31 July 2007

What's in a Name?

How glad I am that I became Catholic before naming my children! What beautiful and illustrious names to choose from among the ranks of saints. This is why I am baffled when I read in parish bulletins that "Skyler Madison" or "Tyler Lane" was just baptized. For your information, my dear Catholic parents, the following are not female saints:


I've even heard of girls named Latrine and Vendetta, the poor things. Imagine forsaking the noble patronage and protection of great heroines of the faith in order to walk around bearing a title that brings to mind, of all things, fecal matter. Thanks, Mom.

Neither are the following male saints:


In the Old Testament, the name you received was prophetic; it encapsulated your character and personality, and could be either a blessing or a curse. When Catholics have so many valiant heroes after which to name their children, so many lovely and dignified names with which to bless them, why do we choose instead to follow the way of the world and curse them with the meaningless and the banal?

Well, considering the past 50 years or so, the loss of a distinctly Catholic identity, and the near-total triumph of the meaningless and banal, I suppose I can answer my own question...

30 July 2007

Goodbye to All That

Austin Bramwell's article was published 8 months ago, and aptly sums up the state of modern conservatism. (We were co-bloggers on the Harvard Federalist Society Blog, Ex parte, and became acquainted at the Fed Society Annual Student Symposium at Notre Dame.) He writes here, for instance:

Conservatives identify themselves in part by repeating slogans (“we are at war!”) that, like “ignorance is strength,” are less important for what (if anything) they say than for what saying them says about the speaker. ...Anyone who expresses too vociferously too many of the following opinions, for example, cannot expect to make a career in the movement: that the Soviet Union was not the threat that anti-communists made it out to be, that the current tax system discriminates in favor of the very wealthy, that the Bush administration was wrong about the Iraq invasion in nearly every respect, that the constitutional design itself prevents judges from deciding cases according to the original meaning of the Constitution, that global warming poses small but unacceptable risks.... Whether these opinions and others are correct or not matters little to the movement conservative, even if he knows next to nothing about the topic at hand. If you do not reject these opinions or at least keep quiet, you are not a movement conservative and will be treated accordingly.

I have a confession to make: several years ago, I was more conservative than I was Catholic--which makes sense, because I wasn't Catholic at all. I was Protestant. I had always been a supporter of capital punishment; I was an ardent defender of America's right to launch a preemptive strike against Iraq, and involved myself in a number of contentious debates defending the point; I never questioned the correctness of our decimating Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Any conservatives who called these issues into question were, in my mind, closet liberals.

After my return to the faith, I started seriously considering the Church's teachings on issues like just war, capital punishment, poverty, and the like. And I found, to my discomfort, that the Republican platform often jarred with the Church's own doctrines. Capital punishment? We know St. Thomas Aquinas's justification, and Pope John Paul II's questioning of its continued legitimacy because we now have other methods of protecting society from the worst of the worst. The war against Iraq? Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict have stated in no uncertain terms that there is no moral justification for a preemptive strike against another country. Now, one might respond with irritation, what do popes know about military strategy? Next to nothing, of course. But popes have authority to proclaim the conditions on which a war can be waged morally--and any Catholic serious about his faith should not take their words lightly. I would go so far as to say that any Catholic dismissive of their words on such weighty issues are putting ideology before faith.

Hiroshima? Nagasaki? The Church has been even clearer on this point. Pope Paul VI called America's act "butchery of untold magnitude." Pope John Paul II referred to it as "a self-destruction of mankind", ranking Hiroshima and Nagasaki with Auschwitz as a place devastated by man's sin. And the Catechism teaches:

"Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation." (2314)

The point? The point is that, after some years of reflection and thought, I am now more Catholic than I am conservative, liberal, or libertarian. In fact, these labels don't work for me anymore, because I hold positions that either side of the aisle can sympathize with. Does this make me an outsider to some in the conservative camp? Undoubtedly. But ideology is less important to me than fidelity to Christ's teachings as handed down through the Church. I don't judge other conservatives who may disagree with the Church--but the question is, as Bramwell notes, do they judge me?

29 July 2007

A small request

I usually attend the Traditional Latin Mass, but on the occasions I've had to attend the Novus Ordo, why is it that I am yet to meet an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion who knows how to place the Sacred Host on the tongue? When I come up to receive with my hands folded, the EM often looks like a deer caught in headlights. And when he sufficiently recovers himself, he either stuffs the Host so far in that his fingers are all over my mouth (can you say eww?), or to the contrary he so precariously balances the Host on the tip of my tongue that I must clamp down or else Jesus will fall right out of my mouth (which, in fact, has happened twice). And to make things worse, I get bonked in the face while turning to leave because the EM reaches over to "bless" my child. Don't they know that only priests have the power to bless? True, it never hurts to make the sign of the cross on a child's forehead, whether one be layman or priest (I myself do it all the time with my two little ones)--as long as the layman understands that any blessing conferred will be purely an act of God's grace, and not from the EM's "authority" to bless. But frankly, there is no need for the EM to "bless" a child. We've gotten so confused with our roles and that of the priest that we assume we should do everything he does, whether or not it is appropriate.

I must ask, most humbly, most respectfully, most charitably, that priests teach (and remind) EM's how to properly place the Sacred Host on the tongue. If EM's are not taught, they will not know. Better yet, let's reduce the number of unnecessary EM's and bring in the priests who are available to distribute Holy Communion, and this way, the problem disappears.

28 July 2007

I've just received this in the mail from a missionary in India:

Dear Friends
We are asking for prayer. Please offer Holy Mass for the Christians
and Catholics in Peshawar, in the northern part of Pakistan. The
Christians there have been told (by the political party in majority)
to convert to Islam in 10 days or else face death. Many of them have fled
their homes and have gone to Bishop Tony Lobo in Pindi. He is taking this
very seriously, however, the police and authorities are often

27 July 2007

Sumptuous photos of Pontifical Masses in the Tridentine Rite can be seen here.

The Gathering Storm

I'm probably the only one in my literary circle not to have yet read Churchill's first volume of his history of the Second World War. Be that as it may, it's one of the gifts my husband bought me for my birthday (the other were tickets to the Indianapolis Tennis Championships Finals match to watch one of my favorites, Andy Roddick). I'm making my way slowly through it, and I came along this interesting passage, in which Churchill ties the success of Hitler's rise to, among other things, the imposition of democracy on post-WWI Germany:

The prejudice of the Americans against monarchy, which Mr. Lloyd George mmade no attempt to counteract, had made it clear to the beaten Empire that it would have better treatment from the Allies as a republic than as a monarchy. Wise policy would have crowned and fortified the Weimar Republic with a constitutional sovereign in the person of an infant grandson of the Kaiser, under a Council of Regency. Instead, a gaping void was opened in the national life of the German people. All the strong elements, military and feudal, which might have rallied to a constitutional monarchy and for its sake respected and sustained the new democratic and Parliamentary processes were for the time being unhinged. The Weimar Republic, with all its liberal trappings and blessings, was regarded as an imposition of the German people. For a spell they sought to cling as in desperation to the aged Marshal Hindenburg. Thereafter mighty forces were adrift, the void was open, and into that void after a pause there strode a maniac of ferocious genius, the repository and expression of the most virulent hatreds that have ever corroded the human breast--Corporal Hitler.

Interesting. Quite frankly, I think Churchill was right. And he was undoubtedly correct about Americans' "prejudice" against monarchy. As American citizens, we are raised assuming that democracy is of course the best form of government, and any argument to the contrary raises the suspicion that one is in favor of fascism or tyranny--forgetting the fact that democracy is no more immune from corruption than monarchy, or that history is as full of benevolent monarchs as tyrannous ones. More on this later.

24 July 2007

Escaping from Peter Pan's Prison

By Anne McDonald

Doctors thought I had an IQ of 20. You know what? They were wrong.
Three years ago, a six-year-old Seattle girl called Ashley, who had severe disabilities, was, at her parents' request, given a medical treatment called "growth attenuation" to prevent her growing. She had her uterus removed, had surgery on her breasts so they would not develop and was given hormone treatment. She is now known by the nickname her parents gave her -- Pillow Angel.
The case of Ashley hit the media in January after publication of an article in a medical journal about her treatment. It reappeared in the news recently because of the admission by Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center that the procedures its doctors had performed to stop Ashley from growing and reaching sexual maturity violated state law. In Canada (as in Australia), a child can be sterilised only with the consent of a court.

Only someone like me who has lain in a cot year after year hoping that someone would give her a chance can know the horror of being treated as if you were totally without conscious thought.

At the time of the initial publicity about growth attenuation, Ashley's parents wrote on their blog: "In our opinion only parents of special needs children are in a position to fully relate to this topic. Unless you are living the experience, you are speculating and you have no clue what it is like to be the bedridden child or their care givers."

I did live the experience. I lived it not as a parent or care giver but as a bed-ridden growth-attenuated child. My life story is the reverse of Ashley's.

Like Ashley, I, too, have a static encephalopathy. Mine was caused by brain damage at the time of my breech birth. Like Ashley, I can't walk, talk, feed or care for myself. My motor skills are those of a 3-month-old. When I was 3, a doctor assessed me as severely retarded (that is, as having an IQ of less than 35) and I was admitted to a state institution called St Nicholas Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. As the hospital didn't provide me with a wheelchair, I lay in bed or on the floor for most of the next 14 years. At the age of 12, I was relabelled as profoundly retarded (IQ less than 20) because I still hadn't learned to walk or talk.

Like Ashley, I have experienced growth attenuation. I may be the only person on Earth who can say, "Been there. Done that. Didn't like it. Preferred to grow."

Unlike Ashley, my growth was "attenuated" not by medical intervention but by medical neglect. My growth stopped because I was starved. St Nicholas offered little food and little time to eat it -- each staff member had 10 children with severe disabilities to feed in an hour. That was the roster set by the state and accepted by the medical profession. Consequently my growth stopped shortly after admission. When I turned 18, I weighed only 35 pounds. I hadn't developed breasts or menstruated. I was 42 inches tall.

My life changed when I was offered a means of communication. At the age of 16, I was taught to spell by pointing to letters on an alphabet board. Two years later, I used spelling to instruct the lawyers who fought the habeas corpus action that enabled me to leave the institution in which I'd lived for 14 years.

You can read the rest here.

(via Against All Heresies)

18 July 2007

Le quatorze juillet

La Prise de la Bastille, Jean-Pierre Houel, 1789

Just a few days back, France commemorated the storming of the Bastille over two centuries ago--an event that, as far as I’m concerned, marked the moral collapse of an otherwise great nation.

Stirring up the mob's hatred of the monarchy and agitated by La Grande Peur, well-known mason Camille Desmoulins stood atop a café table in Paris brandishing a pistol and cried, Citizens, there is no time to lose; the dismissal of Necker [the royal finance minister] is the knell of a Saint Bartholomew for patriots! This very night all the Swiss and German battalions will leave the Champ de Mars to massacre us all; one resource is left—to take arms!

(His mention of "a St. Bartholomew", of course, refers to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre two centuries earlier, during which thousands of Huguenots were killed by the French mob. Fault has traditionally been attributed to the Catholics, and particularly the de Medici family, but it makes more sense to blame the ambitious Duke of Anjou and Henri de Guise, who used the popular discontent to their advantage. It also didn’t help that the Hugeunots plastered all of Paris with signs mocking the Eucharist. But more on that another time.)

In any case, the revolutionary mob, fortified by mutinous gardes francaises, attacked the Bastille, not so much to loose the prisoners (a mere seven in number, and politically unimportant) as to amass arms and ammunition. The Marquis de Sade had been transferred from the prison ten days earlier, but the atheist revolutionary had played no small role in persuading the people to attack, using a makeshift megaphone from his cell and daily crying for revolt. After the Bastille's fall, the slaughter started in earnest. Governor De Launay was among the unfortunate fallen: dragged through the streets, kicked, and beaten, he cried out, "Enough! Let me die!" The mob stabbed him again and again, cut off his head and stuck it onto the end of a pike, and paraded it through the streets. By the end of the day, 100 were dead.

A month later, feudalism would be abolished and La Déclaration des droits de l'Homme issued. (The Déclaration was drafted partly by the Marquis de Lafayette, and borrowed heavily from America's own Declaration of Independence and Constitution. In fact, the French government asked Thomas Jefferson to review the document before its acceptance. Come to your own conclusions.). As they say, the rest is history. The French tricolore, each shade standing for liberty, equality, and brotherhood, replaced the old standard of St. Denis, patron saint of Paris. There were mass executions of Catholic priests and religious, the general dechristianization of France, and state-sanctioned worship of secular humanism. France has never quite recovered.

Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette at Valley Forge, John Ward Dunsmore, c. 1909

If only those who had cried out the lyrics of La Marseillaise as they marched into Paris had known they were singing of themselves:

Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé;

Entendez vous dans les campagnes,
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils, nos compagnes!

Let us go, children of the fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived.
Against us stands tyranny,
The bloody standard is raised;

Do you hear in the countryside
The roar of these savage soldiers?
They come right into our arms
To cut the throats of our sons,
our country.

Aux armes, citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons;
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons.

To arms, citizens!
Form up your battalions;
Let us march, Let us march!
That their impure blood
Should water our fields.

08 July 2007

From the Apostolic Letter
In the form of “Motu Proprio”


Having pondered at length the pressing requests of these faithful to our Predecessor John Paul II, having also heard the Fathers of the Consistory of Cardinals held on 23 March 2006, having pondered all things, invoked the Holy Spirit and placed our confidence in the help of God, by this present Apostolic Letter we DECREE the following.

Art. 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is to be regarded as the ordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Catholic Church of Latin Rite, while the Roman Missal promulgated by St Pius V and published again by Blessed John XXIII as the extraordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) and on account of its venerable and ancient use let it enjoy due honor. These two expressions of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church in no way lead to a division in the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church, for they are two uses of the one Roman Rite.

Hence it is licit to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as the extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church.