Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Crucifix

I trust the Redoubtable Marcus Magnus will not mind my lifting his pic of the new, life-size crucifix that was just dedicated at St. John's Cathedral last night.

I imagine our good rector had to fly through some heavy political flak to get the Suffering Christ instead of a resurrifix. I am very glad he did. Because THIS is what's happening at Mass. (And judging by the amount of yakking that went on even during Mass last night, we stand in sore need of constant reminders.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Attention: all those of you who think militarism has no place in Christianity:

Concede nobis, Domine, praesidia militiae christianae
sanctis inchoare ieiuniis,
ut, contra spiritales nequitias pugnaturi,
continentiae muniamur auxiliis.

Tune in to Fr. Z. for the literal translation and an explanation of this ancient prayer.

Meanwhile, I knew I could count on Paul at Catholic Cartoon Blog to come up with a good one for Ash Wednesday:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Time to Start Stocking Up... case you are unfortunate enough to attend a parish where they replace the holy water with kitty litter, sticks, sand, or nothing at all. (Question: how do they dispose of the holy water? Pour it down the drain?)

Fortunately, they do NOT empty out the fonts at St. John's Cathedral. Still, there are parishes here and there where they do empty out the fonts. In case I visit a parish during Lent that happens to have no holy water, I am always prepared to remedy the situation. You should be too.

Today Fr. Z. posts a note from the Congregation for Divine Worship, dated nine years ago, on the question of depriving the faithful of holy water during Lent. Basically, forcing the faithful to "abstain" from holy water during Lent is a no-no (emphases mine):

March 14, 2000

Dear Father:

This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.

This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:

1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being praeter legem is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.

2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the [sic] of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday).

Hoping that this resolves the question and with every good wish and kind regard, I am,

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Mons. Mario Marini [Now the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei]
Not only is it a no-no, "abstaining" from holy water is just plain dumb. Holy water is the hydrogen bomb of spiritual warfare. And unlike the United States, heaven has no Rosenbergs to sell the secret to the other side.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Standing on a Whale, Fishing for Minnows

All the salvos from the sewer that Pope Benedict has been drawing lately, particularly in the wake of the totally contrived "controversy" over his decision to lift the excommunication of the SSPX bishops, got me to thinking about a small incident that took place shortly after his ascent to the Throne of Peter. I think of it as a sort of private revelation concerning the Holy Father: I feel sure I was not the source of it, and its edifying and consoling character makes me believe it did not come from the world, the flesh or the devil. I would not call it a vision; it was more along the lines of a waking dream that came out of nowhere, as though a gentle hand had taken hold of my imagination and guided it along a brief course.

It was during choir rehearsal at St. John's Cathedral. It was late, and the cathedral was dark, except for the lights over the loft. I looked out into the darkness; and suddenly, it became the darkness that covers the earth. The Mystery of Iniquity, the power of Evil in its full terror: an imposing, formidable, oppressive blackness, against which the world and everything on it seemed tiny and pathetic. There I was in the midst of it, keenly conscious of my own helplessness and and the helplessness of everyone around me.

And as I looked around, I saw the new Pope, Benedict XVI. He was also tiny in the face of this darkness, an insignificant speck of dust like the rest of us. And yet it was not so. He had been sent to be with us. The darkness did not give way before him; but still, he was a sign that we were not abandoned. He was a sign that, for all the terror of the darkness, it was doomed. Of himself, he was nothing, like the rest of us; but because he had been chosen and sent, and because of Who had chosen and sent him, he was not really helpless. And so neither were the rest of us.

Of course, present-day events prove that not only does the darkness not give way before Pope Benedict; it rises up against him in furious assault. But he, and the One Whose Vicar he is, are going to triumph in the end.

So everybody who abandons the true successor of Peter, and runs after the Edward Schillebeeckxes, and the Hans Küngs, and the Matthew Foxes, and the Edwina Gateleys, and all the other false prophets, are really on the losing side.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Midwife of Auschwitz

Out of the abyss of horror at Auschwitz arises, perhaps, yet another saint. Much is made of alleged Catholic indifference in the face of the Holocaust; but no other faith could have given rise to a Stanislawa Leszczynska.

Born in 1896, Leszczynska was a wife and mother of three. In 1922 she became a midwife, and worked among the poor in the city of Lodz in Poland. In 1943, the Germans arrested her and her children; Leszczynska and her daughter were sent to Auschwitz, where they were put to work in the sick ward. Leszczynska delivered more than 3,000 babies during the two years of her imprisonment, making sure the babies were baptized. Miraculously, despite the horrific conditions, Leszczynska never lost a single mother or child.

Yet very few of the babies survived the war. Although, after May of 1943, the "Aryan"-looking children were spared, the rest were required to be drowned in a barrel. Despite threats on her life, Leszczynska flatly refused to commit infanticide, even facing down the notorious Dr. Mengele. Her son described the encounter:
When my mother opposed Mengele, who ordered her to kill babies being born in Auschwitz, he became furious. Describing this, my mother said: "I only saw his long boots jumping back and forth. . . and I heard him shout: 'Befehl ist befehl' [an order is an order]. " Recalling these words many years later, I realized that since my mother was quite small and she had the habit of looking down when she thought about something. . . she stood with lowered eyes and saw his long boots nervously jumping in front of her.... Was this terrible murderer (he was a physician after all) trying to explain away his order to kill newborn babies? In any case, neither then nor at any other time, did he raise his murderous hand against my mother.
Although Leszczynska's husband was killed in 1944, she and her children survived the war. Stanislawa Leszczynska died in 1974 and is still honored and venerated in Poland, where many favors have been attributed to her intercession. Evidence is being compiled for her cause for sainthood. You can read more about her amazing story here.

Even on hell's doorstep, God plants His standard.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More Favorite Movie Lines

Most of my favorite movies were made before 1970. However, there are a few good new ones. When I saw Get Smart recently (Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, Warner Bros., 2008), I was surprised at how funny it turned out to be.

I even got a new favorite movie line out of it, of which Brent Bozell's recent column on Hollywood bubbleheads has put me in mind. The Big Villain (Siegfried) and the Subordinate Villain (Shtarker) are discussing the forthcoming attempt to nuke Los Angeles:

Shtarker: Too bad about all the dead movie stars.
Siegfried: Yes. What will we do without their razor-sharp political advice?

Would you believe...begin the healing process?

Orthodox Rabbi to Catholic Leftists: Go Soak Your Heads

Interesting how some people outside of the Church are bigger supporters of Pope Benedict than many members of his own flock. Case in point:

Left Wing of the Catholic Church Destroying the Faith Says Orthodox Rabbi

By Hilary White, Rome correspondent

ROME, February 11, 2009 ( - The dissident, leftist movement in the Catholic Church over the last forty years has severely undermined the teaching of the Catholic Church on the moral teachings on life and family, a prominent US Orthodox rabbi told Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the head of a group of 800 Orthodox rabbis in the US and Canada, also dismissed the accusations that the Holy See had not sufficiently distanced itself from the comments made by Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) on the Holocaust.

"I support this move" to reconcile the traditionalist faction in the Church, he said, "because I understand the big picture, which is that the Catholic Church has a problem. There is a strong left wing of the Church that is doing immeasurable harm to the faith."

Rabbi Levin said that he understands "perfectly" why the reconciliation is vital to the fight against abortion and the homosexualist movement.

"I understand that it is very important to fill the pews of the Catholic Church not with cultural Catholics and left-wingers who are helping to destroy the Catholic Church and corrupt the values of the Catholic Church." This corruption, he said, "has a trickle-down effect to every single religious community in the world."

"What's the Pope doing? He's trying to bring the traditionalists back in because they have a lot of very important things to contribute the commonweal of Catholicism.

"Now, if in the process, he inadvertently includes someone who is prominent in the traditionalist movement who happens to say very strange things about the Holocaust, is that a reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater and start to condemn Pope Benedict? Absolutely not."

During a visit to Rome at the end of January, Rabbi Levin told that he believes the media furore over the lifting of the excommunications of the four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X is a red herring. He called "ridiculous" the accusations that in doing so Pope Benedict VXI or the Catholic Church are anti-Semitic and described as "very strong" the statements distancing the Holy See and the Pope from Williamson's comments.

Rabbi Levin was in Rome holding meetings with high level Vatican officials to propose what he called a "new stream of thinking" for the Church's inter-religious dialogue, one based on commonly held moral teachings, particularly on the right to life and the sanctity of natural marriage.

"The most important issue," he said, is the work the Church is doing "to save babies from abortion, and save children's minds, and young people's minds, helping them to know right and wrong on the life and family issues."

"That's where ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue has to go."

Although numbers are difficult to determine, it is estimated that the Society of St. Pius X has over a million followers worldwide. The traditionalist movement in the Catholic Church is noted for doctrinal orthodoxy and enthusiasm not only for old-fashioned devotional practices, but for the Church's moral teachings and opposition to post-modern secularist sexual mores. Liberals in the Church, particularly in Europe, have bitterly opposed all overtures to the SSPX and other traditionalists, particularly the Pope's recent permission to revive the traditional Latin Mass.

The Vatican announced in early January that, as part of ongoing efforts to reconcile the breakaway group, the 1988 decree of excommunication against the Society had been rescinded. Later that month, a Swedish television station aired an interview, recorded in November 2008, in which Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four leaders of the Society, said that he did not believe that six million Jews were killed in the Nazi death camps during World War II.

At that time, the media erupted with protests and accusations that the Catholic Church, and especially Pope Benedict XVI, are anti-Semitic.

Rabbi Levin particularly defended Pope Benedict, saying he is the genius behind the moves of the late Pope John Paul II to reconcile the Church with the Jewish community.

"Anyone who understands and follows Vatican history knows that in the last three decades, one of the moral and intellectual underpinnings of the papacy of Pope John Paul II, was Cardinal Ratzinger.

"And therefore, a lot of the things that Pope John Paul did vis-à-vis the Holocaust, he [Benedict] might have done himself, whether it was visiting Auschwitz or visiting and speaking in the synagogues or asking forgiveness. A lot of this had direct input from Cardinal Ratzinger. Whoever doesn't understand this doesn't realise that this man, Pope Benedict XVI, has a decades-long track record of anti-Nazism and sympathy for the Jews."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When Crime Pays

Or at least when civil infractions pay -- to the tune of $90,000.00 over a six-month period, according to the Boise City police department. That is, if patrol officers crack down more aggressively on speeders and other traffic offenders. Although the department denies instituting quotas for traffic tickets, it makes no bones about looking at more tickets as a fundraiser.

Now, nobody likes aggressive drivers -- except the aggressive drivers themselves, who don't seem to see anything wrong with what they're doing. I personally loathe tailgaters, and wish some cop would come along and bust the guy riding my ass on the freeway (so far, it's never happened). I also can't stand people who don't know to slow down on icy roads. But this whole business of cracking down on traffic violators for the express purpose of raising money gives rise to some thoughts:

1. Throughout a ten-year legal career, spent doing mostly criminal defense, I have observed a curious phenomenon: few things are as hotly contested as a petty offense. The smaller the potatoes, the bigger the fuss. Over the years, I have had clients worry more about misdemeanor charges than about pending felonies that could land them in prison for a decade or more. I have also spent years listening to prosecutors complain about how vicious people get in traffic court, even though all they're looking at is a small fine, court costs, and points for moving violations.

2. Now that we know pressure is going to be put on patrol officers to write more tickets, will the public be more or less likely to believe that there is no quota, whatever the powers that be in City Hall might say?

3. It is true that police officers have a certain amount of discretion whether to write a ticket in individual cases. This is a good thing that serves the interests of justice and, incidentally, conserves time and resources. But if pressure is to be put on officers to raise more money, will they be more or less likely to exercise their discretion?

4. Is an admission that more tickets will be written in order to raise revenue going to make people more or less likely to just pay the ticket and not fight it?

5. Are there not costs associated with getting police officers to testify in traffic court? Do police officers get overtime pay for court time? Will the revenues collected from fines more than offset these costs?

6. Does everybody who gets a ticket and loses or defaults pay the fines? Is everybody who gets fined deterred from not paying by the fact that their licenses will be suspended? (See the court's huge driving without privileges caseload.)

7. Is the use of traffic tickets expressly to raise revenue more or less likely to foster good overall public relations with the police?

Just asking.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

How Shocked Are We, Really?

On July 20, 2006, 18-year-old Sycloria Williams went to the A Gyn Diagnostic Center in Florida to complete an abortion procedure that she had begun several days earlier by means of drugs. When the doctor who was to have performed the abortion didn't arrive in time, Williams went into labor and gave birth to a live baby girl.

Whereupon one of the clinic's owners came and cut the umbilical cord, stuck the baby and the afterbirth into a biohazard bag, and threw them into the trash. An autopsy on the remains showed that the baby had filled her lungs with air -- confirming that she had been born alive.

Williams is now suing the doctor and the clinic. "I don't care what your politics are, what your morals are," says Tom Pennekamp, one of her attorneys. "This should not be happening in our community." "People all over the country are just aghast," says Tom Brejcha, another attorney. Even Joanne Sterner, president of the Broward County NOW chapter has public said she was "really disturbed" by the incident. "I know that there are clinics out there like this. And I hope that we can keep (women) from going to these types of clinics," says Sterner, leaving one with the inescapable feeling that her real problem with what happened was that it brought Sycloria Williams face to face with what she had done. As attorney Pennekamp summed it up: "She came face to face with a human being. And that changed everything."

Let's hope that it has changed everything for Sycloria Williams, and that she has repented. We wish that it would change everything for American society, and that the country would repent. But the question arises: How can this incident shock the conscience of a nation that just elected President a man who doesn't think there should be any laws against what happened to this little baby girl?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Get a Grip

The firestorm over the Pope's decision to lift the excommunication of SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson proves once again the hypocrisy of the enemies of Catholicism, who will never allow their alleged dedication to truth and liberty to stand in the way of their implacable hatred of the Church. So at this point, maybe some statements of the obvious are in order.

1. Bishop Williamson, along with three other priests, illicitly received episcopal orders from Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. This was a violation both of canon law and of specific directives from Rome.

2. The illicit episcopal ordination is the reason Bishop Williamson was excommunicated, along with his confreres and Archbishop Lefebvre. You can read all about it here and here.

3. The fact that Bishop Williamson holds kookburger notions about the Holocaust -- which kookburger notions Pope Benedict explicitly repudiates -- has nothing to do with why he was excommunicated.

4. The Pope's reasons for lifting the excommunications of the SSPX bishops are wholly unrelated to Bishop Williamson's nutjob Holocaust opinions.

5. In any case, having his excommunication lifted does not mean Bishop Williamson is 100% square with the Church. There is still the question of his illicit (even though valid) episcopal orders. The Holy See has announced that Bishop Williamson's ability to function as a bishop in the Church will be conditioned on his renunciation of his views on the Holocaust.

6. None of the sound and fury over Bishop Williamson's Holocaust denial has anything to do with defending or honoring the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. It has everything to do with vilifying the Church and the Pope.

7. It is exceedingly arrogant and presumptuous for people outside the Catholic Church to think that their opinions on who should and should not be restored to full communion with the Church according to her laws should carry any weight whatsoever.

So, just to recap:

-- The excommunication that was lifted was about how Bishop Williamson got to be a bishop.

-- The excommunication has nothing to do with kookburger holocaust opinions.

-- The lifting of the excommunication has nothing to do with kookburger holocaust opinions.

-- Not only does the Pope repudiate Bishop Williamson's nutty notions, but he is requiring Bishop Williamson to do the same as a condition of being allowed to function as a bishop.

-- All those who think they have a quarrel with the Pope over this need to GET A GRIP.

Monday, February 02, 2009

February 2nd: Let's Go Back to Calling It "Candlemas"!

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

Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord,
in peace, according to Thy word:
For mine own eyes hath seen Thy salvation,
Which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all the peoples,
A light to reveal Thee to the nations [hence the traditional blessing of candles on this day, which gave us the name "Candlemas"]
And the glory of Thy people Israel.