would come?

Cantalamessa continues:
We must, I think, completely change the attitude with which we listen to these Gospels that speak of the end of the world and the return of Christ. We must no longer regard as a punishment and a veiled threat that which the Scriptures call "the blessed hope" of Christians, that is, the return of our Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). The mistaken idea we have of God must be corrected. The recurrent talk about the end of the world which is often engaged in by those with a distorted religious sentiment, has a devastating effect on many people. It reinforces the idea of a God who is always angry, ready to vent his wrath on the world. But this is not the God of the Bible which a psalm describes as "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, who will not always accuse or keep his anger forever ... because he knows that we are made of dust" (Psalm 103:8-14).
Now why this, and why particularly now? Certainly the idea of a God who is "always angry," ready, like Jonathan Edwards' terrible God to vent his wrath capriciously upon the world, is a caricature to be avoided. But if I'm not mistaken, there is also another caricature to be avoided on the other side, and the danger these days is well to that other side -- a God who is so merciful and gracious and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love that nobody even believes His wrath possible. But the Bible tells us that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Prov 1:7) C'mon Fr. Cantalamessa, how about a bit of divine wrath with that cappuccino and biscotti for breakfast?

"Purification" of sexual filth underway: Benedict gets tough

Sandro Magister (www.chiesa), "Abuse of Minors by Priests: An Assessment of the 'Purification' Underway," writes:
ROMA, November 20, 2006 – To the Irish bishops gathered before him at the Vatican at the end of October, Benedict XVI clearly said that this is a “time of purification.” It is a time of purification from the “filth” he denounced in the memorable Via Crucis at the Colosseum on Good Friday two years ago, shortly before being elected pope, a filth made up of the “many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric (1).”

Pope Joseph Ratzinger is very severe and demanding in this area, more so than his predecessor John Paul II. In the year and a half of his pontificate, he has not hesitated to use the lash even against churchmen held to be untouchable by the previous pope.

... The archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, 68, confirmed in an interview with “Avvenire” (2) that Benedict XVI, in receiving the Irish bishops (see photo), not only denounced the horror of abuse, but dictated to them “precise indications” on how to clean up – with sanctions that are sometimes more rigid than the ones handed down by civil tribunals.
This is a radical change from Benedict who, as Cardinar Ratzinger who was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in November of 2002, when the scandal in the United States was at its acme, minimized the number of guilty priests, saying it was “less than 1 percent” and attributing the exploding scandal to “the desire to discredit the Church.” But then, says Magister, in the autumn of 2004, "he changed course." He ordered the promoter of justice at the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Charles J. Scicluna of Malta, to retrieve from the files all the cases concerning the sixth commandment. The order was that every case must be allowed to take its normal course. "In other words," writes Magister, "no one could be held as untouchable anymore, not even those protected by the then extremely powerful cardinal Sodano, and not even the favorites of the reigning pope, John Paul II." The death of John Paul II and election of Benedict did not bring to a halt the investigations ordained by the latter. On the contrary. In May of 2005, the first act signed by the new prefect of the congregation of the faith, William J. Levada of the United States, was precisely the condemnation of Gino Burresi, the Italian founder of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who had been implicated in sexual abuse of young seminarians and followers. One year later came relentlessly the condemnation of Marcial Maciel Degollado of Mexico, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, likewise implicated, with a revocation of all public ministry and forced retirement to a life of prayer and penance. Magister adds, without comment: "Shortly thereafter, Benedict XVI dismissed the cardinal secretary of state, Sodano."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Top headlines signs of times

Have you noticed lately how sickening the news is? I know, I know ... This is what our grandparents used to see when they saw news reports of urban shootings on the telly. Buy I don't even own telly, and it's getting so I can hardly stomach turning to the internet news pages anymore without taking an anti-nausea tablet. Over the last three months we've had the following:Then, just when one would think it couldn't possibly get any worse, we have this announcement from (November 16, 2006):
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- O.J. Simpson created an uproar Wednesday with plans for a TV interview and book titled "If I Did It" -- an account the publisher pronounced "his confession" and media executives condemned as revolting and exploitive.
One cannot avoid noting the nefariously telling if inadvertent irony of the fact that CNN's article, "Publisher on O.J.: 'I consider this his confession'," is posted in the 'Entertainment' section. So this is what we've come to? This is entertainment? Sodom. Sodom was less iniquitous!

Friday, November 17, 2006

A theological reminiscence by John Updike

Last night I went to hear John Updike who spoke at Lenoir-Rhyne College in this semester's visiting writers series. I had read a number of his novels and other works back in my college years and, since I had never heard him speak in person, I was pleased to see that several decades had not diminished any of the spry wit that pervaded his writings.

He talked about how he started out his career with the intention of becoming a cartoonist, then took up writing poetry, then short stories for The New Yorker to support his family, before turning to the genre of the novel. He confessed to feeling ambivalent about the latter genre, and wondered aloud whether his novels were any good. He said he just never could seem to get a feel for what a good novel was supposed to be like, as an author. Hard to imagine.

The most interesting bit of trivia I picked up was that Updike was raised a Lutheran. I always had a sense that there lay some deeper religious preoccupations behind his novels, even if it was from an expressedly agnostic perspective; but I did not know that behind is was a Lutheran upbrining.

One particularly fascinating, if sad, reminiscence had to do with an incident involving his father's loss of faith. John was summoned to come and talk to his father about the crisis by his mother, who was apparently rather upset, as the family had been good, church-attending Lutherans, even if not the exceptionally zealous, Missouri-Synod variety. Updike recalled how his mother spoke to him about his father's loss of faith, and how terrible and traumatic this was for her. He recalled how his father spoke with him about how startled he was to discover that he simply no longer believed. John Updike said, for his part, that he simply listened, taking it all in, acknowledging what was said to him, but without saying anything in return, struck by the realization that he, too, had no faith to profess.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sex in paradise: a touchy subject of Muslim debate

One of the notorious facts about Islam is its sensual portrayal of paradise as a place flowing with wine and honey, springs and fountains, whose pebbles are rubies and emeralds, whose earth is camphor, and where the beds are made of musk. But the eclipsing all these glories are the charms of the houris -- resplendent and ravishing "dark-eyed" virgins, created, not of clay, as are mortal women, but of pure musk, and free from all natural impurities and defects. Their breasts are said to be kawa'eb -- swelling and firm, not sagging; and in order to enjoy them to the full, Allah will give to each Muslim man 72 houris and the manliness of a hundred mortals in this heaven of perpetual youth and, of copulation, "all that they desire."1 The righteous in paradise will be served also by boys, "pure as pearls," dressed in green garments of fine silk and heavy brocade, adorned with bracelets of silver, and used to drinking wine.2

And then, there's this:
In 1992, Islamic assassins had gunned down ... Farag Foda, a professor and columnist, a human rights activist, and an outspoken critic of the Islamic militants.... About two weeks before his murder, he mocked what passed for intellectual discourse among Islamicists by citing a recent sermon by Egypt's most popular preacher ... [who] had been telling his audience that Muslims who entered paradise would enjoy eternal erections and the company of young boys draped in earrings and necklaces. Some of the ulema, the religious scholars at al-Azhar University, the government's seat of Islamic learning, had disagreed. Yes, they said, men in paradise would have erections, but merely protracted, not perpetual. Other experts disputed the possibility of pederasty in paradise.3
Herewith ends the reading.

  1. Qu'ran, 25:15-16. [back]

  2. 76:21. [back]

  3. Judith Miller, God Has Ninety-Nine Names (Simon & Schuster, 1996), pp. 25-26. [back]

Pope debunks progressives' pretext for defying Church 'life' ethic

"In the second of his two addresses to the Swiss bishops on their 'ad limina' visit, Benedict XVI replied to what is, perhaps, the objection most commonly directed against the pope and the Church hierarchy by progressive Catholic circles," says Sandro Magister in "Either Peace or Life – Benedict XVI Debunks a False Dilemma" (www.chiesa, Roma, Nov. 16, 2006):
The objection is that, in the areas of life and the family, the Church’s hierarchy preaches truths defined as non-negotiable, pure, and solid, binding even in political decisions, while in the areas of peace, justice, and the protection of the environment, it waters down “Christian distinctiveness” and makes feeble statements, acquiescing to the temporal powers.

According to the progressive Catholic circles, the priority should be reversed. The Church should put in the first place the struggle for peace, justice, and the defense of nature, and should be more understanding toward modern “subjectivity” in the areas of life and the family.
In short, His Holiness rejects the dilemma as a false one, insisting that “it is only if human life is respected from conception to death that the ethics of peace is also possible and credible.”

Key passages from the Pope's address to the Swiss bishops on Nov. 9th and to the German bishop on the following day are included in Magister's post.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Organized religion: detractors and supporters

In his E-Letter of 11/14/06, Karl Keating begins by contrasting the two categories of 'Losers' and 'Winners' in responses to organized religion. In the former he places Elton John:
Singer Elton John says that organized religion should be banned. "Religion has always tried to turn hatred toward gay people," he told the London "Observer" on Sunday. "It turns people into hateful lemmings and it is not really compassionate." [London (AP)]

"The reality is that organized religion doesn't seem to work," he said. The organized religion he seems to disapprove of most is the Catholic Church. In 2000 John excoriated the Church because a priest had remarked that homosexuals engage in "a lifestyle that can never respond to the deepest longings of the human heart."
Under the latter category of 'Winners' Keating includes two items, (1) an email message from Anthony Mathison of Aiken, South Carolina, and (2) a study by the Lilly Endowment. First the email message:
"I am a seventeen-year-old guy, and I just want to thank you all at Catholic Answers. I used to be a staunch Evangelical Baptist, but after years of studying the Scriptures and listening to the scholarly arguments of Catholic Answers apologists, I decided to convert to Catholicism in July of 2006. Currently I am in RCIA classes. I was originally baptized a Catholic as an infant, but I never received my confirmation or my first Eucharist. I am so very excited to be coming into the True Church!"
Keating responds by thanking Anthony for the good news and telling him that even though he may never sport as many goofy-looking sunglasses as Elton John, he has discovered something he still has no inkling of, namely that it is only in the Catholic faith that one will discover what it is that fulfills "the deepest longings of the human heart."

As to the study funded by the Lilly Endowment, he reports its discovery that "The majority of twelfth-graders in the United States--about two-thirds--do not appear to be alienated from or hostile toward organized or established religion." He surmises that this news is of little comfort to Elton John.

Monday, November 13, 2006

"The Mass of Saint Pius V: The French Bishops Raise a Shout with the Pope"

"They want to maintain the right of veto against the use of the Tridentine missal. But Benedict XVI is set to liberalize it. Arinze’s harangue against the postconciliar liturgical abuses." (Sandro Magister, www.chiesa, Nov. 13, 2006)

The Boormanian-Roman Rite of Seattle

Over the weekend, we received the following report from our undercover field agent in Seattle working with our team of ecclesiastical Mystery Shoppers for Mary. Like 'mystery shoppers' anywhere, MWMs conduct routine clandestine assessments of liturgical form in various parishes throughout the United States and report back to Pertinacious Papist Central (PPC). Despite our field agent's reassurances about the love of Starbuck-sipping Seattleans for Sacred Tradition, bear in mind that this assignment in the former Archdiocese of Raymond Hunthausen was no cakewalk. He decidely placed his life and the lives of his family members in harm's way in carrying out this assignment, and for that we owe him and his loved ones our undying gratitude. (For that reason, we have also cloaked his identity, and, if worst comes to worst, we also have a witness protection and resettlement program, although we can't promise there won't be bongo Masses and yahoo liturgies.) Here, then, is our field agent's report:
This story is to reassure you that even in Seattle, famed as it is for its love of Sacred Tradition and its all but unbroken landscape of richly reverent liturgical practice, we still have the occasional oddity that puts us in some kind of sympathetic communion with our less fortunate sistren and brethren in the remoter provinces, such as yourself.

This past Sunday we had a guest celebrant filling in, Fr. "Boorman." He has filled in for our priest before, as was confirmed for my memory by the telling of his signature joke concerning his favorite restaurant (Wendy's). This time he also informed us that he has recently begun receiving his Social Security check. (I pause, to allow for the adjustment of your generational frame of reference. All in order? Good.)

The rite was Boormanian-Roman, with a Buffet touch (that's pronounced the French way, as in buff-AY). The Boormanian variant of the Roman Rite is characterized by what one might call the "tired ritual ad libitum". This is what happens when the same ad libs are employed over and over, until they attain the character of a tired ritual. One might tentatively compare this practice to the aging of wine in oak barrels. Or one might not.

His homily was solidly pelagian. The widow and her mite were linked, by somewhat nonobvious paths, to the concept of "volunteer community service", without a "portfolio" of which, he assured us, he himself at any rate was not going to get past St. Peter and the famous gates. He did not say whether the portfolio requirement strictly applied to anyone else, but we were in any event encouraged to imitate the widow and her mite, a point with which one could hardly argue. He also gave us to understand that he asks everyone in the confessional whether or not they do volunteer community service---a warning I considered very nice of him to supply.

All attempts of altar servers and others to cue Father in to licit and non-Boormanian Roman practice were to no avail---seeming, if anything, only to make him more insistently, even aggressively, nonconformist. So he insisted on consecrating the glass flagon, despite the 4 chalices that were provided for him at the offertory, and which stood empty till the Rite of Communion, at which time he decanted the Precious Blood into each chalice with one hand, while simultaneously handing off the previously-filled chalice to an Extraordinary Minister with the other --- performing these maneuvers moreover with such an offhand assurance that one was led inescapably to marvel at the years of practice that must underlie such a prodigy of motor coordination. Naturally all this took place after each Extraordinary Minister and altar server had been provided the host for his or her own communion (i.e., provided prior to the Agnus Dei), and after each had thus communicated himself or herself. (Hence my earlier reference to the influence of the Buffet recension upon the basic Boormanian liturgical matrix.) Of course, in order for all this to happen, it required that the respectful distance from the altar normally observed by the Extraordinary Ministers and altar servers be annihilated by means of somewhat impatient and irritable beckoning gestures.

So be comforted. Even in Seattle, we have our own small reminders of what those less fortunate than we have to endure on a more regular basis.

Like Clinton, we feel your pain.

Ironical humor aside ... if there had been no issues of liturgical abuse at stake, which of course there were, the deliberate imposition upon us of his own preferred ways, in the teeth of the obvious evidence of how things are actually done at our parish, would still have been rude, humanly speaking. As it is, it is hard to know what to call this, without resorting to a highly uncomfortable word such as "contempt." And this after the emphatic underlining of "service" as the very measure---trumping all other measures---of one's conformity to Christ.

I realize the man is but an individual of a type that is passing away, a walking human artifact of postconciliar confusion, and that even if he is contemptuous, he may not be wholly responsible for it. It is still difficult to explain to my 11-year old son, who was one of the confused altar servers, how it happens that a priest voluntarily mishandles the most holy thing he is charged to handle.
[Hat tip to K. Ahmed Gonzales von Finkelstein]

A cardinal singularly unromantic about Islam

Back in its June/July issue, First Things published an essay on Islam by George Cardinal Pell of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia. Finally available online, the article, entitled, "Islam and Us," begins with five paragraphs reviewing the reasons optimists seize upon for assuring us that Islam and Western democracies can pleacefully coexist. These reasons include the familiar arguments by specialists that jihad is primarily a matter of 'spiritual striving' within a "religion of peace"; that the Qur'an and Shari'a (Islamic law) and Islam itself are a matter of diverse interpretation within the myriad variations of Muslim typologies (Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, Indonesian, Balkan, Iranian, Nigerian, etc.); that cultural achievements of Islam in the Middle Ages and toleration extended to Jewish and Christian subjects as "people of the Book" should minimize concerns in the great scheme of things about Islam as a source of terrorism (which ought to be blamed, rather, on such factors as tribalism, interethnic enmity, long-term colonialism and Western domination, poverty, etc.); that Indonesia and Turkey provide examples of successful Muslim societies and that Australia and the United States provide success stories of stable assimilation; and that the totalitarian examples of Islamicist rule exemplified by countries such as Afghanistan under the Taliban will inevitably prove unsustainable in the face of our common humanity.

The balance of the article, however, falls on the pessimistic side of the equasion, beginning with an analysis of the Qur'an itself, then tracing the history of Muslim rule in Spain and Portugal, and the effect of Islamic rule on the economic and cultural development of Muslim countries themselves. The perspective, for a prelate of the Cardinal's stature, is uncommonly politically incorrect, and one that badly needs to be factored into the equasion of current assessments. Here are just a few excerpts from this part of the article:
On the pessimistic side of the equation, concern begins with the Koran itself. I started, in a recent reading of the Koran, to note invocations to violence—and abandoned the exercise after fifty or sixty pages, as there are so many of them. In coming to an appreciation of the true meaning of jihad, for example, it is important to bear in mind the difference between the suras written during Muhammad’s thirteen years in Mecca and those written after he had based himself at Medina. Irenic interpretations of the Koran typically draw heavily on the suras written in Mecca, when Muhammad was without military power and still hoped to win people through preaching and religious activity. After emigrating to Medina, Muhammad formed an alliance with two Yemeni tribes and the spread of Islam through conquest and coercion began. One calculation is that Muhammad engaged in seventy-eight battles, only one of which, the Battle of the Ditch, was defensive. The suras from the Medina period reflect this decisive change.

The predominant grammatical form in which jihad is used in the Koran carries the sense of fighting or waging war. A different form of the verb in Arabic means “striving” or “struggling,” and English translations sometimes use this form as a way of euphemistically rendering the Koran’s incitements to war against unbelievers. But in any case, the so-called “verses of the sword” (sura 9:5 and 9:36), coming as they do in what scholars generally believe to be one of the last suras revealed to Muhammad, are taken to abrogate a large number of earlier verses on the subject (over 140, according to one radical website). The suggestion that jihad is primarily a matter of spiritual striving is also contemptuously rejected by some Islamic writers on the subject. One writer warns that “the temptation to reinterpret both text and history to suit ‘politically correct’ requirements is the first trap to be avoided,” before going on to complain that “there are some Muslims today, for instance, who will convert jihad into a holy bath rather than a holy war, as if it is nothing more than an injunction to cleanse yourself from within.”

The Christian and Jewish sources of the Koran are an important basis for dialogue and mutual understanding, although there are difficulties. Perhaps foremost among them is the understanding of God. It is true that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam claim Abraham as their father and the God of Abraham as their God. I accept, with reservations, the claim that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God, but this has been disputed, not only by Christians but by Muslims as well. It is difficult to recognize the God of the New Testament in the God of the Koran, and two very different concepts of the human person have emerged from the Christian and Muslim understandings of God. This has had significant consequences for the different cultures that Christianity and Islam have given rise to, and for the scope of what is possible within them.

The history of Muslim relations with Christians and Jews does not offer reasons for optimism in the way that some people easily assume. The claims of Muslim tolerance of Christian and Jewish minorities are largely mythical, as the history of Islamic conquest and domination in the Middle East, the Iberian peninsula, and the Balkans makes abundantly clear. In the territory of modern-day Spain and Portugal, which was ruled by Muslims from 716 and not finally cleared of Muslim rule until the surrender of Granada in 1491, Christians and Jews were tolerated only as dhimmis, subject to punitive taxation, legal discrimination, and a range of minor and major humiliations. If a dhimmi harmed a Muslim, his entire community would forfeit protection and be freely subject to pillage, enslavement, and murder. Harsh reprisals, including mutilations, deportations and crucifixions, were imposed on Christians who appealed for help to the Christian kings or who were suspected of having converted to Islam opportunistically. Raiding parties were sent out several times every year against the Spanish kingdoms in the north, and also against France and Italy, for loot and slaves. The caliph in Andalusia maintained an army of tens of thousand of Christian slaves from all over Europe, and also kept a harem of captured Christian women. The Jewish community in the Iberian peninsula suffered similar sorts of discriminations and penalties, including restrictions on how they could dress. A pogrom in Granada in 1066 annihilated the Jewish population there and killed over five thousand people.

Arab rule in Spain and Portugal was a disaster for Christians and Jews, as was Turkish rule in the Balkans. The Ottoman conquest of the Balkans commenced in the mid-fifteenth century and was completed over the following two hundred years. Churches were destroyed or converted into mosques, and the Jewish and Christians populations became subject to forcible relocation and slavery. The extension or withdrawal of protection depended entirely on the disposition of the Ottoman ruler of the time. Christians who refused to apostatize were taxed and subject to conscript labor. Where the practice of the faith was not strictly prohibited, it was frustrated—for example, by making the only legal market day Sunday. Violent persecution was a constant threat. One scholar estimates that before the Greek war of independence in 1828, the Ottomans executed eleven patriarchs of Constantinople, nearly one hundred bishops, and several thousand priests, deacons and monks. Lay people were prohibited from practicing certain professions and trades, even sometimes from riding a horse with a saddle, and until the early eighteenth century their adolescent sons lived under the threat of the military enslavement and forced conversion which provided possibly one million janissary soldiers to the Ottomans during their rule. Under Byzantine rule the peninsula enjoyed a high level of economic productivity and cultural development. This was swept away by the Ottoman conquest and replaced with a general and protracted decline in productivity.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ronald Knox on Bishop Berkeley

There was a young man who said, "God,
I find it exceedingly odd
That this tree I see should continue to be
When there's no one about in the Quad."
"Dear Sir:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by
Yours faithfully,
[cited in James L. Cox, A Guide to the Phenomenology of Religion (London: T&T Clark, 2006), p. 13]

Beware the hazards of this product!

On October 24, 2005 -- yes, that's over a year ago -- I spent four hours in an emergency room getting four stitches in my hand, a tetanus shot, and a prescription for Hydrocodone pain medication after slicing a third-of-an-inch deep, one-inch long gash in my hand opening a tin of 9 Lives cat food. Now, mind you, I'm not an altogether careless guy, yet this wasn’t the first time I cut my hand opening a can 9 Lives cat food. Once before I sliced my finger but the wound wasn’t as deep and I avoided the emergency room by means of a home-made bandage that I changed daily for a couple of weeks.

If you take the time to read the directions on the can, it says that these cans can be opened with a can opener as well as with the pop-open levers provided on top of the cans. But the can-opener almost never seems a live option when the pop-open lever is provided so conveniently with each can. The problem with the pop-open lever, however, is that, despite the caution warning, it’s extremely dangerous because the lids don’t come off easily. They're not made of light-weight aluminum like they are on some other tins. They’re comparatively hard to open manually using the pop-open lever. They take some force. The danger is that in expending this force, one’s hands can easily get caught, as mine have repeatedly, in the slicing momentum of the metal top finally prying free, with a jerk of the hand.

After my experience with the surgery last year, I concluded that these cans are hazards. I don’t think the oblique warning printed on the tops of these cans suffice to deter customers from the self-endangering behavior involved in prying loose the tops. I’ve repeatedly opened these cans without incident, mind you, and I’m a reasonably careful person who reads the fine print. But all it takes is one time to do serious injury. My last injury, the physician told me, came close to severing the tendon of my left index finger. As good as the food products are, I see a class action suit in this company's future, unless it changes these hazardous tin tops. My suggestion would be that they re-design the tin tops along the lines of other brands, which are far more easily removable, or that they omit the pop-open levers altogether, thus compelling their customers to use can openers. The former option would probably be more easily marketable.

The reason I'm posting this notice is as a public service announcement. After my surgery, I notified Del Monte Foods, the parent company of the product in question, of my concerns. Not once, however, did the Del Monte Foods concede the remote possibility of a design defect. Instead, they attempted to buy my satisfaction by offering to pay a percentage of my out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered by insurance. That, however, was not the focus of my concern; nor is it now.

Beware this product! Buy alternate brands, if possible. They are far safer. If you are wedded to 9 Lives, at least be extremely careful in opening the cans. -- Cheers.

Friday, November 10, 2006

On a lighter note ...

You've got to love these 'soft' insults traded by Shaw and Churchill:
  • "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play, bring a friend... if you have one." -- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

  • "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second...if there is one." --Winston Churchill, in response
And then, there's always the inimitable Twain:
  • "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." -- Mark Twain

St. Peter Damian on the spiritually destructive effects of sodomy

The Liber Gomorrhianus (Book of Gomorrha) of St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) was offered to St. Leo IX (1002-1054), who was pope during the years 1059-1054, as a tool to help reform customs in the clergy, a pressing issue at the time. This movement was historically subsumed under what came to be known as the Gregorian Reform, since it was inspired to a large extent by the monk Hildebrand, who later became Pope St. Gregory VII.

St. Leo IX offers the following words of praise for St. Peter Damian's book:
Leo, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the beloved son in Christ, Peter the hermit, the joy of eternal blessing.

The book, beloved son, which with noble style and even more noble intention you have published ... shows with clear documents that by applying your intelligence you have attained, through pious effort, the apex of a refined purity. For you, who thus raised the arm of the spirit against the obscenity of lust, have overcome the disorder of the flesh, and execrable vice that removed people far form the Author of virtues, who, being pure, admits nothing impure. And His inheritance will not belong to those who indulge in sordid pleasures....

Most dear son, I rejoice in untold manner than you preach, by the example of your behavior, all that you have taught through the gift of oratory. Indeed, it is more holy to preach through works than words. For this reason, by doing God's work, you will obtain the palm of victory and, with God [the Father] and with the Virgin's Son, you will rejoice in the eternal mansion filled with as many rewards as the people you wrenched from the snares of the demon, and these people will serve as your retinue and, in a certain way, will crown you." (St. Leo IX, Epistula super Librum gomorrhianum, PL 145, cols. 159f.)
The following is excerpt if taken from a St. Peter Damian's Liber Gomorrhianus, where he attacks the vice of sodomy:
In fact, this vice is absolutely not comparable to any others, because its enormity supersedes them all. Indeed, this vice produces the death of bodies and the destruction of souls. It pollutes the flesh, extinguishes the light of reason, expels the Holy Ghost from His temple in man's heart and introduces into it the devil who is the instigator of lust; it leads into error, totally expels truth from the deceived soul, sets up traps for those who fall into it, then caps the well to prevent those who fall into it from getting out, opens the gates of Hell and closes the door of Heaven to them, turns a former citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem into an heir of the infernal Babylon, transforming him from a heavenly star into a straw for the eternal fire, wrenches a member away from the Church and plunges him into the voracious flames of the fiery Gehenna.

This vice strives to destroy the walls of one's heavenly motherland and rebuild those of devastated Sodom. Indeed, it violates temperance, kills purity, stifles chastity and annihilates virginity -- which is irrecoverable -- with the sword of a most infamous union. It infects everything, stains everything, pollutes everything; it leaves nothing pure, nothing but filth. 'All things are clean to the clean,' as the Apostle says, 'but to them that are defiled, and to unbelievers, nothing is clean; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled' (Titus 1:15).

This vice expels one from the choir of the ecclesiastical host and obliges one to join the possessed and those who work in league with the devil; it separates the soul from God and links it with demons. This most pestiferous queen of the Sodomites makes those who obey her tyrannical laws repugnant to men and hateful to God; it [-this sin] wages a nefarious war against God and obliges the person to enlist in the ranks of the perverse spirit; it separates him from the company of Angels and deprives his soul of its nobility; it imposes on the unfortunate soul the yoke of its own domination. It tears its henchmen from the arms of virtue and exposes them as prey to the arrows of all vices. It humiliates at church, condemns at court, defiles in secret, dishonors in public, gnaws at the person's conscience like a worm and buns his flesh like fire....

Miserable flesh burns with the fire of lust, cold intelligence trembles under the rancor of suspicion, and the unfortunate man's heart is possessed by hellish chaos, subjecting him to as many pains of conscience as he is tortured in punishment. Yes, as soon as the most venomous serpent plunges its fangs into the unfortunate soul, it is immediately deprived of its senses and memory; the edge of is intelligence is dulled, he forgets God and even himself.

Indeed, this scourge destroys the foundations of the faith, weakens the forces of hope, dissipates the bonds of charity, annihilates justice, undermines fortitude, eliminates hope and dulls the edge of prudence.

And what else shall I say? It expels all the forces of virtue from the temple of the human heart and, pulling the door from its hinges, introduces into it all the barbarity of vice ...

In effect, the one whom ... this most atrocious beast has swallowed down its bloody throat is prevented, by the weight of his chains, from practicing all good works and is precipitated into the abysses of its uttermost wickedness. Thus, as soon as someone has fallen into this abyss of extreme perdition, he is exiled from the heavenly motherland, separated from the Body of Christ, confounded by the authority of the whole Church, condemned by the judgment of all the Holy Fathers, despised by men on earth and reproved by the society of heavenly citizens; he creates form himself an earth of iron and a sky of bronze. On the one hand, laden with the weight of his crime, he is unable to rise; on the other hand, he is no longer able to conceal his evil in the refuge of ignorance. He cannot be happy while he lives nor have hope when he dies, because now he is obliged to suffer the ignominy of men's derision and later, the torment of eternal condemnation. (Liber Gomorrhianus, cols. 175ff.)
From the earlier-quoted words of Pope St. Leo IX concerning those whom St. Peter Damian will wrench from the snares of the demon and will serve as his retinue in Heaven, it should be clear that St. Peter Damian is not asserting that repentance is impossible after sins of sodomy, but, rather, that such sins are the most difficult sins from which to repent.

[Acknowledgement: the quotations from Pope St. Leo IX and St. Peter Damian are taken from Atila Sinke Guimaraes, "The Catholic Church and Homosexuality," Eli, Eli, Lamma Sabachthani? Vol. I: The Murky Waters of Vatican II, Second Edition (Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1999), 358-361.]