Monthly Archives: April 2011

ThePulp.it EXTRA: WEDNESDAY

ThePulp.it EXTRA is the title of a new series of posts that I will be contributing for The American Catholic .  It’s an idea first thought of by fellow blogger John Henry a few years back.  I’ll be posting some of the best that the Catholic Blogosphere has to offer every so often to highlight some great posts around Saint Blog’s.

I hope you enjoy it!

Pat McNamara is Catholic Because of History – Frank Weathers, YIMC

Making Sense of the Resurrection Discrepancies? – Msgr. Charles Pope

Women’s Head Coverings at Mass: I Told You So – Jimmy Akin

Use of Force to Defend a Church from Vandalism – Fr. Z

Easter in a Time of Scandal – Mark P. Shea, InsideCatholic

Fatima in Seven Easy Points – Taylor Marshall, Canterbury Tales

A Case for Hell – Ross Douthat, The New York Times

Ordinariate Comes to Life in Holy Week – Anna Arco & Simon Caldwell

Easter Sunday: Satanic Desecration at Georgia Church -S. Brinkmann

“He Descended to the Dead,” Easter Surprise – Sandro Magister, Chiesa

Anti-Christian Vandalism at PA Univ. during Holy Week – Lisa Graas

If you like this feature and want a regular update twice a day, head on over to ThePulp.it to get the best round-up of posts twice a day in Catholic blogging!

For ThePulp.it click here.

Looking Back at Lent: Why Do Penance?

Thinking back over Lent, one of the things that hits me, as it has before, is that I am much better at not doing things for Lent than doing things. Even moderately big changes in my daily routine such as “fasting” by having only one meal a day on Wednesdays and Fridays, or abstaining from alcohol entirely, are fairly doable. However, my resolutions to start each day be reading Morning Prayer, or reading the Pope’s second volume of Jesus of Nazareth, or blogging my way through all of Augustine’s Confessions — not so much.

That’s the point at which I find myself wondering: Is putting so much focus into not doing something a mistake? There is, after all, nothing wrong with eating, or with having my nightly beer or glass of wine. Why should God have any interest in my not doing these perfectly acceptable things? It’s not as if God gets satisfaction out of thinking, “Ah, it’s Lent. I do so look forward to all those little human creatures going in for a little bit of voluntary discomfort. I thrive on discomfort.”

So why give up a few pleasures for Lent — especially while at the same time failing in doing some positive things which would arguably be better things to do?

Well, obviously, the reason for penance is not that God wants us to be miserable. Continue reading

Abe Lincoln in Illinois: Lincoln-Douglas Debate

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The film Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) has perhaps the best recreation of the Lincoln-Douglas debates ever put on film.  The debate portrayed has remarks culled from all the debates,  is an excellent recreation of the main arguments made by each of the men, and is evocative of their speaking styles.

Ironically neither of the actors portraying Lincoln and Douglas were Americans.  The actor portraying Douglas was Gene Lockhart, a Canadian.  If his voice sounds vaguely familiar to you, it is probably because you recall him as the judge in Miracle on 34th Street.  His daughter June Lockhart, of Lassie and Lost in Space fame, carried on the thespian tradition of the family.

Lincoln was portrayed by Raymond Massey, also a Canadian.  Massey was one of the great actors of his day and bore a strong physical resemblance to Lincoln.  Massey served in the Canadian Army in both World War I, where he saw combat on the Western Front as an artillery officer, and World War II, becoming a naturalized American citizen after World War II.  Like Lincoln he was a Republican and made a TV ad for Goldwater in the 1964 campaign.

  Here is a transcript from the film script of the debate: Continue reading

Resurrection: The Rock Video

Robert Holmes “Rob” Bell Jr. is an American “megachurch” pastor and author of such trendy books as Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, and Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality. His latest book, Love Wins, which from what I can tell is an exploration of Christian universalism, has caused quite a stir of late.

I don’t know a great deal about Rob Bell, save for my stumbling on this video this morning of Rob Bell preaching on the Resurrection.

Now — ordinarily, you might think the the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead would be sufficient enough to provoke some stirring of human wonder in the listener.

Not so.

Rather, the resurrection (or Rob Bell’s speculations on the meaning of such) has to be accompanied by a hip modern rock soundtrack and a streaming psychedelic light show such as I might have enjoyed — oh, perhaps two decades ago, at a Grateful Dead concert, “under the influence.” To such an extent that, at least from my perspective, the content of his message is repressed, obscured by the barrage of the senses.

What is it with these modern, megachurch televangelists?

What does this say about the attention span of the intended audience?

Has the gospel become so boring that we really have to be entertained by it?

The Future of Catholic Schools

With the discussion relating to Catholic homeschooling last week, I was strongly reminded of this (very good) article on the future of Catholic schools in the spring issue of National Affairs which a good friend pointed me towards a while back. As the article points out, the issues facing Catholic schools are many, though perhaps the biggest are:

  • Public schools are no longer the explicitly Protestant institutions they were back in the 1900-1960 era
  • The teaching orders whose virtually free labor made Catholic schools relatively affordable in their golden age virtually ceased to exist in the decades following Vatican II
  • Changing demographics have moved Catholic populations away from many of the schools already built, and in this day and age building new ones is vastly more expensive

    This has left many dioceses struggling with whether to shutter schools, and many of the continuing urban Catholic schools serving students who are mostly not Catholic.

    The Archdiocese of New York, for example, reported in 2008 that, among its inner-city schools, nearly two-thirds of students lived below the poverty line and more than 90% were racial minorities. In Washington, D.C., as of 2007, more than 70% of students attending the lowest-income Catholic schools were non-Catholic. In Memphis’s inner-city “Jubilee” Catholic schools, as of 2008, 96% of students lived below the poverty line and 81% were non-Catholic. In fact, over the past 40 years, the portion of minority students in Catholic schools overall increased by 250%, and the share of non-Catholic students increased by 500%.
    Continue reading

    Christ Died For Your Sins? Don’t Be Silly!

    Who was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification.

    Saint Paul, Romans 4:25

    Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Fishwrap Reporter doesn’t think much of the dogma of the Catholic Church that Christ died for our sins, viewing that as a silly pre-Vatican II guilt trip.  Unfortunately for her, two of the finest masters of the art of fisking decided to take notice of her scribblings.

    First up, Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal who I have designated Defender of the Faith because of the number of times, he, a non-Catholic, has taken up the blogging cudgels in defense of the Faith:

    Here’s another.  At the National Catholic Reporter, Jamie Manson doesn’t want to know what happened on Good Friday as much as she wants to know why it happened:

    I’ve had more than one Catholic who grew up either before or on the cusp of Vatican II tell me horror stories of how they were taught that Jesus died because of their sins.

    “Horror stories of how they were taught that Jesus died because of their sins.”  I think you already know where Ms. Manson is going with this.

    This was a particularly heavy-handed way for priests and nuns to lay an even thicker coat of guilt on impressionable Catholic school children. Because they were sinners, Jesus had to suffer and die to redeem them. It was one rendering of the traditional theological interpretations of the crucifixion — that Jesus had to die to fulfill the Scriptures and that his death atoned for the sins of the world.

    Get ready for the customary condescending pat on the head.

    I know that countless people throughout the centuries have found profound, life-changing and even comforting meaning in this understanding of the Cross.

    Since Ms. Manson has much more important fish to fry(see what I did there?), she’ll let the rest of you have your little legend.

    But I’ve often felt that if we immerse ourselves in the accounts of Jesus’ arrest, passion, and death as told by the four Gospels, these texts can broaden and deepen our understanding of the crucifixion.

    I don’t know how much deeper one needs to go than getting one’s sins taken care of so that one can go home to the Father.

    It can help us make meaning of so much of the anguish that we witness in our world and in our church.

    I stand corrected.  Jesus died the most horribly agonizing death that it is possible to imagine in order to “help us make meaning of so much of the anguish that we witness in our world and in our church.”  Got it.

    Me, I’ve never ever been able to “make meaning” of diseases, wars, genocides, famines, earthquakes, tsunamis and other tragedies with their attendant human suffering.  I guess I’m not trying hard enough.

    When I read the passion narratives of the Gospels, I don’t hear simply that Jesus suffered and died for our sins. Rather, I hear the four evangelists very clearly say that Jesus’ suffering and death was the will of those who conspired against him — those whose political systems he had undermined, those whose religious convictions he had offended.

    Glad we’ve finally cleared that up.  Neither Romans nor Jews killed Christ.  It was the Republican Party and the religious Right.

    Continue reading

    Do The Wealthy Pay Their Share?

    Having linked last week to some discussion on whether the US is really becoming “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%”, I was struck by this chart, which I saw a link to this morning, over at Carpe Diem, showing top marginal income tax rates versus percentage of income tax paid by the top 1% of earners since 1980.

    However, I thought it would be a lot more interesting if the chart showed the percentage of total income earned by the top 1%, and also showed the total federal tax liability (including Social Security and Medicare) rather than the just the income tax. Luckily, all this information is available easily on line. (Percent of taxes paid. Percent of total income. Historical tax tables.)

    Here’s the chart I produced with that data:

    Continue reading

    Anzac Day

     

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    Today is Anzac Day.  It is remembered by me each year as a salute to the courage and self sacrifice it honors.  It commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

    At the beginning of the war the New Zealand and Australian citizen armies, illustrating the robust humor of both nations,  engaged in self-mockery best illustrated by this poem:

    We are the ANZAC Army

    The A.N.Z.A.C.

    We cannot shoot, we don’t salute

    What bloody good are we ?

    And when we get to Ber – Lin

    The Kaiser, he will say

    Hoch, Hoch, Mein Gott !

    What a bloody odd lot

    to get six bob a day.

    The Azac troops referred to themselves as “six bob a day tourists”.  By the end of World War I no one was laughing at the Anzacs.  At the end of the war a quarter of the military age male population of New Zealand had been killed or wounded and Australia paid a similarly high price.  Widely regarded as among the elite shock troops of the Allies, they had fought with distinction throughout the war, and added to their reputation during World War II.  Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the German Desert Fox, rated the New Zealanders as the finest troops he ever saw.   American veterans I have spoken to who have fought beside Australian and New Zealand units have uniformly told me that they could choose no better troops to have on their flank in a battle. Continue reading

    April 25, 1861: Stephen A. Douglas: “Protect the Flag”

    Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, the great antagonist of Abraham Lincoln, gave many eloquent speeches in his career, but the finest one he delivered was at the end of that career on April 25, 1861 to a joint session of the General Assembly of the State of Illinois.  In broken health, his coming death on June 3, 1861 already foreshadowed, he summoned the energy to help save his country.  Always first and foremost a patriot, Douglas was intent on rallying members of his party to the cause of the Union.  After one of the most vitriolic presidential contents in the history of the nation, it was an open question as to whether most members of the Party of Jackson would stand in support of the efforts of the Lincoln Administration to fight to preserve the Union.  Douglas, putting country above party, helped ensure that they would.

    Immediately after the election of Lincoln he made it clear that he would make every effort in his power to fight against secession.  At the inaugural speech of Lincoln, he held the new President’s hat, giving a strong symbol of his support.  Illinois was a key state for the Union in the upcoming conflict.  Pro-Southern sentiment was strong among Illinois Democrats in the southern portion of the State, with even some talk that “Little Egypt”, as the extreme southern tip of Illinois is called, should secede from the rest of the state and join the Confederacy.  To rally his supporters for the Union, and at the request of President Lincoln, Douglas returned to Illinois and on April 25, 1861 had his finest hour. 

    The speech he delivered that day has gone down in Illinois history as the “Protect the Flag” speech.  It was received by both Republicans and Democrats with thunderous applause and cheers throughout.  Although there would be much dissension in Illinois during the War, Douglas helped ensure that Illinois would be in the forefront of the war effort, with its quarter of a million troops, among whom was Ulysses S. Grant, who would ultimately fight under the Stars and Stripes being absolutely crucial to Union victory.

    Here is the speech, interspersed with comments by me: Continue reading

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