Friday, August 19, 2005 +

Rim 7

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Lonely Catholics

Read Amy Welborn’s post on Msgr. Clark and the comments that followed. Most people believe that the Monsignor broke his vow of celibacy. My belief is that if Clark is guilty, he should not have maintained his innocence, and that if he is innocent, Cardinal Eagan should not have accepted his resignation. In this matter Eagan is more important than Clark, because it involves the possiblity of scandal. Will Eagan prove to be another blind mouth?

The accused always seem very lonely; one wonders what direction Msgr. Clark received from his confessors and spiritual advisers. It is one thing for a man to be a sinner, another for the Church to allow him to bring disrepute to the Church. The failure is institutional as well as individual. Or is everyone amazed when a priest is surprised?

The theme of loneliness appears in the several comments by Mr. Rod Dreher and others. Amy Welborn had asked of the “Clark situation”:

1) Does it discredit faith to the outsider?

2) Does it strike a blow to the faith of one who is Catholic?

What is clear is that many Catholics feel like outsiders in the Church. This is admitted even by those who defend the Church and would never leave it. They don’t leave it because the Church has the truth. Unfortunately, the truth seems to be in the Church but not of it. For how often these days does a Catholic meet the Word incarnate in his parish? Where are the saints and where the art?

See also Diary of a City Parishioner (Saturday, August 20, 2005).

Louis Aloysius Murphy, 1920–2005

Mary’s father Louis A. Murphy died of cancer this morning around 4:30 a.m. at the James Square nursing home in Syracuse, New York. “Visiting” will probably be on Monday and the funeral probably on Tuesday. God have mercy on him.

Thursday, August 18, 2005 +

Rim 6

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Evangelization 3

From The sacrifice of childhood on the altar of progress in Chris Robert’s blog Exploring the Mystery:

Dr. Calvin Miller, in his sermon Is El Ja at Beeson Divinity School, quoted Jacques Barzun:

The difference between revolution and decadence is that when revolutions are going on the church looks out at the world and says, “This is what you better do or we won’t accept you” but when we’re decadent we say, “What do we have to do to get you to come in?”

In an e-mail to me, Chris Roberts explains the title of Dr. Miller’s sermon:

In his sermon, Dr. Miller made several references to Elijah and broke down his name into its meaning—El is Ja, El being a form of God and Ja being a form of Yahweh, Jehova, or Lord. Elijah’s name therefore means God is Lord. So the sermon asks the question is God Lord? We recognize Him to be God, do we also recognize that He is truly Lord?


Notes 138

Hell is not other people but myself.

He that is without Enlightenment among us, let him first cast
a stone.

Dear Jesus, grant me the grace to write one thing truly.

Unconditional Love?

Matthew 8:12
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 13:41–42
The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 13:49–50
So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 22:11–13
And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 24:48–51
But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25:30
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Luke 13:3
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Luke 13:5
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Matthew 25:12
But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

Luke 13:25
When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:

Luke 13:27–28
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

Matthew 25:41
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

Matthew 5:22
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Mark 9:43–48
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where there worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Matthew 18:34
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

Matthew 22:7
But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 +

Rim 5

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Notes 137

Temptations are intermittent, consequences permanent.

Temptations cluster. What is dessert without coffee?

Suffer in this life, or suffer in the next.

If God had written the Bible, he would have taken more care with his copyists.

Catholics who love the Church more than God.

We who say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets, who of us would not have joined in crucifying Christ and burning Joan of Arc?

Eternal Recurrence is Nietzsche’s attempt to give significance to life. But something signficant could occur once, or not at all.

The purpose of ritual is to go through the motions. That is why good liturgy is so important.

In an oral culture, there is no distinction between theory and application, properly speaking: there are only particular reenactments of the cosmic. In Mircea Eliade’s elegant terms, “An object or an act becomes real only insofar as it imitates or repeats an archetype” (Myth of the Eternal Return 34). To conform to the ritual is to be practical, for the surest way to get things done is to do them in the pre-established pattern.
—John R. Harris, “How Never to Write a ‘Scholarly Article’: On Falling Afoul of Academic Bigotry”, Praesidum: A Journal of Literary and Literate Analysis 5.3 (Summer 2005)

It is well that the Summa Theologica is not Scripture.

Metaphor for original sin: the internal-combustion engine.

English: the principal language of posturing in the early 21st century.

Theologians resemble eunuchs writing about sex.

Evangelization 2

Justice is politique. Truth is mystique.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 +

Notes 136

As the world becomes Catholic (please God), the meaning of Catholic will change (to the original meaning, some will say).

Paul’s epistles are arguments, not panegyrics. Lectors, avoid pomposity!

“All the Reformers loved Augustine” (“Is the Reformation Over? Well, if you have to ask . . . ” by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom). That is why the Reformation is over, but not yet the Schism.

What does [Peter] Kreeft feel he lost and gained? He gained an appreciation for the richness of God’s mystery. Having come to think of Protestant theology as overly infected with Descartes’ scientific view of reason, Kreeft learned to appreciate “wisdom rather than mere logical consistency, insight rather than mere calculation.” He also learned to worship God through all of his senses, not merely the mouth and ears of Protestantism. Perhaps most important, he found himself swimming within the two-thousand-year stream of historical Christianity. But Kreeft also speaks of losses. He inherited from his evangelical roots a serious concern for truth that he finds sadly missing among many Catholics. For example, although he finds Catholic theology quite clear on the subject of justification by grace through faith, &ldquoo;well over 90 percent of the students I have polled . expect to go to Heaven because they tried, or did their best, or had compassionate feelings to everyone, or were sincere. They hardly ever mention Jesus.” And he misses music. He remembers evangelical worship with “beautiful hymns, for which I would gladly exchange the new, flat, unmusical, wimpy ‘liturgical responses’ no one sings in our masses.” Kreeft envisions a time when all of these losses will be redeemed. “I think in Heaven, Protestants will teach Catholics to sing and Catholics will teach Protestants to dance and sculpt (Ibid.).

“Hell is a soul’s separation from God.” When, then, is earth?

“THERE IS ONLY THE CATHOLIC WAY AND THE FALSE WAY.”. This would be more believable if Catholics did not act so much like other people. Besides, what is meant is: “THERE IS ONLY THE ROMAN CATHOLIC WAY AND THE FALSE WAY.” This cannot be true.

Not every one who says Magisterium, Magisterium, will enter the kingdom of heaven.

People are reluctant to spend an hour doing what they supposedly desire to do for eternity.

You said so yourself: Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Popularity should never be a goal.

I should think that the angels share God’s interest in man.

How reconcile Unconditional Love with: “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” and “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” and “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” and many other passages in the Bible? I don’t think one can.

We who do not love, who do not know love, who refuse love, talk about unconditional love.

We know that few find life; are we to hesistate until we are assured that all find it?

I shall strive to do good, even if damned.

Four bloggers: Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu.

Will I for all eternity desire to reason with thee? Will there forever be things too wonderful for me? Or will I say, Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further? Having heard thee by the hearing of the ear, shall then mine eye see thee?

Should one distinguish between: The Lord answered Job, and: The writer of Job wrote, The Lord answered Job? Reread Job before deciding.

Let not my portion be in this life.

Rim 3

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A Body Without Breath

Excerpts from A Body Without Breath: How Right and Left Have Both Stifled Moral Reason Within the Christian Faith, by John R. Harris:

Every human being is already a dormant Christian, at the very least (p. 2).

It is a vital tenet of Christianity—one of the reasons, indeed, why gnosticism was declared a heresy—that we are all made in God’s image and that the love of goodness, though readily perverted, burns at the core of every heart when it leaves nature’s hands. The word which Epictetus uses to convey our spiritual union in god, ανωθεν (“from above”), is in fact the very word in the Gospels which English translators have dubiously chosen to render “again” in describing the believer’s spiritual rebirth (John 3.3–7) (p. 57).

What we see in tolerant Middle America . . . is alienation from one’s own life, a disjunction between one’s profession of faith and one’s example which is so chasmic that the doctrine of salvation through faith alone must work three shifts to patch it up (p. 107).

The picture of a lonely dozen worshipping in a great cold cathedral is hardly inappropriate if one considers the spiritual path to be straight and narrow (p. 110).

[Fundamentalists] are very much scions of the Enlightenment. [James] Barr is right: their epistemology is empirical. He says this best, I think, in his brief chapter on “Fundamentalism and Society”: “It is a reasonable comment . . . to say that the fundamentalist conception of truth is dominated by a materialistic view, derived from a scientific age. This stress on the accuracy of the Bible in its material-physical reporting separates modern fundamentalism entirely from that of older theology, such as the theology of Luther and Calvin, which it ill-informedly claims as its own forebear (Barr, Fundamentalism. p. 93) (p 114–115).

It was said during President Clinton’s impeachment that if a man will lie about anything, he will lie about love. The truth is just the opposite: a man who will lie about love will lie about anything (p. 177).

Today our ailing culture offers the young virtually no moral conditioning at all (and the Latin mos, like the Greek ethos, simply means “habit”); hence our offspring obey the call of the wild. Many who would have fared well under loving discipline now wallow in various depths of duplicity, no more worthy of fierce damnation, perhaps, than they would otherwise have been worthy of canonization. We have liars in all stages, and we are breeding them faster than we can paste together our broken promises (p. 178).

We can always explain, and explain quite fully, why Mrs. Smith bought brown shoes instead of red ones. She was reared wearing brown shoes, her taste is genetically disposed to prefer brown, and the shoes were also on sale. At the same time, no amount of explanation can ever cancel the possibility that Mrs. Smith bought brown shoes primarily because she wanted to (p. 210).

Given that religious and political liberalism can make a common cause of almost any issue, and given that the latter is scornful of the metaphysical trappings once (but no more) associated with the former, the liberal church really doesn’t have any significant ground of distinction from liberal politics. If the social-activist church were to slow down its parade to the Promised Land in occasional remembrance of the other world—of “useless” duties and “unrealistic” commandments—its secular fellow-travelers would peel away, alarmed by an odor of unearthly authority. Such defections do not appear imminent (p. 233–234).

I put it to you that a hell in the company of this great Comforter—in the knowledge, I mean, that our afflictions were arbitrary and unconnected to our moral will—would be closer to heaven for us than an eternity in the presence of a power which so inflicts the souls at its mercy. Though our agony should be constantly renewed, we would always have the hope of relief. For we should still have our god of goodness, the god whom we know in our hearts: the more inscrutably and vindictively our tormentor flailed us, the more certain we should be that the ruler of our hearts was elsewhere—perhaps in a deeper vault of the same dungeon. Of course, Milton represents the fallen angels as placing the similar hope in Satan. It was Milton’s right to do so, courtesy of epic convention and dramatic license. Dante was more accurate, however, in stressing that all hope is left behind at the Gates of Hell. Why? Because the soul knows its own guilt, the justice of its own damnation: any hell which seeks to dispense with this one element must remain a poetic fiction. Hell is the soul’s separation from God, which is its separation from a vital, illuminating energy at its very essence. A damned soul has lost its energy, its will—its love. The light of goodness has been utterly extinguished in it while the knowledge of goodness lingers to weigh it down (p. 254).

My own position is and has been throughout this book that visionary experiences cannot claim authority superior to moral imperatives for those who believe in a supremely good God (p. 264).

I remain invincibly uncomfortable with the role of the intellectual in most congregations. We are to nurture depth and introspection in our own faith, it seems, and in that of our breathren—until the vitality of this internal seeking after God notable exceeds the average, at wich point we quickly blunt our offensive keenness and attempt to blend back into the crowd (p. 276).

The whole point of worship is to seek our relevance to Him, not His to us. To that end, an empty room or a windswept mountaintop might be a better sanctuary than a laughing, clapping congregation. Consider, after all, how easy it is to make people laugh and clap. Look at the throngs which line up to howl on cue in the studio of a “talk show” or of some “late night” distillation of gossip and vulgarity. Is this then, our neo-liberal, neo-conservative heaven? Are these our choruses of angels, their anguished boredom the ultimate object of divine pity, thier ribald frivolity the ultimate context of holy brotherhood, their spontaneous applause the ultimate reward of ardent endeavor? (p. 277)

The charismatic denominations whose ranks have swelled over the last three decades represent the Crucifixion itself as an indescribably gory agony whose horrors are obviously intended to distance believers from Christ in a shuddering cringe. The rite of communion, to the extent that it surpasses a friendly handshake (also a staple of contemporary liturgy), draws its powers from this scapegoat symbolism. The riterated message is supremely simple, as it was for millennia before the coming of Christ: set aside the burden of guilt—set it on the innocent victim’s shoulders. Enter the utopia of self-indulgence without self-reproach (p. 281).

There is little room for a god of goodness in a state where law requires that everyone achieve personal happiness (although, of course, there is no room for happiness in a heart which doesn’t serve goodness). In the now-unified reign of the empirical, where all dwells within our understanding and hence our “corrective” ability, we can handle inexplicable longings only as neurological phenomena (p. 282).

Monday, August 15, 2005 +

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Evangelization 1

No amount of close reading would have revealed to the man of Ethiopia that he who was led as a sheep to the slaughter was Jesus (Act 8:32–39, Isaiah 53:7–9). He had to be told.