Friday, December 10, 2010

Martyrdom under the "Religion of Peace"

I found this disturbing story via FrZ. Pray for our persecuted brethren!

Youcef Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old Protestant pastor who became a Christian at the age of 19, has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam. Nadarkhani maintains that he did not practice any faith before his conversion to Christianity.

The “draconian language in the verdict makes it very clear that the Iranian authorities mean business,” said Leonard Leo, chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. “He could be executed at any time. And for what? For being a Christian.”

“We call upon the Obama administration and the international community to use every means available, to raise this issue and demand the unconditional release of Mr. Nadarkhani.”

Nadarkhani’s attorney has appealed the verdict to the nation’s supreme court.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Obedience, stability and conversatio morum

Zoe Romanowsky writing in Inside Catholic has a perceptive and worthwhile critique of the Swiss Capuchins' attempts to recruit new friars; unfortunately she makes the all too common error of calling them monks.

While Friars (e.g. Dominicans or Friars Preachers, Franciscans or Friars Minor etc.) do keep a common life, with common prayer and keep the Evangelical Counsels, they lack a basic element of Monastic life, especially the normative version in Western Christendom based on the Holy Rule of St Benedict. Stability is at the heart of Monastic life in a way that isn't true of religious life more generally. If we look at a figure like Blessed Columba Marmion we can see that he left his Abbey of Maredsous only twice; once, under obedience, to become Prior at Mont César/Keizersberg, and a second time when threatened by invading German forces. By contrast, a Dominican can be asked to go wherever he is needed; the fine priest who solemnised our vows is in Switzerland studying, having been in Rome and even briefly in Jerusalem! All of this was, we hasten to add, under obedience.

So a monk is obedient, stable in one place and works constantly at conversatio morum or conversion of life; on the other hand a friar is personally poor, obedient and chaste. Or sometimes, just chased!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I gave my love a (half) Sovereign

When Lowdenclear and I tied the knot, we used the 1961 Marriage Service laid down by the Irish Hierarchy. It includes the words "This gold and silver I give you, tokens of all my worldly goods" which are recited the groom puts coins into the bride's hand. In our case, they weren't merely yellow and white metal coins but actual gold and silver! The business of money and sovereignty has come to the fore in a less happy context recently, of course. Ireland's massive, gaping and apparently uncontrollable public debt is threatening the Euro to such an extent that the Euro Commission in the person of the damp rag himself want to force us to accept a bailout, whether we want to or not.

A question was asked by Nigel Farage on BBC television this morning about how we (and the Greeks, Portugese etc) could refloat our own currencies. It's a possibility that was mooted by David McWilliams two or three years ago but sooner or later we'll have to face what was a truism until recently. The illusion of sovereignty cannot be maintained where the sovereign entity has no currency of its own. While we have almost always been linked to another currency (the pound Sterling until 1978), it was at our behest and under our control. We could retain or abandon the peg as we saw fit. Does anyone really think that we have that freedom now?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Please, please make it stop! It's making my ears bleed ...

Damien Thompson is always worth a read, especially when he takes his well sharpened pin to the inflated egos of comfortable ecclesiastical mediocrities. His latest deflation is amusing but also rather distressing. Do the organisers of the Papal Visit to Great Britain really mean for people to listen to aural haemorrhage inducing pap like Urban Pilgrim or Deus Tuus Deus Meus? (MP3s available here.) Mind you, I disagree with some commentators who think that Urban Pilgrim sounds like The Birdie Song. In a sick, sad way The Birdie Song is memorable; it gets stuck in your head like some sort of loathsome mental fungus. Not so Urban Pilgrim, which resembles (and might have been lifted from) the incidental music for a Discovery Channel documentary about the building of the Concorde. Can't you just imagine this lame musical wallpaper in the background as some baritone voiceover artiste informs you that "... even then their technical woes weren't over, as Chief Widget analyst Bob Smith explains ..."?

Well, they may have a new MacMillan Mass for Scotland and even reprised for Birmingham but it looks like the musical & liturgical Babylonian captivity of the Church in England has some time left to it yet. At least, for once, it's not our Bishops and apparatchiks making an embarrassing mess of things but that's small consolation on this side of the Irish Sea and none at all to our Scots or English'n'Welsh Brethern who certainly deserve better.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Dirty Harry

Some years ago, or perhaps 3 weeks ago (it sometimes feels we've been married forever but sometimes like we've only just met) after I met Lowdenclear but before I had the exquisite good fortune to marry her, I listed long lists of favourite things in response to tags and memes and suchlike from herself. Well, in one of them, I listed Dirty Harry as one of my favourite movies - using the excuse that I'm allowed to because I'm a guy! So this is an excuse to post a gratuitous Dirty Harry excerpt and to show what happened when DH met Rain Man!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Fr Barron & Word on Fire

One of the best contemporary apologists for the Catholic Faith is Fr Robert Barron and his brief episodes on youtube (or better still on Aggie Catholics the superlative site for the Newman Center at Texas A&M) are a model of faithful reason. I have of course a gripe; you knew there was a "but" didn't you? Fr Barron came to Ireland recently and filmed some stuff on Catholicism and never told us!! I mean not us, as in me and my family but us Irish Catholics in general. We'll just have to enjoy the program when it comes out I guess. In the meantime, here is the episode wherein he mentions the Irish Serf and its vicious anti-Catholicism - but given that its character was defined by the Bean King, what else could we expect?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur

I have long been a fan of M. R. James, especially his ghost-stories. Like every great original, he inspired many imitators and followers. Among those who have written in a Jamesian vein, Steve Duffy stands out; his anthology The Night Comes On published by Ash-Tree Press is a gem. He genuinely captured the disquieting spirit of James's own contribution to the genre. The only fly in the ointment is that Duffy's professional field is that of an IT specialist rather than an antiquary. So we have the eerie and "flagitious" tale of "The Vicar of Wryde St. Luke", wherein the impious Vicar took up the black arts and profaned his own church. Unfortunately, the highly educated Vicar of Wryde St Matthew quotes Isaiah 28:15 as follows.
Percurrimus foedus cum morte et cum inferno fecimus pactum
This rather ruins the spell that the story had cast up to that point. What he meant to say modo latine was: "we have made a covenant with death and with hell we have concluded a treaty". What he actually said was "we have run through a covenant with death" which means precisely nothing! Percussimus is the verb he was searching for but percurrimus is the form in which the text from Isaiah is found all over the internet, albeit mostly on death metal and "magick" websites. The source appears to be this rather odd book from 1967. As is the way with the information superhighway, one can only take out of it what someone else has put into it, and in this case nonsense in, nonsense out!

In other Latin-related news, I was asked to appear (very briefly and in the background) in this television series. I was one of three "Men of God" dressed as rather grubby Cistercian Monks who had to recite Psalm 114 while King Uther Pendragon died a horrible death. The three of us were recruited for our ability to pronounce a Vulgate psalm fluently, and sound like we knew what it meant. We even persuaded the script-writer that "Alleluia" was not absolutely appropriate for a prayer in articulo mortis. I enjoyed my brief brush with fame, i.e. being unnoticed five feet away from someone famous but I think obscurity is considerably more comfortable and involves less standing around and waiting!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The inimitable Miss Dawn Eden

I'm a bit fussy about blogs and online commentary, generally. I don't read Mark Shea at all, for example. It's not that I think he's a bad person, or a bad writer; it's just that his propensity for flying off the handle, telling people who disagree with him that they are wicked rather than mistaken gets a bit tiresome. So I avoid his blog and all his online commentary, and won't read his books. Life's too short to waste time reading stuff that's as wrong-headed as a significant chunk of Shea's writing is.

However irritating Mark Shea is, he does do some good. Doug Giles is entirely another case. Giles is a commentator, inter alia, for, a conservative American website; his columns are nasty, mean spirited and spiteful and that's on a good day. It's possible that he's a thoughtful, humble Christian in person but his writing style is that of a bullying braggart.

His latest target is the one and only Dawn Eden. I have been an admirer of Dawn's writing for many years, have read her book and since she decided to close the blogging chapter of her life, there's still the occasional column on Headline Bistro, Deo gratias. It seems that Dawn, as a student of moral theology and a journalist herself, questioned the tactics of a pair of undercover freelance investigators who were going after a corrupt left-wing organisation with links to Barack Obama, no less. Just as people of good will can disagree respectfully about serious issues, as Dawn herself showed in the controversy over Christopher West's comparison of Pope John Paul II with Hugh Hefner, so good people can disagree about where to draw the ethical line in investigative reporting. This is especially true when it comes to undercover work. "Undercover" is in this case a euphemism for deceiving people about who and what you are, for the purpose of uncovering wrongdoing. The question whether this kind of work comports with the standard expected of Christians in light of Matthew 5:37 is pretty serious. Not for Mr Giles, however, who is, in addition to being a bully, not much of a scriptural scholar. He seems to think that the story of Our Lord openly driving the money changers out of the Temple is analogous to his 20 year old daughter masquerading as a prostitute. I'm not sure how he made that leap nor how any rational human being could, but that's a problem for Mr Giles rather than anyone else. In any case, for the benefit of the Google-challenged Mr Giles, Dawn Eden returns a little over 47,000 hits; try a little research next time, Doug or better yet, try really taking Scripture to heart rather than mining it for insults or soundbites.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Fr Z's interesting but somewhat scary post on exorcisms etc.

Fr John Zuhlsdorf is always interesting, sometimes quirky but has a deeply serious spiritual side to his blogging. It seems to me that he is a priest-blogger for whom the first part of that description is deteminative over the latter. In his latest post, he tackles some of the stranger allegations about demon-worship in high places in the Church. Fr Gabriele Amorth seems to have published another volume of memoirs, or more probably another book of interviews, which gave rise to the latest speculation. As you'll see from the link above, as sensible and scholarly a critic as Dr Ed Peters is very wary of taking Amorth seriously.

Fr Z fisks the CNA article which covers the whole business; also mentioned is Fr Jose Fortea whose book on the subject I mentioned here. Also in that post is a run down of the readily available literature in English on exorcism. Having covered it then, I have no inclination to revisit it now. So for what its worth, I'll refer those interested to last year's post.

Friday, January 08, 2010

David Quinn - He's the man!

David Quinn (late of the Irish Catholic, now of the Iona Institute) is not a man I always agree with but he is a man I always take seriously since he makes solid good sense. This article in the Independent shows why. More power to his elbow!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

So we start a new year and indeed a new decade. Some things start with great promise; we are now part of a sovereign European Union and have bidden a muted farewell to an independent Ireland. Fortunately the civil servants in Brussels are planning to go on strike because they were denied pay increases! Their selfishness will as a happy side effect keep us a little freer for a little longer. Some things have changed greatly; our economy being a case in point. It will rally at some point, I'm sure, not least because reality has a way of intruding itself. We Irish, for all our flaws, do sooner or later adjust ourselves to how things really are. And if we won't, Brian Lenihan is here to help with some tough love. And some real patriotism too, given that Budget 2009 will almost certainly lose Fianna Fáil the next election. At any rate, as the creation of the Celtic tiger showed, we're not afraid of hard work. So things will come right, even though it won't be easy.

Another massive change has been the long delayed but Deo gratias finally arrived sense of episcopal responsibility. Heads have, at last, rolled from among the Irish Bishops for their carelessness in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis. Of course, there is a long way to go yet. A whole culture of covering up unfaithfulness in the Church in Ireland needs to be named and unmasked. Of course the fact the clergy are not nearly the worst sexual abusers Irish society isn't even on the radar yet; when farmers, teachers & social workers have the same stringent level of scrutiny that Catholic clergy do, we'll have made a good start.

We must ask, though, for each bishop who protected the institution over the victim, and favoured the comfort of his priests over the salus of the little ones committed to his care, how many diocesan curialists stood behind him and urged him on? How many other priests, good priests, were ignored or sidelined because they tried to speak the truth or to obtain redress for the innocent? We may never get final justice in this life but the DPP will make his best efforts, and for everything else, the Recording Angel has a long memory.

On a personal level, it has been a very good year. Lowdenclear & I have a constant source of joy and wonder, who also teaches us a great deal, mostly about smiling through the explosive nappy changes and learning to love while being exhausted! The end of the year was particularly enjoyable, as it took in a visit to Zoë's great-grandmother and to John & Lindy (and Connor, Callum & Meghan) in Carrickfergus. The only sour note over New Year's was the new low to which Retire To bed Early have sunk. Being our public service broadcaster, one might expect them to carry the New Year's Day concert from the Musikverein in Vienna, as they have for many years. One might be wrong. In fact on RTE television, we have the delightful alternative of Winning Streak lottery games. Or more precisely, a repeat of an old Winning Streak game. Well at least Lyric FM were carrying the New Year's Day concert, after a fashion. It was the 2004 New Year's Day NSO concert from Earlsfort Terrace; better than nothing but not by much. I can only say, for all its faults, God bless the BBC!