Monthly Archives: April 2011

Screen Pilates: Rod Steiger

YouTube Preview Image

 

The figure of Pontius Pilate has always intrigued me.  The fifth Prefect of Judaea, Pilate looms large in the Gospels.  His name Pilate  indicates that his family was of Samnite orgin.  Pilate is mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus as having condemned Jesus.  In 1961 a block of limestone was discoved at the site of Caesarea Maritima, the Roman capitol of Judaea, bearing an inscription of Pilate dedicating a Roman theater there.  That is almost all we know about Pilate outside of the Gospels, Josephus and Philo.  Pilate today would be forgotten, instead of being the best known Roman who ever lived, but for his role in sentencing Jesus.

This is the start of a series examining how Pilate has been presented in films.  First up  is Rod Steiger, the method actor to end all method actors, and a character actor who achieved stardom with intense, some would say frequently over the top, performances.  Steiger gives an interesting portrayal of Pilate in the superb Jesus of Nazareth  (1977).  Overworked and tired, with a bad temper on edge, he is forced to judge Jesus, and clearly finds the dispute between Him and the Sanhedrin to be completely incomprehensible.  His queries to Jesus, “Who are you?  What are you?”,  sum up how mysterious this  business is to him, and echoes the query of Jesus to his Apostles:  “Who do you say that I am?”

YouTube Preview Image

Ultimately Pilate condemns Jesus and this sequence may be viewed here.  To forestall a riot, Pilate sentences Jesus to be crucified.  Pilate still obviously finds Jesus to be utterly mysterious.  His wondering who is the real threat to Rome, Barabbas or Jesus, before he passes sentence on Jesus as the mob howls for him to free Barabbas, indicates that he understands at some level that this is all very important, but he simply cannot fathom why.  Steiger portrays Pilate as world weary and baffled by his encounter with this strange Galilean. Continue reading

Don’t Water It Down

A couple of good pieces on why watering down the truth is such a bad idea.  First Christopher Blosser, linking to the comments over at Fr. Z’s blog, and the woeful instructions imparted to the faithful.  Here are the sampling of comments that Chris highlighted:

“When I was in RCIA, back in the early 1980?s we were told that it is almost impossible to commit a mortal sin so not to worry.”

“When I asked one of the RCIA instructors to tell us how to make a proper confession she blew me off.”

“I was under the impression that Reconciliation was a one-time thing until the priests starting coming to school to offer it a few times.”

“I thought in order to commit a mortal sin you had to do something really bad such as kill someone, have an abortion, or commit adultry.”

“I actually heard a priest say in a homily that he never committed a mortal sin and that none of us probably hadn’t either.”

“I have had people who prepare young people for confirmation say that theydon’t remember ever going to confession.”

To which Chris asks the question, “In a parish where the idea of sin and absolution are passé, why be Catholic? what does it even matter?”

And  over at POWIP, Enoch Root discusses his time as a Catechism Instructor for 7th and 8th graders:

The first year went well, as I mentioned some paragraphs above. So I was asked to sign up for another year of instructing. Again, no one wanted the 7th and 8th grade class. So, I thought about it. I agreed to teach the class once more. Sadly, my no-holds-barred approach to passing on the faith rubbed some parent(s) the wrong way. I am given to understand that my comment to the class that it would be very unlikely for everyone in the class to ultimately find ourselves among the Elect stunned and, yes, frightened a student. Further, I am given to understand that my suggestion that not every one of our beloved relations was likely to be among the Elect also was cause for concern. The fallout was immediate. And it did bring on a small crisis of faith for me. I was not very interested in defending my approach to teaching what we believe. I was not interested in heaping scandal on top of the deep hurt I felt. I was not interested in chastising the Powers That Be about the very real dangers of withholding the Truth from these kids… some of which were quite worldly to begin with. I was not interested in defending the Faith to ministers of the Faith… or taking them to task… or forcing them into a debate about whether or not I was teaching other-than-Dogma (which I was decidedly not doing). In short, I resigned to save all parties from what would have been a bloody affair… and potentially embarrassing I might add.

I was deeply offended. As I have said. And only now, several years later, am I able to clear my head enough to receive the Eucharist with a mended-heart. I will not lie: the sting of that wound remains. But my animus toward the players involved does not. God works in mysterious ways. And it was a truly humbling experience. Truth be told, I had been praying for God to help me become smaller. And He answered my prayers.

As I related in the comments, I’ve seen faith watered down.  I’ve heard instructors tell potential Catechumens that they don’t need to go to Confession, among other whoppers. And as someone who attended a Jesuit high school, well, let’s say there were things about Catholicism that I didn’t learn until later on.

I understand the desire to make faith seem less hard.  You’ve got some young skulls full of mush, or perhaps adults just dipping their toes in the waters of Catholicism, and you don’t want to scare them away.  But all you are doing is depriving them of the truth, and in doing so you are actually putting their souls at risk.  Either tell the truth, and the whole truth, or so help you God.

Responding to Stiglitz on Inequality

There’s a Vanity Fair piece on income inequality by Nobel Price-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%”, which has been cited again and again in the commentariat lately, and it’s a frustrating piece because of the extent to which is makes logical leaps or simply distorts reality. Scott Winship of The Empiricist Strikes Back does a good job of going through the piece and addressing it point by point, including taking on a few of the talking points which are increasingly becoming things “everybody knows” in the wonk community but which don’t actually mean what they seem to.

One of the problems with our modern society’s fixation on “data” is that people, even very educated people who should know better, often fixate on a given metric (for example, the claim that “While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone.“) without taking the time to dig into what we can discover of the realities that underlie that measure. Sometimes those realities do not fit with the ideological picture which makes the original metric so appealing. (Winship’s responses to the just quoted claim, both in the main article linked above and in this older one, are fascinating.)

Definitely worth a read.

Abraham Lincoln and the Rabbi

 

During the Civil War thousands of American Jews enlisted in the armed forces of both the Union and the Confederacy.  In July of 1861 the United States Congress passed a bill which provided for the appointment of chaplains from any recognized Christian denominations.  In a Pennsylvania regiment called the  Cameron Dragoons, Rabbi Arnold Fischel was appointed chaplain.  Ironically it was Simon Cameron, as Secretary of War, and for whom the regiment was named, who denied the appointment of Fischel as contrary to law.

However, Fischel didn’t give up and moved to Washington, ministered to wounded Jewish soldiers and lobbied the Lincoln administration to allow the appointment of Jewish chaplains.  On December 11, 1861, the Rabbi met with the President .  He described the meeting in this letter: Continue reading

In Honor of Tax Day

 

YouTube Preview Image

The Tax Man cometh today.  Reason TV explains why we have to pay our taxes in the above video.

YouTube Preview Image

The above video was made in 1943 by Disney in order to convince people to save up to pay their taxes.  1943 was also the year when withholding came in as a “temporary wartime measure” because not enough people were saving up to pay their taxes. Continue reading

Richard Rich Quits as Ambassador to Malta

YouTube Preview Image

Hattip to Creative Minority Report.  Richard Rich,  Douglas Kmiec, in the wake of a state department report declaring that he was pretty much a disaster as Ambassador to Malta, has resigned.  The LA Times has the details:

Kmiec wrote that the inspector general had a “flawed and narrow vision of our diplomatic mission” and said his writings had a “highly positive effect on our diplomatic relations.”

He complained that, as a result of the inspector general’s recommendation that he end that work, “my voice has been prevented from speaking; my pen has been enjoined from writing; and my actions have been confined to the ministerial.”

Kmiec, a devout Roman Catholic and a onetime frequent contributor to The Times opinion pages, held important legal posts under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He has been a prominent figure in the antiabortion movement and in efforts to give greater latitude for religion in public life.

He was also impressed by President Obama’s religious faith and interest in improving relations between religions, and he supported him during the 2008 presidential election campaign.

After Obama was elected, Kmiec was appointed ambassador to Malta, a conservative Catholic island, and White House officials said that one of his roles would be to advance Obama’s views on interfaith dialogue.

But the inspector general’s report, issued in February, says he had an “unconventional approach to his role” and devoted much time to writing on the “interfaith initiative.” It said his official schedule was “uncharacteristically light,” and that he had had “friction with principal officials in Washington, especially over his reluctance to accept their guidance and instructions.” Continue reading

Palin: “Fight Like a Girl!”

YouTube Preview Image

One of the hardest things for any orator to do is to give a successful stump speech before a hostile audience, and that is just what Sarah Palin did on Saturday, April 16, 2011, in Madison, Wisconsin at a tea party rally.  Union rent-a-mobs were out in force, drawn like flies to sugar by the presence of Palin, always a mesmerizing target for the denizens of the Left.  During her speech you can hear constantly in the background their continual attempts to shout her down.  Go here to Ann Althouse’s blog to see some of the charming signs carried by the Union mob and her comments on their attempts to drown out Palin.  (The height of courage was shown when the Union thugs attempted to drown out a 14 year old girl who was speaking.)  Palin did not back down an inch, giving a pugnacious, fighting speech, that not only took on Obama and the spend-us-into-bankruptcy-Union leadership, but also the clueless Gop establishment.  It was a bravura performance, and the best stump speech I have seen since Reagan rode off into the sunset.  Here is the text of her speech with my comments:

Hello Madison, Wisconsin! You look good. I feel like I’m at home. This is beautiful. Madison, I am proud to get to be with you today. Madison, these are the frontlines in the battle for the future of our country. This is where the line has been drawn in the sand. And I am proud to stand with you today in solidarity.

Note the use of the term solidarity, and it will not be the only time she uses it.  Palin wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth, and her family members belong to unions.

I am here today as a patriot, as a taxpayer, as a former union member, and as the wife of a union member. What I have to say today I say it to our good patriotic brothers and sisters who are in unions. I say this, too, proudly standing here as the daughter of a family full of school teachers. My parents, my grandparents, aunt, cousins, brother, sister – so many of these good folks are living on teachers’ pensions, having worked or are still working in education.

Not us versus them, but just us.  Palin is talking to union members over the heads of their union bosses. Continue reading

Palm Sunday 1865

(In commemoration of the Civil War beginning 150 years ago on April 12, I am repeating this post from last year on Palm Sunday.)

YouTube Preview Image

I have always thought it appropriate that the national nightmare we call the Civil War ended during Holy Week 1865.  Two remarkably decent men, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, began the process of healing so desperately needed for America on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.  We take their decency for granted, but it is the exception and not the rule for the aftermath of civil wars in history.  The usual course would have been unremitting vengeance by the victors, and sullen rage by the defeated, perhaps eventually breaking out in guerilla war.  The end of the Civil War could so very easily have been the beginning of a cycle of unending war between north and south.  Instead, both Grant and Lee acted to make certain as far as they could that the fratricidal war that had just concluded would not be repeated.  All Americans owe those two men a large debt for their actions at Appomattox. Continue reading

Triumph of the King

 

zechariah

(This is my regular post for Palm Sunday which I repost each year.  Have a happy and blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.)

“9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.” Continue reading

What Wondrous Love is This?

 

YouTube Preview Image

Something for the weekend.  What Wondrous Love is This? and the Pieta.  After Michelangelo completed it and had the Pieta moved to display it, the workmen who did it refused to accept a penny for their hard labor, saying they would get their reward in Heaven.  I pray that they did, and I pray we all meet a similar fate. Continue reading

Abby Johnson and the Still Small Voice of God

YouTube Preview Image

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am an attorney, for my sins no doubt.  It supplies me with bread and butter for my family and myself as well as an opportunity to observe the frailty, follies, crimes and, occasionally, the nobility, of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  However, that is just my day job.  For over a decade now I have also been chairman of the board of directors of the Caring Pregnancy Center located in Pontiac, Illinois in Livingston County, the county in which I live.  There, dedicated pro-life volunteers, almost all of them evangelical women, labor ceaselessly to help women in crisis  pregnancies.  In the movie the Agony and the Ecstasy Pope Julius II is depicted as saying that when he comes before God he will throw into the balance the ceiling painting of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel against the weight of his sins and he hoped it would shorten his time in purgatory.  If such an opportunity exists for me, it will be due to my association with the Caring Pregnancy Center and their truly awe-inspiring and selfless female volunteers.

On April 14th, we held our 25th anniversary banquet which was a grand affair, with our supporters and well-wishers turning out in en masse.  I opened with a few introductory remarks where I talked about the Center and its 25 years of service to the women of Livingston County and their babies.  I also asked why we did this.  First and foremost to protect innocent human life, and, second, because we remember with Thomas Jefferson, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”  It will come as a vast shock, no doubt, to faithful readers of this blog that I somehow worked into my remarks the surrender of Fort Sumter 150 years before on April 14, 1861 and Mr. Lincoln’s remarks in his Second Inaugural Address that the terrible war the nation had been through was God’s punishment on both the North and the South for the sin of slavery.  I ended by stating that it was still possible for America to turn around and repent for the great sin of abortion and that the great words of the prophet Isaiah, as always, give us hope:  “Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be made white as snow.”

Abby Johnson was our speaker, and she gave the most effective pro-life speech I have ever heard and I have heard many over the decades.

She was funny and moving at the same time.  Her delivery was as natural as if she was talking to a next door neighbor, but every word she said was riveting. Continue reading

News Flash: Catholic Priests are Human Beings

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, a bishop I have admired most of all for the heroic effort he has put into encouraging priestly vocations, has an excellent article on his blog reminding us of a reality we should have learned in the last two millenia:

Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, brothers are human.

That means, we are sinners.

Yes, religious people are people….and people sin.

He goes on.

Our faith is not in popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, or even in monsignors.  Nope:  our faith is only in Jesus.  He and He alone will never let us down; He will never sin; He and He alone will never break a promise; He and He alone deserves our absolute trust and confidence.

That’s why it’s especially tragic when someone leaves Jesus and His Church because of a sin, scandal, or slight from a priest or bishop.  If your faith depended on us, it was misplaced to begin with.  We priests and bishops might represent Jesus and shepherd His Church, however awkwardly — but we are not Jesus and His Church.

Please read the whole thing.

I think I should share a bit about my story as a convert in order to help expand on his points. I never really knew Jesus growing up. My parents were protestant and, being big believers in the protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, made sure that I had a Bible in my hands and expected that I would figure it out. I had a problem accepting Jesus in the manner that my parents had, though. I could not get past John 6:

The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

Mind you, many people will believe as those who quarreled, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” In order to both ask that question and persist in asking it, you have to posses in your mind an unbending idea that it is an impossible thing. That belief that it is impossible is what protestants have not, and possibly cannot, overcome. It is those who continue to believe that it is an impossible thing who continue to reject what Jesus said in reply to their objection.

As a fifteen-year-old daughter of protestants, I understood what He was saying, and I understood many of the supporting parallels throughout Scripture, on some level. I had no problem believing that it “could” be possible. After all, God is the Creator of all flesh. I understood on a very basic level “why” He would ask us to believe this very incredible thing in order to have eternal life. The only thing I did not know was “how” He could do it. I  knew of no church that taught such a thing. For this reason, I could not accept that Jesus was the Son of God…..just yet. I made a promise to God the Father, if you will show me “how” this is possible, I will believe that Jesus is Your Son, join that church, and follow Him always.

It was in 1982 that I made that promise to God. I was very sincere, but I was apparently not ready yet because it was not until Ash Wednesday, 1991, that God finally showed me “how”. The first time I ever attended a Catholic Mass (apart from the funeral of one of my parents’ friends when I was a small child), I witnessed the Holy Mass and knew “how” Jesus made possible what He commands in John 6. I had found God, at last, after a life of what might be called a sort of agnosticism. My joy was immense, and remains to this day, but especially at Holy Mass.

And nothing the priest says in his homily, and no sin that any priest anywhere commits, can take away from that joy.

It is for this reason that, for the life of me, I cannot even get my mind around why there is a propensity on the part of so many to act as if the whole world is crumbling because priests and bishops are sinners….or who act as if the Church is evil because some priests have sinned. Jesus is in the tabernacle: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

When people protest due to the sins of some priest somewhere in the world, I always think of the words of St. Peter, the first Pope:

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Jesus is present in the tabernacles of Catholic churches (and only Catholic churches) worldwide. When I hear someone speak of leaving Him, it is what St. Peter must have felt in that moment that I feel. Simply dumb-founded.

Read Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s article: A Blessed Holy Week

Patrick Henry, Liberty and Slavery

YouTube Preview Image

In his day Patrick Henry was considered the finest orator in America.  Contemporary accounts often state that the cold words of the text of his speeches can give no true assessment of the impact of the words on his listeners as he spoke them.  I have always regarded his speech of March 23, 1775, prophetic in its prediction of the start of the Revolutionary War, to the Virginia Convention to be his finest, both for its fiery style, and for the timeless truths it conveys:

MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. Continue reading

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .