22 November 2006

Everything You've Never Wanted to Know About Moi

Why do you blog? It gives me a way to neglect my children

What are you reading at the moment? The Cruise of the Nona, The Dividing of Christendom, Thank You, Jeeves, Mary Queen of Scots

Favorite poem? Impossible question

Favorite films? Pygmalion, The Winslow Boy (orig.), The Philadelphia Story (orig.), A Man for All Seasons

Favorite composers? Bach, Chopin, Liszt

Major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind? Whether or not to bleach my hair platinum blond

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? If I went about disseminating philosophical theses, it wouldn’t be terribly original: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? Abolish “substantive due process” (and its spawn) from all case law

Heroes, political or otherwise? Edmund Campion, Therese of Lisieux

What is your favorite piece of wisdom? “Life would be delish / With a sunny disposish” (in the immortal words of Ira Gershwin)

If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? Reginald Jeeves

What would you do with the UN? Turn it into a collective for destitute writers and convert the Office for Gender Equality into a unisex bathroom

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? Me

Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? Isn’t it here now? Maybe not…

What do you consider the most important personal quality? Humility

What personal fault do you most dislike? Egotism

What would be your most important piece of advice about life? Live as if the next one depends on it (it does)

Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? Not unless he had gobs of cash

Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? No (none I’ll admit publicly, anyway)

Favorite humorists? P.G. Wodehouse, P.J. O’Rourke

What, if anything, do you worry about? World peace, nuclear disarmament, getting rid of the little black spots from between my bathroom tiles without having to regrout the whole lot

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? Arius, Walsingham, and J. Harry Blackmun—and during dessert I’d give them all a good talking to

If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? *Sigh* Where to begin?

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? Contented where I am, thanks

What would your ideal holiday be? Pilgrimage to Lourdes with the fam

What do you like doing in your spare time? Not much of that, I’m afraid, but when it’s there, reading.

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? I wouldn’t

What talent would you most like to have? Wish I had a photographic memory

What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? Food critic

What animal would you most like to be? Human animal

If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? Religious vocation for my children

How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? I’d pay off all my debts, buy a home adequate for the family, invest, and give away loads to my parents, parish, and charities of my choice. Anything left over would go to fund haircuts for Tre Arrow.

What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? Blogging

Questions taken, more or less, from Normblog Profiles

21 November 2006

Queen Elizabeth had little patience for the Catholics, but even less for the Calvinists, who complained the Church of England remained too papist. In their desire to complete the Reformation and purify religion of popish trumperies, the Puritans broke from the Anglican Church, rejected the Book of Common Prayer, and preferred the anti-royalist Geneva Bible to the King James version. They instituted an independent congregationalist ideal that upheld the notion of the common priesthood of all believers, and thus granted an equal say among congregants in the election of the minister (some claim the roots of American democracy lie here). All of this naturally brought down upon them the wrath of the Crown. A number of Puritans sought refuge in Holland, where they lived in religious freedom for a dozen years, after which they chose to emigrate to America. After meeting another group of Puritans in Southampton, all boarded the Mayflower on September 16, 1620. Sixty-five days later, they sighted Cape Cod. The first Thanksgiving celebration (which lasted three days) took place in 1621 with about ninety Native Americans, and wasn't celebrated again until some years later, when in 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday.

Thus was born, for better or for worse, Thanksgiving as we know it. As all good Catholics know, eucharistia is Greek for thanksgiving--so be sure to leg it to Mass that day and pay your respects to the Giver of all good gifts.

20 November 2006

How to Get Back into the Queen's Good Graces

Man About Mayfair shows us how:

If the Queen extends her hand (not bloody likely) you will shake very lightly and briefly...Do not mangle the Royal Knuckles...Light and Quick...

If you can get past the anti-American stereotyping, it's an amusing read. I for one wouldn't mind requesting re-entry into the Kingdom--it's just this one bit from the English Coronation Chrismations that bothers me:
Archbishop: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel?

Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?

Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?

And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

Queen: All this I promise to do.
Anything to be done about that?

19 November 2006

The Hermeneutic of Continuity

From Fr. Finigan's delightful blog:
Things I don't like very much at all and would really rather avoid wherever possible
The television
The Tablet
ICEL "translations"
The hermenutic of discontinuity
New Labour
Creative liturgy
... and people who listen to loud music through tiny earphones when they are on the tube so that you have a constant zizz-zizz-za-ziz zizz all the way from North Greenwich to Westminster, making it difficult to concentrate on the book that you are trying to read, and tempting you to the uncharitable thought that it will serve them bally-well right if they have to wear a hearing-aid before they are 30

Which Wooster & Jeeves Character Are You?

Your home is like a three-ring circus--but, by golly, you're the devil of a ringmaster! You've seen all types of houseguests, but you manage to extract some nectar from even the foulest of stinkweeds before they biff off. You know the two secrets to a man's heart: food and letting the poor bird BE!

Take the quiz.

Drat. I was hoping I'd be Barmy Fotheringhay-Phipps.

Project Sycamore

Help protect the Catholic identity of Notre Dame: sign the petition.

David Solomon, a member of the department of philosophy, writes in the Wall Street Journal:
To some of us--and I speak as a Notre Dame professor--Father Jenkins's decision is one more step in a long process of secularization: It has already radically changed the major Protestant universities in this country; it is now proceeding apace at the Catholic ones.
He refers to Fr. Jenkins's decision to allow that silliness known as The Vagina Monologues to continue its annual performance on campus. (And it truly is a piece of silliness; meant to shock, it merely amuses, and even makes one pity Eve Ensler for authoring such popular drivel. The premise is that violence against women must cease, ergo perform a play celebrating women by addressing one's vagina directly. Er...hm. Exactly. Even if Ensler's not a master of deductive reasoning, the poor girl's got hubris; she's called the VM "the bible for a new generation of women." Oh dear. I think this parenthetical is long enough, don't you?)

Fr. John Coughlin, a Franciscan priest who studied law at Harvard and canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University (ah, and just look at the eyes, bless him!), writes:
My impression is that secular speech of all types is alive and well at Notre Dame. Rather, it is the Catholic intellectual life that needs to be fostered and nourished.... The Catholic tradition respects individual conscience, and not every individual who is a member of a Catholic university community needs to embrace Catholic faith. However, all members of a Catholic university community are asked to respect faith and the truth claims that flow from it.
And respected and beloved Professor Emeritus Charles Rice writes:
Why do the "Monologues" and the Queer Film Festival get an easy pass at Notre Dame? In our politically correct culture, it is open season on Catholic sexual morality. That teaching can be advanced only as one "perspective" without any serious claim to objective validity. Jenkins, playing that game, confirms that political correctness is the operative official religion of Notre Dame.
Anyway, get to it, my dears; sign the petition.

17 November 2006

More evidence of Barney’s sinister agenda

ASIDE from the fact that he deceives children by telling them he loves them several times per show, today he was teaching them how to sing and play Ring Around the Rosy.

Now everyone knows the rhyme’s about the effects of the Bubonic Plague in mid-seventeenth century England. There was little more greatly feared during the Elizabethan era than the Black Plague, from the Queen herself to her lowliest subjects. The first sign of plague was a roseate rash in the shape of a ring; the posy (or herbal sachet) was kept in the pocket either to hide the stench of the victim, or in the belief that bad odors transmitted the disease. “Ashes, ashes” refers to the dead’s cremated remains, and “We all fall down” highlights the plague’s indiscriminate effect on low- and highborn alike (interestingly, the English version replaces “Ashes, ashes” with “A-tishoo, A-tishoo,” in reference to sneezing, a symptom of the disease). By the time the Great Fire of London in 1666 ended the plague (by killing the disease-carrying rats), at least 60% of the population had died.

Why do I let my children watch the show? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

15 November 2006

"The most perfect school of Christ"

BY THE TIME Calvin arrived in Geneva in 1536, Geneva was an independent city. It had broken from the Catholic bishop and the House of Savoy, and was governed by three councils. These councils oversaw not only civic affairs, but religious and moral affairs as well. In February 1536, the councils issued a proclamation on religious and moral life, prohibiting blasphemy, profanity, excessive drinking, the playing of cards and dice, and the protection of adulterers, thieves, vagabonds, and spendthrifts. It prohibited all holidays except Sunday. The Catholic sacraments were forbidden, and all Genevans were required to attend Sunday worship.

Far from disagreeing with the regulations, Calvin welcomed their enforcement. Although his first stint in Geneva ended in banishment (he was expelled from the city because of quarrels over administration of the Lord’s Supper), his later return was more successful, turning the city into what John Knox called "the most perfect school of Christ that ever was on the earth since the days of the Apostles."

Calvin implemented his ideas for an ecclesiastical polity in Geneva, stressing the autonomy of the church in religious and moral affairs. The church consisted of four offices: pastor, teacher, deacon, and elder, the last holding the highest place. There were twelve elders total, who comprised the Consistory, the body that oversaw the morals of Genevan citizens.

The Consistory visited each household to determine the state of its morals. Spies were commissioned by the Consistory to keep track of citizens and report on misconduct. Attentive attendance at church was mandatory; those who left early or made too much noise were reprimanded or imprisoned. Criticism of ministers (and particularly of Calvin) was punished. Dramatic plays were suppressed, and sexual immorality was severely penalized, either by imprisonment or by death (men and women were disciplined equally harshly). The playing of cards and dice, as well as dancing, was forbidden. Taverns were closed (the experiment lasted a full three months, after which they were re-opened).

After the death in Geneva of Michael Servetus (a heretic) by burning at the stake, Calvin issued a defense of the act in 1546, arguing for the right to condemn those who taught false doctrines. To be fair, Servetus would likely have suffered a similar fate in the Spanish Inquisition; and Calvin had tried to change the method of death to that by sword. The fact remains, however, that Calvin defended the act to, in his thought, protect souls and save God’s honor.

After crushing a riot in 1555, during which many of Calvin’s enemies fled or were put to death, Calvin’s regime solidified. He finally obtained the right for his Consistory to excommunicate on its own, rather than with approval from the councils. By 1559, hundreds had been excommunicated. Ministers were placed all throughout Geneva to more effectively oversee moral conduct, and regulations were implemented to decrease extravagance of food and clothing among citizens. The press was censored, and crosses (which smacked of Catholic “idolatry”) were removed from church spires. Calvin, who admitted his great weakness was a violent temper, had citizens punished if they failed to greet him with requisite respect by calling him “Master.”

Calvin, like any man, was complex, neither wholly evil nor wholly good. It seems only right that some of the lesser known (and less savory) aspects of his thought and life be known by those who revere him as a hero of the Reformation (that tragedy to Christian unity), and are taught a whitewashed history of his life.

11 November 2006


One of my favorite anecdotes about one of my favorite authors:

When Belloc was running for Parliament, a heckler asked him during a campaign speech whether or not he was a "papist." Taking out his rosary beads, Belloc retorted, "Sir, so far as possible I hear Mass each day and I go to my knees and tell these beads each night. If that offends you, then I pray God may spare me the indignity of representing you in Parliament."

The crowd erupted in applause and Belloc won a seat.

On a tangent, I've come to the conclusion that Stephen Fry (of Jeeves & Wooster fame) is a physical composite of Belloc and my old parish priest, a lovely and unassuming gentleman and former member of the F.S.S.P.

Tennis Masters Cup

It's the only time I wish I had cable. I predict The Roger will win (no surprise there), but I'm rooting for my favorite, Andy. With recent coach Jimmy Connors, Andy performed marvelously at the U.S. Open. He lost his matches at the Davis Cup, and retreated from Madrid with an injured ankle, but is now ready for Shanghai. May the best man win.

By the way, the Qi Zhong Stadium is of architectural interest.

The man who laid the egg Luther hatched

ERASMUS of Rotterdam spent most of his early life studying in the schools of the Brethren of the Common Life, a lay community founded by Gerhard Groote. He was ordained a priest at age twenty-five and took religious vows in the monastery of Steyn, a part of the Windesheim group (of which Thomas a Kempis, supposed author of the incomparable Imitation of Christ, was a member). After a dispensation (later made permanent by Pope Leo X), he left monasticism for a life of study and writing. He found his greatest pleasure in his visits to England and converse with the likes of St. Thomas More (who dedicated Utopia to him), John Colet, and Bishop Fisher. Through the influence of these English scholars and ecclesiastics, Erasmus was encouraged in his devotion to Christian humanism, which stood apart from the humanism flourishing in Italy. This movement attempted to reform the Catholic faith by a return to the sources (ad fontes)—a re-examination of the original language of Scripture, coupled with the study of patristics. Instead of relying on the Latin of Jerome, Erasmus studied Greek, correcting translational errors in the Vulgate. His translations of the New Testament were the basis for the Geneva Bible and King James version. Erasmus held up Christian antiquity as the model of faith, a time when faith, in his thinking, was simpler, purer, free of the pious accretions of his time: obscure devotions, the cult of saints, the superstitious attachment to relics—in short, “non-essentials.”

Erasmus’ Christian humanism had a profound impact on the Western world, far more profound than he knew. When Luther exploded onto the scene, he carried a version of Erasmus’ New Testament, which he translated into German, and was filled with admiration for the Christian reformer. Their early correspondence was genial, but increasingly became more disagreeable as the emotionally violent Luther accused him of cowardice, while Erasmus gently mocked Luther’s novel teachings. As the Protestant Reformation gained momentum, many Catholics laid the blame at Erasmus’ feet, calling him “the man who laid the egg Luther hatched.” And who could blame them? Many thought, after all, that Luther was simply carrying out to its logical conclusion the program begun by Erasmus.

But where Erasmus sought reform of the Church from within, Luther rejected the system altogether. For instance, Erasmus defended the doctrine of transubstantiation, while Luther redefined it in favor of consubstantiation (in fact, he went on to reject five of the seven sacraments). Where Erasmus continued to acknowledge the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff, Luther rejected him as of the devil (other choice words were used to describe him as well). Erasmus detested the violence and anti-humanism of the Protestant movement, and by 1535, the break between Luther and Erasmus was complete. By then, the Reformation was an unstoppable force, and it would take the cold logic of Jean Cauvin in his Institutes to bring to full fruition what Erasmus unwittingly brought on so many years before.

10 November 2006

No man appears in safety before the public eye unless he first relishes obscurity. No man is safe in speaking unless he loves to be silent. No man rules safely unless he is willing to be ruled. No man commands safely unless he has learned well how to obey. No man rejoices safely unless he has within him the testimony of a good conscience.

The Imitation of Christ, Bk. I, Ch. 20

09 November 2006

I've been busy reading, writing, and grading papers (if there is a Purgatory for writers, it consists of grading undergraduate students' essays: misplaced commas, misused semicolons, absent apostrophes, fragments galore--everywhere, the abuse of grammar). Instead of boring you with the details, I'll provide a link here to the oral arguments made before the U.S. Supreme Court on the two partial-birth abortion cases under review: Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood. As Fr. Frank Pavone noted, Justice Scalia's unusual silence during oral argument spoke volumes; any sane person recognizes the barbarity of partial-birth abortion without the need to enter into debate over its so-called merits.

05 November 2006


Frighteningly clever child. She's not yet two, but can count to ten in four languages (English, French, German, and Vietnamese)...